Published: June 22nd 2012June 22nd 2012
We have arrived back home after 45 days away, this blog continues on from during our stay in Tuscany. On the 1st of June we all celebrated Fran's 60th birthday, this was the catalyst for the trip and we did it in style in a very quaint restaurant in Sovicille, for dessert we had a very nice Tiramasu made by Lorenzo's wife. During our stay in Tuscany we took a few day trips, the longer ones were to San Gimignano and to Arezzo, we also had shorter trips into Siena, Sovicille, Rosia and San Rocco Pilli.
San Gimignano is well known for it's towers, also there is a market there on Thursday and Eleanor loves markets. Phil, Chris, Eleanor and I went there for the day, it was about 40 minutes drive and this time we didn't get lost. We were able to park outside the city wall and took a shuttle into the city, we could of walked but the shuttle was included with the parking and as it had just arrived we took advantage of it. First stop was coffee and donuts, Eleanor and Chris then looked around the markets while Phil and I climbed the main tower,
it was a great view from the top. We then had lunch in the Central Piazza and finished with a serve of the "worlds best gelato", it was very good.
Arezzo was a longer drive and the attraction again was markets, this time the antique market that is on the 1st Sunday and preceding Saturday of every month. Eleanor was looking for bargain priced "Shelley China", I went along for the ride. It was the same crew as the San Gimignano gig and for me the highlight was the lunch and being able to navigate a one and a half hour trip and getting lost only once. Actually we weren't really lost, when we reached Arezzo we just had to ask directions to the markets. Arezzo itself was interesting and there was a lot of old stuff for sale ranging from absolute junk to some very nice paintings and sculptures. I was interested in the model Vespa scooters, not cheap though the one I liked was 100 Euro. After a morning of walking around the market there's nothing better than a relaxing lunch in a nice little restaurant with a bottle of the local red. Phil was the only
one to make a purchase, he bought a large magnifying glass which he'll use for his work.
Our next destination after Tuscany was Amsterdam and to get there we had to get an early bus (7.10am) from Siena to Pisa, then an afternoon flight to Amsterdam. Due to the early start we decided to spend the night in Siena (inside the city walls) at a small hotel near the central bus station. This was also a chance to experience the Piazza Del Campo at night, it's regarded as one of Europes greatest squares. This was our third visit to Siena, on previous trips we had climbed the tower in Piazza Del Campo, visited the museum and the Duomo - a very elaborate Cathederal. The Piazza at night was a picture, we found a table at a restaurant overlooking the square and soaked in the sunset whislt sipping a Negroni (Campari, Gin and sweet red vermouth).
The bus ride to Pisa and flight to Amsterdam went according to plan, the bus was a bit smaller than expected though ample for the two hour trip. We had to wait for about 6 hours for the flight so I had a
chance to get stuck into my new book - "The World is what it is" the authorized biography of the Trinidad writer V. S. Naipul. We arrived in Amsterdam at about five thirty in the evening and took the train into the Central station, our hotel was a short walk the only danger was dodging push bikes and trams. After checking into the hotel we booked the Floriade tour then had dinner followed by a walk around the red light district. The food in Amsterdam was very reasonable, we had a good sized serving of ribs, salad and chips for 8.50 Euro, the walk around the red light district was very interesting.
Next day (Saturday 9th June) was the Floriade and it was raining, fortunately as the bus neared Venlo the weather cleared and stayed that way for most of the day. The highlight of the Floriade for me was the Bulgarian wine tasting for Eleanor it was the Orchids, or maybe the wine tasting also. I'd have to rate it as the best wine tasting of all time, the wines were very good and you could pour your own, I was even opening bottles and pouring for others.
We teamed up with a Bulgarian girl and pretty much sampled everything. In addition to the standard varieties such as Chardonnay, Shiraz etc they had a style unique to Bulgaria - Mezzek (White Soil) Mavrud. I bought two bottles to take home, the Mavrud and a very nice Michel Rolland 2008 Castra Rubra.
Sunday was our last full day in Amsterdam before leaving for Bali on Monday morning. We wanted to visit the Anne Frank museum but the line was too long so we went to the flower market and the Van Gough museum, both well worth a visit. It's the first market I've been to that sells Cannabis seeds and even a miniature Cannabis plant. That night we had dinner in an Italian restaurant and finished with a few glasses of La Trappe Dubbel (beer) at a very quaint little pub around the corner from where we were staying.
The flight to Bali was pretty long, first stop was Dubai then Jakarta then finally Bali. We left at 11am in Amsterdam and arrived at 1pm in Bali, taking into account the 6 hour time difference the total travel time was 20 hours. Anyway it was OK and
the only hassle was that our flight from Jakarta to Bali wasn't in the Garuda system so that had to issue us new tickets. This was really odd as those flights were definitely listed under the booking reference number online.
Bali was very relaxing, my daily schedule was breakfast, walk down the beach to Kuta, coffee, a surf, swim in the pool, lunch, one and a half hour massage (about $10), relax by the pool and read my book, Bintangs (beers) on the beach at sunset, dinner then sleep. The only exception to this was the day we hired a driver to take us to an Orchid garden, butterfly farm and Tanah Lot (temple by the sea) where I patted the holy snake. Our friend Dianne and her son Joel joined us for four days in Bali, we had a lot of fun together and some good meals especially at the Balcony.
Last Monday night we left Bali on a late flight and arrived back home at 7.30am Tuesday morning. Michael and Justine had looked after the house and Elodie whilst we were away so we didn't have any surprises on our arrival home. Eleanors back at work
whilst I'm settling into retirement and looking forward to our next holiday.
There are more photos below