25 October 2014

sydney | sculpture by the sea

Sculpture by the Sea is a public art exhibition that has been held along the Tamarama to Bondi (or vice versa, obviously) coastal walk every year since 1997.  Despite being a Sydney girl through and through, I have never visited, but this year I decided that's it! and so this morning I found myself (very reluctantly) waking up at 5.00am in an attempt to get to Tamarama and (a) beat the crowds, thereby (b) securing a parking spot.  The early start was worth it, though, as both the city and the coast were shrouded in morning fog, and the ocean looked so beautiful (plus all those gorgeous shades of blue made me happy) ... will be an early night for me tonight, though! :)

All photographs © Natasha Calhoun

20 October 2014

rome | skippy kangaroo meets vittorio emanuele ii

On my first full day in Rome, I woke to the sound of rolling thunder and pouring rain.  Nooo.  Sigh.  Bloody hell.  The thing is, rain is fine(ish) in and of itself (apart from my previously mentioned Rain Hair), but taking photos in the rain is a whole other pain in the neck (almost literally, what with trying to hold an umbrella between my head and my shoulder whilst shooting and all).  Anyway, I got ready, ate breakfast by a window overlooking some ruins (I was always up early, and so claimed that table for the rest of my stay :)), and asked the friendly concierge guy for an umbrella.  Of course, the Hotel Umbrella was enormous, as Hotel Umbrellas often are.  And, as I was to soon discover in between downpours, the damn thing wouldn't latch closed, and kept springing open unless wrapped very tightly (in the end I took it back to the hotel and bought myself a small umbrella with cats all over it).

But all of that is beside the point, as my rambling often is.  So that morning, I made my way over to the Vittorio Emanuele II monument, also known as the Altar of the Fatherland, as well as - slightly less impressively - the "wedding cake" and "typewriter."  Oh, and fun fact: it is the largest monument ever created in white Brescia marble.  I had visited it a couple of times before, but had never gone to the top, so that was one of my missions for the day.  I bought my ticket and entered a rather spiffy-looking glass elevator.  The operator - an older gentleman - peered at me and asked "where are you from?"  When I replied "Australia," his eyes widened and he was all "OHH!  Skippy kangaroo!" (I tell you, Skippy the Bush Kangaroo [check out the opening credits!] must have had some fabulous marketing; the very next day, I had an almost identical encounter with a guy dressed as a gladiator near the Colosseum).  And so the whole way up, it was "Skippy kangaroo!  Skippy kangaroo!"  I wasn't really sure how to respond after the first few times, so I just kept smiling away.

The view from the top of the monument was really beautiful.  Church bells rang throughout the city (it was a Sunday morning) and the smell of the recent rain lingered in the air.  I stayed up there for awhile, taking the city in - I have a thing for rooftops! (plus, to quote a random, er, quote I saw the other day: I wonder how many places I've already visited for the last time?  That sentiment is always on my mind when I travel).  And incidentally, I love the stone pine trees dotted all over Rome.  They're so ... you know, Roman.

And then, I headed back over to the elevator to continue on my way.  And of course, my elevator friend greeted me with "ah, Skippy kangaroo ...!"  Yep, that's me! :)

All photographs © Natasha Calhoun

16 October 2014

rome | taxi driver paranoia & trastevere

Before leaving for my trip, I somehow got caught up reading all sorts of horror stories about people being ripped off by taxi drivers in Rome.  There were people who had been driven around in endless circles and taken the looong, long way, or told that they had paid with a smaller note than they had actually used and been conned into handing over more cash; unofficial taxi drivers with unmetered vehicles who then demanded exorbitant fares and other drivers with rigged meters that charged an arm and a leg.  By the time I was done reading all the alarming websites, my paranoia about catching a cab from Termini station to my hotel had reached dizzying heights, and I was convinced that Something Terrible would happen.  And so, I decided that I had to be Really Prepared.

First up, when our train arrived in Rome, I knew that I had to get to the official taxi rank on Via Marsala and studiously avoid all other drivers who approach people on the street, because they are Not Official and the risk of Something Terrible happening was bound to increase exponentially if I went with them (there is actually a video on YouTube that shows you how to get out of the station and to the official rank and yes, I watched it.  Of course, our train arrived in a completely different part of the station, so the video was of no assistance to me at all, hehe).  I was armed with small bills in my wallet, and when I climbed into a taxi, I pulled out the little Google map that I had printed out at home so that I could point to the address of my hotel and show that I knew it was a mere two kilometres away.  As it turned out, my crazy paranoia was completely unwarranted as my taxi driver turned out to be the Best, Most Loveliest Taxi Driver in quite possibly the history of all Roman taxi drivers.  I was so relieved that I gave him a huge tip when we arrived at my destination.  Potential crisis averted, hooray!

Anyway, fear of unscrupulous taxi drivers aside, I bloody well love Rome.  I know it can be crazy and crowded and gritty, but I think that it's wonderful, and I was so happy to be back there.  After checking in to my hotel* and dropping my bags in my room, I grabbed my camera and raced out the door to my favourite part of the city, Trastevere.  Located on the west bank of the Tiber River, this charming neighbourhood is full of winding, cobblestone lanes lined with beautiful buildings with crumbling facades, interspersed with trattorias and trendy little boutiques.  I spent the afternoon and early evening wandering around and exploring with my camera before grabbing some dinner (served by the smirkiest waiter ever; he gave me a total complex!) and then heading up to Piazzale Garibaldi to watch the sun start to set over my first evening in the Eternal City ...

* I stayed at the Hotel Nerva and loved it.  It's a beautiful hotel and the staff are so warm and friendly.  It is also in a great location close to the Forum and the Vittorio Emanuele monument, which was super helpful for me as I am not fabulous with directions, and it was handy to be staying close to a major landmark that I could find easily ;)

All photographs © Natasha Calhoun


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