On to Sardina


IMG_3463Day 4-5: We spent three nights at the hotel in Ajaccio right on the beach. Great accommodations. Our drives in Corsica have been very scenic but as we departed on day 5 we headed by ferry to Sardinia from the Porto Vecchio. IMG_3505

This was a short ferry ride and we finished the day at Le Dune resort. We had a day off here and the best dinner we have had so far. Great food, beautiful presentation. No one was disappointed.

Day 7: 006Back on the road again. We are always glad to be moving. Many competitors need the day off to work on their cars. I use our day to do laundry (in the sink) and catch up on email. Everyday brings more scenic roads and very ancient architecture.

This is 004 Castelsardo. It was founded in the twelfth century but now is an important commercial center with narrow winding streets. I was worried about driving-rather worried about stopping- on the narrow, uphill streets so I made Ed drive. Turns out, out route took us around this steep section.

There was another highlight this day-at least for some. We had the opportunity to drive a race circuit in Mores. We never planned to drive it, but I rode with Marco Halter, a rally friend and race circuit fanatic. When asked if I had fun, I could only say it was exhilarating. He drove 100 mph in a definitely non-stock 1957 VW Beetle! The only mishap was at the end, his fan belt had come off. No damage to the car. IMG_3515

 

 

Day 8: The highlight this day was not getting lost. We did that yesterday afternoon, however we did get in on time. I don’t have a working GPS as backup, so we certainly had some tense time until we finally got back on track. The most interesting stop today was in Loelle at the site of a large Nuraghe. I know, what is that? well these are typical Sardinian stone structures from prehistoric Sardinian cultures. They are huge. I must look up what the significance was, but they look like truncated conical towers resembling a medieval tower. Sort of. IMG_3517

 

 

IMG_3527We arrived at the Colonna Resort Hotel for another day off. When we depart tomorrow, (day 10) we will take another overnight ferry to Tuscany, the part of Italy where we will finish this rally

More from the road,

J

 

Advertisements
Posted in international travel | 1 Comment

Odyssey Italia


Sept. 16: We are five days into this rally and I have yet to find the time to blog. If I don’t start soon, it will be over before I begin. So, this will be a bit of a summary, hitting the highlights for us. I’m not sure any of this will be important to other competitors.

We flew into Nice a day early to begin the arduous process of getting over jet lag. Our hotel in San Remo, Italy can only be described as Shabby Chic.IMG_3419 I’m convinced it had its hay-day in the 1930s. It’s the kind of place you’d expect to see Woody Allen in the lobby setting up to film his next movie. We had a great corner room overlooking the Mediterranean. Best yet, FullSizeRender (21)Stewball was parked in front waiting for us. The most difficult thing was finding and paying for fuel. We were on empty and needed a fuel stop very close to the hotel.  Found one close by, then had to work out the self-pay system in Italian.

Day 1: From San Remo to MOBY ferry to Corscia: A beautiful drive on winding narrow mountain roads. We had no clue this would be the norm. 008We had a great lunch in a charming restaurant with another beautiful view. I’ll try not to use the word beautiful too often, but this part of the world is spectacular and our weather has cooperated. Then there are the small villages, each with at least one church.

We spent the night on a ferry. Can’t say anyone slept well, at least not anyone we talk to. Dinner was a disappointment, but more so was the sleeping arrangement. We had bunk-beds. I had the top until early in the morning when we decided to both try the bottom bunk. I know we have a repeat with another ferry from Sardinia to the mainland, but we will see if there is an option (upgrade) to a cabin with a double berth. It’s worth the try.

Day 2: 034Now in Corscia, a part of France, and I can read the road signs. I have yet to catch on to Italian road signs, but I am learning some new British English. I now know what a “lay-by” is. Think pull-off or rest area. I’m also learning some Corsican road terms. A Main Road can be defined as usually having two lanes (one each way) and may a center line and guard-rails. But don’t count on it. Roads in general have no shoulders and are shared by bikers, hikers and tourist taking photos. It’s a challenge since so far all the roads wind around and up and down. Hard on the shoulders since Stewball (and most of the other cars) have no power steering.

Day 3: 001We are at the same hotel for three nights right in the Mediterranean. Almost like having a rest day. No packing up luggage each morning. Just grab the road book and time card and go. Just so you don’t think this is a tour, we do have Regularities each day. Three usually. For you non-rally readers, a regularity is a precision driving section. You are given a speed table that tells you how fast you are to drive some unknown distance. Sometimes the speed changes at a given point-say in 2 kms and then again at 5.6 km. You don’t know where the checkpoint will be so the goal is to come as close to the correct average speed as possible at all times, taking into account, turns, bikers, hikers and traffic. Now the speed table is critical. But on this day, I forgot to pick up the speed table. When we got to the start of the regularity, I was driving, and I told Ed we just had to wing-it since I had no idea how fast I was to drive. Well, it hardly gets better than this, I missed the precise time by 1 second! Never on these events have we done this well.

The second thing of note today was driving through the Callanches de Piana. This is a World Heritage Site and has magnificent show of rock peaks, needles and redCallanches de Piana granite cliffs. Unknown to us, it clearly contains the Heart of Corsica. Do you see it?

That’s all for now. See you on the road.

J

 

 

Posted in international travel | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Snaefellsnes Peninsula


July 3: 002Our last long day on the road. When we started out,  I felt like we were on a road rally, which by the way I think Iceland would be a great place to rally, because we had a discrepancy between our map and the GPS (again). The only obstacle for a rally would be the lack of hotels for a big group.  The first part of the day was really not so interesting to us. We were in farm land with mountains in the background. Much like the western states in the US. However, the setting became more stunning as we drove along. Unfortunately, the weather and roads deteriorated. We drove wet, sometimes muddy gravel much of the way on route 54 with plenty of one lane bridges. (I washed the car twice today!)012

 

 

008We made a stop at Glaumbaer at a site which had been a farm for 900 years and is now a heritage museum. Many of the original sod houses and buildings have 007been restored to their original state.

 

 

We ate lunch in a small village along with the locals. Fish of course. I think it was Arctic Char and very fresh. 011

 

 

 

 

Before reaching our hotel, we drove 015through the Snaefellsjokull National Park with unusual landforms and lava fields. It is the oldest national park in Iceland and named for the 4446 m tall stratovolcano and glacier. It is popular with the paranormal community and in 1993 hundreds of UFO enthusiasts gathered in the  hopes of greeting alien visitors. They were disappointed.  We only made one stop because of weather but are lots of things to see here if you have the time.

Our hotel, Budir is the most elegant one on our trip. It is set on an isolated point on the Snaefrellsnes peninsula. 020023This is the view from the lounge. Dinner was excellent and well presented in a dining room looking over the water. Can’t say enough about this stop.

I must add one thing that in all our travels seems to be unique to Iceland. Each morning the breakfast buffet is complete with a bottle of Icelandic cod liver oil! 008

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Iceland, international travel | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Natural and Cultural Wonders


July 2: Still in Northern Iceland. Our travel guide suggested a stop at Gooafoss, the waterfall of the Gods. We hadn’t really intended to stop. We’ve seen a lot of waterfalls along the way and I have come to realize I like the small, narrow ones that cascade down rocky cliffs to the big ones. 011

However, Gooafoss can be easily seen from Highway 1 so it’s hard to miss. It’s horseshoe shape reminded me of Niagara Falls, just not so big. But the thing about Iceland as you can get up close to all these natural wonders. Guess they think if you chose to do so, you also assume your own risk. What a novel idea!  004

Our route took us off I, through the towns of Siglufjorour with its Herring Era Museum-we didn’t stop and Akureyri and eventually on to 76 where we encountered three tunnels. The longest was 8 km but the most tense was one that was one lane with pull offs for the car heading north-that was us. 009

Much of this country is farm land set among impressive mountain ranges, meaning we drove mountain roads with no guard rails.  I don’t know what is raised other than sheep, an abundance of Icelandic horses and even cows. Fields do yield hay and maybe wheat, but the growing season is so short we’ve not seen signs of anything else. By the time we reached Hofsos we were very hungry.

012Hofsos is a picturesque town on the water. Fishing seems to be the norm along here but there is also a thermal pool with a great view over the Arctic ocean. We didn’t go in, but on this Sunday, the pool definitely had more cars than any church. Religion doesn’t seem to have a big effect on people here. 010

Our final stop today was unexpected. We came across a vintage auto museum and Ed had a great time exploring. This upscale Opel was imported in Iceland by the German embassy and used by a German spy in WWII. After the war, it was discovered hidden in a stack of hay. They even had three Type 1 VW Beetles and I left our car with Stewball’s photo with their guest book. 017022

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We  are now at Hofsstadir Guesthouse  which has the reputation of an excellent restaurant. We look forward to that.

Posted in Iceland, international travel | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Fjords and Fishing Villages


June 30, July 1: We are in picturesque Husavik, the “Whale Watching capital of Europe”.019

Everyday we learn more about Iceland. The population of Iceland goes like this. First are the sheep, second are horses and a distant third are people, tourists outnumbering Icelanders by a huge margin. I have nothing  to back this up but we have dodged free-range sheep and no people. 009

We drove through the densely forested area of Iceland. It took 15 minutes. That’s an exaggeration, 10 tops. So here is an Icelandic joke.

What do you do if you are lost in an Iceland forest?

Answer: Stand up.

If you have visited Iceland, you’ll get this, if you haven’t you need to know Iceland with all its vastness has almost no trees. No one has been able to give me a definite answer why. Perhaps the regular volcanic eruptions and ash, maybe the glaciers, maybe the long, dark winters, maybe Vikings or Trolls.

Next, we were under the impression (I’m sure I read this somewhere) that Highway 1 is asphalt all the way around Iceland. Well, it’s not. I turned the driving over to Ed and we had several hours of gravel-make that muddy- road. We also detoured onto 87 to get to Husavik on a shorter route which turned out to be a slower route because of the road conditions. But we learned something else. All the gas stations we have encountered have free self-serve car wash. It’s needed now in summer and I am sure this is worse in the winter. We have already washed the mud off our car twice! Not so worried about the car, but every time we get in or out, we get mud on ourselves.

So Husavik. It was primarily a fishing town, but now, the main economic support seems to be a perfect tourist destination for whale watching. It was windy, cold,  and misty but I decided to go. Ed, being the smarter, stayed in the hotel. This was the restored wooden boat I went on. 007

I was  hoping to see Puffins since our trip went to Puffin Island. The Puffin part was a disappointment. We saw hundreds of Puffins in the air and in the distance on the island but we were never close enough to get photos. I may end this trip with no Puffin photos. Whales on the other hand performed beautifully, my photos were not good because I was so excited to see them, that I was too late with my camera. You’ll have to trust me. I saw a lot of whale and got wet and cold from waves breaking over the bow of the boat. Define fun. 010

The day ended with dinner at the charming, water front Gamli Baukur restaurant made of driftwood. I can only say the atmosphere was better than the food. 005

Tomorrow across the top and on to Skagafjorour.

.

Posted in Iceland, international travel | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Icebergs and Glaciers


June 29. We left our hosts from the Glacier View Guesthouse and drove through what can only be described as a lunar landscape. These are lava fields actually made of smooth, moss-covered rocks and nothing else. Miles of it. It reminded us of the desolate landscape of the Australian Outback but with snow-covered mountains as a backdrop. Nothing grows here.007

We drove the Golden Circle, the Ring Road, or Highway 1 to the Icelanders. The highway is good, smooth asphalt, one lane each way. But maybe the best thing is NO billboards to obstruct the landscape. There are only three things missing- shoulders, guard rails and two-lane bridges. Oh, and toilets at the parking areas. There doesn’t seem to be any particular pattern regarding  who gets to cross a bridge first, but drivers are polite and flash their headlights to let you know they are crossing. 008

The stop I wanted to make today was at the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon at the southern edge of the Vatnajokull glacier. It was impressive. I have never seen huge chunks of glaciers floating in a lake. I watched one big chunk calve off and float away from the mother hunk. Kind of like a child leaving the nest.014

 

 

 

Now you would think one couldn’t get lost following the only road that rings the entire country. Well, we did, in a town of Hofn, only 2,000. Our GPS froze and we realized how dependent we were on it. Circled the town harbor twice. 018

Yes, I know I have maps on my I-phone, but I never think about that. Nordic Visitor provided us with a hot-spot. Finally I put in our hotel (by the way, the most charming one so far and complete with a washer and dryer.) in Djupivogur, a fishing town of 460 people on a colorful bay. This is the view from our apartment balcony.  Already wish we had more time here.002

 

 

 

 

On the road to northern Iceland and Husavik tomorrow. 017

Posted in Iceland, international travel | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Waterfalls, Volcanic Beaches and More


June 28: I told Ed I wanted to make three stops on our route today and we made five! Leaving Hella, we first stopped at Keldur to see the sod houses left (and restored) from centuries ago. Most likely from the 11th century. Looks like something out of a fairy tale. 007 (2)

Seems we arrived before opening, but a closed-and not locked- gate never stopped me. I made a brief tour against the background of  sheep baaing and cows lmooing. A short way down the road, I photographed this sod roofed barn with its own sheep. 015

 

 

Second stop. Seljalandsfioss waterfall.  I didn’t have rain gear and didn’t want to spend the rest of the day in the car dripping wet so I didn’t walk the trail behind the falls.

014

Third stop, Skogafoss waterfall. One of the highest in Iceland. Doesn’t compare to Victoria or Niagara Falls, but pretty impressive anyway.  017

 

 

 

 

 

019Fourth stop, the Solheimajokull glacier. I intended to walk out on it, but it turned out to be quite a hike. Take note: if you travel Iceland, I highly recommend hiking boots. I don’t have them and many even short walks are on  loose gravel. The tiny specks in this photo are people walking on the glacier so you see how far I still had to go.

Fourth stop was lunch (very disappointing) at the Black Beach restaurant near Dyrholaey. However, the black volcanic beach and strange basalt columns made up for the “tourist” food. 024

 

 

 

 

We arrived early at the Glacier View Guesthouse in sunshine and the warmest day we’ve had. Our host and hostess are very accommodating. Our only disappointment is the late dining hour, but our hostess Elin, brought us homemade lamb soup, fresh bread and wine to hold us until 8:00. Now to stay awake.

I Couldn’t resist this photo of her freshly washed sheets blowing in the wind with the Myfdalsjokull glacier as the backdrop. 039

Our distance wasn’t far but we made the day longer with interesting stops.

Posted in Iceland, international travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment