After Nightfall Episode 6

You ever have that moment when a series leaves you on a cliffhanger and you’re suddenly filled with an urge to see more immediately, and simultaneously throw something at the screen because how dare they leave you hanging?

Trust After Nightfall to do this to me. And trust me to love them for it.

Episode 6, the Season 1 finale is the episode where the story starts moving forward, where things are happening, plot points are being explored and small incidents are finally becoming significant.

The episode opens with an insanely clever scene which appears to be a flashback to the morning of Troy’s murder, literally the first time we hear Troy speak or see him interact with other family members, and not as a ghost. However, this quickly morphs into the realisation that it’s a dream, which usually would drive me insane, but in this case it didn’t because Colin now knows the passcode to Troy’s iPad. As I said last week, the investigators could have opened it in seconds, but what do I know? Cliffhanger #1.

At conversion camp, we see the adorable Nathan (Robert Miniter) and Yardley (Adam Haylock) get closer. These two are just….God, I love them. I have never ever shipped a couple like this. Unfortunately it can’t last, because camp leaders, Melinda and Peter, burst in and declare that “therapy” will now be increased. Cliffhanger #2.

During another drug deal, Troy’s uncle receives the video from Isobel of his girlfriend cheating with another of his cronies. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that’s why Isobel nicked the phone from that woman in the last episode. Of course, the police can also trace where videos come from, even if passed from phone to phone (I toured cyberbullying plays in 2016, ok? I had to do some research!) so Isobel might not get out of this one even if she is a minor. Anyway, from the look on Dave’s face, I’d say his buddy will soon have a perfectly flat surface where his face used to be. Should be fun. Cliffhanger #3.

Meanwhile, Hayden and company observe Kobie digging a hole in the woods where Troy’s body was found. This better not be going where I think it is.
Cliffhanger #4.

Meanwhile creepy Oscar breaks into Kobie’s house to retrieve Troy’s phone (by hilariously climbing through the open window…so that actually works?) only to be caught by Kobie’s mother Faye and causing her a serious injury/apparent death. Nice one there idiot. You leave a traumatised child in your wake and possibly a dead woman. Cliffhanger #5.

And finally, we return to Simon, a middle aged man who is stabbed by a hooded figure. Before he dies, he chokes out “You killed Troy!” Cliffhanger #6 ends Season 1 and leaves me absolutely cheering (silently, because I was watching this at midnight).

This episode ends the season on the highest of high notes with great acting and the best use yet of cinematography, camera angles and the use of atmosphere. We have possibly two more deaths, blackmail, revenge, mystery and LGBTQ issues, but still not enough to piece together the entire mystery. Questions are being answered for sure, and action is on the verge of exploding, but the pressure cooker that is After Nightfall still wants to keep us in suspense.

We’re left hanging on for more, yet in pure satisfaction that there’ll be more great drama to dive into in Season 2. I gave up watching TV years ago, and a series has not had me hooked like this since I can’t remember when.

Hurry up Season 2. We all need to know who killed Troy.

Watch all episodes here

After Nightfall Episode 5

Episode 5 so far has been my absolute favorite. This is the episode where things got emotional. Yes, I realise that the entire time we’ve been following the mystery of a murdered child. I get that. But now, in the latest installment, things seem to have taken a turn into new territory and I am cheering from behind my Macbook screen.

The action begins as investigators question Nathan’s parents on his whereabouts. As this is my favorite storyline in the series (sorry Troy. Still love you!), I found myself silently pleading for them to realise what’s happened to him and swoop to the rescue. But for now it seems no dice. I’ve been too busy hating Nathan’s parents to really consider the possibility that they could be suspects. His father, at least, is on my list. I really hate that man. Not even sorry.

Meanwhile Hayden and his friends spot money exchanging hands and begin to suspect Oscar and Kobie (who has a gloriously hilarious intro shot looking like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. It has to be seen to be believed!) “That kid needs a beating” says one character. I couldn’t agree more.

Speaking of criminal activity, we see that along with having a secret money roll, filming people’s affairs and apparently having blackmail on her mind, Isobel also seems to have some very sticky fingers. Seriously, what is with this brat?!?

Last week, I wondered out loud if Colin had handed over the iPad to investigators. And now we discover that he has not and doesn’t plan to until he examines it himself. But he doesn’t know the password. Uh, while I fully understand the character motivation behind this, you do realise the police could open the iPad in a matter of seconds, right? Also there’s the minor issue of potentially tampering with/contaminating evidence…. *crickets* Ok then. Go for your life.

All my serial nitpicking aside, the best aspect of this scene is we finally see some real interaction between Colin and his wife. This is the first time we see some of how the murder and Colin’s behaviour is affecting their marriage. I truly hope we see more of this. And if the final frame is anything to go by, I have a very strong feeling that Troy’s disabled Grandmother has a major role yet to play. Her anguished cry left me with chills. I don’t know if this particular actress has been in anything else I’ve seen, but I can’t take my eyes off her.

But now let me go to my most beloved moment in this episode and possibly the season thus far. The stunning scene between Nathan (Robert Miniter) and Yardley (Adam Haylock), another boy trapped at conversion camp. To go into too much detail about this moment here would be doing a major disservice to the series. You MUST watch it. They don’t kiss. They don’t even touch. But the warmth, intimacy and beauty of the writing and performances just leap off the screen. Robert Miniter and Adam Haylock, I take my hat off to you for your performances. Wayne Tunks has a true knack for picking the right actors to bring his work to life and to me, nowhere is it clearer than here. The proof is that I was wiping my eyes by the end.

I didn’t cry in Toy Story 3. I didn’t cry in The Lion King. I HATE The Notebook. I sat through Inside Out and didn’t shed a single tear. The bottom line is that I will only cry if a dog is involved, which is why I will never watch Marley and Me again.

Damn you Wayne Tunks. You did it. You got into my blackened soul, hardened from four years of retail work, the shattered heart I’m currently nursing and a lifetime of loving British comedy. You broke down the barriers which surround my emotions during the viewing of any media and I will likely not recover.

Damn you Wayne Tunks. And please for the love of all that’s good and holy, keep it up.

http://www.afternightfallseries.com

After Nightfall Episode 4

Episode 4. Troy’s phone is still missing. Troy’s boyfriend tipped off the authorities about a drug deal by Troy’s uncle. Troy’s father Colin is apparently being haunted by his sons’ spirit. And what exactly does Kobie know? With so many subplots and mysteries piling on top of each other, it’s nice to get the hint of answers in episode 4.

And I’m sorry Troy, but so far the storyline that has me hooked to the screen is Nathan, exiled to conversion camp by his parents. This week, we meet the camp leader, Peter, played by Andrew Wang lightly snacking on the scenery, and I mean that in a very positive way. He’s so much fun to watch, but at the same time incredibly unnerving. Beneath that used car salesman smile, there’s an oily menace. I have a feeling he’s viable to explode any moment, and sooner rather than later. Whatever lies ahead for Nathan doesn’t look good.

Meanwhile on the investigation front, Troy’s laptop has been found (does that mean Colin turned over the iPad?) but his phone is still on the most wanted list. And chillingly, the sleazy book store owner Oscar is revealed to be pursuing relationships with younger boys in town, including Troy. And how do we discover this? Because resident thug Kobie is revealed to be in possession of Troy’s phone (anyone else call that? Just me?) and he has blackmail on his mind.

On the other side of the story, Hayden is visited by Troy’s uncle and brother, who make threats over his recent betrayal.  Troy’s sister seems keen to be getting into the school of blackmail too. Happy families, everyone!

We’re more than halfway through Season 1, and I feel like there’s a lot more going on and far deeper themes and character to explore. If the writing, directing and performances continue at the current rate, we’re sure to reach one hell of a conclusion, wherever that may lead. For as fascinating as the characters may be, Troy himself remains a complete enigma.

WATCH EPISODE 4 HERE

After Nightfall Episode 3

Troy McLeavey is dead. Armchair detectives may already have their suspicions, but the investigation is getting underway as Episode 3 opens.

Troy’s grief-stricken father Colin is practically catatonic, his son’s spirit having seemingly led him to his iPad, hidden in the cubby house for reasons unknown. Troy’s sister has a box of cash hidden in her room for apparently nefarious purposes. The police force begin questioning persons of interest, including resident bully Kobie, who was washing what appeared to be blood from a shirt in the first episode (which I’d like to think is a red herring because that would be an infuriatingly obvious solution), and Troy’s drug dealing uncle.

The beginnings of a darker underbelly were revealed in Episode 3. Troy’s boyfriend apparently gave a tip off about a suspect, the ever silent Viv seems to have her own suspicions, one of the investigators seems to be playing on both sides and Kobie apparently knows a lot more than he’s letting on.
However, the storyline which caused the most emotion for me is the fate of Nathan, who awakens handcuffed to a bed in a conversion camp, where his ghastly parents have banished him. The image of him literally being snatched up by masked intruders in the middle of the night may seem a bit farfetched at first viewing, but no, this is honestly what happens to a lot of “troubled” teens, especially in America. I don’t like to think about the horrors likely ahead of him, but at the same time I want to see him come out the other side. Kudos to writer/director Wayne Tunks for exploring this very taboo subject matter, and we’re only 3 episodes in.

The beauty of After Nightfall is that even though there’s a huge ensemble cast, they all feel real. We don’t know all that much about them yet, but the mystery is intriguing rather than frustrating. We aren’t in Lost territory, where the writers were just making it up as they went along. There’s a sense of purpose here, like the answers are tantalisingly close but not within grasp. Not yet anyway. There’s certainly a lot of subplots, but it’s told in such a way to never feel over saturated or pretentious. There’s no other way to put it. The writing in After Nightfall is simply masterful.

It’s a shame that episodes are only ten minutes long, but I suspect the purpose of this was to leave the viewers wanting more. In which case I say, mission freaking accomplished.

CLICK TO WATCH AFTER NIGHTFALL

 

Wanderlust Part 4: Rome to Venice

DAY 11: January 4th, Vatican City and Rome

Those of us who signed up for the Vatican City tour have to get up early. Because I have my own little cabin the shower is all mine. I call home, and to my delight my Mum is at Grandpa’s, where my aunt and uncle are visiting from Cairns. I get to have a call with four of my family members! I tell them I’m on my way to the Vatican. My staunchly Catholic grandfather tells me to say hi to Pope Francis. If I get the chance, I will.

The weather is so pleasantly mild here in Italy. I don’t even need my thermal leggings. While waiting in line to enter the Vatican, I get to know some of the girls who’ve joined the Winter Spirit tour for the Winter Rhapsody. Jess, Kerrie, Felicia and Rosie are all kinds of awesome.

The Vatican is gigantic, but very secretive and walled off in a lot of ways. It’s the world’s smallest country, with its own embassies, business dealings, post office, you name it. Our guide, Guido, tells us that some areas are so secretive even he’s never been anywhere else except where we’ll be visiting.
There’s many other tours, so each carries a distinct flag. Although I can’t help but feel a twinge of disappointment that we didn’t get the truly badass guide who is literally using a plush Batman toy as his marker. Why didn’t we get that guy?!?

At first, the tour is driving us all crazy. We have to wear earpieces to hear Guido, but for some reason we can’t hear him at all. Therefore, the tour stops so he can change microphones, and finally we can carry on.

The tour takes us through the main attractions of the Vatican, full of statues, paintings and tapestries so delicate you can’t take flash photographs or the colours will fade. Of course, what we really came to see was the Sistine Chapel. Or was that just me? Guido tells us the full history of why Michaelangelo, a sculptor who didn’t care for painting, ended up there. If you don’t know the story, I highly recommend checking it out because Michaelangelo went through absolute agony in the four years he spent painting that damn Chapel, and the least you can do is spend five minutes of your life reading about it.
Photography and cameras of all description are completely banned in the Sistine Chapel. And when I say this is enforced, I am not kidding. Should you so much as pull one out, the guys in black will blow whistles and converge on you like vultures to a corpse. I’m not about to even try that.
All that being said though, no picture could do the beauty of the Sistine Chapel justice. I’d happily stand there for hours gazing up at the masterwork.

The tour ends at the main square, I pick up some holy water for Grandpa and Felicia and Jess ask if I want to get lunch with them. We find a nice restaurant and I finally have my first taste of a real Italian pizza. And this is the moment where pizza is ruined for me forever. It’s that good.
I still can’t get over how crowded Rome is. And this is meant to be the off peak season. I shudder to think of what summer is like.

We meet up with their other travel companions, Rosie and Kerrie. For the rest of the day we explore the Pantheon, the streets, and finally Jess, Felicia and I decide we want to go see the museum of Capuchin monks (and yes, that is where the word cappuccino comes from).

We were told on the tour last night that there were skeletons inside and this was a quirky attraction. I’m not Miss Morbid, but having some bragging rights when I get home sounds good to me.
Oh my, how wrong I am.
I’m all for quirky and a bit of dark humour, but the place is decorated in a fashion that maybe Leatherface would enjoy. And by that I mean there is literally 4000 skeletons, or really, pieces of them, decorating this place. There are literally chandeliers made out of freaking bones, and other skeleton parts lining the walls in patterns and it is BEYOND creepy. Even the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland has more class than this. I hightail it out of there as soon as I can. Sheesh.

Now it’s time for my big test. Can I navigate the Rome Metro and bus all the way back to our campsite? Like the little engine that could, I think I can. And even though I have a bit of trouble going out the right exit at the train station, eventually I’m on the bus and back at the site. A quick stop at the local Coles equivalent store ensures I have snacks for tomorrow’s trip to Venice. And with that, I’m back in my little cabin, ready to have a good night’s sleep.

DAY 12: January 5th, Rome to Venice

Today’s drive has a few differences. For one, a number of people have left and a number have joined us. And we also have a different driver today. Topdeck is really strict on giving the drivers break time. Our driver is also a Venetian native.

Today includes a stop in the city of Verona, the home of Romeo and Juliet. The city has its own Colosseum, and you can’t go to Verona without a visit to Juliet’s Balcony. The statue of Juliet has been rubbed smooth by people touching the supposedly lucky breast. Do they not realise she’s mean to be 13?
In the crowded square beneath the balcony, I find a beautiful embroidery shop and have a new bag label made with my name.

It’s a long day on the coach and we arrive at the hotel on the mainland after dark. We have a hotel upgrade tonight, which is cause for momentary celebration until we realise that a few of the rooms only have double beds (Tori and I realise our room has two single beds pushed together). Also, the WiFi sucks.
On a happier note, we have the option to get our clothes professionally laundered tonight (which I don’t do, since the minimum amount is 15kg and I didn’t even pack that much) and our trips shirts, which we all had a hand in designing, are ready.
Dinner is included tonight, but it’s quite a long walk away. We now know to to add at least twenty minutes to whatever time Morgan says.

DAY 13: January 6th, Venice

As we leave the mainland for the islands of Venice, one thing is clear: your GPS will not save you. Two people move out of Venice every single day and frankly, it’s not hard to figure out why. It’s almost impossible to get around here.
Venice is made of 118 islands, connected by bridges and the only transport is either gondolas, water taxis or your own two feet. Waterlogged doesn’t even begin to cover it. The buildings are all built on wooden foundations, and every year the city sinks more. Eventually it will be totally submerged.
We get the tour, but sadly there’s a mist over Venice so thick you could hammer a nail into it. St Mark’s Square is of course, full of pigeons and then we’re shown a beautiful lace shop. The delightful ladies inside are…well, hilarious. In between explaining traditional Venetian lace, they’re cracking jokes. “Girls, you marry twice. First time for love, second time for life,”
We all adore the beautiful crafts. I decide to get Mum’s gift in here. She asked for something “beautiful”and here we are.
Mum’s always big on finding things to decorate the table with at Christmas time. They have beautiful Christmas table runners, and I know right away it’s meant for her.

After the lace shop, it’s time for the big bucket list item. The gondola ride. We sail through the canals of Venice and I marvel at the buildings, though what will happen when everything is underwater?

Kerrie, Jess, Felicia, Rosie, Lauren, Kate and I wander around for a while before taking the vaporetto to the island of Burano. It takes well over an hour to get there, but it was well worth the trip. Not only is there a leaning tower here, but the island is covered with cute coloured houses that look even more beautiful in the sunset.

It’s getting dark, so we head back towards the mainland for dinner. And this is where I have the absolute worst experience on my trip.
While the seven of us are trying to figure out where to eat, we’re approached by a friendly local woman outside a nice-looking restaurant. It seems reasonably priced, so we go in.
My six companions are all in their later twenties/thirties, while I carry the mixed blessing of a baby face. I look MUCH younger than my 25 years, even without older-looking company. In short, I’m very obviously the youngest one of us seven. Well, the three delightful waiters don’t even hesitate. They take one look at me and the sleazy remarks start. It’s making me uncomfortable, but sadly it’s not an uncommon occurrence for any woman really, so I try to ignore them.
Then things take a turn for the worse. They continue hounding me with suggestive comments. One asks me my name about five times and gets uncomfortably close, like he’s trying to kiss me. By the time they’re adding extras to our order, which we absolutely did NOT ask for, I’m not a happy girl. For example, in Europe, there’s a charge for table water. We ask for two bottles for our table. They bring seven. And it isn’t over yet.
For the rest of the night, those three morons keep on my back. I can feel them undressing me with their eyes and revelling in my awkwardness. I’m about ready to throw my wine on them. By the time the bill comes, they’ve added enough unwanted extras to bring the total to 193 Euros, when it should have been about eighty altogether. Needless to say, they will not be receiving a tip.
I’m feeling completely humiliated. We’ve been scammed, and we all know it’s not worth even trying to argue. We just want to get out ASAP. And even as we’re leaving, they yell a couple more sexist remarks at me. I may not speak Italian, but I know enough to understand what they’re saying. It’s so degrading.
When we get back to the hotel, I go up to my room and immediately burst into tears. I feel so violated, angry and demeaned. How could I have fallen for such antics? I did all the research on European scams before I came.
Unable to settle down on my own, I call home and talk to my family about what happened. They point out that I’ve gone almost two weeks without getting scammed. These guys were professionals. They knew what they were doing. My mother describes them as “grubs”.
It’s true. There really wasn’t a lot of ways to prevent this. And the fault lies with those creeps, not me.

Tomorrow, we leave Venice. And I am absolutely fine with this.

After Nightfall Episode 1 & 2

Maybe it’s the remnants of the Jack the Ripper walking tour I did on my recent trip to London, but I have a longstanding love affair with crime drama and mysteries. After Nightfall, a new web series written by celebrated writer Wayne Tunks, seemed right up my alley, so I was quite excited to check it out. The night it premiered, I finally arrived home from acting class at 11pm, settled down with a bowl of pasta, and pressed play.

We all know the saying. If you want something done right, do it yourself. Australian artists are taking this to heart. Our industry is suffering enough with never-ending tax cuts and general indifference to the arts. Hence, artists have to be more creative than ever when it comes to sharing and constructing our craft. Here, the creators have funded this ambitious project with the tried-and-true method of crowdfunding, and we should all be thankful for every cent poured into this absolutely wonderful series.
After Nightfall follows the aftermath of a young gay teen, Troy McLeavey, brutally murdered in a small rural town. Everybody is a suspect. His parents. His boyfriend. His ex-boyfriend or his ghastly homophobic parents. His drug lord uncle. The school bully. Predatory members of the community. The investigators themselves. Maybe even the butler did it.
A deceptively simple premise, but from the very first frame, the message to the audience is clear: you are in for one hell of a ride.

The first episode of course goes about establishing the world, the story and the characters. Many key players are unnamed initially but the strength of the actors makes the viewer able to glean exactly what they’re about. Therefore, the relatively short moments give you an eerie sense of what’s to come. Many scenes have minimal dialogue, allowing for greater atmosphere and mystery. Are there clues peppered throughout the silent moments? It certainly seems that way to an eagle-eyed viewer, but only time will tell.

Episode 2…well, the short answer is, it’s great. Troy’s family begins their struggle with grief, and members of the town start behaving suspiciously. Washing blood from a shirt, seemingly innocuous comments, silent looks of anguish from new faces. What will this all lead to? Mercifully, I was not watching this with my older brother who has that infuriating habit of predicting twists and answers out loud, so I only have my own thoughts at this point.

How very refreshing it is to see contemporary Australian work that isn’t set in the outback, doesn’t involve either World War, and doesn’t scream 1950s. Instead, the series dives into real people in relatable situations. There’s no pretence here, just the straight up story and characters. The audience is treated as intelligent, thinking adults. Visual and silent moments, lingering camera shots draw you in further. There’s none of the dreaded tell-don’t-show, there’s no excessive expositional dialogue, the pacing is excellent and from a production/photography point of view, it’s highly impressive how the cinematography can maintain the hair-raising darkness without descending into Tim Burton territory.

After Nightfall stars a host of talented and unknown actors, but of course the real star here is the writing. My regular readers will know exactly how critical I am of bad writing, and I honestly can’t think of a single criticism here. The writing is nothing short of brilliant.
Tunks doesn’t shy away from the violent reality of the subject matter, but he isn’t afraid to show subtler sides of everyday suffering either. One particularly moving moment for me, being the daughter of a single mother, was the heartbreaking scene of a mother going without food to make sure her child can eat. I can’t remember the last time I saw something like that on screen, and yet it’s an every day occurrence for many.

I guess if I had to nitpick anything, and I mean ANYTHING, about After Nightfall, it’s that the timeline can seem a tad out of order. Yeah, it’s a small town where everybody knows everybody, but would the police really inform the family before the body of a murder victim is even examined? Still, this is the first two episodes, so I’m not going to worry too hard about that.

The biggest compliment you can give any piece of art is that you want more. And in all sincerity, that’s exactly what I want here. I want a LOT more from this world. I want to see what will happen next. I want to get to know these characters. I want to dive deeper into the town. Most of all, I want the question answered.

Who killed Troy McLeavey?

WATCH HERE: https://afternightfallseries.com/

Wanderlust Part 3: Florence and Rome

Day 8: JANUARY 1ST 2018 Swiss Alps to Florence 

In the morning, it’s apparent that I’m about the only one not nursing a hangover. And we’re leaving for Italy at the crack of dawn too.
Nobody is happy to be up so early after such a crazy night. The stories filtering in of the escapades (stripping, projectile vomiting, etc) only confirm to me that I would have been very out of place at the party. I regret nothing.
Still, we all hate the accomodation in Switzerland and the less-than-accomodating, slightly kleptomaniac landlady. We’re keen to go somewhere a bit warmer and not having to traipse through the snow to take a shower you have to pay for.
Outside, the snow and ice has melted, making the ground a dance with death to take your suitcase to the coach. Several people stack it in a spectacular fashion.
Breakfast is a subdued affair, with many eating very little. As for me, I can’t get enough of the still warm, fresh baked bread.
On the coach, sick bags are handed out in bucket loads. They are definitely needed. It’s delightful.
Throughout the day, most people sleep or watch The Hangover. How fitting.
For lunch, I have a hot pita bread sandwich. I think I’m going to love the food in Italy.
At dusk, we reach the town of Pisa, famous for a certain tower. There’s a crowd of people all trying to take the same stupid photo. You know the one I’m talking about.
But it’s not just the Leaning Tower to gawk at here. There’s also a very beautiful church. Sadly photography isn’t allowed. It’s a shame. My grandfather would have loved to see this.
We’re in for a pleasant surprise with the hostel in Florence. The rooms are huge, the WiFi is excellent, there’s a pool, great laundry facilities and ensuites. Dinner is in true Italian style, with massive amounts of bread, cheese, pasta, florentine steak and gelato. After Switzerland this feels like five stars. And best of all, this hostel is part of a chain so we’ll be staying at more locations. I’m cool with that.

Day 9: JANUARY 2ND. Florence 

It’s official. I love Italy. When I head to the dining room for breakfast, I’ve never seen such a spread. They even have cake. Cake!!!
First on the agenda today is a walking tour of Florence. It’s a beautiful day and about 10 degrees celcius. No thermals needed here. I don’t even have to put on my winter boots.
Our guide is a wonderfully energetic local woman named Eleanor. She carries a flag so we’ll never lose her as she leads us through the streets of this beautiful city.
The cathedrals are gigantic,  the architecture absolutely exquisite. We see the copy of Michelangelo’s David and learn how he secretly bribed officials to study cadavers at night, which was highly illegal, in order to make the statue as realistic as possible.
Eleanor explains the history of each landmark and finally gives some tips on how to get the best gelato (avoid the stores that have the ice cream piled high in mountains. It looks pretty but it’s mainly ice and air). She finishes the tour in the leather district where Morgan is waiting for us.
We enter this beautiful leather and jewellery store to receive a leather demonstration and learn how to tell the real deal. Afterwards, we go around the store and many of the girls are keen to get puzzle rings. Puzzle rings are interlocking rings which fall apart when taken off and there’s only one way to put them back together. Historically they were created to help men catch cheating wives. Ever so slightly sexist, but they’re still pretty and I simply have to have one. I fall in love with the two-tone style, rose gold and silver.
The woman in the store takes one look at my hands. “They don’t make them that small, dear,” she says. “You’ll have to get the smallest one and wear it on another finger,”
A small price to pay for something so unique and lovely. My puzzle ring will live on my middle finger of my right hand. Now I just need to learn how to put it back together.
After this, we’re free to explore Florence and do whatever we like. A group of us are keen for shopping and gelato. I’m fine with this as I want to see as much of this place as I can. Walking is the best way to do so.
We’re all absolutely delighted with where we go for lunch. It’s a giant fresh food market, filled with Italian cheese, herbs, spices, pasta and other goodies. But upstairs is an array of food stalls with everything you can imagine. I select pasta. I’m in Italy after all. For 6 euros, I get a perfect sized serving of freshly cooked pasta and parmesan. It is without doubt the best pasta I have ever eaten. Sorry Mum.
The day ends all too quickly, but I head back to the hostel because there’s something highly important I need to do.
Laundry.

Day 10: JANUARY 3RD, Florence to Rome

I’m really going to miss Florence. But Rome is our next destination and I’m more than keen for that.
On the way, we stop in a lovely small town called Orvieto. It’s truly a hidden gem in Italy. Morgan tells us of a huge church that looks like a liquorice all sort and when licked, the stone actually tastes like mint. Well, we get there and after some people try this out, they realise it was a joke. I certainly got a laugh out of it.
We have the option to try a wild boar sandwich for lunch. I can’t do it. Not with the boar heads on the walls. We instead find a nice restaurant.
In Rome, a new group of people will be joining the tour, doing the Winter Rhapsody. And sadly, some will be leaving since the March To Rome ends here. But first, it’s time for a walking tour. Morgan leads us through the streets of Rome, starting at the Spanish Steps.
I’m struck by how much more crowded Rome is. Imagine how much worse it would be in summer.
Rome has gangs of gypsies and there’s pickpockets everywhere. I’m very grateful for my Pacsafe anti-theft bag. It’s one less thing to worry about. Thanks Mum. Although to be fair, if anyone tries my pockets, they’re only going to find tissues.
High above the Spanish Steps, you can see a glimpse of the Vatican, which we can visit tomorrow. Next stop is the sight I really want to see. The famous Trevi Fountain. It’s tucked away in a backstreet. On the way, Morgan buys everyone a gelato. I choose caramello.
Because the Trevi Fountain is so crowded, tour guides are forbidden to talk in front of it. We’re given the history of the fountain in a street next to one of many drinking fountains. They’re all over Italy. Some even dispense sparkling water.
The Trevi Fountain is absolutely stunning at dusk. But the crowds are something else altogether. I’m beginning to think I’ll never get a decent photo, let alone the chance to throw some coins in, when I spot the fence nearby, leading to a more empty spot in the corner.
I slide through the tourists towards the gap. I duck down and swing myself through the bars, jumping to the lowest section. This is one situation where aiming low was definitely the better option. My pictures are more than satisfactory from this angle. And yes, my coins find their way into the water. The equivalent of 3000 euros is thrown into the Trevi Fountain every day. And it’s all given to charity. Yay.
It’s time for dinner and quite honestly, this is where things went kind of wrong. Anybody who knows me is aware that I’m the size of a rake and have the appetite of a sparrow on a diet. It also doesn’t help that prior to Europe, I’ve somehow lost at least six kilos, making me look even worse. The bottom line is, I’m tiny. Very tiny.
Given that I’ve eaten a lot today, I’m really not that hungry so I go for something from the entree menu. Surely I can handle that, right? Wrong. The plate I’m given is the size of the Soviet Union with enough for two of me on it. I do my best, but there’s no way I can finish this all. And unfortunately for me, two of the waiters are VERY unhappy with me for my lack of appetite. They’re visibly annoyed and telling me off. My dinner companions assure me I’ve done nothing wrong but I can’t help feeling a little upset.
After dinner, the tour comtinues with the remnants of ancient Rome. I’m deeply impressed by the Forum, and the remains of an ancient 6 storey shopping centre. Yes, really. Of course, it all pales in comparison to the scale of the Colosseum.
We take the metro back to the coach, which then drives to the campsite where we’ll be staying. And I’ve really lucked out here, because we have odd numbers and I have a whole cabin to myself. Please and thankyou.