Posts Tagged ‘hiking’

10 Things To Do In Luang Prabang

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Work Your Heart For Buddha

Mount Phousi is almost the geographical centre of Luang Prabang, a small mountain that rises to just over 150 metres above the surrounding landscape. It is perfect place from which to view the city or to watch the sun rise or set over the Mekong River and nearby mountains.

You can climb up to the top of the small mountain via two different routes and both are a great workout!  Both routes lead to Wat Chom Si (the temple located at the top of the mountain).

If you start the climb from the Kingkitsarath Road steps (south eastern side) you ascend past some beautiful statues and vantage points.

A small fee is charged for the climb to the very top – a small price to pay for the experience.

Swim in Kuang Si Falls

The Kuang Si falls are located in a beautiful rural area about 28 kilometres (a 45 minute drive) south west of Luang Prabang.  Transport options to and from the falls are dependent on one’s budget and desired travel experience.  You can ride, catch a Tuk Tuk or hire a private car.  None are expensive.

The falls themselves are a must see and a cooling off dip in the pools which the falls run into is definitely recommended.

Kuang Si (also called Tat Kuang Xi) falls is a three-tier waterfall around 200 feet high.  The water falls over ancient limestone and down into beautiful turquoise coloured pools below.

Visitors can climb to the top of the falls although, in the wet, the track is very slippery and the views from the top are not necessarily worth the effort or risk.

Time might be better spent with your feet in the pools and having your “tootises” cleaned by the local fish that inhabit them.

Café Lebelair, located near the main falls, offers some tasty treats and local coffee and tea – a nice stop off after walking alongside the pools and viewing the main falls.

Delight In A Fresh Feast

Laos was a French protectorate from 1893 through until 1946 and, in addition to some stunning French style colonial buildings, the French influence is still evident in the food on offer at many of the excellent restaurants located throughout the city.

For the “foodies” amongst you, Luang Prabang will be a delightful experience.  From the street side outlets to the more up market restaurants the food on offer is delicious.

For the not so budget conscious try L’Elephant on Vat Nong.  The food is authentic French and the décor inside is eye catching.  The Apsara on Kingkitsarath Road is another favourite amongst the expat community in LP.

For those wanting an awesome feed at a great price try L’etranger Books and Tea on Kingkitsarath Road – the soup is to die for and they have a great little gallery upstairs.

Sisavangvong Road is one of the main streets in the small city (it’s the one transformed into the wonderful night market) and your hunger can be resolved at any of the great eateries located at the north eastern end.

Get On Yer Bike

One of the refreshing things about Luang Prabang is the number of bicycles on the road.  This cheap and healthy transport option is still a big favourite amongst the locals and many visitors.

Most of the hotels, villas and hostels offer free (or very cheap) bike hire so there are no excuses for not “getting on your bike” for the day.

For those readers that are not at the peak of their fitness don’t despair – Luang Prabang’s topography, for the most part, is rather flat.

The roads are very safe to ride because the local traffic moves slowly and it is very respectful of bike riders.  You might have to negotiate the occasional slow moving chicken or a mangy dog that has taken up residence in the middle of the road but neither of these will cause a panic.

If you want to extend your workout and get really active you can join one of the adventure company rides.  These rides can be part or full day or you can even do two plus day adventures.  The rides take in some of the spectacular rural country in northern Laos – a perfect way to get a feel for this beautiful place.

Stroll The Markets

Asian marketplaces are always fun to visit.  The bargains on offer are hard to resist and the energy of the marketplaces attract locals and visitors alike.

While it can be said that some markets around Asia are “same, same” Luang Prabang’s nightly market is not in this category.  You will find beautiful (certified) local products on offer – silks and cloth covering every spectrum of the colour band, delightful (read “not pushy”) stall owners and polite fellow tourists.

Before “entering” the market proper you can grab a fresh juice (or beverage of choice) and sip on it as you meander through the neatly presented ground level stalls.

The night markets take up half of Sisavangvong Road and start just before sunset.   Allow yourself an hour or so to take in the vast array of goods on offer – it’s worth it.

Find Some Modern Masters

Art, in its many forms, plays a big part in Laotian culture and many current artists call Luang Prabang home.

Carvers, painters, potters, sculptors, weavers and writers – you will find them all in Luang Prabang.  Some have studied overseas and many are gaining the attention of galleries, fashion houses and publishers on the international stage.

Visitors can visit the tiny factories where traditional weavers and potters work their magic or search out the small shops and galleries that display the fine art and carvings of local artisans.

Hmong (local tribes people) crafts can be purchased from a craft market located on the corner of Sisavangvong and Kitsalt Roads.

A visit to the small village of Ban Tchan on the opposite side of the Mekong River to Luang Prabang is a must for fans of pottery.  The village is around 15 minutes by boat from one of the wharves located on the LP side of the river.

Get Up Close And Personal With Nature

High summer rainfalls and a temperate climate mean that the northern part of Laos is lush and alive.

Nature lovers will enjoy the abundance of birds and insects that call Laos home.  They will also enjoy the stunning native trees and high canopies.

For those that enjoy the sound and feel of water Luang Prabang’s rivers (large and small) and waterfalls will keep you happy.  In addition to the mighty Mekong and Nam Khan rivers, water lovers can immerse themselves, literally, in beautiful rural streams and waterfalls that flow from the surrounding mountains.

Figure Out Wat

One of Asia’s attractions is its love for Buddha and all things Buddhism.  Laos is not exception.

Wats (temples) big and small can be found scattered throughout Luang Prabang and each of them is beautiful.

Whilst Mt Phousi’s Wat Chom Si’s mountain location is unique, those that can’t make the long climb to the top can take in the stunning Wat Mai – located right in the heart of the city.

Several other large temples are located at various points in and around the city.  If you are not too “watted out” you would do well to enjoy the sights on offer at Wat Phol Phao on Highway 13, Wat Xieng Dong at the north eastern end of Khem Kong and Wat Wisunalat near Kingkitsarath Road.

Work Out The Breeds

You may have seen some scruffy dogs on your travels but probably never as many as you are likely to see in Luang Prabang.  These “bitzer” (bits of this and bits of that) breeds come in all shapes, colours and sizes and most of them are adorable.

The bitches amongst the breeds don’t seem to spend too much time between litters with many of them having teats that are so long that they almost drag on the ground.

With low basic wages that barely allow a family to just survive, one can’t imagine that much money gets spent on animals in Laos.  This doesn’t mean that the locals don’t love their pets but it is survival of the fittest in these parts.

The dogs are friendly and happy and they make for great pictures.

Bear It For All To See

Free The Bears is a not for profit organisation started by Australian woman Mary Hutton in 1995.  Mary and her team of dedicated volunteers work tirelessly to “protect and enrich the lives of bears throughout the world.”

Visitors to Luang Prabang can get up close and personal with some of the bears that “Free The Bears” (FTB) have saved from a life of misery.

FTB’s bear rescue centre is located at the Tat Kuang Si falls and the entrance fee for the falls allows visitors to see the bears and to donate to the cause.

The FTB workers have been building elevated walkways and enclosures and this gives visitors great exposure to the 30 plus bears.  The bears are quite active (particularly during feeding time) and it is evident that the home they have now is a wonderful existence compared to the caged life that many of them experienced in the past.

Don’t forget to donate some monies (or purchase some of the gifts for sale) to this worthy cause before you head off to the nearby waterfalls.

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Rounding The Cape

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

The rather cold southerly breeze lets it’s presence be known as we start the steepish ascent of Cape Point. Nothing stands between southern Africa and the Antarctic so the wind is given free passage to where we stand.
Below and to our right is the infamous Cape Of Good Hope, the feared yet welcome landmark to many sailors.

The Princess is enjoying the display of coastal flowers that line the pathway leading up to the lighthouse and I am enjoying the views one gets to take in from this rugged peninsular.

Flowering Cape

Noisy seabirds dart across the sky above and below us – each of them on a mission.  Thousands of birds nest on the cliffs that tower above the Atlantic coastline below.  A precious piece of bird real estate.

In the relatively warm waters of the bay below us several humpback whales are enjoying the last of their annual migration.  No doubt the huge great white sharks that also call this bay their home are not too far away.

Cape Point – not the most southern part of Africa but certainly one of its best known landmarks.

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Butterflies and Getting Buffed

Monday, April 9th, 2012

I do quite a bit of mountain bike riding here in Hong Kong and one of the places I love riding is the Chi Ma Wan peninsula.  It is located on the same island that we live on  (Lantau Island).

The Princess has been keen to see where I ride so I suggested that we take a hike around the same track that I ride.  So, with backpacks packed and plenty of water we set out today to explore Chi Ma Wan on foot.

This morning’s weather did not look too favourable for a hike however not long after we rose it started to improve so we committed to the hike – rain or shine.  Fortunately it turned out to be the latter.

There are a number of ways to get to Chi Ma Wan (hiking, riding and ferry) but our chosen route was via the Discovery Bay (DB) to Mui Wo (MW) ferry then the coastal trail from Mui Wo.  We always enjoy the ferry trip from DB to MW.  We call it the slow boat to China – an old inter-island ferry the chugs along close to the shoreline.  The staff are friendly and the open air upper deck is perfect for taking in the sights and temperature of the day.

We departed DB around 1045 and arrived in MW less than 30 minutes later.  The closer we got to MW the better the weather became and by the time we arrived the air was clearing and the sun was peeking through thin layer of overcast.

Before setting out for Chi Ma Wan (CMW) we stocked up on some rations at Cafe Paradiso – some freshly made sandwiches on rye bread.  This turned out to be a good move later in the hike when we stopped for lunch.  They were delightful sandwiches!

We set out for CMW around 11.20 – the short walk to the start of the trail taking us past a small beach at the back of the main street of Mui Wo.  The coastal trail around to CMW is mostly concrete and it starts with a steep set of stairs that get the heart rate up straight away.  The track follows the coastline of the southern shore of Lantau Island around to Chi Ma Wan and the views from the trail are stunning.  You get to look back to Hong Kong island and south to some of the larger islands too.

Whilst the trial is mostly concrete there are several stretches of clay base. After the recent rains the trail was muddy in patches but this didn’t stop us making good progress along the path.

The one thing that was immediately apparent as we started out on the hike was that we were going to be in for a butterfly treat today. The spring temperatures have led to a huge increase in the number and type of butterflies and at times it felt like we were in a butterfly house.  Absolutely beautiful.

We arrived over at the CMW peninsula after an hour of walking and we enjoyed seeing the grazing “Lantau Cows” (the feral buffalo) that call this part of Lantau home.  One has to be a little careful where one steps on the trail because these “locals” don’t have any toilet training and they seem to be quite happy to decorate the trail with their rather larges “pats”.

The small beach leading into Shap Long Chung Hau (the small village the marks the beginning of the Chi Ma Wan area) is rather picturesque and, in some respects, set in an idyllic location.  However, the locals that call this part of the world their home are not exactly environmentally savvy and the beach area is full of rubbish.  It is a real shame that the culture here does not see anything wrong with having their backyard look like a rubbish tip (dump) – we guessed that it is going to take several more generations to wake up to looking after the environment a little better.

Despite the proliferation of rubbish in village area we enjoyed the views of the surrounding areas (beaches, mountains and bushland) as we started the climb up toward the reservoir behind Shap Long Chung Hau.  Before starting out on the next trail we walked passed two prison complexes and up toward a lovely reservoir that sits between two ridge lines – a beautiful watercourse that would be perfect for a “dip” in mid summer.

After traversing the dam wall we headed up some steep steps and onto the Chi Ma Wan peninsular proper.  Despite her recent bout of sickness (double pneumonia) The Princess handled the steps and gradients like a true pro and it wasn’t long before we were well into the Chi Ma Wan trail.

Fortunately quite a bit of the trail is covered by reasonable overhangs so we were protected nicely from the increasing periods of sunlight.  The shade also kept the temperature down as the afternoon progressed.

Small creek crossings, rocky outcrops and stunning views to the southern islands of Hong Kong made for a very pleasant hiking along the well trodden (and ridden) trails.  We enjoyed stopping periodically to take in the natural beauty of the area and to listen to the cacophony of insect “chatter” rising from the surrounding bush.

We made good time along the trail however, around 1400 we decided to stop for a bite to eat – the lovely rye sandwiches we had made in Mui Wo.  We chose a huge rocky outcrop just above Tai Long beach for our picnic spot.  It was nice to stop and rest our legs and to take in the southern views across the Admasta Channel and toward Cheung Chau (a large island south of Lantau Island).

The Admasta Channel is a rather busy waterway.  It is the route taken by the many fast ferries that transit between Hong Kong and Macau.  We enjoyed watching the continuous procession of hydrofoils and catamarans moving at high speed.  We also enjoyed the company of two local black kites who kept a close eye on our lunch from overhead.  These beautiful birds are very common here in Hong Kong and they enjoyed the ridge line thermals rising up from the coast below.

With our bodies refueled and energy levels topped up we continued our hike westward toward Pui O.  The trail descends quite a ways on the western side (always a favourite part of the trail when I am mountain biking) so we had to be careful negotiating the steeper steps and washout parts of the trail – spraining an ankle is never a good thing when you are a little remote.

For some reason (flower types?) the butterflies increased in numbers as we headed further west along the trail.  We enjoyed photographing the more patient ones and taking in the sights on offer.  Butterflies are a one of The Princess’ favourite so she was in her element.  Indeed, I had to keep her moving (we’d still be out there if she had her choice!) along the trail.

We left the main trail above Mong Tung Wan bay around 1500 and took a side trail toward Pui O.  We had to be cautious of the slippery steps on the steep descent down to the Pui O trail however we managed to get to the bottom unscathed.

The trail around Mong Tung Wan to Pui O is concrete so the remainder of the hike was quite straightforward.  We enjoyed the distant views toward Cheng Sha beach and the mountains of Lantau Island as we made our way along the pathway toward Ham Tin (the small village near Pui O).

We arrived in Pui O around 1615 – just under 5 hours after departing Mui Wo.  We were a little foot sore and tired after the 15km hike but happy to have made the effort.  The Princess was very happy to have seen the trail that I frequent on my bike and very happy to have seen so many butterflies too!

End note:  It took us five hours to hike the trail and only 7 minutes in a bus from Pui O to Mui Wo!!  Oh – the bus ride had nothing on the hike (other than the time element!).

You can take a look at a map of the hike we did here

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Altitude Flowers, Spectacular Views and Knocking Knees

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

Altitude Flowers, Spectacular Views and Knocking Knees

Schmocken, Beatenberg, Niederhorn

Location – Switzerland

I opened the outside blinds that cover the room windows this morning and learned that the Interlaken weather Gods had received our message. The clouds had lifted and we had a spectacular view of the Eiger mountain face and some of the other “Top Of Europe” mountain peaks. It was going to be another good day here in Switzerland.

Despite making the most of the very comfortable bedding we did manage to extract ourselves from under the doona (duvet) around 8.30am and prepare for the day’s activities. I even managed to have a shave before venturing down to breakfast!

This morning’s window view was very special given that the clouds had lifted over the Alps. We enjoyed the view and the substantial breakfast we managed to consume – not a bad thing given that we were not going to have lunch today (of course we didn’t know it whilst sitting at breakfast).

We departed the hotel around 10.30am and covered the short walk to the Niederhorn cable car terminus in around 8 minutes. Hotel Gloria is so very well placed here in Beatenburg.

The weather continued to improve as the morning passed and by the time we arrived at the cable car terminal the day was shaping up nicely.

See You Thun

Our accommodation in Beatenburg came with a voucher that gave us 15% discount on the cable car trip so our one way trip to the top of the mountain was quite cheap.

Being a Sunday meant that the cable cars were running quite regularly so it wasn’t long before we were boarding the gondola and heading up the steep mountain cable car track.

The view from the very smooth gondola improved with each passing cable car tower and we both enjoyed the spectacular scenery that opened up below us.

We reached the top of Niederhorn in around 12 minutes and exited the gondola to a cool but sunny day. The gentle breeze and relatively thin mountain air were the reason we packed our warm weather gear for today’s outdoor activities.

Despite it being a Sunday, the number of people on the mountain was low so we did not have to compete for viewing space at any stage. Indeed, there would have to be a very large number of people on the mountain to stop one achieving time to take a very good look at the spectacular 360 degree views that are on offer from Niederhorn.

We took our time to walk around the area near the cable car terminus and we enjoyed the wonderful views on offer. The sun continued to warm the mountains and this mean that the cloud base continued to rise. More and more of the alps began to reveal themselves as the morning turned into afternoon and we enjoyed capturing the sights on offer.

From Niederhorn you take in 360 degree views for miles around. Views of lakes, mountains, valleys and distance towns are available from this 6000′ plus mountain top and all of the sights are spectacular.

All Paths Lead To?

In winter Niederhorn is a ski paradise. In summer it is a hiker and paraglider paradise. Indeed, it seemed that for every hiker on the mountain there was a least one or more paragliders. The Princess and I enjoyed spending time watching the paragliding fanatics prepare their rigs, don their warm flight suits and helmets and then negotiate the fickle winds before launching themselves off the slopes of Niederhorn.

We didn’t count the number of paragliders in the air over the Interlaken region but, suffice to say, there were dozens of them. The brightly colored wings stood out against the white snowcapped mountains and green forests and filled the sky like prehistoric flocks of birds soaring above some prey below.

We opted to hike back down to Schmocken so, after spending time near the summit of Niederhorn we made our way along the well trodden hiking paths to the village way below.

Our progress was slow because we couldn’t take more than a few steps before stopping to photograph another beautiful scene or some beautiful spring wildflowers that were blooming on the exposed parts of the mountain.

We were also fortunate to see some of the mountain’s wild goats albeit that they were not too keen to stick around for photos.

The number of hikers crossing the mountain’s hiking paths thinned out as we moved further down the mountain – all of them taking one of many different routes that are available on the mountain. Young and old alike venture out here in Switzerland and make the most of the excellent hiking available here. Some people are in a hurry and some, like us are just taking in the many distant views and natural beauty on offer.

Our trip back down the mountain took around 5 hours (from the time we left the cable car terminus area) and the “quoted ” time is around 2 hours 30 minutes. However, we were not in a hurry and the sun doesn’t set here until around 9.00pm at this time of the year.

On our way back down we passed by a farm house and spent time talking with the manager of the small but productive farm. He was managing the farm on behalf of a large Swiss co-op and he was happy to answer the many questions we had for him. This “large” farm (with about 30 head of dairy cows and 12 pigs) produced cream, milk, cheese and ham for Alp. It seems that 30 head of dairy cows in these parts is a substantial farm indeed.

As we descended the mountain the tree line was obvious and we left the wide open grass fields and prolific wildflowers and entered into darker pine forests with lush undergrowth.

The hiking paths we took crossed wet open areas before re-entering small forests and they also meandered around steep drop offs and under towering overhangs. Very spectacular.

Despite having a map, the signs on the trail didn’t really indicate that we were heading in the right direction but we were content with enjoying the beautiful views that were offered from our high vantage point.

We eventually left the higher areas of the wooded landscape and descended toward one of the many villages located below us.

Our knees were not happy with us as we made our way down into one of the villages. Indeed, if we had to hike downhill for much longer we would have had to have made a stop and give the knees a break.

Around 5.15pm we arrived in one of the small villages in the Beatenberg area (so small that we couldn’t find it on a map) and went in search of a bus stop. The buses here run every hour and, as it turned out, the next one was due through this town around 5.29pm.

Delicate Mountain Dwellers

Like a Swiss watch, the bus rolled into town and stopped to pick us up. Our accommodation voucher allows us to travel for free on the buses in the Beatenburg area so, on boarding, we showed the friendly driver our voucher and took our first comfortable seat since dining at breakfast! Our knees, backs and bums were very thankful indeed.

The bus stopped a few meters from Hotel Gloria so after a short walk we were back “home” and ready for a late afternoon treat. We did not eat lunch however we did have a banana and some trail mix – not bad going for over 5 hours of hiking.

The friendly staff at Gloria welcomed us when we walked through the door and were happy to serve us a nice hot latte and a delightful plum and apple slice. Like all the food here at Gloria, the slice was excellent.

We drank our coffee outside on the balcony overlooking the alps – a nice way to finish our day of outdoor activity here in the Jungfrau area.

When we returned to the room I ran The Princess a warm bubble bath and she happily lowered herself into the deep bathtub. Indeed, as I took some time to update our website, I didn’t hear a sound from her from around 20 minutes. She definitely enjoyed relaxing after the long day of hiking.

When The Princess had had her fill of relaxing I too spent time giving my muscles a treat in the warm water.

We made an 8.00pm reservation in the restaurant for dinner so after our long baths we changed into some non-hiking gear and made our way down for another sumptuous feed. The Princess dined on a beautifully prepared piece of salmon and I rapidly downed a lovely Thai green curry. Despite not having lunch we could not finish the ample meals that Bernhard and his team prepared for us.

Bernhard came out of the kitchen and spent time talking to us about our day and giving us some more tips on other attractions in and around Interlaken. Indeed, tomorrow (our last day here) we will follow Bernhard’s suggestion of taking a paddle steamer trip on the lake and visit an beautiful old hotel that is located near a waterfall. We will let you know how it goes in tomorrow’s blog.

Until tomorrow – Ciao!

Reclining Beauty
Cheese Protector
Minimal Fencing
Mountain Smiles
Winging Above The Eiger
Tread Carefully

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Walking The Old Town

Monday, June 6th, 2011

Walking The Old Town

Innsbruck, Igls

Monday, 6 June 2011

Well, it seems that high altitude walking and some very nice Italian wine is not a sure way of going to or staying asleep. Indeed, both of us were a little restless last night despite the quiet room and the relatively early night. Our body clocks might have been a little confused and thought we were back in Hong Kong!

I rose a little before The Princess and prepared myself for the day before waking my sleeping beauty. She was enjoying here LLI (little lie in) and probably could have slept for a few more hours.

We made it down to the dining room for breakfast this morning and enjoyed a light feed. The breakfast meals in each of the places we have stayed thus far have been plentiful and Hotel Sonnenhof’s morning fare is no exception. There is plenty to eat and a great variety of food to choose from.

With our appetites satisfied for the foreseeable hours we organized our backpacks and camera gear and headed out of the hotel around 10.30am.

We walked into Igls town centre and met up with an English couple that were staying at the hotel. They had been to Innsbruck many times so we asked them about ticketing options for the light rail trip into Innsbruck. They were very helpful and guided us to the tourist information center (located across the road from where we met them).

The tourist information staff were very helpful and within minutes we were walking out the door with a multiple trip ticket in hand. A good start to the day!

We retraced some of the steps we took yesterday and headed off down a picturesque walkway to the light rail station. Walking past the beautifully presented gardens that the locals prepare for summer was a real treat. Stunning roses and other varieties of flowers filled the air with the most memorable smells. Imagine this – brightly colored gardens, amazing flower perfumes, window boxes filled with spring blooms, rolling fields of lush green grass, a gentle breeze and a backdrop of snow capped mountains. Close your eyes and picture this. It is absolutely stunning.

On reaching the station we read the timetable and learned that the next tram (light rail train) would not be arriving for 15 minutes. I suggested to The Princess that we walk to the next station and meet the tram on its return. The Igls station is the end of the line so we would pass the tram on our walk.

We were glad that we made this choice because were were able to experience a walk through rolling farm land that the tram track runs through – more of that sensory inputs that I described above.

We arrived at the next little station before the tram arrived on its trip to Igls so we watched it roll by knowing that it would return after 5 minutes and pick us up. In the meantime we enjoyed the views and thought more about our day of wandering Innsbruck.

We boarded the beautifully presented tram for the trip down the hill into Innsbruck and sat back and admired the scenery rolling by. The tram was quiet and the windows were huge so we were able to appreciate the changing flora that passed by our window seat.

The tram stopped at about six stations on the 15 minute trip down into the southern outskirts of Innsbruck city centre and each of the stations was unique. All beautifully kept – like something from a model train set.

On arriving at the terminus in Innsbruck we could have caught another tram into the city centre. However, we love walking and decided to set out on foot and make our way into the center of the city slowly. We are glad we did.

The first of many stunning historic buildings was just across the road from the tram terminus so it wasn’t long before we were snapping away with the cameras.

We are not really into viewing the inside of churches (probably because there are so many of them and we would never see anything else) however, today we started our walking trip with a look inside the nearest baslica – The Basilica of Wilten. We took a few photos from the outside before venturing inside and laying eyes on the most incredible sight. They call this church the “wedding cake” church and it was easy to see why. The colors of the walls, the paintings, the gold and the ancient wooden seats were almost overwhelming to the senses. Wow! This is known as a papal church (meaning that popes have visited here during the ages). The most recent visit was from Pope John Paul II in 1988. We could understand why he would visit this incredible venue. The interesting thing is that this basilica is the local church for the parish it is located in. I know the local parishioners would be proud to worship at this place!

We made our way down into the centre of Innsbruck via the most direct route and but stopped along the way to admire some of the not so ancient buildings that lined the road. After a relatively short walk (around 15 minutes) we arrived in the city centre and took some time out to buy some socks for The Princess (her feet needed a break from the thick socks she put-on this morning – her new hiking shoes needed to be worn in slowly).

After the short retail distraction we sat down for the first coffee of the day and watched the foot traffic pass us by. Despite the couple next to us blowing cigarette smoke in our faces we enjoyed the opportunity to stop and regroup before continuing in the direction of the old town. Note: It would appear that Europeans (predominate) in this part of the world have not followed other parts of the world and banned smoking from indoor and outdoor eating venues. Even China have recently introduced a non-smoking ban. The other sad thing to note is the proliferation of women that smoke here. It is almost like stepping back into the past. What is sort of sad is that people seem to be very active here and they obviously treasure the natural resources and beauty of this place but they clearly don’t value the benefits of not smoking!

Ok, with that out of my system I will continue with our daily activity!

We approached the Old Town of Innsbruck around 12.30pm and we were immediately aware of why they called this the Old Town. The style of buildings changed and the sense of this being inside a very old city was obvious. We enjoyed meandering through the narrow streets and taking in the beauty of one old building after another. Despite the buildings being full of modern shops you still get a sense of time while walking the streets.

After an hour or so of enjoying the Old Town from the “inside” we left the old city walls and took a walk around the outside of the Imperial Palace and along the fast running river that runs along the edge of the city.

Before finding a place to eat some late lunch/early dinner, we paid a visit to the city’s ancient cathedral – St James (or Jakobi). As mentioned earlier in this blog, we are not really “church” people however, St James’ Cathedral was another “wow” moment that we wont forget in a hurry. On entering this incredible structure the sound from the huge pipe organs set the scene – it seemed like a practice session. The stunning sounds filled the cathedral and sent a chill up our spines.

We stood in awe of the intricacy of the art work, the statues and the stunning originality of this historical church. Again – a highlight for a tour of Innsbruck.

Returning to “daylight” and the 21st century we made our way back into the Old Town’s main centre and found a place to sit down for “lunch”. We chose an Italian restaurant that had large umbrellas and a great menu and ordered some delightful bruschetta and spaghetti dishes.

It started to rain just as we sat down for lunch so we moved to a more covered table. It was a wise choice because the rain became quite heavy for a few minutes and we would have got wet at the first table we chose.

We were nearing the end of our lunch when the English couple we met earlier in the day sat down at a table beside us – small world indeed. We spent the next 30 minutes chatting with them about all sorts of things before we all went on with our plans for the afternoon. For us, this meant walking in the direction of the Igls tram terminus.

Needless to say, we didn’t make our way back quickly. Indeed, it seemed that we zig zagged back in the general direction of the tram station because we were enjoying the late afternoon stroll and had no particular place to be.

We paid a visit to the inside of some shopping venues along the way but came away empty handed each time. We met some nice people in some of the stores and enjoyed talking to them about their travels and our own trip through Italy and Austria.

We eventually arrived back at the tram station only to learn that the last tram to Igls had left around 30 minutes before we got there. Mmmmm.

We were not too concerned because we knew that the bus to Igls ran reasonably regularly (so we thought) so we made our way in the direction of the road that led to Igls (quite a distance away as it turned out).

The walk took us past some interesting ex-winter olympic venues and around some backstreets we would not have seen otherwise.

As were neared the first bus stop for the “J” bus (the route to Igls) the J bus was just pulling up. However the bus stop was too far away for us to flag the driver down so we were not able to catch it. No problem (so we thought) until we reached the bus stop and learned that the next bus didn’t leave for another hour! Not good.

Plan B was put into action (Plan B was “catch a cab”) when I spotted a small cafe near the bus stop. We walked over and asked the helpful staff if they could order a cab for us. Our wish was granted and about 5 minutes later we were sitting in the back of a brand new Mercedes taxi (you have to love the taxis in this part of the world) and heading for Igls.

The comfortable ride gave our legs and backs a chance to take a break – one happy Princess!

We arrived back in Igls around 7.30pm and we have not long finished some delightful rolls with cheese and salami (purchased at a local supermarket in the city centre before we left downtown – smart move).

We are both ready to “hit the hay” and get a good night of sleep – our last night in Innsbruck. We depart for Bregenz tomorrow but before we do we aim to take in some of the little villages that are located a few miles from Igls. Bregenz is only 2 hours from Innsbruck so there is no need to depart the Innsbruck area early.

We will let you know how the Bregenz trip goes in tomorrow’s blog!

Sleep time.

Rose Of Churches
Square On Angle
Bronze Fronting Spitters
Paddocks Growing Steeples
Portrait On A Wall
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Sunday Music, Mountain Meandering and New Friends

Monday, June 6th, 2011

Sunday Music, Mountain Meandering and New Friends


Sunday, 5 June 2011

It was time for a short “lie in” this morning. 7 days on the go and relatively early starts and a time zone change – we deserved it. How long? 30 minutes. Hey – were not here for sleeping!

The extra time in bed meant that we didn’t avail ourselves of the “in hotel” breakfast – probably not a bad thing given the amount of food we have been consuming over the past week.

I “shaved off” this morning (meaning that I removed the facial hair that was accumulating) so The Princess got her less than hirsute man back. Being in Austria meant that the Italian look had to go despite The Princess’ protests.

Without a time frame to meet (re breakfast) we took our time to get ready for today’s outing – a look around Igls and a trip up to the top of the local mountain – Patscherkofel (via cable car of course).

We left the hotel around 9.45am and walked the short distance to the centre of the small hamlet. The weather was perfect – blue skies, puffy clouds, and a cool breeze blowing down the mountain.

Although we were not particularly hungry we thought that it would be smart to put something in our stomachs before we headed up the mountain. We settled on a lovely little place call Heidi’s. The lovely elderly lady (maybe her name was Heidi) that was working on this beautiful Sunday morning took our order and we set ourselves up on the balcony over looking the town square. The sun was rather warm (despite being at almost 3000′ above sea level) so we set up the brightly colored umbrella and gave ourselves some shade.

We enjoyed a mid morning coffee and tea along with a very tasty home made ham and cheese sandwiches and enjoyed watching members of a band prepare themselves for a march through the streets. Maybe they knew we were coming!

Time Behind Bloom

After settling the bill for “brunch” we set off for a walk around town. However, just as we began our walk, the volunteer police band fired up and started their march up the main street. We stopped and watched them march by before following them to the small local park in which they were giving a free performance. A nice way to pass some time on this very beautiful Sunday morning here in Austria.

The band provided us with an excellent background in which to take some photos and video of the stunning gardens that the home owners had planted. The people here in Austria are so house proud and they make the most of the short European summers. The window boxes were over flowing with brightly colored flowers and the garden beds sprouted the most stunning roses. Again – picture postcard stuff!

We enjoyed a walk around the beautifully laid out backstreets of Igls before making our way to the Patscherkofel cable car – located just on the outskirts of town.

When we arrived at the cable car terminal we learned that the next cable car was not leaving for another 30 minutes. How did we know this? Well, as we walked up to the entrance the husband of a couple that were waiting at the terminal asked if I was Australian. This lovely Sri Lankan man (Udara) and his German wife (Renate) were waiting for the cable car too. This chance meeting with this lovely couple resulted in a wonderful day of sharing time with two beautiful people that were going through a challenging time (they were staying in Igls for 4 weeks while Renate was undergoing treatment for cancer).

The cable car trip to the top of the mountain took us over several ex winter Olympic sites and past beautiful mountain trees. The steep gradient meant that we ascended the mountain quickly and gained sweeping views of Innsbruck and the spectacular valleys below.

We arrived at the top cable car terminus around 1.15am and, after spending some more time talking to Udara and Renate, we went of in search of photographic opportunities.

It wasn’t long before our camera cards began to fill up with images – easy to do when you are looking at stunning view after stunning view – endless mountain views stretching as far as the eye could see.

We traversed the mountain and stopped along the way to talk to couples that were enjoying the beautiful alpine views. Being a Sunday meant that the trails were busy – bike riders, hikers and sightseers shared the high altitude trails above Innsbruck.

Austrian Beauty

After taking in the endless views for over 2 hours we went in search of a light meal at one of the two high altitude restaurants. Udara and Renate had invited us to share dinner with them in their apartment (they are staying at the same hotel we were are staying at) so we wanted to keep our food intake down before heading back down the mountain.

On entering the restaurant we reunited with Udara and Renate (they were having a bite to eat before they returned back to town).

We ordered a light meal of soup and bread and shared the news of our alpine adventures.

Unfortunately we were not able to settle in for lunch because the last cable car was leaving around 4.30pm and the weather on the mountain was starting to deteriorate. We were able to finish the last of our delicious soup before making our way back to the cable car and into the waiting line for the last car back down the mountain!

Whilst the weather still looked OK at the bottom of the mountain the top of it was stating to look rather gloomy. A good call by the guys at the top! Indeed, as the afternoon/early evening wore on the wind really picked up down in the village of Igls and we were wondering how strong it would have been up higher.

On the way back to the hotel we found a nice little cafe and stopped for a coffee and tea. Warming up the insides seemed like a good idea. It worked nicely.

The short walk back to Sonnenhof took us around 5 minutes and on return we sorted ourselves out for dinner with Udara and Renate. As mentioned earlier in the blog, this lovely couple had invited us to their apartment on the second floor of the hotel.

We shared a wonderful night with them on their balcony looking back up to the mountain that we had all spent the day on. Udara made plates of fresh food and we bought the Italian wine that we purchased in Lienz. The fresh tomatoes, cheese, cucumber and kiwi complimented the delightful wine and we enjoyed learning more about each other as the night wore on.

We we retired to our room around 1100pm and it was not long before the mountain air, the day of hiking and the wine combined to put us into a very deep sleep here in Igls.

Summary – a superb day of sightseeing combined with the opportunity to make some new friends. It’s what travel is all about.

Weeds On High
Alpine Princess
The Hills Are Alive With The ………
On Ascent

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