We’re all tourists in some shape or form. If you’ve ever visited anywhere outside of where you live, with the intention of seeing a place or an attraction, then you’re a tourist. I know this information hurts hardened travellers – you know, people who have given up their homes and jobs to spend their life savings on a round the world trip; living on dried noodles and sleeping in mud huts with holes in the roof* But it’s true.
Whether it’s a day trip, a week in an all inclusive hotel or living nomadically from country to country, we’re all tourists.
If you follow me on Instagram you may have noticed that I went to Rome for a few days before Christmas, to celebrate my 40th birthday.
You may also have noticed that we almost never made it out of Luton airport.
In case you don’t follow me on insta (you should, by the way, shameless plug of link to my account here) or if their silly algorithm means you don’t see my posts, here’s what happened.
Our flight from Luton was at 6.40am on the Monday morning, so we travelled down the day before and stayed in a hotel near the airport. Early start (3am alarm, eek) was fairly uneventful and we checked in and went to buy some currency (because dimwit here had forgotten to collect the euros I’d pre-ordered from the Post Office, d’oh!) I bought some bits from Boots (2 more travel plugs to ad to our growing – but missing – collection) and had a tasty breakfast with a cocktail to start an exciting and momentous trip. All was well, so with 20 minutes until the departure gate opened we had a browse in WH Smith to buy some magazines for the flight.
When we came to pay, we of course needed one of our boarding passes, which of course wasn’t a problem because they were safely in an envelope in my handbag alongside the passports. Except they weren’t. No boarding cards, no envelope and no passports. Cue frantic retracing of steps to the restaurant and boots (to no avail), heart in mouth and panic sweats. The husband, it must be pointed out, was taking things remarkably well (for him) and stayed fairly level headed and non-angry, despite the fact that the look in his eyes said otherwise. We raced back to security in the hope that someone had handed them in (as I reasonably pointed out, if you found some travel documents in an airport you’d have to be a total shit to throw them away) and THANK GOD a smiling security lady located them under a desk and gave them back to a calm-on-the-outside-frantic-on-the-inside me! I hadn’t even left them in the security tray after scanning though, no, they hadn’t even got that far. When I was putting my liquids in a bag, before the security check, I’d left the envelope on a shelf. An envelope which, with being shoved in and out of my bag on the journey so far, could easily have been mistaken for some tatty old rubbish,
Total muppet – it was almost a birthday to remember for all the wrong reasons…
Needless to say I wasn’t allowed to keep the passports for the rest of the trip, even though I’m usually Chief Security Officer; they remained securely in the husband’s inside pocket of his coat, and I was the butt of multiple jokes as a result!
I’m glad to report that the rest of the trip went by without incident. We arrived at Rome Fiumicino airport at around 10.30am, collected our luggage and headed out into the arrivals lounge where we were met by our pre-booked driver (I always try and do this, where possible, it saves lots of hassle and is usually cheaper than getting a cab at the airport, plus you get to feel a little bit like a famous person for a nanosecond!). The transfer to the city centre and our hotel took around 30 minutes, and the closer we got to the centre, the more evidence of Roman architecture started to appear; like random columns in the middle of modern buildings. That’s one of the things that surprised me about Rome, many of the tourist attractions are just in the middle of the working city, not on a dedicated site with a big wide open space around them. We stumbled on both the Pantheon and the Trevi fountain in this way; we turned a corner and there they were, in the middle of a piazza. It’s quite strange!
We arrived at our hotel – Antica Dimora dell Cinque Lune (I’ll review that in another post) – at around 11.30, which was too early to check in, but the receptionist was incredibly helpful and stored our luggage so we were free to set off and explore. We spent a few minutes getting our bearings, but knowing we were just steps from the River Tiber and the Palace of Justice meant we already knew where to head to if we were to get lost!
Spotting a number of hop on hop off bus tours on the main road alongside the river, we set off to find a bus stop, and by midday we were upstairs on a double decker, earphones firmly in place to listen to the commentary, and heading off on a 90 minute round trip of the city. We find that this kind of bus tour is a great way to see the highlights, get a feel for a city and an overview of what’s where, and then delve into the deeper sightseeing after that. On this occasion we used the Big Bus company, and paid 35 euros each for a 48 hour ticket, but other companies run within the city too (although your ticket is only valid for the bus company you buy it from).
As suspected, the bus tour was a great place to start. We went across the river, marvelling at the architecture of the city, winding through Via del Corso, the main shopping street, saw centuries old churches and buildings, detailed sculptures, statues and fountains, felt blown away by the magnificent sight of the colosseum at the bottom of a busy thoroughfare and imagined the site of the chariot racing on Circus Maximus.
Then we got off the bus where we’d started and stopped for lunch in a little bistro on the side of the road who did a lunch menu of bruschetta, choice of pizza or pasta and a glass of wine or beer for just 12 euros – not at all what we’d expected from reports of Rome being expensive. We sat outside on the terrace under a patio heater and it was just fabulous!
After checking into the hotel we headed out once more; this time over the river on foot and past Castel Sant’Angelo, with St Peters Basilica in our eye line. As our Vatican and St Peters visit was planned for the next day, we crossed across the River Tiber, meandered through tiny cobbled side streets, just soaking up how fabulous Rome is, declaring that we already loved the place and beaming with happiness.
Our hotel was just round the corner from Piazza Navona, which we’d read would have a Christmas market. It was all running remarkably late, setting up but not at all Christmassy, but the Fountain of Neptune and Fountain of the Four Rivers in front of the Santa Agnese in Agona church were beautiful to look at.
We found a beautiful bistro, covered in fairy lights with a rather gorgeous menu and decided we would head back there later that evening to eat, which we did – the most delicious medium rare steak wrapped in bacon with shaved truffles, accompanied by a bottle of chianti. Heading back to our hotel through Piazza Navona and past the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi it’s fair to say we were giddy with happiness and giddy with Rome.
Coming soon – day 2 at the Vatican Museums and St Peters Basilica.
Have you ever been to Rome? Let me know in the comments!
We all have a crisis of confidence sometimes; especially in the age of social media where we’re bombarded with perfect pouts and perfect outfits and perfect people ALL. THE. TIME. And we all wonder sometimes whether our outfit might need a little bit more pizazz to make it more interesting, or if it needs toning down a little bit so it’s not quite so OTT.
Enter Baddie Winkle – an 88 year lover of clothes who doesn’t care if she’s overdressed or undressed. She’s everything I want to be when I’m 88 (hell, she’s everything I want to be at 39!) – bold, bright, and sassy AF.
If you feel your insta feed would benefit from a bit of Baddie’s inimitable style, you can follow her here – along with her other 3.1 million fans!
We all know that Instagram can be, and mostly is, a self serving narcissistic platform for people to garner likes and approvable from those they may or may not know (I am no exception in this <shameless plug> you can follow me on instagram here).
So just how cute is this older gentleman who uses his instagram account to post pictures of his good lady wife throughout the years, talking about just how much he loves her?
Yet, here we are, 5 months into 2016, and our calendar is as full as ever. And it’s pretty much my fault.
I most definitely suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out). I want to do everything, see everything and be everywhere. This has become magnified since my Dad’s illness was diagnosed, and only escalates as time goes on.
I think we live in a want it all society these days. When I was younger travel was less easy to arrange, flights were more expensive. High Street shops would carry the same stock for weeks on end. There was no internet, or online shopping, or even Sunday and late night shopping! Eating out was an every so often treat we used to get dressed up for and takeaways might happen once every couple of months.
(I’m aware this is turning into a “when I were a lass” diatribe, which is not my intention at all!)
The point I’m trying to make is how different things are now. The flight for my trip to Lyon and back cost less than £100. A weekday train ticket to London for work is more than that! Stores get deliveries of new ranges on a weekly if not daily basis and the number of items they stock and supply online is into the thousands. Next day, or even same day, delivery means not having to wait. Popping to the pub for a bite to eat and a drink after work is no big deal, and a takeaway at least once a week is more or less an expectation. Sites like Groupon and Wowcher offer cut price hotel stays. Websites like Red Letter Days enable people to fly a plane, drive a tank or go in a hot air balloon. All of these things are out there, seemingly for the taking, and we’re bombarded with them through email, advertising and the media.
Social media has a big impact on the want it all society. There have been studies on the mental impact it can have when we’re looking at photographs of perfect people on perfect holidays in perfect bikinis when we’re sitting at home in our scruffs and unwashed hair watching Friends on repeat. The trouble is, in an age where we can follow people we’ve never met on Instagram and Twitter, our minds and expectations aren’t just confined to the realms of what our families and friends are doing. We’re seeing people our age with what we perceive to be better lives than we have. We have an insight into the worlds of people we probably wouldn’t mix with or even meet in real life. And it magnifies FOMO.
Me? I’m a realist. I know that I’m never going to have the gorgeous bronzed bikini body because I like food too much. I’m never going to be a constant traveller because I have a life at home with family to think about and a mortgage to pay and a car to run. I can’t just give up life and follow my dreams. I’m never going to be posting pictures of fancy hotels and fancy restaurants serving fancy foods because that’s not my comfort zone; I’m too down to earth and clumsy to feel at home anywhere with fine china or silver service!
But it doesn’t stop me wanting the most out of my own life, within the realms of what I know is possible for me. Which is why I never say no to a gig I want to go to, in case I don’t get chance to see the band again. Or why I’m always pushing for a city break or a holiday or a day out to soak up everything that’s out there to see. Or why I cave when husband mentions takeaway, even mid week, because food is such a joy and a pleasure and I love eating more than I love being the skinny minnie I was when I was 20 (damnit!)
I’m lucky that I have disposable income to do (most of) the things I want in life. It hasn’t been handed to me on a plate though. I have studied and worked to reach this point, as has the husband. We’ve also made conscious life decisions that facilitate our lifestyle. We don’t want children and we don’t live in a big house. We choose life over possessions (apart from shoes. Because, well, shoes!)
I also control my expectations, to a certain extent, by not overexposing myself to social media accounts of people who will make me question my own life. As a rule I don’t follow aspirational blogs or instagram accounts with millions of followers, because they’re unrealistic. I don’t see them as something to aim for, I see them as a way for me to belittle myself and my own happiness. Which I really don’t need, thank you very much! It’s not being jealous, it’s just being truthful to my own mind.
I’d much rather read about someone living a real life that’s similar to mine, with all it’s failings and foibles. A funny story about falling over. A day out at the UK seaside. A new pair of shoes from New Look or Primark. Look at Instagram photos of pretty flowers in a local park or a bright Rimmel nail varnish.
On that note I will stop my waffling and look forward to all the nice things I have coming up in the next few weeks whilst most definitely NOT thinking about things I’d like to be doing but can’t. Because really, what’s the point? Whilst I’m engulfed in FOMO about something, I’m AMO (actually missing out) on the things happening in the moment.
(P.s, if you fancy giving my realistic Instagram account a follow, click here!)