We haven’t posted about our fitness workouts recently. Yes, shame on us…
But honestly traveling is almost a fitness workout in itself…yes…really!
Carrying our gear up, down and around (20kgs per box and about 10kgs per bag) pitching and dismantling our tent and walking around all the hilly towns (easily around 10-20kms per day) gives us a good workout. Check out the beginning of our video below to see what me mean 😛
But I guess our upper body and core needs some working out too, and that’s where our trusty TRX comes in. If you want a refresher of some moves you can do with your TRX here’s a old TRX workout video we did in our Sukhumvit Soi 31 Location.
I think we’ve come a long way in our video making skill no??? 😛
Ok, let’s get back to our travel stories…
After leaving beautiful but extremely hot Toledo we rode pretty much directly to Andorra.
We had a pit-stop in Zaragoza, where we saw loads of bikers. I’m not sure why, we tried to Google to see if we were missing out on some Big Bike convention or motorbike rally or something, but nada, we found no info as to why Zaragoza was full of big bikes…(you can see a short clip of them in our video)
We almost jumped our our bike to follow them and see what it was all about, but we were quite hungry so our growling stomachs won the fight and we stopped to have a healthy salad and some fruits and of course coffee…
Andorra la Vella
Andorra is a landlocked sovereign state bordering Spain and France. It is also the 18th country we have been to. Below is the list of countries we’ve visited, so far, during this trip.
- Croatia (which is where I am writing this post from)
We stayed a few days in almost all of them, and we wish we could have stayed longer in some, but my Schengen clock keeps on ticking so we had to ride through Belgium, Lithuania, Slovakia, Monaco and of course the Vatican. We took time to see the sights in those countries, but we didn’t stay overnight.
Andorra is an interesting country. It’s tiny, but there’s so much packed into it that you can stay a week or 2 and not get bored. We stayed 3 days and in hindsight perhaps we should have stayed longer.
FYI for those who are on a Schengen visa, Andorra is OUT of the Schengen zone. So I was able to add 3 extra days on my 90 days because I was technically out when we were in Andorra.
But IMPORTANT NOTE to all those who want to use Andorra as a country to “extend” your 90 days in the Schengen Zone:
- You need a multiple entry Schengen visa to enter Andorra
- You have to make an effort to get your passport stamped.
This means stopping at the border and requesting to get stamped out. They have a nominal border and they do stop those who don’t look like EU citizens, but usually, they just wave folks through.
So even though Andorra is out of the Schengen zone, they don’t really check you or stamp your passport unless you ask them to.
And I was the only one to request this, so they seemed rather confused, but they did stamp me out of the Schengen zone. And then when we were riding back into Schengen (direction France) I again had to explain to the border officials that I needed to get stamped in.
The highlight of our stay in Andorra was our very successful fishing expedition. I’ll let our pictures tell the story…
After Andorra we had to pass through France again. We learned our lesson about trying to drive through the night and stopped in Nimes just to sleep. Early the next morning we were off to Monaco to cross off another country on our list…
Quick drive through Monaco…
First off, if you can, try to visit Monaco during “off” season. It’s currently high season for the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea so traffic into Monaco was terrible.
Due to this, and the unusually prices, we decided not to stay overnight.
Italy and Passport Drama…again 🙁
Ever since we started dreaming about this journey, one of the countries we wanted to spend a bit extra time in was Italy. So we were quite excited when we crossed the border.
We found this campsite right near the coast called Camping Vallecrosia and we were checking in when we found out STEFAN’S PASSPORT WAS MISSING!!!
To our horror we realized Stefan’s passport was left in Nimes, France.
We had left our passports and important documents at our hotel once before in Latvia…and we just couldn’t believe it happened again!
Arrrrrrggggh, I take all the blame as I was the one to check us in, but the clerk had taken our passports and gave mine back saying he only needed 1 passport to check us in.
After the registration and payment, I guess he forgot the passport in the copy machine, and I totally forgot he hadn’t given 1 passport back…
There was no way we were driving all the way back to Nimes, France so we asked the hotel in Nimes to FedEx it to us. We specifically asked that they use FedEx’s 24 hour express service.
Sadly the hotel in Nimes was completely unhelpful. They did not apologize that their staff forgot to return our passport and they didn’t offer any solution as to how they were going to help us get the passport back. About the only thing they did was confirm that they did indeed have Stefan’s passport.
We spent 3 hours trying to call confirm if they were going to post it to us but around 8pm we decided to call it quits and try again the next day.
Fortunately, the staff at Camp Vallecrosia was super kind and helpful. They even volunteered to email the Nimes hotel their address so that they could post the passport, they called numerous times to try to confirm if the passport was indeed going to be posted and they really went out of their way to help.
The next morning after about 5 failed phone calls we finally got to talk to a person from the Nimes hotel (instead of a machine or getting put on hold) and they said they already posted the passport.
We were overjoyed and asked them to send us the tracking number and we happily booked a second night at Camping Vallecrosia.
We were confident that we were going to receive the passport in 24-48 hours…
This was not to be…
We waited and waited and we received nothing from Nimes…no tracking number…no communication…zip…silence…
The next morning we called Nimes again. After about 3 tries we got someone who knew about our situation and when we asked for the tracking number of our passport he acted surprised that we didn’t have it and promised to send it.
This whole time we assumed the passport was going to be delivered at any minute..it was already 48 hours after they said they posted it.
When we finally got the email with the tracking number (2 hours later) we realized they DIDN’T use FedEx…they used the regular French Post and there was no indication of when it would arrive.
Now we were worried, we had already checked out of Camping Vallecrosia and booked our apartment in Rome because we thought our passport was going to be FedEx delivered any minute. We also couldn’t stay in Vallecrosia because I needed to be out of Schengen by the 25 August.
To make a long and terrible story short..it took 12 days for Stefan’s passport to be delivered to Camping Vallecrosia and then they had to post it to us in Bari, which took another 3 days and Stefan only got it yesterday the 26th of August.
This lost passport debacle almost ruined our entire stay in Italy, but we survived it and we had a great time despite having this nagging worry in back of our minds the whole time.
We’re so happy that we finally got the passport back, it’s such a load off.
Here’s to hoping that this will be the last time we lose something this important.
LESSON LEARNT: Always triple check that we have all important documents when checking out of a hotel or apartment! Double checking doesn’t seem to be enough…for us at least…
The Splendor of Rome…
I’ve always been fascinated with the history of Rome, the Roman Empire and birth of Roman Catholic Empire.
No matter how you look at it, it’s pretty amazing how an empire that was determined to stamp out this rebellious little religious sect (Christianity) ended up converting to it instead.
Our first stop in Rome was the Vatican City. We were a bit discouraged when rode up to the first entrance. There was a que almost going around the entire walled city of the Vatican waiting to get in and there were tons of these tour guides trying to hustle and convince you to buy a “Skip The Line” ticket for 60-80 euros.
We almost succumbed to the insistent cajoling of the tour operators, but our perseverance and Googling paid off when we realized the entrance into Saint Peter’s Basilica was free.
We did have to que up for about 30mins in the heat of the sun to get inside (they have a security check when entering the Vatican) but it was totally worth it!
Walking into the largest Christian church in the world is breathtaking. It truly is immense and beautiful.
We spent about an hour exploring Saint Peter’s Basilica by ourselves, but when we discovered we had so many questions, we decided to go for one of the live tours they offered. Basically entrance into the Basilica is free but you pay to join one of the live tours or to get one of audio guides.
We wholeheartedly recommend getting the live tour. You can get the audio tour which you can do on your own (they give you an audio set with a map to follow) but during a live tour you can interact with your guide and they give you a lot of extra info that is not included in the audio guides.
Also the price difference between the live tour and the audio guides is not much so if you do visit Saint Peter’s Basilica–definitely opt for a live tour.
After visiting the Vatican we roamed the streets of Rome and saw one amazing preserved ruin after another.
Just imagine, these Roman structures survived over 2000years.
Because we truly enjoyed our live tour of Saint Peter’s Basilica, we decided to do a Free Walking Tour with http://venividivisit.org/free-rome-walking-tour/ The tour was only 3 hours long but in those 3 hours we learned so much and we were able to understand and appreciate Rome’s art and architecture so much better. ***The tour is technically free but it is understood that you give a little something 5-10euros per person if you enjoyed the tour 😉
Rome is a city with history pouring from its pores. We learned that almost every time they build something or dig somewhere there are ancient ruins found. Where a church is now, if you dig under, it is very likely you will find a pagan temple or old Roman villa.
Visiting Rome made me want to study ancient history again and refresh my memory.
Traveling and seeing these amazing places and learning about the rich history of each new city or country is an experience I am most grateful for.