A Travellerspoint blog

Fort William

Ready to take on Ben Nevis

overcast 8 °C

Fort William

We woke up to a very misty morning, walked down to the bus stop and took a quick 2 hour bus ride to Fort William.

Our hotel & the views outside our hotel:
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Blake's lunch when we arrived: Black pudding roll & scottish heather beer
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We spent the afternoon checking out the town (which is tiny) and the National Museum which was free :)

Day 1: Jacobite West Coast train ride: aka Harry Potter's train to Hogwarts :)

We had booked this ride a month ago- as you can imagine we were very excited.. well I was very excited to go on the Harry Potter train, Blake was excited to go on a steam engine train. All those childhood dreams- And Harry Potter dreams!!! This train, along with some of the scenery we passed, was used in the Harry Potter films. The train ride took us to Malaig; we had 1.5 hours for lunch there; and back to Fort William. A 6hour day trip in total.
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Glenfinnan Viaduct: (aka a scenery in Harry Potter films):
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That's the steam from our train

The scenery to and from Malaig:
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Our train taking a break in Malaig:
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Malaig
Not quite Hogwarts but it was peaceful and we could see Isle of Skye, Isle of Rumm and Isle of Eigg from here.
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Our 1st fish and chips on our trip, local Haddock:
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In the background: Isle of Rumm

Day 2: The day we conquered the highest mountain in UK

Ben Nevis
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The weather was supposed to be great today - perfect weather for a hike up the highest mountain in the United Kingdom: Ben Nevis. We woke up to a massive mist covering the town (we couldn't even see 2 metres out of our window)!! First things first, we went to the tourist information to check on the weather. Apparently it was all good up on the mountain so we took a cab to the base of the mountain. The taxi driver had been up Ben Nevis many times and told us that today looked like it was the perfect day for it. He dropped us near a pub at the base of the mountain, so we'd know where to get a feed and drink after the climb. After firing ourselves up we finally made a move up the mountain (or so we thought, couldn't see it through the fog).

Chilling out with our mate Gordon before the hike:
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Up we go..
If you look closely.. you can see the mountain in the background.. hehe..
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That's where we started- the barn at the bottom.. :):
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Our welcoming party:
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Making our way above the mist:
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Check out the mist covering Fort William.. pretty cool:
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We think we're half way?!?!... Slightly delusional.. (after 1 hour):
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Starting to struggle with many mental thoughts:
B: "whose stupid idea was this!!"
M: "Is it better to fall head first or backwards?!?"
M: "Is there a short-cut?"

B: "what a great weather to do it!" - said like 20 times!! M: "Yes it is.. but this is still a stupid idea!!"

Up and Up..
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We thought that was the peak.. we were so wrong.. Another 2 hours to go.. :( :( :
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Struggling a little..
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Nearly there... walking through ice:
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Blake trying not to fall on his bum..
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4 hours later and 1344metres higher.. we finally made it to the peak of the mountain. YAY!! :) :) :) :)
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What's left of the observatory:
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We had a yummy lunch (sandwiches courtesy of Tesco), took a few snaps..
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and we were ready to make our descent...
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The mist has disappeared... :
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That's our path home.. :
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Blake watering the mountain. Found out that the local scotch is made with this water... So technically, if i (Blake) come back in 10years I can drink my own piss?!?!
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The way down was way easier... It took us 2 hours and 15 minutes to walk down, a lot quicker.. phew :) It took us just under 7 hours to conquer Ben Nevis.. YAY :) :) :)
-The world record is 85.34 minutes (return).. well.. we didn't quite break that record!! At least we return with no sprain ankles, minimal whinging, plenty of 'near' falls, and we're still in 1 piece :)
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Time for a well deserved meal:
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Smoked seafood trio; Smoked duck; Grilled salmon; Game stew

Day 3: Recovery day (aka the day we suffered) :(

As you can imagine.. we woke up pretty sore!! I couldn't walk to the toilet, yet alone get off the toilet seat!! Walking up and down the stairs was a struggle. We waddled around like a pair of 80 year olds.. I definately felt like one :(

But the day must go on.. can't just sit around. The ideal thing to do (according to Blake's theory) is to hike Ben Nevis again to loosen up the stiff legs. Hell no..

So we got the taxi to drop us off at Neptune Staircase which is a set of river locks that allow boats to pass through the Caledonian canal from Fort William to Inverness:
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Enjoying the day.. in pain.. but still smiling :)
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We decided to visit the Ben Nevis Distillery:
It was walking distance from Neptune staircase. We figured the walk will do us some good...
Apparently they filmed scenes from Highlander and Braveheart here at the distillery?!?!
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A view of Ben Nevis in the background

On our walk back to Fort William.. we walked pass Inverlochy castle ruin:
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And some locals..
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Goodbye Fort William. Thanks for the 7 hours workout... We leave you slightly sorer, but fitter and smelling of deep heat :)

xoxo M&B

Posted by blake-michelle 11:56 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Inverness

Gaelic for 'mouth of the River Ness'

rain 6 °C

Inverness

The lowest crossing point of the River Ness- one of the shortest rivers in the world. I wouldn't want to fall in, looks real fast flowing, be washed out to sea in no time...

We got here by bus from Edinburgh (took ~3.5 hours), driving through Perth which got us really excited. Pretty hard to get a photo out the side of a moving bus... This is the best we could do :( :
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The Ness River flowing through the city:
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Inverness Castle: Our hostel is right across the road from it. It is now a court house so the only way to get in is to be arrested and we didn't think it was worth the trouble...
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Victoria Markets
This place looked quite nice but everything was closed when we passed through on Friday afternoon.
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Day 1

We went on a tour to Loch Ness to see if we can spot Nessie the Loch Ness Monster. It only was 30 minutes drive from Inverness. We booked ourselves on a tour which drove us to Loch Ness, put us on a boat - cruising up the Loch Ness, hopping off at Urquhart castle then to the Loch Ness exhibition centre. The cruise was in what i call typical Scottish weather. It wasn't really raining, the mist was just turning to water in front of my face, so no real rain drops, just wetness.

Loch Ness Cruise
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Cruising the Loch Ness: trying to find Nessie the Loch Ness monster...

Urquhart Castle
The castle itself was quite interesting, it had a quick video on the history of the highlands, which we ran out of time to see :(. It was once one of the largest strongholds of medieval Scotland. Apparently a lot of Nessie the Loch Ness monster sighting happened around the grounds of this castle..

On our way to the castle:
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View of Loch Ness from the castle:
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Loch Ness exhibition centre
Pretty cool exhibition using multimedia presentation that takes us through 7 themed areas and 500 million years of history, natural mystery and legend revealing the unique environment of Loch Ness and the Nessie legend... They kept telling us that Nessie doesn't exist but I think this is just so the tourists leave her alone so she can have some private time.
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Day 2

Breakfast/Lunch:
We slept in till nearly the middle of the day. Blake had a beer with his food so I think he considered it lunch time...
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Chicken & mushroom soup :); Steak pie; Venison (Monarch of the Glen)

Shinty/Hurling International: Scotland VS Ireland:
Not sure how this game works. The Scots play shinty; the Irish play Hurling - they have different rules. They had to set up new rules for this game. They even use different sticks/bats. It was easy to watch as its pretty violent and doesn't seem to have too many rules. Anyway the Irish won so there wasn't any street parties or odd celebrations...
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If you look closely, they are using 2 different sticks: The Scottish has a golf/hockey like stick; And the Irish has a fly beater looking stick :):
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After the game, we went for a walk along the river onto the islands in the centre of the river Ness, great day for it- the sun is shining :)
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Blake.. pondering..
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Nessie!!!
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xoxo M&B

Posted by blake-michelle 11:23 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Edinburgh

Finally an English speaking country :)

rain 8 °C

Edinburgh, Scotland

Well first things first. We made it through customs without a hassle (not that we'd done anything wrong) which was a great relief after some of the stories we've heard recently. We took the airport bus into the city and through some stroke of luck managed to walk to the hotel without getting wet or lost :)

I asked the hotel reception if he could recommend any local food nearby. We followed his directions to what he called a "fusion scottish" resteraunt. They served pizza and pasta and had a large sign on the door that said "Italian food". There was a pub nearby so we headed over there for dinner instead. Yum - a great way to start our scotland trip :)
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Game pie- with venison, rabbit, pheasant & mash; Duck confit

Day 1

Shopping day. Blake had to get a winter jacket as the weather is a wee bit colder than what our clothes can handle. Much better with a waterproof/windproof one! After this we made our way up to the Royal Mile, which is the road that links Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse (where the Queen stays when she visits). There are great views of the city from the front of the castle.

View from the Castle forecourt
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Michelle and I talking on the phone. A real red phone booth.
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Edinburgh Castle
Not much to say about the castle, we tried to get in one afternoon and didn't bother the next day as we found out it was £16ea!!! Its pretty much just a military history museum so we passed.

View of Edinburgh Castle from the forecourt and from Princes Garden
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The Whiskey Experience Tour
As we were walking back from the castle we noticed the Whisky Experience tour. It was pretty touristy but not bad value as we got a glass of scotch (and kept the glass) and saw the worlds largest collection of Scotch Whisky :). It started with a barrel ride showing us a replica still and we were educated on the properties of scotch and how they relate to the region they come from (we even got scratch and sniff cards). Anyway after all that I bought a couple of small bottles of scotch for the evening and we headed back home.
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Our whisky tasting glasses with our scratch and sniff cards showing the properties of scotch from 4 different regions in Scotland
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The world's largest collection of Scotch. Are these the Monk shaped bottles you were talking about Dad?
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The oldest whiskey in the collection:
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Awesome whiskey bottles: each chess piece is filled with whiskey; as well as the golf bags
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Day 2

We decided to go on the free walking tour around Edinburgh's old town this morning. We were taken around by a Canadian with a scottish accent- Yah.. figure that.. We lucked out though as she was quite interesting and the sun was shining the whole time!
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This is where they would announce that the Queen's in town, and other news like a royal is dead, etc..
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Harry Potter trail:
Apparently this was where JK Rowling wrote the Book 1 & 2 of Harry Potter
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Apparently this inspired Hogwarts?!?
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Walking through the cemetery...
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The cemetery was actually one of the most interesting places on the tour. There were quite a few famous dead people there and a really famous dog (well, dogs plaque at least. Dogs aren't christian so can't be buried there supposidly). First things first though. We were shown a cage that looked to me like it was made to keep the dead locked underground... But it was the opposite! Body snatching to sell to the School of medicine and this was the best way to stop the grave robbers. If your family wasn't rich enough to buy a cage they would have somebody watch the grave 24hrs a day for a couple of weeks (until the body was to decomposed to be of use). This was know as the "graveyard watch", which quite possibly turned into the "graveyard shift". Ya learn something new every day i guess :)

Cagged tomb
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Anyway back to the dog. I'm not sure how many people have heard of Greyfriars Bobby (I only read about him on the plane) but he is a worldwide star. Greyfriars Bobby was a dog back in the 19th century Edinburgh whose owner died and was buried in the Edinburgh Cemetery. Basically, the dog ended up sleeping on his owners grave for 14years, refusing to leave him unprotected. The cemetery gardener fed the dog and thats about that really. Supposidly there was a movie made about this. I don't see how it could run for more than 10minutes but its there if anyone is interested.

Greyfriars Bobby's memorial and statue
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For lunch, our tour guide took us to a pub to try their national dish: HAGGIS!! :) :) If you don't know what Haggis is.. i suggest you shouldn't google it up!! It tastes way better than it sounds, kinda like a peppery mince meat, even though it is mostly oatmeal.
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Haggis with neeps and tatties (turnips and potato); Grilled chicken stuffed with Haggis

Day 3

It was raining today, so we decided to visit the National museum. This place is free and 6 stories high. One of the most exciting/interactive museums I've seen in a while. It's got a large section on the history of Scotland, another on the industrial revolution and interactive areas (probably for kids, but that isn't going to stop us!)

National Museum of Scotland
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Dolly!! The real one...
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Michelle playing dress up as a Viking; Blake building a bridge :)
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Michelle and I playing around in the kids section (Think i need more practice with the camera... stinkin wrist strap!)
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Kids generating power:
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The tomb made for Mary Queen of Scots and a fly powered pendulum
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An Inuit jacket made from sea mammal intestines and hanging sea creatures
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Day 4

Rained most of the day. Unfortunately we'd planned on making it to the top of Arthur's seat today. Ahh well, can't let a bit of rain (and a temperature of 5 °C get in our way).

Arthur's Seat
Arthur's seat is an extinct volcano in the centre of Edinburgh about 250m high. We set off into the rain with our ponchos and a hot water thermos ready for anything. If you don't count the fact that both of our pants were wet and our shoes and socks soaked the walk up the hill wasn't too bad, until we made it to a peak and the wind nearly blew us off! Michelle wasn't too happy with me for wanting to press on in the weather but I was a famous explorer for the day. I was going to make it to the top of the "mountain" regardless of obstacles! The easiest way up was to follow the rocky stream as most of the slippery clay had been washed off of the surface. Most of the path was in good condition but climbing on wet rocks with a ridiculous poncho blowing up and over your head is probably not the most sensible thing to do. Anyway, we made it! The views were still quite good bar the fog but the wind and rain made sure we didn't hang around up there for too long.

Quoting Blake: "this is such a dumb thing to do"

St Anthony's Chapel and the View on the way to the top.
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We made it to the top!
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First two photos are Blake, the last is Michelle
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Michelle showing how happy she was with me. And after I promised to watch some lame chick flicks with her, and lots of cuddles!!
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So much water... A little more surely couldn't hurt.
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Blake pissing on Arthur's seat.. lol :)
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View from Arthur's seat:
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We finished the day with some yummy pub food:
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Salmon; Braised beef; Rhubarb crumble with warm custard- so good :) :)

Next stop.. further north.. Inverness

xoxo B&M

Posted by blake-michelle 12:00 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Nice

And a day trip to Monaco

sunny 21 °C

Nice

Perfect place to recuperate. We flew in quite late so we were pretty tired the next morning. We decided to take a stroll around town, checking out the flower market in the old town. It was full of lots of yummy goodies like dried fruits, sweet glaced fruits, spices, fresh fruit & veg and lots of flowers.

Masenna Square
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These 7 human statues on a poles placed in the middle of the square represents the 7 continents in the world. They lit up in the evening- really cool :)
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Walking along the beach:
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1st night's dinner: So hard to find French food in Nice After walking around for 1 hour looking for French restaurants recommended by TripAdvisor (they were all fully booked), we finally found somewhere to eat that wasn't Italian food; (Nice was once part of Italy- it became part of France in 1860 but it looks like everyone still loves pasta):
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Escargot (snails); Foie Gras with apple crumble on the bottom- crumble was very yum; Nicoise Salad; Duck stuffed with goats cheese; Beef; Yummy prawns; Yummy scallops

Monaco

The next day, we went to Monaco. It was a quick 20 minute ride by train from Nice. We walked up to the palace to get a better view of the area before we started our hop on/off bus tour around town. We were just in time for the changing of the guard ceremony but Michelle and her mum think they saw Prince Albert (the current reigning monarch) and his wife Princess Charlene drive up to the palace entrance and quickly ducked in, it was more exciting than the changing of guards according to Michelle. I couldn't stop wondering if the Prince Albert piercing had anything to do with this guy...

View of the Marina from the Palace. Some pretty fancy Yachts!
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The Royal Palace:
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View of the palace from the Marina:
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Walking around near the palace, found a giant baby in front of the Oceanographic Museum:
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St Nicholas Cathedral: Where Prince Rainer III and Princess Grace Kelly got married. This is also where the royal tomb stones are located, in this church- the most popular ones of course are Princess Grace & Prince Rainer III.
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Prince Rainer III's car collection
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We got tickets for the hop on/off bus and made our way to Prince Rainer III's car collection. This place has over 100 of the coolest cars I've seen, and only 6Euro entry :) My favourite was the Lamborghini Countach, just like in the classic "Cannonball Run" movie!!!

Some fancy Version of the Mercedes SLR Mclaren... I think
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A collection of Ferraris:
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Me and the Countach
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I had no idea Cadilacs were so big!
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Monte Carlo Casino
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You had to pay E10 to go inside the main gambling area :( Guess its a good way to keep the tourists out... We didn't go in but were still able to donate a small amount of money to the casino via the pokies so not a total loss for them.

I think the best bit was when a kick arse lamborghini pulled up when we were on the way out. Was a little difficult to stop drooling.

In the background is the most expensive hotel in Monaco
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Dinner back in Nice on our last night: Finally some duck!!

Chicken soup & cheese soup; Duck breast with figs; Duck breast with raspberries; Beef with foei gras on top (apparent was very good!) Very yummy dinner :) :) :)
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That's the end of our trip with Michelle's parents as they return home :( It was nice to be pampered. We lost a bit of luggage weight :) but gained a bit of body weight :( with all the yummy food we had the last 2 weeks :) :) - at least it'll keep us warm in the cold weather...

Our bags are stocked up with vegemite, warm clothing, food from home and we are ready to head for the cold weather in Scotland.

Au revoir France..

xoxo B&M

Posted by blake-michelle 07:21 Archived in France Comments (0)

Naples

sunny 24 °C

Napoli

The 3rd most populous city in Italy.

Day 1

After a quick stopover in Pompeii for the morning, our driver dropped us off at our hotel in Naples- right in the middle of shopping area :)

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Galleria Umberto where our hotel is located on the 5th floor. The balcony at the top (in the centre of the photo), is our hotel's courtyard. Free champagne & snacks every night from 7-9pm- pretty awesome :) This building has been a shopping mall since the 1891

For lunch we went into the spanish quarter as Michelle's dad heard the food there was good. Well basically, it was. Plus it was cheap. We went into a small restaurant (seats ~20) and sat right on down. We were waiting a while for a menu when the waiter came up and asked what we would like for lunch (they don't actually have a menu). He offered local antipasti (~5plates), 4 mains, a sml bottle of wine all for the grand sum of 80Euro!!!

After dinner, we walked along the 'beach' checking out the scenery at night.

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Apparently all the romantic couples hang out in this park at night :)

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Castel Dell'Ovo

Day 2

A tour around town (Blake the tour guide):

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A castle

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Piazza Del Plebiscito

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Graffitied building

The Nuovo (a church)- really cool on the inside:
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The Duomo
Naples's main church
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We had to try the pizza where it was invented.. here at this restaurant (Da Michele). After all, this is why we came to Naples. They only serve two types of pizza: Margherita (names after Queen Margherita) and Marinara (garlic, tomato & oregano- no cheese)
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Marinara pizza

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Margherita pizza

Naples National Museum

It contains a large collection of Roman artifacts from Pompeii, Stabiae and Herculaneum. A lot of the Pompeii ones we saw the replicas in Pompeii. Pretty cool to see the originals too.

The secret room: Warning...R+++ rated- collection of erotic or sexually explicit finds from Pompeii.
This room was originally locked up (hence, the gate) due to its contents, until 2000 where it was open to the public.
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This is why it is a secret room:
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Flying willy.. hehehe :)

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'Pan copulating with goat'?!?!?!

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They have this over their doors?!?! Its a sign of fertility, not a sign of what was to come...

Day 3

We checked out, left the bags at the hotel, and decided to explore the hill top where the castle and monastery (Certosa di San Martino) are located, taking the funicular to the very top.

The view of Naples from the Monastery, which is now a museum:
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The church in the monastery

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Looks like Cinderella's pumpkin carriage

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Blake resting... or enjoying the view?!?

Goodbye Italy.. for the 2nd time :) :)

xoxo M&B

Posted by blake-michelle 12:31 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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