Unlike my previous posts, I'm not writing this while still on holiday. In fact, those who know me will know I made my way back into Sydney two weeks ago. I guess the rest of the trip was just a little too exciting to keep blogging during!
I am going to include some excerpts from a travel journal I wrote while I was away. While it is extremely embarrassing to admit I was scrawling away my thoughts away in a little brown book (though it isn't really that different to having a blog...) I am SO glad that I did. I thought I'd be forever terrified of the concept after re-reading one I'd written in year 5 and consequently tearing it into a million pieces a year later from embarrassment, but sometimes photos just aren't enough to remind you of the funny quirks and details of your trip. Anyhow, here goes!
20th June 2012
Today we left Lucerne after breakfast, bound for Italy. It was really nice to be able to drive ourselves rather than have to go train or plane, and despite turning out to be a very hot and sticky day, our drive through the Alps via the Gotthard Pass was very scenic (and cold!) and allowed for some great photo opportunities with the ice glaciers down the mountains. Once over the Italian border, our first stop was Lake Bellagio instead of as originally planned - Lake Como. The trip down was only about 30km or so but it took about an hour because the windy single-lane rocky road was two-way. There were blind corners every 50m, and while it was a bit crazy (correction: Italian drivers are completely crazy) it was very authentically Italian, and the view down at Bellagio was well worth the trip. We had lunch by the lake and saw some quaint, narrow shopping streets up in the village area. We then drove up the other side and made our way to Milan.
I didn't include too much of Milan in the diary as we only stopped over for the night. We stayed at the Radisson Blu hotel (which had the BIGGEST bathroom I think I have ever seen - it no joke was about 5 or 6 metres long and would have taken up about half the size of the hotel room) and that evening visited Duomo and the Galleria. Fairly sure we ended up eating biscuits for dinner that night, but we needed to get a good night's rest because the next day was set to be a busy one: Padua, Verona and Venice!
21st June 2012
Today was certainly a packed one. This morning we had breakfast at our hotel in Milan. We've started hoarding the bread and pastries into our bag for car snacks, but today I'm fairly sure the waitress saw me - oops! (Okay just to give things context, this was a buffet breakfast, as had most of our breakfasts thus far had been. We were enduring long car trips - try between 4 and 12 hours every day - and so I'd been assigned the role of taking a few extra bread rolls and pastries for the road... earning me the name the "Bread Bandit". Unfortunately the waitress did see little piglet Laura taking the bread that morning - thank god we weren't staying around!) We got out of Milan and headed to our next destination - Verona. It certainly lived up to my expectations and was as beautiful as the photos that you see of the old rustic, terracotta and peach coloured buildings with shutters on the windows, lining the cobblestone streets. We looked inside the gladiator Arena and they appeared to be setting up for a play - it would have been amazing to sit there in the evening and see one. We also visited Casa de Giulietta - Juliet's balcony (like from the movie Letters to Juliet) and I had my photo taken up there.The area also had hundreds of coloured padlocks locked on around the walls from visiting couples, but much to our disappointment, there actually are no "letters to Juliet" stuck in the wall. While it was extremely hot (38 degrees celsius) the area was serenely quiet and this was even with all the tourists there. It's certainly a place I'd like to revisit. We then drove to our hotel a little outside Padua (Padova to Italians), which is like a country club resort. The pool looked ultra refreshing but I wouldn't want to walk around in my swimmers in front of all the oldies here - including the 60+ "pool boy"! We ended up having a snooze for a couple of hours before then driving to visit Venice this evening. It also was a little different from what I expected (and it was like a neverending maze with all the alleyways) but I warmed up to it. The Grand Canal with all the lit-up gondolas were pretty, as was San Marco Square, which we caught the ferry to. Here they had a number of small orchestras playing for the various restaurants and it all appeared very romantic! One played the Viennese Waltz and couples throughout the square started dancing.
Above: video I took of Viennese Waltz orchestra playing in San Marco Square
I ended up missing a couple of days in my diary, but after our night in Padua, we drove towards the countryside in Siena. While my favourite parts of Italy were our later stopovers in Rome and Sorrento, the countryside in the central regions is just so beautiful. It was also the first time in the trip (and pretty much my whole LIFE) I'd felt a little carsick - I can thank the twisty Italian Alps for that! Our stopover for the night was a little outside Siena in a place called Castelnuovo Berdanenga (our GPS, whom we'd fondly named Nancy - after Nancy in Love Actually - did struggle a little here). It was possibly one of the weirdest places anyone will ever stay in - the room we were originally going to sleep in had an enormous photo of a horse eye over my bed... creepy or what! - but we visited the walled city of Siena in the night. I personally didn't really like the city as much as dad did, largely I think because medieval-related things tend to scare me and this was VERY medieval, but I definitely had an appreciation for the beautiful countryside that we were so lucky to see in the hot sunshine the following day.
Upon my request, we also had a detour to the hotel from the movie Letters to Juliet (you may have gathered by now, I am a little obsessed with this movie). It was incredibly deserted and took much longer to reach than we expected, but oh, was it lavish! Imagine, a quiet castle with a crystal clear pool and huge gravel driveway... here's some pics anyway! Stay tuned for the rest of Italy (Rome, Sorrento and Pisa), Cote d'Azur and the loop on the road back to Paris.