Rome, Italy

We drove from Florence down to Rome, stopping in beautiful Siena and then the Abbey of San Galgano (a gothic roof-less church – great pit stop!) en-route. It’s a nice leisurely drive with stunning scenery if you get off the main roads.

Olive Groves

Olive Groves

Abbey of San Galgano

Abbey of San Galgano

We stayed in a lovely AirBnB just off the Spanish Steps and the Piazza di Spagna; it was a wonderful location – walking distance to everything!! We headed straight for cocktails on our first evening in Rome. The Hassler Hotel has a great garden bar called the Palm Court. It was very quiet so we just had some cocktails and played our first game of backgammon. Hooked…

Babingtons Tea Rooms (so English in the middle of Rome) sits right next to the Spanish Steps and is a great (albeit with a saucy price tag) place for afternoon tea or a light lunch. I opted to go all Audrey Hepburn and chose their Vacanze Romane tea…all about those little roses.

Spanish Steps with the Babington Tea Rooms on the bottom left

Spanish Steps with the Babington Tea Rooms on the bottom left

Babington's tea choice

Babington’s tea choice

Babingtons

Babingtons

Just down the street, on Via Condotti, is Antico Caffe Greco, Roma’s oldest cafe – established in 1760. Wowsers! Make like a local and grap a cappuccino in the morning standing at the bar. Apparently it was quite the spot for the literary crowd back in the day. It’s dark, with red walls adorned with art, absolutely worth a look. There’s plenty of shopping around this area. & Other Stories was hit up 😉

Caffe Grecco

Caffe Grecco

We did a lot of meandering around Rome’s streets; taking in many, many gelato spots. We happened upon the Trevvi Fountain on numerous occasions, a nice little treat. It’s jammed packed with people 100% of the time – coins are flying left, right and centre and there are police screaming at tourists not to touch anything. Not a relaxing spot but beautiful all the same.

Trevvi Fountain

Trevvi Fountain

This car needs to be in my life

This car needs to be in my life

We happened upon the Pantheon a few times – it’s absolutely worth a wander in – it’s beautiful (and free). The doors are amazing – they’re bronze and mega #doorsoftheworld. It’s a good stop en-route to La Gelateria Frigidarium. Must visit. We tried a few but I’m a stracciatella lady all the way. Dipped in chocolate. Oh yeah. There’s a stunning square called Piazza Navona just around the corner from here, it’s probably the world’s most beautiful square. The perfect location for a romantic evening stroll (with gelato dripping down your arms)…

Pantheon

Pantheon

The oculus or roof of the Pantheon

The oculus or roof of the Pantheon

Pantheon entrance

Pantheon entrance

Those doors!

Those doors!

You can’t go to Rome and not visit the Colosseum and Roman Forum area. The queues and heat there are INSANE. Pre-book so you don’t have to queue and definitely bring water. Sorted!

Colosseum

Colosseum

Colosseum

Colosseum

Colosseum

Roman Forum

Roman Forum

Surprises around every corner

Surprises around every corner

Walking away from the Colosseum we came across a Botero exhibition at Museo Central del Risorgimento, on Piazza Venezia. We first came across Botero in Colombia so we’ve been admirers ever since.

Botero's bronze horse

Botero’s bronze horse

Forgotten Rome

Forgotten Rome…beauty

 

The Vatican

We got up bright and early to go visit the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel on our last day in Rome. Got there and turns out the Sistine Chapel was closed!! There are a few odd dates in the whole year when it’s closed and pretty typically we picked one of these dates haha. I had seen it on a school tour a while back but it sucks that John didn’t get to see the Sistine Chapel. Guess we’ll have to go back!

This way!

This way!

St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica

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Modena, Italy

It’s a pretty long drive from Zermatt, Switzerland to Modena, Italy, taking approximately 5 hours…maybe a little longer with food stops. It’s just over an hour to the Italian border (although there are no border checks) and the scenery around the border area is absolutely stunning – snow capped peaks and plenty of switchbacks to keep the driver awake 🙂 You could just go straight to Milan and it would be a relatively quick trip but we were keen to stay away from big cities for a little while and as the weather was temperamental we skipped the Lake Como area too. Next time! We really did plan our honeymoon on the fly!

Fidenza Village

We had a little stop en-route at Fidenza Village Outlet Village. I kind of assumed the shopping in Italy would be great and this place would be amazing but I’m not sure I’d really recommend it. Dolce & Gabbana have a pretty nice store but all the rest are the same outlet stores you get in all these villages – the Calvin Klein store had exactly the same stuff as the Kildare Village in Ireland…although they’re both run by the same company. You can visit on a day trip from Florence but I’m not sure if I’d go out of my way to go back to be honest…

Shopping at Fidenza Village

Modena

We arrived in the early evening and all of Modena was on holidays so we had the whole place to ourselves! We stayed at the Best Western Premier Milano Palace – it was maybe a 7-10 minute stroll to the centre of Modena. We decided to visit Modena as we’d seen it on Aziz Ansari’s Master of None show on Netflix (which is awesome). Massimo Bottura runs a 3 Michelin star restaurant in Modena, Osteria Francescana, which obviously we were dying to try…but they were closed for holidays so we’ll just have to go back! Massimo also has a more informal restaurant, Franceschetta58. We ended up at a fantastic little spot called La Bicicletta – and what a charcuterie board we had. SO GOOD! Our gelato fix was had at Gelataria Bloom, delish!

The romanesque Duomo di Modena (cathedral) is well worth a visit – it towers over Piazza Grande, a huge square brimming with wanderers. It’s a striking cathedral, founded in 1099 and consecrated in 1184 – it’s also a UNESCO site of universal outstanding value. After our dinner at La Bicicletta we wandered past the Ducal Palace of Modena and eventually found ourselves at a summers evening concert in the Parco Giardino Ducale Estense – how random! The whole city was there relaxing, dancing and checking out the art exhibition indoors. It was a lovely end to our evening in Modena.

Our hotel

Getting the lay of the land

Modena’s streets

Modena

Duomo di Modena

Duomo di Modena

La Bicicletta

Duomo after dinner

Modena street details

Ducal Palace of Modena

Palazzo Ducale di Modena

Art exhibition at the park

Some dark stuff in here too…

Killarney, Co. Kerry, Ireland

The most colourful shop in the land!

The most colourful shop in the land!

Ah the good ol home town. I suppose I should write something about Ireland’s prettiest town! So obviously it rains a lot but when the sun shines you just can’t beat Ireland. It’s gorgeous and we’re a pretty friendly bunch 🙂

St. Mary's Cathedral

St. Mary’s Cathedral

Hotels and Food

I haven’t had to stay in any of Killarney’s hotels but there’s a fantastic selection. One of my favourite places for afternoon tea is the small Royal Hotel in the centre of town. It’s where my parents had their wedding reception and we’ve had a fair few more family occasions here so it definitely holds a special place in my heart. Sitting by the open fireplace on a rainy day with a pot of tea is just bliss! Don’t get me started on their crab and avocado sandwich. Delish. The Killarney Park Hotel also holds a prime location, pretty much in the middle of town but set back from the road so you won’t have noise at night. It’s olde-worldly and the food is pretty good but their spa is probably the selling point for me – their Elemis and Eve Lom facials are divine. The relaxation suite is great and comes complete with a starlit ceiling and huge fish-tank. Proper relaxation. The Brehon Hotel is home to Europe’s only Angsana Spa. The place to come for a massage. Although the spa is in the basement of the hotel you might be lucky and be taken to one of the treatment suites on the top floor overlooking the Lakes of Killarney. The Europe is undoubtedly Killarney’s most lavish (albeit not the prettiest architecturally) hotel. It’s built lakeside with beautifully manicured gardens and the absolutely stunning ESPA. You can relax in their outdoor heated vitality pool or lunch (although the food isn’t overly impressive for what you’re paying) overlooking the lakes. Yes please! They’ve got hands down the best vitality suite facilities in town. Well, outside of town. You’ll need a car here. The Aghadoe Heights Hotel is built overlooking Killarney, and therefore has spectacular views over the Lakes. The staff here are really lovely and they do a ridiculously filling afternoon tea.

John relaxing on the Europe's dock

John relaxing on the Europe’s dock

We’ve recently gone all cosmopolitan and recently acquired a Starbucks. Well, half a Starbucks, it’s basically just a Starbucks counter at the back of a pub. HA! Quinlan’s Seafood Bar is a huge hit in Killarney – for all your fish and chip needs! You could feed a family of four with one plate from here. Expect queues out the door. Lir Café does a pretty good hot chocolate. It’s located across from the cinema. Noelle’s is one of my favourite little spots in town. The staff are lovely, the quiches are tasty and the cakes are worth trying too 🙂 Jam is up the street from Noelle’s; it’s always busy and it’s not a bad spot for a scone or soup. DYNE is a great spot – they’ve got a fabulous soup and sandwich deal every lunch (like €8) and really nice thin crust pizzas in the evenings. Gaby’s Seafood Restaurant has been around forever and is a pretty solid choice for a relaxed evening meal. Ain’t cheap though. Outside of town, Avoca at Moll’s Gap (a beautiful viewpoint on the Ring of Kerry – a drive you absolutely positively HAVE to do!) is a great spot for homemade soups and lovely gifts too. Actually, if you’re looking for goodies to bring home then the Kilkenny Shop is a good spot to check out. You’ll find pottery, jewellery, glassware and aran sweaters and scarves here. Keane’s is a great local jewellery shop. There’s also an excellent Penneys/Primark in the town centre. Did you know that Primark was established in Dublin back in 1969? Claim to fame!! For cocktail-time you’ll want to try the Lane Bar in the Ross Hotel.

Market Cross

Market Cross – AKA the epicentre!

If you find yourself wandering around down by St. Mary’s Cathedral then pop across the road and you’ll find yourself in Killarney National Park – hands down one of Ireland’s most beautiful places. Below is Deenagh Lodge, a café run by the wonderful folk at the Kerry branch of Down Syndrome Ireland.

Deenagh Lodge

Deenagh Lodge

Strolling around the National Park with the parents

Strolling around the National Park with the parents

Moll's Gap

Moll’s Gap

On the Ring of Kerry

On the Ring of Kerry

More of the Ring

More of the Ring

Back to Killarney’s and the jewel is without a doubt Muckross House and Gardens. 6km from the town centre and completed in 1843 for Henry Arthur Herbert, the Chief Secretary for Ireland in the UK Parliament, you could walk or cycle out here (there are paths) or hop on a jaunting car for the princely sum of €10 per person. You can wander around the gardens and lakes for free but if you want to take a tour of the house you’ll need to pay €9. Who wouldn’t want to live here?

Muckross House in all its glory

Muckross House in all its glory

Relaxing with my Dad

Relaxing with my Dad

Side view

Side view

View of the Lakes from the house

View of the Lakes from the house

Gigantic, eh?

Gigantic, eh?

Some secret gardens

Some secret gardens

Pretty well manicured

Pretty well manicured

What a glasshouse!

What a glasshouse!

Inside this behemoth

Inside this behemoth

A beautiful edged lily

A beautiful edged lily

A bit more prettiness

A bit more prettiness

Dripping with wisteria

Dripping with wisteria

Possibly the oldest glasshouse in the world

Possibly the oldest glasshouse in the world

Another fabulous piece of Irish history is 15th century Ross Castle. You can walk to Ross Castle from Muckross or vice versa. It’s 2km from the centre of town but it’s also a lovely walk within the National Park (€4 entrance). You can take boat trips around Lough Leane from here.  I won’t share a photo because this aerial footage of Ross Castle by Killarney cameraman Marek Hajdasz gives you an idea of how amazing this place is. Also, I have no photo. Haha!

You can see news from Killarney at KillarneyToday.com or try to get your hands on a Killarney Advertiser or Killarney Outlook free publication to see what’s going on.

Bordeaux, France

We stayed in a lovely apartment we rented on Airbnb about a 15 minute stroll from the centre of the city. Airbnb really is awesome – you definitely feel like you’re living in the place you’re visiting. We had 2 days here and honestly one of them was pretty much dedicated to perusing the ol’ shops. The streets of Bordeaux are perfect for ambling around, stalling for a vino and photographing doors…haha I can’t stop taking pictures of doors and windows. They’re just so bloody awesome sometimes!

Chateau en route to Bordeaux

Chateau en route to Bordeaux

Our street

Our street

One of the most beautiful places we saw in Bordeaux was the St. André Cathedral at night. It has been here since 1096 (yep! ok, only one wall is around since then, the rest since the 13th and 14th centuries) and is an absolutely stunning building (currently undergoing some renovations). It’s absolutely worth strolling in here – it’s a behemoth of a building and the internal architecture is amazing. The 66 metre high Pey Berland Tower adjacent to the cathedral is a tourist attraction all on its own; you can climb 200-odd steps to get a view over the city. Randomly, the tower was home to residences and a lead factory prior to getting its bells. It was built separate from the cathedral so the (eventual!) bell vibrations wouldn’t damage the cathedral. Just next door is the beautiful Hôtel de Ville or Town Hall.

There seems to be a hell of a lot of places to eat in Bordeaux – plenty of cafés with outdoor seating for people-watching. We stopped in at a few cafés but none of major noteworthiness – we did have cocktails one evening in Cafe Brun, a pretty cool music bar on Rue Saint-Rémi. The main shopping street here is Rue Sainte-Catherine. Bring your flats – it’s suuuper long. There are plenty of high street stores here;  Galeries Lafayette is pretty large, Sephora is here (yay!), Mango, 7000 or so shoe stores, Zara, H&M etc. etc. – it’s not a bad weekend shopping destination.

One place I couldn’t find in Bordeaux was Ladurée. Can’t a girl get a damn macaron?

St. Ándre Cathedral

St. Ándre Cathedral

Little sculpture outside the Cathedral

Little sculpture outside the Cathedral

By moonlight

By moonlight

Hôtel de Ville

Hôtel de Ville

There are lots of little windy streets in Bordeaux and a wealth of architectural surprises at every corner. The French know how to pretty concrete up you know! The 18th century Place de la Bourse is probably Bordeaux’s most beautiful spot. Designed by Jacques Gabriel and his son, Ange-Jacques for King Louis XV and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s a glorious square with a stunning water mirror across the street which reflects the image of the building…not that we got a picture of that. Pat on the back for that one…

Pont de Pierre

Pont de Pierre

Place de la Bourse

Place de la Bourse

Fountain of the Three Graces

Fountain of the Three Graces

Grand Hôtel de Bordeaux

Grand Hôtel de Bordeaux

Bordeaux's adorable carousel

Bordeaux’s adorable carousel

Honestly, such a random sculpture - it's completely flat

Honestly, such a random sculpture – it’s completely flat

Oh the loveliness!

Oh the loveliness!

You're coming with me!

You’re coming with me!

Typical Bordeaux buildings

Typical Bordeaux buildings

Street scene

Street scene

Pretty details everywhere

Pretty details everywhere

Just delightful

Just delightful

Lovely streets

Lovely streets

Cocktail hour?!

Cocktail hour?!

Little glimpses :-)

Little glimpses 🙂

Colour in the city

Colour in the city

Rustic :-)

Rustic 🙂

 Porte Dijeaux - the gate in to the heart of the city

Porte Dijeaux – the gate in to the heart of the city

Since when?!

Since when?!

The coolest cinema in the world?

The coolest cinema in the world?

John carrying Mum's shopping :-)

John carrying Mum’s shopping 🙂

Local life

Local life

Eglise Saint-Pierre

Eglise Saint-Pierre

Too true lads

Too true lads

 

Dordogne Region, France

We (along with my lovely Mum) just took a little trip to the Dordogne region in South West France to have a look at a place for our wedding…in 2 years. Oh so organised I know but since we’re moving back to Australia we need to get these things in motion. Yay! Anyhoo, I won’t mention the place as it’s not set in stone just yet but here’s a little looksie at the surrounding areas – Poitiers, La Tour Blanche, Verteillac, Brantôme, Excideuil, Ribérac and Saint Émilion. Phew!

imageFields and fields! 🌻🌻🌻

Fields and fields! 🌻🌻🌻

We flew in to and out of Poitiers…which I believe is just a Ryanair airport – pretty small with absolutely nothing to do…except rent a car – which we did – a teensy little Toyota Yaris but it was perfect for buzzing around the countryside. I felt just like Russell Crowe in ‘A Good Year’ AKA Best Film Ever (although that was filmed in the Luberon region down near Avignon). We did take a quick tour of Poitiers in the rain – their cathedral is an absolute work of art. Stunning. We did visit on a Sunday and every single place was closed. Mainland Europe still does it’s own thing on a Sunday 🙂

City Hall in Poitiers...on an exceptionally grey day

City Hall in Poitiers…on an exceptionally grey day

Checking out Cathédrale Saint-Pierre

Checking out Cathédrale Saint-Pierre

From the front

From the front

La Tour Blanche

We used the little hamlet of La Tour Blanche as our base for exploring a few villages in the Dordogne region and stayed at Le Patio Chambres d’Hôtes – honestly the nicest B&B I’ve ever come across. It’s run by the friendliest couple from Scotland who provide the most amazing breakfast. God and the bathrooms are the size of studio apartments! There’s little to do around here except hop in your car and explore the surrounding sunflower fields. Um, yes please!

Verteillac

We came to this little village and its restaurant Le Perigord Vert for dinner 2 nights in a row. The menu is pretty much choc-a-block with a duck and even though we were 3 non-duck eaters we were looked after. They happened to have a night food market on our second evening so the whole village was buzzing – it’s so nice to come to place which is so neighbourly!

That would be some sunset to watch from the top of the church

That would be some sunset to watch from the top of the church

Lost in conversation with Mum outside the restaurant

Lost in conversation with Mum outside the restaurant

Preparations for Verteillac's Night Market

Preparations for Verteillac’s Night Market

Just like little hearts - adorable!

Just like little hearts – adorable!

Brantôme

The medieval town of Brantôme was about half an hour from our B&B so we took a little wander around here one afternoon. It’s just so beautiful. It’s situated on the River Dronne and you can rent a canoe or a little boat and take in the sun. Brantôme has been likened to Venice but I’m not entirely sure about that one… Brantôme’s Abbey is probably the epicentre of all things tourist and you couldn’t miss it towering over the river. Just across the street, Le Moulin de l’Abbaye, is a hotel on the site of an old mill which sits right on the river. It’s definitely going on the ‘have to stay here’ list. There wasn’t much happening around the town on our visit, it was oddly quiet actually – but Friday is market day so I think on our next trip I’d like to get that in.

Walking into Brantôme

Walking into Brantôme

The prettiness!!

The prettiness!!

Brantôme's streets

Brantôme’s streets

Brantôme's Abbey

Brantôme’s Abbey

Inside the Abbey grounds

Inside the Abbey grounds

Pedestrian bridge and the Abbey

Pedestrian bridge and the Abbey

Perfectly manicured town

Perfectly manicured town

Wouldn't say no to this hotel

Wouldn’t say no to this hotel

Perfect hotel location

Perfect location

Don't know what my act should be...

Don’t know what my act should be…

Excideuil

We visited Excideuil on a Thursday and just missed their market – which seems to be totally over by about 1pm. God damn it! None of us are early-risers by choice but I think that needs to change 😦 We had some food at Kitsch Kafé, a really cute English-run café with seating on the sunny street and a cool courtyard too.

Some homes in Verteillac

Some homes in Excideuil

Just gorgeous

Just gorgeous

Up close! 🌸🌹🌺🌻🌼🌷

Up close! 🌸🌹🌺🌻🌼🌷

Ribérac

On the drive down to Bordeaux we took in Ribérac on a recommendation from our B&B hosts since Friday was market day. Thank Jesus. Needed a market fix. This was a typical French market brimming with flowers, local honey, awesome straw baskets and bags, hats, teas, cheese, breads and obviously the quintessential French fare that is escargot. I wouldn’t say it’s the prettiest of towns but the market is a saving grace – definitely worth a stop off for a potter around.

Riberac's market

Riberac’s market

Tea all round

Tea all round

That's some POTENT bee pollen

That’s some POTENT bee pollen

Saint Émilion

Well this place was an absolute find! The sunflower and corn fields on the drive from the Dordogne give way to rows and rows of beautiful vines and chateaux en route to Bordeaux (which I’ll write about in the next post). The town itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and sits on a hilltop which allows for the most beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. Mum went a little crazy in a handmade soap shop so we definitely won’t be running out of soap ANY TIME soon. There are plenty of wine stores here with lots of different offers making this a great place to stock up 🙂 The Hostellerie De Plaisance looks like it would be an amazing place to stay right in the centre of town, just next to the hill-top monolithic church. Saint Émilion is only about a 30 minute drive from Bordeaux.

Wine hugging. All the rage.

Wine hugging. All the rage

Vines and the village

Vines and the village

La Tour de Roy

La Tour de Roy

A hilly spot

A hilly spot

Sometimes older is better

Sometimes older is better

Poser

Poser!

St. Emilion from above

St. Emilion from above

Walls around the town

Walls around the town

Up close of the Tour de Roy

Up close of the Tour de Roy

How nice would it be to come home to this?

How nice would it be to come home to this?

Ivy clad everything

Ivy clad everything

Step 1 to owning your own vineyard 🍷🍷

Step 1 to owning your own vineyard 🍷🍷

Touristy bits and bobs

Touristy bits and bobs

St. Emilion's monolithic church

St. Emilion’s monolithic church

Hello lovely garden

Hello lovely garden

St. Emilion from another angle

St. Emilion from another angle

 

Ooh a secret garden!!

Ooh a secret garden!!

Oh the beauty

Oh the beauty!