Lovely Lucca

Lucca from a top the Torre Guinigi
Lucca from a top the Torre Guinigi

We  arrived by train from Florence following a little over an hour journey.  Our Airbnb host was gracious enough to pick us up at the train station and in minutes we were at our new temporary residence.  The train station is conveniently located near the center of the city and a few minutes’ walk into the old walled center where most of the exploring is to be had.

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A Day trip to Pisa

The Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy
The Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy

We had a glorious day in Pisa, the sun was shining and it was plus 15 degrees Celsius without a cloud in the sky. We left in the morning from Lucca and walked to the train station where we boarded for a 30 or so minute ride to Pisa.  From the Pisa train station it’s another easy walk of about 25 min. to the Piazza dei Miracoli where the Tower, Cathedral, Baptistery and main tourist sights can be seen. Pisa is easy to get to and well worth a day trip. The nice weather just added to the enjoyment of the day, we wished we had packed a picnic for the park area surrounding the Cathedral but we relished just laying in the campo and taking in our surroundings.

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Fantastic Florence

View of the Pointe Vecchio in Florence, Italy
View of the Pointe Vecchio in Florence, Italy

 

Check it of the list…. Florence is now done and we off to our next stop, Lucca tomorrow afternoon.  Florence has been great, we took it all in at a leisurely pace and opted to just wander the streets viewing the sights of the city as a five day resident. Our Airbnb apartment was fabulously situated, we just had to walk out our front door, over one of the bridges and we were in the thick of the historic center.

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Seeing Siena

Siena, Italy
Siena, Italy

 

Saturday morning we boarded a bus from Rome to Siena and a few hours later settled into our 3-star hotel for a five day stay.  We happened to be perfectly situated steps from the old city center so we dropped our bags and walked out the front door to explore. In minutes we knew we were in the heart of Tuscany, walking the medieval city and it’s labyrinth of narrow, cobblestoned streets.   

 

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Our last few days in Rome, Italy

Click on the pic below for a video of our last days in Rome and explanation below;

After checking off most of the sights on our Rome-to do list we just spent a few days wondering around, getting lost in the side streets and finishing up that list.  We spent an afternoon cruising the atmospheric neighborhood of Trastevere, stopped in a few more breathtaking churches and yesterday we dropped by the Vatican. We didn’t bother going in as they had some lineups and we have been before, instead we decided to save it for the spring when we return with some friends and family.

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Our Italian adventure begins in Rome

The Coliseum in Rome
The Coliseum in Rome

 

We’ve been in Rome a few days now.  We’ve settled into Italian life and I have to say its ‘molto fantastico’! There’s just something about living ‘La Dolce Vita’ that makes me think I could make this place home, if only family and friends were with us. I have to remind myself thought that this isn’t real life, we don’t have to work or iron out an existence here (that’s waiting for our return home) its just about the fun stuff……………………….

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Driving the Southwest Coast of Ireland

At the Waterford Crystal Factory
At the Waterford Crystal Factory

Day One of our Amazing Race through Ireland’s Southwest Coast has us waking up in Waterford and on the move.

Today was a busy productive day, we managed to hit a bunch of sites on a lovely day for a drive through Ireland.  We left our hotel room at about 9am for a quick visit in the town of Waterford, just a few minutes drive from our hotel.  First stop was the Waterford Crystal factory where we quickly visited the shop, deciding we didn’t have enough time for the tour we grabbed a coffee, a breakfast bun and headed out onto the highway. 

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Dublin and strolling along the River Liffey

A Bridge on the River Liffey, Dublin, Ireland
A Bridge on the River Liffey, Dublin, Ireland

We left Edinburgh on a Friday afternoon, boarded a cheap Ryan Air flight and a little over an hour later we were in Dublin, Ireland.  We spent one night DT at a hotel on Parnell street and then moved out to the burbs where we stayed in a beautiful self hosting apartment for three more nights.  We had no problem navigating the buses and finding our way around the city, much was within walking distance from our apartment. Our first evening we headed out to Murray’s Pub just around the corner from our hotel for some dinner and a few pints.  We found out they had entertainment starting at 9 that evening with a band doing traditional Irish music and traditional Irish dancers, problem was we arrived at 6 and had to drag out dinner until 9.  We ate and drank our faces off and managed to stay until 11:00, we totally enjoyed the entertainment which made us feel we had arrived in Ireland.

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The Isle of Skye, the misty island

Portree on The Isle of Skye
Portree on The Isle of Skye

The Isle of Skye for me was a highlight of Scotland.  It’s rugged land and coastal scenery was so epic and atmospheric, maybe it was the misty weather that added to the ambiance but the island left a distinct impression.  The weather changed frequently from windy and misty to sunny and calm so if you didn’t like it as the saying goes ‘wait 5 minutes’ but we never minded the wet weather, it was part of the experience.

 

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The Highlands of Scotland

The Highlands of Scotland
The Highlands of Scotland

We spent three nights in Fort William to experience the beauty of the Highlands and could have easily spent a few more days here.  The views change as you drive every few miles through this diverse countryside, a car is a must to really get the most of this area. There is lots to do here especially for the outdoor enthusiast but shopping, dining and lots of other activities are also available.

 

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Pitlochry, The Trossachs National Park and Glencoe-so beautiful!

The Trossachs National Park, Scotland
The Trossachs National Park, Scotland

We have been on the move lately since leaving our last house sit and internet has been spotty so I havn’t posted for a few days now.  We left the housesit in Broxburn which was a godsend!  Both of us were battling a bad bug and it was nice to have a home to rest in but it’s been great to be on the move now and living more like tourists than locals.  We are both on the mend and have been seeing more of this incredibly beautiful country as we head up north into the Highlands.

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Rosslyn Chapel and Secrets of The Da Vinci Code

Rosslyn Chapel, Scotland
Rosslyn Chapel, Scotland

A few days ago we made a trip to the town of Roslin to view its famous landmark, the Rosslyn Chapel. It was made more famous by Dan Browns book- The Da Vinci Code and movie of the same name starring Tom Hanks. if you recall it was the locale for the scene of the climactic ending as Sophie Neveu and Robert Langdon race from London to Roslin, chased by the French police and Catholic zealots. They are on the brink of exposing a 2000-year conspiracy to rid evidence that Christ had children and Sophie was one of those decedents. They discover that the Holy Grail itself once resided in Rosslyn brought by the Templars many centuries ago but has since vanished.

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Best Ways to Communicate While Traveling Abroad

Ways to communicate while traveling abroad
Ways to communicate while traveling abroad

Today there are more options that ever to keep in touch with home, cheaply and on demand.  We did a lot of research on this and I think have some great options for long or short term travelers. These aren’t all of them but all you’ll need, depending on the length of time you will be traveling will dictate some of the best options.

For 2 or 3 weeks the easiest option would be to just get an international add-on package through your cell phone provider, in Canada these are usually at about $5 per day.  So 3 weeks would add up to $105 but if you are away longer this begins to get cost prohibitive.  We are planning to be away for a year so this just wasn’t an option and we had to find more suitable means.  For our 10 months away we had a cell phone for local calls, a Magic Jack for calling home (banking, business, social calls), an Ipad for Facetime with the kids and a laptop for Skypeing and using the Magic Jack with friends and family.  Below is an explanation of these options.

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A Day at Doune Castle

Doune Castle
Doune Castle

In the Stirling area another interesting Castle we totally enjoyed visiting was the Doune Castle which has been a popular filming location for movies such as Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Game of Thrones, Outlander and many others.  As you wander the castle grounds Actor/Director Terry Jones from Monty Python narrates the audio tour handed out at the castle entrance along with Outlander clips from Sam Heughan (James Frazer), Janet’s favorite parts!  They help bring to life the history surrounding the castle and add an ambiance as you make your way through the castle trying to remember scenes from the movies filmed here.

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