Our Italian Honeymoon Adventure

Well, I know that you guys wanted to know all about the honeymoon and to see some pictures, so yeah, I am going to post some of them here. Be warned, there are going to be a lot of pics here – which is unusual for us. My husband (eeeeep) and I don’t do the pictures and camera thing at all, but made the concerted effort to do so when we were out there.

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Now, Italy was an experience, let me tell you that. We had such a blast!

Alright, so we got married on a Saturday, and on Monday we drove up to Johannesburg to catch our flight to Dubai, and from Dubai to Rome. We were on those planes forever! Luckily there was a really great entertainment system on the planes, so I managed to watch some movies and what not. Arriving in Rome, my phone hit up the Wi-Fi and I had a super freaked out Natasha demanding to know where I was making my connecting flight, to find out that Brussels had been attacked that morning. It was really not nice, but explained the tightened security at the airport.

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Navigating a new, foreign country is pretty daunting when you do not have a working phone or the ability to belt it in Italian, but we managed to come right and organise a shuttle to our apartment. We arrived and the first thing that we thought was that we were in the ghetto and were going to be killed. Seriously. Back home, areas that have that much graffiti in them are super sketchy, the kind of places you avoid. We learned fast enough though that in Italy, but especially Rome, tagging things is sort of like a right of passage or something. There is graffiti everywhere.

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We ventured out that night and got a sim card, which automatically made us breathe easy because we could at least communicate. Walking around the neighbourhood was amazing. We pretty much can’t walk anywhere here at home, not even kidding. It was the most liberating feeling in the world to get up and walk out of the apartment whenever we wanted and it was safe to do so. Also, another thing to note is how clean it is out there. I was shocked. There were thousands of people, but no trash and junk lying around. Amazing. And such a police presence!
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We downloaded an app and we marked all the points we wanted to explore for each day on there, and took a bus from where we were staying to where we needed to be, and spent each and every day walking to all the different sites, seeing all that was around us. It was truly an amazing experience. Rome really is a lot smaller than you would think – once you are at any given site, the others are a stone’s throw away. One thing that did suck, however, was our currency exchange rate when we went over. Urgh. Thanks to our delightful fuckwit President Zuma, the exchange rate went up from R12.50 for €1.00 to R20.00 for €1.00. It was sheer lunacy, but we made it work and had tons of fun, though it did limit a lot of the things that we could do.

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Also, the pizza out there. Like oh my goodness. I am not usually a pizza fan because (I am saying it) there is usually too much cheese going on and a sloppy base. In Italy? Crunchy, wood fire pizza, minimal cheese and delicious toppings. You can taste everything! I must say though, the few pastas we did eat out there were really bland, which surprised me. Soda is also super expensive out there, and it is not refrigerated (just the little cans are). I was shocked, too, by how you can buy liquor (and not just beers, the hard liquor, too) anywhere. I mean it. Cafés, grocery stores, sweet shops, anywhere, they all had liquor. Like, everywhere.

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Let’s not forget to mention the architecture out in Italy, because that would be a crime. You know, pictures are all impressive and stuff, but it just doesn’t compare to seeing the actual buildings, statues, monuments, doors, etc. I was overwhelmed by how tiny I felt – the architecture, the age, it all drives home how ancient and amazing things are. I travelled thousands of kilometres to see this, and so have millions of other people, over so many years. It really is something to take in.
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From Rome we went to Florence, and man, I fell in love. While Rome might have been the more entertaining of the two purely because there is an inordinate amount of things to do, Florence is hands down the more beautiful. It is clean, the people are insanely friendly, it was cheaper there than Rome or Venice, and it, too, was small. Totally more my speed. We drank wine, ate pizza, explored every day, and I loved every moment of it. We did the tours, the photos, the walking… seriously, I walked through two pairs of shoes while I was out in Italy. I was so stoked to be able to walk anywhere at any time, so I took advantage of it like crazy. I have also always wanted to see the Duomo, and I was not even remotely disappointed. It was so beautiful and vast and impressive and… I don’t actually have words for it. WOW.

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Lastly, we moved on from Florence to Venice, and that was something I was interested in seeing. I remember my wedding photographer asking how long we would be in each of the places (she had gone to Italy before), and when we told her we were in Venice for three days, technically four because our flight was leaving so late, she sucked in her breath and said that even two is overkill for Venice. Now that I have been there, I can see what she meant. Venice is beautiful and magical and an experience, it really is, but Venice is also really small. We spent four days traipsing all over Venice and hiding out in the apartment when we just couldn’t anymore, and when we left on the last day, we were actually really looking forward to coming home. That is  how I knew we had a proper holiday – when you get to the end and you have had a great time and you are all good for exploring more, but you are also perfectly fine with going home, sleeping in your own bed, on your own pillow, not living out of a suitcase anymore or burning through ridiculous amounts of money. We were there.

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Anyway, there is just way too much to say on the adventure, too much for one post. The experience was overwhelming and awesome and heck, so much fun! I do not regret it, and would go again in a heartbeat!

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Gelato… you can’t go to Italy and not live off the stuff. It is GLORIOUS.

BUT there was one thing I missed so much while we were out there it was like a physical pain, and it was the first thing I purchased when we got off the plane back home, even though the airport is crazy expensive about it.

creme soda

Review: Gladiator (2000)


“Your Emperor asks for your loyalty, Maximus. Take my hand, I only offer it once.”
– Commodus

Powerful and respected Roman general, Maximus (Russell Crowe) fights what he hopes is his last battle and emerges victorious. He is to be sent home soon, and misses his family dearly. His emperor, Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris) loves Maximus like a son, and prior to his death asks that Maximus step up and be the protector of Rome – he chose Maximus over his son, Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix).

“There was a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish, it was so fragile.” – Marcus Aurelius

Commodus and his sister, Lucilla (Connie Nielsen), meet their father and friend on the battlefield after having missed the entire event. Commodus learns that his father really is on the way out, and is angered when Marcus Aurelius tells him of the plan to appoint Maximus to rule Rome. In a fit of jealous rage, Commodus murders his father to take up the mantle of emperor before it gets out that he was not his father’s chosen successor. When Commodus demands Maximus’s loyalty, he is met with contempt and anger. Maximus knows that the emperor was murdered, and will not swear allegiance. His insolence in the Emperor’s eyes has condemned Maximus and his family to death.

The fall from general, to slave and then gladiator

Managing to escape, Maximus is desperate to get to his family back in Spain first and save them, but he is not in time. He is wounded and injured, yet still gives them a funeral. He loses his will to live and in his weakened state is taken as a slave and nursed back to health by his future friend Juba (Djimon Hounsou). He is then sold off to Proximo (Oliver Reed), a gladiator who won his freedom, and is trained as a gladiator. He has no will to live, though he wishes to honour the promise to Marcus Aurelius and take vengeance on Commodus for what he did to his family. Proximo is adamant that Maximus will fight on the sands, that he will not just stand there. Emerging victorious, the crowds take to the Spaniard as they call him. Proximo sees money, and urges Maximus to win the crowds and their love and adoration – it could save him one day.

"Are you not entertained? Is this not why you are here?" - Maximus
“Are you not entertained? Is this not why you are here?” – Maximus

Proximo is called to Rome to participate in the new gladiator games that Commodus has announced in honour of his father. In Rome, Commodus soon discovers that Maximus is alive and well and the Spaniard that the crowds love so much. Commodus is angered that he cannot simply kill Maximus and be done with it. On the other hand, his sister is plotting against him with members of the Senate to take him out of power while he is plotting to disband the Senate. Maximus has entered the equation at a very dangerous time, and is intent on seeing Commodus killed for his atrocities. Maximus and his ex-lover both want the same thing, and need to find a way that is suiting to bring the change in Rome about. He has the crowd’s favour and his men’s loyalty on his side, while Lucilla has most of the Senate on her side, most prominently Senator Gracchus (Derek Jacobi).

Will Maximus win his freedom, or ever be granted it after being branded a traitor and deserter? Can Maximus forgive Commodus for his heinous crime and see past Lucilla’s tenuous connection with her brother? Rome needs its protector, and Maximus is intent on honouring Marcus Aurelius’s wish to be such.

A 7.5/10 for Gladiator. Joaquin Phoenix was brilliant, and it amazed me how he pulled off the role of angry, insecure, bitter, whinging, whining and teary eyed Commodus. His scheming was also fantastic. Russell Crowe was a brilliant Roman general, and an equally brilliant gladiator, and his disregard for Marcus Aurelius’s successor is spine tingling. The story was sad, but I must say much less so than I recall it from my youth. Not saying it isn’t good, because it really is an impressive movie, but the extended that I watched felt so short, which shocked me, and the emotional side was somewhat stunted. I just feel that there was a lot going on, but not enough credence was given to how he went from general to gladiator. There was no real shift from the one to the next. The story was solid, the camera work decent, the dialogue was also pretty good, and naturally the story was inspiring in a non-complicated kind of way. There were a lot of mistakes and errors and what not, but overall not bad enough to detract from the viewing experience. Gladiator truly was a great film for its time and it holds up rather well so many years down the road. Whenever watching these shows from that era I am forcefully reminded about what animals Romans were, though they presented themselves as learned and superior in all aspects – never ceases to amaze me.