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Popping by Pompeii

Limoncello Adventures - Pompei

sunny 20 °C
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After a busy few first days, today would be more relaxing. Getting up later for breakfast we took our time heading for the station to take the train to today's sightseeing destination - Pompeii.

The train started off not too busy, however after stopping at the first few stations the train quickly filed with people. By the time we arrived in the town of Pompei, it was going to be a struggle to get off - although we weren't the only ones. Eventually making it out of the station with half the train, we crossed the road to enter the archaeological site of Pompeii, upon which the town revolves.

Pompeii Forum

Pompeii Forum

It wasn't cheap to enter Pompeii, but it was a must. We began by heading up the main street towards the forum, where there were views of Vesuvius through the ruins it created in 79 AD. From here we headed north through the well preserved streets, where the crowds emptied out and we were able to enjoy streets to ourselves.

Streets of Pompeii

Streets of Pompeii


Inside the Villas

Inside the Villas

After exploring the north of the former town, we headed back towards the main street, looking inside some of the villas with preserved frescos before heading south towards the Garden of the Fugitives, where some bodies of those who tried to escape became fossilised.

Garden of the Fugitives

Garden of the Fugitives

We then made our way towards the eastern side of the complex, taking a look inside the gymnasium before heading into the amphitheatre, where a photoshoot of a rather unattractive girl was being carried out by her mother who was dressed in red from head to toe - a hideous sight.

Amphitheatre

Amphitheatre

After this hilarity we made our way back through the complex, taking a look in more villas before reaching the Bathhouse.

Bathhouse

Bathhouse

Eventually leaving Pompeii, we took the half hour train ride back through the tunnels of the peninsula to Sorrento. We then chilled in our hotel room before heading out for dinner and a final walk around the town on our last night of the trip.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 11:40 Archived in Italy Tagged ruins train roman ancient limoncello Comments (0)

Sun, Sea and Salou

Catalonia - Salou & Tarragona

sunny 23 °C
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After a summer of weekend city breaks, and several years of adventures this holiday was going to be different. A week by the beach in Spain! The plan was to visit Salou, in Catalonia in northern Spain, where there was plenty of entertainment and a great hotel that I had stayed in over a decade ago.

After taking an early flight out of Luton on Saturday morning, we flew in to Barcelona Airport arriving around lunchtime. Although Reus was much nearer, there were no flights from Luton and this also meant we could have a weekend in the Catalan capital on our return. Annoyingly however, to get from the airport to the hotel, a series of unfortunate delays and irregular journeys meant the journey took four hours.

When I had booked the holiday, staying in this hotel was a no brainer, however when I came to book it, it had been removed from booking.com. Hurriedly checking the hotel's own website I found there was nothing wrong, and that it was in fact cheaper booking direct. A blessing in disguise!

In fact, when I was about to confirm the booking, it asked me if I was a member of the hotel's club. I wasn't but I was told that if I became one, I could access the 10% discount! Checking that there was no cost associated with this, just a simple registration and the receiving of newsletters, I joined and then entered my membership number into the system. On the next page it re-totalled and had given me a 15% discount! Even better, so I booked then and there before the price changed!

When we arrived at the hotel they asked me if I was a member of their club. I replied yes, and she smiled and told me that as I was, we would find something special in the room. Having been here three times previously I knew the rough layout of the hotel, and when we went towards the room I found it was already an upgrade, as it was pool side rather than road side, despite not paying £40 extra for the privilege. When we got into the room, there were two water bottles, what a nice bonus!

Pool view from the balcony

Pool view from the balcony

Next thing, a knock at the door, the maid was there with a gift in hand. I looked blankly and she double checked we were the right room. "Yes, it's for you" she confirmed. I took the gift and went back inside the room to examine. A small box of chocolates and a voucher for a free cocktail at the bar each! Not bad when I'd only signed up for a 10% discount in the first place!

Our special gift

Our special gift

By now it was 5pm, with dinner in just an hour and a half. We had wanted to make use of some of the facilities, but as we had arrived much later we didn't have time. So instead, we popped out to the supermarket to stock up on wine and snacks. After a short rest and a look around the hotel facilities, it was then dinner time. We had been excited about the big buffet dinners and they did not disappoint. A massive selection of food on offer, from chips and pastas to rice and noodles. Soups, salads, different types of meat, pizzas, breads and to finish off - cakes, fruits, ice cream, sweets, and tonight, a chocolate fountain.

Some of the desserts on offer

Some of the desserts on offer

Taking little bits of everything on offer we filled up until we ate too much. Popping back to the room we enjoyed a quick drink of wine before heading out for an evening walk.

When we arrived at Port Aventura train station, the closest one to the hotel, we found there was no machine to buy our ticket on return. Therefore we decided to walk to Salou station, only five minutes further walk to check if we could buy a ticket there.

After walking down a small back street we eventually got to the station. With a ticket machine, we decided to buy our ticket for our return to Barcelona on Friday now, as with just a few trains per day we didn't want to miss the correct train or have to walk further than necessary with all our bags.

Water fountain show

Water fountain show

After sorting this out, we then made our way on a short walk to the promenade, where as it was Saturday night, there were numerous water fountain light shows taking place by the beach. After watching these we had a stroll before making our way back to the hotel.

The following morning we went down for breakfast to find yet another big buffet of food. With bacon, eggs, sausages, breads, omelettes, pancakes, fruits and yoghurt and even champagne, there was plenty on offer. After filling up for the day we went back to the room to change into our swimwear for our first day of relaxation. We started by going to the roof terrace for a bit of sun lounging as well as sitting in the Jacuzzi with views of the nearby area, including the rides of the PortAventura theme park where we would visit tomorrow.

Theme park view from the jacuzzi

Theme park view from the jacuzzi

After sitting in the slightly chilly water for a while, we dried off and headed downstairs to lay by the pool. After sunbathing for a while we then attempted to swim in the outside pool, which again was a little too cold to be enjoyed.

After heading back to the room we had a few snacks for lunch before heading back out and heading towards the beach for some sunbathing and swimming. The sea was warmer than the outdoor pools, but today it was a little bit rough so after a fair amount of bobbing, we dried off and went back to the hotel via some of the shops.

With a few hours before dinner we decided to spend a little bit of time in the indoor pool, which was a lot lot warmer. Spending a bit of time swimming, we then had a rest in the warm Jacuzzi before enjoying the sauna and steam room.

After spending most of the day in the water, we then went back for a shower in time for dinner. Again, a full buffet, this time with fajitas instead of burgers at the live cooking.

Cocktails and flamenco

Cocktails and flamenco

Tonight the hotel entertainment was a Celtic-Flamenco fusion, and so we decided tonight would be the night we would enjoy our free cocktails, whilst sitting by the pool watching the show. Although it involved far more Celtic than it did Flamenco, it was still an enjoyable piece of culture.

After what felt like a busy day of relaxation, the following day we got up nice and early to make it to the theme park in time for opening, hoping to avoid the queues. Having bought the tickets in advance, we exchanged them for the real tickets before entering the park and going on the first ride - Furius Baco, a launched roller coaster. Although I enjoy thrill rides, Chris wasn't so keen, but nevertheless we both went on this first ride which ultimately neither of us enjoyed as much as we thought.

Shambhala's Himalayan theme

Shambhala's Himalayan theme

We then hurriedly made our way to the back of the park, in the China section to ride the two big roller coasters overlooking the entire area. Chris didn't fancy them, and so I made my way into the queue for the first one - Shambhala, expecting to be gone ages. But with a single rider system in place, I pretty much jumped the queue and in no time was already riding the coaster. Waving down to Chris and my bag, next thing I was enjoying views of the whole coastline at over 80mph. Coming back down to the ground, we reunited, as I then joined the queue for the next ride, Dragon Khan, which although busier was still relatively quick to queue for.

We then began our walk around the theme park, doing a loop and stopping at interesting rides en route - including a mine train and a hall of mirrors. We then got to a spinner ride, which seemed much more gentile than expected, and after riding another spinner ride not long after we needed a bit more time to recover. Despite the theme park now having been open for several hours it was still relatively quiet with many shops not (yet) open.

Tutuki Splash

Tutuki Splash

It was now time for the water rides, enjoying the log flume, rapids and log boat ride getting reasonably wet, but refreshing as the sun had now come out. Finishing the circuit, we walked towards the back of the park again, heading for Angkor, a water shoot boat ride, where neighbouring boats battle to soak each other with guns.

Angkor

Angkor

By now we had done a big loop of the park and after seeing the queue for Shambhala had increased substantially we decided to end our day at the theme park here, and head back to the hotel - we were coming back the following day anyway. After getting back we rested before going up to the roof top Jacuzzi again, now finding that over the course of the day the water had heated right up making it far more enjoyable to sit it.

After having a rest we then went to dinner. Having our fill once again, we quickly made our way down to the beach before it got too dark to have an evening stroll. After walking 14 miles today our feet were aching, and so we eventually made our way back to the hotel to sleep.

Jaume I statue on the promenade

Jaume I statue on the promenade

The following day we headed back to the theme park. Getting up a bit later we still arrived at the theme park less than an hour after opening, but with the weather being much nicer today we found it was substantially busier. Again we headed for the back of the park, and I rode Shambhala again, before we looped the park once more going on rides we found enjoyable, as well as watching a few of the shows and finishing off by taking the train around the park.

Staying much later in the park today we made it back with less free time before dinner. After a very busy few days, we had a much more relaxing evening, just enjoying dinner and then resting at the hotel.

On the Wednesday we decided to head over to Tarragona, the larger town up the coast. Heading up on the train from Salou station, we began by walking from the station in Tarragona along the coast and uphill towards the Roman amphitheatre. With nice views from the road itself we decided not to pay to go inside and instead carried on walking towards the main street, before exploring some of the old Roman town. We then headed down to the main roundabout in the town centre, and after missing the initial bus we wanted, made the following one not long after.

Roman Amphitheatre

Roman Amphitheatre

We took this bus just outside of the town to the Ferreres Aqueduct, a huge Roman Aqueduct built around 2000 years ago used to supply water to the Roman town of Tarraco. After walking along the top of the aqueduct we then made our way towards the next bus stop heading south. Although there was a bus stop right outside the complex, this was only on one side of the road. In order to take the bus back, we had to walk a mile to the next housing area for the next bus stop heading south.

Les Ferreres Aqueduct

Les Ferreres Aqueduct

Once we had taken the bus back into the town, we swapped to a long distance bus at the main coach station, and headed back to Salou. Stopping to get some more refreshments at the supermarket, we headed back to the hotel, before we changed and headed back to the beach for some swimming. Today the sea was much calmer, and after an hour or so we headed back to the hotel to chill before dinner.

20170921_120739.jpg

After another evening of chilling, the following day, Thursday, was our last full day at the hotel. Like Sunday this would be spent relaxing around in the hotel or by the beach. With the water outside getting vastly warmer in the afternoon, we spent the morning having a wander around the promenade and getting souvenirs. After walking along the beach, we then headed back to the hotel and headed to the outside pool before swapping to the indoor pool. After a little while we then headed towards the roof top Jacuzzi once more, where we met a Welsh lady who told us all about her life in the Valleys.

By the pool

By the pool

I then headed back down to the indoor pool, to make use of the sauna once more, before we changed for our last dinner at the hotel. Our last evening by the sea was spent walking along the promenade and watching one of the water fountains lit up.

Fountain

Fountain

After almost a week, the first part of our holiday was almost over. On Friday morning we made the most of our last breakfast, lashing our pancakes with chocolate sauce and having a glass of champagne, before going back to the room to repack our suitcase and backpacks.

Up until now it had felt quite sad, however after checking out of the hotel and walking towards the train station, it now felt quite exciting again. We were about to go on a weekend's holiday to Barcelona!

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 09:59 Archived in Spain Tagged sea food beach hotel train catalonia swimming pool roman ancient flamenco aqueduct rollercoaster themepark Comments (0)

Road Trip

Bristol, et al.

semi-overcast 22 °C
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Having spent the last few years jetting off abroad for weekends away to new cities and countries, it made me realise there were still patches missing that I had never visited in my own country.

Despite having seen mouse statues in Lithuanian sea side towns, and art villages in rural Germany, I had still never seen Stonehenge, Cardiff or Bath. Therefore whilst I was in the midst of visa approvals I had decided that I would take a visit to the West country on a nice weekend during the summer, similar to my trip to North Wales a few years back, stopping in a few places for a few hours before heading to the next. Keeping in mind the school holidays as well as the weather forecast the weekend chosen was the last in July, and together with Chris we set off early on Saturday morning towards Stonehenge.

Hearing it was best to prebook our tickets in advance we looked to be arriving on time. However despite the satnav telling us that we were only two minutes away, with a dual carriageway merging into single lanes, and everyone wanting to slow down for a photoshoot of the rocks themselves it ended up taking us 45 minutes to finally arrive!

Stonehenge

Stonehenge

Once parked up at the new visitor centre we then took a short bus ride to the rocks themselves for some photos, surrounded by half of China. After taking in the sophisticated neolithic structure and grabbing a bite to eat we then continued our journey on to Wookey Hole.

Wookey Hole

Wookey Hole

The caves at Wookey Hole included a guided tour, and after raving it up with our glow sticks we entered to observe the stalagmites and -tites as well as the erosive features.

Cheddar Gorge

Cheddar Gorge

Our next and final destination of the day was Cheddar Gorge, where we walked up the side of the gorge to gain views over it as well as of the Bristol Channel and South Wales, before heading back down and stopping for a coffee inside the Gorge.

Inside Cheddar Gorge

Inside Cheddar Gorge

After resting up we then drove up the Gorge itself for some stunning views before heading to our hotel in Portishead for the evening.

Portishead

Portishead

Arriving at the hotel we checked in, had dinner and then took a quick drive to the coast before heading back and chilling with a bottle of wine after a long day.

Cardiff Bay

Cardiff Bay

After some rural attractions, the following morning we headed towards Cardiff, stopping at Cardiff Bay and viewing the waterside regeneration before driving through the city centre and then into the valleys, stopping by the house of my great grandmother.

Cardiff Castle

Cardiff Castle


Clifton Suspension Bridge

Clifton Suspension Bridge

Heading back to England we then took a brief visit to the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol before our final destination on this busy weekend - Bath.

Us at the Roman Baths

Us at the Roman Baths

After taking a look around the Roman Baths we then headed for a walk around the city looking at the architecture before our final drive back home.

Royal Crescent

Royal Crescent

A long and tiresome weekend but a great one - helped by the weather, but also by being able to drive around to enjoy the sights without getting bored!

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged landscapes bridges history cave roman capital ancient Comments (0)

Ancient Cyprus

Cyprus - Limassol

semi-overcast 20 °C
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For the 11th and last holiday of the year I went to Cyprus to explore the history, politics and tourism of the Mediterranean island.

Unfortunately as this was now the winter season, I was limited to a twice-weekly Monarch service from Luton to Larnaca - where I wanted to base myself, and this is where I realised just how bad a service this airline provides now. They clearly are on the back foot in terms of proving a no frills service - with expensive seat selection, no food or entertainment, and old planes (with bulky seats) squashed together so much that half the plane probably ended up with DVT by the time they arrived on the island.

Although I had to pay £10 to make sure I had a window seat (so at least for the 5 hours I would have something to lean on), it ended up being quite fortunate, as the two people next to me moved to spare seats at the back of the plane meaning I therefore had the whole row to myself - possibly worth the £10 charge?

Electronic Infobox

Electronic Infobox

After the disappointing flight, however, my room at the hotel was amazing! Being super modern, there was a digital box outside the room showing the room number and the message to leave - instead of a paper hanger on the door requesting not to be disturbed, or to have the room made up, a touch pad inside lit up the desired notification on the box outside. There was also a speaker in the bathroom, connected to the TV, so you could still listen whilst showering, LED lighting around the ceiling, and a balcony with a sea view. The most awesome hotel I'd stayed in in a long time!

Nightclub style room

Nightclub style room


Amongst the ruins

Amongst the ruins

After waking up the next day for breakfast with a sea view, I caught the bus to Limassol, where after taking a quick look at the castle and promenade, transferred to another bus ending up at the historic site of Kourion, located just within the Akrotiri base. This contained a restored amphitheatre facing the sea, as well as many ruins that could be walked amongst and some historical mosaics.

Mosaics

Mosaics


Kourion Amphitheatre

Kourion Amphitheatre

As there were only a few buses on Sundays I had to watch my timings to make sure I didn't get stuck in the middle of nowhere, but as I was on time I had an extra ten minutes before needing to make my way to the bus. I therefore decided to go back to the amphitheatre to take some more photos, and decided it might look good to take a photo of myself on the other side of the ring. However as the time only had ten seconds and it was quite a large structure, I had to run as fast as I could around it to the spot I had selected with just enough time to turn around and pose. After waiting for other people to clear the area I needed, I made it to the right spot on time as the other tourists watched in bemusement at what I was doing. Nevertheless it made a nice photo!

Running around the amphitheatre

Running around the amphitheatre

Despite being two hours away by bus from Larnaca, it was definitely worth visiting, and gave me the historical basis to begin my journey in Cyprus.

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Cyprus Tagged history ruins ancient modern Comments (0)

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