Chapter two … in which we explore France and Italy

“This writing business.  Pencils and what-not.  Over-rated, if you ask me.  Silly stuff.  Nothing in it.”

Okay so this post is a little late … okay a lot late but whatever!  Better late than never 😉

So this part of our journey started with a trip on the Eurostar.  I’ve been here 4 years and I hadn’t ever been on it.  So we decided that seeing as its only a few hours to Paris we may as well give it a go.  Well I was unimpressed to be honest.   I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting but it was definitely more than what we got.  The trains were grey and dirty which made them look so depressing.  However, I did get to sleep for half the journey into Paris, so it wasn’t all bad.

Within a couple of hours we had made it into Paris and as we came out of the station we decided that we would just take a taxi to the hotel so we can get out an explore.  Well one would think that would be an easy task especially when there are a large number of taxi’s just outside the station.  However, not one of these taxi’s had a driver in it….

We finally found a taxi with a driver (always helpful!) and set off for our hotel even though it was only 10.30 and check in wasn’t until 2pm.  The staff at the Novotel in Paris were amazing!  The guy went through the metro map with us, explained where everything was and then walked us to the lift. Awesome service – shame about the no wi-fi in the rooms though 😦

After a brief look at the map and something to eat and a coffee we set off in search of the Eiffel Tower, you know that big tall metal thing in the middle of Paris?  Yeah that.  Its funny, while walking the streets deep in conversation it’s actually quite easy to lose the Eiffel Tower.  But we kept walking in the general direction and eventually ended up where we needed to be.

Jess had a bright idea to walk up the Eiffel Tower …. seriously!  Last time I listen to her bright ideas haha!  We should have timed to see how long it took us, it felt like a very long time.   Although it did work out cheaper to walk up the Eiffel Tower rather than take the lift up, plus with the amount of pizza and pasta we will be eating in Italy, it’s probably for the best 😉  So off we went, walking up every single step, right the way to the very top of the Eiffel Tower and right the way back down again, with a lot of photos stops in between.

After our mammoth walk up and down the tower we decided to head out to the Louvre.  We managed to see the Glass Pyramid outside and the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper and I think that was about the point in which we realised how sore our feet were and how hungry we were!!  So again on foot we set off for the hotel.  We didn’t think it was that far away, but it turned out it was an hours walk away!!  So by the time we reached the hotel we stopped for a quick sit down and headed across the road for some pizza.

Obviously the early morning caught up with us because we forgot to set the alarm and slept in till 9.45am.  Whoops!   With a hurried start to our morning, we set off for Notre-Dame.  Again, we walked and it took us a good hour to get there.  The line to get in was so long it just wasn’t worth standing in the cold and the rain to try to get in.  The line was also moving extremely slowly so we gave it a miss but we did take a large number of photos out here.  So we went in search of the Galleries Lafayette.  This place is massive!!!  Seven Storey department store.  But omg there were so many people in here, it was shoulder to shoulder packed on the ground floor, it was truly hideous!!  Almost as bad as Ballantynes (for those who know my Ballantynes dilemma).  We also saw the Arc de Triomphe and the Champ Elsees before heading back to the hotel absolutely exhausted.

Another early morning start, this time we are flying down to Nice.  A very short flight this morning and we are in Sunny Nice!!!   After finding our way to the hotel and checking out the map, we managed to get on the tram that takes us into the center of Nice.  The weather here is dramatically better than it was in Paris.  The sun was shining and it was nice and hot.  We strolled through the cobbled streets of Nice and found our way down to the coast line and watched the waves come in and the boats racing.  We walked around looking at shops etc, but being Sunday a lot of things were closed.  But we are only passing through.  Tomorrow we are off to Milan.

This morning we took the train from Nice into Milan.  Our first train was a crappy double-decked commuter train and it was so hot….too hot and packed full of people.  However, after an hour we got to our changing point where we had to very quickly work out where we needed to be as we had 10 minutes from getting off the first train to leaving on the second train.  Thankfully I managed to work it out pretty quickly and we got on to the next train and set off for Milan.

Thankfully our hotel was only a 25 minute walk from the train station in Milan, however it was rather warm when we got there.  We headed into the centre of Milan and went to the Piazza Duomo and saw the Cathedral.  The Cathedral was pretty spectacular from the outside.   It took almost six centuries to build the Gothic building and is the fifth largest cathedral in the world.  We also saw the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele which is an open shopping arcade.  It is also the oldest shopping arcade in Italy.   All the shops were very high end designer labels.  Not that we expected anything less – we are in Milan after all.

This morning started off with a proper breakfast: bacon, eggs (for me, not Jess), yoghurt, fruit and coffee.  Plus we made sandwiches with the food that was out for breakfast so we could take that with us for lunch!!  This time we set off down the other end of the centre of Milan to have a look around, it did take us a while to walk down here but we saw the Piazza Sempione with the Arch of Peace.   We also walked through the Castello Sforza (the Milan Castle) which to be honest, wasn’t overly impressive.  Seeing as it was already 1pm we decided to stop for lunch.  After lunch we headed down to the Parco delle Basiliche (Park of Basilica’s).  This park connects the Basilica of San Lorenzo and the Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio.  We then headed back towards the Piazza Duomo where I found this cute wee shop and bought myself a green dress for only €15 !!  This is the first trip where I have actually bought myself something instead of only buying for others.  We discovered this amazing bakery on our way back to the hotel, the yummiest pizza breads ever, and so cheap!!
However, for me Milan was just an over priced Paris and I don’t like Paris.

This morning we headed off to Venice.  It was only a short train ride and our train was much nicer than the last one.  Our hotel was also only an eight minute walk from the station.  Bonus!  I have to admit the hotel here was pretty nice, I was quite impressed.  We didn’t stay in Venice itself, we actually stayed on Mestre but there was a bus stop like 3 mins down the road that took us directly into Venice.

Just stepping onto the bridge that takes you over the canal in Venice I completely fell in love with this place.  So far we had done France and Milan and I wasn’t a fan, but Venice?  OMG Totally love it!  The sun was shining and it was nice and warm so we wandered along the canals, through the rabbits warren of streets and shops and little markets.  Eventually we stopped for dinner – Pasta!!!  Then we tried headed back to the bus station to take us to the hotel, well this proved to be very interesting.  By this point it was dark, the only map we had was a crappy map with the main points of interest – which wasn’t very helpful.  It’s also quite easy to lose all sense of direction in this place at night.  My sense of direction and map reading skills are pretty good usually, but even I was lost.  Eventually we worked it out – with the help of an Old Italian guy.  Love the Italians!!!

Today we had a shopping day.  We went into nearly every single shop in Venice.  We looked at so many Venetian masks, it was so awesome.  I bought myself a green pleather jacket (I thought I bought this in Milan but according to my scribbles I did not), I also bought two (green) Venetian masks, one eye mask and one small full face mask.  I also got a green  wallet.  There seems to be a theme there!

This morning we caught the train to Florence.  We are only here for one night, as I remembered there’s not a whole lot to do in Florence.  After dropping our bags off at the hotel we set off with our trusty map and went in search of a naked man in a town square (aka The Statue of David).  Having been to Florence before on my Topdeck (would not recommend them if you are over 20!) trip a few years back, I remember there being a fake Statue of David in a square somewhere.  So I checked out our maps, couldn’t find it.  Had a look on Google, couldn’t find it.  After a while I gave up rather annoyed that I couldn’t find it.  So we ended up at the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore which is the main church in Florence.  I love this building, there’s something about it that I could quite happily go to Florence and just see this and then leave.  The weather was pretty rubbish here so we wandered around the town for probably the better part of three hours before the rain really started to come down.  So we gave up and headed back to the hotel.  However, as we were walking back to the hotel, I saw some statues that caught my eye.  I knew we hadn’t been down there, so we went down and had a look and sure enough, there at the end was the Naked man himself.  The Statue of David.  I was so impressed, I honestly had given up all hope of finding it

 

This morning started off with our train to Rome being delayed by 20 minutes, however we did have a nice comfy train so I’m not going to complain too much.  We got into Rome, dropped our luggage off and set out to explore Rome.  Rome is still one of my favourite cities.  Thankfully the weather was holding out for us so we took the metro out to the Vatican and stood in line to get into St Peter’s Basilica for about an hour.  Seriously if you’ve ever been here, you know what the size of the square in front of St Peters is like – this line snaked right the way around and then backed onto itself :-/   But the line moved fast so it wasn’t too bad.  However, by the time we got through the line and into the Basilica and took a billion and four photos it was too late to get into the Vatican Museum (aka The Sistine Chapel), so we set off for the castle although we didn’t go into the castle we took a lot of photos outside.  Plus I got to take a photo of every single Angel that lines the bridge heading up to the castle.  I love that bridge!  However there was one Angel that a bird was annoyingly perched on.  I stayed as long as I could waiting for that damn bird to fly away but it didn’t 😦  He ruined one of my photos *sad panda*.  We then headed to Piazza Navona, I really like this place.  The Fountain of Four Rivers is pretty amazing plus the Neptune Fountain.  Next stop was the Pantheon, however when we got here it was closed to the public for some sort of Mass so we headed to Trevi Fountain – my favourite place in Rome!!  I could happily stand at Trevi Fountain just looking at it for hours.  After a lot of photos we headed back towards the Pantheon but it was still closed.  So instead we decided to have dinner.  I somehow managed to find the same restaurant that Michelle and I went to 3 years before that she went to some 20 years before that!  However we didn’t eat there, we went somewhere else instead.  After a lot of pizza we had to try to walk some of it off.  So back to the Pantheon we went – third time lucky!  We took a lot of photos here too and then set off for the Spanish Steps on our way back to the hotel.

This morning we set out early to get to the Vatican.  They open they museum on the last Sunday of every month from 9-12 and its free entry, so we were really luck we managed to get in, but my god that line to get in was massive!   It reached right back to the Basilica.  Thankfully we were only in line for an hour and a half and we actually got in, because I honestly didn’t think we would.  So we wandered through the museum until we finally got to what we really came for – The Sistine Chapel.  I’ve been here twice and so far I’ve not been brave enough to try to photo it.  Usually if it says no photography, I do it in a sneaky way and get it anyways.  However, with the amount of security and seeing one guard escort a guy out for taking photos I didn’t bother.  I know I’ve seen it twice.  That all that counts 🙂

After some lunch we headed out to the Colosseum and the Roman Forums.  I’m not a big fan of the Colosseum, I think its nicer from the outside than the inside and you only need half an hour to get in there and see it all and then you head out to the forums.  The Forums on the other hand, I totally love.   There’s something about the structures there that I love.  Maybe because it’s not complete and you have to imagine what it actually would have looked like?  I don’t know, but I much prefer the Forums.

Then sadly it was time to go home and back to work first thing in the morning.  I seriously don’t know why I do it to myself haha!!  I need to plan my coming back earlier so I can rest before work!

But there you have it.  I have finally caught up with my blog.  All photos from this trip can be found here.

“And by and by Christopher Robin came to an end of things, and he was silent, and he sat there, looking out over the world, just wishing it wouldn’t stop”

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~ by adventuresofglittergirl on 18 December, 2012.

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