Sydney, my love: Part 1 

#Sydney  

_ ITALY FLASHBACK

Back to Tamworth Town

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Getting ma hair did for a secret project i’m really excited to post about, once it’s all out in ze open! imageimage

Robe lyf at the Ridleys. I forgot how much I loved my Dads tradition of always having an after dinner spa.. So many happy winter evenings spent under the stars with my three favourite boys. image

It was bittersweet to be back in Tamworth. I almost forgot how good crisp, fresh air felt on the ol’ lungs. A happy change to London.

One of my main highlights, was spending as much time as I could with my baby, baby brother, Zaccy, who happens to be the sweetest little boy ever put on this earth.. I didn’t get to see Hunter nearly as much I would have liked, as I was either off in Sydney socialising or he was away being all brilliant at Pilot Camp, so that was kindaaaa heartbreaking..

Anyways, other happy happenings; Mumma’s cooking, so. much. gin with my Godmummy Sar, tea-time at Kaitlyn’s, seeing all the Macintyre family, puppy-love and GETTING MY LICENSE BACK = 5 road trips to Sydney!

Home sweet Home

This is now OVER 2 months over-due, oh my goodness. How could I possibly even begin to capture with detail what was the most insane, emotional, jam-packed, whirlwind of an adventure back home in Australia that was now so long ago?!?!

I guess the photos will just have to speak for themselves, mostly.

By the time I was safely boarded on the flight to Rome (very nearly could not have happened, so a few huge sighs of relief were had), I could barely contain my excitement. It had been officially 2 years and 2 months and I was jonesing for home.. While that time passed super quickly and for the majority of it I hardly had a whiff of homesickness, I cannot tell you how bloody READY I was for some home time, and how absolutely GUTTED I was to leave so quickly (even though exciting things and my beautiful friends were waiting for me back in London)! 

After touch down, and the longest customs queue ever, I waltzed out of the arrivals gate and promptly burst into the biggest grin when I saw my Mum rush forward with my little brother trailing behind. Smiles very quickly turned to tears and a few seconds later, Lis and I were both clutching at each other bawling our eyes out. #totallyLoveActually. Hunter looked on from a distance, scowling embarrassingly. He rolled his eyes when I turned to him tearily with a ‘WHY ARE YOU SO TALL?????’ and enveloped him in the biggest bear hug he’s ever received. Secretly, I know he loved it, as though he doesn’t show it, surely he misses his fav big sister loads and loads and loads. 

So, from this whole thing, I’ve deduced that two years without going home and one year is WAY too long to go without seeing family. Never again.

The first thing we did was go straight to my Granddads new house, which he moved into after Grandma died. It was so special to see him, and he even gave me Grandma’s cartier watch. The next day was spent with all the Ridleys in Cronulla and battling jet-lag. And amazing as these first few days were, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming homesickness for London, funnily enough. I’ve concluded this is because all my friends were together for the weekend having exceptional amounts of summer fun, and I was definitely experiencing some major FOMO. It only took a few Sydney Brunches (I FORGOT, nowhere does brunch like Sydney), a trip to Bondi (winter my arse) and some more family cuddles to nip this in the bud. 

There were two years worth of stories and hugs to catch up on with all my beautiful friends, and so many coffee dates and coastal walks and yummy dinners and fun cocktails were had <3

Accidental colour coordination with Mumma Bear

He is now taller than Mum. Jesus.. *puts brick on head*

Messina Cherry popped. It was an exciting day…

Earth To Table raw cake… There is nothing like it in the world. I would FLY to Sydney just for this stuff. 

Roma

On my last day in Cinque Terre, before training back to Rome by myself, a bank machine ate my card.. It wasn’t a total disaster, as I still had a backup card with a small amount of money left on it to get me to Rome and keep me fed until my flight back home to Sydney a few days later.. 

Only problem was, when I got to Rome and went to withdraw some more cashola, some unexpected payment had come out of that account meaning I had NOTHING.. Slightly stressful times, being in a city for the first time, alone with very little money… I’ve dreamt of going to Rome my whole life, watching Roman Holiday and The Lizzie Maguire movie growing up (no joke here), so not even only having roughly 20 euros left for a few days was going to get me down. Thank the lord I had already charged my Rome air-bnb before I got there, and tried to spend the two days wondering around the magical city taking in the sights and eating aaaall the cheap pasta.. Sadly though, 20 euros doesn’t get you far, and I ended up spending more time with a book and bottle of wine on the balcony of the gorgeous apartment I rented (which, by the by, continuing my luck with epic air-bnb bookings, was INCREDIBLE. This was one of the nicest, cheapest looking rooms I could find. Upon my arrival to Francesca and her boyfriends beautiful, spacious apartment, they showed me to my enormous, high ceilinged, airy room with a huge windows, a balcony and a king size bed AND had cooked me a delicious meal. We sat and ate and laughed and it was the perfect first night in Rome). On one of my ventures out and about, I ended up being followed by a super creepy dude who came up and spoke to me at the Colosseum, all the way to the Trevi-fountain.. When you don’t have enough money to quickly jump in a cab to high-tail it out of there, it’s a slightly worrying feeling, but all was okay in the end as I obviously managed to dodge him in the crowd and headed back up the hill to the comfort of my double bed for an afternoon siesta. I also discovered a food market around the corner from the apartment, so lived off bags of heavenly cherries and nectarines. Thank heavens my friend’s Mum was able to transfer me some cash to that account on my last day (my own parents couldn’t, as an international transfer over the weekend is almost impossible and wouldn’t have been immediate), as otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to get the train to the airport and I don’t even wanna think about the catastrophe that would have caused. 

My complete lack of updates here is testament to just how busy these last two months have been (with spending 5 jam-packed weeks at home and now the last month back in London). iI’s a shame it is so, because now all the finer details and tales to accompany these photos are starting to become foggy memories… But, I <3 Roma and cannot wait to go back to explore it properly. I feel I had such a lovely, brief little taste (oh, and speaking of, I would do anything for a bowl of freshly cooked pasta right now) 

Take me back to Monterosso

Vernazza

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So on our first night we visited Vernazza (photos in a post below) for dinner, we spotted a sweet little Enotica on the square, with a little group of older Italian men perched on some stools out the front. They drank, smoked and talked amongst themselves energetically, and Bre and I decided this was the perfect place to get a glass of wine and soak up the last of the warm sunlight. Later, after we took some pasta down to the bottom of the bay and watched the sunset from the rocks, we decided on an early night and headed off to the train station.. Walking past the Enotica was far too tempting, however, and we ended up perched on those comfy stools that had been occupied by the men, sipping away at one last red for the evening. It was here, that we befriended Enzo and ‘Uncle Jack’, who came back to claim their seats. We got on very well, very quickly. I had the most lively conversation with the lovely Enzo; about the incredibly interesting life he’s lived so far, his childhood in Vernazza, the underwater caves around the bay, his travels, my travels, my dreams, life in general etc. Soon enough a group of locals had gathered around us, teasing Enzo and Jack over their new friends, and we were introduced and invited to dinner. Whilst we had already eaten, and politely declined the invitation, we were told to come back the next day to use the boat that three of the men joint-owned. 

Enzo said he was surprised by how happily we were spending our evening chatting away with a group of ‘old codgers’, and implied most young, attractive tourists seem to shy away from interacting with the older locals, especially the men. The thoughts makes me a little sad, for there is so much life, laughter and wisdom that can be gleaned from these beautiful little moments. Besides, we trusted our guts and there was nothing but extremely good vibes coming from these people! We were told to come back the next day to take out the boat that Enzo, Tino and another of the men owned. We assumed they had a boat to hire, and were happy to do so. The next day when we returned, we just so happened to bump into Enzo as we both walked down to the bay. I did a double take, as wearing a casual white tee and shorts, he looked awfully different to the night before when he was all dressed to the nines in chinos, blazer, silk neck tie and white leather converse (trendiest old gentleman, ever). When we asked how much he wanted for the boat, he look baffled/offended and said ‘don’t be silly, no one’s paying anything, we’re friends now..’ and pointing gesturing behind us; ‘but don’t tell those other tourists’.. He apologised for the messiness of the boat (as it was the first day this year that it had been taken out), helped us in and off we went. The motor was having some difficulties, and so he spent the afternoon rowing us around the bright blue, sparkling water as we explored that cave, swam and nattered away. 

As we rowed back into the bay, he invited us up to his BnB (with ‘the best best views in all of Vernazza’) to make use of the guest shower, as we wanted to wash off the all the dried salt from the sea. Again, nothing but good vibes here.. And he was right, his gorgeous guest house really DID have the best views of both the endless expanse of sea and the whole village. After freshening up, we sat for an hour or so with (incredibly strong) aperitifs (SO italian) on one of the balconies as the afternoon sun began to fall. We heard more about his life, and told him stories from ours. He is clearly very perceptive, as he made comments about our personalities that were pretty spot on, and even guessed our star signs!
We learnt that every day, rain hail or shine, the group of friends met for Happy Hour at the wine bar. So much to our delight, we joined them all again for another wonderful Vernazza evening.. 

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Manarola love

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By far one the most easily recognisable images of Cinque Terre is of the colourful little houses teetering on the edge of the cliff, reflecting on the crystal clear bay below. It felt surreal standing there and snapping those images myself, not that the world needs another #manarola photo.. 

Sorry for cemetery overload, but this was single-handedly one of the most special places in Cinque Terre. We spotted a billboard of sorts from below in the bay when we were swimming, so armed with Gelato we climbed to the top of the village, where hundreds of the villages inhabitants rest in peace in a marble garden of remembrance. The little graves featured a portrait of the occupant, where adorned in fresh flowers and rosary beads & had the most breathtaking, panaramic views of the mediterranean sea. 

Cinque Terre, #3

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Heaven Cont’d.

Day 3: Another morning in Riomaggiore and then onto Vernazza; where we first met our friends Enzo, Tino etc (more on that later). Village life is just gorgeous, and poor Bre had to deal with me trailing slowly behind taking photos of every single little interesting detail; the florist perfecting her display bunches, a little boy playing marbles, layers of bright, peeling paint revealing the building’s past. 

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Day Two in Cinque Terre; we awoke to beautiful blue skies and headed out to explore the other side of the cliff at Riomaggiore, but by the time we had ordered gelato we were ducking to find cover from the rain. 20 pretty serene minutes were spent perched in a little cave watching the waves roll pass, but this quickly passed and the beautiful little rock beach slowly filled up with people basking in the sun. It was another lazy day filled with swimming, reading, afternoon espressos and flash fried seafood (again, !!!. And to think I detested seafood about 2 years ago.) For dinner, we decided to take a bottle of white and some little nibbles (local olives, charcuterie and the likes) back to our beautiful villa to watch the sunset. There we ran into our french friend (another whole story that might just remain privy to close friends and family), and the evening was spent in conversation with him, and many, many bottles of wines and whiskeys later, we fell into bed after another beautiful Cinque Terre day.

Cinque Terre, Riomaggiore.

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I’ve been dreaming of Cinque Terre ever since I first saw a sun-drenched photo of the colourful villages which adorn the beautiful Italian coast many, many moons ago. So when it came to deciding where to kill time for a week, post being-kicked-out-of-the-country and pre going home, it was a bit of a no-brainer. As much as I loved the idea of travelling by myself, I’m so happy I pitched the idea to Bre, who was more than happy to join. Two weeks later, we were off on yet another girls trip. (Tough life, but someone’s gotta do it)

Seeing as I’m heading home to Australian ‘winter’ for 6 weeks, I have rather hefty luggage containing jeans, jackets, boots etc etc, not the light backpack that would be common sense to bring for moving about cliffside villages. Boy, me and my 20 kilos struggled (which by the way, is the most inconvenient of bags; it’s not a hard suitcase, so everything kind of falls to one side, meaning every 10 seconds I have to stop and flip it back on it’s wheels. UGH).. Although definitely not as much as the poor chap who offered to carry it for me to the VERY TOP of the village, where our beautiful villa was. 

Speaking of! Bre and I have a SERIOUS knack of somehow finding the most brilliant accommodation.. It’s always on a tight budget, yet every time we arrive somewhere, we’re pleasantly shocked at how we’ve hit the jackpot! This time probably takes the cake. More photos to come, but imagine beautiful villa terrace overlooking a wide expanse of ocean, with dramatic cliffs and steep vineyards to either side. Our room was so sweet as well. And so very Italian. I couldn’t have dreamed this up if I tried. 

The first hour or so was a little overcast (cue Maddi: ‘Oh nooooooo, but I wanna tan!!?!!!’) which thankfully didn’t last. It did provide for some pretty breathtaking scenery shots though. Amiright? & THAT CHURCH. Bre said over and over, every time we puffed past on our nightly trek back up to our little home away from home, that she is to one day be married in that church (in gold Dolce and Gabbana, no less). 

Oh, I forgot to mention. Story: So, we almost missed our connecting train from Pisa to La Spezia. I had to leg said 20kilos in about 40 seconds from one platform to another. Wheezing and spluttering, I made my way down the packed carriages, looking for space for both Bre, myself and our luggage. Finally, a kind gentleman motioned to his free seats in his compartment, and about 5 minutes later, we’d hit it off with Bert and Matt from Michigan.. 

They were on their way to Cinque Terre for a day trip, not knowing much about it. I was kinda flabberghasted. Whilst I’d never been, it only takes a pinterest search to realise that this place is heaven on earth, and with 5 villages to cover, half a day CERTAINLY wasn’t enough. By the time we were to change at La Spezia for the last connecting train to the coastline, they were convinced to find a hostel and stay a few extra nights. 

What lovely, lovely, intelligent, warm-hearted guys! After saying our farewells at the station (before our epic trek to our room), we shortly bumped into them again on the rocks, and a jolly afternoon was spent swimming and basking in the sun with wine and local treats. A beautiful dinner watching the sun set over the little bay (fresh squid ravioli - omg) which was followed up by dessert and a few more bottles of wine and some rum on the rocks.. You know when you just meet people travelling and something just clicks? Like there’s no ulterior motives, just like-minded travellers with a passion for meeting new people and being enriched by whatever experiences come their way.. We spent many hours in the greatest of conversation. Such a nice start to the trip! 

P.s, now, sitting in Rome, I am a very healthy shade of (very light) brown.. Funny to look back on these pictures from 6 days ago where I am white as a ghost! 


Firenze, part 2 

Firenze

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It’s hard to believe after looking over all these beautiful, sun-drenched photos, that at 5am this morning, after 3 hours sleep, Bre and I trudged to Stanstead (by trudge, I mean we got a car, but whatever, extreme tiredness + grumpiness was involved) in miserable, chilly London drizzle. 

So you might be wondering why/how on earth I have time to be basically live-blogging this little Italy adventure so far.  Due to said tiredness, after the quickest transit ever and a beautiful day of aimless wandering, vintage shopping and gelato, Bre and I decided a quite night in our beautiful little Italian apartment (with the most Tuscan of vibes) was in order. And as such, as I edited photos and begun to type, Bre had been fixing up the most simple yet perfect summer dinner: a fresh tomato salad, garlic infused courgettes with the raw flowers atop, bresola topped pear and a cannellini and faba bean mash, complete with a bottle of red. Legit, absolute heaven.

I’m just a little bit in love with Florence, just as I expected I would be. It’s quiet, friendly, easy to get around and is so damn breathtakingly beautiful. I’ve been told time and time again by friends who have passed through on their travels, and my friend Mica who grew up here, that it is one of this most incredible places in the world, and I couldn’t agree more. The Tuscan sun is agreeing with us, and spirits are high.. 

Now for some sleep! 

I present the second, ongoing paparazzi instalment in my lovely London life (also known as, “spot tinned Jack in my dress”). Goodbyes for now to my favourite city, and all these beautiful people in it. I’ll be seein’ you in 6 weeks.