Italia – A visit to Pompeii

We finally had a lovely, sunny day to do some sightseeing on our trip to Italy the day we went to Pompeii. I have always wanted to go to Pompeii since I learnt about it in history when I was at school. The tale of what happened is legendary; what an intriguing place and history.

 

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Mt Vesuvius – standing quietly at the moment overlooking the ruins of Pompeii

Pompeii, along with Herculaneum and surrounding areas were buried under about 6 metres of volcanic ash and pumice when Mt Vesuvius erupted in 79AD. It is such a fascinating story; what did the people of those towns think and feel on that fateful day, on 24th August 79? How did the 8,000 – 10,000 inhabitants of Pompeii live? What were their everyday lives like?

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The remains of one of the many bakeries

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A penis in the pavement pointing the way to the brothel

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Pictures of what’s available in the brothel.

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Now this is a rock hard bed!

Pompeii lay abandoned until it was first rediscovered in 1599 and remained relatively untouched until 1748 when explorers looking for artefacts found that the ashes of Mt Vesuvius had acted as a wonderful preservative. Pompeii is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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While excavation is limited these days – this was happening in the bathing area

The archaeological site that has developed over the past 300 or so years is simply amazing.  The site is vast (an enthusiast could spend days here), with apparently only about two thirds of the 170 acre area having been excavated. While there is still more to discover, what has been unearthed so far is unlike anything else you will see.

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The streets were wide enough for chariots, and are deeply grooved as a result. The stepping stones provided access for pedestrians

The small theatre (Odeon)

The small theatre

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How impressive are these columns?

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At the bottom of the hill, where the poorer people lived.

We did a half-day tour from Naples (and while this was great, the tour guide and information provided was excellent), for me it wasn’t enough. If you just want a taste of Pompeii, then a half-day tour is well worth it. If, however, you are more like me and hungry for more information and keen to see more and discover more on your own, then do this trip independently (it is totally do-able).

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ITALIA continued – Napoli (Day 16 & 17)

Leaving Roma behind, we travelled next to Napoli (Naples), again on a fast train; the journey took just over an hour.

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At almost 300kph (we were slowing down coming in to Napoli) – definitely a fast train

We arrived in to Naples and the weather was fine. We were keen to do some exploring. Once we arrived at our accommodation (very nice room):

NapoliRoomand settled in, we determined to set out and wander around. Of course, the heavens decided to open up and it rained; proper rain, not just a drizzle or light, bearable rain; this was “prepare to get wet” type of rain. It didn’t stop us though; we just rugged up and put up the brollies.

Trudging around in the rain probably is not the best was to see any city, but I don’t think it added to the appeal of Naples. My main reason for staying in Napoli was as a base to visit Pompeii (I’ll cover that in my next post).

 

Walking the streets of Naples is definitely an interesting experience – the things you see:

and the washing hanging out to dry:

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and some churches and some unexpected frescoes (you never know what you will find when you walk around a city):

Some of the things we did manage to see in Napoli included:

  • the medieval fortress, Castel Nuovo (13th century) with its 5 towers located in front of Piazza Municipio and right by the harbourside port.

Quite impressive:

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The castle’s entrance

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As we were leaving – I saw this!

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How’s this for a door? Isn’t it wonderful?

I really did want to visit catacombs whilst we were in Italy – so we did a guided tour here – and it was fascinating. San Gennaro is the patron saint of Napoli and was at one time buried here. There are no skeletal remains here any more as they were removed during the French occupation and removed outside the city walls. These catacombs date back almost 2 thousand years, exists over several levels. The graves sites were fascinating and the frescoes were in great condition considering their age. If you happen to ever visit Napoli, I would recommend a visit to the catacombs.

– we did this at the end of a very long day and I can say it was very much worth the 8euro admission price. The museum is open from 9:00am until 7:30pm – and we stayed until closing; there is a lot to see.

Like some very impressive marble statues:

and some impressive mosaics:

The Neapolitans appear to be obsessed with sex and the penis:

Some other highlights from the museum:

There are some interesting aspects to Napoli and plenty to see, but I found this city the least appealing of all the places we visited in Italia. The traffic is exceptionally crazy – worse than anywhere else in Italy; and if you know anything of Italian traffic, you will appreciate my meaning. The city is also dirty, with lots of rubbish about, rather “unclean” there is a lot of graffiti, it’s noisy and I felt just a little uncomfortable – perhaps the time of year and the weather didn’t help, but it was almost like the Napoletano took no pride in their city. I also found eating out a more difficult experience in Napoli and the waiters tend to just take what they think you should give them as a tip – so be aware. At one restaurant we were told they wouldn’t take a card (luckily we had some cash on us), but when the waiter returned with the change he just kept the 4euro in his hand and claimed it as “service”. Of course, not everywhere was like this (we got caught out twice though) and we had an exceptionally nice dinner at Pulcinella Casoria.

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great atmosphere and great food

Putting this slight inconvenience aside though, we still enjoyed our limited time in Naples.

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Ah, Roma, Italy 🇮🇹 (part 3) – the rest of Roma

In Roma, I did invest in a Hop-on-hop-off bus ticket (which I highly recommend for any city you visit; it’s a great way to get your bearings and to see what the city has to offer – and you can go back and see what you’re interested in later); we spent an afternoon doing a full loop of the city. It also offers great photo opportunities.

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Previously a stadium, now housing

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The Forum

We did do an awful lot of walking in Roma and after the extensive walking we did in the Vatican, we ventured out and explored, pretty much just following our noses. We managed to visit:

the Trevi fountain,

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the Pantheon,

Piazza Navona (which we later returned to and took a look at the underground, where the remains of the Stadium of Domitian exist).

Our last full day in Roma (and it rained all day) we visited the church that sits at the top of the Spanish Steps – Trinita dei Monti.

We walked aimlessly through Villa Borghese park – saw some famous people:

We went to the Villa Medici – guided tour only available.

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There is so much to see in Rome – it’s a big, old city. Here’s a few random shots:

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One other thing we managed to do, and that was do a pasta making class at a local restaurant. It was great fun and I can’t wait to try making my own.

Because it rained so much, we were a little limited in what we were able to see and do in Roma and we didn’t get to see The Forum or Palatine Hill. Maybe next time (I did throw a coin in the Trevi fountain after all)!

And just because I like squirrels – I’ll sign off this post with an Italian squirrel:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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St Peter’s Square

 

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The Pope’s Balcony

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:

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gloriouscolumns but there is also some great graffiti art:

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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!

Summertime in Newcastle

Welcome to my first blog for 2016! I wish everyone a happy and prosperous new year and I hope that it brings all that you desire.

We have been back in Newcastle now for 6 weeks, so I thought I would post a little more about my home town. I have spent quite a bit of time in by the harbour and around by the beaches, mainly because I enjoy it so much – my heart lifts, my soul is revived and it makes me happy. But I also visit because I have been wanting to practice some photography. I have been doing the 52 week photo challenge, hosted by American artist, Ricky Tims and I have thoroughly enjoyed it – I have learnt so much along the way. He is running a similar course this year – if you are interested click here.

Anyway, I thought I would share some sights from around Newcastle:

Newcastle is home to the world’s largest coal exporting port, so you can sit and watch the ships come and go:

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Take a walk along”Honeysuckle“, harbourside (and maybe stop at any of the many restaurants along the way)

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Go see the new ANZAC memorial walk where you can watch the hang-gliders above:

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or the people below:

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A walk along the beach is always good: whether it is to watch the sun come up on New Year’s Eve:

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or watch the local bird life:

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and

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or observe other photographers trying to capture the sunrise:

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You could also take a dip at the Ocean Baths:

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You might try your hand at surfing:

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or try some rock fishing (wearing a life vest, of course – safety first)

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Away from the coast, you might also run into one of the locals (who came visiting one morning):

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I hope you have enjoyed this visual display of Newcastle and I that I have maybe tempted you to come and visit.

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.

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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).

 

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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.

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

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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!

 

And the clouds rolled in!

This post has been a little while in coming; the last week and a half has not been easy. It has been a roller coaster of emotions for us. Shock, sadness and anger have been warring with each other – it’s exhausting. So, to try and overcome some of those emotions we thought we would take a road trip – our last one here in the US; it’s time for us to go home, but the decision was one that was imposed upon us with Andrew being made redundant. It’s a bitter pill to swallow when you are invited to work in another country and then have the rug pulled out from under you and you are sent packing!

Anyway, back to that road trip. It’s fall here in the US and there are many areas where the leaves changing color are quite a spectacle. One of those places is an area known as the Talimena Scenic Drive (a 50 mile stretch of road from east Oklahoma to west Arkansas). So, we set off to have a look before all the color disappeared.

It didn’t turn out quite as expected however. We encountered quite a bit of cloud, fog and rain. We were advised to drive along the valley road first – so glad we did, at least we saw a little color. Driving became very challenging once we got further up the mountains! These are some photos taken from the car:

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Talimena_QW_stateParkWe stayed a night at the Queen Wilhemina Lodge (the castle in the clouds), a recently renovated lodge; very popular & I managed to snag the last available room (people had cancelled due to the weather!) – this was the view from our room when we arrived:Talimena_QWL_view

There was a nice fire to sit by, but no reviving drinks to be had – there was no alcohol at the lodge – its situated in a dry county and they are required to wait 12 months before applying for a liquor license – damn!  The weather continued to move in; it got worse and we experienced a severe storm, with lots of rain and a power outage. The next morning it was still very cloudy, but still beautiful, mystical, even!

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It eventually cleared enough for us to start our drive back along the mountain ridge. We saw some pretty sights;

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it wasn’t quite what I had hoped for, but all in all, it was still another great experience!

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!

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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:

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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).