Venice… Part 2… The proposal!

The next portion of Venice is now something of a blur, but in the very best way.

In some kind of sorcery, the sun came out that afternoon after having bucketed down for hours earlier. Blake and I set out for the evening to have dinner and a wander around just the two of us, in the newly gleaming sun. There seemed to be a peace in Venice that afternoon, not everyone had emerged yet after the torrential rain earlier in the day and it seemed quiet, like there was a secret being kept. We stopped for drinks at a little wine bar sitting against the Grand Canal, watching the token Gondolieri taking couples, tour groups and families out for gondola rides whilst sipping on a Spritz (me!) and a beer (not me!) and shoo-ing away pigeons which seemed more plentiful than people. We chatted and laughed, enjoyed the view before selecting a Gondolieri and Gondolier for a tour of the smaller canals, the back-alleys of Venice.

Venice

It felt like a dream slowly paddling through the water. We passed some incredible sights, aptly pointed out by our guide, as Marco Polo’s home, Cassanova’s home, the oldest building in Venice, and more. The water was still and you could hear faint chatter and laughter every now and then when passing an open window, but other than that there was a sense of still and quiet.

Blake started to say some lovely things to me, which was not exactly out of character but it seemed like a slightly odd moment to be launching into professing his love when there was so much history around us. Feeling a little awkward, I tried to change the subject and pointed out a nice building I could see (…it was nice okay!!! #spoiledthemoment), but Blake was not having any of it and dismissed my observation with a firm nod, before continuing with his lilting prose. Suddenly it hit me… Is he… Where is this going…….… so I sat back and listened and took in every word he said. Before I knew it he pulled out a beautiful ring and asked me to marry him. Many happy tears ensued! After sharing a few words back and forth and putting on the most beautiful ring I have ever seen, I sunk into his arms and we embraced for the rest of the gondola ride… which seemed to go way too quickly. We disembarked, thanked our gondolieri (who I don’t think had realised what had happened as he looked mighty confused), and stumbled off hand in hand, not sure what to do next.

<< Engaged! Weeeeeee!>>

Of course within a minute of wandering we came across this glorious shirt, perhaps a forewarning?

<< HILARIOUS joke, Universe. >>

Unsure what to do next in our roles as fiancees, we kind of just wandered for a little while smiling and being excited about stuff. I stopped for gelato, because what else does one do when one promises one’s self to another for all eternity, and the gelato was delicious so it worked out nicely.

We had a drink in an adorable little alleyway, took more pictures and spent a lot of time smiling and googly-eye-ing each other like gigantic dweebs.

All google-d out, we took it upon ourselves to find a restaurant that a friend had recommended, but decided to do so with minimal help from a map so it really involved about two hours of aimless wandering and chatting, and was really good fun, and we found ourselves at St Mark’s square which was a bit of a bonus.

St Mark's Square

<< Blake did this really nice thing when we were standing looking at the square, I turned facing away from it and hugged him, his eyes suddenly lit up, he covered my eyes with his hands and spun me around and revealed St Mark’s lit up…. Like he had just done it for me…! Such good timing, whoever times the lighting of the square – it was craaaaaazy romantic>>

In our excited/happy stupor we eventually made it to La Mascareta where we shared an incredible carpaccio plate, and two mains (one of which was delicious, one of which was not) as well as a bottle of wine and lots more smiling.

In yet another twist of fate as we walked back towards the water bus at St Mark’s, we happened upon a beautiful hotel from which we could hear jazz playing and an Italian voice crooning into the night. Having had one of our first and most memorable dates at a jazz club (and many more since), we couldn’t turn it down. What we wandered into was honestly one of the most ridiculous and incredible hours of my life. The hotel was stunning – ornate, embellished, everything seemed to be dripping in class, and as we walked into the cocktail bar and sat near the piano, our new fave Italian jazz singer Tiziano Zanella of course started singing ‘I Love You Just the Way You Are’. Two sidecars and many jazz standards later we walked away with his albums and even huger smiles on our faces than before.

With one final taxi trip back in the crisp, 1am Venetian air, we journeyed back to the apartment to get ready to share our news with our families. It was one of the best nights of my life.

Venice… Part 1!

Hello blog! I’m alive! I’m going to have to start strapping myself to our desk in order to get these posts out, because it’s now coming up to TWO MONTHS since we left for Italy and I’m only just on Venice. Luckily, we are currently saving like crazy for an impeding investment that I can’t talk about yet but it is really awesome and will be worth all the weekends we’re walking around instead of catching the tube, and spending only 4 pounds per meal for the both of us… The point is, not being able to spend much money means more time spent at home writing posts! So not all bad.

So! Venice!

Venice

Although our journey from Rome to Venice was slightly traumatic as per Blake’s post a few weeks back, we it was nice to be greeted by gorgeous weather and the fact that Venice is a fascinating and stunning place. It probably sounds ridiculous, but I had never really considered that Venice literally has no roads… There are no cars… ‘Of course you fool! It’s Venice!’ I hear you say, but I honestly thought there must be SOME roads somewhere… not so. The place is definitely built on water. So there you go.

Venice has a beauty to it that is unlike the beauty of Rome. It is gritty and sometimes  a little rundown, with many buildings along the main canal with a visible layer of mould creeping up from the water. When normally mould would make me run screaming, it somehow adds to the beauty and the uniqueness of Venice. It takes a little getting used to in terms of getting around and figuring out the layout, it also doesn’t help that a lot of the areas look fairly similar so if, like me, you landmark yourself by the general look of a place, you’ll definitely get lost in Venice. Again, that’s part of the beauty of it.

Venice

We stayed in Cannaregio, about a 5 minute walk from the Grand canal strip, and a 15-20 minute water taxi journey into the main tourist areas (seen above!). Generally this was a great idea, as we had access to some great restaurants and cafes that weren’t priced for tourists and weren’t packed with people, either. We did have one dud, which involved me fighting with our waiter over a badly cooked lobster and a sneaky double-price on our bill, but that’s another story.

Once again, we were graced with fabulous weather so Courtz and I got to wear our sun hats… Needless to say since returning to the UK, my sunhat has not spent any time in the sun.

VeniceVenice Rialto Bridge

It was incredible boating up and down, watching people go about their days on the water and checking out the incredible buildings, often with mosaics and gorgeous tiling lining the walls.

Venice

Courtney, Blake and I went to the Palazzo Ducale, the Doge’s Palace, which has an insanely long and luxurious history that is way too long for me to go into. But basically, it was gorgeous, and everyone should go there. We arrived at around 4pm and had a couple of hours before it closed, but there were very few people around and it felt like quite an intimate experience, which was nice after the hectic nature of Rome.

Some photos!

Venice

VeniceVeniceVenice

<< FYI, this is what most of the main squares in Cannaregio look like, so don’t use them as a point of reference. >>

VeniceVenice<< So many adorable gondolas!>>

IMG_Venice
Our next full day was slightly more miserable weather (aka it was pouring with rain for most of the day) but we didn’t let it stop us and started with a trip to St Mark’s Basilica which of course was amazing, and of course I didn’t take a single photo. We spent a bit of time boating up and down again, which is an experience in itself.

Venice

After a few slices of pizza at a local pizzeria we headed to the Palazzo Mocenigo, one of the highlight events of our trip. This incredible collection includes hundreds of historical costumes and fabrics, as well as a very impressive perfume collection. Normally this wouldn’t be my style but it was laid out beautifully and really evoked life as a Venetian in the Victorian era.

<< The building was filled with these magnificent glass chandeliers which I am convinced I will one day have in my life >>

Blake then took the below series of photos of the costumed mannequins that completely terrify me yet I also love, so, here you go.

And with that, we parted ways for the evening, dropping Courtney back at Cannaregio and getting changed just in time for the sun to come out, and Blake and I  headed out on what was to be a very special evening…

Rome… Part 3!

Trastevere

We were lucky enough to be in Rome whilst Pope Francis was in town (he is often away over the Summer) so couldn’t pass up an opportunity to head back to the Vatican on our last full day in Rome and see Il Papa in action. The weather continued to be glorious but also very, very warm, but we braved the crowds and the sun and stood in St. Peter’s square waiting for his arrival and for the blessing to commence.

St Peter's square

No matter what you believe, there is something so deeply sacred and humbling about standing amongst a crowd of people, a true mixture of life from tourists to locals selling paraphenalia to nuns and religious groups from all parts of the world. It was a blast and a very exciting moment to see him appear in the window very far away, but there nonetheless. Of course we couldn’t really understand much of what was being said but it’s safe to say we all enjoyed a spiritual moment standing there together.

Pope Francis

^^ You can barely see him, but he’s there, I promise! ^^

We recovered in a nearby cafe with gelato, coffee and paninis before heading out on our next adventure, to the Colosseum and Forum.

Rome tip:  Buy your Forum/Colosseum tickets and print in advance if you can, as once again it saves you from a huge line which in the July sun can be unpleasant. We were once enough able to walk straight in and were verrrrrrry pleased about it.

Colosseum

Obviously, Il Colosseo is a mindblowing place. It’s very easy to sit and imagine gladiator fights and lions roaming, which is precisely what we did for a good 30 minutes. You can book guided tours which allow you to roam through the section at the base, otherwise you can just walk around the outside. If you’re a Colosseum fanatic I’d recommend the guided tour but doing our own thing was perfect for us to take our own pace and sit and rest for a little while in one of the world’s most iconic buildings and an incredible piece of history.

IMG_3474

il colosseo

coliseum_montage

Il Colosseo

We headed back outside to grab some lunch, which we foolishly did from a vendor right outside the entrance. Rule Number 1 of Rome is never, ever settle for the touristey food. After we had paid almost 30 euros for three panini and three bottles of coke, we took it up a nearby staircase and ate overlooking the Colosseum to our right and the Forum to our left. Not a bad view, but definitely don’t rate the very average panini.

Next stop, the Roman Forum!
Roman forum

Roman forum

^^ This had to be the highlight of Rome for me. I mean look at it! Absolutely amazing.^^

Roman Forum
We were still quite hot and conscious of the heat not slowing up anytime soon, so took it fairly easy meandering through and finding our own path within the many options to explore Il Foro. This seemed like a really special experience, as there weren’t nearly as many people as there were in the Colosseum, and it felt like you had it to yourself in a strange way.

Roman forum

Roman forum

For dinner we took a taxi to Trastevere, where I had heard some great restaurants were to be found, and we went to another brilliant recommendation from a friend-of-a-friend.

Rome Tip: Go to Trastevere. Just do it. Trastevere is beautiful. It’s lively and fun but feels intimate and perhaps more authentically ‘Italian’ than some other areas in central Rome. There are plenty of great restaurants and bars, lots to do and see and great shopping. I honestly could have spent hours wandering through the cobblestone streets here.

Trastevere

^^ Look at that window-to-window clothes line! Too good. ^^

We ate at La Scala in Trastevere, which  turned out to be the source of one of the most amazing meals I have ever eaten in my life…. But it just so happens that it was Blake’s meal, not mine… Sorry Blake! All of our dishes were fantastic, but Blake’s hit the ball out of the park. Unfortunately this happens regularly, B seems to have a knack for ordering delicious things and then Courtney and I get food envy and end up eating most of his. Does this happen to anyone else..?! Surely. Courtney had the spaghetti carbonara, I had fresh pasta from Apulia with bacon, asparagus and sheep milk cheese, and the winner of the day was the gnocchi with black truffle and smoked provola cheese which I am still dreaming about today…

^^ Argh… That truffle! That smoked provola cheese! Be still my heart… ^^

After dinner we took a wander through more of Trastevere, Courtney bought some beautiful glass jewellery before we all squeezed ourselves back into a cab and jumped into bed.

Trastevere

Rome… Part 2

^^ Those pinks and reds everywhere, I tell ya, we are doing something wrong London/Sydney ^^

On our second full day in Rome, we awoke to  Gran feeling a little less exuberant. We thought it best to have a house-call doctor come to the apartment and give us their opinion on what we didn’t know at the time was a fractured rib. Task one for the day was putting my terrible Italian to the test… Somehow I successfully navigated the conversation to arrange him to come over, which he did after a few hours during which time we tidied up, chatted with Gran and picked up some groceries from our local supermarket. The doctor wanted Gran to have some scans done, so the group decision was that Blake would accompany her to a local medical centre to have her checked out. Courtney and I were sent off with everyone’s blessings to continue with the original plans for the day (as we had already booked our four tickets!).

So, we jumped in a taxi and made our way into central Rome to where we thought we were meeting the tour group (the Trevi Fountation) – not so, upon arriving at Trevi we realised it was actually a different fountain… the name of which is of course currently escaping me… but luckily weren’t too far away. It was already scorching hot, and we were definitely happy to stumble upon our fancy, airconditioned tour bus ready to drive us around on a Dark Rome tour of some of Rome’s Catacombs and the Basilica San Clemente.  Normally tour groups aren’t really my jam, I much prefer the idea of doing my own thing and having the freedom to wander as we please, but in this instance it was perfect for the day and perfect for us as we could just sit back, relax and learn all about what we were about to see. The tour guides were lovely and total brainiacs when it came to Roman history and general knowledge. At 60 Euros a head it was a little pricier than what we were used to spending on the trip, it really was worth it.

Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos within the catacombs, crypts or basilica because photography is not allowed in sacred places, and I didn’t want to be disrespectful (unlike some people in our tour group who I am still shaking my head at). But let me give you my word that the Catacombs are well worth a visit. Rome is incredible in that it is literally layer upon layer upon layer. The roads are crazy and the public transport is no where near as sophisticated as it could be, purely because it is too difficult to excavate land due to who knows what lying beneath our feet. The Catacombs are a perfect example of this, as you can wander through underground streets and houses of Rome that once saw the light of day, but have literally been buried by other buildings over time. If there ever was a time to use my favourite word that I learnt in year 11 English, it would be whilst in Rome. Palimpsest. Boom.

After finishing up our tour in the incredible Capuchin crypt which really has to be seen to be believed, we met Blake at a nearby cafe to digest both our respective days, and some fresh mozzarella and tomato sandwiches. Did I mention espressos? Because we had plenty of those. Next up we decided to take a wander through central Rome to the Vittoriano monument that Blake had spotted previously.

Sitting at this monument was one of those incredible travelling moments that you just wish you could relive every day after coming back. I’m not even sure what it was about it that drew me in but since returning I’ve thought about these fifteen minutes we spent there daily. The building itself is amazing of course, completely over the top to the point that it’s even a little garish, yet that’s what makes it so completely amazing. The sun was just starting to set and casting an incredible warm red onto everything the light touched. Courtney and I chatted and laughed whilst Blake and I alternated taking a bunch of photos…

^^ I feel like this one captures these two perfectly… 🙂 ^^

Next up called for a general wander in the direction of dinner because it had been almost a full 24 hours since we had last consumed pizza/pasta of any kind and that is just not on.

Upon recommendation from my lovely grandparents, we strategically walked through Piazza Navona at dusk, as people had easels out and were painting out in the square. There was some pretty incredible stuff going on artistically, and it was lovely to stand for a moment and take the place in. There are plenty of restaurants in the area which I’m sure are delicious but are definitely overpriced. In terms of food in Piazza Navona, the key is absolutely to just find a little side alley branching off and walk for a few minutes until you’re out of the tourist hub, where the real deal begins.


Walking through the alleyways surrounding Piazza Navona was like walking through a movie. The cobblestone streets, the higglety pigglety signs, doors and windows lining the buildings and the noise of laughter and chatter as people ate and toasted glasses of wine together. Yet another Awesome Travelling Moment that I’ll look back on fondly.

For dinner we totally struck gold and took the advice of a friend of a friend who had recommended ‘La Focaccia‘ restaurant on Via della Pace. This place was amazing. Your typical badly-lit indoor Italian kitchen but truly amazing food. We shared a carpaccio and ‘fritti’ (a Roman classic) and also had our own separate pasta dishes and I wish we had gone back here because it was really that delicious. It was extremely well-priced, great service, a fantastic atmosphere and I can’t recommend checking it out highly enough. It is not fancy or pretentious by any means, and was described to us as a go-to, which is exactly what it was. Reliable and delicious. This was my second favourite meal in Rome (the best meal was the following day and I CAN’T WAIT TO DISCUSS IT).

Everything was fresh and perfectly cooked. Two interesting food things we noticed on the trip.. Al dente really means al dente. We now cook pasta/spaghetti for a shorter time than we ever did before because the texture was quite different to the texture you’d get at any good restaurant over here. Also, red wine is often served cold! There you go.

And to round off a wonderful, delicious second day in Rome, here’s some pics of our food. Why not.
^^ Carpaccio ^^

^^ I fritti (Fried/crumbed vegetables)… SO GOOD! ^^

Rome… Part 1

Alright. Let’s do this thing. I bring to you my attempt at recounting a massive, beautiful, stressful, interesting, delicious and wonderful trip to Rome and Venice. We succeeded in our main goal, to see amazing things, and also in our second goal, to eat a whooooole lot of food (specifically gelato and canolli, of which Italy is plentiful!). My recap will probably be 4 parts because there were that many photos taken and there is that much to talk about. Keeping things concise is not my forte so how on earth am I going to condense eight days gallivanting through Italy?! Nevertheless, I’ll try.

Landing in Rome was a pretty exciting moment. I’ve spent years learning various combinations of Spanish, French and Italian. Yet, I hadn’t actually been to a country (other than a brief stint in Disneyland, Paris, which probably doesn’t count..) where using those languages was a necessity. Being a massive language nerd who is a little too interested in  etymology and grammatical tenses I was beyond keen to get to use my, admittedly fairly limited, Italian skills on a day to day basis. They were challenged immediately upon setting foot in Italy when we quickly realised that it was actually pretty important to have someone in the group who could speak/understand some Italian in Italy without seeming like massive tourists. Which of course we were. I’m happy to say my Italian actually helped us through a few dubious situations throughout the trip (except for the time in the hospital where I didn’t know how to say ‘I have something stuck in my eye’ and so they assumed I had conjunctivitis, prescribed me with a cream and tried to send me on my way… Turns out miming is the way to go in those situations!).

Anyway.

The weather was stunning from the moment we set foot in Rome. A breeze, dimly lit, pink sky, palm trees (?), too good for words. We were greeted by a driver who was lovely but also clearly had a death-wish and I spent the entire drive hanging onto the door handles and hyperventilating because it turns out guys, that in Italy people drive like maniacs. Nonetheless, we made it in one piece, settled in and were quickly hungry enough to wander around Aurelia for dinner. I should preface this series of posts with a mention of the vast number of photos you’re about to see of the tops of buildings juxtaposed against the sky. I couldn’t get over the warm pinks, oranges and yellows of all the buildings – and I mean all of them – and how incredible it looked against what happened to be amazing weather and a crisp blue sky… the whole time. You just don’t get colours like that in London.

We chose a little pizza place just down the road, Ristorante Pizzeria dal Sardo, a tiny and very basic kitchen-style restaurant which was exactly what we needed after a day of travelling. I was prepared for eating a lot of fabulous pizza and pasta in Italy but this place just completely exploded my expectations. The four of us table shared bruschetta, Blake and I shared a pizza with anchovies and cheese and a basic gnocchi and it all seemed too good to be true. Perfect pizza bases, cheese, fresh everything, all very simple and perfectly cooked. Italy, one million points to you.

gnocchi
pizza
Sadly, on our wander home, poor Gran took her fall and things from that point weren’t quite as carefree… but as Blake explained, everything was fine in the end. So I’m just going to focus on the positives from here on in!
As part of our apartment deal, we had breakfast every morning at the little coffee bar across the road. I wish I had the name, but I don’t… We were given a cornetto (a pastry/croissant) each every morning and a drink. Obviously espresso was the way to go and I am still dreaming of those things and trying to recreate it over here without success. Sorry London, generally you have my heart, but your coffee has nothing on Italy’s. A cornetto and coffee was the perfect start to a huge day at the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica.
Vatican Museums
I can’t recommend highly enough booking tickets to the Vatican Museums in advance. When we arrived for our allotted time, there was a huge queue of people wrapping around the external walls, all waiting in the heat and sun, when we just strolled right in without a care in the world.

Also worth noting is that around the Vatican you will be harrassed every 5 metres by a guy trying to sell you something. Hats, weird jelly ball things that splat all over the ground and make noises, wooden baskets (?), anything and everything. Don’t buy into it people. Unless your beloved H&M hat breaks due to being stuffed into suitcases and your resilience to the sun has been eroded from a year living in the UK so you need to buy a hat. Then it’s fine.

The museums themselves are incredible. You can do it in as little as 30 minutes but we opted to take our time and take in as much as possible, so spent around 2 hours exploring the many rooms and admiring piece upon piece of history.

vatican museum

vatican museum
Vatican museums
You can’t take a step without seeing something incredible here. The ceilings are ornately decorated, tapestries hang from wall to wall, even the tiles you walk on have a long and fascinating history.
vatican museum
vatican museum
vatican museum
vatican museum
Lunch at the Vatican Museum cafe was fairly average. I would actually recommending holding off on eating there if you can, as just outside the walls of the Vatican are gazillions of beautiful little pizzerias and pasticcerias. The museum’s pizza was… average at best. But provided us with the necessary sustenance to move onto Phase 2 of the day… St Peter’s Square!

St Peter’s Basilica
This definitely needs to go on the list of ‘Most Moving Moments of Life’, wandering into this magnificent building. Historically speaking it is of course a sacred and monumental place and you could just feel a sense of reverence no matter what you believe. The architecture is incredible and it is decorated so beautifully that it can become overwhelming. The afternoon light was hitting the stained glass in such a way that beams of light like I have never seen before were hitting the gold inside, then bouncing onto another surface. It was incredible. Of course it was filled with people but it actually doesn’t detract too much from the experience. I could have spent an entire day in here. Try to get here either very early or in the late afternoon to avoid queues. We were lucky enough to be able to wander straight in.
St Peter's Basilica
St Peter's Basilica
Climbing the dome (‘cupola’)
We took the lift up to the highest point within the basilica to take a look down. At this point Blake and I continued upwards via a very long, steep, winding staircase that I don’t recommend if you are at all claustrophobic, but was really rewarding making it up those 320 steps and reaching the top.
The views at the top of St Peter’s are nothing short of extraordinary. We had been standing in St Peter’s Square only an hour earlier which suddenly was so small below us…
St Peter's Basilica
St Peter's Square
After admiring the view we traipsed back down the stairs and met up with C and Gran, recovering on a stunning rooftop with the dome perched just behind us whilst we had a big drink of water after all those stairs. It was one of my favourite moments of the trip, actually. Italy tip: There are water fountains all over the place with cold, fresh, delicious water. It’s a good idea to fill up water bottles rather than constantly buying new ones as the water really is great (and clean).
St Peter's Basilica
After another glance inside St Peter’s on our way out, we slowly wandered out of the Vatican and made our way back to Aurelia to settle in and find somewhere for dinner. But not without posting a Vatican postcard from the Vatican post boxes, and in my case taking more pictures of more corners of buildings juxtaposed against the sky because I really couldn’t get over those colours!
Vatican post
Swiss guards

Swiss guards!

After such a mammoth day we were all pretty tired so caught up with ourselves back at the apartment for a moment, before Blake, Courtney and I ventured out to Ristorante Le Vele for dinner… which ended up being a little pricey, but truly amazing. We sat in the seafood side of the restaurant (there is a pizzeria on one side and a slightly fancier seafood restaurant on the other). I wish I had taken photos of our meals but alas, we were ravenous and ate them really quickly but they were AMAZING. If we go back to Rome I’d like to eat there again.

Day one in Rome, you rocked.

A message from Blake!

 

Hello, I’m Blake!  I’ve never posted anything on this blog before but I’m Jemima’s partner, ah hem… Fiancé!  Jemima and I recently returned from a whirlwind tour of Rome, Venice and Scotland, during which I popped the question on a gondola in Venice (very romantic).  We were travelling with my grandmother and sister and seeing as it was a bit of a family affair I thought I’d write a little intro and provide a backdrop to our trip.  What can I say……  It was perfect, every single moment in time we spent during that trip was a perfect moment in life to be cherished, I wouldn’t change a thing and it couldn’t have gone better…….

……..not exactly.

Ok so my grandmother Wilma (who, incidentally, I love very much) is 76 and perhaps we didn’t quite consider how uneven the roads in Rome actually are.  On our first night in Rome, after a delicious authentic pizza and pasta meal, my poor grandmother took a tumble and fell into the curb, raising the concern of  some passing Italian locals who I quickly ushered away.  The next day Gran was feeling fine (or so she said) and all four of us had an amazing day out at the Vatican which I’m sure Jemima will elaborate on further.  The day after that, however, she wasn’t feeling as spritely.  Jemima organised a house-call doctor to visit and a very lovely Italian gentleman came to assess her.  He was of the opinion that we should get some scans and tests to make sure everything was ok.  We had already booked a tour of the Catacombs for that day, so Jemima and my sister Courtney went off and enjoyed that for the day which I accompanied my Grandmother to a very nice little private hospital where they x-rayed and ultrasounded my Gran to find she had indeed fractured a rib.  Bed rest was ordered by the doctor.  So I guess that was the first little stumbling block, poor Gran was trapped indoors for most of the trip whilst Courtney, Jemima and myself did our best to see as much of Rome as we could.

Incidentally, we did a fair job of it as I’m sure Jemima will confirm.  The Coliseum, The Forum, some great Italian dinners and a trip to the 1942 Worlds Fair (which I dragged poor Mimey along to).  When we left Rome and transferred to Venice, however, a series of misadventures would follow that would test the patience of all of us.

Firstly, I was pick-pocketed at the Rome train station, I can’t really explain how it happened but a young woman was distracting me while another man took about 10 euros out of my hand as I was paying for lunch.  Then my dear sister (who is Type One Diabetic) experienced a hypo on the train.  Luckily we picked up on that one early and got some coke and food into her quickly to avert danger.  Meanwhile Jemima started to mention that something was stuck in her eye, at first we thought it was a bit of dust and would pass, more on than to follow.

Upon arriving in Venice we discovered that in terms of uneven surfaces Rome is a flat concrete car park compared with the ornate patchwork that is the streets of Venice, topped off with little bridges to test the strength and stamina of my darling fiancé-to-be who was lumping both her and my grandmothers’ bags from the water bus to our hotel room.  Once we had settled into the room it was evident that something, albeit small, was firmly lodged in Jemima’s eye.  We attempted to dislodge with some eye wash from the local chemist but it was having no effect and concerned about it causing further irritation or infection I decided we should go to the nearest hospital to have it removed.

My sister, Jemima and I walked about 40 mins to the hospital, which was nice enough but of course would involve a long wait.  So I accompanied my sister back to the hotel with the view to return to my darling Jemima to wait with her at the hospital until she was called.  “I’ll be back within the hour, I promise” I said to her as I kissed her on the forehead and left her in the waiting room of the hospital.  My sister and I returned to the area of Venice where our hotel room was, to find that at night time it all looked a little different.  Also at the same time all the alleyways and streets looked exactly the same.  It wasn’t long before we realised we were lost.

At the time I didn’t think we had the full address on hand (although I realised later I did), the people who rented us the room were not answering their phone and my grandmother at home was unable to give directions. At this point I think I sunk into a kind of madness as I ran around the alleyways and streets desperately trying to recognise a door or a street sign.  My sister and I were lost, desperate and getting quite upset.  Eventually my grandmother made it downstairs on her walking stick and walked into a main street where I eventually found her.  By the time I finally made it back to Jemima at the hospital it had been four hours.  Not too long after Jemima was called in and the doctors, after an initial misunderstanding about what the problem actually was, removed the offending black object from Jemima’s eye and affixed a very handsome looking eye patch to her face.  We walked back to the hotel in a kind of daze, and ate a kebab on the way home.  All in all, the rest of the holiday went mostly without further incident (except the washing machine flooding the living room at one point, and us being late to the airport when we left).  My sister, Jemima and I went on to see some pretty amazing sites in Venice.  St Marks Church, St Marks Square, The Doge’s Palace, the mansion of the Monsignors and of course Jemima and I took a fateful boat ride through the timeless canals of Venice.  After our engagement Jemima and I got lost in the alleyways, had an amazing dinner and topped it off with some cocktails (Sidecars, our trademark drink) in the Hotel Danieli while a very talented piano bar pianist played and sung ‘Just The Way You Are’.  It was truly magical.