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30 August 2019

But its on from White Cliffs

I don’t know where I was but I do know where I am. Lots of time and K’s on, its now other daughters birthday. Happy Birthday Suzie from some lost souls in Yorketown. I won’t stir you about “Middle Age” face to face but I can do it here for the whole world to see but what does this make these silly old farts. Oh!, silly old farts.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY LOVE

We moved on from White Cliffs to Broken Hill. We’ve all spent too much time here in the past but had not actually seen the “Mad Max II” ‘museum’ at Silverton. Robyn and I drove out for the purpose. Probably shouldn’t have bothered….

and this should save you the effort in future. In truth about the only thing of interest was the video of some of the stunt set-ups shown on a piss-ant crt TV over the doorway.

Took a few more photos around Silverton and Broken Hill cos they’re date stamped and prove we were here but you’ve seen them all before so I won’t bore you again.

From here the photo trail tells me we moved on to Peterborough. This was just in the way but we hadn’t previously seen the audio-visual show at the Steamtown railway museum so in we went this night. Now muggins forgot the camera so these shitty shots are telephoned in….

Now in fairness these shots do not do justice to the presentation – it is both good and interesting telling the story of rail through the history of Peterborough. Worth a look next time you are here, as is the Steamtown rail museum.

Also in Peterborough that we hadn’t seen before is the motor bike nuseum – quite a private collection…

Having achieved another “new” we moved on to another old friend  -Terowie. This is not new as Judi Dey might attest and we weren’t as lucky this time as the first. We had no guided tour. It is still an interesting little old town even though we had to guide ourselves ….

Terowie on to Burra. Burra is an old favourite having been here four times before. It continues to be of interest and, whilst here primarily for Robyns benefit, it continues to surprise and interest us.

But, it is late in the evening prior to our beautiful daughters birthday and I need to get to bed to call her early in the morning (just to piss her off) to wish her a HAPPY BIRTHDAY.

 

26 August 2019

On from Newcastle

The plan was to meet Robyn  at Cobar – the plan worked and no-one was more surprised than me. We actually met up within a couple of hours, even though we were delayed on the road with a blown rear tyre. I should have taken a photo of the tyre with its guts hanging out but I didn’t quite have the heart, particularly after changing it on the side of the road (on a slope). Boy, did it go BANG and I won’t disclose what Jude nearly did.

Bit of a task to get a new tyre in Cobar. Firstly had to find a tyre trader. Having done that then had to get a tyre. Came in next day (Saturday) from Dubbo but the tyre guy did the right thing and  fitted it straight away. Turned out he was the president of the local football club and advised that there was a concert on at the club on the Saturday night which was right next door to the caravan park. The park people put on a campfire and we sat out and listened to Shannon Noel (WOOOW!). At least it was a good drink.

Cobar is a copper and tin and gold mining town of some historical note. Still mining but now underground within the old open cut, returning to the original mining format but much deeper…..

 

My photo essay is not complete until a dunny is recorded- this one is in a baby nursing carriage in the mining museum and it has a beautifully restored station thats not in the mining museum.

A couple of nights in Cobar and then on to the first planned destination for this trip – White Cliffs. Now, this is the last of the opal mining towns that we had planned to see in our travels – no reason other than it was there to be visited. Can’t say it was a revelation-its just another grotty little mining town like all the other little opal mining towns but it and they all have a certain kind of character. This one has the first solar power plant in Aus….

but of neccessity, when so confronted, one has to take the dunny shot(s) first…

but this is different cos its sort of “hydro-electric” power – these dishes are mirrors which focus sunlight to a central cone which in turn has a water core thus boiling same and creating steam to turn a turbine to create the electricity. Wondrous and some 30 odd years old, but now out of service in favour of “the grid” which was connected to town about 20 years ago. It was just an experiment because White Cliffs is supposed to have more sunlight than anywhere else but at least it has been retained and maintained for tourists to gawk at.

We all went on a bus tour of White Cliffs. I thought $50.00 per head was a bit much believing we would cover it all in about 3 minutes, but 3 hours later we were returned to the caravan park much wiser and more familiar with the towns colourful history….

Like Coober Pedy people do live underground…

and, whilst this is a hotel, we were taken into a show piece residence but not permitted photos, so you can see it yourself at www.whitecliffsnsw.com  “whats inWhite Cliffs”, “Underground Living” – this place is quite a work of art.

In an opal town one is expected to mine for opals. We were directed to some slag heaps where, so we were told, there was a very good chance of finding opal that had been dumped out with the slag. It was bullshit of course.I guess the locals figure that eventually us fossickers will fill the holes again for them – I mean after all of half an hour I’d managed to dig a hole next to the old one by emptying the diggings down the old hole. I don’t know how anyone has the patience to do this day in/day out …..

There are a few other opal towns but they have no infrastructure warranting a visit so we have actually visited all the opal mining towns accessible to us.

 

 

7 August 2019

Happy Birthday Daughter

Next stop Carey Bay (Oh! alright, Newcastle) to bring best birthday greetings to our youngest, Calinda. Happy Birthday Kiddo ( I won’t embarass you here)

Good to see things happening with the house but it does seem a slow process and we can feel Lindy’s frustration. It seems no-one wants to do much work in Newcastle.

We continue with Winnebago problems, this time another apparent inverter failure, the one that was installed after a lightening strike only 2 1/2 years ago. No 24o volt which means no ‘free’ camping as we can’t run my CPAP or the TV’s or computers etc. We can plug into mains but the system tells us we have problems and keeps ringing alarm bells – bloody annoying. It means we are relegated to caravan parks for the duration.

Couple of days in Newcastle and then on to Cobar to meet up with sister Robyn and I guess this is when the tour begins. The plan is from Cobar to move on to White Cliffs which is the last of the opal mining towns for us to see then work our way down through Broken Hill and into SA and the wine regions thence on to the peninsulars.

Can’t seem to upload pictures at present and the map isn’t working but all of this is on report to the webmaster for rectification so hopefully will be fixed soon

 

24 July 2019

One Small Step…..

Four days commemorating what is probably one of the biggest achievements in human history – man’s walk on the Moon.

In Canberra, guests of Robert and Judi Dey we have spent these four days (18 – 21 July) remembering, celebrating and recording the Australian involvement in the Moon landing as well as the event and all leading up to it. Robert worked at Honesuckle Creek tracking station, although from a period just after the landing but was directly involved in the tracking of all subsequent flights. It has been a great priveledge to be a participant in this memorable event.

We have seen movies not yet released, plaques unveiled, listened to first hand experiences of some involved, met Australias own and only astronaut Dr Andy Thomas plus others from NASA talking about the future of space flight and met many others directly involved with the original moon landing. It has been an altogether delightful, entertaining and enlightening experience.

 

 

1 September 2018

Romin’ about stilll

Monday. Coloseum tour day. Met Valentino our tour guide after a bit of confusion and spent the next 2 1/2 hours or so romin in the glomin.

This is an incredible place, given that it is 2000 years old, was abandoned in the 5th century, stripped of its decorations and its marble in the centuries following, was partially restored as a church in the 18th century (to which few Christians came because of its infamous history). The fact that it is so obviously still here is testament to the building capabilties of the ancient Romans despite the fact that much of the iron that was used to staple the building blocks together has been removed. See the holes in the walls…

Our tour guide Valentino was a character. Whilst speaking English she had a strong Italian accent which made her a little hard to understand at times but her strong desire to marry Russell Crowe was always easily understood. Even kept flashing his photo as the gladiator. We have been told via the tour bus commentaries that the Coloseum was opened in 40 AD with 100 days of games scheduled  to accommodate the unruly masses and distract them from their dissatisfaction with the ruling classes (free entry too whatsmore) and that in this period 5000 animals and 2000 gladiators met their end. Our tour guide disputed this saying that gladiators and animals were too expensive to lose and any loss of life was purely accidental. Who really knows the truth….

Valentino is in the red slacks with Monique and 7 foot son Dave to the left and rear with moi on the far left and Jude hoggin’ the limelight. Good job Valentino, you certainly know your stuff.

The floor of the  stadium was timber, covered in sand. Underneath were catacombs with elevators and trapdoors in the floor to facilitate the sudden emergence of actors or animals or other unwilling participants. Even at one stage the floor was flooded to accommodate boats to re-enact sea battles….

It remains an awsome edifice….

Then it was on to the Palatine Hills. This spot is said to have been the place where Romulus initiated Rome. In years following many Kings then Emporers chose this hill on which to build their palaces, many ruins ofwhich still exist….

some of which overlook Circus Maximus where the chariot racing took place. A bit like having an apartment on Queens Parade at the time of the Australian F1GP.

Footsore, overloaded with information and sweating like gladiators we called it a day and headed back to the hotel. Caught the peak hour rush – more footsore and sweating more like a team of gladiators we made it back for dinner.

So glad we did the guided bit – missed the 2 1/2 hour queue. Discovered though that having to remove my watch for the security scan at the coloseum and placing it in our carry-all, it didn’t make it back to the hotel with us. No-one got a good deal – it was a cheapy that had been playing up and had a cracked crystal.

Tuesday. Guided tour of Vatican City. Meet tour guide Massimo at 9.45am, jump the queue (which wasn’t all that long at this time) and join the other 32,000 daily visitors to this place. I think they were all in there before we arrived. It was packed. Fortunately after a lot of standing around we were issued with an audio pack so our guide could communicate with us. 4 1/2 hours later we were spat out the other end. Our guide spoke English but also with a very strong Italian accent and the audio equipment left a lot of words hanging so the commentary was a bit hard to follow, but I think we got the gist of it. Vatican City is over the top, demonstrably rich. 10 million visitors a year at at least 17 Euro each must help. The place houses some incredible artifacts and we didn’t actually get into the Vatican Museums – we went through one or two but didn’t stop. What we’re allowed to photograph is just some of the collected works and building features…

The Sistine Chapel is a no photo area – its also a no talkie area but the guards use loud speakers to tell you to “be quiet”. Its another model of hypocrisy, and we didn’t think much of the scupltors paintings either. Macabre, grotesque, hypocritical. But you have to see it to form your own opinion – we can’t show you pictures.

On to St Peters Basilica purportedly the largest in Italy if not the world. Yes, it is massive, it is grotesque and its over the top. It is ridiculous yet a magnificent engineering/architectural/artistic tour de force…

to give some perspective the letters over the top of the chancel are 6 feet high.

Then we got spat out into the the piazza where we at least got togawk at one  of the Swiss Guards…

then look back at Vatican City from a poor believers perspective….

What can one say!!

Next two days are catching some of Romes landmarks like the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain  the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore (purportedly the second biggest after St Peters) and  The Catacombs of San Sebastiano…

the latter a burial ground for initially pagans but then Christians and said to house the graves of 100,000 people of the 1st and 2nd centuries

Here endeth the sermon. We’re going home tomorrow and Jude says I can’t write this in Benalla – well I probably can’t write proper any where any way but youse a got what I gives ya.

31 August 2018

Roma (cont.)

Or maybe just starting.

By the time we dropped the car at the airport, worked out the trains and got back to the hotel, Saturday, our first day in Rome, was pretty much over. Besides, we needed a rest so the balance of the day was spent planning the uncommitted parts of the rest of the week.

Sunday, hop a train about a 10 minute walk from the hotel, into the city train terminus (Termini) in about 35 minutes for just $2.40 each each way, then on a BigBus for a 10  stop tour of the cities highlights (48 hours for $62.40 each hop on hop off). We stayed on to sus out what was what with a plan then to eventully hop off at each of those things which attracted us. We had Colosseum/Palatino Hill and Vatican City tour tickets (jump the queue) booked for Monday and Tuesday respectively so it became a matter of priotorising the rest. Well there are a lot of things you see on the bus tour but it actually only stops at a few of them but stops near enough that you can walk to several from the one stop. Put another way, there might be only 10 stops but there are a lot more things to see. We eventually walked and walked and walked.

Rome is an odd city. It is a mixture of old and very old. Old is renaissance,very old is Roman, as far back as 750BC. The very old is mostly ruins such as the colisseum dating back to 40BC. Some ruins are purported to be older but most we saw all seemed to be around 100 – 200BC. Rome is said to have been founded on the Palitino Hill by Romulus in around 750 BC – thats Romulus of Romulus and Remus, brothers said to have been raised by a ‘she wolf’ when abandoned to die by their uncle who wanted no usurpers to the crown (more common belief these days is that the ‘she-wolf’ was in fact a prostitute – I prefer that version) But the brothers fought and Remus died around the time of their attempts to establish Rome as a new city. You gotta love this family fellowship because the next few hundred years are full of acts of patricide, infanticide, matricide and sibling killings all for the sake of a few hills and ultimately the largest Empire the world has known. The tour guides/bus commentaries tell us that the Roman Empire lasted several 100 years until its demise in 476AD (not sure how they can be so specific although they didn’t attempt to give us the month and day) but we’re told its demise was attributable to its size, corruption or even Christianity. Nobody actually writ this so where cometh the Bible?.

Anyway there are great stories to be told and I’m guessing lots of heated debate over the facts of the matter. Nevertheless Rome is a fascinating and beguiling piece of human history. On a more positive note, it is the cleanest of the cities we’ve been to in Italy although the outer suburbs, where we’re staying, are not. There are still beggars everywhere and floggers of everything from battery chargers to hats to cold water to wooden platters at every attraction. Then there are the bloody tourists – they’re in front of everything with their f…ing selfie sticks, thousands of them. You cannot get a decent unencumbered photo for love nor money, but I tried from the height of various buses…

Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore (back side – see later entry)

guess what

no, wrong, it is a theatre built a bit later than the colisseum (Teartro Marcello)

the current seat of Government (I think) built in the 1800’s on top of old churches

the Castel Sant Angelo where popes hide out

just an interesting 1800’s building in the Piazza Della Repubblica

the ancient city walls from around 150AD

the courts and central law and order centre built around 1850 and referred to as an ugly child

the front of the current government buildings and below, several ancient ruins

the last two being a view of the Palatino Hill and the historic mansions thereon overlooking the Circus Maximus where chariot racing took place back in the Roman days.

Monday, repeat the trip, meet tour guide to do Colisseum and Palatino Hill. So pleased we got a guide – the queue was 2 1/2 hours long. 4 1/2 hours later with no waiting in queue and a lot of walking we’ve got a fabulous potted history of all that surrounds us..

Its taking ages to upload photos through the interwebby thingy and I’m tired so explanations of all the above will have to wait until the next instalment.

 

30 August 2018

Roma

The trip back up to Roma was pretty uneventful. I missed the first turn Narelle directed me to and by default she found a better way which as it turned out was a wider road, had fewer twists and turns and relatively little traffic. Then on approach to Napoli we hit the Autostrada and stayed on it for lots of k’s at 130kph – it was almost a thrill. Our overnight stop on the way to Rome was at Monte San Giovani Campano which I’m sure means a lot to everyone but it was just a convenient dot on the map that had a hotel we could afford. What a place it turned out to be….

and we were the only guests in the place. Dinner and breakfast were a bit (BIT?) limited but it served its purpose and boy did it have a fabulous outlook…

albiet a little misty.

We were in Rome at our hotel by 10.30 Saturday, dropped the baggage and took the car to Romes Leonardi Da Vinci airport to hand it back in. I was never so happy to be car-less. As most of you will know I’ve/we’ve driven Volvos for most of our lives, we’re on our fifth at home but I could not get comfortable or secure in this V40 diesel. It was a major disappointment. The only thing going for it was its economy – average about 6l/100km over nearly 3300 km. I also have to admit at this time that of the 3 different cars we’ve had over this trip the VW Golf was the best to drive. Mind you it was the best of a bad lot. The Nissan Versa we had in the states had electric steering with about 3 inches of play at dead centre so it just upped and wandered at every bump in the road and the Golf didn’t have cruise control and the accelerator pedal angle was all wrong for my foot so I’d get out at the end of  each trip with a crook ankle. The ergonomics of the Volvo were just all wrong…

And we are tired. 3 months on the road has taken its toll. Living out of a suitcase was never going to be easy but we thought we could still do it. Driving on 3 continents (well including one little island), particularly the two on the wrong side of the car and the wrong side of the road has personally been more stressful than I previously recall, although that may be influenced by 4 weeks on the road in Italy.

I think our next trips OS will be of shorter duration and a bit more locale specific. Whilst it was absolutely fantastic to catch up with Gary and Linda Michael in Phoenix and Justin, Jane and Edith in London, we probably should have left it at that. Throwing in the east coast of the US then Scotland and most of Italy has really proven to be a bit much.

We’re in Rome for a week and both of us can’t stop counting down the days until we get on that big jet-plane home. This is greatly influencing our daily activities here. Mind you, so is the heat – it is still in the 30’s and uncomfortable with it. We’re about 15 km east of  Rome city with a rail line relatively close, so access is good. The rail network/service is terrific but the airconditioning and all the sweaty bodies are a bit of a distraction. We’ll survive till next Saturday. We’ve got some tours booked so we will get to see most of the usual tourist hot spots of Rome.

29 August 2018

Amalfi

About a thousand years ago Kelvin Whitford said to me “Europe is much better than Asia” I think mainly cos I’d spent more time in Asia than he had. But in time I think he might have been right. Europe has been more interesting although in different ways. A few centuries later he told me “there are three great drives in the world today, they being the Great Ocean Road, the Santa Barbara Coast and the Amalfi Coast”. At the time I was about to venture up the Santa Barbara Coast in the US. Been there dun dat! so the Amalfi was to be the last of  the three. Our first taste of the Amalfi was frightening – we had come out of Napoli via the Autostrada (toll road) thinking it was the safest way to travel only to find that it ‘don’t go alla da way’. In fact it only got us the first 30 or so Km. From the end of the Autostrada we managed this rearward view of Napoli though….

but the next 70 or so to Amalfi were through mountain passes that would have been tight for donkeys. Oh God I was scared and I now know why Italians are so religeous. I thought our earlier experiences were bad but!!! To cap it off Narelle couldn’t find our hotel and we found ourselves doing U turns in traffic that was bumper to bumper, door handle to door handle with buses and scooters crammed in between and then entering a piazza that was forbidden to traffic. Finally a phone call to  the hotel got us rescued, our baggage carted off and our car taken away, to where we knew not! However the hotelier put in a request to the authorities to refrain from prosecuting us for entering the piazza – I still don’t know if that worked. The hotel was in fact off the piazza but there was no way you could practically drive to it – we nearly did though but we didn’t actually know that at the time. If you can picture a car sitting in a plaza with its nose up against a footpath restaurant with crowds of pedestrians milling around you are starting to get a feeling for our consternation….

The hotel was also up a million steps (well nearly)…

and yet its promo when I booked it advised that “self parking” was available. You can’t trust advertising can you?

So our first experience of the Amalfi Coast was anything but exciting or stimulating. In fact it was downright intimidating with police and military with big guns everywhere and traffic like you wouldn’t believe. Yes, the place was unusual with buildings clinging to mountainsides (well perhaps not that unusual for Italy but it was on the water) but how the hell do you get to really see it. Personally driving it is not an option – there is nowhere to stop and take a photo let alone take your eyes off the road long enough to admire the scenery so the answer we thought was… take a bus. We did, but let me assure you it was still nerve wracking.

This road is one you could feature on that TV program “The Worlds Most Dangerous Roads”. It was originally built by the Romans (talking first, second, third centuries here) but it was upgraded in Mussolinis time (1900’s) and is now wide enough for a car and a motorbike in most places. Trouble is it takes cars, bikes and buses all at once. The bus has a klaxon. It is used at every corner. There are mirrors on many corners but everybody ignores them. I couldn’t count how many times the bus stopped to let other traffic past in the opposite direction, let alone the back-up, forward, back-up movements to let other buses past, this usually up against a wall of parked cars or bikes…

The road hangs off the side of the cliffs…

and there are breathtaking drops off the sides…

but the landscape is spectacular with residences also hanging off the sides of precipices…

This being holiday season Amalfi like all of its sibling towns along the coast is bustling with sun-worshippers…

all renting their beach umbrella and spot on the beach.

For all of our trials and tribulations of getting here and finding our hotel our stay was memorable. The scenery, the drive (albiet by bus), the food was terrific and we’re pleased to have done it. It was worth while.

By default the drive out was nowhere near as horrendous as the drive in but that can wait to the next entry.

 

27 August 2018

Pompeii

We moved on from Napoli, just a few k down the road to Ercolano and this trip was perhaps the most challenging so far. Not only are the roads cobblestone and rough as guts the motor scooters are like bees to a honey pot and we’re that honey pot. On top of them, the cars are swerving all over the roads to avoid the motor bikes, usually in streets which are not wide enough for two bikes let alone two cars and the bastards park with their noses into the kerb or side of buildings with their arses sticking out and you have to move over to the wrong side of the road to get past. Then add stupid pedestrians to the mix and by the time we corrected Narelle with the phone and got to our hotel it was all I could do but take a big drink and we’ve only gone perhaps 20 km. I was a nervous wreck. I didn’t get the drink either.

But, we were too early to check in so figured we might as well use the time to go on the next few km to Pompeii. UGH!!!! It all worked out but I can tell you I was sitting higher in the seat!

Well we actually got to Pompeii about 12.00 and as it turned out there was a minimal queue. We left the car with its keys with Mr Shifty on the side of the road and traipsed up the hill to the entry to the site and joined the queue. It did only take a few minutes which is better than we’ve experienced elsewhere but then we sought the services of an English speaking guide who directed us to ‘wait over there’ whilst he drummed up some other suckers.

After 20 minutes he hadn’t so we just moved on. Fortunately just inside the entry we stumbled across another English speaking guide who had just one family with him so we were able to tag along for actually less money than the first guy wanted. And he was worth every euro.

This is a fascinating, awe inspiring piece of history. Founded around 6th or 7th century BC it is (or was) a masterpiece in town planning and living standards. What is particularly interesting is that it was a major trading center in its time. For a better history than I have space or talent for please consult Wikipedia – you will find it interesting.

The place is extensive, greater by far than we expected meaning we ran out of time to explore it all. Additionally the weather wasn’t kind to us with heavy rain coming in late afternoon but with our guide and then some free time we covered most of the recorded parts….

 

There are specific streets dedicated to residential, retail, commerce, industry and even brothels. The sign of an erect phallus is the sign of a brothel…

although this one is worn down a little with age (know the feeling). There’s even bars and food stalls..

and bakeries…  where they gound the wheat to make the flour. These are distributed throughout the city.

Pompeii was destroyed by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79AD. Apparently there was fair warning and a lot of people escaped but many died not as history tells us but as recent research has demonstrated through the application of extreme temperature ie up to about 250′ celcius. Ultimately Pompeii was inundated with volcanic ash and upon excavation many cavities created by cindered bodies have emerged. Apparently through an archeological dig in the 1800’s many such cavities were filled with plaster to create some of the moulds shown here…

Similarly so many artifacts survived as is evident behind these moulds and apparently ongoing excavation continues to find more of Pompeii’s history.

This place is intriguing – there is so much “civilisation” here it makes you wonder how we lurched into the dark ages following the demise of the Roman empire in 476.

Anyway, enough of the philosiphying its on to other important matters. We stayed this next two nights at Villa Signorini in Ercolano to which our budget will attest is a residence in decline. It clearly was a mansion of some significance once upon a time but it has definitely seen better days….

Because we could, on our second day here we took a walk (had booked two nights cos anticipated spending a full day at Pompeii but having got in early managed Pompeii on day one) and came across some dreadful streetscape…..

with a surprise in the middle…

the Palace of Bourbon, the summer residence of I think King Charles II and wife the sister of Napoleon Boneparte but what is now the University of Agriculture.The road runs through the middle of this palace and it is only the central facades that have so far been restored but we saw evidence of work in progress. This being more effort than we’ve seen anywhere to maintain/retain some of this incredible history.

There is graffiti everywhere throughout Italy, no less so here in the ancient city of  Herculaneum….

and it is all so mindless and unsightful. Is this just another sign of the decline of what was once a great nation.

There is so much history here – its a shame that it is so diminished by vandalism, poor maintenance and poor behaviour.

 

26 August 2018

Napoli

Naples to us foreigners. But the journey doesn’t start here. From Civitavecchia we drove only 60 or 70 k to Latina. This was just a transit stopover for reasons previously enunciated and well it should have been because we found little of interest in this township. One of the weekly chores is laundry. Latina was to be that laundry day – so, dial up laundromat/lavangerie and we find 6 or 7. First one non-existant, second one closed, third one a laundry service in a private residence, fourth one the same, fifth one some 15 km away and finally some 16km away we find the lucky recipient of our dirty linen. That done, another e-book read and its back to the hotel. Not the most salubrious of places but, oh well, its just a one night stand that saves me from reaching out and strangling some bikie (I’m not sure you can call people on Vespas bikies but what else can you call them – vegans, virgins, mobile garden gnomes, dunno).There was a bright light though – as we walked into the dining room a threesome caught the sound of our ‘Ingleise’ and responded with ‘Oh thank God, someone here speaks English’. With that we had a bit of a chat over dinner then retired to the bar to have a round table with Joyce, Frank and their son Jeff. The two were from Tampa Florida whilst the son came from I think Chicago. They were touring part of Italy to discover some of Franks heritage/lineage and Jeff was playing driver. At least he was used to driving on the wrong side of the road….

We had a great chat about our joint experiences and resolved to keep in touch. I hope we do.

Dirty lined aired we moved on to Napoli. Now, Naples was supposed to be another transit stop but I stuffed up and after the sat-nav (Narelle) finally found the hotel with a lot of help from Google maps and many roundabouts and unplanned tolls we found that we weren’t booked in for this night. Oh dear! Much Italian consternation, misunderstanding and hand gestures and it seemed possible we could in fact get in tonight but ‘you’ve already paid for tomorrow night’. OK, can we just add tonight to the overall bill – no you will have to pay for it in the morning. OKaaaay!!!! It all worked out in the end and in fact it was a quite pleasant stay. It meant then that we actually had a day to see Napoli…

We took a RedBus tour, visited the old fortress which goes back to 900 or so, saw a remarkable photo exhibition therein…

and took some amazing view shots myself….

but no self respecting photo essay of Napoli can be considered complete without a shot of Mt Vesuvius in the background…

We didn’t realise it was this close to Naples and indeed that Pompei was also so close, yet a relatively long way from the mountain, but more on that later.

Couldn’t avoid the haziness in all of these pics. It seemed to hang around every day, all day. We’ve struck this throughout the trip as I’m sure you’ve noticed in many photos. Don’t know why – maybe its the red mist descending over a declining nation, maybe its just summer and humidity.

I say ‘declining’ because everywhere we’ve been there are any number of derelict and abandoned factories, some of them really substantial as well as thousands of residential properties falling into ruin. Naples was no exception although on our bus tour it was pointed out that many of the older industrial areas were the subject of residential rejuvenation although it is difficult to see what one could do with this….

Naples is Italy’s third largest city coming after Milan and Rome. Its a bit over 3 million people and is quite a sizeable place. Like so much we’ve seen though the buildings all cling to the side of precipitous hills and it is hard to comprehend how they were in fact built way back when. Some of the larger buildings are architectural and engineering masterpieces.

And boy are we having fun in the sun…