Paragliders touching down in the local playing field.
After getting back from Interlaken, never has a place I have been to deserve a blog post more than that place. It has literally something for everyone to do, while you are either sky diving, canyon jumping and canyoning for the more adventurous ones or paddle boarding, bicycle tours or swinging from the trees on a ropes course for the ones who want to take in the scenery, you are surrounded by pristine alpine beauty.
I’m talking waterfalls, spurting out of cliff faces high up over a few Swiss style houses down in a bright green field, hiking trails that weave in and out of the healthiest looking flora I have ever seen. Lake Thun and lake Briez look like something out of a film set, to which in my opinion not enough people went down to have a look at which I would like to think because they were either jumping out of a plane or jumping of some form of platform.
Maybe this is why everyone is Interlaken is so chilled out; I thought the Italian lifestyle was relaxed but this was something different. Even the dogs there are chilled out, walking off the lead with their tail wagging greeting each person strolling past with a sniff looking for a pet to which you cannot turn down. Who ever said dogs cannot smile was lying!
Sure you pay a little bit more for the food and drinks but there is no reason to moan about it because the customer service is incredible and the food is spot on. Greeted by a handshake while being spoken to like you have been going there for years you then take a seat, preferably a window seat so you can look up at the snow-capped mountains while sipping a Guinness trying to figure out how you are going to fit all the food placed in front of you into your stomach. As I said, nothing to moan about what so ever.
During my time in Interlaken I stayed at the hostel Balmers which is more like a hotel than a hostel, during my travels I have stayed in in quite a few hostels and Balmers is by far the best. I thought “The Arts Factory” in Byron bay was going to stay at the top of my list for a very long time but Balmers without a shadow of a doubt takes the crown. The staff are a mixed bunch of nationalities who stop to say hello and make friendly small talk with you while you are sitting in the beer garden admiring the views once again, swinging in the hammock room contemplating how lucky you are to be where you are or if you are watching TV in the front room style reception next to the log burner.
If any of you get the smallest chance to visit Interlaken, grab it with both hands and get yourself up there. This post I hope makes Interlaken seem like the place to be but no matter what anyone writes they will never be able to describe Interlaken to do it any justice, the place is just perfect and I hope to go back there at some point in my life for a longer stay.
This is a list I have complied for you consumption and to use at your free will about places to go and see while you are enjoying your time in Florence if you have any further questions let me know via Facebook (Dean Speer), Telephone which is 3420846935 and my E-mail is Speer@bus2alps.com. If you would like to meet in person, come down to Astor on a Monday and you get yourself a free coffee during the process.
The Club House is a chilled out bar with a real cool vibe, the bartenders there know there stuff so you can ask them for any kind of cocktail and they will be able to shake one up for you and they also have a selection of premium lagers for all you beer fans. Club house also has fantastic chefs which cook some spectacular food so this is also the perfect place to Wine and Dine in style for a reasonable price.
The Lions Fountain:
The infamous Lions Den, this place should require no introduction but just in case you haven’t heard about it I will fill you in. The Lions Fountain is your quintessential Irish pub, you can get a decent pint of Harp or Guinness, watch some sports which include; American Football, Football/Soccer, Cycling, Rugby, Tennis and Ice Hockey. This is also a great place to make your mark on Florence with the chance to hang up your respective university T-shirt and sign it. The Lions fountain has all the ingredients for a fun filled night out.
The first stop of the famous Bell Tower Pub Crawl which meets at the Duomo steps at 9PM (Monday through till Saturday). Also a great place to grab an espresso and a quick bite to eat while sight seeing around Florence, this is also a meeting point for the Bus2alps staff so if you cannot contact any of us at some point we will be there Monday-Thursday 10am-11am. Every Monday you are entitled to one free coffee here so put one foot in front of the other and come on down.
The Old Stove is a neat little Irish pub filled with a cosy feel to it, pop on in and grab yourself a beer and kick back and relax. There are 3 Old stove pubs in Florence so make sure to hit them all up at some point and find your favorite one.
The Lions Fountain Part 2. This place is to me the Lions Fountains baby sister, they share the same staff and are run by the same people so if one place is to loud and busy you can always go to the other and vice versa.
Take a trip to Red Garter if you like friendly staff, live music with the chance to do some karaoke, decent drinks and awesome food to boot! This is another stop on the Bell Tower pub crawl and is situated on a street with numerous other bars so it’s a definite must see at some point.
Places to eat –
I generally tend to wander around and if some where is busy with local people and they are not talking as they are too busy eating it’s generally a good sign although I do have my regular haunts which I will list for you now.
As I said in the bars list this place has some brilliant chefs who can cook up some Tuscan style food accompanied by a fine wine or if you are after a cheeseburger they can whip you one up. These guys also do wine tasting so make sure you visit this place.
Il Gatto & La Volpe:
If you are after traditional Italian food in a relaxed friendly environment then head on down to Il Gatto & La Volpe, Bus2Alps also runs a “Family Style Dinner” where you get to hang out with a huge group of like minded people, eat some of the best pasta Florence has to offer along with their renowned homemade balsamic vinegar.
If you guys are missing American style food then this is the place for you, if you are after blueberry pancakes, French fries, cheese burgers and a plethora of other nostalgia inducing food this is the where you need to be. The Diner is a stones throw away from Il Gatto & La Volpe so if you know where one is and not the other you are in luck.
This is one quirky little place just outside of the center where you feel like you’re sitting in some ones house. You pick your food out from a selection written up on a chalk board, take it over to chefs and they cook it up for you. While the chefs are preparing your food you can sit back and relax with a wine while taking in the chilled out atmosphere. It’s all self-service here so do not expect to be waited on hand and foot. Just go with the flow and you will be fine.
The Oil Shoppe:
The award winning Oil Shoppe, this place doesn’t need my words to get you there as the National Geographic has had articles about this place. If you do not go there you better have a good excuse, these guys do the best sandwiches around with more fillings than you can shake a very big stick at.
With this information you should never go hungry or thirsty again while you are in Florence! Just remember not to over indulge other wise those bathing suits will not fit!
So this week I’ve had two of my good friends Tommy and Lauren come from Manchester to stay at my place and explore Florence and the delights it has to offer.
They arrived late on the Tuesday night where I picked them up from the train station after I had the pleasure of partaking in the exclusive “Family Style Dinner” at Il Gatto & La Volpe and consuming my own body weight in numerous types of pasta, a platter of meat, crostinis topped with mushroom and spices and the most important part… Vino.
Once we arrived back at my place after walking around Florence for 10 minutes I whipped up a salad for them along with cheese and bread accompanied by a bottle of wine. Once that was polished off Lauren decided to hit the hay which gave me and Tommy the chance to wander around Florence by night with a bottle of wine in hand which allowed us both to see Florence for what it really is. Beautiful. We visited Piazza Santa Croche, the Ponte Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria and last but not least the Duomo.
With the wine beginning to take effect and the long day we had both had we decided its best to stroll back to my place and get some sleep as we have a busy schedule ahead of us with trying to pack everything Florence has to offer into such a small time frame..
I basically made an absolute school boy error with Cinque Terre, I tried to predict mother nature and it turned out with me having soggy trainers and a dripping wet T-shirt while trying to put on a brave face. The weather or so I thought was going to be nice considering I am in Italy after all but alas the heavens opened and pissed all over me and made the rain slap me in the face with some strong gusts of wind every now and again.
The pesto pizza and the bottles of Birra Moretti (Thanks Mike from The Mill for introducing me to this tasty beverage) were small condolences compared to the stunning views that braving the weather on the hikes offered but by the end of it all I just wanted to curl up in bed with a nice brew and a Disney film.
So without waffling on to much my “Travel tip of the week” is go prepared for all weather conditions whether it be taking a bottle of sun lotion, correct footwear, a rain proof coat or even a bathing suit.