Thursday, September 24


We've had a great few days in Sicily. Siracusa was the definite highlight - a beautiful old town on the south-east coast. We spent the morning wandering through Ortygia (the old harbour town) to see the layers of greek, arab, roman and rennaisance history evident in the old buildings. In the afternoon we wandered to the greek ruins on the other side of the new town which included a massive theatre carved into the solid rock and a nearby cave - named the ear of Dionysus.

The next day we spent most of our time bussing to Agrigento. Although from our map it appeared that there was a direct road of some 100k's we had a 6 hour bus ride back up to Catania and through the interior of the island. This was still quicker than the 9 hours and two changes it would have taken by train!!

The reason for the excursion to Agrigento was to see the greek temple ruins - the largest remaining ruins outside of Greece and therefore a great warm up for the greek part of our trip. Around 500 BC some Cretans and Rhodians (sp?) decided it was a good idea to set up camp here and in the end were spending more money building temples on Sicily than they were back home. We got to see some awesome finds at the adjacent museum - mainly pottery offerings people sacrificed at the temple, including some very ornate and detailed painted vases.

Then it was back on a train and off to Palermo. It's been raining quite a lot (mainly thunderstorms) but judging from the dry parched countryside we saw on our bus and train rides the locals will be grateful. The rain was not so welcome in Palermo however where there is virtually no drainage system as it only rains once in a blue moon. The roads quickly turned to rivers and we had great fun splashing our way around in the dark finding a place for dinner last night.

Today we strolled the streets to the Teatro Massimo, the largest opera house in Italy. Took a look at the opulent interior with one of the deepest stages - big enough for them to use real elephants for some of the performances! Also famous as the setting for the closing scene of one of the Godfather movies. The local markets were also quite impressive with abundant fresh produce.

The hostel we are staying at has free internet (but still no luck uploading photos sorry) and we are just taking a break in its cool and breezy interior before donning our packs and heading off to the airport for our flight to Germany.

We have been invited to the wedding of a cousin of Fran's on Saturday and on Monday we are off to Munich to Oktoberfest along with Fran's brother Philipp, hopefully followed by a couple of days camping in Bavaria.

Until the next installment,

F & G

Monday, September 21

Cinque Terre to Sicily

Finally we have found some internet after a serious drought of such facilities in Naples and power cuts in La Spezia. After dropping the rental car in Nice we ended our French sojourn exploring this old city before catching a train to La Spezia.

On our last day in France it started pouring and it did not stop until 48 hours later when we woke to fresh blue skies and sunshine the morning of our Cinque Terre walk. After a serious overnight thunder storm and accompanying deluge most of the track, apart from 'lover's lane', was closed, so we did some sections by train and others (inc. the steepest part) on foot along the road. The coastline was beautiful and the villages full of character, preserved thanks to their seclusion and limited access from the outside world over the centuries. Our accommodation in La Spezia was a treat on the fifth floor with nice views over the town and a short walk to a restaurant recommended by the owner of the accomm., where we had the most beautiful seafood pasta dish and tried some of the Ligurian wine.

The next morning we caught a 5.30 am train all the way to Naples. On first impression this is a rough city, particularly the area we first saw walking out of the train station, we could have been in Cairo what for all the illegal street trading, people of all colours and tooting traffic. After dropping off our gear we headed straight out to Pompeii where we spent about four hours exploring this vast and once magnificent city which is still remarably intact.

The next day we discovered some of Napolis hidden charms - the duomo, monte santo and the narrow side streets running through the old town. It just so happened that the saturday was the Festivali di San Gennaro - celebrating the city's patron saint. Two vials of his blood, when reunited with fragments of his skull, apparently liquify on two days each year and this 'miracle' is considered to protect Napoli from volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and plagues etc. We watched the beginning of the ceremony in the duomo before venturing on to the National Archaeological Musem where we saw more stuff recovered from Pompeii - coins, mosaics, jewelery, glassware and so on. Then we toook the ferniculare up the hill to Monte Santo where there were awesome views over the city and the harbour with Mount Vesuvius towering in the background.

Due to ferries no longer running daily now that the peak season is over we had to abandon our plans to head out to Stromboli volcano, although this has given us more time for Sicily.

Yesterday was another long train ride (thankfully we both have patience on our ipods, warning - it's v. addictive!) down to Messina in Sicily and then on to Syracuse, 12 hours all up. Syracuse is a lovely town and we are about to head off to explore the greek ruins and the old town down by the harbour. Plan to come back here tonight and upload some photos from the last two weeks...

Monday, September 14

Bordeaux to Nice

Here we are in Nice after six lovely days touring from Bordeaux through the Dordogne along the Cote d'Azur to Nice. Highlights along the way have been the wine tasting in St.Emilion, seeing the prehistoric cave paintings in Lascaux and the Pont du Gard. Not to mention the french food and several visits to Carrefour, obviously!

Today we returned the car and it's trains from Wednesday onwards as we travel into Italy. The camping has been fun, the camp grounds here all have amazing facilities and were a lot less crowded than they would have been a few weeks ago. Even so we are very excited about sleeping on a proper bed tonight! - the fact this is such a dry area means rock hard ground under the tent.

Tommorow it's sightseeing in Nice and then we are off to see the Cinque Terre.

A bientot! - photos to follow

Monday, September 7

Graham's passport is back and it has a visa in it

The courier just dropped it off now so it looks like we are free to leave!

Once again a big thanks to Traude and Peter for sorting things in NZ and for Jess & Andrew for putting us up here in the UK after we moved out of our flat on Friday.

The delay has been a blessing in disguise as it has meant we've been able to chill out over the weekend.

Right, off to book some flights to France....