Because we love travelling! It’s the best source of inspiration and I enjoy discovering new polish brands, meeting new people nail artists. Also, we had a few business meetings, a charity mission and a very fun ‘nail girls meet-up’ in Rome. But why #CRSNworldtour? It’s the hashtag I invented to share traveling photos from both accounts – my personal @CrashingRed (CR) and @So_Nailicious (SN).
Where did we go?
From Sydney we went to Beijing, China. Initially, we planned to have a 3 day stop over there but instead decided to proceed to Russia on the same day.
First, we flew to Moscow and then took another plane to Novokuznetsk (Siberia) then a long train to a remote area called Karlik. It took us a total of 3 days to travel from Sydney to Siberia! We spent 2 weeks in Karlik and Novokuznetsk. We went there to visit my family and also for charitable purposes. We wanted to get in touch with a local orphanage to organise some help for them. Even though it was incredibly hard both physically (in Russia everything is a big secret and it’s hard to find many things) and emotionally (it was heart breaking to visit the kids), we accomplished that mission. If you’re following me on Snapchat (username: SoNailicious) you would have seen our visit but if not, there are a couple of dedicated posts coming soon.
Things to do and see in Novokuznetsk? There’s the Dostoyevsky museum, a 450 year old fortress and of course tayga (forest) hiking were on the top of our list. The shopping was not amazing except for the nail polish. I found one shop that stocks a great range of Dance Legend polishes and due to the exchange rate, luxury beauty products were very reasonably priced. I got some Givenchy and Chanel polishes and lipsticks without breaking the bank.
< Dance Legend bought in Novokuznetsk >
Italy: Rome, Amalfi Coast and Positano
After Novokuznetsk we flew back to Moscow then on to Rome. Rome can be described by one word – incredible! We had our own apartment right near the Colosseum. There was so much to do and to see in Rome I’ll have to make at least one separate post about it. But in summary for now, the Gallery Borghese, Sistine Chapel, Piazza Del Popolo, Vittoriano and of course, the Colosseum are must sees.
After 7 days in Rome we travelled to the Amalfi Coast. First by train – Rome-Napoli, Napoli-Solerno. Then by bus Solerno-Amalfi and finally by boat. Amalfi-Positano. We spent a week in Positano and from there, travelled to Capri. This part of the trip was a collection of beautiful beaches with colourful umbrellas and crystal blue sea, picturesque little towns climbing up the mountains and delicious fresh food. The Amalfi Coast is the perfect beach holiday destination. You’ll see the Amalfi Coast photo diary next week.
Shopping in Italy was fantastic! From nail polish to luxury fashion, you’ll find whatever you desire there! Plus, the prices are about 30% less than what you’d pay in Australia and that’s buying right in the center of Rome. I’ve heard prices in Italian outlets are even better but this is something I’ll have to investigate during the next trip. Regarding polishes, there’s a detailed Italian beauty shopping guide coming on SoNailicious next week.
After Italy we flew back to Moscow for 5 days of business meetings, sight seeing and polish shopping. Surprisingly, it was the safest and smoothest part of the trip. It was incident free, unlike Rome where scammers lurk in every train station and tourist magnet.
However, Moscow is an expensive city. A cup coffee costs from $7 – 10 and a very light launch (a tiny sandwich and a coffee) for two is at least $50. The clothes, shoes & bags that I’d just seen in Rome were double or even triple the price. So I just focused on polish shopping, which was still expensive. A bottle of Kure costs AUS $44 and $20 for a bottle of L’Oreal polish… no, thanks! Regardless, I found a few great, affordable brands that I’ll introduce you to in some of the upcoming posts.
How did we plan our trip?
To visit Russia requires planning, I’ve been to Moscow many times before so we knew what to see and how to get around but for restaurants we found Tripadvisor to be an invaluable resource. You can quickly check reviews on the restaurants close to you or find specific cuisines, like coffee, very quickly. This is particularly helpful in Moscow where prices and quality vary significantly.
As for Italy, we had a few places in mind that friends recommended to us but we also used the Tripadvisor mobile app. The food and coffee is good pretty much anywhere but a quick search can be the difference between good and great cuisine. Tripadvisor also came in particularly handy for getting around. There’s plenty of detailed and current travel advice in the forums. This is starting to sound like a sponsored post but I can assure you it’s not, it’s just that Tripadvisor is an exceptionally useful travelling tool.
- Sydney-Beijing-Sydney flights – booked via Flight Center flying with Air China. I would not recommend either. Flight Center promises “the best price” but in reality they charge you much more than other travel agencies. The Air China customer service was close to non-existent, rude staff, terrible food and the whole flight was highly uncomfortable. On our way to Moscow I honestly thought we’re going to die. The pilots were trying to land the plane for over an hour but they didn’t say anything about the problem to the passengers. Everyone was panicking. It was scary!
- Moscow-Novokuznetsk-Moscow flights – booked via BreakAway Travel. Excellent agent Tatiana found us the best prices, much cheaper than what Flight Center had offered. We flew with Aeroflot and it was great! Comfortable new planes, excellent customer service, good food and they also gave great free gifts to all the kids onboard!
- Moscow – Rome – Moscow flights – also booked via BreakAway Travel. Again, Tatiana found us great tickets, about $600 cheaper than quoted by Flight Center, assisted us with visas and provided tons of helpful tips. We flew with Aeroflot in partnership with AliItalia and it was also a great flight. I recommend both BreakAway Travel and Aeroflot.
- Rome – Napoli – Rome train – we bought our tickets at the train station. It’s affordable, quick and a super comfortable way to travel between the cities in Italy. You can see prices and schedules here and here.
- Positano – Sorrento – Positano – we bought our ferry tickets at the marina just before departing. Ferries leave almost every hour in different directions. It’s a relatively cheap and great way of travelling along the Amalfi coast.
- Positano – Capri – Positano – we bought a guided tour in a boat with Captain Salvatore. It was almost the same price as a ferry ticket to Capri. We really enjoyed the tour and our tour guide, Marzia and captain Salvatore were really awesome and fun! Definitely recommended. More about their tours here.
We booked everything via Airbnb. It was great to have our own places anywhere we go. Hotel rooms are impersonal, expensive and usually too small for me to organise my temporary nail art station. For instance, in Positano we rented an entire luxury villa with 180 degree sea views for less than a hotel room. With Airbnb you also get a real sense of what it is like to live in a place, from the decor to the shower or even the way they make coffee. There’s a thousand little differences, tips and ideas you can pick up by living somewhere. We were staying in local people’s houses & apartments away from the hotels. So we shopped with the locals, caught trains with locals & even made pizzas with locals… but that’s a different story!
As for things to do/see, apart from my meetings in Moscow, we didn’t have any plans. When travelling we’ll have a starting point and some ‘must do’s’ but after that we like to figure out things on the ground at the destination. Nothing compares to the feeling of anticipation of new discoveries. Everything you see and experience you’ll take with open mind and heart. My advice is to leave time to just wander around to get to know to the place you’re in. Allocate plenty of time for long walks, you never know what is around the next corner. This is one of the reasons we like to stay at each destination for as long as we can.
How did we pack for our trip?
…and most importantly, how did I managed to bring back over 200 polishes*?! Ok, I must admit, I went a bit overboard but I’m really happy with polishes that I bought during the trip. If you’re following me on Instagram you have already seen the photos ;) To make sure all my bottles arrived safe back home I followed the same method described here – How To Pack Polish For A Long Trip.
As for the rest of our baggage, it was not the lightest and at times, especially when carrying bags up the stairs of Positano, I wish we brought less. But first of all, I don’t wear the typical tourist clothes while travelling and that requires bringing a mini-wardobe. Plus, we brought a lot of camera equipment. However, the stunning night photos of Positano my husband took and the nail art photos that I made from the top of the roof of our villa were worth the extra weight. Still, some things we could stay at home. Lesson learned! More on how to pack light for a trip light in a future post.
* ps. Including 60 bottles that I brought back from home and about 50 polishes for SoNailicious Boutique (not pictured).
#CRSNworldtour: Highlights and What’s next?
There were so many inspiring places we visited. I definitely would love to come back to Rome and explore the Northern part of Italy. I’ll also be back to Moscow for sure. It was great to see so many positive changes to the city since my last visit in 2013. The Amalfi Coast – I’d love to come back again and maybe spent a good month there or maybe even work from there. Positano is such an amazing and inspirational little town. Photo diaries and nail designs inspired by each place to follow.
Hope you enjoyed this overview of our 6 week trip to Russia and Italy. Massive thanks to all of you who gave me recommendations, for your kind travelling wishes on Instagram and emails! I feel grateful to have so many amazing readers! And even though I was not able to respond to everyone, I’ve read every single comment (I always do) and you guys put a big smile on my face. We had a quick impromptu nail meet up in Rome and also met with Anastasia aka Let’s Nail Moscow in Moscow. It was fantastic! I think next time we’ll organise proper nail meet ups well in advance so everyone can come and we can talk nails, polishes and art. What do you think?
A separate big thanks to my superhero husband, Joseph who took hundreds of photos of me and my nails, patiently waited while I was examining every nail polish stall I saw, carried our enormous bags (50% of them were polish) up mountains and who held on to me whether I was balancing on the bow of a speed boat to wave a giant polish bottle or climbing a cliff to take the best possible #NailsAtTheBeach photo.
What about you guys, have you been to Italy or Russia? Where did you go and what were the highlights of your trip? Did you bring any exciting polishes back home?
More on our adventure to follow :)
– Maria, xx
Photos: Maria Vlezko & Joseph Pole.
Check all our posts from SoNailicious Takes A Trip series here.