Well here it is, the latest edition of an Aussie traveller. I will not succumb you to my many excuses as to why I havent written but needless to say I have travelled extensively. I suggest getting a cup of coffee or tea or better still a glass of wine (and have one for me) before you start reading, this could take a while. Better still read it in chapters so the boredom doesnt overwhelm you.
25-28 July, 2008
It has been ages since updating this website, since then I have been to Amsterdam on tour. The tour guide was hopeless but, hey, it was a cheap trip. I walked the sleazy streets of the Red Light district, the sights I saw were enough to fill the cavities of my sexually naive mind (and there were a lot of cavities to fill). I went on a boat trip along the canals giving us an overall view of the city. A trip to Amsterdam is not complete without going to a cheese and clog making factory. Well a factory consisted of a house where the cheese making room was attached complete with the staff wearing their traditional Dutch costumes. After being shuffled into the shop where prices were high (of course at this isolated place there is no competition) we were then walked across the yard to the clog making shop where we were shown the making of clogs. Another push and shove to the tourist buys. These people, a family affair, really do have a monopoly on the tourists that are bused in. I do resent this forced buying with no other choices in view.
Went on the Anne Frank's house, I felt it a moving experience stepping back in time to imagine what it was like being stuck up in that attic.
Of course there were cafes by the canals which my Brazilian friend Dani and I frequented.
8 August - 4 September
The next trip was to Edinburgh and the Fringe Festival. I went with my friend Terry and had a fantastic time. Edinburgh is one of my favourite places and the festival brings in a huge range of people that adds colour and excitement and a great party atmosphere. We saw many comedy acts that were quite often in some basement or back room of an old pub or bar. They were scattered all over Edinburgh and half the fun was trying to find these venues. After Terry went back to London I stayed on and did a tour of Roslyn Chapel and Hadrian's Wall. Both great places to see and I love history.
From Scotland I went to Barcelona to meet up with relatives from home, Sam, Anna, Lena and Frank. Although I had visited Barcelona in 1976 (OMG!!) I didn't have strong memories of it so I was glad to visit it once again. We went and saw the Black Madonna, this statue made of wood and found in a cave now sits in a monastery that is perched high on a hill, the view was great. We went onto Madrid to meet our tour group and caught up with our friends Tony and Maria. The seven of us had a great time. The Spanish tour consisted of only 24 people so there was plenty of room to spread out on the bus.
The tour covered Fatima and Lisbon in Portugal, Segovia, Seville, Torremolinos, Granada, Toledo and Madrid in Spain and Tangier in Morocco.
Fatima was spiritually moving. To see the tree where Our Lady appeared to the children gave me a special feeling. The square has 2 churches, one at each end. The older church on the hill contains the bodies of the children. Apparently the brother and sister died while still young from illness, their cousin Lucia became a nun and died in her 70's.
Seville was another highlight for me. It is a lovely place, we passed a university that used to be a tobacco factory where the legendary Carmen (from the Opera) worked at. As Ferdi and Gillea know that meant something to me. We also went to a dinner where we were entertained by Flamenco dancers and musicians. I thoroughly enjoyed this and found it hard to restrain myself from getting on stage and joining in.
Tangier was exciting a mix of spicy odours, raw simplicity and beauty. Morocco is a time warp. Again we were railroaded into a rug shop and spice shop with the sales staff yapping at our heels with eager assistance encouraging us to buy. Needless to say I succumbed to the rug people and the rugs now wait at Sydney customs while we dispute their release to me.
Granada has a mystical attachment for me that I could not explain. I have since read Washington Irving's book "Tales of the Alhambra" (thanks Anna) and this book was set entirely around the Alhambra Palace filled with mythical and legendary stories told by the locals during the 1800's.
A quick day trip to Gibraltar was more than enough, now I can say I have been there. It is owned by the British but felt very Spanish. Then after 2 weeks it was back to Madrid to part with the tour and move onto Paris with our small group of 7.
Paris the city of love, not necessarily so when you're on your own but the atmosphere was great. The food is fantastic, the men (and women) are elegant and so good looking. Just to feel a part of the Parisian fashion, I went to a hairdresser and had my hair cut. My Parisian hairdresser did a good job and I hope to go back before I return to Australia. Went to see Moulin Rouge, very entertaining the costumes were great, even those with only half a costume were great.
Parting with my relatives and friends was hard, it was a reality check as I went back to London on my own. These Aussie bonds keep pulling me home but I am resisting at the moment.
11 - 15 September
After spending some time in London at the generous hospitality of my friend, Terry, I took off to the west coast of Ireland. Oh my gosh, how beautiful and wild is this part of the world. I loved every moment of it. I started off in Galway, a quaint town with a vibrant atmosphere. The next day was a trip to the Burren and Kylemore Abbey. I loved its simplicity and serenity, the breathtaking mountains and green, green grass The Emerald Isle. The day after that was a tour to the Cliffs of Moher. I had pre-arranged with the bus to be left at Doolin and be picked up the next day. An adventure I was looking forward to. Consequently although Doolin was lovely it was very quiet whereas Lisdoonvarna (5 kms away) was exciting because of its music festival. Originally it was a matchmaking festival from centuries gone by (I just had to go!!). After being able to hitch with 2 Irish couples in a taxi (a ride that was full of laughs), I ended in Lisdoonvarna at 5.00pm with no hotel booking, but by God's good grace I was able to find somewhere to stay.
Lisdoonvarna, oh what fond memories, what fun. The town was teaming with all mix of people and I enjoyed conversations with some of them, it even got me a free meal. The next morning I took a long walk around the outskirts of this small town and happened across a farmer who was strolling through his paddock. We got talking for quite a while and as I looked around I thought this is exactly what I imagined Ireland to be like.
I headed back to Doolin to meet my bus with plenty of time to walk around Doolin and down to the rugged coast line, this meets up with the Cliffs of Moher. What exhilaration looking out to the wild sea with the wind whipping around me. This is what life is about, natural beauty and I felt so lucky to be able to experience all that I have.
I was sorry to leave Ireland and would love to come back here and discover more.
15 September 15 October
Back to Rome I went to meet my sister, Ileana, and her husband Tony. I was looking forward to meeting them both and we had a great time together. For Tony it was the first time in Italy whereas Ileana and I went in 1976 (a time long, long ago).
The usual sights in Rome had to be seen (once again), I have now been to Rome so often I think I could become a tour guide.
From Rome we went to Perugia and Assisi both stunning places and quite cold. We then headed up to Modena for two days, our family friend Walter was gracious and always very generous with his hospitality. He drove us to the Ferrari factory, being Sunday it was closed but visits are very limited to the point of rare. Walter has his own workshop and works on Ferraris on occasions, many years ago he was able to get Alf and other friends through the factory but today this is a very rare event, Ferrari have clamped down on casual visitors. Walter left us at the Ferrari Museum and came back later to pick us up for lunch with his family. Tony was really keen to see the museum and Ileana and I enjoyed it also.
From Modena we went to Padua where I lived for a few months 4 years ago, I always like visiting Padua. Then we went on to Trieste to visit relatives and Eddy, our cousin, kindly drove us around. We caught up with cousins and aunts, this has become my second home.
I left Ileana and Tony there and travelled across Italy by train to Nice, France. A long trip but I quite enjoy train travel. There I met up with my dear friends Kevin and Shirley and their son Patrick. The weather was hot and the atmosphere very touristy even though it wasnt peak season. Over the next few days we used Nice as our base and drove to St. Tropez, Monaco, Grasse, Cannes. All lovely places but we werent at any long enough to get a feel for the place or look around too much, it was a good preview for when I retire on the French Riviera amidst huge boats and expensive fashion.
We flew from Nice to Naples and were driven to Positano, Italy. An awesome part of the Amalfi coast that I had visited before. The next day we went to Capri to see the Blue Grotto, after paying 11 euro for the boat trip to the cave we then had to transfer to small row boats to enter the cave. At 10 euro a pop it was a complete rip off. We did go into the cave and the water was absolutely beautiful but other than that there isnt much to see and we were there for only a few minutes. The row boat mafia had a monopoly there. The view from the top of the Isle of Capri is stunning, but everywhere on the Amalfi coast is stunning. The next day we went to the town of Amalfi . The Italians are proud of their country and are keen to show off the scenery or drive you out of the way to see something extraordinary. After all this tripping we needed a day of rest by the pool. It was very sad to leave the Ryans at Rome airport, I really enjoyed spending time with them.
I stayed in Rome for three days to meet my sister, Ileana, and Tony before they left for Australia. We had so many laughs together while travelling in Italy I really didnt want them to go.
16th October 1st November
Back to London and to Terrys invitation to stay with her. I spent the next couple of weeks organizing my things to be shipped back to Australia as I intended to come home early January. I also spent some time up the north of England in Alnmouth, Leeds and York.
Alnmouth was another one of those experiences that just filled my soul with appreciation of nature. A cute, quiet little spot that I stumbled across and checked into the local B&B that was also a pub Red Lion Inn. One of the best, most comfortable rooms I have slept in with a bedroom that could fit a whole family, all at a reasonable rate.
The next day I took the bus to Alnwick Castle which was the backdrop for a lot of movies like Elizabeth, Harry Potter and many others. I spent the whole day there and around the town. The following day I took the train to Leeds that a lot of people claimed was a beautiful town. It was nice but I cant say I loved it, although they do have a gorgeous shopping arcade. Stayed only one night and moved onto York which I preferred.
2nd 30th November
This whole month I was booked into Dante Aligheri School to polish up on my Italian.
It was not a good start to my time in Italy that would be the last place I visited before returning home. I arrived at Rome airport early on Sunday morning and had to wait until 9.00 that evening before I could get my bus to Castelraimondo where the language school is. Thought I could deal with this, I would sit and write an update, email all my friends, read a book etc. I pulled out my laptop and realized it had been in sleep mode all night and there was very little battery life left. As I was frantically searching for the electrical cable I received a very well timed message on my phone from my friend Terry, You left your computer cable in London. Great I had the whole day ahead of me to twiddle thumbs. For the first two weeks of my course I had no computer to use, although Terry sent me the cable it never arrived. So I had to buy another one.
My time in Castelraimondo is full of lovely memories, it may not of helped my Italian much but met some lovely people and got to know the Le Marche region of Italy quite well. Part of the language course was cultural studies and I enjoyed that immensely, we visited Camerino, Gubbio, Monti Sibillini, Norcia, Tolentino, of course Florence and, once again, Rome. In our groups of our nationality we had to make a poster and cook something. Our small group of 3 Aussies cooked a Hungarian goulash which isnt traditionally Aussie but we adopted the lonely Austrian man and compromised - we one first price.
29th November to 12th December
Sadly had to leave Castelraimondo and I decided to visit Arezzo on my way to Trieste to visit relatives. I havent come across any place in Italy that I cant say is nice. Arezzo is lovely with medieval traits still in tact, the movie Life is Beautiful was filmed here.
From Arezzo I did a day trip to Pisa and Lucca, a lot to wrap into one day. Just when I thought I was getting over my fear of heights along came the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I felt I could handle this but gravity directs you as you are walking up the stairs and it is not in a straight line. Once I reached the top I quickly took photos to prove Ive been there but stood well away from the side leaning towards the ground. Fear overtook me at this stage.
I spent a week in Trieste staying with my 86 year old aunt and feasting on my relatives generous hospitality, most probably for the last time. I do plan to stay put once I get back to Australia.
I am now on a train enjoying the view over beautiful valleys and mountains covered in snow as I head to Vienna for 2 days to meet with a friend. From there I will go to London as I have been offered work. Consequently I will not be back until the end of February and I am really, really looking forward to catching up with everyone. And believe it or not, staying home in Australia.
I wish each and everyone of you a very, very Merry Christmas and a great New Year, I dont expect to write again before I come back
but you never know.