The day trip to Cinque Terre and Portovenere was mainly just for a viewing of each place. It had been a while since I had been to either spot, so it was time to reconnect, even if just for a day. Portovenere, which means the port of Venus (in my first version I said “door” of Venus, hence the comment below, lol!!) is another lovely seaside town located not far from the Cinque Terre in Liguria. The cutest of its features in my opinion is a little church at the end of the town that is built up on the rocks jutting out to sea. It is a very popular place to get married, and in fact while we were there, one wedding was just ending and as another bride was making her way up the steps for her turn, lol!! Portovenere also has a grotto and often times the waters of the area are blessed with pods of dolphins!! Unfortunately for me, the day after we were in Portovenere, a pod of 50 dolphins was spotted!! Oh well! It was probably just as well because otherwise I would have jumped in the water to chase them, lol!! Anyway, as the trip to Portovenere was really just for a quick reconnect, not a ton happened aside from wandering around and taking pictures. So enjoy them while they’re hot! 😉
Well, after about a month in Scotland, it was time to head to Gatwick and take off for Italy!! After giving my many thanks to Anna for her hospitality, I left Glasgow via train and headed straight down to Gatwick. I had booked a little B&B for the night (it took almost all day to get from Glasgow to Gatwick so it was a good thing I left the day before my flight!!) called Da Vinci Gatwick Guest House. For 40 pounds (yea I know it was pricey but I got my own room/bathroom, breakfast and after traveling all day I enjoyed a little pamper:)) I reserved a single room only about 10 minutes from the airport.
Though a little pricey, I really enjoyed the Da Vinci Guest House!! I found it comfortable, quaint, warming, welcoming and over all just had a great vibe! The people who owned, or at least who took care of it are Latin American (I could hear them speaking Spanish) and the woman at least was very accommodating, polite and welcoming! I didn’t get any actual chat time with the man, that’s why I only mention the woman:) Though when I made my reservation over the phone, I spoke with a man (maybe the same one??) and he was very polite and accommodating too. They even provided me with a number of a taxi service that they use that costs half what other taxis cost (according to them) and they picked you up right from the train station.
Quick note here though about taxis… CARRY CASH!!! AT ALL TIMES CARRY CASH TO PAY THE TAXIS!!!! Otherwise they will charge you a fee of 7 pounds to use a credit card!!!!!! Yup, it happened to me… I was fuming!! Though of course that was on the way to the airport, so what could I do?? The fee almost cost as much as the fare!!! Consider yourselves warned!!
In any event, the night at the B&B was spent picking off ticks from my forearms (only 4 of them and they were babies, so it didn’t take that long!) and going out for a bite to eat at the local (potentially only) pub and restaurant just walking distance down the road. The food was great (surprisingly very international!!) and the beers were splendid as always. Needless to say that night was a quiet one as I prepped to take off the next day.
Because my flight was in the afternoon (6pm) but I had to be out of the B&B by 11am, I opted to just go to the airport and wait until my time to board. Unfortunately, Vueling Airlines only allows people to check-in 2 hours before their flight, so I had to sit and wait (with my very heavy bag since I was carrying gifts) from basically 11am to 4pm before being able to get rid of my bag and go through security… I finally got checked in and through security, then the cutest thing happened…
As anyone who has ever been to the airport knows, past security there are a ton of shops and stores, and restaurants. The larger the airport, the more there are! Gatwick was quite busy and had a ton of places to shop and eat! I stopped by one place to grab a slice of pizza (easy, cheap and I hadn’t eaten all day!!) then wandered around to find a quiet spot to play a game on my tablet…
I was there all of a few minutes when all of a sudden an elderly woman came by and asked “con permiso, habla Espanol?” Translation: Excuse me, do you speak Spanish? To which I responded “Yes, a little” (in spanish of course) and that’s all it took! She was off!! Thankfully I actually did understand what she was saying despite her speaking a mile a second!! She was on her way to Orlando but her flight in Gatwick was delayed and she had no way to contact her family because for some reason she couldn’t get her phone to work and no one in the Gatwick airport spoke Spanish and she couldn’t find anyone to help her because she doesn’t speak and English…
I kinda had to chuckle, because she was just too cute!! In any event, I explained that her phone didn’t work because she did not have a SIM card for the UK (she was from Spain btw) and I offered her to call her family with my Skype account on my tablet. She was very thankful, made her phone call to let her family know about her situation, thanked me profusely and went on her way.
I simply went back to my game playing when all of a sudden, about 5 minutes later she snuck back around one again asking for help, lol!! Poor thing!!! My heart broke for her and loved her all at once!! Anyway, she handed me two slips of paper and asked if I could tell her what it was all about. The first was her boarding ticket for the plane. But there was no gate assigned to the ticket, only the flight number and seat number. So I explained that because the flight was delayed, they didn’t know what gate the plane would actually be at and that we would have to simply watch the monitors for departures to see what gate it would be once it was announced. She got a good handle on that, then I looked at the second slip. It was a voucher for 5 pounds from British Airways to redeem for food or a beverage at any of the food shops to make up for the delay in the flight. I explained this to her, then asked if she was hungry. She said yes, and I offered that if she was interested in pizza, I just happened to know of a place that sold a large slice for 5 pounds… She agreed, so I took her to the food shop, ordered her the pizza to go, paid the shop with the food voucher and gave her the slice.
At this point, as chance would have it I checked the monitor to see if my flight was announced yet, and in fact both mine AND her flight were announced, lol!! So I told her that the gate for her flight was ready, walked her to her gate (mine was on the way anyway!) then went on to mine:) She was very thankful, but honestly the whole experience just warmed my heart to be able to help her, so really I thank her!!
Though there was lots of drinking throughout my trip to Scotland (and Glasgow was no exception) I was at least countering some of the calories I was ingesting via beer in the form of hikes! As Anna is also a big fan of hiking, we set off for Loch Lomond to take on Conic Hill!!! Markie also joined us for the day of fun!! 🙂
Now, while we are fans of hiking and walking in general, we aren’t necessarily the most organized of people… Real hard-core hikers are prepared in advance. They pack the necessities, make sure they have the right shoes, get up at the rear of dawn to make it to their destination so they can get in a good hike before lunch. Yea…. this was not us at all!! We woke around 10, made our way out of the house maybe around noon?? Left in jeans and random everyday-use sneakers. Then went to get Markie, headed to Conic Hill to climb the “mountain” (it’s really just a hill!!) got some candy bars and some water at the little store at the base of the hill, then headed on up! Actually, had it been completely up to Markie, we would have just stayed at the base where there was a little restaurant and had some whiskey and beer instead of climbing at all (he was like “you were serious about hiking??” lol!!). So after convincing him that yes, we really were going for a hike, we headed off!
Though again we kept calling our hike “a hike up a mountain” it literally was just a hill. The climb was not tough or really that steep, just cold and quite windy at the top!! The more movement we made though the warmer I felt (of course from circulating the blood) but the second we would stop, I would freeze!! It only took about 45 minutes to get to the top at a very leisurely and relaxed pace. The view from the top was splendid as you could see all across the Loch and each of the little islands in the Loch. Sadly, that particular Loch is quite popular for parties in the summer and such… I say sadly because apparently there are a lot of deaths that occur in that Loch due to people getting too drunk, then getting on their boats or trying to swim or what have you… And because of the currents/depth/clarity/size of the Loch, it’s more like people just go missing… The bodies aren’t always found:( In fact, not that long before we were there, a news report had come out that a foot had washed ashore on one of the beaches on the Loch… Joy!! It was thought to be from a case years before of a child that had apparently drown, but the body was never found…
Another interesting thing to note about Loch Lomond for those seriously into hiking and camping out during hikes… It is the start of the West Highlandway which is a 4-5 day walking camp route!! It is quite a popular route and in fact even as we were coming down off the Hill, we passed several younger people with their backpacks, yoga mats and wee tents strapped to them. Obviously they were off to tackle the West Highlandway!
For sure had it been actually warm weather I could see being interested in doing something like that… But you all already know how much of a complete wimp I am in the cold!! Good times! In any event, once we made it back down, to reward ourselves we just had to stop in for a pint and some whiskey to warm up!! Since Anna was driving though, she could only have coffee… poor thing!! Don’t worry though, she caught up to us later that evening once we ditched the car! 🙂 We hung out for a couple of hours enjoying our beverages then headed back to town for the evening festivities!
Almost forgot! On the way back we actually stopped in to visit with Anna’s dad for a few moments where we were scoffed at each time we called “Conic Hill” a “mountain” 😉 Obviously we were trying to sound tougher than we actually were and her dad knew better!! Lol!!!
Dropped off at the airport around 3am, my journey was about to begin. I hadn’t slept entirely well the night before due to many factors really- nerves, had I packed enough?, ideas of what may lay ahead, but most of all fear that I wouldn’t be allowed in the Country to begin with…
Let me explain: all the online posts I had read pertaining to traveling to Costa Rica stated that you had to have proof of leaving the Country prior to entering. In other words a bus ticket or a return plane ticket showing that you were going to be leaving within 90 days of arrival. I had no such proof. I had only purchased a one-way ticket there.
What I had later learned is that many airlines- Spirit, Air Mexico, etc will not allow you to purchase a one-way ticket online. Or if they do, once you arrive at the airport you get slapped with the happy news that you have to pony up some more money for a return ticket… kinda sneaky if you ask me, but the good news or best advice rather if you find yourself in that scenario is to simply buy a refundable ticket and cancel it after printing your proof of a return flight.
One example of the kind of trouble one may run into without a return ticket from CR was of a couple who flew in to Miami (as part of the journey to CR) then were denied bording access to the plane to CR because they didn’t have a return flight! They ended up having to get back to the ticket sales desk, only to find one airline open, purchase a ticket, haul back through security and get on the plane in the nick of time!
Though I was nervous about not having a return flight, I said to myself that if I wasn’t meant to go to Costa Rica, then I would have complications getting in. If not, well then that was just one more sign that I was supposed to go.
The flight was quite pleasant as I slept for most of the time. I traveled on US Air and made one of the best last minute travel purchases while on a flight: a sleep pack that included a little blanket, air pillow, eye mask and ear plugs all condensed in the size of… well frankly this little 10″ netbook I’m currently working on:) It has come in handy time and time again!
My most nerve-wracking moment was when I arrived at the San Jose airport (which btw folks isn’t actually located in San Jose, but rather Alajuela- but I will speak more about that later). Would I get past Immegration with only a one-way ticket??? Indeed I did:)