PICTURE PERFECT // Venice, Italy

 

I suppose Venice has been the real last ‘holiday’ destination for me, as our next stop is Frankfurt (which I visited wayyyy back when). It has been a fantastic last destination: it is just as beautiful as I could have ever imagined.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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We arrived about mid afternoon on a train from Florence, and after successfully navigating our way to our accommodation we headed off to a free walking tour of the city. It is such a fascinating city, and unfortunately we didn’t learn as much about the construction of it as I would have liked on the tour. It was still great to be able to mindlessly follow a guide through the city: despite having no cars, the city is such a veritable maze of bridges, lane ways and canals!SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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We were lucky to have some sunshine that afternoon. The tour ended in St Mark Square, out the front of the famous basilica. It was a truly beautiful building. We visited the interior today, but you couldn’t take photos inside!SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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Today we marked down a few things on our map and hit the streets. It is so fun to just wander around this city!SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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We visited a fresh food and fish market in the morning near the Rialto bridge, before indulging in some more wonderful 1.50 euro coffee. It is taking us awhile to get our heads around the Italian coffee culture. You buy coffee at a ‘bar’, and can pay the normal, cheaper price for your drink if you stand at the bar and drink it, or pay up to twice the price to sit down at a table. We have had a few incidents where we have started walking towards a table with our coffee but had the barista warn us we will have to pay more!SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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On our adventures we searched for, and successfully found, a bookshop our tour guide mentioned to us. Many of the books in the over crowded shop are housed in boats in preparation for the floods the city occasionally experiences. Out the back the owners have constructed a staircase out of damaged books that visitors can climb.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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Below is the ‘Sighing Bridge’, which connects the Duke’s house and the former prison. Legend has it prisoners would sigh deeply as they were escorted into internal cells.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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Gondola rides are typically Venetian in the minds of tourists, but Chris and I decided we would not partake in it the second we heard about the 80 euro for 40 minutes price tag. Instead, we opted for a short traghetto ride. Basically, for 2 euro each we got a short ride in a gondolla across the main canal. It satisfied our desires to get on the water, but without the pain for our wallets!SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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We climbed up a carpark for some views over the city. Unfortunately it was a lot colder today, and quite overcast so the city wasn’t as picture perfect. It was beautiful nonetheless.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The Rialto bridge at night.

Only three nights left in Europe! It still feels so surreal, but our time is almost up. I am trying to prepare myself for the plane ride home. I am really not looking forward to it, as my flight anxiety seems to have progressively got worse since being in Europe. The idea of being in a plane for 14 hours is awfully unappealing right now. But thankfully I will be flying with Chris, so it shouldn’t be too unbearable!

– Reanna.

THESE LAST DAYS // Florence, Italy

It is such a weird feeling to be counting down the days until we return back to Australia now. Foreign concepts such as sunshine, warm weather and good coffee will soon be a reality in our lives again.

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That doesn’t mean we aren’t enjoying our remaining days here in Europe. After the hustle and bustle of touristic Rome, Florence seemed peaceful. We caught an early morning train from Rome yesterday, and got to Florence with plenty of time ahead of us. We only booked for one night, but we easily managed to see everything we wanted. The main attraction of the town is the Duomo, which is probably the most stunning church I have ever seen. It was free to wander around inside, but you could pay to climb the dome. The price tag was a bit excessive for us, so we made do with wandering around outside. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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While being significantly quieter than Rome, Florence was still full of tourists, and consequently selfie stick vendors.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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We spent most of the afternoon just wandering the streets. There are plenty of museums and galleries in Florence, but with the sun out we really just felt like being outside. We eventually climbed up to a viewing square with amazing sights of the city. Another basilica was located further up the hill, as well as an extravagant old graveyard. Some of the tombs could have passed as mini palaces! SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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Florence would probably have to be up there with one of the most beautiful towns I have been to. The small laneways, old buildings, and surrounding mountains were truly picturesque. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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After some coffee and rest we decided to go to the Uffizi gallery. It is the most famous collection of art here in Florence, and the building itself is quite spectacular.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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After our early start to the day we were quite tired in the evening, so settled down for a dinner of aperitivo (buy a drink and get access to a food buffet, usually about 8 euro) before camping down at our hotel for the night.

Today, we are off to Venice! We are both incredibly excited to see this famous city, despite warnings about the likelihood of us getting lost and the expensive price tag. It shall be fun!

– Reanna.

AUSTRALIA DAY ABROAD // Rome, Italy

As well as waking up early in order to fight the crowds at the Colosseum, Chris and I also had hopes of catching the final songs of the Hottest 100. However, it turns out the countdown runs for far longer than we anticipated, so we ended up giving up after a few songs in order to make the most of our time in Rome! Admittedly it did bring a pang of homesickness to my heart seeing everyone quaffing beer and blasting Triple J on facebook. Oh, Australia.

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Even though we were a bit later than the 8:30am opening time, we still managed to get into the Colosseum without waiting. It truly is a magnificent structure, and such a feat for its time.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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Our ticket to the Colosseum also gave us access to the Roman Forum, which are the ruins of the old city centre just over the road. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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It was amazing seeing so much history preserved in a buzzing city. I can’t imagine the amount of maintenance that must go into these places. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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After a couple of hours we had our historical ruin desires met, and continued on for a bit more walking before settling down somewhere for lunch.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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It was such a splendid day. Still not overly warm, but the sun was shining nonetheless. After lunch we walked over to the Vatican City, intending to check out the basilica. However, the line to get in was absolutely ludicrous (like, we would have been waiting an hour or something). So we made do with wandering around the square in the sun for a little while.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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We intended to find a park in the afternoon, but subsequently had no luck in finding it. It was lovely to merely wander around the streets anyway. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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Research informed us of a Scottish pub hosting a little Aussie shindig, so we headed there in the late afternoon. They had Fosters – apparently Australia’s number one beer, despite the fact no one drinks it – and vegemite sandwiches. There was basically no one there, but it was fun to have a few drinks and watch the Australian Open on tv.

Hope you all had a fabulous – and warm – Australia Day back in Aus!

– Reanna.

SELF GUIDED TOUR // Rome, Italy

 

The last leg of our journey has begun! We are spending five nights traveling up through Italy, before flying back to Frankfurt for our flight back to Australia. It has all come up so soon!

Once again I will have to apologise for posting a couple of times in quick succession: I intended to post these photos yesterday morning but we had an early start in order to fight the crowds at the Colosseum!SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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We arrived in Rome about mid afternoon on Sunday, and after checking into our accommodation we decided to hit the sites straight away! Armed with a map and our Lonely Planet guide – there are no Sandemans tours in Italy! – we checked out various landmarks, basilicas and buildings.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAll the various buildings we looked at were incredibly grand, and quite beautiful.

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Quite a few fountains were still running, which was a nice change from the many that were turned off in other cities for the winter weather. However, Trevi Fountain – the most famous fountain in Rome – was under some serious maintenance, so you could hardly even see it! Thankfully a friend had warned us this would be the case, so we weren’t too bitterly disappointed when we came across it.

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Winter seems to be peak time for a lot of maintenance on various landmarks. The basilica atop the Spanish Steps and the Colosseum also had scaffolding on them at varying points. This can be a bit disappointing – particularly when you pay money to go into things such as the Colosseum, and can’t visit all of the exhibit but you have still paid full price. However, I do understand that in order for us to be able to visit such pieces of history, there needs to be a lot of maintenance work done!

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There is a ridiculous amount of street vendors walking around armed with selfie sticks, which they try to sell to everyone who crosses their path by saying “selfie, selfie!”. Yeah, no thanks.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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We walked into the Pantheon and wandered around for about two minutes before an announcement came over saying it was closing time and we all had to leave. Well, at least we got in there!

Chris and I were both pleasantly surprised with how walkable the city was. Looking at the map and talking to our friend gave us the impression that we would probably have to figure out the metro at some point, but we were easily able to walk everywhere. I love when we can do that in a city!

– Reanna.

#FOODPORN // Fez, Morocco

It is no secret I am a fan of food and cooking, one merely has to peruse my instagram account and witness my #foodporn phase. Traveling, thankfully, has resulted in me having less time for instagramming, and more time for eating.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESYesterday Chris and I participated in a Moroccan cooking class. The two girls running the class took us through the food market in the morning, where they bought some fresh meat and vegetables, and told us about the food available.

 

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After collecting our food, it was back up to the culture cafe where the class was being held. There was a small kitchen used solely for these classes, and as there was only three of us in the class we all got to help out with various tasks. I cut up what felt like a kilo of fresh herbs!

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Our end meal was three courses: Above was our starter, of a traditional tomato based soup, an eggplant dip and some local flat breads. Our main, below, was a tagine of lamb, spices, broad beans and artichokes.

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We also had a simple dessert of coconut macaroons, with some amazing strawberries. It is safe to say we were well and truly full after all this! We also received a recipe book, so I am sure Moroccan cook ups will be on our horizons.

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That afternoon we hiked up the hill we had intended to yesterday. It was easy enough, and offered us spectacular views of the city and the surrounding countryside.

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We have one more full day left here today! It has gone so quick, despite being quite slow paced on account of my being sick. It worked out quite well that we had a few days here so we could take our time.

– Reanna.

EDIT: here a few extra photos from our last day in Fez. I didn’t take enough for them to make up a whole post!

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FOREVER LOST // Fez, Morocco

 

I intended to have this post up earlier today, but the wifi at our accommodation decided to die temporarily. So my apologies if the next few posts are in quick succession!

After wandering (slowly) around Rabat yesterday, we caught a train for a few hours to the city of Fez. The trip went quick enough, as there was plenty to look at in the countryside. Our adventures truly began as soon as we set foot off the train and into the city. Chris had booked our accommodation in the old city centre, a few kilometres from the station, and a lack of information about public transport saw us opt for a taxi. Needless to say, a taxi would not have been my first choice: the driver spoke minimal English, sped, honked his horn a lot and appeared to have no seat-belts in his car. We got to the outskirts of the old city safely (and it only cost a few dollars). As soon as we got out of the taxi we were approached by several locals men asking if we had reservations or needed directions (the medina/old city is well over 1000 years old and a veritable maze). We said no, but spent the next 45 minutes aimlessly wandering around, deflecting more locals offering to give directions (for a fee). On the verge of giving up, we stumbled into another guest house, where the owner was kind enough to call our hotel, and a worker came and collected us. Safe to say, we slept well that last night! Plus my fever subsided.

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Fez is a whole other world unto itself. If we though Rabat was crazy, we were wrong. It seems as though local men and boys can pick out Chris and I as tourists from 50 metres away, and greet us in French, then English, offering directions, tours, hotels, pot and restaurant menus.

After hustling us into his uncles traditional rug shop (which was fascinating, up until he tried to sell us rugs) our hotel owner pointed us in the direction of terraces that would provide us with views of the medina. We paused out the front of a mosque on the way, wandering where to go, when a local man said he would show us the terraces. Thinking they were nearby we warily followed him through the rabbit warren of streets. He thankfully led us there, and we were shown onto the terraces, which overlook the tanneries of the city, as seen above. All this was free, but when coming down from the terrace, you are ushered through rooms of leather goods – with no prices – and encouraged to take a look.

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We wandered around on our own after that, though slower on my account (I am still quite weak and tire easily unfortunately!). Lunch was more local food, of course.

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In the afternoon we looked at Musee Batha, a museum of old handmade goods in a former palace.

After consulting a map board and noticing a few signs, we figured out we could follow a bit of a guided walk through the medina. It was great fun, poking your head around each corner and hoping the sign would appear again in the distance!

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The walk bypassed our hotel near the end, so we detoured for a short break, before continuing to the end. It brought us through a horribly muddy bric-a-brac area, which came outside the medina and onto some hills overlooking the city. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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I had read that you could climb to the top of one of the slightly more distant hills for some amazing views, but it was quite overcast and I was already quite spent. We made do with climbing part way up a closer hill (again, we were followed by a local offering directions who wouldn’t leave us alone). SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe medina is a bit unnerving at night, and we would undoubtedly get lost, so we headed in for bed not long after dinner.

This country is certainly proving to be the cultural – and culinary! – experience we wanted. I will be back with more Fez adventures shortly!

– Reanna.

CULTURE SHOCK // Rabat, Morocco

 

As soon as we got off the bus from the airport into the city of Rabat, everything felt completely different to our previous travels. There was minimal English signage, fashion was different, and the language was a whole other world. The architecture was also in stark contrast to that of Europe. As Chris commented to me as we walked to our hotel, this was the first time we had felt completely foreign while traveling. We certainly stuck out, and not just because we were carrying giant backpacks! In particular, my pale skin and light coloured hair was something seldom seen.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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We had to walk through the old town market, the Medina, to get to our hotel. The hotel itself, located on a little side street, was beautiful. We were only there for one night, but it was fantastic. However, I was still very sick and was unable to get out of bed for most of the morning. Eventually (after some medicine and more sleep) I was able to get up and we went for a very slow walk around the city. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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Everything is incredibly old and beautiful. The sun was shining, fulfilling the images we had of the country.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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There were a few sites we didn’t manage to go see as I wasn’t up to the hike, but we got a good feel of the city anyway. Ever just walking through the Medina and taking in the sights, sounds and smells was experience enough. It seems peoples lives truly do revolve around the market place here.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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There is an abundance of stray cats here, which I adored, despite Chris constantly pointing out they undoubtedly had feral diseases. At least I could enjoy looking at them!SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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We had Moroccan food the night before, but of course partook it in again for lunch. The restaurants are not much to look at, but the food is fantastic. And so cheap! All this was under $10.

Later that day we caught the train three hours to Fez. Now this city is a whole other level of crazy, which I shall elaborate on in time!

– Reanna.