52 Weeks of Happy (43/52 to 47/52)

Please forgive the bumper catch-up-catch-all post for 52 Weeks of Happy. Unlike Jen and lots of the other bloggers joining in this weekly project, I fell hopelessly out of the blogging habit over the summer holidays. But now the new term spirit is upon us and I have resolved to ‘try harder’ and catch up with my classmates…

But how to catch up? I have missed five full weeks of posts! I thought about bombarding this post with 20 different photographs, 4 for each week of happy, but even I would lose the will to read to the end of such a mammoth post, so in the end, I opted for this collage, which you may have seen if you follow my Instagram feed.

It sums up the last five weeks perfectly.

Lots of happy times. Lots of fresh air and countryside. Staying up late gazing at starry skies. Cooking on camp fires. Board games galore. Happy, close brothers playing together for hours on end. Beautiful sunsets.

Summer was wonderful. It was a full five weeks of happy.

19/52

* A portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2013 *

Xavi - in his element having found exactly the right consistency of sand to make castles.

Louis - proud parent doesn’t come close, I was jumping up and down like a mad woman as he surfed his way to the beach. Go Surfer Lou!

As ever, I’m joining in with Jodi and everyone else taking part in the weekly portrait series.

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Roman Holiday (Part 2)

No trip to Rome would be complete without spending a considerable time at Il Foro Romano, once the political heart of the empire and now a jaw-dropping mix of ruins and perfectly-preserved civic buildings that completely blow your mind.

Trying to make sense of it all is a bit of a challenge, unless you know your Roman historical onions but even without a complete understanding of what is where and who did what to whom, it is a place not to be missed. Ever the girl with the camera, I was listening to my audio guide and taking photographs with my Nikon and my iPhone as I went round (I’m such a tourist…).

My favourite bit is the Monte Palatino, the green hilly area that overlooks Il Foro. Home to orange groves, cypresses and the Farnese gardens, this is where Rome’s emperors built their grand homes. It is a peaceful oasis with magnificent views over Il Foro in one direction and the Colloseum in the other - well worth the climb.

There’s a more or less perfectly preserved temple in the middle of Il Foro with another oculus, although this one has been filled in. Most people seemed to miss it, but I stood like a fool in the centre, pointing my camera upwards. I think it was worth it…

When we first visited Rome on our honeymoon, we stayed in Trastevere, the former ghetto area which is popular with students and packed with narrow streets, local markets, bars and restaurants. We had a great time exploring the little squares at night finding new places to eat but we kept going back to this one little place on it’s own in a tiny residential square, where there was no menu, the wine was as good as you’d get anywhere and as cheap as they come, and the owners wrote your bill on the tablecloth. We loved that place and have often talked about it over the years.

So on Saturday night, after a chianti classico at Ai Tre Scalini (above - a bar/restaurant in the Monti area of Rome definitely worth a visit) we headed over to Trastevere on the bus in search of our honeymoon hangout.

To our delight, Augusto is still there, in Piazza di Renzi. There was a small queue outside but plenty of room and a warm welcome inside. It was the perfect way to end our last night in Rome.

Ciao Roma! Let’s hope we come back before another ten years have passed!

Roman Holiday (Part 1)

I thought I’d share with you a few pictures from our little trip to Rome last weekend.

We left the boys in the care of my parents and flew to Rome early doors on Thursday morning, for three nights and four days in the city we spent part of our honeymoon in ten years ago.

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I love Rome. It is so casually breathtaking. Everything is extraordinary yet totally part of the everyday. Tourists wander along, cameras clicking at every corner, guidebooks to their noses whilst Rome’s inhabitants simply go about their daily routines, running for a bus alongside Il Foro Romano, stopping for a quick coffee in the shadow of the magnificent Pantheon and side-stepping the Gladiators posing for photos on the Spanish Steps.

It was great to go back. We did as much as we could in the time we had, schlepping round Il Foro, marvelling at the architectural feat that is the Pantheon, throwing coins in the Trevi Fountain, stopping for vino rosso whenever the urge took us, indulging in a bit of shopping and going back to Trastevere to find the brilliant little restaurant we spent many evenings cosied up in on our honeymoon.

We stayed in a working fountain with rooms built into the back of it. Had the fountain’s pump not been in protest mode, it would have been perfect, but as it was, we had very little sleep on a very noisy first night until we managed to get the manager to fix said pump. Still, it was a pretty jaw-dropping hotel frontage.

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Wandering round on Thursday, we headed via the Spanish Steps to take in a spot of lunch in the shadow of Pantheon.

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The Pantheon is incredible. Built between AD118-28 by Emperor Hadrian as a temple and later as a place for Christian worship, it is utterly breathtaking inside. Until 1882, its dome was the largest in the world and its proportions are so exact that a perfect sphere would fit inside it. The central oculus allows light to pour in, lighting up the tombs of Italy’s ‘immortals’ who rest there.

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We then headed on the usual tourist trail over to Piazza Navona, stopping on the way for a gran caffe at Sant’ Eustachio, purported to be the purveyors of the finest coffee in the world. We weren’t disappointed. It has to be tasted to be believed.

Piazza Navona is a bit too touristic for my liking so we took a little stroll around then headed off again. As we were leaving, we saw the Pope’s helicopter head off over the city to Castel Gandolfo where he was to make his final public appearance that evening. It sort of passed us by to be honest…

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When in Rome, you can’t avoid a fountain, so this post wouldn’t be complete without some pictures of the Trevi right? It is a bonkers sight - you emerge from tiny little streets to be greeted by this vision.

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All rushing water and tourist chatter. There’s an ace shoe shop just next to the Trevi which we wanted to visit so we hung out here just watching people go by for a while until it opened.

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Well, I think that is more than enough for one post. I’ll be back tomorrow with the final part.