Italy – Positano and the Amalfi Coast

Coming from the dusty cobblestone streets of Rome, the quick hour train to Naples is your last city stop before heading out to the peaceful coastal playground of the Amalfi Coast. We were lucky to have found a really helpful AirBnB who arranged our taxi from Naples to Positano, our home base for the next 5 days. We would suggest reaching out to your accommodation to do the same. It’s very unlikely they would want your stay starting off by being Robbed by some unmarked taxi, so will provide good transport.

Our AirBnB was a short walk from our drop off point, down a few steps, and up a few more, you will soon get the theme of Positano. We cannot say enough positive things about our accommodation and more so for our host. The B&B VENUS Inn Residence is a beautiful B&B and Gippy is an outstanding host. (It’s worth it just for the breakfast, including handpicked oranges from his garden)

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As for most day ones, it’s really about finding your feet and getting the lay of the land. We quickly understood we had not put enough work on the Stair Master at the gym. Where ever you stay will include some serious stair work. An evening at any of the restaurants will provide stunning views of the house lights scattered across the mountainside and calm waters. Make sure you get a room with a view, it makes that late night vino on the balcony that much more relaxing.

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There are travels where every moment can be spent following trip advisors top 10 things to see and wear your flips down. Other travels can be like our day 2 in Positano, not a care in the world and the only choice to make, should we have the garlic shrimp for lunch, or just skip straight to the Gelato. Positano allows these days to happen far too easily. There’s a great coastal walk just by the boat ramp on the beach to accompany your Gelato and wind your way to tiny little coves along the way.

If you start planning your trip to the Amalfi Coast, the one spot you will constantly hear is the town of Sorrento. This is the biggest town in the area so we planned our day three to take the bus from Positano to Sorrento. This journey is not for the weak stomached! If the fear of tumbling down the side of a 1000 foot cliff face as the bus speeds around hairpin turns doesn’t get you, the endless winding roads for 40 agonising minutes will turn your stomach upside down. (This was a battle against my stomach for the whole ride, lovely views when I could get the energy to peek out the window).

Coming from the peaceful, tranquility of Positano, Sorrento could have been Times Square. Everyone had heard this was the place to be. There’s no real beach to walk along, just a bustling marina with the many European tourists who found Sorrento in the guide-book. This is the town where you stock up on your high-end shopping and Amalfi coast souvenirs. Pleasant enough, but highly suggest making your base camp in one of the smaller towns outside Sorrento… Somewhere like, Positano maybe. We used the “Purposely Wandering Splurge fund” to opt for the taxi return. Our stomachs thanked us, until we crammed it with pizza dough and rigatoni.

Having Scootered around Bali, (I did not, I just held on for dear life) we thought hiring a scooter on day three to zoom around the Amalfi coast would be the ideal transportation. After Jackie took one lap of Positano on the scooter with the owner of the company on the back, it was soon clear we were not Scooter ready for the Italian roads. Positano Car Service  were a great company and gave us the alternative option of a convertible smart car. This was much more our style.

This one is obvious, but a “Purposely Wandering Must See”. Absolutely stunning, every bend brought a new breathtaking view. We’ll let the photos do it justice! Wind your way to the town of Amalfi for some lunch, and have no shame in pulling over at every bend as the view gets better and better. If you have the time, make your way up the mountain to Castello. Worth every terrifying turn with, you guessed it, spectacular views and a charming piazza. Take. It. Slow! Depending if you want the endless views of the sunset to end your time in the Amalfi coast, or beach side dining with the lapping of the waves, Positano has it all.

If you have an early flight out of Leonardo da Vinci international, as we did,  we suggest spending a night in the airport coastal town, Fiumicino. Minutes away from the airport, and if you get there early enough, a beautiful stroll along the beach to say Ciao to your Italian adventures.

A tough place to say goodbye to, The Amalfi coast checks a lot of boxes that we look for in our perfect travel experience, Positano in particular. Small town living, oozing of Italian charm. Delightfully delicious. Another adventure, another lifetime of memories in our minds, in our hearts, and our phones every shortening photo storage.

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Italy – Rome in 5 days

Italy!!! A destination we had been excited to visit together for a very long time, it finally made it to the top of the list. (We have a very long list, as I’m sure all you travel dreamers out there do). Knowing how many beautiful destinations there are to visit in Italy, we didn’t want to spread our selves too thin. We decided to split our 10 days of travel in Italy in half , first 5 spent…. Roaming round Rome….

Rome is a strangely set up City, for the most part you can Wander Purposely (You’ll catch the theme 🙂 ) and you’ll cover a lot of the city, hitting bright, lively Piazza after Piazza. Other attractions and sights take the use of the Rome public transport, which consists of the local buses or the very simple Metro system, Line A and Line B. Take your walking shoes, those ancient roads take their toll.

First day wandering, lead us to the famous Piazza Navona. Usually we would try to say stay away from these heavily tourist areas, but this square sets the Rome travels perfectly. Cobble stones, Alfresco dining, local artists and a couple of fountains out of a storybook. We sat down for our first Pizza and Peroni in the square and quickly realized all that instagram photo preparation worked on before arriving, was about to quickly be undone.

After a pasta and pizza fueled coma, onto day 2. Get on the metro, Line B, and head straight for “Colosseo Station”. As you can imagine, this will drop you right at the site of one of the most famous historic attractions in all of Europe, The Colosseum. If you can ignore the selfie stick street sellers and the hoards of tourists, The Colosseum is truly spectacular. Highly suggest taking up one of the kids selling tours on the street, You may have to endure the information being repeated in three different languages, but you will skip the lines and you’ll get information on the Roman Forum which we found just as interesting.

Energized by visiting the magnificent Colosseum, back in the centre of Rome you can wander for hours, until your feet finally give up on you and more bruschetta is needed. Every corner you turn will bring a new tiny slice of Piazza. Occasionally you’ll stumble across grander squares as we did when we found the Pantheon. The ancient Roman Temple is splendid inside, and well worth seeking out. This is a crowded area, and with that brings the danger of pick pockets. After reading so much about Rome pick pockets, we concluded we’ll be coming home without the lint from our pockets, but really it’s just being aware of your surroundings. I’m sure giving in to the fanny pack (BumBag) would keep you safe.

After a couple of days in the city, we took day three to venture to a nearby town, Anguuillara. Just over an hour outside of Rome, using the Italia rail, was the quaint little village. A romantic walk along the lakeside, stopped of at the local market for some homemade honey and back into City living. There’s no better way to get back into the thick of than the one and only Trevi Fountain. I’m sure the day time view is lovely, but the evening was magical. The Rome fountain lighting guy is extremely talented.

By Day 4 you’ll have your routine down and have your favourite little coffee shop to stop for the morning espresso and pastry. What you’ll learn about us is that we love coffee! What better country to be in. All espresso’d, we would recommend from the center of Rome, a short bus ride (or an epic walk as we found out) to Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo. A wonderful piece of Rome’s history. While your near this area, cross the river, you will find some ancient winding streets with restaurants and bars in the neighborhood of Trastevere. We had not come across too much in the tourist books about this area, you can lose yourself in the street music, and outside dining and drinks.

Our final day in Rome and the train wasn’t until the afternoon, so we can positively say if you have a few spare moments in the morning before catching your train to the Amalfi coast, The Vatican is not the attraction for this day. It was not hugely high on our list, but when in Rome and all that good stuff. The lines were outrageous, devout Catholics, and other non catholic sightseers were lined up, waiting for a glimpse of the Pope, or Tom Hanks filming the Da Vinci code 4. A quick wander around the Vatican wall, a photo in front of St Peters Cathedral and we left the ancient city feeling accomplished.

Rome is authentic, in the way it is not trying to put a shiny gloss on its streets and people for tourists. The roads are worn, the walls are dusty and the people are elegantly abrupt. These city attributes create a beautifully, balanced destination. From crowded, “selfie stick selling” attractions, to local espresso filled coffee shops with a “Ciao Ciao” and the classic Italian “Puffy”, brightly colored jacket. Arrivederci Rome!! We will be back!

For more on our Italian adventure, visit our post on Positano and the Amalfi Coast

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Best of Switzerland in 6 days

This tiny landlocked country seems to get over looked in the European tourism track but there is plenty of gems to explore.

We took it upon ourselves to find the best places in 6 brisk days of February. There is certainly more to see than anyone can fit into that small of a timeline but it’s a balance of seeing as much as you can yet taking the time to enjoy each place to the fullest. It’s a vacation after all!

(Andy’s Thoughts) (Jackie’s Thoughts) 

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Day 1: Flying into Geneva… really early

The last 30 minutes of the flight into Geneva are breathtaking. That is if you are lucky enough to have a clear sky. Our descent was slightly cloudy but it was still a dramatic view with the peaks popping through the blanket of clouds like little islands.

Every stereotype we had ever heard about Switzerland was colorfully and loudly shouted in our face as we walked past the billboards leaving the airport. We had never wanted a Swiss Watch more in our lives, they know what we came to see. Thankfully we resisted.

We took this day to get our bearings with where our hotel is and the distance to the city’s attractions. Accommodation can be pricy in Geneva so we recommend figuring out what you are willing to compromise on to get the price that fits your budget- location to center, quality of the hotel, or the possible “friendliness” of staff. Knowing what you value most will make the selection of hotels a bit less stressful.

We don’t mind small rooms, the whole intention of travel is to be out in the destination exploring. We stayed at Hotel de Geneve, this was a convenient distance between both the train station and the historic attractions. We would note that the bathroom was definitely a new one for us. It seemed as it was transported from an RV. The view from the balcony was great but expect some street noise.

We wanted to fully immerse ourselves in the “Swiss” culture… or the tourist version of it. We dinned at the most stereotypical restaurant we could find- Restaurant Edelweiss. This had the whole shabang! Though our typical instinct is to avoid these tourist traps, this was definitely worth it. They had an extremely lively Swiss band with accordions,  singing and alphorns (those traditional, unreasonably long and loud horns). The food was what we would consider as traditional Swiss… big pots of liquid aromatic cheese and a whole loaf of bread to dip. (I finished one-off myself… talk about food coma!)

Sometimes the best thing to do in a new city is to follow your nose and get lost. There is an active historic center of the city that has your modern shops along side of ancient cathedrals. We just happened upon Saint-Pierre Cathedral. Slightly unassuming from the courtyard but once entering- breathtaking.

We climbed the million steps to the bell tower (actually 157… felt like a million). 

The views are worth every step. You can see the whole city including the Jet d’Eau (enormous fountain).

Once we left we noticed a stairwell on the outside of the facade. An hour later, we emerged amazed, this was definitely the best attraction in Geneva. This was the archaeological site of the original construction of the cathedral- 3rd century BC… bones buried within and all! Highly recommend this for your Geneva itinerary.

Day 2: Scenic rail trip to picturesque Montreux

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Knowing that this part of our journey was going to hug the beautiful coastline of Lake Geneva, we used our “Splurge Fund” (This fund normally pays for one special experience on our travels). We booked ourselves on the Panoramic View train, in English I believe this is “Big Window Train”. We highly recommend this choice.

The train winds around Lake Geneva, every bend brought a new beautiful view. Snow topped mountains, backdropping a crystal blue lake, quaint little houses with those classic swiss shutters which seem fake. The thing that makes it better, “Can I get you two a drink?” asked the Swiss angel wearing an apron. “dos vin silvo play”. (I don’t quite have the romantic flair to my French)

Just an (unfortunately short) hour journey later, with views in your memories for life, you’ll arrive in the charming town of Montreaux. One thing you should know about Montreaux,  there is a wonderful public Elevator that takes you from  outside the Train station down to the lakeside. We found this out too late after winding down a road that is steep enough to host olympic downhill skiing.

Our lovely lakeside accommodation with balcony views of Lake Geneva and mountain backdrop was“Hotel Splendid Montreux”. The customer service is fantastic here. The daytime receptionist will give you directions, suggestions and especially the most cost-effective way to get up the mountain. The main attraction you’ll find from Montreux is the 22 minute scenic cogwheel train that takes you up 2000 metres into the clouds to a skiers and snowboarders paradise (We are purely jealous spectators due to fear of broken limbs). We found asking at our hotel for train departure times was extremely helpful.

Once at the top, you will find a standard, overly priced restaurant, but the views are absolutely priceless. We bought a couple of beers and sat back and enjoyed a little taste of heaven.

Descending to less ear popping heights, crowded by 100 tiny french children, a quick walk along the lake front is a good way to end your day, you might even bump into a certain Mr. Mercury. A glass of wine back at the hotel and goodnight Beautiful Montreux.

It’s not a trip to Montreaux, Switzerland without visiting Chateau de Chillon. From the center of Montreaux it’s about a 40 minute beautiful lakeside walk. We were pushed for time so jumped on the bus that drops you right outside 10 minutes later. This really takes you back to a medieval time and is wonderfully informative. A “Purposely Wandering Must Visit”.

Day 3: Montreaux to Interlaken

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With your travel Swiss Travel Pass in hand, we would recommend checking the timetable and planning to catch the Panoramic train again for this journey. We could endlessly talk about the mountain views, and blissful, meandering through tiny Swiss villages, but we’ll leave a few photos for that.

It’s about 2 hours from Montreux to Interlaken, enjoying the above scenic journey. The Town, as its name suggests, is between two large lakes. What the name doesn’t suggest are the giant Swiss mountains that surround the town, giving it a lovely charming, hidden gem feeling.

Jackie has visited Interlaken previously while studying abroad in Italy. She had highly recommended an activity of Night Sledding. Gently sledding down the mountain, with only the glow of the moon to guide you.

This..was…Terrifying! You get taken up the mountain in a van by a Scandinavian adrenalin junkie, holding on for dear life, a shaky cable cart to the summit, where you realize the only way down is a shiny metal sled. The instructors give you a quick talk about feet up fast, feet down slow, left and right feet turn and off you go. After survival mode kicks in and you get the hang of it, the enjoyment begins. By the time you get to the bottom you’ll want Sven to drive you back to the top and start again. This trip included a fondue and beer after, Great adventure! Visit OUTDOOR INTERLAKEN  to find out more. Be sure to book in advance, those adrenaline junkies book up fast.

If you like to hang with the locals and get to hear the real night sledding stories, once your feet are safely back in town, head to the Barracuda Cafe and Bar.

Day 4: Exploring the Mountains of Interlaken

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Interlaken has a great network of cable cars, trains and gondolas to spend the day hopping from mountain to mountain. We recommend taking the train to Lauterbrunnen and exploring the Jungfrau region. From here you can cable cart your way to the Highest mountain peak in the area, Schilthorn, towering a mighty 2970metres high. There is a restaurant at the very top and a sky walk for the views. However, if you are feeling peckish we would suggest a bowl of fries to save some pennies for a beer at the bottom.

It can take some time waiting for trains, and the trains stopping for no real reason (you have to believe the train drivers have stopped for your safety, so trust the decision and enjoy the views) so plan your day out before you start exploring, as reaching every town in Jungfrau could be ambitious. (We found this out after we realized the fictional sounding town of Grimmelwald, which we planned to visit, was an hour west of our current bar location).

Hopefully you are lucky enough to visit Interlaken during one of their events on the green field in the middle of town. “Ice Magic” was taking place when we visited, food stalls, mulled wine, and… Curling ice rinks. Lovely way to end our time in Interlaken.

Interlaken will satisfy your touristy inclinations – chocolate making, cuckoo clocks, and glamorous watch buying. But it balances this with stunning 360 mountain views, charming locals and any extreme sport you can think of – skydiving, bungee jumping, canyon diving or paragliding (regularly see people landing in the center of town) This is a small town you can conquer in 2 days, or easily stay a week without getting bored.

Day 5: The final train ride into Zurich

The views never get old, if anything just grander each day. Switzerland is truly beautiful. Taking the train from Interlaken to Zurich allows you to make an hour or so stop in Lucerne. You can drop your bags off at the top of the train station to wander freely and purposely (see what we did there).

We had an hour in Lucerne so checked off a couple of the major tourist points. The Lion, you’ll find this in every tourist book, but a really understated, iconic statue. Hopefully you get a moment of peace to read the history and enjoy the serene park, we were not so fortunate. Kapellbrücke, the chapel bridge, the classic Lucerne postcard picture. Make sure you look up as you walk through to take in the historic paintings on the wooden frame. Then back on the train to finish the journey to Zurich.

We definitely struck gold on this trip with Hotels, and Zurich was no different. Hotel Du Theatre is a short walk from the train station but even shorter walk from the bars and restaurants of Niederdorfstrasse. This is on the other side of the river from the more historical and shopping area of Zurich. It becomes clear this city has a few colleges nearby from a quick stroll down this street, but the benefit of this is fantastic restaurants and bars. Highly recommend following your nose and settling in for a fantastic meal at one of the many options.

Day 6: That’s a mighty waterfall

Only an hour bus ride away from Zurich, with a quick bus change in the Game of Thrones named town of Winterthur, the Rhine Falls are an absolute must see. Before you have paid your minimal entrance fee, you can hear the mighty, crashing water pounding over the edge of the rocks. As you get closer it only gets louder. There are a number of viewing platforms to get those magical waterfall shots. From standing over the top watching from above, or being just feet away from the impact zone. This is an amazing excursion from Zurich to get out of the city and see nature at its powerful finest.

 

What an incredible Country. The old saying “Big things: Small Packages” has never been truer than describing the beautiful land of Fondue and Giant horns. There are of course even more hidden gems in Switzerland, and some not so hidden in the form of the giant iconic Matterhorn mountain, but for 6 days we felt the itinerary we followed got the best of this enchanting winter wonderland. We will absolutely be back to see the summer version.

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