La Dolce Vita: Biking to L’Isola Del Sole and Trieste

Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life. -Anna Akhmatova 

Our biking destinations for Stages 3 and 4 (of our cycling journey from Venice, Italy to Porec, Croatia) was the beautiful Italian towns of Grado,  L’Isola Del Sole (the sunny island), and the historic city of Trieste.

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Lagoon to Grado.  Grado is off in the distance with an awesome bike path on a causeway to it.

 

 

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The approach to Trieste.  Hundreds of buoys for the yachts that fill the Med in July and August.  

Our biking mileage for Stage 3 was a modest 45 miles from Concordia Sagittarria to Grado and included a fun boat ride with our bikes across a lagoon.  From Concordia Sagitarria , we biked to the stunning fishing village of Marano Lagunare in time for lunch by the sea where a boat was waiting to ferry us and our fellow biking buddies (and all our bikes).  The boat took us from the charming fishing village of Marano Lagunare across a lagoon to the surroundings of Aquileia.

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Our chariot awaits.  Our boat ride with the bikes from Marano Lagunare to Aquileia.

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Pedestrian area of the charming fishing village of Marano Lagunare.

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Another view of the charming fishing village of Marano Lagunare
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Our dock on the other side of the lagoon from Marano Lagunare and then more cycling to Aquileia and Grado.

Once we docked on the other side of the lagoon, our cycling adventure continued to Aquileia.  Aquileia  is an ancient Roman city in what is now Italy at the head of the Adriatic and the edge of the lagoon.  Aquileia is believed to be the largest Roman city yet to be excavated.

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More fun with our new camera and the beautiful town of Aquileia.

From Aquileia, we biked over a stunning lagoon on a bike path to the gorgeous fishing village of Grado.  It is located in the Venetian lagoon in the northeastern region of Italy.  Once a fishing village, today it is a major boating and tourist destination with a lot of charm.   We loved Grado for the stunning blue seas that surround it, the pedestrian walking village, the stunning architecture and of course, fantastic food.  Our hotel for the night was located in the pedestrian only corner of the city and close to the sea.

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Marina and channel right in the center of Grado.  Boating in northern Italy must be a outstanding going from one charming village to another.
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The promenade in Grado.
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Charming street where we ate dinner in Grado.  Awesome dinner at the Spaghetti House in Grado.  For some reason, the owner thought we German and started speaking to us in German.  Must be Chris’ glasses.

 

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Loved Grado.  Definitely a place to revisit.

After spending the night in Grado, Stage 4 took us cycling about another 45 miles to Trieste.  The biking approach to Trieste was stunning along a coastal road with beautiful views.  Think Highway 1 in California but Italian style.  Si bella!

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Some tunnels on the approach to Trieste.
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Stunning views everywhere on our approach to Trieste.

Trieste is a city and port in northeastern Italy close to the Slovenian border (where we will be heading in Stage 5).  Trieste has an interesting history and was actually part of Austria from 1382 until 1918.  The city was annexed to Italy after World War I. It is a border town with an interesting mix of Austrian architecture and blend of Italian, German and Slavic cultures.  Our hotel for the night is the super comfortable, Hotel Victoria, in downtown Trieste.

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James Joyce, an Irish writer, spent a lot of time in Trieste.

 

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Main square in Trieste

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We enjoyed our visit to Trieste. It is a large city and has many beaches, historical sites, and neighborhoods. Its multi-cultural past and its small suburban villages give it a unique feel.  It is strategically located near the Slovenian border where we are off to in Stage 5. Slovenia is a new country for us and looked forward to our visit – and it did not dissapoint.  It actually exceeded expectations. Stay tuned for our cycling experience in Slovenia and Croatia.

 

Angkor What? Thousand Year Old Ruins and Biking

We have spent the last few days cycling in and around Siem Reap. It has been incredible to have the opportunity to bike ancient dirt paths through thousand year old ruins of an incredibly powerful and prosperous people.

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With  roughly four million tourists visiting Cambodia last year and most of these visitors going to Angkor Wat, cycling through Siem Reap and Angkor is the way to go.  There are  A LOT of tour buses and packs of visitors from Asia and Europe, but Cambodia Cycle did another great job getting us off the beaten path and on the back roads, slipping us into back entrances and following the path less taken.  Destinations were temples created during the Pre-Angkor (roughly 1-800 A.D.) and Angkor periods (800-1500 A.D.) – Kravan temple, Banteay Kdei, Ta Phrom, Angkor Wat, Banteay Srei , Bakong. We managed to bike 3-4 hours each day for 3 days and still spend time seeing all the sights.

The two temples that stand out were Ta Phrom and Angor Wat.  Ta Phrom  IMG_0514IMG_0496

(aka Tomb Raider) has these massive trees (Spung trees) that have grown around the temples, and restoration teams have intentionally left the trees.  Angkor was stunning and although Cambodia is a gorgeous country, trash on the side of the road is common, but not in Angkor.  It was truly pristine. Roughly 30% of the funds from the entrance to Angkor go to the maintenance of this gorgeous area.  And Angkor Wat, the largest religious complex in the world, is stunningly beautiful.   Word of caution… We knew we needed to wear clothes to cover shoulders and knees and planned accordingly.  However, upon arriving, the officers would not let me (Susan) in the temple, probably because of the small slit in the biking skirt.  Our resourceful guide went around the corner and borrowed some pants from a female worker at the site.  Chris has the picture to prove it, but this is definitely not one for the public viewing. Let’s just say the pants were colorful.

Biking in and around Siem Reap was fantastic.  We biked mostly on dirt roads through rice fields and farms.  We had a chance to visit a charcoal producing farm which was interesting.  Wood is put in mud ovens for 2-3 hours, and then the charcoal is cooled.  Once cooled, it is bagged and taken to the local market. A sobering adder: the owner of the charcoal farm showed us his bullet wounds from an AK-47 fire fight during the civil war. The war, the mines, the aftermath, the impact from both the Vietnamese and Americans (we dropped more bombs on Cambodia than we did in all of WWII) weigh heavy here still.

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We also visited the River of Thousands Lingas which has Hindu mythological and religious carvings in the Kbal Spean River.   A great place to bring a date?  Lingas are basically phallic symbols that are thought to bring good luck and fertility.

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The temples ruins are amazing.  Here are a few more photosIMG_0651 IMG_0433 IMG_0600 IMG_0432

Bike Lanes, Wild Dogs and a Monkey

We had a blast biking Southeast Thailand. The roads are pretty good (everything is relative), and there are bike paths as well as a tourism route which surprised us both.

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We visited a number of small beach towns  and had lunch at small spot on the water with a cheeky monkey that was frustrating the restaurant owners.

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We also had a chance to visit a beautiful mangrove forest that the government is currently restoring. It used to be home of manatees but unfortunately, those are long gone now.

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The region of Rayong is a bit of an agricultural area. We spotted rubber trees, papaya, red peppers, durian trees (the king of fruit with quite a vile aroma), shrimp farms, salt farms and a catfish farm.

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The number of wild and semi wild dogs in the area is quite significant. There seemed to be one to a few every kilometer or so, and we ran into a couple large packs of 10 or so.  However, they are all quite timid and except for one cranky, pregnant one, we were not challenged or chased by any.

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In general, we were both surprised at the relative prosperity of the region. While there was certainly no lack of modest homes and farming bungalows, there was also no lack of 7-Elevens and brand new Toyota pick-up trucks.  It also appears that the government has invested significant money in the region to support tourism given the well done rest areas, bike lanes and the general infrastructure.  Overall, it is a great spot to bike.