“Arrivederci Roma!” – A Photo-essay.

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Well, I’ve returned from Rome having eaten my body weight in pasta and prosecco flowing through my veins! It was a well needed and if I say so myself, a very well deserved break too. :) For a while now, I’ve been looking into how people lived during the 30’s and 40’s ,  the war and post-war times when they had little to go by and while researching about places to stay at in Rome, we came across this old pre-war apartment that promised no bells and whistles but had managed to retain a lot of it’s antiquated glory. Slatted windows, high ceilings, ornate ghouls sculpted on the ceiling – the allure was endless! It fit in beautifully with the image I had built up in my head about what it might’ve felt like to live in Italy during Mussolini’s time. Since I wanted a complete break with life here in the UK, I wasn’t troubled by the lack of wi-fi or any other technolgical amenity, though the younger amongst us felt decidedly bereft of oxygen! The place was spartan, run by an 80-year-old who understood very little English so though it worked for us, I won’t recommend it.. It’s not what most would look forward to on holiday. :) If you’re a first timer in Rome, then you will probably want to click away at every building you see..I did – until I realised ‘I’m in Rome, and everything’s beautiful!':)

The song that stayed with me all through the holiday was El Pasador’s Amada Mia, Amore Mio- Have a listen while you scroll through the pics! :)

Apartment, Rome, architecture
Where we stayed on Via Ottaviano
Apartment, Rome, architecture
On the other side, a beautiful breakfast room!

My daughter enjoying the first day of sunshine …we’d had two very rainy days before this which was just tragic :)

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Rayna at the window…enjoying the sun in Rome. This pic was taken by Daniel Simm

We braved the weather and went into Vatican City on day 1 given that we were staying a ten minute walk away from it. Thankfully, the queue lasted about 20 minutes and we were in, macs, brollies and all!

St. Peter's Square, Vatican City, Rome
Piazza San Pietro, Vatican City, Rome

Nothing prepares you for the scale of opulence that awaits you. The medieval art and architecture are breathtaking and it all starts becoming real – the art of the most grandest artists in history right before you in unimaginable grandeur just leaves you spellbound. My daughters on the other hand were left a tad underwhelmed that all that talk about Raphael and Michaelangelo wasn’t really about the Ninja Turtles after all! 😛 Here are a few pictures from inside the Basilica, I’ve limited it to the well lit places where I could focus on the details of Michaelangelo and Bernini’s art!

St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, Rome
Piazza San Pietro Vatican City, Rome
St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, Rome
St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, Rome
St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, Rome
The ornate domes at St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, Rome
St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, Rome
Michaelangelo’s paintings on the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, Rome
St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, Rome
The gilted plasterwork inside St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, Rome
St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, Rome
Gilted plaster engraving on the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, Rome
St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, Rome
Bernini’s masterpieces at St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, Rome
St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, Rome
One of the showstoppers at St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, Rome
St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, Rome
Michaelangelo’s renowned Pietà at St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, Rome

 

Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museum
The opulent hallway leading to the Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museum. Sadly we couldn’t take photographs in the chapel!
Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museum
The gilted spiral stairway at the Vatican Museum

The best advice I ever got was to take my walking shoes… We walked pretty much everywhere and by the end of our stay, we realised we’d walked almost all around Rome. The magnificent ruins, the gorgeous Piazzas never seemed to run out of things you could see…Most of the newer buildings in Rome are built in the style of the old, blending seamlessly into the renaissance landscape of the city. Here are some pics of the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, The Forum and The Pantheon.

The Colosseum, Rome
The Colosseum, Rome
The Colosseum, Rome
The Colosseum, Rome
Palatine Hill, The Forum, Rome
Palatine Hill, The Forum, Rome
Palatine Hill, The Forum, Rome
Palatine Hill, The Forum, Rome
The Pantheon, Rome
The Pantheon, Rome

I was personally bowled over by the Fontana Di Trevi! There was something so large and overwhelming about it that held you captive for the longest time – that for me was the highlight of Rome! The buskers that played nearby, amplified by the natural accoustics that the ancient world knew so well left an indelible impression of the place. For a while, with one particular Spanish guitarist playing Ottmar Liebert, Paco De Lucia and other Bossa Nova artists, I almost believed my Spotify playlist had been hacked ! :)

Trevi Fountain, Rome
Trevi Fountain, Rome
Trevi Fountain, Rome
The Majestic Trevi Fountain, Rome. This pic was taken by Daniel Simm who’s great at long exposures! :)

There was a small carnival on at the Piazza Venezia during our stay and the local children were out, dressed up in costumes, throwing rice and confetti at the performers! There was an air of celebration as vibrant tunes of Electonica and Italian Pop filled the air.

Carnival at Piazza Venezia
Carnival at Piazza Venezia
Carnival at Piazza Venezia
Every woman’s beautiful 😉 -Carnival at Piazza Venezia
Carnival at Piazza Venezia
Carnival at Piazza Venezia
Carnival at Piazza Venezia
Carnival at Piazza Venezia
Venetian Masks at the Carnival at Piazza Venezia
Venetian Masks at the Carnival at Piazza Venezia
New Sheriff in town - Venetian Masks  and more at the Carnival at Piazza Venezia
New Sheriff in town – Venetian Masks and more at the Carnival at Piazza Venezia
 Carnival at Piazza Venezia
Carnival at Piazza Venezia

 

 Carnival at Piazza Venezia
Levitating Yogi at the Carnival at Piazza Venezia

We wandered into a lovely restaurant right near the Trevi Fountain called Sacro & Profano, which boasted the best Calabrese food in Rome. We weren’t disappointed and I highly recommend anyone visiting to snag a seat here in this deconsecrated church dating back to 1199! The price tag is modest for what it offers and we had a meal with drinks and coffee for 3 adults and 2 children for around €125 . The owner was very accomodating and welcoming, inviting me to take pictures anywhere I chose to and use it as I saw fit. The more than affable staff made our meal very comfortable, conversing amiably about restaurant favourites and the history of the place! The interiors date back 100’s of years and the improvisation is achingly cool. It’s a pity that I got there after dark and couldn’t get good pics as I’m dead opposed to artificial lighting :) but here’s a taster, you’ll pretty much get the picture of what awaits you when you visit.

 

Ristorante Sacro&Profano
Ristorante Sacro&Profano
Fresco inside Ristorante Sacro&Profano
Fresco inside Ristorante Sacro&Profano
Fresco inside Ristorante Sacro&Profano
Fresco inside Ristorante Sacro&Profano

The menu was extensive and I ordered me a linguine with squid ink and calamari, the photograph was lost to the low lighting and the jet-blackness of the dish, but it was lush and I won’t hesitate to have it again! This is what the rest of the family ordered :)

Pizza Rustica Calabresa

Pizza Rustica Calabresa, italian food
Pizza Rustica Calabresa

Gorgeous lasagne with parmigiano and meat sauce which was a massive hit with my daughter who’s not keen on food! It doesn’t taste like British Lasagne in the least, I wish I knew why :)

Lasagne Rustica Calabresa
Lasagne Rustica Calabresa
Fettucine with pancetta and fennel!
Fettucine with Pancetta and Fennel!

 

Spaghetti alle Vongole
Spaghetti alle Vongole

Spaghetti alle Vongole

I manged to bag the recipe for the Spaghetti alle vongole, a classic central and southern Italian dish –  here it is :

500g (or 300g, if dried) Spaghetti, fresh
50g Shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves Garlic, chopped
50ml Extra virgin olive oil
500g Clams with their shells
100ml White wine
20g Parsley, flat leaf, roughly chopped
½ Lemon, juiced
Get cooking…
  1. In a large saucepan of boiling, salted water, cook your spaghetti following the cooking Instructions on the packet, and keep aside covered with a damp, warm towel
  2. In a large sauce pan, over medium heat, soften the shallots and garlic in the olive oil for Three minutes with no colour. Add the clams & white wine, cover with a lid and cook on full Heat for 2 minutes until the shells just open. Add lemon juice, parsley, the cooked spaghetti and mix. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
  3. Serve in a large bowl immediately with fresh garlic bread and a glass of white wine. Birra Moretti or Birra Peroni goes well too!

No day ends well if you haven’t had Gelato-the classic organic, fresh, natural ice-cream that’s synonymous with fun, not just for kids! How can anyone resist the lure of flavours like hazelnut and butterscotch praline, sour cherry, nougat, coconut & lime and cinnamon strudel? That apart from the regular strawberry, chocolate and crema; albeit they’re all amped up a few notches from our best supermarket buys…Ben& Jerry’s and Häagen-Dazs paled in comparison to even the more casual gelatos we had at L’Arena del Gelato , a delightful Gelato house right outside Vatican City! Again, a fine little place for little ones to be themselves, you’re not rushed, in fact you can stay as long as you like and taste as many flavours before you make up your mind. Giuseppe Longobardi, the owner,  is friendly and warm and is keen on making his business a place you associate good times with!  At a gentle 21, he’s keenly focussed on getting L’Arena Del Gelato a big spot on the culinary map of the city. All the gelato is handmade by his family and is totally free from any nasties!

Giuseppe Longobardi, owner of L'Arena del Gelato
Giuseppe Longobardi, owner of L’Arena del Gelato. In many ways, the man makes the place; check out his fab Tripadvisor reviews and make sure you visit!
Butterscotch and Hazelnut Gelato
Butterscotch and Hazelnut Gelato
Fresh organic gelato, homemade
Fresh organic gelato, homemade
Heaven in a cone! Gelato
Heaven in a cone!

Ever since I’ve been back, I’ve had to remind myself that No, it’s not Ok to want to have a Prosecco with your lunch in England, especially if that lunch is had at home, by yourself! 😛

Prosecco, bubbly, wine, spumante
Everything’s better with Prosecco!

I didn’t throw a coin in at the Trevi Fountain, I’m far too much of a realist for that ; but there’s something magical enough about the place that draws you to it long after you’ve left and I don’t doubt that I’ll return someday!  For now, I’ll have to be content with my Duty Free pleasures of Rome and with every biscotti and every sip of Limoncello, it’s Arrivederci Roma! :) x

My daughter's goodbye note to Italy! :) Postcard, Rome, arrivederci roma
My daughter’s love note to Italy! :)

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We are away in slightly sunnier Italy! :)

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Italy, postcardm out of office

We are away in Rome and Florence for a week so I’ll get back to all your lovely comments when I’m back! :) I’m looking forward to the downtime and a total break from the internet (You know how we bloggers get sucked into Social Media overindulgence!:P) . It’s going to be all about the sights, the food and drink and having some quality time with the family! :) I’m also dead excited about the phenomenal photo opportunities that I’ll have-I do love my camera! So, there’ll be a travel post and loads of pics on here over the next few weeks, do check back in! :)

See you shortly, please do stay and look through some of my popular posts and if you’d take a moment click here and nominate me for the MAD Blog awards, I would be chuffed beyond words, Thank you!  :)

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“To dream of Caramel, and think of Cinnamon…”

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Well, if you’re anything like me, and have your memories organised by the city you lived in, the homes you moved, the people you filed your memories in, so on and so forth;  then you’ll know that every year in your memory is forgrounded by the playlists you hummed incessantlty , the  movies you watched (often more than once, and then proceeded to read everything that’s ever been written about them), and little things you obsessed over – the particular kitchenware, a lamp, a bag! Shoes!! (2011 was the year of my first Chanel, and the The Waterboys sang to me about Trumpets !! )

Since there’s generally such a paucity of things written about summing up a year, I thought it’s only fair, new blog and all, that I add my scrumptious two-penny’s worth of input! With none other than Suzanne Vega setting the tone for this post with her lovely Caramel ” It won’t do
To dream of caramel,To think of cinnamon, And long for you.”♫ ;I’ve cooked my books and tallied up my worth-it moments and on this rainy evening, with a nice Assam-blended spicy-chai by the pot full, I begin writing to you!   I thought I’d share a few things that made life special for me!  Nothing life-changing, or  brilliant, just everyday things in an ordinary life! The magic of it probably lies in the details…. and for someo imaklkges ne who’s as easily pleased with life, as me, it probably all boils down to a few good songs, a book or two, a little travel and a few stupendous films. I spend entirely too much time on all these pursuits and have decided to pick one from each genre to share with you.  Hopefully, I’m still off the beaten track, for frankly, my absurdity is really all that I can offer you :P

Let me flag this off with introducing you to a small, fairly unknown band and a song that I fell in love with!  Bloom by The Paper Kites – probably sounds a bit too adolescent for 30-something comfort, but it’s true! It changed the landscape of my heart and made me fall in love with the fact that I have a big hunk o’ love in my life ! :D It’s easy to forget giving that it’s due when you have it, you know, and every now and then, something comes along to unlock that part in your heart, where you end up spending the hour dancing with your family whilst you wait for the washing to be done!!  The Paper Kites have (for me), the right amount of Indie/Folk, (right there between Jose Gonzalez and Jack Johnson), just the right time of day for making a video, and just the right name for their bass guitarist, Sam Rasmussen – very 30-something-worthy reasons to love a band!! ♫ Can I be close to you …… ?♫ I think it’ll be the sound I remember a lot of 2013 to!

Watched what came as a highly recommended film –  Café De Flore. And what a movie it was !!  A tragic love story about people separated by time and circumstance, and the unending lure of a soul mate!  Do we subconsciously continue to be connected to people we lose in love ? The film oscillates between the the corresponding lives of Jacqueline, a young mother and her Downs Syndrome son in 1960s Paris, and Antoine, a recently divorced, up-and-coming DJ in a 30-year-later Montreal. Weaving the two tragic strains together is tenderness and euphoric, obsessive love. And if any of you are Woody Allen fans, you’ll find yourself haunted, just as you are after his films, with a central musical theme! Sophie Hunger’s  voice stays with you a long time…and then there’s Sigur Ros! And Dr. Rockit (I can-not cook without this sountrack in my kitchen -(my favourite place, high on fairy lights and my dearest artwork) and on more energetic days, this is enough to transport me right onto a  dance floor! TMI, I know :)) Well, find the entire soundtrack here!  A brilliant story of letting go, of change and embracing what it brings! As my sn often quotes to me from the Matrix, “You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland and I show you just how deep this rabbit hole goes.” Very Cafe De Flore! :)

By Daniel Simm
By Daniel Simm

Read Starter for Ten : I’m unceremoniously cutting and pasting from Rotten Tomatoes here for I cannot sum up better : “A working-class English boy who has been fortunate enough to be accepted into a posh private university struggles to realize his lifelong dream while simultaneously winning the heart of the girl he loves in a romantic, bittersweet comedy .The time is the mid-’80s, and the University Challenge phenomenon is sweeping through England. Despite his underprivileged background, Essex boy Brian Jackson,  knows that he has what it takes to make it to the finals on one of the most popular programs in all of England. Upon being accepted into Bristol, the ambitious young student soon tries out for the school’s University Challenge team, and set the gears of his ultimate fantasy into motion. Effectively estranged from his single-parent mother (Catherine Tate) just for being accepted into the school, Brian soon gets set to cross yet another class line when he becomes smitten with his beautiful University Challenge teammate and attempts to woo her into his arms her with his formidable advanced general knowledge skills.”

I loved Brian saying : “I admit it. I’d made some mistakes. Okay, some big mistakes. Loads of them. But you can’t hide in your room forever feeling sorry for yourself. It’s not practical. At some point, you’ve got to get back out there, face up to things, and confront your demons. Ever since I can remember, I’d wanted to be clever. Some people are born clever, same way some people are born beautiful. I’m not one of those people. I’m going to have to work at it, put in the effort, and if I mess it up, I’ll learn from it. Besides, sometimes it’s not about knowing the right answer. Sometimes it’s about asking the right questions.” Very “Everyman” ! Watch the trailer , but read the book, they probably used 50 pages of it for the film, and it’s a good five times better- way more wryly humourous! :P You will have to spend a day with yourself, laughing it off!

By Daniel Simm

 I went to Venice, Murano and Burano recently, of course fell in love with everything, lived through every cliche- and succumbed to them all!!  One of the loveliest outcomes of it was that I learned how to make some fantastic Italian food – simple, home-grown goodness. I met a chef who wouldn’t accept that I can’t cook, took me to his kitchen, and showed me… simple? Si, Grazie!!  Here are some of my favourites! Piadine Romagnole and Gamberoni Peperonchino ! Very splop-able, very good! For a hilarious read on cheffy, at-home cooking, read this. Genevieve Fox says it better than I could’ve ever hoped to ; the great tragedy of Haute Homemade! Food Origami….no Ikebana, you get the point! :)

Italian food, pizza, pasta
By Daniel Simm & Kanchan Char

I’ve had two weeks with my children on my own and seen them in such a different light – they’ve suddenly gone from something that I viewed as being a shared possession, OURS, to being their own little people!  They are intelligent children – and I say that solely on their ability to gauge that their survival is directly proportional to their behaviour! I also realised, with a degree of trepidation, that at nearly 7 and 5.5, these memories of a winter holiday with me as their only go-to parent, are going to probably stay forever! We’ve had unstoppable re-runs of The Nutter-Cracker in our living room after they’ve been to see Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker earlier this month! We’ve had fairy cakes and chocolate logs (homemade, may I add with great pride -hard on the eyes, but little drops of heaven on your tastebuds!), babychinos & hot-choc with marshmallows, all too often for a dieters comfort; whilst reading Peter Pan and Puss In Boots, rather regressively!! We’ve joyously concluded that the sole purpose of winter is to embrace all things ‘warming’, heating notwithstanding!!

children, sisters, ballet, mini boden, frugi, joules
By Kanchan Char & Daniel Simm

So, as the rain has drummed on in it’s relentless pitter-patter, and though we’ve stayed up all night through a raging storm,( Gothic enough for me to believe that we indeed inhabit Northanger Abbey), and as I’ve scuffled around, ill-prepared, trying to light scented candles during a power cut; I maintain that it’s  been a wonderful journey! And ending especially nicely with daddy’s return to take over and give mommy a well deserved break 😛 ! We’ve also been busy making a large, very OTT,  Welcome Home Banner! : D A girl’s got to keep her sanity…

I hope that you have had a lovely time as well and have found beautiful moments that will bookmark time for you! Would love to hear what yours were and love even more, if you could leave me reccos to your fave sound, watch and read!! XXX

 

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