Blog by Pete:
We awoke to the most amazing view from the deck of our flat. The ocean was a beautiful turquoise and the sun wash shinning. We had bought some supplies the night before so we tussled up some eggs and bacon before we headed out to explore the Albanian riviera. We drive up and down for a couple of hours taking in the beautiful bays, beaches and little seaside villages before heading back to Sarande to find some lunch, and mote importantly to find somewhere to watch the South Africa vs New Zealand rugby. We found both and had a leisurely afternoon. The rugby was a bit of a disappointment seeing as South Africa lost, however some of the party didn’t share the same feelings.
The next morning we set off relatively early and headed for our destination of Budva in Montenegro. The drive up the Dalmatian coast is completely stunning. The roads were great, winding and beautiful.
The next morning we made our way to Kotor. While it is only a stones throw away we decided to take the scenic route which goes inland and through beautiful mountain passes. This was really a stunning ride and coupled with an amazing lunch go cured ham and cheeses all made by the immediate farming community.
Coming into Kotor is truly amazing. The insanely narrow and winding pass down makes for the most amazing views of the city perched on the water. Making it down the pass we checked into our flat that was right on the water. For all those wanting to travel this part of the world Budva and Kotor come highly recommended.
Our next destination was Dubrovnik in Croatia. Which for me was the highlight of the Dalmatian coast. This walled coastal city is full of fun and interesting things. The history of the city is fascinating and the fact that a lot of the tv series game of thrones is filmed there makes it even more fantastic. And yes we did sit on the iron throne.
We met up with some international students at a bar attached to the outside of the wall looking over the sea who sort of adopted us for the three days we were with them. This involved them taking us to the small island called Lokrum which happens to be where the game of thrones museum is. It also is incredibly beautiful and has cliffs that you can jump off into the sea, we did all the above.
Next stop, Split. We had an average start with Split. The flat we had booked which was a two bedroom had ‘flooded’ and they had organized a different flat that was the same. It definitely was not the same. The two bedroom become a one bedroom and the lady insisted that we could all fit because the deb was queen sized and there was a sofa. Needless to say we made other sleeping arrangements.
Aside from the accommodation hiccup Split was a beautiful town and we enjoyed walking around and even found somewhere to watch the rugby World Cup final. We left early on our day of departure because we had a long day to get all the way to Venice in Italy. Our route took us through Slovenia, we stopped for lunch just before the border at a really cool German beer house where we had an amazing mix of different kinds of meats.
We were staying a 10 minute train ride outside if Venice for the simple reason that vehicles can’t get into the town. We checked into our hotel and caught the train. We couldn’t wait to have a look. I had been to Venice before but I don’t think it matters how many times you have been there it always seems to impress with its beautiful buildings and intricate system of canals. We walked for a while before finding a good Italian restaurant for our first meal in Italy. Having filled our bellies we retired ready for a full day of playing tourist tomorrow.
The next day we got ourselves a water bus pass which would let us hop on and off all over the city. And we used them to the full. We covered almost every inch of the city. The highlight of which typically was st. Marc’s square where we very slowly enjoyed the world most expensive coffee and hot chocolate. We reason that you weren’t paying so much for the drinks but more for the live performance of classical music the restaurant provides which draws quite a crowd.
The rest of the day we just moved through the city having a look at whatever caught our attention. Having had enough we returned to the hotel and got ready for another big push across Italy to the south of France. It meant an early start but we were eager for a night not spent in a hotel. We were due to spend the next few nights with one of my mothers friends Sacha Ballard in Grasse.
It is worth a mentioning just how easy traveling through Europe is compared to Africa. With respect to border crossing they are as easy as going through toll booths, all it requires is a show if the passport and on occasion a vehicle document. In some instances a passport wasn’t even required. Additionally especially in Italy and France the highways are big and have frequent petrol stations which means we can cover a lot of ground and the food in the petrol stations is fantastic. The only down side are the really expensive tolls.
We made it to Sasha’s house in reasonably good time and were treated with tea and a tour of her beautiful home. That night we had our first home cooked meal in months and got to meet a few of Sacha’s friends. The next day Blaze and I were chomping at the bit a little. And decided we wanted to go to Monaco and have lunch so we could count it as a country visited. Micko decided to stay behind and relax as he had been to Monaco before and was not keen to navigate the big car through the narrow streets.
We decided to make a run straight down to the coast at Cannes and follow the sea through Antibes and Nice to Monaco. It was slow going and we definitely were trying our hardest not to be slow. We made it to Monaco just on lunch and found a nice place for lunch right on the beach.
Our way back was slightly more interesting without meaning to be. We wanted the quickest way back so we opted for the highway, but we got off the highway one off ramp too soon. Having no idea where we were we made as best a heading as we could with regular stops to consult with google maps. We eventually found ourselves very close, in fact so close we could basically see Sacha’s house but we seriously were struggling to get here. It was at this moment I thought to myself how the hell did we manage to make it through Africa when we can’t get to a place we can see!!!! in our defense the roads are very confusing in the south of France and there is generally only one main road in Africa.
We eventually found our way back just as they were thinking of sending a search party. Sacha took us out to a nice restaurant in the local town of Grasse, and the next morning we set off for Paris.