Saturday, May 07, 2005

Rome - March 2005

For our anniversary this year we decided a trip to Rome was in order. We stayed in a hotel just down the road from the Colosseum, which was the first thing I wanted to see, and which we saw for the first time at sunset. Marvellous!

Colosseum at sunset

Since this was a sightseeing weekend, not a resting weekend, we set off early next morning, starting at the Colosseum and continuing through the Roman Forum adjoining it. Wandering around in the brilliant, warm sunshine in such awesome surroundings soon helped us forget we had hangovers from the previous night, which involved St Patricks Day celebrations in two of Rome's Irish pubs.

Overlooking the Roman Forum from on top of Palatine Hill

We exited the Roman Forum at the opposite site to where we had entered it, and found ourselves outside what is possibly the most beautiful and impressive building I have ever seen. The Victor Emmanuelle Monument, home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, with its white marble exterior and exquisite statues and carvings, is simply enormous. Come to think of it, everything in Rome seems to be enormous - the Romans obviously never believed that 'Less is more'!

Victor Emanuelle monument

Ignoring the fact that we'd been on our feet for half the day already, we set out across the city, taking in the beauty of the Pantheon, having a leisurely cup of coffee at an outdoor cafe in the Piazza Navona and then strolling through endless narrow streets and piazzas until we found the Trevi Fountain. It was packed with hundreds of people, and we joined the hordes in tossing coins into the water to ensure our return to the city one day.

Trevi Fountain

After a brief, failed attempt at shopping due to exhaustion, we trudged back to our hotel for a quick power nap before heading out to dinner, where we indulged in a delicious meal and too much red wine.

The following morning after a hangover-beating breakfast of coffee and pastries, we hopped on a bus to Vatican City. Once again, the sheer size of the place left me breathless, and all I could say for a while was, "Wow!" It took hours for us to take in the sight of the massive columns flanking St Peter's Square and then to wander around St Peter's Basilica. The beauty and opulence of the place left us feeling extremely insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

St Peter's Square

From there we wandered over to the Castel S Angelo, across the bridge lined with statues of angels, and through more narrow winding streets, discovering something amazing every time we turned a corner. There seems to be a grand piazza, Church, obelisk or other architectural wonder at the end of every road in Rome, not to mention plenty in between. Eventually after a couple of wrong turns (my navigational abilities seemed to break down for a while) we reached the Spanish Steps, where we joined hundreds of other tourists resting in the sunshine.

Spanish Steps

We had pizza and beer for lunch at a trattoria nearby, and spent the rest of the afternoon shopping on the Via Del Corso, finding our way through the police line at the top of the road where a demonstration was in progress, to do some more shopping on Via Nazionale before returning to the hotel. Another delicious dinner and even more red wine made for another perfect evening.

Since we had some time before having to leave again for the airport the following day, we spent the morning wandering more or less aimlessly around the streets surrounding our hotel. Rome has so much to offer, and there is so much to see, it is impossible to cover everything in one long weekend.

Santa Maria Maggiore church - at least that's what we deduced using our map-reading skills..!

So, hopefully the coin-in-the-Trevi-fountain thing pays off, because of all the cities I've been to, Rome is the one I most want to see again!

South Africa - Dec 2004-Jan 2005

We decided to take a long-overdue trip home in December 2004, for a full four weeks. It was just what the doctor ordered! We left a dreary, miserable, wintery Dublin in the morning and stepped off the 'plane that night into a beautiful, warm, summery Cape Town.
The next morning we picked up our rental car and set off along the N2, leaving behind Table Mountain, wound our way up Sir Lowry's Pass and headed purposefully Eastwards. We drove past the vast farmlands of the Western Cape and took a 100km detour to visit the Southernmost tip of Africa, where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet at Cape Agulhas. We eventually reached Knysna around sunset, and spent the night with our friends Kevin & Joan, enjoying much-missed South African hospitality.

After a short walk around town in Knysna the following morning we started driving again, following the familiar road through Plett, past Jeffreys Bay and into Port Elizabeth where the feeling of coming home that had been building, finally became complete.

Spending the month with our family and friends in the South African sunshine slowly restored the energy to our souls. Living in the Northern Hemisphere has a way of sucking the life right out of us. We visited, shopped, beached, ate, drank and were generally merry, until all too soon it was over.

To all our family and friends in South Africa: We miss you, we miss our country, and in the immortal words of Arnie, "I'll Be Back"!!

We took hundreds of photos while we were there, these are but a select few. Enjoy!

Western Cape farmlands

Southernmost tip of Africa - Cape Agulhas

Where two oceans meet.

Overlooking Wilderness

Overlooking Knysna lagoon from Kevin & Joan's house

The road to home through the Tsitsikama Forest

Watching a summer storm roll towards Grahamstown

Hobie Beach in Port Elizabeth

Hobie Beach, looking back from Shark Rock Pier


Breakfast run to J-Bay with Wayne & Marike. Thanks for a great day & the loan of your bike, guys!

Leaving again... Cape Peninsula from the air

Russell & Sheena visit Ireland - October 2004

In October 2004 Russell & Sheena came all the way over from Grahamstown to visit us. It was great to see our friends again, and one of the things we did was spend a weekend in a little village called Adare, in Co Limerick. From there we drove out to the Cliffs of Moher on the west coast of Co Clare. On the way back to Dublin we stopped at the Rock of Cashel, that ancient, impressive but now defunct monastary which can be seen from miles around.

In the park in Adare

The Cliffs of Moher

Russell & Sheena at the Cliffs of Moher

Rock of Cashel

St Patrick's Cross at Cashel

Inside the cathedral ruins

Gran Canaria - August 2004

As a special treat in honour of Dave's 40th birthday, we booked ourselves a week in the sun on the island of Gran Canaria. We did nothing but laze about on the beach or at the pool, although we did gather enough energy to go wave-jumping on wet-bikes, and do a spot of parasailing. We were also happy to find a pub near the beach to watch the Springboks win the Tri Nations!!! GO BOKKE!!!!!

Gorgeous weather every day

Getting ready to watch the Bokke!

Enjoying sunset views from the restaurant balcony

Amadores beach

Cyprus - April 2004

One of the places I've always wanted to go is Cyprus, so when Dave went off to Argentina for a week on a Rugby tour, Jacky & I took the opportunity to go do some bonding in the sun. Cyprus did not disappoint, from the moment we stepped off the 'plane until the time we left. We stayed in Limassol & spent the week laughing, eating, drinking & generally having a ball. The locals were really friendly and the island is just beautiful. We did a lot of relaxing, but did some touristing as well. The day trip over to Cairo was a definite highlight and it was great to be on African soil again, even if it was at the opposite end of the continent from the place we call home. Cairo was hot and hazy, the pyramids at Giza and the Sphinx really impressive, and the sunset cruise like something out of a movie.

We hired a car our last day in Cyprus and drove the coastal route from Limassol to Paphos, stopping at a number of places along the way, my favourite of which was Aphrodites Rock. If I were to choose one place on earth where I felt, for a few moments, completely at peace with the world, that was it: sitting on a rock with my feet in the cool clear water of the Mediterranean Sea, feeling the sun blazing down, watching the waves rush in and out over the pebbled beach, with the cries of seagulls filling the air, and not a care in the world.

So, if ever I disappear without a trace, you know where to find me...!

VIew from our hotel room in Limassol

Proof that I've seen the Pyramids & the Sphinx!

Peering through the smog towards Cairo from Giza

Sunset cruise along the Nile

Kolossi Castle

While sitting in the Kourion amphitheatre overlooking the sea & enjoying the sun...

...we were treated to an aerobatics display by the Red Arrows!

Aphrodites Rock

Paphos harbour

Paris - August 2003

Dave and I spent four wonderful days in Paris. It was HOT!!! It was also beautiful - I fell in love with the city. Seeing the Eiffel Tower had been at the top of my list of Things To Do In Life for as long as I could remember.

We walked from the Place De La Concorde, up the Champs Elysees, and all the way to the top of the Arc de Triomphe in the blazing summer sun. We sat in the shade of the Eiffel Tower eating ice-cream and pondering the size of the collossal structure. We took a train out to the Palace of Versailles and strolled to the Moulin Rouge in the evening and we marvelled at the beauty of Notre Dame and Sacre Coeur. A few hours was just not enough to spend at the Louvre, and although I personally don't see what all the fuss is about with the Mona Lisa, I was really impressed with the Venus de Milo.

Everything about Paris is beautiful - the architecture, the people, the food... everything seems to be about celebrating the beauty and joy of life. Having been there now, I can see what all the fuss is about. It certainly lives up to its romantic reputation and definitely rates a second visit.

Arc de Triomph at the top of the Champs Elysees

On top of the Arc de Triomph, the Eiffel Tower looks deceptively small in the background

Look! It's Notre Dame!

Moulin Rouge at night

Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles

The streets of Montmarte

Sacre Coeur

A Dream Wedding

In March 2001 Dave and I finally tied the knot. Not overly keen on being the centre of attention or having too much of a fuss made, we decided to do things a little differently and get married at sea.

To make it legal, we had a small ceremony in Mandy & Lex's beautiful garden in Port Elizabeth two days before embarking on our cruise aboard the SS Monterey.

The cruise was fantastic, even with the tail-end of a cyclone we had to endure for the first couple of days. It was a seven-night round-trip from Durban to Madagascar. Seven days of peace and tranquility, with every need catered to, copious amounts of food and plenty of entertainment laid on.
We were fortunate to have as our companions Mom, Jacky, Mandy and Lex, not to mention our brand new friends, Tracey and Brian, who we met on board and who were also newlyweds.

Our wedding on board took place somewhere in the Indian Ocean on the return leg to Durban, on our last day on board. The wind had picked up again but nothing could detract from the magical experience of getting married at sea, with the the ship's horn sounding three times in our honour. What a happy girl was I!!!

Before the official ceremony with Lisa, Mom, Danielle & Jacky.

Officially Mr & Mrs, with my beautiful step-children.

Family Reunion!

Our first day on board the Monterey - a little choppy..!

Calm waters and blazing sunshine near Madagascar.

Our wedding party on board the Monterey... Lex being noticeably absent due to prior Bingo engagements!

The Happy Couple, married at last (...again!)