Friday Night Wine & Revisiting Italy

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Looking down the Spanish Steps, Rome, September 2018.

I’m going to try to revisit Rome, again.

The above picture is from shortly after we arrived in Italy. We were stubborn and determined to walk from Roma Termini, where we were dropped off by a bus that we’d caught from the airport, to our accommodation, just off Piazza del Popolo.

Google maps is a bit of a saviour. I can’t really imagine having to look at old school maps to get around a city like Rome, with a suitcase, in that heat – 34 degrees celsius. We didn’t really know it at the time and partly followed our noses as much as the map but the route we took was quite scenic, leading us to see some iconic sites of Rome on the way! The aforementioned heat is NOT something we are used to in New Zealand so we had to stop several times on the way, simply to rest. Our walk was probably about 40 minutes, maybe longer with the stops and the uneven cobblestones but we were really relieved to find ourselves safely at our apartment – Al Corso 4.

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Looking down onto Piazza del Popolo, Rome, September 2018.

Our accommodation was just at the entrance to this piazza and we walked down these steps, rested a bit and then realised just how close we were. We were too early for our prearranged check in though, and still had our suitcases which were a bit awkward, but decided to eat our first Roman gelato of many and tried not to melt ourselves.

This was our first lesson in how much Italian we DID NOT learn in advance. We also found ourselves getting stage fright with what we did know. And the conventions of buying things in Italy are not the same as New Zealand. Usually at home, we pay after we have ordered and pay the same person, generally, who served us. We sort of knew in advance that things could operate differently but it was amazing how long we took to get used to this and how intimidating it was at times. We eventually worked it out, after browsing gelato flavours for some time, that we were doing something wrong and were directed to purchase the gelato at a cash register quite far from the gelato. This probably sounds silly but we are just not used to that, and after hours and hours of flights, walking in the heat it all felt quite odd! That said, the eventual cooling gelato made the whole awkward experience worth it!

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View of Piazza del Popolo from our apartment. September 2018.

We checked in to our lovely apartment at Al Corso 4 and I think we just kinda collapsed for a bit. We rested and I had preplanned the route to the supermarket which we headed to later in the day, an early evening stroll, to get essential supplies, coffee, genuine spicy Italian deli meat (I think it was salami?) gluten free crackers, pickled onions, olives, and surprisingly cheap Italian Brie. We basically made a really lame antipasto. With wine. When you are as tired as we were, that seemed amazing.

I am struggling to remember the hazy details of our first day in Italy. We were a bit overwhelmed by the bustle of Rome – so, so different and about a million times busier than our home city Wellington – the smell, the heat, the hustlers (that we observed but were not hustled by on this day), and the language barrier. I want to keep writing about Italy because I am realising that it is fading a little. I have been reliving the experience a little through other people’s photos on Pinterest¬†and of course my own. More to come.

Wedding Planning Progress & DIY!

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Swans & Ducks at our Wedding Celebration Venue.

So we did a pretty exciting thing recently which was confirm where we are going to celebrate our wedding with our families. We also decided that we are going to do the paperwork side of things at the Registry Office and be able to keep our “Wedding Day” (hopefully the next day) to the small, family gathering that we want it to be.

We started looking at celebrants and none of them felt right, so this way we are going to run our own ceremony (MUCH TO DISCUSS) and not have anyone there who we don’t know on the day. I don’t know if this is unusual or not. We are possibly having the smallest wedding party in the world…. less than 20 adults including us! But we are older – 37 & 35 – and we have other priorities to focus on. That said, I want our wedding to be about more than us, about a celebration of our commitment but also of family.

And now, back to the wonderful world of DIY!

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The beginnings of our biggest house project thus far, our fence! October 2018

As you can see, our fence is just beginning really. My Love’s Father helped him to put in the posts after a week of My Love digging holes. Already I can feel the privacy expanding and our new vegetable patches coming to life. As you can see, My Love has also be demo-ing the concrete path which has revealed a wealth of rocky/concrete/brick material that we will try to re-purpose before deciding it is just garbage.

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A pile of our ex-path by more important, it’s our teeny tiny Lemon Tree. Oct 2018

We also planted a Lemon Tree which has a lot of flowers on it but I don’t expect us to be lucky enough to get any lemons any time soon! It is still a mere baby plant.

This corner is super sunny most of the day and will have some garden beds added in the near future. All my recent yard photos are afterthoughts at the end of the day so the light is really low, in fact the sun is setting but look! The lemon-child is still in sun. Well planned us…. ūüôā

It’s Wednesday night here which means 2 more days until the weekend and the next step of the fence can begin. This step is the rails and then of course the palings. We had someone look at our damaged pipe today but are still impatiently awaiting the quote for the damage. Alas!¬†I want to get that work done so we can truly move on from the harrowing experience! Hah! It actually has more been a “that’s life” situation but yes, would like to focus on more fun things like having a fence and doing some landscaping!

We managed to tick off a couple of really small DIY projects too, like putting up our new and improved coat rack and get a proper closure on our letterbox. Oh! And a new lock for our shed. My Love was particularly busy this past weekend and I am very grateful for all of his work, as well as that of his Father. And I am also to his Parents for taking us to the venue that we’ve now chosen as the site for our Wedding party.

And with that, I am sleepy. I want to write about my new job at some point, the cause of my tiredness! Another early night may be on the cards!

 

Life in a little place called Home.

I’m not sure if I will ever get to writing up our entire trip to Italy. Maybe instead of thinking that I have to do that before I ever move on, I should just write about it when the mood takes me. I have wanted to write about things happening since we’ve been home more but I’ve told myself I cannot until I finish writing about Italy. This is madness!

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Moving Thor Home. Late September 2018.

Since we came back home from Italy, a lot has happened, even though it has only been a month. Wow! A month!

My Cat is happily living with us now in his senior years. It was an easy shift this time as he has slowed down a lot and seems most content to live the snug life inside, doing lots of sleeping and cuddles.

My Love & I have also begun doing a lot of work around the place and have started building a fence with the kind experience and help of My Love’s Dad. We have had a rather major mishap however and now have a busted pipe in our yard. When digging holes for the fence posts, one was placed incorrectly and the pipe was damaged by spade or crowbar. It’s not an emergency scenario but one that is important to remedy. The financial damages will become apparent this week. Not much you can really do in this situation other than accept it, get it fixed, learn the hard lessons about checking and double checking, and then moving on. All part of the joy and sorrows of being a homeowner!

A minor project we did was some small landscaping with things we already had around the place. We have used cardboard, bricks and white chip rocks to create a low maintenance edging.

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Brick and white chip edging, completed late September 2018

As you can see, this looks a bit rough around the edges. This was the day we finished the main work. Since then we have topped up the lawn with more soil, removed lots of weeds in that area and sown some new grass seed which is starting to come up now that we are more diligent in watering it. We intend to carry the bricks and chip along the full back length of our house and if there is enough white chip (this is currently at the front of our house and we are moving to the back) we might carry this around the other side too.

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Late in the day, 22 October 2018. The grass is a bit patchy now, and some weeds are sneaking in, as well as the ever present oak leaves. Some baby oak trees, potted up for My Love’s Mother are next to the flourishing potted pansies, gifted by my Father.

The above picture really makes me want to get out some white paint and sort out the bottom of the house! The projects are never-ending, really!

I’ve also started planting up my herb garden which I am really excited about!!

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Right after I’d just planted the first few herbs in. L-R – Lovage, Lemon Balm, Italian Parsley, Garlic Chives, Lemon Bergamot (a rescue plant, new to me!) Lemongrass, Oregano, Rosemary and Purple Sage. 7 October 2018

I have since added in a few new herbs, place eggshells around the plants to protect from slugs and naughty bugs and have added cat deterrents against digging. Oh and stuck in some solar lights which look cool at night. The below pic also shows the lavender plant that I just picked up and need to repot.

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Late in the day 22 Oct 2018. You can see the addition of Green Sage, Curry Plant and Tarragon. Sort of. I need to take some better pics!

I do have more to say about the outdoor work we’ve been up to and not to mention other life changes in the realm of work…. but I think that’s enough of a post for this evening!

I wonder what other people are getting up to in their gardens?

Campania Day 2 – Pompeii

I’ve been quite distracted from continuing my Travels in Italy blogging by many real life activities but now it is time to sit down with a glass of wine and continue, or it may never happen! I want to be able to look back on this trip as it’s unlikely my life will allow for another big trip in the near future…

The main drawcard to Naples, was to see Pompeii. It was a must-see if we were to go all the way from New Zealand to Italy…

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Animal Frescoes at Pompeii – September 2018

Before I will continue I will get my biggest Pompeii-travel-tip out of the way.

TAKE WATER! Don’t fear that you bag with your water bottle in it is too big (unless it is truly massive) and check it in…

We spent half the day at Pompeii but probably could have stayed longer, had we had our water bottle with us. There are a few fountains and we managed to get some water on board through using our hands as cups but this was less than ideal. We missed some final parts of the site and really skimmed over some of the houses because I was really starting to fade in the heat.

Pompeii is EXTRA hot because there is not much shade and the stones in the ground also emanate heat back at you.

Despite not seeing at all, we had a worthwhile and interesting time at Pompeii. It is a mixed feeling being there. You are interested in seeing so much history but also acutely aware of those who lost their lives in the eruption of Vesuvius.

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Photo looking into the Antiquarium. Many amphorae & several casts of bodies found. People throw coins in, honouring those who lost their lives.

Our strategy when heading to “touristy” sites, is to try to arrive early and miss some of the hordes. We did this reasonably successfully but some parts seemed to be packed most of the day. My number one must-see within Pompeii was the Villa of the Mysteries, and I am so pleased to say that we struck it so lucky there. There were barely any other people there when we visited it. I’d studied it in high school and it is still surreal to me that I have now been there myself. It’s funny though because I was also very taken by the huge Rosemary garden on the site. I had to put my face into it, I cannot deny it.

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Fresco in the Villa of the Mysteries. Pompeii, September 2018.

Pompeii is extremely interesting and made me wish I’d revisited my school materials and re-learned things about it before going. That said, it wasn’t really a regret and I still got a lot out of being there. I definitely want to go back if I get the opportunity. Something that really struck me about Italy is that excavations are still happening in all of these famous sites, so I’d love to go back in 20 years or so and see what is new, armed with more knowledge to really soak it all in.

Napoli – a bustling introduction (part one)

I’m a bit overwhelmed by trying to think about our holiday, so I’ve decided to dedicate my next entry to our little sojourn down to Naples. We decided to go to Naples, not knowing too terribly much about it other than that it was closer to Pompeii and Herculaneum, which were must see sites for our holiday.

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Fountain in Piazza Monteoliveto in Naples, near our apartment. September 2018

Our plan was to catch a train, pre-booked, down to Naples. The day this was planned for, we experienced a thunderstorm in Rome, which woke us up early and provided a bit of excitement for My Love who viewed it from the balcony. It was over before I had managed to pull myself out of bed, which is a bit of a shame, but what we were blissfully unaware of at this point in time is that it would affect the running of the high speed train!

Many hours later, we arrived at Roma Termini with our suitcases, to fall upon chaos. We were aware that this is a very busy transport hub in Italy and so initially did not think to much of it… but, something felt a bit wrong when we could not see our train number from our ticket on the board. There was a train to Naples at the same times as on our ticket but the number was completely different. Now, with hindsight we know that our train was changed to a different type with a different number¬†but due to our extremely limited Italiano we could only work out that there were delays, but not the extra info that would have seen us confidently board this replacement. We almost did but I’d read that if you don’t have the right ticket, you can get kicked off the train and so we hesitated. Long story short, we ended up having to buy new tickets that were 3.5 times the price of our initial ticket and no refund possible on the pre-booked ticket. So that was expensive but what are you going to do??

We still had a very slow ride to Naples, with issues due to the weather still having a impact hours later, but eventually we arrived with only a half hour delay to the meeting time we had initially set up with the apartment we were staying in. They were very understanding which was lovely. We stayed at San Nicola Apartment which is next to the San Nicola church which you can see part of below.

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View across a church rooftop from our apartment. Naples Sept 2018

When we came out of Napoli Centrale train station it was hectic!! So much tooting, yelling, people everywhere – it was quite an experience! When you cannot speak the language it can be difficult to discern the tone of the yelling which can be unsettling when you are not used to it. It was also extremely hot and we didn’t really have much idea about Naples yet so everything was a bit intimidating. We had hurried to get some breathing space near the exit of the station but this set us somewhat off course. Google Maps sent us down a lot of hectic back alleyways that felt like a different world. It didn’t feel entirely safe. It felt like all manner of chaos and dealings were going on. I don’t think either of us were expecting this, even after the busy bustle of Rome and as the heat kept beating down we just had to keep on walking and try to get to our accommodation.

I am glad we had this experience, to see how people live in different, more dangerous and chaotic places first hand. Whilst we discovered a much safer route to the historic part of Naples where we were staying, we still saw a clothing store on the main shopping street with bullet holes in the glass. This is not something you see in small New Zealand.

Naples definitely had different sides to it but you could feel that the poverty is greater there than in Rome. The people dress differently. There is even more graffiti, rubbish, and there are more homeless people sleeping on church steps.

The two pictures above are two views from the same place, one looking left, one looking right. Both show the narrow nature of Naples streets but even in this small spot, I feel that the diversity of the places shows. Heading to the right you come out onto a bustling food market with fresh fruit and veggies, fish and other produce. Keep walking and you arrive at a couple of train stations. We never found time or need to go up the left hand street here.

On our first night in Naples, I feel we were a bit nervous. We were given a complimentary bottle of wine by the apartment and drank that before dinner which raised our spirits a bit! We then headed to the supermarket and began our tradition, now referred to as our “Naples Diet”, of eating spaghetti cooked in our apartment with some wine. Yes, that first night we had a lot of wine… The next day we went to Pompeii and got a bit more comfortably acquainted with Naples, meaning we didn’t feel the need for continued liquid courage! And I think I will leave that story for a fresh new post!

Time travel, History, Now

I think I am still digesting the fact that we went to Italy. The whole time that I was there it felt quite surreal despite things being¬†so different to life here in New Zealand. I theorise that the sheer amount of people & tourists made it feel unreal or perhaps that so much of what we saw, I’d seen before, through school books, and online.

We originally were going to go to Prague. I’ve wanted to go ever since I saw a travel show about it when I was 18. Then we thought about it – and both of us are interested in the history of Rome and I had studied it at school and at university – both in classical studies and art history. It started making a lot more sense to go to Italy.

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Piazza Barberini – Late Medieval square with Bernini’s 17th-century Triton Fountain. Sept 3 2018

The above fountain is one of the first I saw in Italy and was certainly the first that made me stop and take a picture, despite the heat and dragging a suitcase across cobble stones.

Everyone tells you that Rome is dirty. There was definitely a hint of rubbish stench in the air and a lot of rubbish discarded around the streets. It’s odd though because I don’t really recall seeing anyone littering as such, so perhaps it is more that the infrastructure just cannot cope with the population, both resident and tourist.

And the weather was hot. It was 34C for a lot of the time we were in Rome. I’m not certain that I had ever experienced that before though it was a different heat to what we get here at lower temperatures. It was a lot more bearable and less searing. ¬†I guess that is what having an intact ozone layer gives Europe. And I have to say, I liked it. I liked it even though it was wearing and we took afternoon breaks most days.

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Finding shady relief on a walk up Janiculum Hill, overlooking the heat of Rome. Sept 14 2018

Considering the conditions, we did a great, huge amount of walking. I think that is the best way to travel, particularly if you allow yourself to get a little bit lost from time to time. We saw a lot – tourist sites and things less well known – but we could have seen plenty more. I already have things saved in a list in case by the good graces of the gods we get to go back one day. Two weeks at a time is the best amount of time away from home for us but it does also place limits.

Here is a list of what we did see (just in Rome – we went to Naples for a few days too) :

  • The Spanish Steps
  • Piazza Del Popolo – we stayed in an apartment overlooking it.
  • The Pantheon
  • Hadrian’s Column
  • Largo di Torre Argentina (Ruins & Cats!)
  • Vatican Square and St Peter’s Basilica (though we didn’t go into the Basilica)
  • Castel Sant’Angelo
  • Lots of walks along the Tiber and the various bridges
  • Villa Borghese – a beautiful park with an old villa full of breathtaking art.
  • The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
  • The Colosseum – we honestly only needed about 10 mins here… will elaborate in a seperate post.
  • Trajan’s Column
  • Fontana della Tartarughe – Turtles!
  • Capuchin’s Crypt and Church
  • Piazza Navona
  • Piazza Venezia
  • Fontana Di Trevi – I have NEVER seen a photo that can do it justice
  • Santa Maria Maggiore
  • Santa Maria in Trastevere
  • A church that we randomly went into – Igreja de Jesus e Maria
  • Stayed in and dined in Trastevere
  • Baths of Caracalla
  • Walked along part of the Appian Way and got lost into a park.
  • Capitoline Museums
  • The Vatican Museums
  • Villa Farnesina – Beautiful villa with amazing art
  • Crypto Balbi Museo
  • Walked along many streets…

I’ve undoubtedly missed things that looking through my over 1300 photos will remind me to add to the list. I still look at the map of Rome and see things that I would like to have been able to see but we took the path of caring for ourselves and making sure that we were able to do something significant every day.

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A street in Trastevere, early one morning. I love the foliage taking over the buildings. Sept 2018

More Italy to come ‚̧

Half Way Around The World, and Back Again.

I note today, that I’ve not managed a blog post for the whole month of August and the first 3 weeks of September. This is in part due to the fact that My Love and I just spend the first 2 weeks of the month in Italy.

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View from Viale della Trinità dei Monti. 3 September 2018

Before I start talking about that too much, I think I best address the month that passed me by, August.

We moved into our house early in the month. Moving houses is always a lot of work – especially moving things from 3 different places into one location but by the end of a weekend we were pretty much done. Almost 2 months on and now that we have My Cat here too, we are starting to feel pretty settled. Mr Cat is inside for now as we only picked him up from My Mother’s last night but he seems pretty happy so far. Will be nice to be able to let him out in a few days, despite my concerns about him not getting on with other neighbourhood cats, of which there are a few.

We’ve discovered the joys of homeownership already, with our toilet flusher breaking after less than two weeks here as well as the pantry coming off its rails due to a shonky install. Both of these things have been fixed and we’ve gotten to do a bit of DIY too! We have:

  • replaced some handles in our bathroom
  • I painted and then we added numbers to a new, lovely letterbox
  • My Love has put up the smoke alarms
  • I’ve put some film on the bathroom window for added privacy
  • I’ve done a little extra repainting around the house exterior, in a preliminary way
  • I’ve done a bit of painting clean up on our windows and the back door
  • My Love put a new draught guard on the back door
  • We put up a key hook
  • We’ve set up two compost bins (one weeds and the other general kitchen scraps and lawn clippings)
  • I’ve done a lot of weeding and pulled a lot of rocks from our garden and lawn
  • We’ve mowed the lawn a couple of times
  • We’ve vaguely improved our shower with some new fittings – this is possibly a work in progress though
  • And we continually discuss what improvements we might make next.

BIG NEWS TO COME

On the Saturday night of our moving weekend, My Love proposed to me & became My Betrothed. This is something we’ve talked about but the timing took me completely by surprise! We don’t want a big wedding, partly for financial reasons and just because that isn’t really our style but we’ve only really scratched the surface of planning as we’ve had our Home and Italy to focus on. Needless to say, this is a very happy development. ‚̧

My word it has been a big year!