Photography

The Roman Forum

From the Colosseum, the Roman Forum is seconds away, so I walked towards the entrance only to be met by a really long queue. The ticket for the Colosseum includes the Roman Forum, but by this time it was late morning and the crowds had started to arrive. I noticed a pathway to my left where a lot of people were walking, so thinking that there might be another entrance, I followed. But, it only led to a dead-end, with no second entrance! So, I back-tracked and joined the end of the line and, thankfully, It didn’t take that long to get in.

Things to do in Rome
Arch of Titus

The Roman Forum is chock-a-block with ancient ruins of important buildings that were once the part of everyday life in Rome. Most of the city’s important events would be held there and, it seems, that every important person had their own statue or monument dedicated to them.

It’s a huge piece of land which includes not only the forum itself, but the Palantine Hill too, where you can see the remains of the imperial palace. I never made it as far as that, I ran out of time, but I did venture up the hill, I just didn’t cover it all.

Things to do in Rome
The Palantine Hill

The area is just beautiful, you have the mysterious ruins, which could tell a thousand tales, and the green grassy areas dotted with bright yellow flowers, umbrella pines, cypress and olive trees, and the blooming pinks and purples of shrubs give the forum an added air of calm and tranquility.

Things to do in Rome
The Roman Forum
Things to do in Rome
Purple Wisteria

There were so many people, as always in these kind of places, but what was nice about the forum was that it was large enough to be able to find a quiet spot for uninterrupted views.

I spent over an hour just wandering around amidst the ruins. From the Palantine Hill, you get splendid views looking out over Rome.

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Someone stopped by to check me out!
Things to do in Rome
St Peter’s Basilica in the distance

Back down in the forum, I walked along Via Sacra, once used for triumphal processions, in the shadows of statues and temples, it really is like a step back in time.

Things to do in Rome
Via Sacra
Things to do in Rome
Via Sacra

It started to rain, but that didn’t worry me, I just carried on taking loads of photographs, until my camera decided to pack up, I had forgotten to recharge the battery! I still managed to capture quite a few shots though and as I made my way out of the forum towards the Vittorio Emanuele II monument to meet mum and dad, I thought how lucky I was to be able to experience a fascinating piece of history.

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Basilica of Maxentius
Things to do in Rome
Statues of the Vestal Virgins
Things to do in Rome
Temple of Antoninus and Faustina
Things to do in Rome
Temple of Vesta
Things to do in Rome
Temple of Castor and Pollux

As I approached the monument, I was greeted by my parents, who had been waiting on the steps in the rain. We went in search of food and shared a lovely pizza and bottle of wine. We started the week with just a glass or two, but two days in and we were ordering bottles! Living so far away, I miss out on being sociable with my folks, so it was just wonderful to share this time with them.

Tip: Book online and arrive early to avoid the queues. The ticket for the Colosseum is valid for 2 days and includes the Roman Forum. This is the website I used to buy tickets.

We’re off to Florence next 🙂

 

The Colosseum

Only the second day in Rome and it felt like we’d done so much already. Today we’re off to the Colosseum, a huge oval amphitheatre in the centre of the city. Emperor Vespasian started the massive feat in 72 AD, but it was Titus who completed the job in 80 AD with Domitian making modifications around 81-96 AD. Although modified, it’s still the largest amphitheatre ever to have been built.

Things to do in Rome
The Colosseum

In its heyday, from classical times right up to the 6th century, the Colosseum saw between 50,000-80,000 spectators come to cheer on spectacular shows such as sea battles and reenactments of dramas, and the slightly more gruesome gladiator contests, animal hunts, and executions.

 

Things to do in Rome
The Colosseum

Since then, the structure has been destroyed by earthquakes, and robbers have helped themselves to the stone, but it’s still the one thing that most people think about when they think about Rome. Throughout the ages the Colosseum has been used in a variety of ways from housing and workshops to a cemetery and castle, but these days it’s one of the most visited attractions in the city.

Things to do in Rome
The Colosseum

One interesting thing I learned, post visit, is that the Colosseum is the symbol of the international campaign against capital punishment. In the evening, the illuminated amphitheatre changes from white to gold whenever someone’s sentence is commuted or a city abolishes the death penalty anywhere in the world.

Things to do in Rome
The Colosseum
Things to do in Rome
The Colosseum

There are three stories with tiered seating, the higher seats were for the poorest of people while the emperors and elite class would have ring-side seats, at the north and south ends, for the best views over the arena. Underneath the arena is the hypogeum, which means underground, and that’s where the slaves and animals were kept.

As we did with the Vatican City, we’d bought tickets in advance, but when we arrived we were instantly accosted by ticket touts. I think five separate people asked us if we wanted tickets before we even got to the entrance. One guy told us that our tickets wouldn’t allow us to access the arena, which was probably true, but as we had already upgraded tickets the day before, my dad resoundingly replied “We’ll take our chances mate!”

The way in was much more relaxed than the Vatican and, after I’d picked up my audio guide, we were greeted by another amazing sight in front of us. The audio guide was useful and there were designated points where you can stop and listen, and the audio tells you what you’re looking at. But, I kept getting them mixed up, so I’d be at point five listening to point six. It didn’t appear to be on silent either, so when I played it, even with headphones, everyone else could hear it. Technology and I are sometimes not a good mix, so I gave up. In any case, I was so busy trying to work the damn thing, I forgot to look around!

Things to do in Rome
The Colosseum

We walked around the lower and upper levels looking at the ruins, trying to imagine what life would have been like back then. Where the upper classes would have sat, the roar of the crowd, the massacres of men and animals. We only have TV series and movies to give us an idea of how things were, but I imagine the atmosphere would have been electric, albeit the events slightly distasteful.

Things to do in Rome
The Colosseum
Things to do in Rome
The Colosseum

We didn’t spend as long here as we’d done at the Vatican, so once we had gone to the gift shop to buy a book and some postcards, and looked at the views of the Forum and the Arch of Constantine, we left and walked a short distance to have coffee and cake. On the way, we came across a beggar who appeared to have no legs. However, as we walked passed him and looked back, we noticed he was kneeling on the step with his feet resting on the ground behind. Our initial pity turned to amusement at his duplicitous attempt to trick people into feeling sorry for him and parting with their money! I wonder how much money he actually received! He was in such an uncomfortable position he would have been aching all over by the end of the day.

Things to do in Rome
Views of the Forum and the Arch of Constantine

Afterwards, I parted company with my mum and dad and wandered over to the Roman Forum. My parents had already been to the forum, so we planned to meet two hours later at the Vittorio Emanuele II monument, also known as the wedding cake because of its two-tiers, white marble, and its quadrigae on top. It’s not the most appealing building, but it can be seen towering above the rooftops from almost anywhere.

Things to do in Rome
Vittorio Emanuele II Monument aka The Wedding Cake

Tip: There are Roman soldiers around the Colosseum (and other attractions across the city) who are friendly enough when they ask if you want to have a photograph taken with them. That’s fine as long as you don’t mind paying for the privilege, something they fail to mention up front.

Things to do in Rome
The Colosseum

Next up; The Roman Forum

 

 

Piazza Navona

We found ourselves in Piazza Navona, a lovely little square full of life with street artists, selling their paintings, imposing churches and palaces, and inviting cafes and restaurants all around. It didn’t take us long to choose a restaurant with a ring-side view of everything that was going on.

Things to do in Rome
Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona is an oval-shaped square which was once the site of the Stadium of Domitian, a popular venue where games and competitions were held in the 1st century AD.

Things to do in Rome
Piazza Navona
Things to do in Rome
Piazza Navona

The Italian architects loved a good fountain, and in the middle and at either end of Piazza Navona, there are three. The one in the middle is my favourite, just because it’s so elaborate and there’s always a good story behind it. It’s the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The four rivers are the Nile, the Ganges, the Danube, and the Rio de la Plata.

Things to do in Rome
Fountain of the Four Rivers
Things to do in Rome
Fountain of the Four Rivers

If you look at the statue of the Rio de la Plata, it appears that he is shielding this eyes from something. The story goes that he can’t bear to look at the church of St Agnese, built by Francesco Borromini, for fear that it will come tumbling down on him. Borromini was a rival of Bernini’s, but rivalry aside, Bernini built this fountain way before the church, so make what you will of the legend. The fountain is topped off with a towering Egyptian obelisk. There is a lot more to this fountain, lots of smaller sculptures and figurines, and if you look on the internet it’s fascinating the way Bernini (and others) told stories through their work. When I go anywhere I usually have my guidebook to hand, to give me information about what I’m looking at, but I enjoyed just being in the here and now with my parents.

Things to do in Rome
Rio de la Plata
Things to do in Rome
Church of St Agnese

At either end of the piazza is the Fontana del Moro (Moor Fountain) and Fontana del Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune) both by Giancomo della Porta. 

Things to do in Rome
Fountain of Neptune
Things to do in Rome
Moor Fountain: Photo Credit: Commons Wikimedia

We ordered a selection of meats, cheese, olives and bread, all washed down by a glass of wine or two. It was just perfect sitting there watching the world go by, in the shadows of the grandiose Baroque architecture. Such a small place but big on atmosphere and architectural creations.

Things to do in Rome
Piazza Navona
Things to do in Rome
Piazza Navona

After our delicious lunch, we took a slow walk through the square to find a taxi, only to be approached by a man selling handmade wooden fruit bowls. He complimented my dad, saying how lucky he was to have two beautiful women on his arms, we laughed along as my dad put him right by saying yes, this is my wife and my daughter! Unperturbed, he proceeded to shake hands with us and in our palms he deposited a bracelet, how nice! But, realising that he wasn’t going to get a sale from us, snatched the bracelets back and walked off to find his next victim. Honestly, his attitude changed very quickly from being all smiles and friendly banter, to surly and almost aggressive. I can imagine how he must have felt with people constantly saying no! I’ve been in sales before, so I know how he feels 🙂 but I was always gracious.

We made it back to our digs, had our first evening out (this was still only our first day in Rome) and an early night because we were up early again for our visit to the Colosseum.

 

St Peter’s Basilica

Our guide left us outside St Peter’s Basilica and before going inside, we stopped to gaze over St Peter’s Square, designed by Gian Lorenz Bernini. Striking in its own right, the square is surrounded by Tuscan colonnades with 140 statues of various saints on top. The structure was built in two arcs on either side of the square alluding to embrace all into the arms of Mother Church.

Covering an area of 5.7 acres, St Peter’s Basilica is the largest church in the world and, architecturally speaking, the most renowned piece of Renaissance work of its time. It’s said to be the resting place of St Peter and there are many popes buried in the vaults below.

Things to do in Rome
St Peter’s Basilica
Things to do in Rome
St Peter’s Basilica

The pope oversees ceremonies which sees between 15,000-80,000 people visit the basilica and, in fact, there had been an Easter celebration before we arrived because the square was still filled with empty seats.

Things to do in Rome
Imagine the square filled up with hundreds of devotees!

The facade has huge Corinthian columns and statues of the apostles, but look further skywards and you’ll see 13 statues on top of the building representing Jesus and 11 of his apostles, and John the Baptist.

Once through the huge doors, you’ll find yourself in the narthex or portico, beautifully decorated with a carved ceiling and columns on either side. At either end there are statues of Charlemagne by Agostino Cornacchini and Constantine the Great by Bernini. You’ll see three large doors, with decorated panels, the Door of the Dead, so named because it was used as the exit for funeral processions, the Filarete Door, a Renaissance bronze door, and the Holy Door which is sealed with cement and only opened during holy years.

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Grand entrance
Things to do in Rome
Charlemagne
Things to do in Rome
The Narthex
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The Holy Door by Vico Consorti
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The Filarete Door by Antonio Averulino a.k.a. Filarete
Things to do in Rome
The Door of the Dead by Giacomo Manzù

If that’s not enough, inside the basilica is absolutely jaw-dropping! Not only is it enormous with high ceilings, which will make you feel about two feet tall, but every square inch of it is ornately decorated with art and statues, literally, everywhere. The colourful stuccoed walls and ceilings are just out of this world!

In the nave, there are two cherubs holding a water basin, which from a distance appear to be of normal size, but once you get along side them, you realise they are two metres high.

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Cherubs with water basin

As you walk down the aisle, on either side there are chapels made of marble, stucco, gilt, sculptures and mosaics.

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One of the chapels along the aisle

And at the end of the aisle is Bernini’s baldachin, said to be the largest piece of bronze in the world, with its unusual twisted columns, sheltering the altar. Above, is the inside of Michelangelo’s dome, just as stunning inside as it is outside.

Like the Vatican museums, it’s almost too much for you to take everything in.

It really was a spectacular place to visit and our day wasn’t over yet. Back outside, we walked slowly over the square, with nothing to do but admire the colonnades and statues. We continued down Via della Conciliazione and, with the view of the basilica and Michelangelo’s dazzling dome in the distance, we stopped for a well-deserved rest over a cup of coffee.

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View of St Peter’s Basilica from Via della Conciliazione

By this time, we were getting a little peckish, so we continued our walk and found ourselves outside Castel Sant Angelo. With river views of the Tiber and two bridges spanning it, we stopped again in amazement. These weren’t your normal, run of the mill, bridges, oh no, not in Rome! These were the Ponte Sant Angelo, made of marble with five arches and lined with statues of angels.

Things to do in Rome
Castel Sant’Angelo
Things to do in Rome
Ponte Sant’Angelo

The Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II has three arches and winged statues at either end. Such a treat when you see them. It’s one marvelous sight after another here.

Things to do in Rome
Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II

We walked over the bridge, in the shadows of the magnificent sculptures, and followed our map through the city until we found one of Rome’s many picturesque squares- Piazza Navona.

 

 

First Day in Rome – The Vatican City

Well, what an absolute blast my first day in Rome turned out to be, my parents and I visited The Vatican City, an independent state within Rome which hardly needs any introduction.

Things to do in Rome
The Vatican City

After a quick metro ride, we arrived around 9.30 a.m only to be accosted by a ticket tout asking if we wanted to buy entrance tickets. We smugly replied that we didn’t because we already had some and flashed them in front of his face. He looked them over and told us that we could go through all the museums and end up in the Sistine Chapel, but if we wanted to go into St Peter’s Basilica we’d have to retrace our steps and join the queue for the basilica outside. We didn’t really want to do that, especially as my lovely mum was struggling to walk as it was, it would have been torture for her to walk all the way back and stand in the long queue.

As it turned out, we didn’t have to do any of that because we ended up right outside the basilica anyway, but we didn’t know that at the time. Reluctantly, we gave in to the ticket man’s suggestion of upgrading our tickets. An additional €21 each on top of the €17 I’d already paid. This was turning out to be an expensive day out so far, but we were at the Vatican and it’s not something you see every day.

When we met our guide, Eugene, he gave us a brief introduction about what the tour would entail and then we made our way to the entrance. He guided us through the museums and gave us a running commentary as we went. Some of the statues and paintings were worthy of finding out a little more about them and it would have been nice to linger and know who the statue depicted or who the painter was, but there was no time to really take it all in. Having said that, it was good to have a guide if only to learn a little about what we saw.

Let’s begin the tour…

The first place we went was the Cortila della Pinacoteca, a beautiful courtyard with views of the basilica’s silver-blue dome dominating the skyline.

Things to do in Rome
Cortile della Pinacoteca
Things to do in Rome
Cortile della Pinacoteca

Then onto the Cortile della Pigna named after the 4 metre-high pine cone, moved here in 1608. There’s also a large bust of Caesar Augustus, and Arnaldo Pomodoro’s “Sphere within a Sphere.”

Next, the Chiaramonti Museum, named after Pope Pius VII Chiaramonti (1800-1823) is a collection of over 1,000 ancient sculptures including Heracles with his son Telephos.

Things to do in Rome
Heracles with his son Telephos

During the 19th century, Napoleon ordered the Papal States to hand over this collection to France. Later, a sculptor called Antonio Canova, with some help, managed to bring them all back. The museum has been arranged to show the 3 sister arts, sculpture, architecture and painting, in an aesthetically pleasing way.

Next, was the Braccio Nuovo or New Wing which is considered to be one of the most important examples of neo-classical architecture in Rome. The hall is lined with statues of emperors and Roman copies of Greek statues, as well as busts depicting famous people from classical times. It is an impressive collection and even the floor is stunning, made from marble slabs with original Roman mosaics.

I loved all of the statues, but my favourite was “The Nile” which was dedicated to the Egyptian goddesses, Isis and Serapis. Egypt is represented by the Sphinx, on the left, and surrounding the man there are 16 children which depict the cubits of water the Nile rises from flooding every year.

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The Nile

The Pio Clementino Museums contain several large halls of Greek and Roman sculptures, including the Hall of Busts and the Round Hall which was built based on the same design as the Pantheon.

In the Round Hall, there are niches all around with huge statues and a red porphyry basin in the middle, which would have been a magnificent centre-piece in one of Rome’s public squares long ago.

Outside, the Octagonal Court was the very first place that the collections of classical statues were placed and some of the statues including the Laocoōn and the Belvedere Apollo have been standing in their original positions since the 16th century.

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The Laocoōn
Things to do in Rome
The Belvedere Apollo

The Hall of the Muses has statues of the muses, Apollo, Athena and Hermes to name but a few, as well as the Belvedere Torso, a marble sculpture which has delighted artisans for centuries. It’s thought to represent Ajax, a Greek hero who is in the throes of suicide.

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The Belvedere Torso

Look up and marvel at the frescoed ceiling, by Tommaso Conca, a superbly detailed creation of Apollo and the Muses.

Things to do in Rome
Apollo and the Muses fresco by Tommaso Conca

Honestly, whether you look up or down or to each side, it’s almost too much for your eyes and mind to comprehend everything.

Moving on through the Gallery of Tapestries, a long corridor with huge wall-coverings with stories from the life of Jesus.

As we passed The Resurrection of Christ, our guide told us to walk slowly along and not to take our eyes off Jesus’ eyes. They appear to be watching only you and it looks like he is turning his head to follow you! Alas, it is but a clever trick by the artist! 🙂

Another piece of artistic genius is how the ceilings were painted. As we walked along, we thought that they were sculptures, but in actual fact, they were paintings created to look like that, a brilliant use of shadowing and colours.

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Artistic brilliance!

In the next hall was the Gallery of Geographical Maps, a series of colourfully painted maps of Italy.

Things to do in Rome
The Gallery of Geographical Maps
Things to do in Rome
The Gallery of Geographical Maps

The frescoes themselves are beautiful, but don’t forget to look up at the exquisite ceiling with paintings and carvings amidst a sea of golds, greens and reds. It’ll take your breath away a little bit!

The room just prior to the Sistine Chapel was the Room of the Immaculate Conception, covered floor to ceiling with impressive frescoes depicting religious scenes of the dogma of immaculate conception made by Pope Pius IX in 1854.

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The Room of the Immaculate Conception

And one more room, the dome of which is just incredible. Imagine the painstaking work done by the artist to create such a spectacular piece of work.

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Apartment of San Pio V

At last, we reached the Sistine Chapel which nowadays is used for the papal conclave, the process by which a new pope is selected. It’s famous for its frescoes on the walls and ceilings which were painted by a number of talented 15th century artists, one of the most famous being Michelangelo who was responsible for The Last Judgement on the altar wall, and the ceiling, on which he painted episodes from the book of Genesis.

And in the words of one man, “Without having seen the Sistine Chapel one can form no appreciable idea of what one man is capable of achieving.” — Johann Wolfgang Goethe, 23 August 1787. No truer words have ever been spoken! 🙂

The chapel is stunningly beautiful, but unfortunately no photographs are allowed, but I sneakily took one of the ceiling. I apologise for the blurriness, but I had to be quick!

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Michelangelo’s ceiling frescoes in the Sistine Chapel

Our guide told us that the security guards would not take kindly to anyone taking photographs, so I was a bit nervous to do it. The security guards dominated the chapel, making sure everyone kept moving, so, again there was no time to enjoy the fabulously detailed and brilliant art work by these painters. You’re not even supposed to speak, but try keeping a lot of people silent at any one time. The chattering would become louder and louder, only to be met with a resounding “ssssSSSHHHHH” from the guards, which shut everyone up for a few seconds.

A screen, or transenna, made from marble, divides the chapel in two and in the middle was a wooden door through which we were shepherded. Here we managed to find a seat and just sit and gaze all around. This was the first part of the tour where we could really take a breath and take in everything we were seeing.

We walked through many halls and saw hundreds of exhibits that day, but there was a lot more that we didn’t see. It really was an astonishing place to visit and a fabulous first day in Rome.

The guide left us outside St Peter’s Basilica, and that’s where we’ll visit next!

Tip: Book tickets beforehand because the queues are crazy long and it will take a long time to get in.

To book tickets and for more information about the Vatican museums visit their website

Map of the Vatican Museums

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections

A few years ago, I spent a fabulous day tramping around Dovedale in the Peak District of England. Along the 3 km route, we passed caves known as the Dove Holes, used the stepping stones to cross the river and meandered along the path until we reached Milldale, a village of beautiful stone cottages with gardens full of brighly-coloured flowers. It would be so lovely to live there! From there, we turned around and retraced our route and ended the day, back at one of my friend’s houses, with a BBQ and beers. It was such a great day out, not only for the green and glorious countryside, but I spent the day with some very good friends.

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Dovedale, UK

In Cyprus, my friend and I and my mum and dad visited the Paphos Archaeological Park. I love these kind of places, I’m fascinated with the history and this one didn’t disappoint. There were ruins galore, remains of beautiful mosaics, and an ancent amphitheatre. I was in my element. I remember it being so hot that day, but it was nice to get out into the countryside with three of my favourite people.

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Paphos Archaeological Park, Paphos, Cyprus

I arranged to meet my friend in Adu Dhabi and, one day, we took a trip to Dubai. We went up the Burj Khalifa, a real treat with phenomenal views for miles around. We stayed up there for a couple of hours and we were glad we did because the views became even more spectacular when the sun went down and the neon lights of the city came on. It was a trip to remember.

Things to do around the world
Burj Khalifa, Dubai

Wat Po in Bangkok reminds me how much I love exploring my city. I love just going out, with my camera, and visiting my favourite places and there are plenty of new places that I find all the time. There is a never ending source of things to see.

Things to do around the world
Wat Po, Bangkok, Thailand

I spent seven weeks in New Zealand and at first I really didn’t want to be there. I had just come from Thailand and I missed everything about it, but thank God I got over that because I ended up having the best time there. I did so much and saw some wonderful things in that short space of time, including these Mirror Lakes. The water is so clear and still, it created some gorgeous reflections.

Things to do around the world
Mirror Lakes, New Zealand

Whenever I used to go home, I always made the trip to Scotland to see my Nana, who is, sadly, no longer with us. This day, my mum and I had taken a trip to Edinburgh and we had lunch in the Halfway House. I spent the first 12 years of my life in Scotland, so I never really got to enjoy the city as an adult. It’s a beautiful place, and, although I wouldn’t choose to live there again, it’s nice to go back to my roots.

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Edinburgh’s Smallest Pub, Edinburgh, UK

New Zealand again, this time in Bluff. I’d rented a car, from Dunedin, and taken a road trip down to the south coast. It was New Zealand’s winter time, so I had the place, almost, to myself. I took the Bluff Heritage Trail, through wind-worn forests with brilliant views out to sea. I was also treated to a couple of seals playing in the surf. On the way back to Dunedin, I spent a very cold night in a little cottage in Owaka, so cold that I had to wear five layers, all under a blanket. Brrr! I can still feel the cold. It was in New Zealand that I acquired a love of walking and sightseeing.

Things to do around the world
Bluff Heritage Trail, Bluff, New Zealand

In 2013, I graduated from The Open University with a Bachelor of Science with honours. I can’t tell you how proud I was! I wasn’t even going to go to the graduation ceremony, but a friend suggested I go, otherwise he thought I would regret it. I was glad I did. It was in Manchester and my mum came with me. The ceremony was a little nerve-wracking, but everyone there had all done something that was really worth this grand occasion. Afterwards, my mum and I took to the town and enjoyed a lovely meal and drinks in a Thai restaurant.

Things to do around the world
Manchester, UK

Another day out in New Zealand and this day took me on a jaunt along the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway. It was on a day when I was supposed to be going whale watching, but it was cancelled due to bad weather. So I wrapped up and went off in exploration of the local area, through farmland and forests, until I reached the black-pebbled beach, and sea. I did loads of other stuff in Kaikoura, like horse-riding, wine tasting, cave exploring and having a Thai meal in a restaurant that didn’t have a liquour license, but not to worry, I had two lovely bottles of wine in my hand that I had bought from the winery. How’s that for good luck?

Things to do around the world
Kaikoura Peninsula, Kaikoura, New Zealand

Whenever I’ve visited my rellys in Adelaide, they’ve taken me out and about to see stuff and we’ve gone to Granite Island a couple of times. It’s a small island next to Victor Harbour, small enough so you can walk around passed huge boulders, plants dancing in the sea breeze, and, if you’re lucky, you’ll spot the cute fairy penguins which live there. It’s even better when you’ve got Ernie by your side telling you about all the different plants and animals there.

Things to do around the world
Granite Island, Adelaide, Australia

I love going to Adelaide and the last time I went was for Christmas in 2014. I wanted to do some exercise, so my cousin suggested we hike up Mount Lofty. So, at 6.00am we started our day, along with my other cousin and his daughter, Amy. When we arrived at Mount Lofty, we stopped at this map which showed the different routes available to the top. I asked “Where are we?” Amy burst out laughing. She pointed at the map to show me a large, red “YOU ARE HERE” sign. She giggled “We are here!” I didn’t live that down for the next thirty minutes, she couldn’t stop laughing! It was a fabulous morning out in the sunshine, followed by a well deserved coffee afterwards.

Things to do around the world
Mount Lofty, Adelaide, Australia

A few years back, I spent a month on Koh Tao with friends. One day, I said I was going to visit a resort called Mango Bay. The best and easiest way to get there is by boat, but I wanted to walk across the island and my friends jumped at the chance to come with me. It was such an arduous journey, slowly going up some very steep hills with nothing on our feet but flip-flops. When we finally made it to the top, dripping in sweat, we took a well deserved break at the Mountain Bar. The views from our vantage point made us forget how hard it was getting there.

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Views of Koh Tao, Thailand

Another day out in Adelaide with my two cousins, Scott and Craig. We walked along the Torrens River before heading back to the city through the botanical gardens. I love trees and this Eucalyptus camaldulensis, or river red gum, was worthy of a photo. It was thought to be living between 1,500 and 2000 years ago and it died when it was 500 years old! Imagine the things it has seen in its lifetime. We finished our walk at my favourite bar in Adelaide, The Austral, somewhere I try to visit whenever I’m in town.

Things to do around the world
Ancient Tree, Adelaide Botanic Gardens, Australia

Vachiratharn Waterfall is located in Doi Inthanon National Park, near to Chiang Mai, in the north of Thailand and I went there when I first came to Thailand in 2008. Throughout the day, I did bamboo rafting and stood on the highest point in Thailand. In the evening, the tour guide asked me out for a few drinks with him and his friends. We didn’t go anywhere fancy, just a little roadside bar, but we had such a fun night and it made me realise that, as a solo traveller, there may be times when you feel lost or lonely sometimes, and I certainly felt that throughout my travels, but things happen that always have a way of making you feel good again.

Things to do around the world
Vachiratharn Waterfall, Doi Inthanon National Park, Thailand

I like to be reminded of some of the things that I’ve done. I wish I had a photographic memory and remembered everything I have ever done, which is why I love to take so many photographs! 🙂

What makes you remember some of the things you’ve done? 🙂

The Changing Seasons-April 2018

The Changing Seasons post, inspired by the lovely Sarah at Secret Art Expedition and hosted by Su at Zimmerbitch. I must say, I am loving writing these posts, it reminds me of everything I’ve done during the month, from the big things right down to the small. So, without further ado, here’s what I got up to in April.

I started the month with a visit to one of my favourite drinking dens, Le Cafe des Stagiaires, with my little partner in crime, Chris! It’s a lovely little bar in Sathorn, with happy hour deals, always good in my book, and a nice atmosphere with seats on the pavement, canopied by the trees that line Soi 12. You can really imagine that you’re in Europe somewhere! 🙂

Things to do in Bangok
Le Cafe des Stagiaires
Photo Credit: Chris Wotton

I work really unsociable hours and my hours don’t match Chris’s, so when he’s off, I’m not, and vice versa. But, Sundays are a good day for both of us, even if Chris is meant to be working, he gives in sometimes and we enjoy our “Sunday Sessions,” as we’ve fondly named them.

Things to do in freetime
Sunday Sessions
Photo Credit: Chris Wotton
Things to do in freetime
So uncouth!!! It was a non-alcoholic drink that we put to good use in our Mojitos! Actually not bad!!
Photo Credit: Chris Wotton

There is an abundance of different colours and many different species of flowers and plants at my local park, so I always stop mid-run to photograph a few.

The best thing I did in April was to visit Italy to celebrate my birthday (35 AGAIN!!!) I met my mum and dad there and what a wonderful week we had together. Honestly, I took SO many photos and I plan to write about my visit there, but these are just a few of my favourite places.

Things to do in Rome
St Peter’s Basilica
Things to do in Rome
Ponte Sant’Angelo
Things to do in Rome
The Colosseum
Things to do in Rome
The Roman Forum
Things to do in Rome
Piazza Navonna
Things to do in Rome
The Duomo, Florence
Things to do in Rome
Piazza Del Popolo
Things to do in Rome
The Pantheon
Things to do in Rome
The Spanish Steps

When I got back to Bangkok, I still had a few days holiday, so me and Chris when to Escape, a new roof top bar located, strangely, on the fifth floor of one of the monstrous shopping malls here in the city. It was glitzy and glamourous and the drinks were fairly pricey, but we were making the most of a rare weekend off, for me at least.

Places to go in Bangkok
Creativity in wine!!
Places to go in Bangkok
Decorated bar

Good old Facebook 😉 reminded me of one of my all time favourite tunes; Tiesto’s Adagio for Strings. It stirred up a good few memories from the past and it gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it!

I was introduced to the Mark Steel lectures by a friend earlier this year, and I finally got round to watching one of them. He takes famous people from the past, like Freud, Aristole, and Napoleon and tells their story in a way that is informative yet hilarious!

And finally, it was my 50th birthday! God knows how I got to be 50, I am still 18 in my heart and head! (Not so in body- it takes me days to get over a night out!) Still, they say life begins at 30/40/50/60/70…!! After a few months of actually freaking out about it, I have accepted this fact, after all, it’s only a number !!! I stopped counting at 35 anyway!!! 😉

If you would like to join me and the others in this challenge, here are the guidelines:

The Changing Seasons Version One (photographic):

  • Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery that you feel represent your month
  • Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so that others can find them

The Changing Seasons Version Two (you choose the format):

  • Each month, post a photo, recipe, painting, drawing, video, whatever that you feel says something about your month
  • Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!
  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so others can find them.

Parks and the City #2

My favourite park, and possibly my favourite place to go, in Bangkok is King Rama IX Park. It’s not far from where I live and I go there to run most weeks. Sometimes, I go there just with my camera because, around every corner, there is so much to photograph and I never get tired of taking photos of the same things, but I always manage to find something novel.

There is plenty of wildlife to encounter. Here are a few of the birds and animals that I regularly see there.

Parks in Bangkok
Little Egret
Parks in Bangkok
Water Monitor, looking at me, looking at him (or her)!
Parks in Bangkok
Chinese Pond Heron. I love the light on the water, it looks like it’s been painted using thin strokes
Parks in Bangkok
Green Bulbul

There are so many beautiful flowers in the park too.

Once a year, in December, there is a flower festival called The Magnificent Plants that Beautify the Suan Luang Rama IX Flowers Festival. Fantastic name, don’t you think? It really is a great time to visit because they make a special effort to plant new flowers, so there is an outburst of colour during the festival.

During the festival, many people have stalls where they create beautiful displays of flowers for people to buy.

There is more than just flowers and plants to buy, there’s also Thai food and handicrafts.

King Rama IX is a huge park, covering around 200 acres and there are 2,300 plant species and loads of trees for shade on a sunny day, which is usually everyday here.

There are 6 different areas to the park.

Parks in Bangkok
International Garden with a Roman temple
Parks in Bangkok
The Garden of the Great King with the Ratchamangkala Pavilion
Parks in Bangkok
The Romanee Garden with flowers and plants that have been taken from other parts of Thailand to recreate the different environments from across the country.

Parks in Bangkok

Parks in Bangkok
Mangrove Forest walkway

The trunk of this tree reminds me of a giraffe setting out on a walk! Can you see it?

Parks in Bangkok

Then, there are the people who, like me, enjoy this beautiful green space a great deal. It depends on the time of day I visit as to whether there are many people about. The park gets busier as the sun goes down.

Parks in Bangkok
Sleeping
Parks in Bangkok
Chatting
Parks in Bangkok
Catching up on social media
Parks in Bangkok
Playing
Parks in Bangkok
Taking photos

And last but not least.

Parks in Bangkok
Getting married!

I hope you enjoyed our little jaunt around King Rama IX Park. Just one of Bangkok’s parks in the city! 🙂

 

 

 

The Changing Seasons – March 2018

The Changing Seasons post, inspired by the lovely Sarah at Secret Art Expedition and hosted by Su at Zimmerbitch. Here is my round up of things I got up to during March.

As I hadn’t been out exploring much since I got back from Sri Lanka, I took myself off to Chulachomklao Fort in Phra Samut Chedi District, around 29 km south of Bangkok. Getting there was fun, I only knew that I had to take the 145 bus to Pak Nam Market, then take a boat across the river, and, finally, a truck to the fort. It always seems a bit of an adventure when you don’t really know the way. I had to ask a couple of people to find the market and once I had located the truck, it dropped me off, right at the fort.

First up, the gun park which tells you the history of the guns, although the information was all in Thai, so I just had to wander around and imagine.

Things to do in Bangkok
The Gun Park

This proud statue of King Rama V stands at the front of the fort.

Things to do in Bangkok
King Rama V Statue

The disappearing guns were used only once in 1893 when the fort protected the sovereignty of Thailand from French invasion. They were designed to be hauled up by their hydro-pneumatic system for firing and lowered again afterwards.

Things to do in Bangkok

Things to do in Bangkok

Things to do in Bangkok

H.T.M.S Maeklong was in service for 60 years and deployed during WWII. It was fun to scamper about on her decks!

Things to do in Bangkok
H.T.M.S Maeklong

There’s a mangrove forest there too.

Things to do in Bangkok

 

Things to do in Bangkok
Mangrove Forest

I forgot that I had heard about the resident monkeys that live there until this one started walking towards me! I was a little nervous!

Things to do in Bangkok
Just strolling!

But, thankfully, they didn’t pay me any attention and continued to play or groom each other, oblivious to my presence.

Things to do in Bangkok

Things to do in Bangkok

It was a great day out and, although the sea looked far from the usual images that you see in Thailand, it was good to get out and about.

Things to do in Bangkok
The Gulf of Thailand

I made a video of all the beautiful birds that I saw in Sri Lanka, and, the best bit, I didn’t even have to leave the confines of my friend’s garden to see them. They greeted us with their song in the morning and it was just fabulous to hear them and see all the different species that visited throughout the day.

 

I was nominated for the Liebster Award by Nilla at Image Earth Travel for the work I do here on Talkingthailand. It’s always a joy to receive these nominations and it makes me feel happy and honoured that someone takes time out of their day to acknowledge me. Thank you again Nilla, it was very much appreciated.

At last, I picked up my sketch pad and drew something. Whenever I do this, I mean to do it more regularly, but I never get round to it. I should do it more because I love sitting down and creating something. This drawing is a copy of a painting I saw in an art gallery, but it has my own twist on it! It’s a combination of pencil, charcoal, and pastel crayons.

Things to do in free time
My Art

As well as showcasing my photographs on morrisophotography, I also upload my best shots to Viewbug, and I sometimes enter their free photo challenges. In March, I found out that 2 of my photos had been ranked in the top 50 and 1 in the top 80! When you consider the amount of people that enter these challenges, I was thrilled with this result!

Photography challenges
Artistic Wildlife Photo Challenge-Ranked Top 50
Photography challenges
Animal Families Photo Challenge-Ranked Top 50
Photography challenges
Legs Photo Challenge-Ranked Top 80

I started watching Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, presented by Neil deGrasse Tyson. His passion and knowledge of the universe, evolution, science and much more just oozes through his silky voice. Everytime I watch it, it (he) makes me want to learn all that he knows. It really is a fantastic and mind-blowing show. I thoroughly recommend watching it, if you haven’t already!

TV Recomendations
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey Photo Credit: http://www.nationalgeographic.com.au/tv/cosmos-a-spacetime-odyssey/

So, that’s my March done and dusted. I’m already having an awesome April, I hope you are too 🙂

If you would like to join me and the others in this challenge, here are the guidelines:

The Changing Seasons Version One (photographic):

  • Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery that you feel represent your month
  • Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so that others can find them

The Changing Seasons Version Two (you choose the format):

  • Each month, post a photo, recipe, painting, drawing, video, whatever that you feel says something about your month
  • Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!
  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so others can find them.