3 Months On.. But It Feels Like A Lifetime!

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No doubt the strangest feeling is looking back on a memory or past experience and trying to figure out how exactly it fit into your life. Did it ever really happen? How can something so unbelievably amazing and life changing have been a part of your life?

Yep- so that’s where my head is currently at. I started scrambling through the 1000’s of unorganised yet excitingly wonderful photos from my travels at the start of this year. And strangely enough exactly 3 months ago I hopped back on a plane in Athens and headed back home to Sydney.

Looking back on all the photos and memories my spirits have been lifted! I’ve only been back for 3 months but it feels like it’s been at least a year. Time flies amidst working and studying. My collection of photos has reminded me of the crazily beautiful world out there and I remembered that I was once that little adventurer climbing the Caldera Cliffs of Santorini, the charismatic alleys of San Sebastian and the mountainous ranges of Cinque Terre.

Of course life slows down for certain moments but I just know there’s so much more to see of the world! Not only have I caught the travel bug big time but I left my heart in so many places in Europe- surely I’ll have to go back and try find them…

Here are some random bits and pieces of where my head is at right now…

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Little Secrets On Italy

So I have got to share with you a little about my trips to San Sebastian and Greece, but not so much about Italy! I really thought life would settle down once I got back home to Sydney (after 6 months in Europe) but it has honestly just proved to be a lot more busier then I ever could have imagined. Catching up with friends and family, looking for a part time job (which in itself is a full time job!!), sorting out university, working (at a Childcare Centre- crazy kids but I love it!) and trying to fit blogging in here and there! But even if it means editing photos and writing posts at midnight, so be it, I love blogging! And I love being able to share with you some amazing photos of the beauty I found in Europe, little tips and hints for travelling and in general all the little thoughts and lessons that I come across in life.

My laptop in general has reaaaaaally been testing my patience (super slow argh) but I battle through until I save up enough to buy a MacBook (woo!). Arden and I are also saving and planning to buy a better SLR soon so I’m really excited to do some shoots with that! Anyways enough about “life”. Here’s some of my thoughts and relfections on Italy!

 

3 Spots We Visited over the Europe Summer

Cinque Terre (staying in the north village Monterosso)

Positano (down south on the Amalfi Coast)

Rome (speaks for itself)

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What We Thought

CINQUE TERRE:

LOVED it! It was a massive journey to get here but well worth it. We travelled all the way from San Sebastian in Spain, and due to extreme high prices (Travel in June, July is even more expensive, more people and sometimes the heat is too much!) we had to get two planes to get there cheaper. The whole cheaper from SS to CT was almost 12 hours and consisted of 2 flights, 4 trains, a taxi, an a bus. I would highly recommend booking Eurostar before as we travelled from Florence to Monterosso station and had missed the fast train in the morning meaning we had to take some slower trains which took a total of about 4 hours..

If you are thinking of staying in Cinque Terre I would definitely recommend staying in the most north village Monterrosso: it’s the biggest of them all and consists of both and old town and more modern town. Some villages don’t have access to the beach and are very compact but Monterosso was just perfect for being able to walk down to the main beach filled with orange umbrellas, heaps of sun beds (WARNING: sometimes charge 10 Euro a day), and plenty of restaurants and gelato stores on the beach front).

We stayed in the old town (good choice for accommodation) at a B&B called Hotel Souvenir- it was fine, all we needed, relatively priced, didn’t spend much time in there. Keep in mind a lot of hotels in Europe are a bit older and run down then you think so prepare yourself. We walked the trek to the second village Vernazza (you need to purchase a National Park pass, 5 euro, available from the train station). The walk was about 1 hr 15 mins.  A little steep in some spots but anyone can do it, just take your time if you need to. AND BRING GOOD SHOES (Arden forgot his Nikes so he battled through with his converse).

The next village along is Cornigilia which is actually up higher from the water. To get down to its train station (all five villages have a train station) you have to walk down a massive set of stairs. Its a nice village worth seeing but I don’t think you will spend much time there- we only had lunch then moved on. Riomaggiore is absolutely beautiful! It’s also a very popular village to stay at but once again is a bit smaller and doesn’t have as much access to the beach.

I would highly recommend the restaraunt L’ancora della Tortuga in Monterosso. It’s a little but hidden (you take a set of stairs up from the old town) but it has the most spectacular view straight out over the ocean, serves incredible seafood and is super romantic and has beautiful details (perfect for a last night dinner date). But go the night before and book a table, ask to be seated by the brick wall (best view here!)

As for the rest, Monterosso doesn’t have too much of a party scene but there are a few bars in the Old town and on the beach front (quite expensive). Use trip advisor to help guide you. And the beach has some cute paddle boats you can rent out for the afternoon.

I’ll leave you with some pictures from our time at Monterosso / Cinque Terre and continue some tips on Italy soon!

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The Old Town of Monterosso!

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One of Monterosso’s beaches

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The Cinque Trek to Vernazza (second village down.. 1hr + walk from Monterosso)

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Arriving at Vernazza- best spot to photograph over the village

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Popular port at Vernazza

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Walking out of Vernazza onto Corniglia

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Corniglia!

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Monterosso’s spectacular beach! One of our favourites from the trip

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Riomaggiore!

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Sunset, Coronas by the beach… what more could you want?

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Monterosso’s beautiful beach!

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Top Tips for Travelling (After travelling 12 European countries in 6 months)

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1) My number one tip for enjoying your travels- you are travelling, not on a holiday. Mentally prepare yourself that you will get tired at times, there will be lots of walking, things will go wrong that are out of your control, flights might be delayed etc. This will help you deal with any troubles that might come your way

2) Power adaptor board– invaluable! When you are charging multiple devices, this is essential!

3) Treat yourself- even if you’re on a budget, have a couple of nights to spoil yourself at a lush place.. enjoy the travelling! The best thing we did was a nice dinner for our last night at each destination.

4) Print off hotel confirmations and figure out how to get there before arrival. Don’t waste your precious time in between destination transfers, taxis will rip you off and often Europeans can be very unhelpful (especially Italians!) Consider public transport but don’t compromise unnecessary travel to save a few €…

5) Leave plenty of time for mistakes i.e. Getting somewhere, in the mornings, before a booked event.. Better safe then sorry

6) Trip advisor! (www.tripadvisor.com) Super helpful when trying to figure out where to stay, what to do or what to eat. Search your hotel or restaurant just before booking. But avoid eating near or at airports, train stations, attractions, ferry docks- often 3 times more expensive!

7) Talk to locals and make friends with hotel managers. They offer the best advice! In Italy, our hotel manager Rosa at Gilda’s House in Positano could not have been more helpful in her suggestions of how to get around, what to do, where to eat etc.

8) Hotels- three star can satisfy your needs! 3 important points to always consider: Breakfast, WIFI and space in the room for luggage. And helpful managers!

9) Take your time with your photographs- don’t always be photographing every little thing but it’s okay to stop and spend some time to get it right (See photography travel tips for more)

10) Souvenirs suck (Ok not always!) Tourists are often tricked into buying useless junk. Only worthy for sentimental value

11) Luggage- pack less! It is not fun lugging around weight over Europe. Consider: you can wash your underwear, one month 4 shoes can do (versatile pairs), but pack your necessary toiletries for comfort

12) Less is more– the fewer places the better. It’s not cool jumping around every three days. We met a couple spending only two-three nights in one place for three months. That’s exhausting! Have at least 4-5 nights per place.

13) Don’t be scared to not do a tour. Being a tourist doesn’t mean doing endless bus and walking tours. Often we would see people asleep / bored out of their brains on tours. Sometimes the best part of travelling is having the day off with your travel companions to do what you want i.e. walking around finding secret spots

14) Money budgets are important! Consider and keep track of ATM fees, currency conversion etc.

15) Take time to stop, reflect and appreciate. A lot is happening- don’t miss the moment.

16) Speak to friends– a lot of advice on where to go was given from them

17) Guide books are super helpful e.g. Ricky Steve’s Guides. But don’t waste your money on them- often hotels supply them

18) Stay in top rated b&b’s- hotels are not a guarantee for superior comfort. Bed and breakfasts are much more homely, better location and often include breakfast

19) Book tours at destination. Better deals offered at hotels but book first day of arrival.

20) Check Expedia but often it can actually be better and cheaper to book directly through the hotel website


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A series of unfortunate events (fortunately)

My June adventure is a week in and what a week it has been. From almost missing buses and flights, to speedy breakfasts to pouring rain to luggage dramas to smashed computer screens to twelve hour journeys to Italy to… You get the jist of it. 
 
But all I can say is everything somehow works out for the better. Like right now I’m standing on the stairs to the port in Riomaggierio: a little village on the north west coast of Italy with the sun shining on my bronzed skin on a pure blue sky. Boats speed across the fresh sea watered horizon and waves gently tumble over the stacked limestone rocks where sunbathers lay begging for the suns attention. 
 
A major lesson I learnt this year throughout all my travels across Europe was the difference between travelling and a holiday. A holiday tends to be one destination and consists of a nice hotel, probably a killer pool and breakfast buffets. But travelling is one destination to the next, a crumpled up wardrobe of mismatched clothes stuffed into a suitcase, terrible hotel choices but incredible memorable adventures to the kinds of places you didn’t even know existed. 
 
Experiencing this month of which we are trying to join travelling with a holiday is turning out to be quite the adventure. Monday in particular. It took us thirteen hours to get from San Sebastián to Cinque Terre (the most incredible place) and consisted of five luggage bags, two flights, a missed bus, one taxi ride, four trains, unhelpful Italians and clouds everywhere to cheer up the mood. And finally once we arrived at our dream destination we couldn’t find our hotel reservation slip let alone recall the hotel name in a town with very very limited wifi. But eventually, the final leg of the mammoth journey, pulling five bags through steep cobble stoned streets led us to our hotel amidst the most northern village of the Cinque Terre region: Monterosso. 
 
But we finally got our holiday when the sun came out the following day and we were able to feast on spaghetti and pizza, walk the coastal trek revealing some beautiful views of the colourful sea side villages and lay on the beach until the sun set over the mountains. Looking back on all the mishaps over the past week I can’t help but laugh. As for the moment I could not be more relaxed or satisfied with this hidden gem which is my home for the next few days. As for the next three weeks, I’m ready to tackle anymore obstacles if it means I get more experiences like this. Unfortunate events fortunately bring better things you couldn’t even imagine! Image