Monday, September 26, 2016

Porto Venere

During our stay in La Spezia, we popped over on the ferry for a day trip to Porto Venere. The ferry boat from La Spezia to Porto Venere takes less than half an hour,  and is a very pretty journey.
The views of this colourful little town are just stunning as you arrive in by boat. 

We arrived there at lunchtime and immediately searched for a place to eat lunch. We found a restaurant and ordered some delicious fried seafood in a light batter, pizza with anchovies, and battered and fried vegetables. The batter on the seafood and vegetables was so light and tasty, and it seemed to be a specialty in a lot of places in that area.
Let's be honest,  some of my best memories from this trip are of the food 😂

After lunch we took a walk up one of the cute and narrow little streets, where I nearly got sold some expensive jars of pesto by a very persistent sales lady! She had a very good sales pitch!

Our walk to the end of this street led us to a beautiful church on the hill, with amazing views onto the ocean. 

Porto Venere is a truly special town, much less busy than the Cinque Terre villages, and well worth a visit. Although we only had a few hours there, I would happily come back, and maybe explore the other islands close by. 

Thanks for reading :)
Hannah xx

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Cinque Terre with a Baby

Good evening! We arrived back in Bergen early on Friday morning, welcomed by the wonderfully rainy and windy autumn weather. Ah well, summer had to end sometime! Now we are in full countdown-preparation mode to our big trip to SE Asia. I am slightly nervous and apprehensive and wondering if we are a bit crazy, but mostly I am excited and full of beans! As you can probably tell from the amount of exclamation marks I've already used in this paragraph (hahah).

Anyway, in an effort to relive our glorious summer, I thought I'd write about our trip to the Five Lands, Cinque Terre. These five seaside villages are probably one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. The only way you can reach them is by train and boats, as cars are not allowed in from the outside. There are also walking trails between the villages so you can hike between each one, paying a fee to use the trail of course.

We used the nearby town of La Spezia as our base to explore the villages, which was an excellent choice, firstly because the train link from La Spezia station was very convenient. Secondly, because we booked very last minute and could not find accommodation in any of the Cinque Terre villages haha. 
Now, because these villages are so small and connected only by train and walking paths, along with several sets of steep stairs, I did worry about how accessible it would be for us to visit with a baby. However we found that it was quite easy for us to visit the towns of Monterosso and Vernazza with Charlotte in her stroller. We were told that these two towns were the easiest to visit with babies, as there are no stairs, and Monterosso is the biggest village of the five.

So we split up visiting the villages over two days, heading from La Spezia to Monterosso on the train on our first day. Our Airbnb host in La Spezia recommended that we take a boat from La Spezia to Cinque Terre, which was 30 euros, and may be a good option for some people, especially with children. However, we decided to go for the more budget friendly choice of the train. You can't beat the price of 4 euros per ticket, and the ticket is valid for 4 hours once stamped!
One thing to note though, is that there are usually not elevators (or if there are, they don't work!) in the train stations, but we were lucky enough to have friendly offers of help with lifting the stroller up and down.

Monterosso has the largest village centre, and the largest beaches, which are filled with colourfull beach umbrellas. It is famous for its lemon trees, and all of the little shops there sell the most delicious smelling lemon soaps! I had to keep stopping to smell them, as lemon is one of my favourite scents haha
We took a stroll through the town when we arrived, and little Charlotte was able to have a nap in her stroller while we sat down and enjoyed a beer and a fresh foccacia. Later on we found a restaurant to eat lunch at, as the clouds turned grey and grim and we wanted to avoid being rained on. Nathan and I ended up sharing a delicious lunch of gnocchi with ragu sauce, baked anchovies, and one other thing, which for the life of me I cannot remember... but it was delicious! Meanwhile, Charlotte gummed on a crusty piece of bread :)

Unfortunately, after the meal we did get caught in the rain, but the sun came out as we headed to the next town over, Vernazza. This is a much smaller village, and probably the most 'rustic' true fishing village. 

 As you can see, there is no way we were hauling a baby stroller up those stairs!

 Not the best photo of our little Charlotte...

 future garden goals

So, on our second day trip to the five lands, we conquered Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. For me, I think my favourite village of the five was Corniglia. The stairs going up there from the train station are actually not too bad! But there was no way we were bringing the stroller up there! We had actually left our baby carrier at home in Bergen, so Nathan ended up carrying our heffalumpa in his arms the whole day. Luckily he's got strong arms :)

The views from these villages were amazing! Beautiful azure seas as far as the eye can see, vineyards on hillsides, and tiny cute towns on mountain tops. Although it was September, Cinque Terre was still packed with tourists. I would love to visit there at a time when there are zero tourists, but I imagine that is just impossible now. Too many people know about this beautiful gem of a place ;)

So all in all, although it may not be the easiest place to visit with a baby, we managed just fine and we are so glad we managed to visit these spectacular villages. Anyone who wants to visit these villages with a baby should be more prepared than us, and use a baby carrier to save your arms! You will not want to bring a stroller with you, unless it is very very light weight, and you don't mind hauling it everywhere :) It would have been nice as well to stay in one of the villages, as I imagine they would be quite magical to see at night. Honestly though, we enjoyed staying in La Spezia and it really was a great base for visiting the towns. Plus you can easily visit Portovenere from there, which is not part of Cinque Terre, but is equally as stunning. I must write a post about that too in the future.

Good night, and thanks for reading.
Hannah xx

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Our Italian Adventure - Genoa

Today is our last day in Italy 😯
Nathan and I both agree that Italy is one of our favourite countries to visit. This is my third visit to a Italy and Nathan has also been here many times. We both love the food, the beautiful cities with amazing architecture and art; the weather is great, and the people are lovely. We are very sad to leave!

We started our journey in Italy in Genoa, a port city in Liguria. Genoa has the biggest old town in Europe (so our host there claimed!) and it has many narrow cobbled streets with small restaurants and shops throughout. The apartment we stayed in was very nice, but it was a 25-30 minute walk from the train station, all up hill! That was not ideal for us with all our luggage, plus a baby and stroller, but we booked last minute, which is never a good idea unless you're a hardcore singleton backpacker!

On the train from Nice to Genoa, Charlotte managed to have a snooze.
Our first meal in Italy- Nathan had braised beef and potatoes and I had ravioli with ricotta, mmmm

Some pictures from the old town
Genoa's old harbour
Genoa is also home to Europe's second largest aquarium,  and as we both love visiting aquariums, it was definitely on our to do list. The exhibits were very impressive and the whole aquarium is huge. There is a lot to see, like penguins, sharks and manatees, as well as dolphins.

The aquarium also has a rooftop terrace with a pretty view of the old harbour. We really enjoyed our visit to the aquarium, although Charlotte got quite tired by the end of it. Luckily she fell asleep in her daddy's arms while we finished seeing the exhibits :)

We spent two nights in Genoa, which for us was enough to see the aquarium and wander the old town leisurely. Our next stop after Genoa was La Spezia and  Cinque Terre,  which I will talk about in a separate post.
thank you for reading 😁
Hannah xx

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Not So Good Part...

Our stroller went kaput!

This is a picture of the back wheel of our baby stroller. After less than six months of use, the two back wheels have completely worn through and one of them has punctured! I was shocked when I realised that not only was the tyre flat, but it was also completely irreparable too. 
We have emailed the company that we bought the stroller from, and are hoping we can get a refund or a replacement. The only thing I can say is that I am glad it happened at the end of our trip and not the start. Before having children you never realise how much 'stuff' one tiny human being can require! And of course a stroller isn't strictly necessary to some,  but it's pretty essential for us to get Charlotte to nap in there,  especially if we are out all day sightseeing. 
But now we are faced with 3 days of vacation left and no stroller.
Plus, we have to think about buying a new one when we get back home... which one should we buy? ?

Highlights of Southern France

After nearly 2 months vacation in France and Italy, our adventure here is almost over. We have 2 nights left here in Florence, and we plan to spend our last full day tomorrow stuffing ourselves with delicious food and drinking some Italian chianti wine :)
But first, I thought I would share some of our favourite parts from our trip, starting with France.

We started our trip in a small seaside town called Cap d'agde, which is in southern France. We spent five weeks there in a beautiful villa, just relaxing on the beach and enjoying home cooked meals. We like to think that we cook better at home than a lot restaurants out there, which is mostly true, but really it is just a bit of a pain eating out with a small child 😜
Charlotte loved taking walks at the beach every day, and of course people would stop to coo and smile at her :) Often the only way we could get her to nap at the beach was by carrying her in our arms up and down the beach. We would take her into the water with us as well, and by the end of our stay she was quite enjoying splashing her chubby little legs in the water.

the beach at Cap d'Agde

After five weeks at this beautiful beach, we decided that we should actually get out and explore some new places 😜
We decided to take the train to Marseille, which is the second largest city in France. It was still quite hot when we stayed there, and our hotel was in a slightly dodgy part of town near the train station, so overall, we were glad we only stayed two nights there.  It was definitely neither of our favourite cities.
However, the panoramic view from the Jardin du Pharo was spectacular, and looked like something out of a film.
view from Jardin du Pharo

Our biggest disappointment in Marseille was that we did not make it all the way up to Notre Dame de la Garde, the very imposing basilica that is like the crown on the head of Marseille port. Apparently there are buses that take you part of the way up to the church,  but as we had walked past the stops,  we decided to walk the rest of the way. And let me tell you it is a heck of a walk, with a heavy stroller and a too hot baby who won't stop crying unless she is carried! Once you reach the top of the hill, there are supposedly elevators that can take you to different floors of the basilica. Needless to say we didn't make it that far, and we cursed the city of Marseille for not making their number one attraction more accessible to families!! Not to mention people with disabilities...
here is as far as we made it...
our attempt to see Notre Dame basilica 

Our next stop after Marseille was Nice, which is possibly one of my favourite French cities. First of all, it is very clean and well maintained. The town centre has a very pretty park with water fountain installations and water misters, which I thought was a very unique addition to help cool people down.

We spent three nights in Nice, and on our first full day there we visited Parc du Chateau, also known as Castle Park or Castle Hill. It is a public park that contains the ruins of the castle of Nice, and offers brilliant panoramic  views of the city. It also has a small waterfall, which can be spotted on the hill from below. What we loved from our visit there was that we could take a FREE elevator up to the hill! Perfect for families with small children and strollers!! 
 View from the hill

My two cuties :)

Of course, as we were so close to Monaco, we had to take a day trip there to visit Monte Carlo and it's famous casinos. While we were there, we also visited the Aquarium, which was very small, but had some great exhibits. It also interestingly had a big collection of aboriginal art displayed on the second floor. Although Charlotte is a little young to fully appreciate the displays there,  she did quite enjoy looking at the jelly fish :)
 View from the palace in Monaco 

 Monaco aquarium 

Thanks for reading :) I will be back soon to write about our favourite parts of our travels in Italy.