Normandy, France – Day Two

The cloudy morning turned to sunshine as we had reached our first destination of the day, Pointe Du Hoc. Free to get in we walked past through to the viewpoints of the bunkers and monument. Amazing to see the view and how far along the coast you can see, how the Germans positioned themselves during the war. Here you could also experience the damaged bunkers (could go in a few) and the massive holes in the ground left behind from the bombs.

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We took the drive from Pointe Du Hoc to Carentan, in search of a place for lunch and our next destination the La Combe German Cemetery. It wasn’t very advertised with road signs so we had to use the sat nav and address, obviously not a place the French like to advertise. How strange it was to be walking among 22,000 graves of German soldiers, many of them aged between 16 to 22. Most graves consisted of two people, with too many that were unknown with no name.

Keeping other cemeteries in mind, we headed next to the American Cemetery & Memorial, which was the complete opposite of the German cemetery. This place seemed the busiest out of all of our chosen museums and places we visited during the weekend. The American cemetery is close to Omaha beach where most American soldiers lost their lives. The cemetery is filled with perfectly lined white crosses with one grave per soldier. It was all very touching with different graves having flowers placed in respect.

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DSC_2010The last museum on our list was the Overlord Museum. Greeted with original tanks situated outside we went in and looked at the big collection of items from June 6th, 1944. There was some interesting personal items and stories of witnesses and soldiers throughout the museum and compelling to see items like a tank full of bullet holes.

We finished the day with a dinner in Bayeux followed by a long walk around the beautiful city. Couldn’t resist a nutella pancake for pudding too!

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Check out Day Three here!

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Normandy, France – Day One

We spent our first morning in Arromanches visiting the 360 Museum and D-Day Museum De Debarquement, parking our rented car at the top of the cliff and walking down to the museums and beach. The small town was pretty and clean, with an amazing view out to sea with high tide covering the ruins of the wall that was built during WW2. We enjoyed walking around there so much that we didn’t realise it was already 2:30pm and we hadn’t ate, so before we left we bought a nice baguette and drink each!

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DSC_1688The afternoon lead us to Pegasus Bridge museum, visiting the original bridge that the English fought at, with a very interesting tour through the museum about the glider planes and how easy the bridge actually was to take over with only 2 Germans guarding the bridge at night.

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We really enjoyed this museum, the lady who gave the tour even got a little emotional telling a story of a guy who had returned to Pegasus Bridge after 70 years, seeing the graves of his comrades and speaking for first time about what happened when he was there. The guy was a pilot who helped direct the glider planes to the bridge, which were full up with 28 men. It was so emotional to hear as he had so much responsibility for the glider plane towed behind his plane, which unfortunately broke loose too early, causing the men to die under his watch.

We headed back to Arromanche for a pizza, followed by an relaxing walk on beach. It was now low tide, so we could walk all the way out to the ruins of what had been left in the sea. We finished the evening watching a summer fireworks event at Port-en-Bessin-Huppain with all the locals.

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Check out Day Two here!

Pompeii & Mount Vesuvius, Italy 2015

We booked a tour online with City Wonders that would pick us up at 7am in Rome for a long drive to Pompeii for the excursion. Our lunch and entrance tickets for the Pompeii Lost City were included in the price and we would be back by 11pm. We were a bit skeptical as we would be sat on a coach for a total of 6 hours (3 there and 3 back) and this is hugely something out of our comfort zone. Plus with Lennart being 196cm tall he’s not the comfiest person sitting on a coach, but we really wanted to visit so we prepared ourselves for the long journey.

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From the first hour on the coach to Pompeii we already had a great impression of how the rest of the day would go. Our guides were Luca and Dmitri who were fantastic! Luca told all different information about the region, the food and the history of castles on the way in such an interesting and comic way that we really enjoyed it. He also made it personal by adding in little stories of his wife and children and how they have experienced life in the region.

Once we arrived at the Pompeii ruins we were appointed to a guide who works at the Lost City to show us a main walking route that takes 2.5 hours. Right from the start it was impressive and fascinating to be walking through the ruins. Experiencing the houses of how some of the richer families lived to the poor areas where the famous brothels were. Truthfully we could have spent all day exploring there, but for an excursion this was the perfect amount of time. It is definitely a place we will return to and explore more.

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(It’s been hard to choose which photos to share as we have so many! This last photo above shows Mount Vesuvius in the background, where we headed next.)

Back on the overheating coach we headed to a booked restaurant for lunch. We were treated to a set meal of a fresh salad, a Napoleon pizza of our choice and a much needed cold drink, since it had reached 29°c! From there we had about a 40 minute drive up to the highest part of the volcano. Lots of twists and turns in the road definitely made it a challenge for the coach driver but he did a fantastic job getting us to the top, most likely something he does often on these excursions.

We bought a fresh cold water at the temporary little shop and prepared ourselves for the steep walk to the top of the volcano. It was temporary because the previous little shop had been struck by lightening a few weeks before!

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We were prepared with our sneakers on, rather than some guests with high heels on. There was a time limit of 20 minutes for us all to get to the top and enjoy the views before having to get back to the coach as we still had the 3 hour drive back to Rome.

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If you open this photo above larger, you can see the dried lava/volcanic rock in grey from the eruption from 1944.  The other two photos are of the creator of the volcano.

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We were extremely lucky for such a clear day. There was a super friendly Chinese guy on the tour that took our photo at the top, he lost his wife near the coach as she was wearing heels and literally couldn’t walk up the steep part, but he didn’t want to miss out and joined us to the top.

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The day ended back in Rome at 12pm, later then expected due to some traffic from Naples. We highly recommend City Wonders tours, since we can’t think of any negative things to say about the day as we were well informed about the history of Pompeii, Naples, Mount Vesuvius and the overall service was fantastic. If we visit another city that the tour company is based in we will certainly book another excursion with them.

Rome, Italy 2015

Rome was at the top of our list to visit for a long while. But we knew this would be a little more expensive than our usual city trips, due to the amount of attractions in Rome that we really wanted to visit. Plus, we couldn’t go to Rome without at least a day trip to Pompeii for the ancient ruins of the Lost City and to climb the top of Mount Vesuvius volcano, so we were pushing out our usual budget.

As soon as we arrived we were hit with the 36°c degree heat and we were prepared with our sunglasses and suncream. We stayed at the Four Seasons Hostel, which was great location from the train and metro stop plus cheap to sleep there, however overall rather dirty and it’s definitely not a place we will return to. But seeing as we spent the whole day and evenings in the city it was fine just to sleep and shower there.

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We were a little in doubt to queue up and visit the Colosseum inside, as we could see how crazy it was to wait in line up to 4 hours! And we are definitely not the type that like queuing! We took a chance and got up on our 3rd day at 7am, which was hard to do after going to bed so late, and took the metro to the colosseum to see if we had a chance to get to the front of the line. Surprisingly, it was the best time and idea we had on our vacation. We must of been within the first 100 people, so once the Colosseum was open we went straight in!

We found it stunning to see, and to learn the history of how it would of been. We wanted to book the underground tour as it was highly recommended and definitely something we would enjoy, but unfortunately it was sold out online months before we actually arrived! When we return in the future, we will keep this in mind and book in advance.

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With the same ticket you had entry to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, which was also at the top of our list to visit. We took a side entrance that was rumoured to be less popular for the tourists, and with our curiosity we got there and could walk straight in, instead of queuing at the main entrance for minimum an hour.

Once again Rome took our breath away as we tried taking in all the information and history, how life would of been and how amazing it is to walk around freely in such a preserved area. Again we didn’t go with a tour so we could take our time and explore at our own pace, but we would of benefited from a guide to learn better about what some of the ruins were.

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With one of our free afternoons we decided to travel out of the non-stop city with the metro to the famous aqua ducts. I personally didn’t know much about them, so Lennart became my tour guide. He had a good place in mind that he had researched where there were still parts of the aqua ducts standing that would have carried water towards Rome.

IMG_8726Was beautiful to just walk through the fields, with no other people in sight. We followed the dried up path, with the wild flowers and a little stream nearby. It didn’t feel like we were only 20 minutes from the center of Rome. We could of spent hours there but once the sun was setting we headed towards the city for dinner and prepare ourselves for our excursion trip to the Lost City of Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius the following day (and our last full day in Italy).

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IMG_8738Here Lennart is photographed with a section of the original stoned road to Rome.

Some things we missed were the Pantheon and the Appian Way so they will be on our list next time our travels take us to Rome! There is just so much to see and take in it was hard to fit everything in on a 5 day visit! Would definitely recommend at least 7 days if your planning your visit to Rome.

 

Vienna, Austria 2014

We had two words for Vienna on our first day, beautiful and busy! Travelling here by train from Innsbruck was a beautiful experience as we never saw so much lush green grass before! The train from Innsbruck took around 2 hours but that time was well spent researching museums and activities to do on trip advisor.

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I normally take lots of photos but in this city the camera battery was running low sooner than expected. We immersed ourselves in the culture, like eating bratwurst with mustard in a roll on the main shopping street – delicious! We couldn’t sit down anywhere as the whole city buzzing with shoppers and all the locals were drinking coffee on café terraces. We squeezed some time in to do some shopping, but mostly focused on exploring more of the busy streets and open squares of the city.

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We booked ourselves into the AllYouNeed Hotel-Vienna2 which was fine for a decent night’s sleep and a fresh well-assorted breakfast the following morning. It wasn’t luxury, but it was good for what we needed with regards to location and price, plus the free WIFI was good, so we could plan what to see in the following days.

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As we only had 2 full days we were limited to what we wanted to do. We were rewarded with warm sunny weather and were able to spend both days out late exploring. One evening did bring some heavy rain and thunderstorms but luckily we had just made it back to the hotel.

Some highlights of visiting Vienna firstly was the Schönbrunn Palace, with beautiful fountains and gardens that you could spend hours walking around in. The whole grounds were free to enter. There could of been more places to buy cold refreshments as the weather was reaching 40°C and most things were selling out to other tourists, but we were prepared and had some snacks and water with us. The flower arrangements were done beautifully and most statues and water fountains were being restored so once its done it will be strikingly picturesque. I took hundreds of photos here so it was hard to choose the best one. A beautiful recommendation!

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The Technical Museum in Vienna was very enjoyable to visit, as they had a wide range of scientific, communications and industrial artifacts which we found interesting. It was not very busy when we visited during lunch time hours so we managed to appreciate all the artifacts on show without having to rush or miss out on some parts of the museum. Not expensive to enter so check it out if you are there!

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The Prater Amusement Park is also a highlight. Like most amusement parks, they are expensive and full of flashing attractions trying to make you spend all your money to win a teddy bear. But I am positive to say that we had a really good night here. We spent a perfect clear night high above the park by first going in the famous ‘Riesenrad’ Ferris wheel, with views of seeing the whole city. We managed to keep to our budget, but one ride (that was priced at €5 each!) which we just had to try was the ‘Prater Turm’. Leaving your shoes and bags below you are taken up slowly and half way up to the highest point of 117 meters you start swinging in circles until you reach the top, lasting for up to 3 minutes. It was a great experience so high up but I definitely admit it was a little scary swaying in little flimsy metal chairs, while you’re holding on as tight as possible to your partner.

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Vienna was a beautiful city, and we would definitely love to return in the future, maybe in the winter season when the city is covered in snow and they have their famous christmas markets.

It was good to have good warm weather and a variety of attractions and museums to keep us active. However we were definitely looking forward to getting back to the mountains in Innsbruck with the train and to check in at our new hotel with a swimming pool and sauna.