Tag Archives: Italy

MSC Cruise

Just a Side Note: As most of you know the reason I came to Italy was to join my boyfriend on the cruise ship he worked on. He paid and we had a great time and even got engaged. A few months later I was contacted by, what I discovered, was ONE of his girlfriends. I considered leaving this post out completely, but I did have a good time and met some great people, so am going to use mostly photos for this entry… I hope you all understand

Finally The Day Arrived

I was so nervous and excited when I woke up and wanted to make sure I got the good shower of the 3 in the hostel. One guy was ahead of me, but he took one look at the bathroom (apparently the location for the previous evenings’ rather intense amorous encounter between 2 fellow travelers, turned to me and said “Screw that, its all yours”.

Perhaps its the years of staying in hostels, or the time I spent managing one and having to clean up things way worse than this. Either way, I went in, used the mop to shift a rather undesirable item into the corner, hosed the already soaked place down and had a shower. Got dressed and went to say goodbye to my 2 friends… who were both naked in her bed totally oblivious to the roommates getting ready for breakfast. It was all rather amusing actually.

Soon it was time to head over to the ship that was literally berthed across the street from the hostel. The MSC Orchestra was HUGE!!

The ship reminded me of the Love Boat in it’s decor, it was so cheesy and almost tacky in some areas. But very cruise ship like.

I had been given a table for 2, in case he got time off to join me which he never did. Of course this meant for a lot of the dinners I was alone, the food was good for the most part, the service a bit slow but the staff fantastic.

I only went to a few of the entertainment shows in the theater, preferring instead to do the dance classes in one of the bars.

Luckily there was great perk to having a boyfriend who was a bartender, he had made sure all the bartenders knew I was coming and to give me free drinks or charge him.

When I met some fellow American’s they also gave them a free drink

I met some great staff, and made some good friends.

Priscilla from Brazil in Entertainment

Ivan from Ukraine, bartender

The American Students

The housekeeping staff were phenomenal, although it was a little weird to find my nighty laid out every night.

I got to try my hand at the slots for the first time since I was 21.

The buffet room had some very strange, and downright sinister decorations.

Over the Salad Bar

Over the American Hotdog and Hamburger section

Over some kind of food

I went ashore twice, once with the Americans in Valencia, to the beach Playa Del Salar.

And once on an actual ship excursion to Tunisia, with and paid for by the now fiance. It was a remarkable place to spend a few hours, but the markets were the most intense, in your face, I have ever been to.

At Port

Part of the welcoming committee

Most of the houses were white with blue doors and windows, very beautiful

Stunning Mosaics

Ancient City of Carthas

Cute Kittens

Essential Oil Perfumes

There were carpets of tremendous beauty and skill, he even bought a small one for my parents

The insanity of the markets in the Medina

On the last night there was the Magnificent Buffet… and so much food!

Slightly Inappropriate, but funny

So Much Food

I saw some incredible views.

And no matter what the outcome was, he and I had some good times, plus the cruise was free.. got to look at the bright side.

Gala Night

Tunisia Excursion

Hanging out during his work hours

The Last Day

Two months later I would discover his 3 other girls. If he had been the man he pretended to be, the man I fell in love with, I would have been happy. Instead I am off on more adventures in Korea and Thailand.

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Posted by on October 4, 2012 in Italy, Travel, Uncategorized


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Exploring Downtown Naples

Breakfast Hostel of the Sun Style

Hostel of the Sun had a fairly impressive layout of breakfast. With coffee and juice and tea and toast and cereal and nutella. Now for those of you who are chocolate addicts like me, hold onto your hats. This is the bottle of Nutella they provided us…

One “Small” Bottle of Nutella, One Very Happy Traveler!

Kristin, Jack and I were all meant to get an early start to exploring, but after breakfast Kristin had still not emerged. I went in search of her and found her still fast asleep, she had had a good night at the hostel bar… But she got moving, slowly, fairly soon and I went to hang out with Jack in the common room and wait. We watched part of the mini series ROME. Jack was an archaeological student and so it was great watching it with him as he gave me a run down of the history and annecdotes to the movie.

Finally Kristin emerged, a bit on the frail side, and I introduced them. They both started laughing as Jack had been involved in the drinking last night.


We all had a few places we wanted to go see and with me in the lead with the map we headed off in search of the famous Veiled Christ. It cost 7 Euro to get in, once again the free aspect of cultural week didn’t work as it was a private group that owned the church.

But once we got in we were astounded. The church was more of a museum with spectacular statues. The Veiled Christ is a marble statue of Christ after the crucifixion and covered with a light veil. It is so well designed that you swear yo ucould actually remove the veil or see it move if he suddenly started breathing.

Veiled Christ from The Alchemical Chapel

San Gregorio Armeno

I collect Christmas Ornaments from every country I go to. That way, one day, hopefully, when I am settled and have my own christmas tree, I can relieve all my adventures one ornament at a time. I had been told that Naples was the place to get my ornament for Rome and the street of the street of the Nativity Scene Makers, San Gregorio Armeno, was the place to go. And was it ever, there were figurines and statues and nativity scenes as far as the eye could see. We found one guy who had a great sense of humor with his figurines:

Oh Captain my Captain of the Costa Concordia

Eventually I found one I liked, a Punch and Judy take on a hot chilli pepper. Each pepper is actually a horn, or corno, designed to ward off the Evil Eye and bring good luck,it is called a portafortuna, “bringer of good luck,” not unlike a rabbit’s foot in the U.S.). Pulcinella (of Punch and Judy) is a masked character who appears in old theater and puppet shows and is known for being an unruly prankster. He is the unofficial mascot of the Naples.

Underground City

After exploring and debating over hundreds of ornaments we went to the Underground City. Jack casually asked for 3 students passes and got me in cheaper. Every euro helps. The Underground City was remarkable. Each level is another time period and it was like walking through the past.

Lunch and the Museum of Naples

We all need some grub and so Jack and I shared a yummy pizza and Kristin had a salad.

The museum was incredible and with Jack as our fearless, knowledgable leader, very informative.

Apparently, this is an Italian Remake of a Greek Statue that Honors the Perfect Male Athletic Shape

Gives a Whole New Meaning to Coffin

Nice A……



Artwork Removed from Pompeii

Just as Kristin started feeling better, I started feeling crappy and so went to go sit by the front door. I decided to try call the number I had been given for MSC cruises and got the secretary, again, or artfully deflected my call and told me to call back. Sooooo frustrating!!!


As we walked out and up the street an Italian Cop, not looking too friendly, stopped us and started talking and gesticulating in Italian. He kept pointing towards a small car that looked as if it had hit a wall, from the angle we were standing at. We thought he was asking us if we saw it and we kept repeating “No, See”. Which we soon realised sounded like “No, Yes” in Italian. Finally looking very exasperated he took as over and past the car, that was perfectly fine and just parked at a weird angle, through a gate and into a back alley. Thank heavens there were 3 of us cause this just seemed shady. We all expected some Italian Mob gang to jump out and rob us of the 5 or 10 euros we had. Then he pointed up some stairs and at an old wall.

It turned out it was part of the old city wall from eons ago. The markings were unclear but we were leaning towards Greek or even older. We sat up there for a bit and looked at it, until the cop came up to find us, smiling broadly and very proud of himself. We followed this, now jovial cop, back out the gate and he showed us a city map up on a sign board that was half hidden showing secret sites in Naples. Who would have thunk it. Definitely a surprise for the afternoon.

The Mysterious Wall

Just before we got to the hostel we went and had some of hte best Gelato ever and sat in the park watching the locals. Then it was nap time for me as Jack and Kristin went in search of a laundry. They were meant to be back in 2 hrs but got lost and only got back close to 9pm. Luckily in Europe 9pm is just when people start thinking about dinner, so we headed out collecting a few strays along the way, a girl from Germany and an older lady from the US.

Where Pizza Originated… Apparently

We headed to a famous restaurant named Sorbillo, opened in 1935 and reputed to be where Pizza originated… however a number of places claim that in Naples. Of course since it was so well known it was also very popular and it was chock a block full with a crowd waiting outside. It took almost an hour and was almost 10.30pm before we got a table. The pizza was good , but a little greasy. My favorite was still in Rome.

Very Very Happy to get Food as I was Starving!!!

The Crowd

The Birthplace of Pizza???

Good Mates, Kristin, Jack and Me

A Rude Awakening

I had a pounding headache and decided to head back to the hostel with the 2 strays, Kristin and Jack wanted to go grab a few drinks and planned to head back in an hour or 2. After getting lost for a bit the 3 of us managed to find our way home and I went straight to bed.

Around 4.30am I woke up to some rather amorous noises coming from the hostel bathroom down the hall…. ahhhh Kristin and Jack were home 😉 !


Posted by on October 3, 2012 in Germany, Italy, Travel, Uncategorized


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I was so exhausted from all of the BS from the day before and the lack of sleep from the night before that I slept right up until Kristin came to get me for our trip to Pompeii. After a quick shower, we hopped on the tram and went to the train station.

Which Platform Exactly???

There were no labels anywhere on the platforms, we had no idea when or where our train would be coming. Luckily a local girl let us know that she was on our train as well and where to stand.

We had about a 30 min wait, normally this would be dull and boring, but not in Italy. Italy comes with platform entertainment in the form of 2 guys arguing and going from ready to kill each other to hugging to yelling, all with appropriate and inappropriate hand gestures. It was brilliant, but you dare not stare too long in case some how you get involved too. Got to love rational calm communication in Italy.

Just at the climax the train pulled up. Of course it pulled up on the opposite side to where we were expecting and so we were at the back of the mad crush to get in and get a seat.


It took almost an hour to get there, and since we were under the impression it would take closer to half an hour, we were a little paranoid we were going to end up in Florence or somewhere. Upon arrival we had to decide between taking a bus up Vesuvias or visiting the city of Pompeii. We opted for Pompeii first, as both of us were exhausted (me from lack of sleep, Kristin from outwitting the drunk American who kept buying her drinks) and Vesuvias involved a hike up a rather steep incline.

The best surprise this morning/afternoon was that Italian Cultural Week finally gave us free entry into something, and it happened to be a place I have wanted to visit for years.

The city of Pompeii is a partially buried Roman town-city near modern Naples in the Italian region of Campania, in the territory of the comune of Pompei. Along with Herculaneum, Pompeii was partially destroyed and buried under 4 to 6 m (13 to 20 ft) of ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.

Pompeii was lost for nearly 1700 years before its rediscovery in 1748. Since then, its excavation has provided an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of a city during the Pax Romana. Today, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Italy, with approximately 2,500,000 visitors every year. From: Wikipedia

Considering how old it was, that it had been destroyed by a volcano, covered in a pyroclastic flow and brimstone hail down from above… it was in remarkably good shape. It was also remarkably easy to get lost in. Neither of us realised there were maps available and after 2 hours we were utterly turned around. Luckily we came across a map discarded by someone and suddenly it all made sense. We were blown away by just how well the other half of the city had survived.

A Classic Bath

Floor Mosaic of a Dog

We also found the famous castes of people, created by the archaeologists that discovered the city. The realised that certain mounds of calcified lava contained skeletons and one of them suggested poring in plaster of paris and the breaking the outer shell. Inside the plaster of paris created near perfect forms of the beings that had died during the pyroclastic flow. Some of them you can see expressions and folds of clothes.

we decided to do a final trek to the very top of the city, where the cemetary was and on to a very well preserved house that still has some of the most amazing artwork on the walls and a few more castes. Truly incredible.

Here are some more pics as words cannot truly describe:

We Shall Call Him Pompy

The City’s Coliseum Survived Almost Intact

Once Famous For Wine, the Grapes have been Planted Again

View of the City from the Theater

Stunning Artwork that Survived

As we exited the city we realised we had walked around for 4 hrs and were utterly exhausted and famished. We grabbed a bite to eat and discovered the largest lemons we had ever seen.

Ticket Taker

Since it was too late to go up Vesuvias and the weather had turned bad we went to grab the train back to Naples. We just managed to catch it with a few seconds to spare.

Back in Naples we Kristin went to go grab some wine and I went to pick up some ear plugs, just in case the snorer returned to my room, I must say they were the most expensive ear plugs ever, almost 7 euros for a set of 3. Of course buying them means, Murphy’s Law, I won’t need them.

Now comes the fun part. The ticket we had bought should last a couple of hours and cover the train and the tram. Getting on the tram the machine refused to take mine and stamp it. Just as I was trying to stamp it in the other machine a guy, who seemed like he was trying to help, indicated for me to show him my ticket. Instead he looked at it and started saying something in Italian along the lines of this ticket is expired. He grabbed Kristin’s and started saying the same thing, even though hers had been accepted by the machine. He got very pushy and in our face and I just barely managed to get my ticket back. He also demanded a fine and showed us some kind of a dinky badge stating he was a ticket officer.

After harassing us for a few stops we just decided to get off the tram and walk away. We were actually quite nervous this guy was going to follow us. As we walked Kristin fumed, apparently this was the same guy who had harassed her when she first arrived in Naples. The hostel told us later that these guys can demand fines from unsuspecting tourists who do not know how the transportation system works. Apparently we were lucky to get away, as these guys have a quota to meet. So beware, be sure to get the bus/tram/train ticket machine to stamp your ticket when in Naples!!!!

A Movie

I decided to go grab a shower and Kristin went to stake out the TV and put a movie on for us to just chill out for the evening. When I got there I discovered she had chosen “Monster”, with Charlize Theron as a serial killer prostitute. It was rather amusing to watch all of us sit stunned and watch it. It was really good but really dark and none of us seemed able to turn it off, but none of us could have a conversation at the same time.

To counterbalance it we watched a second one called “Hatchiko” about a dog that sits for years waiting for his master to return on the train after he died of a heart attack. So talk about emotional up and down from the intensity of “Monster” to the tearjerker of “Hatchiko”.

Sleep Glorious Sleep

Kristin and I had plans to explore the city the next day, so I headed off to bed. In my dorm room I met Jack, an American archaeology student, and invited him to join us for some exploring in the morning.

And then…. sleep…. glorious sleep…. without a snorer! So now I sit with a box of ear plugs and no snorers in sight! I’ll take that.


Posted by on October 1, 2012 in Italy, RTW, Travel


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Naples Bound!!

Italian Train Ride

European living involves going to bed closer to the following morning than the previous evening… Me on the other hand tend to me a bit of a home body and head to bed closer to that evening than night! Am seriously suffering from lack of sleep. Luckily Italy has a fabulous cure, and Kate and I went for a morning tradition of a cappuccino and a pastry.

I was heading to Naples today and after very careful and clear instructions on what to do to get my ticket we said cheers. There are days that I am simply astounded at what good friends I have around the world, now if only I could have them all in the same place.

Somehow, in my diminished state of sleeplessness, I found the train station, got my ticket and found the train. Of course opening the door was a little beyond me, but with some help I got in and got a seat. Hopefully I am on the right train.

I was this close to getting a free seat, but with a minute to go a young man, straight out of a Jersey Shore extra Italian series, sat down next to me placing his numerous bags in such a way that there was no escape. He sat straight back with brillo’d hair, square jaw, huge muscles tattoos, tight white tshirt and blue and white striped pants. I think he was bordering on Guido status.

Luckily he only stayed on for a couple of stops and then I was able to spread out a bit…at least for about 20min till the next person arrived.

Never Know Who You Will Meet

During the last half hour of the trip a guy from Taiwan who is crew on China Air started chatting with me and asking if I knew anything about Naples. He was doing a day trip from Rome during his 3 days off between flights. We chatted about travel and opportunities and he was shocked at how much I had done. It always neat when you meet a stranger and just chat to pass the time.

My Lack of Direction Astounds Even Me

Holding very clear and concise instructions from the hostel explaining exactly how to get to them… I found myself getting lost almost immediately.

The instructions had said to walk to the end of piazzo and take the trolley to the harbor. Once there you essentially turn around, walk 20feet and the hostel is right there. However they failed to mention the huge construction site that now covered said piazzo and completely obscured it. I saw buses and honestly wasn’t sure if that’s what Italians called trolleys. So clutching the address in my little hand I went and tried to pronounce it and ask where to go. The men there were very helpful and soon I was on the bus. In no time at all, and with the help of fellow bus goers I found my stop. But when I turned around there was an old castle, and no sign of a hostel anywhere.

An Unexpected Tour of a Naples Neighborhood

So I headed towards the street, then turned left up a walk way that went passed the castle. Asking a few locals they all directed me in the same direction of straight across the road and then right. I turned right and headed that way, then asked some cops directions, they had never heard of the street or the hostel and had to get out a map to find it. They said keep going then cross the road to the right. This is starting to feel like a rather square circle…

I kept walking, going down some small streets, and, about 20 min later finally saw some signs that matched the map, and there, down a little alley right near the harbor and about a 5 min walk from where the bus dropped me off was the hostel bathed in a glorious light… I swear I heard angels singing. Good lord I think my mom held a magnet to my inner compass when I was born.

Hostel Of The Sun

Hostel of the Sun was set in an interesting location. Prime spot for anyone wanting to be near the harbor or the waterfront, but in a larger office building. You went up an ancient elevator that between the hours of 9 and 1 (or something like that) you had to put in a 5 cent piece (these aren’t made in Italy anymore but luckily the hostel had a supply). Lucky for me I was there during the free time and after about 5 min of trying to figure out how to make it go up I found myself on the floor of the hostel and found the door to the front desk, common area, bar and some of the rooms.

My room was on a lower floor. The English girl checking me in was super helpful and gave me lots of information of where to go and what to do. But before I could explore I had a mission to complete!

My Mission in Naples

Now as some of you may know, the whole reason for my coming to Italy was to join my boyfriend on a cruise, he was a bartender on MSC and was paying for me to come and see him. In addition, I was attempting to make contact with someone at MSC to talk about getting a job with them so that, hopefully, we could be on the same ship. Long distance is a killer.

Now as some of you may realise, writing these particular blog entries has been very difficult for me, as… let us just say things ultimately did not work out between us. For those of you who missed this little piece of news, please refer back to my Love Story entry a few months back, it’s a doozy!!

So, back to the task at hand. My mission for this afternoon in sunny Naples was to go to the offices of MSC cruises in Naples, which just so happened to be around the corner from the hostel.

I got myself tidied up, took a deep breath and headed to the office. As I entered I saw 2 guards, the following exchange is hilarious in hind sight, but at the time…
Guards: Appointemente?
Me: No, MSC office?
Guards: Appointemente?
Me: No, I need to speak to someone at MSC please.
Guards: You appointemente!
Me: How, how do I get an appointment??
Guards: you call, you appointemente!
Me: What number, who do I call.
Guards point upstairs… cause that helps me out I guess.

Finally, seeing how distraught I was getting at having been running in circles trying to speak to someone, anyone who knew something about employment at the blasted company, they got someone on the phone for me. Someone who was just upstairs and spoke perfect English and kindly explained that the Naples office only does reservations but I can try call this number. Taking a deep breath I said thank you, wrote it down, smiled (kind of) to the guards and said thank you and left.

I was so unbelievably frustrated, I had spent the first day in Rome playing phone tag with these people and getting no where.
Call this number
No, you call this number
No, you need to call this number (that was the number that just gave me their number).

Now it turned out, the lady from the office I couldn’t enter had given me the first number I had dialed back in Rome. Maybe they secretly tape these efforts and only hire people who are that determined to get on the ship. Or maybe it’s just Italian customer service at its finest.

Time to Explore…

Or not. By the time I got back to the hostel to drop off some stuff and go exploring I felt completely and utterly exhausted. The kind of wave of exhaustion that hits you from your toes to the ends of your hair, emotionally and physically. I had been so certain I would get somewhere with someone at the office so that I could tell my love that I was making progress to be with him… but nope, not to be. At least not yet. I sat on my bed and woke up 3hrs later with a fairly impressive drool stain on the pillow. Guess I needed a wee nap then.

Grumpy the Dwarf

Being on 5 ft (1.5m) and decidedly grumpy, I fear I may have given off the impression of a character from Snow White. But pulling myself together I went in search of some kind of food and managed to get to the store just before closing. After the amazing mozzarella and cherry tomato pizza I had had in Rome, I wanted to see about getting something similar. Apparently, Naples is the home of buffalo mozzarella. I found some cherry tomatoes, a yummy loaf of bread and a small container of buffalo mozzarella balls. I figured I could make some toasted cheesy tomato type thing.

New Friend

As I was sitting exhausted and waiting for my crustini invention to broil, I was joined by a Canadian girl and we soon struck up a long conversation that led to a travel partner for Pompeii the next day. And that’s how I met Kristin… someone who would become a great friend.

After my yummy meal, am now addicted to buffalo mozzarella, a good chat and a hot shower I decided to try be a little social and headed for the hostel bar. The official “Drunk American” guy offered me a free shot. Sure why not. Not to sound like a generalist, but I fear there always seems to be an official drunk guy and he is usually American…or Australian. Luckily for me, the Americans are more generous with free drinks.

I spent the next couple of hours chatting to folks, and being entertained as the drunk American tried desperately to seem cool and mysterious and trying to pick up Kristin. Eventually it just became too painful to watch, I think Kristin (who has a wicked sense of humor) was rather enjoying baffling him at every turn of phrase.

Is That Noise Human

I wanted to try stay awake to the end of my boyfriend’s shift, usually around 2.30am, I made it to 2.40am and then had to go to bed.
As I walked into my room I regretted not going to bed much earlier, I had a dorm room goers worst nightmare, other than bed bugs, I had 2 snorers.

The one was a “nice” light regular snore. The kind you can actually time and get in sync with. But then I had the other kind. The kind made, most often, by a male middle aged hostel goer, who possibly has some sinus congestion. The kind that is grating and uneven and occasionally sounds like he is struggling to breathe. The kind that lulls you into a false sense of peace and then jars you awake just milliseconds from sleep. Not only that, but it was interspersed with groans… Solution attempts were as follows:
– headphones
(I could hear him over the music)
– I went to the front desk and asked for earplugs
(didn’t have any)
– I asked if I could sleep on the couch
(hostel policy not allowed)
– I woke him up
(he apologized and went right back at it within 5 min)

Finally I could see only one dreaded option. THE BATHROOM!

Yup, I grabbed my pillow and blanket and went to the farthest toilet/shower combo I could find. Curled into an uncomfortable ball and fitfully got less than an hour of sleep. Then someone tried to open it and I was just too unnerved to stay.

My final option was coffee, by now it was after 6am and the coffee was on. After a couple of cups, I went back to the room and discovered them packing. Thank the heavens! I passed out!


Posted by on September 30, 2012 in Italy, RTW, Travel


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Gelato and The Sistine Chapel


Still feeling exceptionally jetlagged and exhausted, of course waiting for the boyfriend to come online at 2am in the morning is not helping.. I decided to give the Vatican another go. There was just too much to see and Kate and Svet insisted I bite the bullet and pay to see the museum and Michaelangelo’s famous Sistine Chapel.

While checking my emails I went to the couchsurfing site to leave a positive reference for Alfonso. I discovered that he had 2 negative references from girls who “Upon arrival found that the sleeping arrangements were not what I expected and so was forced to sleep in the bed with him”. Seriously???? Unless there was a gun to your head, the floor is perfectly comfortable as an alternative or a hostel. Alfonso is very Italian in every way, so if you agree to sleep in his bed…. I wrote that certain misunderstandings could occur but to take culture into the equation and that Alfonso was a perfect gentleman (once I realised he was moving my hand because of his ribs) and a fantastic tour guide. But it was rather amusing to read that after the fact.

There Appears to be a Tour Group or 50

Kate and I had our morning cappuccino and pastry, seriously I would live here just for this morning tradition, and then I headed back to the Vatican and Kate to work.

As I walked up to the Vatican I was gobsmacked at the number of people. I thought yesterday had hundreds, I think today had thousands. The lines waiting to go through the metal detectors were all the way out of St. Peter’s Piazzo.

Half the Line

I walked around the other side thinking to go to the bookstore and gift center and possibly slip in the back way. I picked up a postcard of the Sistine Chapel, as there was no photography, and mailed it to my folks.

The bookstore was near the exit for folks who had just toured the church. I casually made my way over there to, check out the changing of the colorful guards of course.

I glanced around, as if looking for someone, and headed towards the bottom of the steps. At precisely the same time one of the security guards, just as casually decided to side step in my line of direction, barely making any eye contact, so continuing the aim of being casual I casually turned around and headed out the exit. Ah well it was worth a try.

Gelato and Music

I decided to take a break from the milling of tourists and looked for a place to get gelato icecream. I had been in Italy for 3 days and still had not savored the deliciousness of this delicacy. Popping into curio shops as I went I finally found a place with a nice outdoor area. I was allowed to get the child’s size with 2 flavors, choosing classic chocolate and vanilla, figuring you can’t go wrong with a classic. Except for the occasional ice chunk, it was divine and the perfect break.

Mmmmm Gelato

Mid way through my icecream we were entertained by a gentleman playing fabulous violin music. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Vatican Museum

Once I had prevented myself from licking out the gelato bowl and paid, I headed towards the Vatican Museum, I figured even if it cost 20 euros at least I could say I had seen the Sistine Chapel by Michaelangelo.

It turned out to only cost 15 euro, so that made my pocket book feel better. As I passed through, thinking to myself that at least most of the tourists are at the Vatican and not come to the museum yet, I was amazed at the beautiful artwork.

Entry Had Great Display on Boats from World Cultures

All These Roofs Hurt Your Neck


Some VERY Nice Statues

Possible Muse for Modern Alien Movies??

This is Painted in 2D, Believe it or Not

My Favorite the Hall Of Maps

Then I turned the corner and discovered that while half the tourists in the world were indeed at the Vatican, the other half were at the Vatican Museum. Being 5ft/1.5m tall meant I was at armpit height and not able to see over anyone. We were literally shuffled and herded like cattle and there was no time to stop and take pics or to double back for another look. About the only good aspect of this shuffle and glance was that occasionally you would find yourself amongst an English Tour and could pick up on things the guide was saying. It was funny watching them when they realised you were most likely using their knowledge without paying and suddenly they would pull their group over to explain something in more detail. Not wanting to prove them right, I would continue aimlessly following the crowd, slowing when I came side by side with another tour group.

Am NOT Tall Enough For This Many People

The Sistine Chapel

The museum was huge and was set in a way that led you from one style of art to another and all the while showing signs that promised the Sistine Chapel was just round the next corner. Eventually, about 20 corners later, we entered a smallish hushed room with a low, all be it pretty roof. The guards were very sternly shushing everyone and glaring at folks who even dared to raise their camera with the notion of taking a picture. There was a bench running around the edge, of course chock a block full, but I managed to squeeze into a corner just off it. After being herded through 2 hrs of art I needed to sit. I sat for about 30 seconds before I was promptly and very sternly told to stand. Wonder if they have special training for this….

I must admit, it was a very pretty ceiling with some lovely pictures, but I was rather underwhelmed. Could it be all the years of seeing pictures of the one main panel of God’s finger reaching out and imaging this huge painting on a grandiose ceiling??? Or perhaps spending over 2 hrs shuffled from room to room at armpit height with no idea of where or what was going on, as awe inspiring as the art was of course. I don’t know, but either way I was too exhausted to stand and stair up at a rather pretty roof and decided to find a place to nap. At least I can say “been there , seen that!”

Making my way through the masses I found a spot in a courtyard and promptly passed out for almost an hour. Who ever thought visiting an art museum could be so taxing. After recovering I explored, a far less populated, ethnological exhibit about world cultures, filled my water bottle and left. Heading out you go down a phenomenal spiral staircase or stair slope maybe.

Glad I went to see the pretty roof, but never going again unless there is a private tour of 1, namely me! Well ok I would go again even with other tourists but with enough room to breathe…

Lovely View To Wake Up To


I wandered around looking for something to eat and finally spotted a little cafe deli like place down an alley. I think it was the old smiley guy ushering me inside that sold me. I chose a brocoli and sausage pizza and a dough stuffed with spinach. It was a little greasy, isn’t everything in Italy 😉 , but delicious.

An American family came in and looked very confused at how to order, and since there was a SEVERE language barrier I gave them a run down. It is actually quite cool when you go into these little places as you can buy pizza by weight, you decide on how big or small and then they weigh it. Very clever if I must say so myself. To the family I said “just point and reference size, they will get it”.

Since it was too early to go home I went looking for stamps and wandered round a bit. Sometime near 4pm the wall of exhaustion was fast approaching. Luckily Svet had texted me to say that his roommate was home so I could just head back.

His roommate had just got back from visiting his mom on the coast and was very happy to share some home made lemon cake she had sent back with him. It was divine and I enjoyed my piece just in time before passing out for a nap.

Last Meal

I had managed to get hold of Nicola and set up plans for dinner as I was not sure if I would see him again before leaving. We met around 9.30pm and headed downtown. I am still not used to this idea of only going out at that time, when I am at home that’s when I am in my jammies with a cup of tea.

Finding parking is always a struggle and occasionally people get creative.

I Guess if it Fits???

It was a glorious night and we walked along the river as Nicola told Kate and I some of the history. Then we found a piazzo and ordered 2 pizzas and beer. If there was pizza heaven I think I was in it. They were divine. My favorite being the simple baby tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella. In fact I think I can safely say that pizza was damn near orgasmic!

Heaven on a Pizza Crust

Good Friends, Pizza and Beer!

Downright Orgasmic

Heading back to the car we met some people who took a couple of pics, then there was a bemusing interaction with the photographer, who spoke no English, indicating he needed a pic with me too. I love meeting people!

Our Mystery Photographer

Simply a superb day!


Posted by on September 26, 2012 in Italy, Travel


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You Don’t Get Much More Italian Than That… ;)

Monday 16th April 2012


Kate was supposed to go into work at 9.30am but decided to work from home today. Thank heavens as jet lag was kicking my butt and after trying all the tricks I knew to get to sleep, it had finally only kicked in around 4am. I only surfaced around 11am and crawled out of bed around noon.

I got myself going by stopping in to a little shop for a cappuccino and a croissant, I rather like this morning (afternoon in today’s case) tradition. The cappuccino definitely made me feel better and my eyes were able to focus better on the subway map I was trying to decipher.

Subway Tickets Get Confusing

After living in Seoul, Korea for 3yrs, with a subway map known to be the most confusing plate of colorful spaghetti of all the world’s subway maps, I figured Rome’s would be easy. Well it turned out not to be the map that was confusing but rather the ticket. I managed to figure out how to buy one from the machine but then spent a good 5min unable to make the automated ticket taker… well take it. I looked exasperated and managed to catch the eye of a lady heading through, she indicated I flip the ticket over… of course it had to be that simple. I had tried every variation except that one. Jet Lag, I blame the jet lag.

Vatican City

Technically speaking while Italy became my 31st country, the Vatican City would make 32. Even though by my own rules I have to spend a night in a country, to do this I would have to sleep under a statue or on a bench, which might be frowned upon. So I am claiming an exception to my rule. (Please note I also claim Scotland and Wales as exceptions, cause they are just too different from England to be lumped together). I have very strict rules and since they are mine, well, guess that means I can bend ’em 🙂 .

I took the subway Metro A to Ottaviano stop and followed the masses in, what I assumed, was the direction of the Vatican. I figured I was heading in the right direction when I started being accosted in multiple languages by tour guides, yup definitely the right direction.

There were so many people, it just blew my mind. We had to line up and go through metal detectors, I kind of wished I could get them to stamp my passport or something.

Hundreds of People

Good To Know

The sight of The Vatican Building took my breathe away. Everywhere you turned you saw stunning architecture, statues and art.

The Obelisk

The Obelisk from Egypt was brought to Rome by Emperor Caligula in 37 AD. It originally stood in his circus on a spot to the south of the basilica, close to the present Sacristy.

Sixtus V had Domenico Fontana move it in 1586 to the center of St. Peter’s Square

It is also a sun dial, its shadows mark noon over the signs of the zodiac in the white marble disks in the paving of the square. The obelisk rests upon four couchant lions, each with two bodies whose tails intertwine. (from: St. Peter’s – The Obelisk)

One of my favorite things were the cardinal points marked on the floor around the obelisk.

St. Peter’s Basilica and Cupola

I decided to head towards the right and follow the signs saying “Cupola”. The entire time I was standing in line I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the wall art and statues and everything… kind of made me wonder what it cost to tell you the truth.

I was debating between the 7 euro to take the elevator or the 5 euro to take the 320 stairs. Right before I got to the pay window, merrily thinking I could take the stairs no problem, I realised it was 7 euros and 515 stairs. 2 euro saved you from 195 stairs. I promptly found 2 more euros and happily paid it. I am sorry feeling as jetlagged and exhausted as I did even 320 stairs were going to be an effort, and they nearly killed me when I finally made it.

My Destination

The first section was only a couple of steps and I was greeted by an up close view of the inside of the Dome itself. Words cannot express how spectacular it was, here are some pics:

It was all going smoothly until a bottleneck at the exit to the next section caused a jam. The area we had to walk on was a narrow elevated, fenced off walk way that ran half the dome. The most annoying part is that the exit was half way along the walk way and instead of spreading out everyone just crammed in on the first half where you entered. Finally pushing myself through the crowd I found myself with ample room to relax and enjoy the other side almost alone, even sitting down and writing in my journal while we waited.

Finally getting through the door to the next section we were greeted by the remaining 300 steps in the form of a vertigo inducing circular staircase. It never seemed to end.

But at the top you forgot how tired you were as you stared out at Rome spread around you as far as the eye could see. The weather was perfect with clear blue sky and only the occasional puffy white cloud. Once again, photos are the only way to do it some justice:

St. Peter’s Piazzo


Another Side of Rome

Heading back down the winding staircase, I stopped off at the gift shop to pick up and mail some postcards. I also picked up something I could use as a Christmas ornament, a small Olive Wood Rosary. I started this tradition a few years ago, collecting a Christmas ornament from every country, one day, when I have my own place, and my own Christmas tree, I can relive my adventures as I decorate.

Since it was such a nice afternoon, I found an out of the way corner and wrote in my diary and people watched.

Couchsurfing Contacts

Couchsurfing is a fantastic resource for any traveler. You can find free accomodation with locals or offer crash space and meet travelers or, one of my favorites, you can browse the groups section and meet people or post for meet ups.

On this particular occasion I had posted on the Rome group saying that I was traveling and would love to meet up with anyone who wanted to do some touring together. Earlier that day I had got a text from a local, by the name of Alfonso, who offered to meet me and take me on a tour of some ruins on his Vespa…. Alfonso and his vespa… it’s almost TOO Italian. I wanted to look round the Vatican a bit more but after the severe sensory overload that is, the church of St. Peter, I decided to take him up on his offer.

A Little Splash of Holy Water

Vatican Guard – You Have to be a Real Man to Wear These Colors

Vespa Tour with Alfonso

I met Alfonso at one of the metro subway stops. I had to wait for him outside a burger king or mcdonald’s or something and kept seeing these guys walking up and wondering if that was him, since I had no idea what he looked like. Some people would think I was crazy for meeting a guy I have never met or even spoken to and going on a tour with him. These people may say “who knows what his intentions are…”. But, some days you have to trust and go with it, some of the best experiences are made that way. Eventually this, very Roman, good looking guy walked up and made a call…my phone rang. Alfonso took to me to grab some lunch and insisted on paying. He also explained, apologizing profusely, that he was just on his lunch break and had to work till 7.30pm or they would fire him. So I gobbled up my sandwich quickly.

Alfonso and his Big Bike, not the Vespa

We chatted a bit and he talked about visiting Thailand, which then became talk about the sex trade in Thailand, and how he would never pay for it, as it wouldn’t be the same, and how he had met a girl who was a worker (but not in that sense) and they had hung out… I just sipped my coffee and watched this rather bemusing hole being dug deeper. Some people may have taken offense to where the conversation headed within the first 5minutes, but I could tell it was innocent.

There was a bit of a lull in the conversation and then he asked if I wanted coffee. I asked if he didn’t have to get back to work soon, he figured coffee would be ok, just a few minutes late is no problem.

Then he decided since he was running 5 minutes late he may as well just take me on a quick tour of some of the local archaeological sites he was working on. He was trained as an achaeologist and turned out to be an endless source of historical facts. As we whizzed past one site after the other he gave me a rough run down of their history, you could tell he was loving being able to tell these things to a receptive audience. It also turned out he used to race bikes and that little vespa sure could whip in between the cars and trucks at top speed. I think I spent a lot of the tour gripping onto him for dear life with my eyes closed. But when I opened them the sites he took me to were spectacular, unfortunately we never got off the bike, so I didn’t get any pics.

The Shifting Hand…

About 15min into his tour he started shifting my left hand from his waist to his hip. I kept shifting it up he kept shifting it down. I kept thinking to myself, “if I feel anything enthusiastic I am going to injure him”. After almost an hour of the shifting back and forth he stopped to show me another site and also explained that he had injured his ribs in football/soccer practice. Hahahahha oops, and here I was almost breaking his ribs with my death grip.

In the end he dropped me off at Kate’s house at 6.30pm, so much for his day at work. When I asked, he simply said that he was already late and they would get over it. We said cheers and he said maybe we can get together again for dinner.

What a ride, literally, you don’t get any more Italian than that afternoon!!!

Meeting My Crazy Seatmates

I had about 30min to rush back to the house and get changed to go meet the 2 crazy girls who had sat next to me on the flight. We were meeting at the famous Spanish Steps for dinner.

It was great to see them again and they told me all about their adventures thus far. From the exhaustingly long day at the Vatican and Museum where they saw the Pope, to being picked up by a rather drunk priest who invited them to a Bishop’s Ordination, not usually for public viewing. They nearly fell off their chairs when I told them about Alfonso and my Vespa tour. Got to love the experiences you have while traveling!!

1 Comment

Posted by on September 22, 2012 in Italy, RTW, Travel, Uncategorized


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First Espresso

We had a bit of a late start today but it was certainly a jolt when it was started, a jolt of coffee that is. I guess if you are going to have your first cappuccino and your first espresso, Italy would be the country to do it in. The Espresso was so strong I thought I would bounce off the walls.

Please note, I am the girl who when ordering a tall latte that normally comes with four shots I ask for 2 and make one of them decaf. Once a coworker brought me a coffee and after having 2 sips I felt like my heart was going to burst from my chest and my couldn’t focus on anything. She said she couldn’t remember if I had 3 or 4 shots, so she got me 4… So one little teeny tiny mug of espresso was me set for the whole day!

Svet and I having an Espresso

I made us some lunch, Pasta Italiano (taught to me by Nicola when we were both at the wildlife refuge in the Amazon). It was a little too much pasta and not enough Italiano unfortunately, but still yummy. See recipe below:

Pasta Italiano (as taught by Dr. Nicola DMV)
Fresh Tomatoes
Olive Oil (generous helping if going true Italian style)
Salt and Pepper

Heat olive oil in pan, lightly brown chopped garlic, add tomatoes and let simmer for about 20min until they are broken down. Add oregano, salt and pepper to taste. Best served with spaghetti pasta and a generous helping of parmesan cheese.

It is so simple and yet so amazingly delicious, the amount of garlic and tomatoes all depends on your taste and how many people. I have made this for friends and family all over the world now as it is a great alternative to my family’s spaghetti bolognaise when staying wither vegetarians.


Italy is known for its great works of art, The statue of David, the Cistene Chapel and many more. However, it was the local art that had me captivated as we walked around town. Before the small shops opened you were faced with closed metal doors, but it was what was painted on these doors that had me bemused. No signs needed as it also gave away what the store was selling.

Jewelry Perhaps?

Clothes and Stuff I Suspect!

Coliseum and So Much More

Finally we hopped in the car and drove downtown towards the Coliseum and some much anticipated culture. I couldn’t believe it, it was huge. It blew my mind that it was 1,932 years old. Started in 75 AD and finished in 80 AD. Guess the don’t build them like they used to and it is still in pretty good nick, except for side of course.

It was Cultural Week in Italy and that meant all government run Historical Monuments, Museums etc.. were FREE!!!! Woohoo… until you realise that 90% of all these things are run by private groups, including the Coliseum. It was rather expensive to get in and so we opted for an external view, which was still pretty damn impressive if you ask me.

This is one of my favorites for some reason

The weather was a bit crappy, but coming from Eugene Oregon where we have 6mths of grey rainy winter, I was used to it and at least it wasn’t pouring.

There was literally history oozing from every corner you looked, there were times you almost tripped over it.

Walking Down the Main Drag

We past a line of statues depicting different rulers and I found myself correctly guessing most of them. I seriously need to get out more.

Julius Caeser

We walked past the Monument to Victor Emanuel II, also known as the giant marshmallow building, we crossed the main road of traffic (and an amusing traffic officer) and into the back streets.

Kate and I in Front of the Marshmallow

Stop Stop I am a Speed Cop

Italian Cars are Just My Size

A Wish To Return

The back streets were brilliant and confusing. At one point I popped in to buy some postcards and walked out promptly losing Kate and Svet in the massive crowd. Being barely 5ft (1.5m) tall I had no hope of finding them. But what I did find instead was the famous Trevi Fountain. That is, I found it after I had to elbow about 500 tourists out of the way. I promptly forgot I was lost when I saw it.

I found an intelligent looking girl, who spoke English, and asked her to take a picture of me and my coin and the fountain. The silly twat took a photo of me and my coin, seriously????? Maybe I should have rather chosen someone who didn’t speak English.

Me, my coin, and…

My Aunt had down right ordered me to throw my coin in the fountain telling me how my wish would come true. Later I learnt it wasn’t so much a wish in general, but rather the wish to return to Rome. Well I guess I wished she could return to Rome, so maybe it will work.

Suddenly realising I was still lost, I found something to stand on and called Kate, they were still standing outside the postcard shop. Oops!

Organised Crime… Italian Style?

All feeling rather exhausted from a long afternoon of walking and exploring we headed back to the car. Only to discover that it had been broken into and they had stolen the GPS and some foreign coins. They had left the radio though.

Not wanting it to spoil the rest of the day, we headed off to a vintage and artists market, very retro with hand made goods from locals.

Vintage Clothes and Bags Made from Vinyl Records

Back at home I cooked up some pasta vegetable something or other for dinner, it was actually rather good, and we settled in to watch a movie. Tomorrow is a day on my own and I think I shall head to the Vatican City.

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Posted by on September 19, 2012 in RTW, Travel


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