The Country that Gave Me The Hunger to Travel

Throughout my 20s I spent my holidays in either the Greek Islands or the Canary Islands. Proper girls holidays. Lying by the pool with a book in hand in the day, followed by a night out with cocktails and dancing. Notice I said pool not beach? Bargain holidays are seldom less than 30 minute walk from the beach. I had fun, some great memories and I wouldn’t change that for anything.

At some point in my twenties I went away with a boyfriend to Cyprus. We didn’t stop for a second, he made me go to dull museums and drive around the island albeit mostly getting lost and I hated it. I just wanted to lie by the pool.  Oddly enough he lasted long enough to go on a second holiday and we went to Florida, and drove around a lot. A lot! He wouldn’t let me go to Disneyland and by the time we got to Clear Water, I begged for us to stop for a few nights so I could relax. He didn’t last as my boyfriend much longer after that.

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My 30s hit a new era. With a boyfriend who also liked to lie by the pool, we did one of those all inclusive package holidays.  We got an amazing deal to Dominican Republic and you won’t believe how happy I was to be in my dream destination: the Caribbean. It was lovely, and we enjoyed the inclusiveness of the trip too. Not having to think about money when away is great.

Given how much we appreciated the all inclusive part of the trip we decided to do another. Whilst looking on a holiday web site I saw a destination I’d not heard of before: Cape Verde. It surprised me as I thought I knew all the package holiday destinations. It was a brand new destination and being billed as ‘African Caribbean’ but a lot cheaper and shorter flight. Having loved the Caribbean I had to go.

We stepped off the plane. I was expecting that normal gust of warm air that hits you in the face like a sauna. I was greeted by cold wind hitting me in the face. The coach took us from the airport to the hotel and all we saw was sand, sand and more sand.  When we got the hotel it hadn’t warmed up and the wind hadn’t dropped yet.  We saw all the lobsters around the hotel.  When I say lobsters, I mean people that had severe sunburn.  We slapped on the factor 30 pronto, remembering how close to the equator we were.

 

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The next day was warmer, but the wind was still going.  It was warm enough to sunbathe, and we did so by the pool.  There was something strange about the pool – it was empty.  All the sun loungers taken but not one person in the pool.  I dipped my foot in: ouch!  It was ice cold.  That will be why then.  We went to the beach, and watched the roughness of the Atlantic, I think there were big chunks of time it wasn’t safe to swim.  The water was the opposite to the warm bath-like-water in the Caribbean, but that didn’t stop us borrowing the boogie boards and having so much fun in the rough water.  When we left our towels on the sunloungers on the beach we’d weigh our towels down with books and everything else, but it would be a sure thing that we’d return to our towels on the floor.

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I was there for 2 weeks.  The wind stopped once.  Once!  And when it did it was so hot, I couldn’t wait for it to start again.  Sure enough after 5 minutes it did, and didn’t stop again.  When the wind was at it’s most gentle, I looked at the palm trees and thought if I didn’t know better I’d think there was a gale blowing.  Made me think the wind must always blow in the same direction and that is the way the trees grow.  I find that an interesting point, and I’m not sure why.

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We did a couple of trips, one where we went around the island.  We saw the salt crater and floated in the water.  We even saw a mirage!  Yes a mirage.  Apparently it is always there at the same time every day.  We had driven across the sand and knew there was no water.  We knew for a fact.  Yet where we stopped I would have sworn there was a big pool of water.  Awesome!

We also did a trip on dune buggies.  Oh my!  So much fun.  So!  Much!  Fun!  When you’re on an island that is mostly sand and lots of sand dunes, this is the best way to see the island.  We even arrived at a beach that is miles away from a road.  It was something special for me to see.  Annoyingly I’d forgotten my camera on that day, but I’m pretty sure the memory is far more accurate and detailed than any photo could have been.

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One day we went into the resort centre.  We saw so much building work, looked like hotels after hotels being built.  I wonder if they are all full now.  We had been told that the locals want to chat to us to improve their English.  So we stopped, had big chats about Cape Verde and where we were from.  At the end of the conversation they would ask:  “would you like to come into our shop?” and we’d say “No thank you” and they’d reply “Have a nice day.”  I wonder how tourism has changed and if this is still how they are today.

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We walked back to the hotel along the beach.  The never ending beautiful quiet beach where we saw no-one except maybe a kite surfer.  Such a contrast to the busy beaches in the Dominican Republic.

So did I think Cape Verde was anything like the Caribbean?  Absolutely not.  It is it’s own country with it’s own identity.  Why did it give me the travel bug?  Because it was somewhere I never expected to come across.  It challenged any idea of how a country can be.  It surprised me.  It stopped me from wanting to just lie on the beach; it made me want to get out there and experience more.  It made me realise that there are places we’ve never heard of before, that are nothing like what we would expect in a million years.  I crave to go to another country one day that surprises me in the same way.

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Boring Yet Essential: Travel Health

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If you’ve been reading my blog, then you’ll know my next planned trip is Zimbabwe and Botswana.  As always before a trip, I made an appointment with the nurse to go through travel vaccines.  I was talking to a well travelled friend of mine, and they seemed oblivious to a lot of the information given about health when travelling, which has prompted me to write this blog.   Boring disclaimer bit: I’m not a health professional and I’m not here to offer anyone advice, just to talk about my experience and hopefully encourage you to seek more information before you travel (which I’m sure you do anyway).

Dreading The Travel Health Appointment

I always dread the travel vaccine appointment as it often feels like I have to sit through a lecture of dos and don’ts.  My appointment was yesterday, and I was pleasantly surprised that she gave me the information in a non-condescending way.  Often saying “As a seasoned traveller you probably already know, but…”   And I was happy to be reminded of the advice, as I’d rather hear the advice twice than not at all.

I Just Go with the Recommended Advice

I’m not going to discuss why or why not you need the vaccines, I just go with the advice and have whatever is recommended for that country at that time.  Advice changes often, and I leave it to the professionals to tell me what is recommended.  I’ve had most of the vaccines available free on the NHS.  Plus I had the yellow fever vaccine a few years ago before I went to Kenya, with the view that I’m probably going to be travelling to a  high risk country where I need the certificate in the future, so I might as well be protected in a low risk country too.

Antimalarial Tablets

For me, this time it was an easy decision.  I did a lot of research before I went to Kenya and I came to the conclusion which were best for me – obviously that was the most expensive option but health is important and who wants nasty side effects when you’ve spent so much on a holiday.  I had no side effects last time, so decided to go with the same for this trip, as they again were on the list of recommended antimalarials.

I was talking to a friend about how antimalarials are on a private prescription, and they didn’t seem to be able to get their head around it.  Like most people we presume that all UK NHS prescriptions are a standard charge of around £8.  This is not the case for antimalarials and they are not supplied on the NHS.  I have to pay the doctor’s practise a fee just for them to write the prescription then I’ll need to shop around to find the pharmacy that will supply them the cheapest, I think they’ll cost around £70.

UPDATE!  I have since discovered that you don’t necessarily need a prescription for anti-malarials, you can have a consultation with a pharmacist.  I went into Tesco Pharmacy,  who told me they could do the prescription for £50, however if I had a consultation I could get them for just £31.  Waste of money on the private prescription, but at least I know for next time. 

Although most of the lodges I’ll be staying at will probably have mosquito nets, I’m not going to chance it and plan on taking my own.  The nurse I saw also mentioned that she’d assume I’d be taking my own, and added that I’ll know what state of repair my own net is in.  Which is true, when moving from lodge to lodge, who has time to check the net for holes every time.  I’d much rather spend that time sitting outside watching the world go by, obviously with spf 30+ and covered in deet.

Covering Up

After all the lectures I have about covering up when in high risk malaria area, it often astounds me, how many people go out of an evening with bare arms and legs.  (Yes, I’m guilty of it too).  That said, leggings and light weight shirts often work well for me over dresses.  Although for the time of year I’m going away, the nights won’t be warm, so covering up will be an easier thing to do.

I’ve heard lots of theories about how to keep mosquitos away, they include not eating sugary foods and not wearing perfumes.  I try both.

Insects In the Sand

It shocked me in thailand how many people walked on the beach barefoot.  I’d heard (from the nurse) of those horrible insects that burrow up through the sand up through your feet.  Flip flops on the beach – always.  Am I just being paranoid, no one else seems to do it?

Rabies

This vaccine isn’t free, and I’m yet to have it.  I’m undecided.  I’ve been googling and see a split in opinion.  So firstly rabies vaccines costs around £150 for the course.  Secondly if I get infected then I still need to get to a hospital for another jab.  So this is why some people think it’s not necessary.  However, once the symptoms of rabies start then it’s game over and there is no cure.  It’s a disease that affects the brain, and not a nice way to go from what I’ve learnt.  If I don’t have the vaccine and if I was infected, I’d need a course of 4 or 5 injections on different days, if I did then it’s 2 injections.

Do you notice I’m careful not to say bitten?  I believe that being scratched or licked by an infected animal can also mean you’ll be infected.  Advice is to wash the area with water and soap as soon as possible, then to seek medical advice.  The animal doesn’t have to be foaming at the mouth to show it’s infected and it’s not just dogs.  You may be surprised to hear that cats and bats can also have rabies.  I’ve found this great article.  8 things you may not know about rabies

I’m still looking at the evidence for both, but at the moment I’m swaying towards having the vaccines.

There is So Much Information

I haven’t even touched the surface.  Other things to consider include how your food is prepared and staying away from fruit and salad in buffets, taking rehydration sachets with you and so much more.  All seasoned travellers know these things and it’s having a holiday or travelling experience where illness is avoided as much as possible, so we can make the most of our time away.

Enjoy Your Holiday

I do all my research on health before I go away.  Then when I’m away I can just enjoy my trip, and try and stay as healthy as I can.

Travel Top Trumps Rant

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For those that haven’t heard of top trumps: Wikipedia Top Trumps

So why has travel become a game of top trumps lately?  It seems everyone is in a hurry to visit as many counties as they can, just to say they’ve been there and brag to their friends.  The pictures are on facebook before they’ve even boarded the plane home.  Travel, it would seem, is the new Louis Vuitton handbag.  A must have.

I was sat next to a couple on a short plane flight a few weeks back, on my way back home.  They were “place droppers” and mentioned New York, I said “Oh yes I like New York, too.”   They then wanted to show off and name somewhere they didn’t think I would have been and they mentioned Chicago.  To which I commented “I wish I’d had more than a few days there.”  They seemed insistent to want to shake me off and mentioned LA.  Yes you’ve guessed it I came back with “I loved Santa Monica and Venice Beach.”

Oh no I’d started to play their game!  How did I get sucked in?  Then I asked “have you ever travelled along route 66?”  I told them “It’s great to see a cross section of the country, see the changing scenery, changing accents and change in culture.”  They looked at me blankly and didn’t really understand but hey I’d just won: Top Trumps!

The following should come as no surprise: I love travelling.  I love meeting new people.  I love experiencing new cultures.  I love how each country teaches me something new.

I don’t travel to a new country, just to say I’ve been there, nor to add to my count of countries I’ve visited.   The picture above was from Puerto Rico, and a couple of years ago this was not an easy place to get to from the UK; it took me 15 hours and 3 flights to get home, and as it’s a US territory neither can I add to my count of countries I’ve visited.  (That is if I were keeping count.)  This is not a location for those wanting easy ‘travel points’.

Some friends consider me the most travelled person they know.  I know better.  Sure I’ve visited a few places, but as far as I’m concerned I’ve not even started yet.  Some friends consider me a holiday maker and not a traveller because I’ve not spent 6 months in hostels with a rucksack attached to my back.  I don’t think I’m either, I’m just someone who wants to experience a new culture, place, climate ,amongst other things.  Throughout the array of travel bloggers on the internet I know I’m a rookie at seeing the world.

I paused writing this, not sure why I was telling this story or indeed why the travel top trumps game was bothering me.  I read this article This is why I won’t stop travelling and then it all made sense.  I was bothered because I was getting sucked into the game.  I was starting to play.  I’d love to spend months travelling, and maybe one day I can make it happen.  It’s been two and half years since I’ve been anywhere outside of Europe, and I’m ready for my views on the world to be changed.  I’m ready to see somewhere I could never imagine.  I’m indeed ready for my two week holiday/safari/travel (delete as applicable) in Botswana and Zimbabwe.  I wonder how my views on life, universe and everything will change.

I don’t care that this trip will give me new cards to play, I won’t use them.  Next time I end up in a game of travel top trumps I’ll tell them the furthest I’ve been is Costa del Sol.

 

 

 

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Some of My Favourite Things From Route 66

Santa Fe

Beautiful city, it surprised me and completely changed my view of the USA, as it was nothing like I had imagined an American city.

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Abraham Lincoln’s Home, Springfield, Illinois

This was interesting and the guide that took us around the house was informative, and for the penny conscious – it’s also free.

 

Sinclair Station, Gay Parita

Gary Turner and his daughter greeted us immediately as we arrived and gave us each a photo of the station.  Their hospitality was amazing; telling us to help ourselves to a soda.  We heard stories, and saw his amazing route 66 memorabilia.  Our ten minute stop became much longer!  Hearing stories from all locals was some of the best parts of the road trip.

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Cadillac Ranch New Mexico

Leave your own mark here.

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The Changing Landscape

Not just the change in scenery, but accent and culture were all so evident.  As a Brit, it’s all too easy to see America as one country that is all just the same but every state has it’s own ways and own feels.

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The Randomness

If I’m truthful there really aren’t a lot of cultural sights to see on the way, but there’s lots of randomness.  So many things have been labelled a “Route 66 Attraction” and most of them are very random.

My Top Tips for New York

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Tip One: Do Both Empire State and Top of Rock

But do one in the morning and one as the sun is setting to see the city in a different light.  I was so grateful for this tip.  We saw a hazy New York morning from the empire state and the sunset from the top of rock.

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Tip Two: Book Broadway Tickets Same Day

You can’t go to New York without seeing a show that the whole world is talking about.  The discount stall, TKTS in the centre of times square is the easiest and best option; they even have an app so you know before you go what they are offering.  We got tickets for some great shows, including Chicago and Matilda.

Tip Three: See an Off Broadway show

It’s just cool to say you’ve been to an off broadway show.  The best ones have discount tickets at TKTS as above.  We saw Avenue Q, and I still think it’s the best musical I’ve seen.

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Tip Four: Stay near Times Square

This might be preference, but it’s good to feel in the centre of it all and get a real feel for the city.  Also handy for evenings if you are seeing a show.  There are a wide range of hotels, from the amazing boutique hotel French Quarter Apartments to budget Hotel Edison, which is probably one of the cheapest and closest to Times Square.  I’ve stayed in both and would recommend them.

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Tip Five: Get the audio guide for the statue of liberty

This allows you to walk around at a slower pace and not miss anything.  It’s very American and as a Brit it seemed a little cheesy; this just added to the experience.

Tip Six: Go in January

Yes it’s cold, but no one goes to New York in January, so we didn’t need to pre-book tickets for anything, and hotels are cheaper.  Just take lots of layers, enjoy the snow with less crowds and more of a local feel to the city.

Tip Seven: Pay Respects at the 911 memorial

This is one of the most powerful memorials I have ever seen.  It has been done very well.  I have no pictures to share, as I just wanted to pay my respects.

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Tip Eight: Go to Don’t Tell Mommas

Or any other piano bar in the city.  Get the chance to hear great singers with a piano, and the chance to sing yourself (if you’re any good).

Tip Nine: If it’s in your travel guide, also check it still really exists!

In my travel guide was a listing for a comic art gallery, we spent some time walking around trying to find it, we finally asked locally only to discover it is no longer there.  Always best to google or phone ahead of time.

Tip Ten: Soak up the atmosphere

With so much to go and see, you might forget to stop and soak up the atmosphere but find a little coffee shop and people watch.

Madeira in December

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Where to go in December?

Where to go in the winter when you don’t want to travel too far, but you’d like some warmth?  I ruled out the Canary Islands, only because I feel I’ve done the islands to death in my 20s.  I loved Cape Verde when I was there a few years ago too, but I like to explore new places.  I recalled a conversation with a work colleague who had told me they holiday often in Madeira and they love it.  I googled to look at the pictures and I was shocked how pretty it looked; decision made!

I Love Doing Research!

As always I love doing my research on where I’m going; for me it’s all part of the holiday.  My requirements for a hotel are pretty simple, first and foremost as a solo traveller I need to ensure that I am safe and that I feel safe.  I needed internet, as my evenings would be fairly restricted I decided I’d take my laptop and stream videos.  I know people say, go out and enjoy the new place you are in of an evenings but I just want to stay safe.  Generally if I know I’m going to be alone for a trip, I plan to do as much as I can in daylight hours.  It’s common sense, even in countries that are proclaimed as safe, I think it’s better to stay in a safe location than be looking over my shoulder all the time.

So I found the hotel I wanted to stay in.  Of course it ended up being a 5* hotel, as I have expensive taste.  The prices I was getting for the hotel on all well known hotel booking sites was expensive!  Out of curiosity I checked package holidays to see what hotels they had.  Bingo!  They had the hotel I wanted and it now worked out at almost half the price.  Top tip: check out all of your options!  I know there are travellers who never even consider a package holiday, whilst preaching that booking separately is cheaper.  Mostly it is, but like I say no harm in looking.

Really? A Package Holiday?

Package holidays can have their benefits: transfer included, a friendly rep on hand, an emergency telephone number and help with tours.  The nice thing about a 5* hotel is the  included transfer option is often a taxi and not a coach.

The Cliff Bay Hotel, Funchal

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My research paid off!  The hotel was amazing!

I was greeted by lovely reception staff who went through everything, after she’d gone through it all she said ‘one minute, I have something for you’, she disappeared into the back office and returned with a glass of bubbly.  I have to say it was a nice touch.  I headed to my room, and couldn’t believe how huge the room was.  I opened the windows to the huge patio window and I was hit smack bang in the middle of my face with an amazing beautiful view of the harbour.

I wasn’t intending on writing a review for the hotel, but I loved it so much that I couldn’t go past without saying how good it is.  The restaurants were great.  I even had afternoon tea one of the days.  The pool areas were great, although the weather wasn’t quite hot enough for me to sunbathe.

Day Tour

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I did one of the tour operator’s tours of the island, and I fell in love with the island, it was so beautiful and so interesting to hear the history.

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Another day I went on a catamaran to go whale and dolphin watching.  I was surprised just how much we got to see and what a highlight of the holiday it turned out to be.

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Funchal

I have to admit, I was shocked that Funchal felt very much like a European city.  I know it is, but having been to the Canary Islands a number of times, I expected it to have a similar feel to that.  I was not expecting to be in a bustling town with very European architecture.  I loved it.  I loved all the artwork scattered throughout the city also.

 

All in all Funchal and Madeira was not as I expected and it was such a pleasant surprise.  For me to take a suitcase away with me and to stay in one hotel for more than a few nights is not usual, but it’s always nice to do something different now and then, and just go somewhere to recharge the batteries.

 

Sailing the Amalfi Coast

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Firstly I have to tell you a secret: I never intended to ever return to Italy.

I’ve been to the country twice before and to be honest I couldn’t work out why others like it so.  I’m also aware that I am the only person I know that has been to Rome and didn’t fall instantly in love with the city.  So why did I return?  The simple reason is that friends I made on another sailing holiday a few years were doing the trip.  They live the other side of the world from me, and when they asked me to join them I thought it would be a great opportunity to catch up with them, and as Italy is really only a couple of hours on a plane for me it would be pretty easy.  Also sailing is lots of fun; something lovely about being rocked to sleep whilst on a yacht.

I, of course, checked out the trip before I booked.  It was another Intrepid Travel trip.  This would be my third time booking a tour with them; second time doing one of their sailing trips.  The itinerary looked great: Amalfi Coast Sailing and I phoned intrepid to ask some questions, as always they were helpful and lovely.  I discovered they could hold the place for a couple days whilst I gave it some more thought (I hadn’t known they do that).

Arriving in Naples

Based on the late time my flight arrived in Naples, I knew I would have to wait until the next day to catch my ferry to Procida.  With hearing the stories of Naples not being too safe, I decided to just book a hotel close to the ferry port.  The hotel I found through booking.com had such charm and charisma; when I got there I was almost disappointed I was only staying at the hotel for one night.  I’ve since learnt that Naples has been named fifth in Lonely Planet’s Secret Europe Destinations 2016, and this just shows as always, I should have ignored the “it’s not safe” tag and stayed a little longer there.

Ferry To Procida

I booked my tickets online before leaving home, and although maybe not necessary at the time of year to do so in advance (unlike July and August where pre-booking is recommended), I think it made things easier and avoided any language confusion I may have caused as I don’t speak the correct lingo.  The ferry was only 40 minutes and it was as straightforward as straightforward could be.   I headed to the cafe where I was meeting the Intrepid group leader and the rest of my travelling companions.  As I already knew two of them would be me my lovely Aussie friends, I wasn’t worried too much.

Meeting My New Travel Companions And Yacht Skipper

I had lunch in the designated cafe, and waited for others to arrive.  My friends were the first to join me and I had chance to catch up with their travels.  Soon another three ladies showed up.  They all seemed normal!  Phew!  Two sisters from Australia and a girl in her late twenties from the states.  The skipper joined us and introduced himself and then we had two more people to wait for.  We waited for them to arrive, while we chatted.  Time was getting on, they were nowhere to be seen and we needed to do a food shop.

The Kitty and Food for the Week

The skipper told us what food was already on board. £25 was the recommended amount for us all to put into the kitty and we stuck with that.  We all discussed things we liked and didn’t, and the skipper offered to cook us dinner on board that evening.  We agreed on fish pasta.

We walked around the local shops together as a group and our skipper/group leader helped us translate to the shop assistants, and gave us advice.  Helpfully pointing out what foods were produced locally and always encouraging us to go for that option, whilst it was never a problem if we wanted something out of the region.  Which is just as well, being a Brit in Italy I needed Prosecco!

As a group everyone was chilled with what we bought, if someone wanted something then we bought it.  There was even enough money in the kitty for alcohol too.

Luckily our skipper headed back to the original meeting point, and found the other travelling companions; they’d been given the wrong time by their travel agency.  Another two lovely Aussie Ladies.

The Yacht

As I’d done a previous sailing trip, I knew what to expect when it came to the boat.  Just enough space for 8 to sit outside, downstairs there is a small kitchen with a cooker and fridge and a table with enough space for 8.  Getting in each others way in the communal area is part of the experience.  There were 5 bedrooms rooms.  The skipper took the one at the front, then there were two rooms with bunk beds and two rooms with double beds.

I was sharing one of the bunk bed rooms with the lovely american, who luckily was very easy going.  The wardrobe was very small, enough room to hang a few things and two shelves; one each.  I was only just able to fit my clothes for the week.  Under the bottom bunk bed I was able to squash down my duffle bag to store.  It is advised to only take soft bags, for this reason, as there’s really not a lot of room.

First Stop: Ishcia

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We left beautiful Procida and set sail for lovely Ishcia before it got dark.  We anchored at this beautiful location with no other boats around and the beautiful castle for scenery.  Our skipper started to cook dinner for us (which we were all most grateful for),  we pitched in where we could, but with such limited room around the kitchen you could feel like you were just getting in the way.  Whilst we had dinner, we cracked open the prosecco and got to know one another.  It was clear we had a good group and a good skipper/group leader; we’d struck it lucky.

The next morning we prepared our own breakfast from the supplies we had on the boat and then headed to land.  When you have awful balance as I do, getting from the yacht to the inflatable yacht tender can be a little worrying that I could fall into the sea.  Luckily the group were patient with me and the skipper told me exactly where to put my feet and this made sure I did not fall in the water.

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We had a couple of hours to explore the island and do whatever we wanted.  I was happy just to wonder and look in the shops.  Although I do hear the castle is worth the 10 euro entry fee.

We could have had lunch on the island if we’d chosen to, but we headed back to the yacht to prepare our own from the supplies we had.  After all we had delicious fresh local cheese, tomatoes and prosciutto, amongst other things on the boat.

Next Stop: Sorrento

We set sail, and unlike the day before where we had just been motoring, we actually put the sails out.  The nice thing about the sailing trips that intrepid do is that you can get involved and a couple of the group who had experience in sailing and some that hadn’t got involved with pulling ropes or whatever it is you need to do.  I’m happy to just enjoy the trip and not get involved, and that’s OK too.  I think there is nothing like sailing on a yacht admiring the beautiful scenery.

Sea sickness is common and I make sure I take travel sickness tablets in the morning and don’t go below deck whilst we are moving.  (I learnt this the hard way from my last sailing trip).  There are a few things that can help once you get sea sickness and these include looking forward and having the wind in your face.

We moored at a marina in Sorrento.  It had wifi, so we “lost” people for a short while, as they put their head into the phone and caught up with the outside world.  As a group, we ate at a lovely restaurant, where I had a delicious calzone.  I thought it was nice that the group leader also joined us and was part of the group and not just our leader.  We were never restricted to the recommended restaurant, and could chose to go somewhere else, split up from the group or even eat on the boat.  However we always chose to eat as a group, and the restaurant we went to was always reasonably priced.

Pompeii

After a good night’s sleep in the marina at Sorrento, being gently rocked to sleep by the sea, we were up early to catch a bus to the station, followed by a train to Pompeii.  Our group leader made it all straight forward and with some wise advice to be on the left of the train as then the sun wouldn’t be on us.  Once off the train, we were greeted by our lovely tour guide, who was arranged by intrepid.  The guide was extra but the whole group had agreed a few days earlier to share the cost.

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The tour guide brought Pompeii alive for me, and it was no longer just ruins.  I could truly imagine how it would have been.  I would thoroughly recommend visiting with a guide.  The three hours there were amazing.

Afternoon in Sorrento

After lunch we headed back to Sorrento.  Some decided to get the ferry over to Capri, as they were only doing the 4 day trip which didn’t include Capri.  Some of us enjoyed a local coffee in a square in Sorrento.  (Now I’m home, I’m still missing being served a delicious cappuccino at just the right temperature to drink.)  We then walked around all the lanes of shops and took in the atmosphere of this lovely town.

Next Stop: Amalfi

After another nights stay in Sorrento we set sail in the morning for Amalfi, passing Positano on the way.

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Sadly we had to say goodbye to three of our group today.  The trip could be done as a full week, or 4 days (either the first half or the second).  Only five of us did the full week.  We were joined by a new Australian couple.  When living in such a small space, you bond quickly with your fellow travellers and joining an established group half way through must have been quite difficult for them.  Feedback which I have already given to Intrepid.

Some of the group caught the ferry over to Positano, but I decided to explore Amalfi with a couple of the others.  It was disappointing that we didn’t have time to do both, but we already were seeing a lot in such a short space of time anyway.

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I’m so pleased I got a chance to walk around the church in Amalfi Cathedral.  It’s certainly worth visiting.

Next Stop: Capri

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We caught the funicular, which climbs uphill through lemon groves and drops you directly in the Piazzetta of Capri.  The town is so beautiful, and we headed to the picturesque gardens which could be so easily missed if you didn’t know about them.  Today for me was a non-camera-day, sometimes I just want to experience the day and not see any of it through the viewfinder of my camera.  All of the others in the group took plenty of photos for me to remember it anyway.

Again that evening we helped our skipper prepare a lovely dinner, whilst we watched capri start to light up from the boat and sipped more prosecco.

Day on the Boat

Due to weather conditions we headed back to Ishcia.  Some went on shore, but I took the opportunity to have a lazy day and sit around on the boat and read.  We then headed back to Procida for our final evening.

Back to Procida

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The trip finished in the morning and I said my goodbyes to all of the group except to my two friends who had invited me to join them and I spent my final day on the beautiful island with them.  I’m so pleased I had some extra time to enjoy this island, which is a bit of a hidden treasure across the Amalfi coast.  It is far less touristy than the other islands, to my eye it is more beautiful and the local charm is unmissable.

In the late afternoon I jumped back on a ferry and headed back to the airport and said goodbye to Italy.

Conclusion?

This trip became more about the people I met along the way than the beautiful scenery.  All of the original group are now my friends on facebook, and I’m under strict instructions to get saving so I can go and visit them in Australia.  Even when catching the plane there and back, I spoke to so many other travellers.

And the other question: would I go back to Italy?  Yes!  Yes, it’s back on the list of places to visit.