Highlights from Rome, The Amalfi Coast and Paris…

1. Rome

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The Pantheon

We left our final farm stay and arrived in Rome with great expectations. We were going to explore this city like it had never been explored before. We were going to learn historically significant things. We were going to wine and dine like the Romans have famously done for centuries. We were going to gaze at masterpieces and boggle our brains with the beauty of it all. We did all this and more! One of the highlights was hiring a bike in the extensive grounds of Villa Borghese. It wasn’t so much a bike as a four wheeled contraption with peddles and brakes so squeaky, we managed to ruin every romantic picnic and casual conversation within a 5 km radius! You can hire a unique range of driving apparatus including go-carts, golf buggys and those crazy two wheeled things that stand up-right, and every  driver has a smug ‘my two wheeled thingy-ma-giggy is better then your four wheeled thingy-ma-giggy’ look on his face. Another highlight was a day where we wandered through the back streets of Rome without any agenda. It was one of those days where it rained on and off all day, and on one particular downpour we took refuge in a gorgeous little bookshop cafe under a canopy of turning deciduous trees. One thing about Italy is, no matter where you are; in a cafe opposite the Colosseum or in a train station or bus stop, the coffee is always great….and this was no exception. You can book a tour where you see every major tourist attraction in the city, but if you don’t meander through the back streets, pay half as much as the tourist spots for food and coffee and walk under Italian Nonna’s hanging their washing out from their windows…then you haven’t seen the real Rome. In saying this, we did have a tour of the Colosseum and Roman Forum which was really interesting and we visited the Vatican City and did a tour of the Museum and Sistine Chapel.
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Outside Vatican City
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Piazza Navona
 This used to be an Amphitheatre in Roman times. They would fill it up with water and real life play battle ships!
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Beautiful Roman art in the streets
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The quaint little bookshop cafe
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A Gladiator from a different time and space, you must admit, he looks a little out of place!
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Sunset over  Rome
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Cycling through the gardens of Villa Borghese
2. The Amalfi Coast
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Atrani, Amalfi Coast
After six weeks of back to back workaways and the vast and rather fatiguing travel in between, we decided to head to The Amalfi Coast for a week of rest and relaxation. The Amalfi Coast is about 3.5 hours south of Rome and it boasts beautiful landscapes and clusters of little villages perched precariously on sheer cliffs overlooking pristine (albeit stoney) beaches. Amalfi is also famous for it’s lemons and adds this scent/logo to everything possible…from sweets to liqueur to tea towels. I’d steer clear if you have an allergy or adversion to lemons…just saying. Amalfi is a bustling and crowded tourist destination in the summer months of July to August, but in late November things have slowed down a bit. We spent the week cooking new Italian recipes, reading the bible and listening to online sermons and exploring the coast. I’d would recommend packing motion sickness tablets if you have a tendency to get woozy in the car. I was born with sea legs and have never had any problems with car sickness, but the sheer windiness of these roads is simply sickening! We stayed just outside of Amalfi which is located on the east side of the peninsula. After venturing over to the west side to visit Sorrento, we would recommend staying near here if you ever go. Sorrento is a bit more established and had easy access to islands such as Capri.
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Atrani, Amalfi Coast
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Amalfi Harbour
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Sunset over Amalfi
3. Pompeii
While we were staying in Amalfi, we visited Pompeii, located just south of Naples. I have always had a fascination with Pompeii since I studied it in primary school. An entire city of 20,000 people was not only wiped out over night, but it was immaculately preserved and it gives us a realistic picture of how others lived in 79AD. The city ruins are quite large, so I would recommend taking a whole day to explore it at your own pace.
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Pompeii Amphitheatre and vineyards as it was in 79AD
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The remains of a house, Pompeii
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The remains of a noble’s courtyard, Pompeii
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View of the city, Pompeii
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Beautifully preserved bench top, Pompeii
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A kitchen or restaurant perhaps?
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A cast of a Pompeii citizen killed in the volcanic eruption
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The eerie, deserted streets
4. Paris
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Paris is a city like no other. It has a certain vibe, a buzz, an extraordinary ambiance if you like. Paris in my opinion is one of the only cities  I have been to that seems to be more magical in the rain. You can relate to the wonderful film ‘Midnight in Paris’ as you wander through the glistening streets and into cosy brasseries and cafes along the way. It permeates quirkiness, class and a mystical quality all at the same time. We spent our time in Paris soaking up the Parisian culture, avoiding the major tourist attractions all but one; The Versailles Chateau. When I lived in France in 2009, I went to Paris numerous times, but never made it out to Versailles. Versailles was originally a hunting lodge, but over many years, and the succession of many French Kings and Queens, was converted to one of the most spectacular Chateau’s in Europe. Many of the French Royalty lived there including Marie Antoinette. The grounds are simply stunning and so intricate in their design. It is a landscaping masterpiece. We recommend hiring bikes if it’s a  clear day, or taking the little train around the garden as it’s far too big to explore fully on foot. The garden is more then 800 hectares alone!  Other highlights in Paris included some outlandishly good meals in Brasseries, walking through Luxembourg Gardens, seeing my good friend Marie and exploring Montmartre at night.

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The Seine River, Paris

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 Stalls selling antique books and trinkets, Paris

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A craze for young people in Europe…they write their boyfriends/girlfriends name with their own on a padlock and lock it to a bridge.

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Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

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Luxembourg Gardens, Paris

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Enjoying the sun, Luxembourg Gardens

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Owen’s Parisian Haircut…dashing!!

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 Cooking in our Parisian apartment; Baked camembert with dressed salad and fresh baguette.

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Versailles Palace

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An artists’s depiction of what the palace gardens would have looked like in the 1700’s

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Part of Marie-Antoinette’s private garden

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Can you imagine riding through here in an open carriage pulled by royal horses?

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Owen exploring the garden

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The Grand Trianon and gardens, Versailles

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The Grand Trianon (Essentially The King’s summer residence).

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Royal Tapestry

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The Hall of Mirrors (and chandeliers). Sheer opulence! Versailles

We are now in the last phase of our trip. We are staying with family friends in London and will travel to Somerset and Edinburgh to stay with good friends over the next 3 weeks. We will then return to London for a few days before our departure homeward bound on the 21st December just in time for Christmas!

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