Friday, December 28, 2012
Amazingly we saw not one, but two, echidna's in the wild today. The plan was to head from the farm into Hobart for a couple of days to enjoy the yachts coming in on the finish line for the end of the Rolex Sydney to Hobart. An added bonus being to participate in the Hobart Food and Wine Festival so it was excitement all around. As you leave the farm, there is a stretch of dirt road, about 10 minutes driving, before you turn onto sealed roads. It was on this stretch we saw the first little echidna. Initially I was distracted by the two goats running along the side of the road. These we slowed down for. Then we realised that between our position and the goats, there was an echidna walking along. We stopped the car and I jumped out for a better view. Incredibly the echidna continued walking straight towards me....and kept coming. I only had access to the iPhone so the photos aren't the best, but this little guy just kept on coming. Perhaps the wind was disguising my presence, but he kept coming straight towards me....just before he would have had to climb into my lap to go up and over he turned off, headed down the ditch and went on his way. An incredible experience as he was so close I could have touched him....if I was stupid! Those quills would put most people/animals off. The second echidna experience was less a warm and fuzzy one than one whereby we held our breath as we watched another, larger, echidna survive crossing the road into oncoming traffic. The echidna survived, the car that stopped for him almost written off by the caravan behind as cars tried to avoid the confusion. Too close for comfort in my book!
Thursday, December 27, 2012
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Tuesday, December 25, 2012
Monday, December 24, 2012
Sunday, December 23, 2012
Thursday, December 6, 2012
Saturday, November 3, 2012
Charles de Gaulle airport continues to challenge us. We were dropped off in prime position, did battle with the tax refund machine, until the guy behind the glass counter took pity on us. Then we went to check in. Again we have been seated separately. An annoying quirk that we are attributing to using points to book tickets. So, we again did battle to try to get seated together....we have had some success in the past. Time will tell how successful we will be this leg of the trip. Amongst all of the discussion, boarding passes, luggage to check in, the gentleman forgot to tell us details of the Etihad Lounge arrangements. So once through security we spend the best part of half an hour or more traipsing along the concourse asking for directions to the Etihad Lounge. No signage to help we eventually struck a helpful gentleman who put in a phone call to check for us - and advised us the American Airlines Lounge is what we needed. A compass and a cut lunch later we made it. Now, we only need to allow half an hour to walk back to our boarding gate and all should be fine. CdeG is a huge place. Not easily navigated when you have no clue where you are, or where you should be, limited language skills and almost buy perfume (liquids) when these should be reserved for your last stopover. So, all in all, I think we are happy yo be departing Charles de Gaulle. Aurevoir Paris. 3.11.2012
We actually ended up on an earlier flight than we had expected, so were able to check in and get our gear sorted, then go out for a walk. We decided to return to the Galleries Lafayette area, to do some last minute shopping. It was interesting to see that in our absence Christmas has started to take over the city centre. Some stores have started putting their lights up outside the building, the windows of the main department stores a under wraps while window displays are put together. The most incredible thing though was the Swarovski Chrystal Christmas tree that featured within the dome of the Galleries Lafayette building. While it was both huge and stunning, I must admit that it detracted from the natural beauty of the building. I was actually glad that we were able to document the building on our first visit, without the tree smack bang in the middle of each and every photo. Our shopping expedition was most successful and we headed home after looking at both GL and also, the Printemps store, which we had not looked at last visit. I preferred Printemps Christmas tree and actually quite enjoyed the 6 mannequins that were situated on the central iron staircase. The building too was nice. In general Printemps seemed less frenetic and easier to navigate than Galleries Lafayette. That said, we have nothing like either of these stores at home, so it was an incredible experience to explore them both. As for the shopping? I'm smiling. 2.11.2012
It was nice returning to Paris with a feeling of knowing a little where we were. It felt good to come back to our hotel and recognize our surroundings. This time the driver was there to meet us, and we were collected, had luggage on board and were on route to our hotel without the angst and concerns of our visit a couple of weeks ago. It was strange to return. Last visit I was so excited about the potential for our holiday. Now having enjoyed the time we have spent exploring Paris, Venice and Lake Como, it is a little sad to return as we are heading home. That said, I always love coming home. I miss my things, my pets and my friends. I have too a new collection of things to add as momentos of my trip, so will enjoy finding a spot at home for my new treasures. Best of all, the furries will come home. 2.11.2012
With our departure from Ville D'Este imminent we negotiated luggage into the car, then drove to Milan for the flight to Paris. First stage of our trip home. Our driver must have been a racing car driver at some stage as he negotiated the traffic, roads and tunnels and an incredible speed. We made it to Milan in 50 minutes rather than the 1 hour and 15 minutes quoted. Top speed? 170 km an hour, with maximum in the tunnels of 150km. At least that was when Frank stopped watching and shut his eyes. As for me I was already snoozing. 1.11.2012
Our challenge for the afternoon is to pack. For some reason we now have stuff everywhere. Can't imagine how that happened. Well, other than my smalti purchase blowing out from 10kg to around 17kg. A few small purchases here and there. The obligatory gifts for family and friends....token though they are....of, and of course the books. I really have tried to restrain myself here, but really have no hope being a librarian. Current tally is 2 books from Ville D'Este (one a recipe book for Frank, one the history of the hotel for me), a history of the Molino Stucky in Venice, Vittorio's current exhibition catalogue, the new Orsoni publication and a handful of mosaic catalogues from MAR Ravenna. Oops! Finally got it all sorted, but thank goodness we bought the extra case in Venice. 1.11.2012
Como itself is a mixture of old and new and in parts is quite quaint. Reminiscent of parts of Verona. Our driver on our trip to Lugano, Massimo, is Como born and bred and very proud of his home town. He didn't however mention the gypsies, which were again out in force, although nowhere near the numbers we encountered in Paris. The day didn't turn out quite as we had planned though as with the walk taking nearly an hour we arrived right about the time the sops were closing for the obligatory siesta in the middle of the day. Many shops actually close by midday, not reopening until about 3.00pm. That said, they then remain open until about 7.00pm. We were happy to walk for a bit, just looking, then stopped for some lunch. Lunch over we decided to work out how to get ourselves back to Ville D'Este. The ferry seemed the best option, so I negotiated purchase of two adult tickets to Cernobbio. At a cost of €5 for two, quite reasonable. While only two stops away, it was a great way of exploring the other end of the lake. We sat outside, enjoying the fresh air and view. 1.11.2012
The view from our balcony across the lake is beautiful and it is the first thing I look for when I wake up. Today we decided we would explore the township of Como further. Breakfast over, yes another custom made omelette for me, we put our walking shoes on and decided to walk in to Como. With directions from the concierge, but no map, we headed off. The first part of the walk was along the same route as the traffic, with little by way of footpath. Once we were ale to join the lakeside path however we were treated to beautiful scenery and an easier walk. It seems like half of the local population were out walking too which was nice to see. People watching is always fun. As for my daily dog count. The highest for this trip at 68. 1.11.2012
With the Italian Alps so close, rising behind Lake Como, we decided to explore further and booked a day trip to Lugano. Just over the border in Switzerland Lugano too has a lake, and is ringed by the Swiss Alps. There the similarity ends. To be fair, our visit was on a cloudy day, so the Swiss Alps were covered in mist. In summer I imagine they would be impressive however with the weather closing in there was little point in venturing too far into the mountains. Instead we walked around the town exploring a little. Lugano is renowned for watches and jewellery. Both seemed expensive, and suffice to say we did not purchase anything. We then went for a drive around town, up to Mount Bre, a little village on the top of a mountain. Quaint and with obviously expensive properties on the road up as they overlooked both the lake and the Alps. We then had lunch at the Principe Leopoldo Hotel and Spa. Very posh, almost reminiscent of our Michelin experience in Vigny. This time though, I was unescorted on my visit to the toilet. The food however was equally impressive as was the wine list, with the hotel producing their own label. The soup I had for entree was a mixture of seafood and the white beans that we have been seeing a lot of in Italy and which I have grown to love. Very good indeed. With time on our hands we left Lugano, stopping in Como for a look on the way home. This was enough to whet the appetite, and I would like to explore further tomorrow, our last day before returning to Paris in preparation for the trip home. 1.11.2012
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
The villas and palazzos along the lakeside really are beautiful, with some dating back to the 15th Century and 17th Century. It seems that few remain in the hands of the original families. Those with constant tenure seem to be owned by the Catholic Church. One gorgeous property was gifted to an Italian Philanthropic Foundation within the last couple of years when the gentleman who owned it passed away. It has been used in the Star Wars series and James Bond as one of the locations for filming, it really is spectacular And is located on a small peninsular so is well positioned to look effective on film. Other villas seem to have become owned by multiple families, one per floor, as a means of making them affordable. With many villas being three levels, this is a good way of sharing access to these beautiful buildings. The villa owned by Donatella Versace has recently sold for €35 million to a Russian millionaire.
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Thanks to the Executive Lounge I have rediscovered Bailey's Irish Cream Licquer. The problem is that I tend to drink it like I drink port, preferring a substantial tumbler of it, on ice of course, rather than a dainty little sip.
The only way to really get the full benefit of Lake Como is to explore it by water. This we did today, taking a boat across the lake from where we are staying, and heading up the lake, past private villas and palazzos, across to Nesso which we viewed from the water. With a Roman bridge and waterfall, it is very quaint.
The castle in Verona was quite interesting to visit and actually provides one of the best viewpoints of parts of the city from the Ponte Castelvecchio. The structure dates from 1354 - 1355.
This morning we left Venice via water taxi, then on to meet our driver for the road trip to Lake Como. We had decided that as the trip is only about three hours, we would stop in Verona for a couple of hours to have a look around, break our journey, have lunch, then head on. So by mid morning we were exploring the city of Verona. Next largest city in the area after Venice it really is worth a stop of a couple of days. Highlights include old Roman bridges, a Roman theatre and arena - really a small Colisseum, as well as an old castle. While we could still look around the castle, and the outside of the Roman arena, being Monday there was no entry to the museums or internal areas.