Archive for the ‘Rome’ Tag

A Review of 2017   18 comments

I’ve read quite a few blog post in the past few days reviewing other peoples 2017 exploits. I enjoyed them so much I thought I’d do the same. Good excuse to look back through my photos and remember what we got up to. At my age I need help remembering stuff!.

Acutely conscious of the modern trend for these awful “round robin” letters you get at Xmas (we get one of these smugograms every year) I tried to select photos that bring back a particular memory for me so its more a personal, family introspection on outdoorsy stuff, than a blow by blow account of the year. As its based on my photo collection if I didn’t photograph it, it ain’t here!


We started the year off in Tenerife and New Years Day was spent on this rather splendid beach (the earlier part of the day was in the mountains but I cocked up the photos from that part of the day!)


Returning to the British winter, a walk along the Cats Back in the Black Mountains with TBF, memorable for a cloud inversion after a very wet morning. A reminder that despite our travels we are lucky to have some stunning scenery on our doorstep


A solo day out in the Brecon Beacons, the first snowy walk near to home and pretty much the only one with significant snow during the early part of the year (made up for it at the end)


A glorious day out in the Black Mountains with TJS and a cooked breakfast on a cold Table Mountain. I like this photo though as it has Mynydd Troed in centre shot, my very first mountain climbed when I was about 10


And my usual skiing trip (only a weekend this year) to finish off the month. Snow was a bit rubbish but we had a laugh nonetheless



Another solo day on Fan Fawr in the Brecon Beacons. I remember this day for a very mild Friday afternoon (16C) and snow in the mountains 18 hours later


A short walk with TBF on Hatterall Hill



The first weekend of the month is always spent in Scotland with friends of long standing. A new location at Bridge of Orchy and a two out of three days were magnificent winter days. The walk along this ridge high above Rannoch Moor on the first day was superb


Me and TJS also managed a cheeky backpack into the Black Mountains. Straight from work on the Friday for a one nighter in my new tent. Need to do more of these this year


2017 is the year I rediscovered cycling – mainly to help my knee and also to be less of a lazy layabout during the week. The Hardman – a VERY keen and VERY fit cyclist caught wind and insisted we meet up in the Peak for a trip along a couple of the old railway trails. A cracking sunny day and I survived cycling with the Hardman!


And we finally managed a meet up in the Berwyns with Uncle Fester after a few aborted attempts



More cycling and solo trip through the Brecon Beacons on the “Gap” route. Cycling to over 600m was a first for me and I started to feel that I almost, might, actually enjoy cycling.


Easter and a major backpacking trip with TJS to the Cairngorms. The weather was wild and windy but we had a couple of superb wild camps and TJS bagged his first Scottish 4000 footer


I even coaxed TJF out for a bike ride along the Brecon and Usk canal


May Day weekend was mostly in April. Mixed weather but we had a fine gaggle of friends on a hike around Greendale, taking in Buckbarrow and Seatallan



No finer way to celebrate a birthday than a lunchtime hike. This one was on one of my local hills, Bryn Arw with TBF


Followed by a weekend away in Cornwall. It almost felt tropical on the white sands just north of Padstow on one of our walks


Whitsun weekend was spent with our good friends in Silverdale. The Sunday was a real winner with a long but easy stroll and a fantastic pub lunch. Weather was mixed the rest of the time but great company, many laughs and a chance to relax



A different walk from the usual mountains. One of the small hills that overlook Gloucester and across to the Cotswolds. Not something I’d do every day but a nice change


One of the highlights of the year was the long-planned backpacking trip with the kids into the Howgills. Despite poor weather we gave it a go and it was a huge success. The kids really enjoyed the adventure and I’m hoping they have caught the wild camping bug



After the backpack trip I was out of action for a few weeks recuperating and resting after a minor knee op. Didn’t affect my water based fun though, a nice albeit far too long trip down the river Wye


By the end of July I was back in the hills again (the knee op has been a great success I’m pleased to say). A fine evening stroll with TBF and TJS on Ysgyryd Fawr (we even took a cheeky cold beer to drink on the top)


Another “local walk for local people” – this time Garway Hill where we reached the top, saw this nasty storm approaching and raced it back to the car. We won.


Late July brings the annual camping trip to Towyn Farm on the Llyn Peninsula. We packed in lots of walks and beach fun in a very mixed few days of weather. My abiding memory though was this game of Kubb which was huge fun with both adults and kids alike taking it far too seriously and larking about in equal measure. A happy afternoon



The big family trip of the year, a rail trip around some of Europe’s finest cities. An real change from our usual outdoor camping trips and it was real success. We all took took to the city life rather well you might say. One of my best ever holidays. A few photos that made me smile

One of the many fountains in Paris (we called this one the fountain of throttled fish)


A monster thunderstorm in Turin


My favourite seafront walk in Venice


The Colloseum in Rome – of course


Schloss Belvedere in Vienna (courtesy of an unplanned extra couple of hours from a very late train)


The thermal baths in Budapest – “like taking a bath in a wedding cake”


A stroll along the Spree river in Berlin on a sunny Sunday afternoon


And the railway bridge over the Rhine in Cologne



Back to earth with a bump. A few days after the heat and sun of Europe we were walking in the Black Mountains in driving rain and cold winds!


But there was still enough warm weather left for a round of the hills near the Talybont Reservoir in the Brecon Beacons



A walk with friends in the Roaches on the dreariest day of the year (when everywhere else was sunny – I’m not bitter)


More evidence of my new found cycling passion (probably too strong a word). A ride around the tracks of the New Forest while TJS took a look around Southampton University


And why settle for one trip to see major cities when you can do it twice. As a special treat for TJS 18th Birthday we spent a week in Barcelona. Probably my favourite city but despite all its famous sights, this little known hill and its view overlooking the city was my favourite spot



After sunshine comes the reality of winter. A couple of cold but beautiful days. One in the Black Mountains on the Sugar Loaf and Crug Mawr


And one of my favourite walks in the Black Mountain


A delayed birthday treat weekend for TBF saw us in Padstow for a couple of nice meals and walks along the Cornish coast and Dartmoor



And last into the proper depths of winter. The first snows saw me and TJS head into the highest peaks of the Black Mountains


The day after saw the biggest dump of snow I’ve seen in my own backyard for many a year. Walks around my village in deep snow under crisp blue skies were wonderful


The start of the Xmas holidays is marked with an annual get together of my University friends and their families. Always great fun but this year we could climb the hills in snow (rather than wet rain) and play at snowballs


Finally coming full circle with a return to the Canary Islands to spend Xmas in Lanzarote and Xmas Day sunning ourselves on the beach


Well I enjoyed looking through my photos, choosing a few and reliving a great year. Hope you enjoyed it too. All the best for 2018 🙂

Rome – The Colloseum   14 comments


One of the worlds most iconic sites and I was really looking forward to seeing it up close. We’d already had a wander around on our first evening and it looks splendid when lit up




After our first day of walking I was restless after 30 minutes or so and went out on my own to have a closer look and check out the ticket office and such like


By late afternoon there was a pleasant atmosphere about the place and I enjoyed taking a full 360 walk around


The Arch of Constantine and the beautiful Umbrella Pines made a lovely foreground



Late afternoon is a good time to see the Colloseum, the sun is in just the right place to light its features perfectly



It gave me chance to check out the queues for our full visit in the morning. We’d purchased both our site entrance tickets and a tour in advance online in the hope it would reduce our queuing time and so it proved



We returned for a late evening look after our Gelato run


With a nice sunset over Il Vittoriano to end the day


Our Ancient Rome day started off in great style. TJS had secured an A* for his first A-Level which we were all immensely proud of. A reward for a lot of hard work. What better way to celebrate than a visit to the Colloseum


The entrance looks a little chaotic at first glance. Even at 9am it was busy and there was a long queue. As we had our tickets in advance we skipped that queue and were through security and ready to go after 15 minutes. We had plenty of time for an initial look before our tour started. It’s an amazing place as you’ll see from the plethora of photos I took.

My new camera takes really good panorama shots (none of my other cameras do them at all well) but it took till now to work that out. You’ll see loads more in the rest of the posts (just click on them to enlarge)


We’d booked onto the tour that takes you out into the centre of the arena, down to the Underground Hypogeum and up to the third level. Here is a replica of one of the trap doors used in the shows. The Arena floor was covered in sand during the shows as it soaked up the blood and was easier to clean. Interestingly the word arena originates from here, it means sand-strewn place of combat in latin.


The tour was excellent, primarily as you get a really good background into the history of this iconic building as well as a chance to ask questions (the tour guide was great and very knowledgeable.


You get go down to the underground areas (the tour is commonly known as the Underground Tour) where the normal entrance tickets don’t allow you to go. The underground lift (replica) that takes animals, gladiators and the like up through the trap doors to the arena.


There were not as many deaths as people think in these shows. Animals and gladiators were much prized and whoever provided them had to be compensated if they died so it was avoided if at all possible. However they were undeniably bloody


I was actually a little disappointed with the underground part. I’d hoped we’d be shown around the maze of passages and rooms where all the behind (or perhaps under) the scenes work took place.I fact we just got peer in from the edge


The tour then takes you up to the third level, again for tour groups only. The views down to Constantine’s Arch and across the arena was magnificent



When it was in its full glory everything was clad in gleaming white marble. Everything you see today (other than a few spots where they have restored the marble) is effectively the inner construction. In the main it was made very much like today with clay bricks and mortar


As a football fan, I was fascinated that the design of modern stadiums has changed very little since the Colloseum was built. I could picture the place in full use and being very similar to my own club’s Etihad stadium. The ticket system was also remarkably similar, telling you the right entrance point, the block of seats and the seat row and number. What have the Romans ever done for us? 🙂


This is one of the few modern parts. The buttress is there to stop the Colloseum collapsing after it was badly damaged by an earthquake



It took a mere 8 years to build, a staggering achievement. You can just see the cupola on top of St Peters Basilica between these two towers


The Underground Tour is insanely popular and very difficult to book onto. You have to be online pretty much the minute the tickets  become available. I did and we got lucky. Whilst having a guided tour is really great the bits you get to see as “extras” don’t add much over what everyone else sees. If you do visit and can’t get a spot then a normal ticket and perhaps an audio guide would do fine


Once the tour finished we were free to wander around the ground and first floor levels. It was pretty busy but not so busy that you couldn’t take in the impressive spectacle


Whenever I see one of these ruined places I’m always torn between whether I want to see them fully restored in all their glory or see them as they are now and let your imagination do the rest. What do you think?



I was always slightly appalled that these buildings and many like them tend to get stripped of their finery and used to create other buildings. I believe that the many statues that used to adorn the Colloseum were ground down to make mortar of all things. Apparently this has never been seen as an issue more a natural order of things. All buildings are of their time and should be re-used to create the next architectural wonder it seems


We wandered around for another hour and could have stayed longer (well I could have). There are also some excellent exhibitions to look at the history. One showed that the Colloseum had a canvas roof supported by masts that protected the crowds from sun and rain. I never knew that




The Roman Empire fell in the 5th Century and after that the Colloseum fell into disrepair and became overgrown. Over time it served as glorified stable, church and fortress among other things. Luckily enough of survived so we can still see its glory today


The ground floor gives almost as good views of the Hypogeum as the tour itself



Its one of those places that you just want to keep looking at. Even more so when you consider its age, the complexity of its construction and the ravages of time, earthquakes and modern age interruptions like Metro construction




Eventually the family gave me that “we’ve had enough” look and we reluctantly took our leave


There is so much more history of the place to share but there are hundreds of the books on the subject which I won’t cut and paste here. If you do visit I can recommend the Electa guide (one for the Colloseum, one for the Forum/Palatino) which are pocket-size, cheap and packed with facts and history. Wish I’d read them before the visit


We headed back to the apartment for lunch, taking advantage of the fact it was only a 10 minute walk away. There was more Ancient Rome to see in the afternoon

Posted September 23, 2017 by surfnslide in Cities, Rome

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A Tale of Eight Cities   20 comments


Kids and how to keep them happy on holidays. Both of mine have grown up with radically different interests especially when it comes to leisure time. TJS loves walking and backpacking through the mountains. TJF loves chilling and when encouraged some adventurous climbing and water based fun. Neither enjoys the others preferences. I was stuck for this years holiday, keen to keep the family trips going as long as possible as University years approach, without one or both of them looking bored.


Several of my friends have been focusing more on cities than our traditional outdoor trips (Barcelona, Nice to name but two). I mentioned doing something similar more out of desperation than anything else, expecting a lukewarm response. I was taken aback when both of them (and TBF) were positively enthusiastic about the possibility of a summer trip to bag a few key European cities as it were. The idea was born and the holiday planner in me sprang into action.


After much deliberation we centered the trip around Italy and Eastern Europe having never been to either. Train travel was our chosen transport method and we were all excited by the prospect of doing the whole thing by train (and bus) and being liberated from the cossetted world of the car and the endless tedium that is air travel. Thanks to the amazing website, The Man in Seat 61 (I lost hours trawling through its pages) that travel planning was easy and booking rail tickets was simple. It’s a mine of information, almost all of it helpful and unerringly accurate


Rome and Venice were certainties as was a more modern city in Berlin. I wanted to see Budapest although that got a lukewarm reception (very misguided). As we had to travel through Paris it seemed prudent to spend a couple of days there. In addition long journeys from Paris to Venice and Berlin back home dictated a couple of stopovers in Turin and Cologne. That makes seven. City number eight came courtesy of one very delayed train and an unexpected chance of a couple of hours in Vienna.


I wanted to spend at least a few days in each of our major stays so a 3.5 week trip was in order to take advantage of the Bank Holiday. We used Apartments for multi night stays and cheap quad room hotels for the single nights. Over the course of the planning, hotels were booked, rail tickets purchased (including several first class tickets – European rail travel is exceptionally cheap if you book ahead). A few key attractions and tours were reserved. We packed light, just one rucksack each.  We were ready.


Never having done anything like this before I thought the trip could go two ways. It would be a disaster and we’d hate it, vowing to put it down to experience and never attempt such a thing again. Alternatively it would be an amazing, fantastic experience that we’d want to do again. I’m not giving too much away to say it was most definitely the latter! 🙂


We saw and did a quite staggering amount of stuff. I took thousands – yes really – of photos so its going to take me a while to write all this up. I’m planning one general post about each city and the related journeys and some more specific posts about places or days that deserve them. It will take me a while


I’ve dropped a photo from each city into this post as a taster to get you in the mood. There was plenty of sun, tons of great food, bucket loads of ice cream, amazing sights and experiences and a lot of laughter (much of it at TBF’s expense bless her!). First instalment tomorrow, hopefully.

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