When in Rome…

So my gorgeous boy took me to Italy last week, my absolute favourite place to go.  I am firmly convinced that Italy is the best.  It totally has my heart anyway.  Everything is beautiful from the weather, to the architecture, to the people, even the graffiti has a certain charm in Italy.

For a foodie like me it is also full of delights, gelato, pasta, seafood, pizza…YUM.  There is so much food and all of it is good.  I don’t drink coffee, but I understand that the Italians do it best.  Of course they do.

We started our week in Rome.  I have been to Rome before, I went for New Year in December 2011/January 2012 and I fell in love with Roma and specifically, the Trevi fountain.  Here I am throwing my penny over my shoulder and making a wish.  The legend goes that your penny will secure your return to Rome (true ;-)) and it will also grant you a wish.  It certainly did mine.  I wished, after a few broken hearts and a couple of years of being single and still being a little brokenhearted…to fall in love again and to be happy and contented.  Not the most inspiring of wishes, or the most original, but I reasoned – probably more likely to be granted than world peace, although I did also wish for that too, worth a try.  five months later Carl and I reconnected at mutual friends’ wedding.  The rest as they say, is history.

 

There is so much history to see in Rome.  We walked and walked looking at impossibly old buildings from the Roman Empire.  The coliseum is of course one of the most well preserved and impressive but I also love the Pantheon which I always find awe inspiring given it’s size.  You could spend hours walking around the remains of the Roman Forum.  My top tip for these sights – get a guide, or at least, an audio guide, so you know what you’re looking at!

 

No trip to Rome would be complete without a trip to the Vatican and it’s museums.  There is a treasure trove of things to see.  If I’m honest, the Sistine Chapel is a little underwhelming…It’s so busy that it doesn’t feel like a sacred place and the ceiling is smaller than you would imagine it to be, although obviously, impressive.  There are no photos allowed in the Sistine Chapel, but you can take photos in St. Peter’s Basilica which is also beautiful; although again, a little busy to be able to connect with the big guy.

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Carl and I outside St. Peter’s Basilica
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St. Peter’s Basilica

One of my proudest achievements from our three days in Rome was getting this photo of the famous Vatican staircase.  I made Carl wait a good fifteen minutes before we could descend so I could snap this.  He’s long suffering.

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So my top tips for visiting Rome:

  1. Go to the Trevi fountain late at night or very early morning to avoid the crowds.
  2. Climb St. Peter’s Basilica.  We didn’t do it this this time but last time I went I climbed at dusk and got some lovely shots from the top (see below from 2011/12).222
  3. Wear comfortable walking shoes – most of Rome, especially the ancient sights are close together and it s easiest to walk to them – buses and trams don’t run in the centre of Rome.  There are also a lot of cobbles, so again, comfortable shoes!
  4. Don’t forget to budget for your city tax when you stay – this is a legitimate tax and will need to be added on to your accommodation budget.
  5. As with all cities, be aware of pickpockets and dodgy touts and tour guides who do run a bit of a scam.
  6. Walk to the Isola Tiberina; a tiny island in the middle of the river. I missed it last time and Carl and I discovered it together this time, along with a gorgeous little gelato place.
  7. Walk across Ponte Angelo.  It has great views of the Basilica.
  8. If the main city gets too busy head to Trastevere.  Those of you who are “Eat, Pray, Love.” fans will recognise that neighbourhood name.  It’s gorgeous, bohemian and has plenty of little bars and lovely shops.  It also has a beautiful church in the main square where you can definitely be quiet and connect.
  9. Eat a lot of gelato.
  10. Book your tickets in advance for the main attractions – you won’t avoid the security queues but you do get a time slot and don’t have to queue for tickets.

One of the most magical moments of our trip this time happened by chance.  We walked in to a random church off the Piazza Novana and there was a children’s choir singing the most beautiful hymns.  I teared up listening to them, I love music – it makes me feel; I couldn’t find the words to describe what I felt in that moment, apparently the word is “duende” meaning “the profound awe experienced when viewing a piece of art, watching a performance or listening to music that has deeply moved a person”.  You can’t plan magic.IMG_1054

For more pics follow me on Instagram – @nackandnace

 

Lent and Reflections

Lent is a time for reflecting; for those of you that don’t know Lent is the time that immediately precedes the Easter celebration in the Christian calendar.  It is a period of six weeks when Christians are encouraged to “fast” or “give up” certain things, which could be chocolate, television, social media etc and also to “do” more – give more financially, give more time, be more prayerful.  It is about waiting and preparing for everything to be made new in the risen Christ.  Essentially, it’s about re focusing and then continuing your work as a Christian to make “on heaven as it is on earth” a reality.

The Lent course this year was around communicating: how we as Christians communicate with others about our faith and the example we set etc.  I completed a few exercises; one of which was entitled “What makes it difficult to talk about your faith?” we were encouraged to talk amongst ourselves in a small group and write examples down.  I completed the Lent course by myself and not with the small group as I simply couldn’t commit to it with the starting of my new job.

This was an easy exercise for me, here are my fears when I discuss my faith with others:

  1. That people will make snap judgments about me and what I “must think” or “must be like” as a Christian;
  2. Fear that people will think I am not very intelligent.  What I mean by this is the fear that people will think I do not question or have doubts, that I believe some “story book” as the truth and that I am therefore not very clever.  This could not be further from the truth, I have lots of questions and doubts and constantly read around the subject of theology;
  3. Fear that people will think that I think that I am better than them, or that I think that only Christians can be good people (um, no.) or that I think that I am a really good person and that they are somehow lacking.  None of this could be further from the truth.

So those are my fears, however, actually, when people ask me and I tell them, honestly, they don’t (seem to) think these things so I guess it’s just my fears and anxieties talking.  So many of my friends have messaged me or text me to say nice things about my posts on here, or to ask questions, and everyone has been kind about my faith, so I plan on continuing to be honest on here and not hiding this part of me away, because it’s a pretty big part of who I am.

 

How I deal with Stress and Anxiety

The short answer to this is: not very well, unless you consider good coping mechanisms are eating chocolate and buying things, in which case I am ace at stress and anxiety management.

In all seriousness I am trying to get better at this after a pretty anxious period last year and I thought I would share some of the techniques I employ in case it could help you or others you know because a lot of people find it difficult and it can have a negative impact on your mental health, which is not cool.

So I often do the following:

  1. Remind myself about the bigger picture. If this is a work situation I often remind myself that “no one died”. Excellent. Thankfully, this has always been true.
  2. Acknowledge anything that I have done which has contributed to the situation.
  3. Don’t continually beat myself up about 2; it has been done, now let’s try and rectify it, whilst reminding myself constantly re 1.
  4. Think of solutions that could easily be accomplished to better the situation.
  5. I like to write down what happened and what I can now do to try and resolve it.
  6. If there are no obvious solutions/or it is not a particular incident but just a feeling of stress or anxiety I might write out my feelings or acknowledge them in my head. You can’t help how you feel, so again, don’t berate yourself a la 3.
  7. Talk it through with a friend. You need someone who is both sympathetic but also someone who won’t let you wallow and run away with yourself.
  8. Pray.
  9. If you are not religiously inclined some “quiet time” could also do the trick.
  10. Remember that if it involves other people they are likely not as annoyed/angry/upset about it as you are worried they are.
  11. I hear that Headspace is a good app which I plan on trying.

We all deal with stress and anxiety differently. If you think the way that you are dealing with it (or not) is overwhelming you, or affecting your day to to day life then you should talk to your doctor. You shouldn’t think that it’s a “first world problem” or “insignificant”. If it is bothering you then you need to see if you need some more structured help with how to manage it.

Your doctor is not going to judge you, your friends and family won’t either. It does not mean you are “crazy” or “weak”.

If you think that someone is living with stress and anxiety to a level where it is affecting them, then talk to them about it, let them know they aren’t alone!

I strongly believe that one of the best ways to love each other is to let others know they aren’t alone. If you can’t relate, or empathise, then pass on information, link people in with other writers or services or support groups that will be able to help them. Let them know that just because you haven’t had the exact same experience that it doesn’t mean they are alone!

Feeling alone is pretty terrible. Let someone know you are there and that you care, even if you don’t understand. It’s better to do this than remain silent because you’re worried you’ll say the wrong thing!