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Our Baltic adventures.
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Diary Entries

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Location: Norma to Palermo, Italy

13.5.16
From Tivoli we went by various trains and buses to Norma, a bit of a sweat. Norma is high above the Ligurian plain, up on the clouds we went up and up, round a score of hairpin bends in a bus. Evidently there used to be a Roman town there called Norba. The museum receptionist/curator told us all about it most enthusiastically at great length on Italian. Unfortunately our Italian extends to Dove el autobus? posso pagare? Voglio Una pizza etc etc so it was all rather lost on us. But it was an excellent museum, beautifully laid out and clearly much loved. The best bit for us was the basement section with rooms full of enormous ancient storage urns.
We arrived in Naples yesterday early evening to find the entrance to the metro line we wanted closed. Lots of police Lurking about. Why? We never found out, but it made our journey rather complicated.
The flat where we are staying is in an old five storey house on Via Toledo, part of the old town. Our flat is on the fifth floor- but luckily there is a quirky 3 passenger lift which looks like its made of chicken wire and only works of you put a 10 cent coin in the metre inside the lift. A bit like a wind up musical box. But it gets us there. Must ensure we never run out of 10 cent pieces!
On the fifth floor there is a peripheral black and white diamond-tiled balcony decorated with plants, geraniums, yuccas etc., running round the central stair well abyss. Off the balcony are aged, heavy doors various, one of which is ours. We have a bedroom and bathroom in the flat and there is a shared kitchen and communal sitting room and big balcony in the sun. Today we walked to the Orto Botanico to get the feel of the place. Lovely garden with magnificent old trees. Then down to Piazza Garibaldi through the part of the city where poorer people live. It is very dirty and full of rubbish, cars and of course people. Very lively but feels quite stressful and edgy. The posher areas are swept and kept clean.
14.5.16
Today we went to Pompeii, underground to Piazza Garibaldi main station then Circumvesuviana train. We had to wait some time for this and as we waited the platform filled up and filled up with tourists like us. By the time the very short train arrived it was a sardines situation. Sometimes however it's good to be old with wrinkles and grey hair.... A kind and rather dishy young man got up and gave me his seat. Fantastic! Poor Ken had no such luck.
The ride took about 40 mins, stopping at many stations so later Ken too could sit. Pompeii was totally amazing. So much of it, so much excavation, so many beautiful villas, gardens and theatres etc. the best for me were the house of Julia Felice with its lovely garden and reclining dining marble benches surrounded by frescos of the Nile and the Villa dei Misteri with its mysterious frescos. The lives of the people who lived so long ago still seem so real.
When we got back to Naples we visited the Santa Chiara monastery which has a cloister covered in frescos of Old Testament stories in beautiful colours and a central garden tiled with majolica. Qubtrastauite gorgeous. Lucky for those nuns/monks!
17.5.16
On our last day iaples it was raining off and on so we decided not to take a trip to an island and went first to visit the Duomo and its luxurious treasury of St Gennaro. He whose blood is held in a phial and brought out three times a year. It then liquefies, usually. If it doesn't a disaster is at hand.....hmmmmm. After that we went to the marvellous Museo Di Arte Contemporaneo. A beautiful building with an extraordinary collection including many big names: Anish Kapoor, Joseph Beuys, Jeff Koons, Richard Long etc etc... But very few women artists represented. Great film by Francis Alys of 2 kids in Kabul rolling/unrolling film reels round the city.
The next day, yesterday we came to Ravello via boat across Naples Bay to Sorrento, then bus to Amalfi and then another up to Ravello. It was worth it. It's high up above the sea with roads and vine terraces spiralling around the hill contours. Evidently Michael Escher fell in love here- with his future wife and with the place. Some drawings to prove it. Many other famous names came here: Garbo and Stokowski, Andre Gide, Gore Vidal, Tennessee Williams, Vita Sackville-West. The latter came to help design the utterly wonderful garden at Villa Cimbrone. A place of vistas, avenues, statues, roses, lavender, umbrella pines, urns overflowing with plants - a piece of heaven.
21.5.16
Here we are in Palermo. From Ravello we bussed back down to Amalfi then took a boat to Salerno. Luckily the railway station is very near to the tourist port so we found our train to Reggio Calabria there. It was a gourmet hour journey through the rest of Southern Italy. Reggio Calabria is ostensibly pretty run down with streets full of rubbish and someone homeless sleeping on a mattress on the pavement as we walked by. We have not seen many homeless people, surprisingly. I thought there would be a greater refugee presence.
The hotel right down by the port was fine and the hotel receptionist directed us to a great restaurant La veranda villegianna which had delicious antipasti marinara and linguine con vongole. The next day we took a ferry to Messina, just 35 minutes, and then a bus to Palermo 2hours 39 mins. The bus went through a hundred tunnels, past jagged green clad hills. Our hotel room looks over the Orto Botanico through a canopy of Jacaranda trees in bloom. The first day here we went to the Orto. It is lovely, full of great old trees, ( ficus macro phyla columnaris, Washingtonia robusta, jacaranda) water features, hot houses. In the palm house there was a great exhibition by 100 artists celebrating Pam trees.
The next day we walked around and round. Saw beautiful and not so beautiful churches. Sat in a lovely small garden at St Giuseppe del eremites and did a pic.
Today went to Monreale on the bus. Amazing cathedral with glittering mosaics. Lovely cloister. Later visited Teatro Massimo and did guided tour but it was a a bit of a let down after the Viennese Opera. Needs tlc. There was a 24 hour Beatles music play going on in the main foyer. Hideously amplified!
Later still went to Museo de marionette. Full of great puppets. Very sad, chilling Classe morte of children by Tadeusz Kantor.
I do like Palermo, it's such an intense mixture of medieval lanes of house, winding around in very up straight lines, baroque faced churches, shining marble pavements, piazzas with palm- filled gardens and avenues lined with purple-flowered jacaranda trees (pavements also covered in fallen purple flowers) So easy to get lost as we discovered.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Location: Tivoli, Italy

My favourite places in Milan were the gardens beyond the Castello and the walk alongside the canal from Porta Genova Metro to the piazza near our hotel, La Vignetta. We did not manage to get into the Galeria Poldi-Polzoni as it was closed on Tuesdays. Milan is big and busy of course with cars, motor bikes and tourists. The metro is v efficient and useful and full of people on their phones, as is the metro everywhere.
On the bus from Geneva to Milan we stopped at the Swiss- French border for passport control. A black ?African showed a sheaf of papers to the policewoman/Douane. She took them away, along with many other peoples passports ( not ours). She returned all the others after a short while, but not the African's. She came to him and told him to get his baggage and come with her. He did so without demur. He did not come back on the bus. 
We were born with a lucky card. What it must be to be born with a different hand, which means travel, money and many things are always in doubt and up for confiscation, Do Not Pass Go, Go to Jail, Do not pick up £200.
By the Milanese canal were many black men behind displays of sunglasses, handbags, belts etc spread out on cardboard packing cases. The Guardian today says 28% of Italians are below the poverty line. The Italian courts, after 3 trials came to the conclusion that a hungry man who stole sausage and cheese from a supermarket had not committed a crime.
The Genoese harbour is full of very upmarket posh yachts.
6 May
In Genoa the best thing was the Castello Alberis, the one time residence of a sea adventurer, Captain Alberto Alberis. It reminded me of Cragside, an idiosyncratic late Victorian castle/mansion built on the foundations of a older house on a mountainside, full of treasures from seafaring travels. The Captain was more adventurous than Armstrong. There were photos of him and the indigenous peoples he met in nearly every corner of the globe, particularly women. Marvellous photos of women in every kind of dress from starchy European grand dames and nuns to skinny smiling Arabs in la Terra Santa and beautiful Africans in the Sudan. We sat and sketched in the garden.
Cinque terra Manorola is very beautiful, hanging on to the cliffs. Terracotta , yellow ochre, orange, red , umber painted house rising in drifts from the green-blue sea which sparkles continually in the sun. The sea sky interface is so blue, endlessly blue.
But it's full of tourists.
We eventually found our apartment after losing our way and losing our folder of tickets and addresses in the tourist info place. It's hanging onto a balcony path which leads to nowhere but a view of the sea and the tiny railway station with toy trains coming and going to Genoa and La Spezia.
Lunchtime called us so we went to find a trattoria, and what a trattoria we found.... LaTrattoria del Billy. Higher up by the church, St Lorenzo there was a sign. So we followed it and came to the multilevel restaurant with utterly delicious smells, full of people and lots of waiters. We waited our turn and drank good house red wine and ate bread soaked in olive oil till our crab tagliatelle arrived. We tangled with that. I rather unsuccessfully, then a whole sea bass between us. All delicious. 
8.5.16
Sitting now on Lucca station platform surrounded by admiring pigeons who think they must be onto a good breakfast, waiting for train to Siena via Florence. This time yesterday was in Manarola leaning on the balcony wall trying inadequately to sketch the flowers and verdure tumbling down the cliff side below to the intense green blue sea.- cineraria, aloes, yuccas. Wonderful, colourful Manarola with yellow and orange ochre-washed houses hanging over the sea. 
We took the train, or rather 3 trains to Lucca. All fine, no problems. Lucca is surrounded by ramparts very similar to those at Berwick, just like the Stanks. We walked along the top for a while and then through the town to Ostello San Frediano, an old monastery converted into a youth hostel with sumptuous marble floors and great vaulted ceilings...not like the YHA as we used to know it. Our room was ornamented with putti pictures.
Later we went to see the Palazzo Pfanner garden with its statues and lemon trees. The gorgeous scent of the lemon blossom pursued us everywhere. Total knockout. Then on to the Orto Botanico sheltering against the city walls. Lovely 'suggestive' pond (according to the blurb) with beautiful yellow irises, water lilies, terrapins and a Florida swamp tree with extraordinary lumpy roots projecting all round.
Meal in eve at small restaurant near hostel. Learnt that a tagliere is a selection of slices of something- in this case meat and cheese.
10.5.16
From flat Lucca to hilly Siena, what a change. Siena runs up and down cobbled streets and stairs, full of twists and turns which leave me wondering why I have come back to the same spot. But full of fascinating stuff: piazza del Campo where they have horse races twice a year, on cobbles, competitions between the members of the different contradine who divide the city into communes.; the Duomo with incredible floor inlaid with marble pictures and a Libreria room with beautiful illuminated music manuscripts and amazing murals.
But now we have come on 3 different trains to Tivoli, the town which has the Villa D'Este, a garden of fountains, statuary, roses, irises, ancient cypresses and pines. The scents are overwhelming. I could just lean on a balustrade there and look and breathe it in for hours. Luckily we went there first thing in the morning before the hordes of Japanese teenagers with selfie sticks, and French and Italian schoolchildren arrived in their shrieking groups. Grumpy old woman!
Then to Villa Adriana - Hadrian's villa or rather Hadrian's palace complex- 6 kilometres away in a bus. Vast acres of Roman temples, baths, villas, ambulatories, forums, stadiums and everything else that a Roman might need, all built in rust coloured terracotta brick, set around with a thousand aged olive trees with silver grey green leaves and tall tall Mediterranean pines and avenues of slender cypresses. Wonderfully we could walk on the very mosaic floors where Romans trod. I could feel myself floating along in white toga with purple trim.
Finally to Villa Gregoriana, not really a villa but a gorge with immense cascade from tunnels through the rock engineered in 19th century. There was an amazing rainbow effect by the cascade, but a lot of climbing up and down among lovely trees. At the end a very welcome Nastro Azzurro beero.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Location: Lubeck, Germany

I forgot the puppet museum in Lubeck. How could I? It's a treasure house for puppet fans. It houses a collection made by a photographer called Fritz Fey. He must have been a fanatic as the museum contains room after room of puppets from every quarter of the globe: India, China, Indonesia, Africa, Italy, France, Russia, Korea, Japan, as well as many from Germany itself. What ingenious ideas puppeteers have had to present their travelling shows. In one display we saw a kind of one man tent with a small stage at the top. The puppeteer stood in the tent with his head behind the curtain at the back of the stage, a selection of puppets round his belt which he manipulated on the little stage in front of his covered face. There were tiny puppets and then there were life size puppets, dressed in gorgeous clothes for performing in the courts of kings. And some videos of heavenly animations made with puppets. Wonderful stuff.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Location: Lubeck, Germany

We travelled from Gdansk to Lubeck by train on Monday. It was a long journey with a change at Szczecin , stopping at every small station. We left Gdansk at 9.10 and arrived at Lubeck at 8pm. Happily we had booked a place right by the station so were able to check in and then proceed to restaurant easily.
Lubeck I will remember mainly for our visits to the museums for Gunter Grass and Thomas Mann and a jazz session at the Funambules bar. The visits to the two museums were particularly good because a lovely woman talked to us and told us a mass of interesting information at both museums. We met her as a reception person at the Gunter Grass house and she realised that we were going to have difficulty with the material as there were no English translations - and we have very limited German. So she talked us through many of the exhibits in the first area, explaining about his art, his love of cooking, his love of dancing (particularly tango) his sculptures and the fact that he would stand on his head at every 5th birthday ( but he stopped after his 75th). She talked about his time as a teenager in the Waffen SS and how he was the first German author to write about the experience of the German people in WW2.
The next day when we went to Buddenbrooks Haus to see the Thomas Mann exhibition she was there again by chance. And so she explained to us the house and it's importance to Thomas Mann and to the writing of Buddenbrooks. How lucky we were to meet her.
In the evening we went to the Funambules bar and ate (lots of different smoked/salted fish and divine potatoes for me) and then waited till Jazz Akzente started. They were excellent, alto and tenor saxes, lead and bass guitar and drums.
Today we visited Rostock, another Hanseatic centre.
Tomorrow Hamburg and home to Newcastle. Incidentally I learned on the Hanseatic museum here that Berwick used to have a Hanseatic trading post. I'll have to find out where that might have been. I suspect the main export would be wool - more sheep than people in Northumberland they say...


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Recent Messages

From Jane
I think Appolon would make a fine ceramic mural for a garden corner in La Cagouille? or in Heaton! xx Happy next leg of your trip.
From Barbara
Love the pictures - the trees in Dubrovnik remind me of one of Ken's paintings.
See you both soon.
x
Response: Last day in Zagreb tomorrow....Be in touch soon
Marion x
From Barbara
Lake Skadar looks breathtaking - what a good choice.
Response: Montenegro is surrounded by wonderful mountains. Just the place for you two!
M x
From Susan
Romania sounds most beautiful. Lovely to see all those hand made textiles.
Response: We left Romania quite sadly yesterday, in the pouring rain. Now we're in Varna, our first taste of Bulgaria -very good so far.
M xx
From Barbara
This is so interesting. Your pix are marvellous. You are having an amazing trip - just longing for you to get back now! Seems to have been so long.
x
Response: Just got your other message. We're past our half way now - but still going east. the return journey's going to be a frantic rush from Bulgaria to Macedonia, to Albania to Montenegro to Croatia, to Bosnia, back to Croatia and then France - all within less than 2 weeks - bad planning!
Marion x
From Susan
Have been reading your blog regularly. Enjoyed the description of the hotel in Novi Sad!
Response: The hotel in Belgrade is interesting too!
M xx
From Jane
Hello Mama,

lovely to read your news and see photos of you and the cakes that are digesting in your tummys!

We had a lovely meal round at Claire and Peters' lots of love heading your way xxx
Response: Cakes digested nicely! Went to good jewish tango concert this eve. Off to Pecs tomorrow. Glad C and P are well. Just sent email re Xmas. Lots of love
Mum xxxx
From Susan
Glad you liked the Lodi gardens - it was Monisha who found them on our trip- led there by Rumer Godden. I'm feeling envious of you about to see the Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikhri ! If you have time a walk up the winding , streets in old Agra is very interesting.
Response: Wew didnt have much time in Agra, but went on exhausting journey to Darjeeling - which was a lovely place - very peaceful compared to the rest of places we have been to in India. Now we're Kolkata, staying at the Fairlawn Hotel - very quirky! Back to Uk on Sunday - can't quite believe it!
Speak to you soon
Love
M
From Jane Farmer
Hi Mum and ken,
Please check marion's hotmail for email about blurgh car insurance claim

Sorry happy campers : (
So much paperwork!!

jane x
Response: Definitely. Apollon for the kitchen sink space wd be great. X x
From Susan
Melbourne sounds a lovely place. Looking forward to the description of Shanghai.
Love
Susan and all of us
Response: First Shanghai entry just entered. Tell Raj a PC of Maglev on its way (also special present for hi birthday when we get back)
Love
M
From Barbara
A Japanese wanted his picture taken with Carrie at the Death Railway - he did not made the V sign!!!
Just think of the Big Market next time you meet the drunks - actually as well as being great gamblers, we found the Chinese are big drinkers too - maybe you'll go to a mahjong party or the races in Shanghai!
Your blog and pix are fantantic!
Snow has gone at last!
Response: Shanghai is a real shopping city - race course has been replaced by peoples Park. Peopleplay mahjong and card games in the park
It's so different from Oz!
Marion x
From pat
Hello! I'm so enjoying this virtual adventure with you.Think about you often. We've escaped the worst of snow here so far but not the bitingly cold icy winds from Siberia. Love and kisses, Pat.X
Response: Hope yiu aun't got frostbite - here it's the reverse of course - sunstroke! We're by the beach in a bungalow with some friends - then off to Uluru(Ayer's Rock) which will be scorching - 40degrees - hope I can cope. Love M x
From Jane
Hi Mum,
I'm back in snowy Surrey, and will try to get public transport to work tmrw, but not sure i'll manage it, lots of icy roads and snowy paths.
Feeling fine, but tired.
Going to have a look at your latest photos.

Love you both
Jane xx
Response: Glad you''ve got back OK. Any more news about Gerty or courtesy car?
Here it's v hot so a little snow is a nice thought! Look after yourself
Love you lots
Mum x
From Raj
Hullo. I'd like to go to Luna Park. I'd like to walk into it through the mouth.
Love
Raj
Response: Dear Raj
I thought you would like that picture. Did the PC arrive. Will send you a train picture from China.
Love
Aunt M and Uncle K x
From Jane
hi Mum and Ken,
So many lovely tale sand photos, thanks for sharing them

You look sooo brown on the photos, beware of the hole in the ozone, basking women!

See you on the 15th march 10.35am at heathrow xx
Response: Hi Jane
Taking care with the 30+ factor! Glad Gerty is going well for you and looking forward to seeing you at Heathrow. Here we are in the Blue Mountains - very blue because of the eucalyptus haze evidently. Lots more beautiful photos to come
Lots of love
Mum and Ken
From alice
Here's your fan palm, its called the travellers palm because it stores water in the leaf axels. Lovely to hear of hot sunny places and beautiful gardens. Looking forward to seeing more botanic pics!
Love alicexx

http://www.alohatropicals.com/store.cgi
Response: Thanks Alice, that's great - what a fine name for a beautiful tree. Have put more botanics on my photo pages. wonderful trees at the christchurch botanic garden.
Marion xx
From barbara
It sounds amazing. How far/long were the drives? I love the sound of the art deco town. (We are going to an art deco hotel off the Devon coast in May, courtesy of daughters.) For NZ small population it nevertheless seems very touristy in some places there - Rotorua - but still worth it. You managed pix without the people! Am getting nervous now - off to ski tomorrow! xx
Response: Have great ski time. Now in OZ in Sydney - time to chill out a little after hectic dash from place to place in NZ
Marion x
From David Gill
See you later.

LOL Dave
Response: We arrive i sydney on 10th at 8 am. Contact you then
Marion xx
From Susan
If you have any more photos of Sally and Jenny and families and Colin's daughter could you show them? M and I would like to see them.
Response: Afraid we were so involved with meeting everyone the first eve that we forgot about photos. But will email Jenny and ask if she can forward some photos.
Marion xx
From Jane
Hi M &K,
lots of love from chilly Surrey. It's been -4 some mornings as gerty revs up to take me to work. No ice on the lagoon by the looks of it? : )

Time is flitting by fast and I look forward to being home in newcastle lots. I hope to see you in March/April when you come back. Missing you and enjoying your adventures on the blog xx love Jane xx
Response: Good old Gerty , she's a trusty steed. No frost here, but quite a pleasant little breeze up on Arthur's Pass in the Southern Alps of NZ South Island. We're off for a walk to the Devil's Punchbowl Falls (sounds dramatic) and later to Christchurch. Oz tomorrow.
Love you lots
Mumxxx
From David Gill
Hello There Marion. This is my suggestion for those pines which I love. Araucaria heterophylla or Norfolk Island Pine. One or two are to be found in Valencia these days.
Get ready to live with one opposite your front door for a few days in the not too distant future! Enjoy the Whales.

LOL Dave
From John
Hey Marion & Ken what fantastic photos and blogos!! What novelty! what colour! Looking forward to seeing you soon Here in melbourne is beautiful- the whole of Oz is layed back, and lazy on holz... Sun fulsome and hot. See you soon John sarah & Eleanor
Response: Hey you TSFs - we're in South Island NZ, off albatross watching this pm. Looking forward to seeing you all soon in the Wonderful land of Oz.
Love to all
M & K x
From Pat
Happy New Year! It's lovely to be reading your fabulous journal-especially so on the grey days we seem to specialise in here.I'm sitting in front of a cosy fire with twinkly fairylights around me as the daylight fades.Now, shall I get my needlepoint or my knitting out?
Response: Lots of twinkly fairylights round here, but cosy fires - no. Knitting is something I'm missing - do a row for me! Marion x
From David Gill
Got nu dor,
enjoy New Zealand and try not to miss the Albatros Colony! I like the sound of the MC in the Highland Paradise, sounds like my twin brother apart from the nice bit!

LOL Dave
Response: What albatross colony?
From Janet Longbottom
Happy New Year to you both. Well, you didn't organise the usual New Year walk around Weardale so we had to do it ourselves! Judy, Willy, Helen, Ade and I went up to Lambley Viaduct, Haltwhistle, on a cold icy morning and power-walked for 6 miles. It was lovely with spottings of a goldcrest just a couple of metres away. We did stop for a motley collection of flapjacks, sandwiches and crisps but could have done with some Ken-and-Marion gourmet food at the end of it! Bit envious of your travels - love the blogs.
X Jan
Response: Happy New Year to you too. Sounds like a lovely walk. Just arrived in NZ and off for more exploring. Ken has recorded some great sounds and footage.
Love
Marion & Ken