A life remembered, a year on…

Gorgeous Grandma

It’s been a year today since you left the physical world,

We remember and miss you in our laughter, tears and sharing of memories.

We shared a meal consisting of one of your favourite foods and invited you to the table.

You blessed us with your presence, we felt your spirit as the meal unfurled,

We felt your love, remembered you with smiles and felt your energy,

We are grateful for your presence and spiritual assistance that has been enabled.

Your spirit is ever present, watching over us, protecting us always,

Feeling your ever present care, kindness and compassion.

We celebrate your life and remember you with fondness.

You live in our hearts, thoughts, words and actions,

As the day comes to an end, we realise you are ever present in our conscious,

Your life is remembered and kept alive in our hearts, minds and words today and everyday.

Juggling

It’s been a busy four months since April this year – I’ve been juggling study, moving house, work, family and life in general. It seems when things happen, they happen all at once! The universe has a funny way of delivering things to you when you open yourself to the possibilities. Things can feel uncomfortable at first, however, as it becomes the ‘new normal’ then you forget what it was like before things changed. I read something the other day which resonates and I have shared below:

I started studying my MBA in May this year which is something I have wanted to do for a few years yet never had the courage to pursue it. I’ve bitten the bullet and started, it doesn’t mean I’m no longer scared. Courage is not about NOT being scared – it’s about being scared but doing it anyway – being brave is another way of looking it! As per the quote in Neil Gaiman’s book Coraline:

“Because,’ she said, ‘when you’re scared but you still do it anyway, that’s brave.” 
― Neil Gaiman, Coraline

So, in between packing, working and looking after my family, I have been completing assessments, studying, reading, reviewing and sitting a final exam. Leading up to the final exam was more stressful than it needed to be because upon moving, our internet connection (even though we were advised was connected) was unavailable for 5 weeks which included the week I was due to sit my exam.

The situation could not be resolved even though I had been in contact with the service provider several times to advise the situation to assist in the resolution. It also affected my daughter’s studies as homework and school group work is completed online. We were given a temporary solution which meant I could sit my exam on the designated day – phew! Homework and school work could also be completed – yay!? Yes, I am aware internet connection is not essential like say, water and electricity and when speaking to a peer about my situation, he remarked “First world problems” and I agreed. However, when you do not have internet connection for 5 weeks without a remedy in sight, you realise how much you rely on it to do most things!

Given we had no internet for 5 weeks and as my studies are completed online – it also restricted the ability to log on, read and research articles for the final exam. The week I had planned to use for study became reduced to only one day prior to the exam. This exacerbated my stress and anxiety! Once I had completed the exam, I was happy I was able to complete it, it was over and would be happy if I gained a pass grade so that I would not have to redo the subject! I take my hat off to mothers and people in general who work, study and look after a family – it is no easy feat! It definitely makes you prioritise – become better at time management, finding a balance between work and play! We have all heard the saying “All work and no play is not good for the soul” by Felix Sabates.

Even though it has been and will be difficult over the next few years juggling study with work and family, this is something I have wanted to do for a while. I am grateful to have the opportunity to pursue it and make the decision to complete my studies. As I say to my daughter “When you make a decision, own it”. I’m owning this decision and enjoying the challenge of learning something new. Learning something new keeps you young and that is always welcome – especially as we age!

My mother has always said and continues to say to me “You never stop learning!”. As a result, I also believe and apply this in my life – learning happens throughout your life, there is always something new you can learn. Where and how you learn may also surprise you, but that’s what keeps life interesting. When was the last time you learned something new? How did it make you feel? To me, learning is invigorating yet challenging. It also keeps me busy and out of mischief! I appreciate this opportunity to be able to pursue something I have wanted to do for some time – I feel blessed, loved and ever grateful.

We are still unpacking but most of the important things are unpacked and in it’s proper place. There are pictures to be hung and a few things to be done but things are more settled. Our internet has finally been connected – it took switching providers but it has made things so much easier! Studies can resume, homework and schoolwork can be completed, along with being able to enjoy some entertainment – which certainly helps during school holidays! May you also find something that challenges you, making it possible to learn something new and makes you feel alive! Continue to Laugh.Love.Live – Peace and blessings!

MIA


Photo by Irina on Unsplash

I’ve been busy with life so have been MIA on WordPress for a while. I am juggling a few commitments – work, study, family and building my business as well as writing a book, amongst other things! I am prioritising my time accordingly and am slowly putting things into place. When I’ve settled into my new routine, I will be able to allocate some time to WordPress and blogging – something I miss at the moment.

Thanks so much for the support with likes and follows, as always I do read and follow back albeit it currently may take me longer to do so. I am always grateful that my writing resonates with those who read my posts. I will be back, however more randomly because I enjoy reading your adventures, creative writing and expressions. I hope to be less MIA in due time. Until then, remember to Laugh.Love.Live! Peace and blessings!

Through the fog…

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Image credit: pinterest.co.uk

My journey with depression started 2 weeks before my grandma passed away. Or maybe earlier, I’m not too sure but I’m most aware of the last 6 weeks. When it was happening, I didn’t know what it was. I felt like I was not 100%, nor was I unwell. I just felt off but I didn’t know what it was. I may have been picking up on how my grandma may have been feeling before she passed away as I have felt her spirit since her passing in more ways than one.

On the morning of my grandma’s death, I had woken to go to the bathroom – this happens frequently during the night but what made it odd was that I had to do a bowel movement. This is not usually the case and it was very difficult but nothing much happened. I went back to bed and my mobile rang and it was on low volume so it took me a while to figure out it was my mobile. The call went to my voicemail. I think the call was at about 1.30am. Before I even checked my voicemail, I knew it was about my grandma’s passing. I can’t explain how, but I knew. I listened to the message, it was from the hospital saying she had passed away at 12.10am. I woke my husband and told him and asked whether I should call my mum, I wasn’t thinking, I was numb. He advised I should let her sleep and call her at a decent hour later in the morning. I did not go back to sleep that night.

My phone rang at 4.00am and I knew it was my mum calling to inform me about grandma, I was numb. My mum was distraught and I went into protective mode – of myself and my mum. I went into autopilot and starting doing what the eldest daughter needs to do at that time. It was hard seeing my mum’s grief, I was holding myself together the best way I could. I had to help my mum go to the cemetery, organise and purchase a plot, go with her to the funeral home and organise the funeral, flowers, hymns, readings, pall bearers, readings, pictures and slideshow along with the viewing and wake which ended up at our house. There was much to keep me busy, I went into auto-pilot and reminded my mum to eat, drink, rest and sleep. In the process, I was neglecting to do these things myself. I lost my appetite, was sleeping around only 4 hours each night and just kept going with everything that had to be done.

To make matters more hectic, I had my sister from Perth coming to stay from the night before the viewing until the Funeral, 3 days later. Every day since the phone call, I had every sibling, mum and other family members over at our place for 2 weeks. It was overwhelming to say the least. My younger siblings tend to drain my energy so I was conserving what little energy I had to get through this difficult time and trying to shut out the ‘noise’ from my sisters. I was trying to hold in my grief and not express it but when I read my remembrance at the funeral service, I broke down and you could hardly understand what I was saying about my grandma. I had to recover and do a reading later on which I was able to read more coherently.

I had no energy to tell anyone of my grandma’s passing except three good friends – one who I’ve known for 40 years, another for over 20 years and another whom she and I have a different spiritual connection. We can’t explain it but it is there. I did write a post about it to express some of my grief and emotion as I find writing helps me process thoughts and feelings. It helped to an extent. I felt at peace when we laid my grandma to rest because I knew she was in a better place and no longer suffering. I felt she could finally spread her wings and fly. When everyone left our place after the wake, I finally had some peace. Saturday was devoted to cleaning up and taking my daughter to ballet. I felt somewhat better.

Sunday, I took my mum to watch the movie “Crazy Rich Asians” to bring some laughter back into our lives, even though there were some tender moments that also brought some tears. It was just my little family around me on Monday which was nice and brought some peace. The next day, I was going back to work. I thought getting back into routine would help – it turned out I was very wrong about that. As I am also a Life Coach, I provide Management Coaching at work. I love the coaching experience but it does take a lot of my energy. Something I didn’t have much of at the time.

I remember surviving through each day with very little sleep, I was making myself eat even though I had no appetite. I couldn’t afford to get sick. After being at work for 1.5 weeks, I received a work email and was also receiving coaching myself – yes coaches need to be coached too! Both the work email and coaching made me realise I was breaking down and not coping – it was costing me my inner peace which is too high a price to pay. I realised I needed to ask for time off work to grieve. I had been holding it in for far too long.

The weekend before my week’s leave, I had a Holy Communion to attend which was giving me anxiety. I experienced the worst anxiety I had ever felt. I was up early in the morning going to the toilet several times, not able to eat breakfast and not wanting to socialise as I knew there would be other people I knew at the service. I was using all my energy to get dressed and out the door. As I walked into the church, a friend saw me who I had not seen for some time, looked at me she asked “Are you OK?”, I manged to reply “I’m ok, Just Ok.” She let me have my space as I went to find my other ‘friend’. When I found her, she did not ask how I was, did not check if I was OK. She laughed and smiled and chatted. Every sound was too loud, laughter was an assault to my senses and smiling was painful.

I used all my energy to get through the mass and held back tears. During the mass a friend sat next to me who always gives out positive energy. I think that helped me half way through the mass. It was so difficult during mass as there was an elderly man in a wheel chair with his loving daughter which reminded me of my mum with her mother when she was still alive. When I turned behind me to shake hands to say ‘Peace be with you’ there was a lovely elderly lady wearing a hat which reminded me of my grandma. It was tough. When the mass was over, I could only manage to see the girl who was having Holy Communion to say “God is in your heart”. I was almost at breaking point, I was trembling with the effort of keeping my composure for that long. Her daughter has anxiety and I could see how strained she was on that day as well. We bid our goodbyes and went home. It was tough but I survived!

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The next day I went to my family doctor because I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I knew something was out of balance but I didn’t know what. I didn’t know what was happening to me, I felt like I was in a fog and couldn’t get out. I burst into tears when I explained what I was feeling, what I was doing or not doing and he diagnosed me with depression. It was both a relief to know what was wrong and also filled me with dread to tell the news to my family. My doctor prescribed me antidepressants so I could sleep because the chronic lack of sleep was contributing to my depression.

I had a good night’s sleep for the first time in 3 weeks. I had the week to recover and time to grieve. I scheduled a few activities I wanted to do on my own and also visited my Grandma’s grave on the one month anniversary of her death. I had anxiety that morning too but I was determined to go. I bought hot pink and white roses and drove to the cemetery. I grabbed a flower holder that is provided by the cemetery, put some water in it and placed the flowers in the holder. I walked to my grandma’s grave and placed the flowers at the top of her grave. I took off my shoes, sat on the grass and grieved, wept, spoke to her in Vietnamese and at times sat in silence. I felt such a release and my heart was finally lighter. I finally felt like the fog was lifting. I thanked my grandma, said goodbye and left.

I finally felt like I was on the road to recovery. I hope my story helps others who may be experiencing anxiety and depression or helps others pick up warning signs from friends, family or loved ones who may be experiencing anxiety and depression. This week, I finally took my own advice to take some ‘me’ time to look after myself so I can then look after others. I also put into action something I posted on my Instagram Coaching page:

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I let go of energy, habits, behaviour and people that didn’t serve me. I was taking back my power – something I coach others to do and it was good to finally take my own advice!

Someone once showed me this quote by Buddha:

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The Buddhist way of life resonates with me and I found this saying to be fulfilled during this week. I am going to borrow another saying by Buddha when he was teaching about the Not Self “This is not mine. This I am not. This is not myself.” but insert the word ‘depression’ into it – “Depression is not mine, Depression I am not. Depression is not myself.” This has been a tough week but a journey I had to have. I feel I am stronger because of this and enables me to be a better coach to enable others to Laugh.Love.Live! Peace and blessings – Namaste!

 

 

 

Gratitude!

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Image credit: pixabay.com

Just a quick shout out to my followers – thanks so much, I have reached over 200 follows! It’s reassuring to know that my posts are read and resonate with you all. Thank you to those who have also engaged with my blog by leaving comments – much appreciated! When I started blogging (it has been 6 years to date!), I wasn’t sure how my blog would unfold but it soon took shape and I am continually inspired by fellow bloggers who provide encouragement with their ‘likes’ and ‘follows’. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy lives to read and follow my humble blog and also than you for sharing your experiences, knowledge, ideas, creativity and thoughts via your blogs! Due to work/ study commitments as well as family and extra curricular commitments, I may take a while but I eventually read and follow back those who comment, like or follow my posts. Continue to Laugh.Love.Live via your own blogging experiences – peace and blessings!

 

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From the city of fountains to a coastal escape!

 

As we left Rome, we were excited to start the next phase of our trip which was to relax, rejuvenate and rest. My good friend who went to Italy a few years ago, said that if we are going to Italy then we have to go there – ‘there’ is Positano! We organised to fly to Naples which was humorous in itself as we didn’t realise how quick the flight would be – it was a 45 minute flight and no sooner had we made our ascent, then the pilot announced that we were on our descent! We landed in Naples airport and headed out to meet our driver. It was probably a good hour and a half drive. It was nice to sit and take in the sights as we drive through Naples and headed down and up the winding roads to Positano.

We were staying in Montepertuso which literally translates to hole in the mountain. Our apartment was just underneath that ‘hole’. We had seen the photo taken from the balcony in the booking and it looked amazing, we were excited to arrive and unwind. We arrived before the apartment had been finished cleaning so the daughter of our host, Teresa advised us to go to town centre, which was 5 minutes walk away. She recommended we try Il Ritrovo, it was in Piazza Capella. We walked to the town centre and found Montepertuso to be a quaint little town. There is a general store which we frequented to buy food and supplies during our stay and bus tickets. The restaurant was easy to find, it was the main one there and only one open for lunch which made it an easy choice!

We were seated on the balcony which had wonderful views over the Tyrrhenian Sea. We had glimpses of the amazing view when we arrived at our apartment and along our walk to the Montepertuso town centre. We had a lovely lunch, the restaurant uses all local, fresh produce and the food is very good. We felt relaxed already as we sat and enjoyed the view, the lovely food and the friendly atmosphere at Il Ritrovo. When we finished lunch, our waiter gave us some mixed herbs and dried chilli to take away which came in handy when I cooked dinner a few times during our stay. After lunch we headed back to our apartment to check in, change and head down to Positano Centre.

The bus ride to Positano Centro was a harrowing experience for the uninitiated! It was nail biting as the bus driver navigated the narrow roads where at times, you could reach out the window and touch the side of the mountain! We give the bus drivers much credit as they all navigated the mountainside with ease. At times, you wondered how two cars could fit alongside each other to pass but it happened without incident. The bus stop was at the street which was above our apartment and due every hour. You could buy bus tickets on the bus for 1.30 euro but if we purchased them from a newsagent or at the general store, it was a little cheaper at 1.10 euro. We found out that you could buy as many as you needed in advance as they were one way tickets so we would buy 6 or 9 at a time for the 3 of us. We had no idea once we were dropped off at the bus stop at the Positano Town Centre, which way it was to the beach but we rationalised that we should keep walking down.

As we walked, we passed may shops, markets and the iconic church of Santa Maria Assunta right in the town centre. We didn’t stop to admire much during this walk as we wanted to get to the water to have our first glimpse of the beach and fit in a quick swim for the afternoon. When we arrived, we were not disappointed by the beauty of our surrounds.

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Our first day at Positano and Montepertuso exceeded our expectations. Our host was a lovely man named Raffaele who lived in a nearby apartment as did his daughter, Teresa and her family. Teresa speaks English and helped us with directions, communication and organising a boat trip to Capri on her Father’s boat on our last day in Montepertuso. More about that later. We learnt from our balcony, we could see the island Il Galli – it is privately owned and is the one that looks like a dolphin from the air. Being a private island, you are unable to visit but we were told by Teresa that it has beautiful villas on there and you can see it from the air. I’ve included a picture I found on the internet as some of you may be familiar with it.

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Li Galli – picture courtesy of Golden Tours Sorrento

We headed back up through the town after our afternoon swim to catch the bus back to Montepertuso. There is only one bus and the bus stop is right above our doorstep so it was very easy to catch the bus to and from Positano town centre. There is also the option to walk to and from Positano Centro down the many flights of steps and back up – we were advised it would take about 45 minutes either way but we decided the bus trip, although a nail biting experience at times, was an easier alternative with my daughter in tow.

The next day we decided to spend a full day in Positano, after breakfast we headed up to the street (which was up 5 flights of stairs) to get the bus. We did a lot of walking even though we took the bus up and down to Positano Centro! We decided we would relax and enjoy the beach, have lunch and just soak up the sunshine and atmosphere at the main beach. This was our down time, family time at our happy place – beachside and we were savouring every moment!

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We had a couple of days where it was Wake up, eat, beach, sleep, repeat! Then one day we decided to hop on a ferry to explore Amalfi. There are many ferries you can catch from Positano at various times and prices. We walked out to the ferry wharf to find out what time the ferry was due to depart and we were lucky that there was one leaving fairly soon. We bought our tickets and waited to board, we had no expectations and just wanted to see where the day took us. The ferry ride was amazing, we loved seeing the coastline as we sailed down the Amalfi Coast from Positano. We arrived at Amalfi, not knowing what we would do other than wanting to see Grotto Esmeraldo.

When we got off the ferry, there were people asking people to join a boat to go to the grotto, as it was what we wanted to do – we got onto the boat, paid our 15 euros and we were off! It all happened very quickly, no sooner were we off one boat, then we were aboard another! The trip to the grotto was quick, we unloaded and waited at the entrance to the grotto. It cost 5 euro for the tour of the cave – it is one cave and has the nativity scene submerged under the water. There are plenty of stalactites hanging from the ceiling of the cave and due to the refraction of light, the water looks emerald. It was a very quick tour of the cave before we were waiting for the boat to return and take us back to Amalfi. Once we arrived back at Amalfi, we grabbed some lunch near the wharf, then walked into the town centre to explore.

It was such a beautiful little town to explore, markets, stores, we saw the Duomo di Sant’Andrea in all it’s glory. We ate delicious arancini, roamed the streets, taking it all in and found at the end of the main street in the piazza, the Fontana cap e ciuccio. It is an unusual decorated fountain basin which was originally used to refresh the local donkeys who had pulled carts from nearby villages. We enjoyed this spontaneous day trip and we planned to have a couple more before we left the Amalfi Coast.

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Another day trip we decided to do was Sorrento. We arrived to the port and made our way up to the town centre. It was a maze of streets, markets, rows and rows of stores and was very busy. We walked around, looking the Basilica di Sant Antonino which was beautiful and walked to a vantage point to take in the view. We had a lovely lunch in a restaurant down by the marina during the infamous Sorrento Summer storms before heading back to Positano. We weren’t that impressed by Sorrento – we found there were rows of shops and not much else. We spoke to another couple waiting for the same return ferry to Positano and they shared the same sentiment. We were glad to have experienced it for ourselves, although we now wish we had visited Ravello instead. It will have to wait for another time!

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We spent Father’s Day at Positano, having lunch at a restaurant with great views a little further from the main beach, called Ristorante Lo Guarracino. The food was amazing and was a great way to celebrate Father’s day while away! We explored walking around from the restaurant to a little beach further up, taking in the gorgeous views and enjoying the scenic walk. It was a spontaneous exploration where we uncovered a great walking track, having our own little adventure! We were liking our stay here at Positano more each day, always something amazing to discover!

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On our last day, it was nice enough to go out on the boat trip to Capri. We were excited to be able to take the trip because we had booked a different boat trip but due to the storm a day earlier, it was cancelled and our deposit refunded. Initially, we were supposed to share the boat with two other people but we were lucky to have it to ourselves for the day. The weather was beautiful, sunny and calm seas – it was an amazing way to end our week in Positano. We toured along the Positano coast then headed out to Capri. The sea was calm, the sun was shining, there were no clouds or rain in sight! We sailed under the famous arch of Il Faraglioni where we were advised that it was good luck to kiss your sweetheart as you pass undderneath, which we happily obliged!

Raffaele gave us a tour around the island of Capri before we disembarked. We had lunch at Ristorante Lo Zodiaco, it was a lovely place to eat lunch by the water and helped my daughter to feel better as she had gotten a little seasick as we travelled across from Positano. We wanted to see the blue grotto but when we bought tickets, the man said “if it is open”. When were we aboard the boat, we were advised that due to the storm a couple of days ago, it wasn’t open but we still enjoyed the boat trip – we love being in and around water.

We returned to peruse the markets along the marina, unfortunately we didn’t have time to go up to the gardens due to the time taken to see if the blue grotto was open but we still enjoyed the day – we knew we would return one day. On the return trip to Positano, Raffaele stopped the boat in the bay of a small beach. It is only accessible by boat and we jumped into the clear aqua waters of the Tyrrhenian sea! It was the  highlight of our trip. We swam to the beach, walked along the beach before heading back into the water to swim back to the boat. I languished in the sea a little longer, not wanting the day to end. The water was so refreshing and clear, it was such a treat and a great way to cap off our week in Positano!

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We hope you enjoyed Positano and the Amalfi coast as much as we did – we hope to return to explore more of the area and see places we didn’t get to visit this time around. Our ‘places to go’ list seems to grow each day! We definitely felt relaxed and rejuvenated after a week here. It was a priority to Laugh.Love.Live during our time here and we looked forward to visiting a few more places in the eternal city before heading home. I’ll leave with a few pictures of us exploring Montepertuso, the main piazza, the Chiesa Santa Maria delle Grazie and the “Pierced rock” where the legend states that Mother Mary fought with the devil ( in Serpent form) and won. Mother Mary pierced the rock with her finger as a sign of her everlasting presence here – what a great legend! Peace and Blessings!

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The city of fountains – Part one!

We arrived at our final destination and the realisation hit me that our adventures were at the beginning of the end! I felt as though I didn’t want our adventures to finish. My husband and daughter were looking forward to this destination as was I especially to one part it in particular – a week with no itinerary down the south coast to relax and unwind. We arrived in Rome and headed for the taxi stand to be taken to our accommodation for the next 3 days.  We took everything in with our eyes when we left the airport – it is so exciting arriving at a new destination with no expectations other than to be amazed by the beauty, history and culture!

When the taxi driver arrived at our destination, I was a little underwhelmed as he pulled up alongside an old building that looked neglected, graffiti covering the walls and a little deserted but it was only around 3pm in the afternoon. I had booked online and was a bit worried. The taxi driver stopped and said, the hotel is in there, pointing towards the door in the middle and I asked “The hotel is just here?” He confirmed it, let us out and put our suitcases on the steps.

We needn’t have worried as we walked down the front of the building, finding the hotel entrance towards the middle, as indicated and walked inside. We were greeted by a very friendly concierge, who called the porter to bring us to our room before bringing our bags up for us. We were surprised at the size of the room compared to the tiny room we had in Paris! We had a quick walk around the hotel to get our bearings as we were taken up a lift then up a few flights of stairs. We found the hotel housed some beautiful artwork in the common area which was unexpected. I have included some pictures of the artwork on display and one of the lounge area where a lot of this artwork was displayed. We were quite impressed!

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The hotel we stayed at was Hotel Napoleon, it was quite close to the Metro line A and our first major attraction when we went for a little wander after finding something to eat close to our hotel. We stumbled upon the Santa Maria Maggiore, a beautiful large basilica only 5 mins walk away. It is an 18th century building and we found it looming above us and beautiful from the outside. Unfortunately, we had so much to see in our short time here that we didn’t get to go inside the basilica – we came close but realised we were dressed inappropriately. When visiting churches in Rome, your shoulders and knees must be covered and most days, the temperature was quite high (over 30 degrees celcius/ 86 farenheit) and as a result, we were dressed in shorts and singlets. So unless we had planned to visit a church, we would only see the outside of the building. As you can imagine, there are many churches, cathedrals and basilicas to see in Rome so we had plenty to choose from!

We were already in awe of Rome after seeing the Basilica and went exploring around the neighbourhood within a 10 mins walking radius to find somewhere to have a nice Italian meal for dinner later that evening. We walked past many and decided that we’d come out later and see what took our fancy.

We walked into a restaurant we had walked past earlier that was quite nondescript from the street. It had a little sign out the front and steps leading into the restaurant below street level. We entered and were taken to our seats, we realised it was deceivingly larger than first impressions would lead you to believe. The restaurant is called La Vecchia Conca and we found the meals to be delicious! It was cozy and served great Italian food, the waiter spoke English as my Italian is rudimentary at best! It was family friendly and locals frequented it as well as tourists so we took it to be a good sign. We liked it so much, we ate there again before departing. We found out a little later, a tip to eating in Italy is that if there is someone outside the restaurant/ cafe enticing you to eat there then it’s not worth a visit.

After our lovely meal, we walked around a little before heading back to the hotel to settle in for the night. The next morning we walked out to the bus stop near the Santa Maria Maggiore to wait for our bus. When we arrived, there were a few tourists already waiting, some hawkers were there selling hats and scarves. They were particularly persistant even when the two ladies said no, they would put a hat onto their heads. Luckily we were all wearing hats ourselves so were not bothered by them. This we found was a common occurrence where tourists were gathered en masse!

The first stop for our bus was where we also got off to explore as it was the main attraction for us that day – the Colosseum! We saw it from afar and could not believe we were so close to something we had only dreamed of seeing! Once we arrived, we were awed by the sheer size of it! Even if you have seen images before, it pales in comparison to when you are standing in front of and in it! We proceeded to the Roman Forum as that is where the visit commenced. We collected our tickets and proceeded into the Roman Forum and Palantine Hill. It is such an expansive area with so many ruins, amazing architecture which we found was a great pre-cursor to the main attraction! My husband studied ancient history in high school and was blown away by the fact that you could touch artefacts that were thousands of years old and be surrounded by so much history!

Climbing up Palantine Hill is amazing, to see how the Romans built their cities, the views, architecture and beauty surrounding them was astounding! There were rooftop gardens, city views, temples and so much more! It really is amazing to see how much history was around us, in front of us, behind us and underneath us! There are still ruins being found to this day as they dig underground – they have been trying to build another metro line since the 1980’s but as they dig, they come across more ruins and have to cease! My husband joked that they have to stop because they keep finding more ruins before we knew that was the actual reason! It is a city rich in history and everywhere you look, you will find ruins scattered amongst the modern buildings – such a unique city!

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Our ticketed time for the Colosseum was around 3pm in the afternoon so we headed out of Palantine Hill to grab some lunch at the metro station next to the Colosseum. It was a very warm day and we enjoyed lemon granitas with pizza – they were a refreshing, cool accompaniment to our lunch – when in Rome! We rested and cooled ourselves before lining up to see the Colosseum. This is what my daughter and husband had been waiting for – this was the highlight for both of them (and me too)! It still felt surreal that we were standing in Rome about to see the Colosseum even after being blown away by the Roman Forum and Palantine Hill! We passed through the security checkpoint and then were inside walking along underneath admiring the structures from below only to be blown away once we walked up the stairs which revealed the structure in all it’s glory! Walking around, reading the information, seeing the sheer size and detail makes you realise the engineering and architectural marvel as a testament to why it is still standing there today! Even though we took many photos, I feel the pictures do not do the Colosseum justice. Even though it has a macabre history, I feel it shouldn’t take away from the amazing structure built centuries ago that is still standing in modern times! I hope my photos do not want spoil it for those who have yet to see it for themselves!

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After our day at the Colosseum, we hopped back on a bus to see more attractions and see where we wanted to explore the next day but there was one stop we had to make before calling it a day! We got off the bus and walked our way through the cobblestone streets towards the buzz of a crowd. We arrived to the one place I wanted to see with my own eyes – Fontana di Tevi! Yes, it was crowded, full of tourists, noisy and busy but we felt it was so worth fighting the crowds for! The Fontana di Trevi is the largest Baroque Fountain in the city and the most beautiful in the world. We all threw a coin each into the fountain to ensure our return to this wonderful city! I was advised by a good friend to visit the fountain at night so that was planned for a later date during our stay!

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It was also the place where I sampled my first Cannoli in Rome and it did not disappoint!  There just happens to be a great Gelateria and Pasticciera right near the fountain, it is called Don Nino and I recommend visiting it if you ever happen to be in the area! Our first full day in Rome – what an eventful day that is forever etched into our memory. We looked forward to more amazing sights in the days to come.

The next day we headed off in the morning and planned to visit Circo Massimo (Circus Maximus). It is an ancient chariot racing track which you may be familiar with as it was used in the filming of Ben Hur. It looks plain and dry upon first look but has much history attached to it. We were amazed at the sheer size of the track and how it was used as an entertainment arena by the ancient Romans. From there, we walked to the Piazza della Bocca della Verita this translates to the Square of the Mouth of Truth. This is situated near the Tiber River and was interesting to walk around to view the remains of a temple, the fountain and park. The Mouth of Truth is situated near here in the portico of Santa Maria in Cosmedin Church. We didn’t line up to take photos, we enjoyed the Piazza and the Tiber river instead.

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From here, we got on another bus which took us to the Il Vittoriano.  Romans don’t much admire the Vittoriano; they refer to it as ‘the wedding cake’. We decided to stop and explore this monument or ‘wedding cake’ as it affectionately known. It is very impressive due to it’s stature and those who love it for it’s beauty, views and architecture – it certainly delivers! There are great views back to the Roman Forum from behind. There is a museum to visit, galleries to explore and of course the Monument to visit and views across the Piazza Venezia when you get up to the equestrian statue, as the monument itself does not impede the views. There are also impressive fountains in front of the monument as most fountains in Rome. We spent a bit of time walking around, exploring and taking in the sights.

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The next stop was Castel D’Angelo, it is built along the banks of the Tiber river – also with a deep history as was the case with many of the places we visited in Rome. It has been a papal residence and has a bridge that you walk across which has the statues of the apostles Saint Peter (holding a book, with the pedestal inscription Rione XIV) by Lorenzetto, and Saint Paul (holding a broken sword and a book, with the pedestal inscription Borgo) by Paolo Romano.

There is so much to see and learn in the city of Rome and we had only begun to scratch the surface! From the Castel, you can see the Vatican City and the top of St. Peter’s Basilica. We wondered around the building and markets nearby where we bought some refreshing lemon and watermelon granita to cool down and walked under a water sprinkler to get some relief from the heat. The temperature was above 30 degrees celsius during our visit to Rome, so it was quite warm!

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Afterwards, we enjoyed travelling around Rome taking in a few sights and stopped at Piazza Barberini to walk around and view the famous Fontana del Tritone, sculpted by Bernini. This piazza is named after the Barberini family who made their home here. There is also a smaller fountain called the Fountain of Bees which was the symbol of the Barberini family.

Another full day in Rome, where we did so much walking and exploring, drinking in all the sights with our eyes. We were thoroughly enjoying our visit to this city of fountains! The next day was also a highlight of our visit to Italy. We were up early, catching the metro at 7am to meet at Piazza del Popolo for our day trip to Pompeii! It was an early start but worth every second! There is a house with interesting history called Casa Longus, not due to the family who lived there but for the marble table on display. Servilius Casca Longus who was one of the people responsible for Caesar’s death. This table was auctioned by order of the future Emperor Augustus, as all of Caesar’s followers were stripped of their worldly goods. They are certain that the rich owner of the property bought these things at an auction then brought it back and put it on display as a proud purchase from that auction in Rome.

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After visiting the ancient city of Pompeii, we had lunch in a restaurant in Naples (apparently where you can find the best pizza!) and then visited Volcano Sulfatara. We were meant to go to Mt. Vesuvius but due to recent fires, it was unsafe to visit. Volcano Sulfatara gets it’s name due to the sulphur gases you can smell when you visit (smells like bad eggs!) You walk out into the crater of the volcano and see the natural saunas that were used by the ancient Romans – the Mouth of Hell and Purgatory. These are aptly named due to the high temperatures (above 60 degrees) which were believed to cleanse and purify. You are able to sit inside the Mouth of Hell at your own peril!

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Our full three jam-packed days exploring Rome were over for as we headed off to our Coastal escape on the Amalfi Coast. This post ends the first part of our visit to Italy, what we had seen and experienced so far had been amazing. We were looking forward to some rest, relaxation and family time to Laugh, Love, Live together near the water – our happy place. Thanks for joining our journey so far, it’s been great reliving our journey by writing this and previous posts, I hope you will join us on the next part of our Italian adventure – Peace and blessings!

Here are links to the previous posts of our European Adventure so you can read and follow in order of our trip:

https://tigre23.wordpress.com/2017/09/27/european-adventure/

https://tigre23.wordpress.com/2017/10/10/double-deckers-wizards-and-just-rocks/

https://tigre23.wordpress.com/2017/11/18/olde-worlde-charm/

https://tigre23.wordpress.com/2018/01/20/ville-damour/

 

 

 

Peace and Blessings!

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Wishing everyone will continue to Laugh.Love.Live in the year ahead. Thank you for the support and encouragement for my humble blog. Peace and many blessings for 2018 – may it be a year full of love, laughter, compassion and understanding.  namaste

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Season’s Greetings!

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Wishing you all a wonderful festive season, thoughts go out to anyone who has lost loved ones, those unable to be with family/ friends or those who have family deployed overseas serving their countries. May the festive season be a safe, happy and peaceful time for everyone and the New Year bring much positivity, empathy, peace and many blessings! May you all Laugh. Love. Live – peace and blessings!  Thanks for the support for 2017 and may we continue to share our stories and experiences in 2018! silly_smiley_face_emoji_custom_sticker-r8e359df4e2564b47b2f7855648fdc50d_v9wth_8byvr_540.jpg

 

 

Olde worlde charm!

Our next destination was only a couple of hours away by train so we settled in on the Eurostar and enjoyed the high-speed journey. Originally, we hadn’t planned visiting here as we weren’t sure we could fit it in until my friend advised that is was en route to another destination so it made sense to visit – and we’re so glad we did! We were able to catch up with my relatives – Aunt and cousins whom I have not seen for 20 years! It was lovely to spend a few days exploring and visiting – my husband and daughter got to meet relatives from my side of the family whom they had never met.

We alighted the Eurostar at Midi station in Brussels. My youngest cousin met us and took us to our hotel. It was so nice to see him, the last time I saw him was when he was visiting Australia – he was only 6 years old! After checking into our hotel, we set off to see the city. My cousin advised us that Belgium was not a big city like Sydney. He visited Sydney last year and said Brussels was much smaller, you could drive from one end of the city to the other in 20 minutes, unlike in Sydney.

The first stop for us was adhoc because as we drove past a large cathedral, it caught our eye – my cousin stopped the car so we could admire it and take a few tourist snaps! After that we had a tour around Brussels – he took us to see the Grand PlaceManekin Pis and his girlfriend – Janekin Pis ! We also visited Delirium Cafe to try some Belgium beer  – two different types and found the alcohol strength to be double or more than that in Australia! I took a photo in the pub which I did not check until the evening and my cousin looks as though he had a little too much to drink because his eyes were half closed. I can guarantee that he was sober, it was just my poor photography skills!  After our tour of the city, we went to his mum’s (My Aunty’s) pub to see the rest of my relatives except one who was away on vacation with her family.

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We spent the evening at my Aunt’s pub where my daughter and my eldest cousin’s daughter got along very well even though it was the first time they met. They had interests in common and enjoyed each other’s company. It was lovely to see and the language barrier seemed non-existent! We  had a big family dinner at a lovely Greek- Chinese restaurant (yes, an unusual combination but it worked!) You could order either Greek dishes or Asian dishes and the food was delicious. It was a full first day and a great introduction to the city!

The next day we headed out for a day trip to Bruges which is a  Flemish-speaking  part of Belgium. The Flemish or Flemings (DutchVlamingen) are a Germanic ethnic group native to Flanders, in modern Belgium, who speak Dutch, especially any of its dialects spoken in historical Flanders, known collectively as Flemish Dutch.[5] They are one of two principal ethnic groups in Belgium, the other being the French-speaking Walloons. Flemish people make up the majority of the Belgian population (about 60%)**.

I had  been advised by a few colleagues and friends that if we visited Belgium then we had to visit Bruges. I had asked my cousin if we could visit Bruges when we arrived and he said of course! He was our chaperone, driving us there and taking us around for the day.  Before we arrived in Bruges, my husband kept asking what is in Bruges and why did we have visit, to which I replied that it is the old part of Belgium and supposed to be beautiful. That was an understatement – we were absolutely blown away by the beauty of Bruges! We spent hours walking around looking at the buildings, sights, canals, tasting chocolate, waffles and mussels! It was a feast for all our senses! It seemed as though Belgium never ceased to amaze us, with each day better than the next!

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The city of Bruges was an absolute highlight and we recommend it to anyone visiting Belgium –  it is a must! It is only an hour and a half drive from Brussels or you can also take the train. There is a place in Bruges in my photos that is full of white swans. There is the legend of the Bruges Swans. I’ve included a link to the story so you can read it at your leisure. The history in Europe is so fascinating, we were learning so much in each place we visited!

My cousin also enjoyed Bruges because even though he had been there before, he said there were thingst he hadn’t seen before so it was also a ‘new’ experience for him too. We headed back to Brussels, dropping into my Aunt’s pub to spend a bit of time there and take some last photos. Then my cousin took us to see the Atomium which was lit up at night, it was built for the Brussels world fair in 1958. There is a panoramic restaurant at the top of the structure with gourmet food and views. We didn’t have time to have a look inside the spheres as we were heading to my eldest cousin’s home to have dinner with her family which provided another opportunity for her daughter and mine to spend some time together before we left the next day. We were grateful for the time we did spend in Belgium – being so surprised by the beauty of Belgium and discovering it was such an unexpected highlight of our trip so far!

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The Atomium alight!

My cousin’s husband cooked a wonderful, delicious pasta dinner for us and we were able to sit and catch up. Our girls were able to spend time together and attempt to make slime, it is a big trend at the moment with kids – big and small! We spent some time playing with her younger son with his police chief, hospitals, ambulance, staff and patients! He is currently obsessed police and their vehicles! It was a lovely way to spend our last evening in Belgium.

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We were so grateful to be able to catch up with family and do some sightseeing, ticking off some of our main attractions. It was definitely a place where we put into action Laugh. Love. Live! We were enjoying our European adventure immensely and looking forward to our next destination. We were drinking in each experience with relish – filling our hearts, souls and stomachs with amazing nourishment! Hope you enjoyed this little snapshot of Belgium as much as we did – onwards and upwards to our next stop on our European adventure!

** https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flemish_people