InterRail Post #11: All roads lead to…a Pizzeria…and a fountain

Sophie here, giving you the second instalment about our time in Rome.

If you are planning to visit Rome, you may want to get a travelcard for the metro or bus; as we decided to walk everywhere. There are a lot of sights to see in Rome, and they aren’t as close together as a map may lead you to believe! After a month of walking everyday, Rome really took its toll on us, one day we even had to admit defeat at 5pm and head back to the hostel before dinner for a 2 hour nap because our eyes just couldn’t stay open any longer.

On Monday we took a visit to the world famous Colosseum, getting a live guide to help us understand some of the history.

Charles took a quick look at St Peter’s Basilica as I was denied entry for not being covered up enough, boo.

The Roman’s seem to have an obsession with holey roofs.

We grabbed some dinner at a touristy restaurant that evening and everything was fine until a suspicious 4 Euros with a squiggle for the description turned up on our bill. Upon asking the waiter what this was he told us it was a cover charge for the napkins, tablecloth and bread (which we didn’t even eat). This promptly turned into a massive argument where we refused to pay the extra charge and even got kicked out of the restaurant, needless to say we won’t be going there again!

I then had to get my theatre fix as it has been way to long since seeing any production. I got a ticket for an African Contemporary dance show but I was thoroughly disappointed as what I saw wasn’t exactly dance. Think lots of running around, shouting in French and a very hairy naked woman in a long veil, not really my cup of tea, oh well it felt god to be cultured.

On Tuesday we headed over to the Vatican Museum and were herded like sheep around the rooms including the room of maps, the room of tapestries, halls of numerous roman sculptures and modern religious art. Our visit ended in the beautifully hand painted inside of the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo we salute you!

We couldn’t resist

The Last Judgement

The ceiling depicting Creation and Noah’s Ark

This one is for you Charlotte

The last thing to note about Rome is the abundance of Ice Cream on sale, everywhere you turn there is a Gelateria with amazing flavours such as ginger and cinnamon, caramel meringue and nutella. Needless to say Charles and I took full advantage of this fact.

5 Interesting things about Rome

1. Sales assistants and waiters have no time for tourists, the Italians could really learn a thing or two from the English about customer service!

2. When there were fights held at the Colleseum the crowd used to be asked towards the end of they wanted to stop the fight and keep the contender standing, they would signal this with a thumbs up. However if they wanted the contender to be flattened they would signal with a thumb to the side.

3. Italian drivers are crazy, you risk your life at every road crossing.

4. Roman restaurants don’t have toilet seats on their loos, I have become a pro at squatting and am building up some good thigh muscles!

5. In many shops they never have change for a €20, be cautious when paying with one!

Rome wasn’t built in a day, so don’t try and see all of it in one!

We are now on our way to Venice for the last two days of our trip before heading home! That’s all from me, I hope you have enjoyed reading my parts of the blog for the trip.

Sophie

x

InterRail Post #10: MARIA!!!!!!

After a really cool 7 hour ferry across the Adriatic sea from Dubrovnik, the southern point of the Dalmatian coast in Croatia, to Bari, a small harbour town half way down Italy’s west coast; Sophie and I had already realised one unmistakable fact about the Italians: They are loud. With an average speaking volume over 50dB higher than all other European nations, it’s no surprise that our Ferry journey was abundant with shouts and cries such as “MARIA!!!!!!!!!!!”. Despite this, Sophie and I got chatting to a very interesting traveller with a motor home from south England who had just spent the last 3 weeks taking in all the sights along the Dalmatian coast that we had wizzed past in just 5 hours on a coach… It’s evident that Croatia has far more to offer than any salient traveller could visit in just the 5 short days we spent in the country. I also found out the reason why the Croatians had a street in every major city named after Nikola Tesla, inventor of the tesla coil and, hence, AC power as we use today… he was born in Croatia. Interesting fact I didn’t know.

Anyhow… Bari. Not much to say about this small town, mainly because we were there just long enough to get a bus to the train station, hunt for somewhere to eat (and finding a place selling Focaccia) and watching The Lovely Bones on the laptop waiting for our overnight train to Rome. The overnight train, on the other hand, I could talk about for hours…

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Without a bed reservation, because they were all taken when we tried to reserve them a week earlier, we had to make do with seats. We shared a cabin with 4 other people in 2 rows of 3 seats facing each other. After getting on the train we turned the light off in our cabin and tried to get some resemblance of sleep on the 6 hour train. Unfortunately several factors prevented this: the aforementioned seat layout meaning the person opposite me constantly kicking my shins, the ticket inspector choosing 3am as the opportune moment to check our InterRail passes, the ticket inspector then arguing with 2 guys just outside our cabin for what I can only assume was not having a valid ticket, the aforementioned inherent loudness of Italians and the heat of the cabin after 20 minutes of 6 people trying to sleep and breathing heavily… it was most definitely an experience!

6:30am, finally in Rome sweet Rome… but without a map and only cryptic directions to our hostel. After one long hour we discovered it was only a 10 minute walk from where we started. 20 minutes later the receptionist finally checks us in (slowest check-in ever!) and Sophie and I make full use of the included breakfast :)

And then we napped… for 2 hours.

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First stop: Well, lunch… but then: Fontana Di Trevi. The most famous fountain in Rome, and believe me there are a lot to choose from!

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For some reason every tourist in Rome must visit this flight of steps… and when I say every tourist in Rome, that is a lot of tourists! Even at the end of September Rome’s small streets were packed with every Tom, Dick and Harry you could think of. I’d hate to think what it’s like during peak season!

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The Pantheon.

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Still the world’s largest unsupported concrete dome, it really is a sight to behold. And what’s outside this amazing monument… another fountain!

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Some run-down theatre…

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Up to Gianicolo for sunset and an amazing view over Rome.

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Just before leaving England a month ago I went to my bank to sort out travel things and the assistant recommended a pizzeria in Rome, so we did!

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Local, traditional pizza just off the tourist track… I’d recommend it to anyone who’s going to Rome. www.pizzariapanunto.com Thank you Richard Hill!

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The next morning we ventured over the river to a Sunday Flea market, and it was huge! An hour of walking continuously and we hadn’t even found the end! Littered with clothes stalls, jewellery stands, electronics, bags, books, food and everything else; it was a good place for us to get a few souvenirs, as long as you were prepared to barter!

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It was HOT!

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Ancient Rome… Incredible.

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Sophie’s feet after a long day of walking around 2500 years of roman history!

Sophie will fill you in on the last 2 days in Rome which include more of that old theatre, a ceiling and table tax! Stay tunes!

InterRail Post #9: Just In The Dubrovnik Of Time

Dubrovnik is a sight to behold, with its stone beaches, fabulous sunset watching spots and terracotta tiled roofs of the old town. It was the part of the trip we were looking forward to the most, and it has been a nice release being able to head down to the beach everyday and relieve our feet from the miles of walking we have already done this month.

The journey to Dubrovnik took 5 hours by coach from Split, with the Adriatic sea to our right and the old houses to our left. On arrival Charles called the man at our hostel who came to pick us up 10 minutes later, with maps, directions and recommendations, we felt like we could then make the most of our time there. Arriving at the boarding house we felt glad that we had booked somewhere in Lapad, which was 20 minutes from the bustling old town, as we were 3 minutes walk from a quiet beach, got a double room for the same price as a 4 bed shared dorm and had this view:

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This day was also Charles’ 22nd Birthday so after hitting the beach for a sunset swim we went to the main promenade for dinner, coincidently we bumped into my manager from the nursery Sarah and her friend Clare  on our search for cheap cocktails (who were holidaying in the Dubrovnik for 10 days) and enjoyed a relaxing evening drinking whilst sitting on swingy chairs, win!

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Charles and birthday pancakes!

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He’s got the whole sun in his hands!

There’s nothing like an early morning swim, with only you and a few brave others venturing out into the waters, this is what we did on Wednesday before heading off to the old town. We walked the walls in the blistering heat, taking in views such as this:

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That’s a lot of ginger houses!

Then Charles and I found the Buza bar, overlooking the sea where you can jump from the rocks!

That evening we had planned to meet up with Sarah and Clare for dinner and ice cream in the Old Town and then headed back to the cocktail bar from Tuesday (because of the ridiculously cheap deals).

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Charles, Clare, Sarah and I

Now we are on a Ferry to Bari, where we will grab dinner before getting on another overnight train to Rome, unfortunately there were no beds left only seats, so an uncomfortable nights sleep awaits us. We are unbelievably excited about Rome, that post will come in two parts as we both wanted to write about it and I have a feeling there will be lots to say!

5 Interesting things about Dubrovnik

1. Stray cats are everywhere, there are even boxes for donations for cat food. One even sat on my bag when I stopped for a rest!

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2. There are some very large men in Dubrovnik, however all the weight seems to convene in their bellies making them look pregnant, this became a game of spot the pregnant man (especially on beaches).

3. If you are wondering around bus or ferry ports with luggage you will be approached several times by old women asking you if you need accommodation.

4. It has had a boom of tourism in the last few years, now being a prime holiday spot, meaning you can’t move for tourists (especially in the old town).

5. Turquoise is a common stone to Croatia, the jewellery stands are full of it, and obviously me being me I couldn’t resist buying a turquoise necklace.

Sophie

x

InterRail Post #8: Let’s Make Like A Croatian & Split

The adventure continues into the sunny coast of Croatia where the temperature during the day reaches 32 degrees! But before we got there, we had to get there!

We took an overnight train from Croatia’s capital Zagreb to Split. We had about 3 hours in Zagreb to grab dinner while waiting for our train. We got pasta from a cheap Italian restaurant (about £10 for 2 meals and drinks!) and then went for a quick look around. We found the main square, cathedral, funicular and another church before having to head back to the station.

The overnight train was an experience, I actually got a really good nights sleep, but that might be down to the fact the train ended up arriving into Split 3 hours late, so basically got a 3 hour lie in – which by this point on the trip was much appreciated! All that walking is definitely taking it’s toll!

Sophie and I have been waiting for the Croatian segment of our trip for a while for one simple reason: Beaches. And on our second day we made the most of the skin-cancer inducing weather, took a ferry to a nearby island and spent the day in the sea :)

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Sophie enjoys one of the local delicacies, Burek, for a very late breakfast. Essentially a light pastry filled with pork mince, very tasty!

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The awfully hot weather made stalls like this irresistible!

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Sophie grabbing a cheeky cocktail… the first of a few that day…

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Sophie, not content with just a cocktail, nomming a banana split… in Split (this one’s for Charlotte :p)

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The view from the top of the town’s campanile

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I’m on a beach!

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Enough said :)

Next stop, more sun and sea in Dubrovnik!

It’s My Party & I’ll Split If I Want To

It was almost three years to the day that this blog started, and what a three years they have been. On my 22nd birthday, it seems very apt that I am spending 5 hours on a bus in Croatia from Split to Dubrovnik, because my life as a 21-year-old was dominated by travel.

It all started on my 21st birthday last year when my job sent me to Amsterdam for the day. Waking up at 3am has it’s obvious downsides, but it was a great day visiting one of the largest broadcasting tradeshows in the world. I even got a birthday shout-out on the plane, thanks to my colleagues who persuaded an air hostess to do the honours. I got back to Guildford at 10pm where my housemates were waiting for me with cake and presents :) Not your traditional 21st birthday, but certainly setting a trend for the next year of my life…

I’ve done a lot of travelling, all thanks to my placement year at Sony that saw me working in Switzerland for most of the year. In a typical week I would fly out of Heathrow first thing Monday morning and return on Friday evening… in total flying on over 80 planes! I also took the opportunity to spend a weekend in Amsterdam with some friends instead of flying home. Some weekends I opted to stay out in Switzerland, and that allowed me to make a couple of day trips to Milan, since it was only an hour away by train. I also spent a weekend in a hotel overlooking Lake Como with Charlotte, something I would never have been able to do before.

And that’s the other travelling tale of the last year… I have taken the train to Weymouth for the weekend several times to see Charlotte. Now you can start to see how travelling has shaped my year: Flying to Switzerland on Monday, back on Friday, then going to Weymouth on Saturday, back to Guildford on Sunday then back to Switzerland on Monday… And that’s before you mention Cardiff, London, Edinburgh, Glasgow and the boat trips…It’s been a hectic year, but I wouldn’t change it for the world!

Having a 9-to-5 really takes up more time than you think, especially after 2 years at uni when you got used to a timetable with enough space in it for long lunches and late nights out without worrying about getting on the 7:45am train. But then add on to that job the flying, the packing and being away from home and you no longer have time to do the little things: laundry, buying stamps, etc. I’m looking forward to the next year at uni resembling some sort of normality… It’s the middle of September and I’m yet to sleep in the same bed for more than 2 weeks at a time! It’s been a different year, but I’ve still been able to stick to my new years resolution of being true to yourself…

My life has changed, but I’m still the same person. I’m doing what I try to do best: living life to the full by taking every chance. After all we only regret the things we don’t do, the chances we didn’t take and the choices we hid from – for fear of doing the wrong thing… stop making excuses and do it!

And that’s the reason behind this InterRail trip. Do it while you can. And so far it’s been unbelievable; so many cultures, landscapes and people! I recommend anyone to do it, you won’t regret it! (It’s funny how as I write this, the bus we are on is driving along a coastal road – cliffs to my left and the blue waters of the Adriatic sea to the right, the small terracotta roofs of the local shops and houses reflecting the glorious sunshine beaming down from an endless blue sky)

So now you can see why I might not have written in this blog as much as i would otherwise like to! But by far the best thing I did this year was buy a new camera – capturing the experiences so I can remember them for years to come :) Who knows what I’ll be dong in a years time, but if it’s anything like the last year, it’s really not even worth guessing!

InterRail Post #7: When Hungary strikes…

I’m writing this post on the six and a half hour train from Budapest to Zagreb, before taking an overnight train to Split in Croatia.

We have spent the past three days in the Hungarian capital of Budapest and what a tasty few days it has been, taking recommendations for restaurants and local foods from our guide book and fellow travellers meaning it’s been the best city for food so far. The only downside to these restaurants is that people are still allowed to smoke indoors in Budapest, meaning your lovely roast duck is tainted somewhat by the smell of four people smoking in close proximity.

On our first night we went out with the four other people in our dorm room for drinks and shisha, which was good because we weren’t going to wake anyone up coming back late at night.

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(Rio, Tom, Charles, Beth and I)

The next day, carrying on the tradition we took a free tour, exploring sights around Buda and Pest such as St Stephens Basilica, Deak Square, churches and the fisherman’s bastion.

Check out this view of Pest taken by Buda Castle

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We then walked 45mins back to Pest for dinner and ended having some yummy Goulash (which was totally worth the walk)

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And Charles got a bit too happy about the triple chocolate cake

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And I forgot to mention the awesomness that is Truro Rudi, who’d have thought that cottage cheese covered in chocolate could be so delicious?

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Yesterday we visited the public baths, which apparently no trip to Budapest is complete without. The baths are spread out over a massive ornate building, all being different temperatures, some outside even had rapids and bubble pools. The steam rooms reached 55 degrees and there was even an 18 degree pool to dip in afterwards, which only Charles had the guts to do. Once you get over the fact that there are hairy men everywhere in not a lot of clothing the baths are really relaxing and refreshing.

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Oh and one last thing, Langos, deep fried pizza dough covered with sour cream, cheese and onions, need I say more?

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5 Interesting things about Budapest:

1. The yellow metro line is the oldest in the world (that explains why it’s three carriages long, shaky and very loud alarms ring every time the doors open

2. The city is split into two districts: Buda and Pest, by the river Danube.

3. The man who created the telephone exchange was from Budapest, he used the word ‘hallo’ when answering the phone, meaning ‘can you hear me’? Where our hello comes from.

4. The man who invented the Rubiks cube was Hungarian, he still lives in Budapest today and walks around with a tiny dog.

5. If you say ‘thank you’ in a bar when paying for your drink it means you want the barman to keep the change.

 

We have looked at the weather forecast for Spilt, 32 degress, clear and sunny, beach here we come!

Till next time!

Sophie

x

InterRail Post #6: Ohhhhhhh Vienna!

Next stop after Prague was Vienna, Austria’s beautiful capital! Charlotte was still with us and we had a laugh exploring. Our hostel was right next to a famous market in Vienna called the Nashmarkt, which is a great place to wonder in an get cheap pasties and falafel for breakfast!

The weather was great in Vienna and we got so hot we had to find a lido to chill out in. Next to the summer palace is a large public baths, perfect. One of my work mates from Sony just happened to be in Vienna at the same time as us, so we met up and went to a great steakhouse! After two weeks of walking around, the meat cravings were definitely setting in.

One thing that we haven’t really mentioned yet is that in Berlin we met two girls who were staying in our hostel, and it turned out that they were also travelling on to Prague and Vienna! So we met up with them in Prague for some traditional food, and then we met again in Vienna since they were staying in the same hostel! The words world and small come to mind!

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Our hostel had a really nice bar and one night we ended up in a cool little group of travellers, two of them had even just graduated from the University of Surrey! It really is true what they say about small worlds and friendly people :)

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Vienna has many drinking stations situated all over the city centre and the locals are very proud that Vienna has some of the best water in Europe as it comes directly from the Alps to the city in pipes. The tap water here is better than mineral water.

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Sophie eying up the local hotties from her specially designed vantage point, St Stephens church.

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No trip to Vienna is complete without a trip to the Opera at the Staatsoper! You can queue on the night for standing tickets for as little as €3 so it would be rude not to! Another thing ticked off the list!

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Charlotte’s face after she got left behind by the metro train while trying to run down the train and get on a less crowded carriage, calling the now infamous words “why get on this door when you can get on…”

Next stop, Budapest!