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!

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

Long haul air travel.

So, we are now safely in Australia – in Canberra actually, to pick up my car that my parents were babysitting whilst I was away.

However, I was awake at 4am this morning – getting over a long haul flight can be a bit of a drag. I don’t sleep well on airplanes, and I barely slept on our transpacific flight. I was so tired I had a 3-hour nap yesterday afternoon; this possibly partially explains the wake time of 4am!

Flying from DFW (Dallas/Fort Worth, USA) to Sydney, Australia is a looong flight; it is actually the longest non stop flight in the world. It’s roughly 17-hours depending on weather etc., so you have plenty of time on your hands; you can watch a movie or 2 or 3, read a book, do some handicraft, contemplate your life, write your memoirs or just sleep, if you are one of those lucky people who can sleep on a plane. I’ve tried to sleep, but all I do is uncomfortably toss and turn, and never do much more than lightly snooze.


The clouds out the window

We were lucky enough to fly premium economy (a step up from cattle class, but not quite business class) on the big A380 Airbus with QANTAS. I can recommend it if you can afford it; that extra bit of room is good (although not enough to stretch out sufficiently to sleep properly) and I also found the service to be great.



premium economy cabin

Flying is always interesting; particularly international flights. Generally it’s exciting. Have you ever wondered why so many other people are taking the same flight? What’s their story? It’s great people watching (& listening) – well, interesting at least if you can ignore the screaming infant, the loud children, the snoring neighbor, etc.

plane_viewSometimes when flying a window seat is not such a great advantage, particularly if you have to crawl over someone to go and use the bathroom; but sometimes the view can be just wonderful. Our flight departed DFW at 8:10pm and we were scheduled to land in Sydney at 6:05am, so for most of the flight it is total darkness outside, so not much to see.  However, I got to see the night lights of Dallas was we took off, which was a nice goodbye and I did see a little bit of Sydney as we landed – there was quite a bit of cloud at the time and we came in from the south, so we didn’t get that fabulous view of the Barbour, the bridge or the opera house. Disappointed sigh! But during the night I opened the shade on the window and looked out – and what did I see? The glorious view of the southern stars with the Southern Cross sparkling beautifully at me. Wonderment sigh!

Anyway, we are back in the land of Oz and now all I have to do is try to settle back in, readjust and overcome that odd feeling of being a stranger in your own homeland!

Goodbye Texas

It’s time to say goodbye to Texas! And, yes, there will be (& has been) tears. 😥 sads


Almost 2 years ago now, my husband was made an offer to work in the USA for 12 months. What an opportunity – we could live in Texas, experience a new culture, do something different for a while and maybe have the odd adventure or two! We have now lived in Texas for 19 months and it has prematurely and abruptly come to an end.

Although this is a very sad turn of events – I think I recognised myself passing through most of the acknowledged stages of grief with anger and depression featuring strongly – I have now moved into acceptance and am trying to move past my sadness and bitterness and appreciate all the wonderful experiences I have had whilst here in the US; things I would not have done otherwise.

It wasn’t easy at the start, but I managed to make a life here and I have meet some amazing people; some will be friends for life!

Living in the North Texas town of Sherman, we have tried to experience as much of Texas (and Texoma) as we could, and also explore further afield when we could. There have been so many wonderful experiences. I was going to list our experiences here – but I now realise that we have done so much, it’s way too much to mention it all.

We have had opportunity to visit quite a few of the local sights and have enjoyed the uniquely Texan experiences of shooting rifles and pistols both at a gun range and on a ranch.


Other places we have visited in Texas are Fort Worth (where we saw the longhorn drive),

Cattle drive at Fort Worth Stock Yards

Cattle drive at Fort Worth Stock Yards

Texarkana, San Antonio – the Alamo and it’s wonderful riverwalk,

Riverwalk-view_from-bridgeWichita Falls, and the Texas hill country town of Fredericksburg. I also managed to get to visit Houston.

With Dallas being so close we managed to see most of the major touristy sites. We visited Dealey Plaza and the Book Repository, took a look at Old Red museum, checked out the DMA, enjoyed a visit to the Dallas Aquarium, took in the view from the top of Reunion Tower and enjoyed several visits to the Arboretum (one of my favourite places).



There is so much to do in Dallas – make sure you visit some time!

We also enjoyed the very unique experience of visiting the Texas State Fair.


In addition we also caught a couple of Baseball games at Arlington.


Besides Texas though, I have had the privilege of visiting another 13 states! Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Washington, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Iowa and New York.

Some highlights:

View from the Space Needle, Seattle, Washington

View from the Space Needle, Seattle, Washington

The Grand Canyon, Arizona

The Grand Canyon, Arizona

Monument Valley, Utah

Monument Valley, Utah

Statue of Liberty, NY

Statue of Liberty, NY

Beale Street, Memphis, Tennesee

Beale Street, Memphis, Tennesee

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Rio Grande Gorge Bridge – New Mexico

I had no desire to visit the USA before coming here ,but I have a new appreciation of America and it’s people. Texas in particular will always have a place in my heart.  💕💕

I hope I can come back one day!


Pumpkins at the Arboretum – Autumn is here!

One thing I really love about America is how the arrival of each season is celebrated wholeheartedly.

Autumn has now arrived in the northern hemisphere, so there are plenty of decorations around celebrating Fall and Harvest; with many scarecrows, hay bales and pumpkins! All the stores and so many porches and balconies around town are displaying their Fall decorations. It is wonderful!


Fall_signToday I went to visit the Dallas Arboretum with a friend to take a look at their Fall Festival, which features a huge pumpkin patch – with more than 75,000 pumpkins, squash and gourds. It was amazing! I had such a wonderful time; I just had to share – Here are a few photos:





I have been to the Arboretum twice before (one of which was for the Springtime bloom event) and it has been great every time. A visit to the gardens is truly delightful and there is something to see at any time of the year. If you are ever in Dallas – go; you won’t regret it. It also has a fabulous Children’s Adventure Garden for the kiddies (and adults).


Belfast to Derry/Londonderry

Well, we certainly didn’t have very long to enjoy Belfast; I find it’s always the way! There is never enough time to see all that I’d like to see.

As we arrived fairly late into Belfast we only had 1 day to see and experience this city. Our Sunday morning started with a visit to the St George’s market, followed by a sightseeing hop on- hop off bus tour of the city, which was excellent.

Titanic Belfast buildingAlong the way we went to see the Titanic Belfast experience. This was really very good – and there is quite a bit of interaction you can engage in. The experience takes you through Belfast at the turn of the century and opens your eyes to the living conditions of the people at that time. The exhibit takes you on a tour from the designs and building of the Titanic (you can even take a cable car ride through a simulated building experience), through to its launch and fit out; then through actual displays of how rooms would have looked and descriptions of passengers and crew. Of course following on from its departure from each of the ports it visited you can experience then collision with the iceberg and all the events that followed. Afterwards you can see how the titanic was found and explore the relics on the sea floor via a virtual ROV. This was a really well done exhibit and I learnt a whole lot about the Titanic that I did not know previously.


After Titanic we finished our bus tour and then had a late lunch at a most fabulous old pub – The Crown Bar – which is owned by the National Trust. This easily rates as one of the best pubs I’ve been to. This has beautiful tiles, woodwork and pressed metal ceilings (the food was pretty good too).


Today, Monday, we departed belfast without seeing a couple of noteworthy sights, including the castle. Time is our enemy! However, we had a lot of ground to cover today. Our first stop was the dark hedges,


Then onto the lovely sea-side town of Ballycastle for breakfast. Ballycastle was the town where Marconi sent his first wireless message from. From Ballycastle we cruised along the picturesque Antrim coast.


The Giant’s Causeway was next on our hit list; I had been looking forward to seeing this legendary place. The weather was changeable, with alternating sunshine and misty showers. There are a couple of different walks you can do here and we walked back along one that involved a climb of 162 stairs (it was worth it though – the views were stunning)!Ireland_GiantsCauseway_01

Dunluce castle was our next stop. A ruined castle at the edge of the coastline. I imagine it would have been rather spectacular in its day.


Finally we arrived at the only surviving fully intact walled city in Ireland – Derry (Londonderry). The walls date from the early 17th century.

Tonight we are staying in an 18th century country manor (BeechHill Country House), just outside of Derry, which is just delightful!

The countdown is on!

It’s time for me to get excited! The countdown has begun in earnest for our trip to Ireland.

I am just about sorted, packed and ready to go. Packing has been difficult – I am expecting quite a bit of rain and it’s going to be much cooler than it is here in north Texas at the moment. We will be going from high 90’sF to 60 or maybe 70F temperatures (mid 30’s to teen temps in Celsius). Anyway, what I don’t pack I can buy there – that will be my excuse for doing some shopping. 

 As I love everything Celtic, Ireland is a dream trip for me. I am looking forward to all the historical sites, the pubs, the live music, the art, the culture, the scenery, the castles, oh, the list goes on! 

We leave from DFW airport tomorrow evening and fly to Dublin via London. I plan to hit the ground running with a visit to Trinity college (the book of Kells) and Dublin castle high on my list of must dos. I pretty much have an idea of what I want to see and do and have planned our trip accordingly. After a couple of days in Dublin, we are driving ourselves anti clockwise around the island with our first stop being Belfast. We will explore as much as I can fit in in the 3 weeks we will be there. Happy times for me!

Stay tuned – I will be posting our adventures as we go!