The road goes ever on and on - A Travel Thread

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Re: The road goes ever on and on - A Travel Thread

Post by Ringdrotten on Wed Feb 28, 2018 7:35 pm

Ok, so I'm noticing for the tenth time that I'm a shitty photographer. And I'm picking way too many pics, the page won't ever load for people. I will have some up, though, promise! Back to work

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Re: The road goes ever on and on - A Travel Thread

Post by halfwise on Wed Feb 28, 2018 7:53 pm

Yeah, 6-10 is all that's needed. Pick out the best or the most representative of what you did.

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Re: The road goes ever on and on - A Travel Thread

Post by Ringdrotten on Wed Feb 28, 2018 10:21 pm

Hmm, that would involve a lot of gypsy pics of me Laughing

I think I'll just start off with a Hobbiton special, then add more later. I'm guessing Figgs will want some south vs north islands pics for comparison Smile

Ok, so we've all seen the movies and these photos won't really be news to anyone. If, however, you plan on visiting New Zealand at some point in your life, it really is worth seeing the Hobbiton set. I suspect Petty might have an urge to argue with me here, but you really cannot help but be impressed with Peter Jackson's attention to detail, nomatter how many times you've watched the FotR appendices. The guide obviously sounded like he hated his life telling us everything for the thousandth time, but for a fan of the LotR movies it was still fun to hear it all. What made the biggest impression on me was something I didn't know beforehand (though I suspect a few here do) - in the final scene of RotK, when Sam comes home and his daughter runs toward him, that was Sean Astin's actual daughter. And she hadn't seen him for a year or so, and since Jackson wanted that scene to feel as real as possible, they filmed it in one take. That little girl is genuinely thrilled to see her father again. As if I didn't tear up in man-tears from the ending of RotK already!



I think I could buckie up with Petty pretty hard and argue until morning that this place was in fact a great place for the Shire and Hobbiton.










Even today people still work here, tending gardens and keeping the paths and roads like they were in the movies. Probably not the most fun job in the world, but I wouldn't mind doing it for a week or two in summer.



The party tree and the tent










This is how the tour ends - with a wonderful view of the Green dragon, the lake, the mill, the bridge. It really was something to see for a fan Smile















I'll post more pics later, got some great ones from both islands and a few rare ones of Ringo as well - sorry for promising a full update and not giving you more than something you've all seen before. How time flies when you waste it!

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Re: The road goes ever on and on - A Travel Thread

Post by Norc on Wed Feb 28, 2018 10:39 pm

yeeey finally pictures!!! i feel like i don't have to travel to new zealand now.... alhtough i have an oficial tourguide book for all the locations.. hm..
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Re: The road goes ever on and on - A Travel Thread

Post by Ringdrotten on Wed Feb 28, 2018 10:45 pm

Well, we missed out on Milford Sound, which supposedly is the real "Middle Earth" experience. I like to think of that as an excuse to go back Smile I'd love to spend a week or two hiking there. It really was an amazing trip, though, can't see it all in three weeks.

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Re: The road goes ever on and on - A Travel Thread

Post by Eldorion on Wed Feb 28, 2018 11:38 pm

Hobbiton is what I would like to see most when it comes to LOTR filming locations, though I dunno if it'll ever be something I get to do. Thanks for the great pictures! Very Happy
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Re: The road goes ever on and on - A Travel Thread

Post by halfwise on Wed Feb 28, 2018 11:41 pm

Before I got to the end I was thinking "they should turn the Green Dragon into and actual pub".... and it kind of looks like they did. Did they? Were there drinks to be had?

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Re: The road goes ever on and on - A Travel Thread

Post by Ringdrotten on Wed Feb 28, 2018 11:55 pm

halfwise wrote:Before I got to the end I was thinking "they should turn the Green Dragon into and actual pub".... and it kind of looks like they did.  Did they?  Were there drinks to be had?

Yeah, there were two ales - one amber and one I can't remember which type or name of. Both were excellent. Naturally I had to have one of each Smile Also bought their cider and ginger beer from the gift shop, which were also very decent. If it were a pub around here I'd definitely be frequenting it Smile I bought a Green Dragon mug of course, so I'll post a picture of that later when I've been to the liquor store and bought a proper stout or ale for it.

Eldo - if you do get to go there some day, plan for Hobbiton and Milford Sound - it was all I heard about from the locals and tourists alike when we were there, a "LotR NZ trip" apparently isn't complete without the latter. You really don't have to be a LotR fan to go there, though - the landscapes and the people alone are worth the trip. If you can, go Smile

Edit: Come to think of it, you Americans don't really have to go abroad for great scenery, you've got Yellowstone, Yosemite and Grand Canyon. Still, they say New Zealand and Norway are practically the same - a statement I strongly disagree with having been there. Sure, we've got fiords, mountains and glaciers in Norway too, but you don't have all of those in the middle of a damn rain forest. It really is a special little place, and if you're planning on a long haul anyway, go there Smile

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Re: The road goes ever on and on - A Travel Thread

Post by halfwise on Thu Mar 01, 2018 12:29 am

What was Milford Sound used for in the movies?

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Re: The road goes ever on and on - A Travel Thread

Post by Eldorion on Thu Mar 01, 2018 12:30 am

I'll have to keep Milford Sound in mind if a trip to NZ is ever in the cards. Smile

Ringdrotten wrote:Edit: Come to think of it, you Americans don't really have to go abroad for great scenery, you've got Yellowstone, Yosemite and Grand Canyon.

i went to Yellowstone when I was nine so I don't remember a ton from it, but what I do was pretty amazing. And the Inside Passage of Alaska (which I saw when I was 13) is really beautiful; probably the closest thing the US has to Fjordlandia. Razz



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Re: The road goes ever on and on - A Travel Thread

Post by halfwise on Thu Mar 01, 2018 1:20 am

Yeah, the US has lots of good scenery, but there's scads of cornfields to pass through, or oceans (to Alaska and Hawaii).

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Re: The road goes ever on and on - A Travel Thread

Post by Ringdrotten on Thu Mar 01, 2018 1:41 am

halfwise wrote:What was Milford Sound used for in the movies?

I think the best answer to that is to do a google image search for "Milford sound lord of the rings" - I can't remember all of it, sorry. The scene with the Argonath was filmed there, among others (if I remember correctly).

Eldo - the west coast is definitely on my "to do again" list. I can't leave this world not having seen the Grand Canyon (#jinx?), and I'd love to combine it with a weekend in Vegas as love both blackjack and poker Very Happy

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Re: The road goes ever on and on - A Travel Thread

Post by azriel on Thu Mar 01, 2018 12:18 pm

Thoroughly loved those pics Ringo Very Happy Cheered me up & made me yearn for the warmth of Summer. Its fair to say its FECKING FREEZING here !!! -6 in the south east where I am & its been like this for several days, It isn't supposed to rise above 0 degrees until next week. So, seeing Hobbiton was a real lift Very Happy

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Re: The road goes ever on and on - A Travel Thread

Post by Norc on Thu Mar 01, 2018 6:40 pm

i am feeling we should do a field trip to NZ, what you guys think?

Az, yes it seems to be cold everywhere except the arctic atm.. it's -18-19 C here.. so i bought another pair of sealskinboots as i forgot mine above the arctic circle (love saying that). super expensive, but worth it.
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Re: The road goes ever on and on - A Travel Thread

Post by halfwise on Wed Apr 18, 2018 5:14 pm

So I'm going to describe my italy trip, but holy crap I've got over 60 photos after whittling it down! Shocked  I'll break it up into sections out of fear of losing connection after a marathon session of uploading and writing.  Sections are: Rome for the weekend; Venice while everyone else works; Sicily and final visit to the Vatican.

This whole thing started due to my dear young Russian friend Margarita being posted to Rome.  She was a grad student here at the college in New York the first year I arrived, and when she got work with the United Nations in Washington DC a few years later I hooked her up with one of my old hang gliding buddies as a room mate.  This meant she inherited my whole circle of old friends and we kept up over the years.

Then they moved her to Rome, and even though I'm fighting for grant money and not sure when the next paycheck will be coming, not visiting was never an option.  Took a full year for our schedules to align, but it turns out April is a fabulous time to visit Rome: all the flowers are out!  We'll see some of those later.

I arrived when Margarita was at work, but her landlady let me in.  First up was getting lunch.  Margarita directed me to a small cafe at the end of her street:



And I had my first meal!



Then off to explore the neighborhood.  She is very well placed: halfway between the Vatican and the Pantheon.  Nearly right outside her door is the plaza with the famous Bernini sculpture about 4 rivers, with the American river rather randomly chose (what the hell is the Rio de la Plata anyway?):



But my main objective was the Pantheon.  20 years ago I passed through Rome, and it was "closed for Renovations".  Mad  A 2000 year history, and I happen to pick the one time somebody decides to renovate!  But I got luckier this time.  There was a line of people snaking into the front!



The impact of the famous dome on the inside cannot be conveyed by camera.  I have a friend who says he was never that impressed by the pantheon, and when I find him he'll be properly slapped as a blathering idiot.  It's breathtaking.  I nearly fell on my knees.



But it's not just the dome, it's the whole composition.  The inlays of marble on the walls and floor are just stunning.  I quite forgave the renovators for their imposition 20 years ago, it was well worth the wait.



On the way back I was drawn by a dome - but domes are a dime a dozen in Rome and this was just another church.  A church with earnest young Romans inside pressing me to take a headset for free, not pushing for donations but nodding gently at the donation box if I was so inclined.  This was a constant theme for me in Rome: the youth are very honestly engaged in sharing their history with the flow of tourists; I found this very affecting.  I didn't really want to spend more than 5 minutes in this church, but felt compelled to listen to 15 minutes of audio about things I sort of didn't care about just so a teenage girl would feel she had fulfilled her duties.  So you're gonna look at it too.



Got back and Margarita took me to a hoary fish shop she had been trying to get into for ages.  Turns out it was no different than well done fried fish to be honest (Long John Silvers?), but since Italians don't really do American fast food and this had been around for more than a century, it got rave reviews.  Oh well, another thing checked off the list.

The next morning I paid a visit to the local farmer's market and was pleased to see artichokes were in season.



Then was hell bent for the Colosseum and environs.  It was about a 40 minute walk, passing the National Monument on the way:



And of course arrived at the Colosseum.  There's a hill right in front that's nice to go up for a good view.



But the day was far from over!  Margarita wanted to take me up to her secret spot in one of the hill parks, passing through the botanical gardens on the way.  I highly suggest the gardens if you go to Rome in April.  The flowers are out!  Here's Margarita indulging in the rites of spring:



You can get spectacular views over Rome:



And they have ecosystems from all over, like this bamboo forest:



After this we headed up to the park on the hill, taking a blanket to lay in the thick grass and watch the green parrots squabble and flit amongst the pine trees above.  This is her secret spot.  I had compared it to the enchanted hill of trees on top of the Hundred Acre Wood, but as a Russian she didn't get the reference.



The next morning I was sent to some church near the train station and to the Baths of Diocletion, but as the first was dark and the second was undecorated, I will not stretch things out here.  But I got caught behind the Roman marathon, and wandered far off base before getting home.



I should point out just how massive and, well, Romanesque all the buildings are.  This is why escape to the hilltop parks are crucial.  This same day the Garden of the Borchese were on deck, and we dodged the stragglers of the marathon on the way there (Rome must be a horrible place for a marathon: half the streets are cobblestone!).



We made use of the blanket again, and there was a trumpet player in the background doing a fabulous job with jazz standards: couples started making out on all sides of us.  Margarita sent me out to procure a couple beers, for like New Orleans wandering around with alchohol is perfectly acceptable in Rome.

The next day was a drizzly monday, and I planned to go to the Vatican.  But first I had to get to Margarita's work place where she had printed the tickets to the Vatican museum.  I got there and in a rather headstrong manner decided to walk all the way to Vatican through the drizzle along the Tiber.  What should have taken 45 minutes took me an hour and 15 minutes, and I saw a line of umbrellas halfway around the collonade to get into St Peter's.  It wasn't moving. 20 years ago on a sunny day I had walked right in, this was crazy.  I thought I'd got to the museum and then try my luck afterwards.  My memories of the museum from 20 years ago were better than it was: it's basically long rows of sculpture.  The only one I'm really interested in is Laocoon, which when dug up around 1500 AD transformed Rennaissance art by showing just how alive marble could be:



Getting out of the museum I had to rub my eyes when I worked my way back to St peter's: the line of umbrellas stretched 3/4 of the way around the collonade. An earnest young roman holding a plackard that said "free information" advised me to come between 7:30 and 8 in the morning and I'd be able to walk right in.  That night margarita recalled that all the museums were closed, hence the long lines at St Peter's despite the rain.

Next stop was Venice, St Peter's would have to wait until the day of my flight back home!

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Re: The road goes ever on and on - A Travel Thread

Post by halfwise on Wed Apr 18, 2018 6:55 pm

Venice, the Serene Republic, Mistress of the Seas, the greatest tourist trap the world has ever seen for over 1000 years.  And I mean that literally; the place is a maze.  You have to expect to spend half of your time lost in the winding alleyways of the Serenissimo each time you visit.  Pencil it in.  And if you are parents of some troublesome teenagers, book your ticket.  Send them out the door of your Venice Locando without a map or cellphone and instructions to find some aspirin or something else useful.  You can sleep in peace because you'll never see them again.

And that's the glory of Venice.  It's just chock full of alleyways like this



or like this



dead ending into (and occasionally hopping over) canals like this



And if you find yourself by surprise passing by the same thing again, you'll find it's in the opposite direction that you expected.   I was also in Venice 20 years ago wandering around lost, and I thought this time around it would be different because now I had a cellphone with maps.  But you'll find to your horror that in some dark alley with the walls closing in, when you most need to know where you are, is when the signal is worst.  You'll look with sinking heart at the little dot representing your location taking off and wandering at random like a dog off the leash.  In short, cell phone seems to do a better job of telling you just how lost you are rather than getting you unlost.

That said, Venice is still small enough that eventually (with the help of signs painted on corners perhaps centuries ago) you will find your way to the major sites.  You may find yourself on the Rialto Bridge (for centuries the only bridge across the Grand Canal) passing from one neighborhood to another



Or you may find yourself looking down the Grand Canal



And walking down one of these neighborhoods you may look across the water and see the playfulness of Venicians on display:



Eventually you'l find your way to St Mark's square



And a band may be playing



And if you get there before the cruise ships arrive at 10:30 you jump in line to enter St Mark's Basilica through a crowd of columns swiped from Constantinople during the first crusade (this historical tidbit will always piss me off)



Walking into a monument so detailed even the floor deserves a picture



And once inside even though you are not supposed to, everyone sneaks a photo



Off course the Doze's Palace is right next to the Basilica, and proof of how Venice controlled the seas is the lack of defensive wall.



Having enough of being lost for a while, I decided to head along the waterfront to the park.  You can see it in the distance here



On the way I passed this rhino



And when I finally got to the park, I had images of this magical fairy tale place in this fairy tale city of Venice.  But as you can imagine a 900 year old park may be a bit bedraggled.  Not bad, but not really worth pictures.  I did think this one shot of a park neighbor captures what this park can be



Wandering back you may feel some internal pressure.  In Rome the restrooms will cost you a 1 Euro coin.  In Venice it's 1.5 Euros.  Who is carrying around 1.5 Euros in exact change?  So you go wandering past, for example, the Venitian torture museum for a 16 Euro entrance fee, and the operative question is, "do you have a restroom?"  Suddenly 16 Euro to view implements of torture doesn't sound so insane.  And you may come across gems like this model of 4 Venetian nobles executed for high treason by live burial upside down in a patch of sand in front of the Doze's palace.



But on the other hand, you may come across this amazing performance of Bach's Toccata and Fugue on glass harmonica:



This guy blew everyone's minds.  He was playing everything, but that was just too much.

He's not the only musician of course.  Wandering around at night you may come across a group of young musicians preparing for a performance.  Look how cute they are in their period costumes!



I told them I may be back for their performance, but I knew I'd get lost.  I passed them by accident about 10 minutes after it started, so it goes.

Figgles and I had very loose plans to maybe meet in Venice, but not only was she very busy, but it was drizzling nearly the whole time.  I'm not sure the trip to a bedraggled city to meet a bedraggled Halfy for a cup of coffee would have been worth it anyway.  But for me, Venice was still magic.  Wandering around lost at night in this incomparable millenium old artifact when the day tourists are gone is one of the great experiences of this world, right up there with Machu Picchu.

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Re: The road goes ever on and on - A Travel Thread

Post by azriel on Wed Apr 18, 2018 9:09 pm

I thoroughly enjoyed that Halfy, I liked the descriptions you gave as well. I could almost smell the place Very Happy

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Re: The road goes ever on and on - A Travel Thread

Post by halfwise on Wed Apr 18, 2018 10:01 pm

Next up, Sicily.  I never planned to go there, but Margarita had heard it was a real experience, and since she didn't drive started twisting my arm. And I'm glad she did.

First stop was Palermo.  I cannot emphasize enough the importance of not trying to drive in Palermo.  Oh the outer routes along the rusting harbor and through the beltway park was okay, but eventually you get into somewhere a hotel would be.  Much of the interesting section of the city is unofficially set aside for pedestrian traffic, but your maps don't know that.  You find yourself suddenly crashing through a series of alleyway cafes, and even without the cafes the streets are so narrow in these parts that the rats go scurrying for cover anytime a dumb tourist tries to drive through.  Our room was set above one of these cafe alleyways, looking like this:



At the end you see the famous Palermo opera house, it appears in the Godfather III.  Let's take a closer look, shall we?



After passing much of the evening at a very funky restaurant/bar that made Margarita want to never leave, we woke up the next morning and went in search of mosaics and cannoli.  Obviously the two are linked.  Cannoli is all over in Sicily, and they are beautiful



Calling that breakfast, our next stop was the Cathedral of Palermo.



The interior was not nearly as interesting as the exterior, where a fiddle and accordian set the locals off into dancing.



Off we went to another cathedral to find some jaw-dropping mosaics.  They seemed to be using the Venetian technique of backing the glass shards with gold.



Somehow we found our car and took our leave of Palermo.  Margarita had mentioned wanting to visit beaches, which I had misinterpreted into wanting to stay at a beach town.  It was quite a drive through winding roads, and we arrived at San Vito lo Capo, and it was off season and dead.  The beach was incredible however, just too cold and windy to be off use to anyone except kiteboarders



We did find a Marsala winery about 2 hours away, and that stuff was incredible.  Next stop was Mt Etna, for Margarita is fascinated by volcanos.  I have to note here that I had never entertained the thought of climbing Mt Etna when I was packing for Italy, and mainly paid attention to Margarita's admonition that I had to look classy, for Italians are very judgemental when it comes to dress.  We found a cone near the end of the bus route, and so here I am looking classy on Mt Etna.



And here's a more appropriately dressed Margarita discovering that volcanos are warm.



Now came the problem of where to spend the night.  We both wanted to visit the cafe used in The Godfather, in the small mountaintop town of Savorca.  It was great.



The Savorcans recall the movie fondly, and even put up a commemorative work celebrating the director



But you don't have to come to this town for the movie; it's charming on it's own merits.  Quite a drive to get up there though.



It's very satisfying to walk along the streets and soak in the ambience.



But we still hadn't found a place to stay.  The bar owner pointed down the street and said we could find something right past the church.  We came upon a bed and breakfast, but getting no answer we continued walking.  It was beautiful walking along the ridge, past monisteries and orange trees, and eventually we came to a resort.  We shrugged our shoulders and decided to give it a try.  The prices were of course a bit high, even with the introductory discount.  That's when Vittorio showed up: white flowing hair, a cigar sticking between his teeth.

Vittorio was the owner and master of ceremonies.  He is one those people who talk in quotes, who everything he says has an intensity to it.  He took us outside and we sat down to have some wine, during which he proceeded to charm the socks off us.  Especially Margarita - resorts tend to get retired people, and middle aged people with kids.  They don't get 30 somethings.  The two of them proceeded to seduce each other.

It turns out that was Vittorio's business model.  If he liked somebody, thought they would add to the flavor of the resort, he'd charm them.  We quickly decided we were staying there despite the price; partly because I didn't want to drive down that damn road drunk and in the dark, but largely because of Vittorio.  That evening at dinner he was in fine form, jumping from table to table, carrying whatever bottle of wine struck his fancy.



Margarita will be back - she claims she had been in a depressive cycle for the last few weeks (not easy to tell) and he pulled her out of it.

But then I had to drive the car down the next morning.  We took a wrong turn and found ourselves on a road with no possibility of turning around, and we'd be in trouble if anyone was coming up.  Thankfully nobody else was using the road, and the cellphone mapping came to the rescue, but it was quite a drive.



Finally back in Rome, I had to hit the Vatican early in the morning before rushing to the airport.





There was one sculpture sort of half way between bas relief and sculpture, where two naked angels flanked some saint.  They had the most shapely badonkadonks, and I dearly wanted to get a picture of such an unexpected celebration of the female form in the sacred church of Catholicism, but couldn't figure out any way of taking a picture of a naked ass in St Peter's without it being obvious to all passersby that I was engaged in taking a picture of a naked ass in St Peter's, so had to give it a miss.

So that was my trip of a lifetime.  Not nearly enough pasta, but unforgettable nonetheless.  The first thing I did when I got home was put on The Godfather and eat spaghetti.

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Re: The road goes ever on and on - A Travel Thread

Post by Mrs Figg on Thu Apr 19, 2018 12:26 am

That was quite spectacular. cheers You did so many things! I have heard of the golden mosaic church in Sicily, wow! got to go there now. fabulous! Razz

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Re: The road goes ever on and on - A Travel Thread

Post by halfwise on Thu Apr 19, 2018 12:58 am

That photo covers maybe 1/4 of the mosaics. It's pretty amazing.

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halfwise
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Re: The road goes ever on and on - A Travel Thread

Post by chris63 on Thu Apr 19, 2018 12:58 am

Wow great photo's Halfy. Ringo's as well.

Where to go next? Wife wants to go to New Zealand, but i want to see Machu Picchu - Peru


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Re: The road goes ever on and on - A Travel Thread

Post by halfwise on Thu Apr 19, 2018 1:01 am

Do Machu Picchu! But if you do the hike, schedule a day in Aqua Caliente down below. At the end of several day's hike you'll be too tired to enjoy it, so rest up and go back up the next day.

Or just ride the train in and don't hike it.

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Re: The road goes ever on and on - A Travel Thread

Post by chris63 on Thu Apr 19, 2018 1:01 am

Would love to go to Italy. So much to see there. Want to see Pompei.

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Re: The road goes ever on and on - A Travel Thread

Post by chris63 on Thu Apr 19, 2018 1:03 am

Train sounds good.


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Re: The road goes ever on and on - A Travel Thread

Post by Lancebloke on Thu Apr 19, 2018 7:39 am

Chris - to do to Halfys comment... if you go there try and get up to Machu Picchu as early as you can. The crowds after about 8am ruin it!!!
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