Showing posts from July, 2008

Really old stuff

Assisi is a quiet hill town in the central region of Italy called Umbria. Umbria is highly underrated in terms of beautiful terrain, often overshadowed by Tuscany's popularity. It is easy to understand why Assisi is a popular tourist and pilgrim spot. It is situated on the top of a mountain yielding absolutely unbelievable views of the surrounding area.
St. Francis was born here and established the Franciscan order. The basilica itself is beautiful, built in 1230, it is actually two basilicas, one on top of the other. It survived a large earthquake in 1997, and was closed for two years to fix it. Inside the lower basilica, there are several great frescoes by Giotto and others showing the life of St. Francis, Jesus, and even Mary Magdalene.

We had a leisurely afternoon exploring the town and I got a meringue that was as big as your head. It was awesome. Dinner, as usual, was pasta, chicken, and french fries. Carb it up!

The next morning we drove south to Pompeii. I should not…

Home of the Renaissance

With all of us fully recovered we headed to Florence next. Florence is the absolute mecca for Renaissance art. When I was there eight years ago, we were in such a rush, that we were in the Uffizi gallery for about 45 minutes which is an absolute crime against nature. I was determined to see it properly this time. We ended up getting in without waiting in line and having a personal two hour tour of the most important and influential art of the renaissance. It was great. Botticelli, Lippi, Giotto, DaVinci, Michaelangelo, Rafael, and Caravaggio. Priceless, beautiful works of art that I was overjoyed to finally get to spend some quality time with. Okay, I'll try to stop nerding it up.
The next day we had a walking tour and saw a lot of the city including PointeVecchio, a large bridge over the Arno River. It is the only bridge in Florence to survive world war II, and is a very interesting place, with little shops build right off of it. We also visited Basilica di Santa Maria de…

Once again, from the top

Long before my friends proposed hiking across Scotland to me, my parents and cousins planned a trip to Italy. It happened to work out that the trips didn't overlap, and I actually had five days in between, three of which I spent working, two of which I spent nursing my painful ankle.

I left for Italy limping like an old lady, worrying everyone in my party, and worrying myself that I had a stress fracture.

Thankfully my mother had an extra ankle brace that I wore, and the foot feels much better now. How a sore ankle got better through more walking, I can't explain.

I took the same trip in 2000 when I was in high school. I was really excited to be able to finally share my experiences there with my parents.

So, we flew into Milan after hopping over the Alps, and drove to the east coast of Italy. We stayed in the fairly small town of Caorle, where we could dip our feet into the Adriatic Sea. From there we went to Venice, a fascinating town, of course due to it's lack of roads, car…

Arrivederci, Roma

So, tomorrow we are heading home after a fantastic trip. Today I put my hand in la bocca della verità. This is a really old sculpture (old like BC) which legend says could tell who was a liar, and if a liar put their hand in its mouth, it would be cut off. Luckily I kept my hand, which makes typing this fairly easy.
We also visited Ostia, a very ancient city that was pretty fascinating. I'm out of order now, but we also saw a church that had some huge beautiful paintings by Caravaggio. Oh, I'm a nerd. It was cool.

Tomorrow we have an early start so I am off to organize my things and make sure that there is no limoncello in my carry on, lest I have to drink it all at airport security. Hmm, not a bad idea.


Yesterday was fantastic, starting in the Vatican museums, and seeing the Sistine chapel which is simply unbelievable. From there we visited the Coloseum and the roman forum, seeing ruined buildings from a city established in 753 AD.
These buildings are not ruined solely because of the decay of time, but because, among many other things, Romans invented recycling, and would take building materials from old buildings to make new ones. If only they knew what a money maker the Coloseum would be today. Maybe they wouldn't have changed it. But, the Coloseum also had materials stolen from it. The small holes in the facade are from people stealing metal out of the walls. The metal was originally used to give the walls some, well, give.
We saw Trajan's column, the Trevi fountain, the Spanish steps, and the pantheon. The pantheon was built in the first century BC, BC! That is crazy.
I also got to spend a little time in an Italian ambulance. I know one sentence in Italian, Io sonouna…

Roma, Roma, Roma

We have just arrived in Rome, and have lots of touring to do tomorrow. Today we were on the lovely isle of Capri. This is a small island 6 miles off the west coast of Italy. We had a great boat ride around the island and had wonderful views of sheer cliffs and clear blue water. We are all doing well and having a fun time. Tomorrow, we'll hit pretty much every major site in Roma including the vatican, colleseo, roman forum, trevi fountain, etc.
Well, there is a long queue of internet hungry teenagers forming behind me. If I don't get off soon, they'll mutiny and write something nasty on my facebook wall or something.

Buona Sera.

We are here

We are in Assisi in Umbria Italy. Internet has been in short supply and extremely expensive. But all is well. It goes without saying that everything is beautiful, and more detailed, picture filled updates will follow.

That is all for now, here for your enjoyment are some weird keys on this italian keyboard. à ° ò ç è é ì ù § £


Feet don't fail me now

Oh, day five! On the last day we went from Drumnadrochit to Inverness, at least 20 miles. In my notepad I wrote two things: 9:01 when we hit the trail, and 6:50 when we reached the GGW sign declaring the end.
The trail started out on our new favorite roadway, the A82, which we had seen quite a lot of, and narrowed to a single track trail in the woods which was beautiful, but all uphill. Eh, it sucked. The trail opened up to a double track logging road leading us to the highest point in the trail. I was already totally busted at this point. We walked a while longer and had lunch at a mountain bike park which was actually pretty cool. There were people there with their kids playing on the playground. It almost felt like we were near civilization.
We continued on a long rural road through sheep fields and moores. We were on this road for probably two hours and didn't see a single car. The trail then went back into the woods where we took a snack break and I think I nearly died. Well, …

Day 4 and Nessie

We left the next morning for Drumnadrochit (pronounced Drum-na-drock-it, or just Drum to the locals). Day four was a hard one for hiking with several areas of moral killing switchbacks.
It was at some point in this day that I resorted to drinking whiskey straight out of the bottle. I think it helped.

When we reached Drum, after 14 miles, our B&B was a beautiful sight. The owner was super nice and fixed us some tea right away (because tea fixes everything). He then drove us "downtown" to the Loch Ness Discovery Centre.

This was as campy and silly as I had expected and the gift shop was larger than the exhibit itself. It was a series of videos that told the history of the legend of Nessie which more or less began in 500 something when St. Columba spotted a water monster causing some trouble and forbade it to leave the loch or hurt anyone. Since then, Nessie has been spotted over 1,000 times! Allegedly. I mean, she'd be pretty old by now for one thing. (many of the "s…

Day 3

On the third day, we were on the trail by 9:20. We started out going through sheep pasture and farm land along the banks of loch Oich. It was cool to be in with the sheep who didn't seem to mind us too much. We returned to the caledonian canal for a few miles, and here we experienced our first and only proper Scottish rain storm. Our lunch goal was Fort Augustus and we marched there in relative silence, rain dripping from our jackets. We made it to Ft. Augustus and had our one and only sit down lunch as we had nowhere to buy our usual ploughman's lunch in S. Laggan. Here, Jenn officially declared that she was 'busted.' And I was too. Busted became part of our GGW vernacular to basically describe that we were hurting, blistered, and generally tired of walking. Unfortunately, at this point, we still had eight miles to go that day.
Here we got our first views of Loch Ness which is an absolutely huge body of water. We ended up walking its entire length of 23 miles. At its d…

Day 1 and 2, less brief

When we arrived in Fort William, we had a nice lunch and walked to the Ben Nevis Distillery and had a really cool tour. I sort of figured out the differences between types of whiskey. Some random facts were that scotch whiskey is aged in used oak casks (preferably sherry casks) for at least three years and a day. (American whiskey can only be aged in new casks) Single malt is one "batch" from one barrel. Blended can be from several different barrels from the same distillery, or from different distilleries. I got some and it was good, and that's all that really matters, right?

We set out from Ft. William around 9am after a great breakfast from what we decided was the best B&B of those we stayed in. There was a honed process for rating the B&Bs consisting of kindness of the proprietors, availability of tea, hot chocolate, and biscuits, amount and quality of breakfast, comfort of pillows, and number of bedcoverings.
The B&B bar was set high.

We had beautiful views …

A day in the life of a GGW thru-hiker

1. Wake up at a fairly reasonable hour.
2. Stretch
3. Enjoy a delicious full Scottish breakfast. With or without tomatoes, black pudding, or haggis (shot of whiskey also optional).

4. Hit up the grocery store/corner shop for lunch.
5. Hike 5-8 miles and take in the view.

6. Stretch PRN

7. Enjoy a delicious ploughman's lunch consisting of bread, apple, cheese, and a large amount of chocolaty digestive cookies.

8. Hike 5-8 miles.
9. Stretch some more.

10. Get to B&B.
11. Have tea and biscuits.
12. Shower.
13. Stumble to dinner. Order anything, it will be the best meal you ever had. (accompanying beer/shandy optional)
14. Veg out and stretch some more.
15. Sleep, glorious sleep.
Rinse and repeat.

A silly amount of pictures

It has taken me forever to upload more than 200 photos from our Scottish adventure. Don't feel bad if you don't look at all of them, but you know, you might miss me drinking whiskey straight out of the bottle.

Edinburgh and the GGW

Scottish Ambulance Service

More word filled entries to follow.

Day 5 In brief

Can one die from walking too much? If so, I am really close. Oh, the pain. No really the hike was super painful yesterday and would never end. But we finished! Thank God.
It took us roughly 40 hours to go where a car could have taken us in 2. But it was fun. We have already looked back and laughed at the complete silliness of it all.
Obviously, there are many pictures to go along, and much longer explanations, but I am home tomorrow, so I'll work on it then. Plus, it wasn't worth 50p to use my pen drive in here.

My muscles are super sore right now, so much that I think I need a walker to get around more efficiently. It is seriously comical to watch us ascend or descend stairs, and we are staying at the top floor of the hostel tonight! Yesterday we were all so busted, as Jenn would put it, that it wasn't even funny. I literally shuffled the last three miles. I have no idea how I finished. It was insanity. But lots of good memories and solidified friendships fo sho! 20 miles…

Day 1 In Brief

We are in Spean Bridge in rural Scotland. We walked 13 miles today on the Great Glen Way. Loads of beautiful views. Amazing views, in fact. I am using a palm to write this, hence the brevity of this entry. But l am having a great time. We started our hike with a nip of whiskey this morning. It was from the Ben Nevis distillery. Good stuff! Ben Nevis is the tallest peak in the UK at 4,409 ft. Tis' plenty for now, time for food and sleep. 13 more miles tomorrow!

Edinburgh on foot

Today I walked around in the morning. I ended up going in a lot of stores, especially outdoor ones which was sweet, and having a tea. I met Andy and Louisa at the Hostel around 1130 and from there we went to the Surgeons Hall Museums at the Royal College of Surgeons. This was pretty sweet, as it had all kinds of medical tools and things preserved in jars. Very cool stuff.
Which leads me to my favorite story of two guys called Burke and Hare, where in 1828 they decided that since the medical school would pay for corpses for educational purposes, that it would be a good idea to lure people to their house, smother them, and then sell the bodies to the school. 16 bodies into it they were caught. Hare threw Burke under the bus basically and Burke was sentenced to a public hanging. He was then publicly dissected and they made a wallet out of his skin. Needless to say, this wallet was at the museum, and on the cover it says "Burke's Skin Pocket Book." Wow, that is a who…

Behind the wheel pics

After I wrote yesterday, per Kals suggestion, I went to his favorite chippy and got some deep fried haggis. I must admit, not what I thought it would be, but still pretty, well, gross. Today I had some that wasn't deep fried, but much better. I think it's safe to guarantee that that will by my last haggis ever. More importantly, I got a deep fried Mars bar (milky way) which was super awesome and I'm sure took years off my life, but I'm strangely okay with that.

Edinburgh behind the wheel

Yesterday I did do most of those things, I got some Jaffa cakes at the grocery (which are amazing, by the way), had something to eat, and visited the Museum of Scotland long enough to see Dolly the sheep. (by the way, she's stuffed and dead now, if you forgot like I did)

I started today with a hearty breakfast at the hostel and went to the national gallery. They have some nice stuff! Didn't buy anything there, 'twas all too bendy or breakable. I then wandered around the touristy spots. Saw the castle, Balmoral (where harry potter ended) and went to a bookstore (not as touristy) to get a map of our hiking trail for later.
I then met Kal (truamaqueen) and we had a tea and he showed me around the Edinburgh ambulance station. (happy to report he is not a robber or a serial killer, but exactly what I thought he would be (a kind and awesome ambulancman!) I only tried once to get in the wrong side of his car. At the station, we combed through an ambulance for quite some time…

Edinburgh on the bike

Within ten minutes of my arrival in Edinburgh, I had collected my bag, retrieved £ from the ATM, and had acquired a bus ticket to take me to the center of town.

Within twenty minutes of my arrival I had spotted Edinburgh castle, watched a Scottish ambulance service RRU fly by with glee, and had been completely won over by the town.

Within two hours I was checked into the hostel, had my trusty and certainly rusty bike, had successfully navigated my first roundabout, and took a picture of an ambulance.

Now, a few hours later I am pretty much ready to pass out. I have wondered way to many times if I was going the right way down a street, and been scared pretty much every time I see a car coming in the opposite direction. Some intersections, pictured below, are absolutely impossible to understand.

I am now sitting in an internet cafe, sipping a cappuccino and taking a break from the bike and being lost. When I am finished I hope to find a proper dinner, even though it is only 3:30, visit …