Saturday, 14 March 2015

Christian Rome and the Catacombs

Back in 2005  we had wanted to do this tour but because there was not enough interest it wasn't offered so it was top of our list this time. We were picked up at the hotel and taken to the tour meeting point really very close to us by yet another fountain of Neptune  I think, and Septembre street.

The drive to the catacombs took about an hour and started with a church which then led down to the catacomb of St Domitilla. Of course they were first of all used as hiding places when the Christians were persecuted but then later became places of  Prayer and worship.
Symbols of Christianity ,the fish and the shepherd

It was then back on the bus  to visit the Papal church of St Giovanni, founded by Emperor Constantine in the 4 th century It was decorated with large Roman statues down each side of the aisle  St Peter on one side and St Paul on the other.All the floors of the Papal churches are the same tiled marble design. across the road from the church were the Holy Stairs which you could advance up on your knees. They were supposedly the stairs  that Christ is said to have climbed to his trial before Pontius Pilate.

Then it was on to the bus again to visit the St Maria Majour Basilica a very much more baroque church with alot of adornment. I liked the picture of the last supper the best high above one of the side chapels. I really thought it was a very good tour but I think Bob felt the tour of the Catacombs was rather superficial
St Maria Majour Basilica

Monday, 16 February 2015

A long Drive and Good bye Italy

Next day from Florence we drove along way, to leave Italy via Lugano which we had visited before,
a fairly nonescript town of rich people living by the side of the lake. We did get a chance to stroll through the sculptures on the lakeside promenade and left Italy through the St Gotthard tunnel descending towards Lake Lucerne. This was perhaps the least interesting day of our tour, it was rather long and not helped by a traffic jam.I had not seen the Trevi fountain to  throw in a coin but I certainly hoped this would not be my last holiday in Italy

Monday, 10 November 2014

Rome, pick pockets and the Sistine Chapel.

First we visited the Colosseum, huge, iconic  and evil but we got a good tour of all the different levels and then walked across the road to the Roman Forum, of course alot of ruins, the only photo I got was of the arch of Titus because my battery gave out, a curse of the digital camera. Anyway it was a fascinating insight into Roman times and a good tour and then on to the bus to St Peters Square.

The tour guide gave us a quick breakdown of where everything was, where we could see the Popes blessing etc and showed us a cheap cafeteria lunch spot in a side street. Everywhere we were assaulted by gypsy type Europeans selling scarves.

We had our lunch and Bob paid with his credit card. little did we know that that was the last time we would see it. Then on to St Peters, entrance at the right. A big crowd and a security check . Bob went to get out his wallet, you guessed it, it wasn't there! He felt he had been jostled and had been pickpocketed here but it may have been the cafeteria.

Anyway we proceeded through St Peters but I must admit I didn't take much in I think we saw Michaelangelos  Pieta . Anyway after the visit we decided to go back to the hotel to report the loss of our credit card. We did this certainly not much longer than an hour after we had noticed it gone. Bob was sure there was no clues in his wallet to the pin number which perhaps points more to it going at the cafeteria but it was not stopped before $14 thousand worth of damage had been done although I don't think Bob found this out until he got back to Australia and he had to fight the bank that it had a daily limit on it of one thousand and they were out of order in allowing the transactions to go through. The bank had to accept liability for that. Anyway I have to say that Bob coped brilliantly with all this, much better than the overpriced taxi ride in London! We did not mention it to the rest of the tour group!

Next day we had to be up early for our visit to the Vatican Museums. Unsurprisingly I had not slept well and in the night had taken a diuretic instead of a short acting sleeper so I was abit dehydrated However the visit was brilliant. I remember wonderful mosaics and the map room in particular.
Waiting in the queue against the back drop of the walls of the Vatican
The visit finished with a visit to The Sistine Chapel,crowded of course, the highlight being the ceiling painted by Michaelangelo showing the creation of Man. Yes truly one of the great sights of the world Then on to the bus getting to Florence about 4. In time for a walking tour of the Duomo,  the Baptistry, The Piazza della Signoria with the Neptune fountain and replica of David,the Ponte Vecchio, and a leather shop. Then an ice cream in the square of St Croce but unfortunately not time to go into the church. Not a long visit but it certainly showed you the important places with lots of good photo opportunities.
sistine chapel

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Rome via Perugia

We left Venice en route to Rome, alot of travelling to day and rather boring. The young American boy Christian  who was  very well behaved had got a copy of the latest Harry Potter book so he was happy. It may have been the day we got stuck in a traffic jam for three hours but this was ably managed by Kathleen who arranged a group photo on the autobahn  and a toilet amongst the sun flowers. Again Kathleen you were a gem. Anyway the half way break was Perugia , the bus parked and we made our way up to the town on a series of escalators to the pedestrianized Corso Vannucci dominated by the 13th century fountain.

Then it was into the Duomo which did not have much to recommend it. Then on to Rome . You could do an extra tour Rome by night but we were tired and there was a nice pool at the hotel so we just had some time out

If its Tuesday it must be Rome

1966 until 2005, that is a lot of water under the bridge and that is how long it took me to get back to Italy, now at the end of my working life.We had attended a R.C.S.Ed meeting in Edinburgh and then had a Cosmos tour of Europe booked Six countries in Twelve days. Our tour had a rather daunting beginning as it started from London two days after the London tube bombings. we had to get down from Edinburgh on the Friday and were quite resigned to the fact that we may not make it as the train we had booked on was cancelled.We were confident our travel insurance would cover us if we had to cancel.

Anyway we did make it but the local train Peterborough to Kings Cross was slow and crowded and the family opposite us all had colds. There were still bodies underground. Then the taxi ride to our hotel was worse and expensive. the taxi driver just got his paper out to read while the meter just ticked over. "Just let us out We'll walk " Bob said angrily, not the best start to our holiday.

The Kensington hotel was only average but next morning we all assembled for our tour and there were a lot of us. "Don't worry, We know what we're doing " said the lady in charge. The idea was that we all crossed the channel as foot passengers, all the tour buses were waiting at Calais and off we went, first stop Brussels but by now we were starting to get the colds passed on to us the day before.

After quite a long drive an American voice piped up from the back of the bus"Are We there Yet?", our introduction to Kathleen a solo traveller who was a teacher on an American base in Germany,recently divorced, her children were spending the school holidays with her ex . Well Kathleen became the glue that bound us together always cheery,  looking out for each other and when we were stuck in a traffic jam on the Italian motarway just before a toilet stop  she even
organised a bush toilet amongst the sun flowers. Kathleen you were a gem.

Our tour did not get to Italy until we had done Germany and Prague and Vienna. but we came down to Venice on a lovely scenic drive through the Italian Dolomites. Our hotel was on the outskirts of Venice but well placed for an early start the next morning.
This photo was taken by Kathleen
Next we queued to go into St Marks.

What do I remember about St Marks , a fair bit of time in the queue and then a slow shuffle through, but time enough to notice the wonderful mosaics. and alot of gold.

St Marc

Next the Doges palace decorated by Tintoretto

This is one of the largest paintings in the world decorating the east wall of the Great Council.It is named Paradise

Next we found a secluded part of St Marks Square to eat our packed lunch and drink our water then I nipped around the shops one street back from the square and they were fantastic. Started my collection of glass lollies and bought a green glass necklace and afterwards wished I had also got a hot pink one, They were cheap. I also found a lovely glass Christmas tree which now sadly is broken.
My glass lolly collection

Then at 3p.m I went to the waterfront for my booked tour to the island of  Burano and Bob found his way to the Academia, very clever of him I thought to find it although he nearly got waylaid in a gambling game at the Rialto Bridge! Burano is the lace making island lots of little family shops all with brightly coloured facades. I did not buy anything here but enjoyed a gelati as we waited for the boat back to Venice

The island of Burano

Friday, 3 October 2014

The Adriatic Coast 1966

I graduated in 1965 and commenced my first house jobs in Preston at The Royal Infirmary. It was a very busy job and we were in the middle of a spell of austerity so Harold Wilson froze our pay for six months so we were working hard for very little pay.

First Holiday

At the end of my first year working I was determined to have a good holiday so booked a young singles holiday at Catalonica, just south of Venice on the Adriatic. Have no idea of how we got there but I suppose we flew. In those days airports and planes were regarded as glamorous and exciting!

The hotel was nice, the beach was crowded but the weather was sunny, what we had come for. The young singles left abit to be desired but I formed a three some with two other girls and we had a lively time, sometimes at the expense of other tour participants one couple in particular that we called by a very rude name but we had fun. We especially enjoyed the glass of chianti with our evening meal.The Italian men continually engaged in bottom pinching which was very tedious

I took advantage of all the tours on offer, Venice, Florence and San Marino. I was immediately in love with Venice and Florence although San Marino not so much. In fact I had not really been to anywhere that was quite so tacky.
There is no doubt about it,the first time you visit Venice is magical particularly in the times of the sixties when it was not nearly as crowded as it is now.  On that trip I did go into the Doges Palace and saw the magical ceiling  which I presume was Tintorettos  Paradise. I do not remember whether I went into St Marks  but the square was magical  with an artist painting the scene. although my photos are rather grainy   I don't think I bettered them on subsequent visits.

Then in Florence we saw the skyline from Place Michelangelo and the statues of Neptune and David in Piazza della Signoria  and of course the Baptistry doors. We had a brief tour of the Uffizi gallery and certainly saw the Botticellis although not much else.

Then at the end of the holiday I had a date, meeting outside Aldwych tube station on The Strand to go to the theatre. I was very definite in what I wanted to see Maggie Smith in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie but that date ensured that I did not get back to Italy for many years.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Skiing in Italy

My first visit to Italy was in the glorious decade of the sixties when we were young and had the world at our feet. I was a student at Edinburgh university and had somehow started to learn to ski. Now if you can ski in Scotland you can ski anywhere, the snow was not deep and and the  heather was poking through and there were patches of ice.

When somebody, John Goodall and Blair Donaldson  I think arranged a holiday in the Italian Alps I was ready to go.

From memory we got a plane to Geneva and then took a bus to Sauxe DÓiux. There were none of the difficulties of travel to day, no security checks although I guess we had to go through passport control.
It was Italy but could equally well have been France or Switzerland. Have not many memories of the trip but those I have are all good.
Managing to stand up!
Where are they now?
Ewan Cameron,Hannah Rathbone.John Bedell.Hugh Millar Lindsay Neale
 Apres Ski Dinner at night, the above mentioned plus Bob Connolly, Chris Evans who I have met again at a R,C,S Ed event. All in all a great introduction to Italy