Ah, Roma, Italy 🇮🇹 (part 2) – a visit to the Colosseum

What is Rome’s most identifiable site? I think everyone could recognise the Colosseum when shown a picture.


We caught the metro down to this most famous stadium. As you step out of the metro station, there, looming large right in front of you is one of the best known ancient monuments still standing. No matter how many pictures you see of this ruined building, it’s just not the same as seeing it person. The Colosseum is literally awesome!

I am glad I did not book in advance for this one. As it happens, the first Sunday in the month and the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill are all free to enter. And as an added bonus, it wasn’t raining (as it did every other day we were in Roma).

We arrived just before 9am, and there was already a huge line to get in. We were offered skip the line and a 45 minute guided tour tickets by the MANY individuals representing various tour companies who were charging 25euro per person. We politely declined and were told we would have to wait in line for 2 hours. We joined the end of the queue anyway. The line moved quickly and 20 minutes later we were inside the Colosseum. You need to spend more than 45 minutes here – I’m so glad I didn’t buy one of those “skip-the-line” guided tours! Although we didn’t have any commentary, (I did buy a book later), there is lots to read and we spent hours here.


It is possible to get tickets for tours to the underground area and the top tiers of the Colosseum, but I guess these were not available on the days that there is free entry.

Afterwards we sat opposite the Colosseum for lunch, admiring the view and people watching; watching all the posers trying to get that perfect shot of themselves in front of Rome’s most famous antique!

Ah, Roma, Italy 🇮🇹 – a visit to Vatican City

The next part of our Italian adventure saw us leave the snow behind in Florence and travel again by high speed train to Rome, then a metro train to take us to Spagna. The subway in Rome is not as good and less clean than that of what we saw in Milan, but another experience anyway!

Our accommodation in Roma was in Piazza Mignanelli just by the Spanish Steps, so the first thing we did was explore around the Piazza di Spagna.


Me by the Spanish Steps

Rome is full of things to do, so 4 days is no where near long enough to do even all the “must sees”, so I am going to do more than 1 blog post on Roma.

You cannot go to Rome and not see Vatican City and our first full day in Roma saw an early start for a pre-opening visit.


We booked an early morning (admission before general entry, with Viator) tour, and I highly recommend this, it’s worth the extra money. It started raining just as we got there, but that wasn’t too bad as most of what we did was inside. Our first stop was the Sistine Chapel – amazing! We had 20 minutes to admire the frescoes. There are no photographs allowed in the chapel, and there is supposed to be no talking. Our guide had provided a lot of information about this chapel, what to look for, what was noteworthy and why, and she provided a visual guide. This was great.

After the Sistine Chapel, we went back to look through the museums, very interesting.

And, it’s not just the Sistine Chapel that has an amazing ceiling – you can spend a lot of time looking up at the marvellous paintings on the ceilings throughout the Vatican.

On the way to St Peter’s Basilica we passed back through the Sistine Chapel (and you can understand why it’s good to go early).

St Peter’s Basilica is amazing! I am running out of superlatives here, but it was awesome. It is a very grand and stunning church.


St Peter (with a very shiny right foot, where everyone touches it)

Of course, when you leave the Basilica, you are facing St. Peters Square.


St Peter’s Square



The Pope’s Balcony

Firenze, Italy

After 5 nights in Milano, we boarded a fast train to Florence in Tuscany.

These trains are fantastic, and I wish Australia had one or two of these. Very comfortable – and fast (~260km/hr fast)! You even get a drink and a snack for free on board.

Once we arrived in Florence (Firenze), we caught a taxi to our home for the next 5 nights (Stone Lion Exclusive apartment – very nice by the way and definitely recommended). After checking in, we hit the streets for a look around. Saw lots of interesting buildings and architecture and wandered across the Ponte Vecchio,

before meandering through some markets.


Anyone who has been to Florence will tell you, there is at least one leather outlet on every block and plenty of market stalls to buy your leather goods. There is plenty of variety and prices, I believe seem very reasonable. I picked up a lambswool lined leather coat (as it was freezing), a couple of pairs of shoes and a couple of hand bags. The leather rush may have gone to my head!

Firenze was amazing, I loved it from the moment we got there, even though the weather wasn’t kind. So many little streets and great architecture.

Our first full day in Firenze, we wandered aimlessly and visited San Lorenzo (the oldest church in Firenze, consecrated in 393).

On the way back to our apartment we managed to get lost. The streets of Florence twist and turn and I found it easy to become disoriented in this city, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Day 2 we did a day trip to San Gimignano, Monteriggioni and Sienna, which also included a stop at a local family run winery for some wine tasting and lunch.

Day 3 we went to see David at the galleria dell’accademia,


Michelangelo’s David

and checked out the Duomo (which I thought was more spectacular on the outside).

Day 4 we woke to snow ❄️ it was a freezing day, with snow, sleet and rain. We managed to visit the Bargello museum and see some more impressive sculptures.


Donatello’s David


Later we went through the church across from where we were staying, the Basilica of Santa Croce, where Michelangelo, Rossini, Machiavelli, and Galileo Galilei are buried. This was an amazing church and very impressive (I personally liked it better than the Duomo).

And finally, did you know Pinocchio was born in Florence?

It would be lovely to one day return to Firenze, and spend a whole lot more time there, as there is so much more I would like to see.

Our last days in Milano, Italy

There is of course plenty to see in Milan, as in every large city. Just 5 days is not enough to discover all there is to see. I had a list of a few things that I prioritised as things I’d like to do. As I love history, and I’m a fan of old architecture, I thought a visit to Castle Sforza and a viewing of Leonardo’s Last Supper painting were worth the effort for me.

Day 4 – we really had nothing planned, so we caught the metro to Cairoli station, which is just a short walk to Castello Sforzesco. It’s free to get into the grounds and just €5 to get into the museums.

Heaps to see here, and the music museum is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, quite extraordinary.

I also particularly liked the tapestries!

Day 5 – what an interesting day for our last full day in Milan! First on the agenda was a visit to Leonardo’s Last Supper. If you want to see this famous painting, I highly recommend you book a tour. It’s a bit more expensive, but worth it; you get a good commentary on the painting, it’s history and restoration. To view the last supper, you are allowed into the room where it is displayed in groups of 30 people at a time (don’t worry – there is plenty of room and readily viewed from anywhere in the room) and for 15minutes only. Because visitor numbers are limited – this is another reason to book a group tour ticket. LastSupper-1LastSupper-2

After viewing the painting (which is housed in the refectory of theSanta Maria delle Grazie church), we took a look inside main church.

During our walk home we stumbled across some of the craziness that is fashion week in Milan.

And immediately after, we were witness to some street protest march (?political rally).

It was an event filled 5 days and we had a great time in Milano. Next stop Firenze!

A trip on the little red train!

Day 3 of our visit to Italy.

I had heard of a reputedly great train trip –  the Bernina Expressa (the “little red train”), which travels from Tirano in Italy through the Swiss alps to St. Moritz; this is what I chose to do for my birthday.

It was an early start to the day – 7am from the visitors centre in Milan for a bus trip to Tirano. We had a reasonably small group (~25 of us) and the coach was comfortable with large panoramic windows. We travelled from Milan up passed Lake Como (it was a very grey day, with a lot of cloud, so we didn’t see too much) and stopped at the Ristop Bar in Piantedo for breakfast/ morning tea. We arrived in Tirano (the last Italian town before entering Switzerland) around 11:00am. We had a look at the church there, had lunch and wandered around the town before boarding our train to St Moritz at 12:45pm.

We departed Tirano at 1pm and headed for the alps. The train passes through 21 tunnels and over 52 bridges. The maximum slope is apparently 70%. We passed by a lot of snow.


What a great trip! It was freezing and I’ve never seen so much snow ❄️, but it was fabulous. A great way to spend one’s birthday!


A Taste of Italy

I thought an overseas trip would be a great way to celebrate a significant birthday. I love Italian food (my favourite) and I love history, so Italy seemed like a good choice. I’ve done all the planning and bookings myself (anyone else who has organised their own holiday will know just how time consuming that can be).

So, first stop was Milan. We arrived after about 35hours after leaving home, and although we managed to do some exploring soon after arriving, saw some markets,

did a walk down Corso Buenos Aires (which included a lovely lunch at Sabatini where I had Milanese style risotto – delisio!). To walk off lunch we took a stroll through the park by Porta Venezia.

Once we made it back to our apartment, we didn’t last too long and crashed late afternoon and slept until the next morning.

Day 2 we jumped on a hop-on, hop-off city sightseeing bus, which is always good to get your bearings. After once around we decided to first visit the grand Duomo! What a cathedral!


This was awesome, and my highlight for Milano. This is a must see, and if possible, you must pay the extra and go onto the rooftop terraces. Spectacular. You could almost spend all day here, there is so much to see; and so much detail.

We also managed to visit the World of Leonardo exhibit. I am a great admirer of Mr da Vinci, and after this visit, even more so. The man was a genius! Unfortunately there were no photographs allowed, but this also is worth a visit, and again, you could spend hours here.

We stayed at Apartmento Vitruvio42 in Milan

Winter Stress Release at the Beach

Today was a good day!

I took myself off far a walk at the beach this morning (while my husband sat at home and prepared tax returns – bless him). I have much I need to do too, but what I really needed was a break – and the best place for me to find solace is at the beach! So off I went with my trusty camera and enjoyed an hour or so capturing images around one of my favourite places.


Unfortunately I didn’t see any whales today (they migrate up the coast at this time of year, so you will often see them off shore). If you like whale watching, then Newcastle and Port Stephens are great places to catch them. Whale watching in Port Stephens

It was a gorgeous winter’s day in Newcastle today, except for the wind, but otherwise, it was lovely – the sun was out and it wasn’t too cold.


The surf was up today, and apparently it was a great day for the surfers.

There was a lot of white water about today,

and with the surf up, the ocean baths were closed as the waves were breaking into the pool and washing all over the pool deck, but that didn’t stop a few hardy souls from swimming through the breaking waves.

If you’d like to see more of my photos from today – check out my SmugMug page:

Newcastle – A New Perspective

Over the weekend I took part in my first Meetups activity and partook of a street photography walking tour of Newcastle City. We only covered about 2 blocks in about 1 – 1.5 hours and I must admit it, it was something of an eye-opener. I took time to really take notice what was around me; to look up as well as what was in front of me and to really see (I got so immersed in my photographing that I was nearly run over).

We started our outing in Market Street, by the new Post Office and walked east up the mall to Bolton Street and then back along Scott Street to complete the loop.

Newcastle has some amazing architecture (I’ve always known that),

The once glorious old sandstone post office building:

oldpostoffice the art deco buildings:

cityarcade artdecobuildingdetail

gloriouscolumns but there is also some great graffiti art:

morganst_graffiti honeycafewall

There is so much development going on in Newcastle at the moment – it’s a great opportunity to get out, explore the city and to document some of those changes, and to see things you perhaps have never noticed before.

Like the sandstone figures adorning the old Longworth Institute building in Scott Street:

I feel like this some days!

I feel like this some days!

I actually really enjoyed my afternoon out – I meet a couple of new people who share an interest in photography and I saw my city from a different perspective.

Here are a few of my favourite images that I thought I would share with you.

Who doesn't love an orange door!

Who doesn’t love an orange door!



A Stairway to Heaven?

A Stairway to Heaven?


Reflected buildings!

Reflected buildings!


I really do love the city in which I live, and I feel privileged to live right amongst it where it’s not too far to walk to anywhere really.

It’s been quite a while since I have posted anything on my blog (there have been a few reasons for that, which I may include in future blogs, but for now, it’s good to be back writing again). I hope you enjoy it and come visit again!

An impromptu visit to the Hunter Wetlands

Today I was feeling a bit restless; I needed to do something…., but what? Go for a walk? But where? I had pretty much decided I would head into town and walk along the Foreshore – always my “go to” for something to do. But, literally as we were walking out the door, I had an idea – what about a visit to the Wetlands? It was somewhere that had been on our list of things to do in Newcastle for some time. So today was the day we went – a walk and perhaps some photo ops as well, sounded like a good idea!

HWCThe Hunter Wetlands Centre is located on Sandgate Road, Shortland, and about a 10-minute drive from where I am currently living. The Wetlands Centre is a conservation sanctuary and covers an area of 45 hectares and reportedly is home to over 200 wildlife species. I found it to be quite peaceful. The walk was easy, although, I found there wasn’t too much wildlife around today, but I did manage to capture a few snapshots worthy of sharing.

Taking flight:


Native Flora (Banksia) as well as fauna:


The brilliant shade of green was created by the blue/green algae present:


HNWR_VCsign_01I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to the Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge on Lake Texoma (where we lived in Texas). Although they are 2 different wildlife sanctuaries, they are quite similar.

The Wetlands Centre was once part of an extensive wetland system between Shortland and Waratah West, which was part of the Hexham Swamp complex.  The wetland system was progressively filled as part of sanitary landfill operations, construction of a railway, development of football fields, and other works, until only remnant patches of wetlands remained. In late 1985, after much lobbying by locals and the Hunter Wetlands Group, land and buildings were acquired by the Shortland Wetlands Centre Ltd. Many years of hard work, conservation, regeneration and redevelopment have resulted in the centre earning a reputation as a centre of excellence, particularly in wetland education.

The Wetlands is family friendly and a small $5 entry fee will get you into the sanctuary, and once there (if you choose), there is plenty to do. Of course there are self-guided walking trails – we did the “Discovery walk”, which was only about an hour, and easy going. There are also guided walking tours, cycling trails (you can hire bikes on site if you don’t bring your own), canoeing in the waterways, Segway Tours and a children’s playground. Of course, you can just sit, relax and watch the birdlife. It’s also a great place for a family event or picnic – there are plenty of shelters and BBQ areas with picnic tables. The Hunter Wetlands Centre is a self-funded community owned, not for profit organisation and is also an accredited Visitor Information Centre.

Do yourself a favour and take in a visit if you are in the area, or even if you are a local and haven’t been yet!

ANZAC Day 2016 – Lest we forget!

This coming Monday is ANZAC day. In Australia and New Zealand, ANZAC day is observed every year on April 25th. It is a solemn national day of remembrance and commemoration.

ANZAC stands for Australia and New Zealand Army Corps and ANZAC day commemorates the anniversary of the landing of the ANZAC forces on the Gallipoli peninsula in 1915 during WWI, in order to capture the Dardanelles. It was the first major military conflict that the ANZACs fought in. This year marks the 101st anniversary of that terrible event.

ANZAC day starts with a dawn service to remember those thousands of brave souls who lost their life during the battles of World War I. There are Dawn Service ceremonies held at hundreds of locations across Australia. There are more than 40 held in the Newcastle and Hunter region alone. The largest in Newcastle is held at Camp Shortland at Nobby’s beach. I actually attended last year, and being the 100th anniversary, there were record crowds, but it was still quite an experience.

ANZAC Day Dawn Service - Newcastle, 2015

ANZAC Day Dawn Service – Newcastle, 2015

ANZAC Day was first celebrated in 1916 however, the first organised dawn service is generally regarded as being held in 1928 where two minutes silence was observed and wreaths were laid at the Cenotaph in Sydney. The tradition continues and now includes the honouring all Australian service men and women who have been killed in any military operation which Australia has been involved in, with commemorative services taking place at dawn (the time of the original Gallipoli landing). Services also include the laying of wreaths, reading of letters, a bugler playing of the Last Post and a period of silence.

Following the services there is a march for service men and women (in Newcastle this occurs down Hunter Street). However, Sydney hold one of the biggest services in the country which is televised, along with the service conducted at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. The day generally also includes a few beers and the playing of two-up. You’ll also see plenty of people wearing a red poppy (the Flanders Poppy is normally worn as part of the ritual of Remembrance Day (marking the Armistice of 11 November 1918), but is now becoming increasingly used as part of the ANZAC observance). It is most usual to wear a sprig of rosemary, however.

Thousands of Aussies and Kiwi’s (individuals from New Zealand) also make the trek to the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey to attend the Dawn Service at Lone Pine. I have been lucky enough to visit Gallipoli and see ANZAC cove where the troops landed and Lone Pine where many diggers are now buried.

Lone Pine - Gallipoli

Lone Pine – Gallipoli

My visit to Gallipoli was in 2006. We were there as part of a tour through Turkey, and we arrived early in the morning – the best time to get there as there was no-one else around. What an incredibly moving experience. I cannot describe how it felt to be there – it was just incredible; very solemn, awe inspiring, overwhelming, and heart-breaking. And if ever you decide to visit Gallipoli, I would recommend not going around ANZAC day; visit without the hordes of other people, take your time and really appreciate the whole experience.

ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli peninsula

ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli peninsula

Some of the trenches around Gallipoli

Some of the trenches around Gallipoli

Please take the time to observe ANZAC Day and remember those who sacrificed their lives!





More information about ANZAC Day can be found at the Australian War Memorial web site.