Italy

Jo’s Monday walk : Dizzying heights!

Did you wonder why we deserted lovely Lucca so early to catch a train?  And did you spot those Medici balls again?  Hard to miss them in this part of the world.  When we landed at Pisa airport I was immediately smitten with the soft light, over the backdrop of mountains that I somehow had not expected.  The sun was sliding down in the sky, bathing even the unromantic Ryanair flight in opalescence.  I knew that I could not come this near to one of the wonders of our world without taking at least a fleeting look.  So Lucca was left behind, and that man Garibaldi took centre stage.

I think that faded grandeur best describes Pisa, though it was obvious that modernity was making a comeback.  I found it a ‘gritty’ kind of place, on brief acquaintance, but I’m sure that there are many more treasures to discover.  It’s an easy walk from Pisa Centrale station, crossing over the River Arno and heading up medieval Borgo Stretto, with its straggle of cafes and shops.

Very soon I was back in the company of Giorgio Vasari.  As well as Palazzo Vecchio and the Vasari Corridor in Florence, he was responsible for Piazza dei Cavalieri, the magnificent  Knight’s Square in Pisa.  In front of Palazzo della Carovana stands his former master, Cosimo 1 de Medici.

Following Via Santa Maria, a familiar sight soon appears.  “Look!  It does!  It leans!’

And then, ‘Are you going up?’  It’s a quarter to 4 in the afternoon and there is no queue.  What am I waiting for?  Of course I’m going up!

It’s a bright blue day, but with a brisk, cold wind.  The marble steps inside the tower are well worn and there’s no hand rail.  As expected, the ‘lean’ has a slightly disorienting feeling, but there is plenty of time to negotiate them.  At the top the wind is blowing fiercely and I step into the space between the bells for a brief respite, 55 metres up in the air.

The views are wonderful and I notice, almost for the first time, the sturdy walls of the city.  Still, it’s a relief to be back in the stairwell, making my way cautiously down the steps.  ‘Did you wave?’ I ask.  No, he didn’t.  Apparently at that moment the chief of police had appeared in a shiny new Lamborghini in the piazza below, thrilling the crowd.  It’s Italy, after all!

Piazza dei Miracoli, the Square of Miracles, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which lives up to its reputation.  I wandered around the huge green (albeit with a slight ‘list’ in my step) and was grateful that this beautiful tribute to the maritime might of Pisa had survived.

The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and the Baptistry complete the miracle.  The doors alone, resplendent with Pisan history, are worthy of a visit.

Youngsters sprawled on the grass- it almost seemed sacrilege to me!  Out beyond the walls, life goes on.  I smile and shake my head at the traders, and head back along the outside of the walls, through Knight’s Square, for a tired return to the station.

What I could have done with a little more time, but that’s the story of my life!  This itinerary with Discover Tuscany would have been perfect.  They also have suggestions for 5 Days in Tuscany that might be of interest, Gilly and Jude.  You don’t need to drive to see most of it.

This completes my rambling in Italy, though there are many photos as yet unshared.  What a time I had!  As many of you will know, I’m in the Algarve when this hopefully appears.  My WiFi access is limited, and deliberately so, as it’s my ‘chill’ place.  I will attempt to keep up with you, but apologies in advance for anyone I miss.

I hope to return to walk with you on Monday, 10th April.  Many thanks for your company on Jo’s Monday walks.  Kettle on, it’s sharing time!

This man surely knows the way to my heart!  Many thanks, Drake :

Glimpses of Paris

Staying close to home, Eunice takes us on a fact finding mission in the West Pennines :

A walk up Winter Hill and some interesting facts

Anabel meets a very friendly chipmunk this week.  Maybe a touch too friendly!

Deer Mountain

Lady Lee extends her Philippines visit to the island of Sabtang :

Batanes Trip, Day 2 – Sabtang Tour

Still in Mexico, Jackie’s moved up the coast a little :

La Noria

Meet the Lucerne Lion this week, with Woolly :

Jo’s-Monday-Walk2017-Wk 12

Couldn’t miss this one out!  Viveka is always so colourful and I love the donkey photo!

Walkabouts in Marrakech

Vertigo sufferers beware!  Becky’s ‘on top of the world’ :

Walking across the ‘tallest’ stone arch in the world

Just one more of those places I’d like to see for myself, Jaspa :

Sam’s Ses Challenge#13 Water 

So lovely to have Lisa around again, though her life is anything but smooth sailing!

Singapore and Beyond

And isn’t it wonderful to have chirpy friends?  Thanks so much, Paula!

How green is my home!

Many thanks to all who have shared, walked or just read.  Please take care till the next time!

Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore

St. Mary of the Flower, the Duomo, in Florence, and a cherished dream.  Would she disappoint?

I arrived mid-evening, after a long days travel, with legs that needed to be stretched and a bubble of excitement inside.  Into the darkening streets, gay voices filling the air and a buzz of purely Italian sociability.  Waiting for that moment when, rounding a corner, there she was, shining like a beacon.  Beckoning me to come closer, in adoration, and gaze on her transcendent beauty.

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Round and round her I walked, gazing up at every aspect of her beauty.  Dizzy with the wonder of it all and beaming like a child.

Arms spread wide, my eyes followed her majesty up to the heavens.  I did not want my bubble ever to burst.  Easing myself away, with many a backward glance, I tried to reassure myself that she was real.  Never could I conjure such a figment of imagination.

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In the days to come I will be sharing with you some of the history, as well as the beauty, that is Florence.  Right now I’m clinging to the Indelible memory of that first night.  Thank you, Paula, for such a very apt prompt.

Six word Saturday

Looking back on those golden days

It’s been a dreary week weatherwise so I haven’t been out and about as much as usual.  I’ve used the time well though and written a couple of Italian guides.  The old albums came out and took me back down Memory Lane, and I thought that you might like to come too?

Malcesine from Monte Baldo

Lake Garda was a family favourite when James was small.  Icecream, pasta and pizza- need I say more?

He was quite keen on the Power Rangers too!  Remember them?

We stayed that first year in a small family run hotel in Bardolino.  Our welcome was warm and the food memorable.  A simple tomato sauce with the pasta was the best I have ever tasted.  The tureen went round and around the dining room, till everyone was stuffed full.  You just couldn’t refuse!

Our days were spent hopping on and off ferries to explore the lakeside towns.  James especially loved the hydrofoils and his face would light up whenever he saw one.

Gardone Riviera

Limone del Garda

Castello at Sirmione

From the battlements at Sirmione

And then there was Gardaland!  Not on a par with Disney, but it was a good old family romp, with pirates, parrots and sealions.  The day ended following the procession, led by the park mascot, Prezzemolo (Parsley), a friendly green dragon.

Sunset in Bardolino

We had so much fun in Bardolino and still had lots to see, so the following year we returned to the top end of the lake, staying at Torbole.  This time we had a pool but the water was FREEZING!  James ventured in with his blow up dinghy, but I much preferred the ferries.

Torbole sul Garda

Windsurfers on Garda

A much younger Michael, lakeside at Riva del Garda

The moat at Riva

Torbole is the windsurfing centre on Lake Garda and some days the wind was quite fierce.  The surrounding scenery was spectacular however, and one day we went on a walking trip to Arco.

Spectacular Arco

James was mostly just impressed with the icecream, and playing in fountains, of course.  Another firm favourite was a tabletop game, a bit like pinball but played with a cue.  We’d seen it before in Austria.  Anyone else played it?

The following year we couldn’t possibly return to Garda again, so we went to Lake Como and lovely Bellagio instead.  More ferries to ride.  Still in love with Italy, Sorrento came next…. but perhaps I should save those memories for another day.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my Six word Saturday.  It’s all down to Cate at Show my face, who had the idea to share your week in six words. (which often lead to many more)  Go  check out her page so you can join in?  Use the link or my header above.  The button below will take you to my previous 6WS posts.  I promise to be briefer next week!

My A – Z of Travel

Life’s good sometimes, isn’t it?  I was just recovering from being awarded the ABC Award (Awesome Blog Content) by lovely Alyson Weldrake of http://thethoughtpalette.co.uk/abc-award/, when Lucy Dodsworth, of ontheluce.com, another favourite blog, passed me this challenge.  Well, I have a lot to live up to, but I get to revisit some really happy memories.  Then I pass it on and take time out to read all those other A-Z’s- pure pleasure!  So, here goes:

A : Age at which you went on your first trip abroad:

My Mum’s idea of a holiday was a cottage near Scarborough, so trips abroad didn’t figure in my childhood.  My first ever bid for “freedom” was aged 21, when, quite pregnant with my daughter, I could see the world slipping away from me and booked myself solo on a flight to Paris.  In more than 40 years I’ve never managed to go back, but have promised myself the gardens at Giverny and Versailles someday. (my husband is a garden designer, so there’s a fighting chance he might want to go with me)

B : Best foreign beer you’ve had and where:

Truthfully I’m not much of a one for beer.  Occasionally, after a long hot day, one hits the spot.  You wouldn’t go with one of my recommendations though.

Beer in Turkey

Can't dispute photographic evidence- Turkish beer?

C : Cuisine : 

Probably Italian, but I’m quite versatile and will try most things.  Could quite easily become vegetarian.  Not sushi please, and never try to make me eat any of those spicy sausage, chourico-types.  Big shout up for Polish pierogi and soups, (my Dad would be proud), and I like a bit of spice.

D : Destinations, favourite, least favourite, and why:

Ponte Romana at Tavira

Anyone who knows me will know that I have a second home in the Algarve and that I am passionate about Portugal as a destination.  For me it has everything, from glorious beaches to stunning sierras, a fascinating history and a wealth of places to explore, many of which I have yet to reach.  Least favourite?  Wouldn’t really want to pin that on anywhere specific, that’s a bit unkind.  I’ll just say that I’m a Scorpio and anywhere that doesn’t have water nearby, I struggle with.  Lakes and mountains are great, but not fussy on flat open spaces.  

E : Event you experienced abroad that made you say “wow”:

Festa dos Tabuleiros

Festa dos Tabuleiros- the procession

“Wow” in a good way?  The Festa dos Tabuleiros in Tomar last July was pretty special.  The event is only held once every 4 years and when you see the effort that goes into it you can well understand why.  Given my love of boats and water, the Tall Ships Races have great pulling power for me too.  I totally loved having my home town Hartlepool, in North East England, host the final leg last year, and am hoping to make it to Cadiz in July to see them again- breathtaking!

Dewaruci

Dewaruci- one of my Favourite Tall Ships

F : Favourite mode of transportation :

Everyone loves trains.  Me too, but I have to say that I do love flying.  Not the boring waiting about, and the confined space and recycled air on board, but that awesome experience of looking down at my world.  Torture for me is one of those really cloudy flights that you sometimes get- zero visibility.  Nightmare!  Once we start to taxi along the runway I put on my specs and prepare to glue my nose to the window.  (I’m no fun if I haven’t got a window seat)  Love trying to identify which part I’m overflying (stunning views of Porto once) and I always mean to travel with a detailed map on my knee, but usually forget!

G : Greatest feeling while travelling :

Anticipation!  I just love it when I’m heading for somewhere new.

The prettiest little Greek church?

H : Hottest place you’ve travelled to :

Haven’t been to any of the world’s truly hot places, and most of my experiences have been European but I can remember melting in Venice once (worth it, of course and I’ve been back twice in cooler temperatures).  The Samaria Gorge in Crete wasn’t exactly cool, and I always seemed to toil up to the top of a Greek Island in heat, no matter what time of day I set off!  Terrible planning.

Hot in the Samaria Gorge

I : Incredible service you’ve experienced and why :

I’m going local with this one- local to Tavira, that is!  We have a lovely little riverfront bar, called Anazu.  From the moment we first set foot in there 9 years ago, Paula, her husband and Luis have made us welcome.  There’s always a smile, and an enquiry after the family.  Two glasses of port appear in front of us unsummoned.  The cares of the world just roll away.  We’re home again.

J : Journey that took the longest :

Hmmh, that would be the first trip to America.  We checked into Newcastle airport, only to be told to hang onto our cases as we were being transferred by coach to Manchester.  Strike action was afoot and bodies littered the concourse when we did get there.  Many wearying hours spent at Manchester, we arrived in the States at entirely the wrong time of day to pick up the hire car and head out into the dark with a sketchy bit of paper showing our destination.  “You’re the navigator” said my tired and irritable husband, trying to fathom junctions and overhead signs.  Happy days!

K : Keepsake from your travels :

Postcards for me too (can they be an addiction?) but I am often to be found pocketing shells and stones from some of the lovely beaches I’ve wandered on.  I have a wonderfully creative daughter who endeavoured to use them up by making me jewellery Christmas presents this year.

Shell necklace

Shell necklace

L : Let-down sight, where and why :

St Wolfgang in the sunshine

St Wolfgang, in the sunshine

It was clear and pleasant when we left the lakeside at St Wolfgang to rack and pinion our way up to the peaks.  Alas, when we got there the promised spectacular mountain views had “disappeared” in thick, cold, Alpine fog.

M : Moment when you fell in love with travel :

Afraid I’ve always been restless- must be in the genes.  At 18 I left home and friends to live in London and I explored that city to within an inch of its life!  With prescious little money in my pocket, I walked till I couldn’t any more.  Love the city still, though I’m more for the quiet life these days.  My lady friends and I made a celebratory visit there last August (coincided with the riots, of course).  Oh, did we have fun!

Tea at the Ritz

Tea at the Ritz

N  : Nicest hotel you’ve stayed in :

Sadly, don’t do posh hotels in the main.  We usually travel as cheaply as possible.  A couple are memorable; notably Hotel Guadeloupe, which was ideally placed for the Alhambra; Solar de Monfalim in Evora, such a gracious Portuguese mansion in the most atmospheric of cities; and a lovely family-owned small hotel in Bardolino on the shores of Lake Garda, whose name escapes me (it WAS 18years ago, but the pasta was amazing).

Hotel Solar Monfalim, Evora

O : Obsession : what are you obsessed with taking photos of when you travel :

Boats and water mainly:

Turkish Gulet

Mooring at Kas

The harbour at Fethiye

Or anything I want to retain as a memory:

The backgammon ace!

P : Passport stamps, how many and from where :

Not many I don’t suppose, but I’ve visited Austria, Belgium, Canaries, Corfu, Crete, Croatia, Cyclades, Denmark, France, Greek Mainland, Italy, Madeira, Poland, Portugal, Rhodes, Spain, Turkey, the USA, Zante  (alphabetically, of course).  The wish list is huge.

Q : Quirkiest attraction you’ve visited and where :

Prezzemolo

Parsley the Dragon

I can remember following a green dragon called Prezzemolo (Parsley) in a procession at Gardaland in Italy many years ago.  The things we’ve done to keep our son amused!  Also in Italy, Il Vittoriale, high above Gardone Riviera, sports a large battleship, Puglia, in it’s gardens.  Definitely landlocked!

Puglia, Il Vittoriale

Stand by for blast off! On board Puglia

R : Recommended sight, event or experience :

Hotel Coronado

Hotel Coronado-not a great shot,but what a destination!

Where do you start?  One that stays with me and I would love to revisit with more time to spare is San Diego Bay.  On the beach by Hotel Coronado I had a Marilyn Monroe moment, and the views out across the water from the restaurants were superb.  Or incredible Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore- water AND gardens, the perfect confection.  So different, but I was also wholeheartedly in love with Warsaw’s Stare Miasto- impossible to believe that so much of it was reconstruction after the Nazis raized it to the ground.

Isola Bela, Lake Maggiore

Stare Miasto, Warsaw

S : Splurge ; something you have no problem forking out money for when travelling :

If I can find somewhere with a lovely view I’m happy to sit indefinitely with a glass or two of wine.

Porto Moniz, Madeira

A smiling husband in Cordoba

Real Alcazhar, Seville

T : Touristy thing you’ve done :

Breakfast with Dale

Have to confess to absolutely loving the Disney parades.  I was ecstatic to have Buzz Lightyear kiss my hand, and Chip and Dale- who wouldn’t want to take them home?

U : Unforgettable travel memory :

Gulet sunset

Gulet sunset

Gulet cruise from Bodrum to Fethiye- a little strange in that it was a late honeymoon, but we couldn’t afford to do it at any other time.  Certainly we weren’t sure if we wanted to share with 10 other people and 3 crew, but it was a fabulous holiday, despite my being stung on the bum by a wasp.

V : Visas ; how many and for where :

Easy answer- none.  Have led a sheltered life!

W :  Wine, best glass of wine while travelling and where :

Welcome to Obidos! The gateway

Obidos. O Conquistador restaurant.  We were taking a breather in a long day’s travelling and opted to eat before returning to the fun of the Medieval Fair.  The restaurant was quiet as everyone was at the fair and the owner was wonderfully relaxed.  The wine was served in earthenware tumblers and was as good as any I’ve ever tasted.  Portuguese Dao and Alentejan wines are generally superb.

X : eXcellent view and from where :

So many it’s an impossible choice but I’ll go with the view of the River Guadiana down to the Alqueva Dam, from the turrets of Monsaraz in Portugal.

A grey day at Monsaraz- imagine it in sunshine

Y : Years spent travelling :

Embarrassingly 40+.  Wish it had been constant though.  Much of my travelling is done fairly locally, but it’s all world, and so much to enjoy.

Z : Zealous sports fans and where :

I’m not a huge sports enthusiast but I rarely miss Nadal playing tennis (on TV).  My husband and son are passionate about football and never pass up an opportunity to see a live match.  Las Palmas on Tenerife was a rowdy and memorable one but the Portuguese take some beating when it comes to “excitability” for a normally calm and courteous race.

I’ve really enjoyed doing this.  Good old Memory Lane.  Now, who else would appreciate this challenge?

http://apetcher.wordpress.com/ Have Bag/ Will Travel

http://mecwrites25.wordpress.com/  La Chica Writes

http://megtraveling.com/  Meg Travels

http://shipscooksstuff.wordpress.com/  Shipscook Stuff

http://kimberlyblagrove.wordpress.com/  The Nappy Wanderer