It has taken me forever to finally get around to this final post from my 3 week European adventure, which is sadly all but a memory now. Looking back on my Instagram photos taken "8w" ago really isn't helping, especially when you compare the 38 degree weather to rainy Sydney (I am currently sitting next to a heater with my puffer vest on over my fleecy hoodie - it's COLD, and I have had more than enough cups of tea today to compensate).
By the way, please note this post is a little disjointed - I'm struggling a bit to remember all the details but I've certainly managed to scramble together quite a collection anyhow!
Last blogpost left off from Siena, bound for beautiful Roma. While we were planning to stop in Florence (hello leather handbags!) we ended up driving around the round-about twice (twice because our GPS started to get a little confused) before exiting straight out of Florence. I think we were just super keen to see Rome and also super keen to get away from the crazy hoards of Vespa drivers in Florence - though having said that, it's not much better in Rome.
I had been told by a few people not to bother with Rome. To those people I say, LUCKY I DIDN'T LISTEN! Excuse the caps lock, but when asked now what my favourite part of the trip was, it's definitely hard to choose, but Rome was in my top three of locations. It was my favourite central "city" of the trip and it just seemed to have that perfect balance of the old and the new. If I managed to learn a bit more Italian, I could definitely see myself visiting for a longer period of time in the not so distant future.
Upon arrival, we checked in at our hotel, UNA - absolutely beautiful, very Roman and lovely staff! After a little rest, we bought three tickets to yet another double decker bus tour. This one seemed a little more dodgy than the others, and it was now that we really felt the heat - mum had to put a handkerchief on my back so I didn't burn! We also ended up discovering the next day that despite being told we had a 24-hour bus pass that would last us until the afternoon of the following day, they had in fact not been so honest and given us a ticket that was only for that day - defeating the purpose of buying the ticket somewhat, but hey, what can you do! That afternoon we lined up to see the Colosseum and Trevi Fountain, both of which attracted enormous crowds. I also started to notice that compared to the other cities we had to been to, Rome was absolutely flooded with Australian and American tourists. To escape the heat, we enjoyed some fresh orange juice and refreshing pineapple on the rooftop of Piazza Venezia.
That night we chose to have dinner at a restaurant just around the corner from our hotel (the same place we had lunch that day - who can deny a 6 euro bowl of delicious spaghetti?!) This was also where a bit of a joke started with the "lemon drinks". Mum just wanted some sort of lemon soda. "Limoncello?" the waiter asked. Yep, sure, that sounds right. For a family that's not big on alcohol (that's the biggest understatement of the century), the resulting shot of limon-flavoured liquer that turned up on our table was quite amusing. Lucky for me though, my dream dessert of Tiramisu was of course on the menu, and boy was it good!
The next day was walking-galore - a good thing considering the amount of food I had consumed, but not so good considering I had chosen to wear some cheap sandals in the heat... ouch! In the morning, we visited the Vatican City, including inside St Peter's Basilica. Just as we came out into the open space, a large crowd had gathered and we were in time to see the Pope arrive at his window, waving to everyone and giving a little speech (well.. prayer), before we spent the afternoon wandering the Roman Forum. I did note down that that night, Italy won their Euro2012 Football match against England - the car horns were never-ending!
Three hours down from Rome, we spotted Mount Vesuvius and found ourselves along the Southern Coastline of Italy. The view along the clifftops was truly like the photos, and it was certainly refreshing to be by the sea after spending two hot days in Rome. While we didn't go swimming, the temperature was around 27 degrees to 30 degrees, instead of being close to 40 degrees as it was in Rome! We stayed in the town of Sorrento and it also ended up being in my top three favourite places of the trip. Lunch that day was at Bar Fauno, at which I received the biggest bowl of the thickest tubular pasta (imagine eating Bega Stringers in sauce... yeah!) The limoncello joke continued because as "compliments of the staff", we received a limoncello shot each. Not wanting to offend, we were strategically seated near the potplants, and so with a swift flick of the wrist into the garden, dad lost the content of our shots into the plants. I am not joking when I say, it BURNS your throat! Thankfully, the following day we were able to tell them not to worry in advance ;) We spent the rest of the day on a little road train that took us on a small tour of Sorrento, and wandering through the narrow shopping streets where it became evident that lemons/limones were their specialty - lemon soap, lemon liquer, lemon-printed handtowels, lemon boiled lollies - the list goes on. Mum also befriended an old nonna who owned a children's clothing shop, and proceeded to tell me that I'd be married and have children with an Italian soccer player within a year... oh dear.
The second day we were up early, eating breakfast (the waiter had a striking resemblance to Mr Bean which we found very funny) in order to catch the ferry out to Capri. Unfortunately I don't think I was able to appreciate Capri properly, being overcome with a terrible wave of motion sickness once we got off the ferry, but it certainly is a very pretty place in the summer sunshine blazing over the white buildings. The rest of the day was spent purely relaxing on the rooftop of our hotel - the first real rest in what my dad labelled our "packed itinerary". We went back to Bar Fauno that night for the most delicious Margherita pizza I think I will ever have, and the most decadent Nutella crepes you could ever imagine. Yummo! (This trip is sounding like all we did was eat, but I assure you, you would do the same. Plus the amount of walking we did was enough to counteract it, I promise!)
After Sorrento, we were on the fast-track loop back home. Next stop was Pisa where we of course saw the Leaning Tower. We stayed in THE strangest hotel - a spaceship from the outside and a hospital ward on the inside - but it was only for the night, because the next day we were on the road yet again to Cote d'Azur. Monte Carlo was the first stop, where we saw the casino, Hotel de Paris and of course, the lavish boats and expensive cars lining the shore. We also drove through Nice, which I unfortunately missed most of because I fell asleep - whoops! Cannes was the stop for this night. I was really starting to crave home by this stage (don't get me wrong, it was the best trip I could have ever expected - I just love home a little too much), and while I can say I've been to these places, I don't think I'd go back to the area. Admittedly, we had been extremely spoilt with the beautiful scenery of Sorrento and Lucerne before, so I don't think Cote d'Azur quite lived up to these spots for me.
The following day was the longest leg of the trip - Cannes to Dijon. We were expecting it to take around 6 hours but because we went the longer, more scenic route, it was closer to 11 hours. Dad finally got to see the enormous Millau Bridge in Aveyron, and we drove through a few quaint townships such as St-Pourcain-Sur-Sioule. Even the freeway between Aix-en-Provence and Millau was spectacular, with huge sweeping roads weaving through the mountains. From Dijon, it was a few hours drive into Paris to drop the car off before catching the afternoon Eurostar into London. We had a view of the London Eye from our room and were able to enjoy some happy snaps with a few more sites before heading to the airport, bound back home to Sydney.
An epically long post - yes, but an epically spectacular trip! One I know I will never forget :)