Bicycle race

If you have a bike, you should use it. This trip was a long time in the making, but finally we made it happen.


Exactly at 9:00 the team started.

The large number of riders turned out to have pros and cons. A plus was that drivers respected us, or at least our bulk. It is hard not to respect a long column of bicyclists stretching out half a kilometer. Cons - a disparate group with varying levels of ability, and a long snack break to let the stragglers catch up.

Of course, we got very tired. But the impressions were worth it! Given the chance, we’d do it again and again!

And lastly. The range of equipment was simply magnificent: from the one-a-year people to the bike-maniacs, there was quite an assortment. My favorite item was a helmet which was so shiny that it others could use it like a rear-view mirror.

Italian vacation: Bergamo

Bergamo. This point on the itinerary was accidental. There were 2 choices: take the plane to Milan or Bergamo. Since the flight was on Sunday, a day that Italians do not like work at all, we decided to go to Bergamo and save an hour while people were still getting to work. The decision was both right and wrong.

Right in the sense that the city has a new, beautiful look. Not right in the fact that small towns get started even later.

Around 12 on the streets there were still very few people, but at three, there were crowds.

View of the upper city
View of the upper city

Bergamo - a city where I would like to stay for a couple of three days, and see everything. A huge castle on a hilltop known as the upper town, a cozy and beautiful lower city. I was completely fatigued getting there. The air of the Alps made breathing very easy, though.

Bergamo is a little like Milan. Many shops, but more comfortable, and have lower prices. But the real shopping in Italy can be done without being in any of the cities. Just Fly to Bergamo, exit the airport, walk across the road and at your service – a mad-sized shopping mall. The parking lot was full of license plates from Milan. Here the prices are much more democratic, and in view of Christmas discounts - you can do some serious shopping.

Summary of trip: Everything went very well. A trip by car gives you the freedom and opportunities that are not in the usual tours. Yes, all the prices turned out a lot cheaper than they would have been through a travel agency.

Car rental in Spain

Our Seat Ibiza
Our Seat Ibiza

When planning a trip to Spain (Santa Susanna), the question of rental cars arose.
The apartment was in Susanna, the plane flew to Girona, plus we wanted to go to France, Andorra, go around Spain itself. So renting a car seemed a logical decision. Analyzing websites and reviews, the biggest problem, we understood, would be poor knowledge of English and complete lack of any other languages, including Spanish on our part. All rental terms, even on sites offering a Russian-language interface for ordering, at best were in English, at worst in Spanish. Given the possible legal issues that we could encounter, we decided to hope for the best and get the car anyway.

We were lucky. Using other people's experience, we found a English-speaking broker. Service was exceptional. Here’s what we got:
1. A detailed explanation of the legal nuances of rental cars. For us it was more important than money.
2. A car that met our requirements completely: no more than 300 euros for 13 days. We ordered economy class (Ford Ka), but ultimately received a five-door Seat Ibiza. Maybe it was the same class, but our son did not have to twisted and fold into the back seat, which was nice. A value analysis to other companies showed that this was simply plum.
3. Cash deposit. It was our special request that the manager fulfilled by arrangement with the rental company. We didn’t need a deposit for the apartment, so that left money available for the car deposit.
4. The deposit seemed a little much - 560 euros, but since the car was returned with a full tank and without damaged, it didn’t matter.
5. The 300 euro total included full insurance. Happily that was unnecessary, despite the heavy rain on an insane Pyrenees’ serpentine stretch of road, where flying into nowhere it was quite easy.

Analyzing the later order, convinced of the benefits of this decision. Even the local office did not give such good terms (just over 22 euros per day with full insurance).

Who was the real winner?
1. Freedom of movement - I think needs no additional explanation.
2. Money. A taxi from Girona to Santa Susanna is 50 euros. That is 100 euros of the 300 immediately. Travel to Barcelona, Andorra, Perpignan (France), and to the coast can be done, of course, on public transport, but a detailed calculation shows that the car obviously paid off, despite the additional expense of gasoline and toll roads.

What went wrong? Failed with the type of car. An Ibiza is a good car, but for the city.
1. A Ford Mondeo wagon with a 1.8l engine and a fully loaded trunk did great on a similar trip in the Caucasus. But the Ibiza with the 1.4 engine was too weak for the mountains, even with an empty trunk, alas, we hardly got out of second gear. While on the highway, the Ibiza behaves well, and was quite economical.
2. Terribly inconvenient front end for serpentine road. Very difficult to see the rear view on the left. I had to constantly twist and turn..

Problems with parking - a classic element of the European travel genre. We got our initiation in Perpignan, where an unfortunate choice of parking spaces led to an unromantic stroll to the evacuation site, and a 100 euro fine. We started parking smarter, and paid for parking lots. (Incidentally, the French have a strange idea of distances. Whenever we asked how far something was, including police, underestimated distances by a factor of 3 to 4. Had we known, we’d have taken taxis.

Conclusions and future considerations:
1. Be attentive about the choice of car. Have an approximate travel plan and if there are mountains in that plan, take a more expensive, but more powerful car.
2. Do not save money on parking.

No other minuses about the rental car, and the two big plusses were more than enough to compensate.

Thai Glimpses: Sanctuary of Truth

The Sanctuary of is a project designed to serve to unite the peoples of Thailand’s closest neighbors: Cambodia, China and India.

Sanctuary of Truth
Sanctuary of Truth

The project is private, the owner has spent $ 1 million for the initial phase, now the project is funded by visitors and private contributions.

The temple is made in the form of a cross, each of the ends of the cross is devoted to one country. The interior is executed in the style of each of the religions with appropriate decorations. Our guide walked and talked in each room about every deity, but he was hard to understand, and so we don’t remember much. Thai English – well, that’s another story. But admiring the sheer beauty of the place was still very easy to do.

Thai Glimpses: The Million Years Stone Park

The park is located close to Pattaya. To get there, you can: take an excursion bus, a tuk-tuk or “motosay", or go by bike. It’s 15 minutes with a tailwind and we are on the spot.

“Stones” Park - a beautiful park adorned with tropical vegetation and rocks of diverse forms. Some rocks are petrified tree.

Park is small and well maintained. Great diversity of colors, palm trees, Bansai trees, lotuses. All this is oddly twisted and decorated. For the first time I saw a flowering palm. The three stages of palm leaves were all visible in the specimens in the partk.

In the center of the park there was a very nice walking path going past a fountain, stones, trees and sculptures.