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!

Opening New Doors

So tomorrow My Love and I officially become real homeowners. Tomorrow is settlement day. Tomorrow we get the keys and start the several days process of moving in.

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Sunrise today, 31 July 2018 from my local train station….local until next week.

The past month seemed like it would never end and then suddenly did! I spent Sunday afternoon packing up my car with what will be the first load. This included a bit of interior cleaning and learning how the seats work exactly in my car. Learning to be a car person is a very slow and ongoing process for me!

Last night I got to see our house with most of the current owner’s furniture removed. It’s funny what a difference that can make to the feel of a place. It’s going to be so interesting to see how the addition of our furniture will make the place feel. It’s going to be so wonderful making it our home.

We only have a month there before we travel to Italy. Part of me wishes the holiday were a little further away just because planning a house and a holiday simultaneously is tricky but part of me thinks it will be great, all aside from having to be away from my #1 cat for a while. He’s not moving til we’re back from Italy as it will be much kinder to move him once rather than back and forth as he’d come back to my Mother’s while we’re away. I am going to pay him weekly visits, it’s still rough. He’s my almost-14-years-long companion.

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Cuddling on my lap, July 2018

I do hope that he loves the new house. Though he is getting on, he still ranges quite far. I’m hoping we make our garden so lovely he won’t want to wander too far! It will be great having the freedom of a cat door again (after he’s had a while indoors to adapt!) as we’ve had a bit of a routine here of letting him in and out when we’re here too and leaving food when he’s outside when we leave the house. I am sure My Love will enjoy having a cat at home too.

When I started writing this blog, we weren’t even seriously looking at houses right now. It was a goal for this year but we thought it would be something that might happen later in the year. We adjusted our expectations and thought more about the big picture and since then things have fallen quite magically into place for us. Our life has truly started moving in the direction of things that we’ve come to really value. A lot of this comes down to many hours of discussion and effort – and with lots of valuable advice and help along the way – and it really is the beginning of our lives together!

Packing Up & Counting Down

Two weeks from now, My Love and I will have moved into our own home. This has felt like such a dream and now the reality is starting to hit us. We have to pack our stuff and help prepare his current lodgings for sale by the owners, as well as the usual life of 9 to 5 and sorting out the final aspects of home ownership.

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Current Railway Station. Great skies here in the mornings. July 2018

This is a time of change and will be quite big for both of us. We’ve never lived together before and now we own a house. Some would say this is crazy but I think we are so comfortable in the knowledge that we are committed to a life together that it is actually very smart. When you take into account all of the financial benefits of jumping into this now, and how we are now able to more easily live the kind of life we want, and move into new phases, I think it would be crazy not to.

I’ve lived out of boxes partially for the past year. I never unpacked boxes of books, trinkets, sewing and other hobby gear, etc properly because I never thought I would be living with my Mother this long. In fact it has be 15 months. So my packing is not too difficult, except that I seem to have acquired a fair amount of new stuff in that time too. Some is stuff I’ve bought, some is donated by others getting rid of things that they think might be of use to us, some is new stuff in preparation for a new life and our upcoming travel – read gumboots and travel pillows…

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On the train at the park. Hoods all round. July 2018

I think the key here is going to be to just do a little each day and continue to rid myself of things that I don’t need or that I’ve not adequately dealt with in the past. Our home doesn’t have a huge amount of storage so I don’t want to just hang onto things that might be useful one day…

Today was an unusual day. It was my sister in law’s birthday so I spent time with her and her family. My Mother, brother and I took the kids to the park up the road which was windy and cold but still fun. We went on the rickety old train which I rode on as a child (perhaps a different model!) and played on the swings, biked around, used the digger, went on the super big slide!

But it was also a day that has probably yet to hit me yet. I found out that a colleague of mine passed away unexpectedly in the night. She’s someone who taught me a lot and has been a regular fixture in the past 4 years of my working life. My team at work recently moved to a different part of the building but I’d heard that she had some sort of health issue though I didn’t want to be too nosy about it. I wasn’t expecting her to pass away and I doubt many others who I work with were expecting that either.

Tomorrow will be an interesting day at work I think. I think I’m still kind of in shock about it and it will feel more real in talking with others who knew her. She was a very giving, knowledgeable and cheerful person in the office. I will certainly miss her cackle and her willingness to share her knowledge with me. A sad day.

Small life update

So since I fell on ice just over two weeks ago, I am still healing from the impact on my tailbone. It’s quite strange as it’s almost like it got worse, but I am just not sure anymore. If it’s not much better before a month has passed since I fell, I might have to get it looked at, which is rather embarrassing! Let’s hope it is just the slow healing injury everyone keeps saying it is.

I’ve been really busy of late with home buying and family times, and thus have not really got any photos to show of my life which is a bit sad, as I really wanted this blog to be pictorial as well as written. Alas, I am sure to find much to document over the next while.

I’ve also been home today, feeling a bit run down. I think My Love and I both have a bug and since he has been trying to quit smoking the past weekend, may have had an extra rough ride of it. I hope to get back on the life horse tomorrow as being home sick can put me out a bit. I’ve always liked routine, to the point where I would ask Mum when I could go back to school whilst on term breaks.

I finally drove my car, Ermentrude, on the weekend. My brother kinda forced me into it which was actually great. We drove around a car park twice which I promptly decided was really boring so we drove around a bit. I feel accomplished jumping back into it, it was easier than I thought, even with a maniac like my brother in the passenger seat! I will need to get my warrant of fitness done on her next weekend (there is always something with cars apparently!) and get some more driving done. I’d like to aim to have my restricted license by the end of the year, that would be the ticking off of three huge life goals in one year! We shall see how I progress.

I don’t want to write a massive post with no pictures and I want to get in as much healing sleep as possible tonight. Goodnight world!

Home Sweet Home

So the thing that I have been preoccupied by and have been too worried to write about is finally done. In fact it has been done a few days now but I’ve been quite content enjoying a little down time!

My Love and I BOUGHT A HOUSE!

It’s something we’ve been dreaming about, thinking about, planning about and reassessing for a good 9 months I think. We got the 2nd offer we put in on a house accepted and at this point in time, I am happy we didn’t get the first!

This was my big goal of the year. This is a big step in my “Life Plan”. Over many years now, it has been a cycle of hope and despair that I could ever own a house and now I own one with the love of my life and I couldn’t be happier.

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Our front door, Real Estate Agent Photo. June 2018

There is a lot of outdoor work we want to do on the place but the inside has been renovated and thus is mostly all good. We have two bedrooms which suits us for the time being and we can see lots of ways to add value. This is not a forever home but an entrance into the world of home ownership.

We have to wait a month to move in which is a blessing in that we have a lot to arrange in that time, furniture, logistics, etc.

This is the beginning of the next phase of my life. Finding out our offer was accepted on my 35th birthday was really something to remember!