History

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.

Things to do in Rome
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

 

 

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
Things to do in Rome
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.

Things to do in Rome
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.

Things to do in Rome
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.

 

 

Rangitoto Island, Auckland

I travelled around New Zealand in 2008, and ended up in Auckland as part of my trip. One day I took a trip over to the nearby island of Rangitoto.

I took a boat from Auckland and the volcanic cone, which rises up to 850 feet, can be seen for miles around, it’s a sight to see from afar. The name, Rangitoto, is Maori for “Bloody Sky” and the name comes from Tama-te-Kapua, a captain of the Arawa Waka, who was badly wounded there during a battle.

Day Trips from Auckland
Volcanic Cone of Rangitoto Island

Rangitoto island was created over 6,000 years ago by a series of volcanic eruptions and evidence of the eruptions can be seen across the island in the form of fields of black lava stones. And it’s these black lava stones that were quarried between 1898 and 1930 and used as building material for Auckland. It’s a very unique landscape.

On the island, there are paths, that were created between 1898 and 1930 by prisoners, that lead right up to the summit.

It was a fabulous day out, tramping the old dirt tracks up to the summit and seeing the wonderful views of the surrounding countryside and out to sea. I love exploring new places and being reminded of old ones.

 

M.R Kukrit’s Heritage Home

Bangkok is full of wonderful surprises and, if you know where to look, you can find them all over the city. Take Sathorn for instance, some say the centre of the city, with it’s high rise office blocks, glitzy hotels and European style bars and restaurants, but it’s also home to M.R Kukrit’s Heritage Home. If you’re interested in history, this beautiful teak house won’t disappoint.

M.R. Kukrit's House, Bangkok

Mom Rajawongse Kukrit was born in 1911, educated in England, and was Thailand’s 13th prime minister between 1974-1975. He was a very talented artist and writer and he has over 40 novels to his name. His home represents the man he was, and it’s been left just the way it was when he lived there. There are many of his personal souvenirs and you can really see the passion he had for traditional art and literature through paintings and books that are displayed.

The house is of traditional Thai design and it took over 20 years to be completed. There are 5 beautiful teak buildings, all of which came from different parts of Thailand; the owner had them transported and reassembled. As well as the buildings, there is walled garden, a lily pond, a bird pavilion, and a European style garden with a lawn surrounded by colourful flowers, trees and shrubs.

M.R Kukrit’s home was registered by the Department of Fine Arts as “the home of an important person” and they point out that it’s not for exhibition purposes like your usual museum, rather it’s the home of a person who lived there, which, in my opinion, makes it more interesting. The other thing I liked about it was its location; tucked down a leafy lane, smack bang in the middle of one of Bangkok’s most affluent districts, but a world away from all the noise of the busy road, just one street away. 🙂

 

Bangkok Folk Museum

The Bangkok Folk Museum is tucked down Charoenkrung Road, Soi 43, and it’s a great place to spend an hour or so. It was built in 1937 and was the home of the Suravadee family during World War II. There are three buildings to explore; the first one is where the family lived and you can see the living area, the dining room, library and bedrooms. The beauty is that they have been kept just as they were when the family lived there all those years ago. There is a dressing table and a washing bowl, old photographs and dining sets, all of which give a fabulous understanding of how they lived their lives.

Outside is a gorgeous little garden full of leafy green trees and plants, and a pond with a fountain in the middle.

The second building is just as beautiful. It was intended to be the clinic and living quarters of a Dr Francis Christian, who was the stepfather of the owner, but he died before moving in. His medical equipment is displayed in cabinets and his four poster bed is upstairs.

The third building is full of old artefacts; old brushes, sewing kits, cigar boxes, cooking utensils, magazines, and money. It’s a real treasure trove.

Finally, a fabulous collection of photographs of Bangkok, and some of the notable people who have lived in the city.

For more photographs of Bangkok Folk Museum go to morrisophotography 🙂