October 30, 2008

Napoli and Roma

So we did a whole heap of stuff in Italy (apart from shopping). I list cities in chronological order. I write stuff we did under city. I'm pretty sure you're all smart enough to have gotten that without the explanation.

This part of the trip was all about Pompeii and Herculaneum. We went to both and also went to the National Archaelogical Museum. They were all pretty good and roman ruin-y.

We got the audioguide at Ercolano and got a tour guide at Pompeii. Good choice for both. Herculaneum is smaller so good fun to explore more on your own. Pompeii is so massive it would take forever to go and see everything on the audio-guide and there would have been lots of repetition with Herculaneum. There was no tour guide at Herculaneum.

We were both pleased we went to this museum before others as while it has got heaps of cool stuff, it is really badly organised and presented. We did go into the infamous room of erotica found in the roman ruins. That is mentioned in every guidebook. I don't know that it's really worth making that big a deal about. It is a good reminder that nothing is new ;)

One thing I found funny/weird is not just that I was walking along roads that Romans had travelled 2000 years ago, but also that I was walking along roads that tourists had been walking along for hundreds of years too!

Other important thing about Naples is that it is the home of the Pizza and OMG they have some *really* good pizza. When pizza with nothing but tomato sauce/paste, a few slices of mozzarella and a few basil leaves tasts *so* good, you know anything will. Omnomnomnom

When in Rome, do as the tourists and visit amazing famous stuffs. Vatican city was cool. Lots and Lots of ART. The Cistine chapel is the obvious major draw card (I wonder whether the numbers dropped when they were restoring it) but we were also super impressed by the Raphael Rooms. There was also a pretty good Egyptian exhibit and lots of marble statues etc. I was amused by the statuery as so many of the male nudes had ivy leaves put over their... delicates. It was very well organised and the audio guide was really good. It takes a while to go through all the rooms, but there is always something to look at. Sometimes this can be overwhelming (there are rooms where there is art on every surface) and you feel relieved when you get to walk through a plain modern corridor.

Next to the Vatican and yet somehow still sort of in it, is St Peter's Basilica. It is one of the most amazing churches ever. Lots of amazing marble. One neat thing is that there is no stained glass in St Peter's. When I heard that I was all "But the stained glass of the holy spirit as a dove!" and the guide was all, "That isn't stained glass, that is really thin coloured alabaster". ZOMG! We later went up to the top of the dome of St Peter's. This caused me some vertigo, but seeing the inside of the dome and then the view of Rome and the Vatican was amazing.

Another bonus of visiting the Vatican, the Swiss Guards. How funny are their outfits??

I also had a day of rest in Rome. It was a Sunday. I mooched about. Beau went off too what I like to term, a "Pope Mass". He thought he'd be 2 hours max. The mass alone went over 2 and a half hours and I expect him to blog about it, because it sounds like an "experience".

Another day we did a tour of the Collosseum, Palentine Hill and the Roman Forum. We tried to find Domus Aureus but were both a bit tired and hungry so didn't bother actually finding the entrance. Not sure it was open that day anyway. We decided to walk home that day via a couple of other important churches. One was St Peter in Chains, the other... I forget. It was between the Collosseum and Termini.

We also managed a day trip out to see Villa D'Este (many, many fountains) and Hadrian's Villa, which was more ruins (and a mini-museum), but it a really nice setting with some trees and fish ponds. It was a pretty long day, but generally pleasant.

Our last day in Rome we just walked and wandered. Saw the Trevi fountain, chucked some coins in took photos etc. Had some *really* good gelato. All the gelato is good in Italy, but there is some really excellent stuff too. Also saw the Triton fountain, Spanish Steps, Castel Sant Angelo and of course, the Pantheon. At this stage you start to get so overwhelmed you get underwhelmed by everything, nevertheless, the Pantheon is a major highlight for me. They had some good engineers back in the day.

After a day of walking we caught the train to Florence. I'll blog that later. Doing this much has already tuckered me out (not to mention the overnight bus from Budapest to Prague and the walking tour we did today too)!

Point of Fashion: It's warm inside
Current Obsession: Will Beau wake up on his own?

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October 24, 2008

I do my bit for the European Economy

Yup, recently I *spent* money. Well, I spent money on something other than accommodation, food, travel, entrance tickets and postcards. I managed to resist it for quite sometime, but I always knew Italy would be my weak spot.

Seriously, I was strong and didn't buy things until Venice, our last Italian stop. I bought:

- Glass. One of the small islands off Venice, Murano, is famed for the beautiful glass it produces. If you go to a bead shop anywhere in the world and they are selling expensive and beautiful "venetian glass" beads, they are or should be selling Murano glass. I coveted a lot of incredibly beautiful and incredibly expensive strings of beads, and ended up with a lovely and reasonably priced necklace.

- Lace. One of the other small islands of Venice, Burano, is famed for the handmade lace its residents make. It's expensive and it should be, it's painstakingly and slowly made by hand! I bought a fabric scone holdery thing. It's pretty and looks a bit like a flower and holds scones or rolls or what-have-you. I partly blame envy over Jenni's new cupcake holder for this. It isn't the same at all, but it is perfect for the display of scones at a morning tea ;)

- Mask. Venice is famous for its Carnivale. The whole week up to Ash Wednesday is apparently a time of masked revelry and they sell the masks all year round. They also hire and sell frilly, colourful, hooped outfits to go with. Gosh, I want a whole Carnivale outfit. I can think of at least 2 other people who might read this who feel the same way. The mad thing is that I didn't plan to buy one at all. They're not exactly practical and it'd be a hassle to get them back to NZ. The person who was the driving force behind the mask purchases was Beau. He *really* wanted one and then he wanted me to have one too! Funs!

- Boots. Italian leather ankle boots. They are something that I knew I wanted to get, before I even reached Italy. For one thing, I didn't bring any other waterproof footwear. I got some cute flats. Seriously adore them, not least because they are from the brand "Bata" as in "Bata Bullets"!!! The 7 year old in me delights (BTW, if you don't know what Bata Bullets are... I don't think I can explain).

- Puffy Coat - Today Beau and I arrived in Vienna, Austria and the temperature dropped a whole lot of degrees. We have a couple of warmer pieces of clothing, but most of our stuff was suited for warmer climes, eg Spain and Italy. We both needed coats and fast. So, we bought some. I surprised both Beau and myself for falling for a puffy pale beige number. I look a bit like a lightly toasted marshmallow in it, but it's so warm and good. Beau finds me very cute in it, probably cause my face looks so small peeping out over the top of the huge warm collar. My only concern is that it will stain, but currently I am just so pleased with how warm it keeps me.

Things to buy: Beau and I both really need a pair of warm trousers and probably another top each, but we've decided to try and wait until we reach eastern Europe. We're going to Budapest next and then Prague.

I shall hopefully get around to blogging about Italy (apart from shopping in Venice) over the next few days, but if I don't, it was *fab*.

Point of Fashion: Nothing new, that's all upstairs!
Current Obsession: Empress Sisi

Posted by giffy at 08:44 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

October 08, 2008

Post-camino Spain

After the walk we spent some days recovering, 2 in Santiago and 4 in Madrid. My ankles and right knee are still occasionally reminding me that they did some tough work and it was 2 weeks ago!

One of the first things I did on arriving at Santiago (after visiting the cathedral, getting our Compostella, acquiring accommodation and then going to the Pilgrim's mass... oh yeah, I think I ate too) was have a bath. So good to lie in the warm, what with the aches etc. Did wish I had a book to read though. I'm not so good at lying in the bath for over an hour when I don't have something to read.

Other things we did in Santiago:
- ate seafood, including the tradition Galician dish of octopus
- went on a walking tour (I know, you'd think after 111km we'd have had enough) of the Old town
- went to the Cathedral museum (and on our way in, saw the huge censer of incense being swung during the 6pm Mass)
- saw Stephen Hawking at the museum
- Went out to the end of the world (Finisterre) with 2 Danish we met on the Camino

We then caught the over-night train to Madrid.

We arrived too early to properly check-in, so we dumped our biggest luggage at the hostal (spelling is on purpose, is more a guest-house) and headed for the tourist information centre. The main one is located in the Plaza Mayor and even though we had it marked on a map and we spent a good 15min walking around the Plaza, we totally didn't find it, of course, we were a little distracted, what with the mounted guard, black limo and horse and carriage that came trip-trotting into the Plaza. It was like they were there to pick up Cinderella or something, silly outfits included blonde wigs! So good.

Other things we did in Madrid:
- Walking tour (we are addicted to those guys) of the old town, got some great food recommendations
- went to a fabulous pattisserie/confectionarie (sp?)... several times
- had a vegetarian meal (worth commenting, as the next day...)
- had dinner at the "Museum of Ham"
- Spent 6 hours in the Prado and saw a *lot* of Art
- Had a guided tour of the Palacio Real and also looked at the Farmacacia and the Armory. They have tiny prince armor there!! Tiny!

After Madrid, we headed off to our English Language camp, VaughanTown (can't be bothered linking, sorry). It was good fun, basically you speak English with Spanish people. They are paying for the privilege, you don't get paid, instead you get the joy of quizzing them about spanish life, free meals and accommodation in a 4-star resort. Well, they say it's a 4-star resort, but it was more like 3-star.

Anyhoo, it was good fun, there was entertainment organised (one karaoke night, one magic night, one party night etc) but it was not a holiday, you have to talk *alot* maybe 6 hours of one-on-ones. I would mostly recommend this to people who are planning to go on holiday in Spain and want to make connections. Everyone we met was lovely and if we keep in touch, that'd be great, however, we're all busy people and I don't know if we will. I am hopeful that we will get at least one visitor in NZ out of it in the next 2 years.

Beau and I are now in Barcelona. Tonight with be our 4th night here and tomorrow we go to Naples, Italy. We've had a great time here. The weather has been great and we've lounged on the beach (imported Egyptian sand) twice. We've been hostelling here and I'm reminded that while you're not as comfortable in a hostel, you do get to meet a lot more people.

Other Barcelona stuff:
- 2 walking tours (one was a Modernisme tour, another was a tour of the Barri Gothic area)
- a "cooking class", I can now rub tomato onto bread (is part of making a type of tapas) and make a strong sangria.
- one the recommendation of Morgue, we went on a day-trip to Montserrat which was totally worth linking ;)
- saw a *lot* of Gaudi designed stuff
- we were warned a *lot* about pickpockets.

There's a lot of stuff that I'm skimming/skipping. I have to have some stuff I can tell you about in person, right? If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

Love to you all!

Point of Fashion: Sensible clothes
Current Obsession: Bedtime!

Posted by giffy at 10:08 AM | Comments (3)