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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Our last few days in Ireland….

Driving the Ring of Kerry in Ireland
Driving the Ring of Kerry in Ireland

The Irish amazing race continues from our base in Killarney on day 4 as we headed out to conquer the Ring of Kerry, a circular coastal route that starts and ends in Killarney.  We headed out on the counter clockwise route starting from the east side in torrential rain and wind that continued all day.  Unfortunately, we were socked in with cloud, rain and fog for the whole trip so we couldn’t see much or take any great photos.  Had the weather been clear we knew the route would have provided some exceptional scenery as we got the occasional glimpse throughout. The whole loop is a day drive with a few stops but if you wanted to shorten the trip or if the weather was bad, as in our case, I’d start on the west side as that is where the best views are.  As we approached our return to Killarney just a half hour out in the national park the views were stunning, I was tempted to redo the last half of the route on our next day when the weather cleared. If you only do part of the route go at least up to Kenmare which is just an hour out of Killarney, it’s a great little tourist town with tons of pubs, restaurants and shops.  We had lunch at a restaurant called #35, it was exceptional and one of the few places I’m confident to recommend. Put the Ring of Kerry on your bucket list, you’ll be rewarded with high up, looming coastal sites and then sweeping mountain views.  It’s a spectacular road trip even in bad weather. 

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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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Edinburgh and its Georgian Beauty

Victoria Street, Edinburgh by our apartment
Victoria Street, Edinburgh by our apartment

Well the last stop on our tour of Scotland was Edinburgh and it brought our visit to a climactic ending.  Its architecture rivals any European city, an impressive breadth and depth of Georgian and neoclassical buildings which will make you dizzy spinning 360 degrees for the views and your neck permanently kinked from looking up.  It’s like getting lost in Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter movies but Scottish Style.  Looming over the city impressively is the monolithic Edinburgh Castle which is home to Scotland’s crown Jewels (the real ones) and the Stone of Destiny used for royal coronations. Arthur’s Seat looms above the city center, the remnant of an ancient distinct volcano in Holyrood Park.

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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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Things to do near Falkirk and Linlithgow, Scotland

Calendar House, Linlithgow, Scotland
Calendar House, Linlithgow, Scotland

The Falkirk Wheel, The Kelpies, Calendar House and Park, Linlithgow Palace and Loch.  Virtually everything in Scotland is close by North American Standards. We were staying near Broxburn and these tourist sites are nearby, within close proximity are the towns of Falkirk and Linlithgow which are all in the county of the West Lothians. We checked off these items on our tourist list over two days although you could easily start early and hit them all in one busy day. You’d need a car to see all these sites in a day but you could more than cover them in two by buses which serve these attractions. Each site needs about an hour and a half depending on your interests unless you plan to spend a leisurely day at any of them.

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