Thursday, March 31, 2016

Goodbye Ljubljana, hello London

Well I'm back in London again - for ten days this time.  Lots of plans so yesterday was a kind of rest day if you can call shopping a rest.  I headed over to Wandsworth (not "the dodgy end" - fans of "Love Actually" will get that) to the shopping centre there.  Hit up the pound shop - I love that store.  So much better than our dollar stores in Canada -  better quality products although you are paying double the price of course.  But you get name brands whereas at the dollar stores it tends to be brands that aren't as well known.  Also visited Waterstones where I could not resist a new book...bookstores are like crack to me - wonderful but very hard to resist buying anything. 

Then the bus to Putney Bridge where I took a few photos....



I walked along here last year when I was doing the Thames Path...

Monday in Ljubljana was a "rest day" as it was a dull dreary day with rain on and off.   Eva and I had a long chat over a cuppa and she recommended a nearby Italian restaurant.  So I went there for a delicious meal of prawn and mushrooms with pasta.  And a glass of white...after all I had to have a good send off from Slovenia! 


The next morning I walked into town for one last look at the Old Town.  





Then it was time to head back to the flat and finish getting packed up and head out.  I was told there was a bus every hour from the bus station so off I went - just a ten minute walk away.  This is embarrassing to admit as an experienced traveler but somehow I must have watched the 1:10 airport bus load up and pull away.  However I wasn't the only one - there was a young fellow standing with me and we were both were looking for the bus.  Anyway luckily we both had allowed lots of time for our 4:30 flight and even taking the next bus an hour later got us to Ljubljana's small airport in lots of time.  In time to eat cake!!!  Of course I had to try another special Slovenian cake.  Meet Prekmurska Gibanica cake!  Full of walnuts, cottage cheese, poppy seeds and apples.  Yum!! 


The flight back was good and I was soon at Claudia's in Streatham, South London.  More London adventures to come!! 




Monday, March 28, 2016

A day by the Adriatic Sea

I had heard about the beautiful Venetian-Gothic town of Piran through my friend Pat.  Once I got to Ljubljana everyone I spoke to said I must go and see it.  Piran is named for the Greek word Pyr which means fire.  This was inspired by the fire that was lit on the top of the peninsula to guide galleys into the port at nearby Aegida. 

I journeyed here by bus which was a two and a half hour trip each way.  However the bus was comfortable, the ride smooth and the scenery outstanding.  Upon arrival my first port of call was a coffee shop (with a loo - yay!) right by the bus stop.  Now this was not your typical bus station coffee shop...I ordered my coffee and sat outside to enjoy the view...


After I had my caffeine fix I walked towards town and when I saw the scene below I think my words were something totally not cool like "holy shit batman"!  I mean...WOW!!!


I had been worried that being a Catholic country there might not have been many shops/restaurants open on Easter Sunday but boy was I wrong!  What a relief!  I was distracted by a passageway and then another and another...I am going to do a blog post about them in the future.  Here are a couple. 




What can I say..I was in absolute photographers heaven.   I finally came to a square where a fellow wanted to show me a church (not the popular one) by a river....where he slept.  Uh..no thanks. 

Out to the waterfront again....






 Well there had to be a dog at some point right?  Don't worry its owner was nearby...


I then wandered up to the 17th century baroque Church of St George.  Its bell tower is like a small version of the San Marco campanile in Venice.  Piran (Pirano) was under Venetian rule for over 500 years hence the fantastic buildings. 




I am trying to keep this blog in some kind of order as if I posted photos as I took them you would get majorly confused.  I aimlessly wandered all day back and forth between places photographing - as I mentioned it is a photographers paradise and I don't even know how many pictures I took but LOTS.  Rest assured this is not the last you will see of Piran! 

The walk up to the church had me feeling peckish as I had only had yogurt and a banana at breakfast which was six hours ago.  I managed to land the last spot at one of the seafood restaurants along the sea front although sadly my view was a motorcycle with the sea behind it.  Ah well, it was outside and I had a seat and that was the main thing.  Being right by the door I can't even begin to guess how many people were turned away.  At the bus station later a woman was saying that she and her husband could not get into any of the seafront restaurants as they were all packed so I am lucky I went early. 

I ordered breaded scampi which was pretty good. 




My table was the one by the door - my server is standing with her back to me. 

The main square was attractive as well - named Tartini Square after violinist Giuseppe Tartini whose statue is in the centre.    Walking across the square was hazardous to your health with all the kids on their scooters, bikes, roller blades - take your pick out of anything that moves fast and can take you out flat. (there were more than in the picture below trust me)  I made it over to the market without getting hit and bought myself a simple little pair of hand made earrings for 5 euros. 




After some more wandering it was time to bade farewell to beautiful Piran and board the 4:15 bus back to Ljubljana but not before treating myself to an Italian ice cream!! 

Beautiful Lake Bled

When I decided to visit Ljubljana I knew that I would be visiting Lake Bled as the pictures I'd seen looked absolutely stunning.   My first morning in the city I visited the local tourist office and booked a five hour tour with Slovenia Explorer for the next day.  They travel in a van rather than a big bus which is what I prefer.

Surprisingly they agreed to pick me up at my residence and were actually early.  There were 8 of us so the van was full - a family of 4 from Spain, a fellow from Colombia, a couple from Wales and me.  Our tour leader/driver Anya was great fun and knowledgeable.

The Castle

First stop was Lake Bled Castle, a medieval castle dating from the 11 century.  The castle overlooks the castle and makes a stunning sight from the lake. 


I've got to walk up there???  Trust me it was steep.  Between being overweight, unfit and asthmatic I was huffing and puffing like a steam engine. 




The small chapel in the castle was absolutely stunning. 

There was an exhibition of the history of the castle as well as a wine cellar with wines for purchase that were made by local monks  (I was sorely tempted but already had two bottles back at the flat!) and a printing press where I may just have bought a couple of small gifts as well as something for myself. 

However it was the view...that view...as you can see it was a dull cloudy morning...in fact the sun didn't come out until just before we left the area.  Ah well...



View of Bled Island

From there we drove a bit around the lake...such a great area to visit and the walking would be amazing....

The Island


Then it was time to take a pletna boat over to Bled Island...the oarsman (or whatever you want to call them) is part of a dynasty...this skill is passed down from generation to generation.  The first pletna boat was built in 1590 and they are unique to Lake Bled.  This was my favourite part of the day...I loved being on the calm waters...even if a tourist did try to aim his canoe at our boat!  The (rather cute) boatman was not impressed.



Getting closer to the island...it was about a ten minute journey.  The church is named The Church of the Assumption.  There has been a church on this site since the 15th century but it obtained its current appearance in the mid 1700's.  

Whaaaat???  You want me to walk up all those steps?  99 of them.  Tradition has it that if you marry in this church the groom has to carry his bride all the way up the 99 stairs.  Needless to say there aren't too many weddings on the island!!  And yes I did walk up. 


There is a bell in the church and if you make a wish as you ring it your wish will come true.  Oh and it will cost you 6 euros to do so...uh huh.....



View of the castle from the island. 

We had half an hour on the island which was plenty of time as it's pretty small!  There is a gift shop (of course!) and a small cafe.  You can also walk around the island at water level so I walked part way and took the photo above.  All too soon it was time to leave...


Our boat man awaits....back to shore and it's time for the famous Bled Cream Cake. 

The Cake



As we walked to the Park hotel I thought I was seeing things...my poor caffeine deprived brain thought "is that a horse"? 


A closer view of the castle

 


View in front of the hotel...sun is starting to appear...


Yes it is a horse!!!  Now that's my kind of horse!  Or pony or whatever...


Lake Bled cream cake.  Icing sugar laden puff pastry atop cream and light custard.  Oh my my my.  It was very light however and we all easily finished ours.  Combined with an espresso with milk I was in pure heaven.  This cake has been made at the Park Hotel since 1953...there are copies but stick to the original! 

And that was my trip to Lake Bled.  I highly recommend a trip here if you are ever in the area. 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Learning more about Ljubljana

After a light breakfast of a banana and yogurt I set off for the Old Town.  It takes me about 15 minutes to walk there from the flat.  Along the way I stopped for a coffee - I do have my priorities!  Eva has instant coffee but with the excellent coffee available here I want to enjoy it while I can.

First stop was the tourist office where I booked a tour to Lake Bled for tomorrow.  I was toying with the Slovenia in a Day tour but there is an hour and a half walking tour inside a cave and that is not something I wanted to do. (let's not even go there okay...)  I think this tour will be fun and fingers crossed the weather holds - they are even going to pick me up here.  Today it was mostly sunny but windy and cold.  To tell the truth I haven't been warm since I got here - here as in over the pond.  Yeah yeah I come from Canada where it's colder but we actually have heat in our homes!  Central heating in the UK is a joke and the weather wasn't overly warm there either so no chance to warm up.  Only when I have my hot flashes (yes them, they didn't bother me much the first time around so decided to come back and give it another go) am I warm - never thought those would be welcome! Anyway I digress (I am good at that) - I am looking forward to tomorrow the tour - it will be a five hour tour.  I am especially looking forward to trying the Lake Bled cake...yep there I go thinking about food again.   I also found out info on the buses to Piran which is a beautiful town on the coast - I hope to go there on Sunday. 

I walked through the market as well as the Friday food market but of course I had just eaten.  Still it was interesting to see the variety of food on offer.


I took a bit of a detour on the way to the market and couldn't resist this shot,,,




Now that's what you call a stroller...


And the walking tour begins...


At 11 a.m. the free walking tour began and what a crowd.  They were astounded at the amount of people as there were only two guides.  It was quite crowded and when they split the crowd in two there I was in the half with all the damn kids.  Actually they weren't as bad as I feared - at the beginning one baby was screaming and one kid was whining for England or wherever the hell it was from.  Our guide was in his early 40's and really quite tasty.  He is an artist and apparently had been interviewed on TV the day before as he and some other artists had published a book.  He is passionate about history and really knew his stuff.  Almost every place we visited I had been the day before but it was so interesting to know the history of why it was there.  I did find out that Ljubljana basically means love.  How sweet is that.  Don't ask me the rest unless it comes up in conversation but there is so much info that it kind of goes in and out again - or else someplace where someday maybe if somebody mentions something that triggers it I can say "when I was in Ljubljana"...


The Town hall was built in the 17th century although apparently parts of the interior date from the middle ages.  We visited different bridges but I had visited yesterday so didn't take any photos as there were more people out today and more difficult to get good shots. 


 I was really drawn to the buildings here - former monastery now a venue for summer concerts but it also houses part of the university.  Somewhere I would never have found on my own. 

One of the kids on our tour...at least letting off steam on her scooter cut out the whining. :). I love these buildings! 


Another university building.  Apparently it's dark as you enter but as you go higher more light appears...a unique way of saying how knowledge leads you into the light.  No time to go in though. 

The tour was two hours in all and I'd highly recommend it - it is totally free but at the end you give the guide a tip if you enjoyed it.  If you are poor, didn't like it or you are a tightwad then you don't pay.   Walking tours are normally ten euros so that's what I gave him. 

By now it was past one o'clock and I was starving so I headed for somewhere to eat.  Along the way I was stopped by a couple of young ladies and asked to take photos of them so I did and then we did the other side as well.  I asked for mine to be taken as well as I like to have a photo of me in every place I go to. 

I was having problems finding a place that appealed to me, was in my price range or wasn't packed but I finally came across a pizza/pasta place that also served traditional food.  I had to wait a little while for a table but it was worth it.  I ordered roast pork with potatoes and vegetables.  Delish! 


Needless to say I couldn't finish it!   I then headed over to the funicular to go up to the castle.  I wasn't interested in visiting the castle as I am more interested in British castles as I love the history.  The views however were lovely and the funicular ride up and down was fun.  You can walk up or down or both but no...just no.... The beauty of being on my own....one of them...there are many....




On the way to the funicular I stumbled onto this medieval looking street with the castle hovering above..loved it!!!


By now I was pretty tired so decided that was it for me and headed back here.    I picked up a bottle of red and a bottle of white and hauled that in my backpack so then I was really tired.

Oh and I thought of something else that warms you up - wine!