Colours of Alternative Rome

rome flowers girl
Terracotta, shades of burnt orange and warm stone-beige might be your first thought when thinking of the colour palette of Rome, but there’s actually a lot more to say. Although the city is made up of travertine stone, rippled marble and grey Roman concrete, modern Rome lives with enthusiasm in the same streets.

close up face

In the Ostiense district, where I live, Technicolor street art adorns walls, bridges and as I’ve mentioned before, entire buildings. This set of photos was taken by the awesome April Nicole during our day out wandering the nearby neighbourhood of Testaccio, which is likewise splattered with graffiti and street art.

rome macro site ostiense

We began at the old mattatoio, or slaughterhouse of this once industrial part of Rome. Until the doors were closed for good in 1975, this was a busy complex of buildings all dedicated to the slaughter of animals and production of meat. Signs of its gruesome past are entirely evident today – atop the entrance stands a statue of a winged man grappling with a horned bull.  rome citta dell'economia
Workers’ salaries were supplemented with leftover offal (and other bits!) from the slaughterhouse known as the quinto quarto, the fifth quarter. As a result, the locals became experts in cooking with otherwise unwanted cheap cuts of meat. Visit any Testaccio trattoria and you’ll realise just how expert they became. Today, Testaccio is a foodie’s heaven and you’ll find coda alla vaccinara (oxtail stew), trippa (tripe) and pajata (suckling lamb intestines) still on many menus.
città dell'altra economiaroma blog
Parts of the mattatoio have now been refurbished in order to house the Macro Museum of Contemporary Art and Città dell’Altra Economia, a space for all things sustainable. These photos come from the still unused grounds of the slaughterhouse which we thought would make a great, industrial background for some alternative snaps of Rome.
rome blogger rome ostiensemacro mercato 99102 Thanks again to April for catching some funny moments on camera, you can see more of her snaps by visiting her Facebook page. If you’re interested in finding out more about street art in Rome, you can read an article of mine about street art tours by Rovescio here.

rome aventino



IMG_0104In free magazines, leaflets, through Facebook, word of mouth; there’s so many ways to find out what’s going on in this city. I often make a mental note to visit a new bar or buy tickets to an exhibition, fast forward a few months and have I been there? Have I got off my arse and done it? Of course not.

I am getting better at it though, the pursuit for self improvement continues; tickets are bought, outings organised and days well spent. Here’s some snaps from one of those days. IMG_0107IMG_0109TelephoneCallSecurity GuardIMG_0118IMG_0240We spent some fast-passing hours roaming around the Maxxi, to see the Transformers exhibition. Some of the photos are from other exhibitions of this modern art museum, but worth including nonetheless.

The idea of the exhibition is to use art and design to highlight social causes and to create discussions about them. For example, we saw a mechanical orchestra made from weapons confiscated by the Mexican Army. Notes created by hitting a xylophone made from gun parts show the potential to transform even the most dangerous of objects.  IMG_0125IMG_0121IMG_0133I particularly liked the idea of using everyday materials, albeit in a new way, to create art which is easily accessible to everybody.  Hubble Bubble, the green ‘suspended forest’ below is made from plastic colanders, while Life Life, this walkway of long swirling balloons, continually transforms as visitors pass through it. IMG_0126IMG_0145IMG_0127IMG_0142IMG_0147IMG_0151More than meets the eye – this is usually true isn’t it? It seems to me inspiration and ideas are out there for the taking, it’s the ‘doing’ part that’s difficult. But the transformation into something concrete and tangible makes you realise getting up and getting organised is well worth it.

More stuff soon.

Budapest Part II

You can probably tell just by looking at them, but we exhausted ourselves climbing to the top of a very steep hill to take these photos! The night before, we’d been on a cruise down the Danube and spotted the Liberty Monument overlooking the river. It was just so beautiful at night, we made plans to trek up Gellert Hill the next day. Gellert Statue Gellert HillOnce you make it to the top however, you find yourself a bit too close to take a decent snap of the Liberty Monument. These are two smaller statues which stand to her side. Liberty is a big old lady holding a palm leaf up to the sky commemorating those who sacrificed their lives for the freedom of Hungary. She’s quite the beauty – especially in comparison to the St Gellert Monument a bit further down the river which marks the spot St Gellert was hurled to his death in a spiked barrel. Grisly.

Porthole Budapest View of PestNo such action going on anymore, the hill was a quiet spot for some shots of the skyline, including a panorama which my friend captured. Panorama River Budapest Panorama Heroes SquareThe next day bought a change in weather, some crisp blue backgrounds for our photographs and with it a sense that Budapest had lost a bit of its mystery. For me, it’s not Budapest unless it’s misty, grey and bloody cold!
War statue Heroes Square Traffic Bike Lights Budapest outdoor Ice Rink city park budapest Anonymous Statue Budapest Tour GuideAfter taking in Heroes Square and City Park, we had just enough time to see Budapest’s  Timewheel and Revolution Monument. The Timewheel is the world’s largest hourglass, some 8m high and 60 tonnes in weight. The sand empties from the chamber over the course of the year and the wheel is reset at New Year. I would have been impressed, if it had been working! Budapest Time wheel revolution monument 1956 revolution monument hungaryIt was worth a look though, as was the 1956 Revolution Monument. It was fun to weave in and out of the columns and see how far you could make it in. 
Budapest holidayWell that’s it, another trip over. All the postcards, tickets and metro stubs have been stuck in my scrapbook, ready for some more to join them soon.

Travel Journal: Little Miracles

Athens ThriftLook how beautiful this Greek antique/vintage/junk shop is! I spotted the shop front down a side street whilst we were strolling along eating frozen yoghurt. The  little wooden sign informed me it was called ‘Little Miracles’, and knowing  it wasn’t to be missed I went for a poke around.

Vintage Horn

Vintage Umbrella Stand

Vintage Grammaphone

Spilling out onto the street were; pots and pans; candlesticks; vases; an umbrella stand; a tricycle, bed warmers; and numerous brass instruments.

Inside was just as chaotic, with items pinned from wall to wall and trinkets crammed into every nook and cranny.

vintage cameras

Vintage Perfume

Perfume bottles are always so pretty, and make such a pleasing dressing table. I love vintage bottles, particularly those with atomisers, instant glamour.

I’d never heard of ‘Crepe De Chine’ before but I’ve found a lovely review online:

“Crepe de Chine is a stunning, world class perfume. The scent has a clean, fresh entry with a gorgeous full bodied greenfloral accord at its heart, all over creamy, dreamy exotic woods. Crepe de Chine envelopes you with beauty beyond compare.” [1] 

One look at that Art Deco bottle and I’m picturing flapper dresses, classic cars, and cigarettes in long thin holders being smoked by ladies with red lipstick.

Vintage TeacupsI was brought crashing back to reality when the shop owner told me these china teacups were €27! Maybe she knows something I don’t about the floral motif, but you could thrift something similar much closer to home. Our charity shops are always full of tiny treasures at bargain prices.

Little Miracles antiques was a detour on the way to the Acropolis museum which was our main plan for the day. However, no photographs are allowed in the museum. This doesn’t make for a very fun blog post so instead I’ll show you our quick visit to the Panathenaic stadium later that day.

We’d spotted the stadium from our open top bus tour on the first day and thought it looked quite impressive. Although marble is everywhere in Athens, the stadium really stands out from its’ surroundings due to the solid shape forming a huge block of colour. Panathenaic Stadium

That tiny figure on the steps is me, I’ve gone trundling down the steps because I’ve spotted something worth investigating.

These are the throne’s where the Greek King and Queen sat during the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. These days the stadium is used for Olympic events and other concerts and festivals.Close up: lion paws hold up either end of the throne’s.Ready, set, go! It wouldn’t be right to leave without a quick once around the track. Enough fun and games for one post, I’ll leave you with a selection of my favourite details from Olympic posters around the stadium.Vintage Olympic Posters

L-R: St Louis 1904; London 1908; Paris 1924; Paris 1924; Berlin 1936; London 1948; Rome 1960; Mexico 1968; Athens 1896.

Travel Journal: dusty trails and cocktails

After spending the previous day hiking up the Acropolis, it felt like we needed to recharge our batteries a little. Isn’t that what holidays are for?

Our hotel was slightly outside of the normal tourist areas, but the extra 10 minutes on the metro paid off as it had a rooftop pool with 360° views of Athens! It was super quiet with no traffic noise and (on this particular day) no children splashing around! Perfect for getting engrossed in a good book.

Tim Burgess Book

I picked up Telling Stories months ago, flicked through the photos (not too embarrassing) and left it on the ‘to read’ pile. Sometimes,  it just doesn’t seem like the right time to start a certain book, and it gets left gathering dust just waiting for your attention again.

Telling Stories is the memoir of Tim Burgess, the lead singer of The Charlatans. I wouldn’t say I’m a die hard fan of The Charlatans, but I do think they’ve had more great songs than some people realise. I went into the book without much background knowledge or expectation, but afterwards my overwhelming impression is that Tim Burgess seems a likeable person, although slightly bonkers.

I like the fact that it’s slim on facts and figures; I’ve never found it useful to know dates of birth or inside leg measurements. Instead, I prefer to slowly get an understanding of the author, like you’re getting to know a friend, which is the case with this memoir.

Anyway, back to Athens!

The sun had mellowed by the time we left the hotel and we went off in search of food. We ended up at Thanasis for one of many kebabs of the trip. I had what I think was called the Thanasis special, which turned out to be an extra large portion of souvlaki.

After being faced with four kebab skewers I didn’t want to stretch myself too much so we took a stroll towards the Roman Agora. What we didn’t know is that it closes early on Sundays, so we were left peering through the gates from the outside.

Gate of Athena Archgetis
A snapshot of Hadrian’s Library next door to the Agora as we carried on our stroll.

Sometimes Rich and I walk hand in hand, sometimes I get distracted by interesting buildings or a sleeping cat on a windowsill. Whilst I was reading about some rocks which women would slide down to promote fertility (erm, no I didn’t) Rich had found a cocktail bar.

Acropolis View Bar

I’m thankful it had such a lovely view of the Acropolis as Greek service is the slowest I’ve ever encountered. They couldn’t be any more laid back if they tried. It’s acceptable for a holiday, but can you imagine living there? I think my patience would be severely tested.

Rich had a Mojito and fancying myself as a bit of a Bond girl I plumped for a Vespa Martini.

CocktailsIt looks the business, but was quite possibly the most disgusting thing I’ve ever tasted. I’m partial to a gin and tonic so had high hopes, but it didn’t seem to be made from anything edible (drinkable?) whatsoever. More like a cocktail made from liquids you’d find under the kitchen sink, 0/10.

While I debated how to ditch the Martini, Rich was snapping away to make a panorama of the skyline (he’s stitched a few together now so I might post them later on.) In the distance he noticed a thick green forested hill with a little white building on top. We plotted a course and ended up at Lykavittos Hill (‘hill of the wolves’.)

We’d spent almost the entire day gazing into the distance so it was apt that the views are the main reason people visit Lykavittos Hill.

At the top is the Chapel of Agios Giorgios, where that evening a wedding was taking place. I felt a bit of a gatecrasher as they had their wedding photos taken, but everything was still open to the public. It was nice to visit Lykavittos and witness something special even from a distance. It’s often the unexpected things which makes each holiday memorable.

Travel Journal: You know, they say of the Acropolis where the Parthenon is…

Greece Flag

So, on the next day of our holiday we climbed a hill! Unfortunately, the Greeks had already planted their flag at the top, having got there a few millennia before us.

‘Acropolis’ roughly translates to high city, and the Parthenon which sits on top is the tourist attraction in Athens. It’s visible from all round Athens and I found myself scanning the skyline for just one more sight of it throughout the trip. On day two of our holiday, we strapped on our sensible shoes and went for a climb.

At the bottom of the slope is the Theatre of Dionysus, festivals were held  in the name of Dionysus on this site since the 6th century BC. Dionysus was the god of wine so I guess his theatre held some rowdy parties in its’ time. In a story you might be more familiar with, he was also the god who gave Midas his golden touch (which became a curse when he realised he couldn’t eat or drink and his daughter turned to solid gold.)

Rich looking somewhat un-rowdy considering the surroundings.

Carved with intricate designs, marble thrones were made for festival officials and top priests. Women sat on the back rows, no carvings there.

Part way up our days climb: an overall view of the Theatre of Dionysus.

On the way to the top, you also pass another theatre, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. Impressively, it’s been completely restored and hosts concerts again. However, it’s only open for performances so you can’t get in during normal times.

The Parthenon was originally built as a treasury and to house the statue of Athena, from whom the city takes its’ name.  She was gold plated, with ivory hands, feet and face and jewels for eyes. She stood 40 feet tall but was lost or destroyed in the 5th century AD. How does something so opulent go missing?

Admiring the view after a sweaty clamber to the top.

Seeing the Parthenon close up for the first time is a special experience, it’s just so iconic.  We’ve all seen it on TV and in books, and it’s must be on everyone’s list of places to visit. The photo above, however, wasn’t our first glance. I thought I’d save showing you the scaffolding propping up the entrance.  Above is the other end of the Parthenon, equally impressive I think.
greek columns

Is it any wonder it needs scaffolding with columns like this? Over time, it’s been damaged by earthquakes, attacked by invaders and set on fire by a gunpowder explosion.

The Acropolis entry ticket is €14 and gives you access to a number of ancient sites around the city, including the Temple of Zeus…

Building work on the Temple of Zeus began in the 6th century BC, and amazingly it wasn’t completed until Hadrian (of Hadrian’s Wall fame ) came along 700 years later.  Not satisfied with finishing someone else’s temple, he commissioned another monument for himself;  the Arch of Hadrian.

The arch is a crossroads separating the ancient and Roman parts of the city. We sat in some shade nearby, taking in the view and thinking about our own crossroads: Where should we go for dinner?

olive branch

No, I didn’t resort to eating olives from the trees, but I did pick one as a new accessory like in my last post.

I’m going to try and make my holiday blogging a bit more frequent as there’s a lot to get through, so more of the same in the next few days. Hello and thank you to my new followers as a result of my last post, it would be great to hear your comments!

So, what do they say of the Acropolis where the Parthenon is?

Passport? Check! Euros? Check! Sunglasses? Check!

HolidayAll packed then? Erm, not quite!

I’m off on my holidays later today, hoorah!

We’re going to Athens for a week, and by all accounts it’s going to be a scorcher.  I’m looking forward to taking in the ancient sites and of course, eating some local dishes. I’ll be sure to share my photos with you all when I get back. Depending on how many I take, I’m thinking about a travel journal mini-series. We’ll see.

See you in a few (bronzed) weeks. x

Welcome back sunshine!

Last week we welcomed back the sunshine with open arms, how we’ve missed your golden rays! However, it’s now Monday again, it’s overcast and we’re back at work. What happened?

Before the sun disappeared, I visited Birmingham Botanical Gardens and spent the day gazing at the flora and fauna. It’s hard to believe that such a green space is so close to the centre of Birmingham. It’s well worth the walk, or in my case drive through confusing one way streets, to visit.

The whole day was a kaleidoscope of colour and textures, so this promises to be my brightest blog post yet!

hot pink

I like the way these leaves are wearing the same shade of hot pink as me!

Cocoa Pod

A cocoa pod, which I thought was growing oddly from the trunk of a tree.

Marge Simpson

Marge Simpson

Marge Simpson impersonations.

I couldn’t resist touching this plant. Its red spikes actually felt very soft.

19th Century window lever.

Time to stop for refreshments and enjoy the view.


I was smitten with these tiny birds and their “beep, beep, beep” noises!

This charming fellow was quite happy to stop preening himself and pose for the camera.

The vegetable patches were one of my favourite parts. What a perfect opportunity to dream up some future recipes.

Enjoying yourself can be so tiring! We rested our feet again before journeying home for an evening in, followed by a long, Sunday morning lie in.

What do very hungry caterpillars turn into?

British Summertime is in full swing! Well not quite, but that didn’t stop us enjoying a tropical day out at Stratford-upon-Avon’s butterfly farm.

Although the butterflies were the main attraction, there were also some other animals roaming free. I loved the cute quails scurrying around and the iguanas casually munching on leaves.

It’s definitely worth a visit, as you wont see butterflies like this in your back garden. I’d recommend following it by lunch and a cold beer by the riverside like we did. Perfect. : )

Some of my photos can be found on the Bloomtrigger blog here.