Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Rome, Italy

Rome, Italy
Hey everyone!

I wanted to share some more bits from my travels. Italy was the final country we visited, and we spent the most time here as well. 

Our time in Italy started with a ferry from Split, Croatia to Ancona. The ferry was 10 hours long, and boy it was freezing. Thank god we got a cabin because there were plenty of blankets in the cupboards to keep us warm. 

Once in Ancona, we walked straight to the train station to catch our train to Rome!

We spent 4 days in Rome. We tried to hit as many of the "must-visits" as we could, but there's just so many. Our 4 days were still really packed. 

We also ate loads of food, I think we had about five meals everyday, and desserts to follow each! 
Not much gelato, we didn't find that many gelatorias and they were all artsy and therefore hella expensive. Everywhere sold affogato, though, and that's my new favourite dessert.

We also visited Vatican City. I still don't know if you have to be part of a guided tour to get into the Vatican or not -- the guy selling tours made it seem like it was necessary, but then he was trying to sell us something. My sister really wanted to go, so on our last day, we walked from our B&B across the street from the terminus train station to the Vatican. It took us about an hour, but we were spending €50 each to get into the place, so we needed to save money somewhere...

- Iona

Friday, 15 September 2017

Things To Know Before Travelling Europe

Luxembourg City

Hi everyone!

Today I wanted to talk about my travels in more of an advice way than a "look what I did" way. I also don't really know if I can be bothered to edit all the pictures I took and make more posts for everywhere I went. I might do one for Italy but I don't really know, I kinda want to blog about other things rather than just posting pictures of a holiday I went on.

So, yes.

I went into the trip feeling really nervous, and for the most part those nerves were valid. People were sketchy. People know when you're a tourist and will try to rip you off, overcharge you, and trick you.

Nothing happened to Orla and I because  we have common sense, but a lot of the people we met along the way didn't. Like the guy who got a $100 fine for drinking in a park in Poland, or the girl who believed random people who told her they were "subway police" (weren't in uniforms and didn't show her indentification) and made her pay a $50 fine for not having a ticket (with her credit card specifically. Jury's still out on whether or not all her money was stolen).

While a lot of things are avoidable if you have common sense, there are a couple of other things to note before going on a similar travel, which may have not even crossed your mind.

1/ Don't overplan
I was guilty of this. I wanted to plan the perfect trip, and guessed at how long we would need to see everything is the cities we went. This was a big mistake. I gave us five days in Berlin, which is a city you can see in one, to be completely honest. Later in the trip, we only had two days in Krakow (a city that wasnt even in our original plan) and I wish we had more. It's good to know the first couple places you're going, and have an idea of where you'd like to go, but your plan will likely change, so don't be too stuck to it.

2/ Take a quarter of what you think you'll need
Really, take as little as possible. When you travel, normal standards of cleanliness get thrown out the window. Gross but true. I hope you like the shirt you brought, because you'll be wearing it for a week before you find a washing machine.

3/ Be sure of who you're going with
Europe is safe enough to travel around it alone. Remember that. But If you don't want to travel alone, make sure you put a lot of thought into whether your friendship will survive after the trip. Me and Orla got in more arguments during that month than we probably have in the past 5 years. Bare in mind that we are sisters, so naturally we hate each other, but still. Arguments will happen.

4/ Figure out the phone situation
Just make sure you have data. Public wifi isn't crazy easy to come by and many will require you to log in with your Facebook, which might then get hacked. This happened to us twice.

1/ Know the currencies
I remember it so well. Our train arrived at Budapest Keleti train station and quickly double checked out much our hostel would be, to discover that it was to be paid in the Hungarian forint, which I had no idea existed. Make sure you look up what currency the each country uses, and what the conversion is, so that you don't lose money.

2/ Do NOT exchange your money at the airport/train station
To build off the last point, take your money out at an ATM attached to a bank for better rates. And make sure you always pay in local currency. Many shops and restaurants will ask if you want to pay in your home currency (euro for me) or the local currency. But, again, these places will have terrible exchange rates.

4/ Ask for a menu in English and the local language
There are people in Europe who will try to scam money off of tourists -- this is the same with any country. In Eastern Europe, some places will have more expensive prices on the English menu. It's pretty smart, really. All you need to do is ask for the two menus and point out the difference.

5/ Avoid street vendors
An obvious one, but ignore them -- ignore them all. In Rome they were the worst. They just walk up to you, grab your arm and put bracelets on you. Or they stand in front of you and force you into conversation. I just started saying "no hablo" towards the end, because when I said "je ne parle pas," they started speaking French to me... so yeah that didn't work.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Luxembourg & Belgium

Brussels, Belgium
 Happy September, everyone!

So, my backpacking trip is officially finished. My sister and I arrived in Montpellier two days ago and we are now in a small town just outside the city until October. Then, my family will move again but I wont be there so it doesn't really matter lol.

So back to this post. Our first stop was Luxembourg, on the 28th of July. We only stayed there for one night which was enough time, as Luxembourg City is tiny. Luxembourg was such a random stop for us. We didn't plan to go there until a few days before we left, and it was just so we could avoid reservations on the train to Amsterdam. We stayed in one of the only youth hostels in Luxembourg, which was bumping. The rooms were all full when we were staying there, too. The breakfast wasn't up to much, but hostel breakfasts are never more than bread and Nutella to be honest.

Luxembourg is an expensive city. Even McDonald's is expensive -- fries were like 5 euros. We visited a coffee shop called Kaale Kaffi, which was on Rue de la Boucherie. It had a really chill vibe and the owner was really nice. I got a hot chocolate and Orla got a latte. Orla is the type of person who finds something she likes and sticks to it. She got lattes every time we went out, until 2 weeks ago when I told her lattes and cappuccinos are essentially the same thing, a cappuccino just has more foam. Plus, cappuccinos tend to be cheaper. So she ended the trip by getting cappuccinos instead.
I'm not a coffee person, though, so I mostly got hot chocolates. The few times I got a latte, I needed 3 packets of sugar before it tasted sweet enough to drink.

Our second stop was Brussels, Belgium. We were here for 2 nights. Our hostel was sorta out the way, but within walking distance to most of the main sights. We didn't manage to make it to the European Parliament building, though, because we couldn't be bothered to walk that far. We did, however, eat lots of waffles and chocolate! (I can't believe I'm actually surprised that I've put weight on, I ate terribly during this trip). There is a whole street in Brussels that is just packed with chocolate and waffle shops. I think it was called Rue de l'Etuve, if you're ever in the area. It's right by Manneken Pis too!

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