Category Archives: Travel

Ferrari Drive

The day arrived that I would finally and with tightly crossed fingers that I would finally get to drive a Ferrari. An early drive meant that I was walking to the beach front at 9am. I was early and at the same time eager. I had a morning coffee on the beach front on a damp and overcast morning, not exactly awe inspiring.

As I waited for the car to arrive, I wondered about the whereabouts of my travelling friend. He had not yet arrived. I took some time to reflect on my trip so far. I had gone through so many cities. Seen so many sights, as if trying to fill every moment to capacity. I was becoming tired of travel and living out of a backpack. I was happy to know that I had only lost two pairs of thongs (flip flops). I had enjoyed travelling but maybe the time had come to head to London.

Inward reflection out of the way I looked at my watch and realised that there was only 5 mins to our drive and it was then that my compatriot arrived. Nearly out of breath, with a grin across his face. Obviously excited, I soon learned something else. His disappointment at not getting to drive in Monaco led him to a late night on the drink. He already mentioned to me that his licence in Ausralia was  suspended, I started to wonder if he was going to be able to drive at all.

A Ferrari 360 Modena arrived at the Raoul Casino. After a round of scissors, paper, rock I settled for taking the second drive. And yes the thought that the car wouldn’t return certainly entered my mind. I was happy to the car’s safe return after the first drive.

Although the style of Ferrari’s have moved on quite a bit since the release of the 360, this one had all the soul you expect from a Ferrari. You can tell that the interior is had crafted with hints of subtle imperfections. It wasn’t exactly built for my 6″2′ body, but I was comfortable enough once I got in, but getting in wasn’t exactly graceful. The machine finished gear slots and dials make you feel that you are getting into car that was built to excite the racing soul, not to pamper.

The pedals are snugly placed to the left of the foot well, quite close together, mind you being in France, the steering wheel is on the left. Is this a good time to mention that I had not driven a left hand drive car before? The group of on lookers with their cameras out added to the experience. They were not disappointed when I turned the key and the engine awoke with a rumble. A quick stab on the accelerator started my heart racing.

As I took off I could tell that the car had a racing clutch, very little room for play. a lapse in concentration would certainly make for an embarrassing stall. I put the car into first and started to take off. I cautiously waited for the traffic to pass before taking off. The all encompassing sound of the 3.6 litre V8 was like a symphony playing behind me… As you can probably tell I was completely taken by the car. So much so that I ran a red light and nearly veered into the lane beside me.

I continued cautiously until the drive instructor said “You know, this is a Ferrari, its made to be driven.” I needed no more encouragement than that. I dropped the car into second gear and felt the immediate push and roar of the engine. The tail end of the car stepped out slightly. My grin was obvious proof of the thrill I got. I allowed the tail to come back tipped into third and all of a sudden I was certain I was going much faster than I should be on a public road.. In a foreign country… on the wrong side of the road… in a car that was originally priced at $180,ooo. I reigned in my speed and just enjoyed the rest of the drive along the Nice beach front.

This would be an experience that I would never forget. It was also the experience that made for a wonderful conclusion to an amazing journey that took me through Europe.

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Nice and Monaco

So back on the Busabout bus we made our way from La Spezia to another country and that meant another language. From Bonjourno to Bonjour, Grazie to Merci, it was just a good thing that most people in both places spoke english. While on the bus we had an impromptu language lesson, the basic terms that would help us along were covered. You would think that I had it nailed. Not so much. Continue reading

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La Spezia – Cinque Terre

The last stop in Italy on my tour was Cinque Terre, La Spezia. As you may have already deduced, Cinque Terre translates to Five Lands. Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. Probably best known for its National Park and also being home to one of the best walking trails in the world, the Sentiero Azzurro.

The Sentiero Azzuro connects the five towns. Through Busabout, I booked a room in Riomaggiore, the south most town in Cinque Terre, also the closest of the five to La Spezia. Riomaggiore is, like all of the towns, built on a steep hillside. If you need to go anywhere, be prepared for stairs. Luckily the budget accommodation I was staying in was at the bottom of the hill and close to the access tunnel for the railway and the Sentiero Azzurro.

I look back on my trip there and wish I had spent more time there. The vivid colour and the unique atmosphere really made for an amazing location. It was reminiscent of the Amalfi Coast, well without the road running through its heart.

Of the three sections of the coastal walk, the first section northbound from Riomaggiore is The Lovers Path. It is an easy 30 minute walk along a paved coastal pathway. This is by far the easiest walk you will do. In fact, you may exert more energy going from your accommodation to the walk, yes it’s that easy.

The second section was closed so I caught a train from Manarola to Corniglia. It was from this point on that the walk got serious. I am not going to go into details about the walk but it was equally challenging and rewarding. The views are spectacular. Make sure you have plenty of water and fill up as often as you can.

Sadly in October last year Cinque Terre was all but wiped out by flooding. Torrential rain battered the coast that lead to a terrible disaster. I am thankful that I got to see this beautiful area before it was struck by such tragedy. Telegraph Report by Nick Squires

The good news is that many restaurants and business will be open this coming summer in Vernazza and Monterosso. Perhaps now is a great time to get discounted travel to this absolute gem of a location. I know it will certainly help the local economy and family owned establishments bounce back.

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Florence, Italy – Day Two

Today was all about going to the Michelangelo Square. This meant crossing the famous Ponte’ Vecchio. Before any of that though, a thorough breakfast would be essential!

I was told by one of the other travelers about a small cafe that did a decent breakfast. overlooking the Piazza Dell’Indepenzia, on the corner of Via 27 Aprile, is Cafe Delixee’. They certainly did a decent bacon and eggs and didn’t mind me swapping the toast for pancakes and maple syrup. Continue reading

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Florence, Italy – Day One

The first morning I decided to check out the Statue of David. check out the leather markets and the Statue of David. I was absolutely gob smacked to see so many stalls all selling similar items. Well everything leather at least. The streets were lined as far as the eye could see with leather stalls. Long coats, jackets, vests, pants, underwear, wallets, purses, handbags, man-bags, laptop bags, jewelery boxes, belts, straps and just about everything else your leather imagination will allow you to dream up. Continue reading

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Florence, Italy

Arriving at the Plus Hostel Florence for the first time initially gave me the same feeling I had in Prague. The tall gates that were opened for the bus to drive through was intimidating. The buildings cubist appearance was not exactly welcoming and seeing the Top Deck bus in the lot once we were in made me feel as though this was going to be another ordinary hostel experience. Gladly, I was very mistaken. Continue reading

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On the way to Florence, we stopped at a small town in Italy called Orvieto. This quaint town with tight cobble stoned alley ways dates back to the Etruscan era. It’s prominently perched upon a piece of volcanic rock and visitors access the town with via the  funicular, a cable train that runs strait up the hill.

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