The next day we woke up to a rainy and foggy morning. The mountain in front of the cabin just vanished. We debated what to do and decided to drive toward Ålesund which we already saw in the Hurtigruten cruise, to delay the time we needed to drive on the troll road.
We got near it and then saw a 6 km tunnel. We immediately turned back toward the troll road. Indeed the road is curvy and narrow, but since the hour was 9 am, we hardly saw any cars from the opposite direction. It was a bit scary since it was rainy and foggy and we didn't know when we'd encounter thick fog.
Luckily, the drive to the top was with good visibility. When we reached the top we couldn't see the curvy road anymore because the fog got thicker. The waterfall on the troll road was very impressive, and the road revealed higher parts of it as it climbed higher. Upon leaving the troll road we saw walls of snow and we couldn't believe the height the snow reached.
Nigardsbreen Glacier is one of the prettiest glaciers in Norway. Access to it with a car is very simple, and there's a nearby parking lot. You can notice the glacier blue cracks from the parking lot even without binoculars. From the parking lot you can walk on big stones, but it requires adequate walking shoes, and being in a good shape. You should take into account the walk is strenuous and may be dangerous in case of falling.
You can also take a boat from one side of the parking lot to the other side of the near lake, and from there walk a bit to reach the edge of the glacier.
There are two types of tours on the glacier. An hour trip, which is suitable to families with kids, and a three hour hiking tour.
In the place there's also a visitor center. From its back side you can see most of the glacier. In the visiting center there's a cafeteria, and a souvenir shop. Entrance fee is done in a cabin along the way to the glacier. You just calculated the cost, and put the money in the envelope.
From the stave church in Borgund starts the historic route, which is a charming road passing a river creek, and along the way a huge water fall. This road is passing the two tunnels (one of the 3 km long) from the way from Borgund to Laerdal, and it's much prettier.
We hardly saw cars while we drove it. In the visitors center on the Borgund Stave Church's visitors center you can get free brochure with a map detailing the tows, bridge and waterfall.
We visited Desenzano (we walked on the street on the lake's bank, many stores and tourists), and famous Sirmione (packed with tourists and excellent ice cream). Along the way we also stopped on a nice beach on the way to Peschiera where we rented a motor boat for an hour.
Toward the afternoon, we reached San Gimignano, one of the central most places in Tuscany. We recommend you read dedicated articles on this town, most famous for its many towers. Besides the excellent ice-cream in the main plaza (Piazza della Cisterna) with its well, don't miss Rocca (a several minute walk) - a fortress with a beautiful viewpoint. We climbed the highest tower in town (near the city hall), we wandered around its streets, and... that's it. Three hours were enough for us, but some will say that even a full day isn't enough. We finished the day by eating Ravioli in in our room.
Adventurous London: London by Air, River and on foot - Emirates Air Way, Thames Cruise and Westminster + Lambeth areas on foot (Sunday tour offer).
Start: Royal Victoria DLR.
End: Vauxhall National Rail Station (Lambeth/Vauxhall).
Duration: 1/2 - 3/4 day.
Weather: Clear Day. In case of rain in the late afternoon - we recommend finding shelter at the Tate Britain Museum in Lambeth.
Note: a special offer for a sunny Sunday. The Westminster Abbey and the Parliament Houses - are closed.
We start at one of the most beautiful exterior stations in London - Royal Victoria DLR station in East London. It opened on March 1994 and is named after the nearby Royal Victoria Dock. It is on the DLR's Beckton branch, in Travelcard Zone 3.
Head to the Emirates Airline terminal in Royal Victoria to catch the cable car which will bring you the opposite bank of the Thames in North Greenwich. We fly from the northern bank to the southern bank of the Thames:
Prices: 360 Sightseeing Tour Adult - £8.60, Child - £4.40.
Single: Adult - £4.30, Child - £2.20. Return: Adult - £8.60, Child - £4.40.
Times: Winter (1 Oct 2012-27 Mar 2013): Mon - Fri: 07:00-20:00, Saturday: 08:00-20:00, Sunday: 09:00-20:00. Summer (28 Mar-30 Sep 2013): Mon - Fri: 07:00-21:00, Saturday: 08:00-21:00, Sunday: 09:00-21:00.
It is really worth to ride on it and see London from 90 meters above. Very different view indeed. Approximately 10 minutes fly along a distance of 1 km. The pods each hold 8-10 people but very often you are lucky enough to get one to yourself which feels rather luxurious. The pod is safe and stable. The ride itself is incredibly smooth. Avoid riding the cable car in very windy days. The real gem of the ride is the Thames. The river beneath looks grandiose and powerful. You are able to see all the docks and industrial warehouses along the riversides. You get a great view of the River bridges, the City, the Olympic Park, London City Airport and the O2 arena.
(Anthony Gormley sculpture):
Emirates Air Way - North Greenwich:
Follow the signposts from the Emirates North Greenwich Peninsula terminal to the O2 or the North Greenwich Pier. Head northwest on Cutter Ln toward Phoenix Ave and turn right to the North Greenwich Pier:
North Greenwich Pier - Anthony Grimley sculpture - Quantum Leap:
North Greenwich Pier:
Photos from the cruise, along the Thames, with the boat from North Greenwich Peninsula Pier to London Eye (Westminster) Pier:
From the London Eye Pier we walk along the southern bank (westward) to Westminster Bridge - passing on our left the London Eye:
Later, on our left - the London Aquarium (formerly, London County Hall):
Head southwest toward Westminster Bridge, turn right onto Westminster Bridge Rd. Here are some photos taken from the bridge:
Return to the western end of Westminster Bridge. Head west for 300 metres.
Westminster Pier - The Battle on Britain (RAF):
Slight right onto Parliament Square. Slight left onto Broad Sanctuary. Slight left onto The Sanctuary and Westminster Abbey (20 Deans Yard) will be on the left:
Head east on The Sanctuary. Turn right (restricted usage road), turn left (restricted usage road) and you are in the Westminster Abbey Precincts - Dean's Yard:
On Sunday the Westminster Abbey is closed. So, we continue our tour into the Chapter House in the Westminster Abbey. The octagonal Chapter House is in the East Cloister. It dates from the 1250s. It is one of the largest in England. The monks met here every day for prayers and to read a chapter from the rule of St Benedict and discuss the day's work. The King's Great Council first assembled here in 1257. It was actually the beginning of the English Parliament. The House of Commons used the room for several years in the late 14th century. After having been a repository for government records from the 1540s it was restored in Victorian times by Sir Gilbert Scott:
Opposite Westminster Abbey, on the the other side of Abingdon Street are the Parliament Houses:
Further south on Abingdon Street we arrive to a small park on the Abingdon Street (Just before the end of the Parliament Houses). Cross the street and take photos from the green small park to the direction of the Westminster Abbey:
... and to the direction of the Parliament:
Further south to the Parliament Houses you enter the Victoria Tower Gardens. From here you get marvelous sights of the Parliament Houses:
Further south, Abingdon Street changes its name to the Millbank. From this bustling street you get nice views on the city of London and the Thames (on your left):
The Lambeth Bridge from the Millbank:
Walk further south (800 metres from the Parliament and 550 m. from Lambeth Bridge) and you arrive to the Tate Britain Museum:
Do not miss the African sculptures, a striking private family collection - which holds a whole big hall in the museum:
Tate Britain - The Chlomondelly Ladies:
Tate Britain - Queen Elizabeth - Nickolas Hillard - 1515:
Tate Britain - A Woman with a Squirrel - Hans Holbein - 1557:
Tate Britain - Henry Moore:
Tate Britain - Jacob Epstein: Jacob and the Angel:
Tate Britain - Mark Gertler - Merry-go-Ronds (1916):
Tate Britain - Thomas Gainsborough - Giovanna Bacelli - 1782:
Tate Britain - Joshua Reynolds - Master Crewe as Henry VIII - 1775:
Tate Britain - JMW Turner - The Shipwreck - 1805:
Tate Britain - John Constable - Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows - 1831:
Tate Britain - William Blake - Newton - 1795 or 1805:
Tate Britain - William Blake - Elohim creating Adam 1795 or 1805:
After visiting the Tate Britain - return to the opposite side of the Millibank, along the Thames - to watch the spectacular housing projects on the opposite side of the Thames (between Lambeth Bridge and Vauxhall Bridge) (Nine Elms):
Knole House and Parkland
Opening Times: 10.30 - 17.00. 9 March - 28 July Tuesday - Sunday, 29 July - 2 September everyday, 3 September - 3 November everyday, 6 Nov. 22 Dec. Wednesday - Sunday. Gardens are open only on Tuesdays.
Admission Fees: House + Gardens : Tuesdays: 14 GBP (!), Other days: 15.50 GBP(!!). Garden only: 5 GBP. The Park grounds are available free for everyone to walk.
Orientation: a fantastic day out from London. Idyllic park, inspiring house and splendid grounds. You can mingle in very close unusual proximity with the deer !!!
Directions: from the Sevenoaks railway station you have to walk 15-20 minutes. Part of the way is a light uphill climb. Ask for Sevenoaks High Street. Knole House is situated almost in the end of Sevenoaks High Street - on your left. Many brown signpost will direct you to Knole grounds. After passing the Knole entrance - you have additional walk of 1-12 minutes until arriving to Knole House and Gardens.
Warning and orientation: The Knole House is exceptionally priced. You are not allowed to take pictures in the House itself. You are notified by this restriction ONLY after you've paid. Other similiar places allow photography even with a flash. I recommend avoiding the House and even the Gardens. Sorry if I sound rude or bossy but my offer is to concetrate on Knole Parkland. That's the reason I made this Tip Type as "Nature" and not as "History"... You can roam freely around the extensive ground for hours. There are many paths in this majestic place with beautiful rolling Kent countryside. Search the deer herd(s) for making rare pictures. The house is incredible and quite sombre. In the entrance you are entertained by a lively musical ensemble. Lots of interesting rooms which are still in near original condition. The portraits of the royal families and other notable political figures are astonishing. BUT, you are not able to take your memorable experience back home... You should also consider taking refreshments or food with you if you head out into the park. Do not come in a cold day !
For having lunch - head back to Sevenoaks High Street.
Knole House main entrance:
Music at Knole - Knole began as an archibishops palace built by successive Archibishops of Canterbury and enlarged by the Sackville family, the Earls & Dukes of Dorset. They retained band of musicians who played in the Great Hall of Knole Castle:
Knole House - seven centuries of Knole. History told in fabric. Made by tens of citizens:
Knole historic gardens:
Knole House and estate original offices:
There is a herd of deer in the park and they are extremely friendly, allowing people to get within a few meters of them without moving away.
Knole Park is a peaceful retreat. The parkland is vast and worth visiting throughout the year. Plenty of different paths to walk and plenty to spot if wildlife and nature are your interests. Can walk for hours.
Knole Parkland grounds - typical Kent countryside:
Rochester, Strood and Upnor Castle:
Start: Rochester National rail Station.
End: Strood National rail Station.
Orientation: Rochester and the attractions around are: tranquile, aristocratic, magnificent, historic, atmospheric and romantic.
Attractions: the Medway river, old Rochester, Rochester Bridge, Rochester Cathedral and Castle, Upnor Castle.
Exit the Rochester Railway Station and head southwest (right) toward High St. In this street lies the Guildhall Museum and Building. We recommend leaving these sites for the afternoon sun. The High Street looks completely different in the afternoon sun (like Rochester Bridge). Continue onto Eastgate (the road changes its name). Eastgate House (Charles Dickens Chalet) is on your right. The 16th-century red-brick Eastgate House once housed the town's museum and now it is planned to become the Charles Dickens Centre. Closed for a two year restoration programme. It is open sporadically, from time to time:
The Cathedral - view from the Castle:
From Eastgate House head northwest on Eastgate toward Crow Ln. Turn left onto Crow Ln and the Restoration House will be on the left. Built in 1587. It is said that Charles II stayed here on the night of 28th May 1660 - just before the Restoration. It is the "satis House" of "Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens, the house of Miss Havisham. Beautifully restored by the current owners and very well presented to the public. Open: 30th May to 27th September 2013: Thursday & Fridays - 10:00am to 5:00pm. Also open on Saturday 1st June, Saturday 13th July - 12:00am to 5:00pm:
Almost n the end of Crow Ln you arrive to a nice tree-lined avenue - The Vines Park. Lovely views down toward the Cathedral at the far end. The Vines Park is a small oasis on the site of a medieval vineyard where monks from Rochester Cathedral (the Vines Church next door), once grew grapes for their wine:
Retrace your steps. Head Northeast (if coming back from Vines Ln) or Southwest (if still on Crow Ln). Turn right toward College Yard. Turn right again toward College Yard. Turn right (3rd time) onto College Yard. The Cathedral is on your right and Rochester Castle is on your left. The Rochester Cathedral is the second oldest cathedral in the UK (next to the Canterbury one). But it is not just the impressive building itself. Walk around the immediate area for a real feel of historic Rochester. There are lovely buildings, gardens and twisting alleyways. In complete contrary to Canterbury cathedral - NO entrance fee. It is not the grandest of the English cathedrals, but it certainly is the friendliest. The volunteers who work there are helpful and lovely people. The Cathedral has a lovely garden as well:
The Rochester Castle stands opposite to the Cathdral. Today it stands as a proud reminder of the history of Rochester along with the cathedral and cobbled steets. Its Norman tower was built about 1127 by William of Corbeil, Archbishop of Canterbury with the encouragement of Henry I. It is consisting of three floors above a basement. Attached is a tall forebuilding, with its own set of defences to pass through before the keep itself could be entered at first floor level. Rebuilt under Henry III and Edward I, the castle remained as a viable fortress until the sixteenth century. OPen daily: 10.00 - 16.00. Adult - 5.80 GBP, concessions - 3.70 GBP:
Now we walk back part of our daily route - heading to Rochester Bridge. Head northeast on College Yard and turn left onto High St. Turn right toward Corporation St. Turn immediately left onto Corporation St and continue to follow the street to face Rochester Bridge. Just a part of Rochester that you don't want to miss. It is the bridge from Strood to Rochester. You get some excellent views over the River Medway. The bridge itself is full with grandour and elegance. The sight of the Medway river in the afternoon sun - is unforgottable. We shall return to this bridge after the long walk (there and back) to/from Upnor Castle. The sight of the bridge, the Medway river and Rochester on the hill is breath-taking under the afternoon sun. We recommend strolling around the park to the east of the bridge:
Take your lunch in one of the restaurants of Rochester High Street or near the river. We have one hour walk to Upnor Castle - crossing part of Strood town. I recommend (see a Tip) dining in Sans Pareil restaurant - 20 minutes before arriving to the Upnor Castle.
Head northwest on Rochester Bridge toward Canal Rd and continue to follow High St. Turn right and continue to follow North St. Slight right onto Frindsbury Hill. In the middle of this busy road (up the hill) - you'll see on your left) the Sans Pareil restaurant). At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto the busy Berwick Way. (Note: there is a shortcut: crossing the field along a towpath):
Turn left onto Upnor Rd. You are now in Upnor village:
Turn right to stay on Upnor Rd. Turn right onto Upchat Rd. Turn left onto Upnor High St. A small cobbled road. You do walk past two charming pubs which are well worth popping in for a drink. Very nice, picturesque and tranquil. The whole walk up the hill, throught the village and down to the castle through the village is like going back in time to the 19th century with lovely views of the river Medway at the bottom of the high street:
The Upnor Castle will be on your left. Entrance: 5.70 GBP, concessions: 3.50 GBP. Worth one-hour visit. Daily: 10.00 - 16.00. There is a lot to see inside the Castle and outside in the grounds, where on a sunny day a fair bit of time can be enjoyed here:
In a sunny day the view of Medway river from the Upnor Castle walls is majestic:
You can return from Upnor village/Castle to Strood with the 15.15 bus or walk the whole way back to the Medway river.
I stress the fact that you are unable to make a shortcut and return to Rochester or Strood along a path, leading to the the river bank or the fields nearby (there is a closed military zone near the castle and the river).
It is one hour walk back to Rochester or Strood. Allow one hour for walking in the grounds around Rochester Bridge and taking photos of the old town of Rochester, Rochester High Street, Rochester Guildhall (incl. the Museum) and the Medway river - all bathing in the afternoon sun:
From Rochester Bridge or High Street - it is 5 minutes walk to Rochester Railway Station and 1-12 minutes walk to Strood Station.
Boat trips on the Rio Douro:
Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia are located on the banks of the Rio Douro and a boat on the river is one of the more pleasant and relaxing things you can do while in both cities. Boat trips can last from an hour to two or more days with or without meals and vineyard visits. Many of the tours from Porto combine rail and river so you go one way by boat and return by train or vice versa. The scenery is stunning - vineyards to begin with and then olive groves down to the water's edge the whole way. There are trips lasting from around 30 minutes to trips that last you for several days. I have taken the 50 minutes - 1 hour tour that takes you through the most central part of the river banks in Porto and under the 5-6 main bridges. 10 euros (free for under 12 year olds). The bridges (Pontes) are Freixo, S. Joao, Dona Maria Pia, Infante, Dom Luis 1 and Arrabida. With some of the cruise companies there is no commentary at all or no English narration. There is also a typical offer of 1 day cruise - Porto to Regua (Week days) - boat upstream and train downstream: Leaving Porto, the boat passes under some of the famous high level bridges. As the journey across the Douro takes place, the boat is raised by a series of locks, some being the highest in Europe. These locks and the dams through which they go have tamed the river from the dangerous rapids which sank many yachts when the river was used for wine transport. Later the railway line runs along the river for its journey upstream. The arrival of the railway resulted in all the wine being carried by train and the carriage downriver by ship stopped. In recent years, the wine has been moved downstream by road tankers. The river passes through the demarcated port wine region of steeply terraced hills and mountains and white painted Quintas (estates) to Regua, the important Port Wine town. 8.00 Shipping, Departure to Regua, Breakfast on board, Crestuma-Lever Dam (height 14 mts), meal Lunch on board, Carrapatelo Dam (height 35 mts)
14:45 Arrival at Regua - free time, train 16:30 meeting at Regua Railway station, 16:50 return by train to Porto, train 18h50 Arrival at Porto and
end of the cruise at Vila Nova de Gaia Quay. Rates per person: Mar / Apr / May / Jun / Oct: 62.50 euros, Jul / Aug / Sep: 67.50 euros, Public holidays: 72.50 euros, Children up to 3 years old: Free, Children between 4 and 11 years old: 50% off. On public holidays the return to Porto will be made by tourist bus. Monday to Friday from March to October. With the long journeys - the sailings offers in terms of food and service are pretty much the same. The cabins are spacious with two armchairs and a balcony but storage devices are poor; not enough drawers. Cabins look, sometimes untidy. The bathrooms are, generally, good with good basins, showers and plumbing. TV sets provided free, as well as WiFi and Internet access.
The Douro is increasingly popular with international river lines and companies like AmaWaterways, with its AmaVida and Uniworld with its Queen Isabel, have added new and upgraded ships in the region. In spring 2014, Viking River Cruises christened two new ships — Viking Torgil and Viking Hemming — in Porto. CroisiEurope also offers Douro cruising — the French line has three ships in the region.