.:: { Europe Trip } Day 3 – Via del Corso, Basilica di San Pietro & Castel Sant’Angelo ::.

The weather had taken a turn for the better today. It was still fairly cold – about 6 degree in the morning and it was also very windy throughout the day but the sun was shining ever so brightly.

We don’t have any plan in the morning and it was our last day in Rome, so we took that chance to stroll along Via del Corso again and explore the shops and some of the churches along the street ( there were lots ). We also stopped by at a gelateria, simply coz we were in Rome and why the heck not? And the weather was perfect for gelati! I loved both flavors I got, Tiramisu and Pistachio but I enjoyed the latter the most. It was possibly the best pistachio gelato I’ve ever had.

Piazza del Popolo-3

Me

Gelato

Via del Corso

We stopped at a cafe called Rocca for lunch, the owner ( I assume he’s the owner ) was an old man who was really nice and friendly. l had Lasagna and D had Pizza Margerhita. Both were simple and delicious.

Me

After lunch we headed for Vatican City and checked in to enter St Peter’s Basilica. The churches we visited yesterday were huge and magnificent, but St Peter’s Basilica was even bigger, more magnificent and grander.

St Peters Basilica

St Peters Basilica

St Peters Basilica

St Peters Basilica

St Peters Basilica

St Peters Basilica

St Peters Basilica

Next we headed for Castel Sant’Angelo which was only a short stroll away from Vatican. The castle is home to Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo, but we didn’t go in. We walked along Tiber river and across Ponte Sant’ Angelo bridge to take in the magnificent view of the castle and the surroundings.

Castel Sant Angelo

Ponte Sant Angelo

Trastevere

Me

Afterwards we decided to call it a day coz we had an early train journey the next morning, so we headed back to Termini, we then had an early dinner at a nearby restaurant – Il Secchio. We both had pasta, spaghetti alla ragu for D and rigatoni alla matriciana for myself. Three days in Rome, and we were so spoiled with good food most of the time. Can’t complain!

Il Secchio

.:: { Europe Trip } Day 2 – Pasqua a Roma & Church Hopping ::.

Buona Pasqua! Happy Easter! Feel so blessed to spend Easter in Rome. Our plan for today was to celebrate Easter mass, and sight see around some Roman churches as well as a few other tourist attractions on the way. Yesterday we had a taste of train commute, on this second day we took advantage of the hop on hop off bus which ticket had been included in Omnia card package. To be honest I prefer train, it takes less time to get around and it’s nice to blend in with the locals and have a taste of their day-to-day life.

Yesterday I said to D ( over and over again ) how wonderful the weather was. It was about 10-15 degree Celcius but it didn’t feel cold, a leather jacket was enough to keep me comfortable, and it was much much better than hot and humid weather. Well, I spoke too soon! The temperature dropped to 9 degree and it rained a lot, and it stayed like that for the whole day. I was freezing all day long!

In the morning we went to Termini to grab some breakfast. Coz we skipped dinner last night, we thought to get something really filling, so we went to McDonald’s but in the end I still went for the basics – croissant al ciocollato and latte e Nesquik ( hot chocolate ). We also stopped by a small supermarket to see what snacks they have. I love wandering around at a foreign supermarket, just taking in the unique products they have, for example chocolate corn flakes! In the end I only bought a bag of biscuits, coz I didn’t want to go overboard and we we were in a hurry.

We went back to the hotel to put our stuff then made our way to Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli dei Martiri to celebrate the Easter mass. The church looked very unassuming from the outside but once we got inside, I marveled at the grandeur of the interior. The mass was great, the pastor was funny and his sermon was really good and touched home.

Santa Maria degli Angeli dei Martiri

Santa Maria degli Angeli dei Martiri

Santa Maria degli Angeli dei Martiri

Santa Maria degli Angeli dei Martiri

Santa Maria degli Angeli dei Martiri

It was raining even harder when we got out so not knowing what to do, we went for an early lunch. Then we boarded the hop on hop off bus, and went from church to church. Each was different and unique from the other, but all of them were so beautiful and exquisite. Words could hardly express how beautiful these churches were. The ceilings were practically sky-high and painted with such pretty and minute details, the altars and interiors were decorated beautifully. Suffice to say, they were nothing like other churches I’ve been to before.

Arcibasilica Papale di San Giovanni in Laterano

Arcibasilica Papale di San Giovanni in Laterano ( Archbasilica of St. John Lateran ) is the cathedral church of the Diocese of Rome and the official ecclesiastical seat of the Bishop of Rome, who is the Pope. Archbasilica of St. John Lateran is one of the only four that hold the title of “major basilica”, the other three are the Basilicas of St. Peter’s Basilica, and St. Paul outside the Walls and Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. As the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, it ranks above all other churches in the Catholic Church, including St. Peter’s Basilica. For that reason, unlike all other Catholic basilicas, it is titled Archbasilica. *source: wiki

San Giovanni in Laterano

San Giovanni in Laterano

San Giovanni in Laterano

San Giovanni in Laterano

San Giovanni in Laterano

San Giovanni in Laterano

Pantheon

The Pantheon ( from Greek meaning “every god” ) is a building in Rome, Italy, on the site of an earlier building commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus (27 BC – 14 AD). The present building was completed by the emperor Hadrian and probably dedicated about 126 AD. He retained Agrippa’s original inscription, which has confused its date of construction. Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. The height to the oculus and the diameter of the interior circle are the same, 43.3 metres (142 ft). Since the 7th century, the Pantheon has been used as a church dedicated to “St. Mary and the Martyrs”. *source: wikiPantheon

Pantheon

Pantheon

Pantheon

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore ( Basilica of St. Mary Major ) is a Papal major basilica and the largest Catholic Marian church in Rome, Italy, from whence size it receives the appellation “major”. *source: wiki

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore


Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

Another place we visited was Piazza Navona, said to be the most beautiful among Rome’s countless squares. Piazza Navona is home to Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone and a trio of fountains – the central and largest fountain is the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi ( Fountain of the Four Rivers ). The fountain features four figures, each representing a river from a different continent – the Nile, Ganges, Danube and Rio de la Plata. The two other fountains on the piazza are the Fontana del Nettuno (Neptune fountain) and the Fontana del Moro (Moor fountain).

Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona

Me

We also stopped by Trevi Fountain which unfortunately was undergoing a major restoration. Trust me, I had a major disappointment when I heard about it a few months before our departure. Nevertheless we still visited the site and walked on the platform over the fountain to have a look at the statues closely. And I enjoyed strolling about the area and found a bottle shop, where we bought a few mini bottles of flavored spirit, Chianti, and a really tasty sweet wine – La Morandina.

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

La Morandina

On the way home we stopped by Pastarito near Termini station for an early dinner. I ordered Prosciutto e Funghi pizza and D ordered Spaghetti al Fruti di Mare ( spaghetti with seafood sauce ). Both were awesomely delicious. The pizza was so simple yet really good, and the seafood portion was really generous. I of course didn’t try the spaghetti because of my allergy, but D claimed it was one of the best he’d had.

Pastarito

.:: { Europe Trip } Day 1 – Sistine Chapel & Rome by Foot ::.

Day 0 – It took us about 22 hours journey from Sydney to Dubai and Dubai to Rome, the flight was excruciatingly lengthy but it was pretty okay. It still felt surreal when we landed in Rome. It wasn’t until I exited Termini station and stepped out into the street to get into our hotel that it finally struck me, we’re in Rome! It was 12 midnight by then, so we jumped into bed pretty much straight away.

The next day, our plan was to explore Vatican. We started the day with a cup of cappuccino and brioche ( al crema for D and al ciocolatto for myself ) at a cafe located right by the Termini entrance. After our stomachs were full, we went straight to the train platforms, stopping at the ticket machines to buy some tickets to Vatican – a bit confusing as it was our first time trying to figure out how things work here. After that first time, it was really smooth, transportation in Rome was easy to understand and all the major tourist attractions are pretty close by train stations.

Chocolate Shop

Ave Maria

It was a day before Easter, and the crowd was massive. Luckily we had previously purchased Omnia cards, which allowed us fast track entry to Sistine Chapel & Vatican Museum as well as St Peter’s Basilica. We still had to queue to collect the card, but it was nothing compared to the normal queue to those places which would take hours. We managed to get a spot to go to Sistine Chapel & Vatican Museum that morning, but could only book an entry to St Peter’s on Monday. Oh well, we’d still be in Rome by then so all’s good!

At 10 we headed to Sistine Chapel & Vatican Museum. It didn’t take us long, and boy I couldn’t imagine how many hours we would’ve stood in the queue if we didn’t have Omnia. Once inside the museum, we followed the signs leading to Sistine Chapel ( the short itinerary ) and it still took us hours to get to the chapel itself. Both museum and chapel were magnificent and beautiful, showcasing mostly religious paintings and tapestries and beautiful hand-painted ceiling – even though the constant crowd inside prevented us to enjoy the place to the fullest, and there was also a garden out back where we could enjoy the view of the basilica dome.

Musei Vaticani

Musei Vaticani

Musei Vaticani

Musei Vaticani

Musei Vaticani

Musei Vaticani

St Peters Basilica

After two plus hours, I’m pretty much done with exploring the museum, so we headed out and stopped at a random cafe nearby to have lunch. D ordered bolognese while I ordered carbonara, mine was a bit disappointing. And the portion was as huge as my lunch and dinner combined. D’s bolognese was far better. Oh well, I should’ve gone with pizza!

Me

After lunch we decided to explore Rome a little bit. We took the train to Piazza del Popolo, where the city centre ( and the shops ) were. We navigated ourselves to one of the streets branching out from the square – Via del Corso which happened to be where Sephora and Kiko were. Of course I had to take a quick peek. It was so much fun exploring this area, the streets were filled with locals and tourists alike and there were so much to see, shops, market stalls, gelateria and restaurants lined even the narrowest alleys.

Piazza del Popolo

Piazza del Popolo

Via del Corso

Via del Corso

Via del Corso

We continued our way and strayed to the alleyways and adjacent streets, found a market on one streets full of stalls selling souvenirs, and walked all the way until we stumbled on Piazza di Spagna, then later on Piazza Venezia and Il Vittoriano monument. Piazza Venezia was so majestic and grand, we took some pictures outside but didn’t go inside the museum – we’d had enough share of museums in a day.

Me

Piazza Venezia

We walked away and followed the signs to Colloseum and stumbled on Roman Forum, a plaza surrounding ruins of government buildings of the past.

Roman Forum

Roman Forum

From Roman Forum it was just a short walk away to Colloseum and we could already see a long queue to get inside. Funnily enough there were two queues and one was a lot shorter than the other one, so we went that way and within minutes we were inside.

Colloseo

Me

Colloseo

Me

We were both quite content we managed to squeeze in a lot of places in a day. It was a good start to our journey and we couldn’t wait to embark on our next adventure!

.:: 30 Days of Fun ::.

Hello! D and I recently took a much-needed break. We went to Europe and it was such an eye-opener and rewarding experience. I will go into more details later on but first, here’s a quick recap of the cities we visited and some of the highlights of our trip.

We explored nine countries and thirteen plus cities. We spent more time in some cities more than others, there were places we didn’t want to say goodbye to and would like to explore more and spend more time in.  But overall we were both really content with our itinerary. Given the chance, I would revisit some of these places. One day!

Rome & Vatican City

Rome

Rome looked and felt even more ancient than I imagined it to be, some places were so old and crumbled but they still hold their beauty. And the churches were so grand they were nothing like I’ve ever been to before.

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre

I had seen the pictures, I had heard people talked about Cinque Terre. But seeing the colorful villages in person was a totally different experience. None of the pictures and talks prepared me for the beauty of Cinque Terre. Simply breathtaking!

Venice

Venice

Venice is famous for its pretty canals and gondola ride, but what I loved even more were the narrow and crowded laneways, the little shops and cafes / bars, and the unbeatable dessert shops.

Milan

Milan

To be honest Milan was not my favorite city. Overall it was less exciting than some of the other cities. The highlight of our trip would be Duomo di Milano which was grand and magnificent.

Luzern

Luzern

If I have to rate the cities we visited during this trip Luzern would be my second favorite city ( after Amsterdam ). It was really nice to explore and walk around the old town or sit by the lake just to relax. The town was so pretty and peaceful and the people were really nice. We also went up to Mt Titlis and the view was simply mesmerizing.

Paris

Paris

When one thinks of Paris, Eiffel would be one of the things that first comes to one’s mind. As cliche as it may seem, I think one of our highlights of Paris would probably seeing the city from the top of Eiffel Tower. I love seeing the city structure and the building facade from up above.

Brussels

Belgium

I was quite surprised by how much I love Brussels, there were so much to see and experience. I really enjoyed just savoring the ambiance, and the literally hundreds of chocolate and waffle shops.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

Amsterdam is, without a doubt, the city that I particularly loved on this trip. I could even picture myself living in this city. It’s always full of life and it felt safe walking around even really late at night. There were a lot to see and so many food options. Rijksmuseum and Anne Frank Huis left a deep impression and I enjoyed walking around enjoying the exhibitions in both places. And even though this was out of town, I could not not mention Keukenhof. Loved the garden to bits.

Berlin

Berlin

I like Berlin less than the other cities we visited, maybe because it was too big and modern compared to other cities we visited. But one place I particularly liked in Berlin was Topographies des Terror, it was such an eye-opening visit and I learned a lot about history and World War II.

Prague

Prague

Prague is picturesque and another beautiful city to walk around in just to take in the scenery, relax and enjoy the ambiance. There were plenty of places where you could enjoy view of the city from above, which was always an awesome and very much welcomed experience.

Vienna

Vienna

There are still plenty more places we didn’t get to see during our short visit to Vienna, nonetheless we saw and experienced quite a bit of Vienna. We went to huge palaces, watched orchestra, ate Vienna’s traditional food.

Barcelona

Barcelona

I didn’t know what to expect with this city, but I find sometimes that makes an even more memorable experience. Gaudi architecture was so out-of-this-world beautiful. So much so that I practically preferred exploring than shopping, which was my plan originally. The days we had in Barcelona were not enough to explore the most of Barcelona, it definitely was one of my favorite cities we visited this trip!

.:: Lights of Christmas ::.

Sydney was a great place to be during the holiday season. There were lots of interesting events and the city was dressed up in festive lights and ornaments.

Lights of Christmas-2

One event that truly captured my heart was the Lights of Christmas. A one-hour choir performance opened up the event every night, and soon after dusk the main show started and St Mary’s Cathedral – the oldest Cathedral in Sydney – was illuminated with bright and vivid light projections, accompanied with beautiful soundscape.

Lights of Christmas-3

The show followed a number of different festive themes, including 12 days of Christmas and The Madonna and Child. Words just can’t begin to explain how splendid and magical it was, and anyone who hadn’t got into the Christmas spirit would leave with an abundance of it afterwards.

Lights of Christmas

.:: { Travel } Postcards from Sydney – Tower Eye ::.

Two weeks ago I made a four-day trip to Sydney, and while I mostly chill, shop and caught up with friends, I did some touristy stuff when the weekend came and D was free. One of the places we visited was Sydney Tower Eye – said to be the tallest building in Sydney – to enjoy 360-degree unobstructed bird-eye view of the city. It stands proud and tall in the middle of the city overlooking the busy surrounding CBD and beyond.

The inside of the deck itself is not spectacular, it isn’t particularly huge and it was quite crowded with people when I went there. But the view was amazing.  It is always nice to experience being up so high and see things from up above. There are also telescopes and binoculars showcasing some interesting spots with the extra bit of information to give you an idea what you’re looking at, and some photos from the 1900s which make for a fun comparison with how it looks like today.

Entrance is not exactly cheap if you only plan to visit once, but I got a good deal for an annual pass which also include some other tourist attractions. I will definitely be revisiting soon now that I have a year-round pass – I can’t wait to enjoy the night view.

Sydney Tower Eye

Sydney Tower Eye

Sydney Tower EyeSydney Tower Eye

Sydney Tower Eye

Sydney Tower Eye

.:: { Travel } Day Tripping – Moreton Island ::.

Moreton Island is said to be the third largest sand island in the world and is home to Tangalooma Wrecks – a cluster of deliberately sunk shipwrecks providing a safe wall for diving and snorkeling. There are quite a number of activities to choose from, ranging from water-based activities – parasailing, ocean kayaking, paddle boarding, dolphin and whale watching to sand tobogganing further up the island.

Situated just a short ferry away from Brisbane, Moreton Island makes for an convenient weekend getaway destination whenever you feel like escaping the hustle and bustle of the city. You could opt for an overnight stay at the resort – or try “glamping”, or a quick day trip. I chose a day trip and booked a tour – which included transfers, ferry tickets and a number of activities – for convenience.

We began our day pretty early, and when we were there the weather changed from pretty cold to hot to breezy to hot. But it was overall a good day full of sunshine. Last thing you want when you’re on the beach is rain! Highlights of my trip were my first-ever ocean kayaking experience – being unable to swim I normally stray away from these kind of activities, but it turned out awesome! ( of course D did most of the paddling ) – and the amazing sunset view on the ferry home.

Moreton Island

Moreton Island

Moreton Island

Moreton Island

Moreton Island