The hotel provided a map of the nearby Gràcia district, which was a great area to explore for boutique cafes, bustling plaças and local architecture. Walking through this district took us to Parc Güell, a must see location when visiting Barcelona, and then through to one of our favourite discoveries, Parc del Guinardó and the Turó de la Rovira. From here you can see nearly all of Barcelona – from the ocean in the East to the mountains in the West.
In a long walking day, we visited La Sagrada Familia, travelled down the Passeig de Sant Joan to the Arc de Triomf, wandered the Ciutadella Park, followed the bay to La Rambla which we walked back to the Plaça de Catalunya. After a lunch break, we took a taxi to the Telefèric de Montjuïc, the cablecar to Castell de Montjuïc, a historic hill-top fortress that overlooks the city and all of the Barcelona coast.
In Paris we stayed at the Albe Hotel Saint Michel. While the hotel itself was nothing to write home about, the staff were very friendly and the location excellent. Right across the road from the Saint Michel fountain and perched above plenty of restaurants and cafes, we had no shortage of crepes and croissants.
We spent a lot of time in Paris walking along the Seine and took a Sandeman’s walking tour to learn some of the history and the best things to see and do. We really recommend the walking tour. Some the tips given to us by our tour guide were our favourite memories of Paris.
The Sainte-Chapelle, just a short walk from the Notre Dame Cathedral, is one of Paris’ best kept secrets. The stained-glass windows are an incredible sight to behold and photos simply don’t do them justice.
Another great tip from the tour guide was to take a Bateaux Parisiens river cruise from the Eiffel Tower along Seine just before sunset. Watching the sun set along the river is magical and as the cruise returns to port, you’ll be able to watch the Eiffel Tower light up and sparkle.
After the river cruise, our favourite experience of the Paris light show was watching from across the river, on the Café du Trocadéro terrace as we had dinner before heading off to the Moulin Rouge.
HOT TIP: Keep your guard up when taking a taxi in Paris and make sure the drivers use a metre, rather than giving you a price up front.
We spent our stay in Hotel Carlton on the Grand Canal, another fantastic location, this time because the only way in or out of Venice is right nearby. Not having to drag our luggage all over the tiny streets and bridges of Venice was definitely a good choice.
We found Venice quite difficult to navigate. Going on a walking tour with Venice Free Walking Tours helped us learn the lay of the land. Their city tours are fantastic, full of history and character, however we thought their Murano Glass tour was pretty un-impressive. If we were to go to Murano again, which we will definitely do next time we find ourselves in Venice, we’ll make our own way there or pay for a private tour.
There’s a lot packed in to this tiny city, even on the last day we were finding new things. It’s easy to get lost but that’s not always a bad thing.
There’s so much to see in Florence and at the centre of it, is the golden bridge, the Ponte Vecchio on the Arno river. We didn’t have enough time to see everything we wanted to in Florence but we did manage to eat plenty of amazing food and gelato! The best pizza we had in Italy came from MaMMaMia Restaurant, just off the main shopping road.
Part of the reason we missed a few things in Florence was that the short trip to the Pitti Palace, turned into half a day exploring the Boboli Gardens. There’s no shortage of places to walk and photo stops along the way. We also took a free walking tour of Florence and received a great tip, head up to the Piazzale Michelangelo to watch the sunset. It was a pretty tough climb to get up there on foot, but well worth it. From the piazzale you can watch the sun set over all of Florence on one side and the Tuscan vineyards on the other.
Most of our travel around Italy was done on train and from Florence, it’s easy to make a day trip out to see the leaning tower of Pisa. Although we had been warned to keep our expectations low, we found Pisa and the leaning tower a really enjoyable excursion!
Florence is a beautiful, unmissable city, but if we were to go again, we’d love to spend more time in the Tuscan countryside. There’s such a rich food and wine culture to be enjoyed in Tuscany.
Cinque Terre, Italy
Cinque Terre was our favourite location Italy. We stayed all the way at the top of the ‘five lands’ in the Hotel Porto Roca in Monterosso. One of the great things about the Porto Roca, other than the incredible view over the Mediterranean Sea, was being right next to the entrance to the hiking track to Vernazza.
The hike starting from Moterosso is a really tough climb straight up the mountain through the farming terraces, from that point on though, the walk is much easier and there are a few points where the view is spectacular. You can see the typical ‘postcard shot’ of Vernazza. While the track can get pretty busy during the day, we walked to Vernazza a second time at dusk just to enjoy the scenery to ourselves.
We also hiked from Vernazza to Corniglia, a much easier walk, made all the more enjoyable by the little cluster of hotels half way that offered a nice stop for us to drink lemon granitas with a great view of Corniglia.
Unfortunately, the hiking trails from Corngilia onwards were still unusable from landslides in 2011, but the Cinque Terre pass that gives you access to the walking tracks also allows you to use the trains that travel between the five lands. We visited each of the towns, and Porto Venere. They are all uniquely beautiful and taking the boat from Porto Venere back to Monteroso was a great way to see each of them again before we left.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Kirsty and Andrew’s extraordinary Honeymoon this coming Wednesday on Honeymoons
Ms Zebra Says: We can’t help but hold our breath for part 2! Love hearing everyone’s different experiences of travel around Europe!