Monday, July 8, 2013

Thanks For Your Company on Another Journey

6 to 7 July, 2013 - Rome - (Italy)

Just a quick entry to bring the current trip to a close. Currently transiting in Doha on our way home. I hope you have enjoyed reading snippets from our trip. Hopefully, the next lot won't be too far away.

Final Meal
Final Meal
Our final meal for this trip was a great, typical Roman dining experience. Table on the street, Osso Bucco, and veal with prosciutto and sage. Yum.


Camping In Sardinia



29 June to 6 July, 2013 - Capo Testa, Alghero, Capo Caccia, Bosa, Orgosolo, Santa Maria Navarrese, Altopiano di Golgo, Gola Su Gorropu - (Italy)

It was supposed to be a week long visit to Corsica, but due to a couple of car hire considerations, it ended up being Sardinia instead. We understand that we will get little sympathy from anyone at home because we had to substitute Sardinia for Corsica. Especially after we ended up having such a fantastic time and finished on such an incredible high.

Andrea and Hermann helped us out by purchasing a cheap tent in Germany so we could camp. This made it quite a different type of travel to the entire rest of our holiday. We had a car, our tent, and just camped our way around the island for 6 nights. We had no idea that Sardinia had so much to offer, and in the end, there is absolutely no feeling of regret that we ended up here instead of Corsica.

And, for your information, John, children in Sardinia are not called Sardines. :)

The Rocks of Capo Testa
The Rocks of Capo Testa
This is the northeastern cape of Sardinia. The wind and waves have weathered the rocks in to some great formations.
"Capo Testa", rocks, "weathered rocks"


Weathered Rocks
Weathered Rocks
Some extreme weather must pass through here at times, which these wind-eroded sand-blasted rocks attest to.


A Leunig Face
A Leunig Face
Resembling a cartoon drawn by Leunig, this face has been formed by centuries of weathering.


Some Eye-catching Flowers
Some Eye-catching Flowers
Flowers by the path, Capo Caccia, Sardinia.


Hey, I'm Green
Hey, I'm Green
A lizard who is not ashamed of his colouring.


King Neptune's Cave
King Neptune's Cave
The beautiful grotto beneath Capo Caccia, over 600 steps down from the road. Full of great formations, and a salt lake syphoned from the sea, it was named after the king of the sea when discovered by fishermen in the 15th century.


Bosa
Bosa
The coloured houses of Bosa's old town fill the hillside below its castle.


Santa Sabina
Santa Sabina
We encountered this great pair of buildings while driving. The church is old (centuries) but the tower much older (over 2,000 years). It is a nuraghic site. Nuraghic people inhabited Sardinia from around 3,000 BC through to around 850 BC. It makes the church quite new!


Mural at Orgosolo
Mural at Orgosolo
One of the many dozens of murals that decorate buildings in the Sardinian village of Orgosolo.


Defeat of a Tyrant, Saddam Hussein
Defeat of a Tyrant, Saddam Hussein
Many of the murals in Orgosolo have a political angle. Events that we saw depicted, in addition to this toppling of a Saddam Hussein statue, include the towers coming down in New York, the siege of Sarajevo, the shooting of a 12 year old Palestinian boy, US involvement in El Salvador, and reminders of major wars, particularly the World Wars.


Very Moving
Very Moving
A mural in Orgosolo illustrating the death of Mohammed el Dura, a 12 year old Palestinian boy, killed during a shoot-out in Gaza while hiding behind his father.


Face in a Rock
Face in a Rock
On the Altopiano di Golgo, amongst the sights, we love this face. All we know is that it is very old. Probably nuraghic.


Picnic Dinner on the Beach
Picnic Dinner on the Beach
One of the great joys of driving and camping is the self catering meals in great locations. A bottle of red, prosciutto, salami, gorgonzola. What more could you want for? Oh, dessert of muscat and biscotti.


Looking Up
Looking Up
Nicknamed the Grand Canyon of Europe, the spectacular gorge of Gola Su Gorropu was well worth the effort. To get here, we walked down from the nearest road for an hour and a half (nearly two to go back), about 650 metres descent. Then we walked through the accessible parts of the canyon, stopping every now and then to pick up our jaws. The walls are up to 400 metres high, and the gorge is under five metres wide at its narrowest point.


A Glimpse Down the Canyon
A Glimpse Down the Canyon
Looking along the Gola Su Gorropu.


Getting Through
Getting Through
Most of the climb through the canyon was very straightforward, however, a bit of extra effort was required for a few bits.


Beetle
Beetle
This fantastic bright beetle was gorging itself on a discarded rotting banana.


I caused a bit of a stir on the ferry crossing, but it was not really my fault. There were two bar areas, and we decided to have a piece of cake and a couple of macchiati. Bar area one had some strange looking cream cake, while bar area two had some fantastic chocolate torte. We had already ascertained that procedure dictates paying for desired purchase with cashier, and taking receipt to bar for picking up desired products. Cashier in bar area two had disappeared, and a queue was forming. The barman told me to go to the other cashier, in bar area one. I did this, and came back with my receipt. They were trying to be helpful, but they then told me that I could not use that receipt for that bar, but had to use it at the other bar. And why should I care which bar I got my coffee and cake at? I explained through charades and gestures that my desire was to have a piece of the chocolate torte, not the strange cream cake. Although convinced the other bar was stocked with the same products, one of the waiters came with me, maybe just to make a point of highlighting the contentious sweet. But I was correct - no chocolate torte. So, he escorted me back, and forth while we took one piece from one bar and swapped it with a piece from the other bar. Then, my order was fulfilled. We could imagine the shaking of heads and discussions about difficult foreigners, but I'm sure you'll agree it was not really my fault.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Tuscan Birthday Gathering



22 to 29 June, 2013 - Barga, Borgo a Mozzano, Pieve Fosciana, Castelveccio, Castiglione di Garfagnana, Sommocolonia, Lucca - (Italy)

So, in Pisa, we bid farewell to the Ruchtis, and less than an hour later we had picked up our friend, Leanne, from the airport. And only a short time later, Alister and Anahi. Jo's birthday had only just begun in Cinque Terre, now it was time for the week of celebrating, Tuscan style.

We arrived quite late on the Saturday night at Casa Cordati, Barga. By the time we had accomplished the Pisa airport pick ups and taken a wrong turn trying to find Lucca and Barga, we could only admire our lodgings in the dark. Even then, though, we were impressed with the Villa. Even in the dark, we could sense the views were going to be magical and "typical". The villa was organised by Peter (still to come). It is a great art exhibition in the former home of Bargan artist, Bruno Cordati, and has a few rooms for rent.

Over the course of the week, the group varied. The five grew to six when Adam (Los Angeles) joined us. And then there were comings and goings with Peter (Melbourne) and some of his friends adding to the group. Now our friends, too, Lisa (Sydney), Mike (Adelaide), and Louise (Dublin) all met Peter in Argentina, last year. At its biggest, the group was eight. There was much eating, a little imbibing, and loads and loads of laughs and good times. The perfect week long party in the perfect villa in Tuscany.

And it turned out to be Mike's birthday, too, that week. So it became a double birthday towards the end. The night we celebrated for him, the karaoke came out. Much of the footage has been suppressed by a court order, but highlights included Peter singing "In The Navy", Jo's rendition of "I Will Survive", and Lisa and I performing a sort of duet of "I Want To Break Free".

First Breakfast
First Breakfast
I say breakfast, but it was such a late brunch that we really should be honest and call it lunch. Dining in the fantastic open roof space of Casa Cordati.


Five Visit a Bridge
Five Visit a Bridge
So, for the first couple of days, we were five. The two of us, Leanne (from church in Melbourne, living in Paris), and Alister and Anahi (I used to work with Al, and he and his Argentinian wife, Ani, are living in London). This bridge from the Middle Ages is not far from Barga, and since we had a hire car and could all fit in at this point, we decided to visit some little local villages for the day.


Lunatics?
Lunatics?
Just Fiat drivers? No. Almost all Italians on the road. It was not far from this sign that an oncoming car overtook on double lines assuming we would make space for him. Admittedly, there was enough space - just. However, the people who painted the lines on the road, myself, and my four passengers were all in agreement. Only two cars wide!


Ghivizzano
Ghivizzano
From memory, I think this was Ghivizzano. Nothing outstanding, but so beautiful because it is just so typical. A little bonus was seeing the bride and groom come out of the church while the bells rang.


Devouring or Licking?
Devouring or Licking?
Not sure what this lion is doing to the person between his paws, but it was an interesting theme in the main church of Barga. A theme repeated a few times here, and regionally, too. We saw variations in churches in Lucca, and other villages we visited. Predominantly gracing the church exteriors, but even as part of the altar or pulpit (as in this case).


Two Minutes Past Four, Local Time
Two Minutes Past Four, Local Time
As midnight Melbourne time passed, the waiter brought out a piece of tiramisu for Jo's "actual day" of celebration to begin, still eight hours ahead of local celebration time, but well within the week of partying. All confusing, but it helped break the week long birthday party into more discernible blocks. The whole restaurant sang "Happy Birthday".


Tuscan Birthday Feast
Tuscan Birthday Feast
So the group morphed a bit, collecting a few more people, but having to say farewell to one, too. The food just kept on coming, and the wine, prosseco, and muscat flowed. It's always great when the food's this good, but all the better with a birthday as an excuse.


Casa Cordati, Outlook 1
Casa Cordati, Outlook 1
A view from our window at Casa Cordati.


Casa Cordati, Outlook 2
Casa Cordati, Outlook 2
A view from our window at Casa Cordati.


Casa Cordati, Outlook 3
Casa Cordati, Outlook 3
A view from our window at Casa Cordati.


The Upper Room, Casa Cordati
The Upper Room, Casa Cordati
The beautiful mural covered upper room. This is where Bruno Cordati apparently loved to paint the most.


Castiglione di Garfagnana
Castiglione di Garfagnana
Main gate of a local village.


Castiglione di Garfagnana
Castiglione di Garfagnana
Defences of Castiglione di Garfagnana


Ruined Tower, Sommocolonia
Ruined Tower, Sommocolonia
Sommocolonia is a pleasant morning's walk from Barga. The tower here was ruined by a bombardment during the World War II, when the front line passed through the village and heavy fighting was taking place. An American officer, Lieutenant Fox, sacrificed his own life by calling in his location and asking that it be shelled, taking out a significant enemy foothold in the process.


Antipasti for Another Birthday Feast
Antipasti for Another Birthday Feast
Later in the week, it was Mike's birthday. Our gastronomic desires were once again fulfilled with another Tuscan feast, plus karaoke.


The Intricate and Varied Facade of Chiesa di San Michele, Lucca
The Intricate and Varied Facade of Chiesa di San Michele, Lucca
There are hundreds of details that go unnoticed. Every time we looked, we noticed something else. Every column is different. Every face or image unique.


Lucca Piazza With San Michele
Lucca Piazza With San Michele
A panorama of Lucca.


Storm Clouds Over Lucca
Storm Clouds Over Lucca
Coming out of the cathedral, the weather was changing.


Lucca Rooftops
Lucca Rooftops
Looking over Lucca from the top of a tower.


One afternoon in Barga, we headed out to see the town and take some photos. There was a great double door with two faces and the doorknobs in the mouths of those faces. Al and I decided to mimic the doorknobs for a photo, and just as we got ourselves in to position, the door opened. Red-faced, we quickly tried to pretend we were doing something perfectly normal, but I don't think we fooled anyone!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Of Six People and Five Italian Villages



20 to 22 June, 2013 – Moneglia, Cinque Terre, Sarzana, Pisa – (Italy)

Of course, we're all getting older. However, when it's five years between seeing kids, the differences are huge. Five years, though, is two too many. Since 1996 we have caught up with Hermann and Andrea (and as they were added to the family, Stefan and Linda) every 3 years. But it didn't happen in 2011. Hopefully we're back on track, now.

So, this meet up was set for Cinque Terre. We actually stayed in Moneglia, a couple of train stations further north. But this allowed us to get a couple of apartments with amazing views.

Hmmm, Pork
Hmmm, Pork
OK, so there was more for dinner than just barbecued pork. However, the "pig belly torch" was an absolute highlight. Especially after the pork drought in Turkey. Thanks Hermann for cooking.


On the Trail
On the Trail
It is always fun to meet up with Andrea, Hermann, Stefan, and Linda. We first met Andrea and Hermann in Ecuador in 1996. Since then, we have crossed paths 5 more times. Generally in Germany, but also in Croatia, and now in Italy at Cinque Terre. This photo is on the Cinque Terre trail between Monterossa Al Mare and Vernazza.


Arriving at Vernazza
Arriving at Vernazza
Coming down to Vernazza, Cinque Terre.


Barely a Single Day…
Barely a Single Day…
Since arriving in Italy, we have had a minimum of one gelato, almost every day. Oh, it is so incredibly good.


Two of Five
Two of Five
Corniglia in the foreground, and Manarola behind it. Two of the five villages known as Cinque Terre.


Manarola
Manarola
The gorgeous vista of Manarola, Cinque Terre.


Hermann and Andrea had their car with them, and we followed in our rental vehicle. This led to two "incidents".

Incident 1: The GPS navigation is NOT smarter than the people who put signs up at intersections. Admittedly, even I was willing to believe it would get us to our destination, with perhaps a few stops to let oncoming traffic pass, as it was probably just a narrow and winding road that authorities would prefer was avoided. I guess the GPS can not be blamed when you discover the road is closed, and has been for 18 months, due to bad land slides, but people who erect signs know this. Anyway, lucky enough, someone had pulled the fence aside at both ends, and a motorbike coming through told us in broken English that we certainly would be able to drive through, but just be careful as the road was "scrambled". How cute - scrambled. So thankfully, we did not have to double back 40 kilometres to get around the closed section of road. But, almost...

Incident 2: When the lead driver changes their mind regarding an exit in the last second, there is a chance that the driver who is following feels so committed to taking that exit that the two cars are no longer in convoy. Anyway, they had one idea about where to wait and we had another, and it was quite a fretful time due to us not having a phone. It would have been an awful way for us to have finished our time in Italy together. Thankfully, after an hour or two, we did manage to find each other, have a late lunch, and finish our planned activities to Pisa.

While waiting for H, A, S, & L, we went to the local fort carpark, as we had talked about visiting the fort of Sarzana. It was one of those dodgey parks that obviously is to be avoided late, due to condoms strewn in some areas and discarded syringe packs. So, when I approached a couple to see if we could borrow their phone to try and call the Ruchtis, they thought I was a carpark hangaround weirdo. They put up their windows and drove away quickly waving their arms in a defensive way.

Sarzana
Sarzana
We were not expecting anything at Sarzana, stopping, in theory, just for a bite and to head up to the fort. It truly is a beautiful town.


Linda and the Tower That Needs No Introduction
Linda and the Tower That Needs No Introduction
After ascending the tower, it was time for us all to part ways. The German contingent heading back to Moneglia for one more night before their return home. We headed to the airport to pick up friends. More of that to come.