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Trip Report A little bit of France, Spain and Italy

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This is my first trip report post. I visited the Fodors forum to get ideas for my first trip to Europe. The questions and answers posted here on the forum were very helpful for planning my trip. So a big thank you to all. This post is quite long FYI.

My husband and I travelled to Europe from Australia in May/June 2016. We started our journey in Paris, spending 8 wonderful days exploring this lovely city. We stayed in an apartment rented from a friend in the Marais 4th arrondissement. It was a great location and we did lots of exploring. We walked everywhere, and particularly enjoyed walks around the Bastille area. We walked the canals to the Bassin de la Villette, and enjoyed a walk around Parc Buttes Chaumont and along the Promenade de Plantee. There were still things we did not get to visit, so we definitely plan on a return trip.

We then took the train from Paris to Nice, an enjoyable and relaxing train trip. We stayed on the Promenade de Anglais in Nice in an apartment overlooking the very blue Med. DH was unwell on this leg of the trip so we spent a quiet few days doing short walks around Nice, and did a day trip by train to the lovely town Menton. Nice has a real holiday resort feel to it, I liked it a lot.

After 5 nights in Nice we took the train to Barcelona. This train trip was quite long, but it was interesting to see the scenery along the way. We arrived in Barcelona at about 8pm and took a taxi to our hotel in the El Born area. Due to a computer glitch we were upgraded to the hotels largest room...a bonus. We loved staying in this area and would highly recommend this location. It was an easy walk to lots of Barcelona sights, including La Ramblas, Barcelonetta, and to multiple Cathedrals. The food and service at the restaurant in this area was very good too. While Parc Guell and Sagrada Famillia were further away, we still walked to them, taking it slowly and enjoying a coffee stop on the way and a wine stop on the way back in the late afternoon. Barcelona definitely exceeded my expectations, so many wonderful things to see, with a laid back fun vibe. We both enjoyed our 4 night stay here.

Next we travelled to Valencia by train. We stayed near the modern Arts and Sciences buildings in Valencia. We enjoyed 3 nights here walking into the old town which is very pretty with plenty to see and easily walkable. I was unwell on this leg of the trip, so it was fairly low key with shortish walks each day to get a small taste of what Valencia has to offer.

After Valencia we took the train to Madrid, and spent 6 nights in this very vibrant busy city. We both really enjoyed our stay here. We stayed in an Aparthotel with a view of the Royal Palace. It was a good location with plenty of sights nearby. We had some of our best meals on the trip in Madrid also. We visited the Prado and Reina Sofia. The Prado is a fabulous art gallery with so much to see and such quality works. The Reina Sofia art gallery was also worth a visit, but the Prado was definitely the highlight. We enjoyed walking to Madrid's beautifully maintained El Retiro park, it was lovely to walk amongst the trees to escape the heat, and to sit near the lake and watch people in row boats and listen to music being played.

Another highlight of this trip was a day trip from Madrid to Toledo. We took the train in the morning and walked into the old town. The Cathedral was amazing and well worth a visit, we also visited the Alcazar, and El Greco museum. We spent the remainder of the time wandering around the streets, getting lost, popping into small stores to browse and eating ice cream to try and keep cool. It was an exhausting day, but so worthwhile.

Next stop Italy. We flew from Madrid to Venice, and took the water bus to the Cannireggio area and had a short walk to our small boutique hotel. We spent 4 nights in Venice, which in hindsight we could have cut to 3 nights. Venice is definitely a unique city with much to see, however I did find it very dirty, and clearly with the high number of tourists they are finding it difficult to manage this. That said, I am glad I visited, and we enjoyed some great food here with wonderful Italian service.

Last stop was Rome, we took the train from Venice, another scenic enjoyable train trip. We stayed in the Piazza Navona area, which was a fantastic location for seeing the sights, plenty to see in easy walking distance. We really enjoyed the Third Ring tour of the Colesseum, we got to access parts that general entry does not allow. Our guide was very informative, and I learned a lot about the history of Rome. Our only regret in Rome, was not having researched restaurants. We really struggled to find decent food, and some of our experiences were very bad...including broken mussel shells in a pasta dish, and watered down wine! Very disappointing, especially as most people report great food experiences in Rome. We spent 4 nights in Rome which was the right amount of time for us before our long flight home.

Overall we had a great time, and are now hoping to return to Spain and France in 2018.

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