frm

Travellers

Given that Jim is going bug chasing in Rome, I thought it is as good a time as ever to set up a travel thread. Over the years people, not always FRM people, have asked me for travel tips, and I’ve kept all of them for the next person who needs them.

This thread should be where you ask for, or give travel tips.

Below is the tips I gave my father who was going to Rome for a short visit, so some of the things are specific to what I knew he would want to do, or avoid, and not really too in depth because he wasn’t going to be there long.

Okay, so my Rome tips are mostly food, but I will try to put some other things in too:

Nuovo Mondo - The really good, cheap, pizza place I was talking about. Seems to be a hit with the locals, despite looking like a greasy spoon cafe.

Supplizio - Does what is apparently “Traditional Street Food”. Basically little croquets filled with all sorts of things. Not much space to sit, but you can take away. Good for a snack.

Roscioli Salumeria - Kind of a combination of a fancy restaurant, a food shop, a deli and a cafe all in the one spot. Was quite busy, but the food is really good

Trattoria Da Enzo - Fancy enough, and you will need to book or put your name down if you are passing… not really much else in the area, so you might skip. Closed on Sundays.

Franchi Gastronomia - Kind of a deli/restaurant thing. Really good food. It’s in the kind of shopping district, but also at the back of the Vatican/Castel Sant’Angelo so you should swing by if you are in the area. Very relaxed, large choice of food and reasonably priced.

Castroni - Only really included because it is right beside the one above. It isn’t a restaurant, but is a kind of a speciality food supermarket in case you wanted to bring anything home.

For the Vatican, I would suggest paying for a service that means you don’t have to queue. We used Get Your Guide. They basically meet you here at the time you’ve booked, walk you in the door, and let you go. The price of the entrance ticket is obviously included in their price. I think it was €33 each for us. When you book, you can download their app, and you don’t have to print the ticket then. If we were to queue for a couple of hours, and then pay at the door it would have been €20, so I’d say it is worth it. When in the Sistine Chapel (at the end of the Vatican Museum), there is a door at the end wall on the right (if you are facing away from the alter), that opens to let guided tours directly through to St. Peters. Just wait for it to open, and follow them through. You should be fine, and it means skipping another big queue. Just start speaking Irish if anyone says anything, and wander off.

The Roma pass can be good, if you plan on using Public Transport. Assuming you are going to use you 1 free entry (1 free entry with the 48hr pass, 2 with the 72 hr pass) for the Colosseum, you get to skip the bigger queue also. So, it is up to you whether you think it is worth it or not.

The Forum is right beside the Colosseum, and equally if not more impressive.

Don’t bother going to the Circus Maximus unless you are in the area. It is just an oval field now. Looks like an empty reservoir.

Couple of places I would go see are:

Church of St. Louis of the French - Down the back left corner (if facing the altar) there are a few Caravaggio paintings. There is a box beside them where you have to put money in to turn on the lights around the paintings. You will actually see people waiting for ages for someone to put in 20 cent, rather than doing it themselves.

Chiesa di Sant’ Ignazio di Loyola - Again, another church (there is a few of them around Rome, for some reason). It is famous for the “Fake Dome” and amazing perspective trick paintings on the flat ceiling inside.

Borghese Gallery and Museum - Quite small, you’d see the lot in an hour or so, but really nice. You might need to book a time. Give them a call before. They speak perfect English on the phone. If you have to wait around, it is in a really nice park to hang around in anyway.

Janiculum Terrace - Bit of a steep walk up there, but gives you a view over most of the city

The Pantheon - There was a bit of a queue a nearly all times we passed (we were staying pretty near), except for when it rained, and the queue disappeared. It is free in, and really impressive. I think it is closed on Sundays, as it is still used for mass.

Around the Colosseum, and the run up to the Vatican are the only places where there will be everyone and their mother trying to sell you things (tours, jumping the queues, trinkets, water). Everywhere else is pretty relaxed.

3 Likes

A bit more niche was Torres del Paine National Park, in Chile, written for L Ron Mexico

Okay, so I’ll go through this in probably a little bit of boring detail first.

The park is apparently a bit tamer than it used to be, as they build more hostels (refugios) and facilities are a lot better than they used to be. This is all on the “W” route, and the full O route is still a little wild by all accounts. We did the W, staying 5 nights along the way.
• 2 nights camping in Refugio Chileo (near the base of the Torres themselves). You can stay in the refugios without camping, but they were full when we tried to book. It is probably the oldest building, so it is a bit sparse. You can rent a set up tent here, on a platform, as we did. Showers and toilet close to the camp, but not the most hygienic place.
• 1 night in Domos Frances. They have these cool dome dorms here, and it is a new place (3 seasons open) so it isn’t on all maps. 8 person rooms, with 4x2 single bunk beds. Bathroom and showers in the building.
• 1 night in Paine Grande (again, new building and fairly fancy). You can camp here too if you wish. 6 person dorms, with a central shower/toilet area.
• 1 night in refugio Grey (new, fancy) and you can camp here too. 4 person dorms, with a central shower/toilet area.

There are other places to stay along the way, but we booked this way to make certain days hiking a little easier, by pushing on for an extra hour or two on an easier day, to take an hour or two off a difficult day.

There are also free campsites along the way, but you need to book your first one, and let the warden at each place know each time that you will be staying at the next one. These are a bit grim, some of them you wouldn’t even know are a campsite, and you would have to carry your own tent the whole time, which would be no fun.

In terms of gear, we just brought our backpacks try to keep light, as there are some parts you have to bring your full bag… as you aren’t coming back along the route. Some points you can just leave your full pack somewhere, and bring your day pack. Bring a good sleeping bag. In most places you can also rent a sleeping bag, but it is expensive (about $15 USD per night) and seeing as it is quite light, your should bring your own. You can also book a “Made up bed” in most places, but this is often just a sleeping bag on the bed, and costs a good bit extra too.

There are two compnayies who run all of the refugios and paid camp sites.
Fantastico Sur (http://www.fantasticosur.com/en/ )
And Vertice (http://www.verticepatagonia.com/en)
You can book a full package with either, and this will include some nights in the places of the other company. This can be the easier way, but more expensive. Also, they seem to keep some availiblity for full program bookings only, so you might have to keep trying if you are booking by yourself, and picking individual nights like we did. Some days it would say there was only “Made up beds” and we’d book that… then check back later, and “Basic bed” ($40 cheaper) would be free, and we’d cancel our previous booking, and go for the basic etc. So handle it whichever way you want, but I wouldn’t just show up and expect a bed. Most places get full, and if they are not full, the Walk-in price is twice the prebooked price.

It can get quite cold, windy, and wet. So bring appropriate clothes and sleeping bag. It will also change in about 3 minutes, so you will spend a lot of time taking off and putting on clothes.

For food, it is probably best to book “Full board” in each place. It seems like it is expensive (I think about $45 extra per day) but you get a cooked dinner, a fairly basic breakfast, and a boxed lunch to take with you for this. The quality of this seem to be based on how remote the place is. Chileno gets it’s food by horse train every day, so it is not great…. They other get it by boat, and the quality picks up if you go the direction we went. I wouldn’t like to carry and cook all my food each day. There were people doing it, but it seems like an unecessary hardship.

For getting to the park, I would do it different from how we did it, if I was doing it again. There are kind of two stop off towns. El Calafate in Argentina, and Puerto Nateles in Chile. Go through Puerto Natales. Because we were in Buenos Aires before (visiting a friend) and there is no flights from BA to Puerto Natales, we went to El Calafate. It is a nicer town, but your options from there to the park are limited. There is basically one bus company who goes on the 5 hour bus trip…. At 5am. As they have a monoploy there are expensive (nice guys, nice bus though). From Puerto Natales there are about 10 bus companies, a much shorter trip, way more options in terms of departure time, and no border crossings on the way. To get to Puerto Natales in the first place, you would probably have to travel to Santiago Chile first, rather than Buenos Aires.

You can do the W route in either direction. The things you want to see are the Torres themselves, Valley Frances, and the Grey Glacier. Each of these is at a tip of the W. Now, weather can change,a nd there is a bit of luck involved. Fro us, the Torres only just reopened, after a night of wind and rain, as we got to the base. It also closed again just as were got back. The Valley Frances stays open, but was cloudy and wet so we didn’t see much (cleared a little, and we got to see the two glaciers that drop ice every 20 minutes, on the way back). Glacier grey was perfect weather for us. So, don’t set your heart on seeing something, as there is a chance you will be dissappointed. The whole route is beautiful, but these three are the showstoppers.

You generally either come in at Laguna Amarga gate (with a short bus transfer to “Las Torres Hotel”) or you get a Catamaran to Paine Grande (from Pudeto Guardhouse entry point), or you do the reverse. There is no real difference, and you will probably have to get a bus transfer back to your original entry point, unless you can find a bus company that will drop at one point and pick up at the other for your “big bus trip”.

The peak season used to be Jan-Feb, with a major drop off on March 1st, because Chilians go back to work/school. But it was pretty busy when we were there, from Feb 28th, and all of the locals say the peak season is getting longer and longer.

You don’t need spanish in the park, but if you have a little it is a benefit and the workers will like you more.

So, essential equipment (in my opinion):
• All your clothes, fast drying stuff if possible. Washing and more importanting drying clothes may not be an option, it wasn’t for us because me moved on too much.
• Good sleeping bag
• Rain gear
• Water bottle (the streams along the way are good to drink from… ice cold glacier water!)
• Good boots, and socks… plenty of good socks
• A pair of flip flops for the showers, and some of the refugios that don’t allow boots inside.
• Torch (some of the places don’t have 24/7 electricity, and turn it off outside of say 7pm to midinight)
• Powerbank for phone charging. You don’t have phone coverage in the park really, but I used my phone for photos and tracking. Some places have charing points, some don’t. Some will charge your phone in return for tips. Just bring a big powerbank is you want to be sure.
• Big ziplock bags. I kept all of my stuff in big ziplock bags, I usually do, as otherwise you will never have dry things again.

Then in directly answering some of Ron’s follow on questions:

Yeah, we brought our own sleeping bags from home. Mine was not extreme weather. 35F approx extreme rating. 40-60F Comfort rating. This one, in fact: https://www.mountainwarehouse.com/camping/sleeping-bags/1-2-season-sleeping-bags/basecamp-250-sleeping-bag-p13090.aspx/dark%20purple

My missus went for a colder weather one, but she is usually cold.

You don’t need anything like either of these if you are not camping. There are overkill if you are sleeping indoors (even with not much heating in doors), and I ended up mostly outside of mine on the indoor nights.

For clothes, it wasn’t too much. Two pairs of trousers, two/three tops, one pair of shorts, and then change socks, underwear, and tshirt every day. So nothing extreme, if you are going to spend 5-6 days there. I would assume most places in Peurta Natales will allow you to leave stuff there, and you just have to take what you needed for the park. My bag was a bit heavier than I would normally like because I was moving on afterwards, without somewhere to drop/pick up stuff.

For washing and drying clothes, we didn’t spend much time anywhere so it was difficult. The first night, which was the only time we were staying the same place twice, I tried washing, and drying on the guy lines of the tent, and it rained intermittently, so I didn’t try again. I had a microfiber towel (a good thing to get). It is supposed to dry really fast, and I attempted to dry every day. It never once fully dried.

1 Like

Excellent posting JJ.

Cheers.

My travel is likely to be shite for the next few years, I would think. It will mostly be bringing baby Sprocket to see the French side of his family, so I’ll have to live with vicarious travels from this thread.

After the plague subsides, I’d like to visit Italy for a few weeks. What are the must-see cities? I for sure want to see Venice, Ravenna, Florence, Rome, Naples and Sicily, but wanna know what other areas I should research (and which places to avoid)??

You definitely want to spend time on the coast as well. I haven’t been to Amalfi but Cinque Terre is very quaint. Garda and Como are pretty, pretty nice as far as lakes go.

1 Like

I absolutely loved Ravenna. The mosaics are amazing and it’s super walkable. The train ride from Ravenna to Parma is very short, about an hour, and they have a fantastic national museum there. If you are in Ravenna, try to see Parma too. Bologna had very nice people and a great central square, but it was a bit dirty. I enjoyed Taormina in Sicily a lot and there’s a good chance you will be able to see Mt. Etna erupting from your hotel room at night, which is awesome.

1 Like

There’s a good chance that holidaymakers in LA will see Marius erupting from their hotel rooms, etc.

1 Like

Sorrento and the Amalfi coast in general are well worth a visit, though it’s been a while. Positano also pretty but we only visited briefly.

@marius you are in the Mount Etna area be sure to visit Herculaneum as well, it’s amazing better preserved than Pompeii.

Pic related

1 Like

Grazie tutti.

These last 4 months have been the longest I’ve not travelled in 11 years.

(my calendar pulls in my flight details, and I wandered in there today, and got curious)

Would your schedule go back to “normal” if they lifted the travel bans tomorrow, or have they moved a load of in-person work online now?

It would go back instantly. I just brought in a machine that costs close on a million quid… That I have no training on, and I wasn’t there for the sign off and testing.

I power it up next week, and I’m 100% gonna break it.

3 Likes

@Miguel

Cyprus questions

Paphos or Larnaka?

How lobster pink can one get in last week of April? I want to look like Dr Zoidberg.

1 Like

Milbo do you not think that booking a holiday for April 2021 might have a downside you’re not seeing?

Everyone might be dead by then?

That said my easyJet voucher is valid till October '22.

2 Likes

:horgh2: Eyes on the prize. I love it

My official work trip to hang out with Badger, stock up on tracksuits and then head north to fight Mudrock has been rescheduled for April, but no one’s making any promises. :feelbadgirl:

I think I’m south of Badger these days.