Europe by Rail 1 - 19 May 2008

England, Belgium, Netherland, Germany, France, Austria, Switzerland & Italy
London, Brussel, Bruges, Amsterdam, Munich, Salzberg, Fussen, Paris, Bern, Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen, Luzern, Lugano, Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome.


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Bcknot.com Home Page [Hebe's Page]
(Europe Site 751,284 ).



Summary

After weeks of intense planning and reading, we finally started our journey. It was a Fun & Super Exciting 19 Days Trip travelling across 9 countries (England, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, France, Switzerland, Italy, and Vatican). Yes, Vatican is a country by itself, it is not part of Italy. Travelling with the world’s best train network, using the S$ 942 15-Days Eurail Saver Pass.

Contrary to popular beliefs, we met lots of helpful Europeans, who voluntarily stopped-by and showed us the direction. Even though they didn’t speak English, they tried their best to communicate using their own native language to direct us the way.

Food is excellent! And many are not that expensive, for example, we had Roast-Duck for €10 in Paris, 4-Course Meal for €18 in Venice, and 5-Course Roman Meal for €23 in Rome.

Dessert is cheap and really good in Europe! €2-5 a piece, Tiramisu, Chocolate Mouse, Black Forest etc. The best we tasted were from Wittamer in Brussels, Laduree in Paris - they are World Class dessert. Best Chocolate has to be Belgium's Madam Dumon in Brugge and Wiittamer in Brussels The real Gelato can only be found in Florence & Rome, but Brugge has nice Gelato too.

London's Big Ben, Paris' Eiffel Tower, Fussen's Castle, Switzerland's Alps, Venice's Canal, Vatican City's Basilica and Rome's Colloseum are eye-opening and whole new experience for us.

Shopping is great, Louis Vuitton & Gucci are about 20-30% cheaper, and of course Zara’s baby clothes are very beautiful for our baby.


Expenses

TOTAL $ 16,033.69
Transport
$ 6,722.15
Including A380 SingaporeAirline Flight from Singapore-->London, Rome-->Singapore, and $942 x 2 15Days Eurail Passes and any other local transports.
Hotel
$ 3,162.63
Including 1 night at Marriot, CrownePlaza, Hotel with WaterFall View in Switzerland, Lake view in Lugano, Holiday Inn Express in Rome etc.
Tourist
$ 952.33
All place of interests passes, Eiffel Tower, Paris Museum Passes, Salzburg Card, River Cruise, Entrance to Castle in Germany, Les Miserable in London etc.
Meals
$ 1,141.07
Including nice meal in Paris with French Wine, Roman Meal, 4 Course Meal in Venice etc.
Food
$ 546.05
Grocery Shoppings, bring home Chocolates & Desserts, Buscuits etc.
Misc
$ 150.31
Locker at Train Station, Phone Cards etc.
Dessert
$ 280.64
'Luxurious' Dessert - Laduree in Paris, Dallmayr in Munich, Pannekoeken(Pan Cake) in Amsterdam, Belgium Waffles, Wittamer in Brussels, Madam Dumone in Bruges, Gelato in Florence/Rome etc.
Clothes
$ 444.61
Yes. Mostly Clothes for Hebe ... Baby Zara etc.
Special
$ 2,338.20
LV, Gucci x 2- 3 Items - that's all.
Souvenir
$ 295.70
Postcards, Magnets, Keychains, Murano Glass, Venice Masks etc.


Photo Album - The Best Shots
The Best Shots

Photo Album - Day 1 to Day 19
Day 01 - London
Day 02 - London
Day 03 - Brussels - Bruges
Day 04 - Brussels - Amsterdam
Day 05 - Salzburg
Day 06 - Salzburg - Munich - Fussen
Day 07 - Fussen - Munich
Day 08 - Paris
Day 09 - Paris

Day 10 - Bern - Interlaken - Lauterbrunnen
Day 11 - Lauterbrunnen
Day 12 - Lauterbrunnen - Luzern - Lugano
Day 13 - Lugano - Milan - Venice
Day 14 - Venice - Florence
Day 15 - Florence
Day 16 - Florence - Rome
Day 17 - Rome
Day 18 - Rome - Home

Singapore 30 APR 2008 "A380 to London"

Flight no. AQ322 - A380 - The Big Bird in The Sky
It is big! 2 storeys - over 500 seats, the biggest airplane ever built. We are delighted to sit at Upper Deck - Economy class. It is a 2-4-2 configuration, and we have our own little privacy at seat no. 72A/C, and with new storage compartment below the window. It is a good deal, S$1750 for Singapore-London & Rome-Singapore flight. Yes, if I were to buy it at singaporeair.com, i would have paid S$2250, it is out of luck we tried it over the Singapore Phone Booking, we were offered this good price. Comparing with Thai Air, KLM, Lufthansa at S$1500-1700, SQ flight is a winner.
10" LCD Kris World
Yes. It is much bigger than before, and new Kris Wolrd has better navigation compared to the old one. We watched latest movies like Jumper, Bucket List, Kungfu Dunk.

Meal
A nice & generous portion of Roast Beef Steak for supper & Nasi Lemak for breafast, with free-flow of Wine and Liquor

Upper Deck & Stairs
We manage to find the STAIRS at the back of plane through to the lower deck. The lower deck has configuration of 3-4-3, looks a bit more cramp and crowded, and the side seat does not have private storage compartment below the window.


London 1 May 2008 Thur "1st Day in London" Cloudy/Rain 7-12°c

£1 = S$2.71
6:10am Arrives at Heathrow Airport

A Beautiful day and the A380 landed on the runway with quite a impact, yes, unlike 747 or 777, it is a bit less smooth, maybe due to the size or weight. There was a really long queue at the immigration , we had to wait at least 40 mins to clear the immigration.

Underground Station & Tourist Information Center
After 15mins walk, we managed to find the Airport Underground Station, and bought 2 Oyster Cards (£13 Pounds, with £10 value). As airport is in Zone 6, City area is in Zone 1, we left it to Oyster to calculate the cheapest fare for us. (£8.30 for the day)

King Cross Station 8:30am
After 45mins train ride (£ 3.50), we arrived at King Cross Station, where Harry Potter was filmed at the 9 3/4 platform. It is an old and run-down station, indeed all underground stations in London are run-down. The Train itself is much smaller than Singapore's SMRT, narrower. It was cold & windy, at 8:30am, we stood in front of station trying to find the direction to the hotel, supposed to be 50m away.

Premier Inn Hotel - £ 100 /night 9:30am
We manage to check in and were given room 515 at 5th level. It is a good room with LCD TV and nice King-size bed. Compared to Bed & Breakfast around the area offering 60-80 a night, this is well worth the money.

Leicester Square - TKTS 11:00am
Near the china town, is also known as Theatre Land, where all the Musicals & Operas showed daily. London is a very musical city, it has over 40-50 musicals daily, the famous one include Phantom, Les Miserable, We will Rock You, Mama Mia, Chicago, Grease, Hairspray etc. The moment we stepped out of the tube, there were lots of 'fake' tkts selling tickets at 15-20% higher the original TKTS,which was in the center of Leicester Square, a building next to a small park. It sold the 'today' musicals at 50% discount. We bought 2 tickets for Les Miserable £30 each (UP £60).

Caught in the Rain & Chinese Restaurant 12:00pm
London’s weather was very strange, it was like a temperamental old lady, went through the cycle of rain & sunshine for 20-30 times a day. Well, since it was raining, we found this quick hide-out place selling chinese lunch for £3.50, with free soup. That's a very good deal, and surprisingly, the soup was tasty and beef hor fun was one of the best we ever tried. The beef was super big and tasty!

Tesco Grocery 2:00pm
We always love to visit the local grocery store, it is a place we can experience the local cultures. We were delighted to find a grocery store near Piccadily Circus. From the food & domestic products selling at the store, you can roughly know how the local eat and live. We bought a cinnamon roll and a chocolate eclair, they were surprisingly delicious!

Trafalgar & National Gallery
They were crowded. We visited the gallery's toilet, and enjoyed a few paintings,

#10 Downing Street/Big Ben/Westminster
We passed by the very 'politically powerful' place at #10 downing street - Prime Minister's office. Tourists flocked the entrance, and tryed to take a glimpse of the office, or maybe the Prime Minister. Further down the street, we saw the famous Big Ben, and did not realize next to it is Westminster Abbey. We crossed the Westminster Bridge to see the view from Thames River, and take some shots of London Eye.

Les Miserable 7:30pm
After shower and some rest in the hotel, we met with a friend who just started work in London 1 month ago, we had some drink at Costa Caffe (it's everywhere in London, it is like Coffee Bean in Singapore). Bought a big cup of Hot Chocolate for £2.55. The friend rents a room not far from City for £500 a week, that's consider good price in London. At 7:30pm sharp, we were at the full-house Queens Theatre, watching the famous Les Miserable, due to jet-lag, at some scenes, we actually fell-asleep. It was supposed to be a very famous musical, but somehow we found it pretty boring and dragy. Just like the title, we felt miserable watching it!


London 2 May 2008 Fri "More of London" Cloudy 10-12°c

Mark & Spencer Simply Food 9:30am
Another beautiful morning, lots of people traveling to work in nice working suits. in the train station was crowded. A few minutes from our hotel was the St. Pancreas Station, where EuroStar high-speed train departed from London to Paris and Brussels. We visited the Mark & Spencer Simply Food outlet there, the station was actually like a shopping mall. This M&S outlet sells lots of tasty sandwiches & wraps, the whole racks were filled with lots of varieties, we bought a Mexican Bean Wraps for £2.40, it's delicious.

Dalston Kingsland - The Suburb
We didn't know there is something called 'Overground', when we were told to change to 'train', we bought is another tube station, but is actually a bigger size train, and traveled above ground called 'Overground'. On our way to Burberry outlet, we got off at the wrong station, i.e. Dalston Kingsland. However this turned out to be an interesting suburb. There is a market with many road-side stores selling fruits, veggies, clothes, etc. It looks like a black community, and it should be quite unsafe, but we stayed on walked around for 1 hour, bought 2 nice dress for Hebe £2.99 each, and enjoyed the hot-dog for £1.00,

Burberry Outlet - Hackney Central
Next train station was Hackney Central . After about 10 mins walk, we arrived this noone-knows Burberry Outlet. Very clean & organized outlet, everything going for 20-50% off the usual price. Realised that the stuffs were not much cheaper than Singapore, we just got a Burberry Tie for £22.99, usual price £45. The typical Burberry Polo Tee cost a£45 after discount;we can get the same piece at SGD150 in Singapore.

Lilywhite - The Real Saver for Sports Apprarels
After disappointing trip to the Burberry Outlet, we came back to Piccadily Station, and visited this Lilywhite 5 Storeys store. We had been seeing tourist brougt bags of Lilywhite goods, and yes, the things were really cheap there. We bought jackets, T-Shirts, England Soccer Jersey (£16, UP£45), Baby Clothing £2-4 each. Total spent about £62.

Stockpot Restaurant
Recommended by RickSteves.com, we visited Stockpot for a meal, not very cheap compared to what Rick Steves had written on this book. We had Salmon & Chips with salad for £9.50.

Harrods - The Luxurious Kingdom
It's the most luxurious shopping mall we ever visited, when it says 'Luxury Hall', it's really luxurious. Owned by a Egyptian, there are many decoration with Egyptian themes. And the Food Hall sells very delicious food; some at reasonable price, and some at very steep price. We also saw the OSIM Space Chair on display.

Estee Lauder - Promotion
This was a good deal, bought 2 products and get a set of make up kit and a nice bag for free. Abel spent £34 for a cleanser and mascara.

Dinner with a Friend
Sonia is my primary school friend in Singapore, we had a nice dinner at nearby Kingcross! After the dinner, we went to Tesco again. After the grocery shopping it was the end of London for us, we enjoyed the last night in London and next morning, we would be heading to Belgium.


Brussels/Bruges 3 May 2008 Sat "The Chocolate City" Sunny 12-17°c

€1 = S$2.135
Eurostar 8:05am

We left London behind and heading to Brussel with the bullet train travelling at 300km/h. It was a difficult 2 hours journey, as it traveled very fast, we felt dizzy.

Arrival in Brussel
Brussel-Zuid (South) Station had very unfriendly directions as they were in Dutch/French. It was difficult to even find where to take train to the Central station. When we arrived in the Centrale Station, strange Directory in the Brussel city had caused us lost of direction, only after asking a few people around, we manage to find where the Grand Place was, and the major hint was 'crowd & tourist'. When you saw crowd and tourist, chances are you are heading the right direction.

Grand Place
Everywhere is selling waffle. When we reached the Grand Place, it was very crowded, lots of tourists everywhere. Many of them were enjoying beer or coffee at nearby cafe. We bought a Waffle €1.60 from a vending van and started munching on it, and it tasted real good. We carried our backpacks and luggage and went around the Grand Place. It was really difficult because the road were made of big stones and uneven.

Marriott Hotel USD179/night
We checked in to the Room 101, the friendly receptionist gave us a map and showed us where to get good mussels. It was indeed a Marriott Hotel, it never fails us, it provided a very comfortable room with nice bed. We had a perfect good night sleep here.

Wittamer - The King of all Chocolates. No Godiva Please.
We took a bus ride €2, to few stops away from town center to visit all famous chocolate shop. Godiva has become very touristy and is no longer Belgium owned, therefore we had to give it a miss during this trip, not worth visiting. The Wittamer is the best chocolate in town, it is recommended by wikitravel, we bought €4.30 Creme Brulee, Chocolote Mousse and of course few hundred grams of chocolate at €5.25/100g. It was really good. We also bought a box of alcohol-filled chocolate from Neuhaus. We did not try the Marcollini chocolate which is supposed to be good also because the chocolates do not look very appealing.

Brugges 2pm
It is about 1 hour away from Brussel, this beautiful little town is cutting accross by many canals. We took a bus from Train Station to the town center 5KM away for €1.20. (Ticket at the booth is €1.20, else buying from Bus Driver is €1.60). The town is crowded, filled with tourist from around the world. We walked to the Clock/Bell Tower and enjoyed a special flag dance, also the famous Belgium Fries - Frittur - Fries with Mayonaise €2.50 + €0.60 sauce. The fries are tasty, crispy, salty.

Madam Dumon - The Chocolate Goddess
Yes! It is recommended by many travel books! It is simply 'heavenly'. The chocolates were sold at only €2.50/100g, and it tastes very good! It is much cheaper than Wittamer. We were pleased to be served by Madam Dumon herself, we bought 500 gr of chocolate and a few truffles, we regretted that we didn't buy more.

Da Vinci Ice-Cream
Another recommendation, it is a few minutes walk from Clock Tower, it had long queue of people waiting to buy the delicious ice-cream. For €3 we get 3 big & gigantic scoops of ice-cream.

River town & Shops Everywhere
It is a romantic town, with many different companies serving boat rides from all parts of canal. We also see many shops selling lots of chocolates, laces & embroidery, souvenir.

Manneken Pis Boy & Girl 7pm
What brings Tourists to this Brussels is the Famous Peeing Boy - Mannenken Pis Boy. It is not clothed like what usually he does, he has 700 over different outfits.

Seafood Street / Fish Market
After a shower and quick rest at Marriot Hotel, we went to the fist market. However the appearance do not look so appealing thus we headed back to the grand place for dinner.

Chez Leon - Best Mussels 9pm
Mussels Meal €32.60. The mussels were very heavenly, super fresh and tasted really good. We shared one bucket of mussels.


Brussels/Amsterdam 4 May 2008 Sunday "Amsterdam - The Sex City" Sunny 12-17°c

Grocery Shop
We went to two shops, one asian supermarket where we bought chili sauce that accompanied most of our meals through out the journey. The other one is local supermarket. We bought some waffles to be brought home. Although these waffles were not freshly made, but they tasted pretty good. We also bought some chocolates, salads, and juices.

International Phone Card
We received news that Abel’s grand father has just passed away, he was 90 years old. It was really sad and a lot of arrangements need to be made suddenly. We looked around the town anxiously for a cheap way to call home. We managed to purchase a €5 phone card, which allowed us to talk about 30mins calling Singapore & Malaysia. We quickly made arrangement with relative to take care of Hebe, and we were quite worried how our Hebe can adapt to the sudden change. As she was supposed to be taken care by her Grand Mother.

Last Waffle
We had our last waffle in Brussels, and start heading to Amsterdam. We regretted that we did not buy more fresh waffle although we bought some prepackaged ones.

Brussel Train to Amsterdam
It only took about 3 hour to reach Amsterdam. The train ride was smooth, and without any hassles.

Locker at Amsterdam 4pm
We manage to find the locker to put our luggage temporarily, as we toured around the city for 4 hours, until our Night Train Ride. The locker was quite advance, used Credit Card for payment, and to unlock we just need to scan the bar code printed on the ticket. It costs us €9 for 2 lockers.

Automatic Fast-Food Vending Machine
5 mins walk from Train-Station, there is this Fast-Food vending machine in the store, selling burgers, fried potatoes etc. The store only accepts purchases from the machine. We bought the Croquette - Fried Ragout - stuffed with Cheese and beef. It was delicious.

Sex City
Yes. No doubt about it, is real Sex City where Mariyuana (Coffee) is legal. We passed through the 'dark alley' of Amsterdam to catch glimpse of small display windows of different classes of prostitutes. It is nice to watch of course, and realized that there were different classifications. Those nearer to the main street will contain younger and hotter girls, while those further back will have older and uglier ones. I guess it is due to rental of the small cubicles. We at least saw more than 20 of them - that satisfied our curiosity on this Sex City.

Queens Arrival at Dam Square - Remembrance Day
Without knowing, Netherlands was having the Remembrance Day today, and there was a big memorial ceremony going on in the center of city - Dam Square. Groups of Scouts (Students), Police, TV Stations are stand-by to film the event, and the Queen would be arriving at 8pm to present the flower etc.

La Place - D&V Shopping [Food Court]
At the end of the City Walk - we reached this D&V Shopping Center and there was a food court here selling interesting food. We grabbed a Green-Curry noodle from the track and it tasted awful.

Flower Market
Next to the canal, this flower market sells lots of Tulips. And is real cheap, €5 for 20 talks etc.

Albert Heijin - Grocery Store 6:30pm
Before leaving the city, we visited this Albert Heijin to puchase some food for our Night Train Ride later. Evian Water is selling real cheap in Europe, unlike Singapore. We also bought bowl of sald, and nice roast beef & cold meat. In Netherland there were a lot of Indonesian food, they sold keroepoek, seroendeng, cap choy, sambal, etc. This was due to the Indonesian was once colonialised by Netherlands.

1st Class Night Train - Munich 8:27pm
It is really a first class train. The single room comes with nice basin. But something we don't like is even though the room can be sold as Double Room, but due to their system constraint, they refused to sell us when we booked it 1 month earlier. So we had to book 1 Single Room €110, and 1 reclining seat €10. And later, secretly sleeping in the single room over the night. We could have bought the Double room for €55x2. The Ticket Conductor came and advice on the arrival, and she would serve breakfast 1 hour before arriving, after that, it's our own time and own relaxing moment in the train. It's a bit shaky, and the next morning, we actually felt dizzy, as our brain get use to the rocking moment.


Salzburg 5 May 2008 Monday "Mozart - The Sound of Music" Sunny 15-16°c

Salzburg Card - Best Value
We arrived at Salzburg Train Station at 10am from Munich, Germany. As described by Rick Steves, Tourist Info Center is at Platform 2a. We purchased our Salzburg Card for €24 each, which allows us to access all sights in the town and all transportation within 24 hours. This is the best value card compare with other cities.

Crowne Plaza Hotel €86 10am
After 5 mins walk from Train Station, we arrived at the Hotel. We were allowed to check in early, and we enjoyed our hot shower, as we did not have any showers in the night-train ride from Amsterdam to Munich.

Old Town & New Town
Salzburg is separated by a river between New Town & Old Town. We took a bus to the old town to see all the attractions. We visited Mozart Statue, The Residentz, and tried the Famous Mozart Ball - Chocolate with green pistachio at the center.

Cathedral - Performance 12pm
Next to the Mozart Statue is the Cathedral, it is a beautiful church. When the clock striked 12, there was a music performance using the huge organ. The sound & music is magnificent! Entrance is free, is up to public to donate upon exit. We donated €2.

Fortress 12:30pm
We took the funicular (Cable car) to top of the Fortress, it provided a nice view of the Salzburg. The Salzburg Card covered it, else it costs €10 each. It is not worth the money for the ride, but the view from the Fortress is good.

Interesting Sights 1pm - 5pm
We visited the Cemetery just below the fortress, walked around the old town, and had our lunch at Toscana – a canteen at Univeristy of Salzburg. It served cheap food, for €7 our lunch was settled. We bought a €5 Phone Card to call back home, as we missed our Hebe very much. We went on to walk around the town, and visited the LV Shop, price was 10% higher than Paris. We also took the €2.80 Elevator up to the mountain to have another view of the City. Mozart Birth Place was another tourist attraction, it show case the small piano & history info of Mozart. We took the last ride of Boat Cruise at 5:05pm, it was quite a 'sleepy' ride, both of us fell asleep during the 30mins ride.

Mozart Cafe 6:30pm
We had our dinner here, €32 for a plate of Beef Noodle, bowl of hot soup, a bottle of beer & a special local dessert (egg puff). Very nice restaurant and good service. We took away a piece of Mozart Torte (Cake) for €3.10, it's tasty & delicious.

Mirabell Garden 7:30pm
It is a beautiful garden, planted with lots of Tulips and many other flowers. It is just opposite our hotel.


Salzburg/Munich/Fussen 6 May 2008 Tuesday "Munich - The Deutche Land" Sunny 10-16°c

Salzburg - Mirabell Garden & Grocery Shopping at Billa
As usual we went to Supermarket. We found a good value Grocery Store selling Mozart Ball for 30% less than those tourist areas. A box of 300g mozart balls were sold at €3.99 in the supermarket, much cheaper than the tourist shops which sell the chocolates for €5.50. We also bought some sausages and roasted meat. After the shopping we went to the garden again.

Euro 2008
The Host cities are Austria & Switzerland for the Big Event of Soccer, and it's good that I managed to buy a mascot at the supermarket - Billa for €5.50. The Game will starts in June 08.

Munich City 2pm
We arrived Munich at 2 pm, and HBF - Train station is full of live, we manage to find the locker and put our luggage there for €5. It is less 'auto' compared with the one in Amsterdam, which uses Credit Card and Scanner for collection. This one uses 'key' and coins.

The Shopping Area & City View
The main shopping district was about 1 km away from train station. It was crowded. The city was quite clean & beautiful, decorated with many tulips along the way. Many stalls selling asparagus, strawberry, cherry. We visited the New Town Hall and paid €2 to take the elevator to 85m high, and have a good view of the Munich City.

16:51 Train to Fussen
We rushed from Munich main train station, took the S-Bahn (MRT) train and back to HBF. We decided to take the S-Bahn train to go back to main train station and catch the regional train to Fussen because we did not have much time. When we reached the station, it was so complicated not as simple as Singapore MRT station, luckily a kind lady directed us to take the train from the correct platform. In Munich Haupbahnhof we looked out for the 1st Class Cabin, and just hopped on, we didn't realize that this train would actually be split into 2. We were warned before, we should look carefully at the cabin door on which destination before boarding. It's lucky that Ticket Conductor asked us where we were going, and after 1hr ride, we quickly got down and run to the 1st few cabins to go to Fussen.

Fussen
We arrived here at 19:00, and quickly went to bus stop to get on bus 78 to go to another town - Hohenschwangau 5KM away, where we would be spending the night and visiting the Castle, buil by Mad King Ludwig. Hohenschwangau is a quiet and peaceful town, with very beautiful scenery. Our hotel is about 100m away from the center, and it's a simple and clean hotel for €62 a night, with breakfast. We took a 15 mins stroll around the little town and we have a party of our own in the room, with a 1kg German Pork Knuckle, Pretzel, Beer, Strawberry, Cherries & Salad bought in Munich, our dinner was settled. On top of that, we had nice chocolate cake & cappucino moouse from a famous & luxury delicacy store in Munich - Dallmayr, even the Royal Family buy food from this place often.


Fussen/Munich 7 May 2008 Wednesday "The Disney Castle" Sunny 8-15°c

The Morning Fogs
Morning fogs filled the whole town of Hohenschwangau, and we can hardly see the road. It is a nice experience of Germany..

The Magical Castle - Neuschwanstein
There are 2 castle – Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein which was built by King Ludwig II, it is about 150 years old. The luxurious palace with lots of religious paintings. After our breakfast in the hotel, we quickly went to the ticket center to purchase 2 tickets and assigned to a 9:10am Guided Tour. The bus ticket from Ticket Center to Neuschwantein cost €1.70, else is a 45mins hike to the top of mountain – it is not an easy walk. We realized that Korea & Japan tourists love to visit this place, 80% of the people we met since last evening were either Korean & Japanese - interesting.

Mary's Bridge
This king wanted to enjoy the beautiful castle he had built, so he built a bridge 300m away from this castle, hanging at the 2 mountain peaks to view this castle. We arrived at this Bridge at 8:30am, and the bridge is a bit shaky, but we had good view of the castle, surrounded by clouds, as if it is in heaven.

The Grand Castle Interior
At 9:10am, the only 4 tourists for English speaking tour, so we had to be merged with the Japan & Korean tour group to tour around the castle. The Castle is huge, and the tour only guided us to a few main locations, and it was really luxurious. - This King loves Swan, yeah, a bit gay, and he decorated many rooms with swan paintings and swan sculpture. After enjoying the luxurious castle, we descend from the castle using the Horse Carriage €2.50 down hill. Walking down by food is not easy as well.

Left the Fussen City 1pm
We took our luggage from the hotel, and left the city at 1pm. In the train ride, we realized there are lots of German students taking the same train as well, stopping at different stations from Fussen onwards. The few towns are quite old and not many residents, wondering why these kids not attending school in Munich instead.

Munich City
Again, we arrived at this German City! The first thing is to visit the Munich Museum €8 each. We see the Wright Brother 1st airplane original model, aerospace, machinery etc. It is fun, but within 1 hour, we left the museum, as we think it is a bit overrated and quite boring.

Market & Beer Garden 4pm
I think Germany is a Beer Country, much more than any other European cities. You can see at 4pm, there were lots of local enjoying their beer in the beer garden - everywhere.

Vietnamese Noodle & German Sausages
We bought a bowl of Vietnamese noodle at train station for €4.90, and it was delicious. We also bought fried rice from a Chinese restaurant earlier. And 2 German Huge sausages for our dinner, and of course Beer.

Night Train - Double Bed Room to Paris 8:53pm
Our last night train ride of our trip. It is enjoyable, and we even took shower in the train. We realized that during our trip, we seen groups of Korean girls also like us, taking eurail trains around Europe. Surprisingly, we didn't meet many travelers from Singapore/Malaysia.


Paris 8 May 2008 Thursday "French Revolution" Hot 20-25°c

7:52am Arrives - Train Station
We arrived at Paris Du Nord Train Station at 7:52am, this train station is not as nice compared to the one in Munich.

Train Fully Booked! 8:30am
We were caught in very kanchong situation, when we wanted to reserve train ticket to Basel (Switzerland) 2 days later, it's fully booked, it was a Saturday. The not-so-helpful French (Black) woman was a disaster, something we realized that the local (black) had a big problem with asian, while the local (white) were much friendlier and more helpful. We didn't realized that black lady booked us on Basel for a Sunday morning, after we paid €10 for that, we had to re-queue for 20mins, and asking another French guy for help. This guy was much more helpful, explaining to us buying the normal ticket will cost us >€200 each. Luckily Abel thought of connecting train from Geneve instead of Basel, we could reserve this train, overall, we would be late by 1 hour compared with the original plan. Phew ....

Hotel Kensington - 5mins walk to Eiffel Tower
We bought 2x2 Day Metro Tickets for €5.30 each, for Zone1-2. The ticket is cute, small piece with magnetic strip, much smaller compared to EZ Link card we have in Singapore. Hotel Kensington is the cheapest and best location we can find for €77 x 2 nights. It is a 5mins walk to Eiffel Tower. The room isn't fantastic, small and a bit old. But the bathroom is clean and seems newly renovated. We can't check in to the hotel yet, so we left our luggage in the storage. The Hotel Staff tried to sell Disney Tickets, I believed they earned €4 commission from each ticket, there were a few couples before us bought it. Disneyland was not in our itenary, since we had visited the Disney World in Florida, therefore, thinking no point visiting this one.

Tomb of Napolean
We walked for 15 mins to reach this Tomb of Napolean, and quickly bought the Paris Museum Pass €30 for 2 days. It is a strategy, if we were to buy it at famous destination like Orsay or Louvre, we might have to queue for 2 hours. But in Tomb of Napoleon there was no queue to purchase the pass. This Tomb of Napolean was very big and luxurious, with painting at the Dome Shape building, and this guy was very well respected in France. The tomb was made in such a way that everyone visiting it would have to bow to him.

Museum Rodin - The Thinker
The visit was not planned, but we realized there was a long queue for this Museum (5 mins walk from Napolean's Tomb). As there is quick access available for Pass Holder, and enter immediately without queuing. To our surprise, the Famous 'The THINKER' sculpture is here, and this statue is very powerful, and the whole museum is filled with sculpture with different dimensions of thinking & idea.

Notre-Dame
The Cathedral is one of the best in Europe. Very serene ... we waited in the queue for 10mins before allowed to enter into the crowded cathedral. The Exterior, Interior, everything in Notre-Dame was so perfectly planned and installed. The place was very crowded, we had to follow the slow pace and squeeze into the Cathedral, and enjoy every views of the glass-panel.

Ille St Louist
5 mins walk from Notre-Dame, we left the little 'island' and enter to this St Louis area for good Crepes & Ice Cream. We visited the Cafe De Mars, ordered 2 set meals - Smoked Salmon with Crepes & Chocolate w. Cream and Rissoto they were very tasty. However we were charged €4.90 for a bottle of Evian water, and we didn't realize we can order free Tap Water.

Deportation Memorial - Nazi Camp
It is a free for public, nearby Notre-Dame, in a open-space, visitors had to queue up and go down the stairs to visit this Deportation Memorial. The place is cold.

Orsay Museum 7pm
It is 2nd most popular museum after Lourve. Yes, queue has to be very long, and as it is a Thursday, it opens till 9:30pm, we entered the Museum by 7pm without any queue, save at least hour of waiting time. We switched on our Audio Guide, and enjoy the famous painting & sculpture.

Seine River Cruise 1 Hour 10 pm
€10 per person, there were many company offering the tour, without realizing, it actually takes 1 hour to complete the cruise. It was full, almost 100% occupied. We left the dock at 10pm sharp, and 5 languages audio guide provided give brief descriptions of each building. Almost all the famous tourist sites are actually built along this Seine River.


Paris 9 May 2008 Friday "More of Paris" Hot 20-25°c

Eiffel Tower – Super Long Queue 9am
Hundreds or maybe thousand of tourist has started queuing to go up the tower since early morening. Tourist Tourist Tourist everywhere! And there were lots of 'black guys' selling the key-chains under the tower, they look a bit far too persuasive, therefore we were quite careful not even to look directly at them. But they sell the cheapest key-chain in town, price begins at €1 per piece, and the best deal will be 10 pieces for €2. Without wasting our time queuing 2 hours to go up the Eiffel, we catch a RER Train C to Versailles - the Palace instead.

Versailles 10am
The Train ride is covered by our Eurail Pass - we changed 4 tickets at the counter. About 25 mins train ride, we arrived in the town. Yes. It's long queue as well. But with Paris Museum Pass, we managed to skip 1 hour of queue and went directly to the Palace. There were over 30 tourist buses, and it was another crowded place. So far, Paris is the city we visited with most tourists, everywhere! Can't imagine the peak period in Jul-Aug, what will happen to the streets of Paris.

Versailles - The Luxurious Palace
Now we know why Germany, French wanted to have the empire, becoming King, even Napoleon was dreaming of it. Just look at how King Louis XIV built the palace, you will be stunned. The exterior is not as grand as the German one by King Ludwig. But the interior is much more luxurious. We strolled from Room to Room with Rick Steves' Audio Guide. Lots of Paintings on the wall, nice Embroidery curtain & bed linen, wood craving, furniture etc. You will wonder how much money and gold the King had to build such luxurious place. No wonder Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette were made shorter 1 foot from the top during the French Revolution.

Lunch - Famous Crepe Restaurant along the Alley 2pm
After 20 minutes of searching through the town next to the palace. We found this little cafe serving very delivious Crepes. We ordered Chicken Breast Crepes, Beef burger & Spinach Crepes, Warm Liquid Chocolate Crepes and Apple Crepes. It is tasty, for €19, we were settled for our Lunch. We sat along the alley, and it is very 'French' & weather was good, it was really a nice experience. After the lunch we passed by a bakery and bought some desserts including an éclair, they were nice and quite cheap, about €2 each.

Laduree - The 'Goddess' of Patisier
The marketing image is very good! The store is well decorated! It is the French most famous Pattissier Store. Light-Green is the main theme. Their dessert is extremely tasty & tasty & tasty! Never miss this shop if you like dessert and sweet. They were really fantastic. We spent €26 for 3 pieces of cakes and 6 pieces of small macaroons. Quite expensive, but no regret coming to Paris, because of LADUREE! It is Heavenly Good! The taste & fragrance coming out from the cakes is something we never tried before. We still droll thinking about their dessert. The best dessert ever. Website: www.laduree.fr

Louis Vuiton - Champs Elysees
The Main Building was along Champs Elysees - The Shopping Street, we spotted the Big LV Store. It is not true that the price here is more expensive than La Fayatte one, as the price in France is standardize. We bought 2 pieces of LV later at La Fayatte.

Arc De Triomphe 4pm
It is the famous Gate in the City. The monument is big and situated in the center of road junction . It is covered by Paris Museum Pass, with more than 200 steps to reach the top. It was tiring, while climbing the spiral stairs, many tourist stopped halfway catching breathe. We did the same. The Top provided a nice view of the Paris.

La Fayette - LV 5pm
It was already prepared. We bought a piece of LV - Sunset Boulevard for €505, after 12% VAT rebates (2-3months time); the price will be about €450, which was cheaper than Singapore SGD 1200 - 1300. La Fayette was a big shopping mall, with many stores inside, just like Takashimaya. The competitor is PrintEmps but without LV. We bought another piece of pouch for a friend for €152.

The Lourve - Mona Lisa 6:30pm
Yes! it is much easier to get in at 6:30pm, else 2 hour queue was not avoidable. Lourve open until 9:30 on Friday. With our Paris Museum Pass, we entered the Museum immediately. This place was so big and there were 3 main wings, and we believed we can only cover 1 main wing - which has Mona Lisa painting and statue of Venus de Milo. It is crowded during this dinner hour as well, can't imagine if it is morning or afternoon. We stroll through all statues of paintings quickly with our Audio Guide in my iPhone, enjoy the famous sculptures and paintings. Mona Lisa painting is small, and can be easily skipped if without the Crowd. Visitors were kept 5m away from the painting - which is framed in glass, unlike the others. with this, the already very small painting now looks even smaller. It was quite disappointing. Actually, we enjoyed more of the other paintings than this one. Since we were hungry we started eating the cake we bought in Laduree, it was heavenly.

Eiffel Tower 8:30pm
The sun is setting, and as it is a dinner time, we only need to queue for 20 mins to get up to the 2nd level of the tower. Yeah! It has a beautiful view of the Paris, when the sky turned dark, the building lights were on, it is romantic.

French Wine & Cuisine - Raw Beef 10:30pm
We visited this restaurant at Rue Cler, serving great French Cuisine for only €10. Roasted Duck Leg & Raw Minced-Beef. We used to eat lots of medium-cook steak, and it is first time eating raw beef - it is not easy to enjoy this famous local cuisine. The Roast Duck Leg is best! We enjoyed the dinner with a glass of french wine. After dinner we went back to hotel and continue with dessert bought from Laduree.


Switzerland 10 May 2008 Saturday "The Swiss + " Sunny 18-22°c

1SF = 1.33SGD
Check Out at 6am
We only slept for 5 hours since yesterday our schedule was very packed, but it was well worth and we had to catch the 7:10 am train at Gare de Lyon station to Geneve then Bern. We were supposed to go to Basel then Bern, but this train was fully booked for EurailPass Holder. We should have paid SGD 40 in Singapore to reserve this train, but we made a wrong move, thinking it can save us some money by booking the train later in Paris (€10). It is a costly move, we were almost not able to get to Switzerland on time, luckily with the Geneve connection, we would be late by only 1 hour.

Train Ticket Cost
Without Eurail Pass, the actual ticket cost from Paris to Switzerland is from €126 - €200. Our 15 Days Eurail pass only cost about €450. (For non-European residents only).

Geneve - 1st stop in Switzerland
Unlike other nations in Europe, Switzerland requires us to produce our passport upon exit the train from Paris. We went through a short immigration check, and breathe in some 20 over minutes of air in Geneve before catching another train to Bern.

Bern - The Bear City 12pm
It is a Bear City! Thinking it must be a small town, but we were wrong! It is crowded, happening, lots of shops around. Somehow it was quite similar to Salzburg, because there is a big River cutting across the city. The River provides good scenery to the else typical-europen-style city.

Cheese Fondue & Rosti - Le Mazot
We had our meal at the centre of market, a restaurant recommended by Rick Steves. It serves famous Cheese Fondue & Rosti. We ordered one Fondue with Mushroom and a Swiss Sausage Rosti, delicious! We were given a basket of potatoes to dip inside a pool of cheese. It is cheesy, tasty!

Coop & Migros - The Grocery Stores
Coop & Migros are everywhere in Switzerland, almost every train station we passed by, we saw a Migros. We shopped at these 2 stores downtown, and realized the Switzerland stuff aren't cheap, high cost of living in this country.

Interlaken West - OST 6pm
There were 2 train stations in this little town - Interlaken. It is a town squeezed by 2 Lakes. A quiet & touristy town. We left our luggage in the locker at Interlaken OST for 5SF, and we strolled slowly from OST to West, along the way, we enjoyed the beautiful scenery and many shops selling Swiss Watches, the price were quite steep (Almost the same as Singapore).

Lauterbrunnen
With 5.40SF (After 20% discount with Eurail Pass), we took another little train to this town - Lauterbrunnen, we stayed just below the Water Fall - Staubbach, and the hotel was named after this water fall. It was not an easy walk from Train Station, about 15 minutes.

Hotel Staubbach SF140/night
Very friendly Staff - Doris, assisted us to check in at 8:30pm. This Hotel wass like a Hostel, but of higher 'class'. Our room is facing the Beautiful Water-fall, and view of valley, with bathroom, free-flow of Drinks available downstairs. We have a good night rest ...


Switzerland 11 May 2008 Sunday "The Swiss Alps " Snow 1-15°c

Staubbach Breakfast with a View 9am
Breakfast provided by the hotel was great, with Swiss Cheese, croissant, eggs and all types of coffee and tea. The restaurant has a great view, overlooking through the Valley, with snow-covered mountains. It was an enjoyable breakfast.

Swiss Alps (Lauterbrunnen - Stechelberg - Gimmelwald - Murren - Birg - Schilthorn)
There are many mountain tops you can visit, and there are many companies providing different type of transport - Train, Cable Car, Bus etc. It is quite touristy, and the famous one is Jungfarujoch, cost SF130 per person for a return trip. Another beautiful place recommended, and not so touristy is Schilthorn , the cost is SF 69. In the morning, we took a bus from Lauterbrunnen to Stetchelberg for SF 8 return trip/person. And the Cable Car ascend to the top of mountain and we have to changed to 3 different routes at Gimmewarld, Murren & Birg. By 12pm, we were at the top Schilthorn at 2971m above sea level.

Snowing
We were happy to see snow falling from the sky for the first time. It was fun. At first we thought it was a man-made snow, but later realized that the snow actually came down from the sky.

The Revolving Restaurant at 2971m above Sea Level 2pm
We enjoyed our Rosti, Hungarian Goulash Soup & Beer at the restaurant for SF33. The restaurant is revolving around the mountain, and we have great view of the Swiss Alps around.

Murren
We stopped at this cable car station, and wonder around the village. It is a beautiful place, with cows & sheep around, and beautiful stream of water running down from the mountain top.

Gimmelwald
Another beautiful and peaceful village, we took photos lying down on the ground with wild flowers growing everywhere.

Peaceful Environment
It is one of the best place to rest after 10 days hectic travelling from London - Paris. With sound of water fall and breezing cool air, we had good sleep in our cosy bed. Once in a while, when the sheep & cow rattling by, the bell hanging around their neck will produce loud & clear 'ding-dong ding dong' music. It is a wonderful and heaven-like. We felt so relaxing, enjoyed coffee & tea at the balcony, and enjoyed the water-fall right in front of our eyes.


Switzerland 12 May 2008 Monday "Lugano Lake" Sunny 12-18°c

Breakfast at Staubbach
Colorful boiled egg, Swiss cheese & a cup of coffee for our breakfast at the hotel, with another morning of great view on of the valley and waterfall. We left the hotel early, and catch the 8:30 train (SF5.40) to Interlaken OST, and transfer to another 2.5 hour ride for 51KM seems rediculous at first, but as it travels over mountains, through mountain caves & next to lakes, the time taken to Luzern seemed reasonable. The journey passed by many houses, lakes & mountains, with great scenery. Most Switzerland cities are surrounded by Mountains, I guess it has to go over a few mountains before reaching another city.

Luzern - Lion Town
Today is Monday, and most shops are closed. We then realized that it is a long weekend, and somehow, Monday is regarded as Sunday as well. We stroll slowly around the city with Rick Steves' guide. We walked by the Chapel, the exterior is so simple, but the interior is luxuriously decorated, just like other European Cathedral. There are many distinctive bridges in this town, some are wooden bridges. The river cuts through the city, and it provides great place for swans & ducks to swim around.

Swiss Public Water
We realized that in everywhere in Switzerland, there will be always a fountain or water-hose in the public area, the water keep running and never stops, the locals just use it to wash face, filled up water-bottle etc. With Swiss Alps surrounded and uncountable of waterfall, i guess there is no worry for Switzerland that the water will run out, the water is the freshest spring water. We tasted it, and it taste sweet & fresh!

Lugano 6pm
We arrived in this lake city at 5:30pm, and most shops & shopping center are closed by 6 pm. We enjoy the great scenery around the lake and enjoyed the relaxing moments.

Hotel Pestalozzi SF178
We were given a top floor room no.504, and with balcony overseeing the lake. We take-away some nice food from nearby Thai Take Away Shop. The food was expensive, SF16 for pad thai and SF18 for thai green curry. We enjoyed our 5th Asian Meal of the trip in the romantic balcony with sunset view .


Italy - Milan/Venice 13 May 2008 Tuesday "Italiano" Sunny 16-23°c

Breakfast
We enjoyed the last breakfast in Switzerland, and took the 8:30 train to Italy - Milan, the fashion city.

Italy Border
The moment the train approached the Italy border, at the train station, there were many Immigration Officers & Polices boarded the train to check every passenger one by one. The Italian Police Officers seemed a bit scary and fierce, unlike others from other cities, who were more friendly. Passengers (UK Residents) next to us actually being asked on very detailed questions like the purpose of travelling, amount of money brought in to the country, and check on their luggage etc. I guessed they were not very prepared by their look. We were lucky, the police just checked our passport, saved the hassles of opening our luggage.

Italy - Everyone Possible a Thief/Robber
This was the place we felt the most unsafe. It felt like as if everyone had a part-time job as pick pocket, you just have to be extra alert and careful.

Milan - The Fashion City
Milan! The train station was very old and undergoing renovation, however it should look really classic once the renovation was completed. This fashion city was a nice place to visit!

The Outlet - Salvagente
From somewhere, we managed to find a shopping outlet few metro stations away from station, for lots of Baby Branded clothings, the babies & children were lucky here, wearing designer pieces. The clothes were stylish and by the look, you know they are designer pieces. Original prices were €100-300, most of the dress were going for €50+. We bought pants and swimsuit for Hebe.

Majestic Cafe - Near Duomo
We got off at Dante Street Station and there were lots of cafe nearby, we stopped by and enjoyed our Spaghetti & Mushroom Giant Ravioli for €19, the portion was small, but we enjoyed it.

Duomo Facade
It was a dangerous place to be. Few things we must avoid 1. Pigeon Poo and 2. Blacks. Lots of pigeon flew around, so we tried not to be the lucky ones to get presents from Italian pigeons. There were lots of 'Blacks' persuading or forcing tourists to take their 'free friendship band' & 'free corns', sometimes, they just grabbed your hand, I do not know their motives, but like lots of other tourists, we tried to avoid them at all cost. It was rude and I don't know why the Italian police did not do anything to get rid of these people, other than wearing their Armani Suites walking around.

Duomo - Florence's Icon
This Grand Church was like Notre-dame, the exterior & interior. Inside is serene and dark, and you know the Catholic Church was rich, very rich in the past, in order to build such a structure.

Round the Bull for Good Luck
Next to Duomo, is the famous & super luxurious stores, even Mcdonald's Logo was painted Black & Gold like other branded stores - LV, Prada, Gucci etc. in the center of this mall, on the floor, there is a bull tiles with a hole on the floor. Everyone is trying to turn a complete round on the floor, as there is saying, it gives good luck! We did it ....just for the fun.

Venice - Romantic Place
3 Hours train ride from Milan, we arrived in Venice S.L, the train station on the main island. It was a romantic place, with hundreds of islands forming a city, the main transportation were boats. We love this place!

San Marco Square
It is a famous square, and as usual, filled with tourists and cafe.

Hotel Ai Do Mori - €90
We were given another near-by hotel instead, which was newly renovated! It's clean & comfortable!.

Antica Restaurant - 4 Course Meal for €18
It was amazing that we managed to find this restaurant recommended by RickSteves, since the small roads in Venice were confusing. Without understanding anything in Italian, we ordered 2 sets of 4 Course Meal; one Fish and one Veel Cutlet as main course. When the main course was served, we expected fish fillet, but instead, a plate of seafood platter with cuttle fish, prawn etc. Venice is surrounded by sea or 'floating' on sea, no wonder their seafood was very very good & fresh!

Skipping Across Venice's Islands
Venice was formed by hundred of islands, houses were built on the edges, and small canal or rivers were formed to allow their main transportation - boats to pass through. The sun was about to set, we took this opportunity to get our self lost in this city, wondering around from island to island, crossing the bridge. It is good that many house/shop owner left 2 main direction signboard in front of their house/shop, "Ferocia" and "San Marco", this gave the lost tourists like us to find the way out in the puzzling world of Venice. Some of the houses are built so close together, it is a nice experience to walk through the alleys & bridges. It was really amazing also that we managed to reach Ferocia a.k.a. train station without really losing our way.

The Grand Canal
The Boat #1 will takes about 45 mins to travel from train station to San Marco, giving a free historical experience on Venice along the way. We switched on our Pre-Downloaded iPhone Audio Guide while cruising from stop to stop along the Grand Canal.


Florence 14 May 2008 Wednesday "The Miracle Tower" Sunny 16-22°c

Venice - Dodge's Palace
The Queue to the Basilica has already built up before it opens at 9:30am, the same for Doge's Place. As a smart tourist, we went strait to Correr Museum to buy the pass for 2 places there, indeed, there was no queue at all. After a short walk around Correr, we exit and went directly to Doge's Palace, with our pass, we skipped the 30mins queue and went strait into Doge's Palace. It is a nice palace, with great paintings and luxurious decoration. Strolling from room to room, feeling the moments where the doge administer the country from this place. Also, walk through the famous Bridge of Sighs, where prisoners were brought from the 'High Court' to the next island - Prison Cells.

The Grand Basilica - San Marco 10:30am
The Queue to enter to Basilica need at least 1 hour, there is a quick tip, by leaving the backpack at the cloak room, visitor will be given a pass, with this pass, 2 visitors can enter into the basilica - left entrance. After few minutes walking around, we could not find the cloak room, and suddenly, we realised that we were among 2 tour groups (Korean & European) about to enter into the Basilica with special 'Group Entrance', we followed human flow, we entered into the basilica without queuing with the few hundreds visitors. But this will not always work, as at 11:30am, we realized that the 'Group entrance' was crowded with at least 10 groups.

Souvenirs
The famous face-mask is the popular souvenir of Venice.

Catching Vaporetti - Boat to Train Station
At San Marco Stop, the boat route was wrongly printed, we were standing at the stop waiting for the wrong direction boat to arrive. We were few minutes away from missing the train ride, luckily we were told by nice gentlemen quick enough. Our train would leave the Venice Station at 12:37pm, and the boat docked at the stop at 12:33pm.

Florence - Quara Key Residence €79
2hr 45mins train ride, we arrived in Florence. The train station was old and unattractive, unlike Milan - looks classical. It is another place tourist should be very careful, as picket pockets were at their 'advance level'. As Florence does not have any subway/metro lines, we had to catch bus #22 to our Hotel. After many rounds of confirmation from different info source, finally me managed to find the bus stop to catch the bus. We paid €4 for the day ticket. This hotel was 15 mins bus ride away, but it is a self-sufficient studio apartment, nice and fully functional.

Pisa - Miracle Leaning Tower 5:30pm
It is a 1 Hour Train ride from Florence to Pisa, after arriving at the station, we purchase the €0.95 bus ticket, last 60minutes to the Miracle of Fields, which consist a Basilica, Museum and the Famous Leaning Tower. Yes, the tower is still as slanting as the picture, it is amazing to be able to stand under this world-famous tower. Along the way and outside of the Miracle of Fields, there were many Indians and Africans selling fake bags, sun glasses etc.

Florence 9:30pm
We arrived late in Florence city, the train that we took was slower than the earlier train that we took to go to Pisa. When we reached Florence, the whole train station was quiet, and some funny-looking people were wondering around, it was quite scarry to walk by ourselves, so we increased our pace and quickly went to bus stop and went back to our hotel.


Florence 15 May 2008 Thursday "The Gucci Day" Sunny 16-22°c

The Mall
It is a popular outlet shop for very famous brands like Gucci, Armani, Burberry, Tods etc. We took a SITA bus next to train station €3.10 one-way, 1 hour bus ride to this mall. Wondering why this mall is built so far away from the city.

Gucci 12pm
This was the main objective visitors come to 'The Mall', we managed to get a few good handbags and wallet. The shopkeepers were helpful & friendly. Although this is an 'outlet' mall, all the shopkeepers were wearing formal suits serving their customers, just like the normal shops in the city.

Duomo - The Unusual 'Glamour' 2pm
This Dumo in florence is unusually unglamourous church comparing with others. Despite the simple interior & exterior, it still draw crowds to visit this place. After the Duomo, we had some Gelato.

Plaza Michael Angelo
We catched bus #12 to top of the hill in Plaza Michaelangelo and enjoyed the Florence city view.

The Lousy Bus & Traffic - Lots of Waiting
Florence was bad to travel around, as there was no Metro/Subway, from point to point, and we had to rely on the bus. On non-peak time, the bus was always on schedule, during the peak around, it was difficult to take bus, as the buses were full and there were traffic jam.

The Grocery Store
As we are staying in a studio apartment, we decided to have a 'home cooked' dinner. We visited a big supermarket near our hotel, and bought nice piece of beef, 'satay sticks' with sausages, pork, chicken. Rock Melon & Cherry, Red-Wine, Tiramisu. The Rock-Melon of Italy was the best we ever tasted, better than the Australian's, it was so sweet and filled with nice melon fragrance.


Rome 16 May 2008 Friday "The Vatican City" Sunny 16-22°c

Train Ride from Florence to Rome
It is a 2 hour train time, our last Inter-City train ride utilizing our Eurail Global Pass. As this is a Eurostar Italia train, we need to pay €15 reservation fees. Comparing with the original 1st class ticket €50-80, there is still quite significant amount of saving. Rome Train Station was not fantastic either, we had to be extra careful walking around, as we have read pages of warning on the 'Super Advance level of Theft' in this city.

Holiday Inn Express €128 11am
The Hotel is about 5 Metro stops away. From the map, it looks pretty near to the train station, but it actually took 15mins to walk to Metro Station. It is a OK hotel, clean & neat.

Vatican City 1pm
After a good Italian Meal at border of Vatican City, we visited the famous vatican museum for €14. We walked passed many statues on display, and wondering why many of the statues are pagan Gods statues, but they were displayed in this museum, it is sort of not appropriate. The most worth it of all is the Sistine Chapel. Michaelangelo's great painting works on the interior roof of this chapel, it is story from Genesis from Adam & Eve to the Last Judgement Day. The painting was so intense and emotional, it brings out the true religious feelings.

Post Office
Vatican City is a 100ha, it is a state by itself, governed differently with Rome. Yes, it has it's own efficient postal system. We visited the Postal Office, and send out our postcards.

Roman Meals €23 7pm
The 5-Course Meal was fantastic. It started of with many small dishes like Tomatoes, cucumber, follow by pasta, and then roast beef. It was very interesting and enjoyable dinner.

The Night Walk - Panthion, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps
We begin our night walk tour, the city was still very lively at 11pm, and many of the tourist sites were filled with people. Love how famous Michaelangelo, Bernini and others architects built these structures. The Trevi Fountain was so grand and it was nice just sitting there and enjoyed the sound of water gushing down, as if the horse and chariots were coming out of the fountain.

The Lost Night
Rome only has 2 train line A & B. Unknown to many tourists, Line A closed at 10pm, and it was replaced by Night Bus, but the info was never published at the Metro Station. Many tourists were lost, and not able to get home. We didn't realized that buses are still available at another street, as it is getting late, we caught a Taxi and went back to hotel, it cost us €13.40 - not bad.


Rome 17 May 2008 Saturday "The Empire" Sunny 16-22°c

Palatine Hil & Colosseum 10am
Queue of hundreds people already formed outside the famous Colosseum. Again, to be the Smart Tourist, we listened to great advice, we went directly to opposite Palatine Hill to purchase the ticket €11, and later we came back to Colosseum and entered immediately, saving the 1 hour queue. The Palatine Hill & Roman Forum were ruined, left pieces of the remains. From the remains, we can feel how powerful and big it was before. We also visited Julius Caesar's cremation site. The Colosseum interior is a bit over-rated, I think it's good enough to take picture of the exterior, the interior view of the Colosseum is not worth the money at all.

Rome Shopping
We continued our Rome Shopping spree, visited many shops downtown, and enjoyed the most famous Italian - Giolitti. It had a very long queue. We manage to get 3 big scoops for €4.

Spanish Steps
It was crowded in the afternoon, visitors siting and filling up the steps, creating a nice view with the steps. Below the site, are many rows of shops - main shopping district.

The Suburb Shopping 7:30pm
20 mins Metro Ride away from City, we found this Shopping Mall very interesting, things are cheaper here, for example Baby Zara sweater only€5.95 - on Sales. We also visited the GS Supermarket to get good italian snacks & chocolate back for friends & relatives.


Home 18 May 2008 Sunday "SQ 365" Raining 15-20°c

Train
We caught the special airport train from Tuscolana, 200m away from the Hotel for €5.50 each. It took 45mins to reach Airport. Compared to the express train €11 (30 mins journey).

Flight 12pm
We left the station at 9:42am to catch the 12pm flight, thinking we had sufficient time. We ended up having troubles catching the flight. The counter closed at 60mins before that, due to some system problem, we were delayed at the counter for 15mins, and the last to check in. We were advised by the crew to go in immediately. Yes, 1 hour before departure, thinking we still have time to go around shopping, but it's unbelievable the Immigration counter was super crowded with people, at least 40mins queue. Looking at the bad situation, we found a Malaysian Family of 4 who was in a very fast queue, it is nice that they allowed us to go in with them.

Tax Refunds
As we had LV purchases from France & Gucci from Italy, we had to get stamps for both forms, and go to different counters to post it. The France rebate is at only 12% and Italy gives 20%.

SQ365 - Out Station Boarding
It is strange SQ flight in ROME does not have the direct boarding platform, we had to be at the bus counter by 11:40 am to catch the bus to the airplane. We boarded the bus at 11:40am sharp, as there were still 5 people missing, we waited till 11:55am before the bus rushed to the airplane to get us boarded.

12 Hours
After 12 Hours Flight, we reached Singapore Changi Airport T3 at 5.55am.


ASK Us...
If you find our trip interesting, and wish to find out more. Please email annabell abel@bcknot.com or weecheng weecheng@bcknot.com

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Hebe   , 03-Jun-2008  1:19:12
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