Sunday, November 21, 2010

15 Nov 2010: Day 11 - London to Singapore

Our holiday wraps up with the most delightful breakfast this morning with good spread, great variety, friendly service, and most of all, not too salty food.

After breakfast, we spend the morning shopping at PriMark located at Marble Arch station. PriMark is a great place to shop. Everything you name it, they have it! Prices start from GBP 1 and everything one can find there is a good bargain. I am very happy to have managed the purchase of early Christmas pressies for colleagues, friends and relatives here. 

Later on, I buy 2 more Longchamp bags, a red one for my mum and a purple one for myself, from Selfridge, a large shopping departmental store about equivalent to our shopping mall, Takashimaya.

We have a quick bite at McDonalds before rushing back to PriMark again to buy "peppa pigs" pyjamas for our girls.

14 Nov 2010: Day 10 - London

We are told to assembly early in the morning by 7:15am at the hotel lobby for our transfer to the train station. But due to misunderstanding by the coach company, we wait and wait until 8:30am before our coach finally come to pick us up.

We board the Euro Star Express train to London at 10am Paris time. On board the train, hubby and I spend the last of our EUR 5.10 on the purchase of a hot latte (for me) that costs EUR 3  and a coca cola (for hubby) that costs EUR 2.10. Neither deliberately plan nor through careful calculations, we spend our EUR notes and coins right down to the very last cent. That is awesome.

2 hours on board the bullet train and hey presto, we arrive in UK, London.

As we alight the train and step afoot into London, suddenly everything fall into place. And finally all seem normal, feel good and look familiar. No longer are we staring into signs that know us but not the other way round, no longer are we looking at people who hold their noses high up in the air, and certainly, the atmosphere is one of a relaxing and comfortable kind.

Upon our arrival, we embark on a city tour of London, which includes the Buckingham Palace, the Big Ben, London Tower Bridge, St Paul's Cathedral, the Tower of London and Trafalgar square, and not forgetting the China Town where hubby and I have our dinner at one of the chinese restaurants highly recommended by one of the tour members.

Our last romantic holiday night in Europe is spent in Hotel Novotel London Excel. The design and layout is very similar to Hotel Novotel Paris. It feels as if we are back in Paris again.

13 Nov 2010: Day 9 - France (Paris)

This morning, we go for the optional tour of visiting the Lourve Museum.

Dan Brown's book "The Da Vinci Code" comes to my mind the moment I step into the Lourve Museum. With each step I take, I wonder how he must have felt when he visits the museum and subsequently coming up with such an imaginative and thrilling storyline.

After the trip to the Lourve Museum, we go shopping at Lafayette from 2pm to 8pm. I buy two more LV bags: a N41108 Cabas Rivington Damier Ebene and a M95565 Montorgueil PM. Sadly, at the time of our visit, there is a quota on the number of LV bags each tourist can buy, and each passport is entitled to only one LV bag purchase. So, I find myself blessed and very lucky indeed when one of the tour couples willingly offer to lend me their passport so that I can buy 1 more bag of my choice.

Just before lunching at McDonalds Lafayette at Level 4, I buy 2 longchamp bags: a black shoulder strap bag and a brown tote bag. It is relatively easy deciding on the black shoulder strap bag as it is available in one size and colour only. I know that is the right bag for me at one glance. But it is a torture deciding which colour to get for the tote bag because the shop has black, brown and greyish green, all very nice colours. I think I spend like 30 minutes in the shop, plainly taking turns holding up the different coloured tote bags and posing in front of the full length mirror, back and forth, back and forth.

Later in the afternoon, I buy my last bag in Lafayette, a Lancel bag. I know this bag is meant for me the moment I set my eyes upon it; the design, the colour, everything about it, is just so me. A latest August 2010 design, I feel as if this bag is calling out to me, recognising me as the rightful owner. So there goes another shopping charge of eur 790 to my card.

After the day's shopping, hubby and I go for a good dinner at the Szechuan restaurant at Lafayette level 6. We share a Tim Sum meal and some nice chinese food. By then, I am very tired from all the standing, walking and browsing of bags. Tired but extremely pleased and happy from all my purchases.

12 Nov 2010: Day 8 - France (Paris)

This morning, we take a cruise down river Seine, passing landmarks like the Louvre museum and Notre Dame.

We sign up the optional tour of visiting the splendid heritage of the Royal Palace of Versailles which is rich in legend and history of the French Revolution.

Come nightfall, due to time constraints, we did not join the tour to see the night view from the highest level of Eiffel Tower. But even then, I can feel the romance of Paris just by standing there next to hubby, holding hands looking up into the lightened-up Eiffel Tower, with the cold Autumn wind blowing upon our faces.

11 Nov 2010: Day 7 - France (Luzern/Beaune/Paris)

This morning, we bid farewell to Switzerland, cross over to the French border and spend what seems like all day on the coach to Paris via Beaune, the most famous winelands of France.

Highlight of the day is our visit to the Notre Dame de Paris and be mesmerised by the magnificent view of the Eiffel Tower.

Finally, there is no need to keep moving hotels. Hotel Novotel Paris Est is where we will be staying for the next 3 nights. What a relief!

10 Nov 2010: Day 6 - Switzerland (Bern/Luzern/City Tour)

We depart on a scenic jouney from Bern to Engelberg early in the morning. The original plan is to take cable car ride up to Mt. Titlis for a panoramic view at 10,000 feet above sea level. Unfortunately, that place is closed for renovation works, so we end up taking a train ride up to Mt Pilatus.

I am famished by the time we reach the top of the mountain. Hubby and I decide to take light meal at the only restaurant there before proceeding to climb the mountain and take pictures. The capuccino is good but the food, as usual, is too salty for our tastebuds.

After visiting Mt Pilatus, we continue our journey to Luzern, one of Europe's most picturesque city. The highlight of Luzern sightseeing is the Lion monument, carved from limstone cliff to commemorate the bravery of the Swiss Guards during the French Revolution.

Finally, we are at leisure to shop for fine swiss products such as chocolates, music box, swiss knives and watches, or to stroll through the streets of fine 15th and 16th century houses.

We spend the night in Hotel Ameron Flora. 

9 November 2010: Day 5 - Switzerland (Geneva/City Tour/Bern)

Early morning we bid farewell to Italy as we drive through the Savoy Alps where it is surrounded by exceptional vineyards and proceed to the graceful city of Geneva.

We visit the capital city of Switzerland - Bern, where located is the world cultural heritage city by the United Nations. Bern is a charming town with arcaded shops, carved fountains and towers. We start our tour at the Bear Pit and then walk through the beautifully preserved old town. I buy a fridge magnet at one of the souvenir shops. It is the last piece with the cuckoo clock design which I like very much.

The Geneva city tour includes the Flower Clock. We drive past the United Nations and the Red Cross Headquarters before having our free shopping time.

I buy my first two Louis Vuitton bags at LV Switzerland - a Toile Damier Ebene Neverfull PM and a Damier Ebene canvas Pochette N51985. The saleslady who attends to me provides excellent customer service.

We spend the night in Movenpick Hotel and Casino Geneva. The hotel name simply reminds me of Movenpick ice cream. Yummy..

Saturday, November 20, 2010

8 November 2010: Day 4 - Italy (Venice/City Tour/Milan)

Today is not a good day... rainy, wet and cold.

We take a ferry ride to Venice, a fabulous city of canals, gondolas and beautiful palaces on an archipelago of 177 islands and characterised by its canals.

I am sad that our Gondola Ride is cancelled due to the rain. It is wet and cold, and extremely uncomfortable. We have to walk on heightened planks and even then, the water level reaches up to knee cap level at some places. With many tourists but minimal walking spaces on the planks, progress is slow, and movements restrictive. We are warned and advised to be extremely careful of our belongings as pickpockets are rampant. It is indeed very tiring and stressful.

Coming to Venice reminded me of my high school days when I take up English Literature as one of my examinable subjects - The Merchant of Venice. I love English Literature then, love this story and literally memorize all the quotations by Antonio, Bassanio and Portio.

Though wet and cold, I enjoy the ancient buildings of Venice and take many pictures, one of which, I have already set as my iphone lock screen picture.

We visit St Mark Square which is bordered by the Doges Palace, St Mark's Cathedral, the Bell Tower and the governmental buildings. We stop at one of the fine glass blowing factories where richly coloured Venetian glass is made for the world. But the real reason for visiting this glass blowing factory is not for us to purchase their products, but rather for us to have access to washrooms as there are no public restrooms available in Venice. In order not to embarass ourselves, we are told to pretend to look interested and listen to the sales talk first before slowly, discreetly, taking turns to enter the washrooms. I find it so amusing, that coming from Eddie, our tour guide.

Next, we continue to travel north towards the fashion capital of the world. Night has fallen by the time we reach Milan. The Milan city tour, a very short one, includes the Gothic Cathedral and La Scala Opera House.

By the time we have our own free time, it is already late, 8:45pm. Shops prepare to close for the day at 9pm. I enter a LV shop and am told that the pochette I want is sold out. Afterwhich, the salespeople politedly "chase" those non-buyers out of the shop to prepare for closing.

Hotel for the night is Atahotel Fieramilano.

7 Nov 2010: Day 3 - Italy (Prato/Pisa/Venice)

This morning, we head towards Pisa to visit the 'Square of Miracles' to appreciate the famous trio: The leaning Tower of Pisa, the Baptistery and the Duomo.

It is drizzling lightly when we alight our tour coach. Upon alighting the tour coach, we are swarmed by those trying to make a living selling umbrellas. We are told that each retractable umbrella costs Euro 5 when it is raining and Euro 3 when it is sunny. Thinking back, I regret not having purchased one for keepsake. 

Lunch is Italian spaghetti which is nice and tasty until Eddie adds chilli flakes to it. It is so spicy that I cannot stomach it. What a waste!

Afterwards, we drive pass the region of Chianti, where famous Italian wines are produced and then across the Apennine mountain range to one of the most romantic cities in Italy - Venice.

We spend the night in Holiday Inn Venice.

6 Nov 2010: Day 2 - Italy (Rome/Vatican City/Colosseum/Fountain De Trevi)

We stay in Hotel Cardinal St Peters the night before. The hotel breakfast is not too bad though surprisingly, their hot chocolate and cappuccino taste fantastic. It is also extra hot, the way I like it to be.

Our tour starts off in early morning with viewing of the St. Peter's cathedral in the Vatican City, the administrative and spiritual capital of Roman Catholicism. We see the famous 'Pieta' by Michelangelo and works of art by many other Italian artists.

Never in my life would I have imagined that one day I would be standing right in the middle of Vatican City and staring at this infamous cathedral. I chance upon Dan Brown's book "Angels and Demons" in 2003 while book browsing in Library@Orchard during lunch time. Back then Dan Brown is a nobody author, yet somehow, "Angels and Demons" catches my attention. I borrow the book and finish reading it in 2 days' time. From that day onwards, visiting Vatican City become one of my dreams.

Standing in Vatican City, the world's smallest country, I tell myself it would be a totally different feeling if I am to ever read Angels and Demons again. Because everything is now real, not just something made out of nothing, out of imagination from reading a book.

Next is our visit to Colosseum, one of the most magnificent monuments of ancient Roma. Built in 71AD, it once seats 50,000 spectators and is the chief circus of the Roman Empire where gladiatorial battles and other cruel glories are held.

Unfortunately, our tour package did not come with allowing us the time to enter the Colosseum. This, is one of my greatest regret. I love Rome, love ancient Greek history and methodolgy. I certainly would not mind bearing the extra cost for entering the Colosseum and spending the day soaked up in this ancient building of art work. But alas, time runs tight on a tour group. I hope to be back here again some day.

Our last stop for the day is the Fountain de Trevi. We are told that by throwing a coin into the fountain, that person will be back to visit again; by throwing two coins, that person will be together with whoever person he/she is with forever; by throwing three coins, that person will split up with whoever person he/she is with now. Just for the thrill of it, I toss in a coin.

Our hotel for the night is Art Hotel Miro. After dinner, our tour guide, Eddie brings us to Carrefour. As the shops close early, we are only left with 30 minutes shop time after having spent 20 minutes walking in the frosty streets from our hotel to Carrefour. I buy a pair of boots (Eur 25) as I realise the hard way, that I am not well geared in terms of footwear with my only pair of Malindi crocs. I found out later on, that this is money well spent because my feet are spared the dampness and wetness from the rainy days ahead.

5 Nov 2010: Day 1 - Singapore to Rome

This is my first holiday alone with hubby since I'm preggy with our little Jewel girl in Aug 2006. I consider this vacation as my 3rd honeymoon, after Japan in 2002 and Tasmania in 2004.

Our flight is an early one @ 9:40am Singapore time.

Whilst in the cab on our way to the airport, I tell hubby that my feelings on going for a long trip this time is very different. I am still happy and forward looking but not as excited, and certainly not feeling as carefree as I used to. I feel like an incomplete jigsaw puzzle with that one missing piece. I think being a mummy makes a whole lot of difference and it kind of breaks my heart to leave my 2 little precious girls behind while I go for holiday.

After having suffered more than 15 hours of flying, we finally touch down in Rome, Italy at 6:45pm local time which is actually 12:45pm Singapore time. Relatively speaking, we have gained 7 hours of extra time due to time difference: flight from Singapore to Dubai... transit of 3 hours and then from Dubai to Rome, Italy. After years of hearing praises about Emirates, I finally get to experience this airlines. I would say it is indeed value for money, but other than that, there is nothing spectacular. Yes, they do provide individual inflight entertainment, but I would have enjoyed the flight better if they have had higher standards of in-flight cleanliness.

12 Days Romantic Europe

This is a late post. 

Because (1) not all places I have travelled to in the past 12 days provide free wi-fi, (2) try typing on iphone 4's mini touchscreen to post blog and you will understand. 

Better late than never. So here I am, trying to recall to the best of my memories and write down whatever gained (or lost?) from the trip. One thing for sure, sentiments will not be exactly the same as I write my entry now. Some things gone can never be retrieved. Still, I will try my best to capture everything because our memories will fail us some day if not imprinted.

My upcoming entries will be categorised by the days and places I visited.