Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Sound Track of Summer

This trip came with a soundtrack. There was a series of songs that were played on repeat in Europe from beginning of the trip through to end. Sometimes we sang along. Sometimes we danced. Sometimes they just drove us nuts.
They are songs that we will probably always associate with this trip. Here they are:
  • Waka Waka (this time for Africa) - Shakira
  • Alejandro - Lady Gaga
  • Hey Soul Sister - Train
  • We Speak no Americano
  • Je Veuz - Zaz
  • Te Amo - Rhianna
  • Wavin Flag - KNaan
  • Airplanes - BoB ft Haley Williams
  • Breakyour heart - Taio Cruz
  • California Gurls - Katy Perry
  • Plus anything by David Guetta

Rounding it all off in Rome

Last stop of the trip... Rome.

We arrived Sunday afternoon after a 3 hour train ride from Siena. Sundays are a good time to be in Rome as all of the roads are closed to traffic which makes it easier to wander the streets. So we hit the road immediately to visit the Colosseum which was literally at the end of our street (another fantastic hotel choice!)
The Colosseum is a great site. One of the real tourist attractions that are still fascinating, particularly if you try to imagine what actually went on there and how it would have looked in all of its glory.

After the Colosseum, we chose a cute vine-covered restaurant outside our hotel to sit and have a drink. A drink turned into another.. and then dinner.. and then more drinks.. until we were the last ones there and were being told to leave! It was a good night in a cute place. And we tasted Rome's specialty, Pasta Carbonara, done the proper way with bacon, egg and cheese only. Apparently if anyone puts cream in a Carbonara, they 'must be egyptian'. Might have to tell this to the bad chef in Venice who served us a dreadful milky one!

More sightseeing occurred on day 2, with us visiting the Roman Forum and Palatine (lots of old rocks and remnants of old rome), the Pantheon (another church), Trevi Fountain (speccy) and just general roaming around in Rome. We walked for ages to get to what looked like the Spanish Steps on the map..but turned out to be an unimpressive spanish building. Oops. We never found the actual steps.

We were so impressed by the restaurant last night that we went back there again for dinner of steaks with pepper sauce. Delicious!!! During the day we had found a nice big square which had signs up saying that the Miss Roma competition was on that night - so we headed back there to check out Rome's talent. WE also checked out a 'cat sanctuary' that's in the middle of the city. It consists of  old ruins with hundreds of cats living there and getting looked after. Then off to bed.. our last night in Europe!

 Day 3 involved a quick trip to the Vatican. We got there at 11:55am, and then saw a sign saying the whole square and dome would be closed at 12 noon for an International Convention of Alterboys.. or something. So we pretty much just snapped some pics and headed away for our last meal. Note our days are almost entirely revolving around food!!

Rome is a fascinating city to visit. So different to see the old old old stuff next to not-as-old stuff, and even new stuff. But it was VERY touristy (busiest of anywhere we've been) and was also VERY hot. We're over people now. Let's go home, hey?

Sightseeing in Siena

We ended up having a great time in Siena. It is a quiet, walled, medieval town, with lots of windy roads and plenty of sights to see. We saw its famous square, where its famous horse race is run each year. We went to the museum so we could climb the 'panorama' wall attached to it, with views over all of the tiled roofs and out to the tuscan hills. And we went into the Duomo - which was quite a speccy church.

The main attraction for us in Siena though was the nearness to the Chianti wine region, which we explored on our "Chianti and Castles tour". As part of the tour, we visited two little medieval towns. One was the capital of Chianti. The other was a town built when Siena and Florence were at war. They were both surrounded by walls and were really pretty. Then we hit the wineries.

Wine tastings are quite different in Italy to Australia. They take you on a tour of their entire winery, showing you all of the different steps in the wine making process.. then they sit you at a table with cheese, salami, bread, oil, etc and you work your way through the wines. It is more of a formal situation compared to ours, with the wine makers talking you through each wine and demonstrating how to taste properly and explore the colour, smell, etc.

We visited one 'big' winery (which still seemed pretty small) and then a really small one run by just one guy. This was the best one as it was very personal. And he had great cheese!

There was 5 other people in our tour. An American couple, a Philipino couple and a solo American traveller who is studying Opera in Italy. After our tasting she got up and sang a little opera for us.. and then we all drank Grappa. A wonderful taste of Tuscany.

That night we ensured that we tasted some Tuscan specialties recommended to us by our tour guide. Adam had a pasta with Wild Boar sauce (similar to bolognaise but much richer) and a pizza. Jess had a bread and vegetable soup specific to the area, followed by pici (a thick tuscan spaghetti) in a pesto sauce. Adams dishes won hands down. Man, are we getting fat...