Travels Around Europe: Part Three
Summer 2011 consisted of many things for me, but the best by far was a trip around France, Italy and the Netherlands. Travelling around Europe by train for a month with my boyfriend has left me with so many fantastic memories and I have been lucky enough to see the most beautiful places, some of which I am determined to return to one day. Here are a few brief notes from my time abroad and I hope that my experiences and photographs encourage you to visit these places and enjoy them as much as I did.
Our sole purpose of visiting Rimini on this trip was to escape the hectic days of sightseeing and walking, and instead have a few days of calm on the beautiful beaches. Rimini’s golden, sandy beaches are well known in Europe as they stretch on for many miles with endless hotels, bars and restaurants looking out over the Adriatic Sea. I’ve been to quite a few beaches in my lifetime but I have never seen anything like the ones in Rimini. The deckchairs placed along the seafront are never ending; it is impossible to see the end of them. Don’t let the sheer quantities of hotels and deckchairs put you off though, it is a fantastic place to visit and surprisingly relaxing considering how built up it is.
The beaches are separated up in to private numbered plots, a lot of which belong to the hotels directly behind them. There is a thin strip of beach next to the sea, which is free for anyone to walk along, but if you want to sunbathe you will need to hire a deckchair for the day from one of the plots. Some do deals with other hostels and hotels that get you money off their various facilities (gyms, sports activities, sun umbrellas and more as well as just deckchairs). Although we didn’t know it at the time of booking, our B&B had a deal with one of the plots on the beach and we were able to get money off the rent of the deckchairs for a full day, which only cost us about 5€ each, a nice surprise when I was expecting to pay about 15€ each! There are lots of deckchairs in set positions near the entrance of each plot but it is possible to get some that you can move nearer the sea. Despite our accommodation not being directly on the seafront, Hotel Migani Spiaggia B&B was only a minute walk away from the beach and a lot cheaper (40€ per night for a double room including a large buffet breakfast). The décor was rather bright and a little crazy, but the owners were very welcoming and helpful and our location couldn’t have been more ideal.
Naturally, I was very excited for our next and final stop in Italy – Venice, undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities in the world. We arrived by train and it is an experience I will never forget. It was early evening, the sun was low in the dusky blue sky and the train tracks were so thin on our approach to the city that it looked as though we were floating on the water – it was absolutely magical. The next day we bought a guide from the Tourist Information (2,50€), a very good idea, as there are so many dead ends and little streets to get lost down in Venice.
We were happy to discover that the Venice Biennale was on while we were there. Art exhibitions were held all over the city and we stumbled across a lot of them by accident. We would see many a half open door to an unassuming building, peek in and find that we were entering huge, wonderfully decorated rooms adorned with works of art. There was a lot of modern art, the majority of which wasn’t to my taste (i.e. a pineapple cut in to a square and placed in the centre of an empty room…) but there were a lot of interesting and impressive pieces too. It was nice to get away from the busy streets and makes a change from the usual touristy things to do. It was expensive to eat in Venice so after a bit of searching for somewhere cheaper we were lucky enough to stumble upon a real gem. Brek is a self-service buffet restaurant near Santa Lucia station serving fresh and tasty Italian food. You can go in for just a drink, help yourself from the large buffet or get something to order. We went there many times in the few days we were there and I highly recommend it to any fellow travelers.
THE NETHERLANDS: Amsterdam
The last stop on our trip was Amsterdam, somewhere I had been previously but was eager to visit again. After struggling to find cheap accommodation for two, we decided on Amicitia, a boat in the docks near the Nemo museum, only a five minute walk from the train station and red light district. Although the rooms were tiny (with small bunk beds, a sink and a wardrobe), if you spend most of your time exploring the city it isn’t really an issue and it was good value for money. The owner is very friendly and was more than happy to help with anything we needed and having breakfast (included in the price) looking over the water in the mornings was very peaceful and a lovely way to start the day.
Somewhere I have now been on both my trips to Amsterdam is an amazing chocolate shop in the red light district. The Metropolitan Deli on Warmoesstraat (near The Grasshopper restaurant) is somewhere you have to visit, and I can guarantee you’ll want to go back for more once you’ve left. They sell mouthwatering chocolates, ice cream, waffles and wonderful tea, coffee and hot chocolate. Everything smells delicious and tastes even better. There is a shop section at the back where you can buy many of the products they sell, as well as some lovely gifts and books. We found Amsterdam quite expensive to eat in, so we walked about half an hour out of the centre to Leidsekruisstraat/Korte Leidsedwarsstraat, which is full of cheap and cheerful restaurants and bars. A lot of them sell any pasta dish or pizza for only 5€ – less than half what we could have paid in the centre. Amsterdam is a busy, vibrant city and was a fantastic place to end our travels as well as somewhere I could happily return to many times.
Top tips for travelling:
- You can always find cheap accommodation and places to eat, you just have to put a bit of effort in and it will pay off. We lived off around 20€ a day, for food, travel and activities – it is possible!
- Save money by eating fresh produce from the local market for breakfast and stay in a few places with a kitchen so you can make your own meals.
- You can also save money by walking instead of getting the train/bus around the city/town you are visiting. You get to see much more of each place and discover things you wouldn’t have done otherwise, at the same time as getting very toned legs – bonus!
- WHSmith sell pocket sized pop-up city maps and essential language books that are helpful to carry with you, especially if you’re someone who likes to be prepared.
- Travel by train and buy an interrail pass (www.interrailnet.com), it will save you a fortune, even more if you’re under 25. You can buy a pass for one or many countries, for between 5 days and a month.
If you have any money saving tips, submit them to Sainsbury’s Bank who are currently running a competition to win a Nikon DSLR camera!
Each week there will be a winner who receives £50, and whoever submits the best money saving tip by the end of the competition will receive the camera. When entering the competition, please don’t forget to mention my website as the place you heard about it. Good luck to everyone who enters!
All photographs copyright © Briony Latter