Sooooo tired. :) But, it’s that good tired. The tired you get after spending three weeks filled with eight hour walking days and sightseeing and oh yes, managing a business during all of it. It’s the sort of tired you get when you look back over the last three weeks and know that it was a life-changing and magical moment. It’s the tired you feel when everyone is looking at you and you know they are thinking, “Poor thing, she looks exhausted” yet inside, you are filled completely with pure joy. That’s how tired I am.
I’ve been awake since Tuesday morning around 6:00 AM and I really only got four hours of sleep that night too. Trina and I have been on a bit of a crazy schedule but it’s been more fun than I can even summarize. I know I’ve peppered throughout my blog entries some reflections posts and some thoughts I’ve been having about the entire trip but it started to sink in today, sitting alone in the airport (Trina and I are on separate flights so we had to split up at security) that my three week European adventure is over and I’m feeling a bit sad, a bit like there was more I could have done (haha – this is a common feeling of mine in every area of my life!) and also elated that I get to go home and return to “normal”.
So, if you’ve been following along as a fellow entrepreneur, here is my experience from a mobile lifestyle perspective. It’s a whole lot easier than I had anticipated. I had a few business colleagues who put a bit of fear in me before I left (I knew I should have blocked them out!) saying that connecting and working in Europe is nightmarish but my mindset was that they are a super developed set of countries, why would they be behind us in anyway when it comes to technology?
Today marked our second day in Bern and it was actually a great day! We woke up super early (6:30AM) and headed to the train station. We had tickets to Paris that left at 8:23am but we wanted to change them because of our lack of a hotel for the evening of the 21st. So, we spoke to the agent who at first was unwilling to change them but changed her mind when I told her that we needed a late train because we were homeless in Paris and had nowhere to go. I definitely played that fiddle but hey – 10 Euros later and she changed our tickets for us.
So, with our victory behind us, we headed back to the hotel for some free breakfast. It was actually a pretty great free breakfast! Eggs, bacon, fruit, toast, yogurt, cereal, croissants, coffee, juices, etc. made it a great stop after such an early morning. We filled up and headed back to our room.
Trina decided to get some more sleep while I worked. Around 9:30am, I headed down to do some laundry as I was getting pretty tired of wearing the same clothes as much as I have… It’s funny though how much your tolerance changes when you actually get out and backpack for three weeks. Laundry started, we grabbed some Starbucks and worked a bit longer after convincing the guy at the counter to let us have a late checkout (he gave us an extra hour!) Showered and packed up, we headed to grab my newly washed and dried clothes and then it was on to the bear pits again.
Did I mention I love bear pits?
Another sleepless night… The main difference with this night compared to the others was that I re-routed our course online. We were going to head to Paris for the 20th and 21st but after checking out hotels and finding nothing under $600 USD, I decided to look for an alternate solution. While Trina worked away in the hotel lobby area, I plotted out a detour to Bern, Switzerland.
I booked both legs of our train (Milan to Bern and Bern to Paris), booked our hotel room and also checked out some things to do in Bern. This is when I came across the bear pits but more on that later. So, after booking all of our travel, I then realized that we still needed to find lodging for the night in Paris… for the 21st.
I tried near the airport to make it nice and easy but there was NOTHING available. The only hotel that showed availability was a hotel that (and I’m not even kidding with my next sentence) charged $3,800 a night. WHAT?! I could fly around the world with an around-the-world ticket for less than that price. Insane. So… we decided to try out a hostel instead. We looked at a few but a friend of ours told us that Paris hostels, while a whole lot of fun, tend to be a bit ghetto. I booked us into one but after the fact read some reviews on it on TripAdvisor.com (a great website to use if you are ever looking for information and reviews on different hotels. Users post photos, reviews, rate it by star level and recommend it to certain subsets of people. So… back to the hostel.
Trina got really excited about this one because it had a name that said ducky in it… Or three ducks… Or something like that. She just thought the ducky part was funny. I was sceptical and did my research. Turns out, this place is disgusting. According to reviews, there is dirt everywhere and one girl reported that in the middle of the night, she woke up to someone OUTSIDE of her room reaching inside her room to grab her backpack and run… This person SCALED the wall of the hostel to grab her bag… After reading a few more nasty reviews, I immediately went to the e-mail and requested a refund.
So anyway, after going through the insanely priced Paris hotel experience (our first night in Paris at the Paris Hilton wasn’t that expensive… I wonder why the insane price increase?!) and going through the ghetto hostel experience, we settled on the next best thing… We’re going to sleep at the airport. You see, I’ve done this more times than I can count… Most times, involuntarily. Tonight, we’ll be going because we have nowhere else to go and the airport does provide some comfort as well as a roof over our head. We won’t be homeless!
Anyway, I stayed awake all night and Trina slept for about an hour or so. We both showered and got ready and headed to the train station. I was thinking we had lots of time as I had wrote down 7:52am and we were doing the self-issuing ticket thing so I thought we’d be flying through. Well… turns out my dyslexia got the best of me and I wrote down 7:52am when it should have been 7:25am!! So, we were 30 minutes late… The worst part is that we SAW the train when we came up the stairs but we had to check since Bern, Switzerland isn’t what is written on the platform sign… Turns out, Brig is the last stop and Bern is just a stop along the way.
So, we head back downstairs to ticketing and I leave Trina to sit against a wall with all of our bags. She had already had experiencing doing the pseudo-homeless thing… In Munich, I had left her with all of our bags to go inside of a store and stock up on drinks and snacks for the train. Well, when I was inside, she was holding a coffee cup out sort of at arms length and people were staring at her like she was homeless. Turns out, in Milan, some guy offered her 10 Euro! With the price of the Swiss Franc, I kinda wish she would’ve taken it
Anyhow, I go to the ticket counter to get new tickets and was told that I was going to have to pay a change fee. I got nervous for a split second – I can’t stand extra fees and often find them ridiculously over-priced. Turns out, this one was only 5 Euro! Woohoo! So… we got our new tickets for an hour later and we hopped on the train for Bern, Switzerland.
The train ride wasn’t too long (but then again, my definition of “long” has changed a lot since being here… Now, a four or five hour train ride is peanuts while a twelve hour bus ride seems only slightly long…) and the scenery along the way was absolutely gorgeous. We had the opportunity to drive through the Swiss Alps which was nothing short of beautiful. It was a peaceful train ride and I sipped Espresso and read more of “My Year of Living Biblically” while Trina snapped shots of the scenery that passed. Oh yes – I also worked on campaign / promotional text for Sheri McConnell’s preview call series… Check it out and register if you’d like to!
We landed in Bern, Switzerland and we were greeted with sunshine and the most peaceful, calming air I have felt on this trip (next to Vienna… the air there was really, really different). It’s hard to believe that air could feel different but it does. There is this generally sense of calmness in places like Vienna and Bern. Almost like stress levels are gone, people are kinder and the atmosphere is just more laid back. A place like Prague had thick, busy, heavy air. You could feel the tension, the oppression and the general, “I’m on a mission… get out of my way” sort of attitude.
Coming out of the station, we walked a short ten minute walk and ended up at our hotel. The Swiss Metropole hotel which was in a prime location. Although, due to Bern’s small size and small population, despite being the Capital city, I can’t imagine anything is a hike! We had a Starbucks at our doorstep, a few cafes and bars and walking trails. Perfect for a city to relax in.
After checking in, we checked out our temporary digs for the next 24 hours. It was really old and at first we were thinking, “Oh boy… coming from some of the hotels we were in, this is not a luxury hotel by any means!” but after a little investigation, we realized we might have come across the most service-oriented hotel yet. The hotel had laundry facilities on site (7 Francs to do an entire load whereas most hotels in Europe charge 3.50 Euros for a pair of panties!), free breakfast, Internet service available, terrace with views of the city, games room and more. Great place to spend our last night in a hotel!
So, we dropped our stuff and set out to explore the city. As I mentioned previously, my research that I was able to sneak in about Bern (otherwise known here in Europe as Berne and if you want to learn how to actually say that properly, ask any person who speaks Swiss German!) taught me that the Capital city was actually named after the Bernese Bear – a common bear found in these parts. Due to the animal being so highly revered (it made its way onto coats of arms, various emblems and uniforms throughout history and as part of the architecture in Bern) the city erected bear pits where they placed bears to be seen and enjoyed by the public.
Well… one thing you’ll learn about me is that I love zoos and seeing any animal in person that I’d be scared to meet in the wild. It’s sort of like testing the primal waters without being overly scared about doing so… Anyway, we found the Bernese bear pits and video taped him and took photographs of him for nearly an hour. I was enthralled! We did a little National Geographic moment too where I explained what I knew about the Bernese bear (okay, I was reading) and Trina taped the bear. It also laid on its back and people threw approved bear food down to him and he caught nearly every piece in his mouth. It was really cool! (Yes, I realize that I now sound like a fourth grader after her first time going to the zoo… haha)
Oh, I almost forgot. Before we got to the bear pits, we took a walk down the hiking / walking trail. Luckily, it led to the bear pits so it only made sense for us to experience some of Bern’s beautiful nature. We walked along the river and the leaves were all beautiful colors and there was a small walking bridge where we stopped to take some photographs. It was gorgeous and the weather was perfect… oh, and we had Starbucks in hand! We hadn’t seen one since BERLIN! For shame.
We headed back toward the hotel and walked past different shops that were outdoors yet covered. Imagine this, you’re staring down a street and you see beautiful buildings. The buildings look fairly inconspicuous. Now, you walk through an archway and find yourself beside the road but now in a long hallway that has shops and shops and shops lining it. It’s really neat actually because I almost feel that they’ve preserved the city from looking too commercial yet still included all of the much-needed retail stores.
We decided it was time for some lunch so we stopped in at this place called Tavver which was a grocery store and a cafe. The neat thing is, that we only learned after ordering, is that the cafe is entirely organic. So, the food and drinks were not what you’d find elsewhere but rather purely organic. The buffet was a little expensive but to me, it was totally worth it. The food was delicious and light and contained a lot of vegetables and fish. Delicious! I also had some lemonade that was sweetened entirely with honey. Really good stuff.
After we ate, the rest of the day didn’t contain too much travel excitement. We headed back to the hotel, setup our computers for Internet and spent the evening working. Both Trina and I got caught up entirely with zero e-mail in our inboxes, so we decided to sleep a bit before heading to the train station around 6:30am…
So, that concluded day one in Bern. Very pretty city… a bit on the boring side and you really can see all of the attractions there quite quickly if you wanted to but we didn’t go for the sights. Bern is the capital of Switzerland which means we can add another country to our list and we got to take a train through the Alps. Bern also has amazing views of the mountains and really… you don’t get much more Swiss than that.
Technorati Tags: Erin Blaskie, The Traveling VA, virtual assistant, virtual assistance, Bern, Switzerland, Milan, Italy, Bernese bear, bear pit, bear pits, Bern bear pits, Bern bears, Tavver, organic food, hostel
I loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooove Milan.
It wouldn’t be my favorite city on the planet (that I’ve been to anyway) but it certainly was a great experience thus far! We landed in Milan late last night (around 7pm) and tried to grab a map from the Information Desk but guess what? The information desk had no information. So, yeah, that part wasn’t THAT helpful… However, after asking the police where the street our hotel was located was, we found out that it was literally RIGHT in front of the train station… WOOHOO!
So, a short five minute walk later, we were standing in front of the palace, I mean hotel, and we were both thinking, “Woohoo! We scored on this one!” For those of you who are thinking that I must just be super wealthy to afford all of these four and five star hotels, I’m sorry… I’m not. I do however have a very good website called Priceline.com that I’ve been using for every single hotel on this trip. Now, you can go to Priceline.com and just type in any city and it’ll give you a list of hotels at regular price but you DO NOT want to do that. Instead, click on Name Your Own Price. So… you enter in the price YOU want to pay, the hotel star level you want and the area and click “Name That Price” and it’ll see if any hotel is willing to accept it.
We’ve had a few cities that wouldn’t accept our offer (it was too low) but I’ve found on average that you can get most hotels that are four and five stars between $80 - 120 American. Not bad for living it up across Europe! For two people at any hostel, you’ll pay anywhere from 25 - 50 Euros per person which totals anywhere from 50 - 100 Euros which is $75 - 150 Canadian. So, it all works out for me!
We got up to our room, unpacked a bit and then headed to the grocery store to pick up some food rather than buy the REALLY expensive room service (it’s insane here…) We got back, unloaded it into the mini bar and made some sandwiches and had olive crackers. Yum! The rest of the night was work, chatting with home and then… sleep!
We woke up late… Around 12:30pm (yes, seriously) and then we showered and headed out to the shopping area of Milan.
Outside of our hotel, there was actually a flea market taking place so we wandered around the flea market checking out the wares. It was cool - this flea market was like most of our antique shops back home… The stuff was GORGEOUS!
The flea market with our hotel Le Meridien in the background.
Before heading to shop, we passed by a Gelateria and of course… I could not help myself from going in. SERIOUSLY FOLKS… What I am going to do when I go home? Ice cream in Canada (or North America) just does not compare with this stuff. I’m going to have to find a gelato exporter from Italy so I can have it in Canada.
Most stores were closed due to it being Sunday but that didn’t stop us :) We wandered around and went into some of the open stores and browsed. I found this one store that I liked and after seeing a top that caught my eye, I had to go in and try it on. A few minutes later and I was one bag and one shirt heavier.
The bag I bought in Milan, Italy - real leather!
The shirt I bought in Milan, Italy - after wearing nothing but black for 3 weeks - this shirt is a pleasant splash of color! I love vibrant and loud shirts
While wandering through the streets, we happened across the Piazza and Church that Milan is known for. It’s a huge gothic-inspired Church with tons of spires and on the spires are little statues of people. Semi-scary really!
The gothic-inspired Church in Milan, Italy
Cotton candy made the afternoon even better!
Virgin Records had a big stage-like thing setup and a mock up of the Beatles album cover where they are crossing Abbey Road in London, England. Well… me and my cotton candy (so delicious) could not resist standing in line for a photo. We couldn’t fit all of us in (there was a stupid metro entrance in the way) but here’s me with one of the Beatles.
Erin standing in line with The Beatles.
We then entered into the most famous shopping stretch in Milan. It’s got a domed roof and it’s absolutely breathtaking!
Milan’s famous enclosed shopping area.
The dome of Milan’s most famous shopping area.
We then stopped at the Gucci cafe for some cappucinos and cake… So delicious! By this point, we were truly loving the fashion-focused Milan.
Erin & Trina at the Gucci cafe in Milan, Italy.
Now we’re back at the hotel and I’m settling in for some work. I want to get everything caught up before our 9 hour train ride to Paris tomorrow. Can’t believe I go home in 2.5 days!!
Today ended up being rather uneventful actually. The plan was to wake up early and go to the Sistine Chapel and the Castel St. Angelo but we slept through the alarm and decided not to rush over there. By the time we did get there though, the line-ups were so long that we decided not to wait. Turns out, according to CTV, the Pope was actually holding a meeting in the Sistine Chapel so THANK GOD (haha - literally) that we did not wait in line.
So, we walked back, had some lunch (lasagne and a cannoli) and then headed to the train station.
It’s now 2:35pm and we’re on our way to Milan (spelt Milano in this part of the world). I’m excited as this is the fashion capital of the world but I’m even MORE excited because I booked us into a Starwood Resort Hotel and for the next three days and two nights, we’re going to be relaxing, working and just generally decompressing. I’m hoping that we can find a laundry service in Milan – I mean, you’d think if anywhere in the world offered laundry service, it would be there… They probably have more pieces of clothing per square inch than people!
Okay, so enough of my discussing clothes and the dirty state my laundry is in… LOL I’ve realized something that will make all girly-girls everywhere gasp… I don’t actually need a lot of clothes to survive! Or shoes! Or handbags! Or accessories! However, it doesn’t mean I’m going to go home and trade in all of my stilettos for Birkenstocks and my silk dresses for chinos… On the contrary, it makes me appreciate them more and realize that I need to wear my nice clothes every day! LOL Especially since I could end up in a time (three weeks in Europe) when I only have three measly (and all black) outfits to choose from. I am so in need of some color that I think I’m going to ask Steve to bring me a colourful scarf from my closet just so I can “do” a splash of color.
It’s October 18 (1:20am) and I’ve been on the road now for 15 days. It really feels like 2. The one thing I’ve noticed is my tolerance level for many things have gone way, way up. I also realized things about myself that I never knew before.
Before I get to those revelations, the one major thing I’ve noticed is that I haven’t been as homesick as I can sometimes get while traveling. I am not sure why this is but I think the near 400 cities I’ve visited pre-Europe has primed me to be able to travel without thinking about home non-stop. Also, I’ve been able to connect via web cam and instant messenger to home nearly everyday which has helped immensely.
I guess the major thing I’m feeling right now is just awe. Pure and simple awe. I am starting to absorb in the depth of what I’ve seen and experienced and I think what has done this to me is reading people’s comments on Facebook. Today, after posting photos of Rome, I had a few people comment and say that they have enjoyed following along with the Europe adventure and that they have been looking at all of the pictures.
Then, my Grantastic (what I call my Granny) mentioned that she cried when she saw the photo of me tossing a coin into the Trevi Fountain because she saw a movie in the 50s about the Trevi Fountain and she was really hoping we’d go there when we went to Rome. To know that she was so emotional looking at something I experienced just hours before is so touching and moving (I love you Grantastic more than you can ever imagine!)
I suppose what I’m mostly realizing is that I’m not just on a 3-week trip. I’m visiting cities and sights that some people dream of seeing in person. I suppose, if I’m being honest, I take the ability to hop in a plane and be in different locations for granted sometimes. For me, travel is so easy and I can make decisions to do so quickly. Like this trip for example… I woke up on a Wednesday and thought to myself, I want to go to Europe for three weeks, so I purchased my plane ticket and there it was… I was going to Europe.
My other feeling that I am currently facing is a bit of guilt. I feel guilty experiencing so much all for myself but at the same time, I feel honored and privileged to have this blog as an outlet to share the experience with others and make them feel like they are here with me too. It’s nice to know that something you are doing can inspire others, make others feel strong emotions and invoke in people a desire to do something similar.
It reminds me of when I was sitting on the train between Venice and Rome. I was talking to that woman, Marianna, that I mentioned in a previous post. When I was talking to her, I was telling her of my current travel plans and my future travel plans (hopefully Dubai in December and in February, South Africa) and she said that I brought back all of her traveling days and it made her miss it. I guess sometimes I do not realize the power that we truly do have to inspire others.
The biggest thing I’m learning is to not take any life experience for granted. It’s easy for us to wake up every day and look at it like any other day, go about our routine as we always do and forget that there is so much around us all of the time to be eternally grateful for. Experiencing the world makes you realize that we’re only just one drop in this big bucket that is the world but at the same time, we wake up every day with the ability to empower ourselves to shape the day and our life to be exactly what we want it to be.
So, the next time you get an itch to do something - whether it’s fly someplace exotic or someplace you’ve dreamed of or whether it’s to buy yourself that new pair of boots you’ve had your eye on - my advice is to just do it! We only live once and we have to make the most of it…. You don’t want to get to the end of your life with “might have beens”, “should haves”, “what ifs” or regrets. Go after your dreams because if you don’t, no one will.
Ohmigoodness. I’m sitting at the hotel after a long, long day in Rome but it was entirely worth it. We walked EVERYWHERE as there was a transportation strike here in Rome today. That means no metro, buses, etc. Although, we did see some buses so it’s very possible the strike didn’t happen (actually, I think I heard that it started at 1pm) but it didn’t matter – we were happy to walk and explore Rome on foot.
We headed out of the hotel around 9:30AM and right at our doorstep basically is Saint Maria Maggiore’s Piazza. It’s a gorgeous Church and one of the five major Churches in Rome (according to our hotel clerk) although to me, it seems like I’ve seen about a hundred major Churches while wandering around. Cruising down the street and avoiding the INSANE traffic, we walked down to Via Cavour – a popular street in Rome and one that leads all the way down to the Roman Forum, Palatine and the Colosseum.
The walk was nice – it didn’t take us long… maybe about 10 minutes or so. Once we got the ancient Roman ruins, we took a look at the Roman Forum and glanced over to the Palatine.
The Roman Forum - Rome, Italy
The Roman Forum - Rome, Italy
We then saw the big kahuna… The Colosseum. It was majestic and even though the day was overcast in the morning with light rain, it didn’t dampen our spirits when we saw this. Making our way over there was a cinch (except for of course Roman traffic) and then we popped into line to go inside.
The Colosseum - Rome, Italy
Inside the Colosseum - Rome, Italy
Outside of the Colosseum - Rome, Italy
One thing about Rome… everywhere you go, there are INSANE long line-ups. We waited an hour at least to get into the Vatican and waited about 20-30 minutes to get into the Colosseum. If you can, go early and avoid the rush!
Today is October 16 and it’s currently 3:06pm Italy time (I’m saying Italy because we only just left Rome about 20 minutes ago.) We’re on the Trenitalia Eurostar train heading first to Florence and then to Rome. This train heads on to Naples but we won’t be going that far. At least not today!
I’m very, very excited to get to Rome. Rome for me has been one of those places that I have always wanted to see because of the ancient history and the beauty of the buildings there. I mean, it’s only been in movies and in books that I’ve read about the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, the Palladium, the Spanish Steps, Vatican City, etc. Now… I get to experience those things in full color… 3D if you will!
This morning was pretty uneventful but in the best way possible. I went to bed around 7:00AM, just as the sun was rising, and asked for my wake up call to happen at 10:30am… Enough time for me to get ready and still feel rested enough. I woke up on my own around 10:15am, jumped on my computer to do some e-mail and client work and then I got ready. Check out, as with most other hotels, was at noon so I made sure all was ready to go before that.
Good Morning Venice… That’s what I said as I awoke and opened up the floor to ceiling windows in our room. It was a beautiful day, the sun was gorgeous and the wind was warm and balmy… It was fabulous.
Good morning Venice! View from our hotel room at the Hilton.
View of Venice from Guidecca, where our hotel is located.
We decided to stay in and do a bit of work this morning but to be honest, it was tough! We did about an hour of work before throwing on some clothes, grabbing our stuff and heading out into the glorius sunshine. We decided to grab the 12:40 shuttle over to Venice so we hung out on the dock for a bit before the shuttle boat showed up, right on time. I have a video of that which I will post later on.
Landing in Venice, we didn’t really have an agenda. We knew that we wanted to see San Marco’s Piazza and the San Marco Basilica but otherwise, we had no other real “plans”… So, we first stopped to get some gelato which was a great idea. It was delicious! We then walked to San Marco’s Piazza, stopping to take in the sights every once in awhile.
Typical canal in Venice.
Standing near the channel looking toward San Marco (on left).
How nice would it be to have an apartment there?
The Grand Canal… When I think Venice, I think of this.
The gondolas waiting for customers… 80 Euro for a half hour!
We opted not to get a gondola ride because it is so expensive. I mean, I’m all for spending the money on something if it means never getting to do it again but I’d rather wait and do a gondola ride with my sweetie so that we can enjoy the romance of it together. There’s just something about sharing a gondola with your sister that just doesn’t offer the same appeal…
San Marco’s Piazza was a lot like Grand Place for me in Brussels, Belgium. You walk in and it’s breathtaking. I’m telling you now, the photos do not do it justice in any way, shape or form. This place is magnificent and the architecture is so beautiful.
Our first glance at San Marco.
The gorgeous Basilica in San Marco’s Piazza.
Side story for you here about those boots on my feet in photo above… All day today, walking around Venice in my Uggs, people stared at my feet. At first, I thought it was my imagination but then Trina said to me, “Do you see everyone staring at your feet?” and I was like, “YES! I thought I was imaging it!” So, my quest is to find out of maybe Uggs are either (a) “over” as a fashion trend in Italy, (b) people who live here just don’t see them often or (c) because the sun was out, wearing Uggs seemed weird? :) Anyone from Italy have some insight for me?
In any case, we did some funny jigs and some Flip videos here… It was the gelato and the sun I am sure - it turned us into giddy, silly school girls and we were having a blast! There were some kids playing with the pigeons that we watched for awhile and then a bird got caught in a girl’s sweater sleeve which was pretty funny. They were screaming and laughing as people stood in a circle watching them try and extract the bird from the sleeve without squishing it… Funny stuff!
Lots and lots of birds in San Marco.
The Basilica and tons o’ touristas.
Me on the balcony of the Basilica with San Marco in behind.
The view of the channel from San Marco.
Sipping some wine at lunch.
After leaving San Marco, we headed in behind the church to search out a Trattoria. We found a great little restaurant that was serving pizza so we had some wine, mussels and pizza. It was delicious! It was so nice sitting in this little courtyard with my sister… We were taking in the music, getting drunk off the food (haha, not the wine!), sipping on great tasting wine and watching the people wander by. It was slightly off the tourist path but still a little touristy… :) A great combination.
Yummy (and super large) pizza!
A canal on our way back to the hotel.
A large boat on the water in front of our hotel.
Venice at dusk.
The streetlights came on as we waited for the shuttle.
And we got back at night… Sun sets fast here on the sea!
The rest of the afternoon (after eating) was spent shopping… I bought three pieces of jewelry - a necklace and ring made of Murano glass (native to Italy) and another necklace with Swarovski crystals in it. I’ll take some photos once I wear them and post back here! It was nice to just wander and look around… We also, throughout the day, snuck in two more gelatos… The stuff is addicting! Oh, back to the jewelry shop we were in… He gave me his contact details after talking about what I do for a living and he wants some information about how I could help him use the internet to market his business online. I told him I’d work for jewelry… ;) haha… I won’t really but it was fun to chat business amongst two weeks of tourist-talk.
So, we’re back at the hotel and I’m getting some work done. We head to Rome tomorrow and then Florence and Pisa before heading north to Switzerland. Then, it’s Paris and home… I’m both super excited but also sad… It means that our time here is coming to an end quickly and I’ve really enjoyed this global travel. If I could do it all over again, I would in a heartbeat and it’s made me realize, even more so, that travel is something I am super passionate about and have no plans to stop any time soon.
Technically, this is still day 10… Yes, another sleepless night in Europe (that’s two now – what can I say, I’m a true nocturnal being!) found me slugging away at work until the wee hours of the morning. Around 4:45am, I decided that it was time to shower and pack up my backpack to prepare for the next leg of the journey – Italy.
After having gone through the a.m. ritual, I checked us out of the hotel and we made our way to the metro. I’m always surprised at how the skill of navigating through these metro stations, regardless of the city, comes so naturally to me. A few times through and a few glances at the map allows me to whip through stations like the locals do – which definitely adds a nice layer to the “don’t look like a tourist” package.
We made our way to Mariensplatz and then Haupbahnhof by way of the U line and then the S line and arrived at the train station in record time… Well, okay, this is a lie. I don’t really know what record time would be from the hotel to the train station but at the time we went, it seemed to go really, really fast. Buying our ticket was as easy as ever as I had checked the timetable the night before at www.bahn.de (not sure if this is for all rails but it has seemed to be accurate for every city connection we’ve needed along the way so I’ll continue using it!) and knew there was a train leaving at 7:30am from Munich.
A stop at Starbucks was next and in definite order… There is something about working through the night that just finds you desiring a Starbucks more than anything else in this world but there is some irony here. After being up for so long, I almost can’t stomach coffee. It’s like I hit a wall where my body is yelling, “NO MORE CAFFEINE!” But, I digress… I still had a Starbucks (well, most of it – it now sits in the train’s little cubby hole trash compartment!) and sang inside of the coffee shop at 6:30am to a crowd of people who were grumpy and thought my over-cheerfulness was NOT FUN!
Before we got on the train, we stopped in at a little market to grab some snacks for the way. Seven hours by train can seem long and we didn’t want to get thirsty or hungry along the way because it’s a long time to wait to fulfill those needs. The loot we scored was: two giant bottles of Evian (needed after hitting the caffeine wall), three mini cans of Pringles in a variety of flavours and some gummy keys…. haha, I know, I know… Breakfast of champions right? Well, we probably won’t crack into it before noon… Probably…
So, the train was right on time which was perfect because I was anxious to grab a seat and get settled in for some napping time and it’s funny just how easy it is to sleep anywhere when you’re tired enough… I learned this through previous travels when I would have airline delays and have to spend the night in airports (oh yes, I’ve done this at least six or seven times) and find anything I could to sleep on.
Now, it’s 10:07am… Our train left at 7:30am. I’ve been going between being awake and napping but more being awake than anything. So, I decided that writing was in order so I pulled out the trusty laptop (I packed it separate) and now here I am. I am not taking photos or videos even though this is the most majestic train ride we’ve had – full of snowy mountain caps, deep valleys, train bridges and little villages everywhere. This my friend is what it’s like to travel through the European mountainous areas and it’s really, really nice.
I don’t feel like being a tourist in this moment. I want to feel like I don’t need to be slinging around my camera, snapping up photos every two seconds. I just want to relax, enjoy and be in this European adventure of mine. I started today off like that in terms of not rushing through getting ready but rather just taking my time, having a long hot shower and basking in the sunshine that is this trip.
Now as I prepare to enter Italy, I can’t be more excited. Seeing Venice and Rome have been two dreams of mine and I can’t believe they are going to finally materialize into something real and true. I only hope they don’t disappoint.
I’m back! We’ve switched trains and are now on a Trenitalia and I LOVE THIS TRAIN! Our last train was cramped and so uncomfortable and it was a six hour train ride. Now, we’re on this deluxe train with four seats all facing each other and a table in the center. I’m charging my battery in the outlet provided, got my laptop setup on the table and I’m writing this! The scenery around me is a little less mountainous from earlier – it was insanely gorgeous but as I mentioned, no photographs as my camera’s battery died. However, Trina did take a couple!
We’re deep into Italy now and we’re about an hour or so from Venice. I’ve already stripped off my scarf and my sweater and replaced it with a cute dress, leggings and my Uggs. I’m ready for Italy baby! The weather is gorgeous and there is not a cloud in sight. We couldn’t be luckier! I’m anxious to see our hotel – we’re staying at the Hilton Molino Stucky which is a brand new hotel that just opened on the Guidecca. It’s actually a converted flour mill and warehouse. And… the best part… it is only accessible by shuttle BOAT or GONDOLA!
So, I don’t have much else to write now except YAY! We’re in Italy and this is one place I’ve been DYING to get to ever since we started this journey. Two nights in Venice and two nights in Rome. It should be so interesting to absorb ourselves into the history that makes up these two cities. We’re blessed… Very, very blessed.
Finishing off this blog post… It’s later in the night now and we’ve had a wonderful first night in Venice. Very uneventful but we needed it. We landed right outside of Santa Lucia, the main train station for the island of Venice, and were immediately met with the gorgeous views of buildings and canals… An amazing first glance at Venice. We didn’t want to do the “touristy” thing quite yet so we began the trek to our hotel.
This is the first thing you see out of Santa Lucia’s train station in Venice, Italy.
Staring across from Venice at the Guidecca, where our hotel is located (not in this photo)
Due to our hotel being on a separate island called the Guidecca, we had to walk across Venice and then take a hotel shuttle BOAT to get there. We’re staying (forgive me if I said this earlier) at the Hilton Molino Stucky.
Gorgeous hotel and highly, highly recommended. Our hotel is a converted flour mill and in our room, we have traditional wooden beam ceilings, views of the canal and the channel and these magnificent doors / windows that open up to let the fresh sea air into our room.
Our hotel room in Venice, Italy.
Trina hanging out one window and the view from our room!
The beautiful window / doors in our hotel room.
The room itself is done up like you would come to expect of a Hilton except this one has a hundred times more charm. This place looks and feels like a museum that you might wander through except we get to sleep here for two nights! Tonight was work as per usual and cappucinos and tomorrow, we’ll wander down and see some of the sights but keep the day light, airy and relaxing. Lord knows we need it!
The view from the front step of our hotel. This is looking toward Venice.
A cruise ship leaves the harbor. Taken from the sky deck at the Hilton in Venice, Italy.