Friday, September 23, 2011

Sweet Sorrento

Well, I had resigned myself to the fact that Italy was not the country I had believed it to be.  I had fallen out of love with it and totally inlove with Greece.  Until now.  Sorrento was a sweet town with friendly Italians and a lot of them actually spoke English and were kind to us when we tried our terrible Italian on them. 

We visited Pompeii - way too large - but the kids loved the dead bodies.  Kept them entertained the whole time we walked through it, them hoping to find another body!  Which was good for us because it gave us a chance to appreciate the size and beauty of the place, even if they were being so morbid!

Then the next day we climbed Mt Vesuvius, we got a bus from the train station most of the way up.  Dylan sat next to an American lady who he proceeded to educate in all things Pompeii (most of which was pretty acurate), I tried not to cringe too much about the facts his fantastical mind had somehow created.  However, the lady was most impressed with his understanding and seemed to think he would make a great teacher.  (Oh boy, Jaz did you read that?)  Mt Vesuvius was very impressive, but the temperature dropped so dramatically that we did not stay long.

After surviving the unexpected antartic wind atop the volcanoe, we made our way down to the Herculeum.  Wow and double wow.  I loved the Herculeum more than Pompeii.  The mosaic artworks and the frescos were everywhere and in such amazingly good condition that I almost felt like I was stepping back in time.  We ended up with a self appointed guide towards the end who told us he worked there.  Then he told us some amazing facts and the owners of the most grandest of houses in the Herculeum.  His English as pretty good, but I still struggled to understand him because he spoke so quickly!  He was quite hilarious too the way he described things like the toilet etc.  As it turned out he was just another one of those "helpful" guys that like to get money after they "help" you.  Unfortunately for him Vaughan only had a few pathetic coins to give him, I think he would have gotten more if Vaughan had had a five euro note because he was so funny.

We rented a car the last day and drove to Positano and along the Amalfi coast.  It was beautiful and we soaked our toes in the water (having thought togs were not going to be needed because of the weather) and ate lunch outside under an umbrella overlooking the waves crashing up on the black stoney beach.  The food we ate there was the best we had had in Italy.  The kids had a Calzone and I had the Spagetti Carbonara.  Vaughan had Spagetti with garlic mussles - totally yummy!

Ok gotta go and have some lunch, the family are a bit bored waiting for me to do this.

Home tomorrow!


P.S.  Please nobody see my spelling and grammar mistakes (remember I am a zombie right now).

Greece has captured our hearts!

We want to come back!  We love Paros!

Paros the island where you swim and snorkel and swim and snorkel and eat and drink and build sandcastles and swim and snorkel.  The people on Paros are lovely and friendly and best of all most of them speak English!  Oh how I have missed those easy conversations in English.

Before we arrived in Paros I was thinking I could quite easily go home, but now, I want to make Greece (Paros inparticular) my home.  We have been thoroughly spoilt with the best apartment at our accommodation, and food that tastes fantastic and beautiful sunny hot days.  I got really sunburnt the day I decided not to apply lotion for a few hours, eekkk.  But rest assured the kids have been so smothered in lotion that I can confirm that Dylan is coming home just as white (and boy is the kid WHITE) as he was when we left.  Kathryn has been blessed with her father's olive skin and has only to look at the sun to tan up.

Tanisha was with us for most of our week in Paros before sneaking off to Santorini for a couple of nights (without her togs that were left on our clothes stand), and then we all met up in Athens again for one last night before all going our separate ways home. 

The accommodation we had booked over the internet was a disaster as Tanisha arrived the night before us and her taxi driver refused to stop at our hotel.  The reason being was all the prostitues and drug addicts.  Needless to say she found another hotel and contacted us to met her there instead.  Unfortunately, we still managed to get off at the wrong metro station and with all our luggage cruised through the Cocaine district, which was very uncomfortable, made even more so by a shop owner stepping out to tell us to get the hell out of there.  Of course the children were completely oblivious, but I still felt sick to my stomach.  Never Athens again!  Vaughan and I have decided that we will fly direct to paradise Paros in future!

Our first night in Paros, having travelled four hours on a ferry, half an hour in a taxi and then lugged all our luggage to the top apartment (with the best view) at 11.30pm ended with Kathryn tripping on her way up the stairs to show Uncle Nik and Aunty Bess our apartment, and in the process chipping her front top adult tooth and spreading blood all over the place.  Bloody Hell!  So we will be booking a Dentist appointment when we get home.

Anyway despite the dramatic beginning to our time in Paros, we had an absolutely wonderful and relaxing time and really hope to go back some day.

Well darlings next blog (if I get to it before I get home) is about Sorrento in southern Italy.


P.S.  No photos sorry cos this computer in Singapore has no hole to stick a USB or otherwise!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Rome - need I say more?

So it took forever to find our accommodation, a bed and breakfast in Della Radio Palazza.  The numbering system was very confusing in the Palazza which was one reason why we had trouble, the other reason was we thought we were looking for a hotel.  Our B & B was about five rooms in an apartment inside an apartment building.  The people running it don't live on site so I thought it was pretty lucky that they turned up to look for us about 2 minutes after we pushed the button on the street outside to be let in.  Breakfast was packaged crossaints and precooked toast - ummmm weird!

We headed straight out to explore, first to St Peters which was very impressive and the queue moved quickly and the four hotdogs we had while in line cost 18 euros!  Unfortunately we thought the line into St Peters was the line into the Vatican city to view the Sistine Chapel so when we came out and relised our error we raced off to find the entrance to the Vatican.  Double unfortunately it was closed - we had missed it by an hour.

St Peters
So we decided to walk from the Vatican across the river and to see Navona Palazza where famous fountains are and then to the Pantheon; the resting place of Raphael and then finally to De Trevi fountain (where every tourist in Rome had decided to spend the evening aswell!)  The Palazza was great because there was a lady blowing the largest bubbles in the world and the kids raced around popping them and getting covered in soapy liquid.  There are horse and carriages racing around and the sound of the hooves clip-clopping on the cobbled streets is great.
Navona Palazza

The Pantheon was quite amazing.  The dome was enormous and I never did find out if the opening at the very top was glass or open.  I suspect that Rome doesn't get enough water to actually make it an issue and when it does rain they probably just mop it off the marble floor.  We ate in the square outside the Pantheon (it is our most expensive meal yet and we only ordered two mains).

The Pantheon

The fountain De Trevi was pretty amazing all lit up, but the bloody tourists everywhere made it almost impossible to get a good photo!  Next time I think we better put an advert in the paper to let them know when we will be needing

Infront of the crowded De Trevi

As we walked through Rome we would come across drinking fountains (which never stop running with cold clean water) and we would fill our drink bottle.  The kids would put their heads under the running water to cool off and drink freely.  They were an absolute Godsend because Rome is just so hot and dry.  At the end of the day we were standing on a hill overlooking the city and as we were doing our ritual at the fountain, a local showed us that to drink from the spout instead of drinking from underneath you block the spout with your finger and a little stream squirts out the top making it so easy to drink!  How chuffed we felt at the next fountain knowing how the locals drink from the spouts!

What a laugh for us to walk down the steps from where we were at the top to discover they were the famous Spanish Steps!  We had decided not to include the Spanish Steps in our tour of Rome, but am happy to include them afterall.  So at half past nine at night, having walked the children for miles, we caught a taxi back to our B & B and we all slept like logs!

The next day we raced off to the Vatican, but not before all the other tourists planning to visit and so stood in line for an hour chatting to three Canadian's who were on a cruise.  We took the most direct route to the Sistine Chapel that we could, but still had to walk forever through room after room, corridor after corridor, but it was worth it.  The frescos and elaborate decorated rooms and corridors were out of this world, there is nothing to compare them to.  Kathryn was impressed, Dylan ... not so much.

A random room in the Vatican

So then we caught a taxi off to the Colosseum which needless to say is MAMMOTH!  I knew it was going to be big, but seriously!  I was really intrigued by the mechanics of the pulley system they had for moving animals and trees etc from underground to the surface.  We wandered around, dying in the heat, took some photos and I must look like a "safe" person because I was asked a few times to take photos of people with their cameras.

By the time we left the Colosseum, actually before we left, the children had made it loud and clear that they were hot, tired, hungry, needing to go toilet, and had sore feet.  We didn't do the Forum as planned.

Next blog Greece.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Catching you up on our travels......

Hi everyone

I finally have time to sit and write a decent blog for you (with photos too!).  So to catch you up on some of my highlights I will probably make this one a long one, I suggest a wine or cup of tea/coffee as you browse.

Italy - Verona
Last year I saw that movie "Letters to Juliet" which is why we went to Verona.  I fell in love with the idea of visiting the courtyard to leave a letter of my own to Juliet - the scrapbooker in me just has to have a letter from a Juliet Secretary to put in my scrapbook.  So when we got there I insisted we all rub Juliet statues breast for luck - photo in previous blog - and I wrote a letter which I posted while visiting the courtyard.  I gave a small donation to cover postage for the reply I hope to have once I return home.  Vaughan and I bought ourselves a Italian handmade leather wallet and purse at the maket in Verona too.

Italy - Desenzano
We camped for two weeks in France eating crossaints and pastries galore before heading to our first campsite in Desenzano.  It was beside a beautiful lake which we all loved swimming in.  The camp also had a great pool too and we ended up getting the kids masks with snorkels and floaty things (a boat for Dylan and a ring for Kathryn).  Our campsite was under a couple of big old trees which was great because with it being so hot, shade is VERY important to campers.  We made friends (thanks to our kids) with the family camping directly beside us who were from Czechoslovakia as I mentioned on facebook.  The parents spoke not a word of English, but their eldest son (Lukas) did and that was an absolute Godsend.  We offered them our tent (which was going to end up in the bin) and in return they offered to pick us up stuff from the shop when they went, bought over a bottle of Italian Strawberry wine to share, and even got up early to say goodbye to us the day we left.  I hope our paths cross again.  I was very glad to see the end of the camping part of our holiday because I wanted air conditioning and clean feet (the dust was the worst).

Italy - Venice
We were very impressed with Venice; the skiny alleyways that snaked their way through 3 or 4 storied buildings either side then suddenly opening up into a Palazza with ancient and spectacular churches, with a man singing Opera to the crowd seated on the church steps.  The shops of amazing masks and glass works were breathtaking.  We made it to the Grand Canal and decided that being tourists meant we should eat lunch right there.  So ordering in true Italian style a range of pizzas and pastas proceeded to eat.  Kathryn, unfortunately, choked on her first mouthful of pizza.  She quickly indicated to me that she was in fact unable to breathe and I grabbed her, spun her round and performed the hymlic on her.  Finally she threw up the longest piece of mozarella cheese you can imagine and we both burst into tears infront of a throng of people (who quickly realised they were staring and moved on).  It was a horrible experience that neither of us will forget and haunts me at night, although it has not deterred Kathryn from eating pizza (expect perhaps for that first day or so after).  We then got into a Gondola (100 Euros thank you very much) for a surprisingly quick 15 minute float through some tight canals listening to our Gondola Driver yell out at fellow gondola drivers as we past by them - but I suppose you do these things for the experience.

Italy - Tuscany
It certainly was nice to get to our Villa in Tuscany leaving the dust behind, but unfortunately not the mosquitoes who have eaten us alive for the last couple of weeks.  At least at the villa we have clean feet, a large swimming pool and apartment complex completely to ourselves.  The lizards and frogs and ants have kept the children thoroughly entertained.  It was about day 4 or 5 at the villa, Cassa Rossa, that I realised that I was missing you all, and home inparticular, very much.   And not having internet access was very frustrating.  However, a couple of books later and a week of an amazing view and silence (when the children were trying to sneak up on the lizards to catch them) we were all looking forward to the next stage of our adventure - ROME.

A gecko drops by to eat some moths
Our impression of Italian water fountains
Fabulous people in a fabulous location

Sunset from the pool at our Villa, Cassa Rossa
Next blog coming up shortly!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Athens to Paros...

Really sorry that we have not blogged many times while we have been over here.  It has been very tricky without our laptop, so if you are planning to come over here BRING YOUR LAPTOP!  There is free WiFi all over the place, but not many internet cafes.

We just spent the last couple of days in Rome which was amazing, but too hot and the kids got totally over all the walking.

We are now on our way to the Ferry terminal to catch our ferry to Paros.  We are staying at Margaritas House - very appropriately named I reckon.  I hope that we all get lots of beach time, I still need to work on my tan, and the kids need to build some sandcastles.

We have enjoyed not camping, but miss the rental car.

Rubbing Juliets Breast for good luck!

Lakeside in Desanzo

Venetian mask

 Beside the canal in Venice

blog from Dylan...

In Italy while we were camping I went down to the lake beach by myself one morning.  I saw a freshwater Crayfish.  It was black, dark black and it nipped my fingers when I tried to pick it up.  It was about 20cm long (not a fisherman's tale!)

It is really hot here, I get to eat ice creams, about nearly five a day!  My favourite flavour is dark chocolate.

I found two dead frogs in the swimming pool, in Tuscany.  I swim almost everyday in a deep pool, I do canon balls and dives into the deep end all by myself.

I saw a lizard jump up the steps to get away from me.


blog from Kathryn...

The Eiffel tower was great.  It was huge and it was very pretty.  I liked looking down from the high heights at the view.

I did not eat any snails or frog legs because we couldn't find any cafes or restaurants that served them.

I did get to see a green snake slither past me when I was at the pool at the villa in Tuscany.  I have seen over 100 lizards and I even caught one, which was easy because it went into the pool.  It was fun when that happened.  It was a baby.

Greece has lots of beautiful ruins and I really like them.  One ruin I saw held water in it, although it doesn't anymore.

We went to the Vatican Museum in Rome yesterday and I loved the pictures on the ceilings.