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Relaxing in Riomaggiore

Thursday, October 10, 2013 @ 06:44 pm from Italy Italy
Day 106

The forecast was calling for a pretty high chance of rain all day so rather than get soaked or deal with more closed trails, I just stayed here in Riomaggiore for the day.

After breakfast I used the wifi of a bar to upload all my photos from the last few days then walked around town taking some more photos. Since the weather was sketchy and the seas were really rough, the ferries between the villages were shut down which meant there weren't many tourists walking around. It was nice to explore without dealing with crowds.

I bought a pepper and some green beans and cooked it up with pasta, spices and olive oil for lunch (and also dinner). I enjoyed lunch on the balcony at the hostel overlooking the village with a glass of wine.

After that I just kinda lounged around on the balcony watching the views and taking in the sights. I went back and looked at all the photos from this trip as well as the motorcycle trip Ryan and I did last summer. It's crazy how much I've seen on this trip so far.

Without having any real connection to the internet, being the only one in the hostel today (aside from the long term guy who has his own private room) and the town basically shutting down after around 7:00pm, there really isn't much to do at night. It would be the perfect place to read a book but unfortunately the last couple hostels I stayed at either didn't have any books or all the books were in Italian.

Tomorrow I head to Florence where I'll spend a few nights. I think I'm going to try to do a day trip down to Siena to see that town. I was originally planning on staying the night there but couldn't find a cheap place to stay. I'd still like to see the town though.
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Rough seas at the Riomaggiore marina
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Cloudy in Riomaggiore
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Riomaggiore
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Lunch I made in Riomaggiore

Exploring the Cinque Terre

Tuesday, October 8, 2013 @ 05:02 pm from Italy Italy
Day 104

We slept with the windows open in the hostel last night. It got a little chilly but after I got another blanket it was great having the fresh air coming in at night. In the morning I got up and had breakfast downstairs at the bar where the owner of the hostel works. I had a marmalade filled croissant and a cappuccino.

Since I didn't want to spend the next several days buying beers at the bar across the street to feed my need for internet connectivity, I bought a 2 day Cinque Terre card that gives me unlimited access on trains between all the Cinque Terre towns as well as the ability to hike between the cities.

With my pass I went to the big city that isn't really part of the Cinque Terre called La Spezia. They have all of the big shops and phone stores there that I'd need to get another SIM card. Last night I was talking to Oliver (the guy who lives here 5 months out of the year selling his paintings of the Cinque Terre to tourists) and he mentioned the phone company WIND and told me where to go to get a SIM card.

I showed up there and tried to get a new card but their internet was down and they wouldn't be able to do anything for a couple hours. Bummer. Next, I headed down the main shopping area and found another shop. Unfortunately they were all out of SIM cards. Bummer #2. I went to the 3 Store (the company of my prior SIM card) but they were closed for some reason. Bummer #3. I walked around some more and found another phone shop. The guy didn't speak any English but between my very very limited Italian and a lot of pointing and repeating of basic needs, we were able to get things figured out. The SIM I'm using now is from a different company and seems to be a bit spotty in the Cinque Terre towns (not that my 3 SIM was much better).

After getting that taken care of, I boarded a train to the town of Vernazza. I walked around there for a while, paid to climb up a big castle tower for some amazing views, had some lunch and then got on a train for the town of Manarola.

Manarola is the next town up from the one I'm staying at (Riomaggiore) and it's the starting point for all the hiking between the cities. I went on some of the paths to get some shots of the town but I'll leave the full hikes for tomorrow and Thursday. I think of all the towns so far, Manarola is probably the most beautiful. Like most of the towns, it's surrounded by cliffside vineyards and the town is nestled in the cliff side working its way down to the sea. In Manarola people were swimming around in the marina. It was very tempting to get in since it was pretty warm today. I might get in tomorrow or Thursday if the weather stays nice like this.

I hung out there for a while and looked through some of the shops. All of the towns sell their locally produced wine, soaps and spice mixes for pasts. I'll probably buy a few packages of the spice mixtures. One of the other guys staying here used it last night in his pasta and it smelled amazing.

Now I'm back at the hostel on the balcony working with some wine and amazing views all around me. I think tonight once it gets dark I'll head down to the marina and see if taking any photos of the city at night look good.

Since I have a limit on the amount of data I can use for my SIM card, I won't be uploading my photos until I get to my hostel in Florence. If you want to see some of what I'm up to, check out my Instagram feed at the top right side of my blog.
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Vernazza from the marina
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Vernazza
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Manarola
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Manarola and vineyards

Cinque Terre!

Monday, October 7, 2013 @ 07:36 pm from Italy Italy
Day 103

I had a few options to get to Riomaggiore today but I opted to take the first train which left at 10:30am. I had two different connections but I finally made it to Riomaggiore in the Cinque Terre around 12:15pm. After arriving in the train station you have to walk through a tunnel to get to the main part of town. I checked into the hostel and then walked around town for several hours.

The check-in experience is the weirdest so far. The guy who owns the hostel (which is basically just an apartment with a bunch of beds in the living room and two private rooms that can be bought) also owns a bar where you have to go to check in.

All of the beds were full in the main room so for the first night I'm sharing a private room with a guy named Oliver. He lives and paints here for 5 months out of the year and speaks about 4 different languages. A really cool guy!

The town is amazing. It's situated on the cliffs that lead down to a marina. I walked around all over town for a couple hours taking quite a few photos. I came back to the hostel around 3 to shower and met a guy named Adam from Australia who has been here a few nights.

All of the markets close down for a few hours in the middle of the day for a siesta so I couldn't actually buy groceries for dinner until around 5pm. Adam and I talked for a bit about our travels (he's currently living and working in a hostel in Edinburgh) and this has been his first real trip in the last 3 months since he got there.

I got some pasta, sauce, a big bell pepper and some wine at the market and then came back to cook it. I also made a huge mistake. In order to charge my phone quicker, I turned it off and put it on the charger. After dinner I turned the phone back on only to be prompted to enter the PIN code I was provided when I bought it. This wouldn't normally be a problem but I threw the pin card away this morning when I left Lucca. I didn't think I'd have to use it again after entering it the first time. It's a real pain because the hostel here doesn't have WiFi either. I think tomorrow I'm going to head back to La Spezia and get another SIM card. Not having any connection for the next 4 nights isn't really an option due to CCB emails and stuff.

On Wednesday I'm planning on doing some hiking between the towns in the Cinque Terre. Unfortunately a few of the sections are closed due to landslides so I'll have to figure out which ones are open and hike on those.
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Riomaggiore from the marina
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Riomaggiore from above
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Gelato from Santa Trinita Gelateria in Florence. Sesame Nero and Santa Trinita flavors. #florence #gelato #europetrip2013
Looking out over the Medina from my hotel's rooftop in Tangier. #morocco #tangier #europetrip2013
La mezquita in Cordoba Spain. #cordoba #europetrip2013 #mezquita
River Corrib walk in Galway. Another beautiful day! #europetrip2013
Inverness Castle
Frog fountain in Maria Luisa park. #sevilla #europetrip2013
Entry into the Medina (and the street my hotel is on). #morocco #tangier #europetrip2013
Mural in a shop in Pompeii. It shows the house gods including the god of commerce and the god of wine. #pompei #europetrip2013
Another shot of Riomaggiore in the Cinque Terre. #riomaggiore #5terre #europetrip2013
I was tired of feeling hungry at night. Pasta with chicken, asparagus, garlic and spices with some garlic bread. Super easy to make and cheap too. #dinner #pasta #europetrip2013

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Where I've been:

Good Evening… Planet Earth
All the countries I visited on this trip (in yellow).

What's this about?

Traveling is something I've loved doing for as long as I can remember. I've been lucky enough to travel out of the US a few times but never longer than 2 weeks at a time. I decided that I should go see the world and experience all it has to offer. I booked a one-way ticket to Dublin, Ireland to depart on June 26, 2013. After I get to Europe I'll let serendipity take hold and see where I end up. No schedules and no itinerary… just go with the flow. That's as close to a plan as I'm making.

Who am I?

My name's Brandon O'Brien and I'm a travelholic. Before this journey I've been to 11 countries and put over 17,500 miles on various motorcycle trips through the USA and Canada. I'm a self-employed web developer so I'm fortunate enough to be able to work anywhere there's an internet connection. That's what truly made this experience possible.

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