Most people who know me will know that I’m an aspiring Crazy Cat Lady – hey even my Secret Santa gift at the office Christmas party was a crazy cat lady mug! So when I heard about the quirky cat sanctuary of Rome, I knew I had to pay a visit.
Just 5 minutes walk away from the Pantheon is the Torre Argentina Roman Cat Sanctuary, home to around 150 cats who live in the ancient ruins. The ruins themselves are amongst the oldest in Rome (400-300BC) and are thought to be the place in which Julius Caesar was assassinated. As for the cats, they are free to wander the ruins and are very well cared for by a team of volunteers.
Visitors are welcome to visit from noon every day but you can’t just wander around the ruins, you can view from the street above or if you walk down the steps on the corner of Via Florida and Via di Torre Argentina you can visit the little gift shop they have down there.
As well as the gift shop, there is also an indoor section of the sanctuary. This is mostly for cats that need to be indoors for health reasons, but of course other cats wander in and out of the shop part because cats pretty much do what they want don’t they?
The friendly volunteer who was minding the sanctuary on the day I visited showed me and my mum into the part of the indoor bit of the sanctuary that was locked (presumably to stop cats who didn’t need to be in there getting in there). I petted a random cat who was perched on a scratching post and then he/she climbed onto me and made me have cuddles!!! It was so cute. But sadly, all good things must come to an end but the cat was having none of it.
Eventually I did break free but I did feel guilty for cutting short our cuddles. However I did buy a calendar from the shop as the money goes straight back in to feeding and caring for the cats.
Torre Argentina is a wonderful place for a short visit and I would definitely recommend it to all animal lovers! For more information take a look at the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary website.
8 things to do in and around Queenstown New Zealand
Queenstown is a must-do on anyone’s South Island itinerary, after all its not the adventure capital of New Zealand for nothing! Of course, there are TONS of things to do there, but here are 8 of my recommendations…
1. Ride the gondola
Although Queenstown is famed for its fun and adventure, lets not forget that this is New Zealand, meaning that it is also quite pretty. The best way to take advantage of all that scenic beauty is to ride the gondola, which is STEEP (it’s actually the steepest cable car lift in the Southern hemisphere!) but so worth it when you reach the top and take in those gorgeous views.
2. Have fun on the luge
Once you’ve ridden the gondola up to Bob’s Peak, you may as well enjoy some of the activities on offer up there. My recommendation is the luge – so much fun! You take a chair lift up even higher and then pick one of the two luge tracks to travel back down. There’s a more gentle, scenic track which everyone must do on their first ride and then there’s also a faster paced, steeper track. We ended up riding the luge 5 times!
3. Try a famous Fergburger
If you read my post about 3 fast food burgers you must try in New Zealand then you will already know about Fergburger. Although to be fair, you probably already know about Fergburger because literally anyone who has been to Queenstown has raved about this place. It’s not really “fast food” as you’ll probably be queuing about 45 minutes for it but it’s still worth trying at least once. Or twice in my case.
4. Go horseriding
45 minutes drive from Queenstown is the town of Glenorchy, home to Dart Stables where we admired yet more of New Zealand’s beauty but on horse back. We did the beginners trek named Hobbit’s Hack and saw where some of Lord of the Rings was filmed. I can’t claim to be a LOTR fan but I did enjoy the scenery.
5. Spin and splash on the Shotover Jet
The Shotover Jet is quite simply, a jet boat ride on the Shotover River. Running since 1965, they are the only company permitted to operate within the Shotover River’s canyons. High speeds and 360 spins are guaranteed – you might even see rainbows in the mist!
6. Bungy jump
So I have a small confession to make… I didn’t actually do a bungy jump because I don’t have that part of my brain that makes me want to pay $195 to tie a rubber band to my legs and throw myself off a bridge. However, my husband is a bit of a secret adrenalin junkie and did the AJ Hackett Kawarau Bridge jump in Queenstown – the world’s first commercial bungy jump.
He loved it and wouldn’t let me write this list without including it!
7. Visit wonderful Wanaka
We only spent one day in Wanaka which really wasn’t enough. It was pretty and peaceful and we enjoyed a lovely lunch by the lake. It’s also home to two fabulously quirky attractions – Puzzling World and Cinema Paradiso. If you want to know a bit more about Wanaka then take a look at my post Quirky things to do in wonderful Wanaka.
8. Take a day trip to Milford Sound
I admit this might be an odd choice given that my trip to Milford Sound was my worst day travelling but I know other people who have been there and had a great time. I can’t say more than that. Go read my post Milford Sound – is it worth it? and decide for yourself on this one.
Have you been to Queenstown? What was your favourite thing to do? Comment below. And for more inspiration, follow my New Zealand Pinterest Board.
I’ve always had a fascination for the animal kingdom, so being rich in nature and wildlife, Costa Rica has been on my travel wishlist for a while. Costa Rica covers just a tiny proportion of our planet yet is host to 5% of the world’s biodiversity, something that the nation is particularly proud of. And you don’t have to venture too far to see some of its native creatures. Just relaxing by the pool at our hotel in Manuel Antonio we managed to spot lizards, capuchin monkeys and various birdlife, including toucans!
As someone developing a keen interest in all things zoological, I decided that I would like to combine my sightseeing holiday with volunteer work, so spent a week at the Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center, around 20-30 minutes from Juan Santamaria International Airport.
We were picked up by a driver at the airport, along with 3 other jetlagged Brits. We arrived at the centre late afternoon and were shown to our 12 bed dorm. There are around 5 dorms in total and most were almost full, accommodating over 50 volunteers in total – alot more than I was expecting!
We met the owner Bernal and his howler monkey, Feluco. Feluco is an orphan whose mother was killed by a dog. Because he lost his mother at such a young age, his immune system is very weak. He also has a cleft pallet which gives him breathing problems. Feluco would stand no chance of survival out in the wild but luckily he is very well looked after at the centre. We learnt more about the other animals and the centre itself, but I will tell you more about the story of the rescue centre in another post.
The next morning we were given a tour of the centre which at the time of our visit is home to an assortment of birds including parrots, owls, a peacock, a curassow and some chickens and ducks. There are also pigs, goats, 3 types of monkey (howler, spider and capuchin), two and three toed sloths, a tortoise, porcupine, marmoset, opossum, hedgehog, squirrels, two kinkajous, an olingo and a couple of pet dogs. There was also a toucan but as it was going to be released back into the wild, only the resident biologist was allowed anywhere near it.
As volunteers, the only animals besides the toucan that we were not responsible for were the spider monkeys, capuchin monkeys and some of the baby creatures inside the animal hospital.
For your first two days volunteering, you must shadow someone and not enter the enclosures, with the exception of the goats and pigs. I must admit being a little wary of Oscar the male goat, but the mama and two baby goats were sweet. I did enjoy going into the pig pen and we were encouraged to go visit the pigs to stop them from getting lonely.
A typical day
7am – Breakfast in the common area.
8am – Meeting in the common area – this is to go over any points of discussion and extra duties (one day every single person got involved in shifting a spider monkey cage, for example). Each volunteer is put into one of five teams and then each team has set tasks for the day on a morning and afternoon rota. The rota is repeated every 5 days so everyone has a chance to be involved with different animals and different aspects of the work.
A typical day may go something like this…
Clean enclosures and supply fresh food and water for: the goats, the sloths beside the goat enclosure (aka The Goat Sloths), the owls, peacock, curassow and parrots.
Collect grass for the goats.
Tidy the garden.
The morning shift would usually last until 11am.
12 noon – Lunch in the common area.
1.30pm – Meeting in the common area.
Clean enclosures and supply fresh water for the porcupine, hedgehog, squirrels, opossum and teen sloths.
Feed the squirrels.
Give the porcupine, hedgehog and opossum their snacks at 4pm.
Give the teen sloths their branches at 5pm.
Feed the porcupine, hedgehog, opossum and teen sloths at 7pm.
The afternoon shift would usually last until 4pm. Of course, every day was different as if your team were responsible for some of the nocturnal animals that day, you had a few jobs to do after 4pm, but who’s complaining when you have a kinkajou climbing on your head at the 7pm feed! You aren’t supposed to touch the animals but an excitable kinkajou did decide my head looked like a fun place to climb!
6pm – Dinner.
10pm – Lights out.
There was a swimming pool and some hammocks for chilling during down time. The living conditions were basic and I didn’t mind the cold showers and sharing a dorm, however the sleeping wasn’t easy due to the various, and quite loud, noises of the local wildlife and vehicles on the nearby road. My body also ached for somewhere comfortable to sit – yeah yeah I’m an old granny alright!
The people at the rescue centre, both staff and volunteers, were really friendly and the work felt very rewarding. As someone who volunteers at a cat rescue centre close to home, it was a great learning experience to be so close to the native animals of a different country, and I could tell that the other volunteers felt the same.
I would like to thank Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center for being the wildlife warriors that they are and for allowing me to play a small part in their story.
And I would urge anyone who wants to make a difference, no matter how small, to get out there and do it!
If you would like to help the CRARC you can donate money, supplies or your time by following this link.
It seems a little odd that I’ve leapt from my January favourites straight into a post of my February favourites, but February has been all about one thing and one thing only, or rather one place only… Costa Rica!
So here are my Five February Favourites.
I haven’t had chance to write any blog posts because I don’t tend to do that while I’m on holiday, but I have been alot more active on instagram than usual. So if you don’t already follow me, go ahead and check out my collection, especially all that amazing Costa Rican wildlife. Find my instagram here.
As you may already know, I volunteer at home for the Cats Protection, but I have wanted to do a volunteering holiday for a little while now. After a bit of research I discovered the Costa Rica Animal Rescue Centre and ended up spending a week with them before travelling around Costa Rica. It was a truly rewarding and memorable experience.
I do love to see animals when I’m travelling and Costa Rica is very well known for it’s rich and diverse wildlife. I will most likely write a post just about the different creatures we saw because we saw THAT MANY. Didn’t manage to see ‘The Little Five‘ but then there’s always a reason to go back, right?
There was vibrant art all over Costa Rica – from quotes left by travellers at the rescue centre, to stunningly detailed murals of the local flora and fauna. My favourite were these souvenir masks carved by an indigenous tribe known as the Boruca. There were some incredibly beautiful and huge (expensive) ones but we bought a smaller and more affordable one to put up on our global art/souvenir wall at home. Seeing all this art made me very excited to get the paints and pencils out for the art class I’m about to start soon!
5. Money… Costa Rican specifically
As I said before about the art in Costa Rica, even the Costa Rican bank notes are art in themselves! Hardly surprising for such a good looking country though.
This was just a little taste of what’s to come on the blog, but follow me on instagram to have a sneak peek at some of the sights and creatures I saw!
November was the month for our letter ‘I’ alphabet date. November was also the month of my Dad’s 60th birthday, where we decided to surprise him by taking him to Rome for 4 nights with my mum.
So Alphabet Dating letter ‘I’ became ‘I for Italy’, slight cheat but hey ho, when in Rome (see what I did there?).
I hadn’t been on holiday with my parents for 10 years but things went pretty smoothly, infact I think they were glad of our company as my husband became Human Sat Nav and I became Event Co-ordinator.
We visited all the typical tourist attractions – Vatican City, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Colosseum etc. Plus I tricked my Dad into visiting an amazing Cat Sanctuary in the ruins (more about that coming soon!).
The joke of our trip occurred on our last day when my mum suggested that after lunch we head to Piazza Navona, which for the fact geeks out there was built over the 1st Century AD Stadio di Domiziano and hosted the city’s main market.
According to Lonely Planet it is nowadays “Central Rome’s elegant showcase square”.
According to my mum “There’s nothing there, but it’s all going on”.
When we got to Piazza Navona however, we realised that it really WAS all going on. There were cameras rigged up, important looking people busying about, crowds of gawkers and part of the square had been cordoned off. We later found out, through the brilliance of twitter, that they were filming a Hollywood movie that day! The film is called American Assassin and stars Dylan O’Brien and Michael Keaton. And if you see a girl in a yellow coat hovering about in the background, then that will be yours truly!
We had a wonderful time in Rome, sadly it was too cold to eat as much gelato as I might have liked but otherwise November was a good time to visit as the crowds were alot less (we queued for 30 minutes to get into the Vatican unlike the 3 hours we could have spent if we had gone earlier in the year).
Stay tuned for more Rome posts coming soon and keep an eye on my instagram for a few of my pics!