The Home Stretch

Volunteering in Albania had, thankfully, stopped me from spending, so much so that I could last my final month of travelling; this being in West Europe!

I hit dry land in Bari, Italy. A small, authentic port town in the south of Italy, Bari is non touristy, calm and friendly. Within the main city is a very cute Old Town section, where a Norman Cathedral houses Santa Claus, or St. Nicolas’ tomb. And then about an hour and a half out of Bari is Matera, with its old town UNESCO site on the side of a valley; a charming change from the development of western culture.
Bari and its surrounds are an immensely authentic, very beautiful and much quieter part of Italy, and a great place to bring myself back into the travel swing.

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But it wasn’t long until I jumped on the train and headed to the country’s capital, Rome.

Rome is a history laden city, with amazing architecture, beautiful art and the home of the Catholic Church. However, Rome was also a city that surprised me in its vibe, and not in a good way. During this trip, I had been to some places that I knew weren’t ‘safe’ and had prepared myself for them, and I knew that pick pocketers in Rome were real and prominent, yet it was one of the only cities that when I walked out of the station I immediately moved my wallet from my pocket to my bag. That and the annoying abundance of hawkers, made the city off putting. Which was unfortunate, because moments like the Colosseum, the Vatican, St. Peters Basilica, the Piazza de Popolo and the Fontana di Trevi (although it was still under refurbishment) are all phenomenal; the Pantheon was the second building to completely stun me.

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(my other Rome photos went walkabout…)

Before, I left on this trip, I convinced my close friend, Holly, to come across to Italy and travel with me for a month. So on the 8th of January she flew into Rome, and became my travel partner.
It was nice to be back travelling with someone, although I think for the first couple of weeks I annoyed her with my constant chatter!
Together we saw Rome in all its mass, got down to Napoli and the incredibly preserved Pompeii, headed up to Florence and awed at the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, skirted by Pisa and along the Cinque Terra, scaled the city of Genoa, rested in Turin, and took a decent train ride to Venice too get lost in its labyrinth. Our final stop in Italy was Milan, and all its fashion; the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II being its epicentre (and one of the world’s oldest shopping malls).

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It was then on the 29th of January that we boarded the 6am train to Paris.

Now Paris was an interesting city. It was very beautiful and elegant in its architecture, however, it was one of the most unwelcoming cities I have ever been in. There is something about the feel of the place, a bit like Rome, that just didn’t feel pleasant or comforting. I also feel as if it is over hyped as being an amazing city. I think that because we really only had two days in the city to see the Eiffel, Louvre, Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame, we rushed it and consequently didn’t properly embrace it; that and the weather was pretty horrible.

Paris down, it was time to head south, and get the 14hr bus to Barcelona. I would like to say that the French countryside is stunning, however we talk a night bus and so we missed it all.
Fortunately, Barcelona was a gorgeous city, with very friendly people, and a good easy vibe. The main amusement in Barcelona would be the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia. Designed by Antoni Gaudi, it is built like something from Wonderland and is a church where the insides are as transfixing as the external. The city also has an attractive port and promenade, and a quaint old district. It is also much cheaper than other European cities and has an exceptional amount of shopping.

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However, the day had come and I was finally heading home. After 6 long and full on months, I was boarding my flight with Holly, bound for Melbourne. The 4th of February we left and landed on the 6th, exhausted.

 

I know this post seems quite rushed, and it probably is. However, the month was frantic and I am not particular interested in spreading across 2 or 3 posts. But now I am in a position of trying to figure out the direction I take Following My Feet.

Just another adventure to take myself on!

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