Pizza, pasta, pepperoni and popes galore!!

Pizza, pasta, pepperoni and popes galore!!  From hanging out on sun-drenched beaches in the Greek isles, to running around in circles doing battle with the Epsilon and Zetas in Athens, Miss Kid was ready for a change of pace, zestfully embracing la dolce vita in Italia.  Miss Niece was beyond prepared for her Italian sojourn, having brushed up on the local lingo, and had invested quite the little fortune in handy dandy phrase books and maps.  From hanging off of the Fontana di Trevi to strolling along the cobble-stone avenues, the Canadian born Kid was in her element, jabbering Italian like a native, visions of Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday swirling in her pretty little head.  Mind you, the only words Miss Smarty Pants knew were “Buon giorno, ciao bella, arrivederci, amore and gelato”, but nonetheless, she successfully managed to convince locals and tourists alike that she was of Italian descent, despite her blonde hair and seemingly obvious British and Nordic backgrounds.

Toss a few coins into the Fontana di Trevi and you're sure to return to Roma!!

It’s quite the shame, though that she didn’t think about adding some Latin to her now vast repertoire of languages, as a tour of the Vatican was looming on the horizon.  Strategically located on Vatican Hill, smack dab in the center of Rome, Vatican City spans some 110 acres and is a sovereign city-state.  The papal residence of generations of popes, this walled enclave has a population of approx. 840 inhabitants, has its own post office, telephone system, eleven museums, television studio and newspaper.   Built upon the site of the tomb of St. Peter, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican are centers of Christendom, showcasing a wealth of Baroque and Renaissance art and architecture.  A not to be missed stop is Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, which draws upwards of more than 25,000 visitors per day or 5 million a year.

Of course, her cuckoo ol’ Auntie didn’t quite have the opportunity of viewing the interior of the Vatican or Sistine Chapel when she toured around Rome years ago, as there was only so much time to devote to both spiritual reflections versus material acquisitions, choosing to instead sprint around the parameters of St. Peter’s Basilica in less than an hour, leaving the remainder of the day free for activities of the shopaholic kind.  Materialistic.  But true.

Hold on a minute here, as in my own defense, due to travel delays, I had arrived in Rome quite late in the day, and therefore had no alternative but to jam-pack all of my activities within an unbelievably short time frame, hence, just barely glimpsing the Basilica.  And see how well it all turned out, with Miss Niece supplying me with my very own stash of digital memories?  Good thing that the Kid at least had the smarts to amble inside those magnificent structures!

Chalk another one up for the Kid!  Not like I’m counting, but how many is that now??

 Vatican Photos Courtesy of Maradzidra

Pink Sneakers on the Go Fascinating Facts and Interesting Info:

  • The Pope is well protected by a flank of Swiss Guards, who are responsible for his personal safety.

  • The Swiss Guards are, of course, Swiss.

  • The Swiss Guards, in their regal gold, red and blue uniforms, must be between 19 and 30 years old, be Swiss born, be male, Catholic and have completed Swiss military training.

  • The Vatican issues its own passports, mints its own Euros and prints its own stamps. 

  • Vatican City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Come traipse around the world’s smallest city-state and gawk in appreciative wonder at priceless masterpieces and architecture, with a wee bit of time left over for reflection and contemplation.  Come travel with Miss Smarty Pants Kid and her cuckoo ol’ Auntie on their escapades around the globe.

Next week  - where next??  Stay tuned for more Miss – adventures of the Miss Kid inspired kind!!

A page out of Miss Niece's travel journal and reflections on Pompeii

Wanderlust.  Itchy feet.  Restlessness.  Curiosity.  Boredom.   Insatiable addiction to foreign made goods.  Yearning to set fuchsia manicured feet on unfamiliar territory and immerse oneself in obscure customs and traditions.  The desire and passion to experience something different other than the mundane 9 to 5 daily grind.  The burning necessity to have your passport imprinted with as many stamps as there are uncharted locales.  The race against the clock to outrun as many time zones as possible in 24 hours and make it back to your hotel in time for happy hour. 

Little did I know then when I foolishly agreed to have my 12 year old niece accompany me on my yearly Paris sojourn some five years ago, that I would be embarking upon an adventure like none other, inadvertently spawning a travel-a-holic mini version of myself.  And let’s not even get into the satchel obsessed shopaholic fashionista persona just yet!  Yikes!!  The Kid’s now seventeen and in an element of her own, squirreling away funds for that much anticipated jet-away, luggage packed, ready to hop on a plane at a moment’s notice. 

Amazing how the tables have turned, as it was her cuckoo ol’ Auntie who now listened to countless tales of globetrotting and expedition, ears perked, mouth aghast, rapturously lapping up each and every syllable.  It’s as if she herself had set her pink sneaker clad feet upon the turquoise hued islands of Greece, devouring feta and olives, all washed down with endless supplies of wine flowing from brightly painted ceramic jugs. 

Vino tastes oh so magnifique when poured from brightly coloured jugs, don't you think??

Travel journal in hand, pen in the other, the Kid diligently documented her escapades abroad, the rudimentary bones of a memoir in the making (like seriously, you’re 17 Kid!!) and first draft of a future New York Times bestseller (the Kid’s got high hopes, as you can tell).  Or, perhaps landing the dream job of National Geographic photographer, snapping digital memories of the awe inspiring kind, nonetheless, the travel bug had bitten and there was no turning back.

Waving adieu to sun bronzed Greece, Miss Kid gleefully set out on the next leg of her high school adventure and firmly placed her rose hued sandal on Italian soil.  First stop was the southern end of the country, where an up close and personal history lesson awaited.

And so Miss Niece found herself in contemplative mode, as she respectfully strolled along the ruins of Pompeii, a once bustling Italian metropolis that was levelled by the violent eruption of Mount Vesuvius on AD 79.  A prosperous port and holiday resort located in southern Italy, about 23 miles from Naples, it’s unfortunate geographical position at the base of the volcano buried the city under layers of cinder and ashes.  The loss of life was instantaneous, with the quicksilver flow of lava literally halting fleeing limbs in their tracks; a preserved mummified glimpse into what daily life would have been like for this Roman enclave.  Entombed in their volcanic graves, the citizens of Pompeii left quite the archeological legacy, revealing snippets of everyday life from over 2,000 years ago.  Excavations of this ancient town unearthed a villa that had remained virtually untouched by the march of time, the lack of air and moisture effectively preserving a moment in time and gifting historians a rare peek into the past.

Pompeii photos courtesy of Maradzidra

As Miss Niece ever so carefully traipsed along the once lively pathways, she was mindfully aware of the enormity of the devastation that had ensued with the eruption of the once dormant volcano, her surroundings permeated by a kind of frozen in time unsettling unease.  Grateful for the opportunity of being able to leap back into history and experience for herself what she had previously read about, Miss Kid knew that she was on a life-long adventure of learning and discovery - one that will never fail to amaze, inspire and educate.

Come tag along on Miss Niece’s high school adventure, as she regales her wacky ol’ Auntie with tall tales (all true!!) and escapades of gallivanting about the Italian peninsula, with a tad bit of fascinating and educational info thrown into the mix.

Next week – La dolce vita – where oh where in Italy is Miss Niece??  Stay tuned for more Miss - adventures of the Miss - Kid inspired kind!!

Not crying in her Alpha Beta Soup - Miss Kid's adventures lost in Athens

There is only so much one is able to scribble about when recounting tales of wanderlust, striving to document another traveller’s impressions on their sojourns around the globe, making it somewhat of a challenge to accurately report on the sights and sounds of a locale, especially if you’ve never been there and experienced them for yourself.  Plus, having to deal with the often-times murky memory of Miss Niece just added that extra element of uncertainty to the mix, intermingling one part reality with a smidgen of over the top exaggeration of the totally believable kind.  So, what’s an Auntie to do, but inadvertently “borrow” (some say steal, others say loan – whatever) the Kid’s diary?  Just to check out a few facts and make certain that her stories jived.  Hey, in my own defense, the Kid left it open in plain sight in our London hotel room, so I couldn’t help but quickly glance at a few pages, just of curiosity, primarily to make certain that Miss Niece was living the straight and narrow whilst gallivanting in Greece on her high-school adventure.  And, for those of you who think this was prying, ahem, it was my duty as an Auntie to watch out for the Kid and ascertain that nary any shady shenanigans took place.

Flipping through the top secret book, I had to scan the pages super quick, as Miss Niece had momentarily run out to Primark to acquire a few marked down jumpers, before the shops closed for the night, so I had at least an hour to rummage through her notes and piece together what exactly had transpired that very last day in Athens.  Like, seriously, revenge of the Alpha and Betas?  Chased down the winding pathways by a withered old shopkeeper, screeching incomprehensible verbiage in a tongue she couldn’t quite understand?  And, the icing on the cake, babbling like a native born, conversing with anyone and everyone who was willing to stop and listen.  Say what?

As the story goes, after Miss Niece had been thrown out of the ceramic shop, banned for life from ever setting foot upon the premises, the Kid apparently stumbled across a tacky souvenir shop, hawking everything tourist related, including handy dandy phrase books for clueless foreigners.  She had learned her lesson and learned it well, so it was time to throw out her dunce’s cap and replace it with Class Valedictorian of the Year.  As for those perplexing Epsilon and Zetas, well, they were in for quite the showdown, Miss Kid versus the Alpha and Omegas.  The game was back on and Round Three was just warming up. 

Eager to test out her newly acquired language skills, armed with five ever so useful phrases:  How are youI love GreeceI am lostwhere is the Metro? – with – How much does that cost? – thrown in for good measure, my ever so clever Niece was on a mission like none other.  Casually strolling along a labyrinth of laneways, map and dictionary clutched in hand, Miss Niece literally accosted anyone and everyone within her path, from babes in arms to stray mutts scavenging the cobblestoned rues for throwaway scraps.  Anxious to show off her rudimentary knowledge of Greek, both locals and tourists now unsuspecting “victims” of verbal abuse of the complementary Miss Kid kind, with each passer-by warmly greeted with a smile, nod and hello.

Ti – ka - nis” or “How are you?” now rolled effortlessly off of Miss Academic’s tongue, as she cheerfully engaged random strangers in mindless chit chat, a sort of United Nations exchange of banter on a crowded Athens tree-lined avenue.  Miss Niece’s contagious zeal to demonstrate proficiency of Greek was quite the comical sight indeed, a vision of determined optimism out to conquer those dreaded Alpha and Omegas.

A handful of nouns, verbs, adjectives and a spattering of Greek, interspersed with an ounce of persistence were all that were required for Miss Smarty Pants to eventually make it back to her Athens digs – a bit of a harried adventure worthy of countless renditions of the highly embellished kind – the type of travel tales that would surely make her wacky ol’ Auntie proud.

And, speaking of the lunatic lady, Miss Auntie of the Year promised never, ever, to steal – oops, meant to say borrow – the Kid’s journal or doubt the validity of Miss Niece’s travel escapades ever again.  For you see, scribbled in bright neon pink marker on the very last page of Miss Niece’s Travel Journal, were the damning words – knew you’d snoop, so I hid the real one.  Happy reading!!  Ouch!!  Sad, but true.

Chalk another one up for the Kid!!

As for those indecipherable Epsilon and Zetas?  Looks like we’ll have to call it a tie.  Look who’s crying in their Alphabet soup now!!

Come hang out on tree-lined promenades, babbling lingo like a local, all the while appreciating the sights and sounds of this ancient metropolis…and the moral of the story is, never leave home without that handy dandy phrase book and always remember to make a laughing stock out of cuckoo ol’ Auntie Nora whenever possible!!  Hee hee!!

Next week – Stay tuned for more Miss – adventures of the Kid inspired kind!!

Photos - Yay!! Miss Kid sent more photos!!  Courtesy Maradzidra

Pink Sneaker Tidbits of Fascinating Facts and Interesting Info:

Did you know that Greece has the highest number of airports, primarily due to the fact that so many tourists regularly descend upon this stunningly beautiful country?

Did you know that this parcel of land is blessed with more than 250 days of sunshine a year?  No wonder tourists flock to its Islands in droves!!

Did you know that Greece also has the highest number of archeological museums?  And so it should!

Did you know that the Greeks wave a greeting with the palm closed?  They do not wave with an open hand, as it is insulting to show the palm with extended fingers?  Makes sense to me.

Did you know that the children’s toy “yo yo” originated in ancient Greece approx. 3,000 years ago?  A much beloved toy even to this day.

Did you know that the National Anthem of Greece contains 158 versus?

Revenge of the Alpha and the Betas in Round Two of Miss Kid's adventures in Athens

Map-less, clue-less and direction-less, lost in a maze of incomprehensible alpha and beta signage, Miss Niece was in quite the conundrum, to say the least.  Miles away from her Athens hotel, she was in quite the pickle, a forlorn foreigner traipsing around unfamiliar rues and avenues.  Tongue-tied and rendered virtually illiterate by her inability to understand the local lingo, she had inadvertently strayed far from the beaten path, and was fast on the road to nowhere. 

It was ALL her wacky ol’ Auntie Nora’s fault, as if it weren’t for her delusional shopaholic relative, the satchel and shiny trinket hoarding old Bag, she would be out gallivanting with her gaggle of girlfriends, instead of being in this most unfortunate of predicaments.  She had foolishly promised to check out the “handbag emporium of all time”, located a hop, skip and jump away from the Metro station, just up the street and around the corner.  Yeah right.  Miss Kid had been meandering for quite some time, the late afternoon heat prickling her now sun-burnt Canadian skin, her hot pink-manicured tootsies oozing newly sprouted blisters, their bloody rawness a painful reminder of one too many ill begotten steps. 

A parade of shops littered the pathways, beckoning one to amble on in, stay awhile and trade colourful bills for handcrafted souvenirs, an economically beneficial exchange of cash for goods.  The only drawback being that most of the shopkeepers in this neck of the woods, far away from the city center, spoke but a spattering of English, their vocabularies limited to “that beautiful whatever thing-a-ma-jig costs such and such” and “it’s an unique one of a kind authentic made in Greece, you’ll never find it elsewhere exclusive item”.  Auntie Nora would have had a field day, excitedly bantering back and forth about the price of handbags and shipping costs to Canada, able to hold her own and converse as if native born.  Who knew that her wacky ol’ Auntie’s insistence to memorize all words related to the subject of shopping and acquisition would prove to be ever so useful, immediately forging an immediate bond between both seller and shopaholic? 

Miss Kid, on the other hand, had not such an advantage, prone to neither frenzied bargain addictions nor those types of exorbitant indulgences, focusing instead on appreciating the cultural landscape and snapping digital memories of the vacation inclined kind.  But, a Kid’s gotta do what a Kid’s gotta do in order to escape this maze of laneways and perplexing alpha betas, if she were to high tail it back to her hotel by nightfall.  Mustering up all of her courage, Miss Lioness took a deep breath, swung open the door and stepped inside a crowded little shop that was literally over-flowing with a cornucopia of knick-knacks and ceramic treasures, all of which would stop her ol’ Auntie cold in her tracks.  Treading carefully so as not to jostle the merchandise and risk being labelled the proverbial bull in the china shop reckless foreigner, the clamour of smashed vases and dinner plates echoing in her head, Le Niece ever so carefully picked up one such earthenware and headed to the cash – figuring that a prospective purchase could buy that much needed extra kinship from a kindly old shopkeeper.  Or so she thought.

What transpired next is akin to a laugh out loud series of comic events of the funny now but not then awkwardly frozen moments in time, of the oh so embarrassingly uncomfortable kind.  For you see, the kindly old shopkeepers absolutely freaked upon seeing Miss Kid casually stroll to the cash, delicately cradling a terra cotta stoneware, unaware of the “do not touch” signs placed prominently on each and every shelf.  Signs?  What signs?  Ohhhhhhhhhh, those signs!  Well, it was all Greek to her, those fancy symbol lettered alpha, betas, epsilons and zetas, spelling out mysterious directives to those in the know, leaving clued out foreigners like you know who grasping for dictionaries in the dark.  You know the ones, those annoyingly irritating globetrotters who hadn’t even bothered to learn the basics of the local lingo and tuck a couple of handy dandy useful phrases away, for those unexpected “just in case” inevitable stumbles.

And then, on the opposite side of the spectrum, are those overly eager beavers, the know it all’s, anxious to impress, spewing out nouns, verbs and adjectives, as they un-eloquently butcher the local tongue, succeeding only in leaving not so favourable impressions of the cringe-worthy kind.  But hey, to their credit, at least they tried.

And the moral of the story is?

The revenge of the Alpha Betas had struck once again, victorious in Round One, unbeatable in Round Two.

Stay tuned for Round Three – it’s Miss Kid versus the Epsilons and Zetas - Winner take all.

Oh….did Miss Niece eventually make it back to her hotel?  Well, that’s a tale for another day, perhaps even for next week’s blog post!!  Stay tuned for more Miss-adventures of the Miss Kid kind!!

Come meander along cobblestoned rues and avenues in a quest to out-run the Alphas and the Omegas on a map and dictionary search to end all searches…. come gallivant around the globe with Miss Niece and see what escapades await next week!!

Photos or lack of - Miss Niece neglected to send her ol' Auntie more photos, so I had no choice but to work with what few I already had - Photos - courtesy of Maradzidra

Pink Sneaker Tidbits of Fascinating Facts and Interesting Info:

Most people have heard of the Greek time-honoured custom of smashing plates at weddings and celebrations, but have you any inkling of a clue as to the origins of this custom? 

Smashing plates was thought to ward off evil spirits, bring good luck and usher in good spirits and an abundance of joy.

Kefi – the overwhelming expression of joy, passion, emotion, high spirits, happiness and enthusiasm, just to name a few.  Not to be mixed up with Kefir. 

Another belief as to the origins of smashing earthenware stems from ancient Greece, where the ritual of “killing” the ceramic vessels used for the feasts commemorating the deceased was a “controlled” method of coping with the loss of a loved one.  Over the passage of time, this ritual eventually evolved into a celebratory tradition.

Yet another belief suggests that this ritual began when a prosperous family invited a destitute one to dinner, insisting that they break the plates, so as to cement the bonds of friendship, as friendship is inherently more valuable than plates.

In ancient times, when lovers parted, they often broke a plate, each keeping one half, which would then be easily recognized and matched up, upon meeting the other again many years or even decades later.

Not surprisingly, the tradition of breaking plates in bars and restaurants was banned in 1969, as shards of glass and ceramic made for quite the dangerous practice.  Establishments that chose to continue this tradition were required by law to obtain a license. The majority of bars and restaurants nowadays have replaced plate throwing with flower tossing instead – a much less messy and more fragrant option!!