Just a quick blog post to share that today is the release day celebration at Austen Variations. I have 3 ebooks I’m giving away, so I hope you’ll join me!
Just a quick blog post to share that today is the release day celebration at Austen Variations. I have 3 ebooks I’m giving away, so I hope you’ll join me!
After Pompeii, we mostly roamed around Naples, wandering into churches, eating in various restaurants, and browsing through the streets.
Just a short walk from where we stayed on Via Duomo was Cattedrale di San Gennaro, which was one of the churches we wandered through while it poured down rain, giving us a break from the wet. Cattedrale di San Gennaro is a Roman Catholic cathedral and the seat of the Archbishop of Naples. It was finished in the 14th century. The artwork on the ceiling, dome, and altar are stunning.
We walked down toward the waterfront one day to find a gluten free restaurant we’d found online. We all loved this one street that was just very picturesque in the middle of such a large city
One of my fun finds. I love Bialettis, and this one is huge! Not to mention great for Christmas 🙂
We also took the Naples Underground tour, which is fascinating. You descend into the first tunnels and your guide takes you through discussing the history from WWII to the Romans, even the Roman theatre that is mostly buried beneath the houses that now stand in this part of central Naples. In the picture below, they were studying various plants and how they grow underground. The guys above ground while you wait for your tour are rather rude, but stick it out. It was very entertaining.
Overall, we really enjoyed Naples, though Herculaneum and Pompeii were the best parts of the holiday. We did enjoy some aspects of the city, but it made me sad how much trash was around the city, big piles surrounding dumpsters. It really detracts from how lovely it is.
Next up . . . Barcelona!
Afte Herculaneum, we hopped back on the train and traveled to Pompeii, the more popular of the two archeological sites. When they handed me the map at the entrance, it was overwhelming how huge it is. As a result, we all discussed what we wanted to see most, and I steered us out to one far corner for the part I wanted to see most, Villa of the Mysteries (Villa dei Misteri).
Villa of the Mysteries is named for the hall of the mysteries in the portion of the house that faces the sea. This too, located in the residential portion of the building, has a fresco covering three walls that is absolutely incredible. It is one of the most preserved ancient buildings, depicting a scene of Dionysus, who is on the middle wall, joined by Ariadne, his wife. Other scenes involve rituals as well as architectural details common in the art of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The building dates back to 200 BCE while the frescos are closer to 70 to 80 BCE.
After, the children wanted to see the amphitheatre, so we zig-zagged through the maze of buildings, marvelling at the ruts from carriages visible in the roads and the strategically placed stones allowing people to cross the streets, which were a good one to two feet below the sidewalks.
We passed some lovely mosaics in former front doors as well as the House of the Wounded Bear, which is mid-1st century AD. We also passed graffiti on the walls that remain from when Pompeii was in its hey day. The writing is political propaganda.
Mostly, we took photos of the amazing mosaics and frescos along the way.
We also passed the famous “Guard Dog” mosaic, called that for the words below it (“Cave Canem”) that say Beware of the Dog.
One of the last ruins we walked through was the House of the Venus in the Shell. We really enjoyed the garden in the rear.
We basically wandered through the ruins until we finally reached the amphitheatre, sitting in the middle and taking in everything until we were absolutely exhausted and ready to head back to the train and Naples.
While I much preferred Herculaneum, Pompeii is another do not miss if you have the opportunity.
Next . . . Our last days in Naples!
Ever since I took a class on the Bronze Age in the Aegean, I’ve wanted to go to Pompeii and Herculaneum. Of course, that usually means a trip to Naples. Having been to both Rome and Venice, I thought I knew what traveling to Italy would entail: good food, friendly people, and a lot of walking. I was right on some of it.
Before traveling to Naples, I researched the different ways of going to where we would stay to find the least expensive. In the end, we opted to use a service called the Alibus, which takes you to the Central train station for 5 euros/person. There are five of us, so it was definitely more cost effective than hiring a car, which was a minimum of fifty. From the Central station, the walk wasn’t too bad, so that was our plan.
First, it took us a bit to find the Alibus stop. If you don’t like crowded buses, then be prepared, because it is. You pay for your passage on the bus, which was very convenient. The drive into Naples didn’t take long and we were let off just near Central Station. Of course, Google Maps took us this roundabout route, and during the walk, we learned quickly you have to be very careful of drivers in Naples! In Rome, the traffic is insane, but the cars are pretty conscientious of pedestrians, not so much in Naples! When we reached the flat where we were staying, the woman who worked for the agency giggled and giggled and said we were crazy. We still hadn’t quite comprehended how bad it was until we walked a bit more. We understood her giggles completely by the time we returned home. Especially after a driver decided to skim close to my seventeen-year-old daughter and hit her with his wing mirror while they attempted to cross the street.
Once we were settled, we decided to grab a quick bite at a coffee shop a few doors down before we attempted to catch the train to see Herculaneum before the end of the day. Admission to Herculaneum stops at five p.m., so we thought we had plenty of time.
We purchased our train tickets on the Circumvesnia to Ercolano and found the platform easily. Then, we sat and sat. According to the internet, the train was on a certain schedule. If that was supposed to be the schedule, then the train was really late. That wasn’t the only time, however. We learned that you could never go by the online train schedule around Naples. The trains ran on their own schedule.
We made it to Ercolano with five minutes to spare. Unfortunately, we didn’t make the walk downhill in time, so we just missed the last admission. We took a few pictures from the walkway above and took the train back to Naples to hunt for dinner.
The next morning, we ate breakfast, had a quick coffee at the same cafe as the night before, and caught an earlier train out to Herculaneum. This time, we were one of the first admitted inside and didn’t have a big crowd while we took in the ruins, the artwork, and just the overall scope of the place. Most people want to see Pompeii, but there are several great reasons to go to Herculaneum as well.
We spent several hours walking around Herculaneum, which is situated between Ercolano and about a mile or so of coastline before the sea, and were awed at the mosaics preserved within structures such as the bath house and another home where crews were actively restoring the mosaics as well as the frescoes. They even made us wear paper covers on our shoes so we didn’t damage their careful work.
What has been unearthed is amazing, but it’s even crazier when you realize how much of Herculaneum is still buried under the town of Ercolano. The unearthed section is quite small when you consider this was a city of 4-5,000 people. Seeing the original wood still intact in some of the structures and the mosaics is well worth the time—even in the rain! We spent several showers in certain structures before we could walk around again and enjoy the site.
When we left Herculaneum, we walked back up the hill to the train station. Restaurants in some European cities will have someone outside whose sole job is to get people inside to eat. When you stop in Ercolano, the restaurant just outside the train station is terrible about it! The man whistled at my underage daughter trying to get our attention. He didn’t seem to care that I was furious, only that he had my attention. Needless to say, we didn’t stop to eat and boarded the train in the direction of Pompeii.
Next up … Pompeii and the rest of our trip to Naples!
We had to check out of our lodgings that last morning in Paris, but we tend to travel with backpacks just in case as well as the fact that most airlines in Europe only allow one free carryon. In this instance, we knew we would be walking around Paris on our last day with our belongings, so we didn’t want to be hauling luggage everywhere.
My husband found a gluten free restaurant called Noglu that had gluten free croissants and french pastries to try, so we walked there since we weren’t in any hurry, which allowed us just to look at a lot of the street views in Paris and enjoy the atmosphere. We had a couple of different views of the Eiffel Tower that we enjoyed walking to and from the restaurant.
After our tummies were full and we had gluten free croissants and baguettes to take with us, we walked down toward the Eiffel Tower and crossed the Seine before walking back to sit on the steps of the Grand Palais and enjoy the view of it and the Petit Palais before we walked up the Champs Elysèe. We enjoyed looking in the stores and stopped in at the Disney store where my daughter bought a hoodie before we took the Metro to Gare du Nord.
The check-in and customs process was a bit different returning from Paris than it was at St. Pancras in London and we were a bit early, which fortunately helped. Our return on the train was uneventful compared to my delayed trip to London. I did find it a bit jerkier and since the train was flying at pretty close to max speed, it felt a lot different. Overall, the Eurostar isn’t a bad way to travel, but it’s definitely more affordable when you can get the tickets on sale!
Next up! Naples!
I’ve always wanted to spend countless time wandering the art museums of Paris. I didn’t get into all of them, but I did make the Louvre!
The largest art museum in the world, the Louvre is situated on the Right Bank of the Seine and was very close to where we stayed while we were in Paris. The Louvre was once a Palace until Louis XIV moved to Versailles in 1686.
Now, the Louvre holds an amazing amount of artwork as well as being it’s own work of architecture when you take the time to look at the outside.
We purchased our tickets in advance. I’ve heard enough stories of people planning to go on the one day of the week the Louvre is closed, not to mention the crazy lines to get in, so we made a point of showing up with ours in hand. Happily, the Louvre does not charge for children, so only my husband and I had to pay admission.
After the usual security checks, we were shunted inside and up a huge escalator to the top floor of the Denon wing where you stand in line until you find yourself in front of the Mona Lisa, set up from the rest of the artwork, and the guides repeating over and over again, “One photo and you go.” Rarely does anyone adhere to that rule before they are shooed into the rest of the Louvre by the guides.
When you leave the Mona Lisa, you walk through a door into the remainder of the top floor (Sully and Richelieu wings). Be aware that you cannot access the Denon wing again unless you return to the ground floor. My advice is to see what you want in the Denon wing on your way up to the Mona Lisa, then work your way through and down the Sully and Richelieu wings. That way, you don’t have to figure out how to return like I did to see Vermeer’s Lacemaker.
That advice given, the Louvre is enormous and unless you have several days to take your time, you almost have to walk through taking glimpses for works you know or works that catch your eye. The staff will let you know where works are if they know them, and most of the major works the Louvre has are indicated on the map. It’s a maze of wonderful things to see and I enjoyed the entire experience—even when my children were done by lunch and wanted to leave.
The Louvre has something that will speak to your soul if you take the time to search for it. I never know what I’m searching for when I go to an art museum. I definitely have certain works I want to see, but I’m always caught by some work that either by beauty or something technical draws me in. The Louvre was no different, just be prepared to be tired and have sore feet at the end of the day!
Next up . . . Our last day in Paris!
It’s official and up on Audible, Amazon, and should be up on iTunes soon! Melissa Kay Benson did a fantastic job narrating our dear couple and bringing everyone to life—including a few of Grunt’s noises. Just have a listen!
To celebrate, I’m having a giveaway! I searched around for some fun things for you and I hope I didn’t disappoint. Just like the last giveaway, the cat is not included! He’s just very nosy and loves being in the middle of everything. As you can see by the photos, he didn’t hold still as well this time!
Included in the giveaway is an Unwrapping Mr. Darcy tote bag, a black cat mug, a package of Tea Pigs chamomile tea, a small black cat tea bag dish shaped like a tea pot (from my trip to Paris), some cat magnets (also from Paris), a felt black cat Christmas ornament (just like Lizzy’s in the book!), a signed paperback of Unwrapping Mr. Darcy (not pictured), and a copy of the audiobook from Audible.
Just leave me a comment below! The giveaway is international. I’ll be choosing a winner on Monday December 10th, so you have until then! I’ll be posting on Austen Variations too, which will give you another chance to enter, so check in there tomorrow.
From the time I was about eight years old, I wanted to go to Paris. Well, I finally went over Labor Day weekend! During a sale for Eurostar tickets, we booked the entire family. I had a friend coming in and we were seeing a play on Friday, so I traveled early Saturday morning to join my husband and children who were being terrible and sending me goofy photos from in front of the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe.
Very early Saturday morning, I drove thirty minutes to the local train station where I parked and took the train to London’s King’s Cross Station. If you’ve never been to King’s Cross, there is nearly everything you can imagine from shopping to restaurants right there. I arrived early enough to grab coffee and breakfast before I walked over to St. Pancras International.
Check-in at St. Pancras was a lot like an airplane. They didn’t have the liquids restrictions but you had customs, of course, and you do have an x-ray for your bags. Only difference was they had a tray for my coffee while I went through the security check and I got it back on the other side.
Eurostar, for those who aren’t familiar with it, is a high speed train that travels through the Eurotunnel to several destinations in Europe—notably Paris, Disneyland Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam. The trip to Paris takes on average two hours and sixteen minutes and there are trains all day long. My train took longer because a train had stalled on the tracks so we stopped not far outside of Paris for them to clear it. Luckily we weren’t terribly late as a result. I do think we never accelerated to the speeds we had on the return because of the obstruction on the line. On the monitor on the return we traveled close to 300 km/h. The speed is a bit weird feeling. I don’t like to sit backwards on a normal train, and I absolutely couldn’t on the Eurostar. During the trip to Paris, I ended up sitting on the floor in a corridor rather than in my seat until a woman told me the seat beside her was free and faced forward.
The Eurostar arrives in to Gare du Nord where my husband insisted I take a taxi to where they were eating lunch. However, the woman who offered me the seat on the Eurostar warned me of taxi scams at Gare du Nord and they had several signs warning travellers of the issue when we arrived, so I bought a ticket for the metro and fumbled my way around (In all honesty, I would’ve done well if my husband hadn’t insisted I was going the wrong way!!) until I arrived at the metro stop near where they ate.
My daughters retrieved me from the station and we made our way back where we ate gluten-free crepes and I drank more coffee. After, we simply walked around the city, soaking in the atmosphere and enjoying the scenery. We walked as much as we could around Notre Dame, walked across Pont Neuf, and passed by the Louvre on our way back to the flat where we were staying.
My husband and my oldest had found a wine bar near the flat, so the three of us topped off the evening with a glass of wine and some cheese while my younger children readied themselves for bed, which they were perfectly happy with.
Coming Soon: Day 2: The Louvre!!
My daughters have been asking to see Wicked for some time, but to be honest, I wasn’t gung-ho about seeing it. I can’t explain why, but it just never piqued my interest. After listening to them talk about all of the musicals they want to see, I finally booked tickets to Wicked. The tickets weren’t terribly priced compared to some, which made my husband happy, and we decided to make a day of it. He took my son to the planetarium in Greenwich while we saw the play.
Wicked opened on Broadway in 2003 to great success with Idina Menzel as Elphaba, who we more commonly know as the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz. Who knew she was actually a heroine? I sure didn’t until Wicked.
I won’t go into all of the little details or give spoilers, but the show was immensely enjoyable, and after listening to Idina Menzel singing Gravity on Youtube, I have to say I preferred the woman who played Elphaba in the production we saw. The most fascinating part was the backstory created for all of the characters I grew up watching in the Wizard of Oz. Yes, it’s a statement on race and inclusivity, but it’s wrapped in an entertaining package.
In London, Wicked plays at the Apollo Victoria, which is virtually across the street from Victoria station, so very easy by tube. It’s also a very large theatre so there were plenty of seating options when we booked our tickets. My only complaint was that we had to queue to enter the theatre, despite having tickets for the show, but luckily, we were ushered in quickly and the wait wasn’t long.
If you have the chance to see Wicked, I definitely recommend it!
I know I’ve been a bit sporadic lately, but between work and writing, I’ve been a busy girl. I am still teaching fitness classes and I’m a personal trainer, so I’m either staring at my computer or in the fitness centre. Either way, it’s a good thing. I love doing both!
So, I’ve got a lot going on!
First and foremost, I have an amazing narrator/producer lined up and recording Unwrapping Mr. Darcy. I’m loving the way Melissa K. Benson sees the humour in each bit and brings it out in the recording. I know she’s hard at work and I can’t wait to hear it in its entirety!
Next is the last book in the Wedding Planners series! I have Charlie and Jensen’s story all written and through the editors. I have a couple of small tweaks to make and then the proofreading. It will definitely be out by Christmas! (I hope so anyway, or I’m going to have to look at making a new cover! 😉 ) I just debuted the cover at Austen Variations on Monday. If you didn’t see it, here it is!
Lastly, while Charlie’s story was in editing, I picked up a story I started five years ago. I was almost six chapters in, and I started chapter 26 yesterday. I want to get the rough draft of that finished so the muse doesn’t get distracted by taking care of those final little edits on Charlie’s story. I’m hoping this Regency will be out in the first half of next year, but it all depends on my amazing editing team. As anyone who follows me regularly knows, I don’t give hints, but I can tell you that it is a Regency. I can’t make any other promises 🙂 I’m just very superstitious I guess.
Anyway! Thank you so much for following and reading my musings. I can’t wait to release what I’ve been working on and I hope you can’t wait too! I love the holidays and this one should be a lot of fun!
In the meantime, Happy Halloween!