April 02, 2012 GMT
When in Rome
Week 14 - Rimini in Italy to Pompeii in Italy
When Google maps tells you it will take over 5 hours to get somewhere theyíre right. It was only a couple of hours to Pescara on the motorway, but the coast road was built up all the way and slow going. It was cold and dark and raining by the time we got there we thankfully checked in, grabbed a pizza and crashed out.
Tuesday we checked out the weather forecast and there was snow coming. If were to cross the mountains to Rome it was now or never. We figured the motorway would be quicker and safer if it snowed so for once we followed the green signs and got a toll ticket. Almost immediately we started climbing and it got colder and colder. We got about a third of the way to Rome and it started snowing. It got really heavy and then covered the outside lane of the motorway. I think through sheer will power Ant kept us upright and we stopped for a coffee and to defrost. While we were having coffee there was a queue of people taking pictures of the bike. We were sitting in the cafť thinking wierdos taking pictures and Iím sure they were thinking wierdos riding that contraption through all this snow.
The bike was sprinkled with snow when we got out, but we pressed on and eventually the snow stopped and we started to drop down towards Rome.
Got off the motorway and immediately got lost. Found a bus stop with a map in it and found our way to Porta Pia and then to the hotel. Got some yummy gnocchi with gorgonzola at a local restaurant and went to bed.
Up early for exploring in Rome. Wandered up to the nearest bus stop and found we could buy a 24 hour ticket for busses and trams for 4 Euro, bargain! Bought our tickets and caught the bus to The Colosseum. Which was incredible.
Iíve seen it so many times on the telly, but actually being there was fantastic, despite the rain. Walked all round the different levels and looked at the displays. I particularly liked the Roman graffiti which must have taken ages to carve into the stone.
Stopped by the gladiatorís training school and then grabbed a coffee to warm up a bit.
Spent the rest of the day looking round the forum ruins,
the Circus Maximus,
the Piazza del Popolo (which seems to be the place to go and snog your Italian boy / girlfriend. I swear some of the couples were trying to set some kind of longest kiss record!) and the riverside. We walked down the Via del Corso and had a look at the shops, but too expensive for any retail therapy.
Thursday we caught the bus to Vatican City and went to the museum. Some of the statues and artefacts were really impressive, but Ant and I found the art to be a little bit on the violent side for our taste. They did seem to have a model of the Death Star outside though, which was quite cool.
The Sistine Chapel was another place it was fantastic to be after having seen so many pictures of the ceiling. We only have 1 fuzzy picture taken from up my sleeve as youíre not supposed to take photos in there. I haven't posted it as I really shouldn't have taken it. They had a man shouting at people and everything. We walked round to St Peterís, but it was shut. We assumed the pope must have been having his lunch, as it didnít reopen till 4. We made do with a look at the Christmas tree and nativity which were still there even though it was the 2nd of Feb. I guess the pope doesnít have to worry about bad luck!
Back into town by bus via the Castle Saint Angelo and the Trevi Fountain, which is massive and more of a waterfall than a fountain.
Well worth a visit if you are ever there, really pretty when itís lit up at night too. Walked up to the Pantheon which was shut for mass, timing is important when visiting Rome. Shattered after all that sightseeing so Pizza for tea and then back to the hotel for an early night.
Packed the bike up after breakfast and incredibly it started snowing. Thatís the first time itís snowed in Rome for 28 years! Due to the cold and wet the bike wouldnít start so Ant had to do some fettling with it and clean the plugs. Got it going eventually and headed out of Rome on the Tangenzianale. Took the SS7 towards Aprilia, but the rain eventually drove us into McDonalds. We were the lady with the mops worst nightmare. She had to come and mop the floor round us every 5 minutes as the rain dripped off our clothes and left puddles on the floor. After another couple of hours of torrential rain and the beginnings of a thunderstorm we decided to call it a day and stopped for the night in Latina. Went to Carrefour and bought a pic-nic tea. Sat in the hotel stuffing our faces and watching the lightening.
Saturday was beautiful, all the rain had blown away and it was bright and sunny. Nice coast road again and we got to Montedrangone in no time at all.
We started looking for the hotel and then I remembered we couldnít find one in Montedragone and had actually booked in Licola Mare, which was another 50k down the coast. We were quite glad as Montedragone looked pretty grotty. Little did we know Licola Mare was much worse! Found the turning for it off the Naples Tangenzianale and after passing a considerable number of ladies of the night we found the road the hotel was on. It looked like the rubbish in the town hadnít been collected in months and there were gangs of men on every corner and dogs roaming everywhere. The hotel itself wasnít too bad and we had a nice view of the sea over the burnt out cars on the beach.
Made a hasty exit from Licola Mare and went into Naples to try and find a McDonalds to book somewhere in Pompeii. No sign of a McDís and the traffic and cobbles in Naples were a nightmare. Got on the ring road, which in Naples isnít a ring, and we were going the wrong way! Gave up eventually and took the motorway to get out of Naples. Took the exit for Pompeii and horror even more cobbles! We wobbled our way down the road and decided to try one of the campsites opposite the entrance to the ruins. They had some caravans available that would be warmer than the tent so we booked into one of those for a few days. Looking forward to exploring the ruins.
Posted by Nikki Robinson at 01:00 PM
March 11, 2012 GMT
Week 13 - Pisa in Italy to Rimini in Italy
Monday morning we were back on the road and heading to Venice. Too far to go in a day, so would stop for the night in Bologna. Almost immediately we got out of Pisa the road started to climb and we were heading into the mountains.
Got a bit worried when we started to pass signs that said we should have snow tyres on, but although it was grey and cold we didnít see any snow. We passed an Autodemolitzioni (scrap yard) just outside Lucca and called in to see if he had any parts. The bike is still handling badly from the crash in Morocco, but he didnít have any big bikes just scooters. Pressed on through windy mountain roads and beautiful Tuscan scenery and got to Bologna late afternoon.
Pitched up and into the campsite restaurant for some food and to keep warm.
Really cold night and the ground was frozen solid when we got up in the morning. Set off wearing all our clothes to try and stay warm and after a bit of wiggling around and an accidental trip up the motorway for a junction, found the non-toll road to Venice. Got colder and colder through the day and we were shivering by the time we got to the campsite in Fusina. We tried to get a bungalow but they were closed for the winter, so decided a hotel was the best option as it was too cold for the tent. The hotel we were given directions to was closed so we rode into town looking for another. The only one open was a 4 star and I nearly died when we discovered it was 100 Euro a night, but it was even colder and dark by then so we didnít have much choice.
It did give us a chance to find a cheap hotel in Venice though, so after a quick roadside breakfast / lunch (well checkout wasnít till 12 and you have to get your moneys worth at that price!) we set off towards Venice.
We crossed the bridge and followed the signs for Tronchetto which we knew had parking facilities. The car garages were really expensive, but after a bit of searching we found a bike park right outside the water bus terminal and once again it was free! We rearranged the luggage, threw a tarp over the bike and set off to find the water bus to our hotel.
Water bus was no problem, but finding the hotel was a bit more of a challenge. We found it in the end, it was the one with scaffolding all over it. Apparently it was a really old building and they were having some urgent repairs made to the roof. I can confirm the hotel was old, as the following day my foot went through one of the stair treads! Also our room had the worst lamp shade we had ever seen, but that might be just nit picking.
Despite the hotel Venice was the most beautiful city I have ever been to. It was so pretty it felt unreal like you were walking through a film set. We did the touristy things; theatre, gondola ride, Piazza San Marco and Rialto bridge. We took tons of pics in Venice so here is a selection.
It was lovely and really interesting to see how everything has been converted to water. We saw skip boats, cement mixer boats, bin wagon boats, water busses, water taxis and water ambulances.
Two days really wasnít long enough and we almost ended up having to stay longer. The day we came to leave the water busses had gone on strike! We were told they would be running until 9, but they werenít. Luckily as we were wandering from bus stop to bus stop we found 2 gentlemen who were also trying to get out of Venice. We shared a water taxi with them to Piazza Del Roma and then got the monorail back to Tronchetto. The monorail was a great find. It was the only thing in Venice that was cheap at 1 Euro each and it ran every 4 minutes. No one in Venice seemed to know it existed! We think itís a conspiracy although weíre not quite sure why.
Got back to the bike and it was all still there and not covered in parking tickets. I still canít quite believe we left it there for 2 days for nothing. Got on the road and headed down the coast to Ravenna. Didnít take as long to get there as we thought so we arrived early afternoon and in time to feel the tremor of the earthquake that happened in Northern Italy. Ant managed to continue having an afternoon nap through the earthquake so it really wasnít a biggy by the time it reached us. We wandered into the centre of Ravenna for a few hours which is really nice and famous for mosaics apparently. After a crisis of indecision we ended up back in the hotel restaurant for dinner and 2 of the best mixed grills weíve ever had.
Saturday we went to Rimini. It wasnít too far from Ravenna so we got there with plenty of afternoon left to explore. We walked down to the beach which was really good. Wide and long with nice soft sand. We were the only people there. You could tell it would be heaving in summer though, so I suppose January has some advantages. We walked into town and found the triumphal arch of Augustus and the roman amphitheatre, unfortunately though it was shut so we could only look over the fence.
We found a self-service restaurant round the back of the train station and had roast pork and pasta for dinner it was great. Knew the food would be good as there were loads of policemen in there getting pizza.
Sunday we decided on a day trip to San Marino, which is the smallest principality in the world. It was cold and rainy, but only 45 mins away so not too bad. We headed for the centro storico and we climbed up a really steep hill the road had loads of switch backs and we wobbled up it in the rain. Parked the bike and walked into the old town.
It was really picturesque, but so cloudy you couldnít see anything from the viewpoints.
We went to the vampire and warewolf museum which was fun and then stopped for a coffee and a warm up.
Whilst we were in the cafť it started snowing! We walked all the way up to the castle and then on our way down took in the San Marino museumand this really strange statue that looked like 3 mosquitos stuck together.
It had cleared up a bit by then so we did get to see a bit of the view.
Back to Rimini and dinner in a really nice steakhouse restaurant on the seafront. Fell into bed with very achy legs from all the walking and looking forward to the ride to Pescara tomorrow.
Posted by Nikki Robinson at 05:07 PM
Back to Europe
Week 12 - Cap Spartel in Morocco to Pisa in Italy
Monday night we packed up as much stuff as possible and went to bed excited at the prospect of moving on. On the whole we enjoyed Morocco, but we were both more than ready for somewhere new.
Tuesday morning we packed up the last of our camp and set off for Tanger Med. We decided to try the motorway this time, as it was still windy and we didnít fancy the coast road again. Worried about having no ferry ticket as we had booked online and hadnít been able to print the confirmation, but we just went to the ticket office with our reference number and they printed our boarding cards no problem. Joined the queue and went through passport and customs control. The new Tanger Med port is so much better than the old port in Tanger city, it was even verging on efficient! We followed the cars through the port and were stopped on what we initially thought was a way bridge, but it turned out to be a giant x-ray machine. It was really cool, like a car wash attached to the side of a truck. Unfortunately we were told very sternly we couldnít take any pics by an official with a gun, so we didnít argue.
Tied the bike down next to bulk head on the lorry deck and found our cabin. There were lots of people who didnít have cabins, so there were belongings and blankets taking up every available bit of floor space in the even in the stairwells. That canít have been a comfortable nights kip. Itís a good job we took our own food, as the boat wouldnít take Moroccan Dirhams and none of our cards would work in the restaurant. The shop was rubbish too. Needless to say we werenít very impressed with the ferry.
We had a brief stop in Barcelona on Wednesday night, which looked very nice from the side of the ferry and then we were off again. We were late getting into Livorno and then we had to wait for another hour to get our passports checked before we were allowed off the ferry, but at least we werenít in a car. I recon we were off at least 30 mins before all the other passengers as they had to unload all the lorries before they could open the car deck. Our first impression of Italians was great. The chap who checked our passport asked where we were going and gave us directions to the nearest campsite! We rode up to customs and said we had nothing to declare and that was it.
We followed the directions out of Livorno and found the campsite straight away, but the gate was closed. I wandered in and chanced to find the owner on her way home. She said we were very late for booking in, but took pity on us when I explained we had only just got off the ferry. We sorted out the paperwork and rode into the best campsite ever. We had a sea view pitch, with itís own balcony and itís wasnít even that cold. We cooked chicken and noodles for tea on the balcony and retired to bed.
Went into Livorno in the morning to get our bearings and find a cash machine for some Euros. We were both deliriously happy to be back in Europe. We sipped coffee in a pavement cafť and listed all the things we didnít realise we had missed, like tarmac and road signs and seeing women in the street. Got a map and decided on a route plan for Italy first stop Pisa.
Got some internet back at the campsite and looked for somewhere to stay. Best we could come up with was a hostel in Pisa so we booked in for 2 nights. Packed up camp in the morning and set off for Pisa. The countryside was beautiful, but decidedly wintery looking after Morocco. Didnít take us long to get to Pisa, but then we got thoroughly lost trying to find the hostel. Eventually we found the train station and I went in to buy a city map only to find we were just round the corner from the hostel! Booked in and discovered one of the best things about Italy, it costs a fortune to park your car but bikes are free.
Walked into town and it was really bustling and lively. The streets still had fairy lights up so it all felt very festive.
Found a little restaurant and had the set menu which included the best spaghetti carbonara I have ever tasted. Back to the hostel feeling very pleased and with our love of Italy growing by the hour!
Sunday we walked through the town, stopped for gelato, and then up to the leaning tower. I know ice cream is probably not the best thing to have for breakfast, but it was really good.
The tower was great and spent a happy few hours wandering around and doing the tourist things.
Stopped for lunch at a restaurant that did good beer. It had been a while, as Morocco was dry so I steered a very happy and slightly wobbly Ant back to the hostel. Pizza for tea and to bed, next stop Venice.
Posted by Nikki Robinson at 05:06 PM
November 22, 2011 GMT
Aaaaa 1st border crossing!
Week 3 - Estepona in Spain to Cap Spartel in Morocco.
Mom and Dad tanked it across Spain and joined us on Monday evening. We had a few days relaxing, BBQing and drinking Sangria in Estepona. Got chatting to a Dutch chap who was also staying on the campsite. He and his wife are travelling around Africa for 12 months, but were stuck in Spain waiting for their carnet de passage to turn up. They were in a 15 tonne, ex UN, cruise missile truck, which we worked out did 13mpg. Bonkers!
We left Estepona on Thursday and headed along the coast to La Linea de la Conception. We had been reliably informed there was a campsite there conveniently located for visiting Gibraltar. Went round and round, but no sign of it. Had a quick trip into Gibraltar for some petrol and shopping at Morrisons, which was a bit surreal. Finally found a place to stay in San Roque as the sun was setting.
Back to Gibraltar on Friday. We went on the bike and Mom and Dad parked the van up and went on the bus. Unfortunately they had to pay, as their bus passes donít work on Gibraltar. To get onto the rock itself you have to drive across the airport runway and we got stuck for about 15 mins to let the planes go by.
Gibraltar is a mad place. Definitely British, but with a heavy Spanish influence. We rode around the whole island and the road takes you through some really long tunnels cut out of the rock. The roads are quite narrow so the place is packed with scooters. Iíve never seen so much bike parking! We did the touristy thing and caught the cable car to the top of the rock to see the view and the monkeys.
On the way up everyone is warned not to get too close etc. as they are wild animals. They are certainly clever. One snook up behind an unsuspecting gentleman unzipped his rucksack and stole his sandwiches. Luckily his wife thought it was hilarious so it was ok to have a bit of a giggle.
Out of Gibralter to Algeciras, where the ferry to Morocco leaves from. Searched all round the houses and along the coast, but couldnít find a campsite, so gave up and carried along the coast to Tarifa. Using the campsite Wi-Fi in the bar and got talking to Brendan and Eithne an Irish couple touring Europe for 6 months with their dog Charlie. Their blog is here http://www.travelblog.org/Bloggers/CrustyEithne/ . Finally staggered to bed at 2 after a cracking evening and drinking all their beer, oops.
Saturday it threw it down. Massive thunder and lightning storm. Ant was really grumpy, heís convinced itís raining on us personally! Want to get to Morocco ASAP to get out of the rain, but Mom and Dad still recovering from their many miles across Spain, so we had to say goodbye again. This time was definitely harder than saying goodbye at home. Stopped in Tarifa on the off chance there was ferry from there, rather than going all the way into Algeciras and 30mins later we were on the sea and off to Morocco. 5 mins after that we were both feeling really sick. The sea was rough and we had caught the small catamaran ferry which hit every single wave and, Iím convinced, a few that werenít there. All we could do was sit and stare at the table as all other movement would lead to unpleasantness.
Got our passports stamped by a policeman on the ferry and they were checked again as we got off the boat. That was easy I thought, then we got to customs. The customs chap took Antís logbook and asked us to park up. I was told to wait with the bike and they took Ant off to the customs offices where he had to go to various rooms and get lots of different stamps. He was gone for ages and I was begging to wonder if he was coming back! 10 euros and 2 packets of fags later and we had a temporary import paper for the bike allowing it into Morocco until February. We left the port, it was still chucking it down with rain and the traffic was mental, so we took refuge in a McDonalds until the worst of the weather passed. Heading out of Tanger and the culture shock kicked in as we saw a chap walking his camels up the road. The Tanger roads were all flooded so after a considerable amount of puddle navigation we took the road towards Cap Spartel. We found a campsite and fell into bed a bit soggy.
Posted by Nikki Robinson at 07:44 PM
November 18, 2011 GMT
Soooo Many Oranges!
Week 2 - Alcaser Do Sal in Portugal to Estepona in Spain.
Monday dawned warm and sunny in Alcacer Do Sal and we couldnít decide whether to stay another day or move on, so we walked into town. Nice place very picturesque, but itís one heck of a hill back to the campsite. By the time we got back it was too late (and we were too knackered) to move on so we went to the beach. It was beautiful, empty golden sand as far as the eye could see. You will note from the photo though it wasnít warm enough to take your coat off.
Started working our way down the coast on Tuesday and stayed in Lagos. All the campsites along the South coast are open and full of retired English and Dutch people spending the winter somewhere warmer, so no need to wild camp this week.
Wednesday we went to Sagres which is the furthest point South and West in Portugal / Europe. We visited the lighthouse there and for some reason there was a giant wooden chair ?!?
Worked our way along the South coast of Portugal to Vila Real De Santo Antonio. We thought we would have to go inland a fair way and across a bridge to get back into Spain, but we saw a sign for a car ferry, so we hopped on that. I think itís a bit of a stretch to call it a car ferry, there was probably enough room for one car and that would be tight. 10 minute crossing and we were in Spain again.
We worked our way along the coast a bit further then back inland towards Seville. So many oranges! Fields and fields of orange trees as far as you could see. Every town we went through had orange trees lining the road. Strangely they all had rotting oranges on so it seems no one bothers to pick them. I guess when you have that many it doesnít really matter!
On the way into Seville we passed the solar power station which was incredible. You can see all the shafts of light bouncing off the mirrors and being concentrated into one point. It looks like some strange alien technology.
Turned South again from Seville, heading towards Marbella. Road became really mountainous and twisty. Miles and miles of stunning scenery, I didnít know where to look. Ant didnít see much of it because it was a bit windy and he was busy keeping the bike upright.
Closed the week out on the Costa Del Sol. Chilling out for a couple of days in Estepona, waiting for my Mom and Dad to catch us up in their campervan.
Posted by Nikki Robinson at 10:03 PM
November 05, 2011 GMT
Rain Rain GO AWAY!
Week 1- Bilbao in Spain to Alcacer do Sal in Portugal
What can we say about our first week except itís been a bit of a roller coaster. From elated due to being on our adventure, to tense, very tense when wild camping, to miserable when wet and cold due to the weather.
The ferry crossing was a bit rough, both Ant and I felt pretty sick so most of it was spent asleep. Left Bilbao to a beautiful morning and the old road to Santander was really wiggly through some fantastic countryside. We stopped in Torrelavega to find it is All Saints Day and Spain is shut!
Decided to go south to try and find some warmer weather and found rain instead. 1st nights wild camping was behind a stack of pallets at the back of a water treatment works. I donít think either of us got much sleep that night! The following day after riding through about 6 hours of rain we caved in and got a hotel. We had a handy wardrobe/ drying cupboard and managed to dry out all our gear for the next morning.
We watched the Spanish weather forcast and the announcer was being quite animated about the amount of rain and the strenth of the winds. Although that could have been normal Spanish. It looked like our only option was to battle it out till Saturday when the weather should return to scorchio.
The rain kept on coming so we pushed on south west through Spain. In one village we found this statue of a man fighting a big crocodile with what appears to be a spoon. Not sure what it was all about as there was no plaque or anything.
Wet and soggy we crossed the border into Portugal on Friday afternoon. We tried to make it to the coast, but were worn out by the time we got to Alcacer do Sal. Then a heavenly choir sang and a campsite sign appeared out of the gloom. We pulled into the municipal Parque de Campism fully expecting it to be shut, but it wasnít and it was almost full of campervans.
Hot showers, flat ground, free internet and then the sun came out. Itís so nice we decided to stay for the weekend. Maybe this travelling malarkey isnít so bad after all.
Posted by Nikki Robinson at 06:21 PM
October 31, 2011 GMT
We are sailing Ė and lots of thank yous
Hello from the Cap Finistere ferry to Bilbao. The crossing has been reasonably calm so far, but we havenít got our sea legs yet so much bumping into things is occurring.We sailed away from Portsmouth last night after a couple of manic days.
Thanks to all our friends and family who came to our leaving do on Friday night and big thanks to Nessie, who is a mad cake making genius.
Thanks to everyone who came to wave us off from home and to Rich, Rog and Tommo for keeping us company on the trip down to London.
Thanks to Hoon and Channie for your wonderful hospitality and a cracking night in your back garden as always.
Thanks to everyone who came to the Ace Cafe to see us off, we'll miss you all loads. Thanks to Hoon and Esox for the company on the ride down to Portsmouth. Massive thanks to Sophie and Issy for the quick stop off at their house, I have never been so glad to see a bacon sandwich!
But biggest thanks must go to Mom and Dad. Thanks for letting us live with you for the last 5 months (sorry it was bit longer than we anticipated) and thank you for all the support both moral and financial.
Can't believe we're on our way. Let's go have adventures! YAY!
Posted by Nikki Robinson at 06:59 PM
October 30, 2011 GMT
On our way
We're off! Still doesn't seem real.
We had a fantastic leaving do at our local community centre on Friday and we left yesterday at 1.20pm. Which was only twenty minutes after we intended, not bad.
Good ride down to London yesterday, a bit cold, but a BBQ, bonfire and good company soon banished the chills.
Off to the Cafe for breakfast and then to the Ace Cafe later. Looking forward to seeing everyone, but not as much as getting on the ferry tonight and having a good nights sleep. There are only so many nights of drinking in a row I can manage.
Posted by Nikki Robinson at 11:06 AM