First of all, I am quite clearly back from Europe!! I had an absolutely fantastic holiday; one of the best holidays. I go to see and do so much in two weeks and still managed to not spend too much money (thanks to one hell of a lot of cheese sandwiches!!), plus have a fantastic time with my best friends with fantastic memories. We had such a laugh and so much fun, even though there were some not-so-great times during the holiday- especially on our first horribly rainy day in Rome when we hadn't eaten all day and found ourselves stuck in Italy with no easy way, it seemed, to get ourselves to France for our flights home. Luckily we managed to get everything sorted in the end (we flew to Paris, we are the worst backpackers ever!!) and luckily despite a few hiccoughs, everything went pretty smoothly.
We spent the first three days in Athens; stealing bread from the free breakfast (hey, all they gave us was bread and a toaster and some butter and jam. we just did a Ross and took what the hostel owed us- 3 slices of toast for breakfast and then two more for lunch...), visiting the Acropolis, the Olympic Stadium and a LOT of columns, oh and running into Steve Tyler from Aerosmith casually on holiday!!
There are a lot of very pretty ruins in Athens!! And it's very hard to take any bad photographs of such beautiful sights!!
Here we all are at the Acropolis :]]]
And with some more columns!!
We also were lucky enough to see some of the Greek Guards outside the Palace, who had the most amazing shoes and did the funniest march I have ever seen!! If you've ever seen Monty Python, it was just like the Ministry of Silly Walks!!
After a few days in Greece we had a ferry booked to take us over to Italy, so on Thursday we caught a bus and a coach down to the port and then in the evening we took a slightly rocky ferry over to Italy. None of us had a particularly great night's sleep but we had a good time playing cards and watching football and made friends with a couple of American girls who were travelling too- who we later ran into, completely coincidentally in Florence train station a few days later!!
So we woke up the next morning in beautiful Italy. I absolutely love Italy. I'd been to Rome and Pisa before but it's just such a lovely country. We spent our first day in Bari, where the ferry left us, and had a lovely chilled out day just exploring the town. Our hostel was gorgeous and we nabbed a pizza for 2 Euros across the road before going to get our train tickets for our trip to Rome the next day. But upon arrival at the train station we were told that the train tickets would cost 50 Euros; far more than we were expecting. After a few hours panic we finally managed to get coach tickets booked for the next morning. So bright and early the next morning we got ready for a long coach trip up to Rome.
Our first day in Rome was a mess. We hadn't eaten since the morning, we were exhausted and we'd decided to book travel and transport for the next few days of our trip. And that was then we got stuck. There were no trains to Switzerland, or anywhere else for that matter, within our budget. Tired, hungry and starting to get desperate, it started to rain. We all started to lose hope and even began planning a way to get earlier flights back home. We finally resigned to get something to eat and try to formulate a plan.
Pizza Kebab saved our lives. That pizza was the best meal I have ever eaten.
After getting something to eat we finally made a new plan; Rome until Tuesday, then a train to Florence until Thursday, then a flight from Florence to Paris and four days in Paris. In retrospect, we could never have done all the places we wanted to do with the time we had and with our budget, but we did manage to see a lot of four fantastic places on our trip.
The next day we went to the Vatican, which was rammed. The Vatican Museum is free on the last Sunday of every month (which it was) and the world and his wife was there. We managed to see the Vatican, the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain and the Colosseum in one day, but didn't manage to see the Sistine Chapel, which I would've loved to have seen as I hadn't seen it before, but I guess I will just have to visit Rome again!! It was such a hot day that day we couldn't stand the thought of queuing all day. We had a lovely meal just near the Trevi fountain though and went home thoroughly exhausted.
The Vatican, and me at the Vatican.
The amazing Trevi fountain.
We had a great day the next day; we visited the Spanish Steps and stumbled on an amazing Keats and Shelley museum. Being the literature nerds that we are we decided to take a look and it was amazing. The museum was in the house where Keats lived when he was in Rome, and later died there. There were loads of fascinating things to read about Keats, and Shelley and Byron too, who I have been interested in since studying Frankenstein back in high school.
Next stop, Florence!! We got a train to Florence on Tuesday morning and found ourselves bumped up from our expected accommodation, a dorm room for six, shared with 2 other people, to a gorgeous little house down the road from the hostel reception. A 600-year-old building with old walls and gorgeously rustic en-suite double bedrooms. Giuseppe declared to us that he "liked the English" as his reasoning for our upgrade!!
Our second day in Florence was spent exploring!! We saw the (fake) statue of David, the gorgeous churches, the famous bridge, and after a two hour queue, visited the old art gallery in the world, and saw the Birth of Venus by Botticelli, which was really cool.
Thursday was our flight to Paris!! Our train was at 8am from Florence to get to Pisa for our flight. We were very, very early for our flight!! But we arrived in Paris only a few hours after leaving Florence, and then hopped on a shuttle bus into the centre of Paris before getting a metro to our hostel. Like all the travelling days, we were shattered by the time we arrived in Paris and had yet another chilled out evening.
Unfortunately, the first day we spent in Paris was during France's biggest heatwave for years. It was baking. And we did one hell of a lot of walking that first day!! We walked up to Notre Dame and across the Seine went to the most adorable little bookshop in the world. It was gorgeous. I now have a new plan to move to Paris and work there while being cool and chic and Parisian. It was English-run and was like a haven of new and used books. I bought Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood (one of my favourite authors) for 4 Euros and I've nearly finising reading it. I'm really enjoying it!!
We then went to visit Père Lachaise Cemetery where Oscar Wilde was buried, and went to see his grave. I can understand why people wanted to adorn his grave with messages for him, but I personally found it really tacky and disrespectful. Oscar Wilde is one of my favourite writers and I found myself offended by scrawlings of "i love oscar" and "jon bon jovi" on his grave.
We also, after much searching, managed to find the graves of Edith Piaf and Jim Morrison from the Doors.
By Saturday the heatwave was officially over. We woke up to find the heavens had opened. It was the wettest day we'd seen for a long time. But we carried on with our plans for the day with our rain macs in tow. I have to admit, it made for some really funny photos of us at the Eiffel Tower!!
We also went to visit the Arc de Triomphe which was huge and gorgeous despite all the rain, and unfortunately, we carried on with our plans to visit the most sophisticated shopping district in Paris, Champe Elysees, in our rain macs. I whipped mine off as soon as the rain stopped but I still wasn't quite in the attire of the rest of the people there. Especially as we sat on a bench outside in the drizzle, drinking cans of 7UP because they were cheap in the supermarket in our rain macs!!
We spent the rest of the day mooching round book shops and trying to find somewhere warm and dry to get a coffee!! And I'm glad to say the rain didn't spoil the day at all!!
We found out from hostelworld.com that the Louvre was free on the first Sunday of every month and so we arrived there bright and early at 8.55am sunday morning and were lucky enough to be some of the first to get in- and for free!! I have to be honest, I'm not a huge art lover and I was so tired that I spent a lot of time just wandering, but there were a few paintings that caught my eye. And to be honest, I really enjoyed seeing the Mona Lisa in real life. I think if I went again (which I would love to) I would really have loved a tour or an audio guide. I enjoy things much more when I know what they're about!! Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable day. The louvre is a fantastic gallery and a fantastic buildings. I wouldn't have wanted to miss it, despite my tiredness!!
I had some serious camera-envy in the Louvre though. Everyone seemed to have gorgeous Nikon camera and looked like they were taking such beautiful photos. My point and shoot just didn't do the Mona Lisa justice at all!!
We went inside Notre Dame on the way back, which is just stunning. It's absolutely beautiful inside and out. I really enjoyed visiting all the churches in Europe. They are such beautiful buildings.
We then meandered back to the hotel, stopping off to have a look at the Pompidou Centre, although we didn't go inside, and stopped off to have a look at the beautiful gardens of Luxembourg. Wow do the French do yummy-mummy well!!
In the evening, despite the fact that we were dead on our feet, we decided to go see the Eiffel Tower lit up. We managed to get some much nicer photos than the ones of us in rain macs!! Plus it was nice to do something special for our last night.
Monday was our last day and we just had to fill the day before getting to the airport, where we slept before our flight on Tuesday. We went to a lovely park (I have completely forgotten what it was called!!) and church, and spent the day relaxing and reading. Oh and we took a visit to the Moulin Rouge!! It was so cool- just like in the film!! I'd love to go see a show there one day!!
We spent our last night sleeping on the floor of Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport after a tiring two weeks. I'm sure I've missed lots out but I think my brain is still recovering from everything we saw and did!! I had an amazing time, and I learnt so much. I definitely love to go travelling again- we've already started planning our next trip; going to all the places we didn't manage this time!! We had a great time, and I have to be honest, there aren't a lot of people I could spend 24/7 with, but I love those girls with all my hearts. Thank you for an amazing time!!
I promise there will be lots of updates soon- I already have lots of ideas but I knew I had to write a big holiday post before the memories started to get blurry (which unfortunately, only 3 days later, they are already starting to be) and then I can go back to my usual stuff!!
Sorry this post is so photo-heavy!!
Hope you're having a lovely summer so far!!