Roman Around – Day Three

We wanted today to be a relaxing day. We just wanted to walk around, do a bit of shopping, take a few pictures and to see what happens.

First thing we did was go to the supermarket where I spoke to the guy behind the counter. I’m just so proud of myself whenever I do that! It’s only because I don’t expect to be able to speak but when I’m there, it comes natural. They don’t even ask me where I’m from or anything like that. It makes me feel like a local.

I had read a bit about Villa Borghese so we were sort of making our way towards that.
We were walking on Via delle Quattro Fontane and found ourselves at the intersection where the four fountains were!
I took pictures of the fountains – some were taken from across the road so not that great but still a cute little intersection.


We didn’t really have breakfast because hubby wanted to get some pizza like we had yesterday. Yesterday we saw these particular types of pizza places all over. Today, for some reason, we couldn’t find them.
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As we walked around looking for this special type of elusive pizza place, we stopped at different sights.

I could not believe we were taking so much time to look for pizza in Rome. I don’t blame Rome, I blame hubby who passed quite a few places that were “not right”. He could have had pizza if he wanted.

We were walking for about an hour when we got to the top of the Spanish Steps and decided to explore the church that is there.

There was a guard up there refusing entry to anyone who had exposed shoulders/arms or legs (Wearing shorts) About half of the people trying to enter were turned away.

I took a few pics inside.


It was very quiet in there. People were respectful of their surroundings. I had spent a bit of time by myself taking photos and looking at it all and realised hubby wasn’t with me. When I was done, I looked around for him and saw him sitting quietly in one of the pews. I motioned that I was ready and he got up and we went out.
When we were out I said “Were you there all that time? What were you doing?”
Without missing a beat he replies “I was praying for pizza”

Alas, that prayer took a little time to be answered.

Took a few pics of the Spanish Steps during the day this time.

We walked and walked without any direction. Passed lots of places selling foccacia…

We eventually found ourselves in Piazzo del Popolo. The Piazza del Popolo (the People’s Square) is located inside the northern gate of the city, which was once called Porta Flaminia. The square is situated at the beginning of Via Flaminia and was the main entrance to the city during the Roman Empire.


There is a Leonardo Da Vinci Museum there and we were going to go in but when we went to buy the tickets, it was SO stifling hot and humid in there we couldn’t stay!!! What a shame.

Shortly after, a miracle occurred. We saw a place that had pizza that hubby wanted to eat.
I hear the angels singing as I write this.

I spoke Italian to the guy behind the counter like a champ and ordered us some pizza slices. They charge by weight so you just tell them how much you want and then they cut and weigh it.
I took some pics through their display windows.


It was REALLY good. I think they fry the base or something. It was really crunchy and the one we had was filled with prosciutto. YUM!!

With our hunger satiated we were able to think clearly and we moved on to Villa Borghese.
It was an interesting little place! There’s statues of lots of famous people. The one to the right is Victor Hugo.

Lots of people were getting around on bikes and carts which you can hire relatively cheaply.
Here’s a few more pics from inside.

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There’s nice views of Rome from the top. It was really peaceful up there and if you find yourself in Rome and want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist spots, I recommend you come here.

We were tiring by now.

Looking for the perfect pizza place will do that to you.

We just walked and surprisingly, we found ourselves at the Vatican again.
Although we didn’t have a plan, that wasn’t the direction we would have chosen so we changed direction and before we knew it, we were at Piazza Navona.
At least I think that’s where this is.

 


Very pretty place!! Probably more so if you’re not sun struck and tired.

Hubby and I wanted to try some authentic Italian Limoncello so we went into some place that advertised a 500 ml bottle for 5.20 Euro or something like that. When I paid for it, it was 7.20… damn those people who scam tourists!!! In any case, it was still a good price and as I write this, I’m quite a few shots in so I really don’t mind!!!

We’re full up on Limoncello, cheese, proscuitto, salami and bread. Not sure we’re going anywhere for the next few hours!

When we eventually woke from our gastronomic stupor, we wandered back out for some good authentic food. Everyone here beckons you to come in. It’s hard to say no. We went into one place and didn’t really like the menu so after being sat down, we got up and said we were looking for something else.

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We walked past this one place close to our apartment and liked the look of what we saw on other people’s plates so stopped in.

It’s getting quite addictive for me to speak Italian to the servers or really, anyone else!
I’m just so darn proud of myself. (Yes I’ve said that more than once)

I was pretty happy with my pasta! I just wanted a simple meal with a beautiful, flavourful tomato sauce and I got that.
Hubby’s pizza was also good. I can’t remember the pizza’s all having a thin crust when I was here last but they are all like that. Super thin!

Water in restaurants is relatively expensive. We paid 3 Euro for some table water.
Public washrooms are something else that mostly aren’t free. We’ve seen them for one Euro. Hubby and I will usually duck in somewhere and get a drink or coffee and use the bathroom rather than pay extra for a public one.
I won’t tell you how long we spent trying to locate a McDonalds one day, so that we could use their restroom!! If you have young children and you’re coming here it’s probably something to consider.

Only a few days left of vacation now. We have to make the most of our time here.

Buona notte amici

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Roman Around – Day One

Surprise! We’re in Rome!!

I woke up with mixed feelings. Sad to be leaving Greece but also excited for what lay ahead. I’ve been to Italy before but it was too many years ago and hubby has never been at all so this was going to be something new for both of us.

It was sad to leave the rest of our travelling buddies who were going back home today. After being with the group for so long, it a little strange to just be on our own. I kept thinking we were missing somebody.

When the group got to Athens airport we saw that we were departing from different gates and had to go through different security screening areas. We asked the security officer if the gates meet up on the other side as we wanted to know whether we were saying goodbye now or if we would have more time together.
The guard said in a heavy accent “No, it separate. Say bye-bye here”
It was just cute.

The goodbye was too quick and too sad…

The flight from Athens to Rome was only 2 hours and it seemed to go fairly quickly. I had last minute anxiety about speaking Italian so was reading the Italian inflight magazine for most of those two hours in the hope it could increase my vocabulary.

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Hubby and I had researched it and decided we would take the bus to our apartment which is pretty close to the train terminal in Rome.
I tried to take some pictures as it drove along but that never works.

Some of the streets were so pretty with green trees shading us but the buildings are all full of graffiti! We saw the same thing in Greece. What is it with these places and graffiti!

We kept driving and then… out of nowhere, out jumped the colosseum!! I think the whole bus exclaimed at the same time!


It looked pretty impressive. I’ve seen it before but it was still a thrill.

Our apartment is just a short walk away from here and we just fell in love with the building as soon as we saw it!! I was so happy that it was as nice as the pictures we’d seen online. Maybe even better than the pictures.


The picture top right is the ceiling in our apartment. It’s curved like that. Looks pretty good! And the ceilings are so high! It feels like were in a palace. I love this place!!

We were going to rest and take it easy but got caught up in the atmosphere and immediately went out exploring. I snapped at things without knowing what they were. Tomorrow is the “proper” sight seeing day. This was just a bonus walk.

We stopped for some dinner. We really wanted authentic pizza but not sure we got that. The place was ok but not amazing.
We also ordered a bottle of wine for both of us. Although I drink often, I don’t drink a lot and a whole bottle between two… well I can tell you my Italian was flowing after that.

The first picture above is the restaurant we stopped at, the second is our wine, third our meals (pizza and calzone) and last is the complimentary limoncello the owner brought out! How nice was that!
We passed a million tourist shops and lots of them sell these things. I haven’t gone in to see what’s in them, but I’ll just leave the picture here for you to see. Try explaining that one to your kids.

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Without looking for it, we came upon Fontana di Trevi,


It was pretty impressive. Much more than I remember when I was here last.

We are going to go to these sights again so we didn’t linger. In any case, it was absolutely littered with people. We were here in the evening and I’m sure there’s people here all day long but probably especially busy at night.

pain_web_1280x720.jpgI accidentally dropped my phone on a young girls head while trying to take an overhead shot of the fountain.
I still feel bad about that but it probably would have been a little funny watching it as an onlooker.

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I joked to hubby that if we kept going the way we were, we would see all the ancient sights before we even had our first night’s sleep!

We passed by the Pantheon and again, that was quite by accident.

We saw a sign for Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps) and decided that would be our last stop before heading back.
It was starting to get dark so I couldn’t take many photos. I was telling hubby how when I was here last there were vendors selling chestnuts at the bottom of the steps and they’re still there! You might see some chestnuts in the picture on the right.


Very weary but I want to show you the fabulous parking that people do here. Why stick to one direction when you have one of these cars?

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Backwards, sideways, parallel. It all works!

Arriverderci readers!

Greece is the Word – Day Twelve

Today is our second to last full day here in Greece.
I’ve not been able to find diet soft drinks (soda) here apart from Pepsi Max or Sugar Free Coke.
The same thing happened when we were in Japan although I did eventually find it in the odd store here and there.

Here in Greece, I’ve looked in many places and just can’t find it.

In Australia, and I imagine in Canada and America, there are huge selections of diet drinks. These countries also have the highest obesity rates.  Makes me wonder if there is any connection.

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Had to laugh at the name of this store (left).

Wasn’t sure if I was actually reading it correctly at first!

Speaking of walking, in Australia we drive on the left side of the road and consequently, when we walk down a footpath, we also keep left.
I keep wanting to keep left while walking here, but they’re used to keeping right. Everyone sub -consciously walks on the side they’re used to being on.

We drove to Kifisia. Such a pretty place and again, different to many of the other places we have been to in Greece. Kifisia is an upscale residential and shopping district with international designer boutiques, exclusive leather goods stores and art galleries. Imagine my surprise when I saw the store pictured above because that’s where that picture comes from.
There are pretty park lands in the area too.

Here are a few pictures I took as we walked along.


Not many pictures – I thought I took more.

We stopped for lunch and the place we went to didn’t have Greek Salad on the menu so we were forced to be adventurous which turned out to be a good thing because the salad I ate was so delicious with raisans and slices of orange in it. So good!!
We also got some pizza.

I can’t remember what the dish on the far right was called but it was mozzarella wrapped with eggplant and in that delicious tomato sauce. Again, soooo good!

9B790277-B321-465F-BA12-843803D2BCD3On the way back we passed by the Original Olympic stadium. The Panathenaic Stadium or Kallimarmaro is a multi-purpose stadium in Athens.

Hubby and I went to take a look and noticed so many people posing in front of it.

Some people were doing star jumps, others were doing John Travolta style dance poses.
It was fun to watch!

Of course, that meant I had to join in. Hubby and I tried to get some star jump pics in but I failed – I should really post the fail pictures because they were way funnier than these but I guess I still have some dignity left so I better work at keeping it.


And now for some other pics we took that don’t involve posing or star jump attempts.


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I lied, there was a bit of posing involved.

Oh and we noticed you could see the Acropolis from here too if you looked hard enough!

I like how the traffic sign here tells you how long you have to wait until you get a green walk signal.

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And a few more pics from the surrounding area…


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Had to laugh at this – I don’t think it was a typo, it probably means something but it was still funny to me.

Hubby asked if that’s the type of wine I like to drink…

Tonight for dinner we were back in that Plaka area – The same area that we caught the subway from where hubby’s wallet was pick-pocketed. I noticed there were quite a few people wearing their bags and back packs in front of them so I did the same even though I felt silly doing it.
By the way, Pláka is an old historical neighborhood of Athens, clustered around the northern and eastern slopes of the Acropolis, it incorporates labyrinthine streets and neoclassical architecture

Our company chose a fantastic restaurant where two guys were providing some great Greek entertainment.

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I did take a video later on in the evening when a couple of the diners… or one may have been a server, got up to do some Greek dancing! I took my phone out to video it and then looked around and there was at least one person from every table recording it!

Tomorrow is our last full day here and then a surprise awaits…. Stay tuned.

Greece is the Word – Day Nine

4.10am is way too early to get up if you’ve only gone to bed at 12.30am. We are certainly living every minute while away.

Last night, time just flew by as we caught up and laughed with new friends and relatives.

The early start was due to having to be at Pireaus by 5.45 am, to catch the 6.45am ferry to Naxos.
Luckily, we had picked up the tickets yesterday as it was just a mass of confusion when we got there. It wasn’t clear where we had to go. We were almost going onto one ferry when told no that was the wrong one. The guy pointed in the direction we had to go but there were so many ferries there and it’s just not marked. We had no idea! there didn’t seem to be any clear lines either.
This is Greece.

 

When we did finally get the car on, there was a guy there telling us how to back into the spot he wanted us to be in. “left, left, Pull left, LEFT!!! Go, Go, Right, Pull right, Left, left LEFT LEFT, STOPPP.
By this time it was only the driver in the car and it was just too funny to watch it happening from our vantage point. And by the way, the driver did NOT need instructions as to how to back into a spot!

The ferry is a lot bigger than I imagined. I took a photo of a few others that were around. Ours looked a  lot like these (below)

I also took a lot of pictures while we were waiting to leave and along the way. The journey was six hours with a stop in Paros but it was so peaceful and relaxing!

 


The next lot of photos were as we were pulling into Paros, and a few more on the way to Naxos.

 

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Soon we were in Naxos. Just breathtaking!! I can’t wait to explore this town!

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First stop was the supermarket to stock up on supplies. Ooo, look what I found!

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Unfortunately the label was turned away but both of those bottles are huge bottles of wine!

After the supermarket it was time to unwind at the hotel.

We found ourselves once again going the wrong way on a one way street but by now, it doesn’t even bother me.

Somehow it all works out. Most of the drivers are so helpful also, the way they roll their windows down and make sure you’re aware you’re going the wrong way but pointing in the opposite direction.
The only law is that there is no law.

It took a bit of driving on gravel roads to get to the place we’re staying at on Naxos. It’s about 20-25 minutes out of the main town.
It seemed a bit barren getting out there but the beach is pretty nice and the rooms themselves are pretty good!

 


We got changed and headed for the beach. Such a perfect beach with few people there as it’s a bit off the beaten track.

 

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We were told there was a track going down to the beach from our rooms but hubby and I tried to find it and had no luck.

The first road we went down ended up being part of someone’s property.

The second one (left) we went down became so overgrown that it would have been impossible to get through.

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In the end hubby and I decided to just get there via road. The rest of our party were already there so we just kept walking via the only route we knew.

We stopped and had a glass of rose’.

Oh I should mention that every time I’ve ordered wine here, they’ve brought it out in these type of glasses.

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It just doesn’t always feel like I’m drinking wine but I’m enjoying it nonetheless.

Instead of going into Naxos we had dinner locally.

The sun was almost down and this was such a gorgeous setting.


The food was pretty good. A few things were different (for me)

We started with salads again. Seems to be a staple. I then chose the omelet with potato.
I’m not sure what you’re thinking when I write that but I’ll tell you what I got.
Here’s my dinner.

I expected omelet with bits of soft potato through it but what was through it were french fries. If you look closely at the picture on the right (near the top) you’ll see one coming through the egg.
Did I like it? I’m still thinking about it.

Hubby and I walked home. I was a little nervous as it was dark and there aren’t many lights. Not nervous for any potential crime, but for those cars that come racing around corners, not expecting to see a couple of tourists walking late at night.
We are not in a populated area.

Finally it was time to sleep. Maybe tomorrow morning will be the day we finally sleep in.

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Greece is the Word – Day Seven

Every evening I tell myself “I’m going to sleep in tomorrow” yet every morning I’m up as soon as the sun starts to come up. I can’t help it. I can hear movement outside, I knew the day is fresh and new and I just want to be a part of it.

It is no different here in Nafpaktos. We’re so close to the water we can smell that salty air and it’s so enticing.

We walked straight to the waters edge and continued along the coast to the area where the restaurants face the water. Even though it was early there were still people in the water or enjoying a cup of coffee at the tables.

I took a photo of the pebbles we were walking on. It looks so pretty and is so different to anything we have in Australia.

IMG_6751As part of our walk, we discovered this cute little bakery that made the BEST spanokopita.

That spinach filling was just so full of flavour and cheesy creamy. It was just delicious. We tried to go back for me to take on our journey today but she’d sold out. I almost cried real tears.

We took our spanokopita back to the beach area and found a bench to sit on while we waited for the rest of our group. As we sat there, a couple of cats started to gather round. Normally, when you’re at the beach with food it’s seagulls that start to circle you! Here it’s cats.

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And if you’re wondering, yes we did share with them. When they meow so tragically you IMG_6759really have no choice!

After a Greek Coffee or two, we did a bit of last minute Nafpaktos Tourist shopping before heading up to the castle once again. This time it was open!

It’s such an interesting place.
There’s tons of information on the internet if you’re interested but for us it was just something to think about the people who had walked the same steps we had walked in history. Thinking about when this was a working castle and the jobs people were doing.
There are also amazing views of the coast from up there and yes, it does seem as high up as it looks!


We left Nafpaktos and headed for a village where there was more family waiting to see us. The drive was going to take us through windy hilly roads again. I’m not a fan.

It’s gorgeous scenery though and the hills and mountains are dotted with wind turbines.
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It’s also not uncommon to be stopped by cattle… This happened to us more than once on our journey today!


We didn’t get to the mountain village until well after 4pm. Hubby hadn’t met his relatives before and it was all very special and emotional. We don’t speak Greek and only one of their party spoke English so the translating took a little while but it didn’t matter. It was lovely to spend the time together.
I took some photos from their balcony as the views they have are just breath taking.


They wanted us to share a meal with them so we stayed and talked about old times while eating what they had prepared. Most of what we were having had been grown on their land/property. Even the goat (I’m almost sad to say? Just quietly, it was soooo tasty!)

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This is by no means everything but there was Greek salad with home produce (the tomatoes were just so sweet!) potatoes, zucchini and feta cheese made from the milk of their own goats.

Everything was just too delicious! I ate way more than I should have just because I needed to taste more!

You may also notice the wine on the table, that was made by them as well.

Time was really moving on now and we were conscious of the long drive back to Athens, but they asked us if we wanted to see their farm. They had to go there to feed the animals.
How could we say no?

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We drove down a treacherous dirt path to get to it. I don’t know how these people use these roads every day…

Everything we saw at the farm was interesting and new.
From the goats to the cows with their baby calf.

We watched the cows feeding. I tried to take some photos but they moved back as we got close.

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Unfortunately hubby is allergic so we had to go and wait in the car but the kids in our group were able to watch the goats being milked and had a go at doing it themselves too! Now that’s an experience they wouldn’t get at school.

Again, the views from the farm are just breathtaking. I seem to be saying that a lot!


Everything took much longer than anticipated and we didn’t get back to their house until well after 10.30pm. They begged for us to stay rather than drive back down that awful road with minimum light but we just wanted our own beds and clean clothes so we left.

We didn’t get back to Athens until after 2.30am.

For the record, I have had my life time share of treacherous road driving.

And now, it’s definitely time for bed.
Kalinychta until tomorrow when hopefully, I will be sleeping in…