Six thousand people in the Sistine Chapel

Well that’s what it felt like!  Wow talk about a crush.  We were herded – yes I mean herded – into the Sistine Chapel by very stern Italian police style guides who constantly shouted – “Move up, more to the middle, no talking, no photos”.  Goodness me – I wondered where he wanted me to stand.  Thank goodness I am not claustrophobic otherwise I would have been in real trouble!

Note - this is not my photo.  They said no photos so what the heck are all these people doing?

Note – this is not my photo. They said no photos so what the heck are all these people doing?

So how did I end up with six thousand new best friends in one of the most beautiful places in the world?  I booked my tour for 9.30 am (first mistake) in September (second mistake) when fifty cruise ships were in Rome (third mistake).

I did do one thing right – I booked a private tour.  Boy was I glad of that when I saw the line up at the entrance.
vatican_sistine_chapel_lines-1024x768 Our guide was amazing – doing his PhD in baroque art and architecture – so he knew a thing or too.  What he knew best, however, was how to skirt around corners through the massive surging crowd to find the best vantage point to view this or that important statue or painting.   He also gave us so much interesting information such as the last painting Michael Angelo did in the chapel is on the back wall and is called The Last Judgement.  It is a fantastic painting full of terror and turmoil – the only problem is that because the figures were all nude it was decided that this was a bit too rude for the church.  So they asked Michael Angelo’s former student to paint scarves over their bums – as so …
The Damned cast into Hell, Michelangelo
Once this was pointed out to me by Felix our guide I was quite horrified and yes, the “over-painting” becomes horribly obvious and for me spoils the whole thing.  Thank goodness Michael Angelo never saw this.

Despite the crowds it was worth it and Rome is a fantastic city for anyone interested in art and history.  My tips – go to the Vatican later in the day and if possible avoid Fridays and Saturdays as these seem to be the days the cruise ships are in port; take your good walking shoes and enjoy the city, every corner reveals another amazing ancient building and don’t forget your sense of humour.  You’re on holiday, remember!

Boo to you too!

Is it just  me?  I just don’t get this Halloween stuff.  My grandkids would kill me.  (Well that would be a real Halloweeny kind of thing to do!)  They love the dressing up and of course the candy.

What got me thinking about this was on my walk today around Lake Bonavista.  One of the houses had really gone to town in dressing up their lawn.  Omg – they had severed limbs with blood coming out and giant rats gnawing on them…… gravestones galore and severed hands in the trees attached to handcuffs.  I think that’s awful.  And apparently I am not the only one to be kinda turned off this whole bloody experience…..

and this

I would just rather have the whole thing a little more kid friendly – along the lines of Casper the Friendly Ghost ….like this
Awesome Outdoor Halloween Decorating Ideas That Look is Cool Pictures4

I didn’t grow up (in England) with Halloween.  However we did have Guy Fawkes Day which I suppose in hindsight is also pretty awful.  We would take my dad’s old trousers and shirt and stuff it with newspapers, make a mask and put on a hat and throw this in a wheelbarrow and then go round the neighbourhood asking “penny for the guy”.  I suppose that’s not much different from trick or treating.  We would then head down to the local park where we would have fireworks, roast chestnuts and then put the poor old guy on the bonfire and burn him “alive”….. mmmm just as barbaric as Halloween.

When my kids were growing up in Swaziland, Africa, we had quite a large American community there (USAID, Embassy staff etc.).  When Halloween came the parents wanted to send the kids to school dressed up.  Well Mary Fraser, the principal, put her foot down firmly there.  Although she came from Scotland and still had a good Scottish accent she had taught in Africa for years and was very aware of how the local Swazi people still believed in the spirit world and it was very bad luck to even talk about this sort of thing.  To them this was very real and nothing to joke about.

I suppose there is a little bit of the dark side in all of us.  We seem to thrive on the macabre – it’s almost like the “can’t look away from the car accident syndrome”.  And who am I to talk?  The Walking Dead fan who wouldn’t miss an episode.

I should “zip it”.

Oh Mama Mia – those Italian men!

My sister and I could not understand it.  It seemed that many of the men either driving the water taxi or working the tables in Venice must surely be in the movie business.  Maybe Venice is a little like LA – Italian hopefuls end up there serving on tables while waiting for that big break.

They are so charming, these Italians.  Maybe it’s all that good food.  Caprese Salad like you will never ever taste in North America.  Or maybe it is the fact that in true Italian fashion they have been “mothered” since they were little and just know how to turn on the charm when the women are around.  Witness the Gondoliers!  Ours told us he was close to 60 but didn’t look a day over 35 …. well maybe 40.  I suppose all that “gondoliering” every day kept him in shape – and the fact that he was onto his third wife.  As he told us – a wife is not like a washing machine.  When a washing machine breaks down you call the plumber.  When the wife breaks down you get another… Oh my goodness – I can just hear every feminist within a hundred miles screaming.  The fact is he told us this story with a twinkle in his eye so who knows?  Never trust a man with dimples, that’s what I say!
DSC_1006 (2)

Not in bad shape for someone nearly 60!  Just shows you what daily exercise and the Mediterranean Diet will do for you!

Now there are some who would like to be a gondolier but just don’t quite get the idea.  Like this lad…. but let’s give him ten out of ten for effort.

Another thing about Italian charm …. it has longevity!  We chanced upon this older very well dressed man sitting  in one of the piazzas in Venice.  My sister couldn’t resist getting a photo of him.
Ciao Bella

Was he put out?  Did he feel his privacy had been invaded?  Not at all!  When a beautiful lady comes along and takes your photo he says what any civilised Italian male would say….. “Ciao Bella!”

Coffee or Wifi in Dubrovnik

It’s not a bad price to pay.  The cost of a coffee gets you free WiFi and a chance to check emails.  It seems a bit perverse to be sitting in this old walled city checking emails but I admit I am a slave to technology.  Still there’s a lot to be said for a great place to work.1412241628336


Mile High Fights

We all know that flying can be stressful.  Do we need gadgets to make it even more stressful.  I am talking about the awful “Knee Defender”.  What possible use can this thing have if not to aggravate your fellow passengers.  If you don’t know what the Knee Defender is then here is a picture of the villain.
knee defender







Now honestly.  I know some people can be a pain in the derriere when it comes to reclining their seats.  It seems as if they recline not just to sleep but instantly the plane takes off.  Usually a good flight attendant will ask those recliners to put their seat upright during meal service.  Which makes sense.

So what happens when you get someone using the Knee Defender and absolutely refusing to move it – as reported on Huffington Post today -

United said that a male passenger seated in Economy Plus – an area of the plane which boasts four inches of extra leg room – decided to use the gadget so he could work on his computer.

All was probably well, until the woman tried to decline her seat and couldn’t. Presumably after words with his fellow Economy Plus traveller, he was asked to remove it by airline staff – and declined. The woman in front then threw water at him, at which point the plane was diverted to Chicago and the passengers – both 48 – were removed.

They then were able to enjoy all the legroom they wanted while they arranged alternative travel plans.

The FAA said that neither passenger was arrested, and are unlikely to be fined. And given the maximum fine for unruly passengers is $25,000 in the US, that’s got to count as a win…

What are your thoughts about this controversial device?  

Airport etiquette and strange sights

Honestly, airports bring out the worst in me.  What is it about an airport that turns ordinary sensible intelligent human beings into zombie like creatures who wander around aimlessly and get  in the way.  My pet peeves -

Checking the arrivals / departures board – Don’t stand right in front of the board so that nobody else can see.  Share the space.  After checking the board move away.  Don’t stand there having a long conversation on the phone because other people want to check their flights too.  

airport departures sign

Waiting for your luggage at the carousel – How does it help for everyone to stand anxiously at the very edge of the carousel thus blocking anyone else’s view of their luggage.  This results in panicked passengers pushing and shoving past people as they chase after their case.  If everyone stood behind the yellow line it would be much simpler for all concerned.

luggage carousel








The chair hog - You’ve seen them.  They commandeer the comfiest armchair and then proceed to sprawl across it so they take up two and put their feet all over where someone else will soon have to sit.
two chairs







Shame but I do feel sorry for her in this picture having spent a night on the floor in Dallas airport.


The techno maniac – Yep, he’s got an ipad, a cell phone, an iMac and he needs to charge them all.  Didn’t he think of charging them before he left home?  Never mind that he has taken up all the available charge ports.  But let’s face it – you have to have power and you have to stay in touch so businessmen will find themselves sitting on the ground in their suits.  There’s nothing dignified about travel these days.









Fortunately sometimes it is indeed a laughing matter – airports are like a little unique universe, a collection of the masses and if you keep your eyes open you will come away with a chuckle or two for your journey.  Like these beauties -

babeneck pillow

kiss and goodbye

need pants

Use your words…properly

I just love Weird Al’s latest parody called Bad Words – he rants about bad grammar and I applaud him.  It seems the English language is mangled all over the place – in newscasts, magazines and daily conversation.  Grab a cup of coffee and sit back and enjoy Bad Words by Weird Al.  I particularly love the “could care less” – which means you do care.

That’s one of the fun things about travel.  You see the strangest signs that are absolutely hilarious and of course it’s just because the translation went haywire. Like this one ….
restroom sign






Or this one….
English in Asian Airports



I particularly like that one ….. it’s vague enough to be totally believable.  Just standard airline talk in fact.  If all this makes you feel weak at the knees while at the airport don’t worry – there is a place for you ….





Just one more little rant – please humour me – these are some of my favourites……

The radio commercial urging us to Drive Safe.   No – drive safely.
News anchors who say the police are looking for someone in connection to….
No – in connection with.
People who shove in as many words as they can into a sentence with no apparent meaning as in “Going forward it has come to our attention that this win win solution brings a value-add equation to the relationship.”  –  What???

So having had a little rant about this it is true that English is an evolving language and we don’t talk today like we did in Chaucer’s time so maybe I am being over-picky here.   One of the new words for 2014 in the Webster dictionary is catfish.  What’s the definition?

“A person who sets up a false personal profile on a social networking site for fraudulent or deceptive purposes.”

Hmmm – well I guess at some stage in the future people may be saying “Hey I got catfished today.”  Maybe that’s OK?