Sunday, 31 August 2014

Interrailing Part 1- France and Italy

Well, Interrailing was probably one of the best experiences I've had in my life and I'm so glad and grateful I got to spend a month travelling through Europe. It all began in Paris as we shot over on the Eurostar into Paris Gare du Nord. Our hostel was St Christopers Inn right next to the station and despite it being suffocatingly hot due to an A/C unit that just couldn't cope with the heat and 10 bodies generating even more warmth, it was a great hostel with breakfast and was easy to navigate back to. 

Highlights: What you'd expect really! The Eiffel Tower, finally getting into the Louvre after 2 hours in the rain (seriously, book tickets in advance!), Musee d'Orsay and generally soaking up the Parisienne atmosphere and charm. We had some of the best food of our entire trip at La Cantine de Belleville- a 3 course meal of delicious food for only 14 euros, which for Paris is an absolute steal. It's a little bit out of the way but completely worth it and I'd totally recommend!

Our next stop was Marseille which we got to on the TGV high speed train and it only took us three and a half hours which is incredible considering the distance. However neither of us really liked Marseille. Apart from a few beaches along the coast away from the town and the port, where you can drool over dream yachts, there isn't really that much to do and we also found it quite expensive. We quickly discovered it was better to eat your bigger meal of the day at lunch when it was a bit cheaper and that became a habit throughout the whole trip.

Our last stop in France was Nice, which I much more preferred. The beaches were beautifully clean and relaxed and the whole town seemed to have a bit more charm than Marseille including the antiques and craft markets we found in the Cours Saleya. We were only there for two days as it was a stop point before we crossed the border into Italy but it was nice to relax and our hostel was in a great location, close to the train station and a supermarket so we could stop up on supplies before our 8 hours down to Rome!
Rome! It was a horrendously long journey down the coast of Italy to Rome with just one change in Ventimiglia at about 6am. However we had four days to enjoy ourselves so when we finally arrived, we gratefully dumped out bags, took some much needed showers and headed out for the evening.

Highlights: The Colosseum at night was beautifully illuminated and walking around the centre of Rome where many ruins are still exposed including one site that had become a impromptu cat sanctuary. Unfortunately, I was absolutely gutted to find out that the Trevi Fountain was undergoing restoration work and the whole thing was in scaffolding. There was however a walk way going across and up close to the sculpture and we still did the tradition of throwing a coin over your shoulder and making a wish!

A little tip for those of you ever wanting to go to the Colosseum- buy your tickets online first and then pick them up at the entrance to the Forum. The ticket is valid for both the Colosseum and the Forum and the ticket lines are a lot smaller for the Forum and if it's very hot, trust me, you don't want to be standing around in the Rome heat for an hour plus for tickets! Go visit the Forum and skip all the queues for the Colosseum afterwards.

The best places to eat are in the Trastavere region, on the other side of the river. There are plenty of nice restaurants and bars that all come to life in the night time and you can take a nice stroll along the river banks if you need to walk off your meal!

A warning though is mosquitos. I got absolutely eaten alive in Rome, the most being 10 bites, mostly on my legs, all in one night and if you're prone to getting bitten, definitely save yourself the annoyance of a itchy mozzie bite and put repellent on!

And finally, Venice. We only got 2 days here due to a mess up with the hostel bookings that meant we had to leg it to Slovenia a day earlier than expected. However, I loved what I saw. Venice is a truly beautiful and mesmerising place. We stayed in Mestre on the mainland because it was cheaper but only a ten minute bus journey away. Venice is an absolute maze to navigate so get a good map first! You'll think you're going in the right direction until you hit a dead end and have to go all the way back through the winding streets. Venice was a lot cooler than Rome which means you can enjoy strolling around leisurely a bit more and I always prefer being close to water. Despite what the rumours say, it didn't smell! I'd really recommend getting the combined bus and waterbus ticket, which can be valid for up to 72 hours if you're there for a few days because, trust me, sometimes it's easier to hop onto one of the public water buses than try and get around on foot!

One of my absolute highlights was visiting Burano, one of the islands that surrounds Venice. The brightly coloured houses are so eye catching and perfect for a little photo opportunity. There are a few shops and restaurants but everyone seems to come over for the houses themselves and it's totally worth it.

However, remember I mentioned those mosquitoes in Rome, well Venice is even worse! I got the two worst mosquito bite of my life in Venice, both on the ankles, and the whole area swelled up and was sore, itchy and painful for a good two days at least. Not pleasant at all so stock up on mosquito repellent and antihistamines!

Part two will be our stops in Bled, Slovenia and Budapest, Hungary!
Of course, these photos are only a glimpse of our trip and if you want to see more, check out my Instagram
And of course, any questions are welcome but fire them to me on Twitter to get a good solid answer!

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