Travel Diary: Europe, 2018

Previous posts

4.9.2018: Sydney to London
5.9.2018: London

6.9.2018: Canterbury, UK
7-9.2018: London City

8.9.2018: Greenwich, UK
8.9.2018: Goodwood Revival
9.9.2018: London

10.9.2018: Trip to Edinburgh
11.9.2018: Edinburgh

12.9.2018: Glasgow, Scotland
Stirling, Scotland
13.9.2018: Inverness, Scotland
Loch Ness, Scotland
14.9.2018: Train To Leeds, UK
15.9.2018: York, UK
16.9.2018: Leeds, Scarborough, UK
17.9.2018: Liverpool, UK
18.9.2018: Otley, Dawes, Grassington, Appleby-in-Westmoreland, UK
19.9.2018: Carlisle, UK
20.9.2018: Lake District, UK
21.9.2018: Hurworth, Whitby, UK
22.9.2018: Goathland, Robin Hoods Bay, UK
23.9.2018: Coverntry; UK
24.9.2018: Stratford-Upon-Avon; The Cotswolds, UK
25.9.2018: Cardiff and Swansea, Wales
26.9.2018: Aberfan, Merthyr Tidfil, Blaenavon, Wales
27.9.2018: Bath, UK
28.9.2018: Abergavenny, Llangollen, Wales
29.9.2018: Wilmslow, UK
30.9.2018: Manchester, UK
1.10.2018: Skipton, Bolton Abbey, UK
2.10.2018: Beverley, UK
3.10.2018: Beverley, UK
4.10.2018: Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK
5.10.2018: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
6.10.2018: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
7.10.2018: Rotterdam, Gouda, Utrecht, The Netherlands
8.10.2018: Cologne, Germany
9.10.2018: Nuremberg, Germany
10.10.2018: Salzburg, Austria
11.10.2018: Salzburg, Austria
12.10.2018: Innsbruck, Austria
13.10.2018: Zurich, Switzerland
15.10.2018: Milan, Italy
16.10.2018: Venice, Verona, Italy
17.10.2018, Turin, Italy
18.10.2018: Bologna, Modena, Italy
19.10.2018, Cremona, Italy
20.10.2018: Genoa, Italy
21.10.2018, Cinque Terre, Italy
22.10.2018: Pisa, Italy
23.10.2018, Florence, Italy
24.10.2018: Singapore

23rd October 2018

It was an early start today for what was our last day in Italy for this trip, and our last day before heading towards home tomorrow. Our final destination in Northern Italy was ... where else, but Florence? How could we miss Florence? Firenze?


Florence Duomo

As we had just a single day for our visit, and had to be back in Milan tonight to fly out tomorrow morning, ours was a "snapshot" visit of all the key tourist features of the city - Piazza Duomo and the great Florence Duomo itself; the Ponte Vecchio; the Palazzo Vecchio; The Piazza Della Signara (complete with a bevy of statues, including a replica of Michelangelo's Davif) The Palazza Vecchio (where we had lunch); Piazza Del Pitti and Palazzo Pitti.


Palazzo Vecchio


Steve and Debbie enjoy some gelato at Palazza Vecchio


Ponte Vecchio

As if that wasn't enough - or as if that couldn't get any better - we walked to the hill on the other side of the Arno River and saw all of the above all ar once from Piazzale Michelangelo ! What a view, what a city, what a day.


Piazzale Michelangelo



Although it began with a cool start, by mid afternoon, the sun was shining and the temerature had reached 24 degrees C.



We caught one of Italy's fast trains to Milan at around 5pm. The train had come from Naples and Rome in Southern Italy, and travelled on to its and our final destanation of Milan Centrale Station, via Bologna. The trip took less than two hours, and flew by, just as this whole trip seemed to have done.

24th October 2018

We stayed overnight at Hotel Mythos, which is very close to Milan Centrale Station, Milan, from which our coach leaves for Malpensa Airport. We caught the 10am airport bus, and before we knew it, we were on our way. Stephen and Debbie had never been to Singapore, so we planned the final leg of our journey to include a short stopover there. Another reason for the stopover was to break the journey into two, making it easier on all of us to adjust to the time differences, and avoid as much as we could the effects of jetlag.


Rona, Debbie and Steve (centre left) avoid getting wet in Singapore


Butterfly enclosure, Singapore Airport

Our flight from Milan to Singapore took 12 hours and saw us arrive at our destination at 7.30am. After putting our carry-on luggage in storage and clearing customes, we headed out into the City of Singapore for a quick look around. We left Singapore that evening, taking an 8 hour flight to Sydney, arriving there as the dawn broke on Friday morning. We were home, and our wonderful snapshot tour of Britain and Europe was over.

Stephen Yarrow and Debbie Hall



Reflections On England

Everything is expensive in England.

PLACES

Every city, town and village is totally and uniquely different. England loves its cottage gardens; if there is no room for a garden, you'll probably find a large flower pot or two somewhere. A lot of buildings - pubs, shops, apartments - have hanging flower pots or mini gardens adorning every window. In Cardiff, we even saw whole 'trees' made up of poles with lots of flower-filled baskets shaped to form big, round canopies. Very pretty.

FOOD



If you feel like some BBQ chook, don't hold your breath! There are no chicken shops, as such, in England, and we could hardly find a BBQ chicken anywhere. We found some quirky names for food places - a bakery called 'Pumblechooks' and a restaurant chain called 'Slug and Lettuce'.



Cappuccinos are BAD. Go for lattes.
When you go to England, it is obligatory to have a 'coop' of tea.
You can guarantee you will find fish and chips or a 'full English breakfast' (egg, tomato, pork sausage, hash brown, mushies and toast) anywhere - this is pretty standard fare in England.
Indian curry takeaways are pretty common, but we hardly saw any Chinese takeaways.
English people love their sweets and pastries.
Everything is sweet - savoury buns are often sweet, like brioche; even cheese scones tasted sweet; sweet scones were even sweeter!
Pork pies are the 'Good Ol' Aussie meat pies' of Yorkshire.

BUILDINGS & ARCHITECTURE

England is definitely not a 'throw away' society. Unlike Australia, where developers are allowed to tear old buildings down, England's sense of heritage is obvious, and very touching. It would be unthinkable in England to tear down existing buildings for new developments. New roads are built around treasured buildings and structures, and shopping complexes are built outside town centres.
There is a vast mix of architectural styles in England.
There are old stone buildings everywhere, and most cities and towns have a mixture of architectural styles, ranging from Norman to ultra-modern.
The cathedrals, minsters and mediaeval churches are stunning! The castles and ruins are fascinating.
Three cheers for heritage-consciousness!



TRANSPORT

Opt for trains if you can.
City roads are over-crowded, and there is very little or no free parking. Country roads are often very narrow and can be a bit scary. The unenlightened visitor approaches roundabouts in England with fear and trepidation ... you MIGHT take the right exit (can be up to six choices) IF you can interpret the signs quickly and correctly ... preferably without hitting someone. We were eventually told it's best to follow the numbers (all English roads are numbered eg the A614). Some roundabouts are so big and complex, they actually have traffic lights! Kinda defeats the purpose ...

PARKING

You pay for parking almost everywhere, and it can be expensive.

TRAINS

There are some grand old stations in the UK. Trains are clean, efficient, comfortable, and generally on time. However, there are sometimes not enough coaches (carriages) - trains often have two or three only - and the rail network is stretched to capacity. Rail travel is generally quite expensive.


Public toilet turnstyle

LOOS

Quite often you have to pay to use public toilets.
'Spending a penny' is now spending 30, 40 or 50p - hardly worth it, since inflation has only worked one way! And there's no change given if you don't have the correct money. When we were in Coniston, a lady paid her 40p to visit the loo, and when she tried to push the turnstile to leave, it would budge. In exasperation, we heard her say "Don't tell me we have to pay to get out too!"

PRICES

Everything is expensive in England. Prices look quite reasonable until you remember that there is a pound, and not a dollar sign in front of the numbers!

ACCOMMODATION

Not all hotel showers are created equal.
Not all hotel rooms have tea and coffee facilities. None have fridges. Every shower worked differently everywhere we stayed, some needing an engineering degree to operate!



TOURIST ATTRACTIONS

The Brits sure know how to showcase and present their places of interest - very impressive. We were given in-depth information about places, often with an audio guide, excellent displays and videos. Some places even had a doorman in costume or a street character who was really friendly and always ready for a chat.
PEOPLE

The people are friendly and generally very helpful. They talk funny in some places. A friendly local guy we were chatting to told us 'the English are an optimistic bunch - they have solar panels on their roof.



DOGS

Dogs are allowed in pubs and cafes. It is the done thing to take your dog into pubs, cafes and other public places (on a lead of course) - we saw this everywhere we went. And the dogs were all surprisingly well-behaved.
English dogs are quite similar to Aussie pooches really - 4 legs, 1 head, body, tail etc. However, we did notice one difference ... what Aussies call a 'cavoodle', the Brits call a 'cavapoo'.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Based on our historical research and findings, if the rules of Mediaeval England applied today, Kevin Rudd, Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull may well have been beheaded by now ...



Reflections On Europe

It is old and there are many beautiful places.
There are lots of contrasts.
It is very cultural, especially the arts.
There are many churches and cathedrals with a large Christian influence.
It is usual to hear cathedral and/or church bells tolling at least on the hour in every city.
The people value their heritage and are proud to be a part of it.
They drive on the wrong side of the road in Europe.



Apparently the tourist season is over ... we saw cranes and scaffolding everywhere. In fact, we were beginning to wonder whether, in order to be a legitimate tourist attraction, you had to have a crane or some scaffolding nearby, preferably obscuring the bit you want to photograph!

Some German people are still perfecting the art of smiling.
Austrians are still amused (bemused?) by people asking directions to the Sydney Opera House.
They've even printed t-shirts, hats and bags to put their point across ...



Europeans are late starters - many shops and cafes don't open until 10am - some even as late as 12!
We were very surprised that the beautiful Rotterdam markets didn't open till 12 noon, and there was a big crowd waiting outside for the big moment.

Labels in supermarkets are written in funny languages, with ingredients we'd never heard of. However, we did manage to geen ui ... in Amsterdam, kleine zweibel in Salzburg, and nessuna cipolla in Italy!


They must breed Toyotas in Italy ... we found baby ones!

There are many different makes and models of cars in Europe, and Steve has thousands of photos to prove it! In Italy there are different ones again, so he had to take even more photos (of each car). Steve's camera, Charlie, has recently started a go-slow campaign in protest against work overload.



There are many smokers in Europe - most of them in Italy - and the laws are much more liberal as to where they can smoke.
It is quite usual to have someone light up a cigarette at the next table in an outdoor cafe (usually just as you are starting your meal).

Trains are highly efficient and run on time.
We think they keep scary things from castles under the high-speed trains.
We are sure we heard a couple of fire-breathing dragons under our train; every time we changed tracks, we could hear them.



There are a lot more bicycles in Europe, and a greater provision and tolerance for them than in Australia.
They do coffee differently in Europe - it's generally stronger, with smaller cups. No mugs. They are still getting the hang of tea.
They are still getting the hang of tea (Steve actually drank coffee throughout Europe).

They serve alcohol in cafes and snack bars and general food outlets, apparently without restriction.

Italians make general announcements warning against smoking on trains, saying offenders will be 'persecuted' (That could be why they keep the dragons under the trains).

Debbie Hall

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