Burnt Sienna

Emma (14)Just when you think you’ve got the hang of this living in a new country thing, when you no longer get stumped by public transport and when you can find your way through a maze of side streets by instinct, Rome likes to remind you that you know nothing! We were all set for a day away from the tourist filled streets with a visit to Villa Doria Pamphili, Rome’s largest park. Well, that was the idea anyway.

We got pretty close, but the walls of the park and roads which twisted away as soon as we got near did a good job of keeping us out! Rome is full of delights though, with things previously unseen hidden around every corner. We ended up at Gianicolo (if you know Rome, you know just how close we were) so the day wasn’t wasted by any means. It also means you get this blog post in a lovely shade of burnt sienna, what a treat. Emma (2)As much as I love piling on the layers to keep out the English chill, it’s a welcome change to wear a simple summer dress with just a liberal spray of factor 50. To my eyes, this lemon shift dress looks very vintage in shape (and in that delicious print!) although it’s actually from Topshop via eBay a few years ago.

Emma (4)The white pumps are a happy accident of my limited wardrobe here in Rome – none of my sandals went with the dress so a fresh pair of white trainers it was. Not only had I forgotten how satisfying that pristine white canvas is, I’d forgotten how quickly they get grubby. Not ideal for pounding the pavement in a dusty city.Emma (7)Emma (8)Emma (9)And if you look closely, you’ll see no Roman outfit is complete without a smattering of mosquito bites around the ankles. Yum.
Emma (13)

I Wanna Be EUR’s

16It might be the Brit in me, but I want to talk about the weather! These photos were taken last week when we were hitting around 33° here in Rome.  In the city it somehow feels hotter too, the heat seems to bounce off ancient marble turning the streets into a giant greenhouse.

Not wanting to do anything too strenuous we headed to the EUR district of Rome in the late afternoon for an explore. I wore this beautiful vintage dress (it deserves a more in depth post of its’ own actually – label research in process!) with a DIY cropped T shirt to keeps things casual…and voilà! Throw on the sandals you’ve been living in for the past few weeks and it’s as easy as that! I really rather like it but in truth it was still a little too warm for the blazing sunshine.

3 IMG_0931 12 IMG_0814 1356EUR was commissioned by Mussolini in the 1930’s to celebrate fascism in Italy. As an area designed entirely from scratch rather the usual expansion and redevelopment of cities it feels quite unlike the rest of Rome. Visit the Colosseum for example, and you’ll be impressed its’ the grandness and scale, yet you’re very much aware you’re looking at history, at ancient Rome. Take a trip to EUR and it feels like ancient Rome’s best bits have been revamped for modern eyes.

IMG_0437The district is pleasingly uniform, each building in matching shades of almost white marble or limestone. You’ll see hallmarks of ancient Rome, a stack of columns or a row of arches, in buildings with present day uses. Although I never ventured to this part of Rome before living here, I would recommend spending a few hours taking it in – preferably out of the midday sun!
IMG_0445 9

Getaway

Outfit 1It’s been just over a month since my last post, so we’ve got a lot to catch up on. First things first, if you think these photos look a little sunny for the UK then you’d be right! This outfit post comes to you from my new home in Rome!

Standing on the balcony outside my room, I had to get a little inventive with the picture taking whilst I was home alone. I figured if I snapped away then at least one or two would be useable – especially with a little strategic cropping.

This ASOS skirt has been sitting in my wardrobe for a while waiting for some warmer weather – I don’t think it looks as good with tights. Contrasting black and white on the front and back, it’s quite different to the other clothes I own. However it’s the royal blue stripes down the sides which I really love about it. ‘Go faster’ stripes and a curved hem to make me feel a little sporty (although not casual!) so something a bit different from my usual tastes.

Outfit 4 OutfitFor simplicity I paired it with a plain T Shirt and pumps, both grey. Usually, on the blog I’ll show you my snaps from a day trip or whatever sightseeing I’ve been up to. This time though, my outfit and I stayed in the local area so you’ll have to wait until next time for some of Rome’s big sights. There’ll be plenty to see in future though!trainers

For now, here’s a few insights into my day to day so far: L-R: Fresh pizza with a ton of mozzarella; pasta varieties for the tourist crowd, a rainbow of tomatoes from the market at Campo de’ Fiori; another day, another pizza of pancetta, onion and fontina cheese. Italian FoodWalking by the Pantheon on the way home; kaleidoscopic tiles at a language class I trialled, enjoying a rest after my first bike ride in probably 10 years; the limestone palette of Piazza Novona.Rome snapshots

Travel Journal: Play it again, Sam.

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The nitty gritty of booking a holiday, quite frankly, bores me. I hate comparing hotels, finding cheap flights and working out how to get from one to the other when your plane lands at 3am. Once all that’s done, however, I love researching things to do, places to eat and sights to see.

Apparently, open air cinemas are quintessentially Greek. I’m no film buff, but I do love a trip to the cinema so a visit to an open air theatre was a must. Before the trip I’d seen that Casablanca was listed as ‘Coming Soon’, so I was pleased to find out it was showing a couple of days before we were due to leave.

I’ve only recently (within the last six months) watched Casablanca for the first time. Despite it being a classic film, I’d never got round to seeing it but I wish I’d watched it sooner! I know the blog title is a misquote but it’s still iconic.

Athens Open Air Cinema

Watching for the second time in an open air theatre with a couple of hundred Athenian locals was an unusual experience. It was in English with Greek subtitles so everyone could follow along together, but interestingly, the locals reacted differently to parts of the film than I did. They laughed at different parts and there were a lot more gasps and boos than an English girl could politely make in the company of others.

I knew I’d be watching with a Greek audience but I was more looking forward to an outside viewing on a warm night than considering how another culture watched the same film. It was a pleasant surprise, and by the end there were plenty of people holding back the tears, me included. (Oh Rick, we knew you were a good guy all along!)

After mixing with the locals at the pictures we had one full day in Athens left (doesn’t time fly?!) In a week, we’d ticked off most of the main sights and tourist attractions, leaving only the Ancient Agora to visit.

An agora is basically a meeting place, used as somewhere to buy, sell, or trade, or as a place for public speaking and meetings – think of a Roman forum. It’s also where we get the word agoraphobia; a fear of open spaces.

With so many different things happening in an agora, there was lots of different types of building and styles of architecture. A good place to start is the Stoa of Attalos; the Oxford Street of it’s day, it was once full of shops only affordable to the wealthy Athenian.

Ancient AgoraNow, it’s home to a museum which showcases these lovely models of the Acropolis and surrounding area throughout different time periods.

Pantheon ModelJust hanging out at the Parthenon, I love the little fella leaning on a collumn!

There’s something about minatures which is so likeable. It must be the quaintness of an imaginary mini world, either that or the sense of power I get from feeling so tall!

Back to normal scale, we carried on exploring the rest of the Agora.

And that’s it for the Travel Journal series! We’ve reached the end of the holiday, ate all the Greek salad we can, and put the sunglasses away.

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.

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.

birds

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.