We’ve been back about 10 days now and I’ve been trying to catch up on everything. There was a lot of work waiting for me when I returned (which is good, because 3 weeks in Europe can be a huge drain on your pockets!), as well as plenty of email and blog feeds to read. So that’s my excuse for not blogging until now. (It’s weak, I know!)

We visited London, Belfast, Rome, Venice and Florence. We met some very lovely people: some old friends, some new ones who were welcoming and helpful. We walked our feet off, got lost in museums, went underground, flew around, slept in an airport, dawdled in cafes, watched a play, a musical and a concert, knit on the world’s largest tea cosy, got duped, had a complete stranger give us his entry tickets free, had pizza for lunch and dinner, ate Chinese cuisine in London and Thai food in Rome, drooled over dessert, fell in love with a car (and a people), met a TV personality, gawped at a Bollywood star, window shopped, celebrated a birthday…

Some of our pictures are here.

The common thread throughout the journey and my personal highlight were the cats we encountered. First, there was Fergus in London

With Fergus

Then there was Mystery Cat (we never discovered where she came from or who she was) in Belfast

Visiting cat

Then there were the three lovelies in Rome*! (Yes, two of them are male, but they are still lovely).

Here’s Puddy (Paddington)

Puddy Tat

Max with Puddy

Max and Puddy Tat

And a glimpse of Sunshine at the bottom right corner

Bribing the cats for a photo-op

That smile on my face says it all, really.

* Names changed because somehow that’s how I think of them.

The last three we spent quality time with and got to know as much as they would allow us. Puddy is a big sweetie and the only one who’d let me pick him up. He didn’t like it much, though, so he’d emit a feeble ‘meee-ew’ and I had to let him go. Max was the most gorgeous, with a glorious mane which made him leonine, except he had a yellow streak as large and would flee if you so much as looked at him directly in the eye. Sunshine was good at pretending to be aloof and spent most of the night jumping around the house.

The trip started really well, because we gatecrashed Cindy in Bangalore and it was there that the whole “wonderful hosts and yummy kitties” thing began, with Cindy’s two felines. They were quite talkative and carried on a conversation throughout the night and although we didn’t get any pictures of them, Cindy’s promised me a few of their kittenhood. Yes? Please?

Funnily, though, most of the other cats we met didn’t say a word. Only Puddy with his ‘mee-ew?’ and occasional yelpings when he suddenly found his toys around the house.

There was a notice in Venice’s St Mark’s square for a black kitten lost (young and affectionate…), and it rained cats…and dogs in Florence. I spotted a cat who could have been Puddy’s Italian twin in Trajan’s forum, and a calico lady in a whiskey distillery in Ireland. So happy.

I know I ought to be telling you more…

Ok, let’s see.

– we nearly missed our musical (Chicago in London) because the husband was so fascinated by the displays at the Imperial War Museum he never came out (obviously he did, eventually, but I’d given up on him and left to reach the theatre on my own)

– loved the Tube (again!) (ooh the information!)

– took (and missed!) budget flights between London, Belfast and Rome

– slept at Heathrow airport in a cafe (see above)

– watched The Mousetrap and Chicago in London, and a baroque music concert in Venice (with costumes!)

– went to I Knit on two evenings, one of them when knitting was taking place on the world’s largest tea cosy (I added my bit!)

– as we were walking towards the Colosseum in Rome a gentleman returning with his grandson gave us the tickets he’d bought and then discovered didn’t need

– I spent too much for glass souvenirs in Venice (but, oh, the colours!!!!)

– the desserts in Rome were… words fail me. flaky. melting-in-the-mouth. inspiring. amazing. My mouth is watering at the memory.

– the Italians are such fun! And I wanted to pick up one of the Smart cars and bring it home with me, only we fell slightly short of the thousands of euros that would have cost

– I ambushed journalist Thomas Kielinger on my way to Chicago and spoke to him. He was looking for a restaurant, the poor man

– on two consecutive mornings we saw Ajay Devgan shooting a song for a film. Sans his wife, though.

– on our last day in Rome we celebrated the husband’s birthday with dinner at an interesting restaurant, which ended with everyone in the place singing the Italian version of Happy Birthday for him and the other person there celebrating, while they blew out their candles on their pavlovas. A great finale. Thank you so much, Carla and Ben!