A Travellerspoint blog

Gibraltar

Day 53, 19 May 2009

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Spent the afternoon in Gibraltar – five hours solid walking in fact. So another tiring day on these sore stressed pegs!

As we entered the port the P&O superliner, Ventura was docked. I’m so glad I’m not on that oversized apartment block. As the captain correctly surmised: “it might have size, but we have elegance” – so true.

Places visited today include:

  • Main Street shops – very British right down to the Bobbies
  • Cathedral of Saint Mary the Crowned
  • Trafalgar Cemetery – next to the Southport Gate. The graves are those of British sailors who died at Gibraltar after the Battle of Trafalgar (1805)
  • Cable Car to top (at 450m) and from the Ape’s Den down

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  • Upper Rock Nature Reserve

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  • St. Michael’s Cave – amazing acoustics and used for classical concerts; magnificent stalactites and stalagmites beautifully illuminated; its size is impressive

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  • Ape’s Den – home of the tailless monkeys (not apes at all). Legend has it that when the monkeys disappear from Gibraltar, so will the British.

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  • 100 Ton Gun – installed in 1884; it can fire shells weighting 910kg up to 8 miles!

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When I think back on Gibraltar: lots of babies in prams (yes, very odd), LOTS of tourists, lots of cheeky monkeys, and very cramped for space. A nice day in a nice spot of the world – although I could have used more time.
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Posted by dpedler 16:01 Archived in Gibraltar Tagged gibraltar Comments (0)

Almeria, Spain

Day 52, 18 May 2009

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A perfect first day in Spain - this beautiful picturesque city of Almeria knows how to treat its visitors. So a more relaxed day visiting a few of the city’s sites including the monstrous fortress of Alcazaba (construction started 955 AD) and the impressive 16th century church called Cathedral-Fortress.
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The entire place shuts down at 2pm and starts to awaken at 5pm – even the roads aren’t as busy. So I don’t know where all these people go for 3 hours – surely not home – another mystery!
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Based on first impressions, I think I like Spain… Back in Spain again in two days.
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Posted by dpedler 15:48 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Ajaccio, Corsica

Day 50, 16 May 2009

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Corsica, an island 183km long and 85km wide, is situated at 90km from the Italian mainland, 170km from France and 12km from Sardinia.

Fiercely independent, the Corsicans speak their own language and fly their own flag, featuring a black Moor’s head with white headband: the “bandiera testa mora”. The language appears to be a mismatch of Italian and French.large_5Panorama3.jpg
Ajaccio, the Imperial City, birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) is a small city of 55,000 people and the administration centre of France’s Region of Corsica (has been a region since 1769).

The ship’s visit was only the afternoon so it was a quick walk around town to see the sights. Everywhere a statute, a street or café name demonstrating the pride the people take in Napoleon.
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The sights included:
Saturday markets – closing
A few statues of Napoleon:

  • Statue de Napoleon Empereur Romain, Fontaine des 4 lions
  • Statue de Napoleon et ses frères
  • La Grotte (Grotte Napoleon)

Cathedrale de l’Assomption
Maison Bonaparte (house where Napoleon was born and grew up)

Posted by dpedler 15:43 Archived in France Comments (0)

Rome and Vatican City

Day 49, Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy, 15 May 2009

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Rome in a day is hard work, so here is the list (in order) of the places I visited all on foot (the major sights are highlighted):

  • Starting at Stazione Termini – main Rome train station
  • Piazza della Repubblica - fountain
  • Santa Maria degli Angeli – church, outside only
  • Fontana del Tritone – fountain
  • Piazza di Spagna and Spanish Steps – down the steps
  • Fontana del Trevi – aka Trevi Fountain – closed for coin extraction
  • Tempio Adriano
  • Pantheon – not inside (yet)
  • Pizza Navona – with the three fountains including Bernini’s famous Four Rivers Fountain
  • Ponte Umberto I - bridge
  • Palazzo di Glustizia
  • Castel Sant’ Angelo – the ancient mausoleum of the Emperor Hadrian - walked past only
  • Piazza San Pietro – aka St Peter’s Square - goodbye Italy and welcome to Vatican City – reached by 9:30am
  • Vatican Museum – very over the top; could spend all day just here!
  • Sistine Chapel – with its famously painted ceiling and walls
  • St Peter’s Basilica – WOW even more over the top than the museum!
  • Ponte Sant’ Angelo - bridge
  • Pizza Navona – again – student protest
  • Break / lunch time – some very nice Pizza
  • Pantheon – and inside this time
  • Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele
  • Piazza Campidoglio – religious man with razor and a suicide attempt
  • Overlooked the Roman Forum – I’m so over ruins!
  • Colonna Traiana
  • Cyclist hit by a taxi – crazy place! Still not as bad as Naples
  • Colosseum
  • Arco di Costantino – aka Arch of Constantine
  • Domus Aurea and Colle Oppio
  • Santa Maria Maggiore – amazing inside this church too
  • San Cario Quattro Fontane
  • Fontana del Tritone – again
  • Trevi Fountain – again; 1000s of people this time; had to throw a coin in
  • Palazzo dello Esposizioni
  • Piazza della Repubblica – past the fountain again to the Roma Termini station

Civitavecchia is 85km from Rome and has a frequent train service – so back onto the train (I purchased my ticket the night before). Reached the ship, extremely tired, at a little past 6pm with plenty of time to spare (just over an hour).

I loved Rome – what an amazing city - I must return…
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Posted by dpedler 00:36 Archived in Italy Tagged rome vatican Comments (0)

Sorrento and Pompeii, Italy

Day 48, 14 May 2009

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This two day adventure started with tendering into Sorrento and climbing the stairs to the town. Sorrento was built atop the dramatic 150-foot cliff; a lovely city with its 19th century style buildings. But I’m off to catch a train to Pompeii.
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The plan is not to return to the ship tonight but continue onto Rome and meet the ship tomorrow afternoon - thus giving me an extra four hours in Rome.

First stop is Pompeii. Over the course of the past 7 weeks I have seen some amazing ruins and, quite frankly, I am over ruins (about mid-Turkey). But nothing quite prepares you for the striking effect of Pompeii. It is as if the ancient Roman had departed only yesterday – the homes, the shops, public baths and bordellos (my first brothel too…).
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In 79 AD one of the most disastrous volcanic eruptions in history – recorded by Pliny the Younger, who observed it from a distance (** get book/text) – buried the town under more than 6m of ash (not lava) that would preserve it until it was rediscovered at the end of the 16th century. It was not until the mid-18th century that large-scale excavations were launched, and two thirds of the city (about 60 acres) remains buried even now.

I had to wonder what the bustling life in Pompeii might have been like; carts travelling around the streets, water from homes entering the well designed guttering system. I think some lives seemed very grand, even extravagant, whilst others lived in poverty. I guess it’s still much the same today in Italy – the fancy cars and clothes of the rich; or the lady begging with her baby in one arm (and her pimp in the distance watching).

And then there are the bodies of people caught in the destruction. In 1860 plaster was injected into spaces that appeared. The moulds revealed people and animals caught in the final agony as suffocating clouds of dust and ash fell upon the city - very chilling.
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Onto the train again and heading to Naples straight past Mount Vesuvius (at 1,277m). This is now the point of no return as the ship will soon be heading off. I have an increased level of anxiety as tomorrow’s known strike of the underground trains and buses in Rome. Will I be able to reach the ship in time?

The private train stopped at its own station and not the central station – so the first task was to find the main train station and get my ticket for tonight’s trip to Rome Termini.

Naples is Italy in the extreme (even after my Rome visit) – the grittiest, most polluted, and the most crime-ridden city in Italy. Overcome by a fear of being run down or ripped off – the drivers of the scooters are crazy and my greatest fear! To cross a road I simply put a local between me and the vehicles.

Next it was off to the National Archaeological Museum of Naples where many of Pompeii’s decorative and art objects taken for safekeeping. This added to today’s emotive visit to Pompeii. A visit to the museum’s Gabinetto Segreto (Secret Gallery) was a lucky extra – lascivious art from Pompeii.

Pizza for dinner and it’s off to Rome – which I reach at 11:30pm. What a fantastic day!

Posted by dpedler 00:30 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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