Third Don Crossing

This post is as close to home as it gets, and will mean absolutely nothing to anyone outside of Aberdeen, and although it's probably 20 years too late, the Third Don Crossing is finally open, so we went to check it out. There's not much to say about it to be honest, there's still quite a bit of development to go, but the main bridge is open, so at least that's something.







A Weekend Away at Gorsebank

Last weekend we took a weekend off work and everything else and headed south to Gorsebank, a camping village which is located in Dalbeattie, not too far from Dumfries. A weekend away with very little phone signal, no email access, and so on, was much needed, and where better to spend it than in the lowlands of Scotland.

At midday on Friday, we packed the car and got on the road. I volunteered Emma for driving, her car is A LOT more fuel efficient than mine, and it ended up being around a 4/5 hour drive down to Dalbeattie by the time we got through traffic and then an accident on the motorway.

Arriving late, we checked in to our little 'WigWam' which is where we would be staying for two nights. Sadly, it was already pretty dark when we arrived so we just headed into nearby Dalbeattie to grab a Chinese carry out and then chilled out, munched, and watched some movies.



Turning the above into a big bed like structure was pretty interesting, who knew something so simple could be so challenging, I was a little tired.

It was pretty cloudy out, but we spent some time trying to get some shots of where we were staying. Luckily, we managed one good one when the sky cleared up slightly.


An early start on Saturday, with not much planned, but there were a couple of places we had checked out on Google before so we wanted to make sure we visited those, and then anything else along the way was a bonus.

Our first stop was Threave Castle which is a 14th century castle situated on an island in the middle of the River Dee, just west of the small town of Castle Douglas. Unfortunately, pretty much all the historic locations in Scotland are open between April and September, so we couldn't actually get onto the castle's island. We'll be back though.



The second location we wanted to check out was the Big Water of Fleet Viaduct, so we hopped back in the car and headed further west. The Big Water of Fleet Viaduct is a disused 19th century railroad and is tucked away within the lowlands down a dodgy single track road which is well worth persevering for.

You can even hop over the fence and walk across from one side to the other.








By now, our bellies were rumbling, so it was time to stop off for some lunch, and Gatehouse of Fleet was the nearest town so that's exactly where we headed. As we took the turn off for the road into the town, we spotted a castle nestled away in the trees so we went back to check it out.

It was in fact Cardoness Castle, and again, it was closed. It was also the middle of the day, and the sun was super bright, and the clouds weren't helping the situation so yeah, the below shot was the best of a bad bunch.


Back on the road now, and literally just driving until we seen something interesting, and this brought us to the town of Kirkcudbright where there was apparently a castle called MacLellan's Castle, and a 16th century one at that.


Leaving Kirkcudbright, Emma was now hunting the coast, so we drove east, and driving along this coastal road provides spectacular views across the sea of the Lake District in England, and the wind farm that is situated in that stretch of water.

I've been to Flimby (where the New Balance Factory is) twice now, and when you look out from Flimby, you look on to this wind farm and Scotland in the distance, so it was kind of cool to see it from the other side.

Driving along the A711, we ended up passing through Dundrennan, and spotted Dundrennan Abbey just off the main road, which was apparently a Cistercian monastery established in 1142. Pretty cool, but again, closed. Damn you Historic Scotland and your April to September opening times.


Continuing down the A711, heading nowhere in particular, out of the corner of my eye, I was sure I spotted a giant scarecrow or something, so I made Emma reverse back down the main road to see what it was.

Turns out it basically was a giant scarecrow and marks where the Wickerman Festival is held in July.


One of our last stops along the A711 was the Orchardton Tower which we stumbled across at the end of some single track road. Orchardton Tower is a ruined tower house from the 15th century and is the only cylindrical tower house in Scotland.

Be sure to climb to the top and check out some of the views of the surrounding hills.



After it being mostly blue skies during the afternoon, it started to get a little overcast but we figured we'd try find a good spot for sunset before we headed back to Gorsebank.

We actually drove past Gorsebank, and ended up in a place called Sandyhills as Emma found a beach, got excited, and wanted to check it out. Think she just wanted to try get a good view of those wind turbines in the sea and the mountain in the distance.


We turned back and headed to nearby Rockcliffe, mainly because the name sounded pretty cool, and we figured there'd be some cliffs... turns out there was no cliffs, but we parked our bums here anyway and waited for the sun to set.

The sunset wasn't great, mostly just a bunch of dark clouds, but we got some nice orange in the sky, and I mostly just annoyed Emma while she was trying to take a selfie.



We made it back to our wigwam at Gorsebank, chilled for a little bit, then headed back into nearby Dalbeattie, and grabbed some food at the Taj Mahal Restaurant. Shout out to the waiter there, legend.

The rest of the night just consisted of us hanging out, and me falling asleep early, standard. We made big plans for Sunday morning on the way home, but that was never going to happen, so we made the most of the 11am check out time and headed onwards to Drumlanrig Castle, a 17th century 'Pink Palace' which would inevitably be closed but we went anyway.




Obviously there's always a sneaker shot in there somewhere!


From Drumlanrig Castle, we took the A702, the most perfect winding road through the hills, and on to the M74 and headed back up the road to Aberdeen.

If anyone isn't quite up for the whole camping thing, then definitely be sure to check out Gorsebank, we know we'll be back in the summer when there's lighter nights and more time for exploring!

DSC_9833 DSC_9842

Bullers of Buchan

The light nights are no longer, we have officially hit October and the dark nights are rolling in, so trying to make the most of what free time I actually have during the week to get out and about, and that only seems to be on a Sunday, sadly. Thankfully, there was no F1 this weekend (sorry Emma), and it was a pretty glorious day considering it's October and Aberdeen, so we went out for a bit before I had to go to work.

When we were at New Slains Castle the other week, we were speaking to a guy and he made us aware of some places to check out further north of the castle, and since our car was parked in the opposite direction, we said we'd do this another day.

So, that was what today's plan was!

Heading straight through Cruden Bay this time, and turning off into the car park for Bullers of Buchan, this is where we would begin. From the car park, you walk down a little road, and then you have the choice to go left or right. The left hand path is a lot more obvious than the right, but the right will take you to New Slains Castle if you want to head there.

We went left, as this is where the Bullers of Buchan is, and it is the name given to the collapsed sea cave which you can see in the pictures below, really impressive, and you can walk across it too if you have good balance, and it's not too windy.

Apparently this spot is pretty great for puffin watching, but sadly we're passed their nesting season, so we'll be back next year once they return!



Bullers of Buchan - collapsed sea cave

While Emma went and checked out what was further on, I went for a wander over the very skinny path on top of Bullers of Buchan to try and take in some views.

The only issue with going out in the middle of the day is that the sunlight is so f*cking harsh, and it really does absolutely no favours when trying to take a picture, especially when there's shadows involved too. Bane of my life.


Looking north from atop Bullers of Buchan


Where the sea enters the collapsed sea cave


Where's Emma?


Looking south, New Slains Castle is in this direction


New Balance 1300JP2

Emma appeared back from her wander and said that she had found a beach, so naturally, we went to see if we could get to the beach.

When we say "beach", more often than not, there is no sand, it definitely isn't hot, and I really would not recommend going in the water, but it's a beach nonetheless.

You can see the beach below, and for once, it actually looked like we were able to get down to it!




Gotta get down low to get them Instagram angles, right?



This trail continues round past the beach and over to the cliffs you can see in the above picture, and from here you can walk to Boddam, but we were just going down in hope that we'd be able to get onto the beach.

The trail itself was actually pretty tight, most of them are around the coast, single file all the way and pretty overgrown. Usually wet too, so probably wasn't the best idea that we were both wearing trainers.

Anyway, we made it to the beach, and Emma sat on a wall and laughed at me while I tried to balance on the stones and explore.




There's something pretty special about just being able to sit on a wall overlooking a place like this, with absolutely no-one else about, just the sound of the sea, and the birds, gotta enjoy those moments for sure!



On the path down to the beach, there was a tunnel going through the hill, so of course, as always, we're  curious people, so we walked through and it took as through a field and back out to the main road and the car park.

Pretty ideal, and now we know the perfect entrance if we ever want to come back here!


New Slains Castle

A couple of weeks ago, we actually tried to walk to what we thought was New Slains Castle, but turns out we were actually quite far away from it, and probably would have fallen off a cliff before we got there. So, it was a Monday holiday, and we decided that we would try again, but this time we would actually make it successfully to the castle, and not go on some wild detour... my bad.

Anyway, we headed out the same way we went last time, but this time we followed signs to Cruden Bay, and then as we reached Cruden Bay, just before the harbour, there was a car park with a sign post to New Slains Castle.


We had made it... now just for the walk up to the castle itself.



New Slains Castle in the distance.

The walk to the castle follows the coast, so of course, we're always looking for a good spot to get some nice shots of the coast line.

Thankfully, not too far into the walk, there's a faint makeshift path through the grass, and if you head down that, then it takes you to a really great spot.





After the little detour down to the alcove bit, you literally go back up, turn to your right and are greeted with this path down to the amazing New Slains Castle, this place really is spectacular!


When we walked down the path and noticed that to the right the cliff extends out into the see, so you can go out and take in the views at the edge of the cliff. I think this was the point I said to Emma that it was easily my favourite castle so far.








As the 16th century castle is now ruins, you literally get to explore wherever you want, and obviously as I seen the tower, this was the first place I wanted to check out.

And rightly so, you can climb the spiral staircase right to the top, but make sure you hold on!



Make sure you take some time to explore the rest of the castle as you can literally go wherever you want.

I already can't wait to come back here!







Collieston Coast

With summer well and truly over, and darkness creeping in earlier and earlier every day, it doesn't leave much time for exploring by the time work finishes, but last night we made it a little bit north to Collieston, a small former fishing village in between Newburgh and Cruden Bay.

Parking the car just a little bit away from the tight harbour area, we headed up and over a steep hill with even steeper steps which probably weren't made with having to carry a dog up them in mind, since her legs are too small too get up.

Heading along the coast, and taking in the views of the coastline, we didn't manage to get very far since the sun started setting though... hopefully we can get back and maybe find somewhere to park the car a little further up the coast to explore!













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.