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.

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.

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!

Cracks

I’ve really let my writing go since my last, vague post. I’ve been really caught up with the ins and outs of making a giant goal come true with my love but to talk about it too much feels risky still as I am trying to remain detached from outcomes – a self protection mechanism!

Last Friday, it was super icy here – much icier than years previous. Now despite my recent ice experiences at the start of the month, I did not think and lived my usual routines, resulting in injury. I’ve managed to bruise my tailbone quite badly and had to call into work sick after flying in the air, landing on my butt and bouncing down the stairs. It was unpleasant. It’s 4 days since this happened and today was the first day without painkillers and while it is still sore, I’ve kinda learned how to manage myself now.

I had today off of work which was pre-planned as it is my birthday tomorrow and my Mum wanted to take me out for lunch and spend the day together.

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Really poor, zoomed phone photo of a beautiful Wood Pigeon today.

So I’ve been doing a lot of sitting/resting and working on the genealogy of many branches of my family. It’s a very obsessive hobby and can take so much time without your realising. It’s fascinating though and I’ve learned a lot about where I come from and how life was different before today.

Tomorrow I turn 35 and birthdays are usually a time for a lot of personal rumination for me but I’ve been so flat out with this other ‘unmentionable’ project that I’ve not really had a chance. 35 is quite an interesting seeming age. I remember when my uncle turned 40, maybe my Dad too, and it was all teasing and ribbing about being “over-the-hill” and well, that’s not so far off for me.

I feel like I am only really beginning my life now, in terms of what is really important. And we need to keep on top of things because My Love and I have a lot to work on over the next while which is crucial to living the sorts of lives we desire.

I wish I felt that I could write more openly but I feel like it is a magic spell or something to keep the big things in until the right moment.

In other news, today my car finally got some petrol as my brother has been able to sort out the battery for me in the last week. It’s so wonderful to see my car in action, even if not being driven by me, yet. I wanted my Mum to take her for a drive to see what advice she might get with regard to the car’s specific quirks as an experienced driver. I think that next weekend will be the one – I will hopefully be free of pain from my silly slide down the stairs, and the other big life things might well be sorted – and writeable!

I have a few more post topics in mind that I’d love to write on. Hopefully this can happen in the near future. Goodnight World. See you when I’m 35~!

 

Holiday Pictures

I thought I would just let these pictures mostly speak for themselves. ~ Julia

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I took this photo with my camera on a weird setting but I still like the atmosphere of how it turned out.

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“the Chateau” beneath the majestic mountains. June 2018

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Mt. Ngauruhoe. New Zealand. June 2018.

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Heading up the Mountain. June 2018.

 

E-Cycling and Farm Animals.

Whilst we were away on our holiday to Ohakune, My Love and I had our first opportunity to try out riding E-bikes. I think we were both a bit skeptical about them at first. Are they really bikes at all? There are a lot of trails around the area we were staying in and after a few mere minutes on the bikes, I think we were quick converts.

Whilst on our little jaunt we met this goat below.

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Goat on the side of the road on a bike ride. June 2018.

It was chained up on a reasonably long chain outside of a property. It seemed reasonably happy but I still couldn’t help but wonder if it could have a better life. We were able to give it some pats no trouble though. Goats have very unusual eyes, they look to me like they have minus symbols in them. I would love to have a few goats one day as I have seen them be rather affectionate creatures and it would be nice to be able to make our own feta cheese and perhaps use their milk too.

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Beautiful Stream on our bike ride in Ohakune. June 2018

The environment was beautiful all around us and it felt a lot more like Autumn than Winter, at least in the ways those seasons feel in my own home city. I find it difficult to associate with the seasons as much in Wellington City. There are not as many deciduous trees to guide the seasonal changes, dropping their leaves and sprouting new growth. The chilling wind makes enjoying the outdoors more difficult in Winter. We do get good days now and then but you really have to grab them by the horns and take off into them when the rare opportunity strikes.

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Cows heading toward the milking shed. June 2018.

Earlier in our bike ride, I got left behind for a while as I stopped to talk to some cows. This was before this photo was taken by a good half hour. They were happily grazing and looked up at me but didn’t come toward the fence. Later on in our exploring we stopped but another section of the fence (pictured) and the cows were heading toward the milking shed. It’s always fascinated me that cows develop this routine – they know when to go and form into lines across the country.

I find animals quite inspiring to observe. Their existence is unburdened by many human concerns – money, housing, intellectual pursuits, relationships, raising a family. I concede that their lives, particularly in the domestic realm, are subjugated to the desires on humans, despite some of these other freedoms. I find interacting with animals refreshing  as they make me reassess my own troubles and put life into perspective. They help me focus on being in the exact moment. Maybe it is to do with being unable to interact in a linguistic sense and we talk to each other through body language and facial expressions? My cat can be quite vocal at times and while I like to think I understand the cadence of some of his meows, I will never quite know whether I am correct!! I have had several dreams where he can speak English, which is kind of odd I suppose… and a tale for another time!