11 July 2019 | Colosseum Rome
Paul Barker | Hot & sunny 32c
Today I think I have paid for all my queue jumping, again I was told to walk to another part of the entrance this time for the Colosseum. I estimate I saved well over an hour of standing and shuffling along, the pay back came when I got to the security and body scanner. I took my rucksack 🎒 off for the X-ray, then walked through like on previous checks, the buzzer went off as usual for me. What was a shock was the rather officious guard ( now I’m all for security and have never had a problem, I take it very seriously 😐) but I was picked out and made to go back 4 times, first time I had to remove my phone 📞 and camera 📷, next was my belt and shirt 👕 then my necklace, finally I removed my leg 🦵 and had to hop back through, this for the first time ever I was rather embarrassed 😩. What really got to me was that not one other person around had to remove anything other than their bags.
There are quite a few levels in the Colosseum but the public are only allowed to go to two of them unless you pay for a private tour. I wandered around looking in a lot of the alcoves, on the ground and second levels, at the moment there is a lot of renovations going on, so lots of scaffolding especially high up. There is quite a lot of reading to be done so can get a bit heavy and monotonous, there is a shop that sells everything from expensive fridge magnets 🧲 to thick books 📚.
It’s quite easy to let your imagination run away here, with the gladiators walking through one large arch and the slaves (cannon fodder) coming through smaller arches from below ground level, I saw where the wild animals, like tigers 🐅, lions 🦁 and other beasts were kept. I saw little evidence of any weapons that were used like swords and tridents, or any armour.
Every where seemingly scattered around were broken pillars and walls, this place was huge which could hold over 50,000 spectators, there was even a class structure for seating, they expected to see fair play when matching the combatants.
Despite the start of my trip today has been a good day
By bike to another volcano
05 July 2019 | Mount Ve
The rather heavy e-bike and helmet ⛑ were handed over to me, my biggest worry was that the brake levers were reversed. In the group, were myself, a Swedish couple named Robin and Emma, with Pasquale and his 77 year old father as our guides, they both were riding very light but none powered bikes. We set off on our summit attempt of the volcano 🌋 mount Vesuvius, so for the first part we were riding on the roads, which became very steep, with many switchbacks. Our guides seemed to make the climbing look rather easy, which I can say wasn’t. When we got to the entrance to the national park we had to get our tickets 🎫, to my surprise mine was free yet again, we then peddled another 300 metres more, where we had to park up and leave the bikes propped against the wall, being guarded by Pasquale and his dad.
The next bit was the final part uphill, which was on foot, now it’s getting very steep so I along with a lot of others grab a couple of walking poles (cutoff broom sticks costing about €1.00 each) for this privilege they only ask for a donation in my case €4.00 (100% profit just from me) I trudged up to the rim with hundreds of other people. At the rim I took the obligatory photographs, after a few minutes we made our way back down to the bikes, a round trip of about 90 minutes. The total assent made including bike and walk was 3540 feet, or 1080 metres. The temperature was a whole 10c degrees cooler up up here at the rim.
Back at the bikes, I opted to ride the full off road downhill. Right from the off, it started very sketchy, I was riding a very narrow trail with bushes and brambles overhanging on both sides occasionally I was catching my arms, the trail surface was volcanic ash which was very loose and up to 15cm deep, which made my heavy bike almost uncontrollable, this part of the trip was the absolute best. After about 20 minutes we met the others who opted to descend by road. Next came a part that was great fun with steep well packed ash and many many fast and tight switchbacks. We got to the bottom and I looked like I had been attacked by a mad axe man, my arms were covered in blood from my brush with the brambles ( in reality I had a couple of scratches on each arm). At the bottom I washed the blood away at a water fountain then I just looked normal. Lastly came the almost flat 5 km ride back to the start point, where Pasquale gave us some of his own grown and brewed espresso coffee ☕️, which was just the best. We all had the high fives my guides said the were very impressed with my crappy skills. Today was by far the best day of this part of my journey around the world 🌎.
03 July 2019 | Trevi fountain Rome
Paul Barker | Hot and sunny
It seems that wherever I go everyone else wants to go also, todays trip was to the Trevi fountain. A short train 🚞 journey and walk took me to the world famous fountain it was sunny and hot 🥵 with stacks of people all crammed in, the security was keeping order by blowing their whistles seemingly all the time, at one point I thought they were just doing it out of badness, it turns out they public weren’t allowed to touch the water 💦 nether sit on the far sides.
Watching all the people throwing coins in got me thinking 🤔 (dangerous I know) about how much money is thrown in, so I looked it up for you dear reader, it is cleaned 🧹 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday each day they average €8000, that’s €24,000 per week and €1.25 million a year, all this cash goes to good causes and needy people around the world. Tradition says that any money thrown must be over the left shoulder, in order to come back to Rome. Also at the far left there is a smaller fountain, now if lovers throw in here then they will stay together forever. Today was another great day with lots of sun and a few 🍻.
Vatican City & museum
02 July 2019 | Vatican City Rome
Paul Barker | Dam hot
I had to catch the Metro right across town in order to visit the Vatican City, the walk in was rather long so it took me some time. When I arrived some chap rushed up to me, I assumed he was like the other 10 or 15 street touts, so I pretty much ignored him, he was more persistent than the others. It turns out he was telling me that I could get in for free and not have to queue for up to an hour just to get inside, now looking at the temperature at 36c degrees I decided to take advantage and walked along the outside of everyone else, I didn’t realise exactly how long it would take to get around. When I got to the top of the 550 stairs I sat down and had a slurp of my water 💧 when I heard an American woman asking for water because she said her mother was having a heart attack on the floor below (I passed them about 5 minutes earlier) now I’m not sure if it was or wasn’t but I gave my 1.5 litres to her.
The views of Rome from the top of the Basilica were great, with much more grass and greenery around than I expected, with the 360 degree views I could see the 7 hills that Rome is built on.
Next, on the to do list and also on my bucket list, was to visit the Sistine chapel 💒 which is part of the Vatican museum, just around the corner. Now if the queues were big before these were more than double, we were trudging around looking at all the paintings 🖼 sculptures and tapestry’s which were outstanding, some are a little damaged, but what do you expect for things that are around 2000 years old. The Sistine chapel 💒 was every bit as good as I hoped for, the paintings were so vibrant and fresh
28 June 2019 | Ponza
Paul Barker | 37c degrees
Today we all had a lay in. I got up first at 09:00, the decision was made to go ashore to the local town Ponza Porto, after getting the dinghy in the water 💦, we set off motoring along the impressive volcanic coastline. We went tie the dinghy to the dockside, the view of the town was like going back in time, it still had a lot of the original roman buildings and harbour frontage, the buildings were stacked up the hillside and painted in lovely pastel colours. We took a walk, the heat was oppressive so we sat down at a small restaurant for a drink 🥃. We did a little shopping 🛒 then returned back to the boat ⛵️. Before lunch 🥗 I had a refreshing swim 🏊♂️.
Big cat diary
28 June 2019
An early flight again down to Rome in Italy 🇮🇹 where I joined Giuseppe (Pinot) and his family on his catamaran `Laura iv` a rather large one at 20 metres long by almost 10 metres wide.
He picked me up at the airport and 15 minutes later I was unpacking my kit, then a tour around the boat, I'm here on a short trial to see if we get on ok and that he likes my experience. If it's all ok then there may be an opportunity to sail with him again later in the month and for a little longer than 5 days. (Watch this space)
This morning we were up at 06:00 and slipping our lines then the short sail back along the river Tiber. The wind wasn't very strong so we had to use the motor as well as the sails, our destination was a little island called Isola de Ponza about 100 km away. It is one of a few in a line about 10km long. When we arrived we sorted the kit out then I jumped in and swam around the boat ⛵️for about an hour. We all sat down for very tasty dinner in a lovely evening sun. The sun 🌞 was shining all day with temps around 35 degrees c.