Having Fun in Italy

Men in boat

I omitted this photo from the last post.  It shows two men rowing on Lake Como in a typical rowing boat and in a typical stance.

We have been so busy with friends and sightseeing that there seems no time to write my blogs.  So here is a condensed version of the last 11 days.

Week beginning 5 May (what a long time ago that seems)

Galleria Milan

Galleria, Milan

Monday morning found us on an early train from Como to Milan.  I have only ever spent a day in this city many years ago with my late husband so I was looking forward to rediscovering its joys.

Of course we went to the top of the Duomo and admired the view from such a height.  They are busy cleaning all the stone parapets and adornments – a virtual hive of activity.

Duomo Milan

Duomo Milan2

We took the lift u as far as we could and then climbed the remainder of the stairs.  I wish I were 20 years younger.  Wandering around the roof area we s the men working, suspended high above the street as they cleaned the facade.

Then we went into the Galleria – a wondrous building in which were all the fashionable shops of the world.

Prada Models - Milan

Display window – Prada Shop

And of course, the stunning mosaic floor in the centre

Galleria Mosaic floor Milan

We ate lunch in a rooftop restaurant and looked down on the city.

 

Street in Milan

We were enchanted by the narrow streets once we got away from the hustle and bustle around the city centre.

La Scala Milan

Of course we went to see La Scala – but what an unimposing building for such a world famous Opera House.

Oh and the crowning glory to the day?  I insisted on a drink in the Galleria – E28 for a G&T and a beer – $NZ44 and $US38.  Not something to be repeated often.

So tired and happy we caught the train back to our friends/family in Como.

Wednesday found us wandering the back streets of Como on our own.

Lane in Como

Como side streetNowhere escapes the scourge of the graffitti artists.

Statue in Como

My partner, the architect, was entranced by this statue.

Friday found us boarding the express train to Venice.  How I looked forward to this trip – third time lucky for me to visit Venice.

Of course, we visited the Railto Bridge, St Marks Square, the Bridge of Sighs and all the main tourist spots but most of the time was spent in the little alleys and backstreets far away from the hoards of tourists.  One day there were three huge liners docked close in and they each disgourged a couple of thousand tourists.

St Mark's Square

St Mark’s Square

Another small canal

A small canal

A quite back street canal

A quite back street canal

Rialto Bridge

Rialto Bridge

We spent several hours at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum and I was entranced by the statue garden.

 

The plaque at the entrance to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum

The plaque at the entrance to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum

In the Peggy Guggenheim Statue Garden

In the Peggy Guggenheim Statue Garden

Henry Moore in the Peggy Guggenheim Statue Garden

Henry Moore in the Peggy Guggenheim Statue Garden

Woman statue Peggy Guggenheim Statue Garden

Woman statue Peggy Guggenheim Statue Garden

Where does this passage lead?

Where does this passage lead?

One day we went to the Jewish Ghetto established in 1516 established under special laws of the Government of the Republic.  Jews were confined to this area and could not leave from sunset till dawn.  The area was closed in by gates watched over by guards.

The Ghetto existed for two and half centuries until Napoleon conquered Venice and tore down the gates allowing Jews the freedom to live wherever they wanted.  Many still live in this small enclave containing houses, restaurants and businesses particular to the Jewish people.

Shops and apartments Jewish Ghetto Venice

Shops and apartments Jewish Ghetto Venice

 

Plaza - Jewish Ghetto Venice

Plaza – Jewish Ghetto Venice

And some 1000 more photos to bore our friends with when we return.

And now we are getting ready for our foray into Spain.  this time our friends in Como will accompany us for the first 12 days, leaving us after Granada.

I hope you are enjoying this trip as much as we are.

Note:  The photographs with dates are mine, all the rest are courtesy of my       partner, Jon Craig.

 

 

Italy Calling

Como 1

We are still with our friends in Como and having a really good vacation.

May 1 is a Public Holiday in Italy – Labour Day.  The day dawned bright and clear and it was decided that we would go to the Cernobbio on the lake for coffee and a little look around.

station at Chernobbi

This is a beautiful small place and as we know George Clooney spends much of his time here.  No, we didn’t see him.  We are told that the locals do not make any special fuss for him.  Fortunately we were with our hosts who knew just what would happen at the lake on such a lovely day – crowds of people flocking there on a mid week holiday.  So we went early in the day, found a car park and a lovely outdoor cafe for coffee.  Our hosts refer to 10.30 am as cappuccino time.

Market at Chernobbi

Open air market for May Day

We then walked around this lovely small town in the sunshine, people watching and more particularly for my architect partner, building watching.  He is an avid photographer and took many photos.

Shop keeper just opening for the day

Shop keeper just opening for the day

Street in Chernobbi

A very narrow street

We left before the town became really busy and had a leisurely drive back home for lunch and a leisurely afternoon complete with siesta.

A very wet day and a very bad head cold kept us housebound for the next day except for the necessary visit to the supermercado.

On Saturday we were invited to dinner with friends.  As they live a short distance away around the lake it was decided to leave early and visit Bellagio on the way to Erba.

Narrow road

But as we know ‘The best laid plans…”  We rounded a bend to be confronted by

cars at crash scene

A walk around the next very narrow bend showed us the reason for this long line of cars

car crash 03:05

This is such a narrow road that all traffic in both directions was at a standstill.  We waited (im)patiently for the police and ambulance to arrive

L1000406i

and after having conversations with various other travelers, we decided to reverse (with difficulty) and take the alternate road high above the lake.  This is not a drive for the faint hearted.  The road drops many metres down to the lake on one side and is two way all the way.

We eventually arrived at our friends house and were all very grateful for the drink that was handed to us as we arrived.

Friendship isn’t a big thing
— it’s a million little things.
Anon

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Adventure Begins

Thursday April 24/14. 

At last after a fairly hectic few days we are at the start of our journey.  To get to Como from Wellington we have three flights.  Wellington/Auckland – hour; Auckland/Hong Kong – 12 hours and Hong Kong/Malpensa, Madrid – 13 hours.  This is  followed by a 40 minute car ride to Como.

The adventure is just beginning and a charming young Asian steward brought a glass of champagne before the plane took off.  Then the purser appeared with a beautifully produced menu for lunch.  I chose salmon with apple and wasabi mayonnaise salad, followed by stir fried prawns with XO sauce, jasmine rice and vegetables.  Delicious.  But before lunch the same young Asian man brought me a perfectly mixed Bloody Marycomplete with a small bottle of Tobasco sauce as he didn’t know how much to put into the drink.

We had fully flat beds and after such an early start they looked very appealing.

It is a few years since I was last in Hong Kong and the changes to that airport are amazing,

And the Cathay Pacific lounge has to be seen to be believed.  It is without a doubt the most beautiful airline lounge I have been in.  Carrara marble on every surface and while that sounds awful it was absolutely beautiful.  They call this lounge The Bridge as it bridges two areas each complete with bars and cafes with every type of food imaginable.  But who really wants to eat after a 13 hour flight?  We had some broth and a cup of coffee.

We had four hours wait in this fabulous lounge.  And even at 12 midnight the shops were open offering high class goods.

Friday April 25

Then it was time for the next leg of our journey.  This time I slept most of the way – all through dinner and the next round of snacks.  It is great to be able to stretch out in full length beds and sleep the hours away.  Breakfast was served and suddenly we were beginning our descent into Malpensa.

Our friends were at the airport to meet us and drive us to their home for a few days rest and recuperation after our long flight.

In Italy April 25 is a public holiday – Liberation Day.  It marks the fall of Mussolini’s Italian Social Republic and the end of the Nazi occupation in Italy in 1945, towards the end of the second World War.   This is also a public holiday in New Zealand – ANZAC Day.  It commemorates the landing of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) at Gallipoli, Turkey, during World War I in 1915. This event, also observed in Australia, remembers all New Zealanders who served their country in wars and conflicts. Links to posts written for Anzac Day 2011, 2012 and 2013 are at the end of this missive.

As everybody was on holiday the whole family came for lunch on a glorious spring day.  Small children, adult children and their spouses all gave us a great welcome to Italy. It was such a lovely spring day that we ate outside in the gazebo. But once the family went home, we retired to our beds for a welcome siesta.

Saturday April 26

Another lovely warm spring day and so after breakfast we went into Como to parade around, look at the lake and do some people watching.  But first our host had to have coffee.  What a beautiful old city this is.  The church, duomo, is 12th Century and we decided against going into it as there were so many people around.  Instead we chose to just wander around for several hours.

Then back to our hosts’ house for another siesta.  We were becoming very used to this custom by now.

Sunday April 27

All the family came to lunch again.  As it rained heavily we were all in the house and the children became a trifle grumpy as they couldn’t get out to play.

Monday April 28

Today it rained as if it would never stop.  Typical spring weather in Italy we are told.  good friends of our hosts came for lunch which went on well into the afternoon following which we had another siesta.

Tuesday April 29

A wet start to the day but it improved to hot sunshine later.  We went into Como for the necessary espresso and to acquire Italian sim cards for our phones.  But we didn’t have our passports with us and so we had to go back home to retrieve them.

We did some window shopping, bought another suitcase and had lunch in a restaurant atop a four story building affording fantastic views of both the duomo and the lake.

Buying sim cards and a usb for the internet proved to be more difficult than we expected.  Vodafone would not take a credit card or cash for the usb and after trying several of our cards our host came to the party with an cash card to pay for the connection.  With the difficulty of language, their not taking our credit cards or cash this transaction took over an hour.  So we were all pleased to find somewhere for coffee and then go home again.

“The traveler sees what he sees.
The tourist sees what he has come to see.”
― G.K. Chesterton

Links to ANZAC Day Posts

 

Easter 2014

So far this hasn’t been a particularly Happy Easter here.

Fire at storage unit

Following the fire in the storage units last week we checked the cartons for damage, smoke and water, and took the worst of them away to deal with the contents either by drying or by tossing out. On Friday with my daughter and her two sons, we revisited the new storage unit with the intention of allowing her to remove the outdoor furniture and other things she wanted for her new house.

What confronted us then was a whole lot of soggy cardboard cartons piled on top of each other in a haphazard way. When the movers installed the goods into the lock up we asked that any wet cartons be placed to the front so that we could easily access them. The cartons they put in the front were those we moved early this week. But on second looking there were probably 20 more cartons that were sodden.

We moved some of these; my daughter and her sons cleared everything out of the unit and repacked it so that we could at least see what was there. Then thoroughly exhausted we repaired to her house to unload the things they wanted and for a much needed rest before all going out to dinner.

Saturday found us back at the storage facility, this time without my daughter but with her sons, with the intention of repacking the soaked boxes. What a thoroughly nasty job that was.

I was fairly lucky in that I only lost two beds and mattresses, some clothes and shoes whereas others lost everything.

The good news is that the arsonist was caught fairly quickly and has been charged with setting the fire. But this doesn’t help all those who have lost so much.

So today, Easter Sunday, we are having a quiet day at home, albeit still washing things recovered and tomorrow we will go to the facility for the final time, taking those things still to be stored until we return from Europe at the end of July.

Please watch this space as we travel in Europe over the next three months.

“Everything is funny, if you can laugh at it.”
― Lewis Carroll

 

 

 

I do hope your Easter break is proving to be more exciting and relaxing than ours. I wish you all a very Happy Easter.

Can’t Wait To Check In

After yesterday’s serious blog I just had to post the following which was sent to me today via email.  Don’t know how true it is but it is certainly worth a good laugh.

“A friend went to Beijing recently and was given this brochure by the hotel. It is precious.
She is keeping it and reading it whenever she feels depressed.
Obviously, it has been translated directly, word for word from Mandarin to English.

Getting There:
Our representative will make you wait at the airport. The bus to the hotel runs along the lake shore. Soon you will feel pleasure in passing water. You will know that you are getting near the hotel, because you will go round the bend. The manager will await you in the entrance hall. He always tries to have intercourse with all new guests.

The Hotel:
This is a family hotel, so children are very welcome. We of course are always pleased to accept adultery. Highly skilled nurses are available in the evenings to put down your children. Guests are invited to conjugate in the bar and expose themselves to others. But please note that ladies are not allowed to have babies in the bar. We organize social games, so no guest is ever left alone to play with them self.

The Restaurant:
Our menus have been carefully chosen to be ordinary and unexciting. At dinner, our quartet will circulate from table to table, and fiddle with you.

Your Room:
Every room has excellent facilities for your private parts. In winter, every room is on heat. Each room has a balcony offering views of outstanding obscenity! .. You will not be disturbed by traffic noise, since the road between the hotel and the lake is used only by pederasts.

Bed:
Your bed has been made in accordance with local tradition. If you have any other ideas please ring for the chambermaid. Please take advantage of her. She will be very pleased to squash your shirts, blouses and underwear. If asked, she will also squeeze your trousers.

Above All:
When you leave us at the end of your holiday, you will have no hope. You will struggle to forget it.”

 Whether true or not, I love it and am suspending belief in light of the fun I am

having sharing it.

“It sounds plausible enough tonight, but wait until tomorrow. Wait for the common sense of the morning.”
H.G. Wells, The Time Machine

New Zealand Calling

After months of not writing a blog, I got up last Friday (04/04) fully intending that this would be the first day of many blogs.

I have had a lovely few months.  We had a holiday at the beginning of the year away from the stresses of an architect building a home for himself; then we spent 5 weeks travelling around the country with my sister from England and sharing with her some of my favourite places in this beautiful land;then more friends from overseas.  We had a few days in Australia visiting 4 artists in their studios and then a trip to Hobart in Tasmania to visit MONA – Museum of Old and New Art.  What an exciting time that was and what an amazing building.  Here’s the link. Please take a look you will hardly believe what has been achieved here.

In February we moved house although the new house isn’t ready to move into and following a series of minor (or maybe major) disasters it wont be ready for another two or three months so we are going to Europe for three months.  We are busy planning our trip with friends in Italy with whom we shall stay and then go to Spain with them.  How exciting!

Fire at storage unit

But the best laid plans – on Friday (04/04) we heard that there had been a major fire in a storage facility in Wellington and yes, all my worldly goods were stored in that facility.  Panic ensued and nothing else was thought of for the rest of the day.  However, the next day we went to the site and discussed the situation with the General Manager and the Fire Chief.  We were told there would be water and smoke damage but both thought it would be minimal.

So there followed a week of waiting to be told that we could go onto site; meeting with removal men to determine where the soggy goods would be stored; going to the new facility and sorting out what had to be removed immediately – boxes that disintegrated as they were lifted.  These mainly held linen and scarves – easily washed so no real problem – and shoes.  This was a different matter as they all had to be stuffed with newspaper and dried at the fire.

Of real concern though was the artwork, prints etc.  Fortunately my daughter has just bought a house with a self-contained apartment attached.  So we moved the pictures into that and set the dehumidifier.  It looks as if we have been really lucky.

Books, photos and papers were in plastic storage bins so again we have been very lucky.  The photos and letters were what I was most concerned about.  Everything else is just stuff.

And now we are told that the fire was arson.  The mind boggles at how anybody could do something like this.  All week we have heard terrible stories of people having lost everything.  CCTV coverage shows a man entering the facility with what looks like a drum of petrol.  Let’s hope they get this man quickly.

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.”
A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

The Kiwi Bach

“To go out with the setting sun on an empty beach is to truly embrace your solitude.”
Jeanne Moreau  French actress, singer, screenwriter and director. 1928 -

Here in New Zealand it’s summer.  Well so far this year it has been so disappointing.  A few good days leading up to Christmas; a fabulous Christmas Day (well here in Wellington anyway) but since then it has been truly awful.  Rain, gale force winds and more rain.  So waking up today to sunshine was a surprise.

Many people are on holiday – Christmas and New Year are when most offices and services close down and families head off to the beach to their holiday homes.

AA sign Kiwi Bashes

In the North Island of New Zealand, older holiday homes are called baches (my guess is because husbands were left as bachelors to look after themselves while wives and children enjoyed life at the beach but Wikipedia suggest it is short for bachelor pad. In the South Island they are referred to as cribs.  I don’t know why this is so.

Kiwi bach

Baches and cribs are generally quite basic.  Many have grown like Topsy.   Our next door neighbours, who are also our close friends, have a batch about 75 kms from home and we were invited for the day. The one we visited on Saturday had started life as an army hut and been transported to the beach. Over the years it has been divided into a living room cum kitchen, one bunkroom, a bathroom and a lavatory.  Recently it has had a lean to added giving it a separate dining room, with one side open to the elements.  One can close it up with a plastic screen that rolls up out of the way when not needed.  Life in those seaside areas off the beaten track is very simple.  Children run free and as everyone knows everyone else, nobody has to worry where the children are.

Saturday, dawned bright without any rain and it just happened to be the annual “Boat Day” at that beach.  It is such a long time since I had been in such a simple yet lovely setting that of course we had to walk the 100 or so yards to the riverbank to sit and watch. We saw people of all ages, and all walks of life I guess, simply enjoying themselves.  The river running into the sea made a great place for canoe races.  Single canoes, two person canoes, blow up canoes and even a rowboat were brought into play to win prizes.  There were races for children, races for teenagers and races for anyone and everyone.  What fun that was to see people enjoying the simple pleasures of being with friends and making new ones.

Ready to go 2

A sausage sizzle had been set up on the far bank, accessed over a rickety bridge, and was doing a great trade with sausages slapped between slices of white bread selling for $1.20.  Well children having fun with each other are not gourmands.

To 04.01.14 002

To 04.01.14 019

We however, were treated to a lovely lunch on a table set up under the trees.  A whole smoked salmon, salads and fresh bread washed down with a cold wine were perfect.  Desert of fruit and ice cream was served following which we all vowed we were too full for coffee and Christmas cake.

A;ong the riverbank

Then it was determined that a walk was in order.  We walked over the rickety bridge where fortunately there were no trolls to scare us, onto the bank on the other side of the river.  Most of the competitors had retired for lunch or to change into dry clothes following a dunking in the river.  So we had an uninterrupted stroll along the riverbank down to the sea shore and then over the dunes back to the bach.

Deserted landscape

The area was the scene of fierce fighting between the Maoris (the indigenous people) and the invading British bent on colonising the land and its inhabitants.  In this the British were unsuccessful.

So another lovely summer day came to a close.  Yesterday Sunday,it rained all day here but today has been beautiful.  Tomorrow’s forecast?  Rain in the afternoon so we have to make the most of any lovely day that comes our way.

And now to all my friends in the US who are being buffeted by strong gales and heavy snow falls, my thoughts are with you.  Love and hugs from the other side of the world.

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh?” he whispered.
“Yes, Piglet?”
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh