One thing that we realised after travelling for so long outside a seemingly strong EU is that Singapore is actually a very prosperous country. I appreciate what our Govt has done for us even more, and it is remarkable that they have achieved so much in 49 years. In all the places that we have been to (London, Rome, Pisa, Florence, Venice, Milan, Paris), there were beggars and homeless lying on the streets. They are not in some secluded corners of the city, but at prominent places like the MRT and orchard road-equivalents. The streets are not clean, the roads pathways are not well maintained - many crooked and uneven paths, and there are urine smell lingering at various alleys. At MRTs, you often see people illegally entering the gantry by tailing very close behind the person in front with a ticket. The problem is more prominent in Italy, followed by France. UK is much much better.
In terms of the infrastructure, some cities in Italy and France are still using very elementary paper tickets. In Italy, there would be a bus/ train conductor who randomly checks your tickets to ensure that you have a valid one for the trip that you are making. Half the time, we find that we were not checked during our trip and it means that you could essentially board the train (note, not MRT) for free. Buildings are all very old and were not maintained. You also dont really see construction going on in their country - a stark difference from Singapore. Public properties like your buildings, any walls, MRT eg were heavily vandalised. The people there are artistic, the vandalism are all beautifully done, but it adds to the impression that freedom of expression prevails over the law.
We have heard many pickpocket stories before we went to Europe and were especially careful without belongings in Milan and Paris. But it was very ok actually - whenever someone approaches us, we just walk away. There werent any close brushes with any pickpockets, except for an absurd moment when I was grabbed in the butt by a female in Rome. I didnt lose anything in my bag nor did I put anything in my jean's back pocket. Was just shocked by it, even though the lady laughed and said sorry after her deed.
To our surprise, we dont really see people carrying designer bags in Europe! Isnt it strange when they were the designers themselves? But no, only like 0.1% of the population actually carries an LV or Prada. After having shopped for designer bags in Italy and France, our advice is that buy your bags in Italy! The prices are the same in both countries, except that the tax rebate amount is different. Italy gives you a tax rebate of 12.5% while France gives 12%. Italy returns you the entire rebate amount in cash while France's 12% is applicable if you want your rebate through your credit card and only 10.8% if you want it back in cash. Luckily we bought most of our bags and wallets in Italy.
In terms of food, oh man, it is really just pizzas, pastas, bread, cheese, tomato all the way. It is ok if you eat these for 3 meals a day for 3 days, but beyond that, it is just too much.
Food is very expensive there. We missed our food court prices food in Singapore. Each meal for 2 person in a cheap restaurant costs about $40. Fastfood for 2 pax costs $30. Something even cheaper equals to buying pre-cooked pastas at supermarkets and heating it before eating in the hotel. We really loved the gelato in Italy. They are priced the same like in Singapore, like $3.50 a scope, but they are everywhere along all the streets - it was super convenient to buy a cone in a hot day.
In terms of weather, I would say that going to Europe in July in summer is just right for us. London was cold, France was hot and cold, Italy was hot. Weather is different, probably cos there was some heatwave when we were travelling. It would feel piercingly hot when there was sun, but when the wind came, it was cool. Humidity doesnt exist. It resulted in us getting very tanned as we were walking out in the sun all the time.
Overall, we enjoyed our trip for its weather, new surroundings, scenery and architecture that we see, and it was a very good recharge from work. But it is not a place that we would go back so soon as it is more a historical place and would be suitable for someone who loves culture, arts and history. We are more the urban couple who likes shopping. The food, accommodation and everything is expensive and we could put that traveling expenses to better use in places like Korea and Japan.
We spent 5 days in London. Perhaps because it was the first country that we landed in, it was the most enjoyable one for us! It has a good mixture of must-see historical places and shopping places. It is very accessible, feels safe and people speak English. London is also the most developed one amongst the rest and its weather is the most comfortable one. People here are also more relaxed as you would see many people in sitting on the grasslands in parks and anywhere with grass patches and enjoying their breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner.
Some of the must sees - Tower bridge, london eye, big ben, buckingham palace. We wanted to watch a Westend musical but didnt get to watch it as the tickets were sold out, or it had very expensive tickets left. So if you want to watch a show, do book online before you reach London!
And I have to post this - a Gold Ferrari at Oxford Street! You could see more luxury cars like lambor and ferrari in London than Sg. The Persians and Italians drive modest cars.
We flew by Ryanair from London to Rome. Haha, the good thing about the budget airlines in europe is that their leg space is wide lor! It feels just like a normal SQ flight's leg space.
Rome is the country which we felt was the most dangerous. There were many beggars on the streets and had the strongest urine smell. Things were the cheapest here. Rome will be remembered for its legendary Colosseum and Vatican City. The Colosseum is one of the world's 7 wonders and it is a big piece of architecture stone which gives its awe to people.
There is nothing in Pisa except for their leaning tower. We were excited to be there to do the leaning poses that everyone was doing! It was amusing to see how some other people were posing R-rated poses when they were there. Ours are the most commonly found poses.
Florence is remembered for its designer Outlet stores! Go to "Space" for their Prada outlet store and "The Mall" for a mixture of outlet stores. If you have limited time, we would suggest going to only The Mall as you would be able to find Prada there too. Personally for us, we didnt find much appealing at the outlet stores as they contained all the out of season stocks. We were after the classic designs and did not buy the outlet stores' bags.
Florence is where they manufactured Gucci. We hence bought a Gucci bag here for my mum here.
At Piazza della Signoria
Venice will be remembered for its ever-beautiful river view. Everyone here travels by a boat and it's amazing to know that such a city exists! But if you are someone who is used to speed, this place will be too slow for you. The public transport ferry cannot move as fast as a bus. But it is a really romantic place to be in. Stroll by the river, dine by a river.. Venice by day and night.
Milan will be remembered as a place to buy Prada bags! Classic prada bags since you always see on the prada bags the word "Milano", we bought all the remaining Prada bags that were not bought in previous stops here.
Paris is our last stop and we spent 3 days here and 2 days in Disneyland. Paris will be remembered for its Eiffel Tower and Disneyland. The Lourve below is also a beautiful structure which we dont know any history behind it.
There was a sunday mass going on at notre dame cathedral. When I heard the crowd sing, I felt at peace. It was holy, like the world will stop fighting. Love all the colourful glasses in the cathedral.
Who wouldnt love Disneyland! It is a place which I never got sick of going since young. With this visit, I have gone to all the Disneylands in the world, yay! The best one is the one in US as it is much much bigger. Since young, I feel that it is a romantic place to be in with your other half since the Disney characters always have happily ever after ending with their prince charmings. And after so long, I have finally visited a Disneyland with him. With the cooling weather, everything felt right. Waiting in the queue wasnt so bad at all.
Wicked queen or...?
But you know your wish is granted.
After travelling for 3 full weeks, we didnt have the oh man, it was a short holiday feeling. The duration felt just right and it was time to go home. Perhaps we werent feeling such a bad withdrawal symptom because we have the house to be busy with after we are back. Will be too busy to feel sorry coming back. Was a great one with love. Looking forward to a next break perhaps in Dec.