4 September 2009


All photos from this trip can be seen on my facebook pages. This is just the travel journal as it was written each day.

Thursday 13 August

Got off work an hour early to get the train to Gatwick just before 6pm. I am now very much sold on Yotel as a chain. The d├ęcor is very stylish, the lighting ambient, the corridors have a pleasing purple-pink glow and the place could have been designed by Apple. The bed is large for a single and is rather like a top bunk but in a recess half the way up the wall with a curved box edging. The sheet glass doors to the bathroom and wall to wall mirrors are immaculate and have an agreeable look of a white iPod with its clean lines and rounded corners.

I had every intention of getting a really early night but ‘Mock the Week’ was on TV, followed by Clive Anderson hosting a funny, political programme and then I needed to shower and straighten my hair! Tomorrow is a 5am wake up call.

Friday 14 August

Arrived in Rome at 10:15 and met up with Margaret and Marianne a little after 1. We got a taxi to the apartment that has a gorgeous leafy courtyard with banana plants. We heaved our cases up four storeys and fell into a lovely cool apartment. It's a lovely space with an open plan upstairs. We headed out and wandered all the afternoon and evening. Saw St Peter's Square, the castle, bridges over the Tiber... Had my first carb hit in 3 weeks with a huge chocolate and yoghurt ice cream. It was ridiculously good. Later we ate at a little cafe down a side street and I had really good roast chicken and salad. Enjoyed getting a feel for the city. The weather was blisteringly hot with an occasional breeze. Had a few minutes at an internet cafe then went back via a grocery store for showers. Margaret and I sat and chatted in the garden while Marianne went in to shower. We chatted about ideas for the rest of the week - looks like I may get a lifetime's dream fulfilled by visiting Capri - then headed for bed.

Saturday 15 August

The day started well and ended well. We finally got moving about 1pm after sleeping in til 12. Found a lovely market just down the road and I bought a dress for 15 euros. By the end of the day Marianne and I had shared a bottle of Branciforti red Sicilian wine which was excellent. In between I reckon we must have easily walked 10 miles and my feet were killing me. Saw lots of stuff that had just closed (!); Pantheon and Colosseum. Great to see (outside) of Colisseum at dusk. Saw innumerable white edifices. Place Venezia was very cool. Walked up steps and had good views. Ate gelato (pineapple, white chocolate), walked along the Tiber in the evening where there were tents erected as makeshift bars and restaurants. We saw the Trevi Fountain in the day which was superb. Drank so much water from street side taps because of the heat. I enjoyed putting my feet under the freezing water and filling up my bottle over and over again. Temperatures must have been mid 30's at least. Saw Bernini's elephant, looked through crack in door at Pantheon as we had gotten there after 1pm. Big national holiday today so many places shut - seems it's traditional for Romans to leave the city today. Finally travelled back to apartment on the metro. I showered back at apartment and ate 2 boiled eggs while Margaret and Marianne went for something to eat. They ordered pizza and ended up with some vile warm bread and cheese combo.

Sunday 16 August

First thing, well about half ten, Marianne and Margaret went for a run. After, we headed out for the beach. It was a fabulous day. Weather was incredible - again. Really hot and clear blue skies. We had a short stop at ?Orista Antico because Marianne had been told that was the right place - it wasn't but I had a great latte there! Got the next train to the end of the line. Just as we are getting out, there's a bus about to leave - I assume it's taking us to the beach and so leg it to get on. M&M follow. Once the doors shut and we are pulling away, Marianne asks; 'Where is this bus going?' and Margaret and I said together; 'Back to Rome'. We thought it was hilarious. We laughed so hard - only made funnier by the fact that the bus is rammed with people. Anyway, we got of a couple of stops later and ended up on a private beach, were met by Joanna, one of the owners, charged 2 euros each and shown where to buy drinks etc. We ran as fast as we could across boiling sand to pitch our spot and stayed there for hours. The sea was warm, they had shower blocks and toilets you didn't have to pay for, a couple of places to buy eats and drinks. It was pretty crowded but I loved it. Read some more of 'The Gum Thief' and had a freckle explosion. Was in and out of the sea loads. My feet don't hurt anymore after yesterday. The beach closed around 7:30 and we headed back to Rome. It was a long wait on the train before it left and it seemed like a much longer journey back into the city than it had been getting out there. On the way back there was this quirky looking guy - either an intellectual or a little unhinged - it's a fine line (!) - anyway, he was clearly listening to everything we were saying. So we forced him to have his picture taken with Margaret - it's a holiday tradition. He looked pretty astonished at first but then had this look of excited bewilderment - it was rather sweet! Margaret later said; 'Thank goodness primal fear never stops me. I have to tell you I was ready to run. He was a crazy wide eyed man with a lit cigarette in his hand' It really was a very funny moment. Back in the city and hunger hit. At this point I had eaten 2 eggs all day.We went into a kebab shop and I had chicken and salad - then blew it next door with yoghurt and bacio gelato. So good to get back in and shower off the sun tan lotion, sand and salt. Another event I was reminded of by Marianne was 'the guy with his foot in the door'! This man tried to get on the bus back from the beach but there wasn't enough space. We weren't even going to fight that one. All of him bar his foot made it out of the bus before the doors shut and the bus pulled away! This poor guy was shouting, hopping on one leg and hammering on the door of the bus. He made it but we all thought we were about to see something catastrophic.

Monday 17 August

Well I thought yesterday was good. Wow. Today we went to Capri for the day and I realised a dream of getting to the island which is the last resting place of Graham Green and holiday haunt of Iris Murdoch! It was truly stunning. It took us approximately 5 hours either end of the day to get there - metro to 'Termini', train to Naples, bust to port and hydrofoil to the island - but it was well worth it. The town climbs up the mountain from the port under a faultless blue sky and barricaded on either side by sheer craggy rocks that tower hundreds of metres above the sea. The town has a dipping, curved skyline of white houses and other buildings. The sea is incredibly clean and green/blue - particularly as it breaks onto the rocks. No sooner had we stepped off the hydrofoil than we saw boat trips round the island advertised so we got on immediately as it was about to set off. Everything about the trip was stunning - the cliffs, pitted by the sea and worn into caves all along sea level, the tiny coves with people diving off their boats into turquoise water, the architecture of the landscape with rocky arches, holes through vast rocks that boats could fit through and the clarity of water so clean you could see huge rocks on the sea bed many metres below the hull of the boat. I was longing to submerge myself. After the trip we walked round part of the town by the port, had gelato (Milka white chocolate - probably even surpassing lemon meringue flavoured ice cream in Venice!), bought bits and pieces (I found a lovely metal lizard). M&M wandered a bit more and I borrowed Marianne's costume and swam in the sea for ten minutes before catching the hydrofoil back to Napoli. Spent the rest of the evening getting home!

Tuesday 18 August

Today didn't start well for me as the bank wouldn't give me money and I couldn't get through to arrange a transfer. It all worked out in the end but it took most of the morning and I was horribly embarrassed. We stopped by the Trevi Fountain again as it was close by 2 churches we wanted to see and we needed to kill some time before they opened. The first one we went to was truly macabre. It had a crypt of several vaulted rooms decorated with thousands of human bones and full skeletons. Marianne, as an anatomy and physiology teacher was so excited to be there, Margaret was deeply moved by it and had to leave before we did. I was impressed by the visual impact but had questions about the morality of making chandeliers and grim reaper sickles out of human remains. A really memorable visit. Then we went on to the church I wanted to visit - ?Santa Maria della Vittoria - as it had the Bernini sculpture I wrote about in my M.A dissertation; The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa. It was another dream realised for me. After that we went on to the Colosseum - this time while it was open! It was incredibly hot but well worth the effort and 12 euros. Chilling to see where they kept the animals and gladiators. Sobering to remember the christians who were martyred there. There was an interesting little expo there about Vespasian and the Flavian dynasty. Headed down towards Place Venezia for something to eat. Sat and ate chicken salad at the same place we had take out from earlier in the week. We each got a gelato at various stages of the journey home. In the evening we sat sharing most embarrassing stories. Have read half of Marianne's Hemingway book this holiday; 'Garden of Eden'.

Wednesday 19 August

Started earlier today than other days and headed first for the Pantheon. Saw the tomb of Raffael with flying, bronze birds above and the huge circular aperture that has previously acted as a sundial. We then went to St. Peter's Basilica and queued for about an hour before realising that the Vatican Museums took in their last visitors at 3:30 (2 hours time) and then skipped the queue. It became apparent that we could still get inside the church and that was free. We all went to go in but they were not being consistent with the dress code and Marianne was barred entry even though her shorts were several inches longer than other people who were allowed entry. This riled all of us and Margaret and I went round very quickly and took a stack of photos then left. We then went to the Vatican Museums. I don't think I have been to any museum so extensive. We decided to walk through to the Sistine Chapel and look at other exhibits on the way back once we had seen what we really needed to. It was just as well because the walk to get to the sistine was miles worth of corridor from the entrance. The room was dimmer than the others and packed with people but as with much on this trip, worth the traipse. After the museums, we just needed to eat. We went into a supermarket and I offered to cook. I made chicken stuffed with pesto and cheese, wrapped in speck with green salad and Prosecco. We read for a bit and I did the girls nails with funky designs of ladybirds for Margaret and dandelion heads for Marianne. We went ou tfor our final gelato and I had 'yoghurt with honey and pine nuts' and 'nutella'. It was the best we'd had in rome. We came back, packed and read.

Thursday 20 August

Alarm off at 6. Fabio the taxi at 7. Flight at 11. Great break away.

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