Saturday, 31 August 2013

Robert's Torino

Whilst Robyn ran her heart on the hockey field, I explored Turin for two or three days. Turin was initially Italy's capital and home of the Monarch, King Ferdinand. Of the Savoy lineage this King brought French design influence. As a result Central Turin has beautiful buildings, palaces, promenades and palazzos. In later years the city industrialised and is home to Fiat. 

Turin is only an hour away from the alps bordering France.  So it was with some relief that I travelled to my B&B, Bella Baita to relax. I rented a mountain bike one day, walked another and on the third assisted my hosts in the setting up of a cooking class. I had thought the class would be slow cooking, instead it was all about slow food, that is food you grow yourself or procure only locally.  Below you can see Fabrizio (two photos) in his abundant garden. The third photo shows the B&B with house red and finally a nearby weekender.

I then made a side trip to Berlin and Heringsdorf. The latter being a Baltic Sea resort town originally favoured by the German Monarchy. My friend Ewald has renovated a grand house into six apartments plus penthouse. Norrie from London also joined us for this stay, Ewald was a wonderful host.

We visited the site where German rocket engineers perfected the V1 & V2. Latter these engineers were snapped up by the victors to develop space research capability (US and USSR excelled).

Ewald's renovation.

And some grand houses on the promenade that runs all the way to Poland.

We returned to Berlin and had a traditional dinner in the old town of Berlin. Next day Norrie and I undertook a sightseeing tour. Below is the Brandenburg Gate and the Bundestag (parliament).

My Berlin experience was capped off by spending two nights with Mick's former housemate, Andreas & daughter Ella. Some of you may recall meeting the 'Germans' at a Hanna Christmas. Like Mick & Claire, Andreas and Nadja are surrounded by friends, all with little ones in tow.  Ella was not in a photogenic mood.

Torino & GOLD!

A gold medal!  It sounds good doesn't it.  After enduring the heat and vagaries of travelling to and from our games on Italian trams, whilst lugging hockey gear, we deserved it.  With 17,000 athletes from various parts of the world in town to participate in the World Masters Games, Torino was great fun.  However Italy was in the grip of a heat wave and our first game was played in 35* heat in the middle of the day.  It was like being double roasted, and took our bodies many hours to cool down.  Due to the heat, injuries and age, I didn't get to do much sight seeing, however Robert toured.  He wasn't interested in seeing a lot of old women chase a hockey ball round the field.  Here's what I saw!

So just to prove we won it, here it is.  Sorry I'm not in uniform.  Camera battery was flat on the day of the match. My uniform had to stay with a team mate returning to Australia, as it was needed for a competition later in the year. Yes! I washed it first !! 

                                                   Me in uniform. I was no. 8
                                             A group hug.  Very casual. 
These two photos were taken during the opening ceremony. Some people got carried away nationally.

            Our team had transfers applied.  Sorry about the scowl.  Italians have a very elastic sense of time.  We were told to marshall in the piazza at 4.00pm and the parade would begin at 6.00pm.  We aimed to get there at 5.00pm because we didn't want wait in the heat for too long.  The tram conductor misunderstood where we needed to alight and put us off at the end of the march!! So we walked the route in baking heat, got to our marshalling area, rehydrated ourselves and settled in to wait.  It was great fun with so many nationalities all fairly merry.  At 6.00pm an announcement proclaimed "The parade will start at 7.00pm"!! There was nothing to do but have another drink, which of course lead to a few more.  The hockey group were lucky to be on the shaded side of the piazza. However, the parade eventually finished with a show at the end.  It was pretty cool walking the street with thousands along the way cheering you on. 
This is captain Judy, standing in the huge piazza where we assembled for the opening ceremony. She won a silver medal for the 50m backstroke, as well as a gold for hockey. Amazing eh!

Just to show we did more than play hockey. These were taken near our hotel.  The one above, from our bedroom window.  For most of the time the mountain range was covered in cloud, however one morning we woke to find there was snow on the top of the Alps. It was quite spectacular.
Below is a view of the hotel with the cathedral sitting up on top of the mountain.  Some brave souls travelled to the top for the view, and the religious experience.  

Well that ends to the Italian chapter. Much to our sadness.  We loved the country and would go back in a heart beat.  However London calls.  Til then, 
From the Tourin'Travellers 

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Firenze & Genoa

Firstly, my apologies for the poor editing in the previous postings, I will endeavour to ensure a much tighter proof reading this time!!
Firenze, why do we Anglicise that lovely name? Firenze is a beautiful city, that deserved a return visit.  So we bussed it from Lucca for the day armed with a 3 page email of things to do, supplied by a former supplier of Robert's.  Ponte Vecchio bridge being too crowded due to summer holidays, we set about trying to locate one of the restaurants Gordon suggested. Off the tourist trails, we found a lovely oasis that served inexpensive, delicious food & wine.  Two brothers from Kenya joined us and we were there for over two hours chatting, eating and drinking.  One brother who knew Firenze well, persuaded us to follow them to a perfume shop.  Sounds weird I know, but it was so worth the trust.  The oldest perfumery in the world, established by Franciscan Friars.  After a lovely day in Firenze we returned to Lucca for the night before travelling to Genoa.  Not expecting much, we wandered the streets and found it a treasure trove of old narrow lane ways & buildings. Plus elegantly clothed people.  We were here to meet former clients of Robert's, Ferdi & Alberto.  Ferdi's wife runs a fish restaurant by the sea. We were treated to a scrumptious dinner, alfresco.  The following day Alberto drove us through the Piedmont wine region and arranged a tour of a winery originally established by the first King of Italy.  After lunch Alberto dropped us in Torino, as he lives an hour away in Asti. 
The cathedral in Firenze is amazing.  Huge queues to enter, so we headed to Ponte Vecchio instead.

             I'm not sure who you should be admiring, the bridge or the man!

                   That's better. 

              Despite the greyness of the day the reflections made us shutter happy.

The interior of the perfumery. It was like stepping back in time.  Everyone spoke quietly, individual, no rush service.  Naturally some had to leave the shop with me. 

Apologies for the blurring, the traffic was in a hurry.  The unassuming front door to the store.

Genoa.  We approached this lovely piazza took photos and then turned around to take the view behind

The rear view.  Looks impressive, but the whole facade is painted to look three-D. The more we looked, many buildings in Genoa were like this.  
Except on Via Garibaldi. Established by wealthy merchants in the 18th century.  Many required a "palace" to live in.  There are 43 in this street.
Many are stores like this second hand book shop. The decor is superb.
The ceiling in a different one. Quite incredible.  
There were five rooms on this one floor all ornately decorated. The building had four levels.  We couldn't view any more.

                  View of the city from a vantage point. Fabulous almost 360* views.

Lunch was needed after all the sight seeing.  Not wanting to eat with the thousands of tourists we turned down a side street & a short way down, came upon this Osteria.  Very little spoken English, however we made ourselves understood and enjoyed a sumptuous meal accompanied by some excellent Italian vino.  One of the gentlemen pictured was having an aperitif after his meal.  Robert said he'd have one too. This was a delicious liqueur made in Sardinia. Needs to be kept in the freezer. We were firm friends with everyone when we left. All up it was a lovely experience.  The sort that makes travelling fun.

We aren't sure what this man was playing.  Some sort of drum.  The sound was a lovely low mellow hum, that reverberated through the narrow streets beside the cathedral in Genoa. It was fascinating.
So that's the last tour of Italy before the World Masters Games begin. 
Arrividici 'til next time.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Lucca and Sienna, July 2013

Lucca is a beautiful,old walled city where we spent several days wandering the narrow cobbled streets.  Seeing the sites within and nearby.  One of which was the lovely old walled city of Sienna.  It has the bizarre tradition called the "Palio".  A one minute bare back horse race, three times round the immense city piazza.  It occurs twice very year in July and August.  The city is divided into nine districts that bear names like: porcupine, tortoise, eagle, caterpillar, elephant, unicorn, dragon, bear, xxxx & xxx.  Each Sunday throughout the year a district has a turn to parade it's colours.  On the Sunday we visited, it was the Elephant district's turn.  Thirty men, in medieval attire.  Thick tights, velvet jackets & hats, carried drums or flags through the narrow, hilly streets, making noise, for FOUR hours.  It was 35* that day! Each district becomes very passionate to raise the money to pay for the horse and rider.  After the July race this year, the jockey who came in second by a short length, spent three weeks in hospital.  His district team members were unhappy that he didn't win and beat him up!!!  All of this for no remuneration, just the glory of a palio (banner).  As I said it's bizarre.  

Robert standing outside the chandelier restaurant, Emma. For those who are confused. We were enjoying a quiet delicious Italian vino in the afternoon at this restaurant, when I looked up to look at the decor to find a chandelier hung with white tea cups and saucers enlarged with bright plastic teaspoons.  Exclaiming, I jumped up to photograph it for Emma who is always looking for new things to make (hope she doesn't take this one on board!)

One of the many churches that abound in Italy.  This one in Lucca had such a narrow high facade it looked like it would blow over in a strong wind.  I suppose that's not going to happen given that it's been up for over a couple of hundred year.  It always amazes me that they could build such incredibly large structures so long ago without the technical aids we need today to erect something.

Bees are large here!  I won't let ours at home know.  They're actually bumblebees and not use for honey making.  We found them enjoying the pollen and sunshine in the gardens in Lucca.

                 The main city hall in the piazza of Sienna.  

Robert is contemplating how long it would have taken to lay all these bricks!!

Here come the Elephant troupe.  Remember it's 35*. We were expiring whilst imbibing a cool beverage.  These guys still had two hours to go!!

    Some of the younger boys, looking happy with their lot.

I'm sure this drummer was ready to peel off and share our drink.

It was very hard to get the size of Sienna's piazza in a photo.  It was vast and surrounded by grand buildings all build hundreds of years ago.  Beautiful but hot.  Imagine waiting in the searing heat from one o'clock 'til 7.00pm when the race starts.  If you want a good view of it, you have together there that early.

That brings the Lucca / Sienna chapter to a close.  Next stop, Firenze.
Till then, 

Milan and Lake Como

Milan is where our journey began.  A visit to Duomo was essential. On a Sunday during Mass even better.  The ceremony & pageantry made the experience more enjoyable. 
This is the beautiful marbled floor.

From the piazza, here is the "wedding cake"!

Okay, so this was hard to take.  Lake Como at sunset, whilst having dinner.

Robert relaxing. Once again it was difficult to enjoy without you, however we struggled on!

View from the boat of the many gorgeous dwellings along the shore. George Clooney lives somewhere near here. 

 Not a bad view from your front yard!  This garden established over 100 years ago was so peaceful to walk through and afforded views like this all the way through.

Next stop, Lucca.