You can’t see Rome in a day

We arrived in Rome last night. After checking in we embarked on a night walking tour of the city center. I would’ve preferred to see the sites during the day. I really feel like we were robbed by not getting to Rome earlier. TheTrevi Fountain was closed for reconstruction so I can’t even guarantee coming back to Rome by throwing a coin in the fountain’s waters! #fail

On our rainy walking tour we passed the Spanish Steps, the Piazza Navona and ventured inside the Pantheon.

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This morning we explored the Vatican City! It was pretty neat exploring the smallest country in the world! I really hoped we would get to see the Pope but apparently he wasn’t home. Our hysterical guide Peter helped us skip the line and gave an in-depth look at the Vatican, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. These masterpieces of architecture are a site to be seen for sure. I could stare at the ceilings all day. Every inch is decorated and everything is so vibrant!

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Looking fly at the Roman Forum.

Afterwards we all ate our weight in Pizza at this “by the slice” shop. You pay depending on how much your slices weigh! Ingenious. I ate about four slices and they were all delectable. After stuffing ourselves we took our coach to the Roman Forum and Colosseum.

Peter led us on a very factual tour of the Roman Forum. I would’ve liked to do more walking and exploring and less talking. I think most people would agree that the history is great to know, but we really didn’t see much of the vast ruins. Then we headed to the highlight of our tour, the Colosseum.

It was okay…

I know a lot of my fellow travelers would disagree with me. Yes, its impressive. Yes, its beautiful. Blah blah blah. But there’s nothing really there. You can walk in a circle and up a few flights of stairs. That’s it.

I think its hard for any ancient ruins to top Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

I only wish a hot man name Paulo would’ve whisked me around the Colosseum on a Vespa. If that had happened I think the Colosseum might have been something to write home about.

For dinner our group went to an amazing dinner theater where our waiters sang opera to us! We had bottomless wine and great pasta. It was a super fun musical party!

Musical Dinner Theater!

Musical Dinner Theater!

Then we continued the party by pub crawling. We went to a little tiny bar where we paid twenty euros to have “open bar” for an hour. That meant drink as much as possible before time runs out. I think I had 5 cocktails? After number 3 things got a little fuzzy.

The plan for the night was to get as drunk as possible and then sober up by 130AM to be able to catch my 3AM shuttle to the airport. My tour mate Howard and I made a pact to make sure one another got to the airport. I also commissioned my friend Russel to assure my departure as well (see as he owed me a favor from our last club night). Well I think things got a little out of hand. I pretty much don’t remember how I got from the night club to the airport. So thanks to whoever put Howard and I in a cab!

Going through Roma airport at 3AM drunk was an adventure. Being drunk on bumpy flights was terrible. I had a massive hang over for the duration of my 10 hour trip. Bad weather and flight delays didn’t help with how awful I felt either. But you live and learn. As Contiki says #noregrets.

Busy Busy Milan

After an amazing morning in Sirmione we entered bustling and crowded Milan. Apparently today is the equivilent of America’s “black friday”. So the streets were packed with shoppers, families and tourists. The shops were insanely crowded, torn apart and loud. The Milano fashionistas were out in drones. It was crazy!

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We navigated our way to the top of a shopping center which was basically a mad house. At the top we hung out at a stylish sky bar. Where I sipped tea and took in the impressive view of the Duomo Cathedral. Then we strolled through the beautiful food markets where I had the most amazing pretzel and cannoli!

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After chilling for a bit we ventured back into the berserk city and managed to push our way into the Duomo Cathedral.

Illegal picture!

Illegal picture!

The cathedral was extremely impressive. Dark, gothic and ominous. There were several beautiful mosaics, stained glass windows and also some creepy statues!

We spent the rest of the night browsing shops and getting lost in the busy streets. We struggled trying to find a place to eat for dinner because in Milan dinner traditionally starts around 7PM, but we had to leave the city at 845PM. After several fails we finally found a place that would serve us.

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We ate dinner at an inviting little restaurant with a charismatic older lady who we think was the owner. She didn’t speak any English and we didn’t speak any Italian. Somehow we managed to order and be served successfully! It was a meal full of laughs, mimming and love. I had delicious Buffalina Pizza made by a delectable pizza man! He was making eyes at me the whole night. :p We ended up having to rush back to the coach. I literally ran half the way! But we made it. The people I was with and I were pretty made we had to leave Milan so early. I defiantly would’ve spent several more hours exploring. But once we got the hotel I completely passed. So I guess I needed an early night in.Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 2.29.38 PM

Where did I stay? Milano Sesto B&B

This hostel is amazing! The nicest room I’ve stayed in so far! Super clean, new and modern. I also had a great view. The shower was a little strange because you had to sit and the water got everywhere. Other than that I would highly recommend.

The Floating City, Venice

This morning I sailed into the “floating city”. Venice is the city I’ve most looked forward to on this trip. Growing up my mom told me magical stories about her time in Venice. So I was “heaps keen” (as the Australian’s say) to experience Venice and all its wonders.

We went on a walking tour that led us through the winding streets, hidden piazzas and narrow passages of Venice. I saw the Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s Square and the bridge Rialoto. After the tour we went to a fascinating traditional Venetian mask shop called Ca’Macana. Where we met the shop owner and master designer. She taught us her techniques and told us about the different traditional masks. I bought a cat mask that is orange and teal. It will look great hanging on my wall!

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Then some of my tour mates and I decided to try to find the Jewish Ghetto. We walked for quite a while before realizing we were very lost. But Venice is the ideal city to be lost in! Everything is so picturesque. Every corner is more magical than the last. We settled down for lunch as a charming little cafe. I had pasta and sampled one of my mate’s black squid dish (gross)! I also tried the traditional aperol spritz drink. I wish we had more time to sit and enjoy our meals but because we were lost we knew we had to give ourselves more time to get back to the meeting point.

We basically ran from the restaurant to St. Mark’s square where we were meeting for our gondola ride. It was low tide during our gondola tour…which I think really affected our ride. It was pretty smelly and we could see the sludge covered walls. Also my gondola had six people on it. So only two people got good seats. The rest of us had to sit on uncomfortable wooden chairs. It was not the magical ride I’d dreamed of. But it was nice to see Venice by gondola at sunset.  I’ll have to go back take a ride just for two one day.

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After the water tour we headed to really nice restaurant for a great family style meal. Then we headed back to our hotel which is outside of Venice.

Where did I stay? Venice Holiday Inn

At the hotel a bunch of us decided to extend our night and hang out at the hotel bar. We played a great game of kings (we made up a lot of rules), drank a little to much and had a genuine good time. Once the bar closed we headed upstairs and had a little hotel room party. Good, good night.

In fair Verona, where we lay our scene…

We made a pit stop today in Verona. We had several hours to explore this inviting little town. We visited the door outside Romeo’s house…not to exciting but then we visited Juliet’s house which was crazy crowded. Juliet’s house didn’t look anything like the one in the movie “Letter’s to Juliet”. So I was a little disappointed. But it was still neat to see all the people, letters and commotion. It was like visiting a shrine to love. Very cool.

The rest of evening some of the girls and I meandered around. We went into some cool boutiques and just enjoyed the laid back vibes of Verona.

Isle of Capri

Today we set out via high-speed ferry across the windy ocean to the Island of Capri. We toured around the entire island starting in Capri and ending in Anacapri. I trekked up hills to panoramic vistas perfect for photo shoots and explored a public garden. It was very windy and cold but still charming and beautiful. It would love to return in the summer. I bet its even better in warmer weather.

Then I had pizza for the first time on the trip. My margarita pizza was delicious! Afterwards many people wanted to stay in the restaurant during their free time because they were so cold. So I went to explore Anacapri by myself. I am so glad I did. I ended up finding this charming pathway that went through the old town. Everything was so white, clean and old-timey. It was also very quiet. At one point I realized I was the only one walking down the pathway. I felt alone, but good alone. It was really peaceful. I ended up walking for almost an hour alone before making my way back the restaurant where I found everyone huddled over their cell phones on the WIFI. I felt so satisfied with my adventure I sat down, relaxed and reflected on the adventure I just had.

I feel like I truly saw and appreciated Capri. More so then some of my tour mates. Capri was simply wonderful and I will go back one day!

Pompeii!

Today we traveled south past Naples and towards Mount Vesuvius!

Our destination…Pompeii!

Pompeii is the ancient roman city that was frozen in time by a volcanic erruption.The eruption killed everyone in the city and buried it under tons of ash. It is the first UNESCO World heritage Site of our tour.

We had a hilarious guide named Enzo who showed all the sites of historical significance including the brothels, penis statues and red light district. Very informative. Throughout the tour he would ask us “Are you happy?….are you bored?…” it was really endearing.

For lunch I had the most amazing caprese sandwich. It was fresh and flavorful. Bellisimo!

I wish we had a little more time to explore, but we had to continue south towards Sorrento!

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Last night in Hanoi

Where did I stay? Hong Ngoc Hotel

Our final night in Vietnam we went to see a water puppet show and had our final group meal. It was pretty anti-climatic, but it’s hard to top Halong Bay.

I have loved every second of my tour of South East Asia. I’ve met some truly amazing people. A few who I hope to be friends with for the rest of my life. I will honestly miss Becky, Sam, Adam, Rhys, Lee and everyone else too! It’s been an amazing life changing experience. I feel like I’ve grown into a more confident, happier and braver citizen of the world. Every expectation I had for this trip were blown out of the water! Check out my next post for an overall review!

Rainy day in Hue

We arrived in our Coach to the very flooded city of Hue, Vietnam. Because of the rain we thought our cyclo tour might be canceled but the rain died down just in time! So we sat back and relaxed as we were biked around Hue and into the imperial city of Hue.   1533718_10152765342945813_5207528779908952106_n10173586_10152765343005813_2185265111394011859_n

Next stop the Tu Duc Mausoleum. Our Local Guide showed us around the enchanting old palace. We learned about the emperors and visited the temples, pagodas and pavilions.

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10351897_10152765343110813_5165044007555301462_nThen after a quick bus ride we visited the breath-taking Thien Mu Pagoda. We had the privilege to witness a buddhist monk prayer session. It was truly mesmerizing.

Where did I stay? The Asia Hotel Hue

Vietnam Home Stay and Ed Sheeran

Where did i stay? Homestay Bay Thoi

Just returned to Ho Chi Minh city from two great days in the Mekong Delta. We cruised on a small boat until reaching Vinh Long where we board a tiny canoe streered by an elderly but strong Vietnamese woman. She guided us through narrow streams and lush jungle to our quaint homstay called Bay Thoi. Only a few minuets after checking in one of the girls fainted and sprained her ankle. There was a lot of drama about it. Becky and I knew we couldn’t help and we didn’t want to be a part of the crowd so we grabbed bikes and headed out to explore.

To guide us the our tour manager posted a map of the town. As we were riding away she flagged us down and let us know her map was upside down. Lucky she caught us or we would have been lost for sure. It was the perfect weather for a bike ride through the charming countryside. As we rode past houses kids would run out and wave. I really felt like we were part of their community. Most of the bike path was on dirt so the bikes were very hard to manuver and then there was a fork in the road that was neglected from our map. So it was quite an adventure!

For dinner our hosts prepared a great feast and entertained us with local music and musical theater! We also sampled rat and snake! The rat was barbeque so it wasn’t to bad. In fact if I hadn’t been told it was rat I probably would’ve ate more. The snake was disgusting. It was mixed into a curry but you could clearly tell it was snake.  The skin was still on it! Snake is also very boney. So it was hard to eat. It tried it once, but never again!

Afterwards we hung out in hammocks and then everyone gathered around the “Jungle Juice” to drink and play kings. I think the enviroment relaxed people because everyone in the group got pretty drunk. But it wasn’t party/dancing drunk. They got sad and somber drunk. So we had deep conversations and ended the night singing “Give Me Love” by Ed Sheeran.

Floating Villages, Siem Reap Cambodia

This morning no one was sad to leavePhnomPenh. We were all ready to depart the noise and congestion of the city and head to cleaner air and calm. We found this inSiem Reap.Siem Reap is a townsteaped in history, French colonial charm and Khmer culture.

We checked into our beautiful 5 star hotel Casa Angkor then headed to Tonle Sap, South East Asia’s biggest fresh water lake. On boat we toured the floating villages and crocodile farm. It was interesting to see such a different way of life. The people live in boats on the water their whole lives! They have boat shops, restaurants and schools. I loved seeing the brightly colored boats and homes.149377_10152743605210813_7931250949720401317_n

I did not enjoy the crocodile farm. It wasn’t really a farm. They just had a bunch of trapped crocodiles stuck in a very small cage. Tourists could pay to tease the crocs with large fish. I thought it was a very cruel and inhumane situation.  10346459_10152743606135813_1984422104842932812_n

After the tour Becky and I chilled by the pool before meeting for our group dinner.