Jolly Old England

I loved England! I love the history and that the palaces are still being used after 500 years or more later. That you walk up to Stonehenge the same way the people who created it did in the same field is was created in. That you can walk around a village where they filmed Harry Potter and it’s a real village that looks exactly like it did in the movie. Lovely people and we were lucky to have nice weather (take note of the incredibly blue skies in a lot of the photos) and I’m assuming things have changed because our food was outstanding. We only saw the area around London | London – Winchester – Bath – Cambridge but we will definitely be back. I’m looking forward to the south end with the cliffs and beaches, the north end with York, Scotland and Ireland.

We flew into Gatwick. It’s further out than Heathrow but you’re going to want to take the train in either way and the Gatwick Express to Victoria Station was 30 min. It’s smaller and it was cheaper and a direct flight from Orlando. Don’t rent a car in London you need a special permit and its too crazy. We used the Big Bus Tours to see the sights and Uber to get to restaurants etc. You can walk pretty easily too. Didn’t use the subway so I can’t help there. You don’t need a special driver’s license or a Visa for the UK either. (I think the Visa situation is changing so check with the USA.Gov website for Visa and other traveling questions)

We didn’t really need cash but as with any trip, wait until you get to the country and use your ATM card to withdraw what you’ll need for a couple of days. That way you don’t have to guess how much cash you’ll need and you won’t be carrying around a bunch of cash that can get stolen. Just get it when you need it just like at home. Watch your purse, don’t wear a backpack with important stuff in it use it for sweaters and umbrellas, keep important items in your front pocket and pull your purse around in front of you and cover it with your arm. There are lots of places like bridges where people are crowded together they would have your stuff in 2 seconds and you’d never even realize. We didn’t have any problems but we followed those rules as well. Also, anyone trying to distract you – holding up a map and asking where something is (who actually uses maps today) or they say they found a ring and ask you if it’s yours. We had both these attempts in France it really happens, just be aware and walk away they are distracting you so their friend can pick pocket you.

There are tons of good areas to stay in. We stayed at the Marriott County Hall. It was right on the Thames River at the foot of the Westminster Bridge across from Parliament. Mayfair was super fancy and probably really expensive to stay there. Nottinghill was quiet and really pretty. Now that I’ve been there I’m not sure there’s a central location to stay. There’s so much to do and it’s spread out all over. So I would say just find a hotel you like in your price range and make sure it’s near one of the bus tour routes. Also, there are a lot of rules about where cars can stop so when you’re using Uber it helps to pay attention to where you are having them pick you up or drop you off. Our hotel had a circular drive so they could pull in off the road. That helped a lot. Keep that in mind if you are going to use Uber from your hotel.

Ok so here’s the trip…


London

We stayed at the Marriott County Hall, it was pricey but beautiful and we did the club level which was nice. Breakfast in the morning then appetizers and drinks in the evening. They had bottled drinks and light snacks all day too. Service was great, rooms were beautiful, location was convenient and there was a Starbucks around the corner. Yes a Starbucks, judge all you want but I love Starbucks.

I recommend tours. There are some things you are going to want to do that our touristy. Booking a tour with a guide makes it so much easier. City Wonders for Europe is great. Of all the tours we’ve taken there was only one guide we really didn’t like. By booking a tour you have your tickets in advance so you avoid the long lines of people waiting to get tickets, most of the time the tour is early before the crowds get there, you have a guide to explain everything to you. It makes a huge difference. They know where they are going and have the transportation worked out. All the tours we take are 10-12 people. They can last all day or half a day. In London we did a combo tour – The Tower of London – boat ride down the Thames – St. James Palace and the changing of the guards – Buckingham Palace – then train ride to Windsor Castle and Eaton. We also took the Big Bus and used the London Pass. The bus is hop on hop off for 1 day so start early (unless you buy multiple day passes) and the London Pass gets you into almost every museum and sight you would want to see. I was a great way to get around the city too. One of the stops was directly in front of our hotel.

The British Museum

You walk in and boom, there’s the actual Rosetta Stone. Beautiful Museum and free. The line wasn’t too long to get in, they check everyone’s bag otherwise you would probably walk right in. There’s a cute cafe at the very top in the center but there’s so much to see you could definitely spend half a day here.

Lunch at the Holburn Dining Room

This was a really cute cafe. We walked to it from our hotel. Outside was an even cuter garden cafe but they were booked up. The food and service were great.

Dinner at Qui Vadis

Took Uber to Qui Vadis, this cute little restaurant was perfect for our first night there, it was all I could do to stay awake through the meal but I’m glad I did, it was delicious.

Albert and Victoria Museum

Lunch at Egg Break in Notting Hill

Really tiny little place not too far from Kensington Palace. You definitely need Google Maps to find it. Really great fresh food.

Dinner at Salon

This really tiny place was even harder to find than Egg Break. You go into an alley that they’ve kind of turned into a shoppping area with shops that front the alley. But we found it.

London Tower

St James Palace and Buckingham Palace 

Windsor Castle and Eaton

Windsor Castle is in Windsor which is an hour train ride from Waterloo Station in London. It’s a really cute little town, completely overrun with tourist. There were a few cute shops and places to eat but it was crazy. Inside the castle is actually less crazy. Most of the castles you can’t take pictures inside so that’s why there are so few photos. Across the river from Windsor was Eaton where Eaton College is. I highly recommend seeing Windsor then heading to Eaton to eat it was much nicer.

Dinner at Eaton Mess in Eaton

Portobello Market Area

Thanks to our well traveled friend Ryan we visited Farm Girl in Nottinghill. This fresh mostly vegetarian restaurant tucked away in an alley. The owners dogs were hanging out in the loft area. It was most definitely that neighborhood’s BakeChop. We felt immediately at home.

Portobello Market

Portobello Road in London’s Nottinghill area is a nice shopping area with both permanent shops and vendors in tents along the street. Some of the shops have local items but most of the vendors are just what you’d expect, trinkets and well, crap. A little further down on Portobello Road turn right onto Westbourne Grove. Its a quiet little street with local shopping and about 3 blocks down is Granger and Co. delicious fresh food also inspired by the same Australian farm fresh trend of Farm Girl.

22 North

A restaurant in the Battersea area of London. I searched all over for specific pottery to bring home. I kept seeing it in the restaurants. Simple rustic and something made in England. Finally I got a lead that the place that made the pieces was in the Battersea area. Found it and when we got there, they were closed for vacation. Damnit. So we didn’t waste the Uber trip we decided to have dinner at the place next door. Really lucky it was delicious.

There are so many landmarks in London it’s crazy. Building after building, neighborhood after neighborhood. Here are just a few. King’s Crossing Station (yes, I am a Harry Potter nerd) St Pancras Station and Waterloo.

London Portrait Gallery, a street with carriage doors still intact, Scotland Yard and the garden where Whitehall Palace (Henry VIII) once stood.

Afternoon Tea at Sketch

If the movie Alice in Wonderland was a restaurant this place would be it. They had overlays playing on the walls in the reception area and the bar which made it feel surreal. Everything was just different. I’ve been to lots and lots of afternoon teas in lots of different places. This was just a little different. It’s hard to explain. Maybe the photos of the restroom with the egg shaped stalls will give you an idea. Click the link for the website, you’ll see. The food was delicious, the service was perfect. We asked what was either the owner or the manager to take photos of us and not only was he happy to he took several in a bunch of different spots. Great way to end our trip. (We came back to London after visiting the other cities and we had tea the last day).


Winchester

In London we used buses and Uber and trains. Outside of London we drove. It was tricky with the whole driving on the left side deal but with both of us looking before we turned it worked ok. Only one close call. No special license. We took the train to the Hertz at the Heathrow Airport and rented the car there and drove to Winchester. All of the drives I mapped on Google Maps and used the avoid highways filter. It kept us off the major highways and on nice scenic roads. They were all easy to drive and wide enough for 2 cars. Only in cities like Bath were there tight places that we had to move over for oncoming traffic to pass. Otherwise no problem and the scenery was beautiful. Rolling hills, forests, meadows, farms. Just beautiful.

Winchester was about 2 hours from Heathrow Airport. It’s this amazing little ancient town where King Alfred the Great ruled the Anglo-Saxon’s and Wessex in the late 800s. But the Romans were there before that and pre-historic Gauls before that. The cathedral there was built in the late 600s and later enlarged by Alfred. There’s a college and ruins of 2 castles and the great hall that holds the round table that King Henry VIII claimed was from Camelot. This tiny little town is very easy to walk. We parked at our Bed and Breakfast and didn’t use the car again until we left. The roads and walking trails are quiet and scenic. Especially the path past the ruins of Wolvesey Castle and the Bishops Palace along the river.

Hannah’s Bed and Breakfast

Beautifully completely restored stable. Not only was the entire place perfectly appointed she was a perfect host. Located in the middle of town. We happen to be in England the year they have a 2 month long drought and heat wave. She didn’t have A/C (the only place in our travels that didn’t) but it didn’t matter. We were only in the room in the evening and morning and with the windows open it was completely comfortable. In fact I had a light cover over me. I would absolutely recommend her place.

Forte Kitchen

Cute little cafe upstairs right downtown. It was about 4 blocks from Hannah’s. Great food and service. We split a fresh salad and a brownie and shared the Cream Tea for 2.

The Cathedral, Wolvesey Castle Ruins and the Bishop’s Palace, and Winchester Castle Great Room

The Cathedral is over 1300 years old. The cemetary in the front yard is so old that it’s used as a park. The ruins of Wolvesey Castle date from the Saxon period and the palace for the Bishop that was built in 1110 from the still standing chapel of Wolvesey Castle. It’s just incredible that these things are still there. And being used. No one decided to tear it down and build a Marriott (little local jab there). Winchester Castle was built in the late 1100s. You can see some of the castle’s ruins. The only remaining part of the castle is the Great Hall where Henry VIII hung the round table.

Winchester College and the Walking Path

As you walk past the Cathedral you pass homes and gardens and what’s left of the gates from the walled Roman City. After passing the Winchester College and the Wolvesey Castle ruins and Bishops Palace across the street from you come to the walking path between the outside of the old wall and the stream. I must have taken 100 photos. Here’s just a few. Because, really who wants to look at 100 photos of someone else’s trip.

The Rest of this Beautiful City

Dinner at Wykeham Arms 

Perfect little pub near the college with delicious food and friendly service.

 


Stonehenge and Wilton Manors

Between Winchester and Stonehenge was Wilton Manors and Salisbury. We stopped at Wilton Manors to see what crazy rich people live like. It was well, crazy. The house, the garage full of cars and the unbelievable garden. They allow people to roam their house during certain days and times. We saw a young man leaving the garage in one of the many fancy cars he was just a friendly and polite as everyone else we met in England.

We continued onto Salisbury. It was close to Stonehenge that’s the only reason I picked it to stay the night. Next time I would just stay in one of the hotels off the highway near Stonehenge. We didn’t visit anything in Salisbury it looked very touristy and was hard for me to find a nice place to stay. We ended up at The Chapter House which was really really old and nice enough and across from the Salisbury Cathedral which we didn’t visit. We were gone all day to Stonehenge and then just returned to our hotel to eat and go to bed. I would skip it. But Stonehenge is a must.

They just finished the new visitors center it has bathrooms, a cafeteria, a gift shop (of course) and a museum that explains the history of the site. You reserve a time to visit so they keep the crowds evened out and you can reserve a headset that narrates what you are looking at. The incredible part of this site is it’s almost the same as when it was built over 5,000 years ago. It’s about a mile from the road. So you either take a bus or you can walk through a field just as the ancient people who built it did. There’s a path around it with a little rope keeping you away from it. While standing there with it all you can see around you is fields. You can vaguely make out the old path to the river that pilgrims took.

 


Bath and the Cotswolds

This is of course an ancient Roman city but the Roman Bath was actually covered up and the temple was lost for hundreds of years. Later in the 1700s when they were excavating to build a new building they discovered the old Roman Bath and uncovered. Soaking in spa waters had become very fashionable and the city because the place to visit on vacation. The Georgian architecture is elegant and there are lots of places here to shop. I would definitely visit the Roman Baths as well. The museum really helped to understand the timeline and they have done a great job uncovering the ancient ruins. They are still working on it the area was so big. Most of it is well below ground level now.

We stayed in the Bath area for several days and took day trips to the small towns near by int he Cotswalds. Places where lots of movies are filmed because they are just that cute.

The Bath Priory Hotel

Lovely boutique hotel with perfect gardens and service. We walked into town but it was a little ways. It was kind of crazy driving in Bath because the streets are windy and old and small and cars park on them. So we chose to walk through the park instead.

Victoria Park (we walked through from our hotel to downtown Bath)

The Roman Baths

The water wasn’t originally green. The minerals in the water turn green now because they are exposed to sunlight. Originally the entire bath was enclosed.

Breakfast Tea and Dinner

We had breakfast at Bertinent Bakery right in the middle of Bath. As usual I got way more than we could eat.

Tea at Jolly’s Tea Room 

Also right in the middle of everything. It’s in a department store. If you enter from the front street into the department store you have to go through the store to the lower level to get to Jolly’s. If you enter from the street behind the entrance to Jolly’s is right on the street. Very cute little place. Great tea. They also had a lunch menu. It reminded me of the tea room in Bergdorf Goodmans off Park Ave in New York City. Not quite as swanky but a similar feel.

Dinner at The Salamander Pub

Really delicious pub food. Fun and friendly and great drinks. We made a reservation on Open Table but I got the feeling is was unnecessary and people don’t usually make reservations there. Bangers and Mash and Curried Chicken with an egg.


The Cotswolds

The next few towns are tiny. You park and walk the whole village in an hour. We did two or three in a day and didn’t have to rush. They are simply picturesque. Streams and bridges, tithing barns, cobbled streets, kids hanging out of windows while his buddy yells up to him to come fishing (yes that happened). These tiny little towns usually had some sort of castle or manor and a cathedral or abbey. From what I understand, the manor would have been built by the owner of a land and the village would have been built around it to sustain the manor. Then the abbey or large church for the villagers and the owner of the land. It’s really strange to see because there are these really tiny really old villages that haven’t changed in hundreds of years with a giant manor. Most of these towns have had movies filmed in them. They throw hay on the streets and just like that it’s WW II or a town in Harry Potter’s world or a Victorian era village with a wolfman issue.

Bradford on Avon

We had breakfast at Timbrell’s Yard full English Breakfast, just be sure to tell them you aren’t a guest in the hotel to avoid confusion. Walk around the town, along the path that runs along the river to the Tithing Barn.

 Iford Manor

From Bradford on Avon we drove to Iford Manor which is not in any city. The house is not open and the family still lives there. But the gardens are spectacular. From the Manor I had read about a walking path through fields to another small town. Apparently you are allowed to walk through peoples pastures, even ones with animals. A small sign notes, this way and to please close the gate so the animals don’t get out. On our trek we didn’t see any animals but the view was pretty.

LaCock

They filmed parts of Harry Potter here in the village and the abbey. We had lunch at King John’s Hunting Lodge Tea Rooms and Restaurant. Wandering around we just came across it. Once again a beautiful garden and great food.

Castle Combe

Very tiny village. They filmed The Wolfman here, War Horse and probably lots of other movies. There was a little house in the center of town that had baked goods out front on a little table. You slip money into the mail slot and take what you like. As with all the other villages, a river ran through it and this one as nestled in the woods.


Cambridge

My original plans were to stop at both Oxford and Cambridge. I used Google Maps and picked a spot in the downtown area and virtually walked along the street. The shops and streets of Cambridge looked a lot nicer so when I had to reduce our number of stops I cut out Oxford, we did drive through it on our way from Bath to Cambridge. We also passed by White Horse Hill. More on that below. Cambridge was a beautiful college town. Easy to walk everywhere. We stayed at the Cambridge University Arms. Beautiful rooms, great restaurant, great location. You most definitely have to go punting even though it’s super touristy. It was a great way to see all the various colleges and hear the history behind them. The drunk people punting on their own was added entertainment.

Cambridge University Arms

Punting and the Colleges at Cambridge

Punting is a really old tradition at Cambridge, you ride in a very shallow canoe with a person standing at the back pushing you along with a pole. You can rent them yourself or take a tour. There were lots of college students and bachelorette parties along side the tours. The tour was really informative. You learn about the history of Cambridge, the kings and queens who built the different colleges, the architects of the beautiful buildings and some of the shenanigans that go on.

Dinner and Snacks

We had breakfast at Fitzbillies, it’s a 100 year old bakery that was a staple for the students. A few years ago is almost went under until the new owners took over. Now it’s thriving again. Great food and loved the atmosphere. Bought at t-shirt.

For dinner we ate at Jamie Oliver’s Italian. Set in an old bank or something. Not sure what it used to be but it was fancy. Pretty touristy but not so much I wouldn’t go again. The food was just like his shows. Simply good ingredients assembled really well. 

Whitehorse Hill

On our way from Bath to Cambridge we passed the Whitehorse Hill, a prehistoric carving of a horse on a hillside. The exposed white chalk makes the horse white. As with most of the English countryside we passed. This hill is out in the middle of nowhere. No hotels, no strip malls or tacky trinket shops. Just the rolling hills and farmland. The same way it would have been when it was created. there’s a small farm nearby that allows hikers to camp on their property and there were a handful of hikers walking up the hill to see the carving up close. We just pulled over to the side of the little road and snapped photos. This sit alone inspires me to come back and hike and camp the countryside. The first photo is from Wikipedia so you can see what it looks like. The other two are mine. See the road in the bottom of the first photo. We were on that road.

After Cambridge we returned to London for a few days. As always we were ready to get back. I can’t wait to return to the UK though. I would love to hike and camp here. I’ve read about Champing. You camp in old churches for a small donation. You can hike through beautiful farmland and fields. I’d love to do a tour of farms and see the beach towns and coast. Half my family is from Scotland and Ireland will need to visit there are well. Taking a house boat along the canals. All for another time. Thanks for visiting my site, hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoy sharing.

Ballin in Bali

This place is paradise. The people are so genuinely friendly and lovely. Smiling and helpful. Pretty much everyone speaks English. But they really appreciate when you take a second to learn some Balinese or Indonesian. Suksma | thank you and pagi | good morning were all I could remember. I suck at learning other languages.

So the flight there, yeah. Not fun. 2 1/2 hours to New Jersey, 2 hour layover, 15 hours to Hong Kong, 5 hour layover, 5 hours to Bali. With a 12 hour difference. Fortunately getting there if you just stay up until your normal bed time and then sleep you should be close to straight when you get up. Coming home for some stupid reason is not the same.
It’s been 3 days and I’m still waking up at 4am.

2017-03-17 Bali La Joya 12

Bali is part of the Indonesian Islands, the string of islands between the Vietnam peninsula and Australia. Most of the other islands are Muslim but Bali is over 80% Hindu. They are very open and welcoming to all kinds of travelers. They have small temples (not actual buildings but little places to make an offering) at almost every business and larger ones at homes. Then there are the big temples that are a group of buildings inside a wall. Everywhere you go there are little palm bowls full of flowers and incense burning. It smells lovely.

It’s really hot, Florida in August hot but I didn’t think it was as humid. You were hot and sticky the whole time but you just get used to it. At night you shower and sleep in the a/c. Their rainy season is I think November to April so we were there just at the end of the season. I think it was perfect. It rained just like Florida afternoons for a couple of days and all day one day. Otherwise it was fine. The rain would cool things off. I didn’t really notice a lot of bugs or mosquitos. We came with 10% deet repellent just to be safe but about halfway through I forgot to use it and didn’t have any problems. You can check the CDC’s website to see what shots or precautions you should take when traveling to a certain country. They kind of go overboard. We ended up just getting tetanus shots and taking antibiotics in case we got a back case of Bali Belly. Fortunately as long as you only drink bottled water, don’t swallow when brushing your teeth, only use ice if it’s a specific shape not just broken up, and don’t eat that the sketchy places along the street or from street vendors you should be fine. If it looks like it’s dirty don’t eat there.
There are lots of clean beautiful places to eat.

Their money is crazy – 100,000 Rp equals about $8. So we were walking around with millions, hence the Ballin in Bali. Download the Currency + app or another simple app. But once you figure out what 100,000 is worth in dollars it’s pretty easy. Most things are some combo of 100,000 or 50,000. So 800,000 Rp is 8 x $8. Everything is ridiculously cheap. Our 4 star 5 course world class meal with wine at each course at Bridges in Ubud was $64 pp, yes $64 pp. Our full day at the Karsa Spa – 1 hour massage, 1 hour body treatment followed by an essential oil bath full of flowers, 1 hour foot massage, and a pedicure $72. Yes, $72. It’s crazy and the flight was the same as getting to Europe about $1,000. But once you are there
you’ll spend a fraction of what you’d spend in Europe.

Don’t bring dollars or travelers checks (if they even still have those). Just use the local ATMs to get out what you need each day or whenever. They have them everywhere. Most banks have a daily limit to take out cash so check with your bank on that amount and let them know you’ll be in Bali. Ours had a limit of $400 for each card holder. Also, call your credit card company to let them know too. Most places wanted cash. The larger restaurants and hotels will take credit cards and larger purchases but clothes and other tourist type stuff you need cash. Same thing for paying a driver or taxis or tips. Most restaurants include a service fee of 10% so they aren’t expecting a tip. But come on. Leave 100,000 Rp. It’s $8. The average person in Bali
makes $8 a day so you’ll make someone’s day.

So as far as packing and travel tips (then I’ll stop talking and post pictures). They pretty much have any toiletry you might need and as stated earlier it will be cheap. So don’t worry too much about pharmacy stuff or toiletries just pack what you normally would and get something you missed there. Or if it’s something hard to pack get it there. They have sunscreen and bug spray (you need both). Just bring any prescriptions obviously.

For the flight | pack a good pillow for the plane both our long flights were over night which really helps you be able to sleep. I used this one I got on Amazon and it worked great (I’m a side sleeper so trying to sleep sitting up is hard). I also recommend wearing sandals then taking socks. So you can slip off your shoes easily but won’t have stinky feet. They feed you constantly so you really don’t need snacks. I took a bunch of stuff and we didn’t eat any of it. Take a little travel tooth brush and toothpaste so when you wake up towards the end of the flight you can brush your teeth. It helps. Maybe deodorant and some nice wipes too.

Ok now for the good stuff,

We stayed at a beautiful smaller resort when we first got there. Again, lovely people who own it. They have nicely appointed bungalows with a/c and wifi. There’s an open air spa and a restaurant. Two beautiful pools that over look the Indian Ocean. You can walk down steps in the cliff to get to a very small very rocky beach. Really too rough to swim, my husband ended up cutting his leg. If you want a smaller cozy very relaxed kind of place I highly recommend it.
You can find it on Airbnb | La Joya

Breakfast by the pool

2017-03-20 Bali La Joya breakfast by the ocean

Very laid back and relaxing. Secluded. the only down side is it’s not in a great area and there isn’t really anything near by. It’s between Jimbaran Beach and Ulu Watu south of the airport. If you are planning on just hanging out by the pool, getting massages, and eating at their restaurant for a couple of days I recommend it. They take great care of you and the view is ridiculous. But, if you want to go explore you might want to look on Airbnb for a place in Ulu Watu. Jimbaran has several high end hotels, Four Seasons and Intercontinental but they are also isolated. Ulu Watu is surfy. Kuta is party central and very surfy.

We spent a day at Seminyak for shopping. The shops are nicer here than by Jimbaran Beach and there are a lot more restaurants you’ll want to eat in. The shops are less roadside and more boutique. It’s still not Ubud but it’s getting there.

Ginger Moon

Most of the food in Bali is Asian mixed with a weird idea of western food. I am very grateful their menus are in English but their descriptions sometimes get confusing and the waiters don’t really understand when you need further description so you end up just going for it. The only time I ordered something I really didn’t like was at a very touristy place next to the rice terrace and it said mixed vegetables on a salad. It was hard boiled eggs, bean sprouts, and lettuce.
Not tasty. I ate the side of white rice.

Ginger Moon was mostly Asian and very good. In Seminyak.

We also found a cool French Bistro place called in Seminyak.

The Corner House

In Ulu Watu we stopped on our way to a local temple to eat at

Single Fin

Forgot to take pictures of the food but it was delicious. Very fresh and lots of salad. The tuna sandwich says tuna loin so we expected sliced tuna, it was tuna salad. But it was good tuna salad. Most places have fresh bread they bake. And every place has freshly made fruit juices. So good. You can combine the different fruits too. Banana, just banana takes like a smoothie. There were surfers down on the beach, live music later in the day and the shops were all surf shops. Just thought I’d share the random guy who was walking around with a monkey on his back.

After lunch we headed over to the Ulu Watu Temple. It was ok. the walled walk along the cliff was beautiful but the actual temple wasn’t outstanding. Lots of tourists. In fact a group of girls walked up to me and asked me to take a photo. I said sure then realized they wanted to take a photo WITH me. Which was odd. Apparently, the surrounding countries learn English in school and like taking pictures with English speaking tourists because it shows they
were able to talk to us in English. Okey Dokey.

Ulu Watu Temple

There are lots of tourist traps. This silver shop was flashy and the prices were crazy. If you are paying American prices for anything you are paying way too much. Just be careful of that. Most of the places we stopped at were 1/5 of the cost of America.

2017-03-20 Bali on our way to Ubud silver store

There are also all these beach BBQ places. Most of them were just gross. They have obviously old seafood and the room you walk through to get to the beach, the place where you pick the seafood and they grill it, it smells like garbage. Then they seat you at folding tables and chairs with satin table cloths and chair covers on the beach to eat and watch the sunset. I’m assuming there are nice ones but all I saw were the tacky gross ones. I don’t recommend it. I ordered only the vegetables and was still worried I was going to get sick.

After exploring the area around La Joya and the airport we headed inward and north to Ubud. This was my favorite area. All the cool old stuff is here. By many accounts it’s the cultural center of Bali. You can get to volcanos, temples, rice terraces, coffee plantations, shopping and pretty much anything else they offer from Ubud. If I ever go again I would just go straight to Ubud when I get there and just spend a couple of days at the end of the trip
at Jimbaran Beach to unwind.

We stayed at the Private Ubud Villas in the Penestanan area of Ubud. It’s about a 10 min walk down the hill to downtown Ubud. But there are plenty of taxis at the top too. This little area was perfect. There are a lot of Australian yoga types here. So lots of coffee shops and vegetarian restaurants. It very quickly felt like we lived there. It was easy to get
around and not too far from downtown.

The villas like most of the homes are a walled in courtyard, most with a pool and beautiful garden. The kitchen and living space is open air the bedrooms and bathrooms have a/c. There’s wifi and we had a house keeper Wayan that came everyday to bring clean towels, make the bed, tidy up, take out the trash and make us breakfast. There are also really nice resorts right in Ubud one of them we happened to have lunch at Alaya Resort it was in Ubud
near the Monkey Forest on Jalan Hanoman

Here are some pictures of the Penestanan area, gardens and
rice terraces we past every day.

And our favorite little breakfast place that was across the street from our villa

Juno

They had delicious coffee, fresh fruit juices, yogurt bowls, avocado toast, eggs with asparagus and pancakes with caramelized banana and strawberries. My husband says the best oatmeal he’s ever eaten. We even brought home a wooden bowl just so he could eat oatmeal in it.

We tried black rice pudding for breakfast at another local place down the street.
Tasted very similar to oatmeal.

The BEST restaurant in Ubud was Bridges. We ate there twice, I could have eaten there every night. World class atmosphere, service and food. Just outstanding. It’s this beautiful restaurant built under a bridge on the side of the cliff leading down to a river. As with everything it’s open air so each level it open to the view of the gardens and river.

Gorganzola Apple Brulee with Rucola Salad
pickled fennel, orange and candied pecans

2017-03-20 Bali Ubud Bridges 18

Wild Mushrooms and Polenta
with caper and tomato relish, fresh pea puree and vegetable terrain

2017-03-20 Bali Ubud Bridges 20

My travel friend’s favorite part of the meal, the palette cleanser

Strawberries with a lime sorbet

2017-03-20 Bali Ubud Bridges 19

Another beautiful spot to eat is right downtown Ubud and has a garden courtyard in the back and a bar facing the street in the front to people watch.
The food was great, fresh, and unique and the service was great.

Oops Restaurant and Bar
No website but it’s right across from the market in the center of town.
Just a few blocks from Starbuck. Yes, Starbucks.

Our spa day was at Karsa Spa set in the middle of a rice terrace
ponds, flowers and fountains everywhere.

The massage rooms were open air with a garden around you the ceiling fans made it perfectly comfortable. After the body treatment you slide into an essential oil infused tub full of flowers.

The view from our pergola while getting pedicures

The rice terrace was really beautiful to hike through. The area around the terrace was very touristy, I wouldn’t recommend any of the restaurants but look through the shops. There were a couple that had stuff I hadn’t seen yet. It’s free to hike the terrace but in a couple of places you’ll come across someone basically being a gate keeper and asking for money to pass. 50,000 for our group was fine. Most places were free to get in but then you paid a priest or someone to show you around or someone who was selling palm hats in the field. $4 for a group of 8, not bad.

2017-03-23 Bali Rice Terrace 2

2017-03-23 Bali Rice Terrace 17

After the rice terrace we visited the coffee plantation. This was set up a little more for tourists. People greeted us, took us on a tour, there were people demonstrating how they roast the coffee and you got a free tasting of several teas and coffees like chai, ginger, and cocoa. A cup of the coffee where the luwak eats the berries, poops them out then they roast the pooped out beans was 50,000 ($4). It was actually deliciously smooth no wonder people
pay $30 a cup for it here in the US.

While we enjoyed our tea and coffee sample we couldn’t help notice the extremely hard working ladies just below us. They would carry up empty bowls from below, another lady would fill them with dirty then they would carry them on their heads down below to the construction site. Up and down. No special safety gear. Just hard work all day in the heat.

2017-03-23 Bali Ubud Coffee Plantation 20

Our driver told my husband about a hike up one of the volcanos, Mount Batur. They left at 2am to get to the mountain by 4am so he could be at the top by sunrise. His guide Madi was yet another tough ass Bali lady. She kept asking him if he needed a rest and
would say hati-hati which meant careful careful.

We visited a traditional village out in the country side. Where there are bamboo forests and rice terraces and little beautiful villages. The villages are walled in and each “home” is a walled in space with several small buildings inside. some are open air some aren’t. Most have a temple in the front then the old historic building for tourists like us to see then more modern buildings where they live. Open air kitchens, stable for a pig, gardens. The family that lived there welcomed us in and explained how they used to live.
Did I mention how friendly and sweet these people are?

Nearby was the oldest temple in Bali. I forgot to write down the name of it. Just like the smaller spaces, there is a wall with a grand door in this case at the top of a lot of steps. In side are many smaller open are buildings. Some are for preparing things for
worship some are for actual worship.

We then visited the Tirta Empul Water Temple. As with all the temples, to enter you need a sarong. Then if you want to go in the water you pay for a water sarong, go into a coed changing room. Yeah, that was awkward. And change into the water sarong. We all had bathing suits on under. I wrapped mine around my neck the guys just around their waste. Some people were in there in their clothes with the sarong just around their clothes. So whatever works for you.

The priest gave us an offering, had us clear our minds and meditate for a minute then explained we choose a place for our offering at one of the fountains then started at the left and worked right taking 3 sips of spring water and then dunking your head 3 times to cleanse you inside and out. The water was cool but not cold, there were Koi in the pond with us and the stones aren’t comfortable to walk on. But it was a really cool experience. I definitely recommend it!
We tipped our priest 150,000 Rp ($12) for helping us.

Aside from the spring and the pond you get in there were Koi ponds and
the usual buildings all the temples have.

Near Ubud was another spectacular restaurant Sayan it overlooks a valley, river, and rice terrace and across the valley you could see one of the Four Seasons on Bali. It had a pond on it’s roof

Once again delicious. Best chocolate cake ever and it was flourless.

Some cool stuff I noticed with the food, they put salsa and dips in little banana or palm leaves they fold into little bowls. Everything is natural no plastic stuff, wooden bowls, plates lined with banana leaves, so pretty. There was always fresh fruit and herbs. They slice their limes different. Just the ends, not sure what they do with the middle of the limes. They make a dipping sauce from sambal a tomato based sometimes spices sometimes sweet condiment and mayo. I think if you took ketchup and sweet chili sauce you might get something similar.

Our last adventure was in the Ubud Monkey Forest. Ok, not a fan of this one. The monkeys are really aggressive and know you have bananas so they come running over and climb all over you looking for the bananas. You can’t shove them off or they might bite you and they are all over the place. Yeah, not a fan. But if you don’t mind the crazy monkeys all over you for sure go.

2017-03-27 Bali Ubud Monkey Forest 2.jpg

As we walked home from downtown Ubud we came across the beautiful Lotus Pond Palace. It’s tucked behind the Starbucks and the Lotus Café. It’s easy to miss because of the pergola in the front. There’s a pergola behind the Starbucks that you can sit and enjoy the pond or
eat at the café but the menu looked mediocre.

While we were there is was Nyepi. That’s the Hindu new year. The day before is a little like Mardi Gras. They party and build these cool floats called Ogoh Ogoh. Each nearby village or neighborhood (didn’t quite get a clear answer on that) makes one then the day before Nyepi they carry them to the main temple in Ubud. There’s a whole performance that goes with the presentation of the Ogoh Ogoh. There are smaller ones that children make and carry and larger ones the adults make. On the day before Nyepi they also have temple services and after we saw people carrying these beautiful trays with fruit and desserts, not clear what they were for.

2017-03-27 Bali Ubud Ogoh Ogoh 10.jpg

These guys just added to the atmosphere

2017-03-27 Bali Ubud Day before Nyepi 4

Then on Nyepi it’s their day of silence. You can’t leave your home or hotel, no lights on, no entertaining, no eating. For tourists they just asked us to stay inside, keep the curtains drawn so you couldn’t see our lights and keep the cooking to a minimum. And obviously be quiet. It just made for a relaxing day to read. I know the hotels abide as well but I’m not sure if you have to stay in your room or just on the hotel grounds if you plan on coming to Bali during Nyepi you might want to check that out. A couple of tips. Don’t wait until the day before to get cash from the ATMs they were all out and the day after Nyepi it was afternoon before we found one we could use. The grocery stores were slammed to. Think day before a hurricane when everyone thought it wasn’t going to actually hit but a the last minute realize it will.
So get food, supplies, and cash out 2 days before Nyepi.

After Ubud we headed to the Intercontinental Bali Resort at Jimbaran Beach. Wow. Just wow. If I was going to Bali again I would go straight to Ubud to stay for most of the time then stay at the Intercontinental for 3 days at the end. They have everything there and lots of activities, yoga classes, cooking classes etc. A beautiful spa. The buffet and show with traditional dancers was meh. The dancers and entertainment were great but the food was just ok. It was a lot of odd Asian food. I guess at the end of the trip I was just tired of that. But they have a great breakfast every morning and the other restaurants were great. There’s one by the pool and the Sunset Bar and Grille over looks the ocean. Fresh lovely salads and sandwiches. Served in awesome wooden bowls and with snacks like bread with a mango jam and some kind of cheese spread, Bali peanuts and little coconut cookies with the coffee. They also had a white wine, apple cider, elderflower drink that tasted like apple sangria.

So here’s the lobby

And the endless pools and gardens, yes you can swim in those pools

Pool side dining

and the Sunset Bar and Grille and Apple sangria

The spa

And of course our room

Leis when we checked in with a refreshing local drink and chilled wash cloths. Beautiful rooms with turn down each night and they didn’t get there at 7am to clean it. Every toiletry you could need. 4 different restaurants, the beach, I don’t even know how many pools, club level rooms and club lounge the size of a restaurant, endless activities and it was $137 a night. Yep.

What a great trip. Its a really long way to go but so worth it.
I would go again in a heartbeat and would barely change a thing

Suksma

 

 

 

That’s Amore

So much to do in Italy and we tried to do all of it.
Rome, Siena, Florence, Bologna, Verona, Como, Bellagio, and Venice!

2016-08-23 Florence Academia David 9

So let’s start at the beginning. As always I made a list of things I had to see then figured out what cities they were in then organized the trip so we didn’t waste time driving back and forth. This time no trains. I was so stressed using the trains in France. Doesn’t mean I won’t ever use them again but I was really easy with the rental car.

We used Dark Rome for most of the tours. They started off doing creepy tours of tombs etc. in Rome and are now in many countries doing all kinds of tours. It was pretty much a one stop shop for everything we wanted to see. So much easier to get the tickets in advance and not worry about where you need to be and getting tickets. And lots of times you skip the regular lines like at the Uffizi in Florence or San Marco in Venice. The tours are amazing and you learn so much more than if you just walk through. The guides love what they do so they really get into it. Expect to tip them $5-10 per person.

Restaurants were tricky finding places. There’s a lot of stuff on tourist type places like Trip Advisor but I never trust those sites. The are, well, touristy. High priced low quality food and service and usually really tacky atmosphere. So I looked at things like Mario Batali’s favorite places or Eater.com is really great.

Arrived in Rome at 8am their time 2am our time but we just dropped our bags at the Airbnb and moved on. We were definitely dragging but it really helps get you on track with the new time zone if you just immediately adapt. Our Airbnb was perfect. Look for location, something near the sites you’ll be seeing and something that’s updated inside up still has the charm of the country.

We stayed at Sistina 8 Luxury Apartment

It was in walking distance of almost everything, quiet neighborhood beautiful inside and the host was outstanding.

Our host suggested several restaurants, every one of the ones we tried were great. Rome had tons of tacky places on the main streets that looked nice but if there’s photos of the food don’t eat there.

Ginger
Via Borgognona n 43

Borghese Gallery | Tour of the Home and Garden
Beautiful Bernini statues in this private home

After the tour of the home and garden the guide walked us through the public garden that ended at a terrace that over looked Rome we walked back towards our apartment past the Spanish Steps. Which is beautiful but just an area with upscale shopping.

If you are anywhere with crowds be very aware of pick pockets. Don’t put money or passports or anything important in a backpack. Just jackets and water and stuff like that. I carried a small cross body purse that I held in front of me in areas like that. The problem is it’s not a scary area. Its friendly and beautiful and full of other tourists. But that’s where the pick pockets are. We didn’t have any problems but we were careful too.

Slept in to catch up on our sleep then off to the Catacombs Tour. You can’t take pictures in some of these places so I’ve added photos from online.

Also, bare shoulder and thighs are frowned on in any place of worship so either cover those areas or bring a scarf to wrap around you or over your shoulders. If it’s cool weather that’s not a problem but we were there in August and even though everyone said it would be terribly hot we were pretty comfortable as long as we stayed out of the sun. But we are from Florida. I brought a maxi skirt and kept it in my bag and just slipped it on over my shorts when needed. But don’t worry, if you forget they are happy to sell you a paper wrap for $1 to cover yourself. They are serious about it.

Capuchin Crypt Tour

Monks ran out of places to bury their dead and were given a new location. The moved all the bodies to this new place but it still had limited space so the monks would be buried for a certain amount of time then exhumed and the bones would be cleaned and they decorate the rooms of the crypt with them. Very macabre and so very cool.

Then we toured a Roman tomb that was found in the fields outside of the old Roman wall.

Then came the San Clemente Church tour

There was a pagan temple that was then used to store grain then they built another pagan temple on top of that. Then a church on top of that. Then the San Clemente Church on top of the church from 1100. One day the priest at San Clemente noticed a sound of water. As he investigated under the church he realized there was another whole church under his church. So they removed all the old rubble and it was pretty much intact. He continued investigating the water sound and then discovered the temple to Mithras who was worshiped around 1 CE. There are several springs that run under Rome they eventually found the source of the sound of water came from a spring that ran under the temple.