London Weekend

By now, I've spent so much time in London over the last few years, it almost feels like a bit of a second home. I never tire of visiting, whether it's for a sneaker event, or for a weekend away with Emma. This was my third trip of the year to London so far (not much in reality but it's more than anywhere else I've been this year), and we were mainly going down so Emma could fulfil her little obsession with this above average singer named Adele, but we figured we'd make a weekend out of it.

The gig was on the Friday night, so we took the day off work and headed down. So of course, here's some cliche plane shots to kick things off, excuse the dirty window.




Usually we stay around Shoreditch, but we were trying to do things on a budget this time (those Adele tickets were pricey), so we just crashed at the Travelodge near Kings Cross which I stay at when I'm down on my own.

Other than the gig, we had absolutely ZERO plans across the whole weekend, so we literally just went for a wander. There's plenty to do in London, but yeah, we just walked, and walked a little more. We're Scottish right, but we definitely did not prepare for how cold it was in London that weekend.

Another thing, there's a lot less pictures than normal because the lens I usually take when travelling is currently in for repair, so I was just messing around with a Canon AE-1, and left my D750 with 50mm in the more than capable hands of Emma. So the majority of these shots here were taken by her. She's good, right?

Except for this one, this one was me.


And these were all Emma's shots, maybe you'll notice some famous London tourist attractions...









We stopped and grabbed a Starbucks, so here's an obligatory sneaker shots of my NB1's and Emma's "Pirate Blacks". I'm yet to do a feature on my NB1's that I was lucky enough to design, but it's coming soon.


We had to be at the o2 Arena for 8pm on the Friday night, and it's a little bit far out on the underground, so we left a little early to make sure we got there on time. Emma probably would have cried earlier than expected if we were late for Adele, but we made it, banging seats and all, she killed it!


We were so exhausted that we just headed back to the hotel after the gig and k.o'd, plus we were hoping for some better weather on the Saturday and were going to explore St. Paul's for the first time.

Emma was desperate to have pancakes for breakfast on Saturday morning so we headed to Soho and ended up at Bill's for breakfast.

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After breakfast, we headed to St. Paul's Cathedral, as we had never been and wanted to climb to the top to see what the view was like. I actually only made it outside the cathedral last November, when I had some time to kill and took a wander past it.

Sadly, you're not allowed to take any pictures or video inside St. Paul's, and although we probably could have, we played by the rules, so after 528 steps to the top, the views were most definitely worth it.

Enjoy the views of the Gherkin, the Walkie Talkie Building, the Shard, Tate Modern, the Millennium Bridge, the London Eye and the BT Tower in the distance.






Well worth the climb, wouldn't you agree?

We headed to London Bridge as I wanted to get some long exposure shots, but seriously, why was it so cold? We probably should have been better prepared, but that's our bad.




Rounding off our Saturday night, we grabbed some food at Strada near to London Bridge which is somewhere we've ate a bunch of times at fully recommend for those interested.

Sunday was meant to be spent at the Natural History Museum as a good way to kill some time, but the queue was ridiculous, so we got breakfast in the form of some crepes at Kensington Creperie.


We then headed into town to do a spot of shopping and spend some money that we didn't have before our flight home, and big shouts to French ATC for causing some delays.




So originally myself and Emma had planned to go to Warsaw for a little tourist trip, but sadly she had to cancel her holidays, so I used it as an opportunity to catch up with some good friends and check out Sneakerness Warsaw. I knew as soon as I booked the flights with Air France and the short connection in Charles de Gaulle that there would be issues, and rightly so... my bag never made it from one plane to another. Big up Air France, nice job. Thankfully, I got my bag delivered to the hotel the next evening.

I stayed at the Radisson Blu Centrum for three nights, and thankfully it's location meant that it was perfect for being able to reach the Sneakerness Warsaw event in under 10 minutes walk, as well as only being a short distance away from the main tourist spots. Definitely recommend it.

Arriving quite late in the evening on Friday, and after the carry on with my bag still being in transit, all I wanted to do was chill out, and get my bearings for the Sneakerness Event on the Saturday, so I headed to the Pałac Kultury i Nauki where the event was being held to check it out.

Now this place is pretty cool, and extremely tall, stands out like a sore thumb in the middle of Warsaw, but definitely the craziest place I've ever been to for a sneaker event.



It's pretty great that I can go to so many different places in the world, and be able to meet up with people who I have met through collecting trainers. A big shout to Diana and Pavel from Moscow who were on their travels in Europe but took a detour to Warsaw for the weekend, really great people.

And of course, my Suede&Mesh boys - Arek, Maciek, and Radek. First and foremost, those guys are the absolute shit, gotta say a big thanks for all their hospitality over the weekend, and a huge congrats on an extremely successful Sneakerness event, curated by them!


Radek, Arek, Maciek, Pavel, and myself, photo taken by Diana.

Friday night was spent catching up with those guys, and helping out a bit at the event, getting prepared for opening on Saturday, but I was exhausted so it was time for bed.


Pałac Kultury i Nauki by night.

Saturday -

9am alarm, and time for Sneakerness Warsaw!

You can check the full write up by clicking here.

After checking out the event for a bit, myself, Pavel and Diana decided to go on a little wander to Warsaw's "Old Town", which was pretty close to the Pałac Kultury i Nauki, and is apparently the main tourist district of Warsaw. That was soon realised when you see the price of foodand drink start to increase the closer you get, whereas it's very very very cheap away from this area!

We literally had no plan, and just walked and walked, so here are a bunch of shots below of what we found on our travels.







Big thanks to Maciek for the Legia top, I'll wear anything when I have no other clothes to wear.. ;) 








These guys were putting on quite the show in one of the squares in Warsaw Old Town, so we spent some time checking out their skills.















After our little trip around the Old Town, we headed back to the event to catch up with the guys, and then had a few stops to make.

Firstly, we went to the nearest shop to get some necessities as I still hadn't heard anything about my luggage, so I grabbed some underwear, toothpaste and a toothbrush. Definitely necessities, right?


Sunset behind the Pałac Kultury i Nauki.

We then went to where Pavel and Diana were staying, and then back to my hotel to see about my bag, and of course, it was at reception! A phone call, text or email would have been appreciated from Air France to let me know it had been delivered, which was promised, but anyway, I got it, that was the main thing!

So I got changed, and by this time, the Sneakerness Event had finished for the Saturday, so we headed to Arek's apartment, and passed a McDonalds on the way, so obviously we grabbed some quick munch. They have these machines to order your food and then collect at the counter, new to me, clearly the UK is a little behind!


Looking towards Warsaw City Centre from Arek's apartment.

Sadly, I have nothing to show for Saturday night in the form of pictures, but I can assure you that on Sunday I had one massive hangover! It was a crazy night. The Polish sure do love their vodka, and their crazy secret clubs.

It was also great to meet old and new faces, and be able to have a drink together and chat all things footwear! Shouts to Pavel, Diana, Arek, Radek, Robert, Chris, Francky, Tebar, Lorenzo, Diana and everyone else for an awesome night!

 Sunday -

Sneakerness is a two day event, so nursing a vodka hangover, I headed to the event by midday so that I could get some shots for my blog post on the event, but I had left my camera at Arek's, and he forgot to take it, so we had to swing by there and grab it.

I literally just spent the day at the event, drinking, and chatting, really chilled out vibe, and then we tidied up at the end, and said goodbye to Sneakerness Warsaw's 3rd Edition.



Apparently the best method to put up and take down the Sneakerness banner from the roof...



Pavel and Diana had an early morning flight back to Barcelona, so we said our goodbyes and then we headed back to Suede&Mesh HQ, and grabbed some beers!

The guys wanted to go for some food so we went to this place (I'll get the name) where they pretty much had a shot of vodka with every course, and they had around 8 courses! One shot of vodka was enough for me, thanks!




Monday -

Monday was sadly home time, but with an afternoon flight, it meant I still had a chance to meet up with the guys and have some lunch with them!

Finally, good to be able to just sit and chill without the stress of an event, but the Suede&Mesh team killed it, seriously.

I'll hopefully get back to Warsaw next summer, got some big plans for Europe!










Rome Revisited, Last Stop - Italy Adventures

I was going to just add this on to the original Rome post, when we started our travels in Italy, but Emma suggested that I make a new post, and well, she knows best, right? So here it is, a completely new post on our last day spent in Rome before our flight the following day! I'm really glad we decided to head back to Rome the day before our flight, rather than getting the train back from Florence in the morning. It probably would have resulted in a lot of running about no doubt, but this way we were able to pack the night before, and then hop on the Leonardo Express from Rome's Termini station which was only 5 minutes from our hotel.

For this visit back to Rome, we stayed in the Augusta Lucilla Palace, a hotel which is literally a 5-10 minute walk from Termini Station, ideal if you're looking to catch the train to the airport, or wanting to make use of the metro system. The hotel itself was lovely, and they upgraded our room to this HUGE suite, with a bed that vibrates (massages, apparently)!

We arrived quite early to the hotel, and weren't able to check in, but they took our bags from us and asked us to come back for around 1pm, so that left a few hours to go kill some time. With our stomachs rumbling, we went and grabbed some breakfast on Piazza della Repubblica, overlooking the Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri.

We had hoped to leave the rain behind in Florence, but sadly, Rome was the same. It was actually pretty cold when the wind was blowing, Emma rocking a jacket, but I was still determined with the shorts and t-shirt, regretting it a little at breakfast. Perfect temperature for walking though, especially with a light drizzle to cool you down every now and again, and since we seemed to enjoy walking, that's just what we done!

Heading to the Colosseum, as I was determined to get a picture of the arch (Arco di Costantino) which is next to it, however, I didn't remember the foreground and background to be so bleak, so it really was a little underwhelming.


Arco di Costantino, underwhelming, right?

Anyway, we decided to head in the direction of the arch, but this just seemed to be where all the coaches stopped to drop people off to visit the Colosseum, and then we found the entrance to the Palatino, or the Palatine Hill, and for only 7e each or so, this was bound to kill some time.


Entrance to the Palatino.

The Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill are adjacent to each other, so paying this one entrance fee, meant we were free to roam around this large area of ancient ruins. Really really really worth doing if you have a spare couple of hours just to wander around.

Some of the ruins in here are just amazing, I'll leave the pictures to do the talking.

PS. Make sure you check out absolutely all of the view points on offer for some spectacular views of the Colosseum and across the Roman Forum itself.




New Balance 996PU





















It was now well after 1pm, so we headed back to the hotel so we could check in and change our clothes.

Our plan for the rest of the day was simple... City Sightseeing Tours! But this probably really wasn't the best idea considering just how wet it would get.


New Balance MFL574 Fresh Foam





Similar to the City Sightseeing Tours in Florence, the bus departed from the train station, so we headed there to buy some tickets and wait for the bus. However, it had just started pouring down with rain, but we were determined that we'd complete the full tour which took around an hour.

In all honesty, we probably should have done this bus tour on the first day, because we realised how surprisingly close everything was, particularly how close the Vatican City was to our first hotel, and the Castel Sant'Angelo.

I probably spent most of the time trying to avoid the absolute river that was flowing off the roof of the bus and into the bus itself, but my shorts were already absolutely soaking and feeling like wet cardboard. I figured it was probably best to put the camera back in it's bag, so sadly there are no shots from the bus tour. While trying to avoid the rain running into the bus, we drove past the Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore, and decided that we'd get off here once the tour had completed and then went back around to this stop.



















The Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore is spectacular! Don't let the back of it fool you, as that's the side you'll probably see from the road, so make sure you walk round to the front and head in to explore.

Basilicas were clearly on the agenda today, and we headed back to the spot where we had breakfast in the morning, the Piazza della Republicca, to check out the Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, a 16th century church that doesn't look like much from the outside, but trust me, you need to go in!













And sadly, that's pretty much it in terms of our time in Rome, and our time in Italy. We spent the night just chilling with no camera, lots of food, ice cream, and searching through all the souvenir shops for last minute Pope related gifts for my family.

Hopefully some of the info in the last few blog posts of our trips to Rome, Pompeii, Pisa and Florence will be of use to anyone planning to go there, or if not, I hope you just enjoyed looking at the pictures, because I know I enjoyed taking them and exploring these amazing places. Already looking forward to planning our next trip to Italy and exploring somewhere new!

Florence - Italy Adventures

Utilising the Italian Train service once again, we hopped on a train and made our way to Florence from Pisa, a relatively short journey, gave me some time to try and edit pics too which is always good. Tried to take a chunk out of the inevitably large amount of images I'd have to go through when I got home. Arriving in Florence in the middle of the day probably wasn't the best idea though, as it was roasting, much hotter than it had been in both Rome and Pisa. With our screenshots of Apple Maps in hand, we made our way to the hotel, and had to wing it a little as I may have taken us up the wrong street, even with directions.

Anyway, we eventually made it to Hotel Pendini, which is where we would be staying for the next 4 nights. A lovely hotel sitting right on the Piazza della Repubblica, and next door to the Hard Rock Cafe, with Louis Vuitton across the road too if you fancied a spot of shopping.

DAY 1 -

So you can probably guess by now what we done once we got checked in, right? Of course, we went for a wander to get an idea of where everything was.


Hotel Pendini on the right from Piazza della Repubblica.


Palazzo Vecchio from Piazza della Signoria.


Fountain of Neptune.

One thing I knew about was the Ponte Vecchio, so this is what we would search for first, and after going in the wrong direction originally, we eventually made it to the awesome Palazzo Vecchio which you can see above.

You'll notice a lot of people going in and out of a door at the front of this building, so make sure you do the same, it's worth it. Below are images of what you'll discover when you do!





From here, the Ponte Vecchio is an extremely short walk through the Piazzale degli Uffizi, which you can see below. A busy area both day and night!


Due to the time of day, I couldn't get a good shot of the Ponte Vecchio from the front side, so of course, we'd come back a few times more, but we did take a wander over the bridge which is full of jewellers, and then head to one of the bridges behind it to get a better view.



Ponte Vecchio from Ponte Santa Trinita.

 My parents had visited Florence last year, and I swear all they done for the next few months when they came back was just talk about how amazing it was, so this was one of the main reasons we chose to visit here.

In all honesty, although we'd only walked around for a couple of hours, we weren't too impressed with Florence, certainly not in comparison to how we felt about Rome. Maybe the travelling and walking around had eventually caught up with us, so we headed back to the hotel to unpack and get changed.

Some shots from the way back.






Basilica di Santa Maria Novella.


Feeling a little drained, we just planned to head out for some food and of course gelato! We headed to Piazza della Signoria to grab some food at a restaurant we'd spotted during the day, and of course, it was busy, so they probably are doing something right.

How wrong could we have been? They weren't doing anything right. We waited an absolute day and age to just get drinks! I wish I could remember the name so you could avoid them, but I've forgotten.

So off the back of a shitty meal, all that could make up for it was the biggest tub of gelato I could find, and that's just what I got. (Photo not included as I absolutely demolished it!)

Back to the hotel it was!




"Put that f*cking camera away!"

Day 2 -

One of Emma's friends had booked us on a walking tour as a birthday gift, I'll be sure to get the name for you off of Emma. Big shout to our guide Sylvia, in the middle of the day, in the scorching heat, she was great!

However, first, after demolishing some croissants with nutella, I said that I couldn't get a decent shot of the front of the Ponte Vecchio, so off to the bridge we headed as the sun would be at the opposite side.



Now it was time for our walking tour, so meeting outside the Hard Rock Cafe, we got acquainted with our guide, and off we went. We basically toured the historic centre of Florence, while getting all the necessary information about each 'attraction', and trying to find any unoccupied spots of shade. Basically everything you'd expect from a walking tour, it was pretty spot on.


Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze.


Basilica di Santa Croce di Firenze.



Campanile di Giotto.


Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore.



Museo Casa di Dante.





Chiesa di San Carlo.


Palazzo Vecchio.



Now if you didn't know already (we didn't until my mate told me), Florence is pretty damn fashionable. Pretty much every street you walk down will have some form high fashion shop on it, or just a clothing shop in general, so it was time for me to get dragged around... for a little while at least.

We were struggling to find much to do at night to be honest, except for eat and drink, which isn't exactly a bad thing, but we wanted to be able to walk places and check out new things, but literally every thing was closed.

So once we grabbed food, we just headed to the Ponte Vecchio where there was a couple of guys singing and playing guitar, who were amazing, so we spent an hour or so chilling listening to them.








Day 3 - 

So we pretty much had two days left in Florence, and it felt like we had done very little, so we figured out what we wanted to do and..... we came up with very little!

However, one thing we definitely wanted to do was visit the cathedral (Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore), it's dome and it's surrounding bell tower, and baptistry, but every day we had been there, it was queued all the way around.

The night before, we spent some time checking opening times, and what not. Also, we had failed to find a ticket office, as we knew we had to get tickets to climb to the top of the duomo, as well as the bell tower, and to enter the baptistry. The cathedral was free, provided you were respecting the religion and had your shoulders and top of your knees covered. This is pretty much standard in Italy, so please bare it in mind, just a simple shawl will suffice for the ladies!

A 7:30am wake up call, we took our bottles of water and baguettes that we had bought last night, made our way to the ticket office, paid 10e each for two tickets, and went to join the queue to climb the cathedral's dome. This was the largest queue, so figured it would be smart to do it first, and even though we arrived there about 9am, the queue was huge, and we spent two hours in it before we managed to enter. Thankfully it was only 11am, and the sun wasn't that strong yet, but we were in the shade for the majority of the time anyway.



Now this cathedral and everything about it, located in Piazza del Duomo is just spectacular.... however, the climb wasn't, but this was mainly due to the poor organisation from staff who failed to stop people coming down various staircases while people were trying to go up. Therefore, you were stuck in these little claustrophobic humid staircases, feeling like there was very little air to breathe! Not a pleasant feeling.

463 steps later and inside the duomo...



And to the top of the duomo...








Now it was time to check out the interior of the cathedral, and once again, another queue... It would have been great if you could climb to the top of the dome, and then visit the inside of the cathedral, but you get shuffled out a door, and then have to queue again.








Next on the agenda was the baptistry, which sadly was covered in scaffolding on the exterior, and this seemed to deter people from going inside, which is a real shame, as this was honestly one of the nicest interiors I'd see since we were away.








Now before we were able to muster up the energy to climb the neighbouring Giotto's Campanile (bell tower), we had to stop for some lunch, in the form of lots of water, and two of the finest crepes with nutella known to man.

Conveniently the cafe was just across the road, in the shadow of the bell tower, almost taunting us while we rested.

But we were finished, and ready.... but oh wait, another queue, yes, you have to queue to climb the bell tower too. Only a half hour wait this time.

We said we wouldn't stop until we got to the top, and then we could stop at various levels on the way back down, so 414 steps later...












Duomo, Cathedral, Baptistry and Bell Tower - Check.

Absolutely exhausted - Check.

One thing I always do is keep an eye on the sky when it is getting near sunset, and the sky was shaping up to be pretty lovely, and since we knew it set behind the Ponte Vecchio, we figured we would head there to see what we could capture!

Rightly so, the sunset was amazing!





Day 4 - 

If you didn't know already, one of the main attractions in Florence is the statue of David, which is housed at the Accademia Gallery. We had walked by the gallery the day previous to get an idea where it was and what the queueing was like, but as expected, there were queues of 2+ hours, so we didn't bother.

We were going to check it out on our last day in Florence, but once again, queues queues and more queues, so we really just couldn't be bothered! So sorry for no images of the very famous David.

One of the best ways to see cities when you go away is to use the City Sightseeing Tours which you will find in many cities worldwide. These guys offer informative bus tours, with at least one line running in the city, but sometimes many others. I've used them in Iceland, New York, Barcelona, Florence, Rome, and even in Glasgow and London. They also offer a hop on, hop off service, which is exceptionally useful when it comes to getting to certain places which may be a little bit out of the centre, or you just aren't keen on walking too far.

The City Sightseeing Tours in Florence begin at the Santa Maria Novella train station, so we headed there to buy ourselves a day ticket each, and hopped on the first line to do the full tour, which took around an hour.











Buses can be a little bit of a nightmare to take pictures on, so we always just do the full tour first, and decide which spots we want to check out, then go round again and get off. We drove by Piazza de Michelangelo which provides stunning views over Florence centre, so we decided to come back here later on... for sunset, of course.

With the first tour over and done with, we got off at the station and waited until the next line came by which would take us out to the stunning little town of Fiesole, which is set up in the hills on the outskirts of Florence.










The tour which goes up to Fiesole takes a little bit longer, so when we came back down, we grabbed a spot of lunch, and before we knew it, we were back on the first line and heading up to explore Piazza de Michelangelo.

When we were at the Ponte Vecchio the night before watching the sunset, you are able to see the Piazza de Michelangelo from here, and we could see all the camera flashes during sunset, so tonight was our turn to see what all the fuss was about.

Unfortunately, it was really cloudy all through the day, so we were hoping it would clear up a little for sunset coming around.


First footwear shot of the holiday... couldn't go 10 days without one!






While we were on the bus up to Piazza de Michelangelo, we spotted a basilica which was tucked away up some stairs, so of course, we were going to have a look.


Not this basilica.. the next one.









Sitting at the front of this basilica provided the most amazing views over Florence, and we were sure we had found the best spot for the sunrise tonight.

The front door to the basilica was open, so I went inside to be greeted with complete darkness, and only the sound of humming coming from the basement. So I walked over, and the below picture was what I was greeted with.

Easy one of the most eerie experiences of my life so far.





I even had to take the above pictures with a flash, that's how dark it was.

After this eerie experience, we literally just spent the next couple of hours sitting on a wall out the front of the basilica, overlooking a graveyard in front of us, and Florence in the distance, watching the sunset unfold.

Sadly, the clouds hadn't disappeared at all, in fact, they'd probably gotten worse, so the below shots are the best I could muster.






Our time was up in Florence, and our time on holiday was almost up too, so the next day, we headed to the train station, and headed back to Rome, as this is where our return flight was from on the Monday (it was cheaper that way).

Pisa - Italy Adventures

Following our trip to Pompeii via Naples, we headed back to Rome late in the evening, and had an "early night", if you can call midnight early? Ultimately we were heading to Florence, or Firenze (I'm down with the Italian language now), but we knew Pisa was relatively close, so we decided to catch a train to Pisa first, and stay there for a night. The train system in Italy, Trenitalia, is pretty great - super efficient, quick, reasonably priced, and easy to get tickets. The UK need to take a leaf out these guys book. So if you're looking to travel within Italy, I definitely recommend using them, we never experienced any bad journeys or issues with them.

We had made sure we'd screens hotted directions from the train station to our hotel this time around, so arriving in Pisa, we headed to the Grand Hotel Duomo, definitely one of the nicest hotels we stayed in, probably due to the fact that the rooftop bar had an amazing view of the Leaning Tower, Cathedral and Baptistry.



View from the roof top bar of Grand Duomo Hotel.





As with every new place you go, or maybe it's just us, you've got to go explore so that's what we did. We knew Pisa wasn't as big as Rome, but on the way to the hotel from the train station, we had walked over a nice bridge at the river and spotted some areas we wanted to check out. And of course, we had to go check out the Leaning Tower.

We only had a couple hours wandering planned, as we arrived late afternoon, and we had booked to go up the Leaning Tower of Pisa for sunset, hoping to get some nice sky and some even better views.















Around the area where the Leaning Tower of Pisa is, known as , there are a number of things that you can visit, with the main ones being the tower itself, the cathedral, the monumental cemetery, and the baptistry. Most of them you need to pay to visit, but the cathedral is free to visit as far as I'm aware, but it was on our ticket for the Leaning Tower, so this was our first stop.

The cathedral is spectacular with it's grey marble and white stone, and building commenced in 1064. The interior of the cathedral is even better, and even houses Galileo's Lamp, which you can see in some of the pictures below.















Our time was shortly approaching to climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa, so we made our way round to the entrance as you have to be there around 15 minutes before or so. It is 18e to climb to the top of the tower, and please, if you want to do this, book it via the official site, the link can be found here, and not via some third party who will charge you a lot more.

The site can be quite hard to navigate in all honesty, even once you switch to the English language option, but have a little patience and you will get there. It is necessary to do this a little in advance as they have time slots and only let a specific number of people up at a time. The climb itself only takes about 20 minutes, and is relatively easy, but is well worth doing.

We were most surprised about how 'boring' the interior of the tower is actually, but the view makes up for it, so we'll let that slide.












As it was bang smack in the middle of sunset, and we knew we had that rooftop bar at the hotel with spectacular views, we made the mad dash back down the tower, and across the road to our hotel so we could catch the tail end of the sunset.


DSC_2857Piazza dei Miracoli


An amazing sunset, I'm sure you'll agree!

The street you can see in the above image which leads all the way to the Piazza dei Miracoli, and goes past the front of our hotel, has countless places to eat, and is probably one of the busiest places in Pisa, if not the busiest, so make sure you check it out and grab some food.

A wander down to the river at night to grab a couple of shots only resulted in one sadly.


We were heading off the next afternoon to Florence, so we had planned to visit the Baptistry, and the Monumental Cemetery in the morning. I think we maybe paid 5e each to visit both things from the ticket office which is near the Leaning Tower.

We visited the Baptistry first, but to be honest, it's a little underwhelming inside, I think we spent all of 10 minutes in there, and that was just climbing one level up to get a good view of the Cathedral.








The Piazza dei Miracoli is quite a wide walled area, and just to the right of the Baptistry if you're looking at it from the front, you can head over the grass and check out some of the wall remains. Through one of the closed off gates is a graveyard, but I think you may be able to get to this if you exit out the walled area.


The next place we checked out was the Monumental Cemetery, or Camposanto Monumentale, and is a walled cemetery which is believed to be the most beautiful cemetery in the world. The cemetery was completed in the 15th century, after being started in the 13th century, and it is extremely impressive.

There is an amazing fresco named The Triumph of Death, and you really most spend some time admiring it.















Sadly our time was up in Pisa, so we grabbed our cases and headed to the train station to catch the train to Florence! I fully recommend checking out Pisa if you're ever near, beautiful place.

Pompeii via Naples - Italy Adventures

As soon as we booked Rome, Emma said that she wanted to visit Pompeii, so we figured that the best way to do this would be to search for a company offering a full day tour. We've used Gray Line a number of times, particularly when we visited Iceland, so they were our first port of call, and rightly so, they offered a tour called 'Pompeii and it's Ruins'. Details of the tour can be found by clicking the link above.

We were picked up from our hotel at 6:45am, and taken to the Gray Line office in central Rome, where our tickets were checked and we changed over to a large coach, which would take us to Pompeii via Naples.

The journey to Naples was relatively quick down the highway, our guide just introduced himself at the beginning and then said nothing so that people could sleep until we made a breakfast stop about an hour down the road at a service station. After grabbing a croissant and some coffee, back on the coach and on to Naples were the guide provided us with a panoramic like tour of the city while passing through.

Stopping at the marina in Naples, we hopped off the bus to grab some pictures of the surrounding area for 15 minutes or so. It would have been cool to spend some more time in Naples, but Pompeii was the main thing on the itinerary, so that's where we headed.


Mt. Vesuvius from Naples.



When we arrived in Pompeii, we were treated to a typical Italian style lunch at a nearby restaurant, and then once lunch was done, it was time to head to the entrance to Pompeii's ruins and get our tickets.

Our tour guide Juan Carlos who had been with us since departing Rome, now handed us over to Wilma, the craziest woman I've met wearing a poncho in 40 degree heat for no apparent reason, and she would guide us around Pompeii's ruins.

Upon entering Pompeii ruins, whether as a group, or just on your own accord, you'll notice that there are thousands of visitors, and it gets a little crazy at times. Luckily, our guide Wilma done her absolute best to make sure we seen all the main parts of the ruins that you read about in the news or see on TV, as well as taking us to some of her favourite areas that are a little less known.




The next few images are from a large house that our guide took us too, which she said was one of her favourites and wouldn't be so crowded, and rightly so, when we arrived, it was near empty, and pretty much stayed like this the whole time we were there.

This gave us valuable time to learn about the history of Pompeii, as well as to check out the various rooms in the house in a lot more details, whereas we wouldn't of had that opportunity if it had been overrun with other visitors.









































When you hear stories of Pompeii, and you plan to visit the ruins, one of the big things that always gets brought up is the remains of the bodies that they have there, and below are the three main ones: the baby, the sitting man, and the dog.

However, our guide explained to us that these remains are in actual fact just replicas, as all the remains have been subsequently removed from Pompeii. They have discovered a little over 1000+ bodies, but none remain at the site. Hopefully in the future they will at least bring back a few of the actual casts.

Even though we were aware that these were replicas, it's still a pretty eerie thing to look at.




We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Pompeii, and would love to go back and explore more, and maybe even take a trip to Herculaneum to explore there. I'd have loved to have been able to take more or better pictures, but the biggest issue and one that I try my absolute best to avoid is other people in the shots, and if you ever make it to Pompeii, you'll realise that this is a big challenge!

Here are the last two shots from our trip to the ruins of Pompeii, with Mt. Vesuvius overlooking the ruins, and the ruins to your left as you exit the site.



After a little bus swapping, we were on the road to Rome again, and a big thanks must be said to our tour leader, our tour guide, and also our driver of the return journey, who performed some crazy crazy crazy manoeuvres to get the bus out of a service station which was definitely not meant to be for buses. Honestly, it was outrageous!

Rome - Italy Adventures

July and August have been very busy months with a lot of footwear related stuff towards the end of July and beginning of August, and then with going on holiday so shortly after, I never had much time to get through all of the footwear things. So I apologise for the lack of content on here recently, but I've been posting quite a lot on Instagram since I've been away, and after I've got through all the content from my holiday, I'll jump back to the footwear and will post my SoleBloc Round-Up, along with an interview that was conducted at the NB Real Ale Event.

Anyway, enough of the formalities, myself and Emma had never been to Italy before, so a few months back we booked some return flights to Rome, and then had 10 days to fill in so got down to the planning. First off, since we were flying into Rome, we decided to spend 4 nights here as this would be one of the main places we wanted to spend some time. If I'm honest, we could probably have just spent the full 10 nights here, Rome is such an amazing place with so much to do, and just generally a pretty great vibe in the city.

DAY 1 - 

We arrived on the afternoon of Friday the 7th, and left the air conditioned cabin of the British Airways plane, to be greeted by a wall of heat, us Scots definitely aren't built for it. After getting through all the usual airport shit, we headed for the train station, bought a ticket for what we hoped was the Leonardo Express (thankfully it was) to take us into Termini station in central Rome. Half an hour later, we arrived at Termini, only to realise we hadn't bothered to print out directions to our hotel, and with no signal on our phone, all we had was a rough idea of the area it was in, and a Rome Metro Map. Winging it a little and establishing that the station 'Lepanto' was relatively close to our hotel, we bought a 72 hour metro ticket (thinking that this would be useful to get us about) and headed for the platform.

Honestly, I advise everyone to print out directions, because trying to figure out where you're going in 40 degree heat while carrying all your bags, is definitely not a good look, but we made it, eventually. To be fair, we'd actually done not bad considering.

We stayed in the Visconti Palace Hotel, a really lovely hotel just over the other side of the Fiume Tevere on Via Federico Cesi, in the Prati region of Rome. We were a little hesitant at how far out the hotel was from everything, so as you do, you go for a little stroll, and I think we ended up walking something like 13 miles before we stopped to grab some food. We didn't walk 13 miles because the hotel was so far away from everything, we walked 13 miles because it's really easy to walk a lot in Rome centre without realising it. Every corner you turn, there's just another amazing building, and you just keep going and going. We stumbled upon so much without actually making the effort to look for it.

We knew the river was close to our hotel, so we tried our best to head for there and find the nearest bridge. To get to the nearest bridge, we had to pass through Piazza Cavour which is home to the Palace of Justice, Rome's Supreme Court, and reaching Ponte Sant'Angelo, which as an added bonus, has the amazing Castel Sant'Angelo at one end of it.


Palace of Justice, Piazza Cavour.


Castel Sant'Angelo from Ponte Sant'Angelo.




Looking out from Ponte Sant'Angelo with St. Peter's Basilica in the distance.


Parrocchia Santa Maria in Vallicella.


Now that we crossed the river, heading in no particular direction, we stumbled across Campo de' Fiori, which is a market by day, and a bustling square lined by restaurants at night, with a monument of Giordano Bruno at the centre.

Wanting to explore more, we decided that this is where we'd head back to for food, if we could find it again that is...


Monument of Giordano Bruno at the centre of Campo de' Fiori.


Sant'Andrea della Valle.


Chiesa del Gesù.

The next part of central Rome that we came to was particularly great, and not only provided us with some amazing views of the sunset, but also just some pretty breathtaking views of the surrounding area and buildings.

Coming out to Piazza Venezia, you are presented with the crazy Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, and if you manage to brave the road to make it into the grassy centre of the square, then you get an even better view of this huge monument in all it's glory.


Looking down Via del Plebiscito at Chiesa di San Giuliano dei Fiamminghi. 


Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II.


Looking down Via del Corso from Piazza Venezia.



Palazzo Venezia.


Basilica di Santa Maria in Ara coeli.


Looking down Via del Teatro di Marcello at Teatro Marcello.


After taking a few shots of the monument, the next thing to do is to head over to the front of it, right? Well, make sure you do this, and then head right at brave the second set of stairs on your left because this takes you up to Campidoglio, a Michelangelo designed square.

You are now essentially on the Capitoline Hill, and from here, head to the left of the museum in front of you, where you will find a path, and a pretty spectacular view point over the Roman Forum. When we turned down this little path to be greeted by this view, it literally took our breaths away, a must do for sure.





Foro Romano.

While you're overlooking the Roman Forum and surrounding areas from the Capitoline Hill, you can't miss the magnificent Colosseum in the distance, so that was our next place to visit, and heading left to the main road, Via dei Fori Imperiali will take you all the way down to the Colosseum.




After we grabbed some food at the square we visited earlier, with the extreme heat in Rome over the last week or so, there was plenty of thunder and lightning that evening, so we figured we'd be able to get a good view of it from the bridge near the castle, and conveniently this was the route back to our hotel anyway.

We stayed on the bridge for around an hour taking pictures, and we only got lucky with one, but it's a cracker if I do say so myself!


DAY 2 - 

An early start for our second day in Rome as we were heading to the Vatican City, and had booked a tour with Walks of Italy. If you are intending to visit the Vatican City, then I seriously recommend you book this tour, because it gets you in before the public, and you only have to wait in a very short line with all the other groups. I have included the tour link here, where you can find all the information needed.

We essentially seen the best of the Vatican City in under 4 hours, and because we went straight to the Sistine Chapel first, we got to marvel at the spectacular chapel with very few other people there, whereas if we hadn't booked the tour, we'd have had endure it with hundreds more people.

Also, our guide was particularly excellent, he stuck with the relatively small group of around 12 of us, and provided us with plenty information, as well as just genuinely being a really nice guy. We even bumped into him later that evening by chance, and he remembered us and said hello, great guy.

Anyway, I won't say much else about the Vatican City tour, as I'll just let the pictures do the talking (no pictures of the Sistine Chapel however, as photos are not allowed). Seriously, every room and corridor in this place is spectacular, enjoy.





















The last part of the tour with Walks of Italy is the amazing St. Peter's Basilica, an absolute wonder in itself, never mind everything else there is in the Vatican City. We spent some time in here just admiring how grand everything is in here, whether it's the construction, the artwork or the magnificent domes.









While we were inside the basilica and looking up at the huge dome, we noticed some people up the top of the dome, so figured we could get up there. Exiting the basilica, and then taking a left and then another left, it brings you to the entrance where you can pay to climb the 551 stairs to the top of St. Peter's dome.

The first step of the climb is relatively easy, and it opens out onto the roof, where there is a gift shop, small cafe, and plenty of places to get some views out over room.

Now I'll say it just now, if you are claustrophobic in the slightest, you'll probably not want to bother with the second part of the climb, as to get to the top of the dome, you climb stairs in between the inner and outer domes, and there is barely enough room to stand upright.





St. Peter's Square from St. Peter's Dome.


St. Peter's Dome.



St. Peter's Dome.


Before heading back down, we grabbed a couple of postcards, wrote them out and sent them home, while rehydrating ourselves with water and gelato!

After the climb back down, we had a wander around St. Peter's Square, but honestly, it was around 2pm by this time, and we had been out and about since 7:30am, so we just headed back to our hotel to grab a few hours sleep before heading out for the evening.


St. Peter's Square from the front of St. Peter's Basilica.





St. Peter's Basilica.

After our first wander around the centre on the first night, we knew there were a few places that we still hadn't managed to find yet, such as the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, and the Trevi Fountain, so we set off on a little adventure to find these three places.

We had a rough idea where the Pantheon was, so we tried to head here first, and came across the really lovely Piazza Navona, another bustling square lined by amazing buildings and plenty of restaurants.



Santa Maria della Pace.


Fountain of the Four Rivers in Piazza Navona.


Sant'Agnese in Agone from Piazza Navona.

After heading through Piazza Navona, we found the Pantheon, and the Pantheon itself sits in Piazza della Rotonda, a really lovely square which has lots of restaurants and gelaterias down various side streets, with the square itself usually having someone playing music with many people just sitting around chilling. A really nice atmosphere.

The Pantheon is free to enter, but is closed at night, so if you're planning to visit, swing by during the day or in the early evening, it's definitely worth checking out.








From the Pantheon, we might have got a bit lost trying to look for the Spanish Steps, but we did however find a New Balance store, so that made up for it a little bit.

Also, on our way to the Spanish Steps, there was a light rain shower, and I've honestly never been so glad to see rain than I was then. Perfect.



Fontana della Barcaccia.


Spanish Steps.


From the top of the Spanish Steps looking down Via dei Condotti.

Next stop - Trevi Fountain. Sadly, the Trevi Fountain is currently undergoing restoration works, which you can see in the picture below, but it is still worth a visit, and make sure you turn your back to the fountain and throw a coin over your shoulder. Hopefully you manage to make it into the little bit of water that remains.


Fontana di Trevi.

As it was still relatively early, and we weren't quite hungry yet, we went on another wander, still trying to get our bearings of where exactly everything is within the centre of Rome, it makes it a lot easier to navigate, rather than having to rely on the metro system to get us about.


S. Marcello al Corso.


Santa Maria in Via Lata.


Piazza Foro Traiano.


Mercati di Traiano.


Looking down Via dei Fori Imperiali at the Colosseo.


Chiesa dei Santi Luca e Martina.

The sun had now set, and our bellies were rumbling, so we headed back to Piazza Navona to grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants around the square. Pretty much every meal we were skipping dessert, and just heading to grab gelato after (you really are spoiled for choice when it comes to gelato), until I got hooked on Tiramisu that is.

You'll probably remember the castle I mentioned briefly from day 1? Castel Sant'Angelo. Well, we were trying to pack in as much as possible (if you hadn't already noticed), so on the way back to the hotel, we paid the small entry fee to get into the castle and went exploring. The castle itself has some really nice rooms within, but we were really wanting to check out the view from the top.




View of St. Peter's Basilica from top of Castel Sant'Angelo.

Even from the bridge at the front of the castle, we had noticed the huge basilica in the distance, but hadn't been able to place which one it was. Even after being at the Vatican City that day, and then getting a better look at it from the top of the castle at night, it took me until the day we were leaving Rome, to realise that it was St. Peter's Basilica.

I don't think we anticipated it to actually to be that close, and in hindsight, I wish we had taken that walk from the castle and straight up Via della Conciliazione to St. Peter's Square.

DAY 3 - 

We had planned to do a day trip to Naples and Pompeii on the 10th of August, which would be Day 4 of our holiday, so for the third day, we wanted to just take it easy after a pretty long and tiring couple of days before.

We jumped on the Metro at Lepanto, and headed to Flaminio, where we got off and headed to Piazza del Popolo where we grabbed some lunch. Our plan was to venture through the Villa Borghese Gardens as it seemed like quite an extensive piece of greenery in Rome, certainly from a map anyway.

We headed up a load of stairs to get to the gardens, and took in the view at the top over Piazza del Popolo, then we noticed some signs for the zoo, so our inner child took over and we started following the signs.

Little did we know, the zoo must have been a couple of miles away at least, and it probably wasn't the best idea to visit in 40 degree heat, but anyway, I seen a couple of giraffes for the first time, so I really wasn't bothered!


Looking over Piazza del Popolo.


An apparent 'chill day' was followed by a definite 'chill night'. Again, we hopped on the Metro at Lepanto and this time headed to the Colosseo station, where we took a wander round the Colosseum, and then propped ourselves on a bunch up on a bridge overlooking the Colosseum and waited for sunset. Check out the images below, then we finished the night off with some food and of course, gelato.








DAY 4 - 

Our 4th day in Rome featured a trip to Pompeii via Naples, and you can check that post out now.

However, although we left for Pisa the following day, we would be back to Rome for one final day before flying back home to Aberdeen.