Ciao Italia

It’s that time of week again. Another blog post full of more glorious adventures! This past week I have been in 4 different countries, all so different but all with their own unique charm.

The week started off in Poland. In the early hours of the morning on Monday Beth and I woke up and got a taxi to Poznan bus station. Our bus left at 04:00 and by 09:00 we had arrived in Berlin. I slept for most of the journey and didn’t even realise we’d gone through the border! We had a few hours to kill once we were in Germany. I had my huge 20kg bag and smaller rucksack so I couldn’t be much of a tourist. We decided to walk the 2 mile walk to Charlottenburg Palace. Such a bad decision. My little legs had had enough by the time we got there. And my hips were so bruised from the huge bag! It was hot and I was tired! The palace is beautiful though. To be honest, Berlin is beautiful. There are trees everywhere and the architecture is grand and elegant. Lovely balconies all around that I wouldn’t mind sitting on and enjoying a good brew and a biscuit! Anyway, we left the palace and headed to the airport. Checked in and got food. I decided to get K√§serkrainer which is a cheese filled sausage. They recommended it with potato salad with a dash of extra black pepper. It was lovely! We boarded and headed to Italy.

We arrived in Naples and headed for a taxi to take us to our hotel. The driver was lovely, he had an app on his phone so he could translate what he wanted to say into English. We had a good conversation actually! We arrived at our hotel, Hotel Joyfull, checked in and headed to the city. Another taxi and more exposure to the crazy driving that seems to be the Italian way. We passed one of the 5 castles in Naples. Had a glimpse of the narrow streets of the old city. It was a place of energy. We got dropped off at L’Antica Pizzeria de Michele. Apparently the most famous pizza place in Naples, which is the home city of pizza! There was a ticket system to get a table, but even though the queue was about 50 people, we were still seated within half an hour! There are two choices of pizza and three choices of drink, marinara or margarita with a glass of coke, beer or water. We shared one of each type of pizza. I can’t do justice to how delicious the pizzas were. The crusts were thin but doughey, and the tomatoes sauces were rich and yet slightly sweet. The mozzarella can speak for itself. It was a meal for the Gods! After the pizza we had a little explore of Naples. We went through Spaccanapoli, the old part of Naples. It was full of history and character, tiny alley ways with washing hung from every balcony. The smell of cooking filling the air. We came across the Cathedral too. A great first impression of Italy.

Up early and down for a breakfast of Italian pastry. I tried Sfogliatelle, a layered pastry filled with a sweet creamy sauce. After a refuel we headed to the Port, to get a bus. It was a 5km walk but it meant we got a better view of the city. Most shops have tiny stalls outside filled with different breads and pastry. People walk through the streets drinking a quick espresso en-route. Mopeds wiz by and car drivers constantly beep their horns. We arrived at the bus station, bought our tickets and got on the bus headed for Pompeii.

35 minutes and a quick nap later and we had arrived. We bought our tickets and headed in. The city entrance is a huge archway, with a steep road leading up to it. A huge wall surrounds the city as part of its defences. When you enter it is a maze. It has been preserved and excavated so well. It felt as though it was still a thriving Roman hub. Poppies were in flower and found space to grow in the old house plots. Mount Vesuvius was in the backdrop, powerful and threatening but at the same time magnificently beautiful. My favourite part of the whole trip was seeing the statue of the Centurion. He was a huge metallic figure, standing guard of the city. His presence gave a really warm, protective feel. I could go on and on, but there is too much to tell. You should go. It’s incredible. After the city of Pompeii we had lunch and I finally tried proper Italian ice cream. We headed back to the hotel after a long hot day of history! I had a traditional pasta dish called Penne Genovease. It’s an onion based sauce found mainly in the Napoli region. It was lovely.

Next day and another early morning. This time we were heading to Amalfi to see the gorgeous villages hanging onto the beautiful coastline. It took around 2 hours. I got talking to a lovely Italian guy who gave me information on how to get back later on and where to find the best ice cream. The drive to Amalfi really was beautiful. The towns are literally embedded into sheer cliff faces. I’m pretty sure magic must have been involved in the making of them. Where there aren’t houses there are lemon trees, with lemons the size of my head! The bright yellow and blue of the sea is something from a perfect dream. We spent the day sunbathing and relaxing on the pebbles. I was a bit of a wimp and only went waist deep in the sea though…

After more ice cream we started the very long journey back to Naples. It took a winding, two hour bus journey and a hot and sticky 2 hour train journey to get back. It would have been bad but the views just made me smile. We eventually got back to Hotel Joyfull and packed ready for our early flight home the next day.

After a long morning of travelling I got back to the UK. After so many different countries I was finally home. I spent the first day with my beautiful little sister. We chatted all day, ate amazing food for tea and relaxed on the settee together until we both fell asleep. I got to see my amazing Dad too. He gives the best cuddles and we always laugh. It makes me happy to see them. I’ve been able to see most of my family which has been lovely, most of my cousins and my gorgeous nephew, grandparents and the various pets! I’ve loved every second.

Being back home for this short break is lovely. It’s like pressing a reset button. You get a full charge of hugs and cuddles. A full dose of northern charm. So many brews you can only ever taste tea. And the kindest smiles you could wish for. I love being home and I love all my home people. It’s nice to have so many people to miss and so many people I get to look forward to seeing.

I’m one lucky bird.

Kicking it in Kibris

I started off this week by flying back to Cyprus. A quick stint at home was all I needed to get my fill of hugs and northern brews. But now I am back and raring to go again!

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Mostly it has been full on PhD work in the office, but I have managed to squeeze in some fun stuff too! The other day, Sav and I went for a meeting in Nicosia with Robbo and Damla. A good catch up of what the project has achieved so far and where it is headed! We left the meeting and drove the scenic way home, blasting good music and enjoying the sun setting over the Cyprus mountains. We were passing through Esentepe and decided to make a stop at Roots bar. A quirky little reggae place right on the coast. The plan was to have a single drink and head home, but it didn’t quite turn out like that. Several rum and cokes, a tequila, jagermiester and mini guiness later I was behind the bar with Ash, the owner, and the bar man. Michelle and Paul are a regular couple in Roots and we made good friends with them. An intense game of pool sealed the friendship deal, and I’m happy to report that me and Michelle won the game against Sav. We danced, we laughed and we exchanged stories. An amazing night.

Another gorgeous day happened yesterday. Sav and I had a few errands to do in Girne and decided to make a day of it. We visited Girne harbour castle, wandered around back streets, at an amazing lunch and ended it with an ice cream. I got a sunburnt back, unfortunately I’m not 100% Cypriot yet and still a fare skinned Manchunian! Damn!

The weather is glorious and I can’t help having a smile on my face. There is something special about living in a place sandwiched between mountains and sea. I love it.

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Enjoy life and keep smiling, I am.

xx

It’s been a year.

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My Great Grandad wrote diaries. We found a box full of them last year filled with simple sentences to sum up his day. Sentences like “Amie was born today” or “Rita rang today”. Grandy lived to be 101. I remember him sat in his armchair, smoking his pipe, always smiling and always putting up with me and my sister jumping around. I am writing this, sat at his old writing bureau. The hiding place of his old diaries. Back then it will have been filled with lovely stationary, important letters, stamps, an address book and a current diary. Now it contains a laptop, biros, a mousepad, an address book, field notebooks and diaries. Slightly different…..Sometimes when I tell people I write a diary they snigger and say it is for teenagers. I don’t think that at all. Diaries are a part of history. The smallest detail that I write down might fascinate someone in years to come. Why shouldn’t I be able to read back over my life and smile at the little things I would otherwise have forgotten. I get to re-live some amazing moments.

I started writing diaries for my exciting adventures. I have them for the two summers I was at the Marine Turtle Conservation Project in Cyprus; the times I was volunteering on the Isles of Scilly for the Seabird Recovery Project; the field trip to South Africa; a stint of field work in Kenya; more field work in Cameroon; and my recent trip to India.

Last year my Dad got me a lovely leather bound notebook and I started writing a daily diary of normal life. Just simple passages on day to day life for me. Through this, I began my blog. The anniversary of which was a year ago yesterday.

I really enjoy writing this blog. I might not be the most talented writer, but it’s a nice time to reflect on recent events, and sometimes to find a silver lining to certain situations. It’s nice to find the good in things.

I’m going to keep writing. If it was good enough for Grandy, then it is good enough for me. I like to think he’d be quite chuffed.

That’s all for now.

Stay happy.

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Ludlow, Shropshire.

Again, I have to apologise for the lack of blogs recently. Being back at home I have just gotten too caught up in day to day bumbling about. But, I wanted to write a quick entry about a lovely little trip to Ludlow I had this weekend.

It took us nearly 3 hours to drive there due to bank holiday traffic. But eventually we arrived in the sweet town of Ludlow. When I say “we” I mean me, Dad, Molly and Aileen. We were staying in a higgledy-piggledy apartment full of character from its creation back in tudor times. Nothing was level, everything was on a wonk. It was great. We unloaded our stuff and went on a quick wander around the town. There are a few main streets so it’s easy to get your bearings. The first evening was spent at a lovely restaurant called “Bistro 7”. The food was lovely, the wine and gin even better. The evening ended with a slightly drunken draughts tournament back at the apartment. Dad was the winner. It turns out I’m not very good at draughts …

Day two was another potter around Ludlow. This time we went into the market and the different art galleries. Having a walk through the streets let us see all the quirks of Ludlow. Some of the buildings are so old and stick out at all sorts of angles! We also went into the castle grounds. It’s a ruin now, but with a little imagination you can imagine just how grand it must have been. I think I would have suited living back in castle dwelling times. All the door frames were very low, perfect for someone who measures just short of 5 foot 2!! Was there a role as a castle ornithologist? A castle bird ringer maybe? I could have fit right in!.. Whilst we were at the castle we searched for our surname in the database on the computer. It turns out “Wheeldon” originated in Chorley and it literally meant “a farmstead with a water wheel”. We also have our own family insignia which is “Virtue is more excellent than gold”. The database didn’t mention any noble lineage, but apparently the Wheeldon name has belonged to a few good cricket players as well as a convict called Annie who was sent to New Zealand at a mere 23 years of age! After our history lesson at the castle we went down by the river and had some lunch. We then attempted skimming stones, again, this is not a strength of mine. That afternoon we decided to play cards so I taught everyone how to play “shithead”. I kept getting a lot of luck which was very annoying for everyone else. In the evening we had an amazing thai meal and then headed back for more card games. We were addicted!!

The next day we had breakfast out and then leisurely got ready to head home. We stopped off at Delamere forest on the way back for a walk in the sunshine. Lovely way to finish off the weekend.

 

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