Monthly Meet-up April : Yellow

Crumbs how are we on our fourth monthly meet up of 2018 already? This month’s prompt was ‘yellow’, so here’s a sunny sunflower to brighten your day. One of our first crop when we moved to our current home in Gibraltar, which luckily gave us enough space outside to grow some sunflowers.

Regular visitors to Postcard from Gibraltar will know I am a watercolour student. This is one of my most recent paintings done at my weekly watercolour class…

Last summer we visited Rome and one of our days there was spent touring around the Vatican. It was a truly fascinating day, and you can read all about it in my Postcard from the Vatican. While we were there we simply had to send home a postcard from the Vatican….

Oh and another great trip last year was to visit some very good friends living in Berkshire. While we were there, we went to Legoland for the day, which is where we saw these ducks!

I’m linking with Sandra of Wild Daffodil for this monthly meet up.

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 🙂

Sunday Sevens #96 13.8.17

Hello there! I’m sending this Sunday Sevens from the beautiful city of Rome…

Gibraltar sunset


We haven’t had a Gibraltar sunset for a while in Sunday Sevens and as last Sunday I did nothing of note, due to being under the weather, that’s my photo of the day. 

A windy, Sandy Bay


At the start of the week we had some very breezy weather. We had planned to go down the beach at Sandy Bay for a few hours but the conditions were so windy we aborted the plan for fear of being sandblasted.

Clear view across the Strait


Wednesday was a beautiful evening and the view across the Strait to Morocco was really clear.

Another trip away!


Thursday saw us getting onto another plane, this one from Malaga airport and bound for the eternal city of Rome. We were so excited for this holiday, I have wanted to visit Italy for a long time (as a big fan of pizza, pasta, ice cream and coffee) aside from the gastronomic adventure, I couldn’t wait to immerse myself in the sights and sounds of the place.

Now that’s what I call a ceiling


Our first full day in Rome was dominated by a guided tour of the Vatican. We had an amazing guide and we all learned so much. I was amazed by how much Middle Postcard knew about the Sistine Chapel before hand. He answered so many questions posed by our guide. I guess he must be paying attention at school after all!

It’s the Collosseum!


I can’t do our Ancient Roman experience yesterday justice in a paragraph. Suffice to say it was utterly amazing to discover how sophisticated the Romans were, so long ago. What a day!

I have taken a few (ahem a lot) of photos of our holiday in Rome, look out for a future postcard from this amazing place!

Sunday Sevens is a weekly blog series created by Natalie at Threads & Bobbins. It features seven (or perhaps more) photos from the last seven days of your week. If you are a blogger and would like to join in with the Sunday Sevens community, then pop over to Natalie’s blog to find out how you can get involved.