ROME

Rome…eternal City. The decision has been made. We are going to visit my wife’s brother who works at Slovenian Embassy in Rome. This time Nia will stay at home, since we are taking the train. We‘ve booked the train via http://www.italiarail.com/italian-high-speed-trains   The return tickets were around 120€ per two adults and one child. We parked our car at Ali Park http://www.alipark.it/en/  and off we went form Mestre train station. The ride takes around 4 hours that passed quickly with the views of Tuscany area through the window, fresh made Illy coffee and Svit’s IPad games.

Can we climb on already?
Can we climb on already?
Are we there yet?
Are we there yet?

We’ve arrived in Rome at 8 pm and Rok (Tina’s brother) was already there. Thankfully the car ride through Rome’s hectic traffic was short and smooth and after few drinks and stories from home we went to bed.

Happy family
Happy family

Rome is one of the most beautiful areas in the world. The very cradle of human civilization, its many landmarks are a joy for the eyes to behold. The Eternal City remains unrivaled when it comes to the sheer aesthetic supremacy of its antique structures and its impressive, widely-venerated history. It doesn’t come as a surprise then that Rome has claimed the #2 spot on the top travel destinations in the world.

On the roof of Rok's place
On the roof of Rok’s place

With a climate mild and rainy in winter rather than full of snow, many find Rome the perfect place to vacation during any time of year. You do not need a Visa if youre only staying for 90 days or less. Experts recommend visiting Rome in the off-peak months between October and March to avoid the summer rush. If you can, try to book a hotel near or within the centro storico or historic district.

When in Rome… Of course we had to do the sightseeing tour of this magnificent ancient city.

Campo de’ Fiori

Today the square is much more peaceful than in its heyday during the middle Ages. It’s still a lively place though, especially when the daily vegetable market is held here (every morning except Sundays). You can buy fresh produce at the market, as well as fish, meat, flowers and spices.

Campo de' Fiori
Campo de’ Fiori

Piazza Navona

Here both children and adults will have a nice day with lights, stalls and sweets.

The main attractions if the Epiphany 2013 in Piazza Navona in Rome is its Christmas Market: here there are a lot of colored stalls, where the visitors can find sweets, the typical gastronomical specialties of Italian Yuletide, toys and original presents for friends and family members.

Piazza Navona
Piazza Navona

In addition to the stalls of Piazza Navona, in the occasion of the Epiphany will perform the street artists: tumblers and jugglers, conjurers and puppets theatres that will fascinate not only the children but the adults. And near the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (“Fountain of the Four Rivers”) will be set up a fairy merry-go-round.

Opposite view
Opposite view

Roman Forum

Check out the civic center of Ancient Rome where political, religious, and economic activities took place. Many of its columns remain standing among the ruins even after 2000 years, displaying the intricacies of Roman architecture. Admission is free, opens at 9 am and closes an hour before sunset. If you want, you can spend a little more to get a personalized guided tour complete with audio pedestals where you can learn more.

Roman Forum
Roman Forum
Another view
Another view
Gladiator
Gladiator

Spanish Steps

At the foot of the stairs, you will find the famous Barcaccia Fountain. The fountain recalls the historic flood of the River Tiber and refers to a folk legend whereby a fishing boat carried away by the flood of the river was found at this exact spot. In reality, it’s a lie; the sinking boat was ably invented by Bernini to overcome a technical problem due to low water pressure.

Spanish stairs
Spanish steps

There are 138 steps if you count them! In the Renaissance times, the square was popular with tourists to the city: it attracted artists and writers alike and was full of elegant hotels, inns and residences.

Sitting on the stairs
Sitting on the steps
Friendly Carabinieri
Friendly Carabinieri

Trevi Fountain

According to the mythology, throwing one coin into the Trevi Fountain ensures a return trip back to Rome, two leads to new romance and three coins leads to marriage.

Trevi Fountain
Trevi Fountain
In with the coin
In with the coin

This beautiful work of art is on the end of the street where we were staying so we stopped and admire the crowds all through the day.

Father and son pic time
Father and son pic time

Pantheon

The Pantheon is the best-preserved ancient building in Rome. Nowadays the Pantheon is still a consecrated church and used for occasional services, concerts and poetry readings. It’s free to enter, and is usually open during daylight hours.

Pantheon
Pantheon
Inside the Pantheon
Inside the Pantheon

St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City

One of the most popular spots to visit in Rome is, of course, the Vatican. In addition to its religious importance, the Vatican has a fine collection of sculptures, paintings, books, and many other artefacts that chronicle the Catholic Churches history. You can view St. Peters Basilica, marvel at Michelangelo’s Pieta, its detailed masonry, or the papal catacombs. Move on to the Vatican Museum where even more magnificent antiquities are housed, not the least of that are Egyptian mummies from B.C. era.

Vatican square
St. Peter’s square and Basilica

Coliseum

The Coliseum is probably, next to the Vatican, the best structure to visit in the city. You can tour the premises on your own or join those conducted every hour by guides dressed as Gladiators. Operating hours vary throughout the year, so you will want to call in advance if at all possible. It is the largest and most famous amphitheatre in the Roman world. Its construction was started by Emperor Vespasian of the Flavian dynasty in 72 AD and was finished by his son Titus in 80 AD. The Colosseum was capable of holding some 50,000 spectators who could enter the building through no less than 80 entrances.

Coliseum
Coliseum
Ouyeaaah
Ouyeaaah

 

Bye bye
Bye bye time

LOMBOK

With over 13,000 islands, Indonesia has something unique to offer for all sorts of visitors.  From the cool white sands and raucous volcanoes of Bali, to the vibrant capital city of Jakarta, to the untouched lands of Sumatra, you can always find something different here.  Indonesia is home to a vast array of indigenous animals too (including the Komodo dragon). With extremely inexpensive local food and reasonably-priced accommodation, it’s no wonder Indonesia is a popular turist destination. If only it was easier to fly to!

Map of Indonesia
Map of Indonesia

So… We are going back to Indonesia after 8 years. With two kids and a friend this time. The Emirates flight took us from Venice to Dubai and then to Singapore. There we only had 45 min to catch the KLM flight to Denpasar. Thankfully we checked our bags in Venice directly to Bali so we were escorted directly to the gate without emigration clearance; otherwise we would never catch the flight. At 8 pm, 24 hours after we left our home in Slovenia we’ve finally landed in Denpasar, Bali. Was it exhostfull? Yes and again yes, but we had a good night sleep before heading back to the airport for another short flight to our first destination on Lombok.

Lombok Int Airport
Lombok Int Airport

Due to some bad reviews about boat transfers from Bali to Lombok we decided to take a good 20 min flight with Wings Air instead. The flight was short and sweet with Mt Agung on horizon almost entire way. The driver who picked us up at Lombok Int Airport fist took us to Praya, small town where we took care of our Bintang stock. Lombok is a Muslim populated island so beer during Ramadan is not that easy to find. We chose our destination at Salong Belanak beach. It’s about 40 min form Kuta and a good hour from the airport.

And as we soon discovered we chose wisely… the view was to die for.

View from Villa Atas
View from Villa Atas

 

So for next 6 days we spoiled ourselves with laying around the pool in the mornings while the afternoons were spend on the beautiful white sandy beach that was just perfect for the kids.

B-day surprise
B-day surprise
Villa Atas pool
Villa Atas pool
Having fun with the local kids
Having fun with the local kids
Flip flops anyone?
Flip flops anyone?
Breakfast with the view
Breakfast with the view

Going to Rome and not see the Pope? Of course we had to try to surf, it is Indonesia after all. At the end…it’s not as easy as it looks on TV

Wifes know how to do it
Wife knows how to do it
Like a pro
Like a pro
Surfin'
Surfin’
We've survived
We’ve survived

Let’s not forget about our regular daily visitors…a bunch of monkeys who stole Svit’s inflatables and his beach ball. They were cute anyway.

Daily visitors
Daily visitors

Six days went by so quickly and before we knew it was time to pack our bags and leave to Gilis.

Check  HOTELS IN LOMBOK HERE!

FACTS ABOUT LOMBOK

Lombok is an island in West Nusa Tenggara (Nusa Tenggara Barat or NTB) province, Indonesia. It forms part of the chain of the Lesser Sunda Islands.
The provincial capital and largest city on the island is Mataram. It’s surrounded by a number of smaller islands locally called Gili.

Lombok is one of the 17.504 islands of the Indonesian archipelago and is part of the province Nusa Tenggara Barat. Located in the east of it’s popular neighbour Bali, Lombok is a currently largely unknown paradise which offers a lot of different sights for tourists. With a size of 4,725 km2 (approximately 80km from North to South and the same from East to West) and about 3.16 mio. inhabitants it is much less crowded than its neighbour Bali. This makes it a perfect place for everyone who is searching for a quiet holiday destination with untouched nature. But that’s just one of Lomboks numerous sides. Lombok map 300x245 Inside Lombok

Lombok is also an attractive place for everyone who is looking for adventure. With Indonesia’s second highest volcano „Gungung Rinjani“ Lombok offers a perfect setting for trekking tours or a walk to magnificent waterfalls. The breathtaking white beaches in the south of Lombok are not only a great place to chill out, there are also several spots for those who are looking for the perfect wave. Moreover, there are a lot of beautiful things to see under the water. Especially the small islands off the coast, known as the „Gili Islands“ offer spectacular diving and snorkelling spots. The three most popular Gili Islands (Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air) are located in the northwest of Lombok. These magical islands are not only worth a visit by day. During the nighttime, a variety of restaurants and beach bars come alive and serve great food and amazing parties. But also those who don’t want to leave the main island to go out for dinner or a party, will find great locations in Senggigi as well.

GILI AIR

We stayed at Gili Air bungalows ( http://www.giliairbungalows.com/). At first we were a bit worried because the rooms were next to each other and if Nia would decide to get vocal this place would get pretty lively. As usual she was a good girl so our worries were unnecessary.

What's on TV?
What’s on TV?

Most of the day we just laid around on the beach, we had our daily dosage of Lombok coffee and beer.

Walk to the beach
Walk to the beach
Boat
Boat
Gili Air bungalows
Gili Air bungalows
Cimodo
Cimodo

 

Bintang time of the day
Bintang time of the day
Can't argue with this!
Can’t argue with this!

We also discovered that those cakes from La Cirque pastry shop were just delicious.

Cake time
Cake time

If you have the time take the bike around the island. It will take you a good hour to go around it, including almost 1/3 of the way that you have to push the bike since the sand is too deep to ride the bike.

Cycling around the island
Cycling around the island

We also took a day trip to Gili Meno – no turtles btw, which kind of saddened us since we agreed that it was much prettier than Air and that maybe we should have stayed here.

Gili Meno trip
Gili Meno trip
Beautiful Meno
Beautiful Meno
Turtle sanctuary Gili Meno
Turtle sanctuary Gili Meno

 

Coffee before heading back to Gili Air (at the back)
Coffee before heading back to Gili Air (at the back)

But… regarding Trawangan we didn’t wasted time to go there since we were there before and it’s a bit too lively for the kinds. Or us for that matter.

Off we go
Off we go
Leaving the island
Leaving the island

ABOUT GILI ISLANDS How to get on the three Gilis? Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air are accessible only by boat from either Lombok or Bali. Gili Air is closest to Lombok.

Gili Air, Meno, Trawangan
Gili Air, Meno, Trawangan

Public boats run from the harbour in Bangsal, Lombok to Gili Air and take 20-30 minutes depending on the weather. If the sea is too rough boats may not operate at all. You’ll need to take a shuttle or taxi to Bangsal, which is about an hour from the capitol of Mataram. If you’re coming from Senggigi you can arrange private boat transfer for about $15 through an agency in Senggigi. We arranged our private pick up with Dream divers from Teluk Kode and everything went smoothly.

Speed boat to Gilis
Speed boat to Gilis

From Bali Travel agencies throughout Bali book fast boats that take about two hours from Padang Bai in Bali to each of the Gili Islands. They may quote exorbitant rates, but negotiate to pay between 200,000-300,000 rupiah each way which is about $15-25 and include transfer from many places in Bali to the harbour in Padang Bai. The trip can be rough and sickening if the weather is bad. Ticketing agents may sway you to book round trip saying that booking is more expensive in the Gillis. That is not true and sometimes the fast boats stop operating altogether due to weather. Getting around: Walking You can walk the perimeter of the entire island in about an hour and a half. I recommend doing this at least once to find your favourite beach. Walking is pleasurable, but  with two small kids we didn’t do it this way, we did it with… Bicycle You can find bicycle rentals throughout the island for around 30,000 rupiah ($2.50). Bear in mind that some roads are very sandy and difficult to peddle down, but inside the village there are paved roads to cut across. Knowing that we were prepared to push our bikes for almost 1/3 of the way.

Cycling the main road
Cycling the main road

Driving around with a horse carriage The only other form of transportation on the island is by horse. When you come off the harbour with a lot of luggage it might seem like a godsend. The price is 100,000 rupiah flat rate ride but really, unless you absolutely feel you must use it, as we had, because of the two kids, lots of luggage and quite far bungalows the equation wasn’t working for us, get some exercise and rather walk which will save you money.

Riddin'
Riddin’

Where to Eat on Gili Air Le Cirque $3-10 for lunch and dinner We discovered great pastry shop here and for two day in a row we were feasting on their cakes. Next day tour bellies gave up on sugar overdose. Le Cirque may have the best Western food on the island. Homemade bread, elegant pastries, and a European fusion menu is a nice break from traditional Indonesian fare. The beachfront location is likewise wonderful.

Dolce at La Cirque
Dolce at La Cirque

Chill Out Bar $3-5 for lunch and dinner This is the place we had most of our dinners while on Air. In the busiest part of the beach many restaurants serve up BBQ and kebabs at lunch and dinner with offers of extended menu featuring classic Indonesian cuisine like nasi goreng . For the price, the setting and the food, Chill Out Bar was our favourite.

Chill Out Bar & Restaurant
Chill Out Bar & Restaurant

There are two ATMs on the island which sometimes run out of money or stop working. Some of the higher end establishments accept cards but for the most part places are cash only. You can always go over to Gili Trawangan and use the ATM there if you have problems. When you first come off the harbor people will try to take you to stay somewhere. This can be tiring and inefficient. It’s better to just explore on your own, north or south, and negotiate a price. Many people living on the island, especially in the village, are conservative Muslims so try to cover up when you’re off the beach.

Rocks and stones
Rocks and stones

The ocean can be full of sea urchins and rocks. The best part of the beach is in front of Chill Out. You can also snorkel right off the beach but you have to be carefull with your kids because the currents can get pretty strong and they basically take you right down the beach in front of Chill out Bar. In general the sea around the island isn’t always calm so you can never be too carefull.

Beach in front of Chill Out Bar & Restaurant
Beach in front of Chill Out Bar & Restaurant

Most hotels have cold/hot water showers consisting of saltwater mixed with freshwater. If this is a problem for you, make sure to ask the hotel what kind of water they have before booking.