Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Eternal City

No, this in't anything to do with "that" City - Cardiff City, but rather a recount of a long weekend Anne & I have just spent in "the" Eternal City - Rome. We went ostensibly on the back of it being our 20th wedding anniversary this year (though not until the end of May) - how time flies!

We flew out via Bristol on Easyjet, often maligned, but it does what it says on the tin. From dank dull UK, we arrived at Fiumicino airport in 20 degrees plus. A quick and easy train on the Leonardo Express took us into Rome's central Termini station. All the guides and info tells you to be on your guard because of pickpockest and hawkers. I can see why - the place is heaving. We had no problems though and walked the 5 mins to our hotel, the highly recommneded Artimede Hotel on Via Nazionale.

The hotel was great - not the cheapest, but everything about it was good. It's also very central for the sights. All the main sights - Fontana de Trevi, Colosseum, Spanish Steps etc are within 15 - 30 mins walk (recommend walking to see the real Rome). The Vatican which we also visited is further away - we took the Metro, but actually walked back - a bit further but easily do-able at a slow, sightseeing amble.

The full set of photos from our visit are here, but be warned, there's over 230 of them - just see the overview and pick the ones that take your fancy!

Food and drink was predictably expensive, although the restaurant we went o on our first night, Giovanni's was very reasonable - and quite traditional, recommended if you ever go that way. My review here.

There were two downsides - both to be expected, and one linked to the other. Firstly, the crowds. The place was absolutely heaving. You're not going to get any of these sites to yourself - unless you go at 4am in the morning, and probably not even then. If crowds aren't your thing, don't go. Otherwise, just go with the flow.

And because there are crowds  there are people trying to flog you stuff at every opportunity. It's hard to go more than 10 yards without some street hawker trying to sell you something. There appears to be an order. Lowest are the beggars. Sitting outside churches, on streets just holding out a cup. Next up are the migrant immigrants throwing "splat" balls onto pieces of card. Why anyone would want o buy one is beyond me. How they make a living out of it is even further beyond my imagination. Next up the line are those selling umbrellas (even if you're carrying or using one!), shawls, pictures, watches - you name it they've got it. Top of the tree are the professional scammers - people who often appear quite respectable, offering to help you out at ticket machines and then demanding payment for helping you - we didn't actually see this, but have heard reports.  Bottom line is walk past, and ignore them all. Don't be taken in, and keep your hand on your wallet and bags.

Having said that, we had no trouble. Concentrate on the good. Be prepared to wander off into side streets to see the real Rome. The scale of the buildings, especially the churches which appear on every corner is mind blowing. Even if you're not religious, go into some and look around. It's staggering.

Top tips:

  • Travel - by single tickets for the metro - it's unlikely you'll need to make many, metro trips, and you can go anywhere for a Euro (75 min time limited).
  • Walk - take comfortable shoes - you'll be on your feet a lot.
  • Keep water about you - there are drinking fountains (not the big fountains) around the City where you can fill up.
  • Go a few streets away from the main tourist traps before using a cafe/pizzaria - otherwise be prepared to pay through the nose
  • Book Vatican museum tickets online before you go.Then it's as near as darn it a walk up. Otherwise either a) go VERY early, or b) be prepared for a 2hr+ wait
Just enjoy - we did!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Bluebirds fly to Premier League

And so the dream is realised! After a season in which we've led the way since November, Cardiff City, the Bluebirds, sealed promotion to the Premier League last night following a 0-0 draw with Charlton in front of 26,300 ecstatic fans.

All the off field issues were put aside as red joined blue on the pitch - we are Cardiff City, and nothing will ever take that away.

Whether you've been a supporter for decades, or are a recent convert to the Bluebirds faithful, nothing will have ever surpassed the feeling at the final whistle.
It's really true. Next season we'll be welcoming Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Man City, Everton, Spurs and more to the CCS to show them some Cardiff hospitality!

It's been a long time coming with some near misses and huge disappointments along the way. I've watched City play in all four divisions of the League, and remember some pretty grim days on the terraces back in the 80’s. Now, we're up their, on merit, with the big boys. What a thrill that's going to be.

It'll be tough no doubt. We'll need strengthening no doubt. We're already favourites to go back down. But we are Cardiff City. We're nothing if not resilient. And just now, with the Championship Title in our grasp, we're savouring the moment.

I still can't quite believe it.


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Sunday, April 14, 2013

City 3 - 0 Forest: The fat lady is gargling and reaching for her mike.....

And so, we're almost there.If we hadn't conceded that goal against Barnsley four seconds from the end of added time last Tuesday we would be there. But we did, and that's history. But it doesn't matter now...

This was another huge game for the Bluebirds and us, their long suffering and very nervous fans. Forest, under the diminutive Billy Davies hadn't lost in 10, and were on their own charge of sorts into the play-offs. City simply had to beat them to re-assert their long time tag as Champions elect and put the disappointment from the match against the Tykes behind them.

I was very nervous about this game, and with both Hull in 2nd and Watford in 3rd rarely of late looking like losing, I think I had some reason to be.

A purported maximum crowd had turned up for this one including significant Forest support. I'm not going to report on the game in detail - there are lots of other people who blog and report on that sort of thing much better than me. I will though mention some key moments.

Heidar's opening goal was a beautifully cushioned header from an equally exquisite Bellamy cross that settled the nerves. Darius Henderson's slip when he stepped on the ball and Marshall's quick reaction to smother it was another - had that gone in with the game at 1-1 and 22 men on the pitch who knows where it could have gone? But it didn't, and shortly afterwards Henderson's dismissal for a flapping arm that caught Helguson had a huge effect on the game.

City at times have been shaky defending a 1-0 lead (cue recall to Barnsley on Tuesday where they sank deeper and deeper, Dave Jones like, until the inevitable happened), but this day they did what we expect of a side chasing promotion. They took the game to Forest. They made superb use of the extra space against the 10 men, and how. They dominated the 2nd period, and Rudy's introduction for Helguson at the break, whether tactical or because of injury, tuned into a brilliant decision, as the gangly youngster powered two headers past the Forest keeper in a spell where the CCS was rocking. How we didn't put a few more on the board is anyone's guess. Kim in particualr was outstanding, and is perhaps one of the best, if not the best midfield player in this division. This was City near their best. Yes, with a man advantage, but it was how they kept pressuring and how they kept control which was so impressive. They didn't really give Forest another sniff

The afternoon was made so much better by the news filtering through from London Road that Watford, the only team that could catch us apart from Hull being beaten 3-0 by lowly Peterborough. In the end that finished a nervy 3-2 to Posh, but that now means that Watford can only draw level on points with us providing they win their remaining 4 games and we lose all 4 of ours. Possible, but unlikely.

And so we move to next Tuesday and a home game against Charlton. A point or better for us, or anything but a Watford win away at Millwall, and promotion to the top flight is assured for the first time in 51 years.

Cardiff City in the Premiership? Yes please, I'll have some of that!


Thursday, April 04, 2013

Website update

I look after a couple of websites for some friends. I've used various systems in the past, but have recently converted one of them using the free Weebly system. It's dead simple, requires no (or virtually no) technical knowledge and "just works".

I've been very impressed with it. You can see the results here Hendre Eynon

I can see my others sites moving this way too.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Big win - and in style

Cardiff City moved a step nearer to promotion today with a fine 3-0 win over struggling Blackburn Rovers.

Despite sitting top of the table since November, City have at times ground out results, and only the most blind of supporters could argue that the Bluebirds football of later has been of any real quality. But, at the end of the day it's results that count, and city started the day four points clear of Hull who play Watford tomorrow.

Today though, City combined the result - a massive three points after a disappointing loss two days ago away at Peterbrough, with as good a performance as we've seen in months.

Malky made a couple of big selection decisions, including dropping Whitts to the bench and putting the arguably under-used Kimbo & the patchy Mutch into midfield. Those decisions though proved perfect (which is why Malky is a manager and I'm not) with both players stepping right up to the plate, and Kimbo deservedly getting man of the match.

That though doesn't do justice the the rest of the Bluebirds on the pitch. Every player turned up today. It's also the first time I'd seen loan defender Leon Barnett in the flesh, and I thought he too was outstanding.

For me there was greater movement off the ball, a willingness to run into the channels and just greater speed of thought. Blackburn are a good team on paper, but a 15 minute spell in the second half apart, City controlled the game and closed the visitors down quickly to a point where David Marshall's goal was rarely threatened.

Frazier Campbell's first half opener from 2 yards was well deserved after persistent pressure, and some frantic defending and ropey goalkeeping from Kean in the Blackburn goal.

So 1-0 at half time, and though Rovers rarely threatened, the comfort of a second didn't come until substitute Jo Mason's sublime finish on 86 minutes, and the cream topping came with a stoppage time Whitt's penalty (which will make him feel a lot better). City should have had a penalty earlier when Turner was kicked in the face two yards inside the area only for ref and linesman to bottle the decision and give a free kick a foot outside he box. Still, in the end it didn't matter.

All in all then a highly satisfactory performance. there's a big match tomorrow when 2nd placed Hull play 3rd placed Watford - a Hull win please - and then Another crunch game on Saturday with City away to Watford.

As you were. City top of the league. Mind the gap!

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