I love a castle.
I love the history, the sense of thousands of people who’ve walked the same corridors you’re now walking. I love exploring winding staircases and narrow battlements and cramped cellars. I’m less interested in learning the actual facts of what happened there, in what century, involving which people, and would rather just run around, pretending to be in Game of Thrones or a Philippa Gregory novel; treating the whole place like an acceptable grown-up version of a playground.
But it’s not just any castle that makes it to third on my list of all time favourite castles (yes I really have a list of all time favourite castles. I swear I’m perfectly normal). The Castel Sant’Angelo makes the cut because it is a sprawling maze of interconnected rooms and passageways and you never come out quite where you expect to – perfect for losing yourself from modern life for a day. It feels like nowhere is off limits, which is never usually the case. And there’s nothing that crushes my daydreams about being Cersei Lannister quicker than a cordoned off staircase marked ‘do not enter.’
It’s not on the typical tourist agenda for a trip to Rome because, I suppose, comparatively it’s not really that old. What’s a castle built in the 14th Century AD compared to a Colosseum built in the 1st Century AD? But it just had that bit of magic to it that won me over completely.
I’m in two minds about this postcard because although on one hand this is perhaps my favourite tourist destination of all time, it also feels like my own little undiscovered secret. Somewhere absolutely incredible and yet flying under the radar, still keeping its hipster credentials.
But I do write a blog so I really need to get over things like that.
Ostia Antica is the Pompeii no one’s heard of. Mostly, I guess, because its demise wasn’t anywhere near as dramatic. No erupting volcano, no clouds of ash, no thousands of dead bodies; people simply abandoned it with the fall of the Roman Empire.
Only a fifty minute train journey from Rome and €8 later and you can wander the rooms of Roman houses, climb up Roman staircases, walk on Roman mosaics. We even found ourselves underground at one point until I got creeped out and insisted we go back to daylight. I love places you can freely explore and really immerse yourself in the history, spending the day pretending to be Roman nobility, and nowhere has been better for that than Ostia Antica.
You know how last week I said that these would always be posted on a Monday from now on……. yeah, didn’t happen. But I have a good excuse as I’ve been off on holiday (only to Kent) and was without internet for two days.
And because I’ve been on holiday it means that this week has been filled with lots of small pleasures. And some medium sized pleasures too.
1. Taking photographs
I am a horrendous photographer. Every photo I take is either blurred or wonky or has my finger in it. But what I lack in skill I make up for in enthusiasm. I titled myself Official Photographer of the Holiday and there was not a moment that went by that was not immortalised as a photo. To be looked back on in years time and think ‘what on earth is that supposed to be?’
2. How old England is
I just love that no matter where you are in the country they’ll be some ancient manor house within an hours drive. We’ve pretty much exhausted the ones near where we live so it was nice to have some variety while we were in Kent. I’d really wanted to go to Hever Castle but unfortunately it was closed the day we were going to go so I didn’t get to swan around pretending to be Anne Boleyn, but we visited Winston Churchill’s house instead which was incredibly pretty.
Going on holiday gives you carte blanche to eat whatever the hell you like. So I’ve had some truly humongous meals followed by some truly delicious puddings and I don’t have to feel guilty about it. Wonderful.
Considering it’s only March I’ve already seen three films which I could happily add to my list of favorites – first The Theory of Everything, then American Sniper and now Pride. It’s the true story of a group of gay rights activists who decide to start fundraising to help those involved in the miners strikes. Couldn’t really get two worlds more different. But it’s entertaining and heart warming without being mushy. I highly recommend.