So before leaving Singapore, I was still feeling all, “Wow, this feels so surreal. I’m actually going to Europe?” And during the plane ride, I was still asking myself, “W-ait, you’re on a plane???” With all the 7-hour flights, with a transit at Dubai in between, we finally arrived in Rome, Italy, 10pm (4am SG time).
Thankfully, I wasn’t hit by any severe jet lag and I was ready to explore Rome! The breakfast in the Italian hotels for the first few nights, really sucked. I was getting so sick of it by Day 3. It was just scrambled eggs, bacon, bread (as hard as rocks), juice and coffee on repeat.
I know my eye bags beg to differ but I had a good 7-hour sleep!
And well, first stop, Vatican City!
Outside the St. Peter’s Basilica
That’s the balcony where the Pope comes out to bless the people during special occasions, such as Easter Day and Christmas.
When I stepped into the basilica, I was simply awe-struck. The place was huge, and it was made to look like the Latin cross. It contained Michelangelo’s renowned work, Pieta, which was well-protected behind a huge glass panel. The crazy thing about this place is that the images you see on the ceilings of the various domes, and on the walls, they are not hand-painted. They are mosaics, carefully formed and pieced together using gold and other precious stones and minerals. Boy, this place must be extremely expensive and heavy. And yes, bodies of the previous Popes that have passed on are also preserved and placed in the basilica.
It was a pity that we didn’t get to visit the Sistine chapel, but just outside the basilica, we had our first gelato in Europe. They’ve got really funky flavours, and coupled with all the Italian names, they sounded so exotic. We tried out nocciola (hazelnut) and some other weird-flavour. Not exactly sure that the gelato place sold the nicest nocciola gelato because we only tried that flavour once. It had an extremely strong Ferrero Rocher taste to it, but… I still prefer popping those waffle balls into my mouth any time.
We left Vatican City and headed straight on to the Colosseum. Boy, it’s so old, and crumbly but it is beautiful. Lots of people were queuing to get in (average queuing time: 2 hours), so we skipped that and just walked along the exterior of the entire structure. I must say, it’s the size that kinda throws you off your feet (As well as the strong winds during the early Summer of the year). I was walking past it and thinking, “Man, how does it stand for such a long time and not crumble into a heap of dust?” But really, it was majestic.
We went to the Trevi Fountain, which is the largest Baroque-style fountain. Made a little wish (shhh), and by tossing a coin, with my right hand over my left shoulder. That place, was crazy. Full of tourists, and possibly pickpockets. We had to squeeze through tonnes of people, climb unglamly up and down the stairs to get to the base of the fountain. Simply, insane.
Had gelato, again!
Geek chic (Self-proclaimed HAHA)
Accessories for the day!
Day 2 as we long-distance coach (LDC) to Pisa!
Cheap but good expresso shots at their rest stations.
I think Europeans (or generally Westerners) are crazy about Nutella. This Nutella snack and drink, and giant Nutella tubs can be found everywhere. Insane!
Beebee snuggling in my jacket for some warmth ^u^!
Beebee loves road trips!
And we arrived! 3 beautiful structures, namely the Baptistery, Duomo and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, peeking through at the back.
The silly things that people do with the Pisa.
For most of the scenic sights we went to, we took just exterior shots because getting into these famous places would either cost a sum of money, or require long waiting hours.
And we left to head towards Florence, which was in the Tuscany region.
We met up with our guide who brought us to see the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral. At the start, the cathedrals/churches/basilicas were all very breathtaking because so much effort was put into the entire architecture & structure. The detailed carvings, sculptures that can be seen as well as the various styles, mostly Gothic, if not Baroque.. But after a while, they kind of started to get boring (at least by the time we got to London)..
While walking around Piazza della Signoria, we were marvelled by the number of sculptures in the plaza and people were just gathering around them, chatting. And of course, what’s better was David, though it was the replica. Sadly, the tour was a little rushed and we could only catch a short glimpse of the Ponte Vecchio, a bridge whereby lovers would write their love on locks and lock to the bridge. Doubt any of it is true because everyone does these kind of silly things in so many places!
Interesting Smurfy marshmallows
After a night’s rest in Florence, we LDC once more to the outskirts and took a tronchetto into Venice! As Venice’s only form of transportation is via boats, they have got water buses and water taxis, and of course, the Gondola, to bring people in, out and around the place. There are absolutely no roads, just canals, and bridges to bring people from one little island to another! The entire city is supported by a floating platform, and Venice is currently still sinking.
Breathtaking view of the St Mark’s Square which was just in front of the St Mark’s Basilica as well as the Doge’s Palace (which was all pretty and pink /bimbo/).
Throughout the entire trip, the Basilica in Venice impressed me the most. Or maybe the guide did a really great job in explaining how the ceilings and walls were made, which made it sound even more impressive. The floors within the Basilica were uneven, due to Venice’s unique characteristic, as well as her buildings being very flexible. The tiles on each floor were carefully measured and cut and the stones had to be imported into Venice via… Ships! Talk about tedious! The patterns, colours and designs that were chosen to be placed on the floor were made to represent mathematical symbols and more from the Bible. The entire interior of the Basilica was just covered in mosaics (except for the columns, which were there for decorative purposes, and the pillars, the actual ones doing the job of supporting the structure), and the different stones used fit each other perfectly. So these ancient architects were not just great architects but mathematicians as well! (Sounds so intriguing wtf) Only the ceilings had mosaics made of 24k gold and coloured glass, on Biblical stories, because if they were on the floor, they would be trampled on.
True, makes a buttload of sense.
The thing about these places is that, yes, they are beautiful. But when you think deeply again, was there really a need to go to such an extent, such great extravagance, to paint a beautiful story of the Bible? And then I start feeling all skeptical. Yes, maybe for their wants to glorify their love and passion for God, but isn’t it a bit too extreme (And a waste of resources lol). And this Basilica is just so heavy that it’s weighing down on the foundation of Venice.
/shrugs in skepticism/
A peek into the canal (That’s a bank on the left)
In Italy, Austria, France etc., old facades are maintained to keep the rustic look and feel in the various cities. However, the interior can be changed entirely to look super modern.
Taking the gondola.. And yes, the canals do stink, a lot.
Squid ink pasta for dinner
*Sidenote: Lunch in Venice was the best Italian meal I’ve ever had. The seafood pasta was just beyond awesomeness, the flavour, the garnishing, the generosity in the amount of clams, mussels, prawns and squid they gave.
Kind of liked the geeky look a little too much..
The weather in Italy was so good! Super cooling, windy and I liked how it allowed me to play around with my wardrobe in ways I would never be able to do in Singapore. I could do so much layering! Like in this photo, I’m wearing a 3/4 sleeved knitted red blouse, with a nude cardigan. And if I’m still feeling cold, I would throw my H&M birdy scarf. Plus, a scarf can be worn in so many different ways, so it was just so versatile and I could look slightly different everyday while wearing the same item! Mad loves!
We had an extra day and did an optional tour in Verona!
Romeo & Juliet originated from Verona, hence that’s the supposed Juliet’s balcony. /hums to Love Story/
Just below, there’s a bronze statue of Juliet and it’s said that if you touch her right breast, you’ll get good luck. Hence, only her right boob is gleaming in full glory…
And… We got to Innsbruck, Austria after that. I must say it’s one of my favourite countries during the trip! The place was clean, except for a really huge pile of horse dung but other than that, the streets were litter free! The air was fresh, the roads were quiet but not in the creepy way. The problem though was that the shops were closed at about 430/5pm. Really lazy huh. But they do open really early, at about 830/9. Guess they believe in 早睡早起身體好.
Love the buildings in Austria! They were really simple but the colours used were just so pretty and they matched one another so well! Like green, turquoise, pale yellow, pink, etc.! So many pink buildings!! And some would have pretty murals on the walls as well!
The Swiss Alps could be seen clearly from where we were staying and it felt so surreal! I kept commenting on how we were like in a movie set-up, because everything felt so unrealistic! And the snow-capped mountains just looked so similar to a poster backdrop!
Momo and I striking a pose in the Swarovski shop.
We have the same big nose.. 😦
Love doing up my scarf in the criss-cross way!
We had a short stopover in a small country, Liechtenstein, in the city of Vaduz, while we were on our way to Switzerland!
The Prince of Liechtenstein lives up in that castle on the mountains!
A sculpture that was done by Botero. Yes, see the similarity in the rounded form of the lady, to the fat bird sculpture that we have in Singapore? I wonder why do her boobs look so weird though…
Up early in the morning, as we head out to explore Lucerne, Switzerland. Through this trip, I actually got quite interested in European history, and you start to see how these countries are linked intrinsically together, or maybe I’m just very suaku because I’m not a History student! I love how art and history just tie in so closely and they give a more vivid picture to the boring historical details!
EAT ALL THE BACON IN THE WORLDDDDDDD!!!
Beautiful glacier lake!
We are going to go up the mountains!
Going up Mount Titlis, via 3 modes of transportation – Gondola, Cable Car & Rotair.
Up, up here we go, oh~
Chunks and chunks of never-ending snow!
It was my first encounter with snow and it was just beautiful! I was tempted to shove a ball of snow into my mouth like how Tabi did during the filming of The North Face CF HAHA but it’s so dirty!
I had a snowball fight with my family and we attempted at making a snowman, which of course, failed terribly! We also slid down snow and got our butts wet but it was so fun!!
I’m a Yeti~ (Looking chubby under 4 layers of clothing!)
We had Mövenpick ice-cream, though not out in the freezing cold. This Swiss brand of ice-cream is seriously one of the best ice-creams ever. Crazily expensive in both Switzerland and Singapore. But it was so good. I had to get Mango Cream because it’s so yummy, with juicy mango bits. And the Swiss Chocolate was so unforgettable too!
Swans hanging out in the lake.
The Chapel Bridge, that was rebuilt after it was burnt down by a fire in 1993. It contains Biblical narratives on the wooden boards under the roof.
We kind of got quite sick of the same ol’ breakfast every single morning and so I got to cook my Nongshim Kimchi Ramyun! But I did not have a slice of cheese with me. What a pity!
T’was a breezy morning as we had a short stopover at Rhine Falls, the largest waterfall in Europe, where the water comes from….*deng deng deng*… Rhine River.
Got a cute little Hello Kitty foam fan with a candy at the bottom, hehe.
We moved on to Germany and had lunch near Lake Titisee at Black Forest. The trees in the background are so densely packed.. Hence, the name Black Forest (I guess..??)
I wanted to take a photo with this cute waiter.. Who looked slightly younger than I do.. He had these large round puppy eyes, with shaggy blonde hair, just really adorable and dorky looking. But the mum had to exclaim so loudly that I was so embarrassed and went away…..
Pretty flowers everywhere~
My brother rarely takes photos of me (Or rather, anyone)… So I had to camwhore on my own, damn.
View of Lake Titisee with the crazily dense forest in the background.
Pretty flowers everywhere, near our hotel.
When in London, I saw some beautiful flowers, in different shades of pinks on one side, and purples on another side. I excitedly went up close, trying to take a shot of them… And a bee flew out and chased after me.. 😦 A ladybug got onto my shirt somewhere else too.. Why so unlucky..?
After a night’s rest, we made a stop at Cologne, the 4th largest city in Germany! Here’s a gothic style cathedral made out of sandstone. No, it’s not gothic because it’s black. A Gothic-style church has a very distinct style as there will be many sculptures of people on the exterior columns (it can be quite scary), unlike a Baroque-style church, which doesn’t have such features. It’s black because of the amount of dust accumulated, and I think they claim to want to leave it in the most natural state. Though I think they’re just plain lazy because if they were to clean it, there will be endless tiny crooks and nooks to clean, thanks to the insane amount of details not just from the overall structure but from the sculptures themselves.
Love the tall arched ceilings within the cathedral.
Our lunch! Omnomnom. We had dessert first before our proper meal of Cream of Asparagus and Club Sandwich :B
We moved on quickly to Holland/Netherlands, and visited a cheese and clog factory! In there, we knew how unprocessed cheese was made and that such cheese has got absolutely no expiry date! It can be left out in the room temperature and need not be kept in the fridge! Amazing right! Except I’m not a fan of cheese..
The person who gave the talk was hilarious, and he always exclaim that Singaporean men are ‘humsup’ (pervert). At the end, when we were looking at souvenirs, he came over and pulled me to a corner to take a photo together and I exclaimed, “You are the humsup one!!” Hahaha! He asked me to put our photo as my FB profile picture to make my boyfriend (if any) jealous. I shall grant his wish and put it for one day. But that’s not the point. He placed a pair of beautifully painted clog shoes in my hands and… My brother did not take my hands at all in the picture /clobbers his head in exasperation/….
Sadly.. There aren’t many windmills left in Holland..
In Holland, people are encouraged to cycle instead of drive.. And yes, there is a multi-storey bicyclepark, filled with uncountable number of bicycles.
Taking the Lovers’ Cruise along the canals in Amsterdam.
There were many boathouses that were simply just breathtaking. I wonder what’s it like to live on the water, except the houses are pretty small, and they are so expensive!
The houses in Amsterdam have got their own beauty. They are very narrow but long. Some houses tilt forward and sideways too! And one of the houses, was the house where Anne Frank lived, while her family were escaping from the Nazis.
We made a stop at the Gassan diamond factory and holy, that is a 121 Gassan-cut diamond. So purdy right, but what’s the use of a diamond anyway, except to cut another diamond and to look good?
We had an optional tour to Volendam, a little fishing village in Holland, and look at the endless North Sea! We spoke to a resident there and he says that during the winter, the sea will freeze and they would walk on the thick layer of ice to a market, somewhere 2km off. Insane! What if the ice dramatically splits apart and they are stranded in the middle of nowhere?!
Volendam has a very peaceful and scenic vibe to it, almost like a retirement village. There were mostly elderly living in this area, and I think it’s a good way to enjoy life.. Just sitting outside your door step, looking at the endless sea.. Life sounds quite good eh? Except you’ll freeze your butt off in the winter.
We head back into the city later in the afternoon to explore the city of Amsterdam. Holland is a beautiful place but Amsterdam just feels so (unexplainable). Weed can be bought easily by people with a pass stating that they smoke it. Tourists used to be able to buy them from coffeeshops (which is the name for places selling cannabis) but not now, since it is being controlled. Cafes sell coffee. Coffeeshops sell weed. We kept walking past the area, trying to take a whiff and recognise the smell of weed.. And honestly, I still have got no idea how it smells like.
We took a mini tour around the red-light district as well, where prostitutes would stand in their little space, which is a glass window/door. If the curtains are drawn, it means they are currently working (ahem) or they are not in for work. If you can look into the glass, it just means they are open for business. Kinda shock to see a young girl, who looked like she was still studying, to be in that profession. Yes, Amsterdam is one of the cities whereby prostitution is legal. Prostitution is an ‘honourable’ (Not sure if that’s the right word?) profession. They have got rights, just like any other worker.
It was a pity but we only had a short few hours of stopover at Brussels, Belgium. This is the Atomium, consisting of 9 balls, connected by elevators! Looks so impressive eh!
Quick drive past the Bourse Business District as well as City Hall
Absolutely love the fancy vintagey decor of the buildings in Europe. In the Grand Place there was a mixture of Baroque and Gothic buildings! So many immaculate details put into their structures.
And of course in Belgium, the Manneken Pis is a must-see attraction! Rumour has it that this young little boy saved the country from being bombed as he peed over a fire which was about to ignite a row of explosives (?)
We hastily moved on into a long drive to Paris! Managed to capture a snapshot of the bottom of the Eiffel Tower while driving past it.
Glassy interior of our hotel, Evergreen Laurel
At 9pm, we took the River Seine cruise, which brings us through endless number of bridges that were so different in styles. Some were just really old concrete bridges, some were modern and metal. Paris is just, so, unpredictable?
Some of the pretty buildings that we cruised past by. In most of the European countries that we went to, at 930pm, the sky would still be bright, somewhat like a 630pm evening sky in Singapore. So I guess, you don’t feel tired that easily and because there is light present, you kind of feel slightly safer as well?
At 11pm, we managed to catch the Eiffel Tower blinking lights display in all its full glory and gosh, it was bloody brilliant! It added a touch of magnificence and elegance to the entire metallic structure! It was such a a pity that we missed it while cruising and managed to only catch glimpses of it while on the way back to the hotel!
On our second day in Paris, we took a city tour around the area! So this is the Arc de Triomphe that was ordered to build by Napoleon I. On one of the pillars, there is a sculpture of Napoleon being crowned the King, when in fact, he snatched the crown hastily away from the Pope, who was unwilling to crown him King. Oh the irony, *dengdeng*, Napoleon died before the completion of the arc.
And…. This is one of the reasons why I absolutely hate the traffic in Paris, which is probably the greatest pet peeve I have of the city, hence this makes me really dislike Paris (because I had to endure my pee during a 1.5 hour traffic jam, during the 7km back to the hotel which would have probably taken only 15 minutes). Around this arc, there are 12 roads leading right up to it. So yes, 12 lanes of vehicles heading to this circle, and then they’ll start cutting each other ruthlessly, unwilling to give way because they all feel that they have the right of way, and they can cut out any way and time they want/like to go into other roads. You need to be extremely skillful and gutsy (and probably with the right amount of luck) to get out of this hellhole safely.
The thing about European countries is that, they try their very best to maintain the old building structures and facades, but there are impractical costs in preserving all this beauty. The roads in Paris are laid with little bumpy tiles instead of the nice bitumen roads we have in Singapore, hence there is bound to be lots of friction between the car wheels and the ground.. Probably means they have to change their wheels frequently… Unless they don’t give two hoots.. And drive around with wheels that probably have less grip.. As if driving in Paris isn’t scary enough.
Other than that, the unsettled feeling that you’ll might meet a pickpocket or robber, plus litter and dog poo along the pavements of Paris is just, a huge turn off.
There are many illegal immigrants, especially in Italy and Paris.. And those who have a good heart, try to make money out of selling souvenirs etc. The bad (and lazy) ones, choose the easier option of robbing and stealing… Well, what can I say, but that it’s unsafe.. Especially with the EU countries being Schengen states, these illegal immigrants can easily cross borders into other countries once they have arrived into the European countries…
Well, we didn’t manage to go up the Eiffel Tower as only 1 lift was being used (average queuing time: 4 hours), so we headed up the Montparnasse instead… And thank god we made that decision. It was too hazy to see a single shit.. Going up the Eiffel Tower would have only wasted our time.
When in Paris, one thing that absolutely cannot be missed out would be a trip to the Musee du Louvre (Louvre Museum)! It contains so many artworks that it was such a breath taking experience. Countless of paintings, in extremely large scale, and endless sculptures filling up a room, and the different themes that the museum (a former palace) contains. Of course, we saw the Mona Lisa, which was very small.. Not that I didn’t expect it, since we’ve learnt about it before in SOVA.. And I honestly don’t see the beauty in it.. I still very much prefer Delacroix’s ‘Liberty Leading the People’. I think it’s really beautiful.. And through the guide, I learnt how to pronounce ‘Ingres’. So tremendously difficult. It sounded so nasal, and at the same time vulgar, like you’re collecting a pool of spit at the back of your throat and getting ready to spit it out.
Venus de Milo (Aphrodite of Milo), mee-low, not my-low. Hehe..
The inverted glass prism in the museum.
In the night, only my family headed to the north of Paris (Supposedly very unsafe, plus it’s a red-light district) to catch the cabaret performance at Moulin Rouge. And mamma mia! May I say that it was splendid!
Though I did not understand a single French word that they sang, but I was held in awe by the costume array, the stage set up, the professionalism present in every single performer. Though the ladies had to bare their chests and butts, they danced as if it was nothing, like it was part of the costume, and after a few dances, you kind of get used to their bodies, and it wasn’t like naked in a way.. Until they covered up for like 2 dances.. And it felt kinda weird. But you gotta love the confidence they exude as they executed every single movement with perfection. The costumes were so elaborate, all glitzy-glam, with funky headgear. The stage set up was so good, there was even a giant water tank and a performer was dancing and swimming with huge boa constrictors.
For many days, I had a severe case of uneven eyes, and it was even worse when I smiled.. I think the eyeliner helped a bit
Our last day in Paris was spent entirely on shopping and we took the Metro from Point de Levallois to Opera. So.. We arrived at the Galeries Lafayette, which was a giant mall, selling lots of branded stuff…
I honestly.. Wasn’t interested in Louis Vuitton.. And I was ‘abandoned’ by my family, damn. So in all my pent-up frustration, I went shopping alone and was so glad I did. I found Bershka in a hidden corner and grabbed clothes like I owned the place and tried them on. Absolutely loved it I swear. The clothes were so affordable, and I can’t wait to wear them soon! Too bad the pink blazer didn’t have a size bigger.. It was so pretty!
Finally.. On the next day, we took the Eurostar and embarked on our journey to London.. When I arrived, in all my grogginess, I realised that we were at King’s Cross. /bites my fist hard/ It felt so surreal, in my mind, I was like /puts on a British accent/ ‘Oh bloody hell, we are in the land of Harry Potter!’
A typical telephone booth! /thinks about the scene when Harry and Mr Weasley entered the Ministry of Museum via a phone booth/
Exciting enough!?!? Now I want to flush myself down a toilet bowl to see if it works as well.
Huge billboard for the Les Miserables musical. I was so in awe when I saw how there were posters for all sorts of musicals EVERYWHERE. Like in the London Underground, along the streets, everywhere. They had Wicked, Singin’ In the Rain, and so many more! One of them even starred Imelda Staunton!! /cues Dolores Umbridge in her little pink outfit and annoying little voice/
We had a really short city tour around London.. And yes, one of the cathedrals.. Of which we were bored by then, so we did some shopping in Marks & Spencers.. And bought Penny Pigs!! Yes, Percy Pigs.. But better! Because they are lemon-flavoured!!
M&S is a really huge thing in England. When in Singapore, I’m all ‘wtf why are they selling clothes don’t they just sell yummy food’. And when I’m in London, M&S is super huge and they sell so many clothes, I can’t even imagine, so when I see a giant M&S food supermart, I actually feel quite weird.
Tower of London (This bridge is super impressive eh!)
The Big Ben, and part of the London Eye! Seriously too beautiful.
This is a shopping mall! Selfridge @ Oxford Street/Road. I love how they kept the exterior and inside looks entirely new and modern. But the grandeur of it all, the statue, the tall columns, the mall just looks so majestic!
Second day in London was all free and easy, so we decided to explore the city via their London Underground, which is *ahem* mother-&#*^ing expensive. £17.40 for 4 one-way tickets for 4 train stops! Insane! /mimics Ron Weasley’s accent/ Bloody hell! Harrods was another impressive mall! Throngs of people will loitering outside the mall before it even opened! I don’t know if it’s like that all the time or only because the Diamond Jubilee was approaching..
And yes, we didn’t know there was going to be a huge event. A stage was set up right outside the Buckingham Palace and the Queen was in the palace at the point of time when we were just outside (:O!!!). The British flag was hung up everywhere in full glory, Harrods had the Queen’s face everywhere with lots of designer crowns adorning the window showcase spaces, M&S was selling British themed panties for like 4 for £5. Of course I had to get them (Which is why, everything I bought during this trip, are blue)! Now they are hanging in my house, like national flag, y’know? Just kidding.
Final photo with a giant shoe in Selfridge before I left London. So purdy.
I am so glad to have been able to go on this trip. It was such an eye-opening experience, and I’ve learnt so much about the different cultures and histories. I loved how scenic the long road-trips could be, despite being smelly at times (cow dung). I really admire all the past architectures and sculptors for their patience and eye for details to carve out and plan such nitty-gritty patterns etc. /salutes/
I kinda miss the long airplane flights, where I got to watch so many movies. Tangled, Up, Monsters, Inc., Ratatouille, Footloose, Never Ending Story and The Vow. I was seriously tearing up and trying so hard not to let anyone see my tears while watching those wonderful Pixar movies, which of course, never fail to touch me so deeply. NES was really interesting unlike most typical movies, Footloose could do better, though the leading lady was insanely hot with her pale blue eyes and The Vow, sucked. So much. I love you Rachel McAdams but you gotta admit it was so, boring. And I’m a sucker for romantic movies.
I hope that one day, I will find my way back to this post and refresh all the beautiful memories that have carved a deep smile in my heart and laugh at my own silliness.
Europe was beautiful. Till then.