Trip Of A Lifetime

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Happy Borthday To Me!

Well it was my birthday yesterday and I'd like to say a special thank you to all of those fabulous people who sent me a text or card. It's nice to hear from people on your birthday.

It was actually quite a strange experience to be in another country for your birthday. It was also strange to be working on my birthday as I usually have it during school holidays. This was expecially odd when the students I'm teaching for this week only decided to bring me in cards and chocolate. I say don't look a gift horse in the mouth... even one that never shuts up.

Seriously though, I'm so used to surrounding myself with the people I love on my birthday that it was a bizarre reality to not have everyone within easy reach. Admittedly, I did spent the whole week leading up to my birthday on a huge high. It was just the morning of my birthday itself that things felt weird. I shook it off though when I allowed myself to remember some of the more memorable events from past birthdays. (Pajama parties, the potato salad series etc)

After the day at work I was lucky enough to come home to a beautiful stir fry cooked by Chip and Dale which was followed by a chocolate cake with strawberries! Yummo! Adie has been looking after me all week and letting me behav like an absolute spoilt brat. Lovely!

This lack of a party though must change and with my turning 30 next year it's going to have to be a big one. I think Adie might have mentioned that I've started compliling lists and ideas. Hehehe. I can't wait!

Monday, June 26, 2006

We Were Rocked!!!

Lucky me was sent some money for my birthday by my mother and father in law. To make sure that the money was put to good use, Adie and I bought tickets to go and see We Will Rock You.

We had such a good night. It's always nice when you know the words. The story was a little bit weak, but the singing and music were perfect. We even sang along towards the end there.

It was also really nice to understand all of the references to alt hings English through first hand experience rather than just laughing because everyone else was. We got the joke... unlike the silly teenagers sitting in front of us who I think were on a school trip.

So, thanks to my wonderful family back home for the fabulous pressie!!

Oh My, David!!!

Now I'm not one to really bother with leather and gold jewellery... and the bit about the leather hasn't changed. I have to admit though, since visiting Florence I want a gold necklace! I even know the one I want. It's diamond white, yellow and pink gold and it's simply stunning. It's not flashy, just a chain, but I want it! I guess I'd have to get a second job though because even though it's just a chain... it was really expensive!

Florence itself didn't really excite us all that much. Part of it could have been the weather, but a lot of it was also because of the queues and the emphasis on shopping. If we had've had time we would've gone to see more art, but the queues were ridiculous! Luckily we did go to the Academia, so we saw David. Man, he's impressive and I honestly could've looked for hours, especially at his arms. Wow!

Below are some photos we took on the River Arno and at Ponte Vecchio. Ponte Vecchio itself is pretty astounding, but it's all jewellery shops so by the time you admire the archetecture there's nothing else to do but shop... which for most seemed like more than enough!

This last shot is of Adie and I at dinner. The restaurant was up some thin, steep hill that had us all hoping to make it alive. It was worth it though for the amazing food and the spectacular views we were treated to as we munched on all of the traditional flavours.

Random Photos Of Italy

How stunning is this coastline! No wonder people flock here. I certainly don't blame them.

Can you believe this photo that Adie took at the leaning tower of Pisa!?! It just doesn't look real. The canals of Venice are just stunning. We were lucky enough to take a gondola ride through them!
The crazy queues at Vatican City. It went to the end of the street and then around the corner!

No Indecent Thoughts Now

I didn't know quite what to Expect from Vatican City. I knew that there would be a lot of religious art (duh) but apart from that I had never really though about it.

It turns out that it is quite a beautiful place. We wandered through the museum and the Sistine Chapel before going to St Peter's Basilica.

As we wandered through checking out bits and pieces there were a few things we noticed. The first was that it seems that if it would stay still it would get painted! Everything is frescoed. There's also some fantastic examples of tromp l'oeil that you would swear were 3D. (Look it up if you don't know what it is!)
The shot below is of us between the Sistine Chapel and St Peter's Basilica. We were lucky not to have to queue for as long as some people. There were huge cues all over the place! As it was we were lucky to only have to wait 90 minutes to get into Vatican City int he first place. As we stood waiting, the line behind us just grew and grew and went around the corner and out of sight.

This is a slightly blurry shot of me inside the basilica. One of the things you have to remember to do in the buildings here is to look down. All of the floors are as ornately decorated as the walls and ceilings.That's the Basilica behind us. All of the chairs get set up so that hundreds of extra people can attend services. It's just huge and swarming with people. There are no pictures of the Sistine Chapel, which is looking bright and glorious since it's cleaning, because you're not allowed to take any. Apparently the Japanese own the rights to it because they not only came up with the velum used to clean the ceiling but they also paid for the 12 years worth of cleaning.

Fair enough then.

When In Rome...

Rome is such an interesting city. There are so many examples of history that it's almost overwhelming! Everywhere you turn there's another building from thousands of years ago.

One of my highlights was definitely getting the chance to see and to wander around in the Coloseum. While there is only half of the outer wall remaining, it is still an incredibly impressive sight. You have a preconcieved notion of what to expect before you get there but nothing can prepare you for the size or the detail you find. Inside you can still see each level. The cages underneath, the arena and the seating areas. Having this much still intact really gives you a good sense of what life actually may have been like in these times. I have to say though, that I'm glad entertainment is a little more comfortable these days! One other must see in Rome is the Trevi Fountain. Can everyone say 'tourist attraction'? I have never seen so many people crowded into such a small space just to look at fountain! Admittedly, it is impressive. It's also been recently cleaned so it's all white a gleaming but does everyone have to visit at the same time!?!I focused on a more important asspect of Italy while we were here and indulged in my first of many gelato. OMG it was heaven! (That's probably why I proceeded to eat one each day that I was there!)Rome was fascinating and beautiful, but a little too crowded for my tastes. You want to already know what you want to see and go and see it early, then siesta through the afternoon before going out at night. Like the Italians!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Patron Saint Of Animals

Assisi would have to be one of our favourite sopts in Italy. It's the final resting place of St Francis of Assisi and it has to be one of the most peaceful places that I've had the pleasure of visiting.

One bad thing about Assisi is that it's a hilltop town. That means that everything is on hills. I think I burned off about a quarter of my bum in this town alone! Luckily the delcious Italian food ha brought it all back. (Bugger!)

I had to sit down and rest for a quick moment!

This fabulous picture was taken from the balcony of our hotel room. Behind Adie is the courtyard and Basilica of the Franciscan monks. To Adie's right, we had views of rolling green hills and farmhouses. All simply stunning. I would recommend it.

I will do more over the weekend now that I've found a place that works. (Yes, there are still more photos of Italy!)

The Amalfi Coast & Positano

After leaving Sorrento, we took a drive along the Amalfi Coast and into the city od Positano. Man this place is insane. It is quite literally built onto sheer cliff face and has to be seen to be believed! We scooted on down into town but definitely burnt some calories walking back out.

Again... what stunning views!

This is some woman's balcony. She was selling pottery of all different types and I just had to get a shot of the view she had from her shop!
A definite place to visit if you get the chance.

Sorrento And The Breathtaking Island Of Capri

Can you believe it? I finally found somewhere to put my photos online!

This would have to be one of the most beautiful places that Adie and I have visited. The photos just can't do it justice. The water was crystal clear and in the most stunning shades of green and blue.The island of Carpi has two towns. the first (Capri) you get to but ferry. Then if you want to go to the other (Anacapri) you have to take a car or bus along some of the scariest roads I have ever been on. They barely fit traffic in one direction much less both directions and parts of the road are built on incredibly sheer cliffs. It was one of those drives where you just don't look down.Once you get to Anacapri, you can then take a lovely chairlift ride up to the very summit of the island to check out the views. The great thing about the chairlift was that occaisionally your feet would bruch the vegetation below and you could see into people's gardens, some of which were decorated for us with shells and all sorts of kitchy bits and pieces. I preferred the vegie gardens but who am I to judge?Once up there the views, as a said earlier... breathtaking!Once we finished in Anacapri and had braved the ride back to Capri town, we were able to take the funicular down to the wharf to head back Sorrento. Now I was excited by this because I'd wanted to travel in one of these ever since I saw idiots run up the side of one in The Amazing Race. Now don't get me wrong, it wasn't all that thrilling, but it was something different.
Try it if you get the chance.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Anyone For A Gondola Ride?

So here's about half of the photos I want to show of Venice. The computer still isn't quite playing ball. That last photo was taken in some swish cafe in the main square (names elude me right now). He came up behind me and started playing into my ear so had to play up to it. People who don't really know me giggle when I'm me. Odd.

While we expected to find Venice interesting, I don't think that we realised just how enchanting a place it really is. All of those waterways and old buildings really give it a charm that you won't find anywhere else.

I was also happy to see that just because Carnivale was over for the year didn't mean that there were no masks to been seen and bought. All shops were about either masks or Venetian glass or both. It would be easy to spend thousands here if you had it.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Teaching Small Children

As some of you may already know, I have chosen to teach primary level children for the next few weeks in London because the secondary aged ones were doing my head (and vocal chords) in!

There are many aspects to teaching the little children that make it preferable to secondary over here. Firstly, they have a little less attitude. They also still hold a certain fear/respect/wonder for adults, so they tend to listen to you more readily. They are also more willing to laugh.

There is a down side however. Grade 4 children are loud. The boys do silly things, like karate chop coloured pencils. The girls gravitate towards you and they stand around desperate to do jobs for you even if all you want is for them to go away so you can have two minutes piece and your playlunch. (Hehehe... playlunch!) They also touch you. Not in any kind of wrong way... I don't feel violated, but constantly. They lean on you like a lazy greyhound you're trying to take for a walk. They touch your watch or your stuff because they're fascinated by it. All perfectly normal and healthy, but my goodness I really hate it.

Earlier I meantioned playlunch. They don't do it here. The kids do have a break where they go outside and burn energy and sweat and then come back into the classroom all hyper. It happens at about 11am and goes for maybe 15 minutes. But they don't get to eat until lunchtime which can fall at any time between 12 and 1pm. Bizarre. I don't know how they function. Actually, they don't really function that wellafter about 10am. Either because they're wilting or because they just loaded up on sugar and crisps. Hmmm. Odd.

More Photo Apologies

One of these beautiful and magical days I will walk into a clean Internet cafe in London that allows me to quickly put photos on my blog without half of them not working or it taking so much time that I can read an entire newspaper while I wait.

Please be patient with me as I continue to search for this elusive beast. Hopefully tomorrow I will have more luck!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

This Place Isn't Ruined!

One of the highlights of our trip was to have the chance to wander around the remains of the city of Pompei. I had some idea about what happened and how the city was preserved, but until I actually walked into the first building and then down the main street I don't think I really understood.

Part of the wonder of Pompei is that there is an actual account of the events all written down by a young man who was in the Bay of Naples at the time. That we are able to, in 2006, look at an almost perfectly preserved city from Italian history is just amazing. You learn so much by just walking around here. And you realise how advanced some of these cultures were.

This is one of the shops of main street. I wonder what Adie might like to buy? Thankfully the red light district was closed for maintenance!

Here is Adie on the main street. The stepping stones you see behind him were to aid people's passage across the street as the streets would often contain things you'd rather not step in. They are spaced apart do that the chariots could still use the street. We also saw how they white marble that would reflect the light to help people navigate at night. Pretty impressive!
I tried to put more photos on, but the Internet hates me today. I'll have to come back another day because I still have so much more to share about our 10 days in Italy!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Go Create Some Moments!

As some of you already know, my grandmother on my dad's side passed away recently. She was a strong woman who managed to make her 100th birthday and then some. I am glad that my dad was able to be there with her when she passed and I am aslo glad that now that he has finished dealing with her affairs, that he is coming to London to visit.

It's tough when someone passes away, but I've learned that it's important to remember the moments that they contributed to your life that made you think, laugh, smile and feel.

I may not post any more of the Italian antics for about a week or so as I spend some time creating moments with my family here in London.

Is The Tower Leaning Or Have We Just Had Too Much Chianti?

On the day we went to Pisa, we also did a winery tour... so you just never know.

The weather in Pisa was stunning and after the grey day in Venice it was nice to go out and get some sunshine. The place itself is a tourist trap if ever I saw one. People were everywhere and there were stalls selling Tower of Pisa everything! Lamps, boxer shorts, mugs, bottles of olive oil... the list is endless. There were also a lot of people selling things that we had some difficulty linking to the Leaning Tower, or in fact to Italy. Toy soldiers, carved wooden elephants and drums?

The place itself is lovely once you suspend reality and try to imagine it without all the people. That the building is still there is just plain funny, but you almost need to see it to truly understand the lean. It blows me away to think that when they were working on it a couple of years ago they actually corrected it by something like 10 inches!

How nice of Adie to help the locals keep it up! (Sorry, had to do that one sideways!

As I mentioned earlier, we headed for a wine tasting in Lucca after seeing the famous tower. There we found out that there is a major rivalry between the people in Pisa and those in Lucca... and they get mean about it!

We were able to wander through the vineyard and check out the olive grove before going into the old cantina to taste 5 of the wines, some drink that is used for Holy Communion and grappa. The wines were really nice and left you feeling quite relaxed and happy. As we tried them all we also ate fresh salami and olives, sundried tomato and peccorino cheese with fresh honey. Bread dipped in fresh olive oil and aged balsamic. (I bought a bottle of the 5 year old balsamic and i hope I can manage not to open it before I get home!)

For 'dessert' we had almond biscotti dipped in the holy wine, which was very sweet. I quite liked that actually, but the wine itself wasn't palatable wihtout the biscuits.

We finished everything off with the grappa. OMG that stuff is vile. I can't believe that there were people taking shots of it. I wet my lips with it and thought my eyes were going to pop out of my head. Yuck.

This photo would have been taken somewhere between wine number 5 and the grappa. It was a really enjoyable afternoon.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Quick Italian Update

Right now Adie and I are sitting in an Internet cafe in Florence so that we can quickly check email etcetera.

Rest assured that Adie has taken approximately 350 photos already and we still have Sorrento and Capri to go! This means that once we get back to the UK and put all of the photos on disk we will be able to get them on here for you to look at.

We have seen so many beautiful and amazing things here in Italy so far. It really is a stunning country. The weather was fantastic all through Rome and Assisi. I've even started developing the slightest of tans. In Venice it started to rain a little, but it was only a little and the place I think would be magic even in a blizzard!

The weather here in Florence is perfect tourist weather. Not so hot we're sweating but warm enough that we feel comfortable. We haven't had much chance to see anything obvious yet because we got a little caught up with all of the shiny gold and smelly leather. We are going to the Duomo, the Academia (to check out David's butt) and the Ponte Vecchio once we leave this dingy room.

Other highlights that i will no doubt go into more detail about later are the amazing foods and wines that we've sampled, including Grappa. (Not so much amazing as holy cow!) Driving through the Tuscan hills. Travelling via gondola through the "street" of Venice. Watching the sunset over the St Francis Basilica as seen from our balcony. And the list goes on...

Trust us when we say that this place is somewhere that everyone needs to visit at least once in their lives.