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London to Pisa, Pisa to Lucca, Italy

Off to Tuscany for Love Home Swap number eight

sunny 24 °C

It was up early to catch our very early taxi to Heathrow Airport. We got delivered to our terminal and soon found our check in counter. We flew British Airways. We were very impressed with this large airport. Lots of people dealing with checking in, no problems, then straight through to the scanners still no queue, just straight into the reception area. It was a good flight to Pisa, though a bit like a roller coaster in places. We landed in Pisa Airport, a smallish airport. We thought it would be a long way to take a taxi from Pisa to Lucca so decided to take the train instead. There was a well marked trail from the airport to the place to catch the shuttle to get to the station. After getting off the shuttle found we were on the other side of the rail lines as well as steps there was a lift to get across, then just a matter of working out where to get back up. We managed to get a ticket. It is amazing how helpful people can be when you are travelling. If you buy a train ticket at Lucca or Pisa be sure to validate it in the machine or you get fined apparently. Validating it meant putting it in a special machine that clipped it. The train was old, we managed to find a seat for us and one for our bags. We weren't worried about putting our bags on the seats with the train being so old. The train stopped at about three stops and took around 25 minutes. We had quite a long wait at Lucca Station, waiting for Christina to pick us up. Christina is a house manager and manages Roberta's villa in Lucca. She also does cooking lessons in her home for tourists. This day she had two lots of cooking classes in her home. We had to wait till 4.30 pm when she was going to leave one of her classes to pick us up and take us to the villa. She was not happy with us just catching a taxi there. I guess she was getting paid for this service. First we went to the station coffee shop and had something to eat and a coffee to pass the time. At least they had WiFi connection. Went to the toilet and it was there one and only toilette that's funny I just typed toilet in Italian. This was a squat toilet it always takes one by surprise when you are not used to them. After being here for quite some time we spotted another Cafe, Bar across the street so decided to go and have a wine. It is hard to overstay in these places as some people sitting at the tables playing cards. Finally Christina arrived in her little car, it was a tight squeeze to fit the suitcases and ourselves in the car. On our drive we were delighted to find that Lucca is a completely walled city. Christina took us past the supermarket then on to the villa. A tight squeeze in the car past some buildings to get to the back of the villa. This villa was large. Lots of bedrooms and dining areas. There was room for many but there were just the two of us. The walls of the villa which was built in 1600 were really thick so it was nice and cool inside. This villa along with the attached villas were a former nunnery. There is a passage underground under the villas which the priests would walk along. You realise that you are in a predominately catholic country when you see that a lot of the homes have a shrine and the area where we were had a major shrine as you drove in. Also when you pick up the paper there are photos of the pope. Soon it was back to driving on the right hand side of the road in Roberta's car, this car had lots of scratches down the sides and off to the super market for supplies. It takes forever the first time finding things and checking out things you have never seen before and getting tempted by the local delicacies.

Posted by kiwiscanflyto 01:36 Archived in Italy Tagged travelling Comments (0)

Dublin to Manchester, Manchester to Leeds

Heading to our 'Love Home Swap' in York

overcast 18 °C

After our very busy last day in Ireland we were happy to get a good night's rest at The Clayton Hotel near Dublin airport. We had to leave early as had a car to drop off, no scratches once again. It was good to share the driving while in Ireland,just don't ask me to drive on the other side of the road, Also had a plane to catch. This time no problems this time till I put my back pack on then went to grab my ipad, "where is my ipad". First a feeling of panic, then check the trays that had already been put vertical for there return journey. There it was on its side. A promise to myself to visit a stationery shop and plaster it with stickers. The problem it blended in with the grey tray. This happened way back in Auckland when I glanced back and saw my ipad. Whew. Another quick flight uneventful flight from Dublin to Manchester. Then it was back to Eurocar to hire our third car from the same place, knew the drill by now. Instead of charging extra for me to drive they upgraded us to a big car, plenty of boot room. We headed off towards Leeds. I made a decision that we would stop in Leeds for the night. We shared the driving. I don't know what happened to the day but it was night time when we arrived. Parking was good we parked in the Novetel car park. This place had a very comfy bed and we didn't have to leave till 12.00 noon the next day. We got our bags in our room then headed out to look for dinner. Reaching the city was through the rail way station. We wandered around the almost empty city then I spied Pieminister. What a great choice I had the most delicious steak pie with gravy and mushy peas. By now I was very hungry, have noticed I get a little grumpy when this hungry. I would go back to Leeds just to have some more pie. The pastry was crunchy but thin. Yummmmyy. We were naughty had dessert, we did share.

Posted by kiwiscanflyto 14:29 Archived in England Tagged travelling Comments (0)

Waterford, Kilkenny, Cashel, Cork, Ireland

A big travelling day

sunny 19 °C

We enjoyed our stay in the Waterford Marina Hotel but it was time to move on. First we explored Waterford, well the historical viking triangle of Waterford. The Waterford Crystal Shop was the first place to visit. In 2009 it's Waterford base was closed due to bankruptcy of the Wedgewood group. After several difficult takeovers, it re-emerged back near it's original roots in Waterford City. This location now home to a manufacturing facility that melts over 750 tones of crystal a year. The big new visitor Centre is a major tourist attraction you can do a tour. We just looked through the shop due to time restraints. We saw lots of beautiful crystal. Afterwards we walked around the Viking triangle. Viking raiders first established a settlement near Waterford in 853. They settled in Waterford in 914 and built Ireland's first city. We looked through the Cathedral constructed in 1773. All to soon it was time to drive to Kilkenny. Kilkenny was a bit of a flying visit. There is lots to see here like Black Abbey, Kilkenny Castle, Jerpoint Abbey, Dunmore Cave. We walked past the castle and walked around the town and stopped for a coffee and lunch at the Black Cat. Soon we were off to Cashel. We put the place in Garmin and off down the motor way we headed. I checked on my cell phone and decided we should head across the country as seemed to be going the wrong way. Realised later we were going the fast way on the motorways. Anyway it was straight onto narrow country lanes , we seemed to be twisting and turning all over the place. I must say we did see a lot of countryside and farms. Eventually we popped out at the Cashel. Cashel has the Rock of Cashel. The ruins on the rock were being worked on. The town has Georgian buildings. In 1647 duringIrish Confederate Wars the town was stormed by English ParliamenArian troops. Over 1,000 Irish Catholic soldiers and civilians were killed in the attack and ensuing massacre. We visited Cashel Folk Village. This features historical retrospectivs of the Irish revolutionary period 1916-1923 and the Great Irish Famine 1845-1851. It has a penal chapel containing religious artifacts. It also has a tinker caravan. This place was packed full of stuff was quite jumbled but lots of interesting things. The owners brother had made life like figures that depended various events in history. The owner was particularly proud of the large original elk antlers. The Irish elk became extinct between 8,000 to 12,000 years ago. I liked the fact that the entrance museum was originally shops, when viewed from inside you can see the various orinal shops. We walked down the main street and had a coffee at this 3 story cafe in an old building. I was amused by the fact that there was a bridal party here all seated all over the place in their wedding finery, suits, flash hair doos eating things like fish and chips or fries, bacon and eggs. It was quite entertaining. Our next stop was Cork. I took a long stint at driving here, I wasn't impressed when I drove into Cork and ended up on a 4 lane roundabout in rush hour traffic. The second time around, freaking out managed to get in the right place to exit. We loved this hotel up above Coke with great views. It was a very large hotel with lots of character. We were rather tired so ate in the hotel had a very nice meal. The hotel was Ambassador Hotel & Health Club. There wasn't much health going on with us!!!!

Posted by kiwiscanflyto 13:28 Archived in Ireland Tagged travelling Comments (0)

Bristol to Dublin

Just one of those days

rain 17 °C

We had to pack our cases after spreading ourselves out in our house swap in Burton. Then there was the vacuum and clean before leaving. We had some time to spare so decided to drive into Bristol. It was pouring willthe rain. Geoff was keen to see a bridge he'd spied in a photo. It didn't take long to find that. We should have then set off to the airport. Really when you move on it would have been better just to get to the airport early and relax. But no in the pouring rain we headed into the city, first car park full, drove around in circles finally found a car park. Got out in the pouring rain and went into the first restaurant we found beside the river. It was so wet. We soon realised we were in a student hangout with music to match. All there was on the menu were hamburgers. Something I rarely eat. Anyway they tasted terrible I only ate some of mine. Afterwards headed for the Bristol airport not far away. We got there and realised they have no gas stations anywhere near. First Garmin lead us to a station that was long since closed. Then it took us down some very narrow country lanes, through bush to a country village where finally we found some gas. The time kept ticking by. Garmin found the short cut on the way not sure why it took us the long way in the first place. Anyway manage to drop the car off no scratches once again, amazing considering the narrow country lanes we had been negotiating while in Somerset. There is a bit of a walk to the airport, yes it was still raining. All was well, then got to hand luggage check. I got a bad vibe when I spied the girl checking was really young. I got through no sweat. Geoff's backpack that had been through heaps of airports had to get checked. They removed absolutely everything out of it. It was rather packed full. The first thing to pop out was my bright pink travel cushion that I had pursued him to pack. He was reluctant at the time. Bright pink for my Granddaughters. It took forever. They found nothing. The silly thing was they missed one pocket. He just repacked that when he started checking his pockets. The cell phone was missing. That is a problem they blend in with the trays. After a search he headed for the lost property area and there it was. There were 6 items that were reclaimed before his. Whew what a relief. We just had time for coffee and snack before heading off to catch the plane to Dublin. Lesson number one no matter what time the flight just head straight to the airport. It was a late flight like 7.10 pm. I think when booking we had a choice of either a very early flight or this one. For baggage there was a choice of 15 ks or 25ks. It was a good flight. Our car on the small side only just got the cases in the boot. We then had to find our apartment. Garmin took us to some buildings but we couldn't find where we were staying we did another circuit and ended up back in the same place but further up the street. Across the road in the smallest writing was the name of our apartment by the car parking area. Geoff pushed the button to talk to them the entrance was way up the street. The name was really small. This place had a huge amount of apartments on both sides of the street. Our apartment Stay City Apartments was huge, it had lots of separate rooms all with fire doors that kept banging shut on us. It even had a washing machine. We walked up to a local shop and bought some bread and soup to heat up for our dinner. Had that at 11.00 pm. It was funny when we returned Geoff opened the bedroom door, he had a shocked look on his face. Then we realised there were 2 bedrooms. For a family or group of friends staying in Dublin I would recommend this place.

Posted by kiwiscanflyto 14:21 Archived in England Tagged travelling Comments (0)

Edinburgh to Bristol, Bristol to Summerset

Heading for our house swap in the village of Burton, Summerset

overcast 20 °C

It was early out of bed, time to pack for the next part of our journey. We had to catch a flight to Bristol. It was good to have the car to drive to the airport in. There wasn't much traffic on the road with it being early morning. Dropped off the hire car, no scratches and made our way to the airport. As soon as we deal with our bags we head straight through to get processed. It is surprising how long this stage takes sometimes. At Edinburgh you had to remove coats, jackets, cardigans, shoes, belts etc. One day I am sure I will witness someone losing their trousers in the process. We both get through the scanner. Geoff's stuff goes through no sweat. My backpack flies through okay. Then I anxiously waited for the rest of my stuff to come through. After some considerable time It came down the reject shoot along with lots of the others baggage doing the same thing, who were waiting. In fact for a time everything seemed to come down the reject shoot. They were using their new automatic xray machine. Three people were full time checking all these bags. Luckily for me they just ran a scanner over my purse and it was fine. We felt safe getting on this plane. It was Jetstar. We arrived in Bristol and headed South. We had a spare night before our house swap in Burton, Summerset. We checked on line and found a b&b near Minehead, that was on a family farm. It was called Bourne stream, and was at Bilbrook, Minehead. A great place to stay. We could watch the beef yearlings in the field. We arrived taking the man of the house by surprise, his wife usually manages this side of their business. She arrived home shortly afterwards and arrived in for a chat and fruit cake. Her and her daughter had been shopping for a wedding dress. We were actually in a self contained unit. This place had a lovely garden. We then set off exploring and drove into Dunstar. It was a nice surprise when we realised we had visited here with our family when they were living in England a few years back. The give away was the distinctive Yarn Market Building, we had purchase from the bake shop and sat around here all that time back eating our lunch. An exciting moment. We decided we would return the next day to explore. We headed to Minehead for dinner. Minehead is one of those traditional traditional English seaside resorts. It certainly wasn't the busiest of sea side resorts. Probably not helped that it was quite windy. Lots of complaints about this English summer. Not a lot of sunny days apparently. The promenade has cafes, bars and amusement parlors. There is a good sized beach area. Apparently the sand is ideal for sand castle sculptures. There is also The West Summerset Railway. They have day trips on restored railway engines and carriages, visiting stations along the way. We ended up having fish and chips in the car and watching the people fishing. We were certainly getting the full moon when one kept bending over. They seemed to be getting their lines hooked up on the rocks. Back to our b&b for the night. On our table was a big spread already set out for our breakfast the next morning.

Posted by kiwiscanflyto 13:32 Archived in England Tagged travelling Comments (0)

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