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Category: Travel

The last few weeks…

I’ve been MIA again, taking a little break from the blog to catch up on life a little. Before my last post I was heavily involved in my ‘Secret Project’ – if anything ever comes of it I’ll tell you guys what it was – for over a week and after hours on the computer the last thing I wanted was to be, well, on the computer. So, where have I been?

On the day after my last post, on the 10th, I went with a friend to catch up over When Mac Met Cheese in Paddington – more on that in a post soon – and the day after that I went out for some work drinks in the evening. Note to self: Keep your phone on you so you don’t suddenly realise the time and have to run to Charing Cross for the last train home. Second note to self: Eat dinner.

The rest of the weekend was nice and relaxed – definitely what I needed after the stresses of recent weeks. Hubby went out on Saturday night so I had the flat to myself… much needed girl time! My sister being over from Spain, I drove over to my parents’ for one my dad’s infamous Sunday lunches and also went with them over to Foal Farm Animal Rescue in nearby Biggin Hill. This wasn’t one of their Sunday Sale Days but the shops were all open for a good rummage. I found this beautiful carafe for £3 and 6 of these cocktail glasses for another £3! I also picked up some lovely soft purple fabric that I’ll do something with at some point (promise..)

Carafe and Cocktail Glasses | Fifty1degreesnorth.wordpress.com

A few days later I popped down to Windsor to meet a potential new client for work. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to stop and take in the sights but we did take the long walk back to the station and happened to pass the castle while they were getting ready for the changing of the guard. I would have loved to stand in the gorgeous weather and see it, but the office beckoned (sob). I’ve vowed to take a trip down one weekend so I can actually enjoy it! From what I saw, it’s a beautiful town and definitely worth the short journey from London.

Finally, it was the bank holiday weekend, and time to head over to Oxford for the weekend to see my girls from uni. We all lived together in Leeds in our third year and are now spread around a little bit (London, Oxford, Leeds and Australia!) so meet up when we can. Obviously the girl in Australia couldn’t make it and sadly another had some news which meant she had to stay in Leeds but the other 4 of us met up on the Saturday at Kat’s house in Witney. Witney is a stunning town heading west from Oxford towards the Cotswolds. On first look it seems like a quiet market town, but having seen it on a Saturday night that’s not quite true! We started with Pimm’s on Church Green while waiting for the last girl to arrive and later had a lovely Thai takeaway before heading into Oxford for a night on the town. Raoul’s was our first port of call for cocktails where I had a lovely Wrong Island Spiced Tea (well, a few of them) before heading to a club to dance the night away. The least said about the bus journey home the better!

Witney Church Green | Fifty1degreesnorth

On the Sunday we woke up late and were treated to bacon and egg sarnies by our hostess before heading to nearby Burford, on the edge of the Cotswolds, to wander the shops. I happily picked up some Oxford Sauce (think brown sauce that has a few spices in it), before settling down in The Lamb Inn for some much needed refreshments and a spot of late lunch in the cosy bar area. Yet again too busy eating to take photos (naughty blogger!) but the food was very impressive – perhaps unsurprising as the restaurant has 2 AA rosettes!

Burford | Fifty1degreesnorth.wordpress.com

Sweet Shop Burford | Fifty1degreesnorth.wordpress.com

Flowers in Burford | Fifty1degreesnorth.wordpress.com

Tea at Lamb Inn | Fifty1degreesnorth.wordpress.com

Coffee at Lamb Inn | Fifty1degreesnorth

After some squash lessons from one of the girls who is a mean squash player we retired to the flat to eat some canneloni and then to the pub for a few last drinks, before heading back to London on Monday on the Oxford Tube. All in all, a lovely weekend with good friends.

Most of this week’s evenings have been spent watching Homeland with the hubby (it’s now on Netflix – fantastic!) and dragging myself out for a run on Thursday night. I’ve still not managed to get into a routine with keeping fit, and I’ll write more on that soon.

 

That brings us up to date! I’ll be working on posting more regularly in the next few weeks, I promise. What have you been up to while I’ve been away?

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When in Rome…

Rome Building

Piazza del Popolo

piazza navona

spanish steps

Anyone who knows me at all knows that I studied Classical Civilisation at A-level and later at university. But I had never made it to Rome… worst Classics student ever! I had always wanted to go when I could afford to “do it right”, which meant a student budget was never enough. So it was a lovely surprise when my husband bought our trip as a wedding present and I was unbelievably excited!

Res Gestae

Altare della Patria

Roman Forum

Bocca della Verita

Basilica di San Pietro

We were serious tourists and got off to a typically tourist-y start: We got on the train from the airport without validating our tickets and (I) spent the whole half an hour panicking we’d get charged a 50 EUR fine! Luckily we didn’t see a ticket inspector, phew. Having checked in, armed with our Canon EOS 1100D DSLR we spent the first afternoon walking for hours and managed to tick off the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, Piazza del Popolo, Ara Pacis, and the Pantheon. The latter was one of my favourite sights in all of Rome. I was telling Martin about it as we were about to turn the corner and as we did, the sheer size took my breath away. The unreinforced concrete ceiling (still the world’s largest) is a magnificent feat of engineering and absolutely stunning.

pantheon

pantheon ceiling

The highlight for my husband was without doubt the Colosseum – he loves watching programmes about gladiators! Unfortunately much of the outside was covered in scaffolding but it was still very impressive – once again, the size is quite something. You can see how citizens of ancient Rome would have been completely overawed by the power of the Emperor when attending games and celebrations.

colosseum from palatine hill

Colosseum Inside

Colosseum cross-section

Over the rest of the 5 days we actually took a day trip down to Pompeii that I’ll cover in a separate post. Back in Rome, of course we also went to the Vatican, the smallest city-state on earth! We went to the Vatican Museums as I was dying to see their immense collection of art and of course the Sistine Chapel. It didn’t disappoint! We took a leisurely stroll over from our hotel on Via del Corso which took around 35mins, off the beaten tourist track, which meant we saw some beautiful Roman streets and people going about their daily routine. You’re not allowed to take photos in the Sistine Chapel, even without a flash, so I actually *gasp* preferred the Raphael rooms, where you can get up close!

Top Tip:

All of the guide books and websites will tell you to go first thing in the morning. We did – and the queue was HUGE, but by the time we came out it was non-existant! so go around lunchtime if you can.

Rome Street

Raphael Rooms

Raphael Rooms

Hercules

I got ridiculously excited to see an amphora painted by Exekias in the black-figure style which I had studied repeatedly over the years.. I literally stumbled across it, forgetting it was housed here; seeing it up close and personal was just unreal.

exekiasamphora

As you might expect, we ate some amazing food! I would highly recommend checking out the multitude of restaurants in buzzing Trastevere – Dar Poeta (the pizza below) in particular. In the Jewish quarter, Nonna Betta was outstanding (the last two photos.)

Dar Poeta Pizza

TrasteverePasta

Nonna Betta Pasta

Nonna Betta Pasta

We drank a lot of coffee – check out Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè near the Pantheon if you want the best coffee of your life! – and ate a lot of gelato and pasta; we saw some of the most historical, beautiful and well-known sights in the world; we spent a LOT of money; we walked for miles and miles in total… but I came back feeling calm and refreshed. The city is so relaxed, and I had finally seen it – with my best friend on earth. We had an amazing time, and I can’t wait for our next trip away – Thailand in November! Less than 8 months to go…! (who’s counting?!)

Vatican Portrait

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