31 March 2011

Favourite memories of our travels, a road trip to Rome and a little bit about me...

Warning...long ramble ahead and many photos to follow!!

About me and why I feel so lucky to be having this big European adventure...

Matthew and I come from similar backgrounds and have similar core values. Small country town in rural New South Wales, working class. We've known each other since the end of high school. High school sweet hearts if you like. We didn't ever have the opportunity to travel when we were young and carefree in our 'gap year'. Instead we got jobs and worked thinking that we would 'save up' to put ourselves through uni. As it turns out that first year working then became a second year working and then another and another and before we knew it 10 years had passed and still no travel and no uni. Along the way we got married in a quiet little ceremony in our home town and then babies came along...still no travel and no uni.

We decided enough was enough with the putting off of the study thing and Matthew finally got around to getting his masters degree while busy working, building his career and helping me raise our 2 beautiful kids. I did a smattering of TAFE courses here and there but will always, always kick myself for not getting that degree. So, my point? We are self made. We are here living in Europe because we got ourselves here. We've never had help from anyone to get us where we are. We never had help from family when the kids were babies, we were alway on our own, doing things our way. Often the wrong way and learning from our mistakes. It wasn't all smooth sailing. We've had our ups and downs, we've grown apart and we've grown together. We've had some very dark times and we've had some fabulous times. We are fighters. We've made our life what it is and we've worked hard to get here.

And now we feel very blessed, very fortunate and very happy to be where we are in life right now. Very lucky to have the kind of relationship where we can spur each other on.

So, all this rambling brings me to Rome! Yes a long way round in the story about our road trip to Rome, I know, sorry about that. But I've been thinking lately, just how lucky Matthew and I have been and how lucky the kids have been too, to have had this opportunity to live in Europe for a few years and experience different parts of the world. Looking back on my childhood, I would never have imagined spending my 40th birthday in Europe. A small-town country girls dream. And now that our time here in Europe is about to come to an end, I've been thinking about what the best part would be. The best holiday we've had. I'd have to say Rome. Rome at Christmas is a very, very special place to be. We even received the Pope's blessing! So yes, we feel very blessed indeed.

Ok enough blah, blah about me and onto the important stuff...Rome...

Spending Christmas in Rome in 2008 was a bit like a dream. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the food! Oh so good. I never knew pasta was suppose to taste the way it actually tasted in Rome. It was quite wonderful. In fact, really, really wonderful. I can't even find the words to describe it.

We packed up our little hire car and headed off out of Munich bright and early. I had been very ill for the first few months in Munich (for some Ausländers, like me, we catch every new and different bug that comes our way and our immune systems crash big time) and was just in the recovery stages of a nasty stomach bug, so I wasn't looking forward to an 8 hour car trip to our first stop over in Pisa. I slept most of the way. I remember waking up every now and then, snowy images through the window, a wintery white wonderland throughout Germany and Austria. Then we hit the Italian border, it was bye bye snowy, miserable Austrian alps and hello Italian alps and big blue sky - what a sight! What a great Italian welcome. Terraced hills, grape vines and blue sky. So good!

First overnighter was Pisa and then on to Rome for about 7 days. Then we headed back to Munich via Verona. I think I've rambled on long enough. I think I'll let the photos do the talking. But I'd just like to say, all the background about us above, leads me to this...Rome was awe inspiring. Really, really awe inspiring. From our first glimpse of the Colosseum, to the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, Vatican City, the Pope, St Peter's Basilica, the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, the remains of the temple of the Vestal Virgins, the Trevi fountain, to the kids finding their pressies on Christmas morning...from Santa in Italy....''he found us''...their cries of joy made my heart swell...it was all so amazing! Here we go...

 Somewhere between Austria and Italy and wondering where the instructions were for the snow chains and the winter tyres...hmmmm....

a snow blizzard! 

Hello Italia! What a welcome...blue sky and sun. Fabulous. Bye bye snowy & miserable Germany & Austria, hello sunny Christmas in Italy! 


That tower sure does have a lean! 

Our first glimpse of the Colosseum, even though we had arrived in Rome late in the evening, we couldn't wait to get out and go for a walk to take in the sights...

The cats of Rome, I loved seeing all the cats in Rome and there were so many of them, but then again I am a 'cat person', so I guess if you don't like cats it would have been rather off putting as they were everywhere. 

The spectacular ruins of The Colosseum, so much history to take in.

Hard to imagine that once every inch of The Colosseum was covered in marble, which was 'recycled', as the Romans call it, by various emperors for their palaces, much of it ended up in the Vatican.

The Temple of Venus and of Rome, thought to be the largest temple of ancient Rome

This is Claudia, one of the few remaining almost intact statues of a Vestal Virgin. It is said that she was the only Vestal Virgin to have lived to the ripe old age of 40. Once they reached 40 they were allowed to leave the Temple and live a 'normal life'. Hence our love of the saying ''Life begins at 40''!

The remains of the Temple of Vesta and the House of the Vestal Virgins which housed the Eternal Flame.

The many layers of the history of Rome
We came back to the Forum a few times during our stay in Rome, there was just so much to take in. 

On tour in the Vatican City...some of us more excited about it than others! My poor little mate Seanie had had enough! There is only so much history a 7 year old can take in and he had well and truly reached his quota for that day! Not a happy camper. 

The spectacularly awe inspiring Sistine Chapel, I had to pinch myself...it was all real and right in front of me. 

Sean's favourite wall, depicting Judgement Day...skulls, demons, skeletons and of course angels. 

Inside St Peter's Dom, the mosaics were so lifelike and had an almost 3D quality to them. 

The Saints and the Key's to the Kingdom - the shape of the piazza is a key....symbolism everywhere and a spectacular view over the city from the roof of the Vatican.

The Pieta

'On a piece of marble personally chosen in the pits of Carrara, Michelangelo represents the isolated aspects of the Virgin Mary holding in her arms the body of the Christ right after it was taken down from the Cross'. This is a very moving sculpture. Michelangelo was only 22 when he completed this work.

St Peter's Square (Piazza San Pietro) Vatican City, Christmas Eve - 2 very lucky little kiddos, one day they will look back at this and appreciate just how lucky they were, I hope.

Absolutely loving those 'hop on - hop off' bus tours. Love it! Love Rome! 

The Trevi Fountain

The big cheesy grins tell it all really. We each did the '3 coins into the Trevi' for luck! 

Taking an evening stroll around the Spanish Steps

...and finally... Santa finds them! Santa found us in Rome! Sean was mightily impressed! 

The Swiss Guards, don't let the funny uniforms put you off...they are a crack team of mercenaries

Receiving the blessing from the Pope on Christmas morning 2008

Sean, Emma, the Pope and a few other people!

One of the great Christian treasures of Rome - the steps that Jesus climbed to Pontius Pilot's home to receive his judgement. They are now covered in timber to protect them, but the original steps can be seen below the boards. The very faithful can climb the steps (they may only do so on their knees as it is forbidden to walk on them). Fascinating stuff! 

Inside the Pantheon, which I kept calling the Parthenon (the Greek temple) - very confusing! 
However, after my initial confusion, I marvelled at its spectacular history. First commissioned as a temple to represent all the gods of ancient Rome, did you know that after 2 thousand years it still has the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome?

Looking through the 'front door' of the Pantheon

Time to say good bye to Rome and onto Verona for an overnighter before heading back to Munich. What an adventure! It leaves me speechless..

Juliet's balcony

The real ''letters to Juliet'' - can you believe this! Look at them all. That's a whole lotta love! 

The entry to Juliet's courtyard and the wall of 'letters to Juliet' behind us. 

Oh my goodness, our road trip to Rome was an adventure and a half!
So you see...life really does begin at 40! And maybe I'll finally get around to doing some study now...perhaps ancient Rome. Hmmm...

For more Rome see my favourites here

Alison xx

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