Sunday, October 31, 2010

Childhood Memories

This weekend has brought some heavy rains to Melbourne and also most of the state of Victoria. Our water storages are now approaching 50% average with rainfall up to 115mm in some areas. That's a good thing.
The rainy weekend however has limited the opportunity to get out and about to take any photographs for the blog so I thought I might just post some old advertisements relating to products that I remember as a child.
I also searched out a few commercials from the past. The scary thing is that I remember most of them. Just click on the "youtube" links.

Sennitt's Ice Cream no longer exists however the odd faded sign can still be seen around Melbourne's suburban streets if you look hard enough. Usually they can be seen on an old closed down corner milk bar.

Peters Ice Cream still lives on today, possibly because, unlike Sennitts, they did much television advertising in the 50s and 60s, sometimes sponsoring whole programs.


And of course there's the iconic Australian spread, Vegemite.
 It's interesting to note that many of these Australian iconic products are no longer Australian owned and only a few of the names remain - certainly Vegemite still sits in our pantry. It even travels with us in a new toothpaste style packaging.

The Four' N Twenty pie was founded in 1947 in Bendigo, Victoria and was the favored food while watching Aussie Rules Football. It was usually coated liberally with tomato sauce so that on the first bite, the sauce and meat within would spurt out onto one's clothing. The company was another that was sold off to a Multi-National company however it has returned to Australian ownership now.

Arnotts Biscuits joined forces with Brockoff Biscuits to hold off overseas interests but eventually the names Brockoff, Arnotts and Guests were taken over and another Australian business was lost.

Fags were sold in the local lunch shop across the road from my primary school in the 50s. They were made from (as the packet states) sugar, glucose, gelatine and other non-healthy ingredients but we did feel cool pretending we were smoking. Oh! I forgot to mention, Fags were in the shape of a cigarette.
I still don't understand the concept of two young children sprinting up what seems to be a yellow brick road, hungry for a packet of Fags.
I believe they are still sold today but under another name - Fads, I think.

The Hoadley's Violet Crumble bar was introduced in 1913. Hoadley's later became Rowntree Hoadley before being acquired by Nestles. As a teenager I remember going to watch the "Hoadley's Battle of the Sounds" a national pop band competition. The Violet Crumble is still sold today and I still enjoy them.
  It's sad to see some of these products no longer Australian owned however the world has become smaller and many overseas products now sit on our supermarket shelves. Foods that many decades ago were only known to our "New Australians" are now common place on the dinner table.

Just as a side issue - hasn't advertising changed since then? Even our terminology has changed, words and themes that would not even be considered now.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A World Champion at 65+

Michel Briat, my good friend who lives in Paris with his wife Danielle and who both have been so kind to us on our visits to his City is now a World Champion.

I woke up this Friday morning to read the results of the World Masters Track Championships in Portugal. Michel has travelled to Australia in since 2007 in his endeavor to win the rainbow jersey.
He finally achieved his goal in Portugal this month in the 65 to 69 age division
Congratulations to a true champion cyclist and person.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Montalcino - home of Brunello Wine

A late morning start was in order for the short drive to the village of the well known grape growing district of Montalcino. Montalcino is the home of Brunello wine and many tourists come here for the tasting of the local vino.
It's a lovely hilltop village, more easily walked than Montepulciano, meaning that it has less steps but still enough to open the lungs.
It seems every village in Tuscany involves steps, not something we are use to at home.
More steps of the up-kind.
Finally some decending!!!!
As we entered the village I saw some young women on bikes, how could I resist chatting with them and they did speak english. Well in a strange sort of way!!!! They were Canadian and American. How brave were they, the weather was a little damp and they rode from Montepulciano, via Pianza to Montalcino, just to taste the Brunello.

The steps always reward you with a view that makes it all worthwhile.
Our lunch was to die for but Sue will explain.
Leon had hand made and rolled pasta, picci, which is common to the region. He loved it.
I had wanted to try wild boar for ages and, being the right time of year, it was on the menu.
It was in a ragu and served with creamy soft polenta. Delicious.
Our waitress was a little concerned when I ordered the polenta and began to explain it to me. She was astounded when I told her that I cooked it at home in Australia. I don't think she thought it had travelled out of Italy, let alone to such an exotic place as Australia!

The waitress was marvelous and just chatted on endlessly when she discovered that we were Aussies. I have to admit that this seems to be common wherever we have travelled. Maybe its because we are so casual and open, and the Italians seem the same which makes good for some interesting experiences.
After sampling and buying some wine, we ambled on to the fortress which reminded me a little of the one on the shores of Lago Trasimino in Umbria. I think we could have sat there for ages if I had a good book to read. It was so tranquil.

Photo and text from Wikipedia
The first medieval walls were built in the 13th century. The fortress was built at the highest point of the town in 1361, on a pentagonal plan designed by the Sienese architects, Mino Foresi and Domenico di Feo. The fortress incorporates some of the pre-existing southern walls, the pre-existing structures including the keep of Santo Martini, the San Giovanni tower and an ancient basilica which now serves as the fortress chapel.

But it was time to move on and so we wandered back to Pienza, Sue's favorite Tuscan village to do some shopping for ingredients to match the wine we purchased.

Before retiring to our little villa in Monticchiello, we decided a glass of wine in the local bar would be a fitting tribute to "our" village. We chatted with the owner and during the conversation she mentioned she had a friend who recently married in Australia. Do all Italians have a friend or relative in Australia?
Sue rang our son Andrew to discover that he arrived in Moscow safely but the authorities were still to return his passport. More to come later about that.
Our time in Tuscany was drawing to an end before our next destination to Venice.

It really is a nice village, isn't it Leon - can we come back some time?

We leave you with this lovely wall of painted pottery.
Oh, by the way - on returning to Australia we located some Brunello which we decided to revive our memories through our palate, but at a premium. We discovered that Brunello is $65.00 a bottle here at home. (that was in 2006)

One more day before leaving Tuscany for Venice.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

MOTORCLASSICA and the Exhibition Buildings

Friday night I met up with some classic car enthusiast mates to see a display of local classic cars at the Melbourne Exhibition buildings. Although the cars were amazing and many having an marvelous history, the building itself never ceases to amaze me.

The Entrance

The interior & the cars

This one is for my Blogger mate Simon in France - It's a Big 6 Citroen Traction Avant

This MG K3 was owned by Prince Bira of then Siam. It has a rich history and is featured in my book of Rob Roy Hill climb. We have some great classic racing cars in Australia.

What a perfect setting for a Classic Car Show - in a Classic Building.

The early Holden, Australia's own.
Commonly known as the FJ.
 From the Exhibition website:
The Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens were completed in 1880 for Melbourne’s first international exhibition, a product of the optimism, enthusiasm and energy of the people of Melbourne in the late-19th century. Melbourne was a prosperous city, basking in the wealth from the richest gold rush in the world. How better to publicise the achievements and opportunities in the colony of Victoria than by hosting an international exhibition?

 On 9 May 1901, the Royal Exhibition Building hosted the opening of the first Federal Parliament. Prime Minister Barton wanted it to be as inclusive as possible. No other public building could accommodate such a large group of people, and the organisers were eager to make the occasion spectacular and memorable.

A modern day FJ built by GMH recently
A concept car.
The atmosphere was radiant and illuminated the vast spaces of the building and the great sea of faces with a bright Australian glow. A sight never to be forgotten was the assemblage which, in perfect order but with exalted feeling, awaited the arrival of the Duke and Duchess in the great avenues which branch out from beneath the vast dome of the Exhibition Building. (Argus 10 May 1901)
An above the building photo. Compare it to the plan below.

The original plan of the Exhibition buildings - my father remembers both the building, the bike track and the Aquarium as a child. He told me only last week of seeing the seals there.

An early print in the stages of construction of the Exhibition Buildings.

The first sitting of Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia was held in these buildings in 1901.
Occasionally I wonder what it would be like to be retired, our weekends pass so quickly. After the Classic Motor Show, there was shopping, catching up with a movie (The girl with the pearl earring), and Sunday breakfast with my Daughter who was down from Brisbane with her partner Sharn. Where does the time go?
Sunday Arvo was taken up with lawn mowing, car washing and then relaxing in the back yard with a bottle of chilled Sauvignon Blanc. The sun was out, the sky was cloudless and the temperature was in the mid-20s.
I put some bird seed in the feeder and the doves, sparrows and wattle birds came to feed.
Today we had a very special visit from a pair of parrots in full colour. What a perfect Sunday.

Look what the bird seed enticed into our backyard on a sunny mid-afternoon.

Work tomorrow!!!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Florence - A Day of Misadventure.
For us Florence was not a great experience, it was just an interlude of a few hours while doing other things. Firstly our leased Citroen C3 required servicing after 2000 kms of travelling and secondly we were taking our son Andrew to Florence to catch a plane to Moscow. We drove over to Chiusi where we had booked the car in a few days previous but as usual, we got lost. As we were looking for the Citroen Dealer we were confronted by a road block, by the Carabinieri, you know, those guys with automatic rifles over their shoulders. Sue said, "you stay in the car while I ask these nice gentlemen for directions."
After much hand gesturing a smile came over their faces which then broke into laughter. Sue came back to the car as the Carbonieri were pulling up their road block. Wondering what went on, Sue just said to follow them as they were giving us an escort to the Citroen Dealer. It seemed one of them had a relative in Australia which then made us their friends - how good is that?

Despite being initially lost, we were still early (we factor in getting lost time) for the train to Florence so we decided to have coffee and a snack at a local cafe near the station. The lady behind the counter was talking with the local patrons and of course our Italian was basically non-existent. I tried to order coffee and all of a sudden this Aussie accent flowed out from the lady. She just happen to be from Sydney and was married to a local bloke from Chiusi. They'd lived in Sydney for several years but decided to settle back here. I think she enjoyed communicating in her native language and we promised to call back on our way home after picking up the car.

Taking time out to watch the waters of the river Arno flowing beneath the Ponte Vecchio.

The train trip to Florence was uneventful and we arrived ready to explore in what little time we had available before Andrew left in a bus for the airport.
Not much time really and as a consequence, we didn't appreciate the true treasures of Florence. Certainly Ponte Vecchio was on the must see list and we did spend some relaxing time looking out over the river.
Certainly when entering from the Pizza de San Giovanni the Duomo was a highlight and entering inside of the Duomo will always be an experience to be remembered, much the same as the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

We would have needed a few days, not a few hours to have brought home great memories of Florence. The tacky souvenir sellers, the poverty and beggars tend to take the shine from such an historic and cultural rich city. Is it any wonder we love returning to rural flow Italy and France more than the populated cities.

Looking down narrow side streets can offer some amazing sights.

Was the statue on the right offering us directions?

The Duomo and the Baptistery in the forefront were amazing. The Duomo is the fourth largest church in Europe and when you enter it you actually feel minuscule in the huge open area. Even though there were heaps of tourist inside, it still felt uncrowded. The tower, Campanile was designed by Giotto and completed 20 years after his death.
Had we had more time, we could have explored the church for longer.

Time was moving on and we needed to get Andrew to the bus stop to take him to the airport. Our attempts to make contact with Alitalia to confirm Andrew's second leg of his flight from Florence to Moscow were unsuccessful but we guessed all would be OK.
It was not to be - as we were back on the train to Chiusi we received a call from Andrew to say that Alitalia would not honour his flight because he had not taken the first leg of the journey. This was infact (always read the small print) the case but due to a change of travel plans he decided to relinquish the cost of the first leg and make his way to Rome to meet us. I was furious that an airline would leave a 20 year old stranded in an airport possibly endangering his safety. This was more of an issue rather than the cost to me.
It was fortunate that Andrew called us for help and so we suggested that he purchase another ticket and I would deal with the matter when we returned to Australia. And I did. It took me three months of badgering but I did get a refund but not the apology I would have preferred. I now refer to them as the genitalia airline.

I guess this did leave a sour taste in our mouth from the Florence experience but our son eventually was safely on a flight to Moscow and we were back in Chiusi picking up our car. We did honour our promise to return the little bar with our new found Sydney friend and washed down that bad taste with a Vino.

Maybe we should return to Florence another time.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Too Late to Post Tonight

Started to post about our mis-adventures in Florence - it was a day to forget but strangely the things that went wrong seem a bit of a giggle now.
Should have it all posted tomorrow night.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Food, wine and Lotsa Rain

Friday evening and on my way home from work and she says (Sue that is), "buy some sparkling red to start the weekend with." I always do as I'm told so that was the beginning of our weekend.
I usually start with a Saturday morning ride but my back is playing up and from mid-Friday to early Sunday we have had a huge rainfall so cycling was out. I actually didn't mind really, forgot what a sleep-in was like.

For 48 hours it has rained and rained - that's a good thing with our water catchment areas are filling.
We decided on doing a late morning market thing at Prahran and buy some ingredients for our Saturday night dinner. The Prahran market is not the cheapest market but is a little special in many ways.
Sue had in mind rabbit (Lapin) for dinner and I have to say that this was the best I have EVER had. It was fall of the bone stuff, so tender. I'll let Sue tell you how it was done.

An entree of scallops
Scallops were little, but local. They were great quickly seared and on a broad bean puree with some crispy prosciutto.

Complemented by a Riesling from the Strathbogie ranges.

We love rabbit, but his photo looks like rabbit that disagreed with someone!! Good one Leon!
It was simply braised in stock and wine after browning with shallots, garlic, celery, mushrooms and prosciutto. Dampened parchment paper and a lid on top for an hour or so, then finished with a spoonful of light cream. We served it with a mash of potatoes, garlic and peas. Yummo.
It's a shame that rabbit is expensive here and not that easy to get.

The red was from the Languedoc region in the south of France - perfect with bunny.

Still wet Sunday AM, and a date to catch up with friends on the Mornington Peninsula didn't allow for a ride, but that's OK.
Our friends Glor and Baz just returned from their trip to Italy and France and we wanted to share their experiences. What with a week in Sicily, then Rome and then Nice before a week in Avignon, they had plenty to tell us.
Many riders would have been on the 220 kms ride for 12 hours.
There were probably as many as 10,000 riders.

The guys above were going to ride 220 kms around Port Phillip Bay and that included a ferry ride to the other side of the bay. Brave or stupid??????
 While we drove down to see our friends we were amongst virtually 1000s of cyclists on the annual "Round the Bay" ride. I did this several years back (2006 I think) and you can get 4 seasons in one day over the 220 kms. The start was at 6.00 AM and we returned home at 6.00 PM, and so were many of the riders looking very fatigued.
Can't say I missed not riding really................

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Annette Kellerman- the Aussie Mermaid

While recently reading thru my History of Mentone book, I was reminded of Annette Kellerman, a local girl  who with her family settled in our local suburb. She was credited as influencing synchronised swimming (in my case synchronised drowning).
I'm afraid we can't take much credit for her infamous career in her latter life as she took off to the US to become a celebrity in many ways - Wikipedia (as always) has something to say about this young lady who spent some time from around the corner where we live.

I'll just post a few piccies of this delightful young mermaid of the pool.

And there is more here - happy reading, she's fascinating.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

San Gimignano - Manhattan in Tuscano

Tuesday, October 17, 2006 and the sun was rising over the hills in Monticchiello. It was another day of discovery. We'd read about San Gimignano in our DK Eyewitness Travel book before we left Australia.
It's one of those must see hilltop villages in Tuscany. Why do I call it the Manhattan of Tuscano?
It's because it has 13 towers rising from the village dominating the skyline.

San Gimignano - Go on, knock on this door. I dare you!

San Gimignano was on the Pilgrim route to Rome.
During the mid-1300s it went into decline when hit by the black plague.
Today it is on the itinerary of most tourists through Tuscany.
 Built in the middle ages, 12th and 13th centuries, the towers are truly majestic. Even before we arrived at the village walls, several of the towers could be seen from afar. We arrived to the eastern side of the village and naturally the car needed to be parked outside the walls. Fortunately, as I've mentioned several times before, we had very few tourists about. Is October a non-tourist time?

Now tell me, is this a medieval Manhattan?

Piazza Della Cisterna and the fountain in the centre - there's a nice Gelato shop nearby.

A lovely drawing of Piazza Della Cisterna
from a different angle from where I took my photograph.
Not my drawing and no ownership known.

After a somewhat drive of misadventure (we got lost a few times) we entered the city walls and decided that an espresso was required before discovering San Gimignano. Just as a side story, I had difficulty in pronouncing the village's name, so I renamed it, "San Jiminy Cricket." I have since improved but found when quoting Italian, I need to wave my hands around alot.

Again I digress (I do that a lot - sorry), anyway we had a lovely coffee in the sunshine at the first cafe just inside the first gates. As pleasant as this was, the sad part was that Sue, feeling rather warm and taking in some vitamin D, decided to hang her woolen cardy over the chair and that was where it stayed after we moved on.
On these steps we ate pizza in the sun and took in the local atmosphere of San Jiminy Cricket.
We must have come from the high side of the village as the narrow main thoroughfare took us towards the Piazza Del Duomo. There rising above us was the oldest of the towers built in 1239. We sat on the steps of the Duomo eating a slice of pizza and drawing in the atmosphere of the Piazza Del Doumo and the adjoining larger Piazza Della Cisterna. It was named after a well that sits in the middle of the Piazza and is the centre of the old part of town.

The towers of San Gimignano - an amazing sight. I'm glad we went there.
 We moved on from San Gimignano in the mid-afternoon arriving back at Monticchiello in time to enjoy the sun setting over the Tuscan hills with a chilled glass of Bianco.

Andrew, our son joins me for a glass of chilled Bianco as the sun sets over the Tuscan hills.
The following day was to be our last day in Tuscany with Andrew. We were driving to Chuisi to have our Citroen C3 serviced and then taking the train to Florence so Andrew could fly out to Moscow, but that's another story full of misadventure and drama. More of that next Wednesday.