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EUROPE with Exist Travels - Italy, Switzerland, France

As much as we love traveling South Africa, experiencing all that our own home country has to offer we wouldn't turn down the opportunity to fly overseas. This is the 2 week itinerary of our first ever Europe trip together. Through this blog we share some incredible attractions and destinations well worth visiting. While Michael had been to Europe before, this was Acacias first time flying overseas not knowing what to expect. We met up with a group of 8 strangers who soon became friends. After a 30 hour journey making our way from the South lowest tip of Africa landing in Milan, Northern Italy.

Milan - Italy

Milan is an ancient city steeped in history along with cutting edge fashion and of course delicious food. With only 2 nights in Italy we had a lot of activities planned. Arriving in a new country meant that we had no cell service, we walked around the city towing our luggage for nearly 2 hours before finding our hotel for the night - Milano Verticale Hotel - a great central location with the train station near by allowing quick easy transportation. Piazza del Duomo is a cobble stone square in the centre of Milan with many attractions to keep busy. Arriving here one instantly sets their eyes upon the magnificent Duomo di Milano, a Gothic cathedral dating back hundreds of years! The minor details upon the exterior and jaw dropping, while entering the cathedral you will notice marble floors and tall ceilings - no wonder it is considered the largest cathedral in all of Europe. Here one will also find the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II mall dating back to the 1870s - this is the oldest active shopping mall. Take note of the arch glass roof, paintings on the walls and any/ every designer brand. There are loads of restaurants and curio shops around this area.

Lake Como - Italy

About a 1 hour scenic train ride from Milano Centrale station, lies the picturesque villages around the enormous Lake Como - the 3rd largest lake in the world! (click here to watch the Italy film)

We stayed at the Sheraton Lake Como Hotel, it was close to the train station, walking distance to the lake, daily boat tour dock, with restaurants and shops near by. Walking or scootering around is the best way to immerse yourself in the surroundings, taking in everything. What to do - catch an early boat on Lake Como and hop off at some of the other lake side villages. Bellagio, also known as the pearl of Lake Como is astonishing. it is the epitome of an Italian village. Known for the narrow cobble stone alleyways filled with restaurants and shops as well as the waterside villas. Bellagio is definitely worth a visit - best to get there early before the crowds.

Grindelwald - Switzerland

From Lake Como we caught a train back to the Milano Centrale station then hopped onto a second train taking us for the next 4 hours on a scenic ride towards Switzerland. After a day of travelling we finally hopped off the train one last time in Grindelwald. Arriving in Swiss Alps the temperature had dropped noticeably! With rainy overcast conditions that evening we went on a wild goose chase to find the wooden cabin airbnb, that looked identical to every other cabin! This airbnb is amongst the village which makes one feel like a local with many activities all around. (click here to watch the Grindelwald cinematic film)

What to do - The top attraction in this village is Jungfraujoch, with the highest train station in Europe at 3,454m (11,332 ft) this is considered the Top of Europe. Here you can walk in the snow admiring surrounding mountains, explore ice caves, visit the sphinx observatory situated on the rocky summit at 3,571m (11,715 ft). The Sphinx Observatory has an open viewing deck accessible to the public this offers views of the Jungfrau, Mönch, and Eiger peaks, all within a few kilometers.

Visit First Cliff walk, a 30 minute gondola ride takes you up the mountain, here you'll find a restaurant, zippiness, glacial hikes and of course the cliff walk. An insane feat by Swiss engineers as you walk along a suspended metal bridge hanging along the side of a cliff over 2,000 m (6,500 ft) from the ground!

Drive to the neighbouring village - Lauterbrunnen village tucked at the bottom of a large valley is mesmerising to drive through, with large cliffs on either side, you may even witness 72 waterfalls! Keep your eyes peeled as you drive past all the waterfalls, including the tallest free falling waterfall in Switzerland.

Are you looking for the real adrenaline ? Bungee Jump Stockhorn - The Stockhorn bungy located in the Swiss Alps is one of the most breathtaking and unusual bungy sites in the world! You are lifted up 134m (440 ft) in a mountain gondola, you step into the open doorway, and then boldly take the leap! For a fleeting instant you are suspended mid-air before freefalling and rebounding over the pristine mountain lake Stockensee. Enjoy the rush of a lifetime before you are brought back into the gondola.

Paris - France

With 1 afternoon exploring Paris there was a fair share of sight seeing to do. What to do - Catch the train to St Michel Notre Dame station. A few meters from the station is the magnificent Notre-Dame (unfortunately sections burnt down a few years back so renovations are undergo) the exterior is still visible. Grab crepes from the local stands. A great way to experience a place is by foot, slowly start walking towards the Eiffel Tower a 5km (16 404 ft) scenic stroll. Take note of the street vendors, shops and architecture including Paris Orleans. Keep an eye out for the Love Lock Bridge, grab a lock from a vendor and add your mark. Admire the 330 meter (1082 ft) tall Eiffel Tower, an iconic symbol of Paris. Below the Eiffel Tower there are multiple boat tours taking individuals on 2.5 hour informational tour down the Seine River - a great way to see iconic landmarks as well as other gems. Enjoy a sunset cruise and watch as the Eiffel Tower lights up when it gets dark. (click here to watch the Paris film)

Marseille - France

Landing in France we collected rental cars to get around easily. The Old Port harbour (Vieux-Port de Marseille) one of the grand Mediterranean ports, is a lively area with loads of restaurants and shop alongside yatches of all sizes! A large reflective canopy is constructed as an art installation to reflect the beauty of Marseille. Boats go out to the surrounding islands every 1 hour. The Frioul archipelago is made up of 4 islands with rocky landscapes and private beaches. Stone paths take you around the islands with view points, benches and ancient building remnants. Ratonneau island captured below.

Rent a private speed boat to cruise around, snorkel, and wake board in the crystal clear Mediterranean Sea. (click here to watch the Marseille film)

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