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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.

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…

9 August 2018

VENICE

You’ll notice this one is capitalised. Its one thats always been high on the bucket list.

But, before we get to Venice we have another stop after Modena – Padua or Padova in the local patois. Well we didn’t quite get into Padova for the night, having booked a hotel relatively nearby which was affordable. As a side point we’ve tended to look mostly at 3 star hotels cos they are reasonably affordable and indeed in Italy they are, far more so than in the UK. A typical cost here so far has been under $100.00au per night whereas it was $150.00 in the UK. Here though so far the quality has been much higher than the UK albiet a little less interesting, that is until we got to Montegrotto Terme near Padova – WOW!….

but, it is still stinking hot and here the aircon was more than a little ineffective. This one was more expensive at $143.00 but it did include breakfast and we dined in the main dining room that night to a 4 course meal that was brilliant for just another $70.00 including drinks. She’s an old girl apparently having been built in the 1960’s to take advantage of the areas spa fad, as have 5 or 6 other major hotels but they’re all fraying around the edges. Even the peacock in the garden seemed to be fraying.

Anyway, on to Venice. Now I’d booked this online some weeks ago and the confirmation suggested that we should contact the venue at least 48 hours before arrival to arrange pick-up of keys. This is billed as an apartment not a hotel and is shown to be some 53 sq mtrs which all sounds very atrractive and huge by what we’ve become accustomed to, so we’re looking forward to swinging the cat. I ring the provided number 48 hours in advance to get ‘sorry, you have wrong number I give you nuther number to ring’. Ring the second number to get ‘ I call you back’. Second number does indeed ring back some hours later to say “I get my secretary to ring you’

Eventually secretary rings back with ‘I not know you can you send me booking details, boss is overseas and he has all the booking information with him’.I ring the booking agency, Hotels.com and hold while they try to ring the venue to no avail. Oh well call us again in the morning if nothing happens.In the meantime I text the booking details to “the secretary” who, next day, gets back with question ‘when you arrive?’ (Sorry,this is sounding like someone on twitterface). Anyhow, we eventually after many texts arrange to meet near the flat on the nominated day, only to be kept waitng for 3/4 hour and then whilst flat is still being cleaned asked to come back in 1/2 hour though not before taking 40 euro cleaning fee, 18 euro local tax and another 200 euro as a security deposit the latter being entirely unadvised.

By late afternoon we’re ensconced. The temperature is hovering around 38 and humidity about 90. At least the aircon worked..

and we were right on a canal…

After a bit of a rest we went out for dinner and boy was there some choice – Italian, Italian , Italian, Italian, Italian and I think that is about half of what was in the plaza around us –  the rest were Italian….

but, over our 3 nights we tried 3 and they were all good.

But, food is not what we’re here for. We’re here for VENICE!!! Firstly though I seriously underestimated the time needed – 3 nights and 2 days has not been near enough, exacerbated by the temperature. We were not physically able to take in all that Venice has to offer.. but here is a small sampling….

 

and this is just day one.

The cruise ships, the private yatchs, the canals  the alley ways, the Doges Palace, the shops selling dress ups for festival and did you notice the knockers on that one.

We used the waterbus (ferries) to get around but discovered we are not really world travellers cos we got fined for failing to register our ferry tickets. The fine is abut 70 euros each. Needless to say I had a few words to say to the 3 female ticket nazis when they tried to arrest us. How the hell were we supposed to know that two piecesof paper carried electronic info…

as it turns out when you tap these things on a card reader at the docks they ‘beep’ and you’re good. We showed them to the first ferry person when we got on and got a grunt so we thought OK we’re good.

Day two dawned hotter and not aided by lack of sleep cos of the constant waterway traffic overnight we headed out to see what more we could see…

(the cars are on Lido, one of the larger islands)

Venice is 100 plus islands, many of them mud flats. It dates back to 450 or thereabouts when the original Venetians ie those of Veneto on the mainland who sought to escape the invasion of the Visigoths, the northern hoards. Much of the infrastructure is still built on top of ‘adler’ timber poles…

as illustrated by this model in the Maritime Museum, which were sunk back then although somewhat expanded upon since. Apparently Venice is sinking but it also has to cope with rising water levels so perhaps we might not get another chance to see it.

I loved Venice, Judes not quite so sure. I would go back tomorrow, I think there is still so much more to  see and experience. It is a truly intriguing city albiet with a current population of less than 60k. Tourists add 20 million annually to that number so it is a seething mass, certainly at this time of year. To go back I think October, November would be better

 

 

 

 

 

30 July 2018

Hello Earth

If anyone out there is trying to contact us, via the blog may be the only way for the time being.

We can’t email out and the quality of wi-fi on our first night in Italy is …. well, not good but the blog seems to be working.

8 July 2018

London

I thought we’d left 100′ behind. Its more here but of course its measured differently – its only 34′ – 35′ (I think). We were so glad Justin met us at the airport and helped with the luggage. By the time we trained to Woolwich, walked to their apartment and up 64 stairs we were f., um , hot.

But, so good to see Jane and Edith with Justin at home in London. And, what a surprise their home base of Royal Woolwich Arsenal is. Personally I love it. I doubt we could actually live in it but the way the old buildings have been re-purposed is fantastic….

Then its right on the Thames…

and you can either catch the ferry or the train into town. We caught the ferry. It’s far more interesting. I think this was day 2. Justin and Jane had sort of mapped out an activity plan and this meant that we had lots to see and do. Without trying to put it all in sequence we saw…

the Tate Modern and a lot of scenery around it.

I think this actually might have been day 3 cos day 2 was the Golden Hind and the GMT museum ( I think)…

 which makes you think about ‘the figurehead was a nude in bed….’

the steel frame

the captains ‘head’, then us across the line leading to the worlds early timekeeping devices

Truly fascinating history. I guess todays computer technology is the next phase of technological development but it is really good to see some technological history which doesn’t rely on 01 (I’m sure you know what I mean).

Of course the Greewich Meridian is the basis of latitudinal and longitutinal measurement as well as the worlds base time measurement but it does only go back to the 1800’s when the world of commerce demanded some standard of measurement for the world.

Our littlest granddaughter is a delightful 3 year old – she put up with us with an absolute minimum of fuss ….

and clearly enjoyed our outings.

St Pauls is a protected vista – no buildings are allowed to obscure its visage but when you get to it it is absolutely hemmed in. Nor were we allowed to take photos inside which is a great pity because it is fabulous

The gate is one of the original or early city gates that has been relocated to the Paternoster Square

 and is of itself an intertesting piece of history. Paternoster Square is now where the London Stock Exchange resides..

Now we’re tired – its been a busy few days and I’m fairly sure Jane and Justin and Edith are tired of entertaining us so we will move on.

The more we see of London the greater its fascination, the more interesting its history and the more there is yet to see. We’re booked in for a Palace of Westminster tour and  a Prom at Albert Hall on our return at the end of the month. More of London then.

Its now on to Scotland via lots of other places…..

28 June 2018

Orlando

We only had 3 days in Daytona Beach but it was more than enough. We really can’t see what the attraction is but moving on to Orlando its attraction becomes  obvious – THEME PARKS!!!!  Disney, Disney, Disney, Disney and then there’s Universal and Kennedy Space Centre plus many more smaller iterations. Disney is everywhere and all roads lead to Disney and occasionally Universal…

Disney has four theme parks (I think) one of which is Epcot which is supposed to be the future themed park. Frankly it was a bit of an overpriced let down, but more on that later.

The reason we were here in the first place is as a “prize” in an online competition which had as a stinger the obligation to attend a “time share” sales presentation. Our accommodation was paid for in Daytona Beach for 3 nights, Orlando for 7 nights and then 2 nights on the Grand Celebration cruise ship to take in Freeport in the Bahamas coming out of West Palm Beach. We also had a car provided for the duration of our stay so it seemed that the couple of hours listening to their sales prattle was a small price to pay. We’ve had a very interesting and enjoyable experience for really what has amounted to little cost, however, food and drinks were still to our account and none of that is cheap here. The ship experience was great – food was all included and it was absolutely the best we’ve had since we’ve been this side of the country.

Anyway, getting ahead of myself. The first couple of days were consumed with housekeeping, attending sales pitches, finding our way around (on the wrong side of the road and car) and I forgot to mention when we  picked up the car at Orlando Airport we left in pelting rain through which I couldn’t see the road and we were in bumper to bumper traffic at 50 (mph that is). Shit, that was scary and it persisted most of the way to Daytona Beach  1 1/2 hours away . OK so back to Orlando …. this is a big city but it seems to be full of resorts, time shares, hotels, condos and all sorts of accommodation. It’s also home to every conceivable fast food joint you could imagine and more than you would possibly know and all of it crap – we know, we tried some of it. On our second last night we did however find an Italian restaurant, albiet one in a chain, that was good. It was made even better by the waiter who was a real comedian…

and where I had the best steak since we left the Michaels. The waiter gave us a heap of good jokes most of which I can’t now remember but it was a most pleasant dinner.

Well we’re in theme park city so what do we do – well follow the masses of course. Look up the web – tickets to Disney 3 days and about $340 each. Hell, we don’t want 3 days and 4 theme parks and trains and trams between them and since I won’t go on the big scary rides it seems a bit of overkill to go to Fantasy Land. Bad luck mate thats what we’ve got. OK so what about the Kennedy Space Centre. Hey, looking good. Only about $80aus each for a six hour guided tour. So book it. Done. Now the only way you can get in is with a printed ticket and guess what – I didn’t bring a printer!!! Now you smartarses are gunna say – ‘download it to your phone’. They’re quite specific on that front too – NO! – printed ticket only. So I email the front desk and ultimately they’re kind enough to download and print our tickets. Down I go to collect and on return to the room is a second email from the ticket issuer telling me they’ve made a mistake and here’s the real ticket. Prevail upon the front desk again to print, which they happily did, so, all set, the next day we head out to the Space Centre. We join the queue, they eventually get to us and not only do they want our printed ticket but our ID and passports and we have to go through security inspection. They finally take our carefully prepared printed ticket and give us what – a f……. ticket!!!

However, the formalities over, the day turned out to be exceptional. This is a fascinating piece of American history and endeavour (perhaps we should call a space shuttle that) Some photo overview…..

at the entrance, a field of experience, a Saturn 9 rocket, launch frame before it gets moved to site, the same launch frame from the base, the rocket assembly building and the control centre for the Apollo 9 (I think that was the number) Moon Landing.

This is where the main camera battery ran out so all photos hereafter on this day are of slightly lesser quality…..

‘Us, the bus used until recently to ferry the astronauts to the rocket for the last 30 years or so, how do astronauts ‘go’, space shuttle ‘Endeavour’, shuttle booster rockets, stage 1 of Apollo rocket, moon vehicle, stage 2 of Apollo rocket, engines of same, size comparison illustration, launch pads 39A from which most of the shuttle launches have taken place and 39B where SpaceX is now launching from and from where recently Elon Musk put one of his Teslas into low earth orbit, the bottom of the launch tower under which the crawler is placed to take the tower and rocket out to the launch pad some  3.5 miles  away’. The crawler takes about 8 hours to travel the 3.5 miles and consumes fuel at the rate of 1 gallon per yard.

This was an enlightening day and there is lots more yet between Orlando, Freeport, Miami and Key Lago but I must end now as we’re needing a nights sleep before heading back to Orlando for our shuttle to the UK tomorrow.

 

Goodnight John- Boy!

 

21 June 2018

M’Orlins

The WWII museum is brilliant, but you’d have to believe that the Yanks won the war by themselves. Whilst there are a few passing references to other participants (Allies) the focus is definitely on what America did. It is a HUGE musem spread over several buildings….

and whilst I only captured a bit of the outside its when you get inside that you can appreciate the scale…

yeah I know it’s very ‘plane’ but these are just hanging from the ceiling everywhere. This is really a big kids bedroom. The entire museum follows this pattern – its big in every way….

but all of the various displays of individual theatres of both the war in Europe and Pacific are so fragmented it is impossible to get a photographic overview. Suffice to say they are both telling and moving – there is no softness, the stories tell it like it was.

This museum is really worth a visit but you do need to devote at the very least a full day to it, possibly even more. Despite its Americacintricity I found it very moving.

I think this is Saturday and we’re off to the Whitney Plantation. I know it was a bloody early start as we had to meet the tour bus at another hotel further up the road at 8.00am. We were actually early and the concierge at the Hotel Modern, Geoff, took pity on us and invited us in for breakfast. He also booked us a bus tour for  Monday. Very accommodating and friendly. Anyway the bus finally arrived at 8.30am and we headed off to the plantation.

The Whitney Plantation is billed as a tour ‘from the slaves perspective’. The present owners aquired it a few years ago and have turned it into something of a shrine to the slave labour of its history. It is certainly interesting and somewhat enlightning. There are memorials set up to remember the 100,ooo or so slaves brought to Lousinia and seperate memorials to the slaves engaged on this plantation. Much of the infrastructure is original or has been replanted from elsewhere to represent the period of its early operation (mid 1800’s) and our guide took us through all of the history…

This was a sugar plantation and in its day all of the cropping and processing to refinement was done on site by slaves. They tell us the average life of a slave in the field was just 7 years and they were put to work by age 10. Horrendous. The domestic staff apparently fared much better though.

An interesting observation by our guide however was ‘America was built on the slave economy, that it owes its success and wealth to the slave labour of the past’.

There’s more to N’orlins yet. We’re presently in Orlando after several days in Daytona Beach where we had no connectivity so I’m trying hard to catch up. California wine is catching up with me right now but as a final point of interest Californian wine here is dearer than imported Australian. Hard to choose!

10 June 2018

Now I Can Draw

It’s taken a bit but I’ve taken a lot – pictures that is.

So without further ado, here is a pictorial journey so far……

and we’re heading for Mexico from Phoenix. We thought we had an exclusive on arid outback but this is eerily similar until you cross the border then its arid squalor…..

but out of the blue pops condos.

Wealthy Mexicans and southern  Americans flock here for their annual leave. The beaches and shopping are major attractions…….

and of course there’s the ATV’ing……

this could have been real fun but I was carrying an anchor (mind you, so was Gary).

Our time in Mexico was only a bare 4 days but we crammed in a bit…..

including some house hunting at La Cholla (believe it or not – million dollar properties) and getting “Wrecked at the REEF” – a drinking hole right on the beach (I wasn’t getting real wrecked at their prices). Its a whole different world.

At some point we shopped and bought bottles of wine for as little as $7.00 and it wasn’t real bad. I was so pleased to discover that Linda and Gary are both red drinkers – personally a great relief cos I thought I might have had to convert to spirits. Jude still stuck to water though.

Building codes don’t mean much in Mexico – if indeed there are any. Have a look at the chipboards walls backing onto seawater and the placement of aircon units on the thatch and the wiring hanging out into the street. The above photo of us is in front of a restaurant stuck up on sticks out in the water, behind the shop chipboard walls.

But its interesting and different and I’d go back to see more. We’re told the “cartels” run everything so you gotta be a bit careful where you set foot but none of this was evident.

OK so back to Phoenix on Friday arvo, a day at home and then off to Page. I must mention at this juncture that we have been due south of Phoenix to reach Rocky Point Mexico and we are now heading due north to Page and Lake Powell which collects water from the Colorado River before it travels the Grand Canyon. Linda has rented a house in Page for the couple of nights we are to be there. Good job too.

Well, north of Phoenix is desert too but some of it is spectacular….

and then we’re in Injun territory……

where all kinds of genuine made yesterday artifacts are on sale. We did succumb to a bit of ‘arm twisting’.

This is gettin’ a bit long for y’all ta take in so I’ll sign arf fa’ now and see y’agin tomorra.

28 May 2018

We’re off???

We’re at Tullamarine waiting for a plane…waiting for a plane….waiting for a plane……..

Oh – it’s gonna be late but only 40 minutes. Oh should arrive after our connecting flight to PHOENIX leaves LA. What are we to do – perhaps sleep on the floor at LAX? There are no people at qantas to talk to. Maybe that’s the price for flying economy – so much for customer service.

Anyway not much we can do but let the Michaels know when we get to LA that we won’t “make it home tonight”

Even our train from Benalla was late by 20minutes but we we had plenty of time up our sleeves  and managed to catch an Airport Bus straight away only, to get to the airport too early to check in and therefore could not meet the Dey’s on the other side before they flew out at 6.30. So for the last three and a half hours we’ve sat around scratching our……

Dont’ya luv travellin’?

At least we got free wi-fi

I’ll post more when I know more

26 June 2016

Moving On

Much valuable time has passed since the last entry hereupon. We’ve  had a more than memorable birthday bash for a seventy year old who shall remain nameless, been  motoring lots in Midget with the clubs (Goulburn National and Gippsland Tour), another 70th Birthday over the last weekend in Mornington (and I won’t publicly embarrass her will I Sue), packed up house and home and now find ourselves on the way to our new “job” in Bundaberg.

Along the way we stopped over in Newcastle with dear daughter and dined with Daryl and Yvonne, attended another surprise birthday function in Aratula (but only a youngsters 60th) and tomorrow we move on to later arrive in Bundy via lunch with the Robbos.

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(One very surprised Robyn also with sisters)

We are away for at least a year. I hope there will be plenty of interest to report. Right now I’m struggling to remember where the last 3 months have gone – its a blur. Perhaps that’s something to expect at a certain age, but I’m not sure, can’t remember. What!

I do remember the bloody cold in Benalla and Melbourne and all the places so far along our northward journey. Its’ been freezing. Just hope those temperatures reported for Bundy on every nightly news session are real – 24′ – 28′ – luverly!

On a retrospective note, thanks to Mike and Marg and Judi and Rob for all of their help over the long weekend – packing and placing into storage most of our worldly possessions. Job well done but with the most sincere hope that we don’t have to do it again.

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I do say “most” of our worldly possessions – we are taking a shit load with us still – have a look at the gypsy caravan.

We’ll call it a night now and with a bit of luck will find time over the next few weeks to report on our fist impressions of the new “JOB”. What we do know is that the park we are managing is now full so we’ll be hitting the ground running. Hope these old bods can handle the pace.