My weekend in Rome

That’s right.

About two weeks before my birthday me and my boyfriend were trying to match up our days off – since I had the whole weekend of the 16th of April off.

We kept thinking about places here in UK to go and visit; like Manchester or Liverpool… You know, a weekend away.

Then we saw a fairly cheap price and guess what? Rome was the chosen city!!!

One of his bucket list things to see was the Colosseum. I had been to Rome before and loved it. Win-win!

It was a wonderful weekend full of good food – although I didn’t touch pizza, I am more of a pasta person ahah!

We stayed in a pretty hotel not very central, Eurostars Aeterna. It literally had a bus across the street that would go from there to everywhere; Colosseum, Trastevere, The Vatican…

Trastevere is still my favourite part with the smaller houses but more colourful and all the flowers and the vines and its small restaurants.

Last time I was there I did not visit a couple of things, so this time I took the chance to visit the Sistine Chapel and the Palatine Hills.

Have a look at some pictures and fall in love.

Just like I did.

Claudia x

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Chapter 4 ~ 39.623119, -107.635353

It was late evening and Archibald was roaming the house like it was his own. Cassy was already in bed and Mr. Hawtrey was having a night cap with Jonah in the kitchen. Jonah knew exactly what paper Mr. Hawtrey was talking about. He had actually done some research on it.

At first Jonah had thought it was some sort of alphabetic code, but he then quickly figured it out that they were coordinates for somewhere in Colorado.

Mr. Hawtrey opened the folded paper carefully. Long years had passed since he last wrote it for safekeeping. Mr. Hawtrey had liked his drink back in the day, you see, and sometimes despair took the best of him. Pieces of his life were written down in folded pieces of paper in his house and some with family; just in case.

There they were, those coordinates he had written. 39.623119, -107.635353. Neat calligraphy, slightly tilting to the right. Just as he remembered it.

-I am guessing you know what these are- Mr. Hawtrey asked Jonah

-I know they are coordinates for somewhere in Colorado

-Right. You ever been there?

-No, too far and life never took me that way. Cat likes the beach so we usually head over to Florida or so. Cassy likes the Summer Camps there too and I get to get all sunburnt every time!

-I suppose you wouldn’t like to keep an old man company?

Jonah actually wanted very much. But that would mean unplanned holidays which he really couldn’t take. Cat would be mad because that meant that in August they would have to either cut their two weeks short or she would have to go by herself. Cassy would almost plead to go with them. But a break! It was like a sign. Work had been giving him too much time to rethink his life and although it was good, was he everything he could be? Certainly nobody’s life could be all that it ought to be. Jonah felt a little stuck. Not because he didn’t love Catherine. She was the reason he always wanted to come home to. Catherine always stood by his side and together they had created a beautiful life. And Cassy… she was his a reason for living herself. So smart. So pretty, like her mother. She did have the best from them. But still life had become a very big routine and as comforting as it was, it also leaves one itching for something out of the ordinary to happen. Maybe this was it. A little road trip in the sun, in the car he loved to drive. Even if nothing came out of it, it would just be a different day to enjoy. And what were two days off work? He could even call in sick!

-Mr. Hawtrey, how does Thursday sound to you?

-Ah Jonah, Thursday is my favourite day of the week! If you don’t mind me staying for another day or so, it would be lovely and I would be very grateful.

-That is no problem at all. But tell me, what will we be looking for over there?

-Nothing of material value I can tell you. I just left something there long time ago and I just would like to have it back.

___________________””____________________

-Cat, it is just for the weekend. I will be here Sunday night.

-But I already told mum we are going for lunch on Saturday.

-She won’t mind just  once. I will be back as soon as possible.

-What is there in Colorado anyway that your teacher needs you to babysit him for?

-To be honest, I am not too sure. I think it might be a part of his past he didn’t face back then.

-Uhhh, like an illegal family? Maybe he killed someone! He was there for the war, you know?

-Don’t be silly, darling. Whatever it is, I am sending you a picture whenever I can.

-Thanks. And here, I put there an extra pair of underwear just in case.

-Ah-ah. Very funny.

___________________””_________________________

-But daddy, why can’t I go with you?

-You will need to take care of Archie while Mr. Hawtrey and I are away, and you know how your mother is around animals.

-Ahem! – intervened Mr. Hawtrey – I am very sorry dear Cassy, but Archibald will also be going with us. I am sorry Jonah, but I cannot leave him behind, he would be driving Cassy and poor Catherine crazy meowing around the house. No, no, he is coming with us.

-Well then, that is settled, I guess.

Cassy’s eyes were wide open and for a moment Jonah thought she might cry. With a sniff she turned to the one eyed cat and whispered good luck to him. She then walked back to her dad, all business just like Catherine and asked if they needed some pop tarts for the ride.

Jonah couldn’t wait for Wednesday to be over at the office. He must be very sad, he thought, to be excited about this trip with an old man. But he wanted it to be good. And relaxing and that he would return to work recharged and thankful for the life he had here at home.

On Thursday morning the car was packed with bags and lunches and lots of water.

Jonah said goodbye to Catherine when she left for work -she always took Cassy to school while he picked her up- and kissed a very sleepy Cassy before going back to bed and try to sleep the next hour or so when he had to get up.

Archibald woke Mr. Hawtrey that day with a very mournful meow. He knows he will be stuck in the car again, Mr Hawtrey acknowledged.

-Here Archie, lets have some food and then get ready.

Archibald looked at him like that was the most ridiculous thing he had ever heard in all his 5 lives.

-Are you ready, Professor?

-Oh quite so! I am sorry to drag you all the way away from home, but hopefully the weather will hold and we can appreciate the views.

They ate while reading the newspapers and Jonah could see Mr. Hawtrey rolling the folded paper through his fingers.

Jonah had looked up the address last Tuesday and had already set the Sat Nav  directions there.

-Aright Jonah, let’s go.

-Let’s go, Professor. Is Archie ok?

-Oh yes, he just dreads car rides. Don’t mind him. I gave him a little something to keep him comfortable.

Looking at Archibald, Jonah wondered if it was one of Mr. Hawtreys sleeping pills and laughing to himself they drove off.

 

______________________________________

Poor Archie back strapped to the car again.

 

Claudia x

London – A guide to survive a Tube strike;

Today, the 6th of August is tube strike here in London.

For all of those who do not live here: the tube is a vital part of getting around in the city. Not only spreads the tourists out, but with the living expenses so high in the capital people are living further and further away from the centre in order to save money. The average commuters journey takes around 40 minutes. And that is just in public transportation- not even counting the walking to the stations.

And when it’s working fine, it is already chaotic on peak hours – sweaty smelly people, everyone cramped together, no personal space – really count yourself lucky that your nose is stuffed against someone’s armpit! It’s hot, there are no seats, I gave up putting make up at home because of all the hassle of sweating on the trains. So I get up, go to work early, cool down, make up and then: ta-dah! Beautiful fresh looking Claudia to the rescue.

Anyway, today is mental. This is the second strike in a couple of months, and commuters have been cursing all day. Taxis are charging 20% more on their fares, journeys take forever, the buses don’t even stop because there’s simply no space for people to get on. The city is basically on a stand still where walking might well be the only option. Or cycling. True, is a more healthier way of life, but for example me:  It takes me 50 minutes of commuting to get to work. How am I supposed to walk 15 miles to be there at 7.30 am?

And it’s not just bad for commuting, it’s bad for business. Thousands of appointments and reservations cancelled. After all the work getting there: there’s just no people around.

So… if your business allows it: call in sick. Yup. As bad as it sounds….You will not be the only one.

No, really:

– Leave for work REALLY early. Not only because the traffic will be a nightmare, but buses will not stop. Remember that people start going to work at 5am, which means that there will be lines for even night buses and the queue just makes it bigger

– If you live close to work; walk;

– If you live in a radius of up to an hour an a half: buckle up and cycle or walk.

– Use the overground and trains to make it as close as possible

– Keep water and snacks with you

– There are extra 250 buses around, please use them but be aware of traffic and queues

– Use Taxis or Mini Cab services.

– Why not try to use the river boats? Be honest, how long have you lived here without using it? you can literally be in Richmond or Greenwich and they’ll take you to Westminster.

– Once off work, don’t rush trying to beat the crowds. Instead, head out to the pub and have a pint or two before going home.

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Whatever you do, hold on, don’t give in to despair and above all: Good luck!

Claudia x

Reasons to be proud;

The other day as I was walking through London Bridge from the trains to the tube, I kind of glimpsed something that I was not too sure I was seeing right. Not because I couldn’t believe it, but it was sort of rush hour and I just got the last bit. It was the Azores as one of the Top 10 destinations of 2015 by Lonely Planet.

Then, next day or so, in Waterloo, I was on my way to the train and this time I saw it clearly: Porto, as the number 10 on the Lonely Planet top 10.

It was quite cool – I AM FROM PORTO!

But that’s is not all… Azores is an island also part from Portugal. It is beautiful! Especially if you love trekking, boat tours to see the whales. Brilliant food and to die for landscapes.

Unfortunately I was never fast enough to take pictures (and I can’t find any on the internet) of the advertising, so I will post pictures and the list below.

TOP 10 DESTINATIONS as per Lonely Planet:

10 – Porto

Ribeira means in Portuguese "minor river" or a river with little flow of water. It is also a word for the oldest part of Oporto, a place where the city was born and developed due to trade in the river mouth. The district was the scene of fights and sieges. When Napoleon invaded Portugal in the beginning of the XIX century, the stampede of the fleeing population over an old bridge, located where nowadays D. Luis bridge is, made it to collapse, causing many deaths by drowning. Two decades later, civil wars between absolutists and liberals caused a lot of destruction here. Oporto was defending the liberal cause, while Lisbon was absolutist. The center of Porto was under siege in 1832-1833 and many of Ribeira's sites were damaged by war. Nowadays, Ribeira is a tourist area with many bars, touristy restaurants and terraces, particularly in its main square, Praça da Ribeira (picture) It is by the river Douro, close to the lower deck of D. Luis bridge and to the center of Gaia. Thanks to Soulfisher for the text. http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/a1735/44f55/

9 – Tomso, Norway

Tromsø, Norway

8 – Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

7 – Baku, Azerbaijan

Flame Towers and TV Tower

6 – Piedmont, Italy

Piedmont, Italy

5 – Belgrade, Serbia

Belgrade, Serbia

4 -Malaga, Spain

Málaga, Spain

3 – Azores, Portugal

azores1good

2 – Leipzig, Germany

Leipzig, Germany

1 –  Akureyri, Iceland

Akureyri, Iceland

To be honest, I think there are a lot of beautiful places, and believe me, if I could, you wouldn’t see me in one place for very long.

Happy travels!

Claudia x

The Great Green Wall

It has come to my attention something I had no idea it existed.

It is called the African Great Green Wall. Basically, more than 10 nations in Africa have come together in planting this huge forest that will stop the growth of the Sahara, making the limits available for people to actually live in without suffering from the harshness of the desert.

Originally, it was meant to involve the planting of a 15 km wide transcontinental forest belt running from Dakar to Djibouti.

Can you imagine? A gigantic wall made of trees and forestation? This means farming, restoration of habitats and creation of new ones. It would protect the current water resources that are so scarce due to the desertification of the area…. The co-operation between nations… it really is something to be looked at. 

The countries involved are:

Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan and Cha – all Sahelo-Saharan states

You are more than welcome to read more about it here: 

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2011/feb/25/great-green-wall-sahel-desertification

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Green_Wall

 

I want this to happen!

Claudia

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Travelers Heart

The other day I found an article that states the signs which show that you are a traveler at heart.

Here they are, see if you can see yourself 🙂

You never have any money in your bank account, because as soon as you save, you’re off on your next trip. – So true. My bank account is always lingering on double digits because everytime I have some, I buy a plane or train ticket.

Airports are your favorite place to be, because it means you’re going somewhere. – Ehh, not really. But i did became very familiar with them. Catching a plane is not a hassle anymore. It has become easy and simple and gives me free time for books at the duty free.

You have at least one map hanging up in your house somewhere (if not many more). – I have a whole wall covered with maps of places I have been to!

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You’ve had your travel outfit down pat for a long time. – Hum, I always tend to take the same hoodie and scarf everywhere I go. Never thought about that before.

You’re “Steve” in this picture, and these other guys are the people who exist to make your life a living hell at airport security. – AHAHAHAHAH!

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Your backpack is well worn. – Mine used to be a beautiful cloudy blue…. now it’s just…. drawings and dirt and…. life!

Your phone is packed with every travel app you could possibly need. – At least I feel like I use it apps for good and not just to kill time with Candy Crush like everyone, I think that is a bit of superiority complex, but it’s my only one, I promise.

You’re no stranger to sleeping in a train station. – Train station, bus station, airport….

You’re a fan of small souvenirs you can keep with you. – I have trained my mom to never expect nothing more than magnets as her gift. Her fridge is kind of packed now. I’m so proud of it!

You d have a box filled with currency from around the world. – True, true.

You desperately want a vintage suitcase, despite knowing how impractical they are. – Can I buy one and use it as decoration?

Your bucket list never seems to get shorter, because there’s always something new to add. – It’s because everytime you go somewhere you hear about something new!!!

The journal you kept while traveling is sacred to you. – My most prized one is a red bound one. It even has some attempts of drawings.

You love being immersed in a sea of different languages. – there is something really fun about not understanding a word of what people are saying.

You know how to say “where is the bathroom” in pretty much every language. – maybe not with all the words….

And lastly, watching this video actually kills you because you’re not out doing the same thing.

True that.

Claudia

Amsterdam

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Last week I have visited the city where I would probably manage to get lost more times should I ever live there. First of all, and funnily enough, it is not that big. I know there are four main canals and smaller ones. I know the city is in a U shape. I inow the canals do not run though the city but embrace and encircle it. But between trying not to get run over by crazy cyclists and focusing in a main course without getting sidetracked by pretty small little streets… it gets very tough! Also, it does not help that I am not a very check the map every five seconds kind of girl. I like to get a sense of the direction I need to go and then just kind of end up there (does this make sense or are the space happy cakes still taking over my mind?). Not this time. I have definetly looked at the map more than normal – maybe I am loosing my touch?IMG_20130926_002748[1]IMG_20130925_142559[1]

Anyway, the good thing is: it is a beautiful city to get lost in. From the canals, to the houses springing in all directions, some of them tilting to the side or front – or wherever they have space, really -, the little squares, the cute fleamarkets, the landmarks or ancient history, the whole vibe you have while you are in it. I never had the need to hop on a tram to travel. You can walk pretty much everywhere.

Always undergoing construction work – due to it’s localization – Amsterdam is always trying to improve itself while keeping its habitants and culture legacy alive. Obviously, their main concern is flooding as the city rests in a swamp, basically. Being close to the sea, it was the perfect sight for the dockalnds to exapand and bring all the commerce routes to through Amsterdam. Hence its richness in the old days and it’s importance today because they are still in use now. everything uesd to stop by the city and Amsterdam has certainly grown since the expansion period.

It also housed one of my favourite paintors: Van Gogh (by the way – if you are expecting to see Starry Night, it is on display at the Museum of Modern art in New York. Yep). The Van Gogh Museum is now displaying Van Gogh at Work, which follows the paintors learning process and studies. Better yet, you are able to snap pictures of most of the paintings – usually prohibited in art galleries and museums.

It has the Rijksmuseum, which has one of the vastest collection of art, in which you can find works of Rembrandt and Vermeer. It has just reopened after a 10 year renovation work. It originally openned in 1885 and it has a beautiful collection of 17th-century furniture and intricate silver and porcelain, incredible early 18th century doll-houses.

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Even with all these artists and influences, the most famous resident of Amsterdam was Anne Frank. Nowadays, you can visit the annexe she lived in for two years and see a display of her diaries and notebookes. The house has been emptied of all furniture but you can see modules of how it would have been. recently they have oppened a new wing which explores her time in the concentration camp and has a little room which I found quite brilliant. It is basically a voting pole, consisting of yes or no questions. It gives you a view of peoples mind and thoughts about racism and such. Everyone should spend at least 15-30 minutes there.

Close to Anne Frank’s House is the Jordaan district. Because of how Amsterdam has grown in the 1700s, you can still find boat houses. You will see them mostly at quarters like the Pijp and the Jordaan, which are there since the 19th century and they look amazing. you will see the canals lined with boat houses and people having glasses of wine in their roof terraces.IMG_20130926_171904[1]

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On the north-east side of the city, you will find one of the three preserved windmills in Amsterdam – and for me, the only one as I haven’t seen any other one. The De Gooyer is located quite far away from all the touristic sites and it is probably the farther we have walked. Being far did not stop us to go there. Twice!!! Right next to it there is a beer brewery – Brouwerij ‘T IJ. All of their beer is organic and it is delicious. They have the Columbus, which is their most famous one with an alcohol percentage of 9%. Oh yes. After two, three beers, I was talking politics! we have tried some of them and unfortunately I cannot recall the name of the last one, which, coincidentally was my favourite. Nazeh or something? If some beer experts or someone knows, would you please tell me? In my defense, Columbus was the easiest name on the list to remember.

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As for the Red Light District… we actually hear so much about it and its explicity… well… I found it smaller and low key. I was expecting a lot of red neon lights, loud music, something BAM! But it’s actually calmer and toned down. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it. I guess I was just expecting a bigger and bolder den of iniquity. But then again, I guess that goes along with the city tolerance and environment. It is the same with the coffeeshops. They are there but they are not in your face. I figure it is the same with the red light district. You can see the girls on the windows but they dont actually bother you. Go Amsterdam for tolerance and open minds!IMG_20130926_003118[1]

As for the rest, we have visited all the main sites, the Bloenmarkt  (which I was later used as a reference point for me and my friend), the Dam Square flanked by the royal palace, Vondelpark, Ledsplein – where we actually stayed -, we have even done the Heineken Experience, Sex Museum, the Centraal station, Nemo, passed over the Maritime Museum… But Amsterdam for me is walking around and falling in love with the little houses, tilting and the flowers and the canals.

I loved it. I might move there, once I stop being scared of getting run over by a bicycle.

Claudia