It’s Time to Explore My Own Country: Uluru!

Am I a bad Australian? I’ve travelled extensively around Europe but I’ve barely scratched the surface of my own country. I have no idea why as there are so many beautiful and unique places to explore. And it’s way cheaper than flying overseas considering Australia is so far away from anywhere!

So to make amends I asked for a plane ticket to Uluru for my birthday. Jetstar were having a sale and I got a return flight for just over $200. Bargain!

I fly out tomorrow morning bright and early and I’m staying 3 nights. I’m planning to explore Uluru and the Olgas, enjoy the sunshine, read by the pool, go for walks (maybe … it’s meant to be really hot which is probably why the tickets were so cheap. I’ll report back on whether going to the desert in summer is a good idea or not …) and take a day trip to King’s Canyon.

I can’t wait!

 

Preparing For Solo Travel

When people find out I have travelled alone or am about to travel alone, they are always shocked. “But aren’t you scared?” “Is it safe?” “Don’t you get bored?” “Is it lonely?” A little bit, yes, never, sometimes.

I think of my progression to solo travel as a journey in itself. I certainly didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to book a trip to some remote, exotic place alone. I am super impressed by the people who do this! I started my adventures with people I knew and then gradually progressed down the ranks to solo.

My first trip was on exchange to France when I was 16 (2009), although ‘exchange’ is a loose term. I always wanted to go into a family for a month or 6 weeks and I’d even started planning everything but I knew deep down I was far too scared. My school offered a French Exchange which consisted of a group of 21 girls (I went to a girls school. Don’t worry the school didn’t only choose girls for this exchange and exclude the boys!) and 3 teachers going for 3 1/2 weeks: 11 days with a family and going to school in Bordeaux, 7 days of travel (La Rochelle, Amboise, Villers-Bretonneux, Amiens, Bayeux), a weekend with another family in a tiny country village in the North and 3 days in Paris. Mum and I went to the information night out of curiosity and came away thinking it was just a fancy holiday. Well surprise, surprise, the day the applications closed I came to school late as I was frantically completing the application in the car with Mum. I got accepted and 6 months later away I went.

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It wasn’t an authentic exchange but I still had a fantastic time. The 11 days at school and with the family was utterly terrifying but my French improved so much. I can only imagine how good it would have been if I stayed longer! The days travelling with the other girls was great fun! Just imagine 21 school girls running around Paris together! It was the perfect balance of history, French lessons and practice and a little bit of free time where we got to stretch our wings and experience overseas freedom (but still have the teachers just a phone call away if there was a crisis).

The next trip I took was on my gap year (2011). My grandparents were always on overseas adventures and after returning from one my Granma told me one day she would go overseas with me. I certainly didn’t forget this. When I started planning my trip I asked her to come with me. She laughed. I reminded her of her promise. “You were 12, you weren’t meant to remember that.” I hassled her for months and eventually she caved. But she had conditions – “We are not backpacking, I’m too old for that. We are doing a tour where they pick up your bags and take them to your room.” Fine by me!

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Outside Mozart’s House – Salzburg, Austria

I always expected Granma would take charge. Upon arrival at Frankfurt airport I looked at her expectantly. “Don’t look at me like that. I’ve never been to Frankfurt. I have no idea how to get to the hotel.” The role of responsibility fell to me. We spent 15 unforgettable days on a Globus ‘Alpine Countries’ tour in Germany, Austria and Switzerland before I made my next ‘progression.’

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Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore, Italy

We left the safety of the tour and the two of us, alone, went to Berlin and Prague for 4 days each. Next we flew to London where I met up with my close friend and Granma flew home.

After we said goodbye to Granma at the airport, we ran around Heathrow Airport and the streets of London overwhelmed with independence. Reality came crashing down when we got to our hostel … Piccadilly Backpackers. It still to this day is the worst place I have ever stayed and that’s not just because t was nothing like the 4 star hotels I’d grown accustomed to. Suddenly I was terrified. How were two 19 year old girls going to get around Europe for 6 weeks? Obviously we survived England, France and Italy and we had the best time. These are still some of the best memories of my life.

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The next year (2012) I had plans to go to NYC with some girls from school. I had a feeling they would both bail and so I had a back up plan. My gut instinct was right and as soon as I got the text message from both of them saying they didn’t want to go, I drove to the travel agent and booked a trip to the UK. It was going to be my first time entirely alone and to reassure my Mum I jumped on a tour for part of it. I really didn’t need to and wish I hadn’t as the UK has got to be one of the safest and easiest places to get around. The minute I walked through the gate at the airport I freaked out and sent a message to my friend I had travelled with which I think said something along the lines of “What am I doing? Help!” as I sat and had a sneaky teary moment in the bathroom. I had nothing to worry about.

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Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

In 2013 I went a little further off the beaten track and did Eastern Europe (Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia). I had no one to come with me so I went alone again. I did book a tour for part of it as I didn’t feel comfortable doing Bulgaria and Serbia entirely alone. I felt so at ease travelling alone by now that I spent most of the time exploring away from the tour anyway and simply used it as an easy means of transport.

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I hiked up part of this mountain in Brasov, Romania

This all prepared me for the 3 1/2 months I spent living and studying in Italy last year and the solo trips I took to Turkey and Belgium on my Christmas break.

People ask why I don’t go with friends. If I had willing friends who could afford it I’d certainly go with them. Sometimes it is lonely but most of the time you meet so many like-minded people and end up forming some great friends. There have also been plenty of moments when I have been standing outside something amazing and wished I had someone to share that moment with or wished I had some help navigating language barriers or train networks. But I also love not having to negotiate or compromise with anyone. If I want to spend 3 hours in a gallery I can! I think I might struggle a little when I go to New Zealand with my family and Europe with the friends I met in Italy next year!

My advice to other solo travellers? Don’t let lack of company stop you! It’s good to go outside your comfort zone. If you are unsure start with something you feel comfortable with and progress like I did. How much you push the boundaries is up to you. It might be hard but it will also be unforgettable, life changing and teach you so much about yourself.

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Trauma and Memorial Tourism

There is something that attracts humans to disaster.

When a building is burning or someone is falling from a bridge, it is like there has been a spell cast that makes it physically impossible to avert your eyes. You see it all the time; when there’s a car crash other cars slow down so they can get a look and often the crowds outside a disaster zone have to be barricaded by police.

Does the same apply to trauma and memorial tourism?

I’d describe memorial tourism as visiting places of famous battles, disasters, wars or unfortunate events. One place that immediately comes to mind is Auschwitz in Poland or for Australians, Gallipoli in Turkey.

Personally I find it very distasteful that such places have been turned into tourist attractions. And yes, I did just use the word ‘attraction.’ I think something becomes an attraction when there are tours, lots of advertising, steep admission fees and large lines and crowds. In Turkey there are advertisements for Gallipoli and day trips to take you there from Istanbul. In Berlin in the midst of summer you can’t get anywhere near the Berlin Wall because there are so many people taking photos of it.

I’m not trying to be a travel grinch and say let’s forbid travel to these places I just want to look at what is happening. When we ‘ohh’ and ‘ahh’ at the Berlin Wall, we are ohhing and ahhing at a wall that used to separate a nation. When we snap our cameras at Auschwitz we are taking pictures of a place where innocent people were tortured, imprisoned and murdered. Would we go and take pictures of the house in the local neighbourhood where an innocent child was murdered? Or book a tour to a nightclub where a group of young boys got into a fight and subsequently all died?

Perhaps it comes down to numbers, If 20 000 people die in a place, should we put up a plaque and charge an entry fee?

Maybe it’s a patriotic thing? I’m not a real, true Australian unless I visit Gallipoli and see where my ancestors fought and died for my freedom. If this is the case, do you think in 50 years we will be visiting sites from the Iraq and Afghanistan war?

In saying all of this, I am being a hypocrite as I have visited some of these sites. These are my memories:

They make me cry:

Driving through the Somme Valley in Autumn and feeling the freezing wind bought me to tears as I imagined all the soldiers freezing to death.

They touched my heart:

I was invited to have lunch at a school in Villers Bretonneux simply because I was a young Australian learning French and they wanted to show their respects as Aussie soldiers saved their village in World War II. It was such a beautiful and kind gesture. Being taken to the Australian cemetery after lunch and seeing uncountable little white crosses left me numb and speechless for the rest of the afternoon.

They make me grateful for what I have:

Standing in the trenches in Gallipoli in the middle of winter and remembering everything I have been taught about the war in history is really an eye-opening experience. I don’t take many pictures. I don’t talk about where we are going in the afternoon or what we are having for lunch. I just stay in the present moment and appreciate my life because who knows when everything I love might come crashing down.

They make me empathetic to others struggling: 

I go to these places to understand more about what went on and to pay respects to those who have suffered. I go to learn about what I, individually, and as humans, can do to stop persecution and learn and respect one another.

I still don’t entirely agree with the tourism aspect of these places. Instead I really value how the Polish run Auschwitz for example. There is no entry fee as they don’t want to make it an ‘attraction’ and strongly encourage people to come and pay their respects and learn more about what happened.

Respect and learning. That’s what it really comes down to.

What are your thoughts on this type of tourism? Have you or would you visit these places? How do they make you feel? Do you think in 50 years we will be visiting places that are currently in crisis? 

The best and strangest place I’ve eaten – Marchfelderhof, Vienna

My dinner at Marchfelderhof was memorable and unique but also a little bizarre.

IMG_4110Marchfelderhof is an old hunting lodge located in Deutsch-Wagram, 30 minutes from Vienna. Although it is a little out of town, it is well worth the drive. I was on a Globus, Alpine Countries tour with my Granma and as dinner wasn’t included that night, our tour guide strongly recommended we join this optional tour. He didn’t give much more information than “you need to see it to believe it” and “you won’t regret it.”

On the bus trip there, our tour guide got us to shout out famous people we would like to have dinner with and shouted back “Yes,” or “No,” depending whether they had dined at Marchfelderhof or not. My suggestion, Cosimo de’Medici, got an emphatic no (understandable as he couldn’t travel through time) and I consequently got interrogated on why I wanted to have dinner with a manipulative murderer. I told you my Renaissance and Medieval history degree had a huge influence on my travels!

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Our bus pulled up opposite an old hunting lodge with an Austrian flag saying “Welcome Friends, Welcome Home,” out the front as well as waiters cheering and waving. One of them stepped onto the main road and held up a stop sign whilst another rolled a red carpet across the road. We crossed the road/strutted the red carpet in style and one of the ladies from our tour got selected to pick up the scissors from a cushion and cut the red ribbon amidst a rousing fanfare. A true VIP entrance!

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Inside, it got even better. Anything and everything you could ever imagine was displayed on the ceiling, on the floor and on the walls, making it a cross between a museum and a hoarders lair. There were collections of rolling pins, wooden prams, pointe shoes, rocking horses, framed pictures of famous people who had visited, Emperor Franz Josef’s clothes, the list goes on and on.

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We were shown to our table and greeted with complimentary schnapps in test tubes, which were equally cute and strong! The menu was traditional Austrian, but once I saw Wiener Schnitzel I stopped reading! Yum yum yum!

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Next stop was a quick, well it was intended to be quick, trip to be the bathroom. The collection of odd bits and bobs continued in here. Tubes and bottles and cans of face cream, hairspray and toothpaste lined the shelves, hair dryers and bird cages hung from the roof and inside the cubicle there were countless mirrors (just what we all want when we are in the loo!) and books. Needless to say this wasn’t a quick trip. There was just so much to try, look at and read!

IMG_4127  IMG_4133As I came out I bumped into a lady from my tour loitering outside the male bathroom. She quickly informed me that she was waiting for someone to exit so she go and see what curious items decorated the walls. I joined her. So did about 6 other ladies from our tour. As soon as the man left, we looked around to make sure no one was around and then stormed inside, giggling like little school girls. We weren’t the only ladies! Framed pictures of pin up dolls lined the walls. Suddenly our tour guide burst in behind us, also laughing. Apparently we gave the waiters quite a fright and they were wondering if everything was ok with the female bathrooms as we had all rushed into the males with such urgency!

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Dinner was lovely. I was a little concerned that my food was going to be dry considering how many people were in the restaurant, but I had nothing to fear! People come here not only for the memorabilia but for good, traditional food as well!

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After dinner things got even crazier. I was chatting to some people on my table and enjoying a Viennese coffee when someone came in and told me my Granma was in trouble. I jumped up and ran to the outdoor terrace. Trouble alright! She was dancing with a Russian man named Boris. Boris could barely speak any english but he got his message across pretty clearly: he was quite smitten by Granma. As I came running in, Granma stopped dancing to introduce me to him, but he clearly was not interested in me which he made very clear by chanting “No. No. No. Granny, Granny, Granny.” Granma informed me she had been minding her own business and exploring the restaurant when she had ‘accidentally’ crashed the Russian’s party. Within a few minutes, Boris had pulled out a wooden box that was overflowing with 50 euro notes and tried to give it to Granma as a ‘gift.’ That’s when I walked in.

IMG_4140“Boris wants you to know, he thinks your Granny is very pretty,” his translator told me.

“Granny, Granny, Granny,” Boris piped in.

“He owns a big house.”

“Big!!!” He gestured.

“With lots of chickens.”

“Chickens!!” He mimed being a chicken.

“He owns an electricity company.”

“Make me very rich. Money all for Granny. Granny be wife.”

At that point, Granma pulled her hand away and exclaimed “But I’m married,” to which all of his friends cracked up laughing and Boris proceeded to chant “Granny,” again.

Granma promised him she’d be back, but she really wanted her coffee. She’s got her priorities right! He linked arms with her and escorted her back to our table.

IMG_4145We desperately started plotting how to get back to the bus at the end of the night without Boris stealing her to become his Russian bride. All our plans failed. As we started to leave the restaurant, he came running after us, yes chanting again, but this time added in “USA, USA, USA.” This was the biggest insult possible to my true-blue Australian Granma.

“No Granny for you Boris,” she chuckled as she stormed past him onto the bus.

This didn’t defer him. To the shock of my tour guide and bus driver he climbed aboard after her and presented her with a red balloon that had love written in 20 different languages. Granma happily accepted her gift and then told him to find someone else. He responded with some suggestive movements and then waved and blew kisses as we drove away.

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Marchfelderhof is truly a little gem. Good food, good decor, good service and ummm interesting people! If only I had found myself a European husband!! Why does my married Granma get all the attention?!

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Dear Renaissance and Medieval History

Dear Renaissance and Medieval History,

This is a good-bye of sorts. I’m not totally cutting you out of my life, but I am in a formal sense, or at least for now.

Two weeks ago I handed in my final essay to complete you. Today I got my overall mark for the unit. And now, I never need to write an assessed piece about you ever again (unless I do honours or masters or a phd as it has been suggested I do – but that won’t be for at least a year. You still have time to convince me…)

You have been a steady in my life for the past 5 years and it’s been fun having you by my side. But it’s not your consistency I need to thank you for. It’s the desire to travel you sparked in me. After sitting through you in year 12, looking constantly at frescos and churches and piazzas and civic buildings and statues, I knew I had to meet you in person. This long distance relationship wasn’t working anymore.

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Cosimo de Medici – You are a babe

You had introduced me to a big wide world and when I got out of my little, sheltered shell into it, it was like the fog had been lifted from my eyes and out of my mind. Things were clearer. Life had purpose: See Explore Learn. Travelling made me happy. And as you were the one who inspired me to travel, I guess you saved me.

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Dancing on top of a tower in Lucca

You created some hilarious moments and inspired:

– My friend and I (ok … me and my reluctant friend) to dress up in medieval cloaks to explore Hampton Court Palace.

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– Us to ride cheeky lion statues in Venice (one day in class we were analysing a Venetian fresco that had the lion of St Mark hiding in the corner. My friend exclaimed in jest “Look at the cheeky lion!” to which my Renaissance teacher stared her down with a look that could kill and firmly reprimanded her “The Lion of St Mark is NOT cheeky.” It was – it let us ride it).

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Cheeky lion!!

– Us to change Lady Gaga songs to be about the Renaissance – Poker Face: ‘can’t beat my, can’t beat my, no you can’t beat my patronage’ and Alejandro: ‘the Pazzi slayed, the Pazzi slayed Giuliano.’

– Me to cover myself in a red blanket to chant the Divine Comedy to my housemates and deep gossip sessions about how when you really look at it, the whole Divine Comedy is really about Dante’s daddy issues and Beatrice aka Bici aka ‘the town bike’ (as bici is short for bicicletta in Italian) being a huge tease.

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Dinner conversations gossiping about Dante

You gave me the opportunity to live and study in Prato/Florence for a semester. Although it was suggested instead of being about Renaissance and Medieval History it was more a major in food and wine, a minor in Roman Arches and a sequence in Dante. You introduced me to an academic mentor who was very influential to me, allowed me to have an academic affair (we would have long lunches discussing Italian literature and humanism), connected me with someone who changed my life for better and for worse and an amazing, fantastic, awesome group of friends who I met in Italy and am going to Greece, Spain and Morocco with next year!!

You changed how I travel – you made me go beyond Italy and to places such as Bulgaria, Hungary and Turkey. Sometimes hearing your voice telling me to pay attention because the Byzantium mosaics in Turkey are super important to the Venetians is annoying but I still hold you dear. You make me pay attention to the culture and language and architecture and people more astutely.

So although our formal and professional relationship may be over for now, this isn’t goodbye. I’ll see you in books and movies but most importantly I will see you when I travel.

Take care,

S.

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How To Cope With Coming Home

Reality is hard. After weeks or months or years without any obligations, coming home can be extremely difficult. Suddenly there are chores to do, bills to pay and work or uni or school to attend. Unless you are rich or lucky you can’t continue to go out for dinner every night or spend every day exploring.

After seeing everyone on Facebook posting pictures of Europe (ok that might be an exaggeration but it sure feels like everyone I know is enjoying a European vacation), I thought I’d compile a collection of ideas that have helped me when I’ve returned from my adventures abroad.

Alternatively, this could be a guide to how to prepare yourself for a big trip or overseas adventure. You can substitute printing your own photos for printing ones of places you want to go and instead of blogging about where you’ve been you can blog about your dreams.

Sort through your photos

Arrange them into files on your computer eg) Europe 2013, Germany. This makes it a lot easier than scrolling through thousands to find the one you love of Neuschwanstein Castle.

Choose your favourites

Print them, frame them, put them into photo albums, blow them up onto canvases, display them around your home or work so the French Rivera or Swiss Alps constantly surrounds you.

Photo Night

Have your friends and family over for a photo night and make them jealous by sharing the exciting stories that accompany each picture. This way you get to relive it too!

Make a scrapbook or journal

You can either do this as you go and then re-read it when you return or make it at home. Stick in tickets, maps, booklets or write in detail about your day or write pieces about how a painting made you feel or vividly describe a landscape.

Make a Blog

I am so happy that after many years of thinking about it and putting it off, I finally made one. Now I get to relive my adventures all the time and I am constantly making new discoveries. While I am writing or scrolling through photos it really does feel like I’m back in these amazing places for a short time.

Display your souvenirs

My bedroom is a shrine to travel. Above my bed I have canvases from Prague and Paris, framed postcards from Tuscany, prints from Romania and a scratchy map (seriously one of the coolest presents I have ever received. It’s like a scratchy – once you’ve been to a place you get to scratch it away the brown and the colourful name of the country is below). And of course my snow globe collection.

Start Planning Again

Go to a travel agent and get booklets on your dream location or your next achievable or realistic location. Get ideas of routes, learn about tours or discover new cities or attractions. Make a Pinterest board or vision board. Procrastinate on Skyscanner or Eurail. At the moment I think I am working on about 4 trips. I think at any moment if someone gave me some money and said “GO!” I could have a whole trip booked in an hour as I have everything planned!

Decide what you love about travel and incorporate it into your daily life

Maybe you love new cuisines? Treat yourself once a week or month to a new restaurant. I recently went to a gorgeous Italian restaurant with friends I met in Italy and it was just like being back there. Perhaps you like art? Take yourself to explore the major gallery in your hometown and then find all the little independent ones which can be just as impressive.

Socialise

When on holidays you are constantly meeting new people on trains, at hostels, on tours, in language classes and at bars. If you miss the social element you can join a club and make friends with people who have similar interests. You could even start learning a language or doing traditional cooking or folklore dancing classes. This way you are meeting new people and getting a culture fix!

Volunteer

If you have volunteered overseas, there is nothing stopping you from making a difference big or small in your local community. Or you can start fundraising and send the money back to the people you helped.

Explore your hometown

Do you know all the hidden laneways? Have you been to the top 20 tourist attractions? Have you tried the new restaurant that is getting amazing reviews? Go out and be a tourist in your own city. Jump on a tram and go to a new area. Get a map and even buy a postcard to send to friends and family to make your experience authentic.

Make day trips or weekend trips

Jump in your car or on a train and go to the beach or countryside. Spend the night in a hotel in the city. Book a cheap flight to somewhere nearby (eg Melbourne to Sydney can be as cheap as $50!)

Mini Holidays

You don’t need a lot of time or money for a holiday. Turn off all electronics and spend the day watching movies or pampering yourself.

***

It’s not all doom and gloom. Coming home can be hard but it can also be lovely. Catch up with your friends and family and spend some quality time with them. Enjoy your own bed and home cooking.

Most of all … plan things, big or small, to look forward to that will put a smile back on your face!

Verona

Let me start this by saying “Guiletta, if you are reading this, I still haven’t gotten my reply and I am in desperate need of some advice as my love life is a shambles/non existant.”

Now that’s out of the way, I can happily say there is actually so much more to Verona than Juliet’s balcony. Verona is conveniently located from 116km (about an hour) from Venice, from Milan, 163km (about 2hrs), 144km (90 mins) from Bologna and 234km (about 2 1/2 hours) from Florence making it an ideal place to stop for a few days in between the ‘big cities’ or if you’re stretched for time (or meant to be studying for an Italian exam as I was) a day trip. It is easily accessible by train from all the aforementioned cities and depending on your budget you can get a cheap, slow regional train or an expensive but quick intercity express. Being poor students we opted for the slow but cheap option, but this gave us plenty of time to write our letters to Juliet, contemplate our love life and as always stare out the window at the beautiful Italian countryside. Unfortunately the train station is not in the centre but there are plenty of buses right outside the station that will take you into the centre for a few euros. Otherwise it’s about a 20 min minute walk.

Unfortunately the weather was unkind to me on my day trip to Verona; it was freezing cold and bucketed down the entire day. I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to do but nevertheless I still found it a beautiful city.

Arena Verona

IMG_7102Although Rome’s Colosseum is bigger and more spectacular, Verona’s does deserve credit. For about €3 you can enter the amphitheatre (when it is not Opera season). We wandered around the underground tunnels pretending to be gladiators and opera singers but despite being undercover, these tunnels still had giant puddles and water dripping down the walls.

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Combined with the dim lighting it gave it a really eerie atmosphere. Every few meters, there are steep staircases to get up into the arena itself. Of course, due to the weather, this meant walking under a waterfall, as the water cascaded over the edge, but it was worth it.

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Unfortunately you can’t go onto the sand, but you can climb the steep steps to get right up the top to get a great view of the arena and if you turn around and look out the rampants onto the piazza outside. IMG_7110 IMG_7120

June – August is opera season and in 2015 there is the Opera Festival. You can view the program here. Going to an opera here is definitely on my bucket list!

Main Street: Via Mazzini

Piazza Bra separates the Arena from the main street. Via Mazzini Is full of beautiful Italian boutiques that are well out of my price range, little cafes and gelatarias. My favourite thing about Italian main streets is their atmosphere. I absolutely love the old facades of the shops, the flowers and washing hanging out the balconies above them, the lively chatter coming from the bars, the gorgeous, chic shop assistants and the lively chatter, hugs, kisses and arguments at lunch time and passiagiata. You can be a tourist at the main attractions but it’s so nice to blend in and soak up the atmosphere whilst pretending to be a local on the main streets.

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Juliet’s Balcony:

Yes, finally, the part you’ve all been waiting for. One of the main reasons Verona is on the map is because of Juliet’s balcony. What can I say? In a nutshell it is tacky and the furthest thing from romantic. To start with I don’t think Romeo and Juliet’s story us anything to aspire to. He is flighty and a classical man whore in my opinion and as for her, why do we wish to seek advice from someone who didn’t even get a happy ending with her true love?

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The walls in the little tunnel into her courtyard are covered with plaster so you can with scrawl your love messages and engrave you and your lover’s initials in hearts without damaging the actual walls.

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Once in the courtyard, you have the statue of Juliet next to a wall with love locks, to the left of this a tacky souvenir shop and embroidery shop and to the right her balcony.

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Remember my love for tacky souvenirs? Well, believe me I was so tempted to buy so many tacky souvenirs and I vow to come back with my boyfriend/lover/husband one day and buy this apron.

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I lined up with my friends in the pouring rain to touch her boob and got my picture to prove it. You have to be quick here, as there seems to be no regard for waiting patiently, everyone just pounces on poor Juliet the minute someone releases their hand from her breast. I have to admit, whilst I stood here, I did secretly hope this ritual would bring me a spunky Italian man.

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Next step was to head up to the famous balcony. Entrance into Casa di Giuletta is €6 or you can buy a combined pass for the casa and tomba (house and tomb). Again, we became extremely snap happy and tried to get as many corny pictures as possible before being hurried away by more star-crossed lovers and hopefuls behind us. The best moment was seeing a stunning couple pose countless times on the balcony; they looked simultaneously so in love and so fake in all of their photos! In the collage below you can see me smiling in joy, posing as I wait for my man to arrive, staring into the distance thinking of my new lover and being proposed to by my housemate (Lucky me! Rubbing the boob does pay off!!)

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We explored all the different rooms in the old house before finally getting to the letter room. I was crushed to see I had to put it in a post box instead of sticking it in a hole in the wall (ok, maybe I have watched Letters to Juliet a few times)! Next to the post box there was even a row of computers where you could email her. I’m sorry call me old fashioned but seriously, emails?! No thank you!

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Piazza delle Erbe:

All this soul searching, wishful dreaming of our lovers across the sea and longing for them to be in our arms had left us hungry! When you exit the house and courtyard, if you turn right and walk along the street you will get to Piazza delle Erbe . There are lots of cute restaurants here (many offering deals for couples). Eventually we were persuaded into one by an eager, charming waiter (although let’s be honest here, we are in Italy, every waiter is like this!) and we won him over in return by speaking our broken Italian back at him! IMG_7159

After a yummy Italian lunch and a respite from the weather, we headed back onto the piazza. There was a little market that we explored and normally I would have taken more time to appreciate the architecture and the statues and you guessed it, climb the tower, but the weather was simply atrocious.

Tomba di Giulietta: 

Instead we decided to slowly make our way back to the train station going past Juliet’s tomb. We got horribly lost on the way here and had to stop for directions countless times. Eventually we followed a Contiki bus in the hope it would lead us there. It did, and luckily, it just stopped outside the museum and no one got of the bus. Yippee! Private tomb viewing for us!

Juliet’s tomb is in a crypt beneath the convent of San Francesco al Corso, which also doubles as a fresco museum.We did have a look around the museum and admire the predominately medieval artwork, before heading down into the crypt. Of course the opportunity was too good to pass up and we did re-enact the final scene from Romeo and Juliet.

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Verona is a really beautiful city and I really wished I’d had more time to explore. My advice would be to stay at least 1 night and 2 days here or even more as it is a great place to head off to explore Lake . It is definitely worth a visit and has much more to offer than the lure of Juliet’s balcony.

P.S. Juliet, I’m still waiting.

PPS. Why did you reply to my friend who posted her letter the same day as me and not to me?