Tag Archives: airbnb


This week has just zapped by, in a whirl of places and interesting things and our last few days in Spain …. and not enough blog updates. It’s now Friday evening and we fly out of Barcelona on Sunday, arriving home on Tuesday.

After our  quick visit to Toledo, we skirted around Madrid, only stopping to visit the Costco in an outer suburb to get fuel before heading further north to Segovia. We stayed at a lovely Airbnb apartment there for 2 nights. The main drawcard at Segovia is an amazing stretch of Roman Aqueduct right at the edge of the old town. And then there’s the Alcazar Fortress, which was apparently used by Walt Disney as the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland in California. AND THEN there are the myths that the city was founded by Hercules or the son of Noah. Hmm .. let’s forget about the myths and talk about that Aqueduct and the Alcarzar. And lunch. Lunch was very good.

El Acueducto the Roman Aqueduct was built in the 1st century and no mortar was used in its original construction. I’ll just repeat that because it’s very impressive … no mortar was used in the 894 metre long series of 163 arches built with over 20,000 granite blocks. At its highest point at the entrance to Plaze del Azoguejo, it stands at 28 metres high. How did these ancient builders and engineers do it ??

The aqueduct was part of a complex system of underground canals and aqueducts that brought water to the city from the mountains 15+kms away. It was restored in the 1990s.

While we were reading up in our Lonely Planet Guide about the aqueduct, we learnt that Segovia is also well known for its roast lamb and roast suckling pig. We tend not to eat out much when we travel because I like to cook like the locals cook, but we do like a good roast, so we found a restaurant which specialied in horno de asar roasts and had a lovely lunch: Entree – ‘grandma’s soup’ and butter bean stew, Main – cochinillo asado roast pork with salad, Dessert – arroz con leche creamed rice for Greg and creme caramel for me.  Plus wine.

After that, we needed a big walk, so we headed to the Alcazar. Up a few hills, took a wrong turn somewhere, got back on course and eventually got to the top of the old part of town with the Alcazar on the edge. It looked … unimpressive … from the main entrance. A boxy fortress, a couple of turrets that were a bit reminiscent of Rapunzel and other fairytale princesses, but not really what we’d expected. We didn’t go inside because it all burnt down in the mid-19th century and what is now there seems to be an over-the-top reconstruction. We did find that Sleeping Beauty-like castle we were expecting when we drove to a viewpoint on the outskirts of town. Our Airbnb host has a lovely photo of it in snow, plus a few more on the Airbnb listing for his place – here.

We left Segovia on Wednesday morning and put in a long day’s drive towards Barcelona. We stayed at Lleida at an Ibis Budget hotel and then headed to BCN on Thursday. It was Spain’s National Day, October 12th and everything was closed, but we found bread at a servo on the motorway and went straight to the Avis counter at BCN to extend our rental car hire for a couple of days. We’re staying at a very good campground about 30kms north of the city.

the Aqueduct in Segovia
Alcazar Fortress, the best view
Segovia main street
Suckling Pig
Suckling Pig
Pork crackling
creme caramel
Arroz con Leche
the wood oven where all the lamb and pig is cooked


A Tale of Two Churches – Seville

It was the best of times, it was …. oops, wrong cities, wrong centuries.

On Friday we visited the amazing Seville Cathedral, then on Saturday we visited the even more incredible Mezquita – the Mosque-Cathedral in Cordoba. Seville Cathedral is huge, third largest Christian church in the world, the largest cathedral (because the other 2 are not the seats of bishops) and the largest Gothic church. Like many of Spain’s churches, the site was originally a mosque, and the mosque’s minaret, El Giradillo, still stands beside it. The rest of the original mosque was knocked down in the early 15th century, and when the Cathedral was completed 100 years later, it was the largest church in the world by volume. Some sources claim that it still is.

The tomb of Christopher Columbus is a major point of interest. It’s very impressive for its size and there has been a long-standing debate over whether the remains are actually Columbus’ (DNA says they are). Also impressive is the cathedral’s collection of art and treasure, including a very decorative crown which contains the second-largest pearl in the world, and is used during the Feast of the Assumption. Another surviving remnant of the original 12th Century mosque is the Patio de los Naranjos Oranges, a lovely cool open area with a large fountain in the centre.

We walked a few blocks to the Plaza de Espana and the adjoining Parque de Maria Luisa. The Plaza was built for the 1929 Exposicion Iberoamericana and has fountains, mini-canals with boats for hire and a huge curved brick & tile building showcasing Seville tilework. It was a hot day and we opted to sit under a huge Australian Grevillea Robusta in the park rather than walk around the Plaza. Then we headed back to the car via the river. We’re listening to the audiobook of Ken Follet’s Column of Fire, Part 3 of his Kingsbridge series, and the Rio Guadalquiver is mentioned several times as an important asset to Seville because ships were the main form of transport to and from the city. It has silted up over the centuries, but is still an impressive body of water.

On the way back to our Airbnb, we drove a slightly different way and came to a deserted suburb. There were tram tracks with a big bridge going to who knows where, parking area, roads, street lights … everything except houses. We’ve been through another Spanish ghost town where there were houses, some finished and empty, others never finished, but this suburb with everything but the houses was really different.

We’re heading north now, towards Madrid andSegovia, and will then head west back to Barcelona. This post is getting a bit long, so I’ll write about Cordoba later.

Seville Catheral
Christopher Columbus Tomb
Seville Cathedral
Old graffiti (from at least 1884) in Seville Catheral
Plaza de Espana Seville
Walking to Plaza de Espana we knew we were getting close, we could see the tour buses lined up
Abandoned suburb with parking for the tram station
A bridge for the tram line
New footpaths and trees overgrown with weeds







We’re spending a few days in the city which is described as ‘quintessentially Spanish’, and is the home of Carmen and Don Juan. Seville was founded by the Romans, but only really began to flourish during the Moorish period which began in the 11th Century. After Columbus discovered the Americas, Seville was awarded an official monopoly on Spanish trade with the New World and it quickly became one of the biggest, richest and most cosmopolitan cities on earth.

We did another short drive to get here on Wednesday, calling into Ikea at Jerez de la Frontera for lunch. Swedish meatballs for Greg, an assortment of tapas for me. The Ikea carpark has an immense solar panel array, which doubles as shade for the cars parked underneath. Jerez is a grape growing area and one of its main industries is sherry production – ‘Jerez’ means ‘sherry’! Jerez is also regarded as the ‘cradle of flamenco’, although Cadiz and Seville also like to make that claim. We didn’t stay in Jerez long enough to do any sherry-tasting or flamenco dancing, but we did visit the Avis desk at Jerez airport to try and sort out our rental car contract.

Avis in Europe has this weird rule that a car can’t be rented for more than 30 days, although it is possible to do it via a third party. Because of Avis’s rule, when we rent a car for longer than 30 days, they have to write 2 separate contracts. When we travelled in Central Europe last year, the guy at the Munich airport desk just did 2 contracts for us when we collected the car. This time, the guy at the Barcelona desk only did the 30 day contract and told us the subsequent contract would be emailed to Greg later. Greg has emailed Avis several times and got no reply. Well, the Avis person at Jerez airport wasn’t much help, the 30 days expires today, and now Greg is emailing again to try and sort it out. Yeah, Spanish (lack of) customer service bites us again.

We’re staying in an  Airbnb house on the outskirts of Seville, at Alcalá de Guadaíra. It’s huge – 2 storeys, 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and about a mile of marble floor tiles. It’s the first place we’ve stayed at on this trip that is actually someone’s place. I’d know that even if there weren’t photos on the walls and toothbrushes in the bathrooms, because this is also one of the few places where there have been hooks to hang bath towels and tea towels on, and it’s the first kitchen that actually has chopping boards! Sometimes it really is the little things. We haven’t ventured into Seville yet, but we went to the local shops here yesterday. Nice shopping streets with a large plaza pedestrian mall. It was very busy in the morning, with lots of people out and about, but Greg went back in the afternoon at around 5.30 and it was almost completely deserted. Apparently everyone here takes siesta time seriously!

Traditional spanish food – Swedish meatballs at Ikea
Marble in the Kitchen
Marble on the stairs


Marble in the hall
All the shade for cars at ikea is solar panels


Better write about our day in Gibraltar yesterday before we move onto the Next Thing, which is a day trip by ferry from Tarifa to Morocco tomorrow!

Lovely sunny day & we had great views of both The Rock and Africa. We walked the 2+kms from our apartment to the border, where border control on both sides barely even glanced at our passports. On the way back, Greg didn’t even get his out of his bag as there was no-one at Passport Control. Driving into Gibraltar is a much more tedious process, if the long line of cars waiting at the border was any indication. The runway at Gibraltar Airport intersects the road, so we got to tick off another ‘bucket list item’ – walking across a runway. When a plane lands or takes off, the road is closed. Gibraltar is also the first British Overseas Territory we’ve visited.

If you want to know about the history, you can start here. I’ll just add a couple fun facts in honour of the 50th Anniversary of the Gibraltar Sovereignty referendum which was held in 1967 … the vote to remain under British sovereignty was an overwhelming 12138 for, 44 against and 55 invalid. Franco was so pissed off that he closed the border in 1969, and it was not fully reopened until 1985, 10 years after his death.

So, Gibraltar was interesting but kinda weird, like going back to 1970s or ’80s England in a time machine. Main Street reminded me of the High Streets I used to visit when I spent a few months in London in 1984, and not only because it was full of English people! The shops had a quaint old-fashioned feel about them, althought I do remember more off-licences in the average High Street than there were in Main Street. Being a little part of the UK, all prices are in GB pounds, although euros are readily accepted at most, possibly all, places, probably at a very disadvantageous exchange rate. Street  and public signs are all in English and there are old-style British phone boxes & letter boxes.  One thing I really liked was that many pedestrian crossings had ‘look left’ or ‘look right’ painted on the edges to remind people before they step out. I think every country in the world should do this.

The enormous P&O ship Azura was in port and had disgorged nearly 5000 people for the day – 3500 passengers plus crew. It has the Union Jack painted on its bow, and I guess most, if not all, passengers were British.  We visited the supermarket nearest the port and found that there was no Cadbury’s chocolate on the shelves! Oh, the disappointment! We did find both fresh and canned rhubarb which we didn’t buy, plus Bakewell tarts and English pork sausages which we did buy. Last night’s dinner was a fry-up of sausages, potatoes and eggs.

We sat in the main town square for a while and I thought it might be fun to count how many people were wandering around wearing socks with sandals, but to my complete surprise, I only counted 6 people the whole day. Maybe the fashion police wouldn’t let anyone disembark if they were wearing socks with their sandals.

The big drawcard for most people, us included, is the Top of The Rock. We thought we’d walk up the Mediterranean Steps, which would get us somewhere near the top, then take the cable car back down. Information about how to actually get to the Steps was not plentiful, so we decided to get the cable car up and maybe walk down the Steps if we could figure it out. Return tickets for the cable car were 2 euros more than a one-way trip, so we got the return tix, just in case. Good thing we did, as it turns out. We had to wait a long while in the queue for the trip up, and while we were waiting I had an allergic reaction to something. Sore, streaming eyes, runny nose, felt awful. Which is all a rather dramatic way to say ‘I got hayfever’, but I’ve never had it before and it was horrible. I guess I’ll be adding an antihistamine to my first aid kit. It started resolving as soon as we walked back into Spain and I feel fine today.

I just wanted to sit somewhere out of the wind and away from the apes, so headed for the snack bar area on the top floor of the cable car building. Great views of the northern peak of the rock and over to Africa. Greg went to find those Mediterranean Steps and walked down them for  few flights, but we had arranged that he would come back and meet me where he’d left me, then we took the cable car back down. The P&O ship had left and was replaced by 2 smaller cruise ships. None in port today, because nothing much is open in Gibraltar (or Spain for that matter) today, Sunday.

We were really lucky with the weather yesterday – clear skies, warm but not too hot. Today it was very overcast and The Rock was shrouded in cloud when we left La Linea.

Crossing the airport runway to get into Gibraltar
We must be in Gibraltar
Main Street Gibraltar

The cable car
The Southern part of the rock
Africa across the Mediterranean
Down the Mediterranean steps
Our apartment in La Linea from Gibraltar







After our epic morning at Alhambra, we headed back to the apartment, walked up to one of the nearby supermarkets to get some stuff & noticed a little stall selling churros & coffee just around the corner from us. It wasn’t open until later, so we went back intending to ‘eat dessert first’, but the serve of churros & chocolate was so huge that it ended up being dinner. These churros were cooked differently from others we’ve had, in that a continuous spiral of batter was poured into the deep fryer until the entire surface was full, then when it was cooked it was chopped into lengths of about 15cm. Every other churro we’ve had has been piped, usually through a star-shaped nozzle, and cooked individually. However they are cooked, though, they are all delicious!

Yesterday morning we packed up to leave Granada, met our Airbnb host at the apartment, then drove into the city centre to have a bit more of a look. Greg picked out a parking station not far from the cathedral and the food market but we ended up on one of those city streets that are only accessible to buses, taxis and cars with special permission between 0730 – 2230 … aargghh! So we did a few quick right turns to get away from there and found another parking station which was a bit further away, but we got to walk along more of the streets in town. We found the cathedral but didn’t go inside, then the food market which was … erm … unimpressive after Valencia’s gorgeous Central Market. At least half the stalls were closed, and most of the ones that were open were selling seafood which looked great but not what we wanted to buy. I did have a nice glass of wine which included some tapas – prawns and some kind of squid thing on bread. Cost about $2. Bargain.

Then we headed to the streets below the Alhambra, to see what it looked like perched up there on its hill. We found a tapas bar that seemed to be aimed at locals rather than tourists, wandered in and had lunch … tortilla espanol, patatas a lo pobre (poor man’s potatoes), croquettes, artichokes with anchovies. And then, just in case we hadn’t had enough potatoes, the waiter brought us a plate of chips, on the house. Plus orange juice for Greg and a fino jerez sherry for me. I’ve gotta say, that sherry didn’t taste anything like the cream sherry my nanna used to consume by the flagon. I might need to do some more ‘research’ into Spanish sherry.

Campgrounds are not all that common on the Costa del Sol, but there seems to be an over-abundance of apartments and resorts. It’s a bit early, ie hot, in the season for the major influx of tourists, most of whom come during the Northern Hemisphere winter to get away from whichever cold country they live in, for weeks or months. Greg did a Google search and found Camping Tropical at Almuñécar, on the coast about 80kms south of Granada, so we just had a short drive to get to it. Run by a German guy, it is one of the best campgrounds we’ve stayed at. As Greg pointed out – the 2 places we’ve liked the best have both been run by non-Spanish people. Anyway, this one had some extra little bonuses like a really good washing up area with scourers and dishwashing liquid, and nicely decorated bathrooms with toilet seats, toilet paper and hand towels. Most of the trees in the grounds were fruit and nut trees; I picked a pomegranate and a couple of avocadoes this morning.

And now we’re in La Linea de la Conception, which is the town on the Spanish border with Gibraltar. We can see The Rock from the front of the building. We’re spending a couple of nights in this Airbnb and will walk across to Gibraltar tomorrow. Wow, that’s another of those mythical places I never imagined I’d ever see in my lifetime.


Parking in Granada, first you drive into the car lift and take the car down 1 level
A mechanics opposite our apartment. You took a ramp up to the 3rd floor where the mechanics workshop was located
Tapas and wine at the Central Market in Granada
Tapas and fino jerez
a selection of Tapas
Fruit trees outside the Cathedral in Granada
Capella Real, the royal chapel in Granada
The road that runs downhill from La Alhambra
Camped at Camping Tropical at Almuñécar
2,000 year old roman aqueduct
The less than desirable stoney beach at Almuñécar
The view of the rock from outside the apartment in La Línea de la Concepción



Granada, Andalucia

We lobbed into town on Tuesday afternoon, met our Airbnb host, settled into the apartment and then started to figure out what to do while we’re here. Here’s where we stayed … it’s lovely!

Granada’s top tourist attraction is La Alhambra, whose red fortress towers sit on a hill above the town, with the mountains of the Sierra Nevada behind them. Indeed, it is regarded as Spain’s most beautiful monument and one of the best examples of Islamic architecture and art anywhere in the world. There are many millions of column inches (plus the online equivalent) written about this beautiful place, so I don’t need to add anything about the history or descriptions of the buildings and gardens – you can start reading about it here. 

Getting tickets to Alhambra ranges from ‘not easy’ to ‘impossible’, depending on what you read and when you want to go. Greg had a look at the official website and discovered that the next available tickets are for November 1st. Hmm. So a bit more research yielded the information that a limited number of tickets are available ‘at the door’, on the day, but you have to be very keen and very early. Okay, we can do that, even though neither of us are natural early risers.

We got up at 5.45am, Greg programmed the GPS to take us to the parking area near the Alhambra ticket area and off we went. It still felt like the middle of the night because current sunrise here is just after 8am. The GPS took us through the middle of the city, down streets that are only accessible to buses and taxis between 0730 – 2230, and down many one-way streets. We only went the wrong way down one street, as far as we know! Eek! Reached the parking area which was already filling up. Found the queues, one for cash payments and one for credit card payments and divided our responsibilities … I joined the cash queue, Greg joined the credit card queue. The plan was that we would keep in touch via SMS and hopefully one of us would get lucky. The woman at the head of my queue had got there at 3am! As I said to her: ‘Respect!’

I’d brought my e-reader and settled in for a nice long read. No one around me spoke English, so I was glad to have something to help pass the time. Greg got talking to an American woman from Houston who had researched everything very well. She passed on lots of helpful information, in addition to telling him about her experiences with Hurricane Irma. Ticket office opened just after 8am, the queue started moving and after only a few minutes an announcement came over the loudspeakers that all the daytime tix for the star attraction, the Nazarine Palace, had sold out. But general tickets and night time tickets for the palace were still available, although the night tix also sold out fast. At some point, the queue that Greg was in just completely stopped, then started again, then stopped as all tickets had sold out.

But I kept on waiting in the queue, and was about 10 from the front when they announced that there was a final 30 general admission tickets available. I think all of us so close to the front did a head count … and probably sent up a little message to whoever they believe in as well! I was finally let into the ticket sales area, joined the wrong queue and had to join another one, but GOT TICKETS!! Yay! We also paid for audiovisual guides in English on Android phones (like an ipod, but I had to make it technically accurate because Mr Adventure might read this) and spent the next 4 or 5 hours walking around this incredible place. The gardens are magnificent, the use of water (in ponds, pools, fountains and water channels) was brilliant and the architecture was amazing. Enough superlatives, I’ll let Greg’s photos tell the rest of the story.

I should just add for anyone planning on visiting Alhambra .. it is possible to see some of the public parts of the complex for free, by entering through the Puerte de Justica, but I was really happy that we were able to get tickets and see the palaces, Generalife and Alcazaba, the original citadel.

The queue for tickets at 7am in the dark
One of the gardens in Generalife
Generalife pomegranates

part of the very detailed plaster with arabic phrases
the water staircase. The water flows down both sides of the staircase
Looking down to Granada from La Alhambra
One of the aquaducts that used to provide water to La Alhambra
The roof with holes providing lighting in the Muslim bathhouse
Wine gate


Walking in Cinque Terre

Lovely sunny day on Sunday, so we figured we’d better seize it and go for a walk. Cinque Terre is a very popular place for walkers, with walking tracks between each village plus a few more challenging, higher tracks which visit other nearby villages away from the coast. Our guidebook noted that some of the paths might be closed. Oh yes indeed, we were warned.

We thought we’d do the walk from Corniglia to Vernazza, which was written up as a 1.5 hour walk and one of the nicest in Cinque Terre. There’s an information booth at the start of the path, but the woman there told us that the walk was closed, we couldn’t purchase the necessary pass for it, but that we could do it at our own risk. Um, right. And then the young man at the information place in the village told us that all the walks except the long trail to Manarola were closed and that if we did any of the closed walks, we would be fined 500 euros. O-kay. And then when we were catching the train back from Vernazza to Corniglia, there was a notice at the station advising that all walks are closed. Hmm. So who really knows what’s going on? Nobody, I suspect.

We did do the walk from Corniglia to Vernazza, along with lots of other people walking in both directions. Took us 2 hours including a few stops along the way. It was lovely. Mostly on well-maintained paths through olive groves and other vegetation, with a cafe/bar about 2/3 of the way along, then a steep drop down into Vernazza. We ate lunch at the beach, which was closed due to rough seas. There were no boats out on the water on Sunday or Monday, but on Tuesday the sea was calm again. We caught the train back to Corniglia, and then there are a couple of options for getting back up to the village. There’s a shuttle bus which looks like it seats about 12 people, there’s a set of 385 steps up, or you can just walk up the same road as the minibus drives, but  we only worked that out after we’d done the 385 steps. I watched one woman drag her wheelie suitcase down the steps, bumping it on every single step, and wondered  if it still had all its wheels by the end.

After a gelati each – chocolate for Greg, basil with olive oil drizzled over it for me – and while we were in a walking mood, we also went down and up several hundred more steps to get to the ‘harbour’. There are houses almost all the way down to the water, and the one right down the bottom even had its own letterbox – it would be quite the trek down and back for the postie to deliver letters there!

On Monday it rained on and off all day. We thought about doing one of the longer, higher walks, but decided against it because of slippery paths. So then we thought we’d have a go at the short walk which goes from Corniglia railway station around he coast to Manarola. Our guidebook advised that it had closed due to a landslide in 2012, but that was 5 years ago and it should be open again by now, right? Well, no. But we didn’t actually find out until we’d walked about 500metres along the track and came to what looked like an enormous sinkhole. There were 2 young, fit German guys who had climbed the stone wall and even they couldn’t find any way around, so we conceded defeat, walked back to the station and took the train to the first or last village, Riomaggiore. There’s a nice walk , Via Dell’Amore, from there to the next village, Manarola, but I’m sure you can guess what I’m going to write next. Yep, it was closed too. So we  had a walk around Riomaggiore – much larger and even steeper than Corniglia, then caught the train back ‘home’.

And then I spent the rest of the afternoon caught in front-loading washing machine hell. We feel like we’re pretty used to using different washing machines when we stay in different places, but this thing just wouldn’t play nice. It wouldn’t open at the end of a cycle, or rather, it would only open at the end of every 5th cycle, so I spent a couple of frustrating hours turning knobs and hoping that this time I’d be able to get our clothes out and start drying them.

Walking along the path to Vernazza
Trying out my new (3 year old) walking poles!
Looking back from the path to Corniglia
Looking down from the path to Vernazza
The large and old hole in the path to Manarola
main street of Riomaggiore
The closed path for 5 years from Riomaggiore
Riomaggiore from the Harbour
Catching the train at Riomaggiore
Basil with Olive Oil Gelati

Corniglia, Cinque Terre

By the time we reached La Spezia, I was missing all the beautiful picture postcard rolling green vine-covered Tuscan hills dotted with stone buildings. But just around the corner we found something else for me to gaze at – the pastel colours of the villages and the ever-changing seascapes of Cinque Terre.

We’re staying at Corniglia (‘Cornelia’), the middle of the 5 Cinque Terre villages. It was named after the wife of the Roman farmer who settled here.  Corniglia is the only village without its own beach, although it does have a fair weather dock and it is possible to hire boats and kayaks. The day we arrived, the sea looked like glass and there were lots of yachts, a few ferries and probably many other smaller vessels out on the water. Yesterday it was rough and the Corniglia dock was mostly under water. Corniglia is the smallest of the villages, with a permanent population of around 250. There’s plenty of accommodation though, and I guess the population expands by several or many multiples of that during tourist season.

We’re staying in an Airbnb apartment on the first floor of a building at the sea end of the main street … which is actually a lane that’s only the width of 2 people. Lots of shops, restaurants and eye-catching stuff along here, and dodging people trying to take their millionth selfie or stopping mid-path to look at something on one of the shops can turn a brisk walk into a frustrating dawdle. We have lovely views from our balcony over the sea, the sunsets and of Monterosso, the first or fifth village of the cinque 5. Vernazza, the village in between, is hidden behind several rocky outcrops.

The drive into Corniglia is … interesting.  Very narrow, very winding road down into the village. Greg watched a Youtube video by someone who had done it a few years ago, so he knew what to expect. Basically, it’s a road that is designed for traffic travelling in both directions, but it’s only 1.5 cars wide. So if 2 vehicles happen to meet, there’s quite a bit of reversing to let each other pass.I measure my fear whilst driving by how white my knuckles get, and they were okay during that drive … the whitest they have ever gotten was during some of the drives we did in South Africa!

Parking is very limited. I think most visitors arrive by train or bus, not private car. There are several 1-hour parks near the main street, which is good for unloading luggage, then there is paid and some free parking along the road into and out of the village and also down to the railway station. There are a couple of meters for the paid parking (2 euros for an hour, 10 euros for the day), but both of them are broken! They only accept coins, no notes or credit cards, so have probably been overloaded and not cleared. One meter has an old-looking sign stating that it is broken and it did have another sign on it, advising that there’s another meter 150 metres further up the hill, but as it is now also broken, the second sign has been removed.  We originally parked in a paid parking spot and Greg followed others’ examples of leaving a note in the car stating the meter was broken. He went and moved the car early yesterday morning to a free park and it will stay there until we leave tomorrow.

It’s lovely here and I feel like we’re in some kind of weird alternate universe where time has either sped up or slowed down, but I’m not sure which. Have we been here for ages, or did we just arrive? And what day is it today anyway? As for the date … who knows? My computer tells me it’s Monday, September 18th. Okay then.

Looking through the kitchen to the balcony of the AirBnb
Sunset from the balcony on the first night
The main street of Corniglia
Gardens on the outskirts of Corniglia
Looking across to our apartment in Corniglia
Trains (?) all over the area to help take things up and down the steep hills
The line heading down
street in Corniglia
A stormy day at the harbour down from Corniglia

Greve in Chianti

We drove the 150-ish kms from Marina di Massa to Greve in Chianti yesterday and reached our Airbnb on the outskirts of Greve just before 2pm. We stopped in at a couple of supermarkets in Massa and got fuel for the second time since leaving Barcelona.

We’ve driven 1300 kms so far and I think we’ve spent more on road tolls than fuel! For the first part of yesterday’s drive, we thought we’d avoid the toll roads, just to see what it was like … we quickly realised that it was very slow going, through towns and villages with lots of traffic and low speed limits. Our GPS estimated it would take us at least an extra hour, so we headed back to the autostrada.

Our Airbnb place is lovely. It’s a self-contained apartment on the ground floor of a 16th century stone farm building on a vineyard. Our host lives in a separate house on the property and his parents live above where we’re staying. Some of the walls are at least 60cm thick! There’s a very old wood oven in a corner of the living room, and enormous timber beams supporting the ceiling. The apartment is very modern, with a good kitchen and bathroom and a comfortable bed!There’s even a friendly little kitten, Pepe, who sneaks in to visit us whenever he can. He likes to sleep on the bed and lie on the huge serving platter which sits on the coffee table. I’ll make sure I give it a good wash before we leave. You can see photos of our accommodation here

We’re only about 500m as the crow flies from where our ADL friends are staying at Fattoria Viticcio, a farmhouse which has been converted into upmarket accommodation. However our host’s mother told me that we couldn’t walk there, we have to drive. There used to be a track through, but it’s now overgrown and not safe to walk on. So after we unloaded the car, we went to visit Liz, Sean and the crew. Got lost and ended up way too far up the hill, but eventually found the right place and it’s lovely too. Probably a similar age to the place we’re staying at, but a much more substantial organisation with many rooms on several levels, and it’s still a working winery as well.

Last night was the Birthday Dinner, which was held at Enoteca Fuoripiazza Ristorante in Greve. 20 of us sat at a long table outside and ate our way through many plates of delicious antipasti, then mains, then dessert. The restaurant’s specialty is bisecca alla fiorentina t-bone steak which is sold by the kilogram. 41 euros/kg. About half the guests chose that – Sean’s 2 brothers shared around 1.5kg and ate it all, Liz and 4 friends shared 1kg and several of the young male guests at the other end of the table may well have consumed 1kg each! It was served very rare. Greg and I had wild boar stew with spinach and it was delicious. It was a lovely evening, Sean made a beautiful speech and I felt honoured to be able to help Liz celebrate her special birthday in such a special way.

Today we’re doing absolutely nothing. It’s the first day in a week that we haven’t been on the road, taking down and setting up camp, and apart from joining our friends for dinner tonight, we have nothing planned. Liz’s sister Triscia is in her element, cooking delicious meals for lots of people. Like me, Triscia enjoys feeding people. She is planning to cook pasta with truffles tonight.

the outside of the Airbnb apartment in Greve
At the birthday dinner
Wild Boar and spinach
Some very big and very raw pieces of steak

A Rough Guide

If there’s some kind of a travel planning spectrum, we tend to be at the ‘vague idea’ end, rather than at the itinerary-with-every-spare-minute-accounted-for end.

This trip started out with a chat with a friend at lunch one day late last year. At an Old and Ex-Midwives’ Christmas Catch-Up lunch, Liz mentioned that she didn’t want a 60th birthday party to mark reaching that milestone in January. Instead, she wanted to go to Italy during the Northern Hemisphere summer, and if anyone wanted to help celebrate, she would be at Greve-in-Chianti in the second week of September. Great, we’ll be there.

So our trip is arranged around a few days in Greve-in-Chianti next week. Eek, next week! We’ve been looking forward to this since late last year!

We’re flying in and out of Barcelona with Qatar Airlines, hiring a car at the airport, then plan on driving through southern France and heading straight to Greve-in Chianti which is about 15kms from Florence. Liz and her husband Sean are spending next week in Greve, and various family members and friends will be there for varying amounts of time. We have booked an Airbnb apartment for 4 days, it’s a street away from the former-farmhouse-now-upmarket-hotel where Liz, Sean and many other attendees are staying.

After the birthday festivities, we’ll spend a few days in Cinque Terre, either camping or staying in an Airbnb apartment and do a couple of days’ walking. Then back to Spain, and we’ll probably spend some time in France on the way. When we walked the Camino Frances in 2010 and the Camino Portugues in 2012, we spent a lot of time in northern Spain, plus a few days in Barcelona and Madrid, but we haven’t seen any of the country south of Barclona, so that’s where we’re going to explore. We’ll spend a few days in Barcelona at the end of the trip and head home in mid-October.

60kg of camping gear in 2 dufflebags, including fridge, tent, mats, stove and more
We hope to see you bags again in Barcelona…