Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Sending love from Siena

Ciao again from Siena,
Well, considering today is my First Anniversary (celebrating my first Month in Italy) I thought it fitting to send another email.  Gosh, it seems unbelievable that a month could go by so quickly. 
Today was the start of week two of my Italian lessons and I am now in a class of four students.  Lucy left on Saturday and I am now with a New Zealand couple (Roger and Julie) and a young German girl (Stefanie).  We are more on the same level, so today’s session was great.  Our teachers are insisting that we speak only Italian in the class, so there are many pauses as we all try and think of what to say.  Or more importantly, how to say it?  There are many laughs along the way and much praise when we all say something remotely intelligent!
Last week, for some reason, my Italian conversations in class always seemed to involve food and photos!!  Last Thursday our homework was to write 10 sentences using variations of the verb, “Devere” (Must) and Potere (Can).
 Examples of four I wrote were:
1.       Io Devo mangiare sempre (I must always eat).
2.       Noi dobbiamo andare in qualche posto per mangiare (We need to go somewhere to eat).
3.       Io posso fare tante cose con photoshop (I can do lots of things with photoshop).
4.       Noi possiamo andare insieme per fare foto, si vuoi (We can go together to take photos if you like)
Okay, to be completely truthful, I wrote out sentences that I thought meant the above, and needed a little (?) refinement by the teacher to get them to actually look like the above.  But in the end, the teacher was well aware that the two current priorities in my life are food and photography (considering all 10 sentences were written about both!!!)
Now, the food part is hardly my fault.  When we have a morning tea break, all the students currently at the school head down to the bar (small café) for a coffee and/or treats for about half an hour.  It is the perfect way to mingle with others at the school, and of course to eat!! 
The school also organizes an excursion to a small village once a week.  So on Thursday afternoon we went to a town called Volterra.  The drive out to Volterra was just beautiful.  The landscape of gorgeous green hills was all too much for me.  I had to ask that we stop for a photo!!  Okay, many photos!!  And then before I knew it, I started taking portrait photos of everyone against the backdrop of gorgeous patchwork-like hills.  I could live there…..aaahhhhh……ooooohhhhhhhh….hang on……hhhhmmmm…. I don’t recall seeing too many shops in-between the farm houses….okay, it was a nice country drive!!!
However, my Saturday excursion was very exceptional!!!  Two other ladies from the school and I decided we should reward ourselves with a day trip to Florence!!!!!!  One hour and 15 minutes on the bus and we were in Florence!!!  Am I in Heaven???   One hour and 15 minutes from Cairns and I find myself in Tully!!!!!!!!  The only similarity I can find is that Tully probably has as many Italians living there as Florence!! 
Oh, the markets of Florence… where I was of course forced by my shopping companions to purchase a black leather handbag J.  It was just so functional and lightweight and suited to travelling…and just perfect!  It also fits many things…like the very cute scarf that found its way in there as well.  Again, not my fault.  I am simply trying to keep up with the fashion over here.  I saw a lady walking by with the very same scarf on and it looked so amazing on her, that I just knew it would also look wonderful on me.  I marvel at how similar it was to just looking at myself in the mirror???
Oh Oh Oh, let’s not mention the heart palpitations I felt when we reached the jewellery markets!!!  Don’t faint Mum…I actually resisted this time.  I did have to wipe some dribble off the store window that I leant up against though.  To console myself I made a little promise that I will revisit Florence again closer to the time that I return home to Australia.   That will give me time to work out in what manner I should reward myself for being so patient??  Shall I require ‘bling’ to hang from my ear lobes; or adorn my neckline; or caress my slender long fingers???  Oh, decisions, decisions!!!
Now, in my usual fashion, I started chatting to the other passenger s that were seated on the bus next to me (both on the way to Florence and the return).  I took note of the lady who was on the previous bus trip (last email) and ensured that I took many breaths between sentences to give the other person a chance to speak!  The first lady was from Siena and could speak English, so that was easy enough.  The other lady spoke only Italian.  I managed to tell her that I was doing an Italian language course in Siena and to my delight; she used to be a teacher (for 40 years)!!  So, I scored myself an hour’s free personal tuition!  She kept correcting my grammar as we spoke and was most encouraging with my progress.
My luck with locating professional photographers for personal tuition is also overwhelming!  My flat mate Magdalena was doing a course at the University and another student was a professional photographer (John) from Melbourne.  So we all went out for dinner last Friday night and then on Sunday, I spent 4 hours wandering around Siena with John while he pointed out all the best photography locations in the city centre.  It was great!!!  I also found two gorgeous Argentinean male models (dressed as tourists) that welcomed posing for a photo for me (after I told them how simply adorable they looked and my young female friends in Cairns would be most appreciative of a photo).   I am including this photo on the email!!!  Note the word ‘love’ on my T-shirt.  I was truly feeling the love!!! Enjoy.

My personal Italian tuition has also continued with Mauro.  We have enjoyed many more walks around the city centre while I practice my Italian.  I seriously feel like I am living the ‘Eat, Pray, Love” movie!!!  Can life get any better than this!!!!
I am also building up the “new” friend count.  I got along fabulously with a lovely German lady Tamara who was here for the week.  We spent a couple of evenings having drinks/dinner together and she came to Florence with me.  She spoke about her husband and daughter and wanting to find a new job.  I spoke about my passion for photography and search for love??  She then provided me with the Italian term for “the man of your dreams”….she said the term was … “il principe azzuro”.  Hhmmm, I just checked that on google translation and it came up as “Prince Blue”???  I will ask my teacher tomorrow!  It’s best that I am not running around telling everyone I am searching for a blue Prince!!
Anyway, that’s about it for now.
Even though I am living a dream, I still think of you all very often and miss you dearly.
Love Joy xx

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Ciao from Siena - 23/05/11

Ciao from Siena,

After another 4 great days in Roma, I have made it to Siena for my 2 week  Italian Language Course.  I arrived on Sunday (yesterday) by bus.  The countryside was so gorgeous driving out here; I actually stayed awake for the 3 hour trip.  The constant chattering of the middle aged lady across the aisle was perhaps another reason I stayed awake.  I swear she did not take one breath during her conversation in the entire 2 hour trip to her destination.  When she got off the bus, I looked at the young girl who had been seated beside her and she just looked back at me and said, “Mamma Mia!!!” and nursed her ears.  I did wonder whether sometimes the people seated beside me do the same thing??  When I have been on my own for a few days and then find someone who can understand English, I have been known to get a little excited and maybe talk for a short while without stopping…okay long while…but I am sure they are interested in everything I say??
Siena is more beautiful than I remembered (I was here for one day, two years ago).  I know I am going to love exploring this amazing city.  It has a maze of narrow streets and, as the Eyewitness Travel book says, it has one of Europe’s greatest medieval squares, the Piazza del Campo.  I sat in the middle of the Piazza square this afternoon having a gelati with my new room-mate, Magdalena.  As I devoured my 22nd (?) gelati since arriving in Italy, I couldn’t help but reflect on how incredible  it is that only 4 weeks ago I was having a gelati with my friend Anita after my last Italian lesson in Cairns and here I was in Siena having a gelati after my first Italian lesson in Italy!!  Oh, apparently gelati consumption helps you to remember what you have learnt.  I’m sure I read that somewhere (quite possibly when I was reading back my own email, but it does work..True God??).
The language school arranged an apartment for me and the location is just perfect.  It is just a 10 minute walk to the language school and another 5 minutes to the piazza.   I am staying with a 33 year old lady from Macedonia.  She is so lovely and friendly; and like me, enjoys a good chat.  Plus she appears to be a clean freak, so we are going to get along brilliantly!!!  Come to think of it, maybe she has a tad more OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) than I do.  She started a three sponge system for washing up the dishes.  One sponge for glasses, one for dishes and one for pots!!!   I know for a fact that when some of my friends just read that, they were thinking that she was soon to be my next best friend!!!  (yes Heidi, you were the first to think that J)
When I arrived at my apartment on Sunday, I was met by the landlord, who graciously tried to carry my bag up the skinny flight of stairs for me.   However, he was struggling so much I thought he was going to burst a heart valve.   I quickly helped by lifting one end of the suitcase up, as I didn’t want to be responsible for killing my first Italian landlord!!!
Oh, Oh, Oh, there are so many shops here.  They just never seem to end.  Every corner you turn around has more and more temptations!!!!  I am so trying to be good.  Will need to remind myself that I am here to learn Italian not to personally support the Siena economy.  Plus, I keep thinking of those apartment stairs that I have to carry my bag down.  Hhhmm,  it is of course always much easier to carry the bag down a set of stairs than up…so will focus on that should the temptation to bring home a Siena souvenier become too much to resist!!!  Plus I am sure by the end of the two weeks, I will have found an item of clothing that I am happy to part with so that I can purchase a new one….if not only for the reason that I should at least try to practice the special advice that Melinda provided J.
As I said earlier, today was my very first Italian lesson here in Siena.  It was great as there were only two of us in the class (beginner’s class), myself and Lucy.  Lucy is from Tasmania and knows less Italian than I do, so I actually feel like I need to help her.  However, I got caught out whispering the answer to her today.  A bit hard to do it discreetly when there are only two of you in the class!!  I have two female tutors who run a session each.  They are both lovely and fortunately very patient with us.  I feel quite confident that by the end of the two weeks I will be able to ask more than just “Where is the toilet?” in fluent Italian.
And then there is the delightful and very handsome Mauro!!!  I had been emailing Mauro from Australia when I was first signing up for the course.  I think Mauro feels responsible that as I have come all the way from Australia to learn Italian that he needs to ensure that I do actually learn something while here.  We caught up this afternoon for a walking tour of the City during which we spoke Italian as he showed me the sights.  Again he showed much patience as he politely corrected my pronunciation.  Now, wandering around a beautiful city whilst chatting to a hot Italian Casanova is surely the way Italian is to be learnt!!!!   
On that note, it is way past my bed-time, so it is Ciao for now.
Oh, hang on, forgot to tell you -  one fabulous thing that happened on my last day in Rome.  I was walking around Rome and accidently bumped into the lovely photographer Carlo (from my first Rome email).  We have now made arrangements that the next time I am in Rome we are going to catch up for a little photography shoot!  How exciting is that!!!  This guy has the most amazing website (Carlodegori.jimdo.com) and has become my latest Facebook friend!!
Love Joy

Friday, 20 May 2011

Sicilian update 18.5.11

Ciao all,
A sad morning this morning as my Princess days have come to an end.  I am currently sitting on a train heading back to Rome.  I can’t believe that two weeks in Sicily could go by so quickly.  And again, what a wonderful time I have had.  If you wish to experience generosity, friendship, family love (I could go on and on…) take a trip to Sicily!!!  These people would give you all that they own and then apologise because they didn’t think it was enough.  A part of me will now always belong to Sicily and my new found family.
Gosh, where do I start to describe my last week?  I will start with the ‘food’.  I will be like my Mother.  Every time Mum and Dad went on holidays and we rang to see how they were going, the first thing that Mum would say would be how fantastic the food was.  We would then ask, ‘yes, but what have you seen?” and again the response was that she saw three choices for entrée, 5 choices for mains and all the dessert you could eat!!!   So, here I go - You can add another two types of pasta to the other seven I mentioned previously.  And I tried 8 different types of pizza, 4 flavours of granita, 6 flavours of gelato, numerous biscotti’s and plenty more of my favourite cherries!!!  The family had this perfectly timed distraction tactic going where someone would draw my attention away from the dinner table, and someone else would slip more food onto my plate!!!  Just lucky I have low cut jeans so my stomach could happily hang over the top of them!!!
My next love is of course is shopping!  So, last Thursday I again accompanied Maria to the local markets. And due to the continuing cold weather, before I knew it, I was trying on another lovely lightweight jacket (ensured it was lightweight of course as I don’t want the wheels of my suitcase to give way).  Maria and the store assistant said I looked like a model when I tried it on.  Bless their hearts! Although, I am beginning to think it was more because they don’t often see females who are taller than 5ft 4“and slim.  However, it worked to encourage me to add it to my ‘ever increasing’ collection of Italian fashion. 
I also received some encouragement from my dearest travelling partner Melinda, who I will be meeting up with in August.  She emailed me this week with some special advice to solve the problem of my ‘ever increasing ‘baggage weight.  She suggested that each time I purchase a new item of clothing that I should toss out an old item.  That way by the time she meets me in August, my suitcase will solely contain the latest fashion of Italy (of which she could then admire on my behalf)!!  For those that recall my previous Italy travel emails (from 2009), you would not be surprised by Melinda’s advice.  After 5 weeks in Italy, Melinda had purchased 3 leather jackets, 5 scarves, a dress, 4 leather handbags, several tops, jewelry, trinkets etc etc.  Whereas I simply purchased 2 overpriced candle holders!!  Oh hang on, I do have some vague recollection of some T Shirts and other minor accessories…. 
However, I did bring my favourite pair of jeans with me on this trip and am not sure if my heart could bear parting with them.  It would probably take two new pairs of jeans just to replace the sentimental value.  Hmm, 2 new pairs??  Am feeling the heart strings loosen considerably when put like that!!!!  Will put some more thought into her advice as I continue with my travels.
My sister told me that she is passing these emails over to my mother to read, so I best add (before my mother thinks I will be on a corner begging for money soon) that it is the Sicilian custom to pay for EVERYTHING for their guests.  I had many a moment where I was chastised by my new family for trying to pay for something.  So not only was I served with a table of food fit for a Princess, I was driven around Sicily, taken to all the best tourist attractions where they waited patiently while I took 500 photos, provided with restaurant meals (and grenita/gelati treats) along the way…all the while not being allowed to contribute a thing except my endearing personality J.   Oh My God, these people are amazing!!!  My only slight concern is that I kept begging them all to come and visit me so I could repay their hospitality.  However, if they all decide to come in the same year, I may have to utilize the redraw facility on my house loan!!!!  And take cooking lessons as well….
Sicilians are the proudest people, not only of their family, but especially of their country.  I have been taken to some spectacular towns and attractions.  Yes, my camera got quite the workout.  Some of my favourites were Agrigento (for its Greek Temples), Taormina (loved its gorgeous streets and views), Catania (Markets & Architecture), Noto (The wonderful flower festival), St Alfio (History of Festival of 3 saints), Calatibiano (Festival of St Filipo), Syracuse (for its history) and Letojanni (for the yummiest Granita), and many many many more small gorgeous towns in between.  I have quite the collection of windows, doors, streets, churches and castle photos!!!!  Not to mention brides!!  There have been weddings on in half the churches I have been to.  So of course, I have photographed them as well!!  (It is good to become familiar with the latest fashion in wedding dresses as you never know when you may need to wear one???).  And at the moment Italy is celebrating its 150th year of Unification, so there are Italian flags swinging from windows everywhere.  Love it!!! 
Going into the church at St Alfio was great.  I remember going to the Silkwood St Alfio Festival of the Three Saints when I was growing up, and to actually go to the town where it all started was fabulous.  We were shown into a room at the rear of the church where they had paintings hanging on the walls, depicting all the miracles that were alleged to have been attributed to intervention of the Three Saints.  I offered to provide a painting of my ‘butt’ as I think it is a small miracle that it is not the size of a house after all the food I have eaten in the last two weeks.!!!  (Thank you Saint Alfio, Filadelfo & Cirino.  I am indebted to you.)
While I didn’t make it to Mt Etna, I was fortunate to be at a lookout one night when we saw a red line near the peak of the mountain which indicated a small eruption and lava flow.  Close enough for me!!  While we were driving through the countryside I also saw black rock formations everywhere where the lava had once flowed.  It was amazing. My cousin told me an old wives tale where the residents of a town called Mascali used to treat Mount Etna with disrespect by using the fire of the lava to cook their food; whereas the residents of a nearby town feared the consequences and warned them against it.  Then when Mt Etna erupted in 1928, the flow went around the neighbouring town and completely wiped out Mascali. Bugger!!  I actually had a similar experience of sorts.  I was in a church and took a photo of a statue, and while taking the photo I was thinking how ugly the statue looked (it looked like an eagles head on a horse’s body inclusive of wings and a horse’s mane.  Not something you see everyday??).  Two minutes later I was walking past the same statue and accidentally whacked my head against it.  Ouch!!  Don’t mess with anything Sicilian!!!!
Highlights of my trip to Sicily were to see the house in Giarre which my Mother grew up in (and meet her childhood best friend who still lives in the area) and to visit my Grandfather’s gravesite.   These were three things that I had always dreamed of doing and feel very blessed to have now achieved them.  I also met some old cousins of my mother who were able to show me a photo of my grandfather when he was in his twenties.  Quite the spunk old Nonno was!!!  
Oh my God, how could I not have mentioned this yet!!!  The driving here is the scariest thing I have experienced in a long time.  After two weeks of being driven around Sicily I still have absolutely no idea what the road rules are and who is supposed to be giving way to who???  And I am absolutely certain that neither does anyone else!!!!!!  Apparently red lights and stop signs have no meaning whatsoever.  Seat belts are just straps that hang by the side of car doors.  There is no limit to how many people you can fit on the back seat of the car. Sounding the horn continually alerts the other drivers of your intention to um, hmm, who the hell knows??  And the best of them all is that Italian drivers need to remove both hands from the steering wheel when talking to you (one hand gesturing is clearly not enough to get the story across) regardless of whether they are driving at 40 km/hr or 140 km/hr!!!!!!!!!!    All I can say is that I closed my eyes often and prayed even more often!!!
Now, my cousin Rosaria and I did keep an eye out for Donatello as we toured around, but he was again elusive.  Sadly, I don’t recall seeing anyone worthy of a second look, let alone anything else.  My cousin is also single so we joked that we were looking for a Raffaele for her and a Donatello for me.  Well, on the train I started talking to this very sweet and cute young Italian guy who spoke wonderful English.  I had asked if he wouldn’t mind helping me get my small bag ?? down from the baggage racks (as two other lovely gentlemen had put it up there for me) and after that we chatted for ages.  Anyway, just as we were arriving in Rome he suggested we keep in contact.  When I asked him to write down his name, it was Raffaele!!!  How funny!! Raffaele just became my latest facebook friend!!!  If only I was 20 years younger, it would have been, well hello Raffaele….Donatello would have been a thing of the past J.
And the last of my Sicilian stories…. just to prove how amazing Maria and Pipa were.  Two days before I left, Maria and Pipa handed me a gift box and said that they had bought me something to remember them by.  I opened it to find an absolutely gorgeous silver bracelet with all different shaped heart charms hanging from it.  What they obviously didn’t realize was that they are forever embedded in my heart and I could never forget them!!!  Yes, I cried.
Love Joy xx

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Ciao from Sicilia 9.05.11

Hi all from bella Sicilia,

I spent my last day in Rome wandering around the ruins of the Roman Forum and the Colosseum.  So much to photograph, I was easily entertained for hours.  I then made my way to the Piazza di Spagna to see the Spanish steps.  Not a great time of the year to try to actually ‘see’ the steps.  It was more just rows and rows of tourists sitting on the steps!!  However, it was still a great feeling being there. 

Wednesday morning I caught the train to Sicily to meet with my new surrogate Italian Family.  It was a 9 hour train ride and I had my first experience of being forced to speak the language.  I was surrounding by only Italian speaking travelers and it was very interesting times trying to explain to them that I was from Australia and was visiting with family (who I was going to meet for the first time) in Sicily.  It was a case of them repeating what they thought I said and then me excitedly nodding my head when they got it right.  Gosh, you should have seen my hands going.  Apparently it helps to be waving them about at the same time as trying to string together  a poorly constructed sentence of poorly pronounced Sicilian dialect (Joy’s version of Italian).  By the end of the conversation, they understood that my mother was in Sicily and I was going to visit her????  Close enough, I guess???

Fortunately I am having better success with the gorgeous family I am staying with (of course it helps that their daughter-in-law Laura speaks English).  I cannot express enough how absolutely wonderful they are!!!!!!!  I am staying with an elderly couple (Maria 80 & Nino 82) who on my first day told me that they think of me as a daughter (Oohhhh, so cute) and for me to make their home like my own.  If you see the state of my bedroom (Suitcase contents  EVERYWHERE), one would have assumed that I took them at their word!

There has been much cheek kissing, numerous hugs and many laughs as they attempt to decipher what I am saying.   Nino’s sister, Pipa (76) has been here each day as well and she is the most wonderful character.  She makes fun of me all the time and amazingly is the best at understanding me.  She has actually been my translator when Laura hasn’t been around.  My saving grace is that they all speak the old style Sicilian which Mum speaks to me back home, so for the most part, I can understand most of what they say. 

If I still fit in my clothes when I leave here it will be a small miracle.  I have had seven types of pasta since I arrived.  Not to mention the steak, chicken, Italian sausages, spinach, salad, bread, prosciutto, and fruit that have all been part of the meals as well.  Their main meal is eaten at lunch time and ALL the family turn up for it.  It is just amazing.  Family all drop in between 12 – 1pm and we have a loud conversation during the meal and then everyone leaves again.  The close bond they all share is fabulous.  They have all decided that I look between 30 – 35 years old, God bless them!!!  And God bless my mother for passing on her youthful looks. 

I have decided that I want a younger version of Nino for my Donatello.  Nino is the sweetest old man.  He heard that I love cherries, so without me knowing, off he went to the local store and returned with a bag full of different types of fruit, including my favourite cherries!!!  He said that he had a surprise for me after lunch (as he had hidden them in the kitchen).  And then when we had finished eating the main meal he brought out this huge bowl of fruit for me.  I don’t know who was beaming with joy more, Nino or I!!

I even walked down to the local Markets with just Maria and Pipa one day.  We had a great time.  One minute I was walking arm in arm with Pipa and then it was with Maria.  They are just adorable!!!  Yes, I purchased my 2nd top for the trip (so far…).  It was hanging in a market stall and when I pointed it out to Maria she said it would look lovely on me and I should buy it.  Well, that was what I understood anyway!!!  So of course I bought it!  And yes it does look lovely on me J.

Oh, the weather has been so much colder than I had anticipated.  I thought I was arriving in Summer, but apparently the cold has lasted much longer than usual this year.  Which is of course is why I was also forced to purchase a new black jacket on Saturday.  I couldn’t keep alternating the two jumpers that I had packed, as I am meeting all these new relations and my Mother would be most upset if I wasn’t making a good impression??

I have been made to feel like the “Australian Princess” here in Sicily.  Maria’s phone has been ringing non-stop with all the relations and family friends (that my Mother called) who want to come and see me!!  It’s quite amusing.  The other night three ladies turned up at 9.45pm (they visit late at night here) and we all sat around in a circle talking.  I had to grab out my Italian Dictionary and it was like playing charades!!  I would use hand gestures and say a word that ‘sounded’ like Italian and they would all cheer with glee when they understood it right!!!

Maria’s daughter in law Laura has been so wonderful to me.  She lives in the apartment below Maria’s, so I have spent many enjoyable hours with her and her new baby Antonio.   I have been helping her practice English???  Earlier tonight I was teaching her to sing “Old MacDonald had a farm” to her son.  And my other favourite is Rosaria, which I think is my third cousin.  She speaks English really well.  We spent an amazing day on Saturday exploring Catania.  She is an architect and it was like wandering around with a tour guide.  She gave me the complete history on the whole city.  Gosh, I hope she doesn’t expect the same if she ever comes to visit me in Cairns, otherwise I will have to spend a whole week in the library preparing!!!

With regards to household chores, I haven’t been allowed to do a thing since I arrived.  I have had my clothes hand washed, my meals cooked, my towel replaced each morning and breakfast set out on the table 5 minutes after I get up.  I haven’t even been allowed to clear the table after meals.  I wasn’t kidding when I called myself a Princess!!!  This morning I took a little longer than usual in the bathroom and Nino called out to make sure I was feeling okay.  I had to try and explain that when one reaches a certain age it takes a little longer to fill the facial crevices with sufficient foundation (make-up) to ensure that one remains looking 35 instead of 45!!!

Needless to say I am having the time of my life here.  I LOVE my new family and 5000 relations Mum dug up and have decided to stay for two weeks instead of one!!!  I will be here until next Wednesday.  Although I may cling to a pole and refuse to leave if this royal treatment continues!!

Oh, just one last little story.  Yesterday Laura’s young 6 year old nephew came to visit and when he found out I was from Australia he got so excited as he had been learning English at school.  He dragged me by the hand to go and sit down so we could talk.  He then proceeded to tell me that ‘the sky is blue’ and ‘My brother is my Dad’.  HHmm, Laura assures me that he meant to say his brother was David.  He then told me (in Italian) that he had a secret.  He said he was in love with a girl at school and wanted to write a song for her and to give it to her the next morning. The words to the song were “Oh my love, Oh my love, Oh my dearest love”.  YES, THIS CHILD IS SIX!!!!!  When I asked what she looked like, he said she was ‘Bellissima”.  What can I say….an Italian Gigolo in the making!!! 

And on that note, I will leave you for now.

Ciao Ciao,

Love Princess Joy xx

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Bella Roma - 3.5.11

Buona Sera,

I can't believe I have now been here for two days already.  At this rate, I will be home before you know it, which would make my mother very happy!!!  Poor Mum, she doesn't quite understand the concept of my new life adventure.  All she knows is that she lost her shopping partner for 6 months!!! But I will ensure that I make her proud.  I am continuing to shop!!!  I walked into one clothes store yesterday and the shop assistant flattered me so much regarding how great my new TShirt looked on me, that she convinced me to purchase it.  What choice did I have?  I couldn't disappoint her.  She looked so pleased when I purchased it. 

Now, where do I start?  Firstly, my Bed & Breakfast accommodation is great.  The lovely Freidrich & his mother are so friendly and helpful.  There are only a few others here, so I almost feel like I have a whole apartment to myself.  And free internet access.  So happy about that!!!  The only minor concern is the old style key & lock on my bedroom door.  I keep forgetting which way to turn the key (it's one of those tricky ones where you only put the key in half way then turn it), and for the last two mornings I have taken about 5 minutes to open the door.  Have not panicked, but it is not good to be struggling to open one's door when one needs to pee very badly. 

Well haven't I been the good catholic girl these last two days!!!  On my last morning in Rome (when I was here on holidays with Melinda in 2009) I spent the morning attending Sunday mass at the Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore.  Well, I decided that the only fitting way to celebrate my return to Rome was to again spend the morning attending Sunday mass at the same Basilica.  What I didn't know until arriving here, was that I had picked a very special day to do this - the Beautification of Pope John Paul II!!  Oops should now be calling him Blessed Pope John Paul II.  Beautification in the Catholic Church is performed for individuals whose lives have exemplified heroic virtue and is strongly supported within the church (I just googled that for you).  Apparently Popey John Paul is a miracle away from being called a Saint!!  Go Popey!!

Now, when I arrived at the Basilica I found that they were having a huge open air mass outside the church, with a big screen set up so we could all watch the 'official mass proceedings' being held at the Vatican City by the current Pope Benedict XVI.  I did consider going to that one in person, however so did one million other people (no exaggeration), so I am glad I didn't!!  The mass at the Basilica was amazing.  The faith of the thousands that attended the Basilica where i was, had to be seen to be believed.  Some ladies were crying; everyone was clapping during parts of the mass; the 'peace be with you' (la pace sia con voi) segment where we all shook hands during the mass was wonderful; and I even lined up to receive the Eucharist/holy communion (where you are offered the symbol of bread).  You are supposed to give confession before receiving it, but I think I should be okay with that.  I am generally a very good person??  Now it did last 3 hours, so just lucky they were handing out free water.  At one stage I started eating a biscuit and then realised I was technically 'in church', so I slid it back into my pocket before anyone saw me.  I did take heaps of photos (of course) so when i get a chance to sort through them, I will add some to the blog.

This morning I decided to head to Vatican City and before i knew it, I was in the middle of another open air mass.  Gosh, these italians just can't get enough!!!  More clapping, more tears, waving of flags, singing..very moving.  Speaking of moves, an old man tried to make one on me!!! This spritely old Polish fellow walked up to me and I thought he was just trying to tell me something about Popey, when all of a sudden he pulls a card (with all his details on it) out of his jacket pocket and asks if I want to come back to his house.  What the f#ck????  In a few years time the only thing he would need a women to do is give him a warm bath and change his bed pan!!!  OMG, why me!!!!!!!  Although the more I think about it, he really needed to put a bit more effort into getting a business card if he wants to 'officially pick up'.  The scrawly writing on a piece of torn off cardboard just didn't cut it!!  WHERE IS DONATELLO???????????  Why isn't he trying to pick me up!!!!

Oh, I just remembered the other reason why I chose not to go to the Vatican city mass on Sunday.  I read on one of their pamphlets that they were bringing in 400 portaloos.  HHHmmm you work out the math for that.  400 portaloos vs one million people.  I wouldn't hire that event coordinator again???  I actually had the pleasure (??) of using one today.  My sister laughed at me when I packed a roll of toilet paper in my suitcase.  Well, I made good use of it today.  That and the lovely cucumber and aloe hand sanitiser I also packed.  Gosh, I am becoming a seasoned traveler now.  See good reason why I travelled with 27 kilo's.  I told you i had to pack for every occasion!!

I must have walked from one end of the Rome City Centre to the other in the last two days.  I may have just slightly covered more streets than necessary on that rare, odd,  hardly ever occasion where I tried to navigate my way around without a map. But gee I was rewarded with the most beautiful street scenes.  And on one of those occasions yesterday I met this gorgeous young photographer Carlo.  I wish I could take him home - purely so we could play on photoshop together (of course). I just had to stop to admire his work.  His photos were spectacular.  He got so excited he dragged out his photo album  and was describing all these different photoshop techniques he had used.  It was like he was whispering sweet nothings in my ear. I loved Carlo!!!  I took his business card and his photo!!

I've been to see most of the famous sites again.  I made sure I went to the Trevi Fountain.  That is where the traditional legend holds that if visitors throw a coin into the fountain they are ensured a return to Rome.  Obviously worked last time I threw in a coin, so I did it again today.  Mother will be pleased to know that I also threw in an Australian coin to make sure that I returned home as well!!!  Hey, I just googled it, and it said that if you threw in three coins it will ensure a marriage.  How excited am I!!!  I threw in three Italian coins (and 1 Australian one).  Mum...get that dress ready!!!!!!!!!!

And on that note, I will again leave you. 

Ciao, Ciao from Bella Roma,

Love Joy

Monday, 2 May 2011

Ciao from Roma 2.5.11

Hi All,

Wow, my second day here in Rome.  How exciting!!

The flights over (four flights actually: Cairns - Brisbane; Brisbane to Singapore; Singapore to Dubai; Dubai to Rome) were fantastic!  Can you believe someone would actually say that after spending 23hours flying and another 10 hanging around airports!  But true.  I have this thing where each time before I fly I hope that I am sitting near someone who will 1. Be nice and 2. talk to me, so that the time goes quickly.  Well, I received that wish for every flight! 

On the flight from Cairns to Brisbane, I sat beside a lovely lady Dianne who works in the office of the High School I used to go to, so needless to say, we discussed old teachers, old students, and ended up knowing so many of the same people.  Was a great blast from the past.

I had a long stop over in Brisbane before catching a 2.40am flight.  One of the ladies from my Italian classes  (Dianne) was on the same flights (Cns - Dubai) so we caught up and kept each other company while waiting.  Was great.  I also met Emily (23 yrs) who I started chatting to in the long line up to get our booking ticket.  Emily then stuck with us until Dubai.   I was telling her about my photography hopes for Italy, so she excitedly wanted me to write down my name for her, in case I became famous!!!  LOL. 

I met a lovely student from Surrey, England on the flight from Brisbane to Singapore.  She has a dream to meet Prince Harry.  I told her I had a dream to meet Prince Donatello, except the only man to give me attention was a scary man from India who accosted me at the Dubai Airport.  He just walked up out of nowhere, introduced himself and wanted to shake my hand and be my friend.  Funny how I suddenly had a very strong urge to go to the toilet and scurried off before he could say anything else!!!!  Gosh, he must have been desperate...when I looked in the Airport bathroom mirror, my hair was clad to my head (from hours of resting back against the seat), my skin was looking dry and red (no signs of  make-up left), and my eyes were red and bleary from lack of sleep.  Note for future use - Indian men are easy to please!!!!

I then met this amazing young lady from Nigeria, called Kehinde Ayobami Temitope (on the flight from Singapore to Dubai).  What an impressive name and it matched a very impressive young woman.  Her dream is to become a famous singer and poet.  I had a good laugh when she first sat on the plane beside me.  She put on her headset and instantly started singing out loud.  I thought, gosh I wonder if she knows everyone can hear her???  Luckily she did actually sing well!!  I refrained from doing the same thing.  I still have vivid memories of my sister turning off the radio every time I tried singing along with a song.  We have since officially declared that NO-ONE in our family can sing!!!  Listening to Sing Star (karaoke) in our household is like listening to wolves howling in the night....

Anyway, Kehinde and I became good friends by the end of our flight.  She shared her poems with me from her laptop and I shared my 'inspirational NZ photos' from my laptop.  And we are now officially 'Facebook Friends'.  Oh, and we took our photo together after we landed.  And the most impressive thing of all was her middle name - Ayobami- it means "Joy happens to me".  Got to love that!!!

And finally, on my flight from Dubai to Rome, I met the wonderful Andrea & his beautiful wife Angie.  They live in the countryside outside Florence.  After talking to Andrea for most of the flight (his wife was lucky enough to jag an upgrade to First Class, so she was a few seats away), he made the most generous offer to me.  Not only did he give me his details in case I ever needed help while I was in Italy, he offered that I could house sit their house for 2 weeks in June if I wanted to!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Oh my God...how fantastic is that!!!!

So, I say unreservedly again, I had the most amazing trip over here!!!!  The Gods are smiling on me already.  And yes, I did duck into a quaint little church I found in an alleyway yesterday and gave thanks for making the start of my adventure so amazing already. 

Now, I was going to continue and tell you about my first day in Rome, but I think you may have enough reading to do for one email and I don't want to lose any of you before my adventure really takes off.....

Will email again soon,

Love Joy

Sunday, 1 May 2011

My Midlife Creation - Italy here I come!!!


Well it has just started - My Midlife Creation (as opposed to Midlife Crisis, as some may put it).  I have embarked on my second adventure through Italy.  This time on my own and for a longer period - hopefully 6 months if my Visa comes through.

The format I am adopting is to email a heap of my dearest friends with my travel emails and then cut and paste that email into this blog for any others that wish to follow and come along the the 'ride of my life' with me.  So, thanks for joining me.

Email one: sent to friends on the 29th April 2011 - just before leaving.

Hi all,
You are all now part of my email list for Joy's (hopefully weekly) holiday emails.   As part of the agreement to receive these emails, you must agree to signing a confidentiality clause.  That means no spreading gossip okay.  If my mother is to prepare her "Bride's mother's outfit", I at least want the opportunity to ring her first!!!  Ha Ha.  That got your attention didn't it!!
I finally managed to zip closed my small (??) 27 kg suitcase.  I was quite stressed this morning when I thought my allowance was only 23kg and it weighed it at 25kg.  However, after a very reassuring phone call from the Travel Agent (who informed me that I could take 30kg), the smile came back to my face .  I happily threw in a few extra MUST HAVE items and then it somehow snuck up to 27kg.  I know a few of you seasoned travelers just gasped, but I promise I am only taking the necessities in life....like my 15 tops, 8 shorts, 16 undies, 7 bras (just in case I am too busy to wash regularly)!!!  I obviously take after my mother because when she looked at all the clothes I layed out on the bed, she asked if I thought that I was taking enough (she was serious...she wanted me to take more!!!!).
I am actually starting to get quite nervous now.  I can't remember the last time I travelled on my own. However, I am sure that once I step foot in Rome and gaze up at the most incredible churches/architecture etc (that I will soon be happily photographing), all those nerves will be lost in the excitement of that "magic photo"!
Plus I am comforted by the thought that this must have always been in my life plan.  I am certain God has only ensured that I remained single with no kids (at the prime age of 45) so that I could embark of this amazing adventure!!??  Surely it was so that I could be swept off my feet by that elusive Donatello (that's my nickname for my Mr Right), in the most romantic way??? 
Now, for those who I haven't had a chance to catch up with, these are my plans at this stage (subject to change, if Donatello turns up somewhere in there....ha ha).
I fly out tonight and arrive in Rome Saturday night.  Then 4 nights in Rome, before catching a train down to Sicily to spend it with some wonderful family friends.  I am SO EXCITED to meet all these relations for the first time.  My dearest mother has been on the phone to Sicily for a month now rounding them all up!!!  She asked me yesterday what I was going to wear on the train down, to make sure I made a good 'first impression'.  See, I had no choice but to throw in the extra 5 tops to ensure I make the right selection on the day!!!  Do you think they make Suction packs large enough to fit a whole 27kg suitcase...I might need it.  Hhhm, more importantly I hope the wheels don't give out on me. 
Oh, where was I?  That's right...after Sicily, I head back to Rome and then make my way up to Siena in Tuscany.  I have signed up to do a 2 week language course in Siena.  How exciting is that!!!!!!  I can't wait!!!  I will be talking fluent Italian in no time??? 
Then more travelling around Italy just winging it, apart from visiting family in Milan and a glorious week in Venice.  In July I will fly out to Casablanca for a 2 week tour of Morocco,  (so excited about the photo opportunities there!!!), then back to Italy before I meet up with my wonderful travelling partner Melinda & her friend Ros (for a tour of Eastern Europe).  That's the quick rundown. Oops, I just looked at the time, and need to race off and get ready to head to the airport soon.
Oh, just to let you know, I will be posting these emails into a new blog I have started.  The link to it is http://www.findthejoyinlife.blogspot.com/.  Most of you know I went to Italy with Melinda in 2009.  Well, just so I could take a trip down memory lane, I added my old travel emails to start off the blog. 
I need to make myself beautiful for Rome (that could take some time), so I better head off.
Ciao, Ciao,
Love Joy  xx