Edinburgh, Scotland

22 – 23 September 2018

A one hour flight from Amsterdam had us arrive in Edinburgh just before 10.00pm, to a temperature of just 2 degrees. We pre-arranged for Sun Transfers to pick us up and take us to our accommodation.

We booked Grand Harbour Apartments in Leith, located about 20 minutes from Edinburgh Old Town. The location is similar to Fremantle Harbour or Port Coogee, with multiple high rise accommodation and self serviced short stay apartments.

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After a comfortable nights sleep, we walked about 7 minutes down the road to a full breakfast at Brewers Fayre where the kids ate free. Little do they know that the kids eat more than me!

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We only had a day to explore Edinburgh so after breakfast we caught an Uber to Edinburgh Castle. We’d bought our tickets when we were in Amsterdam so we didn’t miss out. A tour of the castle was on Mark’s bucket list and it didn’t disappoint.

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Our Uber driver was great and very informative, pointing out landmarks and fun facts along the way.

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Edinburgh Castle is very impressive. Perched high on Castle Rock overlooking the City; it’s hard to look away from its stature. Picturing its inhabitants and the life they must have led over some 1100 years is hard to imagine.

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After a walk around the Castle and having some photos taken against its beautiful backdrop, we made our way down the hill and after a quick bite to eat, we took a stroll through Princes Street Gardens and the town before catching an Uber back to the apartment to pack and head back to Waverley Station to catch the train to Kings Cross, London.

I got chatting to a lady over breakfast who informed me that, if there are any spare seats in first class, then you can take them and just pay the difference, which we did (an extra £25 each). With unlimited drinks and snacks plus super comfy seats, this was well worth the additional cost for the 4-hour journey.

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We arrived in London around 10.45pm and caught a cab to our London accommodation.

I’m so excited and happy to finally be in England. With half my family living here, it’s going to be so great to catch up with a fair few of them in a weeks time. But until then, we have a week of London to enjoy 😊

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Amsterdam, The Netherlands

20 – 22 September 2018

The first part of this blog post is about our departure from Italy – which was a nightmare! Who would’ve known it would be so hard to get a ride to the airport! My advice to you – if you are travelling to Rome, order your transfers as early as you can. Before you leave home, if possible.

We searched for an Uber the night before we were due to leave which turned out to be quite expensive so we didn’t book it, thinking the price would go down instead of up. Big mistake. Huge.

As there are five of us with five large suitcases, 5 ports and 5 bags, we need a van to get places which turns out is not easy to find in Rome. After attempting to flag down a taxi – many of whom drove straight past us once they saw all our luggage – we finally managed to get a one-way 45-minute Uber ride to the airport for €186 ($300!) That price hurt deep!

Because of the delay in getting a transfer, we then missed our flight to Amsterdam, meaning we had to cancel our non-refundable flight, searching high and low across many airlines for a new flight which we finally booked at a cost of $2,500. Ouch!!

What a shit of a day.

But then … we arrived in Amsterdam. Beautiful Amsterdam. ❤🌷🇱🇺

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From the minute we got off the plane I knew I would love it here. Schiphol Airport is amazing – it’s like a city all it’s own. The train and bus terminal is connected to the airport and Schiphol Plaza Shopping Centre is attached also. Violet saw H&M straight away so she was happy. It’s impressive to say the least!

Because of the dramas early on in the day, we also had to cancel our non-refundable transfers; but managed to flag down a taxi to take us to our hotel.

We arrived at Hotel de Looier five hours later than originally scheduled. Hotel de Looier is located on Derde Looiersdwarsstraat 75, which is centrally located within the canal district.

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We dumped our bags in our rooms (again, we had a quadruple room and Kristi had her own across the hall) and headed out for a walk along the canals.

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The amount of bikes in Amsterdam is extraordinary. It can be quite daunting to cross the street as you not only have to look for cars but bikes also, plus they drive on the opposite side of the road to us.

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Coffee shops are everywhere and the smell of marijuana is overwhelming. We walked past many but didn’t go in.

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Dinner was at La Festa Pizzeria. The tortellini I ordered was amazing!

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We were grateful for an early night after the big day we had. My head hit the pillow at 8.15pm and I didn’t wake till morning. I needed that sleep!

Friday was our only full day in Amsterdam so again, we had to make the most of it.

Over an early morning breakfast in the hotel dining room, we searched through many pamphlets and brochures of things we wanted to do and came up with a list.

We bought a 24/hr ticket for the Hop On/Hop Off boat from our hotel reception. There are two separate boats that go in opposite directions through the canals. We bought a ticket for the blue line which has seven stops. We walked along the canals towards Stop No. 3 which is outside Anne Frank Huis. We were unable to get tickets for this tour as it was sold out so after a quick lunch at Pancakes Amsterdam – and FaceTime with Mum back home – we got on the Hop On/Hop Off boat for a trip through the canals. We were provided headphones for the journey to learn all about the history of Amsterdam. It’s a great way to see the city and the gorgeous homes, shops and buildings that line the canals.

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We disembarked the boat at Stop No. 2 as we had bought tickets for This is Holland, a simulated experience that has you flying over Holland. No joke, this was one of the best things we have done so far! It was really educational – for us and the kids – and so much fun! If you ever visit Amsterdam, you must do it.

By 4.45pm, we were back on the boat heading towards home. We made our way to Moco Museum for a Banksy exhibition. For those who don’t know who Banksy is, he is an English graffiti artist who is famous for his political satirical pieces which he graffities all over the world in complete anonymity.

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Then the wet weather set in. We ended the day with dinner at BurgerMeester before heading home for the night to rest our weary feet.

We started Saturday with breakfast at the hotel and then a walk to the Flower Market. The canal district is absolutely beautiful but it’s very easy to get disoriented. We took the “scenic route” past a chocolate shop because we’d be mad not to, right?

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The Flower Market was good but very busy. I would love to see it in Tulip Season.

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It was very cold today – it felt like Melbourne weather. We caught an Uber to Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s largest park. We only had a very short time before our transfer was picking us up for the airport.

We hired bikes from A-Bikes for a quick ride around the park. I’m so glad we did. It was such a great experience to be able to ride like the locals.

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We were back at the airport by 2.40pm, checked our baggage, then headed for lunch and shopping before our flight to Edinburgh.

Thanks Amsterdam, you were everything and more ❤

* Sorry folks, we didn’t visit the Red Light District so I have no saucy stories for you.

Rome, Italy

18 – 19 September 2018

Our 5.30pm flight from Perth to Abu Dhabi on Monday went off without a hitch, except for the passengers in front of us reclining their seats so far back that (luckily) there were spare seats down the front that we were able to relocate to. Violet stayed where she was and managed to have a whole four seats to herself for the 11 hour journey to Abu Dhabi!

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We got into Abu Dhabi at 1am – where we experienced a 32 degree temperature! Our luggage was checked through to Rome so we made our way to the Premier Inn which is an airport hotel. After quickly picking up some McDonald’s we were checked in by 1.45am and asleep by 2.30am, with our alarms set for 6.30am.

That four hour sleep felt like a full 8 hours sleep which made our decision to get an airport hotel a great one! It was the best $100 we spent. We would not have gotten such a good rest had we just hung around the airport while in transit.

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Our six-hour flight from Abu Dhabi had us arrive in Rome at 1pm. Violet wasn’t feeling the best on the trip (she gets travel sickness) so she and Mark got moved to the front of the plane to give her more space – just in case.

Also, FYI for all you crocheters – I managed to take a crochet hook onto the plane and crocheted for most of the journey. I’m making a “holiday blanket”.

After a slight mix up with our transfers which had us waiting at the airport for well over an hour, we were taken to our accommodation.

We literally feared for our lives on this journey! Travelling over 150km/hr, I’m sure the driver thought he was driving a Ferrari – not a minivan! It was white knuckles all the way!

Our accommodation was BB Home77 – a bed and breakfast-style apartment. Mark, the kids and I had a quadruple room and Kristi, my sister, had her own room. The rooms are very comfortable and very accommodating. There are 6 separate rooms that all share a communal “hang out” space in the foyer where you can have unlimited snacks, breakfast, croissants, tea, coffee and orange juice.

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Dinner on our first night was at an Italian restaurant called Da Giggetto Pizzeria which is a five minute walk from our accommodation. We had some yummy pasta, cheeseburgers and pizza.

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Wednesday was our only full day in Rome so we had to make the most of it! For some reason, my body clock woke me up at 4.15am.

We heard someone in the other room leaving early at 5am. By 5.30am, Mark and I had made ourselves a coffee and a croissant and studied the map that the hotel manager gave us, pinpointing all the sites and bus routes.

While researching information about the Colosseum and getting our tickets, it seemed we had left it too late and they were sold out! Why did we not pre-book them?! I had another search and managed to find 5 tickets for 5.05pm.

We left our hotel rooms at 8.15am and headed downstairs to Tribeca Cafe for breakfast. An American Breakfast set us back €10 and we were served the prettiest coffees that were decorated with chocolate syrup as opposed to chocolate powder like back home.

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Side note: as lovely as the Italians are, the men do like to ogle. And they’re not shy about it either!

We walked to the tobacconist on the corner to buy our MetroBus tickets. These cost €1.50 each and are valid for 100 minutes from their first validation.

After waiting for half an hour at the bus stop, we caught the No. 62 bus and headed down Via del Tritone.

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After six stops, we got off and after a very short walk, we saw it. The Trevi Fountain. Wow, the fountain was beautiful! There were so many people there but it had a calm, peaceful feeling about it. After some photos, we each got a gelato – I was told by a co-worker that the Pistachio gelato was a must and it didn’t disappoint! We sat back and took in the atmosphere and the total “are we actually here?” experience.

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After half a day of shopping, walking ( lots of walking!) and eating, we started our 30 min journey to the Colosseum. It was so great to walk there because we got to see and experience so much more than we would have seen if we had’ve caught the bus.

It was amazing to see the Colosseum. Australia just doesn’t have the history of countries like Italy so it really is something else to be here and see it for yourself. Statues, columns and monuments are at every turn.

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We were early to our designated timeslot so after a lengthy wait, we entered the Colosseum just after 5pm.

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The sheer size of this structure is jaw dropping. To know that you are stepping in the same footsteps as people did many years ago is not gone unnoticed. I will say though that the Colosseum is very much a tourist attraction. There were at least three thousand people in the Colosseum when we were there.

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We stayed for about an hour before heading over to the MetroTrain to make our way home.

Three stops and a short walk saw us back at our hotel room to rest our weary feet. Being a tourist is hard work!

We opted to have dinner in on our last night in Rome so we picked up some freshly sliced meats, cheese and Turkish bread from the local supermarket. Bellissima!

It’s an early check out tomorrow, bound for Amsterdam 😊