A postcard from the Dolomites

It’s so hard to believe it now in the 23 degrees Celsius spring Gibraltar sunshine, but this time last week, I was learning to ski in the Dolomites in Italy. What an amazing trip and what an absolutely beautiful place. In true Postcard from Gibraltar style I had to send you my very own Postcard from the Dolomites…

We left Gibraltar on a very wet Sunday lunchtime – can you just about make out the Rock through the mist and rain? We travelled by car to Malaga airport before catching a flight to Treviso airport outside Venice. We arrived after dark and then set off on a very long and winding drive up into the Italian Alps. It was all hairpin bends and thick, thick snow, the like of which I had only ever seen on Christmas cards before now.

We reached our destination at 11:30pm. All I could tell you about it then was that it was a long way from home, there was a lot of snow and it was very cold! It wasn’t until we woke up the following morning that we saw the beautiful fairytale village we were staying in, San Vigilio di Marebbe:

After breakfast, our first stop was the ski hire shop to get kitted our with all our gear before our first ski lesson. I had never skied before, I really had no desire to learn to be honest. A lot of our friends make the 3 hour drive from Gibraltar to Sierra Nevada to ski during the winter months and we have often been encouraged to go to, but the prospect didn’t really appeal. This trip came about through Mr Postcard’s work and my parents very kindly stepped in to look after the Little Postcards so we could go alone – it suddenly looked attractive!

So there we were, skis on feet, poles in hands and hearts pounding as we trepidatiously snow ploughed down a rather gentle (I can say that now ;-)) slope from the hotel to the bottom of our nearest piste.

And so it began, the first of 17 hours of ski tuition over 5 days. In for a penny, in for a pound. If we cracked it we planned to attempt Sierra Nevada en famille next winter, if not we’d give it up as a bad job.

After a few tentative slides down the nursery slope, we were bundled into a gondola and taken to the top of our first blue run ‘Miara’. This was utterly petrifying, although by the end of the week it became like an old friend. Last run of the day was down ‘Pedagà’. This felt like a black run to us novices – look you can’t even see the bottom!!

And that was it for day one. Our first ‘proper’ night began in the hotel with a particularly loud party. There were several accordions playing and one chap was banging what looked like a modified broom handle covered in cymbals on the floor. Trays of nibbles were brought round…

…then there was an almight cheer as a lady came in with a bouquet of flowers. Turned out, it was Manuela Moelgg a local sporting heroine who had just returned from her final world championship race after 18 years of competing. It felt like the whole village was celebrating.

The following morning, between breakfast and our first ski lesson of the day, Mr Postcard and I took ourselves off for a wander to see more of San Vigilio.

We had woken to a brighter, sunny morning and our surroundings were looking so pretty.

The beautiful church of San Vigilio, with its wrought iron headstones…

…and the homes and businesses with their ornately carved balconies…

Then we headed out of the village into the countryside.

How’s this for a picnic table with a view?

Ski lessons called though, so we headed back into the village with a pledge to return and see more.

This time our trips down the Miara felt slightly less daunting, although just as we were feeling at ease with our snow ploughing and turns, our instructor sent us down some ‘gentle’ bumps – gulp!

At lunch, we took a cable car further up the mountain and found the most stunning place for lunch…

Scotch broth, just the ticket!

Then it was back down the mountain for more lessons.

On Wednesday morning, we woke to almost cloudless blue skies. Perfect weather!

Look! That’s us down there, we were spied from above by a friend passing on a cable car!

This time, we got our first ever chair lift to another blue run, it was as so pretty there…

What a place, every view is like a Christmas card!

After skiing, we’d arranged to meet some friends back at the same mountain top restaurant as yesterday, Col dl’Ancona. This time we had completed our lesson before lunch so were allowed to enjoy a little après ski at lunchtime…

What a place…

Thursday saw us reach new heights, the plateau on the top of a mountain, Mount Kronplatz or Plan de Corones to be precise…

It was the site of a huge bell placed there in the year 2000 to mark the cooperation of the three communities who live around the mountain San Vigilio (where we were staying), Bruneck and Olang.

The large brass floor plaque below the bell is written in the three local languages, Latin (which is spoken in San Vigilio) as well as Italian and German.

The huge bell, which is rung at midday, is circled by a model of the surrounding mountains and markers to show the direction of significant cities including Berlin, Brussels and Milan:

This row of mountains with completely covered snowy summits is the Austrian alps…

We attempted two blue runs from this lofty location, both rather steeper than we had been used to, and I fell for the first time on a particularly steep section where I just froze in mild panic. We got down though, eventually, and were all very relieved when we got back down to the village again.

Mr P and I decided to go back out for another longer walk, on the same road as before but further this time.

It was clear that the spring melt had begun, in the two days since our last walk, we could see a marked difference in the amount of snow at the roadside.

Our walk took us up along a footpath through the trees and away from the road.

It was mostly compacted snow under foot, but at times it was decidedly slippery as the snow gave way to ice.

Wood is a big thing around here. Obviously a lot is needed as fuel to keep homes warm in the long cold winter, but also a lot is used in construction too. Wherever you look there are buildings for storing wood, or log piles heaped with snow.

We headed back out of the woods and onto the road where we came across a rather jauntily decorated house.

We had been promised a lake along this road, but all we found was a rather disappointing pond, so crossed over through the trees on the other side and past a stream.

It was here that we found an amazing cross country ski track…

It stretched for miles in each direction.

We had caught a glimpse of one skier through the trees, but apart from that one person, we were all alone. It was so peaceful.

The sun was falling lower in the sky, so we thought it best to head back to the road before it grew cold and dark.

Friday was another beautiful day, our last day of skiing and one in which I had a couple of incidents. I learned two valuable lessons about chairlifts; 1) don’t let go of your ski poles when you’re on one unless you have checked the straps are round your wrists and 2) chairlifts are best got onto in the vertical, rather than horizontal position. I shall say no more.

I did end the day on a high though, we skied two thirds of the way down this slope twice…

And I managed three times down the blue ‘Pedagà’ run without an instructor (but with an experienced friend) to finish off our morning’s skiing.

And so our ski adventure came to an end…

It was a marvelous experience, one I feel incredibly lucky to have enjoyed. I learned a new skill, met some lovely people, made new friends and got to see a truly spectacular part of the world. Oh, and I didn’t get hurt! Win, win!!

As the last rays of Friday’s sunshine set on the mountains above San Vigilio, I felt a tad melancholy that we were leaving, but also hopeful that one day we would return. Ciao until next time…

In case you are ever in San Vigilio and need ski lessons, I can heartily recommend Scuola Sci San Vigilio di Marebbe – our instructor had no end of patience!!

Sunday Sevens #128 25.3.18

Well it’s been quite a week for me. I started it in Gibraltar, spent most of it in Italy and a fair chunk of yesterday in Barcelona (airport only unfortunately – but you can’t have it all!!). Here’s this week’s jet set edition of Sunday Sevens (or in this case Sunday Eights)…

A rainy escape

This was my view as we crossed the runway in Gibraltar last Sunday on our way to Malaga airport. Running away and leaving the Little Postcards with my parents, it was the first time we’d left them for more than two nights in about 12 years. We were enroute to the Dolomites in Italy for a skiing break with some of Mr Postcard’s work colleagues.

Until this week I had never skied. It wasn’t something I ever particularly fancied trying, I imagined I would be asking for an injury if I tried, so I was quite content to be a non-skier. That was all about to change.

First day on the slopes

After 10 hours of traveling on Sunday, we arrived at 11:30pm. First thing in the morning, we were up for breakfast, next stop the ski-hire shop and then an 11 o’clock appointment with David our ski instructor.

Those first ginger movements across the small slope from our hotel to the bottom of the piste were petrifying. As was the first couple of snow-ploughs at the very bottom of the slope. How we would ever master this with any grace or dignity intact was beyond me.

A pre-ski walk

Day 2 saw us with a window of opportunity between breakfast and our first lesson of the day. We put our hiking boots on and made a break for it to see what was beyond the pretty Village of San Vigilio where we were staying. We didn’t have to go far to see the amazing views. What a truly beautiful place. Ski-wise, we saw a slight improvement on our technique after 4 hours with our tutor, but we’re not attempting to score a place on Team GB for the 2022 Winter Olympics yet.

That’s me down there!

So that’s me down there, spotted from way above the piste by a friend traveling past on a ski lift. There were 3 in our class, me, Mr Postcard and another friend from Gibraltar. Our instructor is in blue and, quite remarkably, is able to ski backwards… he’s been skiing since he was 2 1/2 years old apparently. No hope for us two then, starting at the ripe old age of 40+.

Another snowy walk

On Thursday, after our lesson (which didn’t go too well – I fell for the first time on a very steep slope near the top of an amazing mountain, the views were great even if the skiing wasn’t), Mr Postcard and I continued out on the same road we had taken before but carried on for a few kilometers. We ended up on a woodland walk and then hit a cross country ski trail. It was so peaceful and beautiful.

Survived it!

Before we could say ‘après ski’ our five days of skiing were over. 17 hours of lessons later I can now parallel ski (slowly). And what’s more amazing is that I didn’t injure myself. I only had a few mishaps, 1 fall, I dropped one of my ski poles off a chair lift (eek) – fortunately no one was underneath at the time, and I may have come a cropper on a different chair lift shortly afterwards, but all in all I think it was a win. Cheers!

Ciao San Vigilio and grazie!

The last rays of sunlight on the mountains behind the gorgeous village of San Vigilio on Friday evening as I finished packing and got ready for our last Italian dinner. Wow, what a week it was, such a laugh with some lovely people and a great experience I will never forget.

Homeward bound..

We had a trip and a half yesterday. 5:20am pick up from the hotel, 3 hour drive from San Vigilio to Marco Polo airport in Venice (I’ve always wanted to go to Venice), a flight to a very wet Barcelona (I’ve always wanted to go to Barcelona). 5 hours at Barcelona airport. A flight to Malaga, and a car journey back to Gibraltar. We watched the sun rise over the Italian Dolomites and set over Spain as we descended into Malaga airport. 17 hours door to door!

Mr Postcard says I can now tick Venice and Barcelona off my bucket list, I’m not convinced that seeing the inside of the airports counts as truly experiencing either city :-/

Phew, what a week…

I’m off for a lie down! Thanks for stopping by.

I’m linking with Natalie from Threads & Bobbins for the weekly Sunday Sevens blog series (which features 7 photos from the past 7 days).

A Postcard from the Vatican

DSC_0074.JPG

During the summer of 2017 we did a bit of travelling as a family and at long last I have got round to writing some blog posts about it and downloading a few of the many photos on my camera. Last week I published my Postcard from Rome, today here’s my Postcard from the Vatican.

Before setting off on our holiday to Rome last summer, Mr Postcard rather sensibly booked a couple of guided tours, one was to the Vatican City. Included in the price was entry to the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica as well as the tour. We met our guide, Maria, on the steps outside the museum where we were fast-tracked through the crowds.

First stop after the ticket hall was a lovely viewing area which gave us a great position to look out across the Vatican gardens to the dome of St Peter’s Basilica. It was here that our lovely guide took us through many of the things which we were about to see and experience. Our tour was specifically tailored towards a family with young children and Maria showed photographs of various art works and sights we were soon to encounter.

It was here that the first stand out moment of the day happened…. one of the Little Postcards amazed us with his knowledge of Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel. It turned out that he’d done work on it a couple of years before in school and he’d remembered it. Well I never.

DSC_0021.JPG

After passing through the first part of the Vatican Museum, past ancient Egyption relics and other items from the ancient world, we found ourselves out in a large courtyard garden. The centre of it was dominated by this sculpture. The Sphere within a Sphere was created by Arnaldo Pomodoro and is one of several similar orbs dotted around the world. This one is exactly the same size as the one on the very top of St Peter’s Basilica (see photo above) so it really puts into perspective the scale of the church.

One of the benefits of being on the tour meant that Maria was able to invite the Little Postcards across the chain which roped off the sculpture and got them to help her push the sculpture round so that we could get a 360 degree view of it without moving ourselves. It was fun for the children to get ‘hands-on’ with this piece of art.

DSC_0028.JPG

At this stage I must point out that I am not attempting to write a guide book about the Vatican – that would be impossible in a blog post plus I’m sure that many people far more qualified that I am, have already done just that. I just wanted to share a flavour of some of the things we enjoyed on our trip.

In the following photo you can see, not only the sphere at the top St Peter’s Basilica again (top right), but also evidence of the extensive restoration work which was being carried out on the historic buildings.

DSC_0042.JPG

Some sections had already been cleaned up, while other parts were still in progress.

DSC_0045.JPG

The most impressive aspect of the Vatican City was the beautiful art work which was everywhere. Every wall, every ceiling was covered in the most exquisite work.

And the colours of the paints used are stunning considering the ages of some of these pieces of work.

Now that is what I call a ceiling!

Along the walls of this amazing corridor (the likes of which I have never seen before in my life) was a series of maps. The unusual thing about these maps is that many of them were drawn upside down so that they were from the perspective of the Pope in Rome looking down towards the south. They were also created in the days long, long before satellite images so they were guestimated. Our guide, Maria told us that amazingly in many cases they are pretty accurate despite the lack of geographical knowledge of the time.

Of course, no old map is complete without a sea monster.

As a born and bred Mancunian, I have an affinity for bees (they were used in the coat of arms of the city to signify the industriousness of the workers during the Industrial Revolution and came to prominence again last year as a sign of solidarity following the terrorist attack in Manchester). As I walked along this elaborately decorated corridor, I found myself spotting more and more bees on all of these maps, both in the maps and on the ‘frames’.

I have done a bit of research (by no means comprehensive)  and it turns out that Pope Urban VIII came from the Barberini family and their coat of arms featured three bees, you can read about it here. You can also find other explanations for the existence of so many bees in the Vatican here. When you look at the maps on the walls of this corridor there seems to be a significance to the bees and where they are placed as if they are marking out churches or cathedrals.

If you can shed any light onto why there are so many bees buzzing about the Vatican, I’d love to hear from you! (I wish I’d asked more questions at the time!)

After this beautiful bee-filled corridor, lay the Sistine Chapel. Photographs are not allowed to be taken in there (although many people did) nor are you allowed to speak in there (although many people did). Therefore I have nothing to show you from in there. All I can say is that it was beautiful, indescribably detailed and mind boggling at how Michelangelo could have completed such an amazing peace of work. (You can see it for yourself on the Vatican website). It was also easy to see that on occasions when it is quiet and calm, that it could be an incredibly spiritual place. Sadly for us, it was more like a cattle market, I was shocked at so many peoples’ lack of respect for such an important religious site (despite the best efforts of the Vatican staff). What a shame.

Next up was the final part of our tour.  At this point, our tour guide left us briefly and came back bearing gifts for our boys. Rather aptly it was a postcard for each of them to remind them of their time a the Vatican. We thought it was a lovely gesture. Thank you Maria, if you see this!

The final stop was St Peter’s Basilica itself. How’s this for an impressive porch?

DSC_0048.JPG

What a place…

DSC_0053.JPG

The Basilica was just mind blowing in it’s grandeur. Every surface was decorated.

DSC_0060.JPG

The secret as to why these works of art have stood the test of time is that unlike in the Sistene Chapel, they aren’t paintings. They are made up of millions of tiny mosaic tiles. You may be able to make the tiles out in the photo below:

DSC_0059.JPG

Everything here was on such a grand scale, the like of which I have never seen before. It was a beautiful building, if rather busy.

It was on the steps outside the Basilica that we said our goodbyes to our guide for the morning. Enlisting the help of a guide was a price definitely worth paying, especially with young children. They have a relatively short attention span (as do I to be fair) and were able to ask Maria questions that we wouldn’t have been able to answer. It also gave us the chance to learn so much more about our surroundings as, with the best will in the world, you cannot stand and read signs and notices next to exhibits when you are being pulled off in all directions to look at something else by smaller people. I would highly recommend the use of a guide if you are planning a visit yourself.

DSC_0050.JPG

From the front steps of the Basilica, we were able to gaze up to the Pope’s balcony. I’m not a Catholic, but it was quite surreal to find myself in a place which is so well known around the world. There was a definite sense of reverence and peace in spite of the hoards of tourists.

DSC_0051.JPG

It was upon leaving St Peter’s Basilica that we got our first full glimpse of the famous Swiss Guards. We did spy them at a distance while we were inside the complex but this time we got to see them in all their multicoloured glory.

DSC_0063.JPG

DSC_0064.JPG

DSC_0071.JPG

At the end of our visit it seemed only right that we should visit the Post Office of the smallest nation in the world and send a postcard home…

I was blown away with the beauty of the Vatican City. I didn’t really know what to expect, of course I had seen bits on telly and in books but to actually experience it for real was another thing altogether. One thing’s for sure, I will never forget the day we went to look around the Vatican.

DSC_0085.JPG

A Postcard from Rome

Last summer, we were lucky enough to do a bit of traveling. It was one of my New Years resolutions to finally get round to doing something with a few of the hundreds of photographs I took, so here goes… One of our destinations was Rome and are some of the highlights…

DSC_0100.JPG

Until this summer, I had never been to Italy before. I have wanted to visit for so long, but the opportunity didn’t arise until last year. As there was a direct flight from Malaga to Rome we decided to bite the bullet and do a city break with three kids in tow. Before setting off we had the feeling it might be better in hindsight and I think perhaps we were right. It was mid summer, it was very hot, we did loads and loads of walking but we saw lots of the city and it was definitely worth it.

DSC_0102.JPG

It is a truly beautiful city. Walking the streets of Rome felt like being on a film set. From grand palazos to higgledy piggledy alleyways, no two streets are the same.

DSC_0269.JPG

It was very expensive though. We had been warned before our trip that everything would cost a lot more than we are used to. Breakfast on our first morning, which was nothing more than croissants, coffee and juice for a family of five came to more than €100.

DSC_0015.JPG

Whatever corner you walked around there was something to catch your eye.

DSC_0330.JPG

I did a double take as we walked down one street and all of a sudden I found myself in front of the Trevi Fountain. We weren’t alone though….. several hundred other folk had turned up too!

DSC_0310.JPG

We rented a lovely apartment close to the Spanish Steps. It was amazing to be able to walk out of the front door and within 5 to 10 minutes be at such a famous landmark.

DSC_0306.JPG

The view from the top was great, if incredibly over populated!

DSC_0282.JPG

In order to escape the crowds in town we took a walk away from the city at the top of the Spanish Steps and soon found ourselves a much quieter vantage point.

DSC_0394.JPG

The road we had taken led us to one of Rome’s parks, the beautifully cool and shady Villa Borghese park.

DSC_0402.JPG

It was the perfect place to take stock, sit on a bench and rest our weary feet for a little while.

DSC_0411.JPG

The Romans certainly know how to do a park on a grand scale!

DSC_0415.JPG

DSC_0424.JPG

We meandered through the park and found ourselves back amongst the throngs so thought we’d give the Rome Metro a whirl.

Naturally, being in Rome, it had to be decorated with mosaics…

DSC_0436.JPG

It’s not just the people who are stylish in Rome, their homes are elegant too. As is often the case in Gibraltar, people feel the need to cultivate some greenery in whatever small outdoor space they have. I spotted quite a few balcony gardens.

DSC_0019.JPG

Next to the Roman Forum there were lots of green balconies….

DSC_0209.JPG

One of the new things I learned about Rome on our visit was that it has a castle…

DSC_0088.JPG

Castel Sant’Angelo was built as a mausoleum from the Roman Emperor Hadrian but later was converted into a papal fortress as it’s located a short distance from the Vatican. Nowadays it is the site of a museum.

On one of our long circuitous walks we found ourselves outside Quirinal Palace,  the Italian President’s residence. It was only when we spotted the rather grand garden in the distance and the guard of honour that we realised we were somewhere important.

DSC_0275.JPG

One thing you cannot escape in Rome is the profusion of fountains, both large like the Trevi fountain and the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) in Piazza Navona (below)….

DSC_0114.JPG

…to the smaller drinking fountains dotted around the city providing fresh, clean drinking water for anyone who should need it. The water gets into the centre of the city thanks to a network of underground aqueducts built by the ancient Romans.

At this point I must address the elephant in the room. You may be aware that there are a lot of marble statues in Rome, a good proportion of them had their marble nether regions on display. Travelling with young ones, meant that these were frequently pointed out and giggled about…

DSC_0313.JPG

Roman food was a great hit with the whole family. Pizza and pasta rate highly in the favourite foods list for all three Little Postcards, as does ice cream, or should I say gelato?

We managed to visit one gelateria which boasted 150 different flavours…. what a dilemma. (I opted for cappuccino in the end in case you were wondering).

You can’t visit Rome without seeing some of the magnificent ancient Roman architecture which has stood the test of time. The Pantheon was utterly mind blowing. I will share more pictures of this in a couple of weeks when I focus on the ancient side of Rome.

DSC_0334.JPG

We also enjoyed a fabulous tour of Vatican City. I will share a Postcard from there next week.

DSC_0021.JPG

I hope you have enjoyed this little snippet of our lovely few days spent in Rome. Thanks for reading 🙂

Summer Craft Challenge 2017 (week 7)

Throughout this summer I have set myself a craft challenge to help keep myself sane during the long school summer holidays we have in Gibraltar. Normally we have a couple of weeks visiting family in England and the rest of the 8-week-long vacation is spent trying to get myself and the 3 Little Postcards through to September alive and fairly well entertained. In previous years my sanity has been in tatters once the schools went back. 

This year though, we have been incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to travel a fair bit, to England, Wales, Spain, Portugal and, most recently Italy. Here’s what I got up to this week…

Day 43 : Saturday 12th August


So this crafty week began for us in Rome. Saturday saw us take a wonderful guided tour of the Colliseum and Pallatine Hill – what an amazing place… Europa came along for the ride too. 

Back at our holiday apartment, things were moving very slowly. My tired brain couldn’t cope too well with this relatively simple pattern after a day absorbing fascinating facts about Ancient Rome. By the way, please don’t expect me to be able to remember all these facts at a later date – these days information seems to go in and get lost!!



Day 44 : Sunday 13th August

I took a different approach today – I brought my hook, yarn and pattern out with me. As we were having a less busy day just wandering around seeing sights we wanted to visit, we had a bit more flexibility to sit down and enjoy the lovely surroundings a bit more. 

After breakfast and a trip up the Spanish Steps, we visited the beautiful Villa Borghese park. Wide avenues of shade giving trees were just the place to sit and enjoy some cooler conditions and get to grips with this pattern once and for all.


I was finally bitten by this pattern and eager to carry on once we were back at our holiday apartment. A bit of time for an aperitif (beer) and crochet meant progress was finally made!


Day 45 : Monday 14th August


Back home before sunset and my shawl is finally growing thanks to a couple of hours last night and a few a more rows on the flight back to Malaga. 

Day 46 : Tuesday 15th August


Returning home meant being reunited with this beauty! I did miss working on my Jenny’s Mandala by Little Box of Crochet while I was away. I have to admit that this row was the first I struggled with – turned out I’d misread the pattern and I was doing double trebles instead of triple trebles. So glad I got to the bottom of it before I gave up in despair! 

Day 47 : Wednesday 16th August


It’s taking a bit of brain power to do this mandala (i.e. I need to concentrate!!) but it is still so addictive!

Day 48 : Thursday 17th August 


Please excuse the lighting on this photo, I didn’t get the chance to crochet in daylight. I did eventually get the chance to add a couple of rows to this lovey mandala though – so it was worth the wait! 

Day 49 : Friday 18th August


We spent a few hours at the beach today and I took this almost completed project (started in England) with me. 

I have had enquiries as to the whereabouts of Europa the Unicorn, who hasn’t been seen on Instagram since Rome. She did indeed make the trip back to the Rock and didn’t elope in Rome. She even had a trip to the beach today…


It’s not too late to join in with your own summer craft challenge, just tag your crafty photos #summercraftchallenge2017 on Instagram.