Friday, June 24, 2011

Europe 2011: Venice, Italy

May 31st - June 2nd

Our next stop was Venizia (Venice). We took a flight via Easyjet. Easyjet ni adik-beradik Air Asia jugak la, low cost carriage :) But instead of kena berjalan ke aircraft, there's a bus service that will took us there. For those who paid for Speedy Service, they were seated separately from the rest. Hence, masa bas berhenti dekat aircraft, they were allowed to go down first and choose their seats. We touched down in Venice early morning, took a bus ride to Piazzale Roma. It is the main island of which the main attractions are. Bus ride is the cheapest way to get to the island, Eu10 for 2 people.

In Venice we checked in at Hotel Guerrini, very close proximity with Venice St. Lucia train station. So far, part of our plan was to find hotels nearest possible to the train station. Hotel Guerrini ni not bad juga, rated 3 stars. Ada free wifi, breakfast included and reasonable price too. Upon checking in and freshen up, we took our breakfast (in exchange with our last day breakfast which we will miss due to early morning train) and later started our Venizia exploration.

With the city map in hand, we walked around to find a halal takeaway restaurant which was said to be nearby our place. The restaurant said to be serving halal kebab as commented by a fellow Malaysian online. Pusing2 jumpa la restaurant tu, which was not far from Sofitel Hotel. Unfortunately, it was closed! The review was done in 2009 anyway. We then continued walking to Rialto. On our way, we found 3 more halal takeaway restaurant/shop. Bought ourselves a grande kebab for Eu4.50, cukup utk share 2 orang.

Walking around Venice can be challenging because of the uneven surface and narrow roads. Alternatively, you can always use water bus (Eu1.05 per ride) or water taxi (mahal!! cost varies on destinations). But it gets easier if we know the tricks and routes. Always use the "bus station / pier (spelled Per in Italian) as your navigation point. Contohnya, kalau nak ke Rialto, we follow the Per Rialto sign printed on the walls. Be alert since some of the signs are only hand written.

Rialto is one of the main attraction where rows of shops offers wide range of souveniors and stuffs. Rialto bridge was said to be the first bridge connecting two major islands in Venice where the Grand Canal flows under it. One thing yg kami perasan, penjual kat sini tak berapa suka kita pegang2 nak belek2 barang or baju dia. Kalau nak, bagitau diorang, diorang akan ambik utk kita. Price varies from one shop to another. Take your time to really browse for the best deal.

Some of the local crafts are Murano Glass and ball mask yg mcm dlm cerita2 Italian lama pakai, ala2 dlm movie Casanova tu. Be careful kalau nak beli Murano Glass ni, some are fake made in China. The best way is to get it inside a Murano Glass shop itself, which bersepah kat Venice ni. Cuma harga dia takde murah mana pun. Some shop boleh ship anywhere.

San Marco / St. Mark Square is another major attraction. Huge chapel, clock tower dgn bell tower yg jadi tumpuan utama tourist semua kat sini. Kalau kita naik either one of the towers, we will be able to see Venice from aerial view. Nak naik bell tower ni will cost you around Eu8 sorang. San Marco itself has a lot to offer. Souvenior shops and cafe along the sidewalks pun ada mcm2. However, the price around here is a bit on the high side. Maybe because of point of attraction dia jadi overpriced. Close by to San Marco there is a shopping district. You can find labels like LV, Chanel, Zegna, betul2 within the area. Hard Rock Cafe pun close by.

Another very important point about San Marco is the Tax Refund Office is also here. Generally, for any purchase more than Eu150 within the same store is entitled for tax refund. Range will vary between each EU country. Banyak membeli, banyak la dapat tax refund. You can opt for cash in return or to be credited to your credit card.

On our 2nd day in Venice, we just repeated the same places. But we used different route, Sestiere Cannaregio to get to Rialto, which was much easier. With this route we found Disney store which was just around the corner from Rialto bridge. Didn't get anything for the kids here because we planned to go to the Disney store at Paris Disneyland ;) Since it was our last day in Venice, we bought few souvenirs and pasta ingredients at Rialto. Later for dinner, we had seafood pasta again. Never get tired of pasta and pizza whenever you are in Italy!!!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Europe 2011: Departure - Roma, Italia

May 28th- Departure

After a very long and detailed plan, mostly done by mrs. mama, the day has finally come. Air tickets were redeemed since Dec 2010 from Malaysian Airlines Enrich points collected over the years, cukup la nak dapat 2 return tickets to Europe on Economy class. On Friday, the day prior to the departure, dapat call from MAS office informing the flight that we were supposedly to be boarding to Rome directly was overly booked. Mula-mula suspense la juga, since we have confirmed our flights since December last year. We were informed by MAS Office that we will need to reroute to Amsterdam with an upgrade on Business class, and from Amsterdam to Rome on Economy via KLM. Siapa nak tolak rezeki with the free upgrade?? hehehe...

Upon checked in at KLIA, then we were informed the changes was not reflected in the system and the tickets were need to be reissued. Mana la orang nak tau! MAS Office did not informed us regarding the reissuance of the tickets. We let the lady to do the necessary which took about an hour. Hati dah berdebar, suspense takut we won't be able to board the flight and all the arrangements have been made. At last, Alhamdulillah we got everything sorted out. So, pengajarannya kat sini, lain kali kalau orang dari MAS Office called for any last minute changes, clarify whether we need the tickets to be reissued or not. Nasib baik juga la MAS Office emailed flight itinerary and we got it printed out. At least it was being documented.

Finally boarded MH014 to Amsterdam. It was a long hours flight, but luckily we had a good rest and meal on board. Tido all the way, since we departed at midnight senang je nak tido ;)

Day 1 - May 29th (Rome, Italy)

Sampai di Schiphol International Airpot, Amsterdam in the morning. It was around 7am, the weather was kinda cold. Airport was busy considering its still early. Penat berpusing cari gate and ticketing counter to ensure that we get our boarding pass for next route. Amsterdam to Rome was a very short flight, about 2 hours journey. Time difference with Malaysia about 6 hours later (GMT +1). Same for both Amsterdam and Rome.

We boarded the 9.40am flight and landed at FCO around noon. Took a train to Roma Termini. Leonardo Express costs Eu14 per person, while the local train is Eu8. We bought the Eu8 tix but boarded the Leonardo express. Nasib takde org check ticket :D But nama je express, the train ride was worst than our komuter! hmmm...

Sampai Roma Termini, the aircity platform agak terkebelakang jugak. So have to walk and drag the bags agak jauh. Boleh je nak lalu ikut dlm building, but since tak tau... terikut la jalan luar. From Roma Termini we just walked to the hotel, Mari 2 (not recommended!, sila cari hotel lain yea...). After checking in and freshen up... we went to the Colosseo. It was just 2 metro stops from Roma Termini. Daily metro tix costs us Eu4 per person, with unlimited access to Metro, bus and tram. Nearby the Colosseo, is the Roman Forum. We didn't go in. Malas nak menapak! The weather was hot! Mrs. Mama siap berpayung bagai! Btw, Rome city is dirty!!!

Italy Cup - Inter Milan-Palermo
Kebetulan hari kami sampai Rome ada Coppa Italia Final between Inter Milan dgn Palermo. Penuh bandar Milan dgn fans from both teams. Berarak sambil menyanyi merata tempat.  Mula2 takut gak, kot la ada gaduh ke apa nanti, maklum la finals. Tapi they were very supportive, takde la mcm nak provoke each other team. In fact masa kat Colosseo, ada yg siap ambik gambar sekali.

Palermo fans

Fountain de Trevi
After walking around Colleseo, Roman Forum dan sekitarnya, we took the Metro to Barberini, the nearest metro station to Fountain de Trevi. Since Hard Rock Cafe is within the same stop with Fountain de Trevi, we decided to make a quick stop at HRC Rome to get our HRC shot glass. Dah alang2 sampai, apa salahnya tambah collections. On our way to Fountain de Trevi, we decided to have dinner at one of the restaurant by the road side. It was a bit fancy. But the food were damn good! Fountain de Trevi, as expected full of tourists. We didn't throw a coin, and didn't go down to the fountain. Please be careful around this area. Byk review pasal pick pockets. Keep all your belonging close to you. Kat sini kami snap2 pictures, then we walked to the Spanish Steps. Mr. Ayah was having allergic reaction, and by the time sampai Spanish Steps, he couldn't take it anymore so we rushed to Spagna metro station and went back to our hotel. That ends our day 1 in Rome.

Fountain de Trevi

Day 2 - May 30th

Vatican City
The following day, we checked out from the hotel, dragged our luggages to the Termini Station and stored our luggages there. Cost about Eu4 for the 1st 5 hours, Eu0.60 per hour for additional hours not exceeding 12 hours and Eu0.20 upon the hours. Kita boleh store up to max 5 days kat situ.

Dah simpan semua bags, we queued at the Eurail Aid office to book our reservation seats for train Venice-Milan, Milan-Lugano, and Basel-Paris. The Eurail pass we got months earlier will not guarantee us a seat if the train we need to ride requires a reservation. For Basel-Paris, the seats were fully booked. So, we have to reroute our journey to Bern, and take the train to Paris from Bern. Luckily from Basel to Bern, the train doesn't require any reservation.

Eurail pass - bought in March 2011

After settled with the reservations (which costs us in total Eu72), we took the daily Metro tix and off to Vatican City. Since Termini Station ni kira their centralized station, so senang la nak access public transport. Along the way to Vatican City after the Metro ride, we encountered with lots of agents yg offer tix to access Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museum etc. Some were friendly, some were a bit pushy. Buat tak tau aje. It is about 4 blocks walking distance from the Metro station.

Vatican City was really busy. Queue nak masuk the museum and Sistine Chapel was long!! We decided not to go in since our interest are not really into history and all sorts. We just took a stroll around Vatican City and snapped few pictures. There were so many people around this area, and that time of the year the weather is really HOT!!

From Vatican City we walked to the nearby old fortress, Castel Sant' Angelo. But there was nothing much as we walked around the fortress. Around that area there were rows of tents with locals selling stuffs around, ala2 mcm flea market. Towards the end, we stop for a slice of pizza. Kat sini when you're talking about a slice of pizza, the portion is huge!! Most of the time kami share aje.

Spanish Steps

Lepas dah tak tau nakpi mana, we went to Spanish Steps again, since the day before tak sempat nak explore kawasan sekitar coz terpaksa rushed back to the hotels due to kegatalan melampau from the allergy reaction. Spent the day until bosan at Spanish Steps. Via dei Condotti pun dkt sini je, here u can get Gucci, LV, Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo, etc...

Via dei Condotti

Since we have checked out from the hotel yg tak best tu, after we finished our ronda2 around Rome, we picked up our bags at Termini Station, headed to the Airport that very evening. We spent the night at the airport!! Thing we never did before! Sejukkk malam tu! Sakit2 badan tahan sejuk! Ramai jugak org lain tido kat airport. An interesting experience but we will not repeat it again, unless terpaksa. The reason why we did was because our flight to Venice is at 6.50am in the morning (check in at 5am after the door to terminal 3 open). Apart from tak nak spend time kat hotel tu, we dare not risk early morning taxi that may cost a lot (40euro kalau tak silap).

Next, Venezia....
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