Europe

Howth – Binn Éadair, meaning “Éadar’s peak” north of Dublin, Ireland

Howth Dublin Ireland

Howth is located on the peninsula of Howth Head north from Dublin. You can get there by DART from Dublin Connolly station.  If the weather is nice it’s a lovely spot for a day out, picnic and even swimming.

Howth Dublin Ireland

Howth is a popular area for sailing. You can also spot various birds (razorbill, guillemot, fulmar, kittiwake, stonechat, linnet, whitethroat, yellowhammer, skylark, wheatear, peregrine, buzzard and kestrel) and seals.

Howth Dublin Ireland

Howth Dublin Ireland

Howth Dublin Ireland

Howth Dublin Ireland

Howth Dublin ireland

Howth Dublin Ireland

Howth Dublin ireland

Howth Dublin ireland

Howth Dublin Ireland

Advertisements

San Gimignano medieval hill town in the province of Siena, Tuscany, north-central Italy

 San Gimigiano Tuscany Italy
The foundation of San Gimignano (San Gimignano delle belle Torri) dates back to ancient times. According to legend, in 63 B.C. two brothers, Muzio and Silvio, two young patricians escaping from Rome after their implication in the conspiracy of Catiline, sheltered in Valdelsa and built two castles: the Castle of Mucchio and the Castle of Silvia, which would develop in the future San Gimignano.
We arrived to San Gimignano in early September 2014. One of the worst summers as they told us on arrival. It was mostly wet mornings and sunny afternoons, but the views and delicious food made up for the weather.
Residenza D'Epoca Palazzo BuonaccorsiWe stayed in Residenza D’Epoca Palazzo Buonaccorsi. A double room overlooking inner courtyard. Palazzo Buonaccorsi is an ancient building (XIII century) in the historical centre just 50mt from the gate San Matteo. We drove in to the city to unpack our luggage and then guided by the hospitable receptionist found a free parking outside the walls of old town.
San Gimignano is famous for its skyline of its medieval towers, of the 72 towers in the fourteenth century, only 14 remain. In 1990 the town was also registered in the list of UNESCO’s World Cultural and Natural Heritage. San Gimignano is surrounded by gorgeous countryside dotted with vineyards and olive groves. The main typical products of this land are fine wines, such as Vernaccia di San Gimignano, and saffron, that are produced here since medieval times.
Enjoy the first glimpses of the city, I will have more :)
San Gimignano Tuscany Italy
San Gimignano Tuscany Italy
San Gimignano Tuscany Italy
San Gimignano Tuscany Italy
San Gimignano Tuscany Italy
San Gimignano tuscany Italy
San Gimignano Tuscany Italy
San Gimignano Tuscany Italy
San Gimignano Tuscany Italy
San Gimignano Tuscany Italy
San gimignano Italy Tuscany
Italy tuscany

Saturnia Tuscany’s natural hot springs

Thermes Saturnia Italy

At first we saw it from a far. Completely unexpected in the middle of slightly hilly landscape, there it was, silver-blue cascade of water.  One thing I can tell you it stinks! Horribly! And it doesn’t go away!

Saturnia, Tuscany, Italy

Saturnia takes its name from the Roman god Saturn. Legend has it that he grew tired of the constant wars of humans, and sent a thunderbolt to earth that created a magic spring of warm sulphurous water which would pacify mankind.

Saturnia, Tuscany, Italy

The sulphurous spring water, at a temperature of 37.5 °C, are well known for their therapeutic properties. The yield of the source is about 800 liters per second. The chemical make-up is sulfur, carbon, sulfate, bicarbonate-alkaline, with the presence of hydrogen sulfide gas and carbon dioxide.

Saturnia, Italy

The entrance is for free, shower costs EUR1 per person and it’s plenty of water. I could smell the therms on me even on the next day after 30 mins of soaking myself in soap ;)

Pitigliano, Tuscany, Italy

What I was really looking forward to in Italy was food. I love pastas, coffee, wine, tiramisu, frutti di mare, Bruschettas, pizzas, oil of olive, olives, cheese, garlic, prosciutto, smoked and cured meats… I could go on and on.

We all know Italian food is not the same outside Italy. We also know Italian food in Italy where tourists are is mostly crap and we only got tricked once.

We landed in Rome at a wrong time. Lunch time. Just as we found our Rent-A-Car called Hertz, packed up and left the bypass of Rome it was too late to get anything to eat. We were not easily defeated, mind we didn’t have anything to eat since 8 or 9am in Greece. On our journey we even found this amazingly located restaurant on a shore of a lake which would be so nice to eat in. This is the view:

Italy lake in TuscanyThe lake is called Lago Di Bracciano, the restaurant Alfredo and the town Lungolago if I found the right place on google maps.

We lingered on but they wouldn’t even tell us when the restaurant will be opened. By, by lake, time to head on.

We found our apartment without much trouble. Just asked at the gas station for directions. Then waited for the owner to come with the keys. The moment we put our bags inside we were on the way to get some food. Still to early…

We had to see the whole city before restaurants started to open, but when they did we made sure we chose the right one!

Locanda del Pozzo Antico. Trattoria. A trattoria is an Italian-style eating establishment, less formal than a ristorante, but more formal than an osteria. There are generally no printed menus, the service is casual, wine is sold by the decanter rather than the bottle, prices are low, and the emphasis is on a steady clientele rather than on haute cuisine. The food is modest but plentiful (mostly following regional and local recipes) and in some instances is even served family-style (i.e. at common tables).

So now you know: plenty of good food and low prices – TRATTORIA.

pizzaYum Yum

I had calzone with porcini mushrooms which were in season then. Yum, yum.

The other thing I love about Italy is the cul-de-sacs. Narrow alleys with washing hanging outside the windows. Planted flowers and plants. Quiet, yet in the centres of towns, cities. Occupied by nonne e nonni, talking, playing cards or knitting. Now is the part with too many pictures, but there will be text at the end of it so pay attention!

I love street life of Italy after the dark in summer. The heat eases and people come to life. The energy of chatter is vibrant and energizing. Pitigliano was very quite in the evenings comparing to what I would experience in other places on my previous visits. Still we at least got a glimpse of it.

I love the cute tiny cars which can park anywhere. Lovely design.

And my favorite picture:

Oh and the funny bit:

We were looking to have breakfast somewhere in centro historico. Difficult again. You know how they have sweet things in the morning with espresso? We wanted a proper sandwich before our journey to therms (next post). In the end we found a place where we were the only customers. And ordered latte, cappuccino, cornetto con cioccolato and a sandwich. Hahhahhaa and A got foamed milk!

latte – milk

cafe latte – coffee with milk

Donna was surprised but cliente è re so he got his milk hahahhaha. All three of us had a good laugh to start the day. Now enter the four grumpy old Italian men. We spent the breakfast listening to Italian conversation and songs from the 80’s. Loved it.

Pitigliano, province of Grosseto, Tuscany, Italy 2014

Pitigliano, province of Grosseto, Italy 2014Pitigliano, a small Italian town, located south of Florence and North of Rome is perched atop a tufa ridge. Etruscan tombs dot the cliff face and valley. The zone is known as the land of the Bianco di Pitigliano, one of the best white wines of Italy. The quaint old town is known as the little Jerusalem.

The name Pitigliano, would seem to have been derived from Petilia, an important Roman family who gave their own name to various places. According to an ancient legend, the town was founded by two Romans: Petilio and Celiano: the name of Pitigliano would have been derived by the combination of their names.

There’s no train station in town but buses serve Pitigliano from other cities and towns in Tuscany, including Siena, Florence, and Grosseto. The town itself is small enough to walk around easily. A car is useful for touring the countryside.

We stayed at La Dolce Vita. A studio apartment outside centro historico. It was a studio apartment converted from the garage. Had too much of a basement feeling, but the radio in the shower was great and the bed super comfy! There are other types of apartments available so go for it. It’s a short walk away from the town centre but we didn’t mind. 

The main sights:

  1. Fortezza Orsini
  2. Palazzo Orsini
  3. Le Vie Cave
  4. Il Ghetto
  5. Gli Archi dell’Acquedotto Mediceo
  6. Cattedrale SS Pietro e Paolo

The first part of the gallery you will find below but I will devote another post to Pitigliano with the things I loved about the town. Enjoy!

 

 

Glimpse of Greece in Afytos

When I was young and still attended primary school ancient Greece was one of my favourite topics of all. I used to imagine living in a Greek house, going to baths. I read myths and imagined the wonderful temples. When I grew a little bit older I imagined philosophers walking among olive trees and talking about life and universe, having raving disputes on corners of streets and agoras.

So finally I got to Greece. Journey to Afytos took us about 16 hours. We landed in Thessaloniki International Airport and took bus 78 which took us to KTEL. It was the wrong KTEL as it turns out. We got to Macedonia Suburban bus terminal and it took us over an hour in the traffic, just to find out that we have to take city bus to get to another bus station.  The building is really impressive and I could see it from the airplane while landing. So then we took a bus from platform 13 that got us to KTEL Halkidiki coach station. It took another hour.

At least we were able to see a bit of the city and get a feel for it. However if you would like to avoid it take bus 45 (via IKEA passengers terminal). The first ticket cost us €0.90 the second €1.00.

The ticket from KTEL Halidiki to Afytos cots €8.70 and the journey takes around 1h 15mis (watch out the seats are designated). Telephone number to bus station to check what time the bus arrives in Afytos 00302374022214

afytos greece sea of blue

Athitos or Afitos is Halkidiki’s stone-built “balcony”, offering breathtaking views to Toroneos Bay. It has a cute town centre with cobblestone streets or rather alleys and mud brick houses. The village square hosts the church of St. Demetrius which was built around 1858. I will let you enjoy the pictures but first a couple of things. We were very happy with our stay in Eden Hotel. Staff was friendly and the bed comfortable, we had nice little balcony where we sat with our friends enjoying drinks and food. The nicest restaurant we dined in was recommended in our hotel. I lost the map and the name of the place but I found it on streetview here it is:

Afitos restaurant greece

But we had the most filling and meaty meal in Amvrosia. Mixed grill and gyros recommended although our friends were happy with different dishes. It was more expensive than Italy. They always charge you for the bread. The amounts on bills don’t add up and sometimes you are charged for something you didn’t order. They think that if they write it in Greek you won’t notice. Olives and oli of olive were quite expensive but the taste of tomatoes priceless! You must be careful not to step on sea urchins.Metaxa is cheap and yummy.

Oh and Greeks have a very weird sense of humor. Pay attention to the signs on umbrellas and let me know if you find them funny!

It is common for rural Greeks to have religious statues and images in their homes, together with holy oil, holy water, and a special kind of lamp.

 

Ireland – Greece – Italy September 2014

Here is the overview of my last trip. We flew from Dublin to London Stansted and after a night spent there flew to Thessaloniki in Greece. We were to attend a wedding in Afitos. After a couple of days we flew from Thessaloniki to Rome and rented a car. This time we decided not to spend each night in a different place but to stay put and do day trips if any. Our first night in Italy we spent in Pitigliano and the remaining three in San Gimignano.
Overview of the route

More details coming up in the next post!

Maamturks, Connemara, Ireland

View from MaamturkMammturk Mountains are a picturesque mountain range in North Connemara. You can drive N59 to Maam Cross and continue straight in the direction of Clifden, take right turn into R344 along Lough Inagh. Another right and you keep going along the range. Stop where you wish to start climbing. They are less well known than their more famous neighbours, the Twelve Bens on the other side of the Inagh Valley.

Western Way Connemara IrelandThere was nobody there on the day we hiked (17th Aug 2014). The weather was changing rapidly, sun, wind, rain, sun and so on. There is no real trail or path (other than the one made by sheeps). So you can just go cross country.

Maamturks Connemara Ireland

The ground was very wet, covered with grass and moors with exposed rock and some loose stones. We also came across lovely waterfall and saw a few small ponds at the top of the range. We only climbed one of the peaks. I think it was Maumahoge/Knocknahillion. Hope to go back another time and do the Maamturks challenge!

View from Maamturks Connemara Ireland

Every year Maamturks Challenge takes place. You start not far from Maam Cross and hike from one peak to another which takes from 10h upwards. The route runs most of the tortuous Maamturks ridge finishing in Leenane. The maximum height is a modest 700m but the successive steep slopes are very demanding.

Start = L969 496 – Turn = L964 489 – Corcóg – Turn = L947 496 – Mullach Glas – Binn Mhór – Patrickswell = L902 504 – Binn Chaonaigh – Binn idir an dá Log – L883 530 – L Mham Ochóige = L879 535 – Cnoc na hUilleann – Binn Bhriocáin – Top = L861 554 – Maam Turk = L857 564 – Top = L855 568 – Top = L856 576 – Col Despondency = L856 582 – Ridge = L864 594 – Meall Cheo = L861 598 – Western Way = L854 621 – Finish = L873 618

hiking Maamturks connemara Ireland

maamturks connemara ireland

Leenaun, Aasleagh Falls and White Strand – Welcome to Co. Mayo

This post will have almost no text. I just wanted to share my pictures from a day in Connemara, Ireland. Most of the time pictures of landscape do not give the impressions of space and magnitude so treat it as teaser rather than faithful representation of reality.

map of connemara

Connemara is situated at the very edge of Europe, on the west coast of Ireland, and is one of the most beautiful, unspoilt places I’ve seen in Europe.

Beautiful Aasleagh Falls is situated near Leenane in the heart of Connemara. The waterfall featured in a scene from the movie ‘The Field’ which was written by John B. Keane. The story was adapted for the big screen by Jim Sheridan in 1990 and starred the late Richard Harris.

Connemara ireland

Connemara Ireland

Aasleagh Falls Connemara Ireland

Connemara Ireland

Aasleagh Falls Connemara Ireland

Connemara Ireland

Connemara Ireland

Connemara Ireland

White Strand Connemara Ireland

Whitestrand Connemara Ireland

Connemara Ireland

Whitestrand Ireland Connemara

Whitestrand beach Connemara Ireland

Whitestrand Connemara Ireland

Whitestrand Connemara Ireland

Whitestrand Connemara Ireland

Whitestrand Connemara Ireland

Whitestrand beach Connemara Ireland

Now… turn the volume down! Seriously, down!

Yes this is me scaring away the birds which you can’t really see.

 

 

Peak district, Derbyshire, UK

Peak district UK

There I was sitting on the ledge overlooking beautiful valley of Peak District. It was quite cold end of August 2010. We hiked that day among moors of Derbyshire which reminded me of my childhood and “The Secret Garden” directed by Agnieszka Holland.ajajajjjja

Peak District is divided into gritstone Dark Peak (peat bogs) and limestone White Peak (flower-rich dales). The landscape is diversified but don’t expect high, bare peaks as I did. This National Park is more of soft valleys that steep mountains. You can imagine I found the name very misleading. You can see map of the area here.

There are different reasons why you might want to go there. First is to have a hike and admire the landscape, other to take part in outdoor activities.

Peak district UK

Let’s start with some of the sights:

  • Poole’s Cavern is a magnificent natural limestone cavern where you can see an impressive formation of stalactites,
  • Peveril Castle (reminds me of many castles in Ireland)
  • Speedwell cavern (with boat ride)
  • Blue John cavern
  • Treak cliff cavern
  • Thor’s cave

moors Peak district UK

Activities:

  • 2,900 km of trails (including hillwalking and hiking)
  • mountain biking (Bridleways)
  • horse riding
  • rock climbing
  • caving (Eldon Hole and Nettle Pot)
  • sailing
  • fishing
  • canoeing
  • hang gliding
  • paragliding
  • birdwatching
  • fell running
  • off-roading
  • orienteering

Tissington Trail and High Peak Trail re-use former railway lines; they are well used by walkers, horse riders and cyclists. Anyway please do enjoy the pictures.