A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: GabriellaMarika

A Few Favourite Views

From San Gimignano to the Vatican City

sunny 32 °C

My feet officially hate me...
Yeah.. Ouch is right. But with all the walking we've been doing around Italy, we've also got to see some amazing views that are worth a few swollen ankles and blistering heels.

Here are a few videos from some of our favourite Italian sites...

San Gimignano: The Farm
Remember how I told you we could see San Gimignano's main city off in the distance during lunch? Look for a small bunch of tall buildings. There are currently 14 of these towers still erected... Think it's a lot? You should have been there when there were 72 of them. The point of all these towers? To allow the snobs to showcase how rich they really were. Silly, right? But it made for an awesome view.


Cinque Terre: The Hike
This was the view after climbing 460 steps uphill. Little did we know, that was the pre-lunch warm up. We then climbed all the way up the mountains you see here...


Vatican City: Saint Peter's Cathedral
If you're thinking of Death Cab's hit, you've got my taste in music ;) Despite those lyrics, the inside was just as beautiful as the view from the very top.


More to come soon! We've got The Coliseum on today's to-do list!

Posted by GabriellaMarika 00:15 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Under the Tuscan Sun

(We finally have internet!!!)

Throughout our time in Florence, Jamie and I couldn't find free Internet anywhere... Our Internet here in Rome is even worse. Jamie and I are currently in a Burger King near Vatican City, drooling over everyone else's fries, to connect (we're saving our appetite for Rick Steves' favourite Roman pizza. We did treat ourselves to Burger King beer though.. It's actually pretty good!) Anyway, I've been dying to post this blog since our second full day in Florence so here it finally is!! Hopefully we'll chat soon.. We miss you guys!

Everyone knows the movie Under the Tuscan Sun kinda sucked. Oh common, don't pretend you liked it. Anyone who said they liked it was obviously just paying attention to the scenery... Now that, I understand. Jamie and I were lucky enough to see it for ourselves!

Yesterday was our first full day in Florence, our first guided tour of the trip, and by far our most eventful day yet! Even though our Walkabout Tour through Tuscany was a bit pricey, I would do it again in a heart beat. In fact, we enjoyed it so much that Jamie and I caved and decided to reserve tickets for their Cinque Terre Walkabout Tour on Saturday too.

Yesterday started off bright n' early. I forced myself to get up at 5:30am by setting 12 alarms - each of them one minute apart. You might be thinking... isn't that a little excessive? You must not know my early morning self. I ended up pressing snooze until 6:00am. Pretty sure our neighbours hate me.

When we finally got to the tour's meeting spot, we were a good half hour early just in case we needed the extra few minutes.. you know, if tickets ended up being misplaced ... again. It gave us just enough time to pick up a little something for breakfast and make our way to the meeting point... Or so we thought. The only place even somewhat near us and open at the time was a McCafé... With a line up going out the door. According to our daily itinerary, the bus ride out to Siena, our tour's first stop, was a good hour or so and lunch wasn't until past Noon so we decided we'd take the chance and line up. Just before we were scheduled to depart, we found out we couldn't eat on the bus. Let's just say, I never saw Jamie wolf down a breakfast sandwich as fast as he did that morning. And his friends and family can tell you that, when time calls for it, that man can eat pretty damn fast.

Siena was really lovely. It was just as quaint as Florence but more quiet and relaxed. As we were walked through the city, from the city square to this beautiful Duomo, we listen to our tour guide through mini walkie-talkie type ear pieces.



It was definitely the kind of place I could see myself retiring to one day... Well it was, until we got to stop numero due, San Gimignano.

San Gimignano. My personal favourite stop of the entire tour. Not only because of the hour long wine tasting part, but also because of the view. Our guide brought us to a local farm where we enjoyed traditional and organic Tuscan pasta, procuito, salami and cheese made right there on the farm! Oh, and six glasses of wine. We could see stop number three, San Gimignano's main city, off in the distance from the farms terrace.

On the way to stop number three, we were all pretty chatty... Mostly because of all the wine. That's about the time we were convinced to do the Cinque Terre Walkabout Tour now that I think about it. Once in the city, still tipsy from all the wine, Jamie and I had dessert at one of the best gelato places and then tried to work off all those calories on a hike up to what was known as the best view in town. It was definitely the best view I'd seen.


The wine from lunch gave us a nice little buzz, but it also gave us really full bladders. Not so nice. Maybe it was our long bathroom break, or maybe we had just been admiring the San Gimignano view for far too long.. Because when we checked our watches, we had 4 minutes to meet back at the bus. Considering how much our tour guide stressed being on time, we decided to make a run for it. We got to where the bus dropped us off right on time... And no one was there. No bus. No tour guide. No tipsy crowd of tourists.

Suddenly I wasn't feeling that nice little buzz anymore.

Then in the back of my far more tipsy memory, I remembered our tour guide saying we would meet at the city's second entrance... at the other side of the city. We really made a run for it. On the way there, we bumped into the other tipsy couple on our bus. The ones who recommended the Cinque Terre tour. Thank god.

We finally made it to the bus and were only 6 mins late... That didn't stop the other tourists from boo-ing as we found our seats though. It was all in good fun.. I think.

The rest of the tour was great. We visited our final stop in Pisa, took many corny leaning tower pics and enjoyed the scenic route home. We had just enough time to pick up a pizza on the walk back to our hostel and watch a half episode of Game of Thrones before passing out considerably early.

Posted by GabriellaMarika 11:13 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Venetian Sunburn

sunny 43 °C

The sun beats down on me, my vision becomes hazy and heat rings through my head into my ear. With every step I take on the this hot cobblestone, a warm, salty drip of sweat trickles down my cheek, dripping off my chin and briefly hitting my sore toes before sliding down to the ground. My feet are craving a break. They want tof be dunked in cool, refreshing water. I want to be dunked in cool, refreshing water.

We thought the weather in Milan was hot...then we got to Venice.

Despite the scorching heat, and the thin layer of sweat permanently dancing on my skin, I've absolutely fallen in love with Venice. It's so different than any other city I've seen. There are no cars or motorcycles zooming by. In fact, there are no roads at all. Just canals filled with boat taxis, gondolas and shipping boats. To get around the city, we walk. Tiny, narrow little alleys, surrounded by tall, colourful apartments almost give this city a maze-ish feel. Then we'll randomly hit an open city square, decorated by an impressive statue or intricate cathedral smack-dab in its center. It really is something else.



Rick Steeves was right when he said you need to take breaks here, though. When the heat becomes unbearable, Jamie and I find a spot next to the water, buy ourselves a glass of wine and read our books. I gotta say, my book.. you know the one CBC Radio said was too riské... is getting pretty steamy. So if you're looking for more heat this summer, Fifty Shades of Grey is pretty darn spicy. Almost too spicy, even. Here was our favourite reading spot ..

When we're not taking in the city by sight, we're taking it in by taste. From pizza to pasta and clams to gelato. I think we've had it all. Well, we've tried to anyway. And based on the snugness of my shorts, it'll probably start to show eventually. But that's okay. I've decided to live a little and try as many different things as I can... I'll probably regret that decision when I come home and weigh myself hahaa. We've visited some restaurants based on Rick Steves' recommendation, some by local suggestion and others we've discovered on our own. Out of all the restaurants we've been to in Venice, there's been one restaurant that has really stood out. I would even go so far as to say that it is the best restaurant I've visited on the entire trip. Maybe even, the best restaurant I've been to.. ever. It's quaint, it's friendly, and the food is friggin outstanding. Like really, really good. There are no more than four tables and one waitress, and the menu is posted to the wall for everyone to see. Our reactions after every meal go something like this: Jamie wiping a tear of joy from my eye...

That clip was taken at Osteria Al Portego just a few short hours ago. Our last meal here. Our last full day here, in fact. We planned to end Venice with a bang by getting up early, taking a boat to Murano, to Burano and then back to the main island for dinner. We did exactly that, excluding the waking up early part. Burano has been, by far, my favourite city up to date. It's just like mainland Venice in that there are but water canals and bridges connecting every walkway, but completely different at the same time. The buildings are so colorful - painted lime green and bright yellow - and there are actual trees on the island. Parks of green grass over looking the water. That's one thing you can't find on Venice's main island. Jamie and I spent a good part of our day today laying in the grass, overlooking the water. It was nice.


Tomorrow we leave for Florence. And I can't wait.

Posted by GabriellaMarika 07:09 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Amo Milano

sunny 45 °C

Yeah yeah yeah, I know what you’re thinking.. “You used Google Translate for this blog’s title, didn’t you!?” And YES! As a matter of fact, I did. But let me tell you, Rick Steve didn’t account for that translation in his Italian Phrase Book and Dictionary, so I had no choice but to cheat. Ricki did however make sure to include the translation for “wow”…


I’ll make sure to use that one.

As I’m writing this blog using Grand-Maman Madelen’s computer (wayyy more handy than having to type on my iPhone by the way) .. I know I should either be packing up my things or sleeping. It’s past 1am and Jamie and I are leaving for Venice tomorrow morning. I’ll be able to enjoy Grand-Maman’s delicious soutlach for breakfast one more time before we depart. Is that even how you spell it? Soutlach? Sutlach? Suhtlatch? Ah well, the Bensason’s know what I’m trying to spell. If you’re a non-Bensason, imagine the creamiest rice pudding, but a gazillion times better. Mmm!!
Just checked the fridge…


Looks like I’m having a big breakfast :D

Speaking of food… Wow. (See! I told you I’d use it!) Grand-Maman, Maurice, Jamie and I went out to dinner tonight for some real Italian cuisine. I enjoyed a traditional Italian Mushroom Risotto and Jamie had the Spaghetti Aoili… I think. In any case, both were absolutely delicious!! I’ve never had a risotto as good as the one I had tonight. And Jamie’s pasta was cooked to perfection… the real al dente deal. Mamamiaa!


After having arrived in Milan late yesterday afternoon, we only really had one full day here so we took advantage of it by getting up early, having a lovely breakfast with Grand-Maman and Maurice and metro-ing it straight to the Duomo di Milano. Little did we know, exposed shoulders aren’t accepted into the cathedral and I had to find myself some kind of cover-up. We were lucky to have the Galleria just a few steps away… but the prices in there were just a tad out of my price range. The scarf I saw for 2,750 euros scared me the most. Once in the Galleria, we got completely distracted. I guess you can’t really blame us though. The place is absolutely stunning. We got the window shopping bug and ended up exploring the city for a bit. On the way, we even had our own complimentary tour of Acqua di Parma, the single most luxurious cologne store I’ve ever seen.




(Travel tip #1: Stick all of your perfume samples in your luggage to conceal dirty laundry and pretend to smell rich and fancy.)

We ended up finding our way back to the duomo after stopping to a scarf kiosk. I tried bargaining my way into getting a euro off, taking Krisitin and Drew’s bargaining advice to heart… but when the saleslady started increasing the price instead of decreasing it, I knew I was doing something wrong and settled for a 5 euro scarf. I can guarantee that today will probably be the only time I wear it though. The weather is aboslutely scorching. I don’t know how we’ll survive in Greece. In fact, I can feel my legs beginning to melt into this leather seat. I think it’s about time I start packing.

Update you soon! Let’s hope we have WiFi in Venice.

Buona notte … No Google Translate that time. Promise ;)

Posted by GabriellaMarika 16:35 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Packed, Prepped and Pumped for Paris.

overcast 15 °C

Okay. You caught me.. We're not 100% prepped. I just needed a verb that starts with P. But we are 1000% excited!!

We started our day at 6am with a hearty complimentary breakfast at the hostel and with... laundry. Looks like our "quick dry" outfits don't dry so quick after all. It took the entire day yesterday and over night hang drying plus a full hour in the downstairs dryer to finally dry it all. When we got to Pancras Station (adjacent to the one Harry Potter took to get to Hogwarts!!) ... Everything was running smoothly. We were a full hour early, Jamie got himself a beer, I a fruit drink, and we chatted until our train was called for boarding.

That's when it happened. (Obviously something has got to happen)

As our train gets called, everyone around our table starts zipping up their suitcases and heading toward the platform and we can feel the excitement of being in Paris twinkling in our toes. Well, I dunno about Jamie.. But i could feel it! With everything now packed on our backs, Jamie fishes in his pocket, pulls out his train ticket, turns towards me, and says...
"Got yours?"
"Yep!" I respond. "It's right here in my pocket."
I zip open my pocket and feel for my ticket. Not there.
"Oh. I must have put it in my other pocket." I mumble to myself.
Still not there. Wallet? Nope. Pant pockets? Nada. Backpack? Floor? BRA? Nuh uh.

The excitement I so recently felt in my toes has turned into an ugly pit of nerves in my stomach. I hear the operator announce "Last call for train 9022 to Paris. Your train will be leaving shorlty." Sh**. Sh**. Sh**.
"Jamie! I can't seem to find it. I'll keep looking, you go see if there's a way to reprint it!!"
While I start emptying the heck outta my pack on the table in front of me, I briefly look around me and notice I'm the last one in the waiting lounge. I look up at the clock. Two minutes. I've got two minutes before departure. I start to remember how much the tickets stressed that there were no refunds for missing the train, how we'll lose our hostel reservations in Paris if we're not there by tonight. My hands start to shake as they sift through my junk. My face gets hot.

Then, on the other side of the lounge, I see Jamie busting through the double doors and running towards me.
"Pack up!! I've got it!! Pack up!!"
I start shoving everything I emptied out back into my pack and start running after Jamie toward the platform. Behind me, I hear something thump to the floor. I quickly look behind me and realize my book is on the floor! And my laundry!! And my jacket!! DAMMIT. I forgot to zip up my pack.
I look in front of me and I don't see Jamie anymore. I don't even know what platform to go to. It's printed on my nonexistent ticket!! I start shoving things back into my pack and look up at the clock. The train is leaving now. It's leaving NOW. My pack is halfway closed when the zipper gets caught in the material.
I'm crying now, struggling to close it. I look up at the clock. One minute past departure time. I missed it. I freaking missed it.

"Miss? Are you alright?" a woman calls.
I continue trying to fix my zipper and start telling her what happened between sobs.
"I need to get to train 9022. Is it gone? I've lost Jamie. I need to find Jamie."
"Who?" says the woman.
The zipper finally gives and I see Jamie waving to me from an escalator.
"HIM!!" I say and start running toward him. "Thanks!" I call back to the woman.

I get to the flippin platform to find a huge line up of people still waiting to get onto train 9022. I line up next to Jamie, relieved, frustrated but still very very excited.

Talk to you in Paris!

Posted by GabriellaMarika 02:50 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (2)

Fellahs under their umm-ber-rellas

...ellas, ellas.

rain 13 °C

Looks like the rain finally hit London.

We really can't be disappointed though... The weather man has been calling nonstop rain for the past two days and this is the first we've seen of it! That and we're in friggin England for pete's sake... So it's kind of expected.

Jamie and I decided to shelter ourselves from the rain for a bit in this little café right across from Trafalgar Squar. Good ol' Rick Steve suggested we check out. He was right about their coffees. Check out the whip on that mocha... HELLO!!


Mmm! Btw I love the guidebook you got me Marie-Michelle. Don't know what we'd do without it.

Today has been a pretty exciting day. So far I've been lucky enough to be a mere gate away from the Queen (and more importantly... Those hunkalicious princes) during the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace this morning and enjoyed a refreshing stroll in St-James park on the way here, at Trafalgar Square. We're about to take a free overview tour of the National Gallery and then head back near Victoria for the most exciting part of the day... My first real MUSICAL!! Ahh!! I bought us tickets to Billy Elliot.

Well, I'm gonna slip on my sweater, jacket and scarf cuz its a chilly 13 degrees here. I heard you guys are having 30 degree weather!! Crazy.

Update you soon,


Posted by GabriellaMarika 09:05 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (4)

Lost n Found

Mistake #2

sunny 15 °C

So far it seems all of my blog posts are going to include some kind of mistake I've made. If that'll be the case, let's hope it's not as bad as today's mistake. Ooie. Let me start from the beginning...

The flight was absolutely fantastic... Well maybe I could've done without the bitter old man sitting next to me. This poor mother had two children no older than 4 years old who must have been high on some kind of hyperactive drug. Anyone who's babysat more than one kid at a time will tell you it's no picnic, especially at that age. This man, let's call him Earl (he had those Earl-like features), had obviously not babysat in his life. He complained about the kids the entire flight. In fact he was more annoying than the kids the themselves. At one point Earl even yelled: CAN'T YOU SEE YOUR DAUGHTER IS ANNOYING US ALL?!? BE A PARENT AND SHUT HER UP. Rude, eh?

Ok,now let me skip over a few hours here...

The time is now 10:38am and Jamie and I are just about to get off the train we took to Victoria Station. At the time, I had my wallet in hand and my monster of a backpack on my back. The moment I step off the train, onto downtown London's busiest station I suddenly realize... I'm empty handed. My wallet, probably the one thing I WOULDN'T want to lose, the one thing that carries over 300 euros and 200 pounds, that carries my visa and ID and recently purchased London Travel card is friggin missing.

I start to panic.

"Jamie".. I say.. "Where's my wallet?"
I look back at the train that is now closing its doors. And run to the window. There it is sitting on my seat.

Long story short, Jamie saved the day by prying open the train doors and fetching it before it left.

I'm hoping mistake #3 will be choosing the wrong coffee at the café we're about to check out...

Posted by GabriellaMarika 04:31 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (6)

Procrastinating Plans

Mistake #1

19 °C

The time? Sometime past 3:00am.
The day? Monday June 11th 2012.

We are officially one week away from our departure date... and, call us a bit last minute, but Jamie and I have just spent the last 5 hours struggling to figure out how we'll be traveling throughout Europe. Ok, you're right. It was last minute. But let's be honest with each other.. did you really expect anything more from two of Canada's best procrastinators? Did I mention our train tickets for Italy are scheduled to arrive by mail 3 days before our departure date. According to Rick Steve, we should have ordered those tickets about 3 months ago. Woops! I dunno about Jamie, but I've definitely learned my lesson.

I'm gonna stop putting things off... starting tomorrow.

Posted by GabriellaMarika 20:28 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

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