Disappointments on our last day

I slept so well last night. The bed was nice, but the temperature was just right! It was a beautiful night so we slept with the windows open instead of the AC. We went to breakfast and it was buffet style again. It was set up very nicely and had lots to choose from. It even had french toast (according to them, “The best french toast in the world.”)! it should be said, it was NOT the best french toast in the world, it was too eggy. I think they put break on a baking sheet and cover it in egg and bake it. Its very soggy and wasnt enjoyable. I did enjoy some granola and yogurt and of course cheese! We also decided to try the “Royal Cake” pastry. I didnt care for it. It was almond and fig leaf, but one of the spices in it made it taste horrible to me. Chris enjoyed it, but we didnt finish it.

After breakfast we went for a walk around the grounds. We discussed our plans for the day – heading to the new walking bridge I saw on the Today show, heading to a monastery turned nature park and then onto Coimbra. The monastery would be removed if we ran out of time. However, when I went to google the 518 bridge, there was a message about how you needed a TICKET! A month ago when I looked, it said nothing about appointments or tickets or anything – I mean, its a bridge! But sadly when I went to look at tickets, I found out that the earliest ticket I could get was for the last day of the month, so the bridge was out!

We ended up heading right to the monastery instead. It was about an hour and a half drive from us – so off we went! You had to pay $5 to get in per car, so no big deal! We parked after figuring out which way to go and then took off to find all the stairs we had seen in pictures. We started up the hill and found the first set of stairs. However after that we got a bit lost and decided to go back down and find a map. Of course you have to pay for a map, and we didnt want to, so we took a picture of the one they had set up and started walking.

We ended up behind a group going to the same place we were, but we were also following the blue trail. Turns out the blue trail, while it looks like it goes to the fountain stairs, doesnt actually go there once you are on the trail! We all got turned around at times, but ended up at the bottom of the stairs. It looked like a natural spring route that had been tamed by humans and made to look pretty, in between a set of stairs.

We kept going up the stairs to the top and followed that path, it took us right to our car. We probably walked about 3km out of the way to get there, but its fine. We were not in any rush.

After that we headed to our final town for the trip: Coimbra. Chris drove us to the town and even managed to get a parking spot right in front of the hotel! We lucked out! We got to check in early. Once we settled in, the lady at the front desk gave us a map and showed us what to see. First stop was a church in the lower part of the town.

We stopped for lunch to get pizza (I asked for pizza before we go home since its so good in Europe!) We enjoyed some olives, pizza, water, and then we both had some lemon gelato. While we were there a family came up and they looked very interesting. The dad was tall and lanky, didnt have a shirt on, just a vest and didnt look great. He told the waitress he wasnt feeling well (and of course he wasnt wearing a mask). It was dehydration, but still, put on a mask and get away from people, in the world we live in in right now, none of us know if you are really sick or not.

Turns out this town is built on a hill (or Everest as Chris’s friend called it). One of the streets is called “back breaker” and that was very true. It was essentially an alley with stairs, a lot of them. it took us near the top of the town to the church area.

We walked around inside and then took off to the top of the city where the university is located. The front desk lady said to check out the library, Chris’s friend said to check out the library, but guess what? You need tickets. And guess what? No tickets available. Im not sure if this is a Covid thing for the tickets, or if it is always like this, but it is very disappointing.

We walked around the university and then decided to head to the pedestrian bridge the hotel had recommended taking a look at. That meant we had to get down off the mountain. We ended up finding this stair alley. It was cool, basically straight up, Im glad we were walking down, but it was still really hard! We walked over one bridge and through a park, then came back across the river on the pedestrian bridge. It had a great view of the city in the background. We had to stop for a mini photoshoot. We do it for the ‘gram.

We talked about how we hadnt gotten massages yet, so I googled some. When we got back to the hotel, we asked them to call and everyone was full. It really made me miss Thailand and the ease at which you could get a foot massage at the end of a long day!

We head for home tomorrow. Im hoping everything works out alright – and that maybe I get stuck in London for a bit. I am really dreading going back to the states where people fight over masks, guns, wars, and rights. I just want to stay in my travel bubble a bit longer.

Bom Bidi Bom Jesus

Our Porto hotel has by far been our favorite. It was very nice, excellent customer service and we LOVED the location. I mean, in reality it was Chris and his research into the hotels that allowed us to have such great stays. We had a patio off our room, robes, a great bathroom – it was just grand. And to top it off, breakfast was the best we had so far!

After we indulged our stomachs with some excellent breakfast food – we headed off to the pharmacy down the street so we could get our Covid tests and not have to worry about getting the results too late before our flights on Sunday. We made our appointment for noon and headed out to check out our sites for the day.

First stop – the Stock Exchange, or what used to be the stock exchange. The stock exchange in Porto started before the one in Lisbon by a few years, but more recently it has been shut down in Porto and is strictly in Lisbon now. Anyway, one of the rooms is where Gustave Eiffel worked! This town also has a bridge by him and one of his students! The building is still used for commerce things, but also weddings and fancy shin digs. it has some amazing wood working but also FAKE wood, one room looked like all wood but it was in fact plaster from the shoulder height up. We had to take a tour with a guide as it is an active business building.

After our visit to the stock exchange we headed to the Capela das Almas – a church covered in the Portuguese blue and white tiles. It was about a mile away, up hill to get to. The church it is on is a shopping street – and that district has hung some aerial art – which sadly now impedes thee view of the church in its entirety.

From there Chris was kind enough to go with me to the Ponte Luis I bridge. We had crossed the bottom yesterday to go Port tasting, but since it was such a high point of the city I wanted to get on the top portion. It has a walking path and tram paths. The view was so pretty. This bridge was designed by Eiffel’s student. It is still used to this day. I love bridges and enjoyed getting to experience both levels of the bridge. It also allowed us to check out two more bridges, Eiffel’s and the vehicle bridge in between.

We had to head back to the hotel and check out at that point. Once we were packed, the front desk held our bags and we headed off to get swabbed for the Covid test. The upstairs of the pharmacy was a little pharmacy museum. These stupid swabs are not fun, but this one was better than I had in the states as the swab was thinner.

Now, its time to shop! I got some Port wine for my cousin (Mike, if you read this, your birthday present is coming early) and Chris was able to get some other gifts for his list. He likes to do his Christmas shopping on our trips, I had shopping and lugging around so I try to avoid it. I like pictures better.

Once we had what we wanted, we headed back to the hotel and grabbed our luggage and off we went to pick up our car at the garage. It is very silly. If you pay in the machine a 24 hour period is $37 – if you pay the guy working in the office is $23. So thankful I read google when we found the garage.

Chris was lucky enough to drive back out of the city and onto Braga. In reality the only thing we went to see there was Bom Jesus, a pilgrimage site that the Portuguese has built in the 16 and 1700s. It became larger and larger over time. We parked above the church and walked through a park to get there. Then we climbed down the stairs and back up. Its a lot of stairs, but the landings for sure help it not feel so horrible.

I drove us away from Brage to Guimares. Here we are staying in an old monastery. It is basically 15 minutes from the nearest town by foot – but has beautiful gardens, a pool and a restaurant. We decided to hang by the pool once we got here. It was a nice relaxing end of the day. We even decided to eat dinner at the hotel so we didnt have to get back in the car. It was much fancier than yesterday (when I dressed up!) and of course I did not dress up tonight.

The food was great, and the service was the best we have had so far.

Tomorrow is our last day in Portugal and then it is back to real life. This is something I am most definitely not looking forward to. It has been so nice to be around people who know that wearing a mask means that we can keep living our lives safely. They are being selfless here and I have appreciated every last person doing their part to open the world back up.

When everything works out!

This morning we got up and enjoyed some breakfast – but not before being very much out of it because of a one hour time change between Portugal and Gibraltar. For some reason that really threw off our bodies clocks.

Anyway, after breakfast I packed my stuff up and Chris and I took his suitcase and all my stuff (except the candy) to the car because he was dropping me off again at the Gibraltar Nature Park so I could do some more exploring.

While it should be known Gibraltar is SMALL, like less than 3 square miles small. However, there are so many tiny little streets and one ways, one COULD get lost in town. At least getting lost wouldnt last toooooo long. Ive had to do a few roundabouts a couple times because Ive exited the wrong link or couldnt figure out the right one to take.

Anyway, Chris drove me to the park so I could take the gondola (Cable Car) to the top and check out some more of things we didnt get to see yesterday. He wasnt as excited about the park again, so he went back to the hotel to finish packing and hang out by the pool.

I was very excited for the cable car ride to the top – the sky was already more clear than yesterday so I could actually see the Spanish peninsula. I was one of the first people to the top today, which was great and not so great. It was nice since it wasnt busy and no one would be in my way, but not so nice because the monkey’s hadnt seen enough people yet today…..

I got my “top of the rock” pictures from their glass observation deck and then made my way to Ohara’s Battery. As soon as I walked out of the observation area I noticed a few monkeys hanging out on the ledge. I got my camera out to take a picture of him and he started following me, I thought it was cute so I recorded him and then BOOM he pounced on me. Thankfully after watching them do this yesterday to people I stayed calm, but then I couldnt figure out what he was doing – he was OPENING MY BACKPACK!! I yelled “Hey!” and he jumped off and with that the bite guard case and bite guard went flying. I was trying to be so good and bring it with me for my walking around – and now 5 minutes in and I am no longer willing to stick it in my mouth!

After the monkey so rudely started my day in the park I continued on. I climbed up some steps to an old military camp and checked it out. I continued on towards Ohara’s Battery. At the entrance to this area there was a sign that talked about the Mediterranean steps. I thought “oh more steps!” The information said it was 1.5-2 hours and 1.5Kms. I thought they meant round trip…Either way I decided to check out the battery first. They still have the equipment in place, its pretty crazy to think that they managed to get the equipment up the rock in the first place. the size of the equipment versus all the turns and things on the paths – it wouldnt have been easy.

I got some good views of what should normally be the view of Africa, but since it was cloudy, I had a view of clouds. Either way it was a nice view!

After walking around there for a bit I decided to try the steps. A family was coming back (or so I thought) from their hike right when I walked to the top. They kept saying “the end is the worst, it was hard.” I figured, well sure, we are on a rock. What I didnt realize is they had walked UP the rock, I was walking down (and then assumed back up). The hike down was NOT very easy. It ended up taking me over an hour – but what a cool hike and what views!!

My service was spotty most of the way, but Chris was able to come and get me at the bottom when I got there, so it all worked out perfectly! Since we had checked out of the hotel and I had finished on the rock, all that was left (on my list, he didnt have a list) was to WALK across the runway that I had driven across yesterday. We parked the car in the car park and headed to the crossing.

I had learned that I wasnt going to be lucky and see a plane take off and traffic get stopped because the planes had taken off already and wouldnt again for over 3 hours. So we decided to cross anyway and just come right back. As we were crossing a military plane was warming up, but I thought nothing of it. We got across the runway and saw a large grocery store so we decided to head in for some of our favorite candies and to check for Gatorade (its been very hard to find!)

We got lots of candy (duh!) and I got blood orange juice! We then headed back outside. Traffic was stopped and I couldnt figure it out, then I heard it, the military plane. I ran across the street since there were less people and watched it take off! It was amazing!! To be so close, having just walked across that runway, just fascinating!

I couldnt figure out why they werent opening the gates for everyone and then I saw an EasyJet plane coming down the runway to take off, the planes had all been delayed!! Thanks to those clouds I saw earlier! I got to see a SECOND plane take off! They opened the gates for vehicles only after that plane. And about 2 minutes later another EasyJet plane was coming down the runway – a third and final plane we would get to see!! It just disappeared into the clouds immediately after take off!

They opened the road and we crossed back over, after a WONDERFUL day of checking off all my things on the list!! We got back in the car and headed across the runway to head to Ronda, Spain.

Customs and Border patrol was easy. No stamps, no stopping. The drive to Ronda was an hour and 45 minutes. Chris was driving this time so he could enjoy all the experiences too! It was a toll road we took and I think we ended up paying for 5 tolls when we only needed 3 – but we couldnt figure it out!

The drive to Ronda was crazy – wayyyyy up in the mountains, windy roads and slow speeds! But it was so pretty! The drive was cool, but the reason we drove this way was to see the town. The car rental guy told me about this town and that we should go visit cuz it reminded him of Game of Thrones (means nothing to me) and Lord of the Rings (also means nothing to me, but Chris knew it). We managed to find parking and get the pictures we wanted of this little town and its bridge.

We tried to find some gelato and failed, so just got back in the car and headed out of town onto Evora, our stop for tonight. We were in and out so quickly we got FREE parking!

Our drive to Evora was almost 5 hours. I had almost all highway driving and was just so bored. Chris had such a pretty view for his time driving, my turn was like driving down I-5 AGAIN! We stopped a couple times and then we decided to switch. The moment we switched we went back to some back roads before hitting the highway again, he always gets the cool driving! We did see a fire in the distance AND a castle on a hill, so I played Ed Sheeran’s “Castle on the Hill.” I think Chris is glad there havent been more castles!

Our hotel tonight is an old convent. We arrived and found a spot to park in while we checked in. It is in a little square next to the Roman ruins and a church. Its just crazy how historical things can be! The convent has some old artwork and things in the halls, but the building is neat the rooms are fine. We have a double bed tonight and a “cell” for a room. Buts it clean and nice!

We went out to find dinner around 845- turns out not many places are open tonight (weird) and if they are they are packed, so dinner was 2 scoops of gelato. But Im not complaining!

Tomorrow we are headed to another bone church then off to Porto! Think Port wine!

From Lisbon to Faro

Today we left Lisbon, but not before checking out the last two things on our to do list: the oldest bookshop in the world and the Cathedral (Se Cathedral).

We first headed to the bookstore that opened at 9am. Google told us it would take about 10 minutes, so we went walking. Of course, its up on a hill and that required some steep hill climbing to get there, but it was worth it. The bookstore is from like the 1790s or something and has been in operation the whole time. It has been updated, but the location and idea stayed the same. They had a small English section, but I didnt find anything I wanted/needed so I ended up empty handed.

After the bookstore we walked back down towards our hotel, and headed up the other hill in town to the Cathedral. That opened at 10am, and we were a little early so we just sat and tried to take pictures from the outside. A construction crew decided to park their van right in front of the cathedral and not move it the WHOLE time that we were out there.

Once it was open we entered. This cathedral was like the life blood of the city. The money from taxes on the spices from Africa paid for so many of the religious buildings in the city, this being the main one. It has stood for hundreds of years and basically survived the earthquake from the 1770s. Inside the church is actually pretty boring, not gaudy at all! (which I mean I appreciate). However our little tour for $4 took us upstairs to see some of the artifacts of the church, including robes and other Catholic things I dont know what they are?!

After we finished at the Cathedral, we headed back to our hotel to finish packing and head to the airport – time to pick up our ride! We learned that the taxis we both took probably ripped us off a bit (I paid $30, he paid $19 on the way into the city). To the airport it cost us all of $12, very different pricing!

He dropped us off at the rental car facility, however I learned the hard way that we to go TO the counters INSIDE the airport in order to start the process. Their desks in the rental car facility are pointless. And the guys were rude. So Chris stayed with the bags at their remote desk and I headed into the terminal to get in what I thought was going to be a very long line to check in and get the paperwork taken care of. Thankfully Sixt rental car (our company) had a short line!

I had a really nice guy help me and talked me into upgrading (I NEVER do this). His argument was that we would save more money on fuel and have a more comfortable car if we upgrade. So….I did. It should save us over $100 in the end AND we ended up with a BENZ! So win!

I drove us out of Lisbon and over the April 25th bridge. It looks EXTREMELY similar to the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco. It was built in the the 20th century by the San Francisco bridge company. They are the ones who built the Bay Bridge (originally). Anyway, it was a cool bridge to drive over, and just experience, mainly because of the twinning factor with the Golden Gate. That and I love bridges.

We had about a 2.5 hour drive ahead of us. I was really trying to hydrate after another hot day yesterday, so I was guzzling the water and Gatorade. After a bit I needed to stop for a bathroom break – a perfect time to get some snacks! Apparently every single person on the road decided it was a perfect time to stop as well, so the stop was PACKED. They have gas stations, restaurants, car washes and bathrooms all in one stop, like America would have a rest stop. There were so many cars there we had to circle the parking lot! After my bathroom break, we hit the road again, with a nice cold bottle of water and some snacks!

Chris navigated me to what we called the “heart shape.” He found it on Trip Advisor or something like that and it looked so cool! A natural rock formation that would line up to look like a heart at the right angle. So of course, we must go! (That and we didnt have much to see in Faro anyway) So the heart shape is near a beach and the roads were PACKED! We ended up parking in a lot that others had parked in. We started what we believed would be a short walk to the rock formation. I decided NOT to bring water, and lets just say that was the dumbest thing I have done in a long time! Our little hike became an adventure that was about twice as long as we expected.

It didnt help that we couldnt find a marked path, so we just meandered around and kept going to where we thought it was, long after Google had told us we were there. Me being, well me, decided to climb the rocks instead of attempt to find a path, so Chris and I scaled the wall of stone in flip flops on a mission to find the heart. We had some amazing views of the ocean, tons of kayakers and boaters out exploring, some cave like things, etc. However, we just kept striking out, until finally we found it. On our way to it, we realized we were on the wrong side of the warning signs….oops! Surprisingly we saw one other couple up where it was and that was it….but also it was EASILY 100* wit NO shade and we had no water.

After we got our pictures for the Gram (instagram that is) we decided to head back to the car cuz it was so darnnnnnn hot! This most definitely did not go as planned! I ended up getting so hot, having to pee AND starting to feel a bit nauseous. I felt heat stroke coming in. So Chris watched out for people while I jetted off to potty in the dust/clay and then we got on our way. However at this point I was really struggling. Chris was so kind and was making shade for me with his shirt above his head, making sure I was doing ok and pausing at every bit of shade we passed. He was going to get the car to meet me but was afraid I would just stop – he was probably right. Until I knew where we were it was probably best he didnt leave me, I think I would have sat down and struggled to get up. Once we knew where we were, he ran to get the car and I continued on the path. It was only about 5 minutes from the time he left to the time I got in the car, but I had never been so thankful for a car ride (lets be real, it was for the AC and water).

He kindly drove us to the Faro hotel (which I navigated us to the CENTER of Faro before realizing that wasnt the hotel – but hey I was out of it when I typed it in!). Its a little B&B that is almost more like a hostel, but we have our own private bathroom, and we are only here for the night. Once we checked in we cooled off in the AC since it was still well over 100*. Around 7pm we headed out for dinner at this place on the water thinking it would be cooler. It was NOT! But it was a nice restaurant. We got a cheese and meat platter, Chris got sangria and I got a Sprite. Chris got an omelet for dinner and I got the “cod and cream” which was really more like a cod cake – that was DIVINE! Apparently if you dont finish your cheese tray they dont think you are ready for dinner so we waited over 40 minutes for our dinner until we grabbed someone’s attention and they apologized because they didnt think we were done. All in all, very good restaurant though!

After dinner we walked through the old down, it was so quaint and pretty at night. We ended at a gelato place near the hotel, got our daily scoops and headed back to the hotel for the night.

It was a HOT and fun day. Note to self: ALWAYS BRING WATER.

Don’t Juneau? July 4, 2019

It’s the 4th of July and another town to visit – but first a scenic cruise through the Tracy Arm. I had talked to the boat guide before today and she had recommended getting up early to go sit on the deck and watch for wildlife.

I was up at 6am and out by 620 to claim a spot on the deck and grab a blanket (note: normally on decks they have “towel” areas – on this cruise they were blankets instead!). There werent many people on the deck so I did a few laps and then hunkered down. Shortly after I settled along a railing Julie came to hang. We went to an early breakfast to fill our staomaches before the scenic cruise really got underway. I found caramel rolls this day – and Julie found crab cake benefits – from now forward we believed “We are living our best lives.”

We sat under blankets on sun chairs to stay warm during the cruise. Shortly after we got back Becca joined us under more blankets and we just enjoyed the view and some small talk. Becca ended up treating us to some hot cocoa in these smoke stack mugs!

After the scenic cruise we went up to play trivia again. Of course we didnt win – but we had fun and a small gang of us had started to show up for each trivia event. After trivia we got the gang together for lunch. Julia believes she is getting a cold so she ended up sleeping all morning but joined us to fill her belly!

After our group lunch (we are now over 7 for the usual gang) we all went to get ready to get off the ship for the afternoon. Julia went back to bed and I got on my shoes – packed a full bottle of water and headed out. I didnt really have an agenda – but so many people were going on excursions I just wanted to go see the town.

I typed “hike” into google and found a peak called Mt. Roberts with a hike to the top. You can take a gondola to the top – but I opted to hike it….Im not quite sure what I was thinking.

It was about a 35 m inute walk from the boat to the trailhead through town. Most of the walk was up hill – luckily it was gradual. When I got to the trailhead there were a few people in cars who were getting ready to climb as well. I let them all pass me, they looked serious about this hike and that should have been my first sign.

I set off and the woods were just beautiful. However, after about 5 minutes I realized that even though it looked beautiful I was in for it. The amount of flies attacking me lead me to believe I was smelly and the hike just kept getting progressively harder. Google feedback had said it was about a 45 minute walk up – ALL LIES!! It ended up taking me about 1.5 hours. Slow and steady though! I was so darn thirsty. I had a full 32oz water bottle but stopping let the flies attack more easily so I just trekked along .

I had originally thought I would walk back down – and I would have if the flies werent attacking! I had finally made it to the top – came up the backside of the building of the gondola! I was very happy to see this building. I went inside the building to buy a ticket down, but ended up sitting down and drinking some water first. The ticket down was $10 OR you could spend $10 in the shop and get down for free – so of course, I spent $10.

The easy way down

I met a handful of cruise passengers from Olivia on the gondola down – we are everywhere! I had texted Julia to meet me so we could walk the town and she could get the millions of postcards needed to fulfill her list of people to send them to. After we acquired said postcards we headed back to the boat to relax before dinner.

She got off the boat!

Our group all got back together at 8pm for dinner. Some were late because their tours went late. I was pretty happy with this meal today – french onion soup!! Im pretty sure we all ended up crashing after dinner – it was a long exhausting day for all of us!

Pearl Harbor to Diamond Head

On Sunday I decided I was going to Island hop over to Oahu and check out the historical Pearl Harbor. I was able to snag an Hawaiian Air 7am flight for $29!! I also was able to grab a Southwest flight back to Maui.

My day started early, I had to take my rental car and fill it with gas before returning it for the trip. I got to the airport around 6am for the 7am flight. The airport at that hour is all inter-island hopping folks. There wasnt a single person in line at TSA when I got there, it was awesome. Made it to the gate nice and early, so early in fact that two other flights boarded and left in that hour before my flight!

The flight from Maui to Honolulu was a quick 25 minutes. On the flight they served snack-size juice or water in prepackaged containers. They immediately collected the trash and we landed.

I rented a car from National for today. Since I am Executive level with them I was able to pick any car I wanted, and selected a Mini Cooper convertible. I thought, yes, a convertible!! I kept the top up in the garage thinking I would pull over once I got out and put the top down, but when I drove out of the garage the rain started. I was so bummed. I thought “I only have this car for a few hours and its raining!”

I headed the 8 minutes to the Pearl Harbor memorial. I had read online that the tickets before 11am were first come, first serve. I got there around 820. I was excited to take my SLR camera with me and get some good shots. I put it in my backpack along with my water bottle and headed to the entrance. Security stopped everyone with any sort of bag bigger than a CD. You had to bag check everything. Sadly, because it was still raining at that point, I choose not to bring the Nikon in. I checked my bag and entered. I was handed a ticket for 845am for the movie and boat ride out to the Arizona.

I bought a poncho and the audio guide as well. The movie is a brief history of the attack on Pearl Harbor. After the movie you board a boat and head out to the Arizona. Normally you get to get off at the memorial, but due to some damage at the dock, it is currently closed. Instead, the boat moves slowly next to the wreckage heads towards the Missouri, turns and moves slowly next to it so each side of the boat can see the memorial and wreckage. They ask you to stay quiet and respect the memorial – I would say half the passengers on the boat actually remained quiet. None of them were American, so I am guessing it was a language barrier that had not been crossed to get the silence message.

After the boat ride, I continued walking through the park. So much history surrounded the location and the Naval vessels still in the harbor. I stopped and read and listened to every board of information. I headed to the bus line to head to the Missouri. You cross through the active Joint Base to get to the dock where the Missouri is currently housed. Fun fact: the Missouri is no longer owned by the US Government, instead a private non-profit owns and maintains it. You are not allowed to have cameras out on the drive from the Pearl Harbor memorial park to the Missouri.

Once at the Missouri you have a to buy a ticket in order to board the ship. It was like $30 – but that came with a 35 minute tour and historical context. I bought the ticket that also came with a discounted Bowfin ticket. I boarded the ship and waited a few minutes for the tour to start. My tour guide Jacob was a young guy, I would have guessed like 20, but turns out he was 32!! On this tour I learned that this was the last Battleship commissioned for the US Navy. It was also where WWII ended! The Japanese officially surrendered on board here!

After the Missouri I hopped back on the bus and headed back to the Pearl Harbor Memorial park. I headed over to the Bowfin submarine and was given another headset to get an audio guided tour. Touring the Bowfin really gave me some respect for Sailors. They live in some of the tightest quarters and somehow can stay sane.

After I walked off the Bowfin I headed to the museum because I heard there was a Styrofoam cup that showed what the pressure of being down 500 feet did to objects.

At this point its about 2pm and I was starving!! So I put the top down on the Mini Cooper rental car and headed over to the Spaghetti Factory! Its my favorite place. I think mostly because of the family ties and the memories of the family going to eat at the beach at the Newport Beach location every summer. I got my usual brown butter and Mizithra. I was able to enjoy my book (Becoming by Michelle Obama) and my food over the next hour.

After my lunch I went back to my car and headed to Diamond Head Park. It was only about a 20 minute drive from downtown – on the one little interstate they have. Ok, so its not that little – but why does Hawaii have an interstate? It doesnt go to another state?! I didnt do much reading up on Diamond Head – other than it could take like 45 minutes to hike up to the top. I figured it would be a good way to end the day. Another thing I read was that parking isnt free, if you want you can park on the street.

I arrived at Diamond Head and was on the driveway into the park when I noticed a spot that didnt have any signs about paying anything. I grabbed and noticed a group of people walking through the tunnel to get to the park. I left everything in the car but my wallet and headed into the park. Little did I realize I had about a half a mile walk to get to the park entrance and another quarter mile to get to the start of the hike. It cost $1 to hike – and of course – I had no singles. In fact, I only had a $100 bill. There was a sign that said “No Bills Over $20.” I thought for sure I would be turned away, but the lady manning the booth was amazing – she said since it was just me, it was fine to walk on in!! Woohoo!!

The path starts out all paved, handicap accessible. It was cool!! It doesnt last though – maybe about a mile of the hike – then it because rough travel. There are a lot of stairs and a lot of switch backs. So many stairs!! At this point I was really starting to question if this could only take 45 minutes. I had only 1.5 hours for the whole thing or I could miss my flight back to Maui. I continued to the hike (like really hiking up, via stairs but lots of them!) I had to stop and take a break at the lookout – ya know a rest with a view!!

I headed back onto the trail and continued to the hit the stairs. Im not sure I can say this enough but SO.MANY.STAIRS. When I got to the top of the hike, there was a wonderful breeze and a beautiful view!! And…..it only took me 38 minutes!! Seemed longer, but only 38!! I took in the views, enjoyed the breeze, snagged some selfies and headed back down.

I got to the bottom in 18 minutes! And I wasnt even trying – but going down stairs is less stressful on the lungs! I was able to get back to my car and head to the airport. Because the hike was so quick, I was early to the airport. My flight was at 730pm and I got to the airport around 615. I was flying Southwest back – and it was their inagural day of flights from Honolulu to Maui. We didnt get anything special – but the earlier flights of the day did. I enjoyed my 20 minute flight with my little cup of sealed water and pretzels.

Empty Southwest Lounge – there were only about 20 of us on the flight!

I grabbed an Uber when I got back to Maui and headed to the hotel. My Uber drive was great – gave me coupons for the Aquarium that I gave my cousins and a coupon for a restaurant – we didnt end up using, but it was the thought that counts!

It was a long, eventful day – and worth every minute of it!!

Last day in Cinque Terre

Today is my last day here, and I just didn’t know what to do. I laid in bed until about 9, then got up and people watched from my window until about 10. Then I got ready, bought a banana and a yogurt and headed out to another town. I caught the train to the 4th town to shop and relax. I am currently sitting on steps in the 4th town just people watching and it just feels so wonderful to not have anything to do.

I’m now writing from the train on my way to Milan! Yesterday was just the perfect day!

I got lunch in the 4th town, the caught the train to the 3rd town. From the 3rd town I walked back to Riomaggiore. The walk is just so beautiful, right above the water the whole time! When I arrived back in Riomaggiore I went and changed into my swimsuit to go sit on the beach (rocks really). All I wanted to do was enjoy the water because I was so hot. Unfortunatly the waves were too rough to swim in with all the rocks around so I sat on the rocks with the locals and let the water crash onto me and cool me off. I sat there for awhile but grew tired in the heat so I decided to try and nap on the beach. Surprisingly its easy to get comfortable on the little rocks, so I laid down and fell asleep for a bit. the heat woke me up though so I grabbed my stuff and headed back to the room. My new roommate, Kate, had just arrived and she was heading down to the beach. I warned her about the waves, but she didn’t seem to care. I laid down and fell asleep for 2 hours, it was so refreshing!

When I woke up, Lisa, Emma and Kate had just gotten back. Kate got beat up by the rocks I warned her about!! Kate and Emma left and Lisa hopped in the shower. While they were gone, my towel fell off our line to the line below!! I couldn’t reach it even with a broom, so I headed down and buzzed the people, they weren’t home. I headed down to the ground and tried again with the broom, no luck. I eventually was able to get it because of my triopod. I extended it as far as it would go, headed down to the ground and after 5 minutes managed to knock it off the line. A lady was laughing at me, but I couldn’t help but laugh as well. I learned my lesson: no more line drying without clothespins!!

I got washed up and met Lisa and Emma for pizza. I found clothespins for the rest of my travels and grabbed a Fanta before we headed down with our pizza, to the rocks. We enjoyed our pizza and good conversation down on the rocks by the water. It was the most beautiful night, calm sky and calm water, it was just perfect!!

I am currently heading to Milan, Italy to catch my next train to Barcelona, Spain! I get there tomorrow at 10ish in the morning! I have 4 hours in Milan, then a 13 hour train to Barcelona! Long travels!! 

Let’s go for a hike

Well first I must fill you in last night. After the beach, I ran into Pip. Pip checked in with me, and is in another room. She invited me out for a drink with her and her roommates, so I decided to go.

We went to the same place I went to lunch at. We had drinks (I had a Coke light with lemon) and after awhile we ordered dinner. It was yummy. We decided to head to bed around 10, but as soon as I opened the door to my room, I heard a concert! There was a party in the square, apparently just because it summer. Emma and Lisa were in the room so we decided since we couldn’t sleep, might as well go down. We went and just watched everyone dance. I left around 1130 to shower and journal the day.

The party ended at midnight, so we could finally sleep! Thank goodness!

Today:
I woke up to an overcast sky and cool weather. All of us roomies got up at once, so we all got ready and headed our separate ways. I stopped at the Co-op to get some blackberries and a yogurt to snack on during my hike, and then headed out. This is the first time I haven’t taken my big camera with me! But it was too heavy for such a rough hike.

The first leg (from town one to town two) was paved, and covered and just simple, some curves and a very few steps, but nothing difficult, at that point I thought this 9KM hike can’t possibly be that bad! I thought too soon, that’s for sure! The second leg (from town two to three) was a little more challenging, but still mostly paved, its distance was longer than the first leg, but still not too tough. I don’t even remember seeing the 3rd town, so clearly I was in a zone. From town three to four it got a little more difficult. Many many steps and actual hiking paths, not paved. At one point you could opt out of stairs and take a road, but I decided since I was doing the official walk, I was taking the stairs. 

I stopped in the fourth town to have a snack and get a cold water. I took about a 20 minute break, then headed towards the final town. According to the park guide, its a 2 hour walk from town 4 to 5, so I was ready, or so I thought. The first 20 minutes of the walk was just stairs!! I couldn’t believe it! After the first ‘set’ of steps the path narrowed and got tough, and there are no handrails either! The steps never really stopped leading up. I had to take a 5 minute break at what I thought was as high as I could get, it ended up being close to the top, but I had another 10 minutes of steps after that!

Once you made it to the ‘top’ the descent started. And oh goodness, it was the most beautiful part of the walk, a stream ran next to the path, there were little waterfalls (not that you could see, but that you could hear) and 2 small bridges to cross. And then the stairs started, again! At least this time they led down to the town. I would say easily over 1000 steps down (which means if you are going the other way, you have to go UP them). The steps were of varying heights and widths, so it kept you on your toes, literally!

I reached the last town in 3 hours and 30 minutes, which was an hour and a half faster than the ‘average’ time! I was proud of myself. I decided to go sit on the beach and maybe go in the water. However, the weather was so weird that every time I stood up to go into the water the sun would go behind the clouds, and it got cool. The water wasn’t as warm as the other day, so I was a little disappointed. I took a short nap, then attempted to get back to my town. I missed 2 trains because they showed up on the wrong tracks, but I wasn’t the only one, so I didn’t feel so bad then!

I made it back to my room, and was going to get in the shower when Lisa came in. We decided to go have a drink (or in my case Fanta or Coke light) up on a ledge over looking the water. We showered, then headed up to a small bar to relax. Emma came and joined us a little later and we closed down the place (it closed down at 8pm). We headed to another bar until our dinner reservations at 930. We have fun talking to the locals and they love finding out where people are from. 

Our dinner was at the ‘best’ restaurant in town (there are about 10 total restaurants in our town). The atmosphere was nice, but the selection of food was poor and I really didn’t enjoy my dinner, just wasn’t ‘the best’ I guess. Our other roomie, Illia (the guy from Russia) came and joined us for some gelato before we all headed to bed. Lisa and I were so exhausted from the hike, we laid in our beds and our bodies shut down.

First day on my own!

Well goodness! My day started early, and now I’m starting to get tired, and its only 7pm here!! (Ps, I’m writing this from the rocky beach in town)

I’ll start where I left off, on my train ride…

I arrived at my destination 30 minutes late, and caught the next local train to my final town for the day. They say this town Riomaggiore only has about 600 residents, clearly now since it is holiday time for everyone, there are tons of people! The directions to the hostel was right on! The lady must have been from Canada or the US, but she was nice. There were 4 of us checking in to rooms, 3 of us together. The place I’m staying is up 23 stairs, down 100 meters, then down 5 steps to a door on the stairway! Haha, its a fun walk to get there! Anyway, after we all checked in and paid (it is €20 a night, so roughly $30) the lady took us to our rooms. Me and 2 of the girls got one room, while the other girl went to a different room. I was placed in a room with a roommate who was already there but gone for the day. The other 2 girls (originally from Capetown, South Africa; who now live in London) Lisa and Emma invited me to lunch with them. We went and hiked around the town, which really is just about 2 roads, to find a place. We finally settled on a restaurant on the water and got some lunch. They headed onto the beach, and I headed back to town.

In order to take the trail from one town to the next (there are 5 towns, hence Cinque) you need to pay a fee to use the national park. I got my 2 day pass, so tomorrow I can make the 5 hour hike to the farthest town, and dip in the Med. Sea if needed! Because its soooo hot!

I looked at the shops because I’m going to need sunscreen in this weather for sure! And found a Co-op that sells fresh berries, that will be my breakfast tomorrow!

I headed back to my room, and my roomie was sleeping, that’s when I learned my roomie was a man. He’s russian, but lives in Vancoover and Florence, and is here on holiday. I think he might be uber religious, his goal was to hike to all the churchs, and the churches are at the highest point in the town, about a 45 minute hike to each of them. He’s smart, but has hair a little longer than his ears, that he straightens, puts product in, and then puts on his cool hat! Haha.

I decided to head to the beach on my own. I got my suit on and headed down, then up, then down again to find the smooth rocky beach. The water is warm, but not hot, and clear, so very clear. They offer snorkeling and diving tours here, maybe one day, if I have time I’ll hop on, otherwise, just enjoying the water is enough.

I’m going to find a place to eat soon, the sun is setting and I want to hit the hay early, I’m so tired. I think my South Africian roommates are going to party, thank goodness my Russian one doesn’t seem the type!

Just go chasing waterfalls

Wow. I am exhausted writing this tonight. We hit the road in an attempt to get to Hofn. Our first goal was to get some Petrol. About 20 minutes into the drive, we found the petrol station – however, it was broken!! The owner came out to try and help and basically in his body language and Icelandic language said it was broken.
So we continued on our way. We put another petrol station in the gps and we found one that was much better than the one we were going to. It had a grocery store right next to it (apparently this is common), but it also had a yarn store across the street (win for Lauren!) So we filled up the half a tank for about $45, got some yummy bread and snacks and hit the yarn store. I guess I should point out that we found out there was a MAJOR storm heading our way and we were hoping to make it to Hofn, where we had a reservation for the night. At this point in the day (around 1030am) it wasnt all that bad. From the Secret Lagoon to Hofn should have been about 5 hours. 
Ok, back to our drive. We were listening to a podcast and Lauren noticed a waterfall off to the left. We decided to stop and see it, why not, we are on a road trip to see as much of Iceland as we can!! Well, we werent the only ones, turns out its a pretty big waterfall stop for tours and such. We had to pay for parking and then got to walk the area and check out the waterfalls. We are starting to realize that people and their snow pants/water proof pants are smarter than they look. There was an opportunity to go into a cave area, but you would get soaked. I was willing to go in, its just it was way too busy and people were just hanging out on rocks to wait their turn. So instead we headed back to the car to continue on our way. It was a beautiful stop!!

On the road again….our next stopping point was Vik. Our hopes was that we could make it all the way to Hofn still, but time was ticking and we were getting ready for the worst. Again…Lauren noticed a waterfall off to the left, so of course, we had to go. And guess what?? You could climb to the top!! So we had to climb. I promise you Lauren would NOT have climbed if I hadnt been there, but Im glad we went up. It was INSANE. The wind had picked up by this point, like dangerously so. The rental car lady had warned us to hold our car doors when we get out, and she wasnt kidding. None of the insurance covers doors going the wrong way, so we had to hold on carefully. We bundled up in rain jackets, sweaters, gloves, scarves, etc. and took to the stairs. LOTS AND LOTS OF STAIRS. We made it to the top, took a couple pictures and then headed down. Im not sure I can describe the wind enough for anyone who wasnt there to understand, but maybe my Aunt and Uncle in Florida would, hurricane force winds and all. On our way down a gust of wind knocked a girl off the stairs (parts only had rope hand rails) and she screamed. Luckily, her fall was all of 2 feet into grass, but still, thats how strong it was. We hustled back to the car to warm up and continue on our way.

It was about 230pm at this point. The reality that we wouldnt be making it to Hofn today. We were discussing options of things to do when we came upon a parking lot on the right side of the road. Lauren realized this was the DC3 plane that I have wanted to see this whole trip!! WOOHOOO!! I didn’t think we would make it!! And it looked so flat to get out there, I was even able to talk Lauren into coming with me….until we got out of the car!! Then the wind WHIPPED!! And the frozen rain pelted, and she went back to the car. And I, ran to the bus that charged you $27 to take you out the 2.5 miles to the plane. And let me tell you, best $27 I have spent, because the wind was so intense. Lauren said when I came back she didn’t know if I was going to get to see the plane because the weather was so crazy. When the dropped us at the plane, we had about 2 football fields to walk to get to it. There were only about 15 of us total there, and about 40 people who were crazy enough to walk the whole way. The wind was intense enough that it almost knocked me over at one point. And when you lean into the wind so you dont get pushed over its perfect, until the wind just stops and you almost fall over in the opposite direction!The DC3 plane was eerie. And weird. No one died during the crash landing. It was a US Naval plane, all 5 members survived the crash. Rumor has it the pilot switched to the wrong fuel tank and ran out of gas and they had bad weather so they crash landed. Anyway, the plane is just sitting there on a black sand beach. Nothing around for 2.5 miles (the parking lot now). I loved this place. I am so happy I got to do this!!

It was here in the parking lot once I was back that we changed our Airbnb to tomorrow and were on a mission to find a place to stay tonight. That actually wasnt the easiest thing to do. We were about 20 minutes from Vik and most of the hotels and Airbnbs were sold out for tonight. Luckily with 4 different apps we were able to find a place called The Farm House. It was 7 minutes from the plane parking lot. And let me tell you – we won!! This is a win for us. We got a great room, private bathroom (many of the places available did not have that option) and a kitchen. We checked in and the host recommended we hustle to go get food if we wanted to (it was now 4pm) because the roads would be closing soon – ya know hurricane force winds and all. So we “booked” it (at about 50kph) and got some pasta (duh), crisps, cheese, sauce, and a 7up for me. When we got back we cooked up our yummy food and enjoyed a hot meal in for the night! After dinner we played Sequence and I got killed again. But it was fun to learn a new game!