Tuesday, August 30

The good, the bad and the ugly...

Today was a day that can be divided into three as the title suggests.  The good being buying a guitar, the bad being Mum returning to the Isle of Wight and the ugly being the beauty of a bruise I got from walking into a bus shelter.  (The bus shelter had a side missing and nothing to show the BIG METAL BAR at the bottom which would've originally held glass!)  So in honour of this day I dedicate today to photos (and videos) of stuff.  Enjoy!
The good...(thank you to everyone who gave me euros for my birthday, this is what I bought!)

The bad (Mum leaving) is just too bad, so instead here's a video of "fontana delle 99 cannelle" in L'Aquila that we saw yesterday.
The ugly...(the bruise is on the right leg, just above the ankle...also, check out my tan!!!!...of my right foot!)

P.S. We made fishcakes for dinner!

Walking...for a loooong time.

Today we walked quite far.  At times I was worried that it would be an unproductive day but, as always, everything was fine.

Mum wanted to visit L'Aquila, another town in the region of Abruzzo.  I'd read a bit about it in a museum we'd visited the other day but really didn't know much about it, how to get there, or what to do when we got there.  However after missing a coach in that direction by 15 minutes we discovered that by changing in Sulmona we could get there by train in 2 and a half hours.  This does sound like a long time but it is the same to Rome and as the route is via mountains it didn't matter.

Arriving at L'Aquila, on the outskirts as train stations normally are.  We headed left.  Hmmm... Now this is the first thing we did wrong.  L'Aquila was hit badly by an earthquake in April 2009 so many of the buildings show a lot of damage and war wounds, which is a shame.  But the road in and out of the old town (it turned out) is pretty much one way, and the way we decided to walk was not accessible to pedestrians.  We discovered this after walking for an hour and a half up...yes up...a road.  Typical.  So after much deliberating around the start of the "cars only" road we headed down a side street that promised a tourist attraction of "La Fontana delle 99 cannelle".  For the Isle of Wighters among you, this side street was worse than Zig Zag Road!  But sure enough, at the bottom was a fountain.

The fountain was incredible.  Around three walls of a small piazza it consists of 99 (although I only counted 93 many times) heads that pour water into a channel around the edge of the piazza.  There is a photograph of women washing in the fountain and also a plaque explaining how it was restored after the earthquake of 2009.  This fountain is where we ended up eating our lunch, courtesy of Lidl, as we had given up trying to get to the old town.  An hour of walking was enough for us.

Argh...I'm tired so going to cut this story short...

On the way back we sat on the wrong train at the station and had to be told by the cleaners where we needed to be.  And then we ended up waiting for our connecting train in Sulmona for an hour and a half.  This wasn't so bad but we did walk for 30 minutes to the centre of the town which was actually worth the walk (for once).  The streets were narrow and the town itself was quite old.  We managed to top up our water bottles from a fountain at the top of the town before turning a corner to see a massive piazza with beautiful scenic mountains behind, stunning.

Anyway, I am going to post the photograph of today up tomorrow because right now, all the walking.  I am going to bed!

Monday, August 29


Hooray for birthdays!  Turning 25 was a much quieter affair than my usual "style" but I have gathered some good advice for future celebrations.....

...do meet a new person on the eve of your birthday.
...don't rely on said new person to be a reliable driver.
...do share the day with lovely people.
...don't make eye contact with street sellers...EVER.
...do stay in your pyjama's for the entire morning.
...don't rely on the post to deliver cards on time.
...do use Skype effectively to talk to family members.
...don't expect the family to be sitting in a sensible place to Skype, i.e. the lounge or kitchen.
...do save all the surprise birthday euro's from your friends and family for a treat.
...don't presume music shops will be open on Monday's, thus delaying the purchase of above treat.
...do relax on the beach.
...don't get your Mum to put sunblock on your back, she could miss a bit.
...do go for a swim in the sea.
...don't look too closely at the Italian Grandma's in bikini's.
...do order something you've never heard of at an Italian restaurant, it can be good!
...don't waste an hour trying to get a drink somewhere, just go home and drink the drinks you already have.
...do look forward to the next birthday.

Saturday, August 27

Sun, sea and sand...

Ah...sun and sea and beach.  Bliss.  Today we spent the day making sure Mum returns to the fair Island with a tan to be proud of because, let's be honest, there's no point in me even trying to sunbathe, it just doesn't happen.

As the temperature is still in the scorching hot region, we headed to the beach today.  My flatmate joined us later, having no problems locating us, because we are so white (well Mum isn't anymore!).  It has become a bit of a joke about how white I am, especially as some people just can't help but stare.  Although we did see someone today who was paler than me, white even.  But then we realised that she was an albino and so would always be that pale through no fault of her own. Felt a bit bad for comparing her with me but there we go. 

This evening, around 10pm, we set off for a caffe/bar just off of the Umberto. The reason for this was to show Mum just exactly what happens when you order Prosecco (sparkling wine sort of stuff).  You get a massive pile of dough-based food.  Pizza squares, doughnuts type things with tomato in the middle, all delicious but soo much food, amazing.  And when I have other visitors, they too will go to the same caffe/bar for the same treat as it is niiiiice!

And that is that.  Our day in 2 paragraphs!

(P.S. We did manage to Skype the Pakes' we've left on the Isle of Wight, and to the right is just a glimpse of how much they miss us...)

Thursday, August 25

Yeh...we went to Rome!

We went to Rome...we actually went to Rome.  It was a lot easier to do than I anticipated.  One coach and only one change on the metro meant that getting there went pretty smoothly, hurrah!  However there was a lot to see and do so this entry is quite a long one, and mainly consists of opinions which might show the more ignorant side of my personality...

The sun was blazing down on the cobbled streets as we exited the metro station.  Spying some steps we headed there to "have a sit down" as it was quite hot and I needed to apply suncream.  The people around this area were a motley bunch, all sorts of tourists from all over the world.  Pretty impressive...

We then consulted the map and decided to head for the Spanish Steps.  So off we went, down one of the many via di... streets.  It wasn't until 5 minutes of walking that we realised that we were heading back in the direction we had been in originally.  Yep.  Sure enough.  We had already been to the Spanish Steps.  In fact we had been sitting on the Spanish Steps for at least 20 minutes.  Congratulations us...that was one sight ticked off the list (and by accident too, bonus!).  Next to the Trevi fountain!

Water.  It's very refreshing when the air temperature matches that of your internal body temperature.  Ironic that we aren't coping in the heat when the heat we are in is the heat of our insides! 

Anyways, back to the water...which, in the Trevi fountain, is plentiful.  Gushing, and clear, sparkling and lovely!  Crazy to think that it's another one of Rome's places that were made to show how amazing someone or something is.  Not really a practical addition to a city, except to fill a really small piazza, but it was beautiful.  Really stunning, worth just watching.  And the people watching here was hilarious.  In particular the traders attempting to make their wage, selling (of course) splatty pig things.  You throw a ball shaped pig onto a smooth surface and it instantly morphs into a flat splat before curling back into a ball.  Genius.  But, as it turns out, not a popular purchase of the day.  He really should have gone for the parasol or fan or iced water market, they were doing well.  But the "splat pig" was as successful as the men flogging fake designer bags for...wait for it....68€.  Scandalous.  Mum and I wouldn't spend 68€ on a bag that is actually designer, let alone a fake!

Oh yeh, inbetween the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain, we did venture off the "main road" Via del Corso to grab a bite to eat but it was pretty unimpressive grub, quite fresh mozarella in my sandwich but nothing worth going back for. But the ice cream that we had from the gelaterie opposite the Pantheon is worth the 3.50€ we paid.  Amazing.  And quite a lot of ice cream. Yum, yum!

So on to the Pantheon.  That was a cool building, in both terms of the word.  Big.  And round.  With a massive hole in the middle.  And a lot of people, again.  It was amazing.  The beam of sunlight pouring into the building was impressive and highlighted just how awesome the structure of the building is.  Architecturally I have no idea how it works, but it does.  I'm guessing it takes a similar design to that of an igloo, all about the force and stress of shapes, materials etc.  But anyway.  It makes a pretty impressive place. (I imagine you're now thinking, "Wow, she really has read up a lot about the history of the city instead of blundering around with a map, guidebook and a backpack, speaking rough Italian/English merged together."...Yes I know...today has been a day of pure touristic ignorant bliss!)

Now the Colosseum.  We went there and finally got in after having a bit of trouble getting our tickets as we didn't have access to a printer.  I do highly recommend booking in advance with one of many museum ticket websites if you want to go to see popular tourist attractions, as it really would have saved time if we had the print out! 

Moving on...the Colosseum.  Who'dve thought that in some time A.D., a good few centuries back, the Romans used a "token" system to ensure that crowds did not drink too much wine whilst watching people being executed and animals being slaughtered.  Genius.  And as for the idea of sitting and doing your spinning whilst this is happening, definitely up there with the activities I would be doing whilst watching the hunters and gladiators "do their thing". 

My word.  I thought the Colosseum was an interesting place, and much to Mum's delight, I did manage to hold back reading every single information board, but I was tempted.  I did however learn that there was a 100 day festival when the amphitheatre was made, that's a lot of dead animals.  And I also learned that these dead animals were cut up and given out to the crowds who had watched them die.  So if you want to know where your meat came from, and how it was killed in those times, surely just pop down to your local amphitheatre.  I quite liked the old school Roman ways...except maybe the death penalty of course. 

So to sum the whole day up.  Rome is very big.  There were a lot of other things that we saw, and it seemed that every single corner had some sort of historic building behind it, in fact that is the case.  It was too much to take in.  I think when the scorching heat has dulled to just heat, I will pop back as much as possible and who knows, I might read up on the places I go beforehand!

Wednesday, August 24

24 agosto 2011

Short and snappy this entry.  Not because nothing much has happened, but because I am tired and I want to go to sleep!

So Mum and I are in a nearby town called Chieti.  We need bus tickets.  It's 2pm.  In Italy, this means shops are closed and therefore bus tickets are hard to come by.  Thankfully there was a news stand/shop just next to the bus stop so we go to enquire about bus tickets (not all newspaper shops sell them and this particular one lacked the necessary sign so it did not look promising).  Using my very poor Italian I managed to find out that they did sell bus tickets.  Because I am not a fan of hunting down bus tickets in 30+ degrees, I bought 10 and off we went to get the bus.  

Later that day we were walking along an avenue and I ask Mum if she saw the magazines in the shop earlier:  as I waited for the bus tickets I had looked down at the magazines in front of me and saw two, identical magazines but one for men and one for women, both of which had a naked person on the cover, and I mean naked, except for one strategically placed hand on both photo's.  I would imagine that these magazines were more the "health and fitness" type as the people were very happy and looked very healthy, but I found it funny that they were the two magazines right at the front and in the middle of the stand.  It turned out Mum hadn't noticed.  The reason for this was that she had been preoccupied after spying two, much more interesting, magazines. "Oh?" I said..."what were they about?".  Mum started laughing and exclaimed "...about funghi!".  Yep.  In this shop there was not just one magazine about mushrooms, oh no...there were two, two, magazines about mushrooms, and I can assure they were not about the "magic" kind.  They would fit right in on Have I Got News For You?

Tuesday, August 23

It's really hot...or 23 agosto 2011

Have I mentioned the heat yet?  Because it's very hot.  So hot I thought my new sandals were melting (they did only cost 5€).  It's a bit intense.  The temperature seems to stay permanently in the 30's (degrees Celsius obviously), with the highest I've seen on a pharmacy sign as 37...not quite the 15 degrees Google tells me London is currently in.

So we have used today to get my fiscal code (similar to our NI numbers and tax codes) and set up an italian SIM for my mobile.  Hoorah!  Just waiting for the registration to go through.  Fingers crossed.

Ah yes...we have also thought about my birthday (although I am always thinking about my birthday).  We have decided, with help from an Italian friend, that the best thing to do would be to go out for some arrosticini.  Wikipedia enlightens us on what this dish is...
Gli arrosticini sono spiedini di carne di castrato o di pecora tipici della cucina abruzzese ed in particolare delle zone pedemontane del Gran Sasso. In alcune zone anche chiamati invece rustelle o arrustelle oppure rostelle (nell'Imperiese).
Or for people who prefer reading english so they can understand it (courtesy of the very awful Google Translate...one day it will be my own translation...):

The kebabs [arrosticini] are skewered mutton or lamb typical of Abruzzese cuisine, in particular the foothills of the Gran Sasso.  In some areas, however, it is also called rustelle or arrustelle or rostelle (in Imperia).
 Yum Yum!!!!

Monday, August 22

20-22 agosto 2011

So we have arrived safely and have successfully purchased an unlimited internet access key/dongle, so now "Pakes in Pescara" can really start, all very exciting.  As there are essentially 3 days to cover below I have summed up the activities as best I can.  The events that follow aren't the only funny things to have happened, but they are the best!

20 agosoto 2011 (Saturday)

The 2 coaches were like any other coach journeys except: on the second coach (Victoria to Stansted) a man got on, and as it was raining, shook his umbrella before sitting down.  This of course is usual practice for umbrella bearers, however not so brilliant when the remnants of the raindrops fall on the passengers legs behind...yes, that be my legs, now covered in cold water.  And as my Mum said when we were reminiscing this event later, it wasn't just a light sprinkle!

Stansted airport was like any other airport except: on going through security my hand luggage was packed so tightly that it was too dense for the women on the x-ray machine to examine so it got searched.  I have never met anyone who could move so slowly whilst taking things out of a bag.  But I am sure she has never met anyone who had managed to get so much stuff into a bag.  We did laugh when she pulled out my New King James Bible as I said "Yep, that's my bible."  "Everyone needs one."  the lady replied. "Well I've got two!" as she pulled out my second bible.  It was then that Mum explained that I was in fact moving to Italy and not just heading there for a weeks holiday.

Departures was like any other departures except: as soon as I crossed the line from security into duty-free I was promptly asked "How long are you leaving the country?" *Dammit (was my initial thought....) do I tell the truth?!*  So of course, being an honest person, I proudly stated, with a smile, "at least 2 years".  The lady then looked at her clipboard and exclaimed "oh...I need another form.".  The time it took me to answer the questions on the form amounted to the exact time it took my Mum to use the toilet facilities. 

Yep, a Ryanair wing tip...

The flight was like any other flight except: there was a very beautiful family sat in-front of us, 2 boys: Mario-about 2 years old and Julio-a lively 1 year old, with their parents.   Now throughout the flight they were very entertaining, standing on their seats and smiling at us, singing songs and the like until...there I was...minding my own business (playing Angry Birds) when *bang*  *fizzzzz*  *splash*.   I look down and my legs are covered in water, again!  Little Mario had opened the water bottle and it had (obviously due to the pressure) burst open and just happened to spray backwards.  Mum found this hilarious, the man next to me said it was a joke and the family were all smiles and apologies!

The arrival to Pescara was like any other arrival except: we had 4 very heavy bags.  So after a long debate (that had been going on all day), we decided to go and get the bus into the centre of Pescara and then walk.  However, this was not a wise move as once off the bus and heading for my apartment our arms were at least twice their original length and our hands were blistering.  20kg is a lot, 20 bags of sugar say, or 20 kg weights...anyway the decision was made to get a taxi once we had made it to the station.  So a very friendly taxi man took us to my apartment for a mere €8 (considering it was literally 2 minutes round the corner we can estimate that taxi's are expensive here short trips).

21 agosto 2011 (Sunday)

Our walk around Pescara was like any other walk except: we were in need of food.  This was a problem because in Italy a Sunday really is a Sunday and nothing is open.  We did manage to find one supermarket that was open but we had walked in when there was only 5 minutes til closing.  Please imagine a "Supermarket Sweep" style shopping experience, picking up items that we needed but weren't necessarily what we were after.  For example, our bottle of orange juice turned out to be orange, lemon and carrot juice, the vitamin/once a day type juice.  Hilarious.

Mum finishing off her pizza!
Our evening dinner was like any other evening dinner except: twice the waitress attempted to give us food that wasn't ours.    It caused some hilarity amongst the staff as they teased the waitress for "liking us", but it did mean we actually left a 10% tip because she was very friendly.  The chef himself eventually brought our pizzas to us which was delicious.  Mum had a Divaola pizza and I had a Siciliana pizza followed by homemade Tiramisu, scrummy!

(Just one day left to report, I promise)

22 agosto 2011 (Monday)

The shopping trip was like any other shopping trip except: we had to buy an internet key.  This is much trickier when you cannot speak Italian.  After a good 20 minute wait, there proceeded a stereotypical conversation between a foreigner (being me) and shop assistant as with a limited knowledge of each others language the meaning of words gets lost, twisted and missed.  However we muddled through and I also bought a new mobile, a lovely Nokia brick.  Easy, I thought, until we realised that the mobile does not have a SIM card.  Amongst the conversation I somehow told the lady I needed the phone for the internet SIM card.  Genius.  When in reality I needed both an internet SIM for my laptop and a SIM for the mobile.  Any guesses for what I will be doing this afternoon.......

Monday, August 15

Unpacking, sorting and packing again.

Hmmm...not sure I'm liking this type of preparation for Italy.  I seem to be sitting in my room surrounded by stuff, literally stuff, that has been transported from London to the Isle of Wight.  I now have to put this "stuff" into a relevant space in my room.  Which, at the moment, is taken up by other "stuff" that has been sitting collecting dust for at least 3 years.  And then...what annoys me the most...once all the "stuff" has been put in a space in my room, I then need to select what things I need to take with me to Italy.

Part of me thinks that I shouldn't take anything, and the other part wants to take everything.  This is hard!

Saturday, August 13

sabato 13 agosto 2011

So I have been busy in England rallying round catching up with people and buying things ahead of my move.  One purchase I have found quite funny is The Rough Guide to Italy (Rough Guide publishes "the most readable, comprehensive and informative guide around" according to the quote from Cosmopolitan on the blurb).  Bought for 99p in a charity shop in Alton, and it's the fourth edition published in 1999, I leisurely looked up Pescara to have a gander and this is what I read....
"The main town and resort of the Abruzzo coast is PESCARA, a bustling, modern place that's probably the region's most commercial and expensive city.  Since ferries to the former Yugoslavia stopped running, there's little point in coming here; if you're looking for somewhere to sunbathe there are much nicer places.  But there's a chance you might pass through for the train or bus connections." *
Great!  I am moving to a city in Italy that there's "little point" in going to.  Marvellous!   Needless to say the two paragraph write up about the city continues:  "If you need to stay (and you should really try to avoid this if possible), there's a campsite... . "*.

Thankfully, friends and family, you have the luxury of my apartment to stay in when you visit.  And the guidebook seems to think that 20 minutes away there are places that are much more worth a visit, even using the word "pleasant"*.

Yet this article has not managed to dishearten my prospects of moving there, if anything it has described the city quite well.  For me it is all about the people and the culture, and yes, buildings do contribute somewhat to this, but not enough to change the fact that it is still an Italian city, with Italian people, Italian ways, and of course, Italian food!

* Belford, R., Dunford, M. and Wollfrey, C. The Rough Guide to Italy (Rough Guides Ltd: London, 1999), p. 742