Sunday, 15 December 2013

Arty Bees

I found a treat as I wandered up the street after the movie, an amazing bookshop. I now have the beginnings of a collection on my mantle. I have one to post to a small girl in Antwerp too. Arty Bees Books in Manners Street is a treasure trove of preloved books, Wellington's largest apparently. I was in heaven looking through the shelves, a good balm after the movie.

The shop is open late, a bonus for me as I live a little way away. I made a relatively quick, well very quick compared to others I book shop with, pick of five books. Four I've not read, written by favourite authors. One I've read a few times and have given away a few times. One worthy of a couple of reads. I'm relieved to find Arty Bees. I was a bit worried that I would finish my one real book in the middle of the night and have to download one.

Reading them from the iPad is just not the same. I don't actually find it relaxing and I'm never that sure of how far I am through the book. I know there's easy ways to find out, I haven't really tried. It also flips if you don't hold it up the right way, not read it in bed friendly at all. Preloved and new books that sit on my bedside cabinet are more my speed.

I finally got to read And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, the other book on my shelf. I bought a copy in London, carried it around Europe then lost it on the way home from Portugal. It fell out of my bag on the plane, I hope the person who found it enjoyed as much as I did. A profoundly moving story I didn't want to end. Khaled is a gifted story teller and shares a history through people. It's much more gentle than this other two books I've read.

So my house is feeling a little more homely with some books on view, it's the small things. I love the area I'm living in. It's so close to everything with the bonus of some excellent walks right outside my door. Native bush, native birds, steep hill walks with places to sit and enjoy the view.

This morning I looked out my kitchen window and saw a tui in the huge pohutukawa tree, his beak worrying the flowers for their nectar. He was there a while, I watched and he sang a little as he systematically probed each flower. Amazing, I need to keep my camera in the kitchen just in case he comes back. My big shots today were not as good as my close ones, here's the city from one of the lower lookouts on the track.

Wellington, on another good day

Northern Walkway

I wandered the Northern Walkway again today. I suspect it will take me a while to explore all of it.


Saturday, 14 December 2013

Movies

Two in one day. I must be inspired, more likely unmired. I decided to take myself off to the movies this evening. The Paramount is apparently the oldest theatre continuously running in Wellington. It showed the first talkie in NZ. So the lovely man who sold me my ticket told me while he was pouring my wine. It's a grand place, worth the short bus ride to get there. I'm getting the hang of the buses, the number 3 saves me walking back up the hill.

The movie that inspired me to go out and about was Inch'Allah. It was harrowing, shot like a documentary, the truth with a story woven around it. Compassionate, sad, the story of a time and place where there are two sides. On with might, one quelled and controlled. The value of life different for both sides. This movies touches on that, a little.

Having had a border crossing experience in that part of the world, having had experiences I could hang this movie on, people in it who look and sound like friends. A language I understand snippets of, made it much more than it might have been. I feel so incredibly sad for the people of Palestine, sad that their efforts at self determination are so crushed, that their fight for basic human rights ignored by those powerful enough to do something about it. It felt odd leaving the theatre and stepping out onto a Wellington street, a whole world away.

Saturday

So far a lazy Saturday, checking out what others are doing around the world, writing a few messages, sitting in the sun. Mostly sitting in the sun, enjoying this rare glimpse of real sun with heat in it, eating my toast. Smiling slightly at a day with nothing planned.

Well there is some planning done, the sound of the washing machine down the hall tells me it's almost time to hang out another load. Hanging out washing, a treat for this one who has been without a true washing line, an outside line, for a while. It was actually one of the prerequisites of my new place, one of the small things on the list that actually turned out to be bigger than expected. Balconies are not the same as hanging out washing on an outside line.

The line here is interesting. It's on a pully like the ones in Genova, it's low hanging over some riotous plants that have long stalks of sweet smelling flowers. At least I think it's those flowers that smell, I've not got that close yet and I'm not exactly a gardening genius. So hanging sheets out has posed a few issues. I don't mind the towels dragging a bit, the sheets are white. So this morning, feeling a little pleased with myself, I managed to hang them high enough and get them spread out enough to hopefully dry today.

It took a few goes, I'm sure the neighbours enjoyed the show. Wet white sheets draped over me then flung onto the line, folding king sized sheets to make them easier to fling. Oh, did I mention there's a fence to lean over and a small drop on the other side into some wilderness. The fence may be about as safe as the chair that collapsed under me, the only place I had to sit for a week or so.

And needing to get the sheets dry in a day as they're my only pair, that should be over by next weekend. Seven to 10 days they said, I'm keeping them to that. The last leg of the journey for my goods that have gone from the UAE to Cayman to Christchurch. There are some treasures I'm really looking forward to unpacking. i have places for some of them. The photos on the mantle of the not working gas fire in the living room. some of the other treasures on the hearth.

I now have a bed, not just a mattress on the floor but a proper bed. It's really comfy and the same height as the bedside cabinet I bought. A good fit. I also have a couch, a black leather couch that has a fold out bed and a storage place for those awkward to store things. It was one of two they could deliver the next week. It works and I've already sampled it for sleeping.

Suffice to say, I'm enjoying being in a proper house. A sun drenched house, north and east facing, with a view to the harbour. A glimpse rather than a view to soak up but that's okay. The view to the west is one of native bush, the east out over the city and the Botanic Gardens. Today's place for a wander.

There goes the jangle of the washing machine telling me it's finished. Outside time, I'll check out where that gorgeous smell is coming from. I wonder how they getting washing dry here?



Saturday, 7 December 2013

More than 1300

Photos to sort though, to edit and to enjoy. Memories to revisit. That's just from one of the memory cards, the last one I used. Photos from Hungary back to New Zealand. The Europe, UAE, Asia, Australia and New Zealand photos. Just a few here, I've not had much time. When I saw the yachts in the harbour from my Airbnb in Khandallah, I couldn't resist. Lovely time taking pics from the balcony and enjoying the back drop of bays and hills.

Here are just a few, there will be more to follow and stories too. 

Racing on Wellington Harbour

A wise friend - Perth

A day off - Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia 

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

I'm back!

Well, here I am in Wellington. In my new place, with the internet, sitting on my new couch enjoying the peace and quiet. My new place is lovely, old and a bit rough around the edges, peaceful and sunny. I now have my Mac back so I can get the rest of the photos from my travels uploaded and shared. That's a job for the weekend, this working lark is tiring and for now my brain is full. 

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The next move

It's all coming together. I have my Mac back, fixed and with a much bigger hard drive and no lost data. Thanks to Service Plus in Christchurch. They really were service plus a lot more from the welcoming Michael to the fix it chappy John and the lovely young woman in Wellington who was a little late closing because of me. John phoned me a few time and he was so patient as he explained what was wrong, what he was doing to fix it and how much it would cost, much less than I thought actually. He answered my questions, he needed to be patient with them!

I have a new place to live, one where I can unpack my suitcases.  Signed the lease today. It's a lovely little two bedroom place right near the Botanic Gardens, close enough to walk to work as well. Briscoes had one of their magical sales yesterday and I managed to over fill a big trolley with all I needed. I saved a heap, when I did the add up of the discounts they were more than the cost of the goods. I smiled at the young man at the counter's face when he saw me coming. A bit deer in the headlights.

We chatted away as he rung up and packed, I didn't flinch at the bill, it was so much less than I had expected. Tomorrow I will get to unpack it all and make this place my own, I can't wait really. I did buy an air bed, a just in case air bed that won't be needed. Beds are us in Thorndon Quay are delivering my new bed tomorrow at lunch time, now that's service. They were lovely folks, very helpful as I made my quick purchase.

I'm amazed how easy things are to do here. I got my place, signed it up and still need to pay the bits required. I hooked up the power and Internet on the phone, after hours, and with very helpful customer service people. Things have really improved here, it was just so easy.

It's tiring this being back at work lark. I suspect my time off has set me into a different work ethic. A more relaxed way of being. The new job is interesting, learning the ropes and engaging in the culture of the place has been great.

Now the Mac is back I will load photos over the weekend and post some here. I may even be inspired to write more about my trip, hopefully basking in the sun in my new living room. Best I get on to buying that couch very soon. 

Saturday, 23 November 2013

On a good day

Wellington is outstanding. And today has been a fantastic day. Cooling off a bit now as I sit watching the light change over the harbour, over Eastbourne, over the city. I'm really lucky with my accommodation, seems to be a familiar theme so maybe it's not just luck. I'm staying in a lovely Airbnb home with Brenda. It's so handy to town and easy to find. I've been out and about today looking at apartments. Getting the lay of the land in this new city of mine.

I found where I'm starting work on Monday so that's a really good start. I'm surprised at how compact Wellington really is. There's a lot of apartments for rent or sale within walking distance of my work. A bit of a bonus as I don't want to have a car for now. In saying that, today's exploring would not have happened if I hadn't rented a car, a wise move for this week of searching.

I came back to Brenda's place for a break a bit after lunch and what could I see, a yacht race out on the harbour. Spinnakers flying and a gentle breeze. I did get photos, the view from the balcony was amazing. I'm very inspired to join the sail club here, a piece of exploration for when I'm a bit more settled. Brenda did comment that the sailors are all decked out in jackets and warm clothing so a bit different from tropical sailing. I'm sure I will cope.

Tomorrow I'm out looking again, the goal to get a place by Thursday. There are plenty to rent, if I buy that might be another story.

A small PS. I should be able to upload photos soon. My computer is currently getting a new hard drive, seems the old one had some damage and needed replacing. I'm so relieved, the cost to fix my lovely Mac is much less than I expected and they should be able to save the bits I didn't manage to back up. The technician has also promised to fix my Aperture photos programme and possibly rescue the photos I can only view and not save or print. Fingers crossed. Oh and best of all I should have it back next week. I'm really excited about that.

Last day

It's my last official day of holidays today. It's off to Wellington this evening, my final leg and then it's work on Monday. A new city, a new job and hopefully a new place to live after the weekend. Finding an apartment has been interesting, not knowing Wellington that well doesn't  help. I have a few to view, including an awesome character home that's available until the end of February. A perfect start if it works out.

It was fun being reunited with my goods when I arrived. Boxes of treasures to explore and re-sort. Repacking for freighting to my new address when I have one. I now have two suitcases, my ridiculously large one and a smaller one so I hope I have all I need for the first few weeks in my new place.

Tim, Sarah, Noah and I went out for dinner last evening at Valentinos. I thought we were heading in the wrong direction but of course, Valentinos had had to move due. Earthquakes do tend to shift things around a bit and Christchurch has sure been shifted. It was a lovely meal and because of our young diner we arrived in time for happy hour. It's so lovely having a relaxed and easy time with Tim, Sarah and Noah, knowing that I'm only an hour's flight away so we can do this again anytime.

It's been so fantastic knowing that there's no long haul, multi airport journey to go on soon. Nice to know that this is not just a holiday, a short stop but a more permanent one where I'll get to see my lovely family, minus the jet lag, when ever I want. I will be able to attend those important milestones and celebrations that families have.

It's time and it feels good.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Almost

It's hard to believe. I'm going to be in New Zealand on Monday. Starting work the following Monday.   I'm enjoying my travels still, my time in Brisbane with Eve and Sasi is fantastic. Eve is such a treat of a child, her grandma is allowed to say that of course. We've had a nice time together doing things that two and half year olds like to do.

She has a great sense of humour and is fine with discussing the stuff that makes being two and a half easier. Like what she's going to wear today in her multiple changes of clothes and who is invited to the tea party on the living room mat. And where they are going to sit of course. I will miss the morning cuddles and the day time fun.

This morning we got up bright and early and went to the Brisbane markets for breakfast and to get some supplies. Coffee and gozleme and little Dutch pancakes with syrup and orange juice. Fresh from the juicer. There's a small kids sized Ferris wheel that Eve enjoys with a nice man who know the kids names and makes sure they are safe and enjoying themselves. Surprising in a city this big.

I took photos and downloaded them this evening. I can't load them from here so they will have to wait. Photos of a little girl with a new dress and shoes; photos of swimming at South Bank; photos of riding the Ferris wheel; photos with mum and the new addition; no photos yet with grandma. That may happen tomorrow.

Today I got my hair seen to by Ash at a nearby hair salon. I'm thrilled with the results, it's a bit longer than it was after it was cut in Antwerp and the colour is good. Good enough to be seen in photos again. I suspect time will be short in Christchurch, as well as family time, I have boxes to sort. What to take now and what to send up later when I have somewhere to live.

That's in hand too with some appointments to view made for next weekend. Ticking things of my tick list like finally booking my flight to Wellington and cancelling the final leg of my round the world ticket. I don't think I'm going to want to fly to LA anytime soon. I will get back to writing here too,  once I'm settled and have my computer back and photos properly downloaded.

I got to view some today, reminders of my trip to Portugal with Sara and my road trip with Di. They made me smile, wonderful memories like looking over the mist on the water to the island on Lake Bled or the sunset at Cascais or the floating city in Brunei or the fishing boats at Kota Kinabalu. There are many I'm hoping to print from this selection, some big enough to feature on my new walls. 

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Catching my breath

It seems I've got a bit of catching up to do here. Not having photos to publish takes away a little from my motivation to write. That and being extremely tired right now. Not jet lag tired, social life tired. Excitement tired, travel tired. It's a great tired actually, a relaxed tired. Into my fourth month of living out of a suitcase, I'm still so very much enjoying myself.

It's been fantastic catching up with friends along the way, stories I will return to write about. I've just left the lovely Sarah and her family in Perth. Her kids are gorgeous, the oldest I've met before and the youngest a new addition. What fun two and three year olds are! Energetic, full of talking and action. Sarah showed me around Perth, a place I'm impressed with. A life style place with beaches, a great climate and coffee. Yes, coffee and the food I've missed for a while.

Sadly I didn't get time with my cousin there. Maybe next time. Having an unreliable phone is a pain, my next one just might be a smarter one. So here I sit in Melbourne at Nick and Liberty's place. Winston the cat has come to join me, checking out the strange person in his house. Tomorrow I'm off to explore the city a bit, hopefully finding somewhere to get my hair back in order.

As we bumped along in turbulence above Melbourne, I counted the number of flights I've been on lately. Eighteen was the total so far with two more flights to go. Not a bad effort. That and various other modes of transport, public and private. All part of the fun of traveling.



Sunday, 3 November 2013

Girls weekend

In Kota Kinabalu, what a treat. Massages each day, later in the evening to relax after dinner, karaoke and a few quiet ones. The waterfront was a bit smelly, apparently it comes off the sea on certain tides and in certain winds, so we enjoyed eating inside. Eating Indian while in Malaysia drinking beer from the Philipines. A multicultural evening for two kiwi girls.

I have so enjoyed Malaysia and Brunei. Peaceful places with friendly people. It's been great catching up with old friends and making new ones. On my last day in Brunei I got to attend international day at ISB, a feast of cultural activities from the many countries represented at the school. So many kiwi kids attend and their haka and waiata were fantastic. Imagine the surprise if the principal when I said hello.

He was one of the principals I worked with in Cayman, recently moved to Brunei. A small world this one of education. This evening it's on to Perth to see Sarah and her family, another education connection. It will be nice to be in Aussie, so close to home.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Brunei

What a treat Brunei has been so far, a lovely community of people who are so welcoming to this visitor. The school Debbie teaches at is a community within itself. I got to be parent help on a trip to the Oil and Gas Discovery Centre. What a great day out, seeing so much of the countryside as we went almost to the southern border. The kids were great, a multicultural mix of kids who get on so well together and enjoyed the chance to engage with the activities at the OGDC.

A swim was in order after the busy day so we went to the pilots club pool. What a great facility and the location of the swimming sports today. I had planned to wander there after breakfast but decided that a restful morning searching for somewhere to live in Wellington was the best idea.

Last night we dined at a friends house, a group of teachers talking teaching while enjoying a kiwi dinner. What fun it was and I realised just how much I have missed the like minded ness that comes from talking teaching with people who have trained in the same way as me, from my own country, getting the idioms and terms that are peculiar to New Zealand.

Our conversations made me realise that I am actually ready to go and enjoy the education system of my own country for a while. To get back in touch with what's happening on the ground, the reality. I know there will be challenges, I know that I'm also looking forward to some of the home comforts I've been missing lately.

This evening we are heading to the RB Yacht Club for dinner and some more socialising. Promises to be fun. I'm really struggling with not being able to load photos here. It makes me disinclined to write. I now realise how much of my inspiration here comes from the photos I take along the way, the picture sharing a thousand words.

I did it! One from Facebook! Debbie and I at the beach of the Empire Hotel. Yes, I did get to dip my toe in the South China Sea. Happy days!


Thursday, 24 October 2013

Relaxing

I'm interested in how well, I've been sleeping on this trip. I'm not the best sleeper, I sleep lightly and prefer my own bed with my own pillow so this is a bonus for me. The slow transition of time changes has meant I'm not feeling the fug that is jet lag. Although I arrived in Singapore late on Tuesday, I was on Singapore time by the end of Wednesday, a four hour difference and without using my melatonin.

I just feel so relaxed, no work headaches to keep me awake, no problems to solve at 3am, lots of people to catch up with, wanders though lovely places and downtime to read and surf. Perfect. Living a bit more day to day. There is plenty still to organise for Wellington, a new job and a different lifestyle. A place to live is a prority. I've found a few that might work, apartment living for a bit then maybe a proper house with a small garden. A place where the kids will come and stay.

My freight has arrived in NZ, a pile of boxes in my mothers living room. There is a box to come from Al Ain with bits and pieces like some gifts, a work wardrobe and some home stuff I couldn't resist at Global Village. Like my big shopping basket and my Turkish plates. My suitcase was a surprising 26 kg, surprising because I posted so much. Not surprising because I did manage to buy a few extra work clothes in Dubai. I will have to do a cull, maybe post a few more things from here, to get it down to 23kg for my onwards flights.

I'm loving spending time with Francesca also known as Frankie. She's a gorgeous 14 month old with lots of energy. She is so responsive and plays up to the camera, enjoying looking at the play back of the "bubba" photos. It never gets old with her. Capturing her expressions as she plays and engages. We did attempt a family photo shoot in the park this morning, maybe this evening will work better. We shall see.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Singapore

It's been a while since I was last in Singapore, about 10 years surprisingly. It was so good to get off the plane here, usually that's just the end of the first of three legs back to New Zealand. I haven't had much time to explore yet, just a quick walk in the lovely botanic gardens with Callie and Frankie. They are the reason I'm here. It's also nice to be back in humid tropical heat that is very similar to Cayman.

I really enjoyed being back in the UAE, catching up on friends and their happenings. I even got a little bit of shopping in. I needed work clothes for my new job, I'm just hoping the things I bought will be suitable. I also managed to pick up a few nice things for my new place, when I finally get one. That's a job I need to get onto, Wellington seems to have plenty of rental properties. I just need to find something that's good for me.

Callie and I are heading out to lunch soon then for another wander through the gardens to the children's garden where Frankie loves to play. I've been really bad at writing, intermittent Internet and too much else going on I guess. I also find it tough not being able to post my photos. Kim tells me it can be done, I've not worked out how with my camera. I suspect the files are too big for this little machine. Maybe I could read the instructions? That might be a little too easy!

I will get my Mac repaired or replaced once I'm settled again, no point having yet another piece of technology to carry while I'm on the road. I am also going to send Fossil a photo of how much I'm managing to fit in my new bag. The security folks take a lot of time checking it out when it goes through the X-ray machine. It's a little heavy at times too. 

Monday, 14 October 2013

Back in the UAE

Wasn't that a song once? I'm loving being back in Al Ain, it feels like home. Like it always did. I was excited to see Raukura waiting for me, dedication as it was around 4.30am! We've been out and about and today Laura and I are hitting the Rotana pool for some sun and social time. Internet is a struggle, that's okay. There will be time to catch up on the stories that are developing. At some stage.

Athens was fantastic, the apartment restful and the places I got to visit were amazing. As we're the people. I will write more and hopefully be able to upload some photos soon. There's sun to catch now and maybe, just maybe, one of the Rotanas famous Margaritas. 

Friday, 11 October 2013

Out and about in Athens

Note to self, if you arrive somewhere late in the evening, make sure you have either eaten or have food to eat. Last night was not a stellar example of looking after myself. I must eat or I get grumpy, a fact of life for me. When it's at night, I don't sleep well. So this morning I woke up after hoovering anything vaguely edible during the night, and headed out and about.

First stop breakfast. A yummy omelet with cheese and tomato and an espresso. Not a bad one either. I managed to knock over my water with my giant bag, sigh. The lovely waiter got me a new glass and helped me clean up. I'm not sure they had ever seen anyone devour food like I did, without taking a breath.

I wandered up the pedestrian street and found some peaches to buy and eat on the way. People were helpful and I found my way past some ancient wonders up the acropolis. There were not too many people in the square where I ate, they were all up top. Throngs of them. The 12 euro we all paid must go a long way to helping this massive restoration project.

The day warmed up and I enjoyed my wander around, catching snippets from the various tour groups. There were many different languages spoken, even some Aussie and New Zealandish. I took plenty of photos and got a bit excited when I found that my card reader fitted in the adapter I bought with my iPod. That's as far as I got, it seems that there is a problem with the compatibility.

I miss my Mac, would love to add photos here but alas, it may only be word for a while. I did take a pic on this thing so will see if I can make it look okay enough to upload. I'm a bit fussy about that. I arrived back at the apartment for my afternoon siesta and got some time relaxing in the sun, with my book, overlooking the city. It's a tough life.

I have booked a trip out to the islands tomorrow so have an early start. I wandered out to find the meeting place and discovered what down town Athens was all about. Cafes, mad traffic, people purposefully shopping while others take photos of all they see, blankets with good for sale line the footpath, men chatting to each other. Antiques. There are treats around every corner, surprising old buildings with the commerce of today around them, leaving space for the heritage of this place.

There are many similarities with Istanbul here, hardly surprising given their shared histories. One of my favourite books, Bird Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres is set in a small village in Turkey and  tells a very human story with engaging characters alongside the historical and political events that have shaped these two nations. A read I highly recommend.

PS Please forgive the many mistakes in this post. I'm still learning to drive the iPad and haven't yet learned how to scroll through long posts to proof read. I actually wrote this last night totally seething with frustration as I tried to reread and add bits. Maybe I can't do that so need to write shorter ones? Well I would if I could post photos. It seems I can't even do that from ones I took with the iPad, sigh. 

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Athens

Well, here I am in Athens. I was last here in 2004 after a bus trip from Istanbul, although sleeping at the airport on a short stop over doesn't really count as a visit. So far so good, I made it from the airport to the apartment easily. And what an amazing apartment. The view from this rooftop is fantastic and photos must follow.

It was hard leaving Di, dropping her to check in in a rush without a proper goodbye. A bit stressful getting to the airport, the car checked in, complaining about the non GPS charging charger point, the excessive cost of them filling the tank with petrol when I was perfectly capable of doing so and all that check in go to the gate and through security stuff that goes with flying. All while towing my rather large bag.

All's well that ends well, we did get a proper goodbye at gate 26 before I headed for the Athens gate and just chilled for a bit. We had the best time, lots of adventures in our excessively long journey through five countries. Much of it was whistle stop, a checking out to see where we might like to spend more time. There were many highlights, the last our stay in the hills above Lake Como. a definite revisit. The journey a big part of the adventure. I love driving, Di was an excellent passenger as we negotiated our way.

The GPS running out of power just before we arrived, when the flag was in sight and final few streets to be negotiated, was interesting. It not working in tunnels last night caused some major stress and an extra long journey. Flying to Athens was a good idea, I'm not sure if I could have negotiated the traffic here without my co-pilot.

The flight here passed quickly, time spent chatting with a lovely Egyptian couple about Egypt and the  current and past troubles there as well as the religious politics out in the world. Two very well informed and well traveled people whose company was much appreciated. They were heading to Santorini then back to Europe. We plan to keep in touch, just in case I do actually get to Egypt one day.

I'm looking forward to some exploring tomorrow, if I can get myself off the roof terrace outside my door. I suspect it just might be sunny and warm tomorrow, something I'm looking forward to.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Tired!

I'm one of those people who say, she'll be right, we'll get there sometime. A little bit ma te wa, all in good time. When others raised their eyebrows a little about the trip Di and I are doing, I took that as approval, she'll be right. Maybe, perhaps, just in small, small part, it was a little ambitious in places.

This evening we sit in a small village, well I'm assuming its small because its very dark outside so I really can't say I've seen it as yet, on the side of Lake Como. Our Airbnb in Bellano is lovely, our host wonderful. We talked when we were a little on the lost side and she came to greet us as we arrived, leading us to a car park up a steep driveway, much like the one in Christchurch. I'm not the best when I'm hungry and Laura found us some cheese, pasta, tomato pasta sauce, bread and salad, just what I needed. We already had a bottle of red, as we do.

So a feast fit for kings, the Internet and a comfy apartment. All is well in my world. Oh, the rest of the day. Not content with being lost in Venice on my last trip there, Di (who had never been) and I wandered into the maze and headed for the Rialto bridge and San Marco. Along with many others it seems. The three or so cruise ships in the harbour should have given us an idea of what was to come.

The light was perfect for taking photos, a grey day with some drizzle and a glow that is difficult to describe. A quick glance at my photos on Di's computer showed some great shots. Some will follow after I get this loading them onto the iPad sorted. We did so well, making it to the sights without getting too pressured by the amount of people, then we hit San Marco's. It was packed with people on board walks above the water that was all over the piazza. It was difficult to see anything, walking to the gondola park on the other side was impossible so we set off back to the car.

We almost made it without getting lost, turned around in the maze that is Venice. Almost, but not quite. That was until the loveliest lady stopped to guide us, without us asking. Di and I are sure Auntie Lesley (mum) has been looking over us and that she just may have sent this lady of around the age she would have been now when we needed her. We were heading in the right direction, after a few miss turns, so we found the bus and our car easily after a quick espresso.Talk about exhausted and there was still almost 3 hours of driving ahead. And that was without getting lost in the tunnels.

All's well that ends well and it wouldn't be well if I wasn't sitting here in Bellano with a full puku and a cup of Earl Grey in hand. It's Di's and my last night together for a while and I know that I will miss this cousin of mine. It's usually a two year or so break between our contact, we may just have to make do with Skype and emails for a while. I will miss our adventures and mis adventures, we are the best of travel mates.

When one is stressed the other takes over, one of us can read maps the other takes care of the music, entertaining stories and the photography lessons. So it's Milan Malpensa tomorrow afternoon and then on to Antwerp and Athens from there, separate ways but not for too long I'm sure.

Hanging out in Venice
.


Sunday, 6 October 2013

Budapest

What a treat Budapest was. A beautiful city with lovely friendly people, the most lovely was Jennifer who helped us find the food and drink we needed. As well as lessons in Hungarian wine and food. Really amazing wine after the Croatian wine, that's another story. Jennifer is half Hungarian half English and has recently returned to her home city. She speaks fluent Hungarian which is such a bonus to us kiwi chicks who struggle to say hello and thank you in either Croatian or Hungarian.
She took us to two excellent restaurants, paving the way by charming the waiters.

Our apartment was another Airbnb success. A very large 2 bedroom apartment right behind the opera house, just off Andrassey. The high ceilings made it feel even more spacious and it opened onto an internal courtyard. If I could find one like that in Wellington I'd be very happy. Jennifer showed us some of the sights, the ruin pubs were a highlight. Some clever person decided that the derelict old apartment blocks and factory buildings in District VII could be reborn as pubs. They have been very successful with  the one we visited voted one of the best bar in the world, quite some achievement.

The ruin pubs are a bit grungy with the original rooms of the apartment buildings outfitted as private spaces within the whole and the art installations are very different. As Di commented, it was a bit like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. The first one we went to had a rabbit installation running for the wall right up onto the ceiling. The owls were amazing too. Our Friday evening at Simple (not quite the Hungarian spelling) was really interesting. It was packed with people, many of them part of stag parties from the UK, Manchester was well represented, interesting lads who were very keen for us to join them partying.

We declined with much amusement and enjoyed a shisha while people watching and chatting. We finally wandered home after an entertaining night out around midnight. I'm not sure Di and I would have gone there on our own, thanks to Jennifer for showing us the night life of Budapest. The day life was also interesting, hunger and sore feet making the choice of a on off city tour bus a good one. We sat up top in the open buffeted by a very cold wind. It was freezing out, late autumn bringing a promise of winters chill. Despite being rugged up, we were grateful for the stops where we could get some sun.

I will write more about the day out and about, including photos, when I can figure out how to upload these onto my new iPod. I bought the photo kit, just need to get the right cable for my camera. Today my computer withdrawals led me to Saturn in Vienna and a new iPod so I have internet for the rest of my trip. Essential for me. We are now in Vienna, just for a short stop, tomorrow it's back to Trieste. 

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Oh no!

I'm a little depressed this evening, writing on Di's computer. It's been a great day out and about in Budapest but my morning didn't begin well with a blue screen on my Mac. The verdict from the young man at the Mac shop, it will take 3 days to check it out and it's most probably dead. He looked really sad, not quite as sad as I felt. My constant companion for the last few years no longer alive, all my things locked in the hard drive. No Internet, sigh.

So there may be a gap in posts. I'm thinking of buying an iPad, that's tomorrow's decision.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Rijeka

Today was lovely in Rijeka, a nice sunny day spent wandering along the Korso, people watching and taking photos. Finding food was interesting. Last night we changed tables and bars/cafes without ordering looking for food until we found the Italian. We thought that was odd and today we discovered that most of the cafes along the Korso don't serve food, only drinks. The people watching must have been amused at the pantomime. 

Two tourists in this quite non touristy town seating themselves at a table, poring over the menu while having a big discussion that includes some hand waving then, glancing around to make sure they're not being observed, slipping away to the next place. Seriously, we did this so many times before we found out the secret. Only coffee, beer/wine/drinkies, cakes, dolce and gelato at the tables on the Korso. Food is in other places, including the best market, something we were a bit slow to learn. 

We also found out that from the generation of around 30 year olds and below, the kids here learn English from the 4th grade. That just might be why the wait staff, people on the street we asked for directions and our host speak such good English. It also adds just a little to my embarrassment. So most of those watching us table hop could understand our conversation? It seems so. Maybe I won't come back for a while, until they've forgotten the two crazy ladies with the funny English accents looking for food. 

We sat sunning ourselves in a small park and enjoying the grapes I bought at the market. The elderly lady on the stall tricked me into trying her grapes, actually it didn't too much tricking, and I ended up with a kilo of these sweet and juicy green grapes. I wanted a few, she made it up to a kilo, at only 2 euro a kilo that was okay with me. I got to enjoy them as I walked up the 500 steps to Trsat. That's another story for another day, for now here are some photos from the market. 

A colourful stall

And it's colourful owner

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

A new stamp

For a new month. Welcome October, with love from Croatia. I've been traveling now since 5 August, that's almost two months, and I've had some great adventures. Today was one out of the bag; a wander around Verona, a drive to Croatia through Slovenia and a wander and lovely meal in Rijeka. The meal took a while to find, most of the places were on to dessert with lots of cakes and hot chocolates, while we just wanted something savory and a wine. Asking the locals is really the best way and luckily, as our host shared, most speak English.

Di and I got a surprise at the border to Croatia. There was a border post, we had to stop at the barrier. At first I thought it was another toll booth, but no the unsmiling man wanted my passport. I was hot so had taken off my jumper and was only wearing a singlet, more under than over wear. My jeans were undone and almost fell down as I exited the car to find my passport which was in the boot (trunk) of the car. We'd been driving for a while, the barrier and border guards were somehow unexpected.

I smiled in my New Zealand way, he didn't smile back. He muttered as he looked through my passport, back to me, then thumped a stamp on it and sent me to the next window. The lady there looked too then waved us on, phew. It was a little scary, a little worrying, thank goodness I didn't offer him money as I would at a toll booth! We actually gained money at one toll booth, someone forgot 5 euros of their change. A small windfall that helped with the 17 euros at the next one.

The drive from Verona was uneventful, Italy hasn't been a difficult place to drive so far. The towns were okay to navigate once the satnav was charged again and the highways are just like highways in other places. In Solvenia the scenery changed as we climbed through the foothills, through little towns on a narrowish two way road. The view in places was amazing, over the trees to the sea beyond. Being stuck behind a slow moving truck had it's bonuses, although some who were frustrated passed in a way I wouldn't have. Dropping into Rijeka was a treat too, a wonderful view looking to the south west along the Istrian peninsular. Worthy of a drive in the next couple of days.

Croatia has been part of the EU since July so a very recent addition. I swapped some money into Kuna and it seems to go a long way. Tomorrow it's a wander with the cameras to the waterfront and up the 500 steps to Trsat where there is much to see as well as a fantastic view according to our host Samanta. Samanta was a wonderful person to meet after a long day, cheerful and informative and a talented artist. Her work in in the apartment, I would like one of the pieces to be in mine. The apartment is great, another Airbnb success. It has two bedrooms, all that's needed to be very comfortable and is only a short walk to the sights of the old town and beyond.

Every piazza needs a lion, Verona

The shot I went back for, Verona

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Verona!

No photos as yet because it was a bit dark when we finally got to wander and search for food. An uneventful trip to Milan, an excellent coffee and off to the rental car place we went. We had a prepaid voucher. Easy. We didn't count on the Chinese folks in front of us, a very large group renting three cars and having a bit of a time with the language barrier and the finances. Frustration levels were high on both sides, the queue was getting longer. Yes, when we got to the front it was easy and off we raced to overtake the group, they walked fast despite a few younger children, to pick up the keys and the car. No way we wanted to be behind them again.

The drive to Verona was easy, right up until the satnav decided to run out of battery. We were in the centre of the old city, near the apartment. How hard can it be? A while later, after chatting with some locals and some students, we found a car park and met with a lovely young man who pulled out his iPhone, found where we needed to be and even wandered along with us. Making sure we were okay before he slipped quietly away. His mum had taught him the best of manners, as had all the others who helped us.

We had arrived at exactly the right place and Giovanni found us. Once again a lovely Airbnb apartment, on piano 4 so above the noise of the street and so close to the centro piazza and Juliette's place. I parked the car, Giovanni took his life in his hands and drove with me, the poor man put his hand up to make a car stop for me. We had already had the discussion about which side of the road I was used to driving on.

This evening Di and I wandered down for dinner at the most gorgeous restaurant. The pasta at Locandina Cappello was divine, tasty and simple. Being a little uncool, I asked for a spritz Aperol. It was well past apperativo time, oh well. I did redeem myself with a nice red with dinner. One Di and I are going to check out in the bottle shops tomorrow. The great thing about having a car is that one can do just that.

Tomorrow it's photo time then we hit the road for Rijeka in Croatia. Hopefully our magic show us the way tool works for the whole journey. One good thing, my clean out of the stuff in my bag worked, I'm down to just under 17kgs. Much easier to manage although I might just need to do some shopping to fill it a bit. 

Monday, 30 September 2013

Eilean Donan

Around the corner and there it is, amazing. Eilean Donan Castle is a Mc Kenzie castle, I'm not sure of all the details but it is still used by a branch of the clan. As Wikipedia states:


Eilean Donan, which means simply "island of Donnán", is named after Donnán of Eigg, a Celtic saint martyred in 617. Donnán is said to have established a church on the island, though no trace of this remains.[4]
The castle was founded in the thirteenth century, and became a stronghold of the Clan Mackenzie and their allies the Clan Macrae. In the early eighteenth century the Mackenzies' involvement in the Jacobite rebellions led in 1719 to the castle's destruction by government ships. Lieutenant-Colonel John Macrae-Gilstrap's twentieth-century reconstruction of the ruins produced the present buildings.


I had to give Didge the shoes I was wearing the day I visited Eilean Donan. The blisters were so horrible I had to wear flip flops for the rest of my time in Scotland, despite the cold. As I wandered in the  castle I had one of those senior moments I tend to have, a bit of brain fade as another goldfish slops out. Did I lock the car? The car with all my worldly goods in it? I had the keys in my pocket so I raced to find a suitable window and leant out to press the lock the car button. A man saw me and chuckled to himself, I didn't dare turn around, mortified someone had witnessed this act of desperation. I'm not sure it worked, but it was locked when I got back, thankfully.

There is much more about the history of this interesting area  to explore on Wikipedia and in our family tree. A job for a quiet New Zealand evening. Now I've got packing to finish, my bag down to a very light 20kg after I posted some stuff home and gave away some other things. A good clearing out. Here's a photo I took while freezing in the fierce summer wind the whipped up the water.


More 6 degrees

That old 6 degrees of separation comes to mind as I travel. I stayed with Deborah and her family at Dunbar. Over breakfast I shared that I was traveling to Kintail to see the ancestoral home. The place my family on my mother's side emigrated from to come to New Zealand a few generations ago. Oh, said Deborah's husband, that's where my family are from.

Much later I continue this post I found in my drafts.

It seems that we both originate from the same Clan Mc Kenzie, his side the MacRaes and mine the MacKegans. It really is a small world. He was really helpful is telling me where to visit and the story of how the clan got to Kintail in the first place, from the other side of Scotland it seems. Up Inverness way. They must have been a hardy lot, apparently it was summer when I was there. It just didn't quite feel like it.

I wrote in an earlier post about staying at the Innseagan House Hotel  in Fort William. One of the musicians and I were chatting in the morning and he asked where I was from. Cayman came up, he told me that a friend of his was heading there soon to start a new job. We pieced it all together, she was the person who was hired to do Brent's job, a similar one to mine, and we would have been in the same team had I still been there. I had exchanged emails with her about apartments.

This evening I've been playing with my photos of Scotland, finally got them uploaded and sorted. It was a bit of a mission as there were hundreds on the card. Here's one of my first look at Kintail, a blink and you'll miss it type of place.

On the road again

Tomorrow, it's time to fly from my lovely Belgian whanau who always welcome me into their life when I turn up on their door stoop. I don't like goodbyes, not too good at saying them, especially those early morning ones. Tomorrow morning will be the goodbyes as Di and I disappear on the bus for the airport for our flight to Milan where a car will be waiting.

I've had some more driving practice, a trip to Spa that didn't end well. In fact it didn't begin well and only the middle bit had a few nice happenings. Like running into a restaurant and asking the poor waiter if I could use the loo before I ordered. I was that desperate and could only hope he understood my hurried New Zealandish. He laughed, pointed in the direction and off I ran. All was well when I was seated with a salmon bagel and espresso in the sun.

On the way to Spa, actually just down the road, the road works began. The exit I needed was blocked by steamrollers and the like so I just had to keep on going and take the detour. The poor satnav was very patient as I changed what she asked me to do. I apologised. So arriving at Spa over an hour later than expected wasn't ideal. I had also left about an hour later than I had expected, I slept in. Looking at the time, I figured I had a bout 90 minutes for a spa. Thank goodness I didn't book that massage as it took me almost that to find where I supposed to spa. Not enough time to do other than note where it was.

Oh well, it was a nice relaxing day out enjoying a part of Belgium I hadn't visited before so I made a mental note to do it properly next visit. The cable car up the side of the hill was fun, worth it for the view. Off I set for Antwerp, enjoying the countryside and yes, the road works were on both sides so a slow drive to the ring road. And that's where it stopped, 17 kms from Di's place, just about the time I had to get the car back to the rental company. A long while later, thoughts of picking up Di abandoned, I reset the satnav at the lights and headed for the rental company.

I was feeling a little smug, until she said, "you have reached your destination."

Mmmm no, not really. Maybe I was nearby? I drove on around the corner and found a park. A miracle in Friday rush hour Antwerp. I saw why it was there a moment later. It was the police station, the place all the police cars get to park. I looked slightly out of place. Still relatively calm, I called the rental company. You know the drill, what country are you in madam? With no power left on my phone, I managed to talk to someone who knew where to go so reset the satnav and off I went on a wild goose chase while the satnav was silent trying to sort out where I was in relation to where I should be.

It ended rather badly, I lost my cool and shouted at Di who was trying to help and, as we would say in New Zealand, totally packed a paddy. Not helpful that I was once again needing the loo, badly. I could see where I thought I needed to be but there were bollards in the way. I wasn't sure this car, despite being a rental, could jump those with a single bound. So, feeling teary and desperate, I asked a nice young lady if she could help. Help she did and off I went, left across rush hour traffic dodging cyclists, buses and trams then left again and into the parking garage.

Luckily the rental people were closed, I'm not sure how polite I'd have been and it wasn't really their fault. All's well that ends well, the tram arrived and off I went back to Di's place. I had to apologise and eat a small piece of humble pie, admitting that I had indeed experienced the terrible traffic that is the Antwerp ring road, the worst in the world according to this.

Driving to Verona tomorrow might just be easier than that, I certainly hope so. Once more Airbnb have come to the party with some good accommodation in all our stops on our 8 day whistle stop road trip through Italy, Croatia, Hungary, Austria and back. Staying in peoples homes and apartments is a good way to meet the locals and get local knowledge for the important things, like where to eat, what to see and where to park the car.

There were no great photos of Spa so here's my last of the day, a welcome back to Antwerp. I love this camel and rider set high above the square by the railway station, both better ways to travel here I suspect.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Abbaye de Villers

It seems the name of the abbey I visited today was Abbaye de Villers. Below is a little about the abbey from Wikipedia:

Villers Abbey (abbaye de Villers) is an ancient Cistercian abbey located in the town of Villers-la-Ville in theWalloon Brabant province of Wallonia (Belgium), one piece of the Wallonia's Major Heritage. Founded in 1146, the abbey was abandoned in 1796. Most of the site has since fallen into ruins.

Abbaye de Villers had a special feel about it, a restful peacefulness, I hope the photos give some sense of that.










It worked.....

Today on so many levels things worked. The new satnav excelled itself as I calmly drove my way to a new friends place in the countryside well beyond Brussels. Wendy has a wonderful house, the kind I dream of. A country house along a country road near a small village. A proper house with two stories and everything. I wanted to stay for the day and photograph the tiles on the floor, old tiles with amazing patterns and themes that were worn from generations of family feet. Just beautiful.

On the way to Wendy's I had a potential small mishap. I drove on the wrong side of the road for a small and forgivable moment. That was because of the abby right in front of me, unexpectedly through the narrow arches in the road. My mouth dropped open, I swerved accidentally. The oncoming car must have been a local and used to tourists doing just that. The abby is huge, I'm not quite sure of it's name as I, also accidentally, didn't go in via the usual entrance. Apparently you must pay, a side gate was open and I wandered in. I would have been happy to had I known.

I've had some really useful one on one and group tutoring with Di that included a workbook explaining the different features of my camera and how to use these to best effect. I really recommend her style of teaching; discussion on how to use the settings and practicing until using the settings becomes unconscious. Using your own way of seeing, knowing which settings to use automatically and not being afraid to experiment. Today I practiced, experimented. This evening I viewed the results. 

I was working on stopping water, making the water dance, making it the focus. I could fully engage with the fountain at the abby because there were so few people there, I could get engrossed and not worry about what was going on around me. I took photos from all angles with many different backgrounds, ISOs and focuses. Playing with what I had in iPhoto this evening resulted in the photo below, cropped from a larger one. I was delighted with the result. Thanks Di.




The other is of my new happy place, a small corner of a walled garden in which to contemplate. There were herbs along the wall adding fragrance to the soft air, another fountain with restful water and a lily pond. An ideal happy place. 




Thursday, 26 September 2013

Stuff

It's funny, I really thought that I'd have the time to keep my blog updated with the stories from my travels. That's not gone well so far. I've only just up loaded my photos from Scotland and I've not really had time to look at them as yet. The days are filled with things to do, places to go and rest to be had. I'm actually feeling a little tired this evening after today's adventures. Tired enough for an early night and a good book.

There are so many snippets of storied to share. They come into my head at odd times, small memories that make me smile or giggle or cringe or cross. One that I was talking with Di about today was the small incident in the cafe at Lisbon's airport at some ridiculously early hour. Remind me never to book a 7am flight to anywhere from anywhere ever again. Sara and I were enjoying a very early breakfast after having left the apartment at 4.45am, sandwiched between an older English couple and a younger American couple.

It was hard not to listen to two lots of English speakers, in stereo. The older English couple's conversation went something like this after one of them had noticed the Victoria's Secret shop amongst the usual duty free fare.

"Victoria's Secret, " he said looking puzzled."What do they sell?"
"Underwear, " she replied. "Sexy underwear."
"What, like a sex shop, sex shop things?" he said with a look between shock and delight on his face.
"No, no not that sort of shop," she replied. "Only celebrities shop there, ones in the movies and such. Ones who can afford it. It's too expensive for ordinary people."

I giggled thinking about the cheapest finest Vic's Secret knickers I was currently wearing. I was tempted to comment, Sara gave me that wicked look she has to give at such times. We were both a little tired to engage in that delightful exchange. Then the second exchange began while I was still smiling. I only caught the end of it, the word savages piqued my attention.

It seems that this young couple, mid 30s maybe, were heading off on an adventure as missionaries. They said something about an island, an island of savages.

"It's okay", the young man said reassuringly. "We're lucky, it will be alright. Another American missionary has already been there and has civilized the savages a little for us."

Mmmmm there was more about the same savages finding their way to being Christians. I was horrified, speechless. These two people believing they had the right to call other people savages, to see them as less and to change their culture to their own. Colonisation hasn't changed much over time. I wondered just how many people they had really engaged with out there in the world, how their views might change as they learn to be part of another culture. Will they be welcomed and experience the beauty of new friendships or will they show that they have little value for the beliefs of others.

By the time I had gotten over my shock and become indignant, they were walking away. I was tempted to follow them, engage in a discussion and find out where they were going. Not so much to challenge, more to keep in touch and see how they were going, how their views might have been changed by their experiences. A small social experiment. I wasn't feeling very awake, or very coherent, so decided not engage this time. I suspect Sara was pleased about that.

A regal guard, Sterling Castle Scotland



Satnavs!

An interesting day in Antwerp today. Yesterday I hired a car for some exploring, we made it back to Di's just fine. Today we set out for Brussels after visiting a friend just out of Antwerp and picking up the small one from school. We used Kiwi Ben, the original Cardiff Kate Sarah and I bought to negotiate Wales with a sex change. I'm not sure Kate wanted to be a boy, especially one who says, "chuck a U'ey and lets have a pie" when I've made a wrong turn.

Slightly irritating when the wrong turn was caused by a slow kiwi lad. Kiwi Ben takes his time to make decisions and communicates them just before the turn, the lane change, the exit. Not helpful when there's traffic and sudden lane changes are not quite possible. So a journey of a few kilometres becomes one of a many kilometres and much frustration. Being time bound did not help that much, schools don't wait for lost picker uppers.

We kept our calm, mostly, and managed to negotiate the tram lines, one way streets, roundabouts, ring roads, country lanes, road works, bikes and pedestrians without too much carnage and bad language all while driving on the other side of the road. A baptism of fire to driving in Europe, there's a first time for everything. The day ended well, tomorrow it's more of the same with a trip to Namur planned and a visit to another friend.

This is such good practice for our trip across the top of Italy, into Croatia, Slovenia and Hungary. That's next weeks adventure. Today a new satnav was purchased for that trip, I suspect that's a wise choice, I'm not sure my blunt map method would work so well on that journey.

I think I'd rather travel this way, although the water was way too cold for a swim.

Parking Cascais, Portugal

Cascais, nice day for a swim


Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Lisbon

I loved Lisbon, it was a city I could live in and enjoy. Wandering was easy, the people very friendly, food and accommodation reasonably priced, good coffee and wine, gorgeous scenery of city, river and ocean, boats commercial and pleasure, trams and taxis, the old and the modern. The apartment we stayed at was perfectly placed to see most of this from the window, wandering took care of the rest.

On the first day we wandered up to the Castel Sao Jorge that our apartment backed onto. It was quite a walk for this flat lander, lots of steep streets and steps. The sights and views over the river amazing. Sara and I were debating the direction when a lady stopped and asked us if we needed help. She was lovely and typical of the friendliness we found in Lisbon. Local people proud to show the delights of their city. Welcoming tourists to their place.

The photos below were taken as we wandered up to the Castel from a small garden and lookout close to a beautiful white church.





Thursday, 19 September 2013

Dinner

What a treat. We met Julietta Beatrice, the woman of the button curtains in the small restaurant at the end of our street. There are just some people that really inspire, conversations born out of scallops, buttons and porto.

Julietta took a shine to us after our button comments and came out to talk. We had met her husband earlier when he recommended the seafood restaurant. She was there then, smiling at us. She may not have remembered. Tonight she is our friend, sharing philosophies and stories. She is well traveled, Mexico, Brazil and the USA. New York rather than middle America.

"I am 50, I am my story. I am I," Julietta was the gem of today. And there were many highlights. When you are in Lisbon next, go and visit her at Costa Do Castelo Bar Das Imagens. The perfect place to end the evening of a perfect day.

Salette and Julietta sharing a moment


One of Julietta's famous button curtains

Sunset from my window

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Where in the world.....

Portugal is a bit of a treat, an unexpected journey. Sara and I arranged it via Skype at the last minute and here we are, in an apartment built into the side of Castelo de Sao Jorge over looking the old city of Lisbon. Cobble stone streets, colourful tiles on the outside of the houses and the most amazing view. One of the houses in the panorama in the link is where we are. Thank you Airbnb! Our host told us there was a supermarket nearby, to the left and down the lift (elevator). We wandered down some steps, lots of steps and found it. By chance, we found the lift on the way home, phew, so many steps to get up.

The food here is fresh and cheap, the supermarket full of the essentials. We ate at a seafood restaurant, snow crab, garlic shrimp and of course the local delicacy grilled sardines. The waiter recommended the wine, a crispy white and very good with the seafood. Today we're off exploring and wishing we'd added a few more days to the stay. I suspect two days is not enough here. Today we explore, tomorrow we travel to Sintra. Photos will follow. 

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Spiders n things

There's nothing quite like an enormous spider on ones bedroom wall to chase away thoughts of sleep. Apparently I shrieked, a slight exaggeration. I just shouted a little for help as I tried to rope and wrestle the beast. I'm not fond of spiders, I have got braver over the years but still not brave enough for this monster, the second I've seen inside here. Think hand size with the legs spilling over a bit. A VBFES. Di was brave, stand aside she said very large book in hand. The vacuum choked on the enormous squished body. We left it on awhile then plugged up the hole with tissues. Just to make sure.

I'm being brave, I'm in the room of the spider. Not quite brave enough yet to actually pull back the covers and get into bed. I know that's inevitable, I'll just wait until the PTSD subsides a little and my heart beat slows. Breathe, just breathe as the song says. It's been a lovely few days, resting and wandering in Antwerp. Catching up on photos and reading and sleep. Just what the doctor ordered.

The next adventure is planned, London then on to Portugal with Sara. Air BnB came to the party again with a lovely apartment overlooking Lisbon. The city looks beautiful, the surrounds very interesting. It's only for a couple of days and I suspect that will leave me wanting more. Others tell me of their love of this country, the photos I see are stunning. Right, checking for spiders under the covers  while the pics load.


Now that's the life, not a spider in sight

Portfino
All clear, phew!


Wednesday, 11 September 2013

So easy to please

I'm happy this evening, downloading photos that had to wait until I could free up some space on my Mac. Today, with Gert's help and Di's support, I purchased another external hard drive. One I could drive this time. I didn't really trust the last one, I wasn't sure where my photos went and how I might retrieve them. Yes, I'm not that technological and glaze over when the technical terms get too complex. Others think I know what I'm doing, I just take a risk and make attempts that quite often work.

So this evening I have the pleasure of downloading to my new fancy, small and sturdy hard drive, deleting files and uploading the many photos I've not seen as yet. I'll do some work on these and add the ones I really like here. I can't believe how quickly they uploaded, no messages saying there isn't enough space, luxury. Photos will follow, here's one taken at San Fruttuoso while enjoying an espresso.


Tuesday, 10 September 2013

A little jaded

I'm feeling a little tired, could be that I've been on the go for a few months without real down time. I'm loving being in Antwerp with Di and her lovely family and getting some time to do and be before heading back out there exploring. So far, in five weeks, my travels have taken me from Cayman to New Orleans to Ireland to England to Scotland to Italy with Milan, Acqui Termi and Genova and here to Antwerp via Brussels. It's been a fantastic start to my holiday.

Being too busy to write and having a computer that needs some TLC means I've not been keeping up on my entries here. Today it's a trip into town to buy an external hard drive so I can take away some photos to add some more. That just may fix things, that and continuing to delete obsolete files. Emptying my Mac a meg at a time.

The next leg of my journeying is getting interesting with an invite to Norway added to a journey through northern Italy to Croatia and beyond. My travel agent is looking into options that won't have me waiting in Cairo's airport for eight hours, Athens may go as a departure point and that would be okay. One way flights within Europe seem quite inexpensive and oaky to book near the time of flying. I love that flying in Europe and the the UK doesn't require massive amounts of invasive and time consuming security. Arriving in Milan from London was a joy, a quick stamp and off I went.

So Antwerp is some much needed downtime with a week of local wandering planned. Maybe a day in Spa, coffee in Brussels, exploring Gent and other adventures yet to unfold. More will follow, a back look and some stories and pics. 

A Genovese selection

Door of Piazza Ducale

Fresh veges on Via Revecca

Lion of Cathedral San Lorenzo

Cathedral San Lorenzo

Doorway on Via Garibaldi

Angel on San Siro church

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Who missed the boat?

Well, lunch was lovely and we were having a nice chat to a lovely Aussie couple on their big OE and there was the shopping, we were in Portofino so there was shopping to be done. Sara and I set out this morning, early for us, and went on a mini cruise to Portofino via the gorgeous San Fruttuoso. What a lovely day out, paddling in the slightly warm Mediterranean while enjoying an espresso and enjoying people watching.

We hopped off the ferry and onto another after a while and went to Portofino, the most gorgeous harbour where I sighed at the yachts. I took photos, lots of photos and will download these soon. Lunch was lovely, overlooking the harbour and the beautiful people wandering by. Our table was a double, I spoke and the next thing I hear is, "gidday where in Aussie are you from?"

Close, our new friends Sharon and Darren were entertaining company, enjoying their big OE, a New Zealand and Australian rite of passage. They had left their kids and taken off for nine weeks of free travel, no tours just driving and having an adventure, staying where it feels right. That brings back memories of my first trip, the driving, reading a map and following the Tour de France. Camping in odd places.

We chatted a bit long and missed the last boat back to Genova, only we didn't realise that until we arrived back in San Fruttuoso. We charmed our way back on another boat and ended up at the most beautiful place, Santa Margarita. The train to Genova leaves from there and we got to wander and watch for a while on the way to the station. I managed to negotiate the ticket machine and we were soon back in Genova with a cold drink, new clothes and tall stories. Apertivo time now, an Aperol is in order I feel.