Tag Archives: living

WATCHING

The root of all superstition is that men observe when a thing hits,
but not when it misses.”
― Francis Bacon

There will be three Fridays the 13th this year – February, March and November.  And we just have to decide whether we are superstitious or not.

Wikipedia gives us a name for Friday the 13th – “paraskevidekatriaphobia, from the Greek words Paraskeví (Παρασκευή, meaning “Friday”), and dekatreís (δεκατρείς, meaning “thirteen”)”

I’m not superstitious and for me it is just another Friday but I am being extra careful today.

Now to other things.  Today I am WATCHING

Judith & Alice

  • The way a newly born baby attracts people and noticing the joy of being allowed to hold her
  • The huge waves rolling onto the beach; they are quite magnificent in their power
  • Surfers battling these waves and some succeeding in standing up
  • Children paddling in the surf
  • Two older couples just enjoying the sunshine, sand and the water’s edge
  • Puffs of smoke emanating from White Island – New Zealand’s most active cone volcano.  It’s very close only 48kms/30 miles from shore.  It’s puffing away merrily today.
  • And strangers interacting as they meet on the beach
  • A couple walking their dogs
  • A small child clambering onto a tyre strung up to make a swing
  • My partner stretched out on a lounger contentedly reading
  • Teachers from the local school rounding up the pupils
  • A group of teenagers enjoying their lunch on the beach
  • The same group chasing each other and generally having fun
  • The brilliant sun shining down onto our part of the world that we call Paradise.

Ohope beach

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

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

 

Tie a Yellow Ribbon

The siren call of home has sounded and each day it is getting   louder.  It is now 10 weeks since I kissed my family and special friend goodbye at Wellington airport and set off on this adventure.  And what an adventure it has been.

Wellington August 2013 040

First I visited my sister in London and we did things that sisters would do if they saw each other on a regular basis.  We don’t but we make up for it when we do meet.  We visited family, and aged aunt with Alzheimer’s (although we discovered she is only a few years older than us), cousins, nieces and a special blogging buddy in Oxford.

Sisters

Originally our plans were to both go to Florence, hut these plans were dashed when my sister had to have a series of tests after suffering what was thought could be a heart attack.  She wasn’t allowed to fly so I went on my own.

I felt rather shaky on the day I left London.  I was going off alone to a country where I knew nobody and didn’t speak the language.  But what a great time I had there.  I found my way around very easily and quickly felt at home in this wonderful city.  Paris is described a the City of Light but for me now Florence will always have that soubriquet.

I discovered all the wonderful buildings and artwork that I had read about so many times in the past but I also discovered the back streets where lesser known wonders were housed.  I discovered the joys/benefits of living in an apartment in a suburb as opposed to living in a five-star hotel in the centre of town.  And there is a certain freedom in being somewhere where one is not known and one knows no-one.

I have waxed on and on about the wonders of this now my favourite city in earlier posts and so wont bore you here, but if you have missed them or if you are a new reader of this blog please click here to read of my adventures.

Il Duomo

Click the photo to read some of the posts on my visit to Florence

After almost three weeks the call of family and home was becoming stronger and so I left Florence and went back to London to decide on the next leg of this journey/adventure/experience.  The decision was made that I should return home and resume normal life albeit slightly differently because now my partner and I have decided we want to spend the rest of our lives together.  So another chapter in this long and colourful life is beginning.

Wellington city and harbour.

Wellington City and harbour. Via Wikipedia

Changes to the airline ticket have been made and I am now going home on Saturday 2 November – that’s only “four more sleeps” and I am getting excited about seeing family and friends again. Oh I shall miss my sister,the interaction, laughs,stories and jokes but it is time for normal service to be resumed.

China Southern Airlines

Because of the mix up on the way to London the airline has upgraded me to First Class travel home.  I another reason to be looking forward to Saturday.  I am looking forward to it.

So I will be off-line for a few days, but watch this space.

“Is it possible for home to be a person and
not a place?”
Stephanie Perkins,  American author

Florence Days 14 and 15

“it is a serious thing just to be alive
on this fresh morning in this broken world.”
Mary Oliver American poet 1935 -

Day 14

Today was the day for Sienna (note the Italians spell this place Siena).  The train duly arrived and left on time.  Quite a change from the last abortive effort of going to Sienna.

On the train I met a delightful American couple from Stockton, California.  Talking with them made what could have been an uninteresting train ride through uninteresting countryside, interesting.  They were both retired, he a statistician and she a school teacher.  It’s great to talk and share with people  you meet while on vacation.  They had been the victims of a pick pocket on the railway station at Rome and so he had lost his wallet and his phone..We joked that now she had him in her power; she had the money and the access to the rest of the world.  At the end of the journey we went our separate ways having exchanged names addresses and phone numbers in case we ever found ourselves near to each others homes in the future.  Stranger things have happened in  my life.View from the stationThe train from Firenze arrives at the station in Siena on a level well down the hillside and to get to the exit we had to climb about ten sets of escalators and travelators.  I thought we would never get there.

Then my guide book had told me which buses I could get into the centre of the town but not which direction.  So I approached a woman getting out of her car.  “Scusi Senora.  Parla Inglesa?” to which she replied “Yes I do”.  So she pointed me to the nearest bus stop and told me which bus to get on.

At the bus stop I met a couple from Sydney, Australia ho were at the end of an 8 week holiday.  The bus duly arrived and we got on it and were taken to the centre.  After a few more scusis to different people I found my way to the square.

The Square

Il Campi 1

Il Campo, the square, spreads out in front of the Gothic Town Hall with a fountain at its tip. As it was Sunday the crowds were everywhere, talking in a variety of languages, laughing, eating and having fun.  A group of young people were playing a game the rules of which seemed to be known only to them, shrieking and laughing and really enjoying themselves.  All around Il Campo are restaurants with outside seating, souvenir shops and also specialty shops.

Diners around the square

Panforte shop

One of the delicacies particular to Siena is Panforte* and I discovered a little shop selling this sweet among other Tuscan delights.  I asked for a piccolo piece and the kind lady sliced me off a sliver and refused payment;  I walked out with my foil wrapped sweet which I ate as I wandered the streets of this quaint town.  Of course, I went back and bought this larger piece.

Panforte

I decided that I didn’t want to visit any museums and so just strolled around people watching and enjoying myself.

Pizza for lunch

Pizza for lunch and

Lunch finished!

Lunch finished!

Another late lunch found me having a huge pizza at one of the outdoor cafes ringing the square –Quatro Stagioni (Four Seaons) Pomodoro formaggio, jambon cuit, champignons, artichaut e olives (or cheese, ham, tomatoes mushrooms, artichokes and olives).  I am really no great lover of pizza but when in Rome etc.  It was enormous and I managed to eat only half.  My grandsons would have been sorely tried with a pizza this size.

Harvest Festival

I saw a display of locally grown vegetables and fruits – I think it was a group of local growers.  This display attracted a lot of interest.

Museo Civico

Museo Civico

Apparently this building is considered one of the most beautiful in Tuscany.

Then it was time to head back to the station but on the way I passed the Post Office.

Post Offce Siena

This time at the bus stop I encountered a man with his wife and her friend and husband.   The man was German and they all live in Canada but he and his wife have a house in the hills locally.  As they spend a considerable amount of time here he was able to tell me which bus to get to the station , having first shown me how to purchase the bus ticket from the machine. He then kept us entertained with his laughter and story telling not only until the bus came but also all te way to the station.

I arrived back with plenty of time to catch the train back to Florence.  And what a surprise when my American friends came into the carriage.  So we spent the return journey learning more about each others lives.

And at last, the train pulled into the station in Florence, we said our goodbyes again and went off they to their hotel in Florence and me to the apartment.  Another long (10 hours) day and so once I arrived home I had a shower, a banana and a cup of tea and after a short Skype call to New Zealand I called it a day and took myself off to bed..

Notes:
*Panforte is a traditional Italian dessert containing fruits and nuts, and resembles fruitcake It may date back to 13th century in Siena.

2. According to my guide book and my friend in New Zealand Siena is famous for its horse race.  This takes place twice a year and lasts just 90 seconds,  This race around the square has been held since the 13th century.  Originally it took the form of a bareback race the length of the city but from the 17th century it has been run around the square.

Day 15

Rain on leaves

I awoke this morning to the sound of heavy rain and thunder and lightning, so it made the decision of what to do today very simple.  I would stay inside.  This is one of the benefits of being in an apartment rather than a hotel.  One can lounge around all day if one wants.

The downside of the bad weather was that the internet, never the most reliable here in Florence, was down for a part of the day.  So the Skype call was not very successful and writing my blog had to be put off in favour of reading.  Oh dear – how sad is that.

Lunch today was made of things already in the apartment, served and eaten on the coffee table as I was reading.

French brie, cracker, banana and apple,

French Brie, cracker, banana and apple

The rain did let up in the middle of the afternoon and I thought I should take myself out for a breath of fresh air and a wander around the neighbourhood.

Local Pet Supermarket

I just had to go to take some photos -I’ve never seen such a large pet shop

Pets accessories

This is about one-third of the wall with toys for pets

Florence Day 15 008

A large cage with bright colourful birds

Sexy shop

Wasn’t game to go and see what they sold in this shop

Dinner - salad, eggs, and smoked salmon

Dinner – salad, eggs, and smoked salmon

And I just love the Brie made in France.  It is so much better than the Brie made in NZ.  I have been eating it all day, with crackers for breakfast, with fruit for lunch and with coffee after dinner.

Brie Made in France

And as Marcel Proust said:
“My destination is no longer a place,
rather a new way of seeing.”

I am most definitely discovering a new way of seeing – beautiful objects, buildings and art, and lovely interesting people.

 

Florence Days 10 and 11

“Oh to be in Florence now that October’s here”
With apologies to Robert Browning
(Home Thoughts From Abroad)

Michelangelo

I have had without any doubt, the most magical day here in Florence.  It started as usual, call from NZ, tepid shower followed by macchiato and brioche at my favourite local pasticerria, I had no real plans for the day so I jumped on a bus and went into town.  I walked through the station and checked out trains to Sienna.  They leave at ten minutes past the hour every hour.  So then I checked out how to buy a ticket from the automatic machines and so I am all set for when I decide to go there.

Then ambling out of the station I saw a big red double-decker City Sightseeing bus.  For just 20 Euros you can have a day sightseeing, jumping on and off as many times as you like.  This seemed like a good idea and so I bought a ticket and hopped on.  There is a constant commentary about the tour giving you advice on which stops to get off to see particular attractions.

Piazza Michelangelo

I stayed on until we reached Piazzale Michelangelo.  I was totally amazed/blown away/awe-struck at the sight that confronted me.  Spread out before me was Florence and from this high vantage point it all looked like Lilliput but clearly defined, and with the Tuscan countryside spreading out behind it like a theatrical backdrop.

Il DuomoDistant viewPonte Vechio from Piazza MichelangeloFlorence3

Of course I took scads of photos to bore everyone with when I eventually get home; but oh, it was a truly wondrous sight.

Lunch

Lunch today was taken at a table overlooking the Duomo and all of Florence.  I ordered a Pizza e funghi (mushroom pizza) e acqua frizzante (sparkling water).  And as I sat in the sunshine looking at that view I experienced one of those rare moments of pure joy, knowing I was exactly where I was meant to be at that particular moment in time. My pizza and water tasted like manna from heaven  because of that.

Lunch

Signora enjoying wine and nibbles in the sunshine

Sitting there in the sunshine soaking up the sights of this most magical city and the sounds of the many different tongues, it wouldn’t be too fanciful to say that I was drunk with life without ever having had a glass of wine.

Road to the Forte

After a time I tore myself away from this place that will from now on be my favourite place in Florence and got on the bus.  But this was not the tourist bus but a regular one.  I got off at the stop for Forte Belvedere.  There was a sign to walk to the Forte so I set off.  This led me down a narrow street lined on each side with large houses protected behind high gates.  The road was hardly wide enough for a car to pass me without hitting me.  So I walked and walked in the hot sunshine but nobody told me that the Forte was closed while they dismantled an exhibition.  “L’Anima e la Materia/Soul and Matter” is the largest exhibition ever organised in Italy for the Chinese artist Zhang Huan. The exhibition closed on the 13 October.  So I walked on and found the Bardini Mansion and Gardens.

Florence Day 10 064

Villa Bardini Gardens

Villa Bardini Gardens

View from the terrace Villa Bardini

View from the terrace Villa Bardini

There as an exhibition “The Renaissance from Florence to Paris and back” described as “Treasures of the Jacuemart-Andre Museum return home.  The treasures were housed in three rooms of this palatial  villa and included works by Botticelli, Donatello, Mantegna and Paolo Uccello.  How lucky was I to be here in Florence at this time.  The exhibition closes at the end of the year.

Monopoly Italian style

Monopoly Italian style

When I peeped into another room I saw this game of Monopoly all set up and ready to go.

From there I wandered into the Barboli Gardens but I must say that after the splendours of the Bardini, the gardens left me feeling rather flat.  And then the battery ran out in the camera.  I had forgotten to recharge it the night before.  So no more pictures today.

I left the Gardens and hopped onto yet another bus.  I must say that I am getting very confident about bus travel here in Florence.  When I got off the bus I saw that the sightseeing bus was pulling to a stop and as I hadn’t gone all the way around I thought I would jump on it.   And this was a bonus.  I hadn’t realised that there were three different routes the buses took and I was on the one that went through Florence and up to the little hillside village of Fiesole.

Fiesle ampitheatre

via Wikipedia

This charming little village overlooking Florence predates Florence by some eight centuries; it was an Etruscan city well before the Romans colonised the city. In the 19th century it was a favourite haunt of many Upper Class English people including the poets Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

We stopped only for 15 minutes so no time to inspect the Roman Ampitheatre or the Cathedral which we are told, has its own dome.  Really will try to get back there again before I leave.

And so once again being deposited at the station, I found my weary way back to the apartment at the end of a lovely day – one that will stay with me for many years I am sure.

And apologies, I was so tired after being out for 8 hours that I typed half this blog, fell asleep and had to finish it today.

____________

Day 11

After all the excitement of yesterday I decided to have a quiet day today.

My day started with a long Skype conversation – don’t you just love Skype and then I had my usual tepid shower.

I gave up battling with the darned washing machine.  I don’t know how that woman made it work but I can’t, so the washing was done by hand and is drying on a drying stand.

I can’t resist going into the centre of town and so I did so and wandered around the streets that are becoming so familiar to me now.  I did some people watching and listening to.  How fascinating when one really can’t understand what is being said, but often from the inflections and the hand movements one can make a pretty good guess.

Not so many people queuing to get into the Dome

Not so many people queuing to get into the Dome of the Duomo

Something that I became aware of early in my stay was the attention paid to window displays and the interior of some shops

Beautifully dressed window

inside shop

Shop interior

By this time it was around 3 pm so lunch was called for.  I found a little restaurant in one of the streets leading from the Piazza Duomo called Buca Niccolini.  Here I ordered Gnocchi ai quartro formaggi (gnocchi with four cheeses)  The gnocchi which my hostess assured me was “Fatta en cassa” or homemade, was fabulous.

Gnocchi ith four cheeses

I left the restaurant t0 make my way to the stazzione when I saw this

Bride and groomSuch a beautiful young couple with their whole lives in front of them.  I wished them “Una vita felice e auguri” a happy life and best wishes even though it was not said out loud.

So that rounded off another day in this wonderful city.

“In the end, only three things matter:
how much you loved,
how gently you lived,
and how gracefully you let go
of things not meant for you.”
-Buddha

Florence Day 9

Workmen have left

I awoke this morning to the sounds of silence from the street.  The workmen have gone.  All that remains are the barricades to stop people driving on the newly laid tarmacadam.

So after the call from NZ and shower I was ready to begin another day in this most fabulous city.  After my usual breakfast I took the bus into town, but again I had jumped on the wrong bus.  I realised this shortly after I got on but with my new-found confidence, I got off  and found my way to connect to the correct bus.

A different bus stop

View from the new bus stop

For several days now I have been going to the Ponte Vecchio but each day I have become waylaid by all the wonders around me.  Today was to be the day, but first I wandered around the streets again

More door knobs

More door knobs

Entrance bells

Entrance bells

Peep of anither spire

Peep of another spire

More door knockers

More door knockers

until I found a little restaurant/bar in which to have lunch.

Spag bol Italian style!

Spag bol Italian style!

Then I decided to get real so I took a cab to the Ponte Vecchio.  The bridge is fascinating and was more crowded than any piazza in which I had already been in Florence.

River Arno from Ponte Vecchio

River Arno from Ponte Vecchio

Mask in shop window

Mask in shop window

A Display of masks inside the shop

A Display of masks inside the shop

Shops full of the real thing - bling

Shops on the bridge sell only gold and fine jewellery. The real bling

Houses along the River ArnoHouses along the River Arno

Houses on the Arno

More houses on the river bank

River Arno rom Ponte Vechio

River Arno from Ponte Vecchio

Vehicles drive through this arch

Vehicles drive through this arch

Plaque  on hotel wall

Plaque on hotel wall

Plaque

Plaque depicting Virgin and child

Side street at Ponte Vecchio

Interesting – side street leading where?

Busy crossing

Busy crossing

So many sights, so many people, so much activity, it is almost overwhelming.  But around every corner there is yet another wonder to behold.
As Mark Twain said
“The Creator made Italy from designs by Michaelangelo.”

And just for fun, this is how I feel after another busy day being a tourist in Florence

Tired panda

Sightseeing is so very tiring!