A Travellerspoint blog

Bill's European Adventure, 2001. Part 4: Florence and Rome

Our plunky drunkards get culture-jammed and find religion


Bill and Julie at the Duomo, Florence

Aug 23

Florence Day 1 - hellish! Got a double-decker (yes!) train to Firenze and trotted around the place in the scorching heat frantically looking for accommodation, eventually getting booked into what turned out to be a military boot camp style thing in the sticks with rigid breakfast, dinner and lights out times. OK though, given we almost stayed in a brothel that was advertised as a hostel and then we saw the brothel's owner's apartment, which looked like drug money had purchased the white leather sofa and other lavish fittings.

Met two Californians at the hostel - their Republican background and views were hilarious to us once we got merry on a 5l mini-keg of Firstenburg, which they greeted with dismay! One of them actually thought George W was a good President!

Had great fun dodging the curfew - a staff member allowed me to finish my cup of beer and cigarette out the front of the building as a special favour at 12.10am!! Sleep was hot, but comfortable enough. Getting up early to go sightseeing isn't too difficult because one can't sleep late in this fuckin' heat!

Aug 24

Breakfast of coffee and rock of bread with butter was more of a tease than a meal. Packed a lunch from stuff in the supermarket, and set off on the bus for a hectic day of sightseeing, involving queues, lots of paintings and lots of tourists, finishing up back in the hotel bang on time for our boarding school dinner at 6.30. Drank 66CLs with funny Australians and an Irish thirty-something, mid-life crisis couple; it all came to an abrupt end at midnight - lights out. Smoking outside after curfew made me feel like a bold schoolboy!

Beginning to get culture-jammed - saw so much in the last two weeks that cathedrals and paintings no longer have a fixed location in my head. Very impressed by Michelangelo's David though.


Bill and Ollie at the Roman Forum

Aug 25

Rome! Got a train at 1044 (had to stand/sit in the gangway for the whole 2.5 hours, but at least we weren't charged the IR£4 supplement that we should've been. We had a hostel booked, but we had to battle to get there by 2pm deadline. It turned out to be this cool, small, 22-bed place in an apartment block ten minutes from Cipro metro station.

We left for an afternoon of historical sightseeing - the Roman Forum, the Spanish Steps (John Keats museum beside it turned out much more interesting), Trevi Fountain, Monumento a Vittorio Emmanuelle II (huge monument that looks like a building, but it's just a statue!) and the Colosseum (found also a huge bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius [old guy from Gladiator]), and then got a metro back to the hostel, where we cooked our own pasta in the kitchen, and settled into an evening of strange 66CL beers, chianti and multi-lingual conversations with Italians, an Australian, a Portuguese guy and a Brazilian who didn't look Brazilian.

The place was so homely that the co-owner was asking our opinion on what to wear out on the piss, and the other co-owner was drinking my beer!!


Not entirely sure why I look so grumpy in this picture.
I think the sun was in my eyes. Or maybe I was just hung over.

Aug 26

Got up a bit groggy at 8.45, later than planned, and went for a Vatican trip with just Julie, as Ollie wouldn't get out of bed! A queue three streets long to get into the Musei Vaticani moved swiftly as entry was free on the last Sunday of each month. We passed countless priceless artefacts on our way to the Sistine Chapel, which was fucking amazing. Walked around to Piazza San Pietro and heard music over the tannoy as we entered - magical! The inside of St Peter's Basilica is ornate, devout and massive - 60,000 can fit in! We saw a bit of a multi-lingual Mass, St Peter's tomb - the underground grotto where Popes are buried, but didn't see the Dome as the queue was too long.

Spent a second night chilling with hostellers and hostel staff alike, though the fun ended early as I was the only one with the foresight to buy beer, so it had to be split into three (albeit a big 'third' for me!) and Ollie had a headache, the poor devil!

Slept in until 11, though the checkout time was 10am (nice staff, again), and then toddled off to the train station to move on to Verona, a hitherto-unenvisaged stop that was easier train-wise than the planned stop, Rimini.

Posted by BillLehane 07:27 Archived in Italy Tagged churches art trains drink italy trips florence rome photos holidays vatican blog interrail vaticancity Comments (0)

Bill's European Adventure, 2001. Part 3: Nice, Monaco & Pisa


Julie and Ollie try to look like they belong in Monaco

Aug 20

Staggered into Nice at 8 am, finding all the hostels full, so we stayed in yet another one-star, this one the mankiest yet, with skanky wallpaper and a bidet in the corner of the room.

In no mood for sightseeing after the hell night train, so we lazed about. Had dinner at Farouche Montmartre - the waitress was from Tramore. The cheese pasta was nice but the condiment platter was manky. Wandered down to the beach for an after-dinner stroll - got offered hash in a park nearby!

Returned to the manky hotel to have gin and tonic - fell asleep rapidly after the sleepless night before.


Myself and Julie in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Aug 21

Rolled out of bed in our one-star craphole in Nice around 11, leaving our backpacks there despite the hope of staying somewhere else for the night. Took a gratis 20 min train to Monaco - wowed at the wooden-panelled train station platform walls and marble walls in the tunnel to the exit!

Monaco is more touristy than we expected with more tacky-coloured buildings, but the yachts in the harbour and the cars parked beside the mall said it best - rich town.

Saw all things fishy in the Musée Océanographique, and noticed red-and-white F1-style kerbs on the roadside.

Had lunch beside the station - nice pizza, but the nice coffee was IR£3.50 for a cup. Ouch!

Back in Nice, and had a great swim in the sea; the sound of the water cracking over the pebbles as it rolls back into sea is oddly captivating.

Had several 'pichets' (1.2l jugs of beer) in Jonathan's in beautiful Viel ville (Nice's Old Town). We even played bingo! It's a strange story...

Stayed in our first hostel, Backpacker Chez Patrick, in a 6-bed dorm. Met an Australian who was waiting two days for the next bus on his ticket to Venice - maybe we are lucky!


My water bottle got dinged in such a way as to make it lean like the tower in Pisa. I remember this amazed me at the time!

Aug 22

Left Nice on the 9.40 train to border town Ventimiglia - brief scare sated when we realised Vintimille on the timetable was the same place 'en francais'! Discovered a IR£3-ish supplement is payable on high-speed Inter-City trains in Italy - must try avoiding them. Had lunch in Genoa - a ham and cheese panini with a black espresso (I asked for white coffee) for IR£2.80 - happy surprise!

On to Pisa, and a one-star hotel with a religious vibe was found after a half-hour search - we're around the corner from the mind-boggling Leaning Tower. The Cathedral beside it is almost as impressive too. Had a three-course meal, including a gorgeous bacon and egg flavoured starter spaghetti, for IR£11! Julie haggled almost a third off the price of a Senegalese bongo drum at a market - IR£20 down to IR£14. In my convent cell (hotel room) sweating in the 31-degree heat listening to Texas on Italian radio!

Posted by BillLehane 10:12 Archived in France Tagged travel pisa nice student monaco interrail Comments (0)

Photoblog: New Zealand's scenic south

15 views of Central Otago and surrounds



Sunset, somewhere on the road from Christchurch to Dunedin.


Lake Wakatipu, Kingstown


On the waterfront, Queenstown


Amisfield Winery, Central Otago


Rush hour, Aramoana


Banks of the Arrowtown river that served as the Ford of Bruinen in The Lord of the Rings


Outside Middlemarch on route 87 in the area where Rohan scenes were filmed for The Lord of the Rings


Rocky areas of Middlemarch were used as filming locations for both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies.


Aramoana, aka “The Spit”, Dunedin


Otago Peninsula


Taiaroa Head, Dunedin


Aramoana, aka “The Spit”, Dunedin


Taiaroa Head, Dunedin


Looking to Dunedin from Taiaroa Head


Looking out on the Pacific Ocean from Otago Peninsula

Posted by BillLehane 10:55 Archived in New Zealand Tagged mountains queenstown scenery south photos dunedin kiwi newzealand hobbit lordoftherings taiaroa middlemarch kingstown Comments (0)

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