Hello there!! As I mentioned in my previous post, we had been in Croatia and were heading to Slovenia. We happily hopped on a ridiculous flight fronSplit airport, to Belgrade (Serbia!) and then onto Ljubljana in Slovenia!
They have a dragon bridge in Ljubljana!
If you haven't been to Ljubljana, or have no concept of what it might be like, we highly recommend it: the old town is just lovely. Luckily for us, when we lamented only having booked one night in town before heading to Lake Bled, little did we know that, on our way back through the capital to get to Venice, we'd be unexpectedly held up and could enjoy another day pottering around! I'll just give you the run down of the time we spent there, even though it comes chronologically AFTER Bled. As we hadn't expected to be there, we hadn't researched anything to do or see. We made the most of this unexpected delay to wander around the old town, hop on a boat that meandered down the river and back for 45 mins and drink wine (infinitely better than Croatian wine!) in the sunshine! We even spotted a guy from the English TV programme “The Green Wing”. Productive day all round.
Ljubljana was a delightful surprise: it had the fairy tale feeling of a town created by Disney, but with an atmosphere that was lively and engaging. Unfortunately, as we saw, it looks like it'll become the new Amsterdam or Budapest where British stag dos flock to get raucously drunk and obnoxious. If you want to visit, get there quickly, before the hoards descend. That's my recommendation. We were staying in a less than salubrious hotel (thanks LastMinute.com for finding us a hotel at that late notice at all, though!) and had, in order to get to the river and restaurants, to walk through an area that, if I were alone, I would have been slightly intimidated by. However, as a duo, it was charming and bohemian, with throngs of people in the streets drinking and eating falafel. Instead of mingling there, as fun as it was sure to have been, we headed to a restaurant called Spajzo which was on the other side of the old town and had excellent reviews. I'm so very glad we did because, despite not having reservations, we were shown to their “overflow room” which was the old wine cellar and had a spectacular dinner there! They were so apologetic about the room but we loved it: you'd pay big bucks in London to sit in a renovated wine cellar! The waiter was the best I think I've ever experienced: he was informative, attentive, enthusiastic and also recommended wines for each course. He had impeccable taste which was, surprisingly, not astronomically expensive either!
Prior to Ljubljana, we had spent four days by Lake Bled. Again, this place looked like it was lifted straight from a Disney fairy tale. The lake was huge, with turquoise water, a castle up on the cliff face to your right and an island with a gorgeous old church sitting happily in the middle. We took a rowing boat out to the island one day which was lovely (maybe more so for me as Alex did all the rowing!) and then climbed up to the church where, to our delight, there was a cafe that sold mini bottles of bubbles and strawberries! That's my kind of church-going! The tradition at this church is for new grooms to carry their brides up the 99 steep steps, without either of them saying a word. Needless to say, Alex didn't hulk all 5 foot 10 inches of me over his shoulder and climb up them….as I certainly wouldn't have been able to stay quiet!
Bled is a place that I would strongly suggest for a few days to unwind: go to the saunas and pools in your hotel after a strenous day of strolling slowly around a beautiful lake. It's a tough life! The only things that slightly marred the place for me was that the food wasn't good (where tour groups go, food always suffers, I find) and it took 4 tries for the staff at our particular hotel to manage to get “double bed” right. First it was twin beds, then twin beds pushed together, then twin beds with a double duvet stretched across them…and finally twin beds with a sheet covering both mattresses so they vaguely held together, and a double duvet. As you can probably imagine, I was somewhat frustrated with this encounter.
On one of our days, we took a trip over to Lake Bohinj which, like Lake Bled, is absolutely stunning! There are fewer tourists there but there are many activities you can do: paragliding, water rafting, kayaking, hiking, canyoning: the lot!
After our Slovenia stint, we headed over to Venice (with the unexpected pit stop in Ljubljana; it turns out there's just one bus a day from the capital to Venice…and it leaves at 8.15am!) where we spent one night. We utilised our time by, once again, strolling around and taking in the town. Where we would have been rushing around in the crowds, queuing endlessly for the “big sights”, we have now become very relaxed and prefer to just wander around and experience places that way. We took one look at the masses of people in San Marco square, for instance, and immediately turned on our heels to find somewhere quieter and smaller. Much more to our taste. We did, however, indulge in the tourist trap known as the gondola…and loved every second of it. We'd both been on one before but never together so we bit the €80 proverbial bullet and thank goodness we did. The difference between navigating the crowds in those narrow alleys and the quiet peace of floating down the canals was immeasurable. Our top tip for Venice is: get lunch from Alfredo's take away…considering a mediocre Venetian dinner cost us €100(!!), it was a joy to have large portions of delicious, freshly made pasta from Alfredo's for a sum total of €14 for us both! We even got snapped by the Japanese tourists that gondola-ed past us as we sat on the steps of a deserted alley: I bet they'd be disappointed to know we are English rather than Italian.
Now we are in Florence. The heat has skyrocketed so we are spending most of our time trying to stay cool (37 degrees is unnecessarily hot!) while, again, drinking lovely wine, eating lovely food and admiring lovely architecture! We hope to circumnavigate the 5 hour queues to get into the Uffizi gallery by having bought tickets online…unfortunately, it looks like we'll have to brave the 2 hour queue to see Michael Angelo's David. Alex hasn't seen it before and it'd be a total shame to come all this way and not go make David's acquaintance!