A Travellerspoint blog

Quick Trip to Big Sur

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Living in Silicon Valley, we are within an easy day trip to the gorgeous California coastline of Big Sur. We headed out early on Sunday morning and stopped for Sunday Mass at the very special Carmel Mission of San Carlo Borromeo. This is one of the best restored and beautiful of the California Missions.

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Heading another half hour south we stopped at Nepenthe Restaurant - this restaurant sits high on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The views from here are incredible. The prices are a bit steep, but you have to think that you are paying for the gorgeous views.

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From Nepenthe, we headed another 10 miles south to the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Since were weren't going to spend much time at the park, we decided to avoid the hefty $25 park fees and opted to park on the side of Hwy 1. We took the easy and simple half-mile Overlook Trail which treated us to dramatic ocean views. This quick and easy trail winds around the bluff, high on a hill. From here, you get a view of McWay Falls - the only major California waterfall to fall into the Pacific Ocean. The beach below you with the waterfall falling from the cliffs looks like something out of the South Pacific. The color of the water here is a gorgeous blue-green, and the rock formations are stunning. Interesting enough, this beach was created after a landslide changed the topography of this little cove. Previous to this, the waterfall fell right into the ocean - today, it only falls in when there is a high tide.

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Turning the corner on the hike, you are once again stunned by yet another gorgeous coastline view. At the end of the trail are the remnants of the Waterfall House - a summer home onced owned by U.S. Congressman Lathrop and his wife back in the 1920's. The home was huge with a marble staircase winding to the upstairs. They even had a light rail system. The house and property were deeded to the State of California, and the house was destroyed in 1965. You can only imagine the unobstructed view they had from their home.

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Posted by TesoroTreasures 17:43 Tagged beaches park california sur big julia state carmel burns pfeiffer nepenthe Comments (0)

A Bird's Eye View to the Blue Angels

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San Francisco celebrated Fleet Week a few days ago, complete with airshows by the Canadian Snowbirds and the Blue Angels. The City is always kind of a zoo during these days - sometimes this is exciting and thrilling - while other times it's annoying as heck trying to maneuver through the hoards of traffic. Last year we did battle the crowds and headed to Chrissy Fields to watch the festivities. It was a wonderful event and lots of fun, but getting out afterwards was a nightmare. It took us over an hour to travel about 2 miles! So this year, we decided to try a new venue for watching the airshow...and it involved every form of transportation except the car (well, sort of...we still had to drive from our home in the South Bay to the BART station, but there was no traffic involved with this so it doesn't really count!!!). This year, we decided to watch the airshow from the middle of the Bay, perched high on a hill on Angel Island!

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Getting to Angel Island was a good part of the fun. We parked our car at the Daly City BART station and took BART to the Embarcadero. From there we walked to the Ferry Building, where we bought our ferry tickets aboard the Blue and Gold. While waiting for the boat, we treated ourselves to some fresh coffee and goodies from Peet's! We entertained ourselves people watching! Once on board the ferry, we took a stop near Pier 39 to pick up more passengers, and then headed out past Alcatraz to dock at beautiful Ayala Cove on the northern edge of Angel Island.

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The views of Tiburon and Sausalito were spectacular!

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From Ayala Cove, we headed West towards Perimeter Road and the Battery Ledyard. We hiked about 1.5 miles to get there - but the hike was easy and with beautiful scenery at every corner. The ledyard sits below a bluff, and it is an incredible spot to see the entire Bay. There are unobstructed views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, the San Francisco skyline, and even the Bay Bridge!

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We brought a blanket and a picnic lunch and spread out on the concrete slabs which used to house cannons up until about 40 years ago! It was so comfortable that we didn't mind sitting there for 4 hours while the airshow went on all around us! Even though we weren't getting the commentary or even the close up shots of the planes, but the big stunts were done right in front of us with the planes whooshing over our heads! I would definitely go back to this very same spot in the future to celebrate Fleet Week's airshow.

Posted by TesoroTreasures 07:30 Archived in USA Tagged blue island san francisco angel fleet week angels airshow Comments (0)

The Necropolis Tour Underneath St. Peter's Basilica

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This tour is one of Rome’s best-kept secrets, and I found out about it by chance while reading a guidebook on out-of-the-ordinary Rome. This tour takes you into the inner depths of St. Peter’s Basilica. The basilica, as everything else in Rome, is built upon an ancient site – this particular one believed to be the tomb of St. Peter himself. The main altar (directly below the dome) of the present day basilica is directly over the tomb, and only the Pope may say Mass at this particular altar. While archaelogists were digging underneath the church back in the 1940′s looking for the remains of St. Peter, not only did they discover some bones wrapped in a silk cloth, but they discovered an underground city of the dead. In ancient Rome, these underground passages were actually at street level – crypts lined the street and many of them were decorated with beautiful mosaics. These crypts are visible on this tour and the mosaics are extremely well preserved – incredible when you consider that some of them date back 1700 years. Bones were found during excavation but they were never undeniably identified to be those of St. Peter, even though they are of a male of about the same age with the feet missing (which is consistent with the upside-down crucifixion death endured by St. Peter). Extensive excavations of this necropolis were not possible due to the fear of de-stabilizing the basilica’s foundations therefore only a small portion of this ancient city has been brought to light.

Accessing the necropolis is done via the office of the Scavi. Reservations need to be made through email only and their confirmation process is somewhat mysterious. When making the reservation, you need to indicate some possible dates that you will be available, along with the language choice, and the number of people to take the tour. Then they might respond with a confirmation. Might is the key word here. You may never hear from them, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t have a tour reservation! The last time we were in Rome, we had decided to take this tour. We had requested a reservation prior to our departure and gave them some possible dates for our visit. Once we got to Rome, since we had not heard from them, we asked the Concierge to check for us. Low and behold, we were scheduled for the tour on the following day! With this type of confirmation process, I’m sure they must have a huge amount of no-shows!

When we arrived at St. Peter’s square, we had to get passed the Swiss Guards in order to enter the office of the Scavi. This part was a little intimidating, since the Swiss Guards are like sentries to the interior of the Vatican City. But they were very nice and showed us the way.

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The tour guide spoke very bad English and at times, it was difficult to understand her. Nonetheless, just seeing the mosaics and walking the same paths that the ancient Romans took was an incredible experience. The tour ends in the crypt where the tomb of St. Peter is located, along with the sarcophagi of many Popes. It is a somber spot, but very reflective. The faithful are kneeling and saying prayers, and it is a peaceful place. This part of the church is open to anyone touring St. Peter’s Basilica, and you do not need to take the Necropolis tour to see it.

Posted by TesoroTreasures 08:03 Archived in Italy Tagged churches st. necropolis rome peter's Comments (0)

Simple and Peaceful...

A Monastery Stay in the Cinque Terre

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High atop the Cinque Terre sits the beautiful Santuario della Nosta Signora di Soviore. The view from here is incredibly beautiful, and you can see how it would be a place for contemplation and reflection. Walking paths wind from here down to the town of Monterosso al Mare, as well as to other sanctuaries in the Cinque Terre. In fact,the adventurous hiker can follow the sanctuary trail to reach all the sanctuaries of the Cinque Terre.

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This particular sanctuary serves as a sort of hotel, and it is a welcome change to the hustle and bustle of staying in the Cinque Terre.
The simple rooms are reached via old archways from the main corridors.

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They are fairly large and very spartan but with clean sheets and towels. The rooms themselves are clean, but the amenities are a bit on the lacking side. Definitely bring some soap if you stay here!

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The view from the rooms on the second floor are spectacular, and there is a gentle sea breeze which travels up the canyon into the rooms when the shutters are opened. The dining room is available for simple breakfasts and dinners. The dinners comprise a choice of a few tasty entrees which were very good. There is even a “snack bar” for in between eating! The Ligurian coastline is visible way below you in the distance!

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The sanctuary church is beautifully frescoed, with a gorgeous organ and lovely chandeliers.

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In a glass case, at center stage on the altar, is a small wooden statue of the Madonna and Child. This statue was the inspiration for the building of this particular sanctuary so many years ago.

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This statue has a very interesting and spiritual story attached to it which I will summarize here:

In 641, when a barbarian invasion threatened the small Etruscan village of Albereto, this simple wooden statue was buried to protect it. It remained buried for about 100 years, when it was discovered by a priest from Monterosso while he was out hunting. The story says that a white dove caught the priest’s attention. He followed the dove which came to rest near a clearing. Upon coming close to the dove, it disappeared underground. Intrigued, the priest began to dig but came upon a large sandstone slab which he could not move. He returned with some laborers to help remove the slab. As the laborers were digging, a sweet smell emanated from the slab as it was removed. A wooden statue of the Madonna and Child was revealed. As they attempted to move the statue, they realized it would not budge. They came back a day later, only to find that the statue was gone. It was found nearby on top of a chestnut tree. They returned it to the place of discovery only to find it moved again a few days later. This happened a few more times, and the only explanation came from the priest’s interpretation of these events – the Madonna was telling them that she wanted her chapel built near the chestnut tree! The present day church is an expansion of that original chapel and it dates to the 1700′s. Laborers passed bricks from hand to hand from the sea in Monterosso all the way up to the Sanctuary to build the new church. The vault was frescoed in 1872 by the priest Mentasti, and it depicts the story of this sacred place.

Sanctuary stays are not for everyone, but if you are looking to stay in a beautiful and quiet location, then it is definitely worth a try. Everyone was very friendly and the experience was very positive. Walking around the grounds at night was magical. The buildings were lit from beneath with a warm glow and the entire place had almost a mystical sense to it. It was even quite romantic….an ideal place for a moonlight stroll!!

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Posted by TesoroTreasures 07:11 Archived in Italy Tagged churches monastery terre cinque stays Comments (0)

The Cinque Terre

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There has been a lot written on recommendations for visiting the Cinque Terre, therefore I’m not going to go into great detail on each land. But I will share my experience – the pros and cons of what we did – in hopes that it may give travelers who are contemplating a trek there some tips!

The Cinque Terre is a National park as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In order to maintain the area, admission is charged to enter the National Park which comprises the 5 lands. There are 2 levels of park admission – one covers admission to the park, and the other combines the entrance fee with access to the train system between each town. I would highly recommend getting the combination pass. Even though we had every intention of hiking the entire 8 km path connecting the lands, we quit after the 4th one, and therefore were glad that we had bought the combination pass.

Our visit began at the southernmost land, Rio Maggiore. We spent lots of time visiting the town and walking up into the hills surrounding it to see all the beautiful views. Once we had stopped and gotten some sustenance, we began the hike to the next town, Manarolo. The path connecting these two towns is beautifully paved and winds around some incredible cliffs. This path is called “La Via del Amore” and it is filled with expressions of love that lovers have left – grafitti on walls and locks of love!

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The second hike connecting Manarolo with Corniglia becomes a bit more difficult. The hike takes about an hour on a path that is narrow and not paved. It ends with 382 steps zigzagging their way up a hill. Once at the top, you are treated to some wonderful vistas of the towns you just left, which now seem so far away. It amazes you to realize that you have already walked a great distance, without really too much of an effort. Once you have reached Corniglia, you are supposedly half way through all the towns. But…..then comes an incredibly difficult hike to Vernazza. One and a half hours of heavy duty trekking is in store for this part of the trek. Knees and hips are surely put to the test, as well as the efficiency of your hiking shoes. I wore hiking sandals which allowed my feet to breathe, but it probably would have been better to have had some real hiking shoes to negotiate all the boulders and rocks along the path. We saw many people with trekking poles, and after having spoken to them, they touted their praises! Water is a must as you will get very thirsty and sweaty!

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Upon entering Vernazza, we came upon the most amazing view! Vernazza is by far the beauty of the Cinque Terre. It sits on a hill with a beautiful tower at its southern tip. Upon entering the town, while you are still very high up on the cliffs, there is a wonderful restaurant with a terrace that overlooks the entire town. I can’t remember the name of the restaurant, but it is at the end of the trail coming from Corniglia. Anyways, with sore and trembling legs, we sat down and had a glass of wine!!! It was well worth it, but was definitely a mistake if we planned on continuing the hike to the last town, Monterosso al Mare! Our muscles cramped up, and we decided that, since we had heard that this last path was the most difficult of all the hikes, we would skip this last one. We instead hopped on the train and visited the last town the lazy way! Luckily, because we skipped this last trail, we have an excuse to come back to this enchanting place.

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Looking back, would it have been easier to do the trail in the reverse order? Perhaps – we would have begun with the most difficult hikes and ended with the easy “Via del Amore”. We would also have been going down all those 382 steps instead of climbing up them! Would the views have been the same? Probably! Hmm…something to ponder for next time :)

Posted by TesoroTreasures 07:32 Archived in Italy Tagged landscapes beaches terre cinque Comments (0)

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