Tuesday, 25 December 2012

How the Christmases go by - 2012!!

The background is the view from the Villa Borghese gardens Rome - December 2012

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Summer time - vacations - we’re back - they’re back!!

Ah! What a day! Saturday, 16th April 2011 - a day when we were all still young!!! 

And also the date of the last post to the Douglas Report. 

I was thinking that it deserved “The Last Post”, but some of you surprised me recently by noticing a suspension in posts. No surprise that most said keep it long on photos and short on wordage. 

Budapest, Hungary
But I have to explain the delay - the lost months of summer. At the end of April, Friday 29th, we drove north for a touring holiday with Pierre the Peugeot, dodging the crowds in Rome for the beatification of the former Pope John Paul II and the labour day holiday - Festa del Lavoro. 

We went first to Ravenna in north-eastern Italy (famous for its mosaics), then to Slovenia (with its beautiful forests and where Labour Day caught up with us by the town band playing before dawn outside our window), for 45 minutes through a part of Croatia (only because Tom Tom thought it a good idea without telling us - four border-crossings within the hour), Hungary (Budapest), Slovakia (Bratislava where coincidentally the World Ice Hockey championships were taking place), Austria (Vienna), the Czech Republic (Prague), Tübingen in Germany, Dijon to Lyon in France's Bourgogne (via the Grand Cru), across (or under the Alps back into Italy and thence via Asti and Lucca home - 15 days later. 


A lot of kilometres you say! 

True, but a great time of year to travel, excellent roads (mostly) and, well, we returned safely. 

Then May, June and July saw a number of visitors and a little tripping for work - Uganda. Some tricky dealing with a broken molar that required a crown. 

Thence a period of uncertainty about what the future held, a hastily organised leave back in Brisbane, a return to Rome and recovery. Actually, we’ve been very busy. 

So, we’re back. 

And so is autumn and delightfully temperate weather.... and the starlings. They’re back ... we saw our first flocks last weekend. These astonishing (and at least to the locals, annoying) birds mass in huge swirling flocks here in autumn/winter and create fascinating patterns in the evening skies of Rome. They also make sure that cars get washed regularly!!! Enjoy the pictures! We’re back!!!

Ancient mosaics - Ravenna, Italy

Presepe or Christmas Crib - Ravenna (note suspicious characters to left)
Dawn, Celje Slovenia on May Day - just after the band played 
Budapest, Hungary

Russian Dolls (and one Polish) - Budapest, Hungary
Bratislava Slovakia - World Ice Hockey Championships chappy
Bratislava Slovakia

Vienna, Austria

Let's have your best wurst - Prague
Infant of Prague (... Prague)

Prague, Czech Republic 
Astronomical Clock, Prague
Tubingen, Germany

Dijon, France - every direction

The Grand Cru - Bourgogne (Burgundy) France

Lyon, France

Crossing the Alps - in Spring

Lucca, Italy, from the walls

You'll just have to Google "starlings" ......

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Culture …. in all its different forms

“Rome – the Eternal City”…… so what does that mean?  It will always be here!  It never changes!  It has always been here!!

"Romy and Remey" - bronze in Capitoline Museum
Certainly, there have been folks about here for a few thousand years.  And a lot of things do seem to stay the same here, invoking the notion that this is going to go on forever.  But amongst the many cultural events here, there are little clues to changes that mark the subtle mix of tradition and vibrancy, and attract people from all around the world to keep coming.

They have come in big numbers of late.  Spring has sort of come to us.  Some delightful days, but interspersed with some totally forgettable weather and still not really warm.  The leaves grew back on all the trees two weeks ago.  For sons and daughters of the sub-tropics, this is incredible.  From bleak sticks to succulent shady trees in a few days.  It as if some overseer of trees put the message out one night and every deciduous plant jumped to the order.  There are lots of flowers about and the wisteria is just delightful.
Tuscan hills - my car being overtaken (again!)

A bit of time has past since the last posting.  A gentle complaint was forwarded last week.  Our only excuse is that we have been very busy.

Hi-tech wine tasting - Brunello region
We took a weekend with a couple of friends to an agroturismo in Tuscany – the area that claims the Brunello wines – fairly famous here in Italy and regarded as sort of top shelf.  So we had a very pleasant drive, some good food, and a wine tasting on the winery where we stayed.  In the local town, Montalcino, we saw the most high-tech wine shop imaginable with Jetson-like machine that dispensed tastings for a fee.

Agroturismo - Montalcino
We followed this weekend up with a wine tasting organized by the Canadian Club of Rome.  This featured wines from the Puglia region.  These are mostly pretty expensive but probably more because it is a difficult area to grow grapes, so the yields are low.

We also leant our support to the Irish Club of Rome by attending the Celtic Ball on the Saturday closest to St Patrick’s Day.  A very Italo-Irish event with a fair bit of Guinness substituting the wines.  The main Irish Pub in Rome, “The Scholar’s Lounge” has also attracted us of late for the Rugby (Six Nations), the Guinness stew and the bonhomie. 

Rooftop drinks before Celtic Ball
Our good New Zealand friends are preparing their departure from Rome, so a series of “send-offs” including to the French restaurant L’eau Vive – in a convent, cooked and served by nuns in national dress who hand out the words to a French and an Italian version of “Ave Maria” at nine o’clock and have a sing-along. 

We caught two Australian movies at the film festival arranged by the Australian Embassy, the keynote of which was “Bran Nue Dae”, complete with on-the-spot interviews with the producer and male lead.  It seemed very popular with the mainly Italian audience of film buffs.

Australian Film Festival
We have previously featured photos of brides on “the report”.  They are multiplying with the coming of Easter and many come from all over the world to have a Roman experience and to have their photos taken with notable backdrops.  This time we feature a seemingly unique choice of bus and take-away stand (why come all this way for that?).  And an elaborate groom and lovely bride, looking very traditional perhaps, except for the fetching tattoo that surrounds the forearm – captivating it seems by the chains.

Anyway, you probably prefer to see the photos so, for your discerning palate this time, some shots encompassing a wide range of things to do in and about Rome in this wintry/springy season.  I have now learnt how to put captions on the pics.

All that way for this backdrop!!
Ciao belli
Traditional - modern mix

Pre-schoolers arrested outside Colosseum

Centurions round up the ragazzi

Blessing of the municipal vehicle fleet

Formal garden - Villa Lante - Bagnaia

The "Pack" about to cause run on Irish Stews - St Paddy's Day

Finish of Rome Marathon

Italy's 150th Celebrations - flower flag on Janiculum

The world's oldest sewer outfall

What happens to statues
Song at the convent

The convent's dining room ceiling

Me about to take place at the House of the Vestal Virgins

The forum site of Julius Caesar's cremation (and oration)

They still place flowers (and tickets) on Big Julie's cremation site

.... and we philosophers at the Capitoline Museum

Saturday, 19 February 2011

A Flood of Emotions….

Much has happened since our last posting and even since posting our Christmas card.

We travelled to Brisbane between 18th December and 20th January.  A long awaited holiday for Ian …. and the visit brought to an end a 15 month absence.  For Cathy less so, having spent three weeks in Brisbane in June.

Just wonderful to see the family and spend some time with everyone.  Also good to see friends and associates, and for that matter, to see all the changes that had happened in Brisbane.

On the less than positive side, Ian was a little sick for much of the time and, although cool, the weather left a lot to be desired when we spent two weeks at the coast.  But it was very relaxing and we still swam and walked on the beach.  Lots of rain though and that concerned us.


Mussolini's bed

Mussolini's night-time view

We had actually mentioned to friends in Rome before we left that, given the weather patterns, we could potentially find ourselves in serious floods during our time away…. a prophecy that we wish had not come true.

So in the second week in January, the awful floods that had affected rural towns came to Brisbane.  We had lived through these in 1974 so knew what to expect but for those who had not, this was shocking.  The combination of time and tide played tricks it seemed and some areas were affected more than 1974 but thankfully, mostly this was a lower-level flood than 37 years before.  But development during that period meant that the damage was much worse.

Largo Bolsena

We really feel for our many friends who have had their lives tipped upside down this year and pray that they will find resilience in moving on.
Fontana Tortuga
But ….. the report will not show photos of muddy water, instead …. Some of the unique things that Rome (or at least Italy) has to offer and that we have seen since our return.

Photos (in no particular order) …. some very expensive dolls; a small part of last Sunday’s massive demonstration (manifestione) led by women to demand the return of dignity in local politics; echoes of old politics – Benito Mussolini’s bed and the ceiling that he must have looked at while pondering world domination; the lake from Bolsena (a couple of hours drive north of Rome) on a still winter’s afternoon; three famous attractions – the Tivoli (water) gardens at Villa d’Este – the Tortuga Fountain near the Ghetto of Rome – St Peter’s dome through “the keyhole” of the Order of Malta; the joy of coffee ala Romana.


St Peter's Bascilica

Take care … enough disasters for this year already ….

Playful barista