What an amazing holiday! In August 2016, we traveled to Dubai and Italy to celebrate my big 40th birthday.
We had some amazing experiences – watching the sun come up over the terracotta rooftops of Florence on my birthday, tasting the most amazing food, seeing so much history, and swimming in the most incredible blue water.
This is a collection of my posts from when we were away.
Talk about a shock to the system. The last few days in Sydney has been quite cold. Fast forward to our arrival in Dubai, where it’s a balmy 47 degrees. It’s very dusty. I don’t know why they build their buildings so tall here, when they just put you closer to the sun! We have checked in to our hotel at Jumeirah Beach. Our room has a view out across the beach and the Burj Al Arab, known as the most luxurious hotel in the world. While not as swanky as the Burj, our hotel is amazing, with little boats taking
In Australia, we have lots of big things. Bananas, pineapples, prawns, sheep, just to name a few. However they pale in comparison to the big things in Dubai. They really seem to have a need to have the biggest and best in the world. Even at the airport they have the biggest fleet of the biggest passenger plane in the world. There are rows and rows of A380s on the apron. There is the biggest shopping centre in the world, the Dubai Mall. It’s complete with the world’s largest aquarium and an ice skating rink. Not sure why they have
Dubai isn’t all about big things and skyscrapers. While modern Dubai has only been around for a few decades, the city has a remarkable history built on trade through the Middle East. On our final full day in Dubai, we visited the old part of town around the Dubai Creek where small boats ply the waters and take people across to the spice and gold markets. After an afternoon looking around and having a great Middle Eastern lunch at a little shop well off the tourist strip, we went on a desert safari. Because when it’s 45 degrees in the
Our short visit to Rome started looking even shorter than planned, thanks to the crazy and chaotic Rome Airport. Long lines for immigration, baggage piling up on the conveyor belt. And then jumping into a taxi, I thought our visit might land us in the Rome Hospital, as the driver clocked up a top speed (that I observed) of 148kph. I was about to put my Google Translate app into good use. Once we had settled into our hotel, we started exploring. We had been to Rome 12 years ago and had already seen the sights but who could resist
Our last night on Rome was spent just like our first – drinking too much at an overpriced rooftop bar, looking out over the rooftops, spires and domes of the Eternal City. Twelve years ago when we first visited Rome (admittedly, it was on a Contiki tour so the standard of hotels and behaviour has improved somewhat), we didn’t like it at all. It was hot, we didn’t feel safe, and the long lines were irritating. This time however we thoroughly enjoyed it, walking around the city and watching the world go by at little restaurants. One highlight this time
Ravello is known as the ‘Jewel of the Amalfi Coast’. And I can see why. According to the tour guides, the American playwright Gore Vidal said: Twenty five years ago I was asked by an American magazine what was the most beautiful place that I had ever seen in all my travels and I said the view from the belvedere of the Villa Cimbrone on a bright winter’s day when the sky and the sea were each so vividly blue that it was not possible to tell one from the other. We set out for Ravello from Positano after walking
Let’s face it. In Australia, we are spoilt when it comes to beaches. They have beautiful golden sand, there’s always plenty of space, and they’re free. As I’ve seen in places like France before, European beaches are so different. The word best to describe them: gravelly. Like Joe Cocker. We decided to have a beach day today, walking around the track from Positano to Fornillo. As we’ve worked out well and truly by now, if you have to walk down lots of steps, you need to walk up them later. One we rounded the point, we got our first glimpse
Pants. Capri pants. Embarrassingly, that’s about as much as I knew about Capri before going there today. The Isle of Capri is about 50 minutes in a boat from Positano, along the incredible cliff lines of the Amalfi Coast. It’s where many of the rich and famous holiday. Apparently some bloke called George Clooney is a regular. And I can see why, after we dropped anchor and jumped into the bluest of blue water. I imagine George’s boat is a bit more impressive than ours. And it probably has Nespresso on tap. Once on the island, and after an excruciating
We timed our trip to Positano perfectly. August 15 is the Feast of the Assumption, and the Italians take their religion very seriously. I thought the fireworks were for my birthday at first. Apparently not. The Feast of the Assumption is a celebration especially felt by the people of Positano for their devotion to Our Lady of the Assumption considered the protectress of the village. In particular, it recalls an ancient legend that tells of a ship, carrying a Byzantine icon of the Madonna, blocked by dead calm in the bay of Positano. And only when the sailors donated the
If the first day of my 40s is anything to go by, entering my fourth decade ain’t so bad. But Tuscany is one a bit out of the box. Our day started early. Really early. Like 4am alarm early. We were met at our accomodation by Francesco, our Italian driver, standing beside his shiny black Mercedes Benz. We headed to Florence to watch the sun rise over this incredible city. At Piazzale Michaelangelo, we were given a picnic basket filled with fresh food like salamis, cheeses, fruit and bread. No need to push towards the front of the crowd. It
Having been curtailed in our travels by not being able to get a rental car, we decided to do a tour of the Tuscany region as part of a small group. In the end, it was a much better idea as we could enjoy the wines (and let me tell you, they serve big tastings). We visited two wineries and trying the famous Brunello wines, before checking out Monteriggioni, surrounded by 12th century walls. Then it was on to Val d’Orcia, which is a world heritage listed area of farming country which looks much the same as it did centuries
Let’s be honest. Our day trip to Siena didn’t get off to the best start. After catching a regional train, we struggled to find our way… out of the train station. Running out of time, we caught a cab to the other side of this historic walled city, ready for our tour. This was a tour with a difference. This was our tour vehicle. The tour wasn’t great, as we soon realised that most cars, including our little three wheeled lawnmower, are banned from the city centre. We couldn’t even get close to the main sites in the city, despite
Culture. You can’t go to Florence without soaking up some. We spent Saturday wandering around the city, visiting the Uffizi and doing a great walking tour, learning about the Renaissance, the medieval part of town and the art. Michaelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael… And there was even a turtle in the main square.
Greetings from Riomaggoire, at Cinqueterre. This is a quaint little coastal town known the world over. After a long train trip here, and a long struggle with our packed bags, we finally made it up the hill to our room, commanding an amazing view over the town and port. We walked to a nearby beach for a swim to cool down. It was a struggle getting in and out thanks to the giant pebbles. Yep, I fell on my arse. Maybe thongs weren’t the best idea. After another gruelling walk up the hill, where we seemingly took a wrong turn
Warning. There’s lots of blue skies, blue water and gelato ahead. We’ve said goodbye to the incredible Cinque Terre area, after spending a day exploring and enjoying the cool blue water. We even managed to find some sand – or what Europeans refer to as sand. We caught a ferry from Riomaggoire to Monterosso, enjoying the coastline. At Monterosso, we cooled off with a dip. It’s not cheap though. €25 for two beds and an umbrella. But again, worth it just to keep your arse off the gravelly beach. It wasn’t quite sand. More like ground up gravel. But better
This truly is one of the most photogenic places on Earth. We arrived here after catching a high speed train from Florence. After a bit of mucking around with our accomodation, we finally checked in to our flat. It’s huge! We front onto a canal, in a quieter part of Venice. We are also just a short walk from the Accademia bridge, where I watched the sun come up and go down today. Today we walked around the city, up and down streets, over bridges and somehow ended up not getting too lost in this rabbit warren of a place.
This place reminds me of a packet of Fruit Tingles. Burano is an island a couple of kilometres from Venice, a bit further out on the lagoon. The homes there were (apparently) originally painted bright colours so fishermen could spot their homes from the sea. Today, it’s done for the tourists more than anything. We also visited Murano, famous for Venitian glass.
So his is how the other half live. Big waterfront palaces, seaplanes and helicopters, and a constant stream of tourists gawking into your property to get a glimpse. We are now in Lake Como, about an hour’s train ride from Milan. Lake Como is where some geezer called George Clooney has his summer residence. Apparently he also runs a coffee shop or something. It’s a beautiful area, and reminds me somewhat of Milford Sound in New Zealand, just with hotels, ferries and Americans. The view from our room is impressive to say the least. And we even got fireworks last