Tag Archives: bus

El Valle de Antón

Jan 25 – This morning we packed our bags, had one more breakfast that couldn’t be beat, and Ubered over to the Gran Terminal Nacional de Transporte, otherwise known as the bus terminal at the Albrook Mall.

The terminal was huge, and we were passed from one tout to the next until we reached the booth selling tickets to El Valle de Antón. Tickets cost $4.50 each, for a three hour ride.

We were directed onto a bus, and sat there for about half an hour until there were sufficient customers for us to leave. The bus was not a shiny new one like the city buses, nor was it as large, but it did have air conditioning. It also played loud mariachi music.

We saw some of the old, colorful “chicken buses” at the bus terminal, but none were in use.

As soon as we left the terminal, the bus stopped on what seemed like every corner until it was full. The music changed from mariachi to Spanish rap. Each bus has a driver and a guy who opens the door, yells out the destination and hops off to collect money as passengers get on and off. It took us a long time to get out of the city, in bumper to bumper traffic, with road construction all around. Now, this feels more like Central America!

After an hour or so, the traffic thinned and we started to make good time. After another hour, the driver turned off the air con and we started to climb. We’re going to the mountains!

We made it to El Valle!

At the third hour, we arrived in El Valle. The driver stopped the bus right at our place, and we hopped off.

Los Aramos, owned by a former ambassador, is full of European furniture and artwork, and has been made into apartments of various sizes. We have a bedroom, a bath and a full kitchen, so Jim will be able to cook for us. The multiple dining and living rooms are outdoors, and shared.

An outdoor dining area
A living room, including hammocks and a big TV
Another dining room!
I wanted to capture the exterior of our house, but it is literally covered in foliage. You can see a bit of the red roof.
The reception area
Loads of blooms here!

We will be here for a week enjoying the cooler weather and taking in the sights and the hiking trails. Stay tuned!

Aviemore to Pitlochry to Edinburgh, Scotland

August 23 – This morning, after another lovely breakfast, we put our big packs on our backs and walked to the Inverness bus station. Our arranged tour is over and no one will be transporting our packs for us anymore. Rather than spend a long travel day getting back to Edinburgh, Jim booked us one night each in two small towns on the way.

Aviemore Railway

Aviemore is in Cairngorms National Park, best known for winter skiing, but also for biking, climbing and hiking the Speyside Way, which runs parallel to the Great Glen Way.

Our guesthouse is right across the street from the local Church of Scotland, with the cross of St. Andrew in the window. The cross looks like the letter X because that was the shape of the cross that Andrew was crucified on. Andrew never visited Scotland, and I was unable to find why he is the patron saint of this country. This is the view from our window. See the rainbow?

We took a short walk down part of the Speyside Way. We met some horses disguised as zebras.

A different kind of trail marker

Back in our room, we spied another rainbow!

I liked the architecture and stone walls:

Ravenscraig- some of the house names sound like they should be in Harry Potter

Aviemore also has its very own standing stone circle, over 4000 years old, right in the middle of a residential neighborhood. The stones have been mostly buried to protect them.

Do you hear the stones singing?
Jamie, here I come!

In one of our hotels, I found a copy of a Diana Gabaldon book I had never seen. Hadn’t I read them all? Turns out that Cross Stitch was the original name of the first book in the UK, before it was changed to Outlander. Now you know.

Original title of Outlander
Aviemore has nattily attired train conductors…
…and helpful bus drivers – this is our double decker bus

You won’t believe this, but as we were leaving for supper, a third rainbow!

August 24 – Back on the bus this morning for the 75 minute ride to Pitlochry. Seen from the bus window:

Pretty mountains
I wonder what castle that is?

Pitlochry has several golf courses – an important sport here – a hydroelectric dam, and is home to Blair Castle. I got excited when I found out about the castle, as my family is connected to Clan Blair. Too bad for me, the castle has been owned by the Atholl family for 750 years. Blár is the Gaelic word for meadow, so I guess it just means the castle on the meadow. It was a ways out of town, and we did not visit.

More pretty buildings:

Pitlochry Church

There are lots of shops and restaurants in town, and tons of visitors. We did our souvenir shopping today – a plate for our wall and trinkets for the grands. The older they get, the harder it is to find something we think they will like.

Pretty Main Street
A hairy coo bakery

In the evening, we walked to the hydroelectric dam., which is a tourist spot with a visitor center and a lively bar. The dam was not spewing (do they turn it off in the evening?), but we got to see the fish ladder and a stunning sunset.

Suspension bridge
Look Lexi – a horse sculpture!
Some locks of love on this boat
Fish ladder – no fish jumping at the moment
Gorgeous sunset

August 25 – After breakfast, we walked through town one more time. Saw a sculpture that made us cross the street to get a closer look. Obviously a woman, but what is she doing? Hitting her children with a stick? Playing an invisible violin? Turns out she is holding a golf club – worst stance ever.

Then back on the bus to Edinburgh, with one transfer that got us to within a block of our hotel. Kudos once again to a transportation system that gets you where you want to go!

August 26 – Up at 3:15am to get to the airport for our 6am flight to Amsterdam. Layover at Schiphol Airport is always a pleasure, including a mini Rijks Museum display and shop.

Porcelain elephants for sale at the Rijks Museum shop

Then on to Atlanta, and by 11pm we are home. Up for 26 hours – who can sleep on a plane anymore – all in the same day. A little worse for wear, but very happy to be here. ‘Til next time!

The Dales Way – Sedbergh to Kendal

June 16 – Today is a rest day for us, and as luck would have it, rain is forecast for the whole day. When booking this hike, Jim hit a snag, as the next destination after Sedbergh was a place called Burneside, that had no available accommodation whatsoever. The best thing we could do was to book in Kendal, a fair sized city not too far away.

This morning at breakfast, we asked our host Carol if she could call us a taxi. After a half hour of trying, she reported back that all three taxis in town were already busy. Perhaps the bus? Great! We love buses. As it is Saturday, the bus runs on a reduced schedule. The next one comes at 10:50. Great!

We walked down to the bus stop, in front of the library, and chatted with the librarian and folks coming in for books, including an older couple who told us where all their relatives were buried from the Great War. Eventually, the bus pulled up, and folks queued up in typical British fashion. It wasn’t a full sized bus, but more of a large van, with many of the seats already taken. Two people paid and embarked, at which point the driver announced that the seats were all full, and no one else could get on.

Folks got out their mobiles, trying to call a taxi, or canceling their plans. We asked if we couldn’t stand and ride (absolutely not). The driver called and asked if another bus could be sent for the six of us who couldn’t get on, but there was no other bus available. Sigh. Another bus would come in four hours.

The old couple from the library watched all this transpire, and when we walked dejectedly back into the library, the husband offered to go get his car and give us a lift. Nice People of England! Philip is a lay preacher at the Methodist Church in town, and we spent the half hour ride talking about his family and his faith, singing in the choir, and the sermon he was writing for Sunday. What a nice man!

So here we are in Kendal.

A bustling town with folks out shopping on a Saturday in the rain.

They have a famous Chocolate House that’s been here since 1657.

We didn’t stay out long, but bought some food (meat pies) and went back to our nice hotel for a lazy afternoon of doing laundry and watching the World Cup games. England may be a contender!

Antalya to….

1/7 – the weather has gotten very cold all of a sudden! It’s time to move on, but, unfortunately for us, our next adventure is north of here, in the mountains, where it is bound to be even colder. Glad I got my winter jacket! Today we planned to take a six hour bus ride north to Konya, leaving at 11am. We arrived at the travel agent to catch the shuttle to the bus terminal at 9:45, but were told that the usual 6 buses to Konya had been reduced to 2 because of snow in the mountains. The bus we were supposed to be on had been canceled. The only morning bus would leave at 10, and the terminal was 30 minutes away. I wondered why only 4 of the buses were canceled. The snow mustn’t be too bad if some buses were still moving through.

When we expressed dismay (the travel agent had no English, and our Turkish really sucks, so all communication takes place by facial expressions, waving our hands about, pointing at clocks, and Google Translate) she indicated that we could take a taxi to a place on the outskirts of town where we could flag down the bus as it drove by at 10:15. Deal!

She sprinted with us to the taxi stand and hurriedly explained the situation to the driver. He jumped behind the wheel and peeled out into traffic, beeping his horn at every intersection to make the other cars go faster. He got us to the designated place and showed us where to stand. Jim tried to tip him for his outstanding service, but he refused extra money.

We flagged down the next bus that came by, which was not our bus. This caused a young man to emerge from the cafe and ask what we were trying to do. He waited with us until the right bus came by, and flagged it down. Now, that’s THREE Nice People of Turkey in 30 minutes – a new record!

We were happy to be out of the cold on a nice warm bus, and congratulated ourselves on our success. We were happier still when the bus assistant brought us hot coffee and a selection of snacks. We were on our way!

It was hard to believe that buses had been canceled due to snow on such a bright sunny day. Here’s what we saw out our window:



After 3 hours, the bus pulled in at a gas station / restaurant. This was an expected rest stop, where we could grab a snack and use the rest room. Usually, the driver announces how long the bus will be stopped – 10 or 15 minutes. This driver did not. As we got off the bus, we asked ‘how long?’ He just shrugged and replied, “Traffic problem”. Uh oh.

The temp had been dropping, and now registered at 0 / 32 degrees. As we trotted back to the WC, I slipped and recovered on the marble walkway covered with invisible ice. “Be careful…” I started to say, but too late. Down Jim went, smashing his knee. He limped back to the bus. Most of the passengers remained in their seats, so we sat back down too.

When the driver hadn’t returned in 20 minutes, we went into the restaurant and found him drinking tea and checking his cellphone. How long? we asked again. Another shrug. We sat inside for a while (the restaurant food did not look appetizing), bought some peanuts and a chocolate bar, and got back on the bus. I read for a while, then took a nap. After 2 and a half hours, the driver climbed back into the bus and started it up. The assistant gave everyone a cup of tea. Back in business!


After an hour’s ride, I began to get a sinking feeling. The thermometer display in the bus indicated that it was getting warmer, and things were starting to look familiar. Before too long, my suspicions were confirmed. There just could not be two identical roadside buildings called HOUSE OF LAMP. We were no longer heading north. The bus was returning to Antalya!

It was 6:30pm and pitch dark when we pulled into the otogar. Jim and I had discussed our options for the last hour, and decided to try returning to the same hotel we had checked out of this morning, even though that would entail another expensive taxi ride. We asked the bus assistant about getting a voucher or a refund on our tickets, and he said we could just use the ticket over again on another day. This didn’t sound right, but what could we do?

So, here we are back in our little room, exhausted after a long day of doing very little and getting nowhere. Our hotel proprietor said he thought we’d be returning, as he followed the weather report on the news. He was happy to see us. Although we had a non-refundable reservation in Konya, he called the Konya hotel and had them change the date on our reservation so there won’t be a penalty. Ah, the tribulations of travel! We’ll have to try again tomorrow.

1/8 – It turns out that the ongoing blizzard up north has stopped all traffic and canceled school in practically all of northern Turkey. All buses have been canceled, and even the trains got stuck on the tracks. It’s down in the 30s here in Antalya – extremely unusual. Most of the restaurants have only outdoor seating, and can’t be doing much business in this weather. The ice cream store was closed today.

We walked back to the travel agent to confirm that our tickets would still be usable. The buses are scheduled (right now) to run tomorrow, so we will try again.

On our way home we saw a display of winter hats outside a shop:image I hope well-meaning Turkish parents don’t buy these hats for their children! (We’ve seen many tee shirts sporting English words that make no sense – evidently the cachet of a foreign word is enough to sell the items, no matter the meaning!)

We understand that it’s cold back home too – bundle up and stay warm!

Sofia to Istanbul, Turkey

11/23 – please forgive the level of detail in this post, but some fellow travelers may need this information if traveling to Istanbul.

We planned to use our EuRail pass to travel from Bulgaria to Istanbul. This involved getting onboard in Sofia at 5pm, changing trains 4 times, then transferring to a bus for the last leg to arrive into Istanbul at 7 in the morning. We negotiated the first two trains successfully (by asking “Plovdiv? Train to Parvomay?” Remember, we can’t read the signs…) then were told there was a problem. No train runs from Dimitrovgrad to the Turkish border, so we would have to take a bus instead. This is a long term issue, not just today. (Both EuRail and DB Bahn show a train.) No problem! We’ve done this before!

The train conductor was very kind, but had no English, so he sought out a student who spoke English to explain the situation to us. We never really got an explanation, just that there was no train, and we’d have to wait alone in the empty Dimitrovgrad station from 9:30 – 11pm for the bus. Our high school student, Constantina, had very good English, and wants to work in communications and study abroad. Translating for the conductor, she relayed that things were getting better in Bulgaria, as the Bulgarian singer had come in second place in the European Sing Off show on TV, and he believed that peace on earth was coming. He also recited many place names he learned about America: Boston! AnnaPOlis! Trenton, New Yersey!

When we got off in Dimitrovgrad, the conductor called ahead to make sure the bus would stop for us. He warned us to stay in the station to avoid pickpockets (there was no one around at all), and he even took us to the conductors office to use the bathroom as there was none in the station. He bade us good night, then came back a half hour later – 10:30 at night – to give us a tract – he was a Bulgarian Jehovah’s Witness! What a nice man.image

Here we are, waiting in the station. There are evidently many things you’re not allowed to do here.

The promised bus arrived a little after 11, and we got on. The bus made several more stops, until only we and three middle-aged Romanian women were left. We caught a little shut-eye until we reached the Bulgarian border. We all had to get out of the bus and stand in the cold until the officer stamped our passports, then got back on the bus. It was now around 2am.

The bus drove forward toward the Turkish border, and joined a queue of other buses. The border looked like a toll plaza, but only one lane was open, and it was not our lane! We waited (and dozed) until the driver ordered us out of the bus. We trooped over to the open station, and waited while the border officer processed cars through. When there was a lull between cars, he examined our passports. It was VERY cold, probably in the 20s, and this took quite some time. Once stamped we all got back on the bus.

The bus was still in a queue of other buses. What were we waiting for now? When the bus moved up sufficiently, we had to get out again, this time with our luggage, and troop over to go through a security scanner. Then we waited outside for over an hour, until it was our bus’s turn to be scanned (for weapons? contraband? No idea). We were all freezing cold by this point, jumping up and down with teeth chattering. I will add that at no point was there any opportunity to use a restroom.

Finally, we were allowed back on the bus – it was now 6am – and were driven to the Kapikule train station on the Turkish side of the border. We all got off again. Train now? No, another bus! The Romanian women complained loudly at this point, (bless them!) so the driver agreed to wait while we all ran to the WC next to the station. Boarded the new bus and fell back to sleep, reaching the Istanbul Sirkeci train station around 11:30am.

So, fellow travelers, do not plan on making any sort of connection based on the train schedule, as you will miss it by a mile. But, you will eventually arrive in Istanbul – how exciting!

We changed our Bulgarian lev to Turkish lira and walked the mile to Hotel Buhara on yet another drizzly grey day. At least it is a little warmer here – mid-forties, which feels warm compared to where we’ve been. Our host gave us hot tea in little glasses, with sugar cubes on the side.

After a nap, we went out in the late afternoon to see the Blue Mosque. A little before 5pm, the Call to Prayer sung out over the loudspeakers, with another mosque nearby responding as a duet:
Allah is Most Great
I testify that there is no God but Allah
I testify that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah
Come to Prayer!
Come to Salvation!
Allah is the Most Great!
There is no God but Allah.

It took my breath away.


Medjugorje back to Split, Croatia

11/16 – well, there are things you can do, and things you can’t do, and it looks like traveling overland through Bosnia is one of the things we are just not going to do. Not impossible, but our options were limited and sounded unpleasant, so we opted to go back the way we came.

We got on the bus at Medjugorje for the four hour ride south to Split. Boarding with us was a man from Italy, who had filled up his entire rolling suitcase with big, dinner plate sized rocks taken from Apparition Hill, and had filled several plastic shopping bags with his displaced clothing. The bus driver told him the charge for stowing luggage was 8 kuna per bag, so he proceeded to unload the rocks one by one into the storage compartment, grunting with exertion, with the argument that if the rocks weren’t in a bag, he shouldn’t get charged! He went on to explain that he was bringing the rocks home as an inspiration to his poor, aged mother…. I think the driver gave up and let him stow the rocks. I would normally look aghast at someone helping themselves to parts of a shrine, but that hill won’t miss a few big rocks!

Unlike our ride north earlier in the week, the sun was shining and the clouds were awesome. Don’t you agree? These pix taken through the window of the moving bus: IMG_4227.JPG







So now we are back in our comfy apartment, and our lovely host Pera has left us more oranges and candies. It’s nice to be back home, if only for a day! Tomorrow, we take the train back to Zagreb.