28 May 2008

Piggy street art - in Bath

As we wandered round Bath at the weekend, I kept noticing these colourful painted pigs which are part of a street art project in Bath, called King Bladud's pigs.

Apparently in Once-upon-a-time-land, there lived a prince called Bladud who contracted leprosy on his travels. Realising that he couldn't inherit the kingdom, he left home with his herd of pigs who also caught the disease.

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26 May 2008

Dressing up in the Fashion Museum - in Bath

My sister came to visit this wet Bank Holiday Monday, so we decided to visit the Museum of Fashion in Bath. You can find it on the north side of Bath, near the Royal Crescent and The Circus, where you can see some of the grandest Georgian houses of the city.

It's housed in a building that was once the Assembly rooms of Bath where fashionable society gathered in the 1800s to dance, drink tea and socialise and were imortalised in the novels of Jane Austen. There's the Ballroom which is also used for concerts and weddings, so not always open, the Tea Room and the Octagon and Card rooms, which is now house the café. The chandelier in the Tea room was under restoration when we visited - all the chandeliers were enormous. You don't need to pay to take a look at these rooms, if they are open, but the Fashion Museum costs £7.

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25 May 2008

The view from the dome of St Peter's - in Rome

I visited the dome of St Peter's one afternoon with my mother - we had to queue for about half an hour to pay €7 to take the lift to the bottom of the dome. From there you go through a door and up a ramp into the base of the dome where you are close up with the wonderful mosaics and can look straight down into the basilica below or up at the rich decoration on the inside.

It was great to be so close to the mosaics - they looked so fresh that they could have been created yesterday. There were these coats of arms above the doorways;

This article has moved to my new travel blog - read it at Heatheronhertravels.com

24 May 2008

Eating out in Trastavere - in Rome

It all started so promisingly. The Patron was charming and spoke good English. We only serve fresh food he said, but it was lunchtime and we only wanted a sandwich. I consulted the guidebook - it was recommended as a good value, family run Trattoria.

So we made a reservation for the following evening when we were shown into the dining room at the back - these small places are always much bigger than they appear from the street. The room was pleasant with many attractive paintings including some large, colourful Roman scenes filling the wall.

This article has moved to my new travel blog - read it at Heatheronhertravels.com

21 May 2008

Chiesa Santa Maria in Trastavere - in Rome

There must be so many lovely churches in Rome, but Chiesa Santa Maria is close to my idea of perfection. It was one of the first churches in which masses were openly celebrated in Rome and there has been a church here since 340 AD although the present church was built on the site in the 1140s.

It's in main piazza of the old Trastavere quarter where you can stop for an after-dinner gelato in the evening when the piazza comes alive with street entertainers, bars and restaurants.

This article has moved to my new travel blog - read it at Heatheronhertravels.com

18 May 2008

Valencia re-visited with the Amateur Traveler

I was thrilled to record an interview with Chris Christensen of the Amateur Traveler Podcast last week to tell him all about our visit to Valencia. The podcast has just been published on Amateur Traveler, so do head over here to listen.

Each week Chris publishes a new show on the internet with some travel related news and resources as well as an interview with a fellow traveller about somewhere they have visited. You can listen to the podcast via your computer or download it to listen at leisure on your i-pod or MP3 player.

Read more of this article on my new travel blog at Heatheronhertravels.com

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17 May 2008

Rome - where the small car is king

Wandering round the narrow streets of the old Roman quarters like Trastavere and the Jewish Ghetto, I was amazed that the narrow cobbled streets that I'd assumed were pedestrianised actually had cars and motorbikes whizzing up and down them.

Car in Trastavere, Rome

This article has moved to my new travel blog - read it at Heatheronhertravels.com

14 May 2008

Guest Blog - Teacher Meets Europe

Today I'm trying a new experiment - a Guest blog exchange - a bit like a house swap. I'm pleased to welcome my new blogging friend Monna, a Canadian on the loose in Barcelona, who blogs at Teacher meets World. And in return she's hosting me today as a guest blogger on her site - so when you've finished here, head over to her site to read my post on Memories of Travelling and Rome. I know you'll enjoy Monna's insights on what different cities she's visited have taught her.

Teacher meets Europe by Monna McDiarmid
I grew up in rural Canada, in a community so small that there were more animals than people, where we did not have a stop light or even a proper intersection. From my bedroom on this tiny pin-point on earth, I yearned for Europe.

At the time, mine was a storybook longing for castles, dragons and lovely golden-haired girls rescued by brave knights. Later, my longings grew to include the homelands of favourite authors, famous cathedrals and beloved paintings. With Scottish and Irish heritage, I wanted to go "home".

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Roman Rituals - lock up your love and throw away the key

On one of Rome's oldest bridges, the Ponte Milvio, teenagers come to prove their everlasting love by writing their names on a padlock and clipping it to a chain wrapped around one of the bridge’s lampposts, then throwing the keys away into the Tiber.

The craze was immortalised last year in I Want You, a romantic novel by Federico Moccia, which has just been turned into a film - you can see the trailer here. Last year one of the lamposts collapsed under the weight of all the padlocks, so now steel columns have been provided.

This article has moved to my new travel blog - you can read it at Heatheronhertravels.com

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Vote for me in the Best of Blogs award

I'm thrilled to find that I'm down to the last ten in the travel/leisure section at Best of Blogs award. So if you enjoy my blog, do head over here and vote for me.

12 May 2008

Some blogging collaborations

Not content with posting on Heather on her travels, I've been putting myself about the blogsphere these last couple of weeks in collaborations with other bloggers, which you might like to check out.

Firstly thanks to Karen from Europe a la Carte for featuring my post on cycling in the Turia Gardens in Valencia on the May Carnival of Europe. There was plenty of other good stuff too - I particularly enjoyed the post on Five most unusual buildings including three in Europe - the pictures have to be seen to believed.

Shannon from Travelling Mamas also wrote about her trip to see Stonehenge, not too far from me, and she obviously felt as disappointed at the crowds and the theme park atmosphere as I felt on my visit to the Colisseum in Rome. As locals we don't feel the need to visit these places because they are so overcrowded and 'touristy' yet when in the area as visitors we feel we can't go home without ticking them off our list.

Karen's also asked me to cover the Carnival of Europe for her while she's off on her travels in Italy, so next month the Carnival will come to you from Heather on her travels. I've already had some great stuff sent to me but please keep the posts coming on anything to do with travel in Europe (by Sunday 25 May) and I'll be posting the best ones on 2nd June. You can make your submissions here.

I've also been in collaboration this week with Kim from Wild about Travel + Writing blog. Kim's currently in South Africa and she featured some ideas in this post for offbeat things to do in South Africa from her book, Offbeat South Africa - the travel guide to the wacky and wonderful.

Kim also featured ideas for offbeat things to do around the world in this post, including my ideas for following the Slave Trail around Bristol. You can also go Yarn tasting in California, explore the waterways around Lisbon, go kayaking in Manhattan and go for a pub crawl in Edinburgh.

I have a few more collaborations in the pipeline but I'll let you know once they're posted on the web in the next few weeks.

Thanks to Leesean, Rob Ball, and magro_kr on Flickr for the photos.

11 May 2008

Roman Rituals - the Mouth of Truthat Santa Maria in Cosmedin

While in Rome you may like to re-enact the scene in the film Roman Holiday and put your hand over the Bocca della Verità or Mouth of Truth which hangs in the portico of the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin.

The carving is thought to be part of an ancient Roman fountain or perhaps a drain-cover. If a jealous lover wanted to test their partner's fidelity, they would put their hand in the mouth of the stone river god - it was thought that a liar would have his hand bitten off but the faithful lover would go untouched.

This article has moved to my new travel blog - you can read it at Heatheronhertravels.com

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Roman Rituals - kiss St Peter's toe at the Vatican

In St Peter's basilica, pilgrims come to pay their respects to the bronze statue of St Peter, the first Pope and rock of the early church, over whose tomb the basilica was built.

Pilgrims would bend down to kiss the foot of the statue and over the years the metal wore away so that the toes blend in with the rest of the foot. Nowadays most visitors touch the toe instead of kiss it, but the feet are still worn down with the human contact.

When we visited there was a steady stream of visitors passing by the statue, some hurrying on to see the next thing, some pausing to say a prayer and others posing to have their photo taken. It's a way to find some personal meaning in a place where one might otherwise be overwhelmed by the scale and magnificence of it all.

This article has moved to my new travel blog - you can read it at Heatheronhertravels.com

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10 May 2008

A Bluebell wood in Bristol

What could be more English than a bluebell wood in April? It's one of those things that marks the seasons like asparagus in May or strawberries in June.

We made a point last week of visiting a lovely wood on the outskirts of Bristol where the bluebells bloom at this time of year - but shh, don't tell everyone as it's a local secret.

It's a great place for a walk at any time of year and I've made a handy Google map to guide you to my secret haunt - but if you can't make it then take a virtual walk through the bluebells with me.

First park in the small car park at Abbots Pool. If you walk on down the track, you'll pass the lake where you can dabble and look for tadpoles in the springtime.

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7 May 2008

Roman Rituals - Three coins in the Trevi fountain

One of the must-sees on every visitor to Rome's list is the Trevi Fountain. Tradition has it that you should visit just before you leave Rome and throw three coins over your shoulder into the water - one to marry a Roman, one to bring you back to Rome one day and one for charity.

I saw one man taking advantage of the 'charity' by sticking his magnetic pole into the water and drawing out any Euro coins that stuck to it.

This article has moved to my new travel blog - you can read it at Heatheronhertravels.com

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6 May 2008

Roman Rituals - Peep through the keyhole at the Priory of the Knights of Malta - in Rome

If you walk up the hill from the Circus Maximus along the Via di Santa Sabina, you'll arrive at a pleasant square where a surprise awaits you.

Here in the Piazza Cavalieri di Malta, surrounded by churches you'll find the gateway to the Priory of the Knights of Malta.

Read the rest of this post over at my new blog at Heatheronhertravels.com

4 May 2008

Grazie Mille for the carnival mentions

I'm still catching up with myself after my recent trip to Rome, so forgive me if I've only just got round to saying Grazie for a couple of mentions I got in the last few weeks on various Blog carnivals.

My post about a contemplative lunch at Bristol Cathedral was featured on the Carnival of Travellers at Flyaway cafe for their theme on local attractions.

Among the other posts featured I enjoyed Ester Garvi's on the Baobab forest in Nigeria where she works as part of the Eden Foundation. On exploring some of her other posts, I felt very humbled to read about the work being done to improve agriculture in this arid area and the sense of fun and fellowship of the local people of the Tanout region.

I also enjoyed wandering around the Cathedral square in Strasbourg with Christine from Me, my kid and life - it looks like the sort of place that would be great for a winter break. Before I knew it I was checking out how I could get there from Bristol and whether they have a Christmas market.

Keep your eyes peeled for the May carnival of Travellers from Flyaway Cafe which will be on the theme of local events.

Thanks also to the Carnival of Cities hosted at Family Travel which included my post about the Bullfighting museum in Valencia.

I enjoyed reading one of the featured posts from Innovative Traveller on why people should not be terrified of travelling with children. Travelling with children is a dilemma I struggle with, especially as my teenagers would often rather be at home with their friends - I wrote about it here. I've concluded that it's impossible to satisfy everyone, so you have to compromise or go without them, which is now becoming more of a possibility as they get older.

Thanks to mooncross on Flickr for the photo of Strasbourg.

3 May 2008

Gelato on the Island in the Tiber - in Rome

There are times when you really need a Gelato and this was one of them. After our hot and crowded visit to the Colisseum and Forum we headed towards the river. On the map I spotted the Island in the Tiber and I remembered from Shelley's Gelato Tour that there was a Gelateria to be found here.

Spirits lifted as we rewarded ourselves for all the sightseeing with double scoops - Strawberry and Pistachio for me, and Nutella and Hazelnut for my son.

What a lovely place it was to stop a while and savour each lick while contemplating the view of the Tiber. If you have time, you could go down to the promenade beside the river and sit with a picnic or soak up the sunshine. In the distance you could just see the arches of the Ponte Rotto, an old Roman bridge, now cut off and marrooned mid-stream with nowhere to go.

This article has moved to my new travel blog - you can read it at Heatheronhertravels.com

The crowds at the Colisseum - in Rome

By the time we arrived at the Collisseum it was late morning - much later than we'd planned. We'd decided to walk from our hotel near St Peter's and inevitably there were a few stops on the way.

As we approached the Vittorio Emmanuele monument in Piazza Venezia we came across some sort of public ceremony in progress. Camera crews were in attendance, soldiers were standing to attention and war veterans were on parade with their medals. My parents had come across a similar occasion on a recent trip to Amsterdam and by hanging around, had been rewarded with a glimpse of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands greeting a visiting Head of State.

This article has moved to my new travel blog - you can read it at Heatheronhertravels.com

1 May 2008

Cakes from the Pasticceria - in Rome

Since returning from Rome I've been suffering from withdrawal symptoms. An inexplicable longing for a custard filled pastry, a miniature choux bun or one of those darling macaroons.

You see, right opposite our hotel was the neighbourhood Pasticceria, and each morning it called to me, to stock up on a few pastries, just in case the hunger pangs should strike mid-morning.

Of course, my son insisted on eating one of those open cream cakes there and then to chase his breakfast down - after all they would be too squishy to carry around.

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