A Travellerspoint blog

Walking the Cinque Terre

sunny 30 °C

CT_walk_day_001.jpgWould the Kokoda trail walks and the 4-8 km daily walks pay off today? 9km and 5 hour estimated trekking time. Would Jenny be there at the end with a cup of tea and cream biscuits?

Monterosso to Vernazza Today was the day of my walk. The plan was to head out early, which I did. Smart move! Few people around and a cool but sunny morning. M would meet me in Riomaggiore at 11am. I left the hotel at 7.45am, and headed for Vernazza (from our base in Monterosso). The views were spectacular and a false sense of ease came over me. However, about 10 mins in to the walk, the steps started and seemed to continue forever. At this stage I was still very keen, so I got through them and wound my way past many backyard vegetable gardens and orchards. People were up early watering their plants. Vines, tomatoes, oranges, tamarillos, cauliflower, capsicums and more. It crossed my mind that my father must have some Italian in him because he says that all trees/plants in your garden should bear fruit! Here every square inch is used to grow something! Productive private plots! The path was very rocky and very narrow for most of the way. At this early hour I passed very few people and enjoyed the solitude. Up and around and down 3 mountains I went. The more level paths were easy, the steps up and down were hard. You do have to watch where you are stepping as everything is very uneven and for most part there are no barriers on the narrow paths to prevent falling off cliffs. I didn’t take a camera because I wanted to travel light so I really tried to absorb the views. They were spectacular. Looking back to each village you passed and out to the bright blue sea was amazing. The descent to Vernazza was very enjoyable and the view of the town on approach quite amazing. This looked the most picturesque town. I refuelled here with a bottle of water and tissues to mop up my sweat. Arrived at 8.45am
Vernazza to Corniglia 3km and an est. time of two hours between these towns. My legs were a bit tired and unfortunately I spoke to two Aussies along the way who said that there are some 750 steps to get out of this town. I didn’t really want to know this! Within minutes of leaving the town you go up and up and up. Will it ever end? I was less fresh and feeling the ascent, but again the views back to town and the sea are gorgeous. I passed handfuls of walkers going in the opposite direction. Now I know why!!! More and more steps to climb. Although the distance is one kilometre shorter, it felt longer to me. I also found downhill annoying because the steps are sort of paved with the rocks turned sideways and I don’t have sturdy runners on, rather soft flexible shoes which don’t give me enough padding. Corniglia is up in the mountains and the only one of the 5 towns not on the sea. On approach it looks quite big and as colourful as the last 2 towns. I refuel here as well. One peach and a bottle of water. I arrived at 10am. Unfortunately the Corniglia to Manarola track is closed and so everyone must catch a train to the next town. Pity I miss the steps down to the station. I am following the road and it adds about another 1 km.
Corniglia to Manarola By train. Distance- 1 km
Manarola to Riomaggorie On leaving the train in Riomaggiore to do the last 1 km of the track, I realised that there is no exciting trail, rather a tiled bridge skirting the sea linking the last 2 towns. Not only is it a civilised and boring 1 km link, it is full of older (than me) people walking slowly between the last 2 towns. It is really tacky with graffiti on walls, locks tied to gates and rails to promise unending love to your sweetheart and to top it all off a man playing love songs on his piano accordion. It is much worse than Jules Lund’s segment on Getaway!!!! I dash by the crowds and edge my way closer and closer to my end destination. I am meeting M at 11am at the station and arrive at 10.45am. Mission accomplished!!! M was on time!!!

Posted by MandM Travels 08:41 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

Nice to Monterosso

Nice-Ventimiglia-Genoa-Monterosso

sunny 30 °C

monterosso..one_008.jpgTaking the train from Nice to Monterosso was a great decision because for most part the 3 trains followed the Cote DÁzur's coastline and we were dazzled by the shimmering Mediterranean Sea. Between dark tunnels as it went through mountains to skirt the coastline, we could not stop gazing out the window to admire the view. The sea was dotted with boats, swimmers, ocean liners, people fishing and beautiful beaches. The trip took 4.5 hours and our connections were very good. A trip well worth doing!

Posted by MandM Travels 12:16 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Aix en Provence & Luynes

A week is not enough....

sunny 31 °C

comargue_n_arle_003.jpg market_day_aix_012.jpgA week in Provence is both a luxury and a very short time. The region has quaint small towns, beautiful beaches, grand Chateaux’s and Palaces, vineyards, mountain ranges and impressive larger towns. We were based in Luynes, about 5km from Aix en Provence, in a beautifully restored 18th Century monastery that now has 5 rooms available to stay in. The B&B is called Le Clos des Frere Gris and it is simply gorgeous, peaceful and welcoming thanks to the lovely owners of this place. Luynes is a quiet tiny town. Aix is an old town founded by the Romans (122BC). We have enjoyed exploring the town, loved going to the vibrant and colourful markets which are 3 times a week and enjoyed the patisseries!

Posted by MandM Travels 09:36 Archived in France Comments (0)

The Camargue and Arles

The spanish influence in Provence

comargue_n_arle_021.jpgcomargue_n_arle_015.jpgThe Spanish influence in Provence (The Camargue and Arles)
Having left Barcelona behind a week ago, it was a great surprise to find that the places we visited today had a very Spanish flavour to them. On our way to the Camargue, our first stop was Les St Marie de la Mar. A bright, sunny sea side town with a distinctly Spanish feel due to the street signs warning of danger due to bulls and horses running in the street, the architecture being distinctly Spanish- white washed houses with red terracotta tiles, as well as some thatch roofs. The central fountain indicates that this is cow boy country; cattle and horses are breed here.
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The Camargue region is flat salty plains and one thing it is known for is the pink flamingos that migrate here for the summer. Our visit to the Parc Ornithologique Pont de Gau was well worth it! Seeing flocks of pink flamingos was quite unique. You can watch them for hours and many serious bird watchers were here with their telephoto lenses at the ready.
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The rest of the day was spent in Arles. It lies on the Rhone, is small and easy to walk around and has many impressive Roman ruins to admire. As we drove from Camargue to Arles and passed beautiful fields of sun flowers, we were reminded of the landscape so famous in Van Gogh’s paintings. On arrival to Arles we were lucky enough to find it in festival mode: Feria du Riz, an annual rice harvest festival. This is where the Spanish influence reappears. The festival celebrates the rice harvest with street stalls, music, floats, people dressed in Spanish costumes, bullfights and cow boy and cow girls events. Yes, we did go to a real bull fight, but that’s another story. (which the other M will tell!)

Posted by MandM Travels 09:26 Comments (0)

Avignon & Les Baux

Sur le pont, d'Avignon......

avignon_baux_039.jpgYes, I do remember learning this French song at school and so all day while in the walled city of Avignon, it kept repeating in my head. This is a very beautiful town, with the Palais du Papes the main reason to visit. This is where the Catholic Church ruled during the 14th Century with the magnificent and excessive Palais enabling an interesting study of medieval history and theology. The walled town is imposing and impressive and allows for great views of the valley and the Rhone, and of course that bridge!
Les Baux is probably the most beautiful small town we visited while in Provence. We didn’t have enough time here but what we did see was so impressive, quaint and scenic. It is located high up on a group of rock formations with Chateaux Les Baux at the very top. The Castles ruins are interesting, grand and invite you to explore the area by climbing and walking through it. It is the perfect place for a castle due to its remote access and you do get the idea that defending it was perhaps easier as a result.
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Posted by MandM Travels 09:23 Comments (0)

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