So….Cruise vs DIY?

So did we do it better than taking a cruise?

Well, if you take out having to lug our suitcases everywhere, on and off trains, to and from airports and up and down all the steps we ended up having to navigate, then we obviously would have had a better time of it on a cruise.

BUT, we were able to immerse ourselves a lot more in the cities we stayed in and this, to me, is invaluable.  We were under no time constraints when it came to most of the things we wanted to see and do (unless it was those imposed by ourselves when we chose to do guided tours).  It was particularly lovely in spots like Venice and Capri to enjoy the place once all the day trippers had left.  We ate what we wanted, where we wanted and when we wanted.  We could stop when and where we wanted.  We got to use all sorts of public transport and we got out of the cities too.  We saw so many more countries and sights on our itinerary than if we had been on a cruise.  And there’s nothing like staying in a place for a few nights to get into its groove.

I loved the fresh markets we came across – being able to buy and cook with fresh local produce was a great experience, not to mention being able to interact with the locals.

I’m not saying don’t go on a cruise, they definitely have their place and there are people who absolutely adore cruising, but for us and the way we travel, d.i.y is the way to go.  Maybe just with less luggage next time….

The main thing I learnt out of this trip was that while it was great to tick off some of the major icons of the world, I actually much prefer going to a place that is quieter and where you can appreciate it for being itself.  I much preferred Barcelona and Lisbon over Paris and Florence.  Those flag carrying big tour groups were so annoying and I got so sick of being harrassed by people trying to hawk me stuff whenever I came near a popular sight.  I hated having to line up for everything, although to be honest, we didn’t have to do very much of that, we just moved on if there was a huge queue.

Where would I go back to?  Lisbon and Barcelona.  For sure.

I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to my Laos trip in November.  Even more so, because I know it will be a much more intimate experience.

If you’re interested in any of the facts from our trip, here they are:

We stayed with:

Parkroyal on Pickering, Chinatown/CBD, Singapore

Citadines La Ramblas, La Ramblas, Barcelona

Hotel Convento do Salvador, Alfama, Lisbon

Villa Montmartre, Montmartre, Paris

Citadines Lyon Presquile, Lyon

Chateau de Trigance, Trigance

Private Residence (AirBNB), Vieille Ville, Nice

Locanda Ca’Amadi, Cannaregio,Venice

Villa Il Mosaico, Florence

B&B Antico Monastero di Anacapri, Anacapri, Capri

Casa Di Eddy, Termini Station, Rome

We flew with:

Singapore Airlines Perth to Barcelona and from Rome to Perth

TAP Airlines from Barcelona to Lisbon and from Lisbon to Paris

HOP Airlines from Nice to Venice

We took trains between all other cities, a waterbus in Venice and the high speed ferry between Naples and Capri

We drove with:

Sixt (between Aix en Provence and Nice)

We bought these city cards to help save us money – they included free public transport:

Lyon City Card

Lisboa Card

Roma Pass

We used these tour companies (everything else we did ourselves):

Urban Adventures in Barcelona (Tapas Walking Tour)

France Tourisme in Paris (Versailles)

Tour Azur in Nice (Monaco Evening Trip)

Florencetown in Florence (Pizza and Gelato Making)

Dark Rome in Rome (Vatican Tour)

Coop Culture in Rome (Domus Aurea)

If you have any questions about our trip though, please ask me!

Pizza in Pisa

The first half of today, we are spending in the small town of Pisa for obvious reasons – the tower.  It’s pretty much the only thing Pisa is known for, apart from being the birthplace of Galileo.

After all the stairs of yesterday, we were glad to have booked a guided tour to get us there and back, and even more glad that we had not opted to climb the tower’s 284 steps, which meant that when we arrived, we had plenty of spare time to ourselves to enjoy the small town.

So, a bit about the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  This simple bell tower in the middle of the Square of Miracles (named not because of any miracles that happened here – rather that everything in the square is so beautiful that it is a miracle) has been leaning since day 1 due to the soft ground in the area, which weakened the foundations of the tower.

In any case, it is a major tourist attraction and all along the square you will find people trying to take that funny photo of themselves pushing the tower over.

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By 1990, it was on a 10º lean and it was decided it was tie to do something about it before it fell over.  They pumped concrete underneath the foundations to steady the tower and it now leans at 4º and is curved slightly as a result of the rectification works.

Deciding to stop for lunch in the little square while the other tourists were still occupied with their photo taking, we head to one of the little cafes selling pizza.  Each one in fact sells pizza, so it depends on whether you want to eat in view of the tower, or want to wander further away where the price is no doubt cheaper.  We ordered two ‘individual size’ pizzas, which were way more than we should have eaten but that were so damn delicious we couldn’t help but finish them off, did a spot of window shopping and then made our way back to the square for our walking tour of the Cathedral.

The Cathedral and the baptistry are also sinking.  The Cathedral was consecrated in 1118 by Pope Gelasius II and it’s Romanesque architecture represents the wealth of Pisa at the time.   It was here that Galileo was baptised.  It was also here where he formed his theory of “isochronism of the pendulum” whilst looking at the chandelier swinging for incense ash coming down.  The chandelier, now known as “Galileo’s Lamp” can be seen in the Cathedral.

At the end of the day, we catch a local bus up to Piazza Michaelangelo for incredible views over the city of Florence until it begins to rain, forcing us to find the refuge of our villa.  Tomorrow, we will explore Florence.

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