Olympic experience in London a perfect end to European adventure
Recent FGCU graduate concludes her summer-long backpacking trip
Published: Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 20, 2012 17:08
So far, along with seeing each of these cities (when we could...rain prevented us from doing so for some) we have taken tours to see; the Cliffs of Mohr (see this!), the Burren, Bunratty Castle, ate at a restauraunt called O'Conners (great food!) and saw much of the west coast villages by bus tour (with Railtours Ireland). In Northern Ireland, we did not really explore Belfast but we did explore much of County Antrim. We went on an Allen's Tours bus to see Dunluce Castle ruins, Bushmills Distillery (free samples:)), Carrick-a-rede rope bridge (awesome), Giants Causeway (see this!) and many coastal villages and farms. Ireland really does have a lot of sheep and cattle. The tours have been amazing, and the sites even more so. I have been loving every second of it.
Now we are in Dublin, and we plan to see the Guinness plant here as well as a few other sites and restaurants that have been recommended to us by our Couch Surfing hosts.
It is so weird to think that in three days we will be in London for the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremonies, and then it's only two weeks until we are back in the States. I can't really believe that it is almost over, and it makes me really sad. However, before I have to return back to my life and all its demands, I still have much to see, do, explore and experience in Ireland and the U.K. which you will hear all about in the next update.
June 28, 2012
Sorry for how late this update is. For the past week and a half, I've been in small towns in Austria and Germany where Internet cafes and wi-fi seem to be a foreign concept.
So I'm sorry this is late, but here is an update since the last time I updated…which was all the way in Florence!
For this update, I'll go city by city:
Pisa was our first stop after leaving Florence, but we only stayed there for about two hours because all we wanted to see was the Leaning Tower (where we took funny pictures, of course).
To tell the truth, it was slightly disappointing. I had expected the location to look different because you never see the massive church or nearby shops or houses that enclose the tower in any of the pictures you see.
I also thought it would be leaning more, but ultimately it was worth the two-hour stop on the way to our next destination, Cinque Terre.
OMG, Cinque Terre is amazing! It is a stretch of five small villages along the Mediterranean and surrounded by giant mountains and cliffs.
It was beautiful and the place we stayed at was amazing. It was right on the water and the owner didn’t speak a lick of English, but he was so nice and helpful and went out his way to try and make us feel at home.
The major attraction that drew me to Cinque Terre was that the five main villages are connected to one another via mountain trails, and both Daryl and I love hiking.
The trail was classified as easy, but if that was accurate, I would hate to see intermediate. Those trails kicked our butts.
I consider myself to be a fairly in-shape person, but those paths proved me wrong. When I think of mountain trails, I think of switchback trails steadily charting their course up a mountainside
That is not true here. I don’t think I have ever walked so many stairs in my life! The paths are nothing but stairways heading straight up the side of the mountains and then straight down the other side. My legs were on fire.
The first path from Monterosso to Vernazza was steep and challenging, but ultimately fun to do. Vernazza to Corniglia was closed for an unknown reason, so we skipped ahead to the Corniglia to Manarola path.
The guide said it would be an hour of easy hiking. NOT!
Within 100 feet of starting, both of us were already feeling the strain, and we had only just started. That path killed us. It was nothing but uneven stairs all the way up, and it was only once we got to Manarola that we realized we were probably supposed to start the trails from Riomaggiore (which starts with a level and paved path) rather then Monterosso.
So, for anyone thinking of going to Cinque Terre, I support the idea 100 percent. It is a beautiful area with the friendliest people and most amazing sights, but do yourself a favor and start the trails from Riomaggiore.
We stayed in Cinque Terre for three days before catching a few trains to Venice. All I kept wondering for the four days we were in Venice was, "Why did I want to go to Venice?"
Once you see the waterways, take a gondola ride (which was awesome) and see St. Mark’s Square, there is not much else to do. The streets are all small and terrible to try and navigate through, and the city itself is dirty and made me wish I had planned for us to only stay a day or two rather than four days.
It was upsetting that we didn't like Venice more because that was our last stop in Italy. It seemed like a bad note to leave on, considering how much we had liked everywhere else we had been.
Next was Austria, and Daryl and I popped our sleeper car cherries getting there. We split our car with an older Australian couple, and the ride was pretty enjoyable even if the beds were not.
The only difficulty we had was getting off at our stop. Every country seems to have its own method for opening train doors, and it took Daryl a little too long trying before I got it open. The train had started to pull away from the station and we had to jump off it.
It was cool, but Daryl didn't have a good landing and road rashed her leg.
The train ride to Hallstatt (our destination) was much less adventurous, but I couldn't take my eyes off the window.
Every scene passing by held mountains sometimes half-hidden by low-lying clouds or covered in trees or snow.