When in Rome

Words fall short when I begin to describe this place, but a wide smile spreads across my face as I remember my time in Rome. The city reeks of history dating back to days even before god.
Colosseum, Rome

At the Colosseum, Rome

So what comes to your mind first when you say Rome? The colossal Colosseum! The huge arena where a lot of blood was shed, brutally, for the sake of entertainment. Personally I was not very impressed with either the monument or the purpose for which it was built, yet one cannot help but appreciate the humongous structure that it is and the stories of gladiators that the walls here have to tell.

Ruins at the Roman Forum

Ruins at the Roman Forum

Right opposite the Colosseum lies the Roman Forum and the Palatine hill, quite a bit to see and understand here as whatever stood in the place is all in ruins today – the temple of the Saturn, tombs of several important people and of course the palace of Octivius Ceaser, also known as Augustus Ceaser. At first sight, the place looks like a pile of debris and some odd structures placed in the right in the middle of a huge piece of land. It takes a while to understand the importance of the place and the history behind it. I’d suggest either a good read about the Roman Forum before the visit or taking a guided tour. I did neither and did not really understand what the place was all about till I came back home and Wiki’d it :) .

Castel Saint Angelo

Castel Saint Angelo

Every corner of Rome has some monument or historical artefact that compels you to think about how and why was the structure erected? And you suddenly imagine yourself to be professor Robert Langdon from the Dan Brown books and start reading around to find if there are any mysteries connected to it 😉 I know I felt that way when we saw the Pantheon and Castel Saint Angelo, with the background score of the movie Angels and Demons constantly playing in my head 😛 .

Another thing in Rome or to be more precise, Vatican City, that will make my memories about the visit more vivid is, Margherita. No not the pizza, not the drink either. Margherita was our guide to the Vatican, she must have been as old as Rome herself :P. She was pretty old actually but, had the enthusiasm of a teenager, the knowledge of an encyclopedia on Rome and Vatican and the smile of a loving grand mother, I would have loved to have had her as my History teacher 🙂 Today I don’t remember her face much but I do remember her voice, the patience with which she explained every detail and the twinkle in her eye when she so dramatically confessed her desire of having a young lover as she spoke about a sculpture in the Vatican museum, of a young Roman named Claudius. Some might think it his her job to be engaging and knowledgeable as a tour guide, well yes, if that’s the case, she does it very well and am sure she loves it as much as I enjoyed my experience of Vatican with her.
How can I miss the streets of Rome and the piazzas, the Fontana di Trevi
Fontana di Trevi

Fontana di Trevi

was simply marvelous – the lights, the sound of the water, people buzzing and the camera flash everywhere, Navona was great too. But what was more interesting at the Piazza Novana was the church in front of the fountain. A young choir from Queensbury, USA were performing in the Church that evening. I love choir singing and was a part of my school choir, but I was nothing like the group that performed that night. And the best part was that they were singing Christmas Carols, something that I looked forward to hearing in Munich during Christmas, but was very disappointed when I didn’t hear any or see anyone singing. Talking about the choir, they were simply simply wonderful, very soul touching, an experience that will be very close to my heart.

The Piazza Del Popolo was something else, not because of the beautiful fountain but because of the Rainbow themed Via Del Corso that begins from this Piazza

Via del Corso

Via del Corso

to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Via Del Corso is one half shopping street and other half has museums, and is the main street that connects with other small by-lanes that take you to the monuments like the Pantheon, Trevi fountain, Piazza Navona etc. That street even though crowded was magical. When I look back I can still hear someone playing the accordion so beautifully that people on the busy shopping street started dancing with their partners, someone putting up a street magic show in a corner and the reflection of the rainbow lights on the street that was wet from the rain that evening.

IMG_20140103_202018[1]Rome for me is the city of lights, magic, music and history 🙂 and one of my favorite places in the world.
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An evening in Paris

The first thing that hits you while traveling through Europe is that if you know the language its easier to roll, whether it is German, French, Italian, Spanish or whatever language is spoken at my next destination 🙂 Or at least its important to know a few words, like may be a few pleasantries – good morning, thank you, sorry, hello and words like that. I personally prefer learning French, the language sounds so soft, so romantic 😉
Our trip to Italy had a French beginning as our flight to Florence was via Paris, so we had a 4 hour halt at Paris.

Well since 4 hours was not enough for us to venture into the city and be

Paul, the bakery at Charles de Gaulle Airport

back in time for our connecting flight, we decided to stay at the airport. We found a small, cozy bakery called PAUL, and settled there during our wait.

There s something about this name, Paul, that really intrigues me. It reminds of this hotel called ‘The Paul’ in Bangalore, that I saw for 8 months, every single day, while on my way to work. The building of the hotel, the location, the way the hotel looked in the evening with all the lights – it had found its way into my subconscience, maybe thats why the intrigue 🙂
Coming back to this bakery in Paris, as soon as I saw the confections displayed at the counter I could almost hear them calling out to my tummy… He he he…. I am not a foodie and the 3 days of stomach trauma that I had had before starting for this vacation, this calling was, well… Not so surprising… It is Paris woman!! The place where I have been wanting to learn how to bake and have had dreams about creme brulee and croissants and the chouquettes and the profiteroles and the list goes on…. and I suddenly feel like Obelix, from the Asterix and Obelix movie where Obelix has not eaten for days and he starts dreaming about food 😛
My lovely French cheese sandwich

My lovely French cheese sandwich

As I find a place to sit, Pavan gets a cheese sandwich and some kinda chocolate chip bread. Then I take a bite of the cheese sandwich and the cheese – …..mmmmmmhhhh…… starts melting in my mouth and suddenly I have this flashback sorta thing reminding me of the program that I watched on TLC called ‘Cheese’ and the scene from the movie French Kiss where Meg Ryan is eating different types of cheese for breakfast and random stuff I had seen or read or heard about cheese start circling in my head. Pavan, then nudges me back into reality. And through all this time, in fact ever since we landed in Paris there s been only one song running in my head, La vie en rose by Louis Armstrong.
The cheese, the song in my head, me in Paris, on my way to Tuscany, life seemed rosy indeed or was it all just a dream…
The hourly blitz at the Eiffel tower

The hourly blitz at the Eiffel tower

But this was not the end of our visit to Paris. Luckily we had a 19 hour halt on our return journey, from Italy to Munich. We had an evening in Paris! Was not enough in my opinion as we couldn’t do much except see the Monalisa, which was pretty disappointing, considering the hype created around it. Yeah it’s a Da Vinci and all that, but there’s so much more he has done, if you look around the Louvre you’ll find much more. And then of course we visited the Eiffel tower, now that’s what I call magnificent, not the climb, but the hourly sparkling of the tower, the view from up there of the city of Paris at night. It indeed is the city of blinding lights, as aptly used in the movie Devil wears Prada.

I am definitely going back to Paris in summer, there’s so much more to see and experience here and most importantly to sit at sidewalk cafe, sip on my coffee, enjoy a lovely choux à la crème and watch people passing by while listening to some lovely jazz number …. Ah! a perfect Parisian afternoon that will be:)

Florentine New Year

We had just arrived in Florence when it had already started to form an impression on me. The chill in the air was lesser than in Paris and Munich. As it began to grow dark, there were more people on the streets, maybe because it was new years eve. The first thing we do is go shopping after we check in. Like any other girl in the world its my favorite thing to do 😉 well I can’t help it with a tonne of stalls lined up on both sides of any lane you walk on here in Florence 🙂

New Year’s eve in Florence

It was getting very chilly and there was one only thing that could make it better, Italian Gelato 🙂 I am not a big ice cream fan, but the Gelato in Italy is absolutely divine! I have tasted gelato in 3 different countries and I must say it tastes the best at its home, in Italy 🙂 I buy a lemon gelato, which is quite good and Pavan buys a pistachio, a flavor I have never liked back in India and, the next thing we know, I am squabbling with Pavan for an exchange of gelato 🙂 the flavor was absolutely orgasmic 😉

Florence Cathedral, on New year’s eve

As we walk on squabbling and fighting we reach the Florence Cathedral, Il Duomo and what I see next is something I missed this year, festive spirit. People in Munich don’t have much or at least don’t show much, here in Florence I got to see it in abundance. The beautifully lit Christmas tree, people buzzing by, the sound of someone playing a violin near by. The city streets were cramped with restaurants, yet, not free due to new year reservations, after an hour long search we found a quiet, cozy little restaurant. The food, as simple as it may have been, was delicious!

View of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo

This small city has a great historical background as well, as it is the birth place of the period of Renaissance, a period that put an end to the dark ages and brought about reforms in the field of education, art, culture, politics and paved the way for scientific revolution,  a unit of world history that I had studied in 9th grade. I remember writing notes on the contributions made by Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Galileo, Dante and many others. Never knew their creations and contributions to art and culture were so beautiful till I visited Florence.

Ponte Vecchio

Florence though small, has a lot of places one can visit, my personal favorite being the Ponte Vecchio, the first bridge to be built over the river Arno. Other places that we visited were the Santa Maria Della Croce, the Palazzo Vecchio, Piazzale Michelangelo – since it is located on a hill, it has a great view of the city of Florence beside the Arno river.

Another place that we visited and that took my breath away, literally, was

Il Duomo

the Florence Cathedral, Il Duomo. The dome at this cathedral, or as the Italians call it, the Cupola, was built by Brunelleschi and people are still amazed at how such a structure so huge was built at such a height. What is more amazing is climbing to the top of the dome, 468 steps, no lift, a narrow steep staircase and after a certain amount of climb, a winding staircase. After climbing some 350 odd steps, I could not go further, I was gasping for air and my feet were sore. Not recommended for people who have Vertigo or who are claustrophobic. However, I hear, the view from up there is amazing, Pavan tells me it was worth the climb. So next time, when I visit Florence I am gonna wear proper shoes and do the climb again, till I reach the top 🙂

Florence, neither words nor pictures are enough to describe this city and the feeling it creates in you. Whether history lover or not, its a must see place if in Italy, I know I am going back for sure to do my dome climb 😉