A Travellerspoint blog

Rome

& The Vatican City.

sunny 35 °C

Rome is the capital of Italy and has the country's
largest population with 4.2 million residents.
With the city's history spanning over two and a half
thousand years, there is so much to learn about Rome.

Just walking the streets is like an outdoor museum,
it's amazing to see the old ruins still in it's original place
and a modern city build around it.

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The Colosseum is the most visited attraction and draws
four million admirers a year. This man made stadium is
considered the greatest works of Roman architecture and
dates all the way back to 70 AD. It was said to seat 50,000
spectators, who came to watch the epic gladiator battles.

It is fascinating to see how much of the exterior of the Colosseum
is still intact, we visited it during the day and night and both had
a different feel. There is even a chance to get your photo with a
gladiator! We also paid to go inside which was great to see the
numerous entrances, corridors and the areas where the wild beast
were kept. The original floor is no longer and the inside hasn't kept
as well as the exterior but i strongly recommend going inside to
check it out.

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Just opposite the Colosseum is the Roman Forums which
can be explored on the same ticket as your Colosseum pass.
This is a chance to really go back in time and explore just how the
Romans lived and see what they created. Most of important structures
of this ancient city are still standing here today and date back from 27 BC
to 476 AD. After the Roman Empire fell, the Forum had been buried and
became forgotten. Today the area is back to it's former glory and it was
here Julius Caesar created history. Just walking around the valley was
inspiring and was a highlight for me whilst in Rome, it's a major must see!

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The next must see has to be the Trevi Fountain, the most famous fountain
in the world and easy to see why, It is huge and so beautiful up close.
It stands 25.9 meters high and 19.8 meters wide and was completed
in 1762. A tradition here is for visitors to throw a coin into the fountain,
this means they will one day return to Rome, a second coin is said to bring
a new romance and the third to ensure you get married. 3,000 Euros are
thrown into the fountain daily and the money is later donated to charity.
It was very crowded when we visited during the day so we later returned
at night and it was alot more tranquil.

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During a walking tour of Roma, we visited many of the city's most
influential sights including Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II,
The Spanish Steps and the Pantheon. The Spanish Steps are at the base
of the Trinità dei Monti Church and there are 138 stairs in total.
Tourist and locals hang out on the steps and people watch in the
Plaza- Piazza Di Spagna. This is also the widest staircase in Europe
and gets quite crowded.

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The Pantheon temple was erected to honor the Olympian gods,
the original structer was distroyed due to fire and the current
temple was re-build in 126 AD. It has since been used as a tomb
and is the final resting place for Raphael, the famous Italian painter.
The exterior is currently under construction which is abit of an eyesore
but thankful you can still come inside and that's where you can
appricate the Pantheon. The main feature is the massive domed roof
and the opening above is the only source of light inside.

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Whilst in Rome you have the chance to visit the smallest county
in the world, The Vatican City. It's only 44 kilometers and has a
population of less than 800 but none are permanente citizens,
this is the number of employees of the Vatican.
The country was created in 1929 and and is ruled by the Pope
currently Pope Benedict XVI, it is the headquarterss to the Catholic
Church which is estimated to have over 1 billion followers.

The Vatican City is guarded by the smallest army in the world
and whilst your visiting keep an eye out for the colourful guards,
their uniforms are red, purple and orange are were designed by
Michelangelo. Whilst visiting it is also a popular place to sent your
postcards from, this is because they have a very efficient post office
and international mail in the Vatican will get there quicker than
anywhere else in Italy. There is more mail sent per person
than from this country than anywhere else in the world.
Amazingly, the country’s economy is only made up of profits from
tourism, merchandise and postage stamps.

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St. Peter's Basilica is regarded as one of the holiest religious sites
and is the largest Christian church in the world. You can admire it
whilst standing in Saint Peter's Square and for a closer look you
will need to purchase a admission ticket or book on a guided tour.

Once inside the Vatican, you have the chance to wonder through
the Museums and witness art dating back to the 15th century
as well as entering the Sistine Chapel. The tour will cost 31 Euros
per person and will include a two hour guided tour with audio.
The tour includes the Vatician Gardens, the Gallery of the Candelabras
and the Gallery of the Tapestries as well as a look at Renaissance Art
and a stroll the Raphael Rooms.

During the tour we also enter the Sistine Chapel, once inside you
will be amazed at the famous celing which was hand painted by
by Michelangelo. Now they do say no photos inside which i was
respectful of until i seen most people attempting to take a sneaky
picture up at the celing so i tried for one to and it actually turned
out pretty well but they are mostly stricked on this rule.

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The celing is 12,000 square feet and was painted between
1508 and 1512. It features so much beautiful detail and some
iconic pieces of art including The Last Judgement,
The Creation of Adam and The Downfall of Adam and Eve.
The celing was later restored in 1994.

The tour ends inside St. Peter's Basilica and we were walked
through every part of the huge church. We saw the baldachin
which stands over St Peter's tomb, looked up inside the dome
and were introduced to Pieta, another of Michelangelo's
best known artworks. It was wonderful inside and even if you are not
religious, I recommend you go inside and experince it for yourself!

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Posted by PhotoGlen 18:00 Archived in Italy Tagged fountain st. the italy basilica city rome vatican pantheon colosseum chapel trevi peter's photoglen sistine romanforums Comments (1)

Venice

The Floating City...

sunny 33 °C

Venice would have to be the coolest and most unique
travel destination in the world and has been on the top
of my list of places to visit since i can remember.
It's a sinking city that you can only get to by boat and
attracts three million tourists a year.

We stayed on the mainland and caught a ferry across
to the city centre. The city is so beautiful and everywhere
you looked was picture perfect, like looking at a painting.
The architecture of the buildings and bridges were amazing
and I instantly fell in love with the place.

Our first stop was St Mark's Square or Piazza San Marco
as the locals would say. It is full of life and buzzing with
people and pigeons. It's a chance to stand back and have
a nice, 'welcome to Venice' moment. Here you can see some
of the city's most familiar sites including St Mark's Campanile,
St Mark's Basilica and Doge's Palace.

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St Mark's Campanile is the tallest structure in Venice and I
can recommend riding the elevator to the top of the belltower
for the best panoramic views of the city. I must say i was
surprised that to see an elevator inside, i was excepting
a few thousand stairs to the top! The tower stands 98.6
metres high and it's from here you can really start to appreciate
the beautiful surroundings. The tower houses five bells and has
been reconstructed after the original tower collapse in 1902.

Directly across from the Campanile is St Mark's Basilica.
It's one of Europe's most exotic cathedrals and was under
construction for 600 years until it's completion in 1617.
The design and detail of the exterior is amazing and
features gold mosaics, emeralds, pearls, oriental marbles
and columns, some which were looted form the Roman empire
after the conquest of Constantinople during 1204.
There are also five domed roofs on top that are to represent
Christ and his 4 Evangelists. It's well worth a visit.

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There are 150 canals in Venice and 409 bridges and the
Rialto Bridge would have to be the most famous. It spans
29 metres along the Grand Canal, which is Venice's
equivalent to a main road. The stone arch bridge has been
standing proud since it's completion in 1591, making it the
oldest bridge to cross the Grand Canal. It is now regarded
as one of the architectural icons of Venice.

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I would suggest after seeing theses main sights, you
allow yourself to get lost in the streets of Venice.
Take a stroll of the main route and avoid the large crowds,
stroll down the lane ways, cross over bridges and do some
window shopping. It's the best chance to see the real
Venezia Italia and who knows what you might find...

Now whilst in Venice, riding in a traditional Venitian
Gondola is a must! For centuries gondolas were the main
transportation for locals and now they have become a
must do activity for tourists. We rode in a group of six
and went for a twenty minute ride, It was a great experince
and our gondolier even sung us a tune as we cruised around
the canals.

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Afterwards we joined a local guide for a walking tour of Venice,
She took us to many historical locations and we went to see a live
glass blowing demonstration, This is an old tradition where the glass
is melted in and crafted into many glass products including sculptures,
lamps and jewelery. It was cool to watch and there was alot of
ohh's and ahh's in the crowd. I picked up a beautiful picture frame there.

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Whilst spending the day in Venice, it was great to see all
the different Carnival masks and i could only dream of how
fantastic it would be to be here during that time!
Traditionally people wore the masks during the festival
to hide their identity and disguise their social class.
A mask now makes for a great souvenir!

Our big day ended with a group dinner of yummy Italian
food and a final stroll through the streets of Venice,
our last sight was the bridge of sighs which has become iconic
as it is one of the last sights on the way back to the ferries
and tourist would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice...

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Posted by PhotoGlen 19:04 Archived in Italy Tagged venice grand square italy basilica bridge canal carnival st gondola mark's campanile rialto photoglen Comments (0)

Barcelona

Spain

sunny 30 °C

Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain,
and has a population of 1.6 million and is now the
fourth most visited European city. Barcelona is a city full
of art, culture and Gaundi's works and the city even won
a gold medal for its architecture.
It's here you can experience the very best of Spain!

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One of the most popular sight in Spain has to be the
Sagrada Familia, This roman catholic church dates back to
1882 and is not expected to be complete until at least 2026!
It's Antoni Gaudi's masterpiece and is easily spotted by the
tall cranes that surround it. Gaudi devoted his last years to
the project and at the time of his death in 1926, less than a
quarter of the church was completed. Since 1940 the project
has been taken over bymany architects and is now a
world heritage listed site.

The Church has many facades and is unique in every way,
It can be appreciated close up or by a far, from the park
across the street.

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Around Barcelona you will see more of Gaundi's work,
including the Casa Batllo. A beautiful building that Gaundi
restored in 1905. I hindsight i would have liked to have gone
inside but at the time i had settled for some pictures passing
by on the bus.

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Whilst in Barcelona we did a walking tour of the Gothic Quarter
which is in the centre of the old city of Barcelona. Here you will
see many buildings dating back from medieval times.
It looked great at night & we passed under the Carrer del Bisbe
Irurita and walked around the La Mercè basilica church.

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Another great night out is to catch a Flemenco dancing show.
This was an optional extra on our tour and included a dinner
and a live show featuring flemenco dancers and a live band.
It was a good cultural night out and i remember having an
awesome cold tomato soup for entree!

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After the show we went to see the Magic Fountains of Montjuic,
They have been an attraction since 1929 and the show starts
every 30 minutes during summer and lasts about 15 minutes.
The water jets are timed to go of the tune of the music and
lights up all different colours, we were there on sunset and it
played along to Disney songs. It looked amazing and pulled a
large crowd and is defiantly worth checking out whilst in the city!

During the next day we checked out the city beach and
went to have an authentic Tapas lunch by the water.

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Then it was a trip to the Barcelona Zoo. I love animals and i have
been to a few oversea's zoo's now. I wanted to go here to see the
albino gorilla. Our guide had told us there was one there who was a
relative of Snowflake, the original albino gorilla who was a star of the
zoo in the 90's but has since died. After we did a lap of the zoo,
checking out all the cool animals and enclosures we were unsuccessful
finding him. We had nicknamed him the vanilla gorilla and after no luck
on our search i had asked a zoo keeper who said "no....he dead" haha

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Posted by PhotoGlen 19:03 Archived in Spain Tagged fountains barcelona zoo spain gothic sagrada familia quarter magic tapas photoglen gaundi flemenco Comments (0)

French Riviera

Nice, Cannes and Monaco.

sunny 32 °C

The French Riviera is located on the Mediterranean coastline
in the southeast corner of France. Here you can get 300 days
of sunshine per year and enjoy 115 kilometers of beaches,
there are 14 ski resorts and now over 3,000 restaurants.
It is now the second most visited French city after Paris.

We stayed in Nice for two nights which has the largest population
in the Riviera. As we drove in i remember passing by the airport
and seeing hundreds of private jets, the water was crystal clear
and it was our first time seeing the topless sunbathers in Europe.
It was a gorgeous sunny day and i after two weeks of traveling
this was the first time i felt like i was on a summer holiday!

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After checking into our hotel, i walked barefoot down the
street and headed straight to the the beach to dip my toes in
the Mediterranean sea! This was also the first time i had experienced
no sand at the beach, which for an Aussie took some time to get
used too. You could tell the locals from the tourist just watching
them get out of the water and walking along the pebbled beach,
and i defiantly looked like a tourist!

We then took a stroll along the Promenade des Anglais,
and the waterfront was alive with water sport activities,
yachts and beautiful people. We walked up to the
northern end and up the stairs which offered a picture
perfect view back over the coastline.

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We also checked out Place Massena, which is the main square
of the city. There are some beautiful colourful buildings and a
water fountain inside and is a popular hangout for street performers.

That afternoon we had a group dinner and took a stroll along
the waterfront to see the sun setting, There is plenty of night life
in the area too, with bars, clubs and restaurants opened till late.

The next day we caught the train into Cannes,
It was so picturesque, more beautiful beaches, cafés and boutiques stores.
I have always wanted to go here as this is home to the Cannes
film festival which is held in May and attracts Hollywood's biggest stars.
The esplanade was alighted with palm trees and cut outs of famous
movie characters. We walked up to the Palais des Festivals et des
Congrès, which has been hosting the big event now in it's 64 year.
You can take your picture on the red carpet and see the celebrity hand
prints in the sidewalk, there is also a museum inside.

We also took a stroll to the Old Town, that is full of character and
checked out all the private yachts in old port Harbour.

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Later that evening we crossed the border into Monaco,
the second smallest country in the world. It has an estimated population
of 35,000 residents, all who must be extremely wealthy to live here,
They do not pay any income tax and are also not alot to gamble in the casino.

Our first stop was a photo opportunity looking back over La Condamine,
the old harbour. We also seen the Saint Nicholas Cathedral, where the
Monaco Royal's marry and where Grace Kelly was buried.

The Monaco Grand Prix has been held annually in the streets of Monaco
since 1929 and we drove along some of the track and got to see the
infamous, hairpin corner.

We than got the chance to go inside the lavish, Monte Carlo Casino.
It was cool to see all the sports cars lined up outside and the
casino has featured in three James Bond films.
You have to show your passport and pay a fee to enter,
i had a bet inside and ended up with a small win that
covered my entrance fee!

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Posted by PhotoGlen 16:21 Archived in France Tagged france casino french riviera europe nice cannes monaco monte carlo photoglen Comments (0)

Paris!

sunny 30 °C

Bonjour! Paris is the world's most visited city
with 45 million tourists visiting per year,
It is famous for romance, food and beautiful buildings!

Our first activity in Paris was a one hour scenic cruise along
the Seine River, This was our chance to people watch and
admire the rich architecture of the city. During the cruise we
passed under the cities seven bridges and drifted by some
of Paris most iconic landmarks including Notre-Dame,
The Louvre and The Eiffel Tower.

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Our next stop was to get up close and personal to the
Eiffel Tower. The tower was built back in 1889 and since
then has become one of the world's most recognizable
structures. It stands 81 stories high and was only supposed to
be temporary. The tower had a 20 year permit and was to be
removed in 1909, but was later kept for communication purposes.
Since than over 200,000,000 people have visited,
making it the number one paid attraction in the world!

You are able to climb the tower, either by stairs or a lift to the first
& second levels. The third and highest level is accessible by elevator.
Every night the Eiffel Tower lights up for a ten minute display. This
happens every hour on the hour. This looks spectacular and there
are exactly 20 thousand lights on the Eiffel Tower, This is a must see!

We sat on the lawn with a banana and nutella crepe and enjoyed
the light show, once there you will be asked many times if you want
to buy an alcoholic beverage by the street venders, they are everywhere!

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The next day we went to the most visited art museum in the world,
Musée du Louvre! We were advised to get there early to avoid the
queues which seemed to work as we were able to walk straight in.

It is one of the largest galleries in the world, with 60,600 square meters
and 35,000 pieces of art on display. The most popular piece being
Leonardo Da Vinci's masterpiece, Mona Lisa. Now considered the most
famous painting in the world, it sits behind bulletproof glass.

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We than headed to Notre Dame Cathedral, which also pulls a
huge crowd so again try to get there early. We ended up queuing for
about 30 minutes to go up to the bell tower which wasn't bad compared to
other days. This is because they limit the amount of visitors that go up
at a time. You will pay a fee to do this but it is worth it. It is free to enter
inside the Cathedral and luckily they do allow photography inside.

This beautiful Gothic church was completed in 1345 and standing
at the western front, there is so much to love about this building.
Including The two bell towers that stand 69 meters high, the beautiful
Rose-stain glass windows and off cause the Gargoyles!

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We went up the 386 stairs leading to the bell tower and
got a close look at the Gargoyles. This is also one of the best
views looking back over Paris. There are five bells of Notre Dame
we went inside the southern tower to see the largest bell,
nick named Emmanuel which weighs 13 tons. This was also
where the story of the hunchback of Notre Dame was set.

It was then across town to Champs-Élysées, this is one of the
most famous streets in the world, full of boutique stores and rents
as high as one million dollars! As we strolled along the footpath
we approached the Arc De Triomphe.

This monument stands 50 meters high and is a shrine to those
killed during French Revolution. It is also a very busy intersection
of 12 main avenues, it is estimated that there is a car accident
every seven minutes and Insurance is void one you enter this round about.
We got the thrill of driving around the Arc De Triomphe several times
in a tour bus to the sound of Eye Of The Tiger stereo, it was awesome!

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Whilst in the French capital I suggest you try the French Cuisine.
We visited a Parisian bakery for a freshly baked baguettes, croissants
and macaroons. Whilst out for dinner we had snails for entree, Frog legs
for main and creme brulee for dessert!

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And for the best night out in Paris, head to see a cabaret show at the
Moulin Rouge! We had a great table near the front-side of the stage
and enjoyed a three course meal. The show now features 100 dancers,
as well as acrobats, magicians, clowns and a live orchestra.
There is a magical atmosphere inside and this has been a tradition since 1889,
there were many set designs, costumes, songs and titties...
as well as the famous Cancan! All up it was an entertaining show,
it is very family friendly now days, more than i was expecting.
Not as sexy as the movie version but well worth the price of the ticket.

Getting around Paris is best on a tour bus as it is a very large and
populated city and the attractions are quite spread out.
There is the metro train service which is good to but all the
signs are in French, most of the taxi drivers only speak French too
so you will need a good idea of where you would like to go.
But as you can see there is alot to love about the city of love...

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Posted by PhotoGlen 23:47 Archived in France Tagged tower paris france the eiffel cuisine de rouge photography arc moulin notre dame photoglen louve triance Comments (0)

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