The Netherlands: Exploring Rotterdam and Amsterdam

Our time in Rotterdam was only short but definitely worth it. With its innovatively designed buildings, chilled-out atmosphere, and lack of tourists, it was the perfect place to stay for a couple of days. This city of modern architecture stood out for us on this trip.

Rotterdam: The City of Modern Architecture

After a long bus trip from Paris, we were relieved to have finally arrived in a new city but also in a new country. The city of Rotterdam and being back in The Netherlands was very refreshing. Our first impressions of Rotterdam – ‘Wow what weird buildings!?’. Each building was clearly very modern, but some were designed in obscure shapes and sizes. It was definitely something very different.

We were eager to learn more about the history of these buildings, so during our stay in Rotterdam, we decided to take a free walking tour provided by the hostel. The tour helped us to explore the city and find out more about these strange buildings. For the duration of three hours, we learnt so much about Rotterdam! The city was almost completely destroyed during World War II, which is why the city is full of modern architecture. After being continuously bombed, a fire broke out in the city which destroyed half of the old city. When the city was being rebuilt, leading architects decided to design lots of new and interesting buildings.

Among the old, there is definitely a lot of new. There’s too many buildings and designs to name! But here are some of my favourites below.

The Flag Parade – each flag represents a different nationality which lives in the city.

The Cube Houses – a block of houses designed to create a new community in Rotterdam.

The Pencil – another apartment building

The Sharpener – located across from the pencil, and inside is the Rotterdam Market Hall

Our afternoon spent being guided around the city really gave us lots of insight into the city’s amazing structure and history. The modernity is something that will stick with us forever!

Picnic in the Park

The weather in Rotterdam was clear and warm – perfect for a relaxing picnic! So we grabbed some supplies and spent one of our mornings in the warm sun, watching the different people go by and enjoying each others company.

As per usual, we ate a lot of food! Our supplies consisted of the usual – a bag of grapes, a baguette, ham, cheese and of course stroopwaffles! We sat at a park near our hostel for hours stuffing ourselves completely full, before taking a beautiful walk through the luscious, green park. We ended up walking to the tallest viewpoint in Rotterdam, and along the harbour taking in the breathtaking views.

A Day in Amsterdam

Amsterdam was our primary reason for returning back to The Netherlands! It was less than half the price to stay in Rotterdam and Amsterdam was only a one-hour bus trip away, so we decided to take a day trip.

We had already visited the super ‘touristy’ parts of Amsterdam, so we were mainly there for the main reason everyone travels to Amsterdam… Our favourite place to smoke was ‘The Grasshouse’, so we spent the morning there. Enjoying the atmosphere of Amsterdam, we decided to stay there for a few hours. Eventually, we got a bit hungry, craving the large cones of Dutch fries, so we eagerly walked around desperately trying to find somewhere to eat our favourite hot chips!

After a long search, we finally found somewhere that sold them cheaply. With our mayonnaise and chilli covered chips, we walked through the Red Light District, lots of little alley-ways and eventually to the main bridge in the middle of Amsterdam. It was a lot hotter and brighter than the last time we were there. The city was bustling with tourists, locals and of course the infamous bikes that were flying all around the bike-lanes. We began making our way towards some of the stunning canals, the sunlight sparkling brightly off the murky water.

We ended up sitting in a bar for a while, and then out onto the streets on the edge of one of the canals. Lots of different people were passing through the canals on their boats, sharing drinks and food among one another. We started to get hungry again, so we went and grabbed some Febo! Febo is our favourite fast-food chain, it’s basically freshly cooked food that you can buy out of vending machines. So we spent the rest of the afternoon sitting on the edge of a canal, eating Febo and watching the sunset, before we had to head back to the bus…

Although our time in Rotterdam and Amsterdam was short, some of our favourite memories were made in these places. What’s your favourite part of one of your trips overseas?

 

Nice: 3 Days Relaxing Under The Sun

Nice is without a doubt one of the most gorgeous coastal cities in Europe. Its long, stunning beach promenade that runs along the coast of the city and beyond, attracts tourists from near and far. Although the serene beach is by far the most prominent feature, Nice offers spectacular views, delicious food and the inclusive atmosphere of French culture.

The Long Journey to Nice

Our journey to Nice began with a very long bus ride, leaving Venice at 5 am. We were extremely excited to visit somewhere which would have a beautiful coastline. So saying our goodbyes to Italy, we eagerly jumped on the bus excited for something new.
The drive was long and exhausting. We arrived at Nice almost 12 hours later! We drove through a long stretch of mountains, where the road seemed to wind constantly. It felt as if we needed to hold on for life!  As per usual, Flixbus dropped us in an obscure and far-away-from-the-city place – the airport. Luckily we were able to get a bus into the city. It did cost us EUR 6 each!

Crazy Hostel Shenanigans 

Since we had travelled all day, we decided to stay at the hostel for the night. We would have a total of four days in Nice, which is more than enough time to explore the city. The hostel seemed quite lively, so we went and got some snacks and a cheap bottle of wine. Little did we know what the night would have in store…
To our surprise, there were plenty of Australians at this hostel. Combined with lots of other English speakers, this meant that we had heaps of people we could talk to. It was very refreshing to talk to not only Australians but people from all over the world! The alcohol in everyone’s system definitely helped.
Eventually, the hostel owner ushered us all inside where the night continued. He handed everyone an obviously very cheap glass of champagne, further fuelling the hostel’s drunkness. It was fun, but the hospitality was also quite bizarre…
Once the party started to die down, we decided to go and get some food. We were tempted to find another bar to go to, but instead, we ended up walking to the beach with our second bottle of wine. It was about a half an hour walk, but the sight if the ocean under to moonlight and the cool sea breeze was a welcome surprise! We almost ended up sleeping on the beach. But we soon realised we had comfy beds waiting for us, in exchange for the hard, round pebbles which covered the beach. So in the early hours of the morning, we navigated our way back to the hostel…
The First Day: Hangover Hell
To no surprise, our first day consisted of relaxation and recovery from last nights shenanigans. We had a bit of a sleep in and were determined to spend the majority of the day at the beach.
Our first stop? Breakfast. We went to find some at the local convenience store. Freshly baked croissants, a bag of oranges, and a salad baguette were all our food of choice for the afternoon ahead. Eating our croissants, we made the short trek straight towards the beach.
It was extremely hot, but being on the beach covered with black pebbles reflecting the sun made it ten times worse. Luckily, the clear sky-blue water wasn’t far away! We stumbled over the hot, uneven pebbles and immersed our selves in the cool refreshing water. The water was flat, there were absolutely no waves except for right on the shoreline. Surprisingly, the water was also very deep, the bank dropped off quite quickly and there was no way to touch the bottom. We spent the afternoon at the pebble beach along the promenade, going for from sunbathing to swimming…

Fabulous Views: A Castle Overlooking Nice

On our second day, we decided to explore a bit more of the city. We got up a bit earlier and bought with us some supplies for the day, and of course our swimmers for an afternoon swim…

There is an old castle which overlooks the city of Nice, so we decided to head there first. We made our way through the bustling streets of the city centre, filled with tourists and locals alike. Eventually, we got to The Promenade – the edge of the city on the ocean – and followed it all the way to the end where the castle sat on top of a hill.

It was hot, and the sun roasted us from above. We were not keen on climbing the stairs immediately after our long walk, so we went and had a look at the ‘I Love Nice’ sign which is also at the end of the promenade. We battled the many tourists for that perfect photo in front of the sign – and after a few attempts, we were successful. Stopping for a while up there, we admired the view of the city of Nice below. You were able to see the whole length of the clear ocean which borders along The Promenade, and the groups of tourists and locals bustling around the city.

Serenic Views: Climbing Up to the Castle

Eventually, we decided it was time to conquer the massive hill of stairs leading up to the ancient castle. It was easy enough for Cian, but challenging for me – probably from all the croissants and beer… Luckily for me, there were different levels of viewpoints where I could stop and catch my breath. As we climbed higher, the view of the buildings and promenade of Nice grew smaller, but the expanse of them larger.

From the very top, you were able to see the whole city of Nice, and the endless sparkling, blue ocean. The cube-like french houses where dotted all over the city and up into the mountains which surround Nice, painted in colours of red and yellow. The clear blue ocean boasted its immaculate beauty, contrasted to the stretch of pebble-beach below. At the top where the castle is, there was a huge park with lots of different places to view the city and the other places that surround it.

Admiring the many buskers around the park, we stopped to eat some oranges and croissants for lunch. We then went for a walk around the park heading towards the viewpoint where you can see Monaco. At exactly 12:00 pm, a loud bang erupted, it sounded like a bomb going off and it really freaked us out! It turns out it was just a midday cannon, a tradition dating back to the 1860s…

We spent ages walking around the park, people watching and of course taking lots of photos. On the way back down, we passed the famous waterfall at the top of the hill. The cool spray from the waterfall was enough motivation to keep us going through the hot sun.

Traditional Food and Bird Poo

Our stomachs began to grow hungry after our morning of walking. We decided to try some traditional (but cheap) French food. So after a bit of googling, we found a great place that was only a 20-minute walk away…
We read some great things about Lou Pilha Leva and it’s Moules Frites, and I had been dying to try some ever since I learnt about them. Moules Frites is a big bowl of muscles covered with a creamy garlic sauce, with delicious crispy fries on the side. I ordered some of these for really cheap and they were huge! Cian ordered some Poulet Frites, which is half a chicken and some fries.
The food was delicious, we were thoroughly enjoying our meals! The Moules Frites were an extremely messy food to eat, I was enjoying every bite. Just as I was enjoying the last of the yummy sauce and fries, a bird flew over and decided to relieve itself right into my meal! It was so disgusting, and I definitely wasn’t going to eat anymore after that. At least I was almost finished…
Full to the brim with food, we spent the rest of the afternoon lazing on the pebbled beach. The cool water was very welcoming after a long day of walking.

Jumping Into the Mediterranean 

On our final day in Nice, we decided to try out some cliff jumping that everyone was talking about. We had watched the locals do it for the last two days, and it seemed like it was super fun but also pretty safe…

At the very end of The Promenade was a set of cliffs, they weren’t particularly high but they still looked like lots of fun to jump off. We tried to reach the cliffs by climbing down to them, but we soon realised that was going to be difficult. So our only option was to swim out to them and climb up the uneven, sharp rocks – which is what we did. The water near the cliffs was stunningly clear, which gave us a perfect view of what lay beneath the water.

There were four different heights to jump from, each more dangerous as they got higher. I was reluctant to go at first, I was mainly afraid that my clumsiness would cause me to injure myself… However, after some motivation from Cian and the French people around me, I was able to finally jump from the second highest level. Cian managed to jump from all four levels. It was a bit too risky for me, I was afraid I wouldn’t make the jump! But it was still fun to watch.

We spent the remainder of our afternoon at the beach – sunbathing, swimming and cliff jumping. We even managed to swim all the way out to the furthest buoy. The water was way too deep to touch the bottom, and we were really worried about sharks. Once we got out there we soon realised how tired we were from swimming almost a kilometre out, so we soon start worrying about drowning instead…

Nice In the Evening

On our final night, we decided to head out and see the city from a completely different view – nighttime. The city takes in a completely different form at nighttime. The French buildings light up, buskers are out, and The Promenade is cool and calm…
Since we got distracted on the way there, we missed an amazing sunset over the beach. But we did end up finding an interesting water feature in the middle of the city! A large square of water fountains shot up from the ground, lit up in red, white and blue – the colours of France.
The sun had set by the time we made to The Promenade, but the atmosphere was still very welcoming. We walked along the dimly-lit promenade, listening to the enthusiastic buskers and dancers as we passed them. The cool breeze was a nice change from the humid heat, so we decided to go and sit along the shoreline among many other tourists. We spent ages watching the calm sea, lit up by the moon above. We tried to skim some pebbles into the calm ocean and ended up sitting there for ages enjoying each other’s company. Our night of exploring really was the perfect way to end our time in Nice…
The southern-French city of Nice has been my favourite place to explore so far. With its refreshing beaches, bustling city, and beautiful coastal views, it has really left an impression on me.
Have you visited a city that’s left a long-lasting impression?

Paris: 24 Hours and The Eiffel Tower…

Ah, Paris, the city of love, lights and romance… unfortunately, despite this city’s undeniable allure for a week-long stay, we were only able to manage 24 hours. This was only because of our tight budget and timeframe, of course. Lucky for us we had already visited for my 19th birthday – a much longer stay. But here’s what we got up to during those 24 hours…

The Perks of Paris: Not Sleeping on the Ground

Prior to arriving in Paris, we had just spent 4 days at a heavy metal festival – Hellfest. We camped there for the entirety of the 4 days, among thousands of other drunk, loud and partying people.

We didn’t have a mattress or anything, so our only choice was to camp on the rough, rocky ground. Don’t get me wrong, it was an amazing festival! But you could say we were very pleased to be sleeping in an actual bed…

Treating ourselves, we decided to book a budget hotel for the night – with a private room. The room was absolutely tiny! But it was nice not to only have a comfortable bed, free wifi and TV, but not to have to share with lots of random strangers.

Parisian Picnic Under the Sun

A Parisian Picnic was the perfect way to spend our afternoon. And where is the perfect place? Right under the Eiffel Tower of course!

Our first stop was to get supplies. You can’t have a picnic without food or drink! So we headed out to find a grocery store which would hopefully be open and cheap. After what felt like hours of searching, and getting lost among the many streets, we finally got lucky!

We were determined to go all out, but while spending as little as possible. So our shopping list consisted of – a baguette, ham, cheese, chocolate, grapes, chips and an EUR2 bottle of champagne (we regretted the champagne later). We then quickly headed back to the hotel, grabbed some supplies – salsa and some cutlery – and headed towards the Eiffel Tower.

In order to get there, we needed to take 2 metro trains. Sounds easy right? Well, it was until I got us lost by going two stops in the wrong direction…

An Afternoon Under the Eiffel Tower

After a bit of confusion, we had finally arrived! Walking up to the Eiffel Tower always makes me feel so happy each time. I love the feeling of walking along a busy street, and then BOOM, right in front of you the Eiffel Tower appears.

The majestic tower stood tall in all its glory, first hiding among the trees and then standing right there in front of you. We picked a lovely spot in the warm sun, right in front of the Eiffel Tower. Laying out our ‘supplies’ in front of us, we got to work creating mini-baguettes out of ham and cheese, drinking cheap champagne straight from the bottle, and munching on chocolate and other snacks.

Content with each other’s company, we sat there for hours. We talked, laughed, and played drinking games (attempting to down that disgustingly cheap champagne chosen by me). We watched the many tourists taking hundreds of photos in all manner of poses, trying to get the perfect shot with the Eiffel Tower. The usual street vendors were out trying to sell alcohol and many different sizes and versions of the iconic symbol of Paris before us. Keeping a close guard on our food, we both even tried to capture that perfect photo with the world-recognised Eiffel Tower.

Feeling sickly full of food and alcohol, we tried to go for a quick walk. We didn’t get very far and ended up laying in the soft green grass under the hot sun. Eventually, we realised the sun was starting to set, and feeling exhausted we decided to head back to the hotel. We were sure that once we hit the pillow, we would be sleeping sound instantly…

Saying Goodbye: 24 Hours Too Short

After an excellent nights sleep, we rose early, had breakfast, and checked out. We headed straight to catch the bus to our next destination – Rotterdam – without a minute to spare.

Its always hard to say goodbye to such an amazing city, our time here felt like it was just 24 hours too short… Have you ever had to leave a beloved city behind?

Venice in 2 Days: Exploring the Canals and Eating Pizza

Venice is often referred to as ‘The Floating City’ or ‘The City of Masks’ but it is so much more than that. From its labyrinth of bustling streets, delicious gelato, and winding canals, Venice is one of the most unique cities in Italy. Our 2 days in this incredible city were filled with awe-inspiring views, architecture and the Venetian atmosphere.

Leaving for Venice

After saying our final goodbyes to Cinque Terre, we travelled through the pouring rain to our bus stop in La Spezia where we would be getting the bus to Venice. We once again boarded a small bus to take us down the winding mountain and into the city of La Spezia. After walking through the pouring rain, we finally arrived at our bus stop, but we still had to wait another hour…

The journey to Venice took about 6 hours in total, but lucky the bus dropped us off relatively close to the city centre. From here, we needed to get another public bus to our accommodation. We stopped briefly to grab some food and headed straight to the bus stop.

Camping in Venice

For Venice, we decided to try something a bit different and cheaper – a campsite! The campsite was only located a short 30-minute bus ride, right to the island of Venice, and at a cost of EUR1.50. This was extremely convenient for us because it avoided to high-price of staying right in the Venice island – something that would break our budget!
We also got a really great deal on our room! And to make things better, we didn’t have to share with anyone else. The campsite also had a pool, and a cheap mini-market to buy some food. We were also able to cook our own meals or try out the expensive restaurant. The bathrooms were great too!

Our First Adventure Around Venice – The Rialto Bridge

Our first day exploring Venice, we decided just to walk around the island and take in the unique beauty of the place. We had a total of two days in Venice, so we had more than enough time to see everything we wanted to see.
The public bus dropped us off right in front of the entrance to the city, it was crowded with lots of people from all over the world and of course street vendors. We crossed the arched bridge over one of the canals and headed into the maze of confusing streets which shape the city of Venice. On the corner of each street, they have a sign with an arrow pointing to either ‘Piazza San Marco’ – the main square in Venice – or the Rialto Bridge. We decided to go with the flow and get lost in the winding streets and canals, heading towards Rialto Bridge.
Hidden in the winding streets were all kinds of cafes, gelaterias, restaurants and souvenir shops. As we made our way towards the bridge, we took our time to admire lots of the stunning canals which shape the city. After following the endless maze of winding streets, and navigating our way with only street signs, the bridge was finally in view! The Rialto Bridge connects the streets of San Polo and San Marco and spans over the Grand Canal – the main canal in Venice. The bridge is an iconic feature of Venice and a major tourist attraction, which offers a perfect photo opportunity to capture the beauty of the main canal. The bridge was bustling with tourists from all over the world, crowds of people admiring the stunning Grand Canal.

Exploring San Marco Square

After spending ages admiring the Grand Canal – and after taking loads of photos – we headed towards San Marco square, checking out the hundreds of market stalls along the way. We navigated through the busy maze of streets for what seemed like forever until finally, the entirety of the square appeared in front of us. It was packed full of people posing for photos, eating gelato and dodging the infamous food-stealing seagulls. The square consists of San Marco Basilica and St Mark’s Bell Tower. These are both another two key features of the city. Since we were reaching the end of our time in Italy, we decided to grab some gelato and walked through the warm sun, along the square and to the water’s edge.
We took a short stroll along the water’s edge before heading back to the bus stop. After having a lovely first day just exploring the city and were keen to check out more things the next day…

Climbing the Famous Bell Tower

On our second (and last) day, we knew we definitely wanted to climb the famous St Mark’s Bell Tower in the middle of San Marco square! At the top, there is a fantastic panoramic view of the whole city and beyond. At a total of EUR8 each, it was a worthwhile investment.
We had to wait in line, in the hot sun for quite a while, but there was plenty to entertain us in San Marco square. Our favourite thing? Watching people dodging the seagulls! It was so entertaining watching people them steal their unsuspecting victim’s food. One child, even broke down into a fit of tears because their food was stolen! It definitely made the time pass faster…
After waiting for an hour, we were finally in the entrance to the top of the tower. We thought we might have to climb a long set of stairs, but it turns out the only option was an elevator that takes you straight to the top. We crammed into the elevator with a bunch of other tourists and made the slow journey in the elevator all the way to the top…
The view from the top was magnificent! From the four sides, you were able to see stunning views of the city, harbours and its surrounds. The orange-brick tops of buildings and gaps between them made apparent the maze of streets below. The sun reflected off the blue water, as dozens of boats, ferries and gondolas zipped around the harbour and through the crowds…
After some time at the top, and lots of photos, we realised that we were starving! So we decided to head back down in the hopes of finding something cheap to eat.

Exploring More of Venice

With a huge craving for pizza, we walked around the city for what seemed like forever. We stumbled around in circles trying to find some very cheap takeaway pizza. Luckily, we eventually found some, and it was huge, cheap and tasty! I settled for a Margharita, while Cian decided on a Kebab meat pizza. We sat by a quiet, beautiful canal in the bright sunlight, and munched on our huge pieces of pizza, feeling very satisfied…
We felt like we had seen most of the main parts of the Island of Venice, so we decided to search for somewhere that wouldn’t be swarming with tourists. Cian spotted a basilica on the other side of the harbour, so that’s where we headed! We got lost plenty of times – which lead us to get another gelato on the way – but we finally found the small bridge that would take us there.
We then walked for another half an hour along the water, before stopping for a bit – right out front of the Basilica. Here, we sate along the water’s edge and admired the beauty of the busy harbour in front of us, We had been walking non-stop all day, so we decided to take our shoes off and dip them into the cool water below. It was such a peaceful moment, the two of us sitting there and watching the world go by.
After a while, we decided that it was time to get going. We made our way through the confusing streets, various souvenir shops, masses of tourists and over some beautiful canals towards the bus stop. We said our final goodbyes to Venice and its lively atmosphere and headed back to our accommodation…

What is your experience of Venice?

Venice was an amazing city to visit, and we really enjoyed our experience. What was your experience of Venice? Would you like to visit one day?

Italy By The Sea: Colourful Cinque Terre

After spending the majority of our travels so far in the intensity of large cities, we decided that it was time to escape the hustle and bustle… Cinque Terre was the perfect place to do this. With its mixture of sandy and rocky beaches, clear blue water, and lots of places to eat delicious food and have the occasional drink, it provided us with a perfect break from the busy cities of Italy.

Where is Cinque Terre: Trouble Navigating

A short bus trip from Pisa gave us the idea that our hostel would be very simple and easy to find. We were headed to La Spezia – a town outside of Cinque Terre – and from there we had to get a public bus to our hostel, which was located up in the mountains. We had google maps and a guide from our hostel to help us… but we still got lost.
Our first problem was that we had no money to catch the bus. We struggled to find an ATM nearby and missed our bus twice because of it. It was Sunday, so lots of places in the town were closed, which made it even harder to find an ATM that was open. After an hour of searching, we were finally able to withdraw some money, but we still had to wait half an hour for the public bus…
When the bus arrived, it was full to the brim of people. We struggled to fit our bags on, but we managed to squeeze in among the hoards of people giving us the usual stare we get for being obviously tourists. Ironically, the driver didn’t seem to care whether we paid or not, which meant we had wasted a lot of time searching for an ATM!
It turned out that we needed to catch two buses! So we had to wait another half an hour, and if we missed this one, there was no way we were getting to the hostel that night. We were relieved when the bus arrived, but relief was soon taken over by shock once we realized the bus was the size of a minivan! We struggled to get our bags on, people on the bus refusing to move out of the way and shouting at us when we tried to squeeze our bags past them…
At least we were finally getting there, and it turns out the hostel was right up in the mountains! It was so annoying to get to but well worth the journey…

Our Awesome Hostel

When we finally walked through those hostel doors, we were so relieved! We were greeted by some friendly Australian faces who swiftly checked us in and showed us around the place. It was a four-bed dorm which was amazing for the price. Everyone also had their own private locker, and the bathrooms were clean too!
We relaxed in our room for a while, recovering from the extremely annoying journey. Eventually, we went to check out the rest of this friendly hostel. It had no kitchen to cook in, but luckily it had a cheap and great fantastic restaurant, just what we needed after what seemed like a never-ending day!
The view from our hostel room…

Exploring Cinque Terre: Riogammore 

Our hostel offered a free shuttle bus to and from Cinque Terre, which was so convenient for us! Cinque Terre is a unique region in Italy made up of five small villages hidden in the mountains and along the coast. With its colourful buildings, picturesque views, and relaxing beaches, it was the perfect place to experience something different.

On the first part of our first day here, we explored the village of Riogammore. Riogammore is the first village in Cinque Terre, and it was absolutely stunning. The place was bustling with tourists from all over the world, and locals alike. We decided to first head down the hill from the top of the village to one of the rocky beaches recommended by our hostel. The beach was covered in round, grey pebbles all in varying sizes, and the water was the clearest water I had seen in a very long time!

This was our first swim in 9 months, so we dived straight into the warm, welcoming water. There were no waves, so we relaxed and floated in the calm water for ages, before drying off and sunbaking on the hot, smooth rocks. What a perfect way to start our next few days of relaxation!

Moving On To Monterosso

After a relaxing morning in Riogammore, we decided to check out another village that had awesome beaches – Monterosso. In order to get there, we needed to take a train, but it wasn’t too hard to navigate. The train was full to the brim with lots of different tourists, but we managed to just squeeze on.
Once we arrived, we realized that this was the main tourist area of Cinque Terre. It was packed with people purchasing food, relaxing on the beach, and of course the infamous street vendors – a tell-tale sign for a touristy area. However, the long stretch of beach was sandy which was a welcome change to the warm and uncomfortable rocks…
Before going for a swim in the calm, clear blue water, we decided to try and find a snack to munch on (and maybe even a drink or two!). We were instantly sold on this tiny pizza place where you could buy quality pieces of pizza for a very cheap price! Cian settled for classic Margherita, while I decided to try Sausage and Cucumber. They were both delicious and huge, by far the best pizza we’ve had on this trip!
The rest of our afternoon was spent relaxing on the gorgeous beach among the many tourists. We decided to rent a double kayak for an hour to go for a paddle along the coastline. It provided us with amazing views of the coastline and the villages. You were able to see almost all of the villages even if some were far off in the distance. We decided to jump out and go for a quick swim at one point. We didn’t realize how the deep the water would be! It was so deep there was no way you could touch the bottom!
To finish off the day we spent hours on the beach sunbathing, swimming, and sipping on our ice-cold Heineken beers.

Hiking Through The Mountains: A Struggle

At the beginning of our second day in Cinque Terre, we decided to go for a scenic hike through the mountains. On this hike, we would pass through the middle three of the five colourful villages of Cinque Terre. The hike was recommended by our hostel as being very easy, but we were sorely mistaken…
After taking the free shuttle bus and then a train to Manarola we began the ‘short’ hike that should only be about 1 hour. At first, the hike seemed pretty easy, the beautiful nature in the hills peacefully surrounding us. But eventually, we hit a long set of stairs that seemed to go on forever! We both were a bit under-prepared (me especially) but were determined to continue along this energetic hike.
We soon discovered that the hike was going to take about 3-4 hours! It was a constant fluctuation of climbing winding, steep stairs up into the mountains, and then climbing down some equally steep and winding stairs into the villages below. The stairs we uneven and awkward, making it even more difficult for our uncoordinated-selves.
The views above each village, however, made this hike definitely worth the long journey. You could see right along the coastline and had a bird’s eye view of the villages below. When we arrived at the final village – Montoresso – we were extremely relieved. There we munched on a huge burger and then spent the afternoon relaxing on the beach. We will hopefully be better prepared for our next hike!

Leaning In Pisa: Seeing Italy’s Famous Sites

Pisa is one of the most well-known and famous places in the world. The leaning tower of Pisa is an amazing structure to admire, and of course, pose for those typical tourist photos. We only spent half a day there, but it was worth it.

Arriving and Navigating in Pisa

We were only stopping in Pisa for a couple of hours on our way to Cinque Terre, so we decided to catch the train from Florence. It was a slightly early train so we had to get up at 7 am in order to arrive on time.
The train was chaos and packed with loads of people. We were lucky enough to score some seats, however, our bags were so big that they wouldn’t fit in the corridors of the train so we had to put them on the seats next to us. A lot of people were getting frustrated with us but we definitely weren’t the only ones doing this!
After about two hours by train, we finally arrived in Pisa. This was where the majority of tourists were getting off so it was very busy! We headed straight to the luggage storage to store our bags for the day. It only cost €5 which was a lot better than having to carry them around all day. After waiting in line for about an hour to drop our bags off, we were finally ready to head towards the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa.
We were determined to walk there because of our tight budget. But luckily it was only about 20 minutes away. It was a very hot and sunny day, but we were looking forward to seeing the famous sites of Pisa.

The Famous Leaning Tower

Finally, after walking for a while and getting lost a few times, we had finally arrived. We could see the famous leaning tower in the distance, standing tall among the green fields of grass. The number of tourists also started to grow bigger and also the number of annoying street vendors trying to sell us selfie sticks, hats and water increased – two tell-tale signs the tower was extremely close.
We posed for photos for what seemed like forever, trying to get that perfect shot. We tried lots of different poses and some photos were fantastic while others were hilarious fails! Once we grew tired of posing we headed to the shade under the trees, where we admired the tall tower and had some of the snacks that we had brought with us – our usual meal of crackers and jam.
You were able to go up to the top of the tower, but we decided not to because it was a steep price at EUR18 each! This would definitely break our daily budget…so we decided to head to the Mcdonalds located right under the tower instead! A bit of a bad decision in the end, but we enjoyed it at the time!
After we were completely full we relaxed in the sun on the grass under the Duomo near the leaning tower. Relaxing after our long journey and morning of exploring.

Walking Around the City

An intriguing part of the Leaning Tower of Pisa area is the long wall that runs around it. We wanted to get a better glimpse of the city, so we decided to pay the 3 Euro to enter to the walking path along the top of the wall.
Unexpectedly, the wall seemed t continue forever. It went around the whole outer perimeter of the city, stretching on for endless miles. The wall provided a glimpse into many buildings in Pisa, and even into some peoples houses! We walked for about an hour in the sweltering sun, admiring the city and chatting along the way. By the time we were finished it was almost time to board our bus – luckily, the wall led us back to the train station so we could pick up our bags first!

Cycling Through Florence

Florence is by far the most laid-back city we have travelled to so far. From is bustling streets, ancient landmarks, and fantastic museums, Florence is a great city to escape from the business and pressure of Rome while still being in a City.

Our Not-So-Hostel Hostel

We ended up taking two trains to our hostel, and after a confusing and long journey, we finally made it! However, it was not what we expected. Because of a football match, the hostel had decided to host a large group of American families, so there were kids running around everywhere! It was a bit annoying and made it a lot harder to meet people during our stay there, but we still managed to meet some great people.
Other than that, the rooms were nice and the hostel was only a little bit out of the city. They even offered a cheap buffet dinner and happy hour at the bar every night!

Hiring Bikes

On our first day exploring the city, we made the ingenious decision of hiring bikes. They were very cheap, and all you had to do was download an app. From the app, you could scan a bike code from anywhere in the city, and you were off!
Hire bikes made it a lot more convenient getting around the many parts of the city and definitely saved us lots of money in the long run. They were very easy to use and accessible all around the city! The hire bikes made the city a lot closer to where we were staying.

Walking Through the City

Once we arrived near the city centre, we got off our bikes and decided to walk around instead. There were huge crowds of people and cycling through them would have been a nightmare! We were a bit lost at first, google maps confusing us again, but we eventually ended up in the middle of Piazza Della Signoria. The Piazza Della Signoria is a very historical place in the middle of Florence. It has many replicas of famous sculptures throughout history, including The Statue Of David.
We admired the famous sculptures for a while and then headed towards the edge of the Arno River. If you follow the river you will eventually end up at Ponte Vecchio, which is a bridge with lots of markets and shops on top – and that’s where we were headed. The markets were bustling with loads of tourists and of course the infamous street vendors. Luckily in Florence, the people trying to sell things to you on the street are not as pushy or as rude – which was a nice contrast to Rome.
We made a quick stop for some gelato and continued walking along the busy road of shops and market stalls. Slowly, we made our way into the centre of town, enjoying the atmosphere of the city of Florence.

The Florence Cathedral

Eventually, we found ourselves in the heart of the city admiring The Florence Cathedral. It is a wonderfully coloured structure, standing tall in the centre of the city.  We stopped here for a while and ate our lunch, relaxing on a chair in the summer heat.
The line to get into the Cathedral was a bit long, but we had never been inside before so we decided it was worth the wait. There was one problem though, you had to be wearing clothes that covered your legs and arms, and I was wearing shorts! I was still determined to try to get in, so I pulled my shorts down as far as I could, which wasn’t very far. Because of my lack of clothing, lots of street vendors were trying to force me to buy a scarf to cover up. I kept refusing just in case I ended up being let in. I hid my legs behind Cian, and luckily I was let in!
Once inside, the architecture and artwork on the roof were stunning. The building was huge and covered in famous roof paintings. It was incredible to admire such a beautiful structure, it was so colourful inside and out! As we always do in a Cathedral, we both lit a candle and placed it on a stand – we’re not religious but it just feels like the right thing to do.
We made our way down below the Cathedral where we found a souvenir shop and a museum you could walk through. The tickets for the museum were a bit expensive, and we were just looking to buy tickets to go to the top of the dome in the Cathedral where you can see spectacular views of Florence. Sadly, these tickets were booked out for a week! It was surprising to see how popular this place really was.

Views From Above

The best views in Florence, however, were said to be at the top of the hill on which the Piazzale Michelangelo sits. So from the centre of town, we walked along the river towards this hill. The river was running very quickly, but the water was very tempting on such a hot day.
In order to get to the hill, we had to walk up a long set of stairs. We were both very unfit from all the bread we were eating, so it was a bit of a challenge (especially for me)! But eventually, after stopping numerous times to catch our breath, we made it. The views of Florence were stunning! You could see the whole city and all the villages in the hills that surrounded it. After taking lots of photos and dodging the street vendors, we headed back down, got on our bikes and cycled back to the hostel.

Leonardo Da Vinci Museum

We had already seen most of the main sites, so on our final day, we were looking for something different. Cian had a bit of an interest in Leonardo Da Vinci, so we decided to see if there were any sites that were related to him but still not really touristy. We eventually stumbled upon a whole museum dedicated to him, and it was awesome!
The museum was only small, but there was lots to see. It mainly showcased all of his famous inventions rather than his art, which made it very interesting. Some of his inventions were early flying machines, parachutes, cannons, crossbows and lots of ways to construct joints that we still use today. In the museum, you could see a lot of his life history and life works. It was definitely worth the money and time spent there.

Everything Else We Saw In Rome

So the museums we saw for free were great, but there are so many other things we saw in Rome! Whether its free or not, most of the world-famous sites and museums in Rome are definitely worth paying a visit to. Over our next few days in Rome, we visited lots of these places…

Trevi Fountain

After spending a few hours in the Roman Forum, burning from the summer sun and craving some ice-cold gelato, we headed towards the centre of Rome – The Trevi Fountain. On our way there we passed the famous ‘Altar Of The Fatherland’, which we planned to visit the next day. It was about a 40-minute walk to the fountain, and we navigated the streets with much more ease than Naples.
 As we drew closer, an increase in the number of street vendors told us that the fountain was nearby and so was the gelato. The crowds of people also started to grow much larger and we were not expecting it to be so busy with tourists so late in the day. Even though I had seen it before, it was still as incredible as when I first saw it. The fountain is huge! Its ancient structure standing tall in front of us, designed with awe-inspiring architecture, clear water rushing out of its many pipes – it’s incredible to believe that something so old is still standing!
There is a legend which says that if you throw a coin from the right hand over the left shoulder, you will return to Rome. It looks like we’re both returning to Rome someday!
After admiring the fountain for some time, we decided to head towards the gelato that we were absolutely desperate for. Directly next to the fountain we found some really cheap gelato, and it was delicious. The gelato in Italy is to die for!
While we sat and ate our gelato, we decided to ‘people-watch’ some of the tourists. After watching for some time, we began to see lots of street vendors scamming people. They would pretend to be a tourist with their camera and then offer to take a photo for someone, and then they would ask them for 5 euros! To our surprise, lots of people fell for this (I know I would’ve).

The Altar Of The Fatherland

On our second day of adventuring, we headed straight towards this humungous structure. It was once again flooded with tourists and street vendors, but we were used to it by now. The famous monument is built in honour of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy. It is an amazing structure to see, and a perfect place for photos.
We slowly walked up the marble white steps towards the top to admire the spectacular views of Italy. The structure looks massive from afar, but up close it looks even bigger! In the very middle of the building is a giant man riding a horse, it is one of the biggest statues in Rome. You had to pay to the very top, but we were happy with the views from even the second level.
After lots of photos and a time-lapse, we headed back down the mammoth structure making our way through the crowds of people towards The Pantheon.

The Pantheon 

We walked through the many winding streets of Rome, making our way towards the Pantheon in the centre of Rome. Once again we knew we were drawing closer because the number of tourists and street vendors increased dramatically. The Pantheon is a former Roman temple and is one of the most preserved buildings of ancient Rome.
The Pantheon is massive in size – much like the rest of Rome – and is crowded with people all day. We made our way into the mammoth structure to admire its beautiful structure inside. There is a huge dome in the centre of the Pantheon which lets through natural light. Around the edges of the Pantheon is lots of famous statues dedicated to various people throughout history.
As we made our way through the crowds of people, we admired the Pantheon’s famous structure. You don’t realise how big it actually is until you walk around inside. We even stopped in the seats in front of the altar for a bit to admire its beautiful religious structure. After walking around for ages, we decided to go and get some pasta from one of the many restaurants.

St Peter’s Basilica/ Vatican City

On our third day, we decided to dedicate a whole day to explore the Vatican City. It was a very hot day, but we knew that in order to get in you needed to have your legs and shoulders covered. Luckily, we packed a change of clothes for later, but waiting in the bright sun was extremely hot.
On our way to the Vatican, we were stopped by many people offering us ‘Free Information’. We were a bit lost at one point so we stopped and asked one of them where to go, but instead, they tried to sell us a guided tour. It’s free to get into St Peter’s Basilica, but they were trying to get us to pay at least 40Euros each! After we moved on, we kept getting stopped by so many of these people, it was extremely frustrating…
When we finally arrived at the Vatican, we realised that the line to get into the Basilica was extremely long due to passing through security. We were reluctant to join the massive line, but surprisingly it moved quite quickly! As we drew closer to security, I noticed that annoyingly a lot of people were cutting in infront of us.
After making our way through security we finally made it to St Peters Basillica! It is huge, and something that is truly fantastic to admire. We walked around inside for ages, our necks cranes high admiring the amazing artworks on the ceiling above us. After admiring for some time, we went underground to view some of the tombs of the past Popes. The whole thing was amazing to see for free.
 We then decided to head up to the dome at the top of the basicllica. It offers an amazing view of Rome from above. It was only 8Euros each to get in, but we had to climb over 500 stairs!
The Tiber River was nearby, so we decided to exit the Vatican City (leaving the museums for another day) and go for a walk along the river.

The Vatican Museums

On our final day in Rome, we decided to spend the day exploring the Vatican Museum. The Vatican Museum consists of 8 museums all interlinked, the most famous part being The Sistine Chapel. The line was once again extremely long, we had to wait an hour and a half this time! All while ‘free information’ people were constantly offering you expensive guided tours.
Once we’d finally made it inside through security, we then had to buy our tickets. The price was a bit expensive at EUR17, but I think it was definitely worth it in the end. We ended up spending 3 hours there viewing countless pieces of priceless art, ranging from the Egiptyan to the Roman periods. Of course, the famous Sistine Chapel was another amazing thing to admire. We spent ages in there with our heads aimed towards the ceiling. What an amazing way to end our stay in Rome.

On Some Sundays, Rome is Free!

When we first arrived in Rome we were delighted to discover that on the first Sunday of each month, all museums in Italy were completely free! Yep so that includes the Colosseum, The Roman Forum, The Vatican Museums – some of the most famous places in the world. This was a great thing for our very tight budget, and the lines weren’t even that long either…

Racing to Rome

But first, we had to get to Rome! We left early from our hostel in Naples – before it got too hot – and walked about 40 minutes to the bus station. Luckily it was all downhill this time, so it wasn’t so exhausting. Our backpacks are still extremely heavy though, so it was still hard work but it felt great to get the blood pumping so early in the morning.

Once we arrived at the bus station, we were very confused and unsure where to catch the bus from. After numerous attempts at getting some direction from the bus station’s ticket office, we were partly convinced that we were at the right stop and hoped for the best. We still had to wait an hour, so I went and grabbed some cheap snacks for us to eat on the way to Rome.

With a sigh of relief, the bus eventually arrived – we were starting to get worried because it was running late. Boarding the bus was a whole experience within itself. Little direction was given as to where to put our bags, our only hope was to continue saying ‘Roma’ with a concerned look on our faces. People were pushing past each other to try and board the bus first, it was chaos!

Relaxed and calm as we finally hit the road, we were on our way to Rome! The journey was at first was a bit bumpy and speedy, with no seatbelts available we had to grip tightly to our armrests. But we soon adjusted to disorganised and slightly dangerous traffic that is known as the Italian highway.

The Colosseum 

When finally arriving in Rome, we easily navigated the metro system towards our hostel in Rome – CIAK Hostel. The metro station was located very close to our hostel, just a short 5 minute walk away. This was much easier than the turbulent nature of the City of Naples. We were beginning to love Rome already…

As soon as we checked ourselves in, we were off to explore the free attractions of Rome one of them being the world-renowned Colosseum. The famous archaeological site was only about a 20-minute walk away, so we headed into the sweltering summer sun and made our way through the tourist-filled streets of Rome.

The most convenient part about Rome that we soon discovered was the endless supply of free water fountains dotted around the city. This water is provided by the mountain ranges surrounding Rome, thanks to the ingenious design of the ancient Roman aqueducts.

As we drew nearer to the mammoth structure, we could see the Colosseum from afar as we turned onto a street which led us directly towards it. But we couldn’t just walk straight in with no interruptions like you’d expect. First, we had to dodge the many street workers trying to sell you an expensive guided tour, disguised ‘free information’ helpers. Then we also had to dodge the many street vendors trying to sell you frozen bottles of water, selfie sticks and portable chargers. There were even people dressed as gladiators, luring tourists in for a ‘free’ photo which actually ended up costing 5 euros!

However, after finally avoiding all the street vendors, we finally made it to the queue in the Colosseum. The queue at first seemed huge, which is what we were expecting because it was not only ‘The Colosseum’ but it was also free. However, the queue actually moved quite quickly. After we made it through the security check, we then had to queue up for our free tickets. The workers in the ticket office mindlessly threw tickets at countless tourists – they only gave us one ticket for two people which almost stopped one of us from getting in!

Finally, we were inside. As we roasted in the blinding sun, we admired the colossal structure that surrounded us. It was bursting with tourists from different countries and cultures, but we were constantly in awe of the history that is in the Colosseum. We took our time, strolling around each level of the Colosseum, trying to find the best lookout for the perfect selfie. Not only were the views inside the Colosseum spectacular, you were also able to see some amazing views of Rome from the large openings in the columns.

After filling the majority of our phone storage with photos and strolling through the tiring humidity, we decided to head for the exit to take advantage of some other free sites.

The Roman Forum

Lucky for us, the Roman Forum was just a short 5-minute walk from the Colosseum. It was late in the day, and because we didn’t know when it would exactly close, we hurriedly made our way there. There was lots to see, but we were determined to do it in a very short time-frame.

We made it quickly through the security – the line was surprisingly short compared to the Colosseum. As expected, Cian was held back because we only had one ticket. Lucky enough the ticket person was lenient, it doesn’t really make sense why we needed tickets if it was free. Eagerly, we made our way into through The Forum, the summer sun still retaining its heat in the late hours of the day. This time around, we made sure that we had a picture of the map.

We wandered around unguided, the picture of the map still handy just in case. It’s so much more exciting for us to just freely explore a place. With this in mind, we headed towards Palantine Hill. As we slowly made our way up the stairs to the Palatine hill, more and more of The Forum became apparent, showing the full scale of the ancient ruins. From the height that we stood at, you could see dozens of buildings and temples from the ancient Roman Times. The entirety of the City of modern Rome was also viewable in the background, which gave a clear perception of the contrast between ancient and modern.

In the central area of The Forum, more ancient buildings surrounded us. There were a number of structures which included, famous temples, aqueducts, basilicas, shrines and arches. Even though they have deteriorated or collapsed, it is incredible to still be able to see the ruins and understand their history today.

After again taking lots of photos – and even being lucky enough to have someone take a photo of us together – we exited the widespread ruins and headed to see some of the other sites of Rome. We spent hours there, fully taking advantage of our free tickets.

If you are planning to visit any of these famous sites, you should definitely make an effort to plan your trip around the first Sunday of any month. It is definitely well worth it and saves you from purchasing expensive tickets.