New York City - Part One

Back in April of this year, I went with my family to New York City, and for whatever reason, I never ever got round to writing a blog post about our trip, so 6 months later, here it is! I've spent the last week or so re-editing all the images from the trip, I wasn't massively impressed with a lot of them to be quite fair. There was a lot of haze and harsh sunlight in some of the shots, but I'm more happy with the images now I've had a chance to re-edit them. Really looking forward to going back to NYC though now that I have my new camera, forever wanting to shoot everything I done before with my D750.

Anyway, let's get to it!

The first part of our trip to New York City begins in Aberdeen.

The Journey -

Aberdeen airport is tiny, so we had to get a connecting flight via London Heathrow, but thankfully I had the breakfast of champions (sarcasm..) in the Aberdeen BA Lounge, consisting of a rowie, a bag of crisps, and apple juice. Can't beat that.

IMG_7868

So my first ever time to the United States of America, and to say I was excited was an understatement, the whole trip was an absolute buzz, from getting on a B747 for the first time, to thinking the toilet was overflowing when apparently the toilet water is just really high in America? The tiniest of things were getting overly excited, and I hadn't even stepped foot out of JFK yet.

IMG_7882

IMG_7884

Big shout out to British Airways for the smoothest 7 hour flight ever, and the constant supply of as much orange juice as I wanted. You'd be surprised how many films you can watch and orange juice you can drink in 7 hours! Shame about the dirty windows...

IMG_7891

DAY 1 -

IMG_7894

Arriving at JFK at stepping out the main doors and seeing the yellow cabs was definitely a pretty cool moment! My whole knowledge of and thoughts about America are purely from years and years of American TV shows, and movies, so it was great to see it in the flesh.

We arrived in the evening, and got a Dial 7 car to our hotel which was the New York Marriott East Side on Lexington Ave at 49th Street. Really couldn't have asked for a better place to stay to be honest, right in the heart of Manhattan, ideal!

After we had unpacked and chilled out for a bit, as with every place we go (I get this from my folks), we went a wander to get our bearings, and by now it was quite late in the evening, our first taste of New York by night. The streets and avenues setup was really easy to grasp, but damn, walking a block can feel looooooong sometimes!

DSC_0010

DSC_0023

DSC_0055

By this point we were absolutely starving, and had reached Times Square, so if I remember correctly, I think we just dived into one of the first places we found

down a street off the square which happened to be a TGI Fridays. Filling food and a lot of cola! No complaints from me.

Times Square was absolutely heaving, as expected I guess, but really cool to see all the lights, billboards and giant TVs, definitely blows London's Leicester Square out the park, that's for sure.

DSC_0050

DSC_0042

DSC_0034

After a full day of travelling, it was time to hit the sack, and prepare ourselves for all the tourist shit tomorrow, and the next day, and the days after that! But I think I was more looking forward to eating pancakes for breakfast...

DAY 2 -

First full day in NYC, and it was going to be a long one, so I had to lace up my New Balance 991's for ultimate comfort.

DSC_0062

We asked the reception where a good spot was to get some pancakes, and they recommended the Comfort Diner which was relatively close to the hotel.

PANCAKES FOR BREAKFAST @ The Comfort Diner!

DSC_0071

DSC_0081

They don't look like much, but man these pancakes were good... and you can tell everyone else had the same idea! You've gotta love that American style diner too!

IMG_7944

We decided that the first "tourist" thing we would do was check out the Empire State Building, and this wasn't too far from where we grabbed some breakfast, so we walked a few blocks and then joined the inevitable queue.

DSC_0093

DSC_0098

DSC_0107

Finally, after an hour in the queue outside, we reached the front door, but only to be greeted with more queues. You've gotta be pretty patient with these types of things, even in off-peak times.

DSC_0118

It was very rammed at the top, and obviously everyone wants to get close to the barrier on each side, but with a little argy bargy, I made it to each of the sides. Big shout to my mum for holding my camera bag and swapping out my lenses when I needed them, haha.

There was a lot of haze that day, so some of the shots didn't turn out so good, but there's a bunch below.

DSC_0124

DSC_0148

DSC_0160

DSC_0142

DSC_0172

DSC_0166

DSC_0187

DSC_0197

DSC_0200

DSC_0223

DSC_0241

After the Empire State Building, we needed to refuel, so went to one of the million Starbucks in NYC and done just that, and it's always a good place to grab wi-fi.

I have two sisters, so naturally, being in NYC, they wanted to go shopping, and with the Empire State Building being on 5th Avenue, shopping was next on the agenda!

DSC_0272

DSC_0283

DSC_0285

Madison Square Garden

DSC_0286

One World Trade Centre in the distance

DSC_0288

DSC_0292

DSC_0294

Instore custom booth at New Balance NYC

Before I went away, I made up a list of all the stores in NYC that I wanted to check out, but sadly, I only managed to get to the New Balance Store where I picked up the New Balance 997CCF, pictured below.

IMG_7976

New Balance 997CCF

New Balance NYC was our last stop in terms of shopping for this day, and as it is in the Flatiron District, what do you go and see next? The Flatiron Building!

DSC_0296

DSC_0316

DSC_0313

We walked through Madison Square Park which is in front of the Flatiron Building, where the above pictures where taken, and there were loads of squirrels which were all extremely tame. If only we had some nuts to give them!

As we had done the Empire State Building during the day, our plan was to check out Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Centre in the evening, so we could see New York by night, but we had to go sort out tickets as you have to book for a certain time in the evening, so we made our way back up 5th Avenue.

DSC_0340

DSC_0348

DSC_0347

DSC_0355

The Rockefeller Centre itself is a pretty impressive complex, and as it was Easter time, there was a giant Easter bunny made of flowers.

DSC_0366

DSC_0382

DSC_0381

The world famous ice rink was also still up at the Rockefeller Centre.

It was an absolute nightmare to try and get tickets for the Top of the Rock, but after getting lost a few times, and asking a couple of people, we eventually found the ticket office and sorted out tickets for an evening slot.

DSC_0391

St. Patrick's Cathedral in on 5th Avenue opposite the Rockefeller Centre and is a really breathtaking building, especially when it's in the middle of Manhattan and has all the giant buildings surrounding it.

As above, the same can be said for St. Bartholomew's Church which is on Park Avenue, and as you can see from the image below, it is almost totally dwarfed by all the huge buildings.

DSC_0392

 I honestly can't remember what we done next, I know we went back to the hotel to rest for a bit, but after that and before we went to Top of the Rock, I have no idea. It was 6 months ago, my bad!

Anyway, let's jump straight to Top of the Rock. We headed back to the Rockefeller Centre in the evening, and this was a much quicker and less stressful process than the Empire State Building.

DSC_0401

DSC_0405

DSC_0408

Empire State Building and One World Trade Centre

DSC_0417

Central Park

DSC_0437

DSC_0439

Empire State Building and One World Trade Centre

DSC_0443

After experiencing Top of the Rock, we headed back to the hotel to get an early night as the travelling and busy day had caught up with us!

Day 3 -

Honestly, if I could start every day with pancakes for breakfast then trust me, I would!

IMG_7981

Another pairs of the 9xx series for today, in the form of the New Balance 990HSN x hanon shop, one of my favourite pairs and again super comfy.

DSC_0499

We're always ones for embracing the local public transport system, and on this day we wanted to pay a visit to the Statue of Liberty, and the best way seemed to be to get the underground from Grand Central Station to Battery Park.

Sadly though, the underground is shocking... certainly in comparison to London's underground, big up the Oyster cards.

At least it gave us a reason to check out the amazing Grand Central Terminal.

DSC_0460

DSC_0465

DSC_0462

DSC_0470

DSC_0477

We sent my mum and one of my sisters to go and join the queue, while the rest of us went to get the tickets. Again, a bit unorganised, but what can you do? Doesn't help either when you ask a bunch of people and they all tell you different things...

At least there's a pretty neat view of the One World Trade Centre while you're queuing.

DSC_0496

We got on the Miss Ellis Island boat which would first take us to the Statue of Liberty, and then we would have the opportunity to check out Liberty Island.

DSC_0498

Straight to the upper deck to grab some seats, but damn, that short boat ride to Liberty Island was windy!

Some of the views leaving the dock, and then approaching Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty.

DSC_0509

DSC_0518

DSC_0547

DSC_0550

DSC_0553

We spent some time on Liberty Island checking out the Statue of Liberty and of course, taking in the pretty awesome views that you get of New York City. Sadly, we never had the opportunity to go up the Statue of Liberty to the crown as you have to book it well in advance. Here's some views of NYC and some close ups of Lady Liberty to make up for it!

DSC_0578

DSC_0581

DSC_0613

DSC_0604

Once you're done on Liberty Island, you head back to where you got off one of the boats, and hop back on a boat to take you to Ellis Island, where you are free to have a look in the National Museum of Immigration, a really cool place for sure.

DSC_0620

DSC_0622

DSC_0625

DSC_0628

Combining a little bit of jet lag, with long days filled with walking and queueing, some of us were pretty drained, so another chilled night was on the cards but the Lindie family are big fans of the Fast and Furious franchise, and the 7th film had released while we were in NYC, so we figured we'd find somewhere to watch it.

Maybe a strange thing to do when you're on holiday, but a good way to pass some time and chill out in the evening for sure!

We found a cool little spot to watch it at Cinema 1, 2 & 3, which had reclining seats and all.

IMG_7989

And that was it for day 3 in NYC!

This post is already pretty lengthy, so I'm going to continue this post on a part 2, rather than making this one even longer. Be sure to check the second post here.

Rome Revisited, Last Stop - Italy Adventures

I was going to just add this on to the original Rome post, when we started our travels in Italy, but Emma suggested that I make a new post, and well, she knows best, right? So here it is, a completely new post on our last day spent in Rome before our flight the following day! I'm really glad we decided to head back to Rome the day before our flight, rather than getting the train back from Florence in the morning. It probably would have resulted in a lot of running about no doubt, but this way we were able to pack the night before, and then hop on the Leonardo Express from Rome's Termini station which was only 5 minutes from our hotel.

For this visit back to Rome, we stayed in the Augusta Lucilla Palace, a hotel which is literally a 5-10 minute walk from Termini Station, ideal if you're looking to catch the train to the airport, or wanting to make use of the metro system. The hotel itself was lovely, and they upgraded our room to this HUGE suite, with a bed that vibrates (massages, apparently)!

We arrived quite early to the hotel, and weren't able to check in, but they took our bags from us and asked us to come back for around 1pm, so that left a few hours to go kill some time. With our stomachs rumbling, we went and grabbed some breakfast on Piazza della Repubblica, overlooking the Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri.

We had hoped to leave the rain behind in Florence, but sadly, Rome was the same. It was actually pretty cold when the wind was blowing, Emma rocking a jacket, but I was still determined with the shorts and t-shirt, regretting it a little at breakfast. Perfect temperature for walking though, especially with a light drizzle to cool you down every now and again, and since we seemed to enjoy walking, that's just what we done!

Heading to the Colosseum, as I was determined to get a picture of the arch (Arco di Costantino) which is next to it, however, I didn't remember the foreground and background to be so bleak, so it really was a little underwhelming.

DSC_3876

Arco di Costantino, underwhelming, right?

Anyway, we decided to head in the direction of the arch, but this just seemed to be where all the coaches stopped to drop people off to visit the Colosseum, and then we found the entrance to the Palatino, or the Palatine Hill, and for only 7e each or so, this was bound to kill some time.

DSC_3877

Entrance to the Palatino.

The Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill are adjacent to each other, so paying this one entrance fee, meant we were free to roam around this large area of ancient ruins. Really really really worth doing if you have a spare couple of hours just to wander around.

Some of the ruins in here are just amazing, I'll leave the pictures to do the talking.

PS. Make sure you check out absolutely all of the view points on offer for some spectacular views of the Colosseum and across the Roman Forum itself.

DSC_3879

DSC_3883

DSC_3884

New Balance 996PU

DSC_3891

DSC_3893

DSC_3894

DSC_3896

DSC_3898

DSC_3904

DSC_3906

DSC_3908

DSC_3913

DSC_3921

DSC_3923

DSC_3924

DSC_3929

DSC_3933

DSC_3942

DSC_3943

DSC_3945

DSC_3946

DSC_3947

DSC_3948

It was now well after 1pm, so we headed back to the hotel so we could check in and change our clothes.

Our plan for the rest of the day was simple... City Sightseeing Tours! But this probably really wasn't the best idea considering just how wet it would get.

DSC_3950

New Balance MFL574 Fresh Foam

DSC_3956

DSC_3957

DSC_3958

DSC_3959

Similar to the City Sightseeing Tours in Florence, the bus departed from the train station, so we headed there to buy some tickets and wait for the bus. However, it had just started pouring down with rain, but we were determined that we'd complete the full tour which took around an hour.

In all honesty, we probably should have done this bus tour on the first day, because we realised how surprisingly close everything was, particularly how close the Vatican City was to our first hotel, and the Castel Sant'Angelo.

I probably spent most of the time trying to avoid the absolute river that was flowing off the roof of the bus and into the bus itself, but my shorts were already absolutely soaking and feeling like wet cardboard. I figured it was probably best to put the camera back in it's bag, so sadly there are no shots from the bus tour. While trying to avoid the rain running into the bus, we drove past the Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore, and decided that we'd get off here once the tour had completed and then went back around to this stop.

DSC_3972

DSC_3973

DSC_3976

DSC_3978

DSC_3980

DSC_3985

DSC_3987

DSC_3991

DSC_3996

DSC_4004

DSC_4007

DSC_4008

DSC_4011

DSC_4013

DSC_4015

DSC_4016

DSC_4019

DSC_4021

The Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore is spectacular! Don't let the back of it fool you, as that's the side you'll probably see from the road, so make sure you walk round to the front and head in to explore.

Basilicas were clearly on the agenda today, and we headed back to the spot where we had breakfast in the morning, the Piazza della Republicca, to check out the Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, a 16th century church that doesn't look like much from the outside, but trust me, you need to go in!

DSC_4025

DSC_4028

DSC_4030

DSC_4032

DSC_4033

DSC_4035

DSC_4039

DSC_4042

DSC_4045

DSC_4047

DSC_4049

DSC_4050

And sadly, that's pretty much it in terms of our time in Rome, and our time in Italy. We spent the night just chilling with no camera, lots of food, ice cream, and searching through all the souvenir shops for last minute Pope related gifts for my family.

Hopefully some of the info in the last few blog posts of our trips to Rome, Pompeii, Pisa and Florence will be of use to anyone planning to go there, or if not, I hope you just enjoyed looking at the pictures, because I know I enjoyed taking them and exploring these amazing places. Already looking forward to planning our next trip to Italy and exploring somewhere new!

Pompeii via Naples - Italy Adventures

As soon as we booked Rome, Emma said that she wanted to visit Pompeii, so we figured that the best way to do this would be to search for a company offering a full day tour. We've used Gray Line a number of times, particularly when we visited Iceland, so they were our first port of call, and rightly so, they offered a tour called 'Pompeii and it's Ruins'. Details of the tour can be found by clicking the link above.

We were picked up from our hotel at 6:45am, and taken to the Gray Line office in central Rome, where our tickets were checked and we changed over to a large coach, which would take us to Pompeii via Naples.

The journey to Naples was relatively quick down the highway, our guide just introduced himself at the beginning and then said nothing so that people could sleep until we made a breakfast stop about an hour down the road at a service station. After grabbing a croissant and some coffee, back on the coach and on to Naples were the guide provided us with a panoramic like tour of the city while passing through.

Stopping at the marina in Naples, we hopped off the bus to grab some pictures of the surrounding area for 15 minutes or so. It would have been cool to spend some more time in Naples, but Pompeii was the main thing on the itinerary, so that's where we headed.

DSC_2451

Mt. Vesuvius from Naples.

DSC_2462

DSC_2468

When we arrived in Pompeii, we were treated to a typical Italian style lunch at a nearby restaurant, and then once lunch was done, it was time to head to the entrance to Pompeii's ruins and get our tickets.

Our tour guide Juan Carlos who had been with us since departing Rome, now handed us over to Wilma, the craziest woman I've met wearing a poncho in 40 degree heat for no apparent reason, and she would guide us around Pompeii's ruins.

Upon entering Pompeii ruins, whether as a group, or just on your own accord, you'll notice that there are thousands of visitors, and it gets a little crazy at times. Luckily, our guide Wilma done her absolute best to make sure we seen all the main parts of the ruins that you read about in the news or see on TV, as well as taking us to some of her favourite areas that are a little less known.

DSC_2474

DSC_2477

DSC_2479

The next few images are from a large house that our guide took us too, which she said was one of her favourites and wouldn't be so crowded, and rightly so, when we arrived, it was near empty, and pretty much stayed like this the whole time we were there.

This gave us valuable time to learn about the history of Pompeii, as well as to check out the various rooms in the house in a lot more details, whereas we wouldn't of had that opportunity if it had been overrun with other visitors.

DSC_2483

DSC_2486

DSC_2488

DSC_2490

DSC_2492

DSC_2493

DSC_2496

DSC_2500

DSC_2504

DSC_2505

DSC_2506

DSC_2508

DSC_2509

DSC_2510

DSC_2511

DSC_2514

DSC_2517

DSC_2519

DSC_2520

DSC_2521

DSC_2523

DSC_2525

DSC_2526

DSC_2529

DSC_2530

DSC_2531

DSC_2535

DSC_2537

DSC_2541

DSC_2546

DSC_2552

DSC_2556

DSC_2560

DSC_2562

DSC_2564

DSC_2569

DSC_2570

DSC_2572

DSC_2574

DSC_2575

When you hear stories of Pompeii, and you plan to visit the ruins, one of the big things that always gets brought up is the remains of the bodies that they have there, and below are the three main ones: the baby, the sitting man, and the dog.

However, our guide explained to us that these remains are in actual fact just replicas, as all the remains have been subsequently removed from Pompeii. They have discovered a little over 1000+ bodies, but none remain at the site. Hopefully in the future they will at least bring back a few of the actual casts.

Even though we were aware that these were replicas, it's still a pretty eerie thing to look at.

DSC_2578

DSC_2579

DSC_2581

We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Pompeii, and would love to go back and explore more, and maybe even take a trip to Herculaneum to explore there. I'd have loved to have been able to take more or better pictures, but the biggest issue and one that I try my absolute best to avoid is other people in the shots, and if you ever make it to Pompeii, you'll realise that this is a big challenge!

Here are the last two shots from our trip to the ruins of Pompeii, with Mt. Vesuvius overlooking the ruins, and the ruins to your left as you exit the site.

DSC_2588

DSC_2596

After a little bus swapping, we were on the road to Rome again, and a big thanks must be said to our tour leader, our tour guide, and also our driver of the return journey, who performed some crazy crazy crazy manoeuvres to get the bus out of a service station which was definitely not meant to be for buses. Honestly, it was outrageous!

Rome - Italy Adventures

July and August have been very busy months with a lot of footwear related stuff towards the end of July and beginning of August, and then with going on holiday so shortly after, I never had much time to get through all of the footwear things. So I apologise for the lack of content on here recently, but I've been posting quite a lot on Instagram since I've been away, and after I've got through all the content from my holiday, I'll jump back to the footwear and will post my SoleBloc Round-Up, along with an interview that was conducted at the NB Real Ale Event.

Anyway, enough of the formalities, myself and Emma had never been to Italy before, so a few months back we booked some return flights to Rome, and then had 10 days to fill in so got down to the planning. First off, since we were flying into Rome, we decided to spend 4 nights here as this would be one of the main places we wanted to spend some time. If I'm honest, we could probably have just spent the full 10 nights here, Rome is such an amazing place with so much to do, and just generally a pretty great vibe in the city.

DAY 1 - 

We arrived on the afternoon of Friday the 7th, and left the air conditioned cabin of the British Airways plane, to be greeted by a wall of heat, us Scots definitely aren't built for it. After getting through all the usual airport shit, we headed for the train station, bought a ticket for what we hoped was the Leonardo Express (thankfully it was) to take us into Termini station in central Rome. Half an hour later, we arrived at Termini, only to realise we hadn't bothered to print out directions to our hotel, and with no signal on our phone, all we had was a rough idea of the area it was in, and a Rome Metro Map. Winging it a little and establishing that the station 'Lepanto' was relatively close to our hotel, we bought a 72 hour metro ticket (thinking that this would be useful to get us about) and headed for the platform.

Honestly, I advise everyone to print out directions, because trying to figure out where you're going in 40 degree heat while carrying all your bags, is definitely not a good look, but we made it, eventually. To be fair, we'd actually done not bad considering.

We stayed in the Visconti Palace Hotel, a really lovely hotel just over the other side of the Fiume Tevere on Via Federico Cesi, in the Prati region of Rome. We were a little hesitant at how far out the hotel was from everything, so as you do, you go for a little stroll, and I think we ended up walking something like 13 miles before we stopped to grab some food. We didn't walk 13 miles because the hotel was so far away from everything, we walked 13 miles because it's really easy to walk a lot in Rome centre without realising it. Every corner you turn, there's just another amazing building, and you just keep going and going. We stumbled upon so much without actually making the effort to look for it.

We knew the river was close to our hotel, so we tried our best to head for there and find the nearest bridge. To get to the nearest bridge, we had to pass through Piazza Cavour which is home to the Palace of Justice, Rome's Supreme Court, and reaching Ponte Sant'Angelo, which as an added bonus, has the amazing Castel Sant'Angelo at one end of it.

DSC_1999

Palace of Justice, Piazza Cavour.

DSC_2009

Castel Sant'Angelo from Ponte Sant'Angelo.

DSC_2012

DSC_2015

DSC_2017

Looking out from Ponte Sant'Angelo with St. Peter's Basilica in the distance.

DSC_2022

Parrocchia Santa Maria in Vallicella.

DSC_2023

Now that we crossed the river, heading in no particular direction, we stumbled across Campo de' Fiori, which is a market by day, and a bustling square lined by restaurants at night, with a monument of Giordano Bruno at the centre.

Wanting to explore more, we decided that this is where we'd head back to for food, if we could find it again that is...

DSC_2024

Monument of Giordano Bruno at the centre of Campo de' Fiori.

DSC_2028

Sant'Andrea della Valle.

DSC_2030

Chiesa del Gesù.

The next part of central Rome that we came to was particularly great, and not only provided us with some amazing views of the sunset, but also just some pretty breathtaking views of the surrounding area and buildings.

Coming out to Piazza Venezia, you are presented with the crazy Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, and if you manage to brave the road to make it into the grassy centre of the square, then you get an even better view of this huge monument in all it's glory.

DSC_2035

Looking down Via del Plebiscito at Chiesa di San Giuliano dei Fiamminghi. 

DSC_2046

Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II.

DSC_2047

Looking down Via del Corso from Piazza Venezia.

DSC_2050

DSC_2053

Palazzo Venezia.

DSC_2055

Basilica di Santa Maria in Ara coeli.

DSC_2056

Looking down Via del Teatro di Marcello at Teatro Marcello.

DSC_2057

After taking a few shots of the monument, the next thing to do is to head over to the front of it, right? Well, make sure you do this, and then head right at brave the second set of stairs on your left because this takes you up to Campidoglio, a Michelangelo designed square.

You are now essentially on the Capitoline Hill, and from here, head to the left of the museum in front of you, where you will find a path, and a pretty spectacular view point over the Roman Forum. When we turned down this little path to be greeted by this view, it literally took our breaths away, a must do for sure.

DSC_2058

DSC_2065

DSC_2070

DSC_2072

Foro Romano.

While you're overlooking the Roman Forum and surrounding areas from the Capitoline Hill, you can't miss the magnificent Colosseum in the distance, so that was our next place to visit, and heading left to the main road, Via dei Fori Imperiali will take you all the way down to the Colosseum.

DSC_2081

DSC_2082

Colosseo.

After we grabbed some food at the square we visited earlier, with the extreme heat in Rome over the last week or so, there was plenty of thunder and lightning that evening, so we figured we'd be able to get a good view of it from the bridge near the castle, and conveniently this was the route back to our hotel anyway.

We stayed on the bridge for around an hour taking pictures, and we only got lucky with one, but it's a cracker if I do say so myself!

DSC_2112

DAY 2 - 

An early start for our second day in Rome as we were heading to the Vatican City, and had booked a tour with Walks of Italy. If you are intending to visit the Vatican City, then I seriously recommend you book this tour, because it gets you in before the public, and you only have to wait in a very short line with all the other groups. I have included the tour link here, where you can find all the information needed.

We essentially seen the best of the Vatican City in under 4 hours, and because we went straight to the Sistine Chapel first, we got to marvel at the spectacular chapel with very few other people there, whereas if we hadn't booked the tour, we'd have had endure it with hundreds more people.

Also, our guide was particularly excellent, he stuck with the relatively small group of around 12 of us, and provided us with plenty information, as well as just genuinely being a really nice guy. We even bumped into him later that evening by chance, and he remembered us and said hello, great guy.

Anyway, I won't say much else about the Vatican City tour, as I'll just let the pictures do the talking (no pictures of the Sistine Chapel however, as photos are not allowed). Seriously, every room and corridor in this place is spectacular, enjoy.

DSC_2143

DSC_2145

DSC_2149

DSC_2151

DSC_2152

DSC_2153

DSC_2154

DSC_2155

DSC_2159

DSC_2161

DSC_2162

DSC_2164

DSC_2167

DSC_2169

DSC_2172

DSC_2174

DSC_2175

DSC_2177

DSC_2178

DSC_2180

The last part of the tour with Walks of Italy is the amazing St. Peter's Basilica, an absolute wonder in itself, never mind everything else there is in the Vatican City. We spent some time in here just admiring how grand everything is in here, whether it's the construction, the artwork or the magnificent domes.

DSC_2181

DSC_2186

DSC_2190

DSC_2192

DSC_2193

DSC_2196

DSC_2198

DSC_2202

While we were inside the basilica and looking up at the huge dome, we noticed some people up the top of the dome, so figured we could get up there. Exiting the basilica, and then taking a left and then another left, it brings you to the entrance where you can pay to climb the 551 stairs to the top of St. Peter's dome.

The first step of the climb is relatively easy, and it opens out onto the roof, where there is a gift shop, small cafe, and plenty of places to get some views out over room.

Now I'll say it just now, if you are claustrophobic in the slightest, you'll probably not want to bother with the second part of the climb, as to get to the top of the dome, you climb stairs in between the inner and outer domes, and there is barely enough room to stand upright.

DSC_2221

DSC_2224

DSC_2225

DSC_2229

St. Peter's Square from St. Peter's Dome.

DSC_2235

St. Peter's Dome.

DSC_2236

DSC_2242

St. Peter's Dome.

DSC_2243

Before heading back down, we grabbed a couple of postcards, wrote them out and sent them home, while rehydrating ourselves with water and gelato!

After the climb back down, we had a wander around St. Peter's Square, but honestly, it was around 2pm by this time, and we had been out and about since 7:30am, so we just headed back to our hotel to grab a few hours sleep before heading out for the evening.

DSC_2203

St. Peter's Square from the front of St. Peter's Basilica.

DSC_2250

DSC_2260

DSC_2261

DSC_2262

St. Peter's Basilica.

After our first wander around the centre on the first night, we knew there were a few places that we still hadn't managed to find yet, such as the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, and the Trevi Fountain, so we set off on a little adventure to find these three places.

We had a rough idea where the Pantheon was, so we tried to head here first, and came across the really lovely Piazza Navona, another bustling square lined by amazing buildings and plenty of restaurants.

DSC_2266

DSC_2267

Santa Maria della Pace.

DSC_2268

Fountain of the Four Rivers in Piazza Navona.

DSC_2272

Sant'Agnese in Agone from Piazza Navona.

After heading through Piazza Navona, we found the Pantheon, and the Pantheon itself sits in Piazza della Rotonda, a really lovely square which has lots of restaurants and gelaterias down various side streets, with the square itself usually having someone playing music with many people just sitting around chilling. A really nice atmosphere.

The Pantheon is free to enter, but is closed at night, so if you're planning to visit, swing by during the day or in the early evening, it's definitely worth checking out.

DSC_2281

Pantheon.

DSC_2280

DSC_2276

DSC_2275

DSC_2274

DSC_2273

From the Pantheon, we might have got a bit lost trying to look for the Spanish Steps, but we did however find a New Balance store, so that made up for it a little bit.

Also, on our way to the Spanish Steps, there was a light rain shower, and I've honestly never been so glad to see rain than I was then. Perfect.

DSC_2289

DSC_2290

Fontana della Barcaccia.

DSC_2291

Spanish Steps.

DSC_2292

From the top of the Spanish Steps looking down Via dei Condotti.

Next stop - Trevi Fountain. Sadly, the Trevi Fountain is currently undergoing restoration works, which you can see in the picture below, but it is still worth a visit, and make sure you turn your back to the fountain and throw a coin over your shoulder. Hopefully you manage to make it into the little bit of water that remains.

DSC_2295

Fontana di Trevi.

As it was still relatively early, and we weren't quite hungry yet, we went on another wander, still trying to get our bearings of where exactly everything is within the centre of Rome, it makes it a lot easier to navigate, rather than having to rely on the metro system to get us about.

DSC_2296

S. Marcello al Corso.

DSC_2298

Santa Maria in Via Lata.

DSC_2308

Piazza Foro Traiano.

DSC_2311

Mercati di Traiano.

DSC_2312

Looking down Via dei Fori Imperiali at the Colosseo.

DSC_2313

Chiesa dei Santi Luca e Martina.

The sun had now set, and our bellies were rumbling, so we headed back to Piazza Navona to grab a bite to eat at one of the many restaurants around the square. Pretty much every meal we were skipping dessert, and just heading to grab gelato after (you really are spoiled for choice when it comes to gelato), until I got hooked on Tiramisu that is.

You'll probably remember the castle I mentioned briefly from day 1? Castel Sant'Angelo. Well, we were trying to pack in as much as possible (if you hadn't already noticed), so on the way back to the hotel, we paid the small entry fee to get into the castle and went exploring. The castle itself has some really nice rooms within, but we were really wanting to check out the view from the top.

DSC_2324

DSC_2329

DSC_2336

View of St. Peter's Basilica from top of Castel Sant'Angelo.

Even from the bridge at the front of the castle, we had noticed the huge basilica in the distance, but hadn't been able to place which one it was. Even after being at the Vatican City that day, and then getting a better look at it from the top of the castle at night, it took me until the day we were leaving Rome, to realise that it was St. Peter's Basilica.

I don't think we anticipated it to actually to be that close, and in hindsight, I wish we had taken that walk from the castle and straight up Via della Conciliazione to St. Peter's Square.

DAY 3 - 

We had planned to do a day trip to Naples and Pompeii on the 10th of August, which would be Day 4 of our holiday, so for the third day, we wanted to just take it easy after a pretty long and tiring couple of days before.

We jumped on the Metro at Lepanto, and headed to Flaminio, where we got off and headed to Piazza del Popolo where we grabbed some lunch. Our plan was to venture through the Villa Borghese Gardens as it seemed like quite an extensive piece of greenery in Rome, certainly from a map anyway.

We headed up a load of stairs to get to the gardens, and took in the view at the top over Piazza del Popolo, then we noticed some signs for the zoo, so our inner child took over and we started following the signs.

Little did we know, the zoo must have been a couple of miles away at least, and it probably wasn't the best idea to visit in 40 degree heat, but anyway, I seen a couple of giraffes for the first time, so I really wasn't bothered!

DSC_2344

Looking over Piazza del Popolo.

DSC_2378

An apparent 'chill day' was followed by a definite 'chill night'. Again, we hopped on the Metro at Lepanto and this time headed to the Colosseo station, where we took a wander round the Colosseum, and then propped ourselves on a bunch up on a bridge overlooking the Colosseum and waited for sunset. Check out the images below, then we finished the night off with some food and of course, gelato.

DSC_2395

DSC_2402

DSC_2412

DSC_2426

DSC_2440

DSC_2425

DSC_2446

DAY 4 - 

Our 4th day in Rome featured a trip to Pompeii via Naples, and you can check that post out now.

However, although we left for Pisa the following day, we would be back to Rome for one final day before flying back home to Aberdeen.