Viva Venezia!

2 02 2013

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It’s been a while since I posted – and even longer since I posted something on travel.

In October 2012 I travelled across the north of Italy, starting in Venice, then travelling to Verona, Milan (with a side-tripe to Lake Como) and then to the gorgeous Cinqueterre.

Venice is, it is true, very touristy. But I love touristy places. Being surrounded not only by locals, but by travellers from the world over. I love that everything is there, available to the tourist, when you want it. Being able to wander around and just pick a restaurant when you are hungry without having to book in advance. I love the touristy shops, displays and the sightseeing, all available and on tap. And I love that everyone is so patient with my very poor language skills – after all, I am unlikely to get fluent in every language for every place I want to visit.

And we were lucky enough, arriving in the beginning of October, to miss the height of the tourist season, when Venice is packed, but still got good weather.

Venice, like all the best tourist cities, is a city for walking. Yes there are the famed canals, and a multitude of water craft to choose from – the very expensive gondolas (85 Euro for a 40 minute tour through the canals, with specific sights pointed out – Casanova’s House, Marco polo’s House, Mozart stayed there, etc), the comparatively cheap water buses and easy to use (20 Euro) or water taxis. However, having experienced all of these, wandering through the back-streets of the city centre will show you the sights as you (and, it has to be said, hundreds of other people) discover quiet canals, picturesque bridges and charmingly distressed buildings.

And of course, high-end shopping. Every designer worth their salt has a shop in Venice. Quite how they manage to save their stock and their shop-floors in the regular flooding – well I don’t know. But window shopping in this town is amazing.

Venice is also known for Venetian glass – or more accurately, Murano Glass. The Island of Murano is one of many that make up the city of Venice. A scenic water bus journey of about 50 minutes, or if you are in a rush, a water taxi of about 10 minutes, away, and a variety of glass techniques, glass blowing, and much to buy from museum grade pieces to cheap necklaces and tiny glass animals.

Below is selection of some of the best of my many (many) photographs of Venice.

Enjoy!

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Tables with a water view…..

VeniceVenice sinks at about 1cm per year, so the buildings are constantly under strain as they sink unevenly into the mud.  Many Venetian buildings have damaged facades from centuries of slow subsidence, which only adds to the charm.

??????????????????????????????????????????????The famed Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal.  Note the traffic on the Grand Canal, where slow moving gondolas do battle with water buses, water taxis, private vehicles and the Venetian equivalent of trucks – boats moving everything from building supplies to retail goods to post office delivery trucks.

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???????????????????????????????????????????Gondola station on the Grand Canal.  There is a centuries-old law that says gondolas must be black.

??????Water buses leaving and approaching the floating bus-stop at the Rialto Bridge, on the Grand Canal.

??????Traffic on the Grand Canal, lined with restaurants and gondola stations.

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????????????????????Gondola Station.

???????????????????????????????????????????View along the Grand Canal from the Rialto Bridge.

??????Parking lot for gondolas.  Just to the left around the corner is the Hard Rock Café.

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Piazza San Marco, viewed from a gondola.

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Another view of Piazza San Marco from the gondola

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????One of many quiet canals, viewed from under a bridge.

?????????????????????The Island of Murano, where Murano glass is made.

?????????????????????Shops in Murano.  The entire island seems to be glass shops, souvenir shops, and restaurants.

?????????????????????Main canal in Murano Island.

?????????????????????Main canal in Murano island

?????????????????????Murano

?????????????????????Murano.  We had lunch at the restaurant on the right, under the white canopy.

?????????????????????Canal in Murano Island, taken from a bridge.

?????????????????????Murano

?????????????????????Canal in Murano Island, taken from a bridge.

???????????????????Gondoliers ply their trade on the Grand Canal near Piazza San Marco.  Photo taken from a restaurant.  Note how many people are in the one gondola out in the water.  Given the price, this is not a bad solution!

???????????????????Gondola station near Piazza San Marco

????????????????????????????????????????????????????Detail of one of the shopping arcades that line Piazza San Marco.

?????????????????????????Basilica San Marco, and tourists.  A moth after we were here, the entire piazza was underwater in one of their frequent Acqua Alta – which appears to be a very high tide.  News photographs showed people in bathers floating over the top of the chairs in the foreground.

?????????????????????????Tourists in Piazza San Marco, and the very distinctive pink glass street lights.

????????????????Gondola station near Piazza San Marco (another photograph taken from a restaurant table).

??????Venice is a town for walking, with narrow laneways, stepped bridges over smaller canals, occasionally opening up to massive stone churches, elaborately decorated (above and more detail below)

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Gumeracha Medieval Fair

6 05 2012

I finally made it to the Gumeracha Medieval Fair, after having seen advertisements for many years. Set in scenic Federation Park in Gumeracha in the Adelaide Hills, the themed marquees, the central town square for entertainments and the large number of costumed participants and attendees made this an interesting variation on the town fair. Seeing a monk or a damsel in medieval costume texting on their i-phone made for an interesting look!

Federation Park features some amazingly large gum trees set around a creek. The fair covered both sides of the creek with a wooden foot-bridge to cross from one side to another. The food stalls were themed (sausage rolls became rat in a roll), a central “tavern” tent served spiced Mead and old-fashioned soft drinks, and in addition to the many stalls offering things for sale, there were also displays of wood-carving, knife-sharpening, blacksmithing and spinning. Displays of medieval warcraft including archery, catapults, and knights battling it out in sword-fights to win the hand of a “not-so-fair” maiden (turned out to be a man in drag) were complimented by displays where the exhibitors talked about how various weapons and household implements were made and used. Helmets and chain mail were available to try on – and to buy.

So all in all quite a fun day (it actually ran all weekend), although late afternoon light rain seemed to call the end of the fair slightly before the advertised time.

Want some more photographs of Australia?
St Nicholas comes to Hahndorf
Prehistoric Australia
Prehistoric Australia





Prehistoric Australia

21 04 2012

at the entrance to the Naracoorte Caves National Park - perhaps fossils from the iron age????

Naracoorte is a small town in the south-east of the state of South Australia. It is about four hours drive from Adelaide, so more of an overnight stay than a day-trip, if being attempted with children.

Naracoorte was one of my favourite holiday places as a child – and more specifically, the Naracoorte Caves. These massive caves are naturally formed from the actions of water on limestone, and as well as featuring spectacular stalagmites (from the ground up), stalactites (from the ceiling down) helicotites (sideways!), columns and curtains (as they sound), they also feature fossils from prehistoric animals.

While there are no massive dinosaurs here, there are a large number of smaller fossils ranging from lizards and small rodents up to megafauna – giant prehistoric kangaroos and wombats, and my favourite, thylacaleo carnifex – the marsupial lion. The caves are still under excavation by archeologists so who knows what other animals will be found in the tonnes and tonnes of material yet to be sifted through.

The underground caves have guided tours while a few caves which have larger openings to the surface are self-guide. One of the caves is now home to a large colony of bats.

The rate of petrification in these caves is much (much) slower than the caves we visited in France, where the rate of water flow and the calcium load in the water was such that they could use it to petrify objects for the tourist trade. Here the stalactites, stalagmites etc grow at a miniscule rate.

another "iron age" fossil!

a banksia outside the caves

fairytale castles.....stalactites reflected in a perfectly still pond underground

these stagmites look like a nativity scene

stalactites formed along a crack in the ceiling

stalactites formed along a crack in the cave ceiling

a "curtain" stalactite feature

sink hole to the surface (looking upwards). These sorts of holes were how the animals fell into the caves and then were unable to get out again. Underneath these holes would be large piles of silt and rubble, unless a flood event had washed the rubble further into the cave.

Thylacaleo carnifex (marsupial lion)

Thylacaleo Carnifex (marsupial lion)

archeological dig

"Stanley" - megafauna kangaroo

thylacaleo carnifex - "Leo"

the archeological dig

Wet Cave

thylacaleo carnifex battling a giant snake

megafauna

megafauna kangaroo (model)

columns in White Cave - look like architectural columns

Flinders University archeology digs in White Cave - each stripe in the soil indicates a different period of time

leaving White Cave

Want more pictures of Australian sites? Try….
Adelaide Botanic Gardens
In the red hot centre
Old Melbourne Jail and the Melbourne Aquarium





Bicentiennial Conservatory

9 04 2012

At the north-eastern end of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens is the Bicentennial Conservatory – a nautilus-shell-shaped glass and steel structure which is visible from certain western facing points of the Adelaide hills. Designed by South Australian architect Guy Maron, it was opened to celebrate the Australian bicentenary in 1988. It is the largest single span glasshouse in the southern hemisphere, and one of the largest in the world.

I remember visiting it shortly after it opened, when most of the plants were not much more than seedlings. Twenty-four years later and I have to ask….what are they going to do with the trees that are now touching the roof?

No pictures of the outside of the shell – but some of the detail of the rainforest within.


The (rather civilised) way into the jungle…


More pictures from Australia? Try
Melbourne Jail and the Melbourne Aquarium
In the red hot centre
South Australian Museum





South Australian Museum

9 04 2012

A trip to the South Australian Museum, on North Terrace in Adelaide. A few photographs of the Pacific Islander collection and the building, the war memorial and an abandoned building on North Terrace that has fallen “victim” to some street art.

breast decorations made from shell

Fiji Times declares peace in the Pacific (WWII)

Pacific Islander mask

the War Memorial, North Terrace, Adelaide

an attractive but abandoned building on North Terrace, Adelaide

faces at the window (detail)

ornate plaque





In the red hot centre

1 04 2012

waiting for sunset at Uluru

Despite having lived in Australia almost my entire life, I had never been to the Northern Territory prior to 2008. My family, as English immigrants, had spent every school holiday for my entire childhood driving about the countryside visiting almost everywhere except the Northern Territory and Tasmania. So when my then-workplace sent me to Alice Springs for a conference, I was thrilled!

I took the opportunity to visit Uluru (formerly called Ayres Rock) and Kata-Tjuta (formerly the Olgas), as well as attending the conference. Uluru-Kata-Tjuta National Park is 461km from Alice Springs – you can get there by flight, bus or driving – I opted for bus, which was a whole-day experience, leaving very early in the morning and getting back about midnight (because of course you have to stay and see the sunset over Uluru).

The Centre lived up to its reputation. In Alice Springs, don’t forget to pop into the bar Bojangles which is a tourist icon – every spare piece of wall or ceiling has something nailed to it – old farming implements, hats, horse-shoes, whips, animal skulls, skins etc. I suggest going early in the evening as it has a reputation for getting a bit rough later at night. And there are many galleries selling original Aboriginal artworks ranging from about $40 to $40,000 – a price for every pocket! Make sure you get authentication papers with whatever you buy.

Enjoy!

Table-top mountain on the way to Uluru - flat horizon

Singing (and piano-playing) Dingo at a road-house on the way to Uluru

first sighting of Uluru from the bus

rock formations that look like faces in profile, carved into Uluru

The following photographs are of Kata Tjuta – a rock formation consisting of 36 “forms”, approximately 50km from Uluru.

Kata-Tjuta on the horizon (from the bus)

the flat horizon from a gorge in Kata-Tjuta

from the bus - farewelling Kata-Tjuta

Then we headed back to Uluru to wait for sunset. The rock is reputed to change colour several times during sunset. The postcards you can buy display these changes very effectively. The colours were not so strong when I was there (no bright rose-red or blood-red). No filters or effects have been used on this photographs.

waiting for sunset at Uluru

"not alone" waiting for sunset at Uluru. We were in fact parked at a bus carpark and lookout, surrounded by other buses and barbecues as we all enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine and a sausage, while setting up our camera shots.

the horizon glows...

almost dark

The conference dinner was set up at a venue slightly outside Alice Springs as a venue called Ooraminna Station Homestead (thanks to Shelley for reminding me of the name). The venue had buildings around the edge built like farm out-houses but were actually the kitchen, bar, shelter for the band and the toilets. It was surrounded by some high-land which protected it from the wind, but it was still freezing cold at night, as deserts are. However, set up for a silver service dinner setting and with candles and fairy-lights, it was an amazing venue.

Conference dinner venue - near Alice Springs, under the stars

Comedian Anh Do, his brother and former Young Australian of the Year (2005) Khoa Do and my friend Shelley. The Do brothers talked about their journey from Vietnam to Australia as refugees and making their lives here.

Like some more photos of Australia? Try…
At the Edge of the Ocean

Life is a Beach

Melbourne Jail and the Melbourne Aquarium





Old Melbourne Jail and the Melbourne Aquarium

31 03 2012

gardens outside Melbourne Museum

In May of 2010 we visited Melbourne to see the Titanic Exhibition at the Melbourne Museum. While we were impressed to be in the same room as some of the artefacts that had been brought up from the wreck on the ocean floor, it is fair to say the children, not being so well-acquiainted with the story and history, were underwhelmed. No photos of this I am afraid, photography was forbidden to the entire exhibition.

The children were more impressed with the Old Melbourne Jail and the connection to Ned Kelly – his armour, a bust of his head – and the flogging and scaffold. They are still somewhat amazed and shocked that human beings would do such things to each other. We followed this up with a visit to the Melbourne Aquarium (not really my thing, but I do love penguins and I love photographing jellyfish, even though they come out blurry because of their indeterminate borders. The othr big hit was the hop on hop off trams that loop around the city. Despite being packed, they were very impressed with them!

Enjoy!

wool bombing in the gardens by the Melbourne Museum

whipping frame

exterior of the Old Melbourne Jail

exercise yards

Ned Kelly's death mask

Ned Kelly's home-made and ultimately ineffective armour

Love penguins!

There is a fish in this photo, well hidden. Can you see it? It is slightly more sparkly than the sand.

Leafy Sea Dragon

Nemo!

a mass of stars

a mass of stars

lunch?


Want more photos of Australia? Try…
At the edge of the Ocean
Life is a beach

or subscribe – more photos to come.