05 July, 2013


Today I allowed myself the rare pleasure of wandering around a beautiful city in the steps of a well loved fictional character – Commissario Guido Brunetti.  This affable though efficient detective is a figment of the imagination of an Italian author – Donna Leon.  She writes so convincingly of him and his family that after just a couple of books you feel as though you know him well enough to share him with someone of a like mind – or invite him and Paolo over for dinner!   

 So it was that two friends and I decided that on our next stop in Venice we would take ourselves to the Questura where Guido frequently looks out of the window of his office and we would see his view. 

We started in St Marks Square and after a brief fight against the tide of tourists, we left the square behind and headed for CHIESA DELLA PIETA.  The tall white columns of the Church of the Pieta is no longer used for religious worship, but rather for worship of another kind  - mostly fabulous concerts of Antonio Vivaldi’s enchanting melodies.  This church is often referred to by the locals as Vivaldi’s church in honour of the fame he brought to the city through the music he wrote for the orphaned girls whose musical education he oversaw. 

 Over the bridge and we turned left down the small Calle del Dose and truly started to feel like we were walking in Brunetti’s footsteps.  The small street, Calle, reminds one of an English “twittern” as it is just that, a tiny gap between the houses which allows one to pass deeper into the labyrinth that is Venice. 

As we had started out early there weren’t many people down this end of Venice yet and the streets were quiet and we had plenty of opportunity for taking nice photographs.   

 The after a short walk the Calle opened into the CAMPO BANDIERA e MORO.  This small square is a hidden gem.  Dominated by the restored 15th century building of deep brown brick with fabulous window boxes filled with flowers.  

The opposite side is the Church of Giovanni in Bragora with a beautiful scalloped white facade and pale bricks.  It was not open when we were there but I would have loved to have gone in and had a look about.    From the plaque on the wall it is proclaimed as another haunt of Vivaldi’s. 


Exiting the palazzo to the right of the hotel and we found ourselves in the suburban street of SALIZZADA SANT ANTONIO.  It actually felt quite odd to be walking down a street in Venice with supermarkets and hardware stores and school supplies.  

In fact it was so normal looking that we decided to stop for coffee at one of the typical side walk cafes – and we were served by its Indian owner.   The world it truly turning into and international village!  Coffee was great and so was the cake!  

Moving on towards the Ponto Greci we grew more enamoured with the area at every turn. 

We ambled along the Sant Antonio street, through  the Calle della Madonna and then out into the open and the  Ponto Greci – Bridge of Greci where there was a bar that Brunnetti like to frequent called "Ai Greci" but now goes but the unusual title of Greci Moka Efti Crazy Bar.  

                                                                                                                                                                                                         Here we made a slight mistake and took a left turn past the bar and down a very interesting street with a fabulous mask shop.                                                                            Feeling like we were going the wrong way I stopped and asked directions to San Lorenzo  and the Italian man I asked said “back to the Ponto Greci and turn left to find the Questuro”!  I think lots more Brunetti fans have than we had imagined have trodden these worn paving stones!!  
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             So back to the bridge we went and took the correct turn.                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          A short walk down the FONDEMENTA DI SAN LORENZO we passed a small newspaper stand where I gave into the urge to buy an “Il Gazzettino” which is the daily rag that Brunnetti likes to read.

Well pleased with my purchase we walked on a little further along the canal side and there was the QUESTURA where Bruntetti has an office and spends a fair amount of time gazing at the view from his office window.  This encompasses the gardens of an old peoples and an early Gothic Palazzo Zorzi-Liassidi (now an hotel) and yet another church.  

 (Right = a very happy Brunetti fan outside the Questura.  Whilst we were there making loads of noise and taking pictures, the voice box behind me came on and someone whilsteled!!  We got sucha fright that we moved on post haste.  )

From here we wandered the twists and turns of the small Calles that lead into fabulous squares, past numerous churches, along enchanting canals and we were completely captivated by Venice.  Forget the tourist Square, the Gondola rides and the glass shops.  This is the Venice to visit!!  



29 June, 2013

Cinque Terre - by boat

On the 4th of June I took a real nice boat tour of  the famous Italian CINQUE TERRE.  It was wonderful.  Calm sea and no breeze added to the enjoyment of seeing these amazing little villages from the ocean.  All 5 of the small medi-evil villages are built on almost impossibly high steep mountain sides.  As you come by boat from the east you are only able to see a few small houses of each village perch precariously on top of rocks.  This was apparently a form of defense against enemy attack when the area was under Genoese control back in 1600's.  Good ploy because you have to be almost inside the village before you notice how large it is - this must have won them many a battle back then.  

We left La Spezia and started out journey passing a huge mussel farm way out int he bay, but still within the harbour walls.  Quite interesting to watch the 'farmers' at work but I don't think that I would like to be involved in that.  

The first town that you pass is Porto Venere - stunning place that has its own whole posting, but I can just add that this is the home of Basil Pesto and the smell in the town is just too wonderful!!

Below is the first little mountain village that you pass.  Not necessarily a medi-evil village, but it gives you the idea that the small villages are built on steep sloes, without roads that access each individual home.  Rather there is a road at the top of the hill and you have to walk to each house - carry all that you require for daily living or new furniture etc.  Makes you think about what you purchase at the store when you have to lug it so far and so steep!!
 To the right is RIOMAGGIORE village and you truly can't see much of it unless you are up close.  The main street runs from the shore line / harbour straight up next to the river that gave the village fresh water.  On the right hand side is the church which was - and still is - the centre of village life.  
To the left is CORNIGLIA and the only village that is not accessible from the sea when you do the boat tour.  The little village has a small boat harbour so that the fishermen can go out and get a days catch, but you can't tie your ferry up there.  You can walk in easily from the hiking trail though.  

Below are 2 pictures of the 4th village VERNAZZA.  Very nice place but you get the idea that these people live in a stairwell. Everything is up or down.  No wonder they lived to a ripe old age, they were truly fit!!  This village also suffered an almost catastrophic flood in 2011 when the river flooded higher up the mountain and send tons of water gushing through the narrow streets washing just about everything away.   

 The last of the 5 villages is Monterroso and it is definitely the largest of the villages.  You can end your ferry tour here if you like and take a train back to La Spezia or like me, you can just take the boat back to the beginning and enjoy the view and the lone fisherman that you pass along the way.  

24 June, 2013

Milateus + Marcus Aurelius Bath house

This was my first visit to Milateus - think I have the spelling correct but it changes according to which language you are reading it in.  

This is a farily unvisited site about 75 minutes drive from Ephasus.  Very worth the visit though.  In summer you must watch out for scorpions and snakes , so ensure that you wear the correct shoes.  
This beautiful, well preserved and enormous amphiteatre was found after the little village siting on top of it was destroyed during an earthquake - late19th Centurary I think the guide said.  This led to the moving of the village and excavation work taking place.  During summer there is not much archealogy going on as the whole area is exceptionally hot. 

 Above shows the view from the middle of the centre ailse.
On the right is a view of the whole amphiteatre.

Below is a record of the second known workers stike - complete with names and demands.  Apparenlty the workers did not want to work in the heat of the day, asked for better food and more water!

The amphiteatre is very well divided with sections for wealthy patrons who supported the amphitheatre financially, then for individuals who bought their seats, a section for families with children - at the back so the kids didn't annoy anyone - and even a section for people who came from out of town for the games.  Very cool.  You can see letter carved n the marble indicating how all this is divided.  
Walking around the back of the amphitheatre you see the remnants of the town / city with a nice sqaure complete with fountain and lion and a temple and off to the left a magnificent Bath houser reputed to have been built by Marcus Aurelies for his wife.  According to our guide it boasts the first real example of private cubicles for massage that are seperate from the main hot and cold baths.  Very lovely to walk about and you can even see some of the original painting on the marble walls - awesome!!  Also loads of large lisards that live in the brick work and pop out now and again to try and scare you!!  
I think that I will have to look up and see if Marcus Aurelius was actually in this area although I have no reason to disbeieve the guide who is an acrcheologist himself.  
The other thing about this little place that I liked is a little "motel" that has been here since 1410 or so and still functions as a motel for travelors!!  Amazing.  Completely refurbished and now equiped with all mode cons, it does still hold to the original style and building matierials.  

section of the Motel wall showing the 'recycling' of building materials!

Ephasus again!

Once more I was privilaged enough to visit Ephasus.  I can see from my photographs that I have been coming here since 2008.  Nice that I have the opportunity to visit this amazing place so regulalry.

 Above  is a view of the University and Hospital where they trained dcotors.   

To the right is the sign now universally recognised as showing that there are medical and pharmacuetical services available.        One of the guides told me that when Cleopatra arrived she was told that she need to bathe and see the physician as everyone else entering the city had to - and they didn't care if she was a Queen or not!!              

Below is the script on top of the column at the library clearing showing the latin writing and noting cearar.

I was also very pleased to see that the custodians of Ephasus have taken more steps to stop all the tourists from ruining this site.  Have nice ropes erected everywhere and have special places that you can walk.  However, you can see the additional waer that hundresds of feet have made on the marble streets - little ridges have got bigger.  It is still really amamzing though and I love going here.  From the start I have had a very emotional reaction to this site.  Cried huge corcodile tears when I first entered in 2008 and everytime since then I seem to cry at some stage about something real small - this time it was in the area where they are preserving the sarcophogi.  

I am looking forwrad to returning again - perhaps when there are fewer people around in the winter months.  

24 May, 2013

Across the Atlantic

We started this transatlantic crossing in Galveston.  I am on the Disney Magic and we are re-locating to Barcelona so that we can spend the summer in the Med and enchant all our Disney fans with new and exciting places to see and visit.  For me it is just a relief to get out of Galveston.  i am sure that once the place was very nice but now all I can say is that it is VERY BORING!!.  Several times a week a cruise ship pulls in, unloads a lot of people and crew who are will to to spend some cash in the town and nothing is open.  Likewise there are plenty of people milling around waiting to board the cruise ships also wanting to spend some money but Galveston doesn't open until 11h00 by which time everyone has either fallen asleep or managed to wangle their way on board and it you start your cruise with a 'dead Galveston' you are not likely to try and spend any time, or money there when you disembark.  

For an itinerary of crossing we spent 2 days at sea and then a great day in Castaway Cay - Disney's own little paradise island in the Bahama's.  Fabulous place with crystal clear, warm sea to swim in and large soft white sand beaches to lounge on.  Great place and I have super memories and loads of pictures to help me remember this superb get away from it all place.  

Right now we are doing 6 consecutive sea days and then we have a day in Funchal, Madeira.  This is also a great place to visit and I am lucky enough to have a good friend there whom I shall be able to see.  The weather has been kind with yesterday having sea that were flat and calm.  The sunset was long and lingering and really pink and beautiful.  It sank gently down past the horizon and the sun's place was taken by a big bright full moon.  Shone directly through the middle of my porthole and as I lay there on my bunk and watched it I realised that this is truly a life with many things to be grateful for.   

04 March, 2013

Castaway Cay

There is this amazing place in the Bahamas called Castaway Cay - not its real name but a truly just pseudomyn.  When you go there you have to 'cast away' all the attributes of your daily life.  No mobile phones, tablets, computers or even ordinary telephones, no papers, no TV no radio.  Just you and the ocean and the sun shine and nature.  
Nothing quite like doing a whole lot of NOTHING under a golden sun with a warm azure sea to cleanse your body, mind and spirit.  Fabulous place and no, I am not going to give the location away................. :-)

23 January, 2013

Windy Port Canaveral

This morning we arrived in Port Canaveral at 06h00.  Great excitment amongst the guest and some of the crew onboard as they were all going by bus to Orlando to visit Disney World.  There were rows of special buses lined up in the dark parking lot waiting to whisk them off to 'neverland'.  After everyone had left and lots of the crew had taken advantage of a good shopping stop we were left with 46 guests and 560 crew members onboard.  Lots of time spent doing things that get put on the back burner when we are busier got done.  At 11o'clock it was my turn to go to Marriot island and have a look around. It was so cold and windy in Florida that I had to wear my nice cashmere coat and even then I missed my scarf!!  Edward was with me and we wandered about for a bit then went for coffee at Barnes and Noble.  Not the most adventurous day out but sometimes you just have to take time out to do a bit of reading!