Rome

After a brutal 4am wake up, sleeping our way through another bumpy Ryanair flight, and attempting to negotiate airport transfers in a language we don’t speak, we arrived in Rome around midday on a hot, sunny, Autumn day and it was all worth it.

Our first stop after being up for 9 hours was of course some food. After checking in to our B&B and picking up some delicious pizza and arrancini (when in Rome…) we started wandering in the general direction of the Colosseum. Trusting our general sense of direction and with no real plan, we quickly realised that just walking through Rome means stumbling across some incredible buildings on pretty much every street corner. Basilicas, fountains, and monuments are scattered around as generously as the pizzerias, and it’s impossible to walk down a street without stopping to gaze in wonder at any of these things juxtaposed against the everyday homes and shops.

Colosseum

Rather than heading straight into the Colosseum, we first went to the Roman Forum. Tickets admit you to both, and the queues for the Forum are much shorter as for some reason most people don’t bother with it. Personally, I thought it was fantastic. We spent around two hours walking around admiring the ruins of the ancient city and climbing Palatine Hill, though when we finally decided to leave we discovered that this is easier said than done, with only one exit to the Forum which is not very easy to find!

Roman Forum

Roman Forum

Next stop was the Colosseum, and we both admitted that after everything there is to see in the Forum, it just seemed slightly disappointing. Of course it is impressive, but out of all of the things which we saw in Rome it was by no means the highlight.

Colosseum

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By this time we were needing a wee break from looking at ruins and wanted to get away from the touristy areas, so we stopped by a little cafe for a bottle of wine to celebrate being on holiday. Nothing like sitting in the sun on the streets of Rome enjoying a nice bottle of Italian red… Until it started raining. Not that we let that ruin anything, and luckily it was only a light shower.

Rome in the rain

We decided to skip dinner as we weren’t all that hungry and went straight for dessert at Gelateria Corona, apparently one of the best in Rome which we both agreed on! En route we stumbled across the Trevi Fountain. Despite the mass of tourists and people constantly trying to sell you stuff, it really is amazing. We also popped into the Pantheon before meandering back to our B&B for an early night after a long day.

Trevi Fountain

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Rome

The next morning we were up early again to visit St Peter’s Square and climb up the cupula of the Basillica before it got too busy. We had a nice 5k walk over there in the early Autumn sunshine, again getting distracted by all the sights along the way. Even though it was early, there were already crowds of people gathering. Eventually we made our way in to the Basilica and just, wow. I’m not a religious person in the slightest, but it’s hard not to feel that there is something special about the place.

Rome

St Peter's Basillica

St Peter's Basillica

St Peter's Basillica

It took us a while to find out where to go (a recurring theme in Rome seems to be a lack of clear signage) but we found our way to get up to the cupula and of course opted to climb the 551 steps rather than take the lift. I can say that it is definitely not designed for anyone at all overweight, with tiny twisting and slanting corridors and staircases, but the view from the top is so worth it.

St Peter's

Unfortunately when we made our way down and back out into St Peter’s Square, a torrential rainstorm had started. As if that wasn’t enough to put a downer on the day, Cat’s purse then got stolen. So feeling pretty shite about life and completely drenched, we went for some more pizza and gelato to cheer ourselves up. For pizza we decided to try the famous Forno Campo de’ Fiori, apparently one of the best places to grab a slice in Rome. And one was so good that we went back for seconds. It was then onto another well-known gelateria, the Gelateria del Teatro. Slightly fancier and pricier than last night’s one, it was equally as good and easily the best pistachio ice cream I’ve ever had.

We started walking North towards the Villa Borghese and luckily the rain started to clear up, and the sun came out as we reached the Piazza del Popolo. We took a stroll around the gardens to get a break from the hustle and bustle of the city and to escape all the incredibly annoying people trying to sell us umbrellas in the streets. I have to say, this was one thing that neither of us could stand – every touristy city has people trying to sell you things in the street, but I have never seen it on this level. On top of that, many of them were rude and aggressive when you said you weren’t interested. Anyway, the gardens seemed a bit deserted and abandoned, but it made a nice change of scenery. Afterwards we headed back to dry off, getting caught in another downpour on our way. Once we had recovered and changed, we went to Cafe Momart for aperitivo, where you buy a drink and get unlimited access to a delicious buffet of Italian food. It was exactly what we needed after a bit of a rough day, and even though the rain kept up it was quite nice sitting outside with the rain pounding down on the canopy above us and lovely warm heaters keeping us cosy.

The storm kept on all night with some of the loudest thunder I’ve ever heard. Seeing as it wasn’t due to clear up until late morning, we had a lie in and a chilled out morning. Luckily it cleared up a bit sooner than expected and we decided to spend the day exploring Trastevere, a lovely neighbourhood just to the South-West of the city. We had a lovely, leisurely walk over there, taking a few detours and back streets to see some more parts of the city we hadn’t already before crossing the river into Trastevere.

The Pantheon

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We wiled away the afternoon sitting in the sun drinking ÂŁ2 glasses of wine from a cafe bustling with locals, meandering through the twisty little streets, and eating more gelato. For dinner we picked up a bottle of cava and some pizza (of course) and sat down by the Tiber while the sun set.

Trastevere

Santa Maria in Trastevere

Castle of Angels

Afterwards we made our way to Vatican City, as we had booked tickets to the night opening of the Vatican Museums. We had them for the first slot at 7pm, and without a doubt this is the best way to see the Museum. At times we were the only people in certain rooms, there were no crowds, it was quiet, and we could enjoy everything at our own pace. By the time we left at 9 the place was so busy you could barely move, and from what I’ve heard that’s how it is during the day as well.

Vatican Museums

Sistine Chapel

We almost didn’t make it home after, as by this point we had walked around 40 miles over the past 3 days, including those damned 551 steps in St Peter’s, and our legs and feet were at breaking point. It probably didn’t help that we took a detour past the Trevi Fountain to catch a glimpse of it at night and to throw in our coins, but eventually we got back, collapsed onto our beds and polished off the rest of our magnum of red wine. I think it’s safe to say that we made the most out of our 3 days, managing to see most of the main sights, some of the more obscure ones, explore, relax, and enjoy some amazing food and wine. My legs certainly suffered for a few days when we came back, but it was so worth it.

Week 41

Rome in the rain

Week 41: Rome in the Rain

It’s been a rainy week in Edinburgh and I haven’t been able to get out with my camera, so this week’s photo is actually from last week. Let’s face it, Rome looks a lot better in the rain than Edinburgh does. Back to hometown wanderings for the next few weeks though!

Week 40

The Pantheon

Week 40: The Pantheon

Catching up (again) because I was away on holiday (again). Last week’s photo comes from Rome, cause it’s too pretty not to! Back to Edinburgh photos soon I promise, just had to get one last little European city break in before Winter properly arrives.

Week 39

Foxing Around
Week 39: Foxing around

I walk past here all the time and I had apparently never looked up and seen this little fox on the corner of the building. And that’s exactly the reason for me doing this project, to start noticing these little things that you otherwise overlook but that when you see them they make you smile 🙂

Paris

Paris, 2oo7

Despite having been there more times than I can count since my first visit at just 5 months old, I’ve somehow never written anything on here about one of my favourite cities in the world – Paris. In fact, I realised I’ve barely written about France at all. Considering that all my family lives there, I used to live there, and it’s the country where I’ve spent the most time and done the most travelling, I’m not sure how this is. But I’ll make a start on it with my most recent visit, which was mostly Paris with a brief but lovely trip to my family hometown of Metz for my cousin’s wedding.

This was also the first time in probably around 15 years that all of my family went on holiday together. Although we were heading to Lorraine, the easiest way to get there is to fly to Paris then take the TGV across the country. It had been a few years since I’d spent any real time in Paris so me, my mum and my brother Mike had decided to stay there for a week after the wedding. Stepping off the plane into the late summer warmth and sunshine, I felt like I was home again.

Before we caught the train we had a couple of hours to kill; not a difficult thing to do in Paris! Our first port of call was dinner, and as my dad is from the East of France he had been dying on a proper, traditional choucroute. For those not familiar, it is a mound of fermented cabbage with about an entire pig worth of meat on top of it. Personally, it’s not for me. But my dad and Mike were very happy and the rest of us enjoyed a delicious meal and of course some very nice French wine (the first of many on this trip!).

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Choucroute and my much more sensible choice

After dinner we still had a bit of time, so the girls (me, my mum, and Jess) went for a walk and ended up by the Canal St Martin, one of my favourite places in Paris. Just wandering the streets and soaking up the atmosphere of the city made me realise how much I had missed this place, and even just being there for a couple of hours I already didn’t want to leave. Eventually we had to of course, and the long day of travelling continued. By the time we arrived at the hotel in Metz we were all exhausted and had a wedding to look forward to the next day, so it was an early night all around.

Canal St Martin
Shops along the Canal St Martin

The next day was a blur of family and wedding things, which I won’t go into detail of. It was an amazing day though, an absolutely gorgeous wedding, and so lovely to catch up with the family. I would have loved to spend more time in Metz and around Lorraine, but on Sunday we caught the train back to Paris. My dad, Chris, and Jess then headed to the airport and back home, while the rest of us got to stay in the city. Summer seemed to have arrived late in France as well as in the UK, so it was another lovely evening. Once we located the AirB&B we were staying in, we went for a quick walk around the neighbourhood and for a drink before dinner.

For dinner we went to Le Chartier, an old favourite that does cheap traditional food served in a gorgeous old dining hall and is equally popular with locals as with tourists. The service is pretty hit and miss, and unfortunately that night it was definitely a miss. But the food was good and I was finally able to have some French cider, something which is notoriously difficult to track down in a country where beer and wine are most common. As we were staying relatively close by, we took a walk up to Montmartre and Sacre Coeur after dinner to watch a truly amazing sunset.

Sacre Coeur

Montmartre

Montmartre Sunset

I spent Monday largely by myself, indulging in a bit of “Flâneuserie” and browsing the shops. I did however have to pay a visit to the recently opened Parisian branch of my favourite ice cream shop from Australia, N2, which was just as amazing as I remembered.

Continuing with the theme of good food and over indulgence, the next morning I made us all walk across town to the best bakery in Paris for breakfast. Du Pain et Des Idées, just off the Canal, has won numerous prizes for its traditionally baked breads, pastries, and all sorts of other delicacies, so naturally I had to check it out. By the time we got there it was late morning, the queue was out the door and they had almost sold out. But we managed to get some croissants, pains au chocolat, and escargots, which we enjoyed with some lovely coffee while sitting by the Canal in the sunshine. Bliss.

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Heaven in the form of baked goods, most notably a pistachio & chocolate escargot

The rest of the day was spent exploring Paris and actually visiting some places that I had never been to before, the Palais Royal and Sainte Chapelle. After a LOT of walking (again – when in Paris…) we picked up some dinner supplies and had a picnic on the Champ de Mars, because although I’ve seen it countless times I still find the Eiffel Tower pretty special. It was one of those moments where the second you stop walking and sit down you realise just how tired you are and how much your feet hurt, and it took all of our collective energy to get back to the flat – although this time we did take a Metro!

Palais Royal
Le Palais Royal

Sainte Chapelle
Ste Chapelle

On Wednesday we took the train out to Versailles. Again, it’s somewhere I’ve visited numerous times in the past, but it had been a while and it’s not really somewhere you can overdo as there’s so much to see. It was an absolutely scorching day, perfect for wandering the 800 or so hectares of gardens. I had never been to Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon and estate, so we decided to head down to see her own private “little” garden, complete with it’s own farm.

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A bit of posing

Versailles
The gardens of Versailles

Versailles
Marie Antoinette’s estate

On Wednesday night, the weather finally did the usual French thing after a long hot spell and there was an epic, all-night rain and thunder storm. This was supposed to ease off the next day but unfortunately the rain continued. We spent most of the day shopping in an attempt to keep dry, after initially getting soaked the second we stepped foot outside. Of course we were fuelled by another delicious breakfast from Du Pain et Des IdĂ©es – this time I opted for a summer fruits and cream cheese escargot, which if possible was even better than the first. It was another day of miles and miles of walking, but in my opinion that is the only way to do Paris.

We were leaving on Friday afternoon, but as we had the morning and the weather was still being unpredictable, we went to the MusĂ©e des Arts DĂ©coratifs, where my mum wanted to see their exhibition on Barbie. Initially I wasn’t very interested, but my inner child got the best of me so I went to see it as well and it was actually really great. Eventually though it was time to leave, and it was with a lot of reluctance that I bade Paris goodbye (for now).

Expo Barbie au Musée des Arts Décoratifs
The Barbie expo