A Travellerspoint blog

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Getting it all together

Well it is three weeks today till we fly out. Still have just one nights accommodation plus a few tours and day trips to book. Excitement and a bit of nervousness are building! I have been thinking about a travel blog for a while but wasn't sure if I would have the time, motivation and available internet connection to follow it through to the end. I don't want to do a half assed job of it and bore people to tears, I suppose no one is forcing you to read it. There won't be any test at the end so I hope you enjoy :)
You might wonder why I am nervous but those that know me well would all understand that I like to leave no stone unturned when it comes to worrying about the crappy details. My biggest concern at the moment is how Dylan will cope on a long haul flight. Debating whether a sleeping pill might be the go ( for him not me, in case you were wondering). I don't want him to be tired and grumpy at the other end. I think we might just 'wing it' and see how he goes on the first leg to Singapore.
Our first stop after Singapore is Rome, where we have the whole day to chillax before embarking on the vatican the next day. Hoping to make all my catholic mates extremely envious but feeling a bit of a fraud at the same time because I will be so completely out of my religious depth. Oh well. When in Rome.............. :)

Posted by The Hitchies 17:12 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

We Are Away- When in Rome......

storm 22 °C

IMG_0193.jpg Well it is times like this that make you realise you Australia is a bloody long way from everything. Our trip was loooong but relatively un eventful. We arrived in Singapore a little earlier than scheduled. It was a balmy 30 C so we headed straight for the rooftop pool at the airport for a dip and to loosen up cramped limbs. It was refreshing and meant we could shower and freshen up for the next leg. We were all feeling pretty tired after a late night previous. The flight was the longest we had ever taken and was a bit challenging but all good. Didn't catch any sleep though, Just watched movies and tried not to sob while watching the movie the Book Thief. Dylan watched a war movie in Russian language :) till we realised and sorted it into something in English. Changi airport is like a small city and was fairly impressive even if it was late.
Back on the plane at about 1 am and looking to catch up some sleep during the next leg. Dylan spent the whole trip studying the inflight map with regular updates how far to go till we get there in hours and km (this may have made trip just a little longer). Very weary and over it by the time we arrived. We were amazed by the lax customs in Rome and I was terribly disappointed that I couldn't even get a smile out of the incredibly bored but good looking Italian customs guy as he stamped my passport without even looking at any of us.
Rome gave us a stormy welcome with lots of thunder and passing showers. I was glad we had organised a car and early checkin for accommodation. We got to the apartment which is spitting distance from the Vatican. You can just see the top of the duomo of St Peters basilica from the tiny terrace. Very comfortable in an old building in cobbled street with no traffic. IMG_0186.jpg
We freshened up and then decided to go out and orient ourselves. We could hear the bells ringing as it was Sunday morning. The crowds were flocking into the piazza so we followed along for a look. We were too early for the pope. The crowd was huge and people watching was fun. There was a long queue to get into the church for the service. Boys were starving so we went to find a pizza for lunch. Then off to locate the supermarket. We found a spar supermarket just like at home but were amused to see the sign on the front was 'da spar'. No baked beans to be found. :( IMG_0184.jpg IMG_0194.jpg
Then back to the apartment where we had a little nanna nap. Or should I say nonna nap. I know I wasn't supposed to let myself sleep but I just couldn't function. Finished off the evening with a nice pasta meal and the second gelato for the day ! Naughty! It's now 930 and I am struggling with my eyelids again.

Posted by The Hitchies 12:37 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Vatican museum and Sistine chapel

IMG_0197.jpg Wow what a day. Started the day with the round trip on the hop on/off bus to get our bearings and a snapshot of Rome. So much to see with so little time. I am already considering what I need to see next time I come back. We then went for a bit of a walk around the Mausoleum of Hadrian, usually known as Castel Sant'Angelo, this is a towering cylindrical building or fortress. We have discovered that many sights in Italy are closed on Mondays :( and unfortunately this was one of them we will try and get back to it tomorrow. IMG_0196.jpg
We headed back towards the apartment, finding lunch at an outdoor cafe on the way. While we were lunching we got caught in a rain squall. The weather has been very stormy. It has been a bit like Dorrigo (minus the fog of course).
We were booked for a tour of the Vatican museums in the afternoon, so back to the apartment for a quick change into appropriate clothing (the Vatican has a dress code) and off we went. Was very glad to have booked a tour as the queue was around the block. We booked our tour with a group called walks of Italy. It is small group and there were only 11 people on our tour. I would recommend them if you are here. Dylan found the crowds a bit daunting but quite enjoyed the paintings and studied the Raphael rooms fairly closely. I was particularly impressed with these too and the paintings are easy to study closely as the rooms are not that large. Whereas the Sistine chapel was crowded and relatively dark and the ceiling very high so I felt like I needed binoculars to pick up the detail. Very impressive all the same. I was amused that they pack a heap of people into the room then try to instill the holiness of the place by telling everyone to be quiet in a booming voice over the PA in italian. It kind of killed the mood.
Here are some pics from the ceiling of one of the rooms,I should know the name but it has gone as brain is in overload, it impressed me because it looked like it was in relief but was actually flat painting to look like it had depth. That is a poorly explained artistic explanation (sorry Hogie) 78593CF82219AC681798DE8FEA924588.jpg IMG_0199.jpg
And these are from the Raphael rooms. IMG_0202.jpg
After we left the chapel we went into St. Peter's, which is without a doubt the most impressive church ever. Well it was for me anyway (my church experiences are pretty much limited to weddings and funerals at st Stephens in Dorrigo, so it didn't take much!) Aden's take on the day was that it wasn't as boring as he expected it may be, and Dylan's was that the pictures were good but the were too many people :) I suppose that is a win. I know one day they will look back with better appreciation of what they have seen, surely! IMG_0204.jpg
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Feeling very weary we went back to the apartment with the obligatory gelato on the way.

Posted by The Hitchies 10:30 Comments (3)

The biggest history lesson ever!

Yesterday we had a fairly substantial art lesson. Today was mostly a history lesson. We are exhausted again after another big day in Rome.
Started of a bit later than I would have liked coz I needed to get a bit of washing out of the way. Anyway we jumped on the bus and headed to the Trevi fountain, only to be extremely disappointed when we finally got there. It was empty. Apparently it is closed for the next 12 months for major renos.
Feeling a little disappointed we wandered across to the Pantheon.
The Roman Pantheon is the most preserved and influential building of ancient Rome. It is a Roman temple dedicated to all the gods of pagan Rome. It has a very large dome with an obelisk in the top. The columns outside are also impressive.
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Then we found some lunch ready for our tour of the Colosseum and the Palatine hill and Roman forum. The Colosseum or Flavian amphitheatre was basically built to keep the masses in Rome entertained and happy. Everyone was offered free entertainment. Much of what is depicted of the Colosseum in the film Gladiator is true. It was a really interesting tour and we learned many things about life in Rome during the 500 years in which it was used.
In the photo above you can see the three layers of archways.
What was even more interesting was the way it was plundered over the years and a lot of the reason it is ruins today has to do with the fact that the stone was used to build other famous structures in Rome and the bronze pins that held the travertine stones together like a giant Lego set were stolen. The Catholic Church rescued it in the 18th century and it didn't actually become a museum till the 90s. That is the 1990's! At the moment they are cleaning it and you can clearly see the difference. The sheer height and size as well as the modern conveniences it had in its day such as shade sails, toilets and running water all impressed us.
the excavated under floor showing the recreated timber floor. There were 88 lifts with trapdoors up to the stage where things like lions could just pop up.

Ancient graffiti
Unfortunately the weather has been most unimpressive and we were caught in a massive storm again at the beginning of the tour :(
By the time we needed to head outside it had slowed down. Palatine Hill is one of the highest points in Rome. It was home to the emperors and as you can see has a wonderful view. Most of what is left is brickwork, the marble has been plundered over the years I suppose, and a lot has been covered over with new buildings built over the top. The guide likened it to a giant lasagne :) this area also clearly showed the aqua ducts which carried water all through Rome and made the settlement one of the wealthiest and well developed. IMG_0221.jpg
Just keep walking Dylan!
the above pic shows a church built within the ruins, notice the height of the door, this was floor level before the excavations. Also evidence that the beautiful columns had been (unsuccessfully) attempted to be removed
The last part was the forum. This is basically the old city centre around the time of Julius Caesar. It has lots of impressive marble columns and arches, some quite well preserved. One positive of all the rain was that some of the mosaics that once were floors had been washed off and exposed. The guide noticed parts that were not normally so clearly displayed. The colours were magnificent considering how long they had been there.
After 3 hours of explanations and up and down a million steps over uneven ground we were done and we headed off for the bus and home feeling much more knowledgable! Once again we used Walks of Italy and only had 8 in our group.
Tomorrow we head out of Rome to pick up a car and drive down to Pompeii.

Posted by The Hitchies 07:50 Comments (4)

Ciao Roma - Driving on the wrong side of the road

IMG_0229.jpg So it was time to say goodbye to Rome (for now anyway) and begin the next stage of our adventure. We headed to the airport to pick up our hire car. It was just weird and the first thing I did was head for the drivers door looking for the passenger seat. We soon got the hang of it and once we were on the autostrada it was fairly easy. We passed through a toll gate and took a ticket that we had absolutely no idea what to do with.
The scenery was beautiful with high hilltop villages and misty mountain tops. The storms continued to hang around but we have managed to avoid just about all of them over the last couple of days. Finer weather forecast tomorrow. :)
Anyway we drove along at 110 km with people whizzing past us like we were on a Sunday drive and got to the toll gate. Ok the ticket needed to go in. We had coins ready until it told us we needed 14 euro! Dave's saying hurry up give me the money I'm fumbling around trying to remember if the 2 euro coin was the big or the small one, traffic was building up behind, finally we realised we could just use a note which we scrambled to find and we got change and were away. Feeling a little (lot) stressed but ok.
Off the freeway into Pompei our GPS had taken us the long way and we had to negotiate some pretty crazy driving and streets. Italians are experts at driving down the centre of the road and sometimes when you are heading towards someone head on you question whether you are driving on the right side of the road. Any way we drove through lots of streets and roundabouts until we got to what should have been the hotel. It was actually not a hotel it was something else all together. I was wondering if the hotel actually existed at all. Maybe I had made a booking in a parking lot :/ eventually we found it but needed to ask someone who didn't speak English for directions.
The streets of Pompei are quite unattractive with lots of rubbish and graffiti. Once we found our hotel it was much better with very well kept gardens inside. They recommended the restaurant across the road for dinner. This was the best meal we had in Italy so far. Up until now the food had been ok but the restaurants in the area near the apartment in rome were very tourist oriented and I felt they lacked authenticity and were pretty keen to make a fast buck from the tourists. This one was the real deal and was the place the locals eat. It was also the cheapest meal we had had at 66 euro for the four of us and Dave and I had an entree. The boys had pizza at just 4 euro for a whole pizza. And a bottle of wine included.
Dave's stuffed squid for dinner
Fresh produce in Italy is very reasonably priced. Compared to eating out which is fairly expensive in comparison. The fruit is divine. I have been gutsing down apricots which taste like the real ones of my childhood at Enfield they are about 2 euro per kg.
Anyway we are headed to the ruins tomorrow which I have really been looking forward too.
I am so glad everyone has been enjoying our travels on the blog. We are actually now at Amalfi but I will publish this one and start on today's so everyone has their morning reading material. :)

Posted by The Hitchies 12:18 Comments (1)

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