The Colour of Lisboa

We only spent four days in Lisbon, two of which were Christmas Eve Day and Christmas Day, so a lot of places were closed. We only got a taste of what Lisbon had to offer, but one thing that stood out to me were the amazing tiles that are everywhere in the city. (It’s also a shockingly-hilly place, which we were not prepared for!)

The tiles, called azulejos, fell out of favour in the early 1900s, because the cultural elite believed tiles were for poor people. Lisbon experienced a revival once they started designing the Metro in the 1950s. Nowadays, it’s used as a construction material as well as decoration. It’s a fascinating history.

The colour and the artwork on some of these tiles are incredible and it gives the city a unique feel to it. After visiting 15+ cities, it can be difficult to find something that surprises you. The novelty of new wears off.

But there are so many different designs that I kept saying over and over how beautiful each of them are. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen before.

I only saw the azulejos under grey skies, but I would love to see them in bright, sunny, blue skies!

– Lauren

The Art Mecca of the World

By the time Geoff and I had gotten to Florence, we were already in love with Italy. In Venice, I felt like I had accidentally stumbled onto a movie set, with the buildings and the canals and the colours looking so beautiful, they must be fake. I loved the maze-like streets and the tiny shops crammed into each other.

In Rome, we understood the custom of throwing coins into the Trevi Fountainy: of course you’ll return someday to the city, there is simply so much to see and explore and eat! It is easy to turn a corner on a street you’ve never gone down before and see a cool statue or fountain or building.

Florence was my top three cities to visit on this trip (along with Reykjavik and Amsterdam), simply because of its beauty and art museums. We were there for 6 days, just before Christmas.

We stayed in the neighbourhood of San Niccolo, across the river from the historical city centre. It was a perfect jumping-off point to explore Florence’s museums and churches. We took our time to see all the major sights, but before we even unpacked when we arrived, Geoff was already trying to buy tickets to see Star Wars!

Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence

Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence

We started our sightseeing on a sunny day at the Basilica of Santa Croce. In front of the Basilica was the Christmas market, similar to the German Christmas markets, but it wasn’t the same in Italy. I couldn’t see myself drinking mulled wine when there was zero chill in the air.

It's a pretty fierce hike up to the top of the Duomo

It’s a pretty fierce hike up to the top of the Duomo

The first time we visited the Duomo, we braved the winding, narrow, spiral, crooked steps all the up to the top to see an amazing view of the city. Well, Geoff did. I got dizzy from the height by the time we hit the section just below the very top. So much for conquering my fear of heights!

The Grand Hall at the Uffizi

The Grand Hall at the Uffizi

The next day, we visited the Uffizi Gallery that is considered one of the greatest art museums in the world. Even the hallways are super fancy. My head kept whipping back and forth to stare at the ceilings, statues, and floors. Almost every square inch of that place is covered with art.

Part of the ceiling at the Uffizi

Part of the ceiling at the Uffizi

It was certainly a great way to spend half a day. My favourite parts of the gallery were the paintings on the ceilings, as well as a hilarious painting of a guy is hanging out with a huge glass of wine and tons of fruit. I felt some connection with this painting, seeing as that had become my life in Italy (below, on the left).

On the Saturday, we lazily woke up and made our way to the Accademia Gallery. People warned us that we should get there before the gallery even opened. But that’s one of the perks of travelling off-season – we got to David super fast and easy. Geoff loved David and we stared at him for more than half an hour.

The golden ceiling at the Baptistery of St. John

The golden ceiling at the Baptistery of St. John

On the ticket to the Duomo, admission to the Baptistery of St. John is also included. We decided to go in just to get the full worth of our money. We thought we would be in and out in less than 10 minutes. We didn’t expect that  this tiny church to have an amazing ceiling to stare up into. It’s truly stunning because it’s all gold.

After experiencing Florence, it is one of the prettiest cities I've seen!

After experiencing Florence, it is one of the prettiest cities I’ve seen!

We got our fill of art and culture in Florence. It is one of the few places that I felt like I had stepped back in time. The architecture is so beautiful and well-preserved, it felt as though I may bump into members of the Medici family or Michelangelo while walking the streets. And like Rome, it glows gold in the sunlight.

– Lauren

The Best Things In Rome Are Free!

Rome is a sprawling city that has so much to offer, and has tons of tourist spots for visitors to spend lots of money on.

At this point in the trip, we wanted to stop spending money on expensive museums and activities. In some cities we got lucky, like in London, where museums are free to visit. In other cities, we ended up spending a lot of money. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, for example, cost almost €18 for each person (equivalent to $28). After doing that a few times, it really adds up.

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21 Thoughts on Rome

After spending a night in Venice and spending a lot of time on the train, we made it to the Eternal City. We are spending the most time in Rome than any other city on this trip, with 10 days here.

Rome invokes strong emotions in people. Anyone I know who has visited the city says it is one of their favourite places on the planet, and I have a few thoughts (and questions) on this place.

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