Week 45 – Gratitude Challenge – Favourite Holiday

When I was planning my blog posts, the holiday I had in mind was my trip to Abu Dhabi for my 30th, but I have already shared that with you.

What I had not planned and factored in my plans, was my honeymoon which I booked for me and Mr N at the beginning of February.

I was so excited, I just booked it and before we set off I was faced with some epic fails. Firstly, do not get a last-minute cheap deal from Living Social or Wowcher, they are the same group and the holidays they feature are not what they say. I was so frustrated, I know some of you are probably thinking why would you book a cheap honeymoon, well due to Mr N’s job, the events coming up in his calendar and the fact he had to use up his holiday time, I dived in.

The problems I faced was that one hotel did not exist anymore, then the fact the hotels were advertised as 4 star hotels when actually they are only 3 stars! The next problem, the most unhelpful travel group Crystal Travel. The customer service advisor just did not want to help me, huffing, puffing and reluctantly booking our flights, which in the end I had to pay extra for because apparently, the timings were better. Eventually, we received all of our booking references and details but then bang, I hit another wall – Mr N’s passport was about to expire. I know, I know I should have checked, but thankfully his new one arrived in time.

Starting off so badly before we had even reached a plane does not sound like a favourite holiday, it had to get better right?

Well, first stop was Venice

Venice

Arriving in Venice, the weather was awful, (yes I know it was February) it was pouring with rain but it was not going to stop us. As we were unable to check in to our room until 2pm, we dropped off the bags and went exploring straight away.

The hotel was in Mestre, which meant travelling over to the other side of Venice. Getting around Venice we recommend purchasing a travel ticket. This allows you to jump on and off buses and the water boats. We were only in Venice for a few days so we purchased a 48-hour pass. It is highly recommended that these are purchased from a proper ACTV seller, we got ours from the airport, but be warned you can’t use this as transport from the airport, you have to buy a separate ticket or arrange transport. It is cheaper to get the bus and this is what we did and it only took 15mins.

The best thing to do is walk, and definitely get lost, you find so many hidden gems. A few of our friends and family had visited Venice before, and the advice is to stay away from eating by the water or at St. Marks as, unfortunately, they will add on extras you do not realise, like a sub-charge for sitting outside, water for the table, the free bread you think they are giving you. If we are honest the hidden little restaurants and pizza places tucked down small streets are much nicer. The pizza is to die for and a slice for €2 was perfect for a snack.

On our first day, we walked and walked. It was only when we stopped back at the hotel to plan the next day that we realised we had walked from one end of the island to the other, with no map or guide. We had managed to see most of the major sites we had planned to see.

St. Marco is truly beautiful, we had no idea how stunning it was going to be. We paid €2 to see the golden chapel, and we were blown away.

Despite the rain, everything looked beautiful in the square, it was incredibly impressive.

One thing we will have to say is that always look up when you explore the small narrow streets. The bridges are all different and the details in the shutters, windows and even the door handles are beautiful details to Venice. I loved all the various features.

When in Venice, you cannot leave without taking a Gondola ride. Again on the advice of friends and family, we were told we would get ripped off by jumping on one and just going. Although the price is set by authorities you can still be overcharged. The most common costing of this is €80 and with a bit of research, before you go, you can book a trip and be guaranteed a sensible price. We paid €30 for a Gondola serenade, it was at a set time and place and it was an amazing experience. I highly recommended this, here’s a link to book yours:

Next stop Rome

Rome

Unfortunately, when we booked, we only had one day in Rome, with one day wasted on travelling from Venice to Rome, so we were thinking we have to go back. The hotel in Venice had an early check out time, so we decided to see if we could transfer our tickets to an earlier train. There is so much to see when visiting Rome, we planned to do the four major sites, the Vatican, St Paul’s, The Colosseum and the Fontana Di Trevi.

This was not going to be done in one day; maybe at a push. We are lucky enough to get an earlier train to Rome Termini. This gave us half a day to explore at least some of Rome, we actually managed to do the Fountain and although we were soaked and it was crowded, it was still a beautiful sight. Don’t forget to make a wish.

As we continued to stumble the streets of Rome, we came across a small museum of Leonardo Da Vinci which is great if you are travelling with children, as you can play with the replicas of Leonardo’s inventions and of course it is also great as an adult. It was full of his sketches and inventions that we use today.

We managed to walk across the River Tiber towards the Vatican. In the evening it looks lovely all lit up. I was determined to come back, which was another issue I had with the booking. The only day we had in Rome was a Sunday and of course, the Vatican is closed on Sundays! Luckily we travelled at the end of February and it was on the last Sunday of the month so the Vatican opens its doors to the public.

Up early the next morning, poor Mr N I were so determined to get to the Vatican and get in. When we got there the queues were already massive around the walls of the Vatican City. As with most tourist attractions, we were approached by people selling tours, we managed to get a tour that allowed us into the museum, galleries and the Vatican. It cost us €25 each.

So we had a bit of time to grab a bit of breakfast and to waste time, we had a snoop amongst the mountains of gift shops surrounding the Vatican. Our tour started at 11am and finished around 2pm. It was a great tour even though we were limited on time and the tour guide was very thorough, sometimes too much chatting. Some of the group did wonder ahead at times because we would spend a long time in one place. However, if you want to take your time getting around the Vatican, do not take a tour, explore by yourself. It was handy to skip the queues though.

Seeing Michelangelo’s ceiling was breathtaking, but they ask you to not take photographs of this, obviously, we obeyed this rule, but it was shocking how many didn’t and were still snapping away whilst being told off by security.

Straight after walking around the Vatican, Mr N wanted to go to the Colosseum, so it was a quick jump on a bus to get there. Again we had purchased travel tickets for 24 hours travel around Rome, these are well worth paying for.

Although we did not take the tour inside, as the heavens opened and did not seem to stop, we dashed undercover for a delicious pizza and a litre of beer. Getting back to our hotel seemed tricky, especially as were given a particular bus to catch back to the hotel and we could not find the stop, even after using trusty google search.

My advice is definitely to research and plan your trips to Rome and to book some tours before you go so you do not get stung by people ripping you off.

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