After completing the first leg of our 80 Anthems journey, and then making our way through the second portion, we officially arrive in Asia where the next part of our round-the-world family adventure would continue.
India greeted us with a vast array of colours, noise, traffic and an overall sensory explosion. In Chennai, most of the women wear their traditional clothes, so beautiful saris in every colour of the rainbow could be seen everywhere.
One of the most unique characteristics of the people here was the “head shake” where they would wobble their head from side to side as a symbol of their agreement with something. While at first we mistook this for “no”, we soon discovered that it actually meant the exact opposite. In this rapidly growing city, we saw a fair amount of poverty, but also many other unique features such as stray cows and other animals roaming around the city (as a sacred animal, the cow is left to do what it wants).
Travel Tip: Don’t miss Pondi Baazar area – sari shops and Indian markets that give you an idea of the true culture (as opposed to going to the mall to see the same stores as in North America).
Our first glimpse of Africa came on our arrival to South Africa. Johannesburg was an amazing city, very well groomed in many areas while still retaining the historical disadvantages imposed by apartheid in other parts, with some very poor townships still remaining. The landscape was beautiful with a completely different feel than any other country we had been to, the red tinge of the earth and the hills cleared and shaped by the gold mining industry were very unique.
Travel Tip: Don’t miss visiting The Nelson Mandela statue at the Government Buildings in Pretoria and the Lion Park (relocating to a larger area next year).
Israel turned out to be such a jewel in our journey due to the incredible people we met there. We arrived at Ben Giurion Airport and were greeted and taken on the train up to a village in the North of the country called Shavei Tzyon. In this lovely town settled right on the beach, it was hard to believe that we were in this country that is so often highlighted in Western media as a place of bloodshed and violence. The kids had an absolutely wonderful time playing on the beach with the local children.
Our flight from Kiev to Barcelona was our last one for a while as this was where we started the Eurail portion of our trip. After 40 fights to 44 countries, we were definitely ready for a change of travel mode by this point and very excited to get on our first train of the trip.
From Barcelona across to Marseilles and then along the French Riviera to Nice and Monaco we went. Incredibly beautiful scenery kept us entertained as we travelled along the waterfront, enjoying the spacious freedom of the trains.
Travel Tip: Don’t miss Monaco’s Jardin Exotique situated high on the hill overlooking the Palace, water and the city.
From France, we ventured on into Italy to the tiny town of Rimini, a base stop for our journey up into the mountaintops of San Marino. We were blown away by the views from the castle at the top of this micro country. Quaint restaurants and souvenir shops selling all sorts of authentic medieval items beckoned us as we toured around.
Travel Tip: Don’t miss San Marino – the short, half an hour bus ride from Rimini is worth it!
We found that, because of many unfortunate events happening in Europe and the rest of the world in past months, Italy, Belgium and France were on high alert for the most part. This meant soldiers in the metro, more police on the trains and streets, especially in Brussels.
After some quality time in Rome and the Vatican, we jumped on another train and headed into the mountains for Zurich, Switzerland. Breathtakingly gorgeous views greeted as is we wound up through the mountain tracks.
Travel Tip: Don’t miss the beautiful Lake Zurich – but watch out for the high costs here as the Swiss Franc is strong and everything is very expensive!
Next we headed on to Brussels, Belgium and then onto Luxembourg. We were pleasantly surprised by the gorgeous cliffs and castle walls of Luxembourg city in this tiny, but so well organized and immaculate country.
Travel Tip: Don’t miss a visit to the Casemats, the amazing set of tunnels in the cellars of the medieval castle.
Prague was next and ended up being one of our favourites so far! The old town was packed with tourists and it was easy to see why with all of the fabulous restaurants, shops, architecture and culture; with markets galore selling inexpensive local souvenirs and many “must sees”.
Travel Tip: Don’t miss the Astronomical Clock, St Charles Bridge, Prague Castle (the largest ancient castle in the world).
There is so much more to tell, but we gotta run for our next train to stay on schedule!! Stay tuned for the last instalment of our 80 anthem journey as we travel to our last 20 countries and follow along at www.80anthems.com!