A Travellerspoint blog

Time to Go Home

Final hours before flight

sunny 35 °C

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The weather was a hot sunny 35 °C by the time we finished breakfast around 9.15 am. Because it was already late and hot, not to mention the cost of the overpriced tours in Dubai we decided to just grab a metro ticket and head to the Dubai Mall rather than do a hop on hop off bus. Even though it was clearer than last time we were here it was still hazy in the distance.

The Dubai Mall is like the Mall of the Emirates we had visited on earlier stopover on steroids. When we got off the metro we followed a long covered walkway to the mall. There are travelators along the way which is just as well because we measured the distance on the way back and it’s almost a kilometre. Then once you’re inside the mall you end up covering a few more kilometres going from one end to the other on the various levels. It is all very glitzy and sparkling clean with one high end shop after another. All through the mall there are stands where vendors are selling perfumes, lotions and other goods and every time you pass one they call out to you and try to get you to buy something. It all gets rather annoying. We saw the outside of the aquarium which covers a couple of levels. There are glass walls where you can see large fish and rays plus a couple of scuba divers. I daresay they give you a bit of a glimpse hoping to entice you into paying to go inside. We eventually made our way out into Souk Square where you get a great view of Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. There are aqua coloured waterways around the square and also the Dubai Fountain but it wasn’t running while we were there. As soon as we exited the mall we were hit with a wave of heat. I couldn’t wait to get back into the air conditioning.

Around 2pm we decided to call it a day and go back to the hotel to have lunch and rest up before heading to the airport. Because we had a long layover we qualified for Dubai Connect free accommodation, free airport transfers, free dinner, breakfast and lunch which is a pretty good deal. The meals were all self serve buffet style with a lot of stuff I don’t - curries etc but I still found plenty to eat.

Not much walking left to do. Distance covered so far 644607 steps, 455.97 kilometres

Posted by caties55 13:15 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

Going Up

A visit to the rooftop of Duomo di Milano

overcast 19 °C
View From the Mountains to the Sea on caties55's travel map.

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Our final full day in Europe started out with more rain. We caught the train from La Spezia just after 7.30am and left the rain behind. However, when we outpaced the rain we caught up with heavy fog. We left our luggage at the hotel just after 11am and caught the metro to Duomo station. As you exit the station into the daylight you are confronted with the Duomo di Milano directly in front of you. It is the largest cathedral in Italy and third largest in the world. But it’s not just about the size. It is simply magnificent. The photos I took don’t begin to do it justice. It has too many spires to count and the intricate sculpture work everywhere is amazing. It took nearly six centuries to build and has some reconstruction work done over time and while we were visiting it looked like they were cleaning thecarea around the main spire.

We bought tickets for the inside of the cathedral and rooftop area and the museum. Unfortunately the museum is closed on Wednesdays so we didn’t get to see that. We could have used our ticket to visit the next day but didn’t have time before heading to the airport. You can either take a lift to the rooftop or climb the stairs. We took the lift. At the top you get a close up look at the spires, arches, gargoyles and all the other elements I don’t have names for. You could probably spend hours up there and still find new things to look at. Being up so high and looking down below can be a bit unsettling but there is so much to focus on you tend to forget how high you are. I just looked it up and there are 135 spires. They are all topped with sculptures of men in different poses. There may be women as well but I didn’t notice any except the main spire that is the Madonna. Even though we caught the lift we still had to climb many stairs to get all the way to the top and then we had to descend to the inside if the church via a very long stairway. The inside is quite dark with light streaming through the many large stained glass windows. The inlaid marble floor is impressive and the confession boxes are rather fancy. There are quite a few of them so they must have several priests listening to confession at the same time. While we were the some musicians were warming up for what we thought was going to be a performance so we and many others sat in the pews waiting for the music to start. A film crew turned up and it appeared that it was probably a performance that will be released on video at some stage. The acoustics were great and the drums in particular reverberated around the room. We met a couple from Perth inside the church who told us they had just been targeted by pickpockets in the metro. They were working as a trio. Fortunately they were able to trip up the guy who took their stuff and retrieve it. It didn’t surprise me. The station and the trains are very crowded. I was on high alert the whole time.

There are several other magnificent buildings around the piazza including Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II a high end shopping mall with features an arched glass roof and mosaic flooring. We wandered around there for a while but everything was well outside my price range. Even the gelato was expensive. It was mid afternoon by the time we finished looking around so we headed back to the hotel and only ventured out again for dinner.

Time to pack up for the last time and head home with a stopover in Dubai

Posted by caties55 12:19 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

On Again Off Again

Visiting Cinque Terre by train

rain 20 °C
View From the Mountains to the Sea on caties55's travel map.

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We set off early on Monday morning to try and beat the crowds for our day visiting the towns of Cinque Terre. That didn’t work out because there were dozens of others trudging to the train station with the same idea. Because the weather forecast was bad I guess most visitors thought the ferries weren’t a good idea and opted for the trains instead. We decided to go the the furthest town and work our way back to La Spezia. The trains run very regularly and it’s only about 5 minutes between each of the towns. The track takes you through a series of tunnels and every now and then you get a brief glimpse of the sea before heading back into another tunnel.

The first port of call was Monterosso al Mare. It has a wide beachfront with the typical turquoise waters and grey sand that we’ve seen in most of the coastal towns on our journey. Pastel coloured buildings, mostly in shades of orange and yellow, that are rather spread out compared to images I had seen of this region. The raised railway track runs along the beachfront and is supported by series of arches and there is a road below at sea level. At one end of the beach there are a couple of large black rocks very close to the shore. The streets are filled with souvenir shops and eateries and there is an interesting church painted in black and cream horizontal stripes. That’s something I haven’t seen before. We wandered through the streets for a while and then it was back on the train for the short ride to the next town.

Vernazza has a large square overlooking the water. It seems to be a popular spot to eat and drink judging by the number of umbrella covered tables. As you look towards the sea there is a church on the right hand side at sea level and to the left a castle perched high above the water. As you move into the area behind the square it is a maze of narrow streets filled with the usual shops and cafes. There is a steep hill rising behind the town that is covered in vineyards.

Back to the train station for another quick trip. The trains were all running a bit late but they run so often we didn’t have to wait for long. Each train has been very full and unfortunately many of our fellow passengers aren’t very courteous. Also at each train station they constantly make announcements warning you to be wary of pickpockets. The next town, Corniglia is the only one that isn’t at sea level. To reach the town you can either walk up close to 400 stairs or take the shuttle bus from the station. No contest there, shuttle bus all the way. Although these towns look lovely from a distance when you are close up the paintwork looks rather faded and in many areas is peeling. This was particularly the case here. The whole town looked rather neglected. You would think with all the tourist euros coming in, not to mention the city tax you pay everywhere you stay that the government would give the residents subsidies to assist with the maintenance of the paintwork at least. The are vineyards on the steep hills around the town and there is another town at the top overlooking Corniglia. There are buses that run to some of the hillside towns but we decided to give them a miss. We didn’t spend much time in Corniglia but moved on quickly to the next one.

The trains were getting more crowded and when you get off at Manarola you have to walk through a long tunnel to reach the town. It was shoulder to shoulder all the way. Those people heading back to the station had a difficult time swimming against the tide. This town is steeper than the first two we visited and has a very rugged rocky foreshore. The houses are stacked above each other along the sea cliff and hillside. There is a rocky breakwall protecting the harbour and what appears to be a swimming area among the rocks.

The final town Riomaggiore is quite similar to Manarola and also has a long tunnel running from the train station. We had been trying to find somewhere to have lunch at the last two towns but hadn’t found anything that appealed to us and decided that we would definitely have lunch here as it was nearly 3 o’clock and we were very hungry. Unfortunately, all the cafes and restaurants
were full and had people lined up waiting. We finally found one with seating up near the top of the town and as it turned out was probably better than those we had tried earlier. After lunch we headed back to the train station for our final train ride. The sky had been getting cloudier as the day went on and it looked like rain was imminent. The train was packed to the gills but we managed to get a seat.

Within half an hour of getting back to the apartment the rain started and within a short time was very heavy. It rained steadily through the night and into mid afternoon the next day. We took a bus trip out to a local shopping mall and bought some groceries for lunch and dinner and returned to the apartment. When the rain eased off we walked down to the port. On the way back we were going to catch the elevator up to the castle but the elevator was closed and we didn’t feel like any more steep walking after the previous day. We went back to the apartment, played some card games and organised our suitcases for the trip home.

Posted by caties55 17:26 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Trying to Beat the Rain

Flying Visit to Portofino on a Cloudy Day

overcast 22 °C
View From the Mountains to the Sea on caties55's travel map.

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On Sunday we had an early start for a long train journey to La Spezia. We had two train changes on the way but all went smoothly and we were checked into our apartment by 2pm. It had been raining earlier in the day but by the time we arrived the rain had stopped but it was still overcast. We had originally planned to have a relaxing afternoon and then spend the following day visiting the Cinque Terre towns and then the Portofino area the day after. The forecast for the following 2 days wasn’t promising with heavy rain predicted from late the next afternoon onwards. Since we still had a few hours of daylight we decided to go straight to Portofino while the weather was reasonable.

We caught the train to Santa Margherita Ligure around 2.30pm and arrived close to 3.45pm. There is a small bus that runs about every 15 minutes from just outside the train station at Santa Margherita to Portofino. We only had to wait about 5 minutes for the bus to leave and then it was another one of those scary drives along a winding narrow road with a sheer drop down one side to the water. There are some lovely views along the way if you don’t have your eyes closed while praying you will make it safely to the end of the journey. We saw lots of crazy people walking on the road which has no footpath for most of the way. It is a very popular scenic walk but you have to be vigilant with vehicles passing by all the time. When we arrived in Portofino there was quite a crowd waiting to get back on the bus for the return ride. The bus is very small and I think there were at least two busloads waiting to get on board. I say waiting but they weren’t really. Some of them tried to push their way on before we could even get off.

Although it was cloudy Portofino looked stunning. It’s a relatively small town with tall pastel coloured buildings around the harbour with some other buildings and a castle high above the harbour. There were quite a few boats in the harbour and the water was a deep aqua colour. We wanted to walk back along the road towards Santa Margherita to check out the views and hoped to catch the bus back along the way. I don’t know how it happened but before we knew it we became part of the crazy crowd walking the scenic route. We stopped at a bus stop a couple of times but when the buses came past the sign said “completo” which I guess means the bus is full because it was standing room only and the bus didn’t stop. We did the entire 5km walk all the way back to Santa Margherita. It is similar to Portofino but larger and spread out over a wider area. If we had a full day in this area we had hoped to visit Rapallo which also looks lovely but we were grateful that we at least had the chance to see as much as we did. By the time we reached Santa Margherita it was around 5.30pm and there was a train due so we didn’t hang around. We called it a day and headed back to La Spezia..

Posted by caties55 18:39 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

I Do Love to be Beside the Seaside

Sorrento on a drizzly day

rain 22 °C
View From the Mountains to the Sea on caties55's travel map.

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The Saturday forecast was for rain in the morning with clearing skies mid afternoon. We had planned a visit to Sorrento and even though conditions weren’t ideal conditions for visiting a seaside resort we decided to do that rather than hanging around Naples on a rainy day. It seems many others had the same idea because the train was nearly full.

We caught a late morning train and arrived around lunchtime. It was still drizzling rain so we opted to have lunch at an indoor restaurant. It was rather busy and I felt sorry for those restaurants that had mainly al fresco seating as they had very few customers. We took our time as it was pleasant inside and we weren’t in a hurry to be anywhere. Afterwards we strolled around the town and wandered down to the waterfront. Sorrento is bigger and more upmarket than the other towns we visited on the Amalfi coast. Plenty of shops selling designer brands. As you walk towards the water the marina is on your right and the beach towards the left. In the beach area they have extensive jetties going out into the water. These were lined with empty sun lounges and dining tables that I imagine would normally be packed on a sunny Saturday. The sand is the usual course dark grey that we’ve seen a lot over here which is why the sun lounges are a good idea. Better than getting dirt all over your swimsuit. Apart from the shops and beach there’s really not a lot to see so we headed back to Naples around 3pm. As we boarded the train the clouds started to clear and we could finally see some blue sky. We could see more of the scenery on the way back and in better weather I think the ferry trip between Naples and Sorrento would be lovely.

Unfortunately, the forecast for the next few days is very similar but hopefully we’ll manage to dodge the rain.

Posted by caties55 06:14 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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