Month: February 2016

Etsy review – potatoes, eggs and a bit of Harley

I really enjoyed writing my last Etsy review, and, seeing as i’ve been on another mini-spree, thought I would write another.

Once again I’ve picked some really cool shops to shout out and highlight. I hope you like them as much as I do!

Please note: this post contains affiliate links.

Scrumptious Delight

You can find the shop here

The Scrumptious Delight shop sells amazing food, monster and more plushes which have evoked an almost cult-like following. All feature adorable little faces which you just can’t say no to.  I’ve had my eye on a worried potato for some time now, there’s just something about that concerned little face on a potato that I find irresistible. Luckily for me I managed to snag one last week. I was surprised at how quickly it arrived in the post considering it came all the way from Canada. As I expected, when I saw this cute little potato IRL I fell in love. What can I say? It is just so freaking adorable. Also, really well made. I imagine this would make a fantastic unique present for a friend (if you could bear to part with it) I couldn’t so this one’s for me.

etsyone
Why so worried, little potato?

etsytwo

Black Heart Creatives

You can find this fun shop here!

This shop sells really cool bespoke acrylic jewellery that’s fun to wear whilst making a serious style statement. Whilst I love everything in the shop there was no contest for me – the egg won hands down! The fried egg came in a neat little black package (for the inner goth) and arrived really safely. I was pleasantly surprised at the size of the pendant (much larger than I had anticipated) and the sturdiness of it too. The first day I wore it to work it got a compliment (to which I shyly replied a thank you before scuttling away as fast as I could.) I would definitely recommend this shop-espicially for those looking for something unique and personalised. A necklace would make a fabulous and thoughtful gift for a daring friend. You can see me wearing my egg a couple of posts back.

etsythree

etsyfour
What an eggs-ellent necklace

Obake Style

You can find this shop here

I stumbled across Obake Style when looking for a gift for my Harley Quinn-obsessed best friend. Straight away the unique design of this necklace stood out to me amongst all the generic Harley Quinn fodder on Etsy.  I was really pleased with this purchase and I have to say, the necklace is made really well and it’s certainly a high quality piece that looks really great. It also came super-quick and was packaged well (with a free temporary tattoo I believe.) My friend really liked the necklace too so that was a relief! I would recommend this shop for those in to their comic books/films – this could be particularly interesting for fans of anime.

Please note, the below is not my photograph – I took it from the Obake Style shop. I didn’t have the foresight to snap a pic of the thing before I gave it to my bestie!

harley

So that’s me (for now) Do you have a cool Etsy shop you can recommend?

 

Walking for mental wellbeing

I find that as I get older, I am more open about my mental illness. It’s not something I generally tell people when I first meet them, or bring up in discussion but it’s not something I go to great lengths to hide anymore. This past week I have been feeling particularly down. I’m unwell at the moment so I think that has had its’ part to play, but generally the mood has not been good and I have found myself feeling really upset.

One thing I find that helps to lift my mood is walking. I know they say exercise releases endorphins (and I’m sure it does) but I don’t particularly subscribe to intense cardio sessions when I feel miserable. What is more manageable however, is a nice walk.

Since moving back to Essex I have been tremendously lucky in what I have around me. There are beautiful thick woodlands and country parks that sprawl across acres. I have explored many rambling paths and stood at the edges of many glittering lakes. I have fed deer, ducks and watched colourful birds. I know I’m lucky to live so nearby to so many wonderful places, so I try to take advantage of that as much as possible. Most weekends I am outdoors.

The other day was not a good day for me. I was feeling particularly unwell and down in the dumps after finishing my day of working from home. However, the sun had made a rare appearance which did seem to brighten things a little. Gareth and I decided to drive down to Chalkwell to take a walk by the sea. My aunt had mentioned it in conversation at the weekend, and I had fond memories of lurking about in the beachy mud over there when I was a child. We got in the car and made the 40 minute trip down.

When we got there the tide was out, but the sun shone brilliantly and I could feel myself relaxing and starting to feel happier. We took a long walk on the empty beach, searching for sea glass and revelling in the quietness. Although it was not warm, I felt fine in a jumper and jacket and I very much enjoyed feeling the sun on the back of my head. I find that the nicer the scenery the more I start to relax. The longer I walk the more my problems seem to melt away also, almost as if I’m leaving them behind me. I have always liked the seaside, and although it may sound strange, to me it is more enjoyable during the colder months when it is empty yet beautiful. When other people can’t interfere with my experience.

cw2
Empty and wonderful

cw7

cw5

cw6

cw4
Stretching my legs 

cw18

cw3
It doesn’t have to be the height of summer to be beautiful by the sea

cw10

cw17

cwg8
This lovely pic was snapped by Gareth
cwg9
As was this one!

cw13

cw14

cw22

cw12

cw16

cw8
We found a bedraggled looking Winnie

cw21

cw23

cw1
Posing with my egg necklace
cw19
Looking serious but lovely. Don’t worry, he had a good time really!
cw20
I told him to look serious!
cw24
He is a natural behind the camera!

We walked for a long time, taking photographs and enjoying the beautiful views. We walked all the way up to Southend where we stopped for a cold beer. By the time we reached Southend the sun had set, and it was dark and much colder. The walk back to the car was chilly to say the least, but as my legs began to silently burn, I felt a lot more positive in my mind.

Sometimes I think when you’re feeling rotten, the best thing to do is to do something else. To remove yourself from a situation or a place, and to take yourself outside where it’s easier to breathe and you can think more clearly and freely. Empty or quiet spaces are really what I’d recommend for people feeling stressed and frustrated. The woods can be really good for this. I find that a lot of people are dissuaded from walking around the winter months because of the cold, but I think it’s the perfect time to get out there. I really enjoyed my walk by the sea, and think that I will go again before it becomes too busy to be a relaxing experience.

cw11

Garden birds update 2

Last week we decided to introduce a few new bits and bobs to the bird feeder menu. And what a difference it has made! We have seen a flurry of activity in our garden and rather happily, we have seen even more long-tailed tits.

Last/This week we have spotted robins, long-tailed tits, coal, blue and great tits, a dunnock, wood pigeons and wrens to name a few. Unfortunately we haven’t seen our parrot friend since the last garden birds update a few weeks ago. I hope she is okay. We also haven’t seen any goldfinches yet, but I am hopeful that we will!

The following photographs have been taken by myself and are of some of the birds who have paid us a visit. As always these have been taken through glass and may be blurry in parts. I hope this doesn’t detract from the overall quality and you enjoy these visitors as much as I do!

gb1

gb2

gb3

gb5

gb14

gb8

gb13
Our fluff ball friend mr Robin – or is it a mrs?

gb16

gb19
Beautiful Dunnock. We spotted these for the first time last week

gb17

gb9
A very blurry pic of a wren- they are so tiny and fast!

gb21

gb20gb11

gb10
Beautiful blue tit

gb18

gbb9

gbb7
A beautiful coal tit in the rain

gbb8

gbb12

gbb10
This coat tit decided to check out the local property
gbb11
Gareth hung this box, and this is the first time I have spotted any bird checking it out

gbb5

gbb6

gbb3
Note the long tailed tits pink back and lovely yellow eye shadow!
gbb2
Long tailed tit in the rain

gbb1

gbb13
A hungry great tit squawks angrily at other birds

Starting an Etsy shop

It has been a couple of weeks since I opened the online doors to my Etsy shop now and whilst I have no big ‘updates’ to give as such, I thought I’d take the time to write a little bit about how it’s all going.

The TLDR; of it is this: slowly. 

It’s what I had expected, what I had read and what others had told me. I guess it’s only natural that when you first start a business it takes some time to get your name out there and to build up a following. I follow many creatives and Etsy sellers on Instagram and can see that it has taken them a long time and a lot of trial and error to gain the many loyal followers and buyers they have. But still. Even knowing all this good stuff I’m horrifically impatient and want all of that success already. I’m terrible, I know.

I am enjoying all of the processes behind running a small business though. I enjoy accumulating followers on Instagram and that little thrill when someone tells me something I’ve made is cute. I enjoy checking my stats on Etsy and seeing how many people have looked at my shop. It makes my day when someone favourites a listing. I know I know, I’m sad but what can I say? It’s all sorts of fun to see something you’ve created grow.

At this time I  have made one sale, so I think that means I am getting there. I know success won’t fall at my feet overnight and that I just have to keep myself motivated. I’ve been reading a lot of success stories lately and I do think that helps to keep my mind focused on the overall goal (which is to have a successful Etsy shop.) I’m also hoping to start producing some new designs too, as I think that will help boost views of my shop and perhaps I will sell a few more things!

As long as I can keep moving forwards, I am happy.

If you’d like to visit my Etsy shop, you can visit it here. You can also follow my journey over on instagram here. If you’d like to buy something, please feel free to use the code PRETTYLITTLEBLOG10 for a 10% discount on your order.

instafinches

Please feel free to share your Etsy shop links with me, as I love discovering new places to buy!

BKA bird sale

When we found out that the BKA (Bird Keepers Association) were having a bird sale on February 14th, we knew our Valentines Day plans were made. Luckily we both enjoy a good bird sale or this could have been awkward!

bka1
I wore my owl finch necklace to the show
bka2
It’s all in the details!

On the day we left at around 9.30. The sale was to start an hour later but, knowing that these things can be busy (and hard to find) we wanted to get there early.

This sale was held at a much larger venue than the last; The Mill Hall, Bellingham Lane, Rayleigh, Essex – so we were quite excited at the prospect of what we might find. We had decided between us that we really wanted a pair of goldfinches but would settle for a cock goldfinch and hen canary if needs be. (So we could still breed them.) We also decided on a budget.

Getting there was easy enough, and the bird sale itself was sign-posted well. When we got there a few people were milling around reception, also similarly eager to find a bargain – but it wasn’t what you’d call busy so after buying our wristbands, we decided to head to the cafe for hot chocolate and orange juice. Rookie mistake. By the time we’d actually got our drinks, a huge queue had formed through the reception and out of the door! We hurriedly joined it to shiver outside in the cold and chat to other attendees about birds (because, well, that’s what bird people do.)

When we finally entered it was manic. Previous to this sale we had attended two others and both had been really busy but this was something else. Everyone came prepared with boxes and cages and it seemed like everyone had something in mind. It was hard to get down each aisle because of how bustling it was but, on display were some beautiful birds.

bka15

One thing I did notice about this event, was a slight lack of British birds. Most seemed to be foreign and there was a great selection of parrot finches, gouldians, etc etc as well as zebra finches, budgies and even some quail. We came across just two goldfinches in the whole place – and before we could buy them, they were snapped up for a bargainous £65 each by someone else! This was a shame for us, however we still had a lot of fun peeking in at all of the other birds and becoming gooey-eyed at the tiny timor zebra finch.

One highlight of the event was a stall set up by a company called Owls R Us who have static bird displays. I, like the rest of the modern world, am obsessed with owls and it was nice to see so many of them perched there. I paid a small donation and even got to hold a gorgeous tawny owl which was very exciting for me! Prior to this I’d held and flown a  few different owls/birds of prey but never a tawny. It had such a sweet little face and feathers as soft as a cloud, holding a beautiful bird is always a wonderful experience.

bka3

bka7

bka8

bka4

bka9

bka11

bka6

bka5

bka10

bka12
Holding a tawny owl was a real highlight for me.

bka13

We didn’t stay for long after that. We picked up some british bird seed from the Essex bird centre stall (an essential if you find yourself at a BKA event.) And then headed off. It was a little too busy to just stand around.

bka14

Instead we decided to head out to some specialist shops in search of our wanted goldfinches. After a short search (and discovering beautiful European bullfinches) we did eventually come across two that had very natural colours. I know this is best for the bird as it means it hasn’t been fed dye, but to me they weren’t the most beautiful. These birds were also quite skittish which is something we’ve heard before.

After some consideration we decided to go for two redpolls instead! We already have redpolls and they are such lovely birds, so it was nice to get some more and extend the family. I really hope to breed these in the summer. We have named them Buttercup (hen) and Parsley (cock.) They are such friendly and interesting characters and Muffin and Chestnut our other redpolls are obsessed with them.

bka17
Not the best picture but our new redpolls are beautiful.

bka16

We will be looking out for the next BKA show – but hopefully we can show some restraint as I don’t know how many more birds we can house! I don’t think I will be looking for goldfinches in the future because I think they may be difficult to look after. Perhaps this is something to consider again when we have an outdoor aviary.

 

Quick Etsy shop update

I have decided to open my Etsy shop a little earlier than I originally anticipated. Largely because I’m impatient, but mostly because I really want to get the ball rolling with this one – and I now have everything ready and in place.

If you’d like to take a look, you can find my shop here

I am selling handmade wooden necklaces featuring garden birds.

bluetitnecklaces

I have a limited number of lovely blue tits.

bullfinchnecklaces

And a limited number of beautiful bullfinches. But I will re-stock (and add some new designs) if and when these sell out.

Get buying people – help me create more things and realise my dream of working from home in my PJS all of the days.

Garden birds update

It has been a few weeks since my last post on the birds that visit our garden and since then we’ve had a few more in so I thought I would update.

All of these photos were taken through a glass door, and some are a little blurry but you should be able to make them out well enough!

As always we’ve had our old friend the robin visit (a few robins actually.)

robeen.jpg

singing.jpg
Our robin loves to sing.

The great tits have been back in force too

great.jpg

wing.jpg
Having a little preen.

And we’ve spotted some blue tits as well (my favourites.) Today I managed to capture a shot of some lovely long tailed tits that paid us a visit.

longtail.jpg
I love their little pink backs, and if you look closely, this chap has some yellow eye shadow!

long2

Last but not least, we spotted a plum headed parakeet on our feeder. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I looked out of the window and saw a bright green bird feasting on the peanut granules. For a moment I thought we’d bought her back from Rome! She appears to be ringed so I am bit concerned she has escaped from somewhere. I haven’t seen her since but I’m keeping my fingers crossed she’s okay.

parrot4

parrot2.jpg

parrot3.jpg

parrot.jpg

We’re still on the lookout for some goldfinches, so hopefully we’ll see some soon. What have you spotted in your garden recently?

 

Etsy reviews (haul)

Last month I decided to treat myself to a few bits and pieces from my ever-growing list of Etsy wants. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I love buying handmade and think it’s vastly superior to mass created crap.

I thought I’d do a little review of some of the things I have purchased and the shops I purchased them from for anyone looking to treat themselves (or a friend!) this month.

Please note: this post contains affiliate links.

Birds in Hats

You can visit the shop here

It does what it says on the tin. I’ve loved this shop ever since I first discovered it which was quite some time ago now. The shop sells lots of amazing art prints and cards featuring – you guessed it- birds in hats. The illustrations are quirky, cute and just really appealing, especially for bird enthusiasts. I have wanted to purchase a calendar for a few years running – but somehow the window of opportunity always slips past and someone else will buy me another one. Anyway, I noticed that in the shop was a card with a print of a Zebra finch wearing a straw boater. Self proclaimed queen of the zebra finch and crazy bird lady, I have 14 of these fluff balls ‘irl’ and figured it wouldn’t hurt to add a card version to the collection too. I purchased this adorable card for a very reasonable £3 (not inc p&p) This print is way too cute to send out in the post however so I’m going to frame it and hang it up on the wall with pride.

etsybuys.jpg

Tukoni Tribe

You can visit the shop here

I originally discovered this adorable moth brooch (and Tukoni Tribe) through a friends Instagram and I fell in love. Tukoni Tribe features lots of beautiful and inspiring art-prints and brooches based on animal illustrations. The moth brooch struck me the most because it is quite simply adorable. I have a friend who used to squish moths when they invaded her room – to make her feel super guilty about this I told her that moths were just butterflies in business suits! I’m sure not even she would want to squish this cute lil guy though – I’ll be wearing him everywhere to spread the word; moths are awesome! He wasn’t super cheap, around £16.33 including postage and packaging. So this one is definitely a treat for me. I am happy to pay that though because he is very nice – I’m sure he’d make a great gift too.

moth
This isn’t my picture, I took it from the Tukoni shop site. Doesn’t little moth look sweet?

Charming Creatures

You can visit the shop here

I reviewed this Etsy shop some posts back but it’s always a winner for me. Technically I didn’t treat myself to this one – my boyfriend did! But I certainly would have treated myself to a cute critter if he hadn’t. Charming Creatures sells stunning custom pet ornaments and necklaces and I’ve had a couple pieces from here that I adore. This time my lovely boyfriend requested a custom necklace of one of our owl finches. I couldn’t be happier with the result! It is made so well and looks just like little Pipkin. I can’t wait to wear this out and about!

etsybuys2.jpg

etsybuys3.jpg

Nikki McWilliams

You can visit the shop here

Another firm favourite of mine is Nikki McWilliams and her biscuit goodies. This shop sells amaaaaaazing biscuit-themed treats for your home, your office and you. My mother purchased me a wonderful jammy dodger necklace for my birthday and for Christmas this year I was incredibly lucky to receive two fantastic custard cream cushions! When I heard there was going to be a seconds sale and the opportunity to buy a pick n mix bag I was (rather sadly) besides myself with excitement. In the end I went for the pick n mix bag (the bourbon was cruelly snatched from my cart before I made it to checkout.) I didn’t technically buy this on Etsy – I actually visited her other online shop. However, she trades over on Etsy and that’s why she’s included in this list!

So, what did I get in the Pick n mix bag?

I got a wonderful custard cream necklace! (my favourite)

etsybuys5.jpg

A sew your own cushion kit (again custard cream) which I sewed rather clumsily but had a lot of fun with. And a pack of cards! All the things were wrapped up in the cutest of packaging.

etsybuys4.jpg

Overall I think I spoilt myself quite a lot but what can I say, I’m worth it (I’ll keep telling myself that!) Have you made any Etsy purchases lately?

 

An update

Life has been pretty hectic lately and it feels as if I’ve not stopped. But it’s a good kind of hectic, the kind where you feel you’re making progress.

My job as a copywriter takes up most of my waking hours but in my precious spare moments I’ve been cramming a lot in. When I’m not writing/blogging, adventuring or adding to my ever-growing feather family (yes we did finally get those quails) I have been working on a creative side project.

It has been a dream of mine to create and open an Etsy shop for a long time. Previous posts will show you I’m the crafty type and and fully support handmade. So the ideas I’ve now ‘realised’ have been on the back burner for quite some time, they haven’t just popped up over night.

Recently I’ve been playing around with a lot of creative mediums and trying to discover what it is I really want to create. After a lot of playing around I decided to combine my two greatest loves: birds and jewellery.

The process of creating my pieces was understandably time-consuming and much of it was a learning curve as cliche’d as that probably sounds. But now I’ve created some pieces that I’m really proud of (and this is a big thing for me, because I’m not ever proud of myself!) My Etsy shop is set to open next week, Saturday 13th February. More details of this can be found over at the Pretty Little Finch Instagram.

The whole idea around my shop and my pieces is centred around birds that you might find in a back garden in Britain. Here’s the spiel:

Pretty Little Finch is a collection of hand-painted, digitally edited and laser cut wooden jewellery inspired by the beautiful and varied birds that visit British back gardens.

Carefully selected for their beautiful colours and patterns, the collection focuses on birds that can be caught at a tantalising glimpse in gardens across the country. This natural beauty found in the most ordinary of spaces is translated in to highly wearable pieces that will lend a touch of charm to any outfit.

Each piece is lovingly hand-painted in our studio before being adjusted digitally and prepared for the laser cutting process. Pendants are crafted from plywood and glossed for protection.

And here are some shots of the finished pieces

etsyfinch.jpg

etsy2

etsy6.jpg

etsy5

I’m hoping that this venture will be successful because I’d love to continue creating more pieces. I have a lot of ideas and designs in the pipeline…it would be fantastic to realise them. For now though, I’m just having a lot of fun with it!

 

Day three: The Forum, Palatine Hill and parrots.

On our last day in Rome we woke at six but snoozed until eight. Almost overcome with exhaustion yet not wanting to waste time this felt like a good compromise. My legs had seized up and were sore but today we had planned to see the forum and walk up Palatine hill.

Ideally it’s best to visit the Colosseum and forum together because they are in such close proximity. We would have done this ourselves but, not wanting to miss the Capuchin Crypts (and not being able to find out if they’d be open on a Sunday) we chose to break our time up and leave the forum to last. Besides, this way we had more time to give to our surroundings.

We stopped first for breakfast. Our last day in Rome required a breakfast befitting of such an occasion. I had a beautiful custard pastry and milky coffee whilst Gareth had a pain au chocolat and freshly squeezed orange juice – this was vastly nicer than the offerings of the hotel and left me feeling ready to take on the day.

We took the Metro to the Colosseum.

When we arrived at our destination, we wandered around for a while stupidly unable to find the correct entrance.

Inside the forum were beautiful and intriguing ruins and as we rambled further among them I felt as if I were in a story book or film set. Some of the charm was lost to the pain I felt in my legs as I struggled on. Often I had to take a seat on a bench. Sometimes this was pleasant, especially when I could hear the melodious sounds of a violin waft on the breeze (it felt like a private concert.) Other times it was frustrating as I willed my poor legs to work so I could explore this exciting place. Although there are plaques up to briefly describe what everything is, not much information is given. For those who want to learn the history I’d recommend a tour. Personally I just enjoyed soaking up the surroundings and feeling as if I’d stepped in to a text book.

rome93.jpg

rome92.jpg

rome82.jpg

rome81.jpg

rome80.jpgrome78.jpg

rome76.jpg

rome75.jpg

rome74.jpg

rome16.jpg

rome15.jpg

rome14.jpg

rome13.jpg

rome11.jpg

rome10.jpg

rome9.jpg
As we walked around the Forum we came across this adorable bunny who didn’t seem very shy!

We eventually found ourselves traversing up Palatine hill and taking in the views of the forum below us which were stunning. At the top we came across orange trees, fountains and exotic green parrots feasting on seeds and berries. I was truly surprised to see parrots as I hadn’t expected them at all. I also caught site of two chaffinches which made me happy.

rome8.jpg

rome7.jpg

rome6.jpg

rome4.jpg

rome5.jpg

And that was it. Our trip to Rome was over and it was time to catch the plane back to rainy England.

I had a wonderful time in Rome and saw some beautiful and extraordinarily interesting things. It’s more than possible to see a lot in a short space of time but if you’re thinking of visiting Rome as a weekend break I’d recommend sticking to the main attractions – they are more than worth it!

 

Day two: The Colosseum, Capuchin Crypts and pizza.

We woke early on Saturday morning and my legs ached like they hadn’t before. Standing on my feet I felt unsteady and like my legs were untrustworthy. However, I didn’t have much time to contemplate my aches and pains because we had booked a tour of the Colosseum at 10.40.

We showered and dressed quickly before heading down to the cafeteria of the hotel for breakfast. Usually this wouldn’t be done, but it was included in the booking and we were trying to keep costs down. The breakfast was pleasant enough – a selection of warmed croissants, fresh fruits, juices and coffee. I wouldn’t say it was one of the finer meals we ate in Rome but it was fuel for the busy day ahead.

We arrived at the Colosseum early to collect our pre-booked tickets (thus enabling us to avoid the horrendous queue that would form just an hour later.) Eager to start seeing more of Rome we decided to have an unofficial snoop before the tour started. The structure itself is very iconic and magnificent to see in real life- it loomed up in to the sky and we felt very excited to see something we’d read about in books and watched in films so many times before.

rome68

After a quick look around and some snaps we assembled at meeting point 3 and waited for our guide to arrive. One of the reasons we booked the tour as opposed to walking around ourselves was that in a tour you can access the upper and lower levels of the Colosseum -something which you cannot do if you decide to go it alone. Included in the ticket price is also access to the Forum and Palatine Hill which are just metres away and well worth a look.

The tour itself was very informative and our guide helped us to imagine how the Colosseum once was. Tales of gladiators fighting lions sparked my imagination and as we wandered through the ruins I imagined to myself all of the weird, wonderful and horrifying things that had taken place where I stood.

rome61

rome64

rome66

rome60

rome62

rome63
The view from the lower levels – you can only access this if on a tour.
rome67
The view from the upper levels of the Colosseum was fantastic.

rome59

Throughout the tour my legs began to seize up and I felt increasingly uncomfortable so afterwards we sat and rested on a bench for a while before searching the back streets for a pizzeria. We found a small cafe and ate hot, fresh slices of Margarita pizza washed down with cold lemonade. Lunch was delicious and everything I had hoped it would be. Refreshed and content we headed back to the hotel for a well-deserved 30 minute nap.

Batteries temporarily recharged once more we hopped back on to the Metro and towards Barberini in search of the Capuchin Crypts.

Inside the small, quiet museum we learned about the Capuchin monks and observed objects that belonged to them including rusted pocket watches and retooled books. No photos were allowed inside the museum or crypt and I respectfully abided this despite my burning desire to capture every tiny little thing I saw. The winding museum led us down in to the crypts which were dull – lit only by faux flickering candles.

Inside were ornate patterns and designs spread carefully across the walls and ceiling, macabre lampshades made of human bones. Hooded skeletons guarded the crypts, humbly bowing their skulls down to the gritty soil beneath them.
I have visited the Catacombs of Paris and as such, did not anticipate feeling ‘creeped’ out by these crypts. How wrong I was. I learned that no one really knew how the bones had come to be in the crypts or who had arranged them in such a manner. I felt a shiver crawl across my shoulders. Some of the skeletons still had withered skin that clung to their skulls and looked to be mummified. This combined with the thick hooded monk cloaks made them look terrifying. The detached thigh and shin bones placed to make shapes were easier to digest but having no idea of the sort of man who might arrange them as so made the whole experience feel unnerving. I would definitely recommend a visit to the Capuchin Crypts for anyone who wants to see something different and unique. The experience was haunting but grossly interesting.

From here we roamed the area until we came to a cafe. Outside we sat and had a glass of red wine whilst observing the bustling streets. I was happy to see a pair of chirping sparrows and fed them crumbs which they greedily pecked up.

rome70
We fed the sparrows over a glass of wine.

rome71

When the wine had been drunk we wandered further in to the city and perused the shops and busy cobbled streets until my legs felt as if they were on fire.

rome72.jpg

Muscles screaming we headed back to the hotel to freshen up and rest some more before the evening ahead.

Once again we headed for the Trevi fountain and the plethora of restaurants that surrounded it. We settled for a small restaurant with outside seating and heat lamps to keep us toasty. Here we had beautiful cold beer and bruschetta to start, followed by spaghetti and meatballs and lashings of salty Parmesan cheese. Although it was not comparable to our first nights dinner, it was still delicious and very enjoyable.

After a very quick stop by the Pantheon, we headed back to Pepy’s bar, as we had done the first night. Here we had bourbon served with bitter dark chocolate and chatted about our adventures in to the night.

By the end of our second night in Rome we had walked 30 miles.

Day one of Rome: Sistine Chapel, St Peters Basilica & lasagna

I’m painfully aware that my last blog post was a whole 12 days ago…the reason for this is that I have been extraordinarily busy! I guess now is as good a time as any for an update and I’d like to talk about my recent trip to Rome.

I have decided to break up each day in to a post (I went from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon.) The reason for this is the sheer volume of photos and stories I have to share! (Please bear with me.)

We left our flat late, half an hour late to be exact. Even though we’d carefully laid our plans the night before and had set up the timed lamps, cleaned out all of the bird cages and packed – we still didn’t make it out on time. Rushing to the airport, we boarded the plane – just. Our flight took two bumpy hours before we landed in Italy. The sun was shining, the skies were blue and the air was crisp – not quite cold yet not particularly warm either…my ideal weather. We took a taxi to the hotel (Hotel Gambrinus) and as our taxi hurtled its way through the cobbled streets and outskirts of the city, I marveled at the beautiful old buildings that looked set to crumble at the slightest touch. By the time we reached our hotel I had decided my jacket wasn’t to be needed that day.

At the hotel we quickly decanted and arranged our belongings about the room. Our stop was quick – being in Rome from Friday to Sunday meant that time was against, it was precious and we didn’t wish to waste it.

Our first stop in Rome was to be the Vatican, and as we walked along the dusty pavements to the Metro we saw that the streets were lined with orange trees, heavily laden with fruit.

We decided to take a tour of the Vatican museums and walk the (quicker) route through and to the Sistine Chapel. We moved slowly from room to room soaking up all there was to see. The rooms were opulent with floor to ceiling paintings or carefully carved statues of marble. The thing that most impressed me (even more so than the art on display) were the ornate ceilings with their beautiful depictions, paintings and carvings in rich inky blues interjected with gold and swirling patterns. Each room seemed to be in contest with the last and I found myself drifting through them with my head craned skywards.

rome23.jpgrome2.jpgrome21.jpgrome25.jpg

rome24.jpgrome22.jpgRome3.jpg

rome20.jpg

rome28
A stylish spiral staircase in the Vatican museums.
rome27
Stopping for snacks to keep us going. The pizza snacks were bland but we were fans of the bacon.

Along our way we saw Matisse and Dali and felt quiet satisfaction at being able to recognise something. At the end of our route we came to the Sistine Chapel. Of course everyone in this room had their eyes fixed firmly to the ceiling and that iconic painting The Creation of Adam. Photographs were not permitted here and without the clicks of flash the room seemed darker and stiller. Much more peaceful than it had been moments before outside of it. I thought the paintings were amazingly beautiful but architecturally the chapel is not spectacular.

From here we moved out on to the grounds and strolled through them with the sun on our faces. We walked further still towards St Peters Basilica stopping for our first taste of gelato at a grubby vendor. Unfortunately the ice cream tasted stale and I worried we would be sick so the limp coned ice creams went in to the bin and our first lesson of Rome was learnt – do not buy from street vendors!

rome48.jpg

rome45.jpg

rome30.jpg

rome31.jpgrome33.jpg

rome32rome29
The Basilica is very beautiful to admire from the outside, but inside it was breathtaking. The ceiling rose up so high it was almost lost but I could make out yet more magnificent paintings and depictions of Rome. The Basilica felt very special to me was a real highlight of the trip. I would recommend this to anyone wishing to visit Rome.

rome34.jpg

rome44.jpgrome35.jpg

rome36.jpg

rome39.jpg

rome40.jpg

rome43.jpg

rome38
On our back we stopped at a proper gelato bar and got our first real taste of the city. I had a delicious chocolate and Nutella cone that tasted just like a frozen Ferrero Rocher and burst with flavour in my mouth. Gareth had chocolate and stractiatelli.

rome46.jpg
Gareth thinks Jesus is cool.

rome47.jpg
Back at the hotel we quickly changed in to smarter attire before hopping back on the Metro in search of dinner. In Rome there are two lines A and B – we quickly established which lines we needed to take to get where (or rather, Gareth did) and it was simple enough to get around.
We headed to the Trevi Fountain because we had wanted to see it and we had heard there were a lot of restaurants around it. By the time we got there it was dark. The fountain was much larger and more beautiful than I could have anticipated. The water was aqua and highlighted with spot lights that reflected and sparkled on its surface. The fountain was bustling with activity. Tourists stopping to take photos of the enchanting scene, street vendors selling selfie sticks and Italians having a quick kiss by the water.

rome50.jpgrome51.jpgome53.jpg

We ate nearby in a pretty restaurant that was covered in ivy with twinkling fairy lights poking out from between the lush green folliage. Inside the walls were lined with tempting bottles of wine and the atmosphere felt relaxed and happy. The tinkling of glasses, scraping of cutlery against plates and the gentle murmur of Italian accents made the place feel welcoming. Our service was wonderful and we were recommended a strong red wine which we sank half of as we hungrily made our way through the basket of fresh breads. We both ordered lasagna and I can say with confidence it was the nicest meal I have ever eaten in a restaurant before. Beautifully rich and creamy, every bite of the lasagna was like a slice of heaven that left me wanting more.

After our meal we wandered through the city and came across a bar called Pepy’s. There we ordered Italian Iced Tea (just like a Long Island Ice Tea but with amaretto.) At night the street sellers come out in force and try to sell you all manner of rubbish from collapsible baskets, to hunks of goo and laser pens. Sitting outside the bar we were constantly swatting away the sellers like flies, although one managed to coerce one euro out of us for two African bracelets.

By the time we curled up in bed much later that night we had walked 15 miles.