Saturday, 27 June 2009

Slovenia's Coast and Karst

Friday 26 June: Spacious italiarail train (7th mode of transport) to Trieste then local bus (8th mode) across the border to pretty Venetian harbour town of Piran (Pirano in Italian) for a few days rest from the frenetics of Paris and Venice. The best and most secluded little section of stony beach, preferred by naturists, is below the clock tower of St George's Cathedral, high above the town. Take care as even the most seasoned traveller can burn the parts where the sun rarely shines.
Sea food, particularly grilled sardines, and pizza especially good when washed down with locally produced Tehran red, Malvazija white or nearby Karst region Merlot. Great local rambles from the TIC's Piraner Wanderwege leaflet.
Another day out is by Slovenske zeleznice split-level train (9th mode) from Koper to Divaca station for Skocjan Caves (UNESCO World Heritage Site) with a wide array of staligtites, staligmites, columns, pillars, curtains and a cascade of water deposited limestone pools. You can get a bus or, better still, pick up a free map from the station and take the hour-long trail through Skocjan Caves Regional Park to the caves. The signposted walk is easy to follow and is even more clearly signed on the way back to the station. There's no rush as the only two afternoon trains back to Koper are at 5:23 and 7:00.
Next day, bus to Koper then Slovenske zeleznice split-level train (10th mode) to Postojna in the Karst limestone region for the local caves, the largest in Europe. Viewing the spectacular cave section open to the public is by underground electric train (11th mode) for 2 miles then about 1 mile walking. At €30 for an en-suite Hotel Sport was a pretty good deal. Next day walked 12 miles or so to Predjama Castle and back to stretch my legs a little before more rigorous walks later in the trip. Click to see my pictures of Piran, Izola and Skocjan Caves and again for Postojna cave and castle.


Monday 22 June: Overnight Artesia couchette (5th mode of transport) south from Paris Bercy to Venice St Lucia then Vaporetto canal bus (6th mode) with a 72 hour pass to Ostello Venezia on Giudecca island, just 5 min from St Marco. With it's labyrinth of narrow-boat canals England's Black Country tourist board call Birmingham the Venice of the North, I wonder why the city fathers don't call Venice the Birmingham of the South?
Car free and with numerous bridges linking all the main islands it's a great city to explore on foot, especially with a good guide-book map in hand. Took a Gigolo ferry (6th mode) for €0.5 , a sensible man's Gondola, across the Grand Canal where there was no convenient bridge. Gondallas are €80 an hour.
Venice is fairly expensive by London standards but with a captivating charm that grows with each day. You can view my pictures by clicking Venice.

Friday, 26 June 2009


Saturday 20 June 2009: Being poor in Paris has a long and proud past: starving hoards driven to revolt for lack of a crust, Jacobite freedom-fighters and poets in draughty garrets, down-and-out George Orwell in the 1930s, even a rougish scurrying creature in Disney's Ratatouville. Today the hungry eyes peering longingly through the restaurant window are more likely to belong to distressed English tourists rather than a wine-sodden Scottish wordsmith.
With the GB pound close to parity with the euro the usual pleasures of Paris come at a hefty price. A simple coffee at Cafe les Editeurs on the left bank is now €4.50, internet access is €6 per hour and it's €1.80 to spend a penny in Jardin du Luxembourg. Poverty needn't mean misery so, for those on a budget, it's time to penny-pinch in Paris. The humble bagette's state controlled price is still less than a euro and a half-decent bottle of French wine can be had for less than €5; cheese, cold meats, pate, salad and fruit can also be inexpensive. But, for a city famed worldwide for pleasant fragrances it's a pity so many streets and the riverside smell of human piss, not all of it male.
But, Paris is a beautiful capital - city strolls and walks in parks and gardens are free, drinking-water fountains abound, Metro and double-decker RER tickets (4th mode of transport) are, compared with London, cheap . Entrance fees are not, the Eiffel Tower is €13 and Musee d'Orsay €8. Pere Lachaise cemetery is just the ticket, entrance is free and maps for just €2 are available from florists around the main gates. Alternatively you can search the 70,000 tombs yourself. One of Europe's most famous cemeteries, you can pay homage to writers and musicians like Chopin, Edith Piaf, Moliere, Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust and Jim Morrison (although you may have to provide your own music) 'This is the end . . .'
You can view my pictures by clicking Paris.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Bon voyage - leaving London

Hopped on to London Underground's Northern Line tube (1st mode of transport) to Stockwell then the Victoria Line to London St Pancras International Station for Eurostar (2nd mode) to Paris Gare du Nord Station and a short jaunt by Paris Metro (3rd mode) orange line 5 to Republique for the Joules Ferry Hostel nearby in central Paris. To view a slide show of farewells to family, friends and London sights I will miss click here.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Red tape

Passports need to be valid for at least six months beyond the trip. Some nations require UK citizens to obtain tourist visas prior to entering the country while others permit visas to be picked up at the point of entry. An IH (International YHA) card, UHIC (European Health Insurance Card) together with comprehensive insurance (Downunder Worldwide Travel Insurance, policy no: DU09/303843) and a Medicare card (on arrival in Australia) are a must.
  • Turkey: 90 day, £10, at point of entry
  • Iran: 30 day, £85 (95 euro) plus £30 agency fee, (with option of extensions in Iran) valid for 3 months from the date of issue, prior to entry, detailed itinerary required, via the Iran Visa Agency in Tehran. Apply well in advance for pick up at the Iranian Embassy, PO Box 33, Tahran Caddesi 10, Kavakidere, Ankara, tel: +90 (0) 312 468 2821, fax: +90 (0) 312 468 2823, e-mail:
  • Pakistan: 30 day, valid for 6 months from date of issue, £53 plus £2 bank charges, prior to entry, itinerary required, 1-day turn around from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan High Commission, 34 Lowndes Square, Knightsbridge, London SW1 (VE981685: date of issue 9 June 2009, good for journey up to 8 December 2009)
  • India: 180 day maximum stay per visit multiple-entry tourist visa valid for 1 year from date of issue, £50 plus £8.86 service charge, prior to entry, itinerary required, 3-day turn around from the India Visa Centre in the UK, 60-62 Wilton Road, Victoria, London (AG 126393: valid 22 May 2009 - 21 May 2010)
  • Bangladesh: 30 day, £40, prior to entry, arrange in Delhi
  • Nepal: 60 day, £20, prior to entry, arrange in Kolkata (Calcutta)
  • China: 30/21 day, £30, prior to entry, arrange in Delhi
  • Vietnam: 30 day, £40, prior to entry, arrange in Kunming
  • Cambodia: 30 day, £25, at point of entry - Kaam Samnor
  • Thailand: 60 day, £28, prior to entry, arrange in Phmon Penh
  • Singapore: 90 day, no charge, at point of entry
  • Indonesia: 60 day, no charge, at point of entry - Medan
  • Philippines: 59 day, £10, at point of entry
  • Australia: 90 day eVisitor, prior to entry, £10 online from the Australian Government's Electronic Travel Authority System