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At the end of October we were lucky to join Sue and J for part of their Italian odyssey. Natalie, Andrew and I met them in Naples. We spent three days in the Naples region and managed to squeeze in Pompeii, Capri and the Amalfi Coast. We then caught a train to Rome where we had four days doing what the Romans do. Well, not really because in Rome we were touristy tourists. We did a whirlwind tour of all the famous sites.

Rather than give you a blow by blow account of our trip to Italy. I thought I'd just write some stories about the most interesting events and my favourite bits.

Driving in Naples

We often discuss future trips with our London buddies. They can impart useful advice on future destinations. What should we do, see, eat? When mentioning our plans for visiting and driving in Naples, one point was emphasised by everybody. The drivers in Naples are CRAZY! We were advised to get a small car, full insurance and pack an extra pair of undies in our daypacks.

This point was first confirmed when we picked up the car. When picking up any hire car, the rental office usually provides you with a diagram of the car and documents on the diagram any scratches or dents that are on the vehicle. In Naples, our rental officer placed the diagram in front of us and then practically coloured in the diagram while pointing out the damage. We waited for the few minutes it took him to circle the scratches and dents. "Here is a scratch, and a dent here, and a scratch here, and a dent here, and a scratch here... and here, and here, and here!"

When we got out onto the roads we experienced the chaos firsthand. Italian drivers are crazy! They honk if you're not going fast enough. And by fast enough I mean 30 km over the posted speed limit. They think the merge sign is just a suggestion and two cars will drive side by side in one lane on a single carriageway road. They pull out into the oncoming lane to overtake 3 cars in a row, on a road which is perched on the side of a cliff, on a blind corner. Usually a big tourist bus would be coming around that corner. I'm surprised that we didn't see more accidents while we were there.

Tom-Tom (Natalie's GPS) was definitely our saviour. Without Tom-Tom we would have had to multi-task. We would have to navigate, figure out where we were going and watch out for signs. It's a bit hard to navigate when you're closing your eyes as you enter an intersection. (Hopefully, our dependable driver, Andrew wasn't closing his eyes.) During our time in Naples, we missed several exits and made several wrong turns. Trusty Tom-Tom would just recalculate the route and once again point us in the right direction.

We did have one very amusing incident with Tom-Tom. You hear stories of people blindly following Tom-Tom and driving into lakes and onto railway tracks. I'm ashamed to admit that we had our own Tom-Tom episode.

Tom-Tom told us to drive down a street that was marked with a "Road Narrows" street sign. We noted that the road was quite narrow but trusted Tom-Tom and courageously continued. After a minute or so the road did narrow quite a bit. Narrowed to the point that it was only wide enough for our car to fit. At this stage we pulled in the passenger side mirror. We drove for 10 metres or so before we conceded and pulled in the driver side mirror. We drove for another 10 metres or so before we noticed that there was a pedestrian behind us. There wasn't enough room for her to pass so she was forced to walk behind us. She was walking faster than we were driving.

It was at this point that Tom-Tom decided that he had made a mistake and told us to "turn around where possible". The whole car cracked up at that direction. There was no going back. We were stuck moving forward until we reached the end of the alley. We nearly made it out unscathed. Unfortunately, the alley narrowed to the point where the car didn't quite fit. We acquired a small scratch on one wheel arch. It was a badge of honour.

We spent three days around Naples. After a few day trips in the car we feel that we are able to deal with Italian drivers and drive on Neapolitan roads. Well, Andrew is a fully qualified Italian driver. I'm a fully qualified Italian backseat driver.



jess - 11th Nov 2007, 11:11 tags: travel nablopomo italy nablopomo07 naples tincrane_italy


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The City of London, not to be confused with Greater London, is the historical centre of London. It's where London started and grew from. Even though it's only a square mile (2.6 km2) in area it has its own police force. Today it houses London's financial district.

I often giggle at the names of the streets in the City. I find it amusing to walk down Poultry, Bread Street and Fish Street Hill. Many of the street names are ancient and tell a story about London's past. It's often easy to pick the industries that used to situated at these locations in the past. The poultry market was at Poultry, bakeries on Bread St and the fish market on Fish Street Hill.

Some other historical street names in the City of London:
  • Wood Street
  • Milk Street
  • Honey Lane
  • Ironmonger Lane
  • Goldsmiths Street
  • Cornhill Street (wheat centre)
I think my favourite street name would have to be Pudding Lane. It sounds like it should be a street of cakes, but it's really named for the animal organs and entrails, nicknamed puddings, which would fall from butcher's carts on their way from the market to waste barges on the Thames. Pudding Lane is famous as the source of the Great Fire of London. The fire started in a bakery in Pudding Lane and raged for four days, destroying most of the City of London.

jess - 10th Nov 2007, 11:11 tags: london nablopomo nablopomo07 love_london


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Yesterday we had the lovely John and Leah over for dinner and a round of cards. Unfortunately, last night, Diminishing Whist lived up to its colloquial name of Get Jess. Andrew won, Leah was the runner up, the taller JDubs came in third and short-arse JDubs - me - came dead last.

Diminishing Whist is a game that I learnt when I was quite young. Over the Summer Holidays we'd head to the Carlingford Daleys' holiday house at Budgewoi. We'd swim at the beach in the mornings, nap in the afternoons and play Diminishing Whist of an evening. Because Diminishing Whist is such a good group game, Andrew and I have taught it to our friends and people we have encountered on our travels. We are spreading the word.

As the name suggests, the number of cards dealt in each round diminishes. At the beginning of the game, you are dealt seven cards, the next round six, the round after five and so on until you reach the number one. In this round, you are dealt one card which you are not allowed to see. Instead, you have to stick it on your forehead and let everyone else look at your card.

We usually try and get a photo of this round of one, so now we have the beginnings of a Diminishing Whist Rogues Gallery. Can you spot yourself?



jess - 9th Nov 2007, 11:11 tags: nablopomo nablopomo07 whist dubs


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I've always been a fan of comfort food (possibly too much of a fan) and its one of the Sausage & Mash cafe's specialities. One of Natalie's finds, this upmarket greasy spoon has fast become one of my favourites. Whenever someone asks for a restaurant suggestion for Notting Hill this place often comes to mind. Especially now as the days grow shorter and colder and we head into the dark depths of winter.

Decorated like a diner, the tables are covered in plastic red-checked tablecloths and the walls are covered with pictures of cowboys, the Beatles, and banners declaring "come sad, leave happy!". Posh is definitely not a word that comes to mind. It's a restaurant that has no pretensions. The laid-back decor complements the classic dishes available on the menu.

Ordering is a simple process. We usually choose the Mix'n'Mash. We pick two sausages of different varieties (my pick is Pork and Honey & Mustard), a type of mash (herb and spring onion), a type of sauce (house gravy) and an accompaniment (I like minty peas, Natalie has mushy peas and Andrew goes for baked beans). Our food arrives quickly and we dig in happily. There are clean plates all round at the end of every meal. Without fail, I'll rub my very full stomach and complain about eating too much. Routine is comforting too.

S&M's slogan is "Eat Yourself Happy". Probably not advice to adopt for the everyday. However, after a plateful of sausages, mash, peas and gravy, you can't help but leave S&M with a full belly and warm glow.



jess - 8th Nov 2007, 11:11 tags: london food nablopomo nablopomo07 love_london


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We're always a little bit sad when we miss out on Australian celebrations over here in England. We do try to mark the important occasions like Australia Day and Anzac Day. (I can tell you though, partying on January 26 on a cold winter's day is just wrong! Australia Day requires a BBQ, a swim and sweltering weather.)

In November, we miss out on the circus that is the Melbourne Cup. Melbs Cup Day represents a chance to wear a silly hat and drink champagne. Unfortunately, the Cup's three pm starting time means a four am start for us. I'm not that keen to wear a silly hat or drink champagne.

Luckily, we've been able to transfer our affections to Guy Fawkes Night (November 5th). A 150 year old horse race challenging a 400 year old tradition. If Guy Fawkes Night involved champagne it could have beaten the horsies.

On Saturday evening, we headed to Battersea Park and watched the fireworks display from the bank of the river Thames. It was quite pretty, but really what is a fireworks display without the Harbour Bridge as a centrepiece (Deja vu? I'm sure I said the same thing last year.)

For me, the most amazing thing about the evening, was memories of Guy Fawkes Night from the year before. Last year, we also watched the Battersea fireworks display. We watched it from the window of Phil and Liz's flat. For me, it's strange to be able to think "what was I doing this time last year?" and have London as the backdrop for the memory. Before last year, London was just a place on a map, half a world away. Now it's the place we call home (base).

With a year's experience we are no longer London babies. We are fully-fledged London toddlers. I'm not sure that we're going to make it to adulthood.

aaaaaaaaaaaaah oooooooooooer
oooooooooooer aaaaaaaaaaaaah
Group photo ooooooooer


jess - 7th Nov 2007, 11:11 tags: london nablopomo nablopomo07 guy_fawkes bonfire_night


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