That time I climbed a mountain.

I’ve decided to try and get my posts done in the short but multiple format. So in that vein here is my Mt Vesuvius post/entry. To be followed up by a Pompei post. If I get time before the Con starts.

I flicked a setting on my Nikon 5100 that does it best to stabilise you if you are on a moving object taking a photo. Well it doesn’t stabilise me per se (I doubt there is anything that can do that) but it helps lock the vibrations down to minimal. I’m pretty impressed with the effectiveness of it.

The drive to Mt Vesuvio as the Italians call it was very VERY pretty, the kind of trip where you’d have to be careful not to get to distracted by the scenery.

The guide told us when it blew in 79AD it was over 8000 feet high, today it was only around 4000 feet high since the eruption basically blew the top of it off. This thing would have cast a huge shadow over the underlying regions. Of course back then everyone thought is was just a nice beautiful, if overly large compared to the others, mountain. Sure there were some strange rumblings from time to time and sometimes stuff vibrated off the beds down below but hey the gods are allowed to be grumpy from time to time surely?

We got offered a walking stick before we embarked but we declined. We were going to do this summit with any power except our own two legs and no extra leverage. We did notice one enthusiastic Japanese guy on his honeymoon obviously feeling the need to impress his newlywed or prove his grit because he chose to run up and down it a couple times. I was impressed, she didn’t look too fussed.

When we got to the top we had a good view of the crater at the top of the cone. What I think I found most disturbing about this whole experience was the fact that the guide (a born and bred Roman with a passion for the history of Vesuvius and Pompei) was quite concerned about the people living in the area. Vesuvio is still considered an active volcano although it is sleeping currently – however according to history Vesuvio is due to blow again any time soon. There are 600 thousand people living in this region (despite the government offering them money to move) and they have tried an evacuation drill once. It was apparently an abject failure with no one managing to get to safety due to traffic jams. I’m telling you right now – this area is stunning beautiful, the weather is gorgeous and the scenery just breathtaking. You could not pay me to live here though, holiday? Yes. Live? Absolutely not.

We were lucky. Last week they overtook the ticketing booth and none of the tourists could climb the mountain at all! Imagine missing out on shots like this:

I didn’t Polaroid treat this one because I felt the whole shot in all it’s glory should be displayed! This is the view as we are climbing.

Seriously good cardio workout going up this mountain and a good practice in cushioning your footfall impact on the way down without sliding onto your butt or just going ass over tit as my more blunt side would put it. I preferred jogging down parts of it. A fantastic experience that everyone travelling to Italy should try to get to. Loved every moment of it and the fantastic weather that let us take such great shots.


Trastevere or bust.

Following on from my last post and finishing off Sunday Nanette and I figured out that we covered around 20.7 kilometers by the end of the day or in Net’s terms 12 miles!

Here’s a little pic of the first leg we did – around 7kms. Stage 2 was returning back to the Colosseum, then off to Piazza Navona.

And that was only STAGE 1 of Sunday’s efforts. We walked to the Porta Portese markets and discovered that flea markets are really just the same where ever you go in the world. IE Full of crap most people are trying to flog and crowded with people hunting for that elusive bargain guaranteed to make them their thousands when it gets discovered by someone from Antiques Roadshow or other such reputable TV shows. It was a long way to go to discover but the walk was nice and we got to see parts of Rome we wouldn’t have otherwise ventured into. So after crossing back across the bridge watching even more “Ancient Romans” marching around the Roman Forum area we sat down near the Colosseum and decided our next move.

That turned out to be the Pantheon. This church is pretty amazing looking as anyone who has stood outside it can attest. And that group is huge because there were a lot of people standing outside it looking at it today. It was very busy. Still managed to grab a few shots.

The Pantheon path took us over to Piazza Navona one of my favourite Piazza’s of Rome. Well remembered from when I was last here.

After Navona we decided we deserved a little reward so we headed up Via Venuto to the Hard Rock Cafe and grabbed an evening meal. I had the Chicken Twisted Mac and Cheese, Nanette had the sirloin and the food was tasty and the service good. That meal calorie intake was more than deserved after the 12 mile round trip hike we’d managed to cover.

After refueling and helping to fill the rumbling gap in our stomachs we felt a little more invigorated so we took in The Spanish Steps. Which turn out not to be Spanish Steps at all. Apparently the French are really pissed off with this name as it was actually designed and built by a Frenchman. They lead up to and pay homage to the church up the top. Of course they sit on the Piazza Di Spagna – so named because the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See is there. And once that was there according to the church it was only right that everything became “Spanish”, hence the name Spanish Steps. Shockingly the church is responsible for the malapropriation of a monument once again. We managed to (very cleverly and completely unintentionally) take two versions of these steps.

Here is Version 1:

And version 2:

We then finished up early evening with a visit to Trevi Fountain. This placed was also packed to the rafters and the entire Piazza De Trevi was filled with people – the only free place was in the fountain. This thing takes in around 3000 Euros a day in coinage in the high season apparently – people wishing for all kinds of things. I like this Fountain a lot, it’s one of my favourite places in Rome and I’m hoping to see it early one morning so that I can see it without the throngs of people. I’ve decided I’m a cantankerous misanthrope with no logic to my attitude about other tourists who should all just pick times when I’m not here to enjoy Rome.

I’m going to leave this post here as that pretty much wraps up Sunday’s activities. On Monday we took in Vatican city amongst other things but we were both pretty wiped from the extra long mileage we had accomplished on the Sunday. I will save that post for the next entry. Stay tuned there will be future recount entries on the following:

  • Monday – The Vatican City
  • Tuesday – Pompei and Mt Vesuvius (aka a bloody big mountain to climb)
  • Wednesday – Tuscany and Florence

Tomorrow we transfer to the Hilton Airport Hotel and get sorted for our registration for the Jus in Bello event. Before we do that though we’ve got about three more sights to get to in the morning – The Knights of Malta near Circo Massimo, the Vatican City again and the Trevi Fountain sans other people. This is all based on whether we get up early enough of course. After a big 14 hour day today exploring Florence it’s time for bed.

Roaming the streets of Rome…whimsy was never my forte.

Travel blogs are a dime a dozen here on this world wide web, yet some people were kind of persistent in letting me know they wanted to read about my travels. So here I am – day three in Rome (I’m not counting Friday since a one hour late night cab ride to my hotel room sharing the taxi with a paranoid English couple and a large American family doesn’t cut it as a day in Rome although Clark, our driver, was entertaining, pointing out the optional stop signs and complete lack of regard for any sort of traffic lane formation – driving in Italy is far more amusing when you’re just the happy observing passenger) and doing a blog post. I’ve taken a number of pictures since getting here, using my trusty HTC Sensation phone camera and also my Nikon 5100.

The hotel room is quite handy to everything yet smaller than I imagined (in my jet lagged stupor waking up in the middle of night to pee I mistook the wardrobe for the door to the bathroom – it’s quite difficult to sit on a non-existent toilet seat and I would recommend to future travellers no matter how jetlagged and half asleep you are there is always time to turn a light on. It will save on shin damage from errant low lying wardrode shelves pretending to be bathroom vanities) however we’re not spending much time in the room so size is not really a problem at all. Just so long as you check that you’re not going to brain your room mate with a door when emerging from the bathroom. Important step in keeping the harmony in any friendship humming along. So speaking of friendship – I finally got to meet my friend Nanette from Georgia, USA. She and I have been conversing via phone and online conversations/emails nearly two years now after striking up a friendship over our common love for some of our TV shows – Smallville, Merlin, Supernatural to name a few. This trip came about because I asked her to join me for the Rome experience that I wanted to take in before heading over to the UK and Belgium for the World Agility Open Championships. So here we are…in Rome sightseeing before we check into the Hilton and take part in Jus In Bello. An Italian Supernatural Convention where cast and fans get together to just basically share their love of the show, ask questions, chat with each other, get photos and autographs etc and hang out with like minded souls. When non-Supernatural loving people give me funny looks at this I just shrug and think – You wouldn’t understand, it’s a Supernatural thing.

I met Nanette Saturday morning in the hotel foyer after heading out for my first walk of the trip. I managed to be confronted by this sight as my first discovery of a typical Rome tourist stand.

I was planning only being gone an hour but that Colosseum is very distracting and the weather was beautiful so I ended up being gone nearly two hours.

So by the time I got back to the hotel Net had already checked in – it was great to finally meet the person behind the friendship we had formed and give her a hug. After Net got settled in we headed out. Saturday was quite a big day – we managed to cover quite a bit of ground with a walk around the Colosseum. We didn’t go in because the place was packed with lines spanning just about half the circumference of the place. Just walking to the main sights in Rome you find yourself stopping at several points on the way because quite simply the architecture of the city is just that eye catching. So the Piazza Del Repubblica was taken in on the way…

…before we made our way down the Via Nazionale to the place where Russell Crowe and Sam Worthington and those guys from Spartacus made gladiators seem like sexy, misunderstood savages. This was my 2nd time there and it was still just as impressive. We circumnavigated and took pictures and ended up at the fancy arch thing aka the Arca Di Constantino before strolling through some of the ruins of the Palatino and Arco Di Tito.

We ended up climbing a couple hills that ended nowhere except on the steps of a church but hey uphill walking is always gonna be a great work out.

After the Colosseum it was time to see the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II who, from the looks of things, was supposedly a pretty important bloke or suffered from massive soul crushing insecurities.

What I do like about Rome (apart from their history and their ice cream and their pizzas and their thoroughly relentless disregard for what the rest of the world is doing) is their fondness for immortalising animals in sculpture. I mean sure 5000 animals were slaughtered on the opening day at the Colosseum but hey at least we pay significant homage to them.

So after that it was off to the Termini Station – the main train and bus station of Rome. Several purposes here – to find a supermarket, find an Italian SIM card with internet access for my phone and to check out the general ambiance. We discovered the Station has many shops, a few floors and a confusing lower level. We also found a gentleman in the Three mobile shop who spoke English so that was a positive. We had a meal there – I made Nanette try Gnocchi and we decided that her spiral pasta salad back home was much nicer than the one she picked up. After picking up some Baileys, milk, vodka and red bull we made our way back to the hotel for the night for some pleasant night caps. We wished Rome a very happy 2765th birthday and made plans for a big Sunday.

And what a big Sunday it was! I felt I had been given a very reliable tip by my cab driver on the Friday night that the two things to do on Sunday were to get myself to the biggest flea markets in Rome held in the Trastavere district called the Porta Portese markets and to see the Ancient Roman Militia March through the area of the Roman Forum. We had decided we’d get a fairly early start so headed off back towards Termini Station (to check in with 3 shop as my phone still had no access – turns out the guy on that day spoke no English and wasn’t all that fussed with solving the problem) and found ourselves a cooked continental breakfast which was scrambled eggs and some suspiciously salty bacon (this was no doubt fried prosciutto) which helped fuel us for the day. We then started the trek towards Trastavere which turned out to be about three hours of walking. Especially when you get distracted by men on horses like this.

So that was interesting to watch. There were certainly different levels of commitment on the part of the payers who were dressed up for it. I’m going to leave this post here for now. I shall continue it on another entry as for now true Italian Pizza beckons us and it’s dinner time. We shall need our sustenance for tomorrow’s trek out to Pompeii and Vesuvius.

Rome here I come!


So on Tuesday this is where I’ll be. *blinks* Pompeii and Mt Vesuvius. It’s all a little surreal really. Going from such a young place (ie Australian European settlements) to such an old place (I believe Rome turns 2765 years old this year!) and I think it’s going to be quite an amazing experience.

I am writing this post because apparently I like to put pressure on myself with regards to getting ready for long haul flights and extended holidays. And this one is only five weeks. I can’t picture me getting ready for a six month trip at the end of June. I feel like a sense of a smallish boulder rolling slowly down the hill gathering even more and mroe material until it’s like that scene out of Raiders of the Lost Ark where all you can do is try and run and get out of the way.

I’ve decided I quite like this life of being on extended vacation from work. But I’m still pretty sure I will want to go back to work next year. All said I do love being a teacher and so that is what I want to do with my time. But it’s nice being able to focus on other things that I am passionate about. And really whilst that is making sure I exercise, get fit, train my dogs, play agility I also need to add televsion and movie watching and spending considerably long spaces of time connecting with people and humanities on the internet. It’s a wonderful place on here and I truly think the benefits outweigh the negatives – so long as you get to experience the real world as well.

I’m feeling good right now, I’m not exactly where I want to be with my weight but I am working on it still (this will be a lifetime thing – the sooner I realise that the easier it gets to be a lifetsyle thing) and I am feeling fit through my gym work, I’m happy with the way the dogs are training although I am going to miss Tim and those furry butts for the next five weeks. I feel strong and capable of running like I need to for the World Agility Open Championships in Belgium. I’m looking forward to seeing family I haven’t seen in years in the UK, meeting an online friend in the flesh after nearly two years of chatting via phone and texts and gchats and soaking up the European vibe in all things history, art and agility!

So this a short post – to say heads up there will be more. I’m taking cameras and videos and ipads and my instagram phone app and I will be having fun! I hope to make use of wifi and journal my journey so to speak here on the world wide web.



Fat is not a Feminist Issue

I’m not sure how this post will go down with anyone that bothers to read this blog. But then I figure this blog is for me so really my care factor about offending anyone (especially on the internet) is virtually zero. I think I need to make sure though that I clarify my heading carefully. I could easily make a post that says Body Image is a Feminist Issue. Body Image is different from fat.

In the current media climate I inhabit fat is getting the most focus simply due to the fact that we are killing ourselves through obesity. I find it fascinating how a disorder like anorexia nervosa is an acknowledged psychological condition however overeating is not even seen as a disorder in the first place (unless of course it is super extreme to the point where TV shows literally film you in the one room of your house that you cannot be moved from without the help of an emergency crew with cranes) let alone a psychological condition. There are people out there who look in mirrors and see fat (and so thus they starve themselves and suffer anorexia nervosa) but there are also people out there who look in mirrors and who think I could do with a few kilos less on me but mostly I’m just fine…no wait AVERAGE (because overweight is becoming the average in some places)…and so thus they carry on with their overeating and little exercise (and so thus they overeat and suffer from a plethora of medical conditions due to their weight). What makes the situation all very hazy though is that line – being a few kilos (less than 8 to 10 for example) overweight is never going to be seen as a problem and that’s fine, the same as being a few kilos underweight will never be perceived as problem. Most of the time it really isn’t a problem – unless that is a gateway change in you personally. Like marijuana sometimes being considered the gateway drug – being a few kilos over or under could easily be the gateway change in your behaviour leading to anorexia or obesity. When people become obese they tend to just avoid the things that show them their obesity. They avoid photos, mirrors, clothes shopping and doing any moderate to strenuous exercise that would quickly show their lack of fitness. We don’t walk around each day seeing what other people see. When we don’t focus on what we look like we become very good at denying there is anything wrong. Nothing brings this home to me like when I walk around a local shopping mall and see men and women wearing clothes that are several sizes too small for them. Short shorts are not for every body type, nor are singlet slim fit tank tops. I just wonder – do these people just not care that they have bulges sticking out all over, do they just ignore the discomfort of a waist too tightly cinched or of a crotch riding up? I see teenage girls doing this as well. These are not simply curvy, solid bodied girls – these are girls (and women and men) who would be classified into the unhealthy weight range of obese.  Not acknowledging it, ignoring it, claiming it’s just late moving puppy fat is simply perpetuating the problem. These are not women or girls who are feeling the pressure placed on them by male driven societal values to live up to a particular body or beauty type.

Most of the feminists are arguing that we shouldn’t HAVE to focus on what we look like – that it is societal values and the male gaze that force us to focus on our looks and that is wrong. I’m not claiming I am immune to the media perpetuation of beauty – what I find attractive in males and females has undoubtedly, at some point, been shaped via the media, television, film and magazine industry. The industry I am surrounded by every day of my life in some form or other.  These industries are never going away. But within that attraction is my own personality – I am a person who has always liked physical sports of some kind, I am also a person who has a moderate to strong competitive streak, I like to get better at the things I do. I admire people who have, with their physical bodies, managed to achieve amazing results in extreme physical situations. Whether that be a sport, a challenge like Everest, a particularly gruelling event, performing a job that requires high levels of fitness and strength. What has shaped this for me? Perhaps a father who has always been conscious of how he looks and feels fitness wise, the kind of father who has a physically taxing job that he does for 8 hours every day yet who still feels the need to do strengthening exercises of some sort on top of that job. So perhaps my image of attractiveness and beauty is fuelled not only my media interactions but also by my upbringing, my parents and my own personality. Is that not how we are all shaped?

I look in the mirror and I don’t like some of what I see. Does that have to be a product of the insidious and permeating male-heavy media industry or can that be my simple dissatisfaction with my look of unhealthiness? If I am 20 kilos overweight then I am irrefutably in an unhealthy weight range. I am putting my body under undue stresses and making it susceptible to all manner of medical problems – diabetes, back pain, heart conditions, joint pain, respiratory issues just to name a few. This is not a “I just don’t like the way I look” problem, it is a “this look is making my lifespan shorter and my body work harder than it should have to” problem. Like in many things, society to me, seems to be a wave of extremes. You either are extremely conscious and aware of looks and how healthy you feel and you take steps to maintain that healthy look (you eat and drink in moderation and exercise regularly) or you just plain ignore what you look like and feel like and carry on being obese with the same poor eating habits and lack of exercise broken intermittently with spurts of “I will change the way I look” behaviours (ie eating healthy, joining a gym, walking etc all of which last for varying periods ranging from one day to one month). It does seem like a lot of the Australian population feels this way so you certainly won’t be in the minority there and there sure is a lot of comfort in numbers.

When I said before that fat gets a lot of media focus because it is a problem that is killing people through obesity I think I may need to clarify that I am not at any point referring to tabloid magazines and papers when I refer to media. I am talking about media sources that have reputations for conducting quality reporting, that do their research thoroughly and that provide clear pictures on the state of things. It is impossible to find an unbiased news source for the most part but we can choose to get our news from more impartial and less agenda driven places. Tabloids will never be a part of that. It concerns me when people allow themselves to be consciously or even unconsciously influenced by what they see published in recognised tabloid media. This is when Body Image for Women has become a feminist issue – when headlines and articles focus on a celebrity weight gain or weight loss or on any other change in appearance and people read this shit and accept it as the norm. And even whilst I write that this is a feminist issue I wonder exactly how many of people involved in the tabloid industry, who support it’s perpetuation of the myth of perfection in beauty are women. Quite frankly I think our gender is indeed one of our own worst enemies in so many cases.

Fat kills to put it bluntly. Fat shorten lifespans, makes life harder, places undue burdens on our health departments and contributes to the incidence of depression. We should be working to to maintain a healthy weight range, if we are fat we should be doing something about that. Feminists say that it must be a feminist issue because why is there nowhere near as much focus on men who get fat as opposed to women. This is where I concede that in terms of male versus female perspectives fat can be deigned an equality issue not necessarily a feminist one. I will agree with the subject line Fat is an Equality Issue or a Discrimination Issue.

The media has a responsibility to report on that. It does not have a responsibility to make us feel worthless and ugly inside if we are overweight. These feelings will not help us overcome the problem, they may in fact sabotage our efforts. Perhaps some would argue that for some people that may motivate them. I would contend that those people would be in the very small minority. Feelings of worthlessness and ugliness seldom make people want to be proactive about solving the problem. And yet these feelings are always tied to our appearance. We need to separate healthy weight range from appearance entirely. As humans we are rarely always completely content with how we look. It’s a rare moment to come across someone who doesn’t have even one thing they wish they could change about themselves. I believe this applies equally to male and females – even if males are not quite as good at articulating it in general.

Fat is an everyone issue. Just like any addiction it doesn’t discriminate between who suffers from an excess of it. We are all as prone to it as anyone else is. It is tied to appearance but it is not our whole appearance. It is seemingly tied to levels of self esteem but it doesn’t have to be. The media should inform us about it but not elicit feelings of worthlessness or failure about it. A healthy body looks good no matter who you are or where you live or what your upbringing is. Our values are our own, borne of many factors (nature and nurture) and they may be influenced (but not formed) by any one media source or gender. That influence can either be destructive or productive – and that is our choice to make.


Insomnia is dumb

With such a profound title this post is destined for greatness clearly. It is April and I am feeling pretty groovy on the days where insomnia has not struck. I think insomnia sets out to make us WANT to fight it. So we lie there, in our beds, snuggled under the covers, wearing cosy pyjamas in a possibly post orgasmic floating sleepy state and insist that sleep will come to us. Insomnia is over there, in the corner of the dark recesses of your bedroom, laughing it’s arse off at the futile human attempts to thwart it’s existence. MWAHAHA! You can fight all you want but your brain is in cahoots with insomnia and they both plot together to bring your downfall in the shape of your walking zombiefied state the next day. Your brain is clearly a fickle ally and can turn on you at the slightest whim. And so it does. You lie there, not sleeping and thoughts churning with one big neon blinking thought constantly being flashed across your screen SHOULD BE SLEEPING SHOULD BE SLEEPING SHOULD BE SLEEPING! I like to try and trick my brain and I tell it I don’t care if I’m not sleeping, I’m on holidays, people exist quite efficiently on barely 4 hours a night who needs all this time for sleeping eh? I’ll just catch up on the deficit when I’m dead. So there brain…take THAT! Complete with huffy and disdainful tone. Sometimes brain falls for it and the next thing you know it’s the morning alarm and you’ve actually slept like 5 hours which is good. I think five can keep you going till the next night at least. Other times brains says eff you and you’re still wide awake at 3am….so then I like to turn those insomnia victories into productivity and I’ll either read, play bejeweled blitz (unsurprisingly not very well) or check my emails. At least if I’m not sleeping I’m doing something besides lying there fighting what is obviously a losing battle. So in the end I’m just grateful that this year I don’t have to get up and go to work on the nights when insomnia wins. In the meantime I’ll just add to my Books Read in 2012 list.

Things that have crossed my mind of late:

1) If you just assume that you will have to interact with people who are really quite dumb in your lifetime then you will avoid a lot of wasted time (I used to bitch and moan and grump about said dumb people but now I just expect them and it saves so much time and I feel less resentful of that fact that they are wasting my precious moments on this earth).

2) Some idiots actually do make fascinating test subjects for observation. Current TV show that has helped me see this is called An Idiot Abroad. Such innocent ignorance is hard to go past.

3) I love leather/neoprene jewellery. This is a recent development. But I now have THREE bracelets – one of them a Pandora one even. I suspect it might be a side effect of getting old.

4) The fitness industry is both fascinating and horrifying. And occasionally torturous. Everyone seems to have their own thing when it comes to the best way to use a gym membership. Calorie intake monitoring and controlling seems to be the most effective way to lose fat. Yet you still need to supply nutrients for muscles to get stronger. There appears to be no one definitive expert literature out there to end all other literature. It seems that science changes often. I’m still learning.

I have 15 more sleeps (yeah that’s right Insomnia I said sleeps!) until I fly to Rome. I like to think good things like this happen to good people. I’m so looking forward to it.