When I was in University, I did an exchange semester in London from Sydney in 2010. As part of my semester holidays, I visited Germany for the first time and thus began my love affair with this gorgeous country. I remember not liking beer, but as a University student when I learnt it was cheaper than buying water in Munich - I was sold! :)
Fast forward 7 years - I went back to Munich (and Shankar for the first time) for the biggest ever beer festival - Oktoberfest.
We arrived in Munich on Thursday night and had Friday to explore the city of Munich. We decided to go on a walking tour to soak in the culture and get a quick history lesson of Munich.
But for those who have read our previous blog posts know that we get bored half way through walking tours and always end up doing our own thing and exploring at our own pace! We checked out the markets and tried yummy hot chocolate! We also bumped into a few Sydney friends (Tolga & Murat) who were there in Munich on Murat's bucks weekend! Such a small world!
The one thing we did learn from our walking tour were the traditions behind Oktoberfest. History says that King Ludwig I was married to Princess Therese and they invited pretty much all of Munich to celebrate their royal event! (Sounds like a typical Indian wedding to me :D ). The event was so successful that it was celebrated every year for the whole of Bavaria which gave rise to the tradition of Oktoberfest. Today, it is one of Munich's (if not Germany's) biggest International festival spanning across 2 weeks!
One of Shankar's groomsmen - Sabinesh and his wife, one of my bridesmaids - Natalia, moved to Munich last year for work. They are one of our closest friends and it was absolutely amazing seeing the city through a local's perspective. We also stayed with them in their beautiful apartment, right in the heart of the city!
Pro tip: Accommodation in Munich during Oktoberfest is CRAZY expensive. I'm talking minimum over £400 per night per room CRAZY. We were SO lucky to have our friends there and we crashed in with them. But, if you are visiting Oktoberfest in Munich - plan your accommodation well in advance!
We visited Munich on the very first weekend of Oktoberfest - in September! The most common misconception of Oktoberfest is that is held in October, when it actually takes place in September. It usually ends on the first weekend in October, but the big chunk of it takes place during the last two weeks of September. At noon on the first Saturday of the festival, the Mayor of Munich taps the first beer keg which marks the official opening of the festival. It pays to arrive early (say 8:00 - 9:00am?), to get a good spot and get up close and personal to the festivities. We were planning to be there by 9:00am, but I had a bit of a costume drama in the morning!
Typically, men wear the Lederhosen and women the Drindl. These are traditional Bavarian outfits worn all year round but mostly glorified during the Oktoberfest festival.
Since we were only going to be there for the weekend, we decided to save some money (as these outfits are quite expensive) and buy a knock-off version from Amazon. But you get what you pay for - the costumes that we received were really low in quality. My dress was also a "sexy" Oktoberfest Drindl, and it was so short that I couldn't realistically wear it outside the house!
We decided to buy the real outfits before heading to the tents and thus couldn't make it in time to watch the opening! :(
Pro tip: Oktoberfest is celebrated around the world. Once you go to your very first one, it is highly likely you will go again (yes - it is AMAZING) Ofcourse, you can go the Amazon cheap costume one time use route - or just buy a decent one you can use for a few years! Fun fact: The men's lederhosen is never to be washed and is handed down generations!
So, the Oktoberfest festival is basically a massive area with 6 major and other smaller "tents". When I say tents, picture gigantic tents that can hold over 5000-7000 people. The 6 main breweries of Munich make up the 6 big tents - Paulaner, Hofbräuhaus, Augustinerbräu, Spaten, Hacker-Pschorr & Löwenbräu. We tried to get into the first three but tables are booked out almost a year in advance (or you come in at 6:00am). There was no way we could get a table in these main tents so we tried our luck at a smaller tent called Nymphenburg Sekt.
We got a table next to this amazing group of people! The lady was Australian, now married and living in Germany. We had so much fun with them! One of them loved Neeraj's outfit and actually swapped costumes with him!!
The whole day in the tent, you dance, sing - and ofcourse drink beer! Lots of it!!
If you aren't a drinker or don't like beer, there's also wines and non alcoholic beverages available. Outside the tents, there are rides and games to keep you entertained. Pro tip: Don't lose your table! You cannot get served if you don't have a table. We took turns to go outside always leaving a few people in charge of our table. Also, some tents don't allow you to come back in after a certain time. Be sure to check before you exit the tent :)
After a few hours of drinking, there were new people around us and we ended up drinking with the General Manager of Dropbox and a HR Manager from Prada!
It was such an amazing experience, being with soooo many people just enjoying and having a good time. Surprisingly, even with so much alcohol consumed, we didn't really witness any fight or nuisance. Everyone was there - just to have a good time! :)
Before we went home, we all hopped on a few rides and got some hot dogs from a street vendor. The atmosphere outside the tents is buzzing and vibrant until late hours of the night.
We came home around mid-night and completely crashed into our beds. The next day, we were too tired to go sightseeing and decided to leisurely explore Munich. We went for a walk along the river and chilled out until we had to head back to London.
We had to leave early on Sunday and didn't want to leave at all! Shankar and I both absolutely loved the experience of our first Oktoberfest! The tents have so much energy and it is almost impossible not to have fun when you are there!! Also, saved the best for the last - I beat Shankar in a beer drinking competition! :D To watch the video, click here #TeamPossum
Have you been to Oktoberfest? What was your experience like? We would love to know! Comment below and let us know :) Lots of love, V & S
The decision to go to Stockholm was quite a rushed one. We were just about to go to sleep and as always I am on Sky Scanner scouting cheap tickets till the second I close my eyes at night. I found a great deal to Stockholm and in literally 5 mins, with flights booked, we were going to go to Sweden in a few weeks!! Now, we usually do a lot of research prior to booking a trip looking at flight details, accommodation costs, where to stay, what there is to do in the city but since we moved to London other than Stratford Upon Avon, we hadn't been on an international trip just the two of us! So we were keen to spend some quality monkey + possum time and didn't really research prior to booking our flights.
A few days later, when we were looking at the details we realised that our flight was in fact going to land in the outskirts of Stockholm (approx 2 hours away outside of the main city) at Skavsta - a regional airport! No wonder the flights were so cheap! :) Pro Tip: Always check the airport location if you are booking flights with cheaper airlines like Ryanair and Easy Jet. These airline carriers may not always fly in and out of main airports.
We landed at Skavsta really late on the Friday night and decided to crash at an Airport hotel for the night. Connect Hotel was a fabulous choice - right at the airport, really nice, clean and includes breakfast!
The next day we made our way to Stockholm City. Getting to the city isn't difficult from Skavsta but you do need to evaluate all the options in terms of costs and travel time. We decided to bus it there and train it back. If at all you end up at Skavsta and want to know more details on how to get to Stockholm City, leave us a comment and we'd be happy to help you guys out :)
In Stockholm, we were staying at THE COOLEST place! We were staying in a SHIP docked in the city! The massive cruise liner, M/S Birger Jarl offers accommodation without having to be on a cruise! (They do offer a complimentary lunch time cruise though!)
All checked in, we headed to Gamla Stan - the old town of Stockholm. It was approx a 20 minute walk (on a very windy day!) but we didn't mind! We were in a new city and we couldn't wait to explore it! :D
This is the heart of Stockholm with winding narrow cobblestone streets, colourful buildings, beautiful architecture and lots of buzz!! This is the essence of the city! You could easily spend hours getting lost in Gamla Stan.
The main iconic colourful buildings in the heart of Gamla Stan are good places to stop for a quick bite. Agreed - it is heavily packed with tourists, but it is a great spot to people watch and soak in all the euphoria of the city! :)
After a quick bite, we headed to The Royal Palace. Set on the river bed, the Palace is the official residence of the Swedish monarch. The magnificent structure is beautiful from outside but even more impressive from the inside!
Since it was just us two, with no itinerary planned, we spent the rest of the afternoon walking around Gamla Stan, exploring new alley ways and posing for the camera! :D We also found a very chic cafe called Fabrique for fika! (Fika is a concept in Swedish culture with the basic meaning "to have coffee", often accompanied with pastries, cookies or pie! Yum yum!)
Being a Scandinavian country, Stockholm is a playground for architects and graphic designers enthusiastic about form and function - The home of IKEA where clean functional lines meet beautiful designed aesthetics. We didn't have a chance to go all the way to IKEA (and let's face it, once you are in, you can never get out and we were only here for the weekend ;)) but to get my Scandinavian design fix, we headed to Design Torget. It sells everything from ceramics, household goods and textiles in minimalistic flavours yet exuberant floral designs. I must have died and gone to Design heaven a few times in this store!
One for me and one for him! After spending more time than we should have in this store, we decided to go to a Akkurat a Whiskey Bar and get Shankar his fix! :) Highly recommend! It has over 400 whiskeys! Also, if you are into your whiskeys, ask for a bartender that knows his stuff. We can't remember his name, but the bartender had crazy amount of whiskey knowledge and recommended some amazing whiskeys to us!
For dinner, we had to try Swedish meat balls! We headed back to Gamla Stan to head to Gastabud, a small non-assuming restaurant on the outskirts of Gamla Stan. We had to wait 45 mins for a table but the wait was totally worth it. The meatballs were HUGE and absolutely delicious! :D Pro Tip: Try and go a little earlier to avoid peak times as they don't do reservations.
We took a detour on our way back to our hotel / ship via Klevgrand Street (12 Klevgrand Street, to be precise). Once you get there, climb the stairs to the top for a beautiful view of Stockholm at night!
Next day, we decided to visit the Photography Museum - Fotografiska. Being amateur photographers we were exciting to visit this museum - especially since it was highly recommend in every travel blog I read however it was strictly ok. Perhaps, it was just the current exhibition? The cafe at the top does have an amazing view - so do check out the top floor on your visit.
We decided to chill out the rest of the day in another one of Stockholm's islands. (Sweden's capital is spread out over 14 islands and hence why touted Venice of the North) We headed to Ostermalm - one of Stockholm's richest suburbs. Head to the intersection of Karlavagen and Engelbrektsgatan street and if you walk along Karlavagen you'll see beautifully lined trees running all the way from the edge of this district all the way through Ostermalm culminating in a gorgeous massive fountain. There are plenty of restaurant and cafes along this island of trees for your Fika time :)
Our Sunday was really cut short as we had to accommodate for the travel time back to Skavsta airport. Two things we missed out on that we would have loved to check out:
1. Stockholm Public Library (for all you Instagram lovers) &
2. Rosendals Trädgård (for fresh farm to table food)
(If you have been here, let us know and share your experiences with us! Would love to hear from you :) )
All in all, I can summarise Stockholm in a poem I came across (which I tweaked a little) :)
Along the simple line
a stream of pebbles
on the unruffled forehead
of a colourful wall
in joyful and narrow openings.
where numerous geometrical shapes
border an innovative perception
movement meets stillness
hey, there you are!
Art and technicality of fantasy and creativity
there your beauty resides
along the line
along the water
an essence providing meaning to all forms
I proclaim your motionless dance
“There’s no leaving Edinburgh, No shifting it around: it stays with you, always.”
- Alan Bold
We came for the Fringe Festival, but we were enchanted by so much more. Edinburgh is truly one of the most magical cities in all of Europe, possibly the entire world. From the beautiful castles, atop lush green hills, the incredibly friendly locals, to the legacy of J.K.Rowling and Harry Potter, this city has so much to see. Oh and yeah, and they have this little drink known as whiskey ;)
There is so much to see in Edinburgh but, for us, this weekend was all about the Fringe Festival, the largest performing arts festival in the world. For those that do not know the history of the Fringe Festival, it began exactly 70 years ago. Eight theatre groups turned up uninvited to the, then, International Festival. Since they could not perform within the festival itself, they decided to perform on the outskirts, or “fringes”, of the festival. And thus, a legacy was born and each year millions attend from all over the world to watch a range of artists including dancers, musicians, comedians, magicians and many others. During such time, the vibe of the city is truly spectacular.
Walking through the streets of Edinburgh, you cannot help but feel the magic of the Fringe in every street corner. Along the streets you see everything from guitar shredding buskers to flame throwing unicyclists.
The official festival itself has a variety of both free and paid shows. Pro tip: for anyone planning to visit the Fringe next year: Firstly, make sure that you factor in to account the time taken to get from one end of town to the other. Edinburgh is a very hilly city, and there are shows all over the city, so it can sometimes take up to 20 minutes to walk from one location to another. Secondly, keep in mind that for free shows, the performers are still trying to raise money and will definitely ask for donations at the end of the show. So be sure to carry some cash with you to the shows.
Not wanting this to be a review of the festival itself, I will not go into detail about each specific show we saw, but I have to mention a few shows that stood out for us.
The first was a magician called Ben Hart. Combining gripping storytelling with swift sleight of hand, he had us all spellbound for the entire hour. Definitely worth every cent! Not to mention, whilst waiting for the show to begin, we happened to run in to Mark Gaitis (a.k.a. Mycroft from Sherlock Holmes).
The second was a show called Fagin’s Twist, a hip-hop dance drama adaptation of Oliver’s Twist, put on by the Avant Garden Dance Company. Having never seen a hip-hop dance drama before, I was not really sure what to expect. However, I was captivated from the first second. The way that the hip hop choreography was infused with enthralling dialogue and seemingly effortless set changes had me totally mesmerised.
The final show that I want to mention was comedy-magic show, by Paul Dobric. With his wit and wizardry he had as going from cracking laughter to silent awe in the matter of seconds.
Aside from the Fringe, the other thing that was taking place that weekend was the much anticipated boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor. After our initial plan, of staying up and watching it live at a bar in Edinburgh was stymied by the fact that most places within walking distance were not showing the fight, we decided to opt for plan B. What was plan B? Plan B was waiting until Sunday morning and downloading the fight and walking through the streets with a selfie-stick watching the fight. After 4 or 5 rounds (which we watched in between Fringe shows), we decided that we wanted to find a quiet bar and sit down to watch it. In doing so, we stumbled upon a secret Gin Bar, called 56 North. Having finished watching the fight, we took some time to enjoy some fantastic gin cocktails, some yummy food and chilled out in the garden before heading back out to enjoy the festival.
Finally, we could not come to Scotland without trying haggis and whiskey. For Haggis, we went to a small restaurant called Howies, which incidentally also happened to be next to a famous Harry Potter paraphernalia store called Diagon House (double tick!!). As for the Haggis itself, it reminded me a bit of a pastry-less shepherds pie, but we both definitely enjoyed it. For vegetarians, Howies also serve a vegetarian haggis.
For the whiskey, we chose the aptly named, Whiski Bar and Restaurant. Now although, this was not meant to be an official whiskey tour of Scotland (don’t worry, that is definitely on the cards too!), we wanted to try a range of different Scottish whiskeys. We chose a menu item called, the Whiskey Flight, featuring four different whiskeys from different parts of Scotland. For those, like me, just getting into Whiskeys, this is a fantastic way to introduce yourself to the different flavours from the various regions of Scotland.
We both thoroughly recommend visiting Edinburgh, especially during the Fringe. It was an incredible weekend, and honestly the only downside for us, was how quickly it went.
We did not get time to visit the castle, the museums, do the Harry Potter trail and many of the other things that Edinburgh has to offer. Oh well! I guess that just means we will have to come back to Edinburgh again!!! And don’t worry, we definitely will :)
Love, S & V
Know your own happiness
- Jane Austen, Sense & Sensibility
For us, happiness means getting to travel! :)
We usually try and do at least 2 international trips in a month but along with exploring European cities we also want to explore the English countryside and last weekend we got to do just that!
We hired a car and drove to Jane Austen's hometown - Bath for the weekend.
We traveled with Swati & Vas and Neeraj & Deepti - so we hired a 6 seater van to be able to be together on our mini road trip! Pro tip: Hiring a car in London is bit of an ordeal - with crazy high deposit rates (for a 6 seater car, £1200 as deposit) or having to pick it up from Heathrow. In hind sight, it would have been better for us to hire a car from near our home instead. There's also always the option to train it to Bath and hire a car from there.
We reached Bath fairly late on the Friday night. We chose to stay at University accommodation to keep the costs low. We didn't expect much, but to our surprise we got the whole dorm (approx 8 or 9 rooms) to ourselves! It had a decent living area and a huge kitchen. Down side? The rooms all had single beds (except 1 which had a double) so all the couples had to sleep separately. The guys didn't complain about this arrangement - they got to keep the quilt all to themselves for the whole night! :D You can find out more about Uni accommodation in Bath here (It came to £16 per person for the night!)
Next morning, we woke up and headed out to explore Bath.
But first stop - food!
This is what I type in Google to find a restaurant:
" Most instagram worthy restaurant" :D
And it sure was!
In the heart of Southgate Bath there's this absolute gem of a restaurant called Cosy Club. It is set up like an old jazz club mixed with your granny's overstuffed living room packed full of eclectic keepsakes spread out in a light spacious setting. We sat outside in a covered balcony area overlooking and people-watching from up atop. Waiters dressed in velvet jackets and bowties served us our brunch and we happily spent a good hour or so in the cafe! Highly recommended!
Back outside, we explored the town centre and went snap happy with hundreds of umbrellas adorned high up in the streets! The whole area has a very 'family' vibe to it, with sun chairs lazed around on the fake grass in the middle of the centre. You could easily spend an hour here if you are looking to do something "in between" two attraction activities.
Next stop - The Roman Baths.
Pro tip: Try and go early morning or late evening when there's less crowds and queues.
The Roman Baths is a well-preserved Roman site for public bathing. Entry to the Roman Bath also covers the museum where you can learn about the history, how it was built and the general era. The museum is quite extensive, so if you want to listen to the entire audio guide, you'll need a few hours at least. We skipped the guide half way through the museum (and Googled the rest of the history) and went straight to the Baths. Google images always set high expectations for me - so be sure to expect crowds all along. The entry fee is also high (£17pp) but it is Bath's main tourist attraction and needs to be ticked when visiting this town!
The Abbey is next door to the Roman Baths, so be sure to check it out! Its beautiful inside with high stain glassed ceilings. Swati and I spent some time here testing our cameras and trying to capture the afternoon sun through the windows in various ways. There's also a tour which allows you to go to the top of the Abbey and the views are meant to be stunning from up there but it was all booked out the day we visited! :(
Highlight of this day was Thermae Bath Spas!
Bath is known for its thermal spas (with its massive Roman Bath influence) and its highly recommended that you book yourself for a spa treatment while you are visiting.
Thermae Bath Spas have a rooftop spa over looking the Abbey! It's absolutely gorgeous!!!!
A bit pricey but we had a blast and will highly recommend! Pro tip: There's an hour wait if you go during the day. Time your visit according to the sunset later on during the night. You'll find no lines and you get to enjoy gorgeous pink and orange skies over the Abbey! Only drawback: You can't take photos when inside :( So the image below is from Google just to give you an idea of what it is! :)
After dinner, we headed to our AirBnb which was actually towards London instead of Cotswald.
The AirBnb only had 2 rooms but had a sofa bed for the third couple. Neeraj & Deepti had gifted Shankar a Poker Set for his 29th birthday.'Poker & Tea' have now become a weekly tradition with all 6 of us getting really competitive when we play. We decided that the first couple that loses the game of poker has to sleep on the sofa bed.
After an hour of play, Shankar and I had won!! And literally earned our sleep! It was a fun and fair way to distribute the rooms and we all had a great time! :)
Next day, the plan was to head to Cotswold but as we slept fairly late playing Poker till the wee hours of the night, no one could wake up before 11:00am. We decided to check out Oxford instead as it would be on our way back home to London.
We didn't really check out too many things in Oxford and we would love to come back to visit the University. We walked along the canals and we did go to Oxford castle and climbed up the mount for views over the city. To be honest - could be missed :) There's so many better things to see in
Oxford! And better vantage points to overlook the city.
We stopped for lunch at Rickety Press, a funky corner pub in a quiet residential area. Pizzas were yummy they have a foosball table! We lost the guys there for a good half hour! :)
We wanted to visit the Christ Church Hall - where the Great Hall in Hogwarts from Harry Potter was shot but it closed by the time we got there. We really didn't plan to utilize this day in Oxford properly did we? ha!
But that's the beauty of these weekend trips - sometimes you can plan and see all that the city has to offer and sometimes, you just wing it - take it one step at a time at your pace and be content with what you get to see. For us traveling isn't about 'ticking off' the main attractions in a city - it is about exploring new places, learning about something different, and most importantly spending time with each other and having fun! :)
We decided to stroll along the city and ventured into the Christ Church Meadow next to it instead. You can see the back entrance of Christ Church Hall with acres of lush green gardens, almost burnt ivy along the Church walls and picturesque walk ways. We walked through the gardens all the way to the Botanical Gardens on the other side. Absolutely gorgeous!! Photo ops everywhere!!
By the time we walked out, it was time for us to head back to London.
So we would definitely love to come back to Oxford and really explore this city properly.
It was our first road trip with everyone but it definitely won't be the last one!
Have you been to Bath?
Did you do the Stonehenge?
Have you been to Oxford?
We would love to hear from you!
Leave us a comment below or message us on Instagram @100autumns_
Until next time,
Neeraj & Deepti are really good couple friend of ours that moved to London the same time as we did. Having them around has been really amazing and we've become closer as friends with our shared interests of board gaming, traveling and chilling out drinking Masala Chai late at night playing Poker. On one such night we decided that for each our birthdays we would travel to a different city and celebrate becoming one year old (wiser?) together.
It was Shankar's champaign birthday (29 years old on the 29th of July) and we all decided to go to Nuremberg, Germany for the weekend. I told a colleague of mine who is German that we were headed to Nuremberg and he couldn't understand why - as according to him there's nothing much the town has to offer. We decided to go regardless as we love exploring off-beat towns and well... the tickets were £25 pounds return from London! (Pro tip: Never search or book your holidays over the weekend, wait till Monday or Tuesday book your flight tickets)
We weren't expecting much, but to our surprise Nuremberg had a lot to offer with its rich history and culture.
Nuremberg has a long complex history. It was Adolf Hitler's favourite city seeing it as the most "German of all German cities". The city and its residents paid a hefty price for Nazi Germany's obsession with city. Despite its dark past, Nuremberg has a quaint experience.
We were living just outside the old town (about 20 mins walk) in a very lovely AirBnb home. You could possibly stay in the heart of Old Town to experience the town culture but you may have to compromise on the price. We didn't mind the walk as it gave us a chance to walk and explore the outskirts of the city.
We started our weekend in Nuremberg with a walking tour. Walking tours are a really great way to soak in the culture of the city and meet new people. Our tour guide was a lovely young guy who was clearly passionate about his city.
We met him at the Schöner Brunnen (a restored replica of a 14th century Gothic fountain). Legend has it that, there's a small ring somewhere in the fountain and if you can find it, you must twist it around three times for good luck! Being at the heart of Old Town with loads of tourists, the ring isn't that hard to spot! In fact they have now added an additional more visible ring on the other side of the fountain - especially for tourists!
We also saw the Altstadt & St. Lorenz Church in Old Town. Make sure you watch the Altstadt clock strike midday!
That weekend in July marked Nuremberg's largest annual world-music festival called Bardentreffen. Every year for a weekend in July, approximately 200,000 people flock to Nuremberg for free concerts over the 2 day period. The city is alive and buzzing with street musicians at every corner and small pop up concert stages. The middle of the town centre is cordoned off for a huge concert stage with food-market stalls lining up all around the make-shift concert area. Its an epic atmosphere and we'd highly recommend visiting Nuremberg during this weekend for an extra city buzz.
Unfortunately though, over the sound-checks and all the buzzing craze all around us, we couldn't really hear our tour guide. We quickly lost interest and decided to wander off on our own for the remainder of the day. Another reason why we wanted to leave our tour half way was because secretly, Neeraj, Deepti & I were planning a surprise for Shankar for his birthday! Our close friends, Sabinesh and Natalia (and Devshri visiting from Sydney) were coming up from Munich to celebrate Shankar's birthday!
We went for lunch at a very lovely restaurant just at the foothills of the Kaiserburg Castle.
(Definitely worth going up the castle and exploring the grounds. The view from up the castle tower is absolutely stunning as you overlook the entire city)
As we sat at the restaurant, Shankar had no idea about his surprise as our friends walked in with party hats singing the birthday song! :) We all had a great time and were excited to spend the day together :)
After lunch, we explored the Handwerkerhof area - an absolute step back in time. Situated just outside Old Town, but still in the city, it is the Handicraft market. Beautiful cobbled courtyard housing with a variety of traditional craft workshops selling handmade pottery, glass and crafts. The atmosphere is very authentic. There's also a few places to eat serving typical German food. Highly recommend!
Before dinner, we took a stroll around the city and lazed around on the "Love Island".
In the middle of River Pegnitz, "Liebesinsel" or Love Island, is the perfect spot to take a break, enjoy a cuppa or an ice cream, read a book and soak in the sun! We ended up playing cards and chilling out together, catching up on stories since we hadn't seen each other in a few months!
Saturday night ended with bidding goodbye to our friends from Munich. Shankar had a great birthday and it was so good to spend time with our friends again!
On Sunday, we visited the Nazi Party Rally grounds and the Documentation Centre. This city has a dreadful burden of history to bear, but it bears it honestly and well. Its hard to describe the emotions you feel when you are at this museum. It focuses on the history of the Nazi party rallies where mass gatherings were used by National Socialists propaganda for demonstrating to Germany the model of the "perfect national community"
I am fascinated by the World War II period and I really appreciated my visit here. The museum is quite large and you could easily spend half a day going in it. It is outside the main city centre - well outside the touristy Old Town so public transport isn't the greatest. We took a taxi here (approx 15 euros) and a bus (approx 4 euros each) back to Old Town.
Back in Old Town, we spend the rest of our night strolling across, checking out some of the concert and enjoying some street food.
We took an early morning flight home on Monday and went straight to work from the airport!
:) Ah.. the life of weekend travellers!
All in all, Shankar had a great time for his birthday and all of us got a new city to explore! Double win :)
“It will be the greatest trip of your life”.
“Oh my God! You guys are starting with the best trip”
“After you do this, how is any other trip going to even come close?”
With comments like these from friends that had already been sailing across Croatia trip, needless to say, Vruchi and I had pretty high expectations. This was one of the very first trips we booked when we decided to move to London.
Croatia has an official Yacht Week sail group which can be found here. However, going through the itinerary, we thought it involved way too many parties (something we knew we wouldn’t be too keen on doing every night). We opted for a slightly mellower Sail Croatia/Med Experience yacht week - highly recommended by our friends, so it was a no brainer for us. It follows the same route of islands as the official Yacht Week but provides some amazing non-party related items to explore to mix up your 8 days on the water. (Plus, Sail Croatia is owned and operated as a local Croatian company instead of Yacht Week’s American operators, so your Skipper for the week is a local Croatian)
We were all so excited when we landed in Split. This was it! This is what we had been waiting for. In my head, I had pictured a Richard Branson/Jordan Belfort-like yacht. This was going to be a week of luxury. When finally we get to ACI Marina at Split, in search of our Yacht, I spot some Sail Croatia flags and see some skippers waiting there. He points to a ship that's in total about the size of a single living room, except this has fit 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a kitchen!!
Ok, very funny! Where is our actual yacht? No .. that's it. Oh and by the way, with the two bathrooms, you can’t flush any paper so it has to go in a plastic bag and you have to pump water in order to flush. Welcome aboard your new home for the next 8 days!
So granted, inside the yacht was hardly the life of luxury for 8 days. However, thats the beautiful thing about travel. You get pushed out of your comfort zone, you learn things about yourself, and those that you travel with, and you experience new cultures, countrysides and cuisines. That was exactly what we got in our week of sailing in Croatia.
We spent our days sailing through the seas, sitting on the top of the yacht taking in the amazing landscape around us whilst the sun was beating down. Each day we would stop at a random point in the middle of the sea to swim in the most beautiful blue waters. By the afternoon, we would dock at a different town and get to explore the sights and sounds of the different islands of Croatia.
Sailing across the Adriatic Sea and exploring these small town islands was truly a beautiful and different way to see Croatia!
Our first night was spent in the island Brac. We had stopped in a tiny little town of only 80 people on a secluded little bay. After a brief swim stop, we got ready and went for dinner in the only restaurant in that town! The signature dish was grilled sea bass with lemon and a side of vegetables. Truly delicious, however it did seem like the restaurant was not ready for four boat loads of travellers, total 36 people including the skippers, all arriving for dinner at the same time. The poor staff probably did not know what to do when 30-odd people all ordered the fish!
The next day, we woke up with the Mediterranean sun and set sail again whilst enjoying some breakfast bought to us by our Skipper.
We chilled on the sun-deck, sailing through the bright blue waters of the Adriatic Sea soaking in the much missed Vitamin D! ;)
Our next stop was the island of Makarska. From the minute we docked at the port, there was a definite party vibe. As we were walking towards the beach in the mid afternoon, we thought we would bring the party with us and started blasting some music through our UE Boom. Such was the party atmosphere of Makarska, that before we knew it, we were in the street, dancing with some Slovakian tourists. The main party of Makarska is a pirate/sailor party that starts around midnight. We costumed up, made our way to the party and were amazed to find that this was set up inside a cave! A fantastic location and a truly fun night of partying.
The next day, we were off to Jelsa. We docked at a small port in Vrboska. In stark contrast to Makarska, this town had an wonderfully romantic charm to it. From the small canals to the little alley ways to the local street bowling matches to the sounds of the church bells ringing atop the hill, it was the sort of town that you would love to get lost in. The highlight of the town, and quite possibly of the entire trip was the afternoon we spent in Stari Grad - Hora farm. The farm is a UNESCO protected world heritage and, the minute you arrive there, you can truly understand why. Pictures do not do it justice.
We had booked a lunch and wine tasting package for the afternoon, and what is special about Stari Grad, is that everything on their menu is grown locally. If they don’t grow it, they don’t sell it. 100% pure organic. We tried a signature Croatian dish called Peka, a baked dish with meat and vegetables cooked for 4 hours in a large clay pot. An absolutely delicious meal. Come prepared with a massive appetite because the servings are huge! We also got to taste an amazing selection of local wines and olive oils. After lunch, we were taken on a tour of the farm itself and got to play with the dogs, chickens, donkeys and other farm animals in Stari Grad. It was a truly magical afternoon and a world apart from the hustle and bustle of Makarska. Not to mention, our tiny apartment in London.
The following morning, we set sail again .. this time to Hvar Palmizana.
From Hvar Palmizana, you can catch a water taxi to Hvar town where the main restaurants, bars and parties are. A return trip costs 25 kunas (£3). Due to adverse weather conditions, we spent two nights in Palmizana instead of one. As a result, we decided to explore Palmizana the first night and Hvar Town on the second.
As far as Palmizana is concerned, there is not really a whole lot to do. There’s a small little bay on the other side of the island, where you can swim. There are a few restaurants and cafes, but thats about it. Our experience with the locals was hit and miss. We had some extremely rude service at some places, but there was one restaurant called Restaurant Marina where the service was fantastic. The staff went over and above everything that you would expect of great service. For those who don't know, Vruchi likes chillies with everything and she had asked for fresh chillies with her pasta. Instead of just giving normal chillies, the chef whipped up this absolutely yummy cream chilli paste! We carried the left overs with us and had it for breakfast each morning with our eggs! Vruchi even wanted to carry it back to London - so delicious!
Another beautiful restaurant / lounge was Laganini. Highly recommend checking this out. Barefoot luxury - is the atmosphere here, where yo can sip cocktails and wind down in crisp white pergolas overlooking the setting sun.
Vruchi's sister Krish had flown in from Sydney and was traveling with us on this trip. They got to spend some quality sister time on this island!
On the second night, we decided to make the short (~15 min) journey via water taxi to Hvar Town. The town was definitely buzzing with tourists.
After exploring the streets of Hvar Town, we made our way to Hula Hula bar, just in time for the sunset. Hula Hula, is one of the two main clubs in Hvar (the other being Carpe Diem, which we did not go to), where hundreds of yacht week party goers enjoy some cocktails, music and dancing whilst they watch the sunset over beautiful Hvar. A special mention must go the live saxophone player, at Hula Hula, playing along with the music for over 3 hours non-stop! Incredible!!! We had a great time dancing for a bit, dipping in to the crystal clear waters, and then relaxing - sitting by the rocks watching the beautiful sunset.
The next day we set sail to our final island - called Sesula.
Being our last night before heading back to Split, we wanted to just relax and reflect on the week that was, whilst enjoying some local food and wine. We explored the island a little bit, which is quite easy to do on foot as you can literally walk over a hill to get from one side to the other.
As good as the local culture, the food and scenery were, we were all enamoured with the amazing, unobstructed view of the stars. After a relaxing dinner, we decided to sit on top our boat and enjoy the serenity of Sesula whilst gazing at the stars. Words can not begin to describe how amazing the view was.
The following day, we set sail back to Split where we spent the final night of our week in Croatia. There are a number of activities that one can take part in in Split, such as canyoning and kayaking, however due to the bushfires that were taking place in Croatia at the time, we were advised against it. Being our last night before heading back home, we wanted to explore the town of Split a bit more. We ventured out in search of a rooftop bar/cafe overlooking the town. In typical faux-hipster fashion, we found a quaint little rooftop bar called Libar, in a little alleyway in Split. The walls and stairs of the cafe are decorated with book pages. We asked the manager what the significance was, only to find out that Libar in Croatian means The Book. This cafe was home to the first book every published in Croatian. The author of that book was actually buried in the church across the street from the cafe.
What a week it was! From sailing through the beautiful islands, to amazing sunny weather, to spending a few hours every day swimming in middle of the seas, this was a trip that we will never forget. Some of the highlights of the trip included:
A special mention must also go to our skipper Andrija. Despite only being 21, Andrija’s professionalism, maturity and experience was well above his years and made the entire week a breeze for us. We would wake up every morning to find Andrija had cleaned the yacht and bought breakfast for us.
In summary, if you are looking for a cost-effective way to explore Croatia and it’s islands, then we would definitely not recommend this. In fact, we would probably recommend booking an AirBnb in Split for a week and, each day, sailing to a different islands as a day trip (which would cost approximately 100 euros per day. Just to give you all an idea, approx cost for the 7 nights on a yacht is 700 euros per person + food costs). However, if you are looking to experience a week of travel that will be different to any other trip you have been on, be thrown out of your comfort zone and see parts of the world that you would normally never get to see, then we would definitely recommend booking a week of sailing in Croatia. :)
Let us know if you have been sailing before and what were your thoughts?
S & V
'This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.' William Shakespeare
On the 1st of July 2017, Vruchi and I celebrated our 7 years together! Living in London now, we thought we would take this opportunity to travel to England’s beautiful countryside for the weekend to celebrate this milestone.
Our town of choice was the unmistakeable Strathford upon Avon. We decided not to stay in Strathford itself, as it can get quite touristy. Instead, we stayed a little off-beat in a town called Chadwick End (approx. 2 hours drive from London). We found a cute little barn on AirBnb, literally in the middle of nowhere. It elegantly combined quaint English countryside with modern amenities and interiors. We had the whole barn to ourselves but the host left us some cute goodies in a welcome basket! Highly recommend staying here :)
After driving up to Chadwick End on the Friday night, on the Saturday morning we began our journey to Strathford upon Avon, which was just a short 20 minute drive into town. For those that do not know, this town has been made famous for being the town that William Shakespeare, arguably the greatest playwright the world has seen, was born and brought up and lived his final years in.
And the town does not let you forget that for one second! From Shakespeare themed pubs and cafes, to numerous souvenir shops and museums and even to Shakespeare themed door knobs, the town has done an amazing job at preserving his history and legacy, even to this date.
We began our day by walking along the town’s Main Street, called Chapel Street. The exquisite charm of the town is beautifully captured through rows of Tudor houses with windows full of flower pots, lined along every street.
With Vruchi and I being the coffee snobs that we are, of course our first stop had to be a good cafe. We happened to stumble upon a cafe called ‘Garden Cafe’ which lured us in with great smelling coffee. However, the inside of the cafe, leads you through to a simple backyard style garden, cozy and perfect for the summer - which you cannot see from the street! The garden is perfect for all you Instagram lovers :)
After getting our fix of caffeine and Vruchi getting her Instagram photos, we were now ready to start exploring.
The main attractions are his birthplace, his ‘new place’ (where he lived the later part of his life) and Hall’s croft (where his daughter and her husband lived). There’s also his wife, Ann Hathaway’s cottage and his mother, Mary Arden’s farm, which unfortunately we did not get time to explore this time around. Entry to all of these attractions can be purchased through a single ticket (£26 pp) and is valid for the whole year.
To truly immerse ourselves in Shakespearean culture, we thought it best to see one of his famous plays. Instead of seeing a play at the Royal Shakespeare Company theatre, we ended up seeing a small re-enactment of Much Ado about Nothing, in the gardens of Hall’s Croft. A special mention must go to the drama students who came from the US to perform this play as a brilliant adaptation, set in post-WWII UK. We were told that this was part of their summer exchange program. This was a little gem that we only discovered from talking to the locals, so make sure you ask about what plays are currently on when you purchase your tickets.
We had a quick stop for lunch, at Strathford’s oldest pub called The Garrick Inn. It is a beautiful timber-framed building dating back to the 1400s! For vegetarians, be sure to try the spicy quinoa burger! Yum yum!
In the afternoon, we visited the Holy Trinity Church where Shakespeare is buried. The graveyard around the Church is actually quite serene overlooking the canals. You could easily spend an hour exploring the grounds. It's a great place to unwind, pause and a take a break from the hustle bustle of the town-centre as you watch the row boats pass by.
To see all the attractions, it will take you a good couple of days. However, if by the end of it, you are all Shakespeared out, there is still a lot more that Strathford has to offer!
We happened to be there during the River Festival! For 2 days every Summer, the riverside comes to life with live music, food stalls (including wood fired pizzas, and homemade jams), and a giant ferris wheel. This small town goes all out on the river bed of Avon. Details of the River Festival can be found here :)
We decided to hire a row boat (£6 pp) and row along the river, watching the markets and cute English cottages go by. Despite almost killing some ducks, and nearly capsizing when Vruchi decided to swap places on the boat mid-river, this was definitely an afternoon well spent and a wonderful chance to appreciate the serenity of Stratford Upon Avon!
All in all, it was a weekend well spent. For those looking for a beautiful weekend away, only two hours north of London, we thoroughly recommend Strathford upon Avon. Elegantly blending history and culture, not to mention the friendly locals, this endearing town captured our hearts.
Not to mention, it was a fantastic way to celebrate 7 years with my darling wife.
I would not wish any companion in the world but you.
For first time visitors to Rome, a trip to Rome would not be complete without a trip to The Vatican. However, both Vruchi and I, had already been to Rome and visited the Vatican. Some of the friends we were travelling with had not seen it, and Vruchi suggested that, given it is a weekend, it is best to see it on a Sunday because you get to witness the Papal Mass. This was something I never got to experience on my last trip, so I decided to revisit the Vatican while Vruchi explored an off-beat Rome (Read about her off-beat Rome here). This would later turn out to be one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
To set some context, on Saturday afternoon following our visit to the Colosseum and surrounds, our friendly tour guide Rado asked us if we would like to have a guided tour of the Vatican on the Monday. We told him that we were flying out on Monday and we are planning to go see it on Sunday. His jaw dropped and his response was “Be sure to get there early”. In our naivety, our response was “Yep, we are going to wake up around 7”. Rado laughed and said “If you are there at 7, you’re late!”.
Wow! Ok so 7am is late! So Saturday had to be an early night. Well that was the plan until we stumbled across the Jewish Ghetto. A few glasses of wine and some late night card games, and before you know it, it was 4am and none of us had slept. At this point we thought to ourselves, if we are going to be early, lets be EARLY!!! Within half an hour, we all showered, got dressed and got in cabs and by 5am we were outside St Peters Basilica.
Arguably the most significant religious building in the world, where thousands of people flock regularly, but that morning it was just us. I literally had the opportunity to stand right in the centre of Vatican Square and watch the sunrise over the Basilica with no soul in sight! Unheard of! We were tired, hungry and extremely sleep deprived. However, it didn’t matter though, it was worth it for that moment.
Around 5:30am, we walked over to the Vatican Museum and began “queuing up”. It was funny because we were the first ones there so we actually had to figure out where the queue starts. So after three and half hours of coffees, sugary snacks and lots of laughter to pass the time and keep us alert, the gates to the Vatican opened and we were the first ones in. We actually became minor celebrities that day, as some Japanese tourists wanted to get a photo with the ‘people that were first in line, standing here since 5:30am”.
The inside of the Vatican was spectacular, as you would expect. The Sistine Chapel is a sight to behold and it is impossible not to be spellbound by the exemplary artwork within.
Once we finished the Vatican Museum, we decided to see the Basilica from the inside. One experience I would thoroughly recommend is to climb the steps of the Basilica. A word of warning though, there are 500+ steps and it gets steep, hot and extremely narrow. Whether it was adrenaline, or deliriousness from sleep deprivation, we decided to push through the pain (and boy was there pain!) and climb those stairs. During the process, we got to see the Papal Mass from the inside of the Basilica and, albeit from far away, got to see the Pope himself.
As far as the view from the top. I honestly do not have words that could describe it. A 360 degree view of one of the greatest cities on Earth.
When we made it back down to the bottom, Vatican Square was packed as everyone was waiting for the blessings of the Pope. We were all so tired at this point, we just sat on the ground and reflected on the day that was.
Stood in the middle of an empty Vatican Square - tick.
First in line at the Vatican - tick.
Witnessed a mass inside the Basilica - tick
Saw the Pope - tick
Climbed to the top of the Basilica - tick.
So much for resting on the sabbath! ;)
Rome's headline acts need no introduction. But away from these historic crowd pleasers, there are a host of lesser known sights to be discovered!
While Shankar and our friends headed to their Vatican mass, Natalia (from Pretty Little Things) and I explored Rome - the non touristy way!
Here's what we discovered:
Located not too far from the Vatican, this 1919 old-school Roman Cafe, is as authentic as it gets. At the wood-paneled bar, you'll see the locals (mostly well-dressed Italian men) lined up in the mornings to get their espressos. This cafe is famous for its chocolate espresso, served in beautiful porcelain cups. I am more of a cappuccino person, but if you're into your espressos and piccolos, you'll love this place. Also, their 75% caviar chocolate is to die for!
Take a walk down picturesque Borgo Pio, a quaint little street that you will probably miss if you are headed towards the Vatican. Rome is filled with cute streets like this one and we stumbled across Borgo Pio only because we were in pursuit of beautiful, ornate doors. Yes, doors. :)
There's also tons of authentic cafes and restaurants on this street serving simple Italian food.
We wandered around this street and headed left through Vicolo D'Orfeo, only to be greeted by St. Peter's Basilica right in front of us!
We came back at night to Borgo Pio for dinner. Restaurants have their tables lined up outside on the street. Best way to enjoy your Penne Arrabbiata - outside, underneath the blue sky, sharing a bottle of wine with your best friends :)
Rome is a city to behold just about from every angle. However, as is so often the case, the best view of Rome is a bird's eye view. The panorama (not to mention the silence) from the top takes your breath away. Situated just over the Vatican, this hill isn't full of tourists (like Rome's other 7 hills). You could easily spend a few hours here, dangling your feet across the wall, or enjoying a cuppa from the nearby cafe as the sun goes down.
The Aventine Hill Keyhole
If I told you, there's a small keyhole the size of a 50 cent coin - and through it you could see St. Peter's Basilica in its full glory - would you believe me? I think you should, because it's true! A sweeping view of Rome is perfectly contained in the keyhole of a nondescript-looking door on Aventine Hill, neatly placing the dome of St. Peter's right in the centre.
Also, right around the corner from the door in question, is a small Church. Just inside the Church gates, is this cute Italian house - complete with red walls and flowers in the window! We just had to stop and take photos :)
As you walk down Aventine Hill, just on the corner of Via Manlio Gelsomini and Via Marmorata in Testaccio, is one old tram carriage - Rome's once upon a time historic mode of transportation - now finding new life as one of Rome's best coffeehouses. Lit with fairy lights and decorated with vintage bird cages, this is the perfect spot to get your afternoon coffee and snack fix!
Roof Garden Terrace Bar - Hotel Atlante Star
After a day of sight-seeing, wind down and catch the Eternal City sparkling at night from this roof-top terrace bar. Open until late, it is a perfect spot for after dinner drinks if you aren't ready to go to sleep yet! Special mention to our server for the night Tasha, who was extremely friendly & funny, telling us all about her journey from Russia to Italy! If you end up meeting her - tell her we say "Formaggio" :) (How do you say 'Cheese' in Italian when someone is taking your photo? :))
Chiesa di Santa Prassede
This tiny gem of a 9th century church is tucked away just around the corner of St. Peter's Basilica. Overshadowed by the Vatican, a wall and an inconspicuous side entrance door introduces visitors to enormous mosaic arches and beautiful detailed artworks on the walls - one of the most charming Churches in all of Rome! When we entered, it so happened that we got to witness a mass in procession with everyone singing in unison! Was truly magnificent.
Ristorante Wine Bar De' Penitenzieri
Like pretty much all of the above off-beat spots, we came across this wine bar by accident, and aren't we glad we did! A cozy and authentic cafe / bar, a short stroll from the Vatican with its charming atmosphere is full of nuns and priests (just after the mass). The walls of this bar are lined with wine bottles from all around the world. When I asked for the wine menu, the waiter simply pointed towards the walls! Basically, you could pick any bottle from the wall (each bottle has a price tag on it). If you're after wine by the glass - there aren't a lot of choices however I'd recommend the Chianti!
Rome is a city of Churches, but long before the Christians, Rome has one of the oldest, continually surviving Jewish communities outside the Holy Land. We were recommended to go here for dinner and try the meat and cheese platter - all kosher though! There are some wonderful, lively restaurants here serving delicious authentic Italian food.
Della Palma - 150 flavours of Gelato!
And finally, no trip to Italy is complete without eating their world-famous gelato! We found a place that served just that - but in 150 different flavours! Any flavour you can think of! Shankar tried Ferrero Rocher (his favourite) and Whiskey, while I tried "Mango (YUM) and Cookie Dough". Our friends were a bit more adventurous with their ice cream flavours with Peach, Coconut, Lemon & Lime and Cashew" Really hard to pick a few flavours in one cup, but oh so delicious!
...and that's our round-up of off-beat Rome. If you've read this far, you'll know that all of these places were found by exploring the city, walking through random alley ways instead of sticking to the main roads and actively trying not to seek out touristy attractions. I'm sure, the next time we go to Rome, we'll come across many more off-beat things to do that we've missed this time around. But that's the charm of this city - you'll find you'll discover something new about this city (and you) each time you visit!
Do you have a list of your off-beat things to do in Rome? Share with us in the comment section below or on our Instagram page! :)
The history, culture and the food that this city offers is unbelievable and honestly each time you visit, you get to experience something new! This post will give you our tips and tricks to cover the main touristy attractions and a few off-beat things to do to make the the most of your 3-4 day Rome trip!
Rome is set out in zones (similar to London) or 'Municipios'. Generally speaking, all the main tourist attractions are in the centre and for ease of convenience we'd recommend staying in the heart of the city. Having said that, Rome transport is extremely easy to navigate and depending on your budget you can venture further out.
We stayed in Municipio II, about a 30 minute walk north of the Colosseum, fairly close to the Vatican City. We were very lucky in finding our AirBnB, which was nothing short of a palace! Shared by 7 people, it came to approx $50 AUD (£28) per person per night.
The mighty Colosseum will be the focal point of your Rome trip - naturally. However, it is also the most touristy part of Rome (perhaps on par with the Vatican City) and if you don't plan ahead, you'll be stuck in long queues in the hot sun wasting away your entire day.
We recommend going to the Colosseum early and starting your 'sightseeing day' here. We also recommend taking a tour to 'skip the line' and the 2+ hour wait. We went with a local tour company and there are dozens of them just outside the Colosseum Metro Station. For €35 per person (negotiate the price down!!), the tour included direct entry to the Colosseum as well as a hilarious recounting of the history behind this great monument. Our tour guides were entertaining and knowledgeable, making the tour relatable without making it sound like a boring history lesson. It also included a tour of the nearby attractions like Palatine Hill (birthplace of Rome as we know today) & the Roman Forum (definitely a must-visit!). The tour was 2.5 hours long, however we explored around the area prior and after the tour, so give yourself at least half or more than half a day. Ps: Wear good shoes and carry water! :)
Arch of Constantine, Palatine Hill & The Roman Forum
These attractions are close to the Colosseum and are usually included in the Colosseum tour. If you aren't doing this with a tour guide, we would recommend reading about the history of the Palatine Hill & The Roman Forum prior to visiting so you know exactly what you are seeing! Especially the story of Antoninus & his beloved wife Faustina - greatest lovers in Roman History :)
Trevi Fountain (Fontana Di Trevi)
Legend holds that a coin thrown into the Trevi Fountain will ensure a return to Rome. This tradition dates back to the ancient Romans who often threw coins in the water to make the Gods of Water favour their journey back home safely! (Throw in a second coin if you're seeking love - even a third for wedding bells ;) !! )
We both had seen the Trevi Fountain during the day in our earlier trip to Rome, so we decided to come here at night. If it is your first visit to Rome, we'd recommend doing both! :D The Fountain is just as dramatic and all-powering during the day however, at night with the lights and the slight crisp air, it does have its own charm. :)
Spanish Steps (Spagna)
With its irregular butterfly design, the beautiful “Scalina Spagna”, or Spanish Steps are a great place to just sit down, relax and people-watch! Situated in the up-market area of Rome, you'll find expensive shopping, boutiques and over-priced restaurants surrounding the Steps, however you can grab a gelato and take an afternoon break just chilling around the area.
Funny story though - On the day we were visiting the Spanish steps, I had a few things to do for work. I decided to join later and meet our friends and Shankar at the Spanish Steps. Having mapped it out from our AirBnb to the steps, I was confident I was going the right way until it was too late - and I was lost! I had ended up at the Colosseum and had to take the Metro back. With no phone data and no way to contact anyone, I made everyone panic for a good one hour as no one knew where I was and couldn't contact me! I did manage to get to the Spanish Steps a good hour and a half later, frantically looking around for familiar faces in the crowd. I heard my friends screaming my name from the top of the Steps! With hugs all around, I was glad I was back with everyone but that just meant we couldn't really relax or enjoy the area as much - as most of our time was spent looking for each other, but we will never forget such an experience :D
The most fascinating part of the Pantheon is its giant dome inside, with its famous hole in the top (the eye of the Pantheon, or oculus). If you stand inside in the middle of the Church, you'll look up to a perfect circle!
We waited approximately 30 minutes in line to get inside and didn't take a 'skip the line' tour this time as it wasn't a long queue and there was plenty of buzz outside with live musicians, horse carriages and street artists.
Piazza Navona is one of the largest and most beautiful piazza squares in Rome, certainly impressive and worth visiting. There's a plethora of restaurants and cafes along the sides if you want a quick bite, or you can simply spend time hanging about in the buzzing square.
100 autumns tips & tricks:
1. Skip the line passes are totally worth it - especially in summer, peak touristy season! You might also want to combine it with a guided walking tour to really sink your teeth in the history behind the monuments.
2.Vatican: If you get to the Vatican at 7:00am to queue up - you’re late! Read our separate blog post on the Vatican City!
3. Food: If the restaurant is close to the touristy attractions, run away. If the restaurant has more than 30 tables, run away. If the restaurant serves a “tourist-menu”, run away. To find the best food in Rome, you need to get lost! Find a restaurant that does traditional wood-oven pizzas and the best ones usually have an old Italian grand-pa sitting outside the joint.
4. Wander around, get lost and explore the city, once you are done with the main check-list of to-do attractions. Check out our off-beat Rome blog post here.
5. If you are in Rome for more than 2 days, get a metro pass. You get a 24 / 48 and a 72 hour pass valid on all trains and buses. Totally worth it!
... And that's it! Let us know if you enjoyed reading that and if you have any suggestions. We are still getting used to writing and haven't yet figured out our style. Let us know if you'd like us to go more in detail or just send us a message and we can help out if you are visiting Rome soon.