My first pilgrimage to the land of pizza

I arrived in Rome in my usual fashion when going somewhere new, disorganized and with no expectations whatsoever. It was amazing that I got there at all. My journey had begun with me arriving at Bristol airport 50 minutes before my flight was due to take off. I was ushered to the front of the check-in queue, pissing everyone off in the process. This was followed by a frantic run to the gate, resulting in being the last person to be seated in the plane. Yup I was THAT person!

At the airport train station I bought myself a sandwich which was much better than railway sandwiches in the UK. This is a good sign, I thought. Once on the train, my excitement began to grow as we neared our destination. The train stopped, but we were not in Rome yet. It had broken down and we all had to get off at some random station that the train was not scheduled to stop at. I had all the time in the world and this was the perfect opportunity to make my first observations of the Italian people. They passionately shouted at the train officials, who at first, just wanted to leave us stranded there. A new train was sent for us an hour later. It was at this point that I knew I was in love with these beautiful, well dressed, passionate, pizza and coffee loving people. I was going to like Rome…..

I arrived at the Mosaic Hostel and was greeted by a friendly Brazilian man who worked at the front desk. My first observation was that the common room did not look very inviting. Since I had come to Rome alone, this made me slightly apprehensive in that I might not meet anybody to hang around with. Luckily, it was not long before I plucked up the courage to talk to someone and we agreed to go out and explore the city that evening.

Rome is like a museum, it is just breathtaking building after breathtaking building. At night time they are all lit up, this makes them all the more spectacular. The next morning we added a gentleman named ‘The Son of Neptune’ to our existing group of myself and the guy from Texas I had met the previous night. The second day was spent enjoying the sights. We saw the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Del Popolo and many more fountains and buildings with columns. The pantheon was my favorite sight, mainly because you can take an elevator to the top of it and enjoy spectacular views of the city.

Most of the main attractions that Rome is famous for are situated within the old city walls. They are all very close together and you can walk around and see most of them (at least from the outside) within a day. Within the walls the food is….well quite frankly rubbish and overpriced! Since pizza was one of the main reasons I had wanted to come to Italy, I decided to avoid eating in this area for the rest of my trip.

On the second evening in Rome, I had arranged to meet a friend of my brother’s who goes by the name of Ania. I had never met Ania before but since I had left my phone on the plane, we had full descriptions of each other and had arranged to meet at a square, near a church in the neighborhood of Trastevere. The son of Neptune, the guy from Texas and I set off to meet Ania. On our way out of the hostel we added a fellow Englishman and another Yank (this one from Boston) to our group.

We sat at the square drinking beer and having the occasional shot of absinthe (provided by the Son of Neptune) but Ania never turned up. The bitch! ******** Nonetheless, Ania had conveniently placed us in an area saturated with great and affordable restaurants! Our group enjoyed pizza, wine, side dishes, coffee and lemoncillo all for less than €15/head. It was a fantastic night, lots of booze was consumed and a great night was had by all. I think!

The next day was spent wondering through Villa Borghese and then strolling through random neighborhoods such as Prati and Borgo. Again the food in these neighborhoods is much cheaper and more authentic than within the old city walls. Having arranged a second attempt to meet with Ania, we journeyed to our destination through one of the Seven hills of Rome known as Gianicolo. The views from up there were spectacular and I highly recommend venturing up there if you are ever in Rome.

Ania, the Son of Neptune, the English guy and I met at a bar called Freni e Firenzoni and it was lovely. Ania was full of local knowledge and it was well worth the wait to meet her.

The following day was spent wondering through more neighborhoods in the north east of the city soaking up the culture, eating more great food and developing a great love for espressos. That evening we made trip to the Vatican. Ania had recommended that we go in the the evening (they open on Friday evenings) to avoid the 1,276 hour long queue that people normally endure to get in the pope’s gaff. It was cool. There were lots of good paintings and statues of babies with leaves covering their bits.

My final day in Rome was extremely lazy. My new found friends and I ate, drank and enjoyed each others company in this magnificent city. It was blissful.

I love Rome. I will return to Italy as soon as I can and if I live long enough to go back to Rome itself I definitely will!

******** It turns out that Ania, who is a far more intelligent and well organized human being than myself, had been very specific in her email and said to meet her, and I quote……

‘in the middle of Isola Tiberina (easy to find as it is an island in the middle of the river) – it has a small square and I can sit in front of the church?’

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Down to the tipy tip

Almost 3 years after leaving the UK I have returned home….ish

St Ives is a town in Cornwall, which is a county in the far south west of England. Some people think that Cornwall should be a separate country from England. I am not from Cornwall; neither are my parents.

I arrived back in this Celtic land surrounded by the Atlantic sea in May. The town has a lot of seasonal work due to the tourism industry, so it wasn’t long before I found myself a job. I served beer to adults and ice cream to kids at the Garden Bar; which is part of Porthminster restaurant. I loved this job, partly because of my work colleague Tahnee, a lovely Australian girl and also because of the lack of stress.

Tahnee and I

It was a great summer, allowing me to re-establish my goals which had been distorted by my desire to live in California, at any cost. The main cost being stuck in a job I hated for 3 years!

St Ives has multiple beaches, beautiful costal walks and is saturated in mythical history. It wasn’t long before my dog Poppy and I found ourselves wondering in to smugglers caves, climbing down rope to secret beaches and wondering for miles along coastline lined with rugged cliffs and crystal blue water stirring alongside us.

Poppy on the costal path

It is not just natural beauty that made St Ives a lovely place to return to. The town boasts some of the best restaurants in the UK.

It is now five months since I returned to England and I feel that I have made significant progress mentally and physically. Now I am anxious to proceed with the next chapter…

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Downtown Los Angeles and I

My relationship with Downtown Los Angeles began in the latter half of 2007. At the time I was living in San Diego but I would travel up to the Historic Core of DTLA frequently for work. At the time the neighborhood was a few years into the renaissance that it is currently undergoing, however I found it disturbing and unlike anywhere else I had been. I was shocked at the the amount of homeless people wandering the streets in a dazed state and the fact that some were still in their hospital gowns truly upset me. I could not imagine how this could be allowed to happen in a western country and one of the wealthiest ones at that!

I continued to dislike Downtown Los Angeles and always enjoyed returning to squeaky clean San Diego after working there. In November 2009 I was told by my employer that I had to move to DTLA for a “short project”. The first few months passed and I still did not like the neighborhood; i found it dirty, seriously lacking in the grass department and couldn’t see the pacific ocean or it’s glorious pelicans anywhere I looked. The only thing I could do was drown my sorrows in the ‘Down and Out’ bar on the corner of 5th and Spring.

More time passed and the “short project” never seemed to end but to my surprise I began to actually like things about Downtown Los Angeles. What appeared at first to be a large uninviting place to live, began to feel like a small village. As I got to know my neighbors, I realized that some of the friendliest and most down to earth people I had ever met, referred to DTLA as home. Due to the high concentration of people in such a small area it is very common to cross paths with the same people every day. Before long, these friends began to feel like family.

One of the greatest things about living downtown is the chance to experience it’s renaissance first hand. In the 5 years that I have known the area I have seen many empty retail spaces and loft buildings brought to life. Every time a new loft building opens it’s doors, the population increases and the neighborhood gets yet another wave of energy. All of the residents very much support this and in turn this enables the neighborhood to support new shops, restaurants and bars.

Downtown Los Angeles a neighborhood where you can never get bored. When people in Los Angeles have something to say it seems that this is where they go to be heard. In 2011 thousands of people took part in occupy LA. There are numerous festivals and events that take place every month including an Art walk held every second Thursday. When DTLA is not hosting it’s own event, it is pretending to be New York in a movie.

I had to leave DTLA at the beginning of May. I think what I am trying to say is…..I left my heart there!

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I love Chantry Flats

Chantry flats is located in the Big Santa Anita Canyon in Angeles National Forest and is accessed by taking the Santa Anita Canyon exit north into the mountains from the 210 freeway. From here you can hike to mt wilson, visit Sturtevant’s Camp or go cliff jumping in the summer. I first came here with Casey; the co-founder of the adventure club. Here is a gallery of all of the fun times had at Chantry….

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Horses in LA

As one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world, Los Angeles is famed for it’s movie starts and great weather as opposed to area to enjoy horseback riding.

Los Angeles equestrian center is located in Rancho Equestrian District, Burbank; an area zoned to allow residents to keep horses on their property. The equestrian center houses over 500 horses and numerous world-class trainers operate out of the facility covering practically every equestrian discipline. With amenities such as the 3500 seat equidome, beautifully manicured grass arenas and exhibition rings the equestrian center attracts many competitors from far and wide to participate in their shows.

Surrounding the equestrian center many residents of Rancho have stalls and stables in their back yard. From here you can access the trails of Griffith Park,  a 4,300 acre municipal park located at the eastern end of the Santa Monica mountains.

My involvement with the equestrian community began over a year ago. After researching where you could ride in LA, I got in my car and drove to the Equestrian Center. Now I’m just a girl from the English countryside. The facility blew my mind; I had never seen so many horses in one spot. That day there was a show going on in some sort of western discipline of which I know nothing about! I found it fascinating.  I chatted to some of the spectators and they advised that I contacted the jumping trainers at the equestrian center so that I could get involved in the equestrian scene. At this point in time it had been several years since I had ridden but when I got home I cold called every jumping trainer in the equestrian center. Only one got back to me but before I knew it I was a working student at Martin McAllister Training; a Grand Prix level show jumping barn. I was riding showjumpers trained to a standard that I had never had the opportunity to ride before.

I stayed at Martin McAllister for about six months, working for a day in return for a lesson on one of their horses. On my lunch break I would eat at Vivas, a mexican restaurant at the entrance to the equestrian center on Riverside Drive. There I began talking to the locals and eventually was offered a horse to ride whenever I wanted. I stopped riding at the equestrian center in favor of riding Morgan, a grey ex-racehorse. Morgan is kept in his owner Annie’s back yard in Rancho with her other horse Agave. I love the freedom of being able to take him around Griffith Park. Riding in Los Angeles is truly amazing and a great contrast to my previous equestrian experiences in the UK.

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Switzer Falls with the Senior branch of the adventure club

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Switzer falls is located up the 2 freeway. Yes……keep going up…..little bit more….there you go. It sits deep in the Arroyo Seco Canyon in Angeles National forest and today, I took my parents, the first members of the senior branch … Continue reading

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Hello world!

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I would like to introduce my assistant Poppy.

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