365:113 A Guided Tour around the Vatican

The great glimpse of Michaelangelo's from inside the Vatican

The great glimpse of Michaelangelo’s from inside the Vatican

After the tour of the Colosseum on Wednesday, our tour guide offered us a guided tour of the Vatican Museum the following day at a reduced price. Now, the actual price of your ticket into the Vatican is €16. The price of the guided tour was €55 (minus our €10 discount, we paid €45) so a guided tour is actually quite expensive but, that €55 was for skip-the-queue entry into the Vatican; more than two hours with a very knowledgeable guide (Sylvia, I had a bff crush on her by the end of our tour); direct entry into St Peter’s Basilica after the tour. If you see the queues for St Peter’s Basilica, after queuing for the Vatican, you’d probably agree that the €55 is well worth the money.

Our guide, Sylvia, knew so much about the Vatican, the Pope and Rome. Firstly, she took us on a short walk from the tour guide operator’s office to St Peter’s Square where she had great insight into the design of the square, the way the Vatican works and all other sorts of things. Then, she dropped us off at a coffee shop (coffee not included in the price of the tour) while she headed back to the office to pick up some more tourists. When she got back to us, we walked to the doors of the Vatican Museum where we picked up headsets (hang around your neck with a single earbud. Sylvia talked into a microphone and her voice was transmitted into the earbud) and headed into the museum. There’s a bag x-ray check which was comical considering the security guard who was manning the x-ray screen was looking everywhere but the screen. The bag check moves quite quickly though and we were on the way through the museum in no time.

Because talking (and taking photos*) is not allowed in the Sistine Chapel (but it is everywhere else), Sylvia stood us, in the sunshine, in front of a board in the garden and explained a lot about the paintings we were going to see at the end of the museum tour in the Sistine Chapel. The she took us through the galleries telling us about the subjects of tapestries, sculpture and pointing out which pope commissioned what etc. And finally, we got to the Sistine Chapel. The tour ended (for others**) after Sylvia took us out through the guide’s door to the very front entrance of St Peter’s Basilica. There she explained a little about the basilica and then left the tour group to look around the church on their own.

It was €55 (€45 with our discount) well spent, if you ask me.

Pros of a guided tour: skip the queue to the museum; loads and loads of great info; no bimbling around getting lost, not knowing where you’re going; skip the queue to the basilica
Cons of a guided tour: it costs more; you don’t get to see all of the Vatican museums so if, like me, you wanted to see a special exhibit, you’d be better off just wandering around on your own (I know I’ll go back to see exactly what I want one day).

More photos. You can click to make them all bigger, obvs:

St Peter's Square from the end of the queue for the basilica. Not even kidding.

St Peter’s Square from the end of the queue for the basilica. Not even kidding.

*The reason photos are not allowed is apparently….wait for it…. A Japanese company gave the Vatican a whack of cash to clean the paintings in the Sistine Chapel. In return for that, the Vatican gave this company the copyright of all the pictures until 2016.
** I lost Mum & Mary in the Sistine Chapel. It’s a long story. Our exit from the Vatican was a lot longer than if they hadn’t got lost and we didn’t get to see St Peter’s after all due to time constraints. Try not to get lost or separated from your group/companions in the Vatican. It’s very big, very busy, the guards are worse than useless and phone signal goes from full reception to zilch from one step to another.

365:112 Tanti Auguri, Mamma!

17070909130_a7633cdfbd_k

22nd April was my lovely Mum’s 70th birthday. We had a wonderful day out and about in Rome. Our first order of the day was to attend a Papal Audince in St Peter’s Square. But, I want to tell you about that in a separate post. Here’s a picture of a Swiss Guard though.

17256660672_163aa0a71f_k

And some more pictures of the day…

This happened.... *swoons*

This happened…. *swoons*

Singing in front of the Colosseum? No. Just too mouthy. Like mother....

Singing in front of the Colosseum? No. Just too mouthy. Like mother….

17088053369_01f48be13a_o

17086482238_2b5b6d9d75_o

Inside. I can't recommend getting a guided tour around the Colosseum enough. So much great information.

Inside. I can’t recommend getting a guided tour around the Colosseum enough. So much great information.

The cross marks the spot where the Emperor used to sit.

The cross marks the spot where the Emperor used to sit.

Selfie-silliness. You'll all want a selfie-stick one day.

Selfie-silliness. You’ll all want a selfie-stick one day.

Cocktails with the Temple of Hadrian for an evening view.

Cocktails with the Temple of Hadrian for an evening view.

A Cosmopolitan and some wonderfully tasty nibbles. Amazingly, we heard an English couple next to us complain that their bill was high for a "seedy back-street bar" like the one that served us this. Seedy!

A Cosmopolitan and some wonderfully tasty nibbles. Amazingly, we heard an English couple next to us complain that their bill was high for a “seedy back-street bar” like the one that served us this. Seedy!

Happy birthday, Mum!

Happy birthday, Mum!

And thence onto the Pantheon for more cocktails.

And thence onto the Pantheon for more cocktails.

Yes. We had fun.

Yes. We had fun.

365:111 Celebration of the Foundation of Rome

This is one of my favourite places in the whole wide world.

This is one of my favourite places in the whole wide world.

I should probably start by letting you know that when I talk about Rome, I use all the superlatives. I just love the place. Because it’s the best city in the world. Etc.

But honestly, it is.

On our second day in Rome, we were lucky enough to run into a police band of some sort gathering in front of the Pantheon. I saw four of them milling about inside the Pantheon and was brave enough to ask if I could take their photos. They were kind enough to let me.

17256421502_0fdfe0c02a_k

We later discovered the band was there as part of the celebrations for 21st April, the day Rome was founded. They started playing while we finished up a cocktail in the Piazza della Rotondo. We went to listen to them and saw the most wonderful reflection in this guy’s tuba.

16637974163_41f5a48395_k

And to finish up the performance, they played the Italian National Anthem. Fantastico!

365:109 Sunshiney Afternoon & Sisha

16995695627_5735b69f63_k

This is our balcony now. Last summer Mr Mac and I tarted it up a little with wooden floor tiles, took out the picnic table and put in a corner sofa instead. It’s so relaxing out there now and especially with the beautiful sunshine we’ve been enjoying of late.

This afternoon we spent our time soaking up some sun and talking about our plans for the allotment. We had a bit of a chat with the neighbour who gave it to me and he showed us around. I was delighted to discover I have all different berries including gooseberries and blackcurrants as well as a bramble bush (I love bramble so much!) We have rhubarb, grapes, a tomato house, a climbing rose, one apple tree left and a Zwetschge tree. How fantastic is that?

We also enjoyed a shisha & beer in the sun, followed by a sausage on the bbq for an early dinner. Here’s to a long, hot summer.

16580689074_18983d672c_k
17016971859_80ea1776b2_k

365:107 Ouch!

17010101700_1b2648cdbd_k

At 1:30am Saturday (I was still awake- I’m like a teenager on weekends) I thunk to myself, “Friday photo!” but it was too late. It was already Saturday and I was disappointed in myself for having forgotten to snap a photo of anything; yes, even one from my pillow after having gone to bed. I am nothing if not a stickler for my own self-imposed stupid rules. I gave myself a big fat F for failing my photo-per-day challenge.

And then I remembered, I burnt myself with hot oil when I was cooking (obvs, when else would I be working with hot oil?) and took a photo of it so I could get some sympathy on Facebook.

So I haven’t failed my self-imposed challenge after all. Yet.

(The burn is fine three days later. Red but not itchy or burny any more.)

Edited Later:

Patrick’s girlfriend picked up her new car on Friday too. She says I can share a photo of her and her baby with you. This was the day she actually bought it.

16577440063_6e5ad68b43_k