In love with Rome

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There is only one thing I did not like about Rome – massive crowds of tourists everywhere! But no wonder since Rome is such an amazing place. Me & Louise based ourself close to Colosseum which turned out to be a good choice since we could walk almost everywhere.

The first evening we just strolled aimlessly towards the old city. I really loved the Vittorio Emanuele monument, seen on below pictures. We passed it almost every day and the horses on top of this marvelous place was seen from most of the locations where we visited. We also saw a glimpses of the massive 2000 year old Parthenon the first nigh and cozy street life in the old town. Not to forget the daily Gelato (Italian ice-cream) ;-) This specific night we tried a place that has no less than 150  flavors. On below picture Louise is trying to make her choice…

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The next day we decided to start with the Vatican city. Is is one of those “must do things” that I would not do again. Crowds! Exhausted after our visit to the St. Peters Basilica we sat down in a café close by to unwind with two scopes of ice-cream and a coffee. The bill? 24 Euro! We though it was a bad joke. Learning; chose carefully where you eat and drink in Rome.

After the Vatican city we payed a visit to the St. Angelo Castle. And what a view from up there! The top picture above is taken from this castle. You had amazing views all directions. Do not miss this if you go!

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A visit to Rome is of course not complete without seeing the Fontana di Trevi. But really, it is surrounded by so much people that is hard to enjoy. Same goes for the famous Spanish stairs which were in fact so uncharming that they did not deserve to be on a picture in this post.

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On Saturday evening we went to non touristy Testaccio and had a wonderful meal at the very local restaurant “Acqua e Farina”. The bill was not much more than the two scopes of ice-cream and the coffee close by the Vatican city, remember? ;-) And then we ate a lot and shared a bottle of wine too. Testaccio is a nice place for going out as well. Many small clubs are lined up along a narrow street. There is something for all tastes and we had such a great night that we took a sleep in the next day ;-)

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The biggest “must see” in Rome apart from Colosseum is the Forum Romanum, the center of ancient Rome. It is truly magic to walk around this area, located just in central Rome, and realize that you gaze at (parts of) the same buildings that the people of the Roman empire once did.

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What amazed me most, and became a true highlight of my visit to Rome, was to get inside the Colosseum. It is one thing to view it from the outside. But it is first when you stand inside its walls that you realize the grandiosity of this place. I regret so much that we did not take a guided tour. But I managed to sneak up to a group and listen in to parts of the bloody stories that this place hides.

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We saved the coziest area to the last evening. Despite lots of tourists Trastevere has a nice local vibe. Is is a great area to to have a bit or a drink or just do some people watching. We had a lovely last evening in this nice vibrant area. Afterwards I really felt in love with Rome :-)

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On of the tastiest highlights however was the ice-cream place just around the corner from where we lived. The pistachio at Ciuri Ciuri – Oh My! I could go back to Rome just for that ;-)

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Going back in time in Pompeii

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79 AD the volcano Vesuvius erupted and killed 16000 people living in Pompeii. The heat waves were so strong that the people died instantly while doing there things. Therefore the bodies were preserved under the ash, many in motion, and can be viewed in this extraordinary open air museum that Pompeii today is. Excavations started 1748 and what you now experience as a visitor is a well preserved large ancient roman city that takes you right back into the past. In some houses there are still wall paintings that looks like they did almost 2000 years ago. The bathhouses are so well kept that you really can imagine how it was back then. I was never fond of history at school but it is hard not to become when you walk around in such a place as Pompeii. Unfortunately it took us a lot of time to get there from Amalfi, where we were based, and to be able to get back again in time we had only three hours to walk around. To cover as much as possibly we almost ran parts of it and still we had no time for the Amphitheater and many other extraordinary sights. What we heard much about were the interesting wall paintings of the old brothels. Unfortunately the one we were going to visit was closed for restoration, as many other parts, so we missed that ;-) If you go, spend a full day! Don´t underestimate the size of this place. And without a map you will get lost. Below some pictures from our time traveling…

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A daytour along the Bohuslän coast of Sweden

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My father lives on the southeast coast of Sweden and I on the west. When he visits me he always comes with the train. That is much cheaper than driving and very comfortable :) When he visited me this weekend we rented a car over the day one day, to be able to discover a bit more of the fantastic Bohuslän coast.

We stopped in three places. Fiskebäckskil, Fjällbacka and Grebbestad. Fiskebäckskil was by far the most picturesque. With just around 400 residents it is a small place. It was wonderful to just walk around and watch all the colorful perfect houses, standing tight together like in most small villages in this area. Fjällbacka was a bit bigger. Around 800 people lives there. I am not a reader myself, but there is a famous crime author that has Fjällbacka as location for her crimes. Camilla Läckberg is her name. Fjällbacka has a mountain called Vetteberget stretching out behind the little community. From there you have a stunning view over the Fjällbacka archipelago. I would love to go and stay on one of those islands sometimes. It must be so peaceful.

Our last stop, and the shortest stop, was Grebbestad. A small town with around 1400 residents. I liked what I saw and wish we had more time to hang around but both me and my father were tired from all the impressions and wanted to head back to Gothenburg to relax on my balcony before bedtime. To summarize we had a fantastic day with perfect weather and lots of beautiful surroundings that for sure made me want to come back!

Below images are from Fiskebäckskil.

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Below images are from Fjällbacka.

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Below images are from Grebbestad.

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Discovering the Amalfi coast

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As I wrote about in my last post Louise & I chose to base ourself in the little town Montepertuso, just above famous Positano, during our vacation to the Amalfi coast. Above is the view that met us when descending the more than 1000 steps to the shore. We walked up almost every day as Italy´s high carb cuisine demands lots of exercise ;-) However we only walked down twice since it is a bit tough for the knees with all the steps. The other days we took the small local bus down the hill.

Positano was not really my cup of tea. Too crowded and not so authentic (maybe it was but you did not see it due to the crowds). The one going to the Amalfi coast should be aware that the buses does not run very frequently, nor does the boats. They are also not matched in schedule. This means that a big amount of our days went to transporting ourself. But this is the only way if you want to see different areas. We used the waiting time to eat ice cream :-P Italy has wonderful ice cream – Gelato!

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We really wanted to see the pretty mountain town Ravello. The way to go there was by boat from Positano to the town Amalfi and then bus from there. Ravello is most famous for the Villa Rufolo garden from where you have magnificent coastal views, framed by trees and flowers. The little town Ravello is cozy to stroll around. I was amazed by the huge lemons outside one of the stores. The Amalfi coast is very famous for their lemons used for many purposes.

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There are many trekking possibilities on the Amalfi coast. The most famous walk, and the one that should not be missed, is the “Walk of the Gods”. In Italian called Sentiero degli Dei. To start the walk transport was needed by boat from Positano to pretty Amalfi (once again) and then bus to the mountain village Bomerano. The walk actually ends near to Montepertuso where we were staying.

It is ofcourse possible to do it the other way around but we were advised that the views would be more dramatic if we started in Bomerano (and it was!) It was really an amazing walk and not particular difficult at all. We stopped in Monteperstuso (it continues a bit after that). It took us only 3 1/2 hours completing the walk including about 30 minutes breaks for photographing and enjoying views.

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On our last day we decided to walk down the stairs as we had done the first day. The views are very pretty  as you descend. We had heard about a lunch restaurant in a small bay not far from Positano. The place was supposed to have a free shuttle boat to take you there and back and the reputation said they had amazing, and very affordable, seafood. We found the boat with the red fish sign saying “Da Adolfo” and jumped in. It was a nice short journey before approaching the bay. We ate great food, drank beer and relaxed but unfortunately bad weather reached us just after dinner so we never had the possibility to swim and sunbathe as planned. (Worth mentioning here is that the Amalfi coast is not a beach destination, the beaches are not very nice).

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To conclude we had a couple of fantastic days in the Amalfi coast. But my experience would not have been the same would we have stayed in busy Positano or elsewhere. It was really Montepertuso and our B&B Le Ghiande that made my experience complete!

THE place to stay in Amalfi is Montepertuso!!!

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Just back from a 10 days vacation in Italy it is time to blog again. As most of my trips nowadays, I was accompanied by my friend Louise :) We started of with six active but relaxing days in the Amalfi region and ended with four days Rome.

Amalfi, as many parts of Italy, is extremely busy with tourists. No wonder as it is exceptionally beautiful. When doing research about where to stay in Amafli I fell for B&B Le Ghiande, a place higher up in the mountains, in the small town Montepertuso above the famous town Positano. Le Ghiande had top rates and reviews that made me convinced that this was the place for us! The more than 1000 steps up from the coast might not make this the first choice for everyone (no worries, there are buses). But we could not be happier about our stay! I don´t have enough words to explain how great Le Ghiande is. It was dark when we arrived and below is the view we woke up to on our first day!

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Le Ghiande is run by Salvatore & his father Carlo. To their help they also have a guy called Dimitri working with them. Those people are so genuinely kind. Salvatore is English speaking and takes care of all praticalities around the guests and makes sure everyone is informed an comfortable. Papa Carlo does not speak English but he is very social and loves to share his homemade Limoncello with the guests. He grows beans & lemons in the garden and maybe some other things too that we never saw. He is a very proud man. Dimitri serves breakfasts, makes sure your room is as clean as is possible and also prepares the jacuzzi for the small amount of 5 Euro.

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After an active day around Amalfi it was so relaxing to come back to Le Ghiande and wind down before going out for dinner. And now to another great things; Montepertuso happens to have some of Amalfi´s best restaurants, just around the corner from where we lived. We ate at Il Ritrovo three times. An amazing family restaurant with great discount for Le Ghiande guests.

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One day, after an active trekking day, we used the jacuzzi and then tried the restaurant La Tagliata around the corner from Le Ghiande. Another family restaurant that does not have a meny. Instead for a set price you eat and drink all kinds of traditional food that are served throughout the evening. Many hotels in Positano have an arrangement where they bus guests up for an evening here and picks them up again. When we were there the evening ended in on big Limoncello party. From being the observers from our small table we suddenly ended up being in the center of attention as we happily entertained the American guests with Swedish drinking songs ;-) Our table that night looked like we had one wild party. But to tell the truth, me & Louise were perfectly fine, compared to the rest of the guests. What a night!

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It was a bit sad to leave this magic place, but other adventures were waiting and left are only beautiful memories from a peaceful and friendly stay in Montepertuso and B&B Le Ghiande.

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A last sushi & a night in a capsule

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Before my second trip to Japan came to an end I really wanted to experience a capsule hotel. So my last night after arriving back to Tokyo, after a wonderful week in Kyushu, I spent at Capsule In Kinshicho. The hotel was conveniently located close to a station with direct train to Narita International airport. Before I went there I had a great last sushi meal the station Kinshicho. In Japan there are many types of sushi restaurants. At the roller band kind there are always two peaces at each plate. At this particular place the plates had the same price tag. Most common is that they come on different colored plates and the color will indicate a certain price which makes it easy at the end to calculate your total price.

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The particular capsule hotel that I had chosen had several floors dedicated to men but just one for women. It is simply not so many women using those. On each floor everything was, as always in Japan, very organized. And at the bottom of the hotel you found the small reception. Since the hotel itself did not have any bathing facilities they had a deal with a sento next door. In Japan the bathing culture does not only occur in special onsen towns, which I have written about in my last two posts, it takes place in every corner. If the water is not of the better sort, it is called sento. Sentos will be found in every neighborhood and many people take their bath there instead of in their homes. Sentos are usual very small but the principles are the same. The one next door to Kinshicho was really good and I was so happy that I could enjoy this culture one last time. :-D

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So how did I sleep? Well, actually I was not claustrophobic as I had feared but the mattress inside was rather dodgy. Since I had read about a bed bugs experience from a fellow traveler I carefully checked my mattress. (If you have followed my blog for a while you know I have had bed bugs encounters twice and I never want to have it again!!!).

Since there are tv and radio in each capsule it is very noisy. I had bad luck that someone had the tv on the whole night which gave me a very bad sleep. But so I did not really mind to be exhausted for my long flight back to Sweden.

I have now finished documenting trip 2 to Japan. A country full of mysteries. I would love to go back again but as always, many other destinations are waiting to be explored. Tomorrow I am leaving to Italy :-) After I come back I will for sure have some focus on that for a few posts. Stay tuned…

A daytrip to Yufuin

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Just a short ride with train from Beppu lies the pretty little onsen town Yufuin. It is a pleasant daytrip from Beppu allowing for nice leisure strolls with a view of mount Yufu-dake always present in the background. I was first considering to stay a night in Yufuin but prices are very high, as in many onsen towns. I had my share of true onsen splurge in Kurokawa which I believe will be extremely hard to beat. Yufuin was one of few places in Japan where I did not find the atmosphere to be amazing. Maybe it is just too popular and too exploited. Nevertheless it is a very beautiful place. And I got to meet Totoro :-D

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Wonderful, mystical Beppu!!!

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Even if I was determined to pay a visit to Beppu, the onsen Mecca of Japan, I was also a bit reluctant due to some pre-reading insisting Beppu should be kind of a Japanese Las Vegas. But my days in Beppu turned out to be just one big explosion of impressions of the relaxing kind.

Enjoying the onsen world from Beppu is a very different experience than from Kurokawa, a green, picturesque place documented in my previous post. As many other cities in Japan, Beppu tend to feel a bit grayish surrounded by electrical wires and rather non charming architecture. But it is the feeling of what is going on between those grayish walls that makes it so captivating.

I based myself in the area Kannawa, mostly known for the kind of boiling hot onsen you should not bathe in. Those are referred to as the “The Hells”. It is geothermal activities in various colors that can be viewed against payment.  I saw a few but honestly but did not find it so impressing. However the gardens around them tend to be very pretty :)

What impressed me was that the budget accommodation I had booked through Hostelworld turned out to be a small apartment all to myself in in a cosy area where hot steam poured out of street valves from every corner 24/7. Happy Neko is not the place to stay if you want to socialize but for me, who appreciate lonely time now and then, it was prefect :-)

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What impressed me even more is that Beppu has almost 3000 hot spring vents. There are public bath houses in every corner, for use against a minimal charge. And all over you will find free set-ups for relaxing your feet in thermal water. Many elderly were seen using those throughout the day, often accompanied by a friend to chat with, a book to read or some knitting. Just lovely to watch! Below also some pictures from “a hell” ;-)

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What impressed me the most, apart from soaking in different hotsprings, was to just wander the small alleys around where my apartment was located. They gave me a very spooky feeling. Drawnd to the heat pouring up from the street vents, many cats seemed to enjoy those alleys as much as I.

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My days in Beppu were spent by just walking around and bathing. Apart from Kannawa I took the bus to the Myoban area further up the hill to try and interesting mud bath. One day I took a dip in the old classic Takegawara onsen in central Beppu. I also had an experience in a place in Kannawa where I had to lie on hey in an extremely hot, claustrophobic small wooden room. Once I almost fainted it was time to leave and soak in the hot waters. And one evening I had a more fancy experience at the onsen Tanayu at hotel Suginoi. It was spectacular, even so just about 10 Euro entrance. I can only say I fell in love with Beppu! It is a bit weird feeling about this place but still so intriguing and inviting.

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24 hours of Japanese perfection

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Finally it is time to cover one of my big passions in life. And one of the big reasons why Japan will always remain one of my favorite travel destinations. I am talking about the Japanese hot springs! So called onsens. Because of the volcanic activity going on all over the country, relaxing in hot springs is an old and very natural part of Japanese life. There are over 3000 hot springs to be found all over the country with different kind of waters, some with therapeutic effects. Many villages have developed around those areas and are known as onsen towns. To visit a classic onsen town the nicest way, and often the only way, is to check in to a traditional Japanese guest house, called ryokan. In onsen towns almost all ryokans have their own baths but a common way to experience an onsen town is to go “onsen hopping”. In some villages you can do this free of charge if you stay at one of the ryokans in town, or against a very affordable amount. To actually stay in a ryokan is rather pricy but it is really worth it. You will be treated as a queen and the ambiance is made for unwinding. The food that will be served is the so called Kaiseki style which is Japanese haute cuisine. Honestly, in my taste not so exiting flavors. But a pleasure for the eye that needs to be experienced at least once.

I have been in Japan twice and have a lot to share about this topic. First out is Kurokawa onsen town. One of the top rated Japanese onsen towns, found in the forest in the region Kyushu. I visited this place in October 2012 and I absolutely loved it. I stayed in the amazing Ryokan Sanga. Apart from enjoying the onsens belonging to Sanga (both inside and Rotenburos which are the once located outside in natural settings) I also bought a onsen hopping pass that allowed me to visit three other onsens in Kurokawa. The first picture above is a self portrait made in a private bath which I could use for one hour. It was a magic experience. Looking at my pictures brings back a feeling of peace in me and an urge to go back!

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After my evening onsen experience around the facility I sat down and enjoyed my Kaiseki meal. This is according to tradition done in your robe, a traditional Yukata. The Yukata is worn around the whole facility and also in town if you go onsen hopping. Kaiseki consists of a lot of small dishes, prepared to perfection. Some of the dishes are boiled or fried at the table by yourself. After dinner my bed was made up on the floor in my room and the next day a Kaiseki breakfast was waiting followed by more bathing :-D

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Images from my birth town Kalmar

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I am just back from a relaxing Easter break in Kalmar, my beautiful birth town in South East of Sweden. Below are some images from walks around Stensö, Svinö, Djurängsskogen and Skällby (the latter a recreational area with greenery, animals and a café). One day it was even possible to do some sunbathing in my dad´s garden. Not particular the norm for this time of the year but for sure a pleasant surprise.

Kalmar is a very popular holiday destination for nature lovers. Many of them coming from Germany and the Netherlands. And for people seeking to cross the bridge over to the island Öland (where in fact the king & queen of Sweden has their summer palace). Kalmar has a rich history and probably the most famous landmark is the old castle on above picture.

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Before I caught my train back me and my father made a little detour and discovered some lovely cherry blossoms. And I also managed to capture some typical small colorful Kalmar houses, found downtown. There are so many interesting things to discover in Kalmar. I never used to see them when I lived there, but now I do :-)

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