Category Archives: Adventures

I’m Not Too Old

This week’s challenge from Tara at Thin Spiral Notebook is Adventure.  Click on the link to play along.

My response to the challenge is not fiction, but it fits so well that I thought
I would post it.  Hope that doesn’t offend others
who play along with these challenges.  So..

She was about to be 75.  Surprised at this, she decided it was time for an adventure.  Oh, she had had many adventures, had travelled extensively with her late husband and since his death, on her own.  But were those trips real adventures.?  She thought not.

She decided on Florence.  It was a place she had visited before and wanted to spend a few months there.  Knowing nobody there and little of the language she packed and set off.

What fun she had and how glad she was she did this before she thought “I’m too old”

Florence Day 10 031.jpg

Author’s Note.  If you want to see and read more of this real life adventure go to Florence 

Freedom

 

“I want to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful
and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.”
~ Mary Oliver

In October three years ago I was in Florence, knowing nobody and not speaking the language.  But what an adventure that was.

Have you ever thought of doing something like that?  To know nobody; to walk through the streets and not see a familiar face; to hear people speaking without understanding a single word they are saying and to not know where you are or where you are going; no familiar sights to guide you.  It’s total freedom.

For once, you can just be you.  There’s nobody who knows you and can comment on your behaviour.  We all like to think that we are independent and not moved by others’ comments on our actions, but here I was, totally alone like a ship that had been untied and left to float.

Oh, how i loved Florence and the feeling of just being me for the time I was there. Never before have I been in such circumstances and I suppose I never will be again.

When I returned to NZ many people commented on how brave I was to do that on my own.  But it didn’t seem like bravery to me.  At the time it was something I wanted to do and so I did it.  I wonder if I would have done that had I been younger or was it just the right time for me to stretch my wings and fly?

I’m very pleased that I had that adventure.  That I made the decision to go on my own and see that part of the world through different eyes.  I had not spent time in Florence before and like a child in a candy store, I delighted in all that I saw.  And I delighted in the people I met in the suburb where my apartment was.  Nobody spoke English and my Italian is almost non-existent but we managed to communicate and enjoy each others company.  And when I returned a couple  of years later with my late partner, those neighbours remembered me and were happy to see me.

So much has happened in the three years since that adventure.  Life has changed as it will and must.  Plans made that cannot be carried through; promises made that cannot be kept; other and different adventures to enjoy or just get through.  But that’s what this life of ours is all about.

So as Mary Oliver asks:

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your
one wild and precious life?”
~ Mary Oliver

An Inferno

P1190524

Photo – J A Craig

She had loved Dante’s Inferno since first being presented a copy to read for English Literature classes so many years ago.  And now she wondered was this the closest she would get to Dante’s Inferno in this life?

She stood there, totally surrounded by mist, mesmerised by the sight of great gusts of steam emanating from the ground accompanied by the roar of a fast approaching steam locomotive.

As she walked slowly past a pool that resembled a boiling cauldron she remembered reading that the indigenous people, the Maoris, still used the heat from this activity for cooking and heating their houses as they had done for centuries.

On her return home on the other side of the world, she needed to have these photos as evidence that this was in fact real and not a figment of her very active imagination.

This week’s word is STEAM.  I thought as few people might have seen the
Geo thermal activity producing clouds of steam, I
would use this as the setting for my Five Sentence story this week.
Click here to play along

Lillie McFerrin Writes

Welcome Another Year

“There are only two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
― Albert Einstein

2014 was a busy and traumatic year for most of the world.  Terrorism seems to be gaining the upper hand.  We saw all those school girls kidnapped in Nigeria, uproar in the middle east, riots and protests across the US, aircraft lost either vanishing into thin air or being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  So we hope that 2015 will be a better time for all of us who inhabit this wonderful world.

So now it is the beginning of the second year of my new life.  I have been so lucky to have a second chance at love – I almost said life and love but I need no second chance at life.

I have always said I have lived a blessed life.  A long and mostly happy marriage, two adult children and four fantastic growing up grandsons, who could ask for more?  And then some 18 months ago into my life sailed this new love.

I have written about 2014 and what a busy year that was.  My sister came from London for five weeks, we went to Hobart to visit the Museum of New and Old Art.  We went to Europe for three and half months and saw so many things that if my partner hadn’t taken 18,000 plus (yes in excess of eighteen thousand) photos I wouldn’t remember half of what we saw and did  Then we moved house with all the attendant hiccups that brings.  And then suddenly it was Christmas.

Our plans were for a quiet Christmas but the best laid plans and all that.  We had visitors for the weekend before Christmas, friends with three of their adult daughters, then on the 30th my daughter and her two boys came for a prolonged lunch and then it was Christmas Eve.  The other two grandsons visited and exchanged gifts and stayed for lunch and a friend who was to spend Christmas with us arrived.  That day we heard from my partner’s son that they “were all looking forward to spending the day with you”.  So what was to be just three of us and my partner’s aged (99 year old) father in law turned out to be a celebration of 10 people.  But it was fun.

And it didn’t stop there.  Friends for lunch, friends for dinner, dinner with partner’s son and family for New Year’s Eve, a visit to friends at the beach   and in the middle of all this, the 99 year old fell and smashed his face and ended up in hospital.

Tired panda

And of course, Christmas is in the summer here.  Most people are on holiday and we have had a constant stream of visitors since.  But hey – who’s complaining!  We are having fun and the weather is co-operating so barbecues are the order of most days.

So I am going into 2015 with a happy heart and full of excitement for the year ahead.  We are planning a less eventful year but anything can happen to change those plans.

“I may not have gone where I intended to go,
but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”
― Douglas Adams,
The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

What I Need To Know

Way back in January 2012 I wrote a post entitled All I Need To Know in which I said that all I needed to know was in the story of Noah’s Ark.

Noah's arkSince then I have become even more convinced of the wisdom of Old Noah.  In the two years since I wrote that post my life has been totally turned around.  I no longer live alone in my old villa.  Instead I live in a brand new house with my partner.

I re read the post and thought how well my life has gone in the past couple of years and how apt Old Noah’s thoughts and actions are still to us in the 21st Century.  We can all learn from him.

In the earlier post I listed what I had learned and now I would like to comment on some of the items in that list.

  • I did listen to the voice within when friends told me I was making a mistake selling my house and going away for an indeterminate time.  I went to Florence and
  • I followed my intuition.
  • I made my preparations in advance – I put the house on the market, contacted the travel agent and booked an apartment in Florence.
  • My life was built on a strong foundation and my little house had withstood all that had been thrown at it for more than a hundred years,
  • Even though my possessions were in a storage unit that was set alight, the things that were important to me were stored in heavy plastic boxes and they survived.
  • Well I have chosen my companions well and
  • I love my companions and fellow travellers.
  • And some of these travellers aka my children I set free to return as and when they wished.
  • Yes, I did listen to other people’s opinions but always made my own decisions.
  • I learned that it is better to live with somebody else than living alone.  But I also learned to be selective when making such an important decision.
  • I make time for quiet meditation which nurtures my soul.
  • I embraced many new experiences since writing the original post not least being alone in Florence and not speaking the language.
  • I was brought up in England and have always loved the feel of the gentle rain on my face.
  • And I also love the sunshine and notice how differently people behave when the sun is shining.
  • I volunteered at the Hospice and continue to believe I got more from the experience than anyone at the Hospice did.
  • I have accepted the assistance offered by others – I hope this acceptance has been gracious.
  • I know that there will be hard times interspersed with the sunshine and light.
  • I have known for a long time that we share this planet with a myriad of other creatures both large and small, and we don’t must share the bounties with them
  • I continue to nurture an attitude of gratitude.  I am very aware of how very lucky I have been all my life.
  • I know that one wo/man with a a strong belief can overcome and succeed in spite of the odds – here in New Zealand we have Beverley Pentland who was an advocate against fireworks sales and had legislation brought to Parliament – raising the minimum age for purchasing fireworks to 18 years – restricting the sale period to four days from 2 November to 5 November – limiting the decibel level a firework can produce to no more than 90 decibels.
  • And I love fish.

This proves to me that I can and will continue to learn for the rest of my life.

Butterflies

A Year In The Life of …

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
― Mary Oliver

Well once again I have fallen badly behind.  My excuse?  We have had a very busy time this year and are only now finding time to do the things we enjoy – and I certainly enjoy writing my blog.

The year started with a hiss and a roar and I related much of it in a post in April.

Then it was off to Europe for three months.  What a lot of fun that was.  We have friends in Como and made this our base for our travels.  Coming back to Como to welcoming friends (and a washing machine) was great.  These people have been my partner and his family’s friends for years and so it was with some trepidation that I agreed to go to Como.  And I am so glad that I did.  They welcomed me with open arms and within a few days I felt one of the family. We enjoyed our time with these people and their family.  Three little grandsons were around almost every day and Claudio aged 3 was teaching me English.  His constant plea was ‘Storia Judith”  Well of course it was a picture book but as I know little or no Italian and he knows no English,  story reading time was hilarious.  He kept correcting me and I don’t know how many times he told me “pompiere” was the word for fireman.  “No no” he would say and fall about laughing at my pronunciation.  What a joy he was.

We had lunch with friends of our host and hostess at a lovely villa on the hills above Lake Como.  A dazzlingly beautiful day, great fun although much of the conversation went over our heads.

Venice (of course) beckoned as did Tuscany, Spain, France and the UK.  Three months is a long time to be away but hardly enough time to do all the things we wanted to do.  A visit to Germany to meet our friend’s mother who is 93 years old.  A pleasant day indeed.

In Switzerland we had lunch with our hosts’ son who lives in Como and works in Lugano.

We spent a couple of weeks in Spain with our hosts and then went on to Barcelona for 9 days on our own.

Tuscany of course, was a delight.  We stayed in a lovely converted farmhouse five minutes from San Gimignano for almost a week discovering and rediscovering the countryside and lovely towns and villages.  Florence called again and this time we found ourselves in a 15th Century converted farmhouse owned by a delightful young couple and only a ten minute bus ride from Florence.  I have said before that Fiesole is one of my most favourite places in this wonderful world.  I waxed lyrical (?) about Fiesole when I stayed in Florence last year.

And this year we visited my favourite spots in Florence having somebody to share these things with at last.

We came home after our trip to Europe with the prospect of moving house looming.  We were still in the brother-in-law’s house but after a few days back here I organised the removal company to deliver the furniture.  What a huge job unpacking all that was.  Forty six years of living in one house had my partner moving boxes and boxes and boxes of belongings.  My furniture and effects?  They were and are, still in storage.  Note to self –  make a decision about this..soon.

But now after three months we are totally settled into our new abode.  My stuff is still in storage and by the way, talking of storage, the arsonist who set fire to the storage facility at the beginning of April has been charged and is currently being tried.  Would you believe he has pleaded Not Guilty even though there is CCTV coverage of him entering the facility complete with petrol can.  Well let’s see the outcome of this trial – what a waste of taxpayers’ money.

“You can have the other words-
chance, luck, coincidence, serendipity.
I’ll take grace. I don’t know what it is exactly,
but I’ll take it. ”

― Mary Oliver

Note Mary Oliver has long been one of my idols.  So today we have two of her quotes and the one at the beginning of this post is my all time favourite.


							

Writing 101 : A Room with a View (or Just a View)

Day 2 and the challenge is

If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go to right now?

Today, choose a place to which you’d like to be transported if you could — and tell us the backstory. How does this specific location affect you? Is it somewhere you’ve been, luring you with the power of nostalgia, or a place you’re aching to explore for the first time?

So here goes.  The place to which I shall refer is the very small, rather strange apartment I occupied when I was in Florence last year.  I have told you how I sold the house, packed my belongings, said goodbye to family and friends and embarked on an adventure to the other side of the world.  To a city I didn’t know, where I knew nobody and nor did I know the language.  Well as Mother used to say “God looks after fools.”

I arrived in Florence on a Sunday night when all the taxi drivers were taking the night off.  Well that’s how it seemed to me for after finding the well hidden taxi stand I had to wait in line for about 20 minutes for a cab to appear.

Having shown the taxi driver the address of the apartment we started on a long journey seemingly from one side of the city to the other.  I had been told that the fare should be around 20 Euros and it was 21 so I was happy.  So now I am outside the apartment building with not a soul in sight as the taxi driver takes his cab off into the night.  It was a very quiet area, no tourists, no bars or cafes and the door at which the cab driver had deposited me was not the right one.  So checking that I was in the right street, I quickly found the right apartment building.

I was met by Ornella the mother of the apartment owner.  Unfortunately she spoke little or no English but with my little or no Italian we managed to make ourselves understood to each other.  She showed me around the apartment and then gave me a very quick tour of the neighbourhood and after introducing me to Guiliano my next door neighbour she took off carrying the basket containing her two chihuahuas,  I was left to my own devices in a strange country and I was all alone.

The apartment was on the ground floor of a five storey building.  Thee was no elevator and I could hear people running up and down the stairs, speaking and laughing and I just knew I had made the biggest mistake of my life.  I couldn’t even have coffee because there was no electric jug to boil the water and the lighter for the gas stove had run out of gas.  So after a glass of water, some grapes and a tomato I went to bed.

London and Florence 062

After a good nights sleep, I investigated the apartment.  It was quite small and at the front of the building.  The bedroom window was on the footpath and secured with shutters.  Unfortunately, it didn’t obscure the noise from the busy street outside.  The city had decided that this was the day to start repairing/resurfacing the road outside my bedroom window.

Florence Day 3 2013 001

As well as the rather large bedroom (perhaps Christiane the owner has parties or dances there) there is a living room with kitchen and dining facilities, a bathroom with shower hand basin loo and bidet.  Then in the corner of the living room there is a staircase leading up to a mezzanine floor where there is a bed.  But one would have to crawl on ones knees to get to the bed – there certainly is no standing room unless one were a hobbit. The French doors opened onto a rather neglected courtyard.  This was a suntrap and could have been a lovely place to sit and write my posts each day but..nowhere to sit.

I never did manage to use the washing machine nor did I have much success with cooking and most times the shower ran only tepid water, but I enjoyed the 3 weeks I spent in this quaint apartment.  It was unlike any other that I had been in and added greatly to the experience of an elderly lady, living alone in a suburb in Florence where everybody spoke Italian and very few had a few words of English.  But what an adventure.

I went back to the apartment in June with my partner.

Guilianno and family 1

Guilianno and family

With the girls at the pasticerria

We caught up with Guiliano and his family and with the girls at the pastiscerria where I had breakfast each day during my sojourn in Florence.  My neighbour was overcome with joy at seeing me again and the girls in the pastiscerria remembered me too.  So that was a great afternoon.

And while this was a very pleasant place to stay, now that I have been back I shall keep it in my memory store and bring it out from time to time over the coming years.

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