A delayed departure from Reykjavik caused by a balloon above Gatwick airport made for a stressful flight. Fortunately the winds were behind us and I made it in time to make my connecting flight to Rome. After a quick lunch with Aunty Sandy at the airport I left for Italy. Before I knew I found myself picking up the leftovers of Guy's pizza along with a few pints as I met him and six of his friends at a restaurant near our hotel. Followed by a quick shower at Hotel Miami, we hit the town. I would tell you where we went exactly but unfortunately I don't know myself. All I know is that far too many glasses of wine, beers and shots prove for serious memory loss. Needless to say we were in a serious state the next day. Made it out for lunch before heading back for an afternoon snooze and preparation for yet another big night. We joined a pub-crawl, which proved to be good fun. The next day we made it to the Vatican City. After being rejected for wearing shorts, three of us went on the hunt for some pants. We purchased what would I would have to say would be the most outrageous get-ups we could purchase. So we entered in to the Vatican city wearing out mega flannelette-like pants. WOW is all I can say. This structure was amazing. Particularly the mosaics on the walls, not to mention the dome shaped ceiling. The detail was breathtaking. After trecking to the top through the most cramped stairways I've experienced, we took the opportunity to take in the 360 degree view of Rome. Although I was mighty impressed by New York, in my view, Rome puts it to shame! After this we made out way out for dinner before heading to the airport. In all honesty the food was not all that crash hot. Not to say I didn't enjoy the copious amount of pasta and pizza that was consumed. Just wasn't up to my expectations, just saying!
A return to London saw me heading down to stay at Uncle Rod and Aunty Sandy's with Guy for a couple of nights before mum arrived. Our time was spent on the couch recovering from the epic weekend in Rome. From here I made my way up to Oxford to meet mum and Uncle Richard at the bus terminal before making our way back to Staddlestones to see Grace, Sophie and Christopher. I can confidently say Soph and Chris have grown up a lot since I last saw them. We spent a few days lounging around and catching up on recent years at the house, as the weather outside was poor. From here Mum, Richard and myself made our way down to Chepstow for Grandad's Cable and Wireless Reunion. We met up with Grandad and his lady friend Margaret and spent the evening having a pleasant buffet and a few drinks. I think over 10 years since I had seen Grandad so it was really great to catch up. Following breakfast with the five of us, we said our goodbyes. Mum and I were bound for Richard and Grace's Dolphins house near Falmouth where we met Aunty Jane and Uncle David. We spent most of the week down here. A lot of time was spent lounging around. Plenty of splendid home cooked meals from the likes of Jane and Mum. We visited the lost gardens of Heligan on what would have been our only day of sun. Plenty of flowers and other impressive garden features followed by coffee and cake made for a great day. As for the rest of the week, we spent between Dolphins and Grandad's house just around the corner. We visited Rick Steins seafood restaurant in Falmouth which was delicious! I even attempted a run, but after waking up the next day with the dreaded knee pain, followed by a week of agony I decided that running wasn't for me. Damn!! Wrapping up the week with a lunch at Treba Gardens, we said goodbye to Grandad and Margaret and heading north, this time to Jane and David's in Eynsham . After unpacking the cars and having a look around their new home we kicked back before crashing out after the long drive. I made my way in to London to meet a friend whom I met in China. Despite experiencing some exceedingly s*** weather, we made our way in to Camden for a few drinks. I made my way back up to Jane and David's. Back to Staddlestones for a few days before mum left to see her friend Anne in Bristol. I was fortunate enough to head out with Richard on his yacht, Jangada Too, for a couple of days ahead of his trans-Atlantic race in a few weeks. We were graced with amazing weather. We stayed over at the Isle of Wight on the boat for the night before sailing back to Hamble. First time sailing and I can now see why Richard has made it such a major part of his life. What a hobby to have! I wish him all the best of his race to America! I was dropped back in Esher where I met Mum, Sandy and Guy. Sandy cooked us yet another delicious meal. Guy and I went to the cinemas in the hope to see The Avengers, only to find the queue as far as the eye could see. We bailed. From there I made my way to Guildford to meet up with Hannah Cadby at the University of Surrey. First night we spent catching up and relaxing. The next night was spent at the university nightclub for a big night. After a great catch-up I made my way in to London again, where I met my friend Kate and her friend who had just arrived in from Perth. The afternoon was spent watching Chelsea win the FA Cup final whilst throwing back a few pints. I then met up with Tom, whom I met in China, and we partied the night away before crashing at his. I made my way back up to Richard and Grace's for one last night in the UK. After three well needed relaxing weeks, it was time to head of on the next leg of my trip. EUROPE!
After saying our goodbye's Mum and I boarded our different buses, Mum's for the airport, mine for Victoria coach station where I would board my 10pound, 12 hour bus ride to Amsterdam. I was lucky enough to get an isle seat on this packed bus, right next to a very chavvy couple who managed to, for the ENTIRE 12 hours non-stop have a domestic argument. On last count I think they split up seven times during the bus ride. Putting that ride behind me I made my way to the hostel. Slept all day before meeting Leo, Molly and Ali that evening. It was quite late so we crashed out relatively early. The next five days were spent wondering around Amsterdam. Yet another amazing city. It sure makes a change to visit cities with so much character. Loving the Canal systems in these places. Leo pointed out that the buildings are all slanted. I can't believe I didn't notice it myself. I'm amazed that half of the buildings in Amsterdam are still standing. One had to remain very focused when walking around. There are people on bicycles and scooters flying around everywhere!!! Just when you've crossed the road and think you're safe, you just about get swiped out by either a pushbike or moped. We were all happy to kick back as the four of us had all been travelling for months and had plenty of stories to tell. Naturally we had to experience the infamous coffee shop scene. With the hostel so close to the red light district, daily and nightly strolls were very entertaining, being able to view all the exceedingly good ladies in their window/booth looking for business. It was actually quite strange to think that this business is so accepted. Personally I didn't take advantage of it, but Leo's mysterious disappearance one night still leaves the rest of us questioning. We made Friday night our big one and a big one it was! Saturday was spent recovering and organising our travels for the next day. It was awesome to catch up with Leo again, always cause for an entertaining time. Amazing to see Molly and Ali again also, times like these that you really realise how great your friends are!! Looking forward to seeing them again in a few weeks. They were bound for Bruges whilst I made my way to Paris.
Again I went with megabus, fortunately this time there were only 4 people on the bus so it was very chilled. I arrived at St Christophers hostel late evening so crashed out early in preparation for an epic day of sightseeing. I joined a free walking tour of Paris which started at St Michel Square, made its way past the Notre Dame, around the canals, through le Louvre, over the bridges, past the Obelisque, and ended up at the Defense museum. Whilst we didn't spend much time in each place, our guide gave us a very brief yet interesting insight in to some Parisian history. Once the tour was over we had the opportunity to go to a very authentic French restaurant. I passed this opportunity up and fled straight back to le Louvre where I managed to make my way in a couple of hours before close. First things first, scoped out the Mona Lisa. I'm sure I'm not the only one to say that it isn't all it's cracked up to be. Especially in comparison to the majority of the art throughout the museum. It really is enormous. With only a short amount of time there I blitzed my way through a lot of it despite getting seriously lost a few times. Definitely on the cards for a revisit though. You could spend days checking out all the different pieces of artwork. I made my way back to the hostel and did some laundry where I met up with some others who were on the tour. We made our way to Montmarte, which, whilst very touristy, still has a very authentic French feel. We made our way up the stairs to the Basilica. A mighty impressive structure, but nothing on the Vatican City. Another girl from the hostel met us there. Only having a very brief stop as well, we were eager to see as much as we could. So we left the others and made our way to the Eiffel Tower to see it by night. Quite an amazing sight close up. We stayed around for the light show that we had heard about but were somewhat disappointed with it. Still, the tower itself is a very impressive structure and definitely worth the visit. By this time it was already past midnight so we made our way back to the hostel for some sleep. Before I knew it, 6am came about and it was time for me to make my way to Gare de Lyon to catch my train down to Cannes. So currently I am flying through France on the GTV at about 200km/h writing this, whilst taking in the scenery outside.