Tag: sunshine

Highlights

Highlights

I wanted to finish this blog series on a high, and so, anticipating the questions people might ask, I’ve been contemplating the highlights. Seeing friends is always going to top these lists – spending time with people we so rarely get to see – so I’ve eliminated them from the equation. But to my English, Scottish and expat Aussie friends, know that you were our highlight!

Top eats

1. Pasta at Rossopomodoro on our first night in Venice. Unbelievably creamy, ridiculously tasty whipped buffalo ricotta concoction on fresh made pasta. At the time I said it was the best meal I’d ever eaten. I stand by that.

2. Cioppino at Sotto Mare, North Beach California, sitting up at the counter, with wine, feeling so alive only four days into our holiday.

Places to which I’ll definitely return (in no particular order)

1. Reykjavik

2. Berlin

3. Washington

4.Everywhere else.

Top moments

1. Discovering the former Australian Embassy building in Washington DC, where my grandmother first worked.

2. Recently arrived in Rome, dusk, sitting at a cafe in Piazza della Rotonda, looking out at the Pantheon, glass of white wine, nowhere to be in any hurry.

3. Standing in the Neumarkt in Dresden surrounded by the Christmas markets.

4. Driving through the deep snow north west of Reykjavik, unable to see anything at all – a complete white out.

5. The Art Institute of Chicago.

Most amazing sights

1. Gullfoss waterfall, Iceland.

2. Autumn leaves, Scotland.

3. Chicago buildings.

Funniest shrieking with laughter moments (sorry, for these you had to be there so are to remind me, but I’m happy to tell the stories if asked).

1. Don buying a jacket in Macy’s New York.

2. Ruth hanging her last Christmas decoration on the thermostat.

I could add to all of these lists, because of course the whole trip has been the most amazing, eye-opening, brilliant and fun experience for both of us. And I have loved sharing all of this with you via the blog. Thanks so much for reading, and for all of your lovely comments.

Now, to start planning the next adventure…..

Stuff happens

Stuff happens

Singapore

Last I left you dear readers we were enjoying the exploits of Bangkok before heading on to our last destination, Singapore. But something happened on the way to Singapore.

I got sick.

I must say, we had a pretty good run – perfect weather everywhere we went, fabulous hotels, scarcely a runny nose between us. We lost a couple of things – including an expensive thing and a sentimental thing – but things can be replaced. Small panic when we thought we were on the wrong train in Germany, but we just needed to change platforms. That’s it, really.

So long story short I pretty much missed Singapore, other than the inside of the hotel room, Singapore Raffles Hospital and the Changi Airport medical clinic.

Sometimes stuff happens, and you just have no control over it.

My beautiful husband sorted doctors, fed me fluids and held my hand, keeping me sane and safe.

He also bought me an awesome yet somewhat hideous toothpick holder/bottle opener souvenir and a mini Merlion, both of which I shall treasure. Then when I was starting to feel better, he walked me ever so slowly down to the Merlion and back again, just so that I could be outside in a different city on our last day away. He truly is my rock.

And as I was worrying over how I could possibly be comfortable flying that last eight hours home, Qantas sent a message upgrading us to business class. Sometimes stuff happens!

So now we are home, safe, and almost well.

Stay tuned, there is a little more to come reflecting on this epic 99 days.

Merry Christmas!

Five nights in Bangkok

Five nights in Bangkok

No but seriously, have I mentioned we love the heat?

Urgh.

We’ve been to Bangkok several times before. We love this city – the whole noisy, hectic atmosphere of food, markets, people, shops. But Bangkok is hot. Like, really hot. Muggy, sweaty hot. We can no longer wear the same clothes five days in a row hot. It’s quite a dramatic change.

To counteract the heat, Don has purchased cloth trousers and more sarongs, and I have purchased batik* Thai** pants and an elephant singlet.

I shall wear all of these back in Australia.***

However counteracting our new, cooler outfits we are eating chilli for breakfast, lunch and dinner at street vendors across the city. Big, fat red chillies that take you completely by surprise**** if you’re not looking. Chilli to turn your face red and make sweat cover your brow.

To counteract the chillies, we’re drinking gallons of water. Bottles and bottles of water, as well as bottles and bottles of Pepsi***** and Coca-cola.

Counteracting all of this water and cola consumption, we are walking everywhere (in our new outfits), for miles and miles, seeing temples and markets and statues and shops and people. It’s pretty hard going.

To counteract being hot and worn out from walking****** we’re buying fruit at every corner. Vendors sell it from ice laden carts, chopping it fresh in front of you – watermelon, pineapple, mango, other fruit.*******

Yep, Bangkok is pretty fabulous, but pretty darn hot.

I guess the other thing we could use is our air-conditioned hotel room and the swimming pool, but then that would be quite lazy of us.********

________________________________________________________

*not really batik, just “batik-look”

**not worn by any Thai people, worn only by tourists

***probably not, going on past experience

****yep

*****not really Pepsi, a kind of sugary cola substitute

******ok so perhaps we’ve jumped in a tuk-tuk several times

*******small, round brown things, sliced green things, pale yellow segmented things

********alright yes we are totally being lazy every afternoon from around 3:30pm

University challenge

University challenge

Cambridge

Don, Tim and I went on a day trip to Cambridge yesterday. Tim’s niece studies at Cambridge so we met her there and she showed us around. Such a beautiful town, with glorious old buildings, a superb gallery and lush manicured lawns.

Tim’s niece told us about uni life, her studies and ambitions.

Tim and Don and I told her about what we did when we were at uni. Because young people love it when you do that.

“I sent some friends to stage a coup of the the Conservative Association.”

“I spent more time finding somebody who had already read Great Expectations than it would have taken to read it myself.”

“I was founding member of the University Alcohol Appreciation Society.”

“I jumped in the fountain and won a bloodthirsty garden gnome in the annual statue competition.”

“I got elected student union secretary in order to stop the candidate we didn’t like being elected.”

“I instigated an occupation of the university teaching block when I was accommodation officer.”

“I was involved in the protest when the condom vending machines were removed at our uni.”

“I wore my pyjamas to uni once when I was late for lectures.”

“I washed the inside windows of the uni hall with a fire hose.”

Suffice to say yesterday was educational for everybody involved.

Expect a slide night

Expect a slide night

It’s week nine and I have taken 2,562 photos. Many photos of buildings, paintings and churches, some photos of food, multiple selfies, lots of squirrels, even more lion statues, lots of Don and me standing in front of famous things grinning inanely. Photos with our heads chopped off, photos with only half the background.

But if there’s one subject with which I may have gotten a tad carried away, it’s autumn.

Well come on, everywhere is full to the brim with trees, their leaves changing colours at varying rates – we don’t get that at home. Clouds of red, orange, brown, yellow, rust stretched as far as you can see, blankets of yellow and brown to shuffle and swing your feet through, massive bursts of red. It’s just so beautiful, I could happily spend all day just walking through the parks, gardens and wilderness. Taking photos.

In Lucca, London and Scotland, Queen of the autumn leaf brigade, I’ve taken:

  • 9 landscape photos of various parks
  • 7 close ups of leaf litter
  • 10 selfies with background leaves
  • 2 photos of Don disappearing into a leafy wilderness
  • 6 photos of me crouched amongst the leaf litter
  • 15 photos of individual trees that looked particularly pretty
  • 18 photos up tree lined avenues
  • 1 photo of Don and Kristin disappearing into tree lined avenue wilderness
  • 8 photos of London landmarks carefully framed amongst the autumn leaves
  • 16 photos of Scottish castle surrounds
  • 15 photos of Scottish castles within their surrounds
  • 7 photos of trees along a bubbling creek
  • 5 photos of sheep in fields surrounded by autumn trees.

As I said, a tad carried away. Thank goodness our next stop is Iceland.

Welcome to Scotland

Welcome to Scotland

It was four degrees when we arrived in Aberdeen. Four.

That’s ok, we were expecting the cold so we were dressed appropriately when Kristin picked us up from the airport. And even better, Gary had built a roaring fire to welcome us after the long drive to their country home.

A burning, crackling, coal driven, flames hurtling up the chimney roaring fire.

I took my coat off at the front door and we snuggled into the living room with several drams of whisky, welcome to Scotland champagne, a determination not to peak too soon and the roaring fire.

After a while I had to take my shoes off. Gary put more coal onto the fire. We drank some more whisky and champagne, a bottle of red was opened.

It got warmer. I took my socks off. Gary put even more coal onto the fire. We switched to white wine, the whisky kept coming.

It got even warmer. Burning up a wee bit, I took my scarf off. Then I took my jumper off.

Gary put more coal onto the fire and brought out more whisky. I took my shirt off. Then I shoved the sleeves of my long t-shirt up my arms.

It was one degree outside, yet sitting in that tiny living room was like being in a bikram yoga class with endless alcohol.

In danger of stripping down to my underwear, Kristin eventually moved us into the dining room where it was icy cold and much more comfortable.

It wasn’t that we couldn’t feel the cold. Because there’s no way we peaked too soon.

The stuff of Italy

The stuff of Italy

Surely it’s impossible not to love Italy.

I remember the first time we came – our plan was to spend a few days, then head to Brindisi and catch the ferry to Greece. But Italy sucked us in; we bought one of those limited kilometres train tickets, carefully counted our lira and camped all over the place.

And now Italy has sucked us into its big, bold warmth again. Every city we’ve been in so far I’ve turned to the others and just grinned with the sheer happiness of being here, with my friends, in the sunshine, exploring, eating, relaxing, learning. I’ve had these moments in other places too, but Italy is special.

Because Italy is jam packed with stuff. Crammed into every corner, stuff. From the west to the east, down to the toe and through the islands, great stuff upon even better stuff. Old stuff, new stuff, delicious stuff. Painted stuff, historic stuff, ruined stuff. Pretty and designer stuff. Famous stuff to see, secret stuff to discover.

And in all of that stuff, I can’t think of a single thing that’s wrong. Sure, there are lots of tourists, and some things can be expensive, but whatever. It’s all a part of it. You want history? Italy’s got it. You want food? Every restaurant, cafe, gelateria is a winner. Art? More than covered. Shopping? Don’t get me started. Wine? Don’t make me laugh.

We’ve eaten pasta, pizza, pastries, gelato, cheeses, meats. We’ve seen paintings, frescoes and statues, visited churches, palaces, towers, ruins and monasteries. It’s never-ending – people-watching piazzas, rich, perfect coffee, beautiful wine, scenic landscapes. Quirky little shops, designer stores to look but not buy, markets to haggle in. Big cities, little towns, each with its own identity, its own showstoppers.

And now we are in Livorno, coastal town, with other close friends and even more to explore – canals, markets, food, day trips.

So much stuff.

For the third time in my life I threw a coin in the Trevi Fountain. A guarantee I’ll be doing the turn and grin again.

Up, down, shake it all around

Up, down, shake it all around

Italy

Indulge me for a moment while I focus on the selfie stick.

The selfie stick is one of those items that are at the same time dreadfully touristy and incredibly useful. The benefits are obvious – not all friendly tourists will take a nice pic of you – and yet we still hesitate to buy one, not wanting to join the throngs wandering about, sticks in the air, heads bobbing about.

Our friend Ruth has a selfie stick; she brought it with her on our trip to Italy.

Our friend Ruth is an intelligent, funny and capable woman, however mastering the selfie stick seems to be a skill that has totally bypassed her. And nothing – nothing – on this trip to Italy has made us laugh so hard, so loud, so tears streaming down our face shrieking, as Ruth taking our photo using the selfie stick.

We don’t get it out much because it takes a short discussion on appropriateness and importance of the proposed site followed by around 45 minutes of assembly. In fact until today we’d only used it three times: for a photo at the Roman forum with Ruth’s head chopped off, a photo at the Spanish Steps without the Spanish Steps in it and a photo of our black shapeless head silhouettes in front of some blurry backlit columns somewhere in Rome.

The thing is, I really don’t know how it always goes so wrong what with all of the instructions the rest of us provide for Ruth to follow. Particularly Tim. Because wives love it when their husbands shout a string of conflicting instructions at them. Take this morning when we went for our fourth attempt with the selfie stick on a cute little canal bridge in Venice. After the assembly process, Ruth lifted the stick, and it was on.

“Tilt it back!”

“Straighten it up!”

“Lift it higher!”

“Move your head!”

“You move your head!”

“Lower!”

“Higher!”

“Sideways!”

“The other sideways!”

“Wait, I need my sunglasses!”

“Don’s not in!”

“I said straighten it up!”

“Tim’s too tall!”

“I can’t hold this pose much longer!”

“Tilt it 80 degrees left!”

“Sure, let me get my protractor out!”

“Wait, I’ll take my hat off.”

“I can’t find the button!”

“It’s on the bottom!”

“It’s on the side!”

“Now!”

“Now!”

“Now!”

Click.

And so we have added to our collection a photo on a Venice bridge, three smiling faces and Don sliced perfectly down the middle.

All that plus a marching band

All that plus a marching band

Philadelphia

We didn’t really know much about Philadelphia, so on our first full day we chose to wander our way to the art gallery and back and just see what we could find along the way. And this is how Philadelphia proved to us that sometimes you just happen to be in the right place at the right time.

Let me present the evidence.

Exhibit A: The Discoveries

On our walk we stumbled upon: the murals of Philadelphia, the Amor statue, the Rodin Museum, ‘create your own monument’ pedestals, a pop-up dance exhibition by Philadelphia’s premier ballet company, the quirky ‘Your Move’ sculpture of giant board game pieces, a dancing fountain, Philadelphia’s city hall (the largest in the world), and the impressive Washington Monument Fountain.

Exhibit B: The Weather

It was the most beautiful, beautiful day. The colour of the sky was a clear, bright blue, not one cloud anywhere. It wasn’t humid, it wasn’t hot, it was bright and sparkling and beautiful. People were out and about and happy; I like to think because the weather was perfect.

Exhibit C: The Food

A cute little organic bakery with (real) coffee, spicy Cajun at the Reading Terminal markets, sneaky handmade chocolate truffles and a sensational local Greek restaurant.

Exhibit D: The Parade

And the pièce de résistance? As we walked back down Benjamin Franklin Parkway, we saw a marching band. A big, bold, red and white, loud, feathers in their caps, brass blaring, marching band. We stood in the sunshine bouncing along as they marched past. They were followed by a whole parade, including flag twirling rainbow girls, vintage cars, dancers, streetcars and a six banjo double accordion band. Turns out it was Pulaski Day – the annual parade honouring the Polish patriot known as the ‘father of the American Cavalry’.

Philadelphia – right place, right time.