Of all of the places I visited throughout Europe, I have to say that Rome was probably my least favourite city as it's just so busy and so full of tourists (yes I know I was one of them). After arriving, I was incredibly happy I delayed my flight by a day and stayed in Budapest to go paintballing because after a couple of days, Rome was enough. That's not to say I had a terrible time. I explored the Colosseum and the Vatican and was reunited with my Canadian friend from Berlin, Brandon.
As it turns out, I was lucky to even be let in to the Vatican. It was a hot day and I was wearing shorts and a singlet and arrived to see signs with crosses stating that anyone in my attire would not be let in. Having already purchased my ticket, I tried to make it look as though my legs were at least covered by tying my jacket around my waist. I was in luck and security let me through! I didn't know what to expect as I'm not religious nor am I a huge art fan but I was quite blown away by the Vatican and all of the artwork it holds along with the architecture of the buildings. Definitely something worth seeing.
Brandon and I booked a day trip to the coast of Italy to climb Mt Vesuvias and explore the ruins of Pompeii. This was one of my favourite days! Climbing Vesuvius, an active volcano, was amazing and one of the best things I've done. We had about the most boring tour guide I've ever had for our Pompeii trip but it was still a great experience, and a little overwhelming, to see what remained of the city of Pompeii.
Florence & Venice
After a few days in Rome, the beautiful city of Florence was a nice change. I'll admit, the majority if my time in this city was spent eating food and drinking wine.. Hence why I loved it so much! But that's what Italy's all about right?
It was in Florence that I ran into Luke who I met briefly in Rome. Luke is a fellow Tasmanian and we discovered we had a lot of friends in common. We also discovered that we had a very similar background and reason behind our travels. Luke had also lost his little sister to cancer. We bonded over our pasts and immediately became great friends. Luke and I found a great Italian food market with fresh pasta and delicious wine. We took our American friend Max there (so we could visit a second time) and found it to be a great place to get trapped when a thunderstorm broke out that night.
Whilst in Florence, I also did a day trip to Pisa and the beautiful Cinque Terra. This whole day turned out to be a little bit of a disaster with out trains being constantly delayed but we made the most of it and got to experience one of the prettiest places in Italy. At the end of the night, waiting for another delayed train, we decided to buy some red wine to split amongst a few of us in the group. So the night ended with us drinking red wine from McDonalds cups at the train station (classy I know!).
After Florence I spent a night in Venice which was another beautiful city. One night was enough as it was a nice place to visit and to see but other that than, there wasn't a terrible lot to do and it was extremely expensive. After a night in Venice, I set off to London!
I arrived in London and was reunited with my friend Katy whom I met in Greece. Katy and her housemates were kind enough to let me stay for the 6 nights of my visit. I was so grateful to have a bit of a break from hostels and just relax for a few nights.
My first day in London was one I'd been looking forward to for quite some time - the Harry Potter movie tour!!! Growing up, I was a huge fan of the Harry Potter books (not ashamed at all) and had read them all about 10 times. This was such a great day to see how the movies were made and also to see a lot of the sets and props including Privet Drive and Diagon Alley. Katy and I also tried Butterbeer which turned out to be awful. But the day itself was amazing and everything I'd hoped for since I was a young muggle dreaming that someday I'd get to go to Hogwarts.
F. The following day, Katy became a tour guide (a great one at that) and took me on a walking tour around the major sights of London - the London Eye, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace etc. We also bought tickets to see Once on West End which was a great show and had us both in tears by the end (typical girls).
Whilst in London, we also managed to catch up with our New Zealand friends who we also met in Greece - James, Christian and Michael who had a house party one of the nights I was there. Prior to the party we'd been laying on the couch watching the Harry Potter movies after our movie tour.. But decided that seeing as I'm never in London, we should actually leave the house.
I had such a great time in London but after 6 nights, it was time to head to New York!
New York was not in my original Europe plans but I decided that it was much cheaper and closer for me to visit from London than it was for Austrlaia so I booked to go and didn't regret it.
My first night, I met up with some of my clients from back home in Melbourne who were away as part of their Christmas party. We had a really nice dinner and then ventured to a fancy rooftop bar in which I got an incredible view of the city. Having been backpacking for several months, I only had one pair of shoes - my Converse sneakers. I was a little nervous I wouldn't get into a fancy bar in these but luckily, they didn't seem to notice my feet!
Feeling quite jet lagged after the flight from London I had planned to sleep in the following morning but in true hostel form, had a room mate who set her alarm for 7am and didn't hear the alarm for about an hour. This happened 2 days in a row and lacking sleep, I asked to switch rooms but as it turned out, said roommate had to leave that day!
New York was a lot of fun with so much to do. My favourite part was definitely Broadway. As a singer, I love any sort of musical performance so to be able to see a couple of shows on Broadway was a dream come true. I was able to get cheap front row tickets to The Lion King which I had been wanting to see for years and also saw The Book of Mormon which was the funniest show I've ever seen. I also ate dinner in a restaurant in which the waiters all sing whilst you eat your meal as practice for them to try and make it to Broadway.
I saw a lot while in New York. I was staying in Brooklyn so it was a great contrast to see the trendy neighbourhood of Brooklyn compared to busy city of Manhattan. I also took a walk along the Brooklyn Bridge, saw the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building and took a visit to Ground Zero where I was a little alarmed to see that they were charging people to enter a museum. It didn't seem right that such a tragedy had been turned into a means to make money from tourists. I also met a local named Teddy who showed me around Central Park and invited me out with him and his friends.
After I'd seen a lot of New York, I decided to head to Canada a little earlier than I'd originally planned so I booked an overnight bus and arrived early Monday morning with my Canadian friend Steve waiting to pick me up.
I stayed with Steve and his family in the suburb of Burlington, about an hour away from Toronto. Burlington was a beautiful place that looked like it was out of a movie with big colorful autumn trees and perfect double story suburban houses. It was a lovely little neighbourhood where everyone seemed to know each other and all of the neighbours were friends. Steve's family were some of the nicest people I've ever met and were extremely welcoming in having me in their home.
We spent a day in Toronto being tourist as visiting the CN Tower (114 stories high) and the aquarium.
Glass floor at the CN Tower
Our next day as tourist was spent at the beautiful Niagara Falls; somewhere I'd always wanted to visit. We got a great deal that included accommodation, dinner vouchers, laser tag, mini golf, a mirror maze, a haunted house and a whole heap of arcade game vouchers (my Guitar Hero and basketball skills have improved dramatically). Fair to say, we had a lot of fun. And of course, I got to see the Falls. We visited at day and night so I could see them lit up at night as well as see them clearly in the day time. The Falls were as beautiful as I imagined.
I also got to meet a few of Steve's friends for Halloween in which I made great use of my Oktoberfest costume. I had been very excited for Halloween being it's not a huge event in Australia and was excited to see all of the pumpkins on everyone front porches throughout the week. Going to Canada, I was also hoping to see snow. On the day after Halloween I got my wish and it snowed first thing in the morning!
The following day, I arrived at the airport to head back to New York and found myself in a bit of a pickle. As I'd taken a bus instead of catching my original flight from New York, the airline had canceled my return flight and it was going to cost me $300 to book another flight. So I was stranded in Buffalo, not really sure what to do. Eventually I managed to find an 8 hour train for $100 so I took this option.
I spent 2 more nights in New York. I was able to catch up with another friend from Greece, Kara who arrived the day before I had to leave. Kara and I explored the shops of 5th Avenue, picked out our engagement rings at Tiffanys (yes we're both single and pathetic.. get in line boys) and took a walk around Central Park.
I also caught up with my new friend Teddy again who took me to a really cool restaurant where we got to eat in the wine cellar.
The following day I got up at 5.30am to catch my flight back to London before heading to Paris the following day. I wasn't having much luck with airports because I turned up to find they'd overbooked my flight by 50 people. They couldn't fit me on the flight but booked me a flight directly to Paris later that night and gave me a $700 flight voucher.. So at least I won't have to pay for flights for my next holiday! I'm thinking maybe a white Christmas somewhere next year.
I was quite exhausted by the time I arrived in Paris and spent most of the first day sleeping. I did get up to go and see Notre Dame later in the afternoon and that night my friend Cyril who I was staying with for a couple of nights showed me the sights of Paris at night time.
The following day, I relived my child hood and went to Disneyland.
The next day I went to stay with an old work friend, Ollie and his girlfriend Lauren for my last couple of nights in Paris. During this time, they showed me some more of the sights of Paris including Sacre Coeur, a wall that had "I Love You" painted in every language and a delicious creperie where I had a Nutella and banana crepe.
I also visited the Louvre and I went to a show at the Moulin Rouge. I was very happy to find that I was seated at the front row table at the Moulin Rouge. My little sister had always wanted to see a show at the Moulin Rouge so I'd promised myself I'd go, no matter what the cost. I think my sister was definitely with me that night as I got picked to go up on stage as part of one of the acts and had to pretend to be a ventriloquists dummie. My sister would have loved to see the look of horror on my face when I got called up on stage!
After a final breakfast consisting of fresh croissants, I said goodbye to Ollie and Lauren and made my way to the airport for my flight home. After 20 hours of flying, I arrived safe and sound in Melbourne and was met by my good friends Kristy and Shannon at the airport.
The best parts
I still can't quite believe that my trip is over and as I've mentioned before, the best part about it was definitely the people I met along the way. It was absolutely the trip of a lifetime and I did everything I'd wanted to do (in saying that, I've also found so many other places to add to my bucket list). These are some of the highlights of the past 4 months (in no particular order).
1. Paintballing, beer biking and open mic night in Budapest
2. Sziget Festival
3. Niagara Falls
4. Seeing The Lion King and The Book of Mormon on Broadway
5. Moulin Rouge - the show and getting pulled up on stage
6. Spending a week on a yacht in Croatia
8. Scootering and quad biking around the Greek Islands
9. Escape room in Prague
10. Italy day trips - climbing Mt Vesuvius and visiting Pompeii plus seeing Cinque Terra
11. Zip lining in Portugal
12. Skinny dipping in Portugal (it was a first for me... Sorry readers)
13. Harry Potter tour in London
14. Cycling around Lake Como
Thanks for reading everyone. Cannot wait for my next adventure!!