Amanda Shepherd

Amanda S

Amanda Shepherd

Europe » Albania » West » Berat July 11th 2023

We took a bus from the North-South bus terminal in Tirana to Berat. The journey was fine, dropped off in Berat on the river front. We stayed across the river at Hotel Ajka It had a great view from the large balcony over to the main town and the castle. The lovely Ottoman houses are clustered up narrow cobbled strrets that wind up to the castle. There are also a cluster of these houses on the other side if the river  where we stayed. Enjoyable to wander the streets and take in the views. The castle is still lived in, it has many houses within the main walls. The evening views from the viewing platform at the castle were great. There are various walking routes around the castle grounds with some interesting churches to look in. ... read more
Cadtle walls
Berat at night from hotel
Skëndulaj house, Gjirokaster

Europe » Albania » West » Tirana July 4th 2023

4th July Spent the day in various forms of transport to get back to Tirana. First a minivan we had booked when we arrived to Shkroder, a quick coffee then a big bus to the city bus terminal and finally a taxi to the hotel. Took most of the day. Had a good meal at Oda restaurant round the corner from the hotel  very popular, traditional Turkish. Staying at Lot hotel in the city centre. 5th July Visited the National Historic Museum. Some interesting parts, filled a couple of hours. The early parts have English information but after the middle ages it's sporradic. Looked up afterwards about Alexander the Great, didn't realise there were two and both Albanian! They claim the birthplace of the original one and their national hero from the 1500s, who fought off ... read more

Europe » Albania » North » Shkodër June 29th 2023

29th June Another early start and another huge packed breakfast that was enough for lunch too. Took the 7am minivan from Shkoder to Theth in the Albanian Alps. It took 3 hours but we had many stops for the driver to pick up laundry, bread and the biggest roll of kitchen paper, then deliver them and have a coffee break! At least there is a new tarmac road,  it must have been an awful journey before, up over the mountains and down into a valley. Much cooler here, pleasant. This is clearly a new and expanding settlement full of guest houses and restaurants for the passing trade of people coming to do the hikes that radiate from here. The most popular is over a pass to Valbona. It's possible to carry on by car from there ... read more
Daneli meadow
Views from Daneli hike

Europe » Albania » North » Shkodër June 28th 2023

Up before 5am to catch the minivan to the ferry on Koman lake. Easy journey but cramped seats. One stop for the driver to have a coffee and smoke. The road wound through the countryside, the last part along a lake formed by a dam. Emerging from a final tunnel the van popped out to a busy wharf and we transferred straight onto the 9am ferry. We had read that this is a popular trip on the car ferry up to Fierze and it was certainly busy with vehicles  locals and tourists. Every seat was taken so we sat on the top deck, legs dangling over the side and enjoyed the 2.5 hour journey through picturesque gorges. At the other end we had a coffee and got back on for the 1pm return. Even busier with ... read more

Europe » Albania » West » Tirana June 27th 2023

Exciting to be on the road again and traveling in a new country in Europe. Arrived around 1am this morning from Naples where we had a few days visiting Pompei (bucket list, check!) Today was planned as rest day as our next section to the north starts at 5am. Staying in the lovely E'bel hotel, very close to our pick up point in the morning and an easy, if long, walk into the centre. Wandered around to get our vearings. Getting used to the busy crossings, somehow people, bicycles, e scooters and cars weave around each other. If you are unfortunate enough to have a UnionPay ATM card we found no ATM that would accept it! Packed that card away for our stay here. As we will be returning here for a few days we didn't ... read more

Asia » Indonesia » Flores » Labuanbajo January 1st 2020

Two weeks diving in Komodo National Park. Wonderful to see healthy coral again, many beautiful dives. Didn't realise that December was the end of the dive season from labuan Bajo, but we had good dives on all days. Did a day trip to Padar Island (3 beaches of different colours, great views - and Timor Deer on the beach!), Pink Beach (it really was pink!), Komodo Island - to see the dragons and Manta Point (yes to see manta rays and snorkel). Padar Island is beautiful and that made the trip worthwhile. It was a full day from 5:30am to 5pm. During our diving days we went one day to Rinca Island rather than do the 3rd dive and this was a much better experience than Komdo Island for seeing the dragons. We were lucky and ... read more
Timor deer on Padar Island
Padar Island view point, pink, black and white beaches
Manta ray, Manta Point

Asia » Georgia » Western Georgia » Vardzia July 1st 2018

After driving back from Mt Aragats area to Yerevan, we spent an afternoon wandering around, including visiting the Noy brandy and wine factory (good tour and we could just walk in and had the guide to ourselves). From there we took a minibus (7000 AMD) to Didube bus station in Tblisi (this time the border crossing took 10 mins - it had taken 90 when we came through to Armenia), spent the afternoon wandering around there, including walking up to the Mother of Georgia monument with good views over the city. It has been very hot in Yerevan and Tblisi - hitting 39 degrees - nearly as hot as Doha. Despite being told it was a 4 hour journey from Tblisi to Akhaltsikhe we happily arrived after 2.5 hours, we were cramped in the back of ... read more
Peace bride Tblisi
Vardzia cave monastery and city
Frescoes in Assumption Church, Vardzia

Asia » Armenia » West » Mount Aragats June 27th 2018

After visiting the Haghpat monastery again we set off for Ahtarak,which is back towards Yerevan. Another day and of course more monasteries and churches, Saghnosovank and then Hovhanovank monasteries were onteh drive. These were in sight of each other but a big gorge away, both in stunning settings. The first pretty inside the second built right on the edge of the gorge. Just outside the town of Ashtarak is Muhinj, or Saint George's church, a lovely stripy church with bands of red and black brickwork, this time in a garden setting. The last church of the day was my favourite, a tiny 9th century church of Saint Mary, known for its lovely frescoes inside. Two elderly ladies sitting there trying to chat with us but no common language! Opposite is a delightful cafecalled Pascal and Diodato, ... read more
Inside St Mary's church, Ashtarak
Walking through the snow Mt Aragats
View from the ridge to Lake Kari

Asia » Armenia » North » Alaverdi June 26th 2018

Drove along the apparently historic Debed Canyon (this is what the guide book says, but we didn't spot any of the churches that are supposed to line the valley). Very different scenery, green tree covered hills. Very steep and long canyon with a lot of old Soviet industrial factories along the way. Our destination of Alvaverdi town, a very ugly big town that is full of semi-derelict factories, a decrepit looking cable car and two UNESCO world heritage monasteries, Haghpat and Sanahin. Haghpat we felt was the more interesting of the two. Both are from Medieval times with libraries and great stone work. Sanahin was known for the illuminators of manuscripts. The town of Sanahin is the top of the cable car from Alaverdi and is where the factory workers lived, the cable car was for ... read more
Inside Sanahin monastery
Haghpat monastery
Debed valley from Haghpat

Asia » Armenia » East » Sevan June 25th 2018

Lovely day of driving through beautiful colourful landscape and stopping at interesting sights. First stop, at the top of a high winding pass was a Caravansary from the 13th century. Very well preserved and not renovated, had a feeling f old-world and long history. What a route though high up on this mountain pass in bad weather with camels laden with wares. Coming down from the pass there is the huge Lake Sevan, it's the largest lake in the Caucasus mountains and sits at an elevation of 1,900m. The first stop was Noratus cemetery which has hundreds of the local intricately carved memorial stones (khachkar), some of which date from ancient times. Bumped into a British/Polish couple here that we have now met in all 3 countries, including staying at the same guest house in Sighnaghi ... read more
Scenery en-route
Noratus cemetery
inside Hayravanak monastery

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