A Travellerspoint blog

...Um, Would You Believe We've Been Busy?

Time To Catch You Up

Ok so my apologies for falling asleep every night instead of writing to you all. But by the end of the day all I want is to eat and crawl into bed.

Now that apologies are over let's get back to the interesting stuff...

So I left you on our journey to Pompeii.

We decided to get a private tour guide for just the two of us. Yes indulgent but somewhere we have both wanted to see so much.

This lovely lady Daniele had degrees in Archaeology and Art History and was a delight. She is passionately fascinated by the antiquities of Naples and lived at the bottom of Vesuvius.

Our 3 hours wandering Pompeii and asking questions and getting so many stories (as well as bypassing every tour group) was a great investment. She was able to put so much context to the life and really made this place come alive. And I must confess it felt soooo good to cut off some woman at the pass as she whinged about how she was 'in a queue here' to get in (to the brothel if I recall) by saying 'that's our tour guide'and having her just step back to let us through! I know I'm a bitch but sometimes I like it!

So having tackled roman and Neapolitan antiquity it was time to tackle the church. You know the one that is the smallest country in the world - the Vatican.

Again a guide but this time part of a much larger group. Having left the booking till the last minute I couldn't get us into any of the early morning, before the museums open to the public, tours that the Vatican has so kindly arranged with some tour groups at great cost to customers and presumably great profit to the Vatican as well. So while we were in theory early starting, by the time we got to the Sistine Chapel it was wall to wall people.

However our guide was excellent and had spent some time explaining the Chapel's art works to us on a big touch screen which he could zoom in etc. So by the time we got in there it made some sense even if it was overwhelming. BTW did you know the reason why you can't take pictures in there is not to preserve those beautiful frescoes but because some Japanese company paid a fortune to the Vatican to help with art restoration and for the privilege now have copyright on all the pictures!

But I must say it was pretty amazing to be in the space where the cardinals only recently chose the latest Pope, Francis.

The frescoes which we've all seen photos of (or at least portions of them) were beautiful but not as beautiful to me as the frescoes in the Raphael room. Just breathtaking. And probably closer as the ceiling wasn't as high. Not to say that I DIDN'T like the Chapel though! I've just become a fan of Raphael is all. And the sheer work involved for Michelangelo in achieving that exquisite masterpiece on that ceiling is of course mind-blowing. Apparently he got given the job as a kind shut-him-up penalty. Sure showed 'em!

Sadly while the museums and St Peter's Basilica are things of exquisite beauty, I somehow found them just a little too dedicated to reminding everyone over the centuries of the power of the papacy and less about offering this beauty as a path to God. For example I have found Saint Paul's Cathedral in London and Notre Dame in Paris so beautiful that they have moved me to near tears in their glorification of God and using the beauty to achieve that. Maybe I'm just a cynic!

Phil had an extra share of the Vatican when he went on a special tour down under the square and Basilica and saw the streets of family crypts and heard the stories. This was a tour I had to write away to the Vatican ask permission for him to attend. Tens of thousands move through the museums and Basilica each day but only 500 a day are led through these excavated ruins. He loved it and was fascinated by things like holes into these crypts which were there for when the mourning families would visit on their Loved One's birthday and on the anniversary of their death. The holes were so that they could pass food through to the body. Come on it might sound macabre but we are talking about the Dark Ages in the 4th and 5th Century.

This area is very near to the tomb of St Peter though there is still a question of significant proof that he is buried there. But it was a special tour which P found fascinating.

Overall Rome was fascinating but I just found it too busy and somewhat overwhelming. So again no falling in love, and We were both ready to move on.

But we will tell you more in the next instalment so you can go back to what you were doing before this update rudely interrupted you.

Ciao, arrivederci and all those other Italian words that now trip off our tongues

Posted by OwenGadflies 09:44 Archived in Italy Tagged museums rome vatican pompeii st_peter's_basilica crypts Comments (2)

Detaching From That Truck That Must Have Hit Us

Travel is a Little Tiring #firstworldprobem

Well we solved the problem of TFB -that nasty bridge in Venice by hiring a porter to wheel our bags on his brilliant little trolley! Worth every one of the E20.

But i get ahead of myself.

To all of you who insisted we HAD to see Venice, we did! It was a fun and compact way to start but sorry no falling in love!

Highlight was visiting Piazza San Marco at 7.30 in the morning with barely anyone there and wandering around taking some lovely photos while we got a bit lost in those delightful little calles (laneways). Tootling up and down the Grand Canal on vaporetti (ferries) was fun as well and our fantastic hotel sent us to two yummy restaurants. Phil wallowed in fish eating like he'd never seen fish before and i have developed a passion for prosciutto di parma and melon. Think I've eaten prosciutto every day since arriving in Italy.

So on to Rome.

Unfortunately, the instructions of a 'short walk' from the station also ended up being a REALLY roundabout route and AGAIN included DRAGGING BLOODY CASES UP STAIRS! Once we got the lay of the land we realized they were entirely misleading! Grrrrr Thanks Pauline Stopford I will now heed your advice and always take a cab when faced with "just a short walk" especially if cases are involved.

Sadly after this very hot and trying journey to our Roman home centre, we were deeply disappointed with the apartment. I'll save the tirade/litany of horrors for the feedback on the Airbnb site. Suffice to say there's a significant shortage of things like plates, forks, knives, pillows cushions etc. And the lady who met us to show us around was sweet but spoke so little English it was nearly pointless. Her boss whom we had dealt with had demonstrated and claimed English speaking access to him. Sigh! I considered dumping the money we'd already paid and finding a hotel but put on my Big Girl panties and played suck it up Princess! We have 3 sleeps to go there.

But Rome!

We are near Santa Maria Maggiore church which is entirely unprepossessing outside but is the 2nd or most significant church in Rome after St Peter's at the Vatican. Inside was exquisite. Beautful art, mosaics, chapels, sculptures, marble, ceilings, frescoes. Just breathtaking and serene despite the many tourists.

Yesterday was tours of the Colisseo and Imperial Forum as well as the Palatine Hill which was built as a massive palace and has enough remains to show the lavish nature of its early life. It later became the Beverly Hills of mediaeval Rome.

As I write we're on the train heading to meet our guide for a tour around Pompeii!

Oh did I say it was hot hot hot and even hotter?

Sweat pours off us constantly and I have had to resort to regular Gastrolyte drinks to try and get on top of my constant dehydration and resulting exhaustion and occasional snappiness! Returning to our disappointing apartment but out of the sun makes the aprtment more bearable. But definitely requires instant stripping of all our dripping clothes! (if you're having a visual on that, more fool you and I have no sympathy!)

As we;re nearly at Naples (just checked - we're travelling at 248k/hr) I'll finish and skip the photos but will put up a post with some photos as soon as I can.

Posted by OwenGadflies 23:35 Archived in Italy Comments (2)

Oz Is A Bloody Long Way Away

38 Hours Takes a Looong Time

sunny

I'd been too smug! On the morning we were leaving, I'd been mentally applauding how well organized we were and how well that proved that all those lists were worth it!

However, our timely departure from home was faintly 'marred' by a last minute locking of a suitcase's inbuilt-locks only to discover neither of us knew the code to unlock it! Alright yes it WAS my case!! Of course, this was at ETD minus 20 mins!!!!!

I pretended to be calm, but OMG my head was having a lovely time imagining how we were going to get over this little hiccough. Fortunately while I was making desperate calls to the shop where we bought the ' good solid TSA-locking Samsonite' some 3 years ago Phil finally succeeded in manoeuvering the tiny little 4mm key we'd found amongst our locks and opened said lock, using the over-ride keyhole authorities can use to open your case!!

By that time I had used up so much adrenaline getting in a panic, my mouth was dry and has been ever since.

Our arrival at out hotel in Venice was 38 hours later, via delayed planes in Hong Kong, the mayhem of Malpensa airport in Milan, a 52 minute train ride to Milano Centrale train station and fast train (with delays -so ho-hum not so fast after all!) to Venice's Santa Lucia station and then a walk to out hotel. By that time my mind fraying at the edges!!!!

That comment glosses over a thing or two so let me just go back.

Melbourne peeps who know that any train that is less than 5 minutes late in departing is claimed to be on time!! (Yes hard to believe we tolerate it realli isn't it?) Well it was like bliss to watch the clock count down to the departure time of the train and have it start moving the moment the specified time arrived!! No fanfare, no flags, no big announcements muttered in Something Incomprehensible. The time for departure arrived, so it left!! It's a miracle!!!! And that 52 mins bit? It was TRUE! The Lucky Country heh? Grrr And while second train was late, it was obviously because of the track work being done.

Before I had left, I kept thinking, 'I must work out how the hell we got from Venice station to our hotel'. When that got too hard to fit in, I made an executive decision that we'd be tired and would just catch a water taxi.

Ah yes as you can guess, them's famous last words.

We step out of Venice's station to the chaos of the plaza, the expanse of the Grand Canal, amazing buildings, tourists everywhere and Venetians wishing we'd all go away and leave them to get on with life. Being clever little tourists, we carefully paused to watch and learn before taking action. All good so far.

So we go to the water taxi rank and even the ever-hungry tourist-sapping water taxi man said "It;s just round there, if I take you it will cost 50 Euros. Just walk" Fifty Euros did seem a little excessive, so we walk away! Of course we can walk. We feel surprisingly awake for people who've been travelling for 37 hours. Puh! We'll just walk!

Oh but ...

Our plan to buy a data card for the technology had been thwarted at both airport and station by an unexpected LACK of telecommunications companies! Who'd have thunk it? So we had to go low-tech and resort to a map. Then I consulted my paperwork and discovered there were no instructions and no actual "street name" for our hotel. Bit hard to use a map when you haven;t got a destination! So we start walking in the general direction and hit the next problem.

You know those gorgeous 4-wheeled cases that so slickly glide along the passages of airports? They don't glide anything like so easily on centuries-old cobblestones!

90_P1010382.jpg And then we discover that the bridges on the maps are actually ALL (I repeat) ALLLL steps, especially that bloody enormous one that was going to get us across the Grand Canal! On this blog it will henceforth be called That Friggin' Bridge (TFB)! Lugging those frgging caases up those steps was just about the last straw! I couldn't tell you how many times we stopped to catch our breath (Ie re-arrange my shoulders) and pick up that bloody case and carry those ever so smooth gliiding wheels up every one of those bloody steps!

Noooo I wasn't pissed off. I felt more like a marathoner pushing on when their brain is fried. It. Had. To. Be. Done.

Eventually like all explorers, we finally got over Mount TFB, found a kindly info guide who looked up where the hotel is on his computer and drew lines on our low-tech map and we had a destination! But OMG those gorgeous romantic Venetian bridges, ah yes MORE steps.

Fortunately the hotel reception man saw desperation when he saw us literally stumble panting in the door. He sent us out to the lovely cool (yes it was hot as well!) shady garden, arranged beer and prosecco for us and we fell into the seats while he brought us papers to sign, sent cases to the room, and generally showed how hospitality should be done!!

Shit it was a bloody long way from Melbourne to Venice!

Posted by OwenGadflies 10:01 Archived in Italy Tagged bridges venice Comments (9)

What have I forgotten?

The torture of living with a LIst Queen

sunny

You've got to feel for Phil!

As far as he's concerned, you just need a passport a toothbrush and a credit card , oh and your ticket, and you can go off travelling.

His eyes have boggled as he realised how many list, sublists and scraps of paper with reminders there were floating round in my head, on the computer, and cluttering up the desk.

But I have to give him credit he's actually girded his loins and followed the lists! And kept his mouth shut when the numbers of items on these endless task lists just grew instead of diminishing.

And now, this evening, we're sitting watching some TV knowing there's a half a dozen things to do in the morning and we can leave for the airport and start the trip we've been waiting years to do.

Tomorrow we fly to Milan and after the inevitable customs and immigration stuff we'll head for Venice by train. It'll be about 36 hours door to door but we'll be off and running.

Photos will start from the next entry!

Thanks so much for choosing to follow us and I promise to keep you entertained.

Posted by OwenGadflies 17:00 Archived in Australia Comments (7)

Cases are Nearly Ready

Getting Ready to Go

Ready_to_Go.jpg

Just trying out the new travel blog to see how it works and if it will be nice and easy for me to deliver all the news this way.

We'll talk soon and you'll be able to comment as we go.

Posted by OwenGadflies 12:08 Archived in Australia Comments (3)

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