Exploring Bournemouth

The next stop on our trip was Bournemouth, right in the heart of beachfront Britain. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t have made it onto my tourist map – however we came down to spend a few days with cousins I hadn’t seen for 38 years, and I am so glad we saw Bournemouth! Despite the rather inclement weather it was lovely to see the coast, and nearby Christchurch. Here’s what we loved:

Catching up with family

This was one of the absolute highlights of the entire trip – and in fact, the past few years :). I haven’t seen my cousins since I left England as a one-year-old, and the kids had never met their second cousins (or is it third cousins? I’m never really sure). We had a wonderful few days exploring Bournemouth together, and Little Miss in particular was devastated to leave them behind. This was a really emotional experience for me too, as I don’t have many cousins on my Sri Lankan side that I see regularly. It was just wonderful.

Swimming at the beach!
Fun playing board games on a rainy afternoon.
Fun playing board games on a rainy afternoon.


The English beach

Apparently Bournemouth is the sunny beach spot in all of England – except when it’s windy and cold, like it was unfortunately in the two days we were there! That didn’t stop the kids from swimming though – crazy!

The wildflowers growing along the coastline are just beautiful.
The wildflowers growing along the coastline are just beautiful.
A classic shot of Bournemouth's beachfront.
A classic shot of Bournemouth’s beachfront.



We had planned to spend one day in a nearby picnic and adventure playground. However it was quite cold and windy, so we left the kids to have a marathon Harry Potter movie-fest while the older folk decided to explore nearby Christchurch child-free 🙂 It is a lovely historic town, with a beautiful minster and gardens, and a bustling quay.

The minster at Christchurch.
The minster at Christchurch.
Christchurch is incredibly picturesque.
Christchurch is incredibly picturesque.
We went for a walk around the beautiful gardens surrounding the minster.
We went for a walk around the beautiful gardens surrounding the minster.

All in all, we loved out stay at Bournemouth. It’s well worth  visit!

Italian Adventures III – Verona

In fair Verona where we lay our scene…Soul Sister and I did venture.

We had planned to just do a day trip, but at the last minute decided to stay the night and explore this beautiful and famous city.

So what did I remember most about Verona?

Was it Juliet’s balcony, where lovers throughout the ages have celebrated the supposed inspiration for the world’s most famous play?

Or the statue of Juliet, supposed to bring good fortune to those who touch her breast? (This is why there’s a man’s hand in this picture grabbing the poor statue in such an indelicate fashion. It’s a bit off, if you ask me).

Or perhaps it was the medieval Castlevecchio?

I did enjoy seeing all of these beautiful sites. But I have to admit what I remember most about Verona is a distressing side-effect of travel that is not often talked about – constipation!

Clearly my diet in Italy was somewhat different to what it usually is (I don’t usually eat endless croissants, pasta, pizza, gelato and risotto). Whatever the cause, I was in a fair amount of pain in Verona! In the end I decided I had to get something from the chemist – only, none of the staff could speak any English AT ALL. There are some things that can be translated across languages using a mix of words and actions. Constipation is not one of those things. I chickened out and bought some useless box of tablets for something I didn’t have and we just kept going. Fortunately that afternoon we came across markets selling fresh fruit salad and I cut down on the carbs for a few days and my system adjusted.

However it’s a word of warning to all you potential travelers out there! There is such a thing as too much pasta in Italy 🙂

Italian Adventures II – Venice

Ah – Venezia! One of the most famous places in the world.

I think I was looking forward to Venice more than any other part of my Italian adventure. I had visions of wafting gracefully through cobbled Venetian streets in my red, floaty dress; pausing, thoughtfully and romantically, over little bridges; soaking up the Spring breeze and enjoying the beauty of the sunlight glinting off the canals.

Well. That was not quite how our first day in Venice eventuated.

It was freezing. I mean, sleet-and-rain-and-howling wind-freezing. Soul Sister’s and my very first purchases in Venice were pairs of gloves (see mine below):

And then our second purchases were these umbrellas:

It was a bit annoying that we’d seen them for 3 Euros in Milan but given the sudden turn in the weather, prices for umbrellas had skyrocketed in just two hours. We could not haggle the man down any lower than 10 Euro – each!

But still, the cobbled streets of Venice called and so we had no choice but to go ahead with the astronomical purchase.

So I had my umbrella for about 30 seconds, and then Soul Sister managed to capture the exact moment it got turned inside out:

Which happened to hers as well! So we then had to purchase another one each – for another 10 Euro! I had high hopes for this umbrella, but sadly it came to the same end:

You will notice my eyes are shining. That’s because Soul Sister’s second umbrella was also similarly ruined, and we were both actually sobbing with hysterical laughter at this point. Four umbrellas in one afternoon!

In the end we just decided to get drenched and be done with it. After all, Venice is Venice, no matter what the weather. When there are sites like this waiting for you at every turn it doesn’t really matter if you’ve lost all feeling in your feet and are one slim sock away from trenchfoot:

Beautiful, isn’t it? Venice really is as otherwordly and magical as everyone says. Even a choppy ride on the vaporetto which left me hideously seasick couldn’t get me down.  Luckily, the weather picked up the next day – and look! I was able to wear my red dress and eat gelato in San Marco Square.

We had to kind of hide as we sat on the ground to eat it, because, oddly, Venetians seem opposed to public benches and there were all these signs everywhere warning people against sitting. Who knows what that’s all about? Who cares!

Because we were in Bella Venezia!

Italian Adventures I – take off!

Day 1…

A couple of months ago, Soul Sister and I left our children in the care of our very understanding husbands and flew to Italy for our very own two-week adventure.

I think you have to be a mother of small children to truly grasp my excitement.

For a whole 17 days and nights I would accomplish the following amazing feats:

  • I would sleep when I was tired
  • I would wake up when I was not tired anymore
  • I would dress only myself
  • I would eat what I wanted to eat when I was hungry
  • I would not wipe anyone’s bottom (I was very clear on that last point with the small group I was going with)

These points alone would have made for a great holiday, even if I’d decided to spend it in a cardboard box. But I was spending it in bella Italia!

There were of course a few instructions from Souljourneyboy. He seemed unaccountably worried that I would lose either myself, my passport and/or my plane tickets. Unbelievably, Soul Sister seemed to feel that these concerns were not unfounded, so immediately took command of both my person and documents as soon as we were at the airport.

Soul Sister and I have been best friends since we were five, and we’ve been on many holidays together – but this, or course, was the nadir of holidays. This is how we looked when we got on the plane:

Yes, we were nearly passing out with the excitement.

We boarded the plane and I very nearly made the rookie mistake of reclining my seat right away. Luckily Soul Sister – a more seasoned traveler than I – advised me otherwise.

“When you actually want to sleep,” she said, “you need to make that 2 degrees really count.”

How right she was.

I began loving my cosy little seat with its own TV and dinner tray – but after 27 hours of continuous night-time, two books on the kindle, five movies and about three hours’ sleep we looked like this:

I just don’t understand how people join the Mile High club. This is how you look on a plane on a long flight. It’s not pretty. Besides, plane toilets are tiny and sound scary and that weird light makes you look kind of green and even more unattractive.

Still, once the pilot announced we were actually in Milan we rolled up the bags under our eyes and perked up considerably.

The excitement continued that afternoon as we headed into the heart of Milan (and ate gelato):

We then rounded off our first day in Italy very appropriately with pizza for dinner – and take a look at the size of the pizza slices! We’d initially thought paying per slice was a bit cheap, but that was before we’d realised they were as big as our heads:

It became quite clear that we would have to walk about 20km a day with all the gelato, pasta, risotto and pizza we were planning to eat.

As we caught the amazingly reliable metro-rail back to the hotel we pondered one of the great philosophical questions of our time: why is impossible for governments to have both a punctual rail service AND clean public toilets? It’s a mystery, but one seems to negate the other.

That night, I feel asleep to the incredible sounds of…

Absolutely nothing. This was partly because I’d brought earplugs, but also because there were NO CHILDREN in my near vicinity. No one woke me up because they’d wet the bed or had a bad dream or had pins and needles in their arms. By the end of two weeks of course I would even begin to miss the night-time calls of “Mu-um!” but that first night, I have to tell you. It was BLISS.

Stay tuned for more Italian adventures….