Thursday, 27 February 2014

Peace, man

And then we came back to Rome, ate well, slept a bit and walked up to see the Ara Pacis, a piece of Roman history resurrected by Mussolini in the 1930's as a propaganda exercise - but originally created by the first emperor to be named "Augustus", over 2000 years ago as a monument to peace.

It was obviously fascinating:

But there was an exhibition of Impressionist art on in the lower gallery which might account for the levels of excitement... needless to say I didn't bother trying to get Mr Golightly to go along... it was enough of a strain for him to go to the Cheapside Hoard exhibition (which he amusingly kept referring to as the Cheapside Whore), and I didn't want to push it...

I thought it was extraordinarily beautiful:

and nearly best of all - it had seats!!

Afterwards we went for a wander through parts of Rome we hadn't seen before:

and I spotted my new winter coat (not!) in a window [excuse the blurry photo, I was trying to be discrete])...

I love Rome.

Turin around...

Then we came back to Italy, and wandered round other bits of the countryside for our last few days. Turin is one of the most beautiful cities I've been to - laid out in a grid, very Parisian in style - with some very interesting sights:

and a fabulous Egyptian museum:

And of course, the Shroud.  Well, the Church with the room with the cover over the box with the case in a chest... and no photos.  Unless you're one of those functionally illiterate travellers who can't translate pictograms that look like this:

And there were some...

Hmm.  There was also fabulous street life:

And wonderful art and architecture:



and they have trams!  A fabulous network of trams that run right through the city - for €1.50, you can ride the trams for 100 minutes, or for €5.00, you can ride all day, round and round and round... surprisingly, for the home of European chocolate manufacture, we didn't buy any, and we didn't bring any Fiat memorabilia home with us either.  What were we thinking???

Crossing the Channel...

Then we went to England, to see the Cheapside Hoard, and on the way, we wanted to visit St Paul's cathedral in London - did you know they want £16 per person to go into the church?  In my mind, that's outrageous.  In Italy, every single church is free to enter.  Admittedly the Sistine Chapel costs to enter, but that's part of the larger Museum complex and isn't generally open to the public, but the biggest church in the world, St Peters Basilica, is free.  Also, I think £16 is a bucketload of money - about $30/head at today's rates... to go into a church.  

We opted not to go in, but I did take a free picture.  That was plenty!

I might just add at this time that I also went into the Marble Arch branch of Marks and Spencer, and went nuts buying their excellent t-shirts.  I love M&S.  Are you listening?  Offers of sponsorship (or free bras, or free t-shirts), gratefully received...

On the Saturday, we went to Brighton for the 100th birthday of somebody who would have been my grandmother-in-law, if things had turned out differently in the 1980's - but I won't post any of those pictures because they're all family and friends of the birthday girl - just take my word for it that lots of fun was had by all - including much admiration of the birthday card from Mr Golightly's friend Betty, who was in residence in Windsor at the time... 

But because we spent so much time driving round the countryside with Gretchen the Whacked-out SatNav on the day after the party, we had zero time to wander round the countryside or the town - except for the frenzied panicked driving up and down the streets of Windsor looking for the hotel's parking lot - and so there's no photos.  None.  Not even the free ones.

Crossing the Rubicon...

On the Sunday before the Calcio, Mr G and I wandered over to Trastavere (literally, "across the Tiber") for a quick squizzy... it's interesting, in a studied "we're so different to the other side of the river" kind of way:

Not so different, really.

Other days...

One of those things was the underground & top level tour of the Colosseum, bits that aren't accessible to mere mortals - plus you get the skip the depressingly long ticket queues (so worth the €23  each just for that (if you're wondering, the tour is €18 each plus €2 each booking fee, plus €3 each for the guide and you have to book - we did it by phone, even with my basic Italian it was easy - the phone operators speak excellent English))...


and most excitingly, I found out that the original use of the word 'vomit' was to describe the exits from the Colosseum - apparently it means "a speedy exit"...

Then we...

Well, bloody hell, where did that go?  Yep, we're back.  I can't believe three weeks went by just like ... that... but while we were living it, it seemed to last ages.  Lots of lazy days, not rising much before 0900, wandering down to the excellent Cafe Barnum (or is it Barnum Cafe?) for cornetti & cappuncini...

Then off to wander the streets, seeking out the weird, the wonderful, the very Roman (and in the interim, a change from Google Chrome as the Browser Of Choice to Mozilla, don't even ask why...):

We did a fair bit of travel, too - London, Brighton, Windsor (via Eton & Slough, courtesy of a whacked-out SatNav), Turin, Naples, and Pompeii... and we did some interesting things too..

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

And it rained and rained and...

Well, it has been a little damp, that's for sure. We haven't let it stop us from doing stuff, but there are some sick people around us who haven't been that careful about covering their orifices when they sneeze & cough, and so I now have a sore throat, butg hey? Aperol spritz at 3.00pm will fix a lot of things...

On Friday Mr G and I joined some other intrepid souls at the Vatican Museum at 0800 for our 4 hour guided tour - hilariously there were some groups who came through right behind us who had allocated 30 minutes to do these whole museum, and one day to do Rome. We're on our 4th visit and every single time we find different things to do - admittedly there are some things worth doing more than once, like the Pantheon, especially if it wasn't raining through the nine-metre hole in the roof on the  previous visit, but really - one day? No way!

Anyway, on Saturday we gave the knees a workout at the Colosseum - yes, 2nd visit, but this time with a tour of the underground, and access to the highest levels, both of which are not generally accessible.

And then yesterday, after an excellent lunch of rigatoni with veal sauce across the River in Trastevere, we did this:

Calcio. I may never be able to look my ladies literature and sewing circle in the eye again.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday...

So, it's been raining here quite a bit, and so on Tuesday we went out to buy Mr G a raincoat. We tried Superdry, but although the boys were very helpful, he didn't really like the idea of being a walking advertisement for a coat company, and so we walked up the road a bit to a more sedate menswear store.  In true Italian style, the shop assistant sized him up immediately, and bought out three possibilities, all of which were acceptable to me.  For Eu85, we got something that would easily have been $250 at home.  

Then we did the really exciting part, and went to Piazza Colonna, and bought tickets to watch Lazio play AS Roma on Sunday (this is soccer/football/calcio we're talking about here) - and I know some of you are looking at each other going "Really?  You're going to a football match?"  Yes, Gentle Reader, I am.  I am well prepared, with gloves, a beanie, scarf, camera and the most important part - ear plugs.  

Anyway, Mr Golightly used to play, and then referee, and so he was pretty excited at the prospect of being able to watch two top class sides in the local derby, so who was I to say "No"?

Then we got really wild, and got on the 281 bus, which goes out to the Stadio Olympico, where the match will be held on Sunday, so we could make sure we allow enough time to get out there, find our seats & not miss a minute...

This stadium was started by Mussolini in the 1920's, but not completed until after WWII - and used for the 1960 Rome Olympics...

And then, Gentle Readers, we went really wild and came back again.  Phew.  The glamour.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Day One - the excitement!

Well, Gentle Readers, we survived 14 hours on a plane with a screaming toddler... just.  AsyouknowBob, I am not that fond of small children ("Anyone who hates children and small dogs isn't all bad" (widely attributed to W C Fields but open to discussion), but it's the parents who are usually to blame.  They had four kids, three of whom didn't make a peep the entire flight, and the screaming monster.  Did they give the kid a dummy?  Did they F**k.  They just let him scream and scream and scream and scream... OMG.  All I can say is thank the ghods for noise eliminating earphones and Emirates'* excellent inflight entertainment system.

I watched 3 movies in an attempt to drown out the little shit.  Elysium (not bad, a bit too much crash bang wallop, and not enough Elysium, but it was lovely to see the always gorgeous Jodie Foster in action), About Time, which is a nice (and very English) film from the clever Richard Curtis, which reduced me to tears (in a good way), and The Butler, which was an interesting take on two of the sides of the American Civil Rights movement, and which had quite a good performance from some woman called Oprah Winfrey - apparently she has a show on TV in America so maybe she needed the money?**

Anyway, the 6 hours from Dubai to Rome was blessedly silent, mostly because I was crammed into a 17" wide sardine tin of a seat, mouth open and a stream of drool issuing forth as I slept.  Or so Mr G tells me.

We arrived two hours (two whole hours!) early, and our driver was there to meet us.  Honestly, Gentle Readers, before you look askance at each other and ask "Driver? Oooh" in that snarkey tone, just be aware that for Eu37, you too can be met at the airport by a well dressed man holding a sign with your name on it, have your bags taken from you, be ushered into the back of a spotlessly clean Mercedes Benz and driven right to your door, where the bags are then taken back out of the car.  Having rung the doorbell, said spotlessly dressed man waits until the door is answered, shakes your hand, takes your money and drives off into the night.   Yes, it's (only slightly) more expensive than the train & a taxi, but really, on a cold wet Sunday night, who cares?

And then, this morning, breakfast:

Eu5.  That's $A7.70 for two excellent coffees and two fresh, delicious cornetti (mine was chocolate, his was poppy seed).  You can buy two coffees in Sydney for $7.00 - in fact, in 2011 in Perth, at a particular hospital, a very ordinary coffee in a paper cup with nasty plastic stirrer was $4.50... so you see, Gentle Readers, even with a truly crap exchange rate, Europe is mostly cheap.  

Also, I now know where those amazing men who sell umbrellas come from - they pop up out of Churches:

We were crossing Corso Vittorio Emmanuel II on the way home from an excellent lunch (two beers, a glass of wine, two pizzas, a bottle of sparkling water, Eu37/$A57) when I spotted these guys.  I love Rome.

*Not a sponsored plug, but if anyone from Emirates is reading this & wants to upgrade us, feel free.