Tag Archives: Lifestyle

Under the Tuscan Sun

On turning the calendar card I was confronted with this –

 

The wording on the card reads –

“The Italian enthusiasm for cycling come to the fore every spring during the Giro d’Italia, a three-week-long road race across some of the peninsula’s most challenging terrain. Thrills, hills, and spills aside, two-wheeled vehicles are an integral part of Italian culture and an uplifting fixture of daily life”

I was immediately transported back to my brief sojourn in Florence in 2013. Can it really be six years ago?

On October 23, 2013, I recorded Day 16 in Florence and noted that the World Road Cycling Championship had just been raced in and around Florence. Cycling memorabilia was on display and for sale everywhere one looked. I succumbed and purchased two little battery operated bicycles with pedalling cyclists whizzing around the footpaths. If you are interested, click here for that post.

Oh, how I enjoyed my short time alone in that wonderful city. I did go back the following year with the Architect, my late love, but somehow just wandering wherever fancy took me, and on my own was really very special. Those few weeks will remain n my memory until my memory fades. I am so glad that I took the chance, made the decision and had the adventure.

Note – I thought after the gloom and despondency of the last two blogs, it was time to lighten things up. I hope I have done so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Almost Perfect

100-word-challenge

This week’s 100-word Challenge from Tara at Thin Spiral notebook
calls upon us to use the word WINE in a story of 100 words.
And as she says “No more, no less”.

It was very important to impress this man who was coming to dinner.  Her husband’s future and therefore, hers, was dependent on him.

She’d spent all day cleaning and tidying the house and preparing the special recipe Cindy had given her.

The dining table was set with flowers, their wedding crockery and silverware and the perfectly ironed napkins the colour of the flowers; it looked lovely.

Now, all that remained was for her to shower, dress and present herself as the perfect corporate wife.

But then a frantic call was made to her best friend, Cindy.  She’d forgotten the wine.

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Florence Day 5

Well I don’t know what the workmen were digging towards but the reverberations made the apartment shake at 7 am .  A rather rude awakening.

I started the day early with a Skype call during which I talked to my partner’s two little granddaughters.  They were agog to see me and when he showed them where I m on the globe  they were even more amazed.  But as they grow older they will take these modern miracles of technology for granted.

I decided that I wouldn’t go into the city today and instead would wander around this neighbourhood to see what it is like.  So I started off with the idea that before I left I would do the washing.  What a good idea except that I couldn’t get the machine to work..  A call on the next door neighbour was needed. The wife answered the door and came into the apartment, looked at the washing machine, shook her head and said something about her marito and supermercado  so I assumed she would send her husband in  when he returned from the supermarket.  Next a ring on the doorbell and Guilliano the husband appeared.  He is a large jovial fellow who went out to the shed that houses the laundry, fiddled with a few knobs and then I think he said he couldn’t make it work and would call Ornella the mother of the owner.  She was particularly unhelpful telling him to push the knob we had both been pushing.  So after molto grazie from me and prego from him he left.  Shortly thereafter the doorbell went again – turning out to be a busy morning.  There was the neighbour and his daughter Bette who spoke un po Inglesie.  So we trouped out again to the washing machine.  Bette pushed the knobs that we had, checked the water was connected and the electricity connected, shook her head and admitted failure.  So the outcome?  undies washed by hand in the hand basin in the bathroom.  Oh well they are now clean again.  And it really was like something out of a sitcom comedy – perhaps the Big Bang with Sheldon in charge.

Well after all that I needed a sit down and a cup of coffee.  So I didn’t get out until after lunch time to start exploring the neighbourhood.

Florence Day 5 017

I started with macchiato a usual but as it was after 1pm I didn’t have a brioche instead I had a Panini type sandwich.

Florence Day 5 013

Florence Day 5 004

Complete disregard for pedestrians

No parking's the same in any language I guess

No parking’s the same in any language I guess
The footpaths are in a shocking state of disrepair

The footpaths are in a shocking state of disrepair

Florence Day 5 009

Some really grand buildings-now converted into apartments

Some really grand buildings-now converted into apartments

Florence Day 5 014

A smart homeware shop – the only shop in the street. Unfortunately, it was closed for the siesta.

 

And another buildingAnother nice building

Bikes and more bikes

Bikes and more bikes

Auto shop 2

Auto shop

A repair shop around every corner

A repair shop around every corner

Another beauty shop

And almost as many beauty shops

Beauty shop

A bridal gown shop

A bridal gown shopFlorence Day 5 019

A car audio shop

A car audio shop

School of Music

School of Music

Florence Day 5 031

Supermarket

Supermarket

 

Florence Day 5 023

Woman was sitting in window watching the world go by

Woman was sitting in window watching the world go by

 

 

 

Tennis court inside dome

Tennis court inside dome

Roof o dome

Roof of dome

This was a fascinating way to spend a few hours just rambling around the district.

 

 

Florence Day 3

Well it was a better start to this day.  After a long, lovely chat on Skype to my partner I was able to have a hot shower.  Oh joy and the hair was washed to.  So I sallied forth feeling like a new woman.

Florence Day 3 2013 007

The first stop was the passticerria for macchiato and brioche then onto the bus into town.  Here I discovered that the reason I was not able to go up into the Dome or down into the Crypt yesterday was because  I was in the wrong Cathedral.  Instead of the Duomo, The Cathedral di Santa Maria del Fiore,  I was in The Cathedral di Santa Maria Novella.  Oh how easy it is for a woman on her own to become confused.

So after I went into the same Cathedral asking for directions to the Crypt and Dome I was told I was in the wrong church.  How embarrassing.

Undaunted I set out again on foot to find the right church.  You may wonder how I became confused when the dome towers above Florence – but I did so there!

Florence Day 3 2013 051The historical centre of Florence became a World Heritage Site in 2007.  Unfortunately my photography is not good enough to show this plaque.  But if you click on the image a larger image appears and you will be able to read the words.  Only  found that out after I published the post .

I wandered along the beautiful little lanes of Florence and marvelled at the number of people there.  All tourists many with guides but equally as many in small groups.  This is not really the tourist season and so I am glad I am here now and not then.

Duomo 3Anyway back to my story.  I eventually found the right Cathedral and went inside.  There was complete silence while the many, many people there gazed in wonder and awe at the works of art.  I think it wouldn’t matter how many times you saw these wonders you would never get tired of them.

I did go down into the Crypt where Brunelleschi, the architect of the Duomo, is buried.  The crypt holds the ruins of the Church of Santa Reparata, the original church on the site.

But when I enquired about going up inside the dome the very nice young man in charge asked first if I were “solo?” and then suggested that it would not be a good idea for me to go up the 463 steps to the spiralling dome. I didn’t bother to ask about the Campanile as I was sure to get the same response.  Oh well, perhaps when I come back with my partner?

Lunch today was not in the same class as yesterday.  When I returned to the apartment last night and did the conversion I found that lunch had cost the equivalent of $NZ49/$US40 so I had to rethink lunch today.  And I chanced upon a lovely little Gelateria where I had a gelato and a sit down all for $NZ4.10/$US4.

GelatoThen back on my feet and off to the Bargello, a former barracks and prison.  Here is another magnificent art collection including works by Michelangelo, Donatello and Cellini but I shall hae to go back to spend more time amongst this priceless art.

Florence Day 3 2013 017And everywhere I turned there was another wonderful thing to see, another street to go down, another square to cross.  One could spend months here and not even see a tenth of the treasures.

The streets are home to many sellers of leather goods, obviously and the streets are also lined with high class shops  But I am not here to shop, so apart from buying some jewellery for my daughter and a friend, I resisted the temptation.

PigAnd then I discovered this pig.  I was told that everyone had to pat the pig but nobody seemed to know why.  So like a good tourist I patted the pig.

So after another full day delighting in the treasures of this Renaissance City I found my way back again to the station to get my bus.  If I am honest here I would tell you that I did find myself going past the same shops and entering the same square a few times but that’s part of the fun.  And in the event I asked a handsome young policeman “Stazionne?” in answer he gave me directions in Italian with the help of many hand movements.  How lovely.

I arrived back here at the apartment, sated in beauty, tired and needing a cup of tea.  I am English after all.  And I have decided that I obviously have not been walking enough recently – my thighs are letting me know that I have walked for about 5 hours each of the last two days.  This must get better!

And a few more photos for you.

With fig leafFlorence Day 3 2013 048Duoumo with caffolding Florence Day 3 2013 030 Florence Day 3 2013 056 Fountain

So thanks for travelling with me and exploring this fantastic city.  I will tell you more tomorrow.

Post script – Thanks to Nancy at http://nrhatch.wordpress.com/ for the story about the pig – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porcellino

Goodbye

My visit to London is rapidly coming to a close.  My original intention was to be here for some two weeks and then go to Florence with my sister.  She would stay for a couple of weeks and I would stay on alone for a couple of months.

London-Skyline 3Alas, the best laid plans etc .  Shortly before I arrived in London it was thought that my sister had suffered a heart attack.  So in the first few days we spent time at the local hospital having a barrage of tests.  Nothing moves fast in this big, over crowded city and so she is only today receiving the results of these tests from her GP.  Several more tests were called for which entailed waiting for the letters of appointment, as they were in two different hospitals, and to make life complete she was advised not to fly until the results were all in.

At this time she is still waiting for the final test to be carried out and this will happen next week.

So it was decided that I should go to Florence and she will join me when she is cleared to fly.

british-museum-27-09-13-005.jpgMeantime we have been enjoying my native city again.  Not as a tourist because I was born and brought up here, but as a returning visitor.

The most surprising thing of all is the changes wrought to the East End by last year’s Olympics.  Stratford that was once a really derelict and run down area has been transformed.  During World War II, the area suffered severe bombing damage. Industrial decline followed, accelerated by the closure of the docks from the 1960s onward. And the ethnically mixed area suffered from high unemployment, a labor force with low skills and crowded housing..  But all this changed once London was awarded the 2012 Olympics.

Where once were disused factories now stand tall apartment blocks,

University of Eat London

University of Eat London

the University of East London and student housing to accompany it, a large Westfield Shopping Mall and a new transport hub.  This has been good news for most of the people living in the area.

There has of course, been controversy.

_Orbit_at_nightThe Orbit sculpture and observation tower has been praised and denigrated by the public.  It was  designed by  artist Anish Kapoor and engineer Cecil Balmond  and stands 114.5 metre (376 feet).  It is apparently the largest public sculpture in Britain.   Orbit closed after the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, as the South Plaza area of the Park (in which Orbit is positioned) is under significant construction – and will re-open to visitors in April 2014.

London Olympic Stadium 2The Olympic Stadium is still being fought over by rival football clubs who want to use it as their base.  Currently the  has been awarded to West Ham but Leyton Orient are claiming that exclusive use rights should not have been given and that these two East End clubs should have equal access to the facility.

London_Aquatics_Centre,_16_April_2012

The London Aquatics Centre.  An indoor facility with two 50-metre (160-foot) swimming pools and a 25-metre (82-foot) diving pool.

Some of the residents of course, were moved on to make way for this huge redevelopment, and the redevelopment is still going on.  I saw a sign advertising a shopping and entertainment centre of 1.9 million square feet..  Wow!

the_Shard_London_Bridge_5205

The Shard Via Wikipedia

And the changes are not restricted to the East End.  The City is changing.  Where once were old office blocks now stand huge glass monoliths that do little to differentiate my home town from many other I have visited around the world.

British_Museum_from_NE_2

The British Museum – Still hasn’t lost its charm*

But the old favourites remain.  The Bank of England in Threadneedle Street, The British Museum in Great  Russell Street, The Tower of London, St Paul’s and of course, Parliament and Big Ben.  These are all a must see on any visit I make to London.

Portobello RoadAnd of course no visit to London would be complete without the street markets.  I have written of these in an earlier post.  The World famous Portobello Market in Notting Hill (you probably saw the film Notting Hill  staring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant), the local markets at Roman Road and Ridley Road, Petticoat Lane and Brick Lane, the antique market at Islington and on and on,

So as my time here comes to an end and once again I say farewell to family and friends, I am a trifle sad and of course, nostalgic.  But I have my adventure in Florence to look forward to and of course, I shall be back here again after that before taking that long haul flight back to the other side of the world.

“My formula for living is quite simple.  I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night.  In between, I occupy myself as best I can”
Cary Grant,  1904 – 1986 ,
English stage and Hollywood film actor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Related Posts:

The Market 
Down Memory Lane

What Do I Want For Christmas

Pohutakawa tree

Pohutokawa, NZ Christmas Tree
Image via Wikipedia

Santa Baby, slip a sable under the tree
for me.
been an awful good girl, Santa baby,
so hurry down the chimney tonight.

Santa baby, a 54 convertible too,
Light blue.
I’ll wait up for you dear,
Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight.”

Always at this time of the year, I have a flashback to Eartha Kitt singing “Santa Baby”  She doesn’t want much.  Apart from the sable and the convertible above, she asks for a yacht, a platinum mine, a duplex and checks, Christmas decorations from Tiffany’s and a ring.  Well a girl has to know what she wants.  And of course, this is all in fun.  Watch and listen here.

But what do you want for Christmas?  Last year Katie at k8edid put her wishes in a very clever verse.  So what is it that you want for Christmas, apart that is, for world peace and everybody being well housed, fed and clothed?

And what do I want for me?  Well, I really don’t want any more ‘stuff’.  I have spent the past two and half years clearing it all out and now find that it is perfectly possible to live with so much less ‘stuff’.

  • What I want is the love and friendship of my children, their spouses and their children
  • I would like to keep the level of health that I now enjoy
  • And while keeping my old friends, I would like to meet some new ones.

What do I want for others?

Boys planting

  • What I particularly want is for all children in the world to find a happy and safe place to grow up in, knowing that they are loved, respected and cared for so they may grow up to be happy, well-rounded young people.
    Here in New Zealand we have a dismal record of child abuse.  I should like this to be addressed here and all around the world.
  • I would like all children to know a world where they are not surrounded by war, bombs and deprivation
  • I should like all children to have enough to eat, fresh water to drink and clothes to keep them warm
  • For the adults –
    • Of course, peace and security
    • Love and friendship
    • Good health
    • The freedom that we enjoy to express their beliefs openly without fear of reprisal

So what do you want for Christmas ?  For my friends of the Jewish faith please forgive my ignorance if I ask whether you exchange gifts at this time of the year – Hanukkah; and I address the same questions to my Muslim friends and any Buddhists or other religions who might read my blog.

Whatever your religious beliefs, I hope you have a happy time shared with family and friends.

Happy Holidays

 

Yesterday

florence nightingale

Yesterday I put away my Florence Nightingale attire.  My friend with the new hip is now able to get around on his own.  No crutches in the house and only one when he is out walking.  And yesterday he drove the car for the first time.  So now things are back to normal and Lotte and I are in our own home again.

It has been an interesting three weeks, split between two houses, but mostly spent at his house.  And it’s very strange to have to consider another person when I am making plans.  After all I have been on my own for 14 years.

dancing-gifts

Yesterday was also the day that I decided to get all my Christmas shopping done.  And in one store.  Our local department store had a special Christmas shopping day – for every $100 spent one gained a $25 voucher to spend in the store before Christmas.  So now I have the shopping completed and all these vouchers to spend on me.  But wait, because they were so busy there was no gift wrapping so that is the next thing on the list.

us govt jet

Yesterday a US Government jet spotted at Wellington Airport was carrying a senior spook, although Prime Minister John Key, who is in charge of intelligence services, is not saying whyHe confirmed the plane was carrying an US intelligence official who met a New Zealand spy. The visitor was ‘‘obviously pretty senior’’ given he or she had come in an US Government plane.

The plot thickens.

Dawna Markova

Yesterday a year ago I was thinking and writing about Dawna Markova.  She it was who wrote the poem “I Will Not Die”  in 1980s when she was facing a life-threatening illness.  The poem appears in the book of the same name.  Click here to read an excerpt.

And in case you are interested here is the link to last year’s post – I Will Not Die .

Kate Middleton

Yesterday we learned that Kate Middleton aka the Duchess of Cambridge has been hospitalised with severe morning sickness.  Oh how well I remember those dreadful mornings.  But the world wasn’t kept up to date and informed on my dealings with the dreaded sickness, nor on the progress of my pregnancies.

So while we rejoice for the young, happy couple we can feel for them that they will not be able to enjoy this wonderful time out of the media spotlight.  Well of course, whether it is a boy or a girl the child will be numbered in line for the throne of England.

Yesterday  We learned that two Guinness World Record holders had died; one the oldest person and the other the tallest woman.

116-year-old woman listed by Guinness World Records as the oldest living person anywhere around the globe died on Tuesday in a nursing home in the US state of Georgia, soon after having her hair done.  Besse Cooper died peacefully at the Park Place nursing home in Monroe, Georgia, according to her son Sidney Cooper.  Looking good to the end Bessie.  Congratulations.

And news reports from China  say Yao Defen died in November in her home town in the eastern province of Anjui.  She was the world’s tallest woman measuring 2.33m.  Her height was the result of a tumour and by the age of 13 she was 1.85m tall.  Her family put her in a circus to supplement their meagre income.  What a sad life she must have had.

And just because I like the song  here’s Yesterday by the Fab Four – Oh how young they (and we) were then.

“I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible;
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.”

Related Posts

One Down, Three To Go

Success sign

Another milestone in life.  Yesterday was the last day at school for my Number One grandson.  Apart from going to sit four or five exams, his connection with school days is over.  And now the rest of his life, with all its adventures and excitements is opening in front of him.

This is one laid back almost 18 year old kid.  When I saw him on Wednesday he was getting ready for the leavers’ dinner,  unfazed by the fact that this huge change was about to take place in his life.

How exciting the next few years will be for him as he discovers an independent lifestyle through university and his other activities.  Since he got his own car a year or so ago, he has become fairly independent of his parents, but now…..

And I wonder how his late grandfather would react to this strong, charming young man who was only a toddler when he last saw him.  Would he be proud of how his grandson has grown and is maturing.  I am sure that the answer would be a resounding yes!

So go forth into the world young man, knowing that anything and everything is possible.  It’s your choice what you do from here on and what you make of yourself.  But know always, that you are greatly loved my No 1 Grandson.


Our grandchildren accept us for ourselves, without rebuke or effort to change us, as no one in our entire lives has ever done, not our parents, siblings, spouses, friends – and hardly ever our own grown children.
Ruth Goode
, author, 1905-1997

Related posts

Stop The World

One of the blogs I have recently started to follow is The Kitchens Garden from Cecilia, a New Zealander now happily living in the US.  Her post today brought back memories of another time and place in my life.

Haven’t we all had a “Stop the world I want to get off” moment at some time in our lives?  Well mine was some 26 years ago – way back in 1986.  It was a beautiful summer morning a couple of weeks before Christmas in Blenheim in the South Island of New Zealand.  My dashing (well by then not so dashing or so young) young Scotsman was in hospital recovering from  a burst, undiagnosed duodenal ulcer.

As was my wont, I arrived at the hospital shortly after 8am to be greeted by the nurses with a strained smile.  By this time we were all on first name terms as he had been in the hospital for some six weeks, and I thought their strained greetings very odd.  I was also concerned because a couple of days before when I arrived, my husband wasn’t in his room and I discovered that they had punctured a lung while carrying out some procedure or other.  Of course at the time, I did know what the procedure was but it has taken itself off with so many other things over time.

Well, when I arrived at his room husband was sitting up in bed reading the daily newspaper.  He too looked a little strained I came in and so I asked the reason.  His response, after telling me to take a seat, was that our son had been admitted to hospital the night before with appendicitis. As we hadn’t a phone at the time (see Paradise, Phones and Phrustration) my son’s girl friend had called the hospital to pass on the news.

Now in other circumstances, I would have taken this in my stride.  But just then…  Not only was my darling in hospital in the South Island of New Zealand, but my Mother was in hospital in London, England and my Father in Law was in hospital in Dunoon in Scotland.  And now my son was in hospital in Wellington in the North Island of New Zealand.

That was really a “Stop The World” moment for me.  Fortunately, my son’s operation was straight forward and he was released on the same day as my husband was released from hospital.  And as my daughter had arrived home from London having been summoned by her brother, we managed a happy Christmas with the whole family in one place.

“Said Mr. Smith, “I really cannot
Tell you, Dr. Jones—
The most peculiar pain I’m in—
I think it’s in my bones.
Said Dr. Jones, “Oh, Mr. Smith,
That’s nothing. Without doubt
We have a simple cure for that;
It is to take them out…..”
From Bones by Walter de la Mare
1873 – 1956 English poet, short story writer
and novelist.

And now I am off to a mid-winter Christmas dinner.  Well it’s hard to take the turkey, ham and all the trimmings on a brilliant summer day.

Christmas dinner

Google image

Happy Christmas to you all

The World Is Going To End

The house had been sold in record time and arrangements for her to move into the retirement facility had been accomplished without any hitch.

But now, sitting in her packed up house, Elizabeth thought “The world is going to end in three days time.”  Or at least the world as she had known it up to now.

She had moved into this house as a young bride 45 years ago and now she was to leave it behind.  She would be leaving many memories both happy and sad.  Memories of days when her children were young, the accidental death of her son and the wedding of her daughter.  These memories were shared with Charles, her beloved.  But after Charles died, life did begin to be lonely.  Her daughter had her own family to take up her time.  Her friends were moving away and the house and garden were beginning to be too large for her to manage on her own.

Reluctantly she had agreed to her daughter’s suggestion that they look at what retirement villages had to offer and which if any might suit her.  There followed weeks of looking at places that if one believed their brochures, were absolutely perfect for her, but mostly they didn’t live up to her expectations. She had almost given up hope of finding the right place.

And then one day, while at the supermarket, she met an old acquaintance.  After they loaded their shopping into their cars they went off for a coffee and a catch up.

Over coffee, Rex told her that he had recently moved into a splendid retirement village.  He had his own small house; there were plenty of leisure facilities and people of his own age  with whom to spend some cheerful time.  In return Elizabeth told him of her search for a place in which to live.  He had piqued her interest and they parted agreeing to keep in touch…..

___________________________

Trifecta tricycle

This is my entry in this week’s Trifecta Challenge. It follows on Fireworks an earlier entry in the Challenge.

“For the weekend challenge, we’re playing the ambiguity card again and leaving interpretation up to you.  Give us 33-333 words with this as your inspiration:

The world will end in three days.

If you want to join in, click on the tricycle above and you will be taken to Trifecta’s blog that contains all the instructions.  Do have a go.  I promise you it is fun.