Buongiorno - we are here in beautiful Rome and finally I have a small window of opportunity to post on my blog. Mr B has just visited the emergency department of the local hospital and has been sent to the Rabies Clinic as he was bitten by a wild dog on our run by the Tiber this morning!! Hmmm and the dogs here are normally so placid too. Could it have been that we decided to run in the shade on the "wrong" side of the Tiber this morning where many homeless people were lying stretched out with their dogs loose to roam? Out of nowhere the brown mongrel dog leapt at Mr B's juicy thigh and took a bite -yummy flesh. CJ and I realised he was in trouble but didn't realise immediately that he had been bitten. So we detoured to the hospital where he was given an antibiotic injection, a tetanus injection to self-inject and a course of antibiotics! Now CJ and I in the internet bar while Mr CJ accompanies Mr B to the clinic on the other side of town! Welcome to Rome - another city of contrasts!
First Impressions of Hong Kong -
Hot, polluted, crowded (wall to wall people), busy!
We arrived in Hong Kong early on Monday morning after a long long day driving from Canberra in mid-afternoon and flying from Sydney at 10pm Sunday. The hotel in HK was friendly and efficient. Although it was only 7.30am they allowed us to book in an hour later. After a human making shower we walked to the ferry and went over to HK island. There we took all sorts of transport. We went by double decker bus to The Peak where we caught the cable car straight up and up to The Peak and from the top took several escalators to the viewing area. On a clear day it would have been magnificent but unfortunately it was a murky grey day where people wore masks to block out the pollution from the numerous fumes from buses and cars. It was however amazing to be so high up and to be above so many high rise apartments and office blocks.
After this we wandered round HK island and travelled by trams and buses walking through many market places and seeing many interesting and strange sights. We noticed ladies with masks emptying the street bins, men wheeling trolleys full of bags of raw meats presumably to the local market places, meat being chopped up on the ground at the market stalls, red taxis (toyota corollas) absolutely everywhere.
In the evening we were very tired with jet lag settling in so we decided to eat the banquet at the hotel - a mix of Japanese, Chinese and Vietnamese - really yummy with great desserts. Then later we walked it off by visiting the night markets - so many people, so many stalls open very late into the night. Then off to bed at last after such a long long day.
This morning we took a bus to Stanley to visit the famous Stanley Markets - huge and busy. We were caught in the rain and it poured in bucket loads. We were absolutely drenched. Everywhere people carry umbrellas but we just loved the rain. The temperature was so humid and the rain cooled the air temporarily and we revelled in the coolness. However it was all over in ten minutes and we were dry in another ten!
Today we travelled the world's biggest travelator. It was amazing. At first it was flat then it gradually sloped upward and then it reverted to endless escalators which went up, up and up. Apparently at peak times in the day the down escalators button is switched over so that you travel by escalator downwards whereas we travelled upwards to the very top where there was disappointingly little to see so we just walked many many steps down again. This plus the amount of walking we did in HK (and we haven't stopped since) could account for the sore calf muscles I have been experiencing since our arrival in Rome.
Tonight we ate in a true local restaurant using chopsticks and struggling with chicken bones. We spent little money in HK. We were weary from travelling and overwhelmed by the heat and crowds. However we have another day here on our return journey so may be tempted if we have money left at that end of our trip! We did pass many interesting shops and noted more places to visit. The many markets were certainly fascinating and I did make one very extravagant purchase - some beautiful gold earrings to match a pendant my sister sent me once from China with the double happiness symbol. They made them up for me especially and I am quite excited to find them.
Our plane left from HK airport at midnight. HK airport is purportedly the best in the world and has many duty free shops. However we found that Sydney Airport's prices are very competitive and although we perused the shops we were not tempted. This trip was slightly more comfortable than our first flight. It took 12 hours and we managed a little sleep.
We arrived in Rome about 6.30am feeling drained. We took a taxi to our apartment at a standard cost of 40Euro (about 50dol Aust). From there we rang CJ and Mr CJ who were staying round the corner as our apartment was not yet available. With Mr CJ's assistance we wheeled our bags along the cobbled streets (quite a challenge) and were so happy to see our friends. Their apartment is amazing and after a great coffee and a shower there we felt a lot more human. We left our bags there and walked with them to a bar for a pastry and our first Italian cappuccino (pretty damn good) then walked across the bridge to explore our local area of Trastevere. There is so much to see here, cobbled streets, Roman ruins, tiny shops, amazing shoes, large doors with hidden surprises behind each one. Did I mention the shoes - some are to die for. We ate paninis for lunch and enjoyed the sunny hot day with friends.
Later we rang our host and returned with our bags to where we will be staying for the next few days. We were full of anticipation as CJ's apartment is so divine but our apartment is quite different. For a start we are on the third level up 50 steps (yes indeed I have counted and re-counted them - large concrete solid and winding stairs intended to keep us fit I'm sure) - difficult to negotiate with all our bags and we were very glad of Mr CJ's assistance. Although it is a lot more basic our apartment has a character of its own. The walls are covered with paintings of cars - many Cuban cars - interesting artwork indeed. The bathroom is very small but we have all we need and it is fun to lean out the barred windows and watch the many sights below us. The smell of the local bakery wafts upwards and we are woken at 6.45am every morning by the church bells. This afternoon we put on a load of washing and had a siesta for a couple of hours before meeting up with the others and walking more. There are so many bars and restaurants to choose from and so much to see and explore. It is mind boggling to know we are here in Rome among all this history.
This night we ate in a little restaurant just below the CJ's. I selected the veal scallopine with a divine sauce. The choices were difficult. Everybody's meal was beautful. We know we will like it here.
Mr B and I met up with CJ at 8.30am and walked down to the Tiber River to run along the riverbank.
Time taken: 38minutes!
Yes, it was slow and painful - our first run since leaving home. My legs were leaden, my body was slow and my calves were sore - must be all those HK downward steps! It felt very hot even at that hour and tomorrow we will run a little earlier. I certainly did not feel great at the end and appreciated the shower and brekkie later. We had done a small shop in the local grocery store, for cereal, juice and milk so can make our own breakfast. After this we went on a two hour bus tour of Rome from the top of a double decker tour bus with an English commentary plugged into our ears. It was extremely hot and I did mange to become a little sunburnt. We drove past so much history - our main landmarks being the monument to Victor Emanuele, St Peter's Basilica, The Vatican City and the Colosseum. We will definitely return by foot to explore some of these places further.
We met up with the CJ's at Castel Sant Angelo and walked for quite some time before finding a spot for a delightful light lunch of pasta and rice salads at Piazza Campo dei Fiori. After this we walked and walked in search of the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps for great photo opportunities. There were lots and lots of people everwhere we went and the weather was hot and sunny. I cannot begin to describe how it feels to be part of so much history. At the Spanish Steps we walked to the top and went inside the Basilica where I covered my bare shoulders with the prerequisite scarf before entering to stand in awe in front of all those detailed frescoes.
We walked along via dei Condotti which is Rome's fanciest shopping street. It's full of designer shops with every name you can think of thrown in - Armani, Gucci, Prada, Yves St Laurent, Burberry, Ferragamo etc. Then on to via del Corso which is Rome's busiest shopping street.
We walked so far today. Aside from the short run and the two hour bus ride the rest of the day was spent walking. Our lunch was not until nearly 3pm and dinner was booked at Da Enzo near our apartment at 8pm. It is a highly recommended local restaurant and we understood why. Tonight I ordered pasta - carbonara unlike any I had ever tasted. It was in a bright yellow buttery cheesy sauce and we ordered mixed grilled veges which were amazingly delicious. Each dinner meal is presented with complimentary Italian bread in large hunks and it's seriously divine. We always order the local white wine and it is also very good.
Running here is a necessity. We want to eat, to fill the senses with the aromas, the local flavours, the whole Italian scene. It is beautiful.
In the evening after dinner we walked again. It is customary for 'passegiata' to occur each evening. Even on the cobbled streets it is surprising to see many ladies in high heels. We managed to become lost this evening and a short walk past many fascinating shops, became a very long walk. When the streets became flat and cobbled pavements disappeared we knew we had walked too far. So after much discussion we finally found our way back home towards midnight. On the way we stopped at Piazza di Santa Maria where we were entertained by some incredible fire throwers and dancers which were fascinating and talented. Tonight I had my first unbroken sleep since leaving home and was not woken until 6.45am by the church bells nearby.
Friday - today!
This morning we met up with CJ and started our run at 8am. It was still very hot so we decided to run in the shade (see start of blog) and that is why we are now waiting for the boys at this internet shop so that they can join us for lunch.
Time taken: 54mins
Average pace: 6:47
This is possibly the slowest run ever! However we did have to run up and down several lots of steps and we did have to circumnavigate many unsavoury sights and smells during the course of our "interesting" run! Now CJ and I are starving and thirsty so will detour for coffee and I will leave this for now.
I just need to add that we have been accosted by many beggars and even very young children asking for money. We have been confronted by stark poverty and immense wealth in both HK and Rome. It is so beautiful here but there is another side too of which we have become very aware. We have walked past a cat sanctuary which exists on charity and there are many many cats lying there in one of the Roman Ruins which has been converted to a rescue haven for cats of all sizes basking in the sunshine. There are so many fascinating sights.