Iceland

Oh wow, what an incredible country! It’s hard to explain what Iceland really feels like as it’s like no other place I have ever been. You expect the vast surreal landscapes and picturesque panoramas, however nothing you read on the internet prepares you for whats to come; Iceland feels alive, from the exploding geysers and gushing waterfalls, to the crazy and unpredictable ever changing weather, and volcanic mountains at every step- it’s mesmerising!

On day one our flight landed at Keflavik airport, and we proceeded to collect out rental car from a fun company called SadCars. I had read about them being one of the best and also the cheapest so we decided to roll with these guys. It was definitely the right decision as they were incredibly friendly and helped with our query of whether we should either rent a 2WD or 4×4. Seeing as we were not driving all the way around the ring road, and new that all the dangerous F roads were inaccessible during the winter we decided to go with a small 2 wheel drive to help keep the cost down. However after having a few hiccups with the car through the trip, if I were to go again I would definitely recommend hiring the 4×4 during the winter months.

Driving straight from the airport we headed for the Blue Lagoon. One of the 25 wonders of the world, a geothermal spa with 40 degree murky blue water, it was like something out of a dream! I wasn’t sure what quite to expect, but I had read about the rather chilling entrance into the water as the changing rooms are a few steps away. It definitely made for an entertaining run from the -2 degrees into the warm water. The water contains three ingredients- Silica, Algae and minerals, and you can find FREE silica mud to put on your face at certain swim up locations around the lagoon! We definitely made the most of it as there were different types of mud to chose from in which each had special qualities for improving the skin, and it sure does the trick!

One of the best bits to the Lagoon is the swim up bar, and as you swim closer there becomes a louder crowd gathering. Our blue lagoon package that we bought included a free drink so we grabbed that quickly and headed off to a quieter location where we could relax and take in the surroundings better. The other attractions at the lagoon are steam rooms, a waterfall (great for a back massage), saunas, cafe and restaurant. I would definitely recommend spending a whole morning or afternoon at the Lagoon as we had spent only spent three hours there and I could have easily spent longer chilling and relaxing at this amazing place.

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BLUE LAGOON

We stayed just outside of Reykjavik city centre at The Viking Hotel- it’s the only viking themed hotel in Iceland all furnished inside with west nordic decor, and there was even a small geothermal hot tub! They served a small but well needed breakfast to kick start the day, and also let us top up our flask with coffee from the machine, knowing there wouldn’t be any Starbucks caffeine fixes en route to our destinations.

On our first full day we headed to the Golden Circle, we started by heading NE on Route 36 towards our first stop-Þingvellir National Park. It was a picturesque drive which took about half an hour, passing through snowy mountain ranges, valleys and fields roaming with Icelandic horses. This area is where the North American & Eurasian tectonic plates are slowly splitting apart from each other, and it’s here you can see the rocky terrain of the earth where the plates create deep fissures in the ground.
Our next stop on the list was Oxararfoss waterfall, however we didn’t have much luck on finding this one as some of the walking routes for it had be cornered off having been to dangerous to trek through, so unfortunately we had to skip it. We drove on to see the Geysers At Haukadalura, a geothermal area about 60km away from Þingvellir National Park. There are two famous Geysers here called Geysir and Strokkur. The original Geysir no longer erupts after an earthquake shut it down, and is now called ‘little geyser’ (the name always makes me laugh when i say it) but a second one called Strokkur constantly explodes with scalding water shooting 100 feet into the air every 10 minutes or so! There are also bubbling pools, mud pits and exploding water vents. This is the place where Iceland feels alive, and is definitely worth spending a while exploring the awesome surroundings.

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STROKKUR
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STROKKUR

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The next major highlight of the Golden Circle trip was the mighty Gullfoss waterfall, where the river Hvita falls 100 feet into a crevice in the Earth. The atmosphere is dramatic as you approach, the loud sound of gushing water and thick mist makes for such an impressive scene. It gets really windy around this area so it’s best to were the extra layers, and keep hold of your gloves when taking those pictures as you don’t want to see them tumbling down into the waterfall never to be seen again…

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GULLFOSS WATERFALL

On the way back from Gullfoss I was adamant on finding this hidden waterfall called Brurfoss. It’s very much off the tourist track, and even some of the locals don’t know it’s location. It’s unique due to the turquoise coloured water, and I had read about it online as some people had managed to find it and left pretty helpful instructions, but still not clear enough that you can find it with ease, so do prepare to wander aimlessly if you go looking for it! Due to our 2WD we couldn’t get the car down to a closer route so we had to park up by the main road which wasn’t ideal, however it made for a fun trek through knee deep snow! It was the greatest feeling once we had found it an hour or so later. As you draw nearer you hear the sound of water, then you come to a wooden bridge and there it is, in front of you, this incredible mass of turquoise water falling from the dark volcanic boulders, it was a beautiful sight and one that I won’t ever forget.

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BRUARFOSS WATERFALL
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BRUARFOSS WATERFALL

After finding this hidden gem we wandered back to the car, the last light of the day filling the sky as the clouds had just passed with a heavy falling of snow. I had my camera out on manual mode and was snapping away. I managed to get an awesome shot of the sun light speckled through the window pane of the glass. It is now one of my favourite photos and a great memory of the adventurous day spent searching for Bruarfoss waterfall.

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SUNSET – ICELAND

On our third day we travelled further south and down towards the east of Iceland to discover the waterfalls-Skogafoss or Seljalandsfoss. It took around 2 hours to drive from our Reykjavik destination, so you have to be pretty excited about waterfalls if you’re prepared to drive this far to go and see them. First stop was Seljalandsfoss where you can actually follow a path that takes you behind the waterfall itself! This was awesome as you could feel the force of the water as you got closer. Prepare to get wet here as you get completely covered in spray when you stand at the back! There was also a hidden waterfall nearby where you could walk between a tiny crevice into a cave like structure where it opened out into a huge waterfall crashing down from above. The boulder in the middle was a great place to stand to get the best view and pictures of the water cascading down. Next stop was Skogafoss- 20 minutes down the main ring road you come to it, there are few signs along the way however you can’t miss it as it’s huge. This was my favourite waterfall as the walk up to it was pretty intense, the sound of water crashing down got louder and louder and completely towered over you once you got as close as you dare. Also, if you get to see Skogafoss when the sun is shining, a rainbow appears all the way over the waterfall, it transforms the place and makes it look even more magical ( although I have only seen photos of this as our day was unfortunately cloudy)!

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SELJALANDSFOSS
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BEHIND SELJALANDSFOSS
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HIDDEN WATERFALL
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SKOGAFOSS

After our waterfall hunt, we carried on a littler further to try and find the wreckage from an old airplane crash in Iceland on Sólheimasandur black sand beach. It’s one of Iceland’s most iconic & haunting photography locations. On Saturday Nov 24, 1973 a United States Navy Douglas Super DC-3 airplane was forced to land on Sólheimasandur’s black sand beach in the south of Iceland after experiencing some severe icing. Luckily the crew members survived and it has now become a popular destination for photos, especially now that Justin Bieber has used it in one of his music videos!

The crash itself was pretty hard to get too, seeing as it was 4km from the nearest road and out stranded somewhere on the beach. It was also raining and the beach was completely covered in mist so we didn’t think we could get take the car, so instead we decided to park up and walk. After half an hour of walking we realised it has been a bad decision, as other 4×4 cars were making there way down and we couldn’t see the plane crash at all. We has also begun to lose the cars headlights in the process of trying to follow them. After nearly an hour of walking a 4×4 car pulled up and a very lovely couple shouted out to us to see if we wanted a lift to the wreckage- we accepted instantly and were so happy to have almost been rescued! I can’t remember their names now but we finally got to the plane crash and what an incredible place it was…

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Sólheimasandur

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On the final day of the trip we decided to spend the day in Reykjavik, as i wanted to check out the city and the iconic places to visit. Reykjavik is only a small city, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in character and colour. You can travel everywhere by foot and within minutes you’ll notice it’s a city that takes pride on skirting away from the norm. It doesn’t have the usual shops, bars, cafes and restaurants you find in other European cities, instead it has individual quirky places to explore the Icelandic culture. The country even got rid of McDonalds after the economic crash in 2008, as the fast food industry isn’t at all booming there.

Whilst on the subject of unhealthy food, one of the places I had read about were the Icelandic hot dogs, and believe it or not, the world’s most successful hotdog stand is not, as many would assume, in New York City, but instead, it is in the heart of Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. It’s said to be packed every day, whenever the stand is open, and surprisingly it was quite hard to find at first as its tucked behind a few buildings near to the seafront. The man asks “One with everything” which means the classic dog they sell where the lamb-based hotdog is covered in ketchup, mustard, fried and raw onion and remoulade, a type of sweet mayonnaise dressing. I have never tried a New York hot dog, but this was no doubt one of the best hot dogs i have ever tasted!

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Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur ‘The best hot dogs in the world’

One thing I loved is how Reykjavik is covered in colour; from the multicoloured rooftops and corrugated steel the houses are made from, to the graffiti that decorates downtown Reykjavik (the so called ‘Soho’ like areas of the city). Streets art is not merely tolerated in these cities but they are embraced. It’s difficult not to walk down a street without seeing something brightly coloured to catch your eye, and in this sense the art doesn’t feel disrespectful: it feels free and liberated, and creatively thought over. I  decided to check these areas out, and wow, some of the graffiti pieces I came across were just amazing- My favourite being the huge mushroom piece that filled the side of a building.

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REYJAVIK- GRAFFITI
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REYJAVIK-GRAFFITI
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REYJAVIK- GRAFFITI

I hope that you enjoyed this insight into my little Iceland adventure. From chilling at the Blue Lagoon, to chasing waterfalls and exploring Reykjavik’s colourful streets ; these are just a few of the many reasons why so many people decide to have an Icelandic adventure, and I definitely intend to go back one day!

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Iceland Countdown

The count down to my Icelandic adventure begins! In just under 42 hours I will be on my way to the land of volcanoes, geothermal pools, northern lights, epic waterfalls and furry Icelandic horses- I can’t wait to explore this amazing country! I have also heard that the Icelanders have an odd obsession with hot dogs, so hoping I come across a few hot dog stands along the way..

Be sure to check out my Iceland post full of photos and quick tips in a few days or so!  I will tell you about the places I explored and hopefully the hidden gems…that’s if I can find them first!

 

Lanzarote Adventure

Desperate for some sunshine I spent a week exploring this amazing island, with the guaranteed good weather, volcanic landscape, beaches and my camera in hand, it was the perfect little adventure.

The best way to get around the Island is to drive, so hiring a car was a good option for the trip, that way you got more freedom and can explore every little bit of the island. It’s definitely more exciting finding somewhere off the beaten track, away from the tourist destinations that you can call ‘your place’ and that is almost undiscovered by others. My favourite place from the trip was the mountain just up and around the corner from the Beatriz hotel, here you could climb to the top of the volcano to see the sunset, and see the view of the trailing volcano peaks in the distance. Unfortunately there was some cloud cover but in a way this made for a more effective photo shoot as the clouds became wispy and patches of pink sky started to appear through the gaps.

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COSTA TEGUISE- MOUNT CORONA
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COSTA TEGUISE- MOUNT CORONA

With good weather every day meant there was a sunset opportunity every evening! On the first night before discovering Mount Corona I wasn’t sure how to get the best shot of probably the clearest sunset of the week, so I decided to chase this one in the car, heading south towards Playa Blanca there were some great opportunities to get different angles and views of the sun setting, the colours were so vibrant and dusk quickly followed which allowed the colours to change into a hazy pink and purple once the sun had disappeared…

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SUNSET REFLECTION
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DUSK-TEGUISE
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SUNSET- TEGUISE
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SUNSET- TEGUISE

The beauty of this little island is that nothing is too far of an hours drive along deserted roads and picturesque scenery, so to drive anywhere is a breeze, just as long as you have a rough idea as to the place you’re heading! For one of the days I had to make way for visiting the Timanfaya National Park (also know as the fire mountains). It’s here that you can see a spectacular volcanic vast land, which was the center of a massive volcanic catastrophe 250 years ago and erupted for over six years! As the cars are banned from driving around the narrow roads, a bus tour takes people around the park instead, which allows you to see the most breath taking views of the craters and the lava valleys. The crusty land is burnt red in some places making it seem like a spacey ordeal, almost like you’re on Mars! Once back at the top, there is a great restaurant (El Diabolo) at the highest point in the park where you can have a meal or drink and look out at the view. It is also here that chicken is cooked on top of a hole in the ground with only natural volcanic heat cooking it from beneath the earth’s surface- it’s without a doubt the worlds coolest BBQ!

One of the highlights was getting to meet a camel- or i should say many camels! As there were at least 50 or so all lined up in groups ready to take people on trips just a little way up to a small view point around the Timanafaya area. They were very friendly animals, as I had expected them to be spitting all over you, as I had heard that camels and lamas are known to do this! Luckily they had fairly sturdy seats on them so you didn’t have to straddle one so it was a fairly comfy ride, although on the way up the camel in front of mine needed the loo and ended up peeing for nearly half the journey!

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TIMANFAYA
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TIMANFAYA
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TIMANFAYA
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EL DIABLO
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TIMANFAYA
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TIMANFAYA

Another great attraction were the caves, The Jameos del Agua and the Cueva de los verdes are separate caves and very different, but are part of a 6KM long lava tube that formed 4000 years ago! I was excited to visit the Jameos Del Aqua as I had heard about the species of blind albino crabs that you can see in the natural lake which was formed within the cave, and it is the only place in the world you can find them! Surprisingly they were absolutely tiny, so small in fact that my camera even found it hard to pick them out, they covered the bed of the lake and looked like small white glowing pebbles from a distance, which made the cave look even more magical! The entrance to the cave was amazing, as you enter by climbing down a stone stair case into the first cave known as ‘Jameo Chico’, there was an unusual bar / restaurant, and then looking down you get a great view over the small blue lake. The Cueva de los verdes was a completely different experience, as the caves were much deeper underground, you could only see these caves as part of a tour, as there was every chance of getting lost if directing yourself alone. The lava tubes were lit up with special lighting effects, and this made for a real theatrical experience, as you also had to duck and crawl along narrow ways to get round parts of the cave.

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JAMEOS DEL AGUA
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JAMEOS DEL AGUA- ‘JAMEITOS’
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CUEVA DE LOS VERDES

Amsterdam Weekender

What a beautiful City. I visited a few weeks ago with quite a few friends, but it’s only just now that I decide to blog and share my photos with the rest of you! I was in ore, and completely fell in love with this city. The lifestyle was so relaxed, and the landscape so colourful this time of year due to the trees that line the canals changing to golden red and orange blankets. The canals themselves with the long boats floating along quite peacefully, and the cute bridges arching over  just added to the romantic setting.

One of my favourite places was Vondel Park. As there were quite a few of us, we decided to hire bikes and traditionally ride around the City for a day. It was the best idea we had had as it made the getting around much more quicker and enabled us to admire the good Dam life! Although some of us didn’t take to the bikes quite so well…

The coffee shops and array of bakeries around the main square were just amazing, every shop was so quirky, with different groups of people relaxing or chatting amongst themselves. We mooched around the streets, trying all sorts of tasty pastries, mostly the ones covered in Nutella for me. My best find was the Nutella Ice Bakery which provided all sorts of treats including warm muffins filled with Nutella and extra smothered over the top- absolute bliss!

                                       

                                       

Lake District Adventures

The lake district is one of my favourite places. Having been for the first time in January with a friend, we decided to visit during May as the weather hadn’t been great for us in Jan, so our adventures had been limited. On the first trip we visited Ullswater, which is said to be England’s most beautiful lake, and If you head towards Gleenridding village by car, you end up driving so close to the lake that you get these amazing views of the surrounding mountains by the water. There are some stop off places along the road where you can wander about to enjoy the comings and goings upon the lake below. The beautiful sun rays breaking through the clouds in the distance onto the water and mountains was the perfect photo opportunity…

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Ullswater Lake

Just before Glenridding there is a turning, that takes you up to one of the most popular waterfall attractions in the lake district- Aira Force waterfall. It’s a small climb to the force, under a canopy of trees, you walk following the river rushing over large Boulder rocks. A pleasant walk, with lots of picnic places and mossy areas to chose from to take a rest and eat some sarnies! As you become closer to the force, you begin to hear the noise of falling water, and the spray becomes visible in the air.. and then there’s a sharp corner and the force is just above you, it has this wonderful arched bridge over the drop, where you can cross and look down at the force. When you get the sun streaming through you catch a glimpse of rainbow light against the waterfall- it’s magical!

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Aira Force

As we explored those areas on our last trip, we wanted to be a bit more adventurous this time around as the weather was much more promising. whilst travelling up to the lakes, it was the best day of the long weekend we planned to stay, so our thoughts turned to climbing Helvellyn- one of the largest mountain peaks in England! We hadn’t researched at all really, and possibly underestimated how big it really was, as I had never even climbed a mountain before! (The occasional Box hill/Devils Dyke walk with the dog is the highest I’ve been above sea level…pathetic really)! We didn’t begin until 1pm, and starting from Glenriding village car park, we began the hike, which was going to take about 5 and half hours! Half way up (which we didn’t know at the time and actually thought we were getting to the top) i was knackered! So if you’re anything like me, I was stopping every 5 minutes for breath as the gradient was awfully steep, but as i did, i would look back down below for the view, and it was awesome. Reaching the half way point was a crucial few minutes, as I felt that I couldn’t go on once I had laid eyes on the summit, as it was still so far away! However I wanted to finish it (not knowing at the time that the Striding Edge part of the hike coming up was the trickiest part, and that someone had actually died falling to his death on that trail)! It was over whelming how difficult Striding edge was to climb, the sharp slate like jagged rocks sticking out, with no path to follow, you find yourself completely stuck, figuring out which is the least dangerous way to go. I was practically on hands and feet for that hour of the hike, and towards the end as you get closer to the summit it is a vertical climb upwards, which was the most terrifying experience, but pumped me full of adrenaline!

After four hours of climbing, we finally made it to the top! A massive achievement and an experience that i will never forget, and to top it off the weather was absolutely incredible giving some breathtaking views.

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Halfway up Helvellyn – looking onto Ullswater lake

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Striding Edge- Helvellyn

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Looking across the lake and Summit- Helvellyn

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Last stride to the Summit- Helvellyn

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On top of the world- Conquered Helvellyn!!

After the Helvellyn hike on the first day, we were both a little too stiff and drained to do much else extreme. I was keen to explore more waterfalls, having been impressed by Aira force last time, so I researched ‘best waterfalls in the Lake District’ and we ended up visiting a few. Stock Ghyll force was just a short walk from the Ambleside village center, a known path to may as there were signs indicating to the waterfalls. It was a spectacular 70 foot waterfall, surrounded by leafy green trees, and with the sun streaming through it made for the perfect summertime walk. The force tumbles down to the center of Ambleside where there are a series of smaller waterfalls on the way, and as you make your way down there is a lovely area with a bench by the side of the river next to a bridge where you can sit and take in sounds of the waterfall.

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Stock Ghyll Force

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On the bridge overlooking Stock Ghyll Force

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View from the bench looking onto the river

Another great waterfall find was Colwith Force- this took a little longer to find as the sign posting for this was minimal. It’s also well hidden, and there aren’t many people around, but we found a lovely couple at one point who helped us in the right direction. Colwith Force on the River Brathay drops in several stages down a total height of about 40 feet, it was quite a wide force, and again the scenery surrounding was well worth the visit.

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Colwith Force

The best adventure of the trip, was coming across a completely secluded lake- lake Wast Water was by far the most impressive lake of all in my eyes. We had seen most of the large lakes such as Windermere, Coniston Water, Ullswater , Derwent Water (near keswick), but Wast Water wasn’t like these lakes as there wasn’t a village or touristy place in sight. Only the odd person here or there, in the same situation as us – having found this lake, wanted to make the most of it’s peacefulness and stillness.

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When in Rome

Not a spontaneous trip as such, but one a bit more planned for a birthday treat. I had been to Rome before when very young, but i couldn’t much remember what it was like- even the Colosseum was a misty memory.

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I went mid-April, so it wasn’t too hot, as my skin does not do the real heat! But 26 degrees with the sun shining every day was just perfect. The hotel (hotel Delle Nazioni) was an exceptionally great location for walking around. The area was almost like the Soho bit of London, where you find all the quirky places to eat and bars all sprawling out onto the cobbled streets. It was just a 30 second walk from the Trevi, unfortunately it was covered in scaffold. My friends who had been had warned me about this, as work has been going on for some months now- lets hope when finished it will look restored and more beautiful than ever! I searched for more fountains as I roamed the streets, as one of the reasons to me Rome is so beautiful and unique is due to the array of fountains that take center stage throughout the Piazzas.

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Piazza Novana -the largest in Rome, had a wonderful large fountain in the middle, crowded with people and their selfie sticks, I still managed to get a good view of the ancient stone carvings and gushing water. To sit there and listen to the sound of water, just whisked me away from the frantic crowd, and allowed myself to enjoy and take in the surroundings. It was here that I had my first Italian Espresso of the trip- now i am a caffeine addict, but it’s safe to say after that I will still be sticking to my cappuccino’s- ‘Wowcha’ what a hit!

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I can’t not say anything about the marvel of the Colosseum. It was magical, and it stood there in all it’s glory. I had already bought tickets to go inside, however there was a huge queue, and from what felt like just 5 seconds in the queue, I was approached and persuaded to skip it for an hours guided tour for just an extra 10 euros! It was definitely worth it, as our tour guide was precise, quick and clear, with no awful waffling as many tour guides can sometimes be.

I wanted to try and get the best view possible of the Colosseum, so I wandered through the forum area, making my way up to the hill and gardens, where there was a secret tunnel which lead to an amazing view…

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Before even arriving I knew I would love this City for one thing- their love of food! Slices of chunky pizza heavy with toppings, bowl fulls of fresh pasta and of course Gelato! Where I was having 4 ice creams a day quite literally. But I wasn’t sorry, as the vast selection of ice cream flavors was enough to make you eat only ice cream! I tried so many but not nearly tried them all; nutella, chocolate, vanilla, pecan, lemon, and cookies and cream were my favorites. With a scoop of vanilla on the lemon sorbet I think that had to be the ultimate combo! Four cones a day consisted of one after breakfast, lunch and dinner- and I even went out to get one for a midnight stack!

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A Taste of Prague

It felt like being in a fairy tail. The castle that lit up at night, surrounded by the medieval architecture, walking along the cobbled streets, eating hearty food, drinking Czech beer, and hot chocolate- which was the most gooiest, and richest chocolaty kind on the planet!

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Having visited all the main attractions including Prague Castle, Old Town Sq, Wenceslas Sq, St Charles’s Bridge, Petrin Hill and the incredible piece of modern architecture- the dancing building- a Gothic and Art Nouveau architectural stock.

Seeing the John Lennon Wall was incredible. Since the 1980’s this wall has belonged to him, as he was seen as a hero to the youth of Central and Eastern Europe during the totalitarian era. Prior to this, when communism ruled western pop songs were banned, especially Lennon songs. When he was murdered in 1980 he became a sort of hero to some of the young and his picture was painted on this wall, along with graffiti defying the authorities. Graffiti first in the form of Beatles lyrics and odes to Lennon, then people started to paint their own feelings and dreams on the wall. It was inspirational reading all of the messages, and people to this day still add to it.

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