Sunday, November 28, 2010

No Broadband - Not much of a Post

Sorry folks - no piccies, no stories. It's all tooooo slow this weekend.
We used all of our broadband for the month with the boys downloading movies, playing games and whatever.
We'll be back next Wednesday though.

I can tell you that we had a marvelous evening with friends that we met with in Paris last April. It was just a nice night, friendly and relaxed with good food, good wine and great company.

You might remember that last weekend we had the most glorious weather when my father stayed with us, well it hasn't stop raining in Melbourne over last few days. Still it is still warm.

I do see that our bloggers in the northern hemisphere are into winter with snows and so it looks like a white Christmas for them. It takes ages for our favorite blogs to load we should catch up on their news by the first of the month.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

All of our Wednesdays become Friday

Yes, all of our Wednesdays in France and Italy have come to an end and today is Friday.
But Wednesdays will still continue with memories of our travels. It wasn't long after returning to Melbourne that another trip was being planned. More of that next Wednesday.

Only half a man
 Last weekend was absolutely idyllic with cloudless skies and balmy nights, just perfect for outdoor meals on the deck under the shady umbrella of the leafy trees in our backyard. The weather report for this weekend is a contradiction of last Saturday and Sunday. Rains all weekend are predicted - with our water reserves still at 51 percent, we really can't complain.

With a split personality
 Not sure what Monday's blog will bring - guess I'll have to wait and see. I do know we will be having dinner with another couple we met in Paris earlier this year. We met at a restaurant next to Shakespeare and Co. bookshop beside the Seine.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Aahhh! Back in Paris

Our journey was coming to its conclusion. After flying out of Malpensa, Italy on Ryan Air, we would have two nights in Paris. We decided on the Bastille area for some reason. Not sure why but we did return close by the area in 2009 for one whole week in an apartment with a lovely leafy garden.
Our flight out of Malpensa was delayed by 30 minutes and then on arrival at the airport, our shuttle bus was late to the point that we were in stop/start peak hour traffic. It didn't matter! We were coming back to Paris and the magic of the city excited us as it would in our future trips since 2006. Coming and going, we've enjoyed Paris on eight occasions and it never ceases to seduce us.

Although tired, we did walk the streets in search of dinner and then an early night. I'd decided on an early morning run in search of the Paris Velodrome. I'd read of this particular Velodrome as being the venue for the finish of the Tour de France before the Champs-Elysees took on that role.

One of the few medieval buildings that Baron Hausmann didn't destroy.
On the map it seemed not a too daunting run but I didn't take into account my lack of athletic fitness. As I ran through the autumn streets of Paris, kicking the leaves aside to Vincennes I found myself zig-zagging my way and adding further kilometres to my journey. I finally reached my destination and imagined the great Eddy Merckx winning the TdF while I sat all alone on the grassy verge of the Velodrome. On subsequent visits, I had the opportunity to actually ride many laps here with my two friends Michel and Leigh. The run back home was horrendous. Blistered feet, being lost many times and again adding extra distance, I arrived back at the hotel almost two hours late. I was not well received, but we won't discuss that any further.

On first impression, Bastille was a frightening experience - there seemed to be no system to the traffic's movements. On later visits, I found that its a bit like a well conducted orchestra. I've even negotiated it on bike and now have a true understanding of how things work..
An unknown artist's painting of the Bastille.

One of the sites of Paris I just needed to see was the Crypte Du Paris - I'd read about it in our DK Eye Witness guide of France. Early history has always excited me. To be where humans established a city 2000 years ago it was too good to miss. The foundations of Paris is a must see experience and yet the many visitors to Paris that I've met have never been there.

From the Paris Pass website

Under the Parvis of Notre Dame where the tribe of the Parisii settled Ile de la Cite.
 The Crypte Archéologique de Notre-Dame is an atmospheric time capsule which explores the lives and artifacts of the tribes and civilizations that dwelt in Paris long ago. Here are located the telling remains of a house from Lutèce, the precursor to Paris. There are numerous Gallo-Roman artifacts, which provide a fascinating insight into the lives of the mighty Roman Empire and how they lived in Paris.
This fascinating attraction includes a splendidly recreated settlement of the Parisii, the Celtic tribe that first settled on the site of Paris 2000 years ago and from whom the city takes its name. It is a powerful reminder that the city of Paris has stood for thousands of years in the centre of a great cultural storm, and that countless people have fought and died to make Paris their home.

We also had our first visit to Place des Vosges, well mine really because Sue had been to Paris before and been there. What a relaxing leafy place to be on a sunny autumn afternoon in Paris. Today a square of peaceful tranquility, it's hard to imagine that pistol duels were held here and it eventually degenerated into slums before being renovated to it's former exclusive splendour.

Entering Place des Vosges
Although Victor Hugo lived at number 6, I knew that Jim Morrison of the Doors spent his last days here before being buried at Pierre Lachaise cemetery with Oscar Wilde, Sarah Bernhardt and other greats of entertainment, science and academia.

And once inside, the bustle of Paris subsides.
Our time of returning home was drawing near and we decided on one last extravagant meal on our last night. It was another Kir Royale for Sue before we both ordered our favorite, Confit de Canard with a bottle of Bordeaux naturally!!!
After dinner we caught up with one of our Bayside Bandido cycling mates who was living in a broom closet in Paris. It was so nice to meet with Marcus who now lives in Thailand. He's a bit of a nomad really and runs bike tours there.
It was a lovely way to finish our France/Italy experience before flying out for home the following morning.
Oh how we looked forward to the 30 hour trip back.
Marcus, Sue and I enjoy a bottle of red on our last night.
I'll leave you with this last typical Parisian scene - well to me anyway.
Our Wednesday travel blog doesn't end here - we have returned to France a further three times since 2006 and explored many parts of this enchanting country and met many wonderful people who will remain in our memories for ever - share them with us each Wednesday.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A very Full Weekend with my Dad Jack

This is my Dad, looking very Leonard Cohen - we are wearing the T-shirts of  Mitch and Andrew's (my sons) band, IN Tongues".  Jack is 89 now - what a cool looking Dude, huh!
He still loves riding his bike - Me too.
Jack spent the weekend with us while the apartment he lives in was being painted.
Jack lives on the other side of Melbourne so it was like having a tourist stay with us. I took him to my little coffee spot, bike shop where he met all my cycling friends and I think he was more popular than me. He was amazed of the amount of cyclists on Beach road - maybe 7000 over the weekend.
After coffee we took drove down to the suburb a few kilometres down the road.
Mordialloc in my Father's day was a holiday resort. It brought back many memories for him when as a young lad he would go training on his bike down this way.
Mordialloc pier - Father and Son walking in the afternoon sun and enjoying the views.

Later in the afternoon after a cool beer with a cloudless sky, the light planes flew overhead above our backyard. I said to Jack, "do you want to go and have a look at the airport".

There's a museum at the airport - first time I'd been there. Jack and I wandered around for some time just taking in the sights of aeronautical history.

TAA and Ansett were our two competing airlines - Don't know if I'd like to fly in those days but their safety record was excellent.
My Dad is a bit of a cycling tragic and loves to watch bike racing so I took him to the Sunday racing and I foolishly decided to enter as well. He had a great day with many people saying hello. He's a bit of a legend.
I was pleased to ride in front of Jack although I did finish at the rear of the field (well I am 60!!!)
Racing is on a one kilometre circuit and there are usually 250 starters over 5 levels of racing.
The big boys average 45 kph over the 1 hour of racing - last weekend Simon Gerrans, an Australian Euro pro joined in while in his off-season back in OZ.

And that was my weekend with my Dad Jack - one to remember for both of us.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Friday Family Fotos

Just a bit of Family Fun with my Daughter Carly and Son Mitch

Really ugly, huh!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Leaving Venice and the Back Pack Saga

We enjoyed our stay in Venice and we would certainly say that it is one of those "to do in one's lifetime" experiences. From the taxi boat bandits to the lost or stolen back pack, it only added to the colorful memories.
Two nights gave us only a small taste of Venice and if the opportunity arose, we would return. With Sue's 60th on the horizon, it could be an option although her thoughts are with a Spanish theme for 2012.
In our short stay, we saw a flooded San Marco square, the running of the Venice Marathon and a relaxed few days before heading off to Milan, well almost.

Goodbye Venice - maybe some time in the future we will return.
After much angst, I said to Sue that I didn't feel very confident in taking the leased Citroen into a city of 1.5 million inhabitants. I actually freaked at the thought so we changed our plans and booked in closer to Malpensa airport where we would leave the C3 and fly out for a few nights in Paris before flying back home. I had the Alfa Romeo Museum on my personal itinerary which was in Arese, half way between Milan and Malpensa.
We decided that leaving Venice to pick up the car would be by the water bus this time, and it proved to be economical and a very pleasurable method. We saw more of the local sights and saw more of the local people on their way to wherever local Venezians go during the morning. We even met this huge dog out with his master - where do you walk a dog in Venice?

Our bags were packed into the C3 and we were off down the road towards Milan. Again we passed by cities with names that we had only read about such as Padua, Verona and as we left Veneto and on to Lombardy, we passed by Brecia and Monza. Why didn't we have more time to explore these cities?

We arrived at Arese and did the usual, I'm lost thing before approaching a local delivery van driver. We asked the whereabouts of the museum, but he didn't know. This didn't stop him from helping us though. Next thing he was on the phone to his brother and before we knew it, we were following him at break-neck speeds to where he took us directly to the door of the museum.

Well let me say, I was in 7th heaven. Having owned Alfas in the past, I have a passion for them. Yes, I know - they rust, they are temperamental, but they are just gorgeous. And that exhaust note, what can I say!!!
Nuvolari, Fangio both add to the mystic of Alfa Romeo.
Unfortunately, all of my photographs of the cars at the museum somehow were deleted, but if I close my eyes, images of the museum reappear. (these pics appear by the courtesy of the internet).
After some time, I felt a nudge from Sue - time to move on but not before I put in a request to meet the curator.
Being a member of the home based Alfa club, a life member of the club suggested that I introduce myself and mention his name. This I did and had an opportunity to discuss some of the classic Alfas we have in Australia with him. He was aware of some of these rarities as well. A great experience...

Back in the car we took off to find our hotel for the night before catching our plane to Paris,
This was not an easy task. It had not stopped raining since leaving Venice and this made navigation all the more difficult. We had Mappy maps - in subsequent trips we have take our Tom Tom (Tommy or when we are mad at him, Thomas)
After many U-turns we still couldn't find our hotel or a sign leading to it, so out of sheer frustration I decided to stop out front of another hotel that might send us in the right direction. Sue went in and came out with the most supercilious look on her face - this WAS our hotel.
I drove around the back to unpack the car while Sue investigated our room.
While taking our bags out of the car and giving it a general tidy up before returning it the next morning, I made an amazing discovery.
The contents of our back pack (remember the back pack) lay on the floor behind the seats. All of our travel, accommodation documents and plane tickets, all of which Sue was able to download while in Venice were there on the floor.
Can you imagine how I felt when I walked into our room and handed the file of documents to Sue?
How they came to be left in the car before catching the water taxi into Venice I don't know. What I do know is that whoever souvenired my pack pack had our tooth brushes and toothpaste.
Our last meal in Italy was a short walk down the road from the hotel at a family establishment. It was fun to observe the dynamics of the owners and staff. Momma sat waving her arms and issuing commands while watching the television.
From what we can remember, it was another enjoyable experience as we rolled back to our hotel room with full stomachs and just smidgen too much vino.

It was a very sad occasion when I had to give back OUR Citroen C3, but we've had the occasion to continue the fantastic "Drive Europe" leasing program on subsequent trips to France.
A phone call to Mr Moroni ensured the pick up of our cute C3 at the appropiate time before our flight. The C3 served us well. Its 1.3 litre diesel engine delivered an average of 4.9 litres per 100 kms over the 3500 kms that we travelled. We leased the car in Australia through the Australian Citroen importer from a lay called Ellie. She has been our contact on the three occasions that we have leased on subsequent trips. Providing you need a car for a minimum of 17 days, it is an excellent program. Our time in Italy had come to and end and so had most of our first overseas holiday together in 20 years of marriage, but not before two more nights in Paris.

More on the Alfa Romeo Museum if you have the interest or time.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Flinders to Flanders

The weekend was to be a cycling, socialising, wine and foodie type of weekend.
We were to meet at 7.30 am and ride as a group to Flinders (a distance of 80 kms) situated on Westernport Bay opposite Port Phillip Bay. It was not to be as at 6.30 am I could hear rain hitting the skylight.
Plan B - drive to Flinders in the early afternoon and meet up with friends to start the socialising part of the weekend.

Matthew Flinders - From whom the township took its name.
The above picture comes from a free ebook on the life of Matthew Flinders
Its a little ironic that Matthew Flinders earlier ancestors in fact were Flemish.
 As we left Mentone for Flinders the showers developed into huge downpours.
Currently I'm reading a book written by an American cyclist who raced in Belgium and constantly talked of the rain and wind in that region, hence the title of this post - Flinders to Flanders. Despite the wet conditions, the region takes on a different beauty of its own.

 In summer, (tell Huey, it almost is now) Flinders is a lovely holiday destination but on this weekend hardly anyone was to be seen with the constant rain.
Vineyards now cover much of Mornington Peninsula and the vines produce some lovely crisp dry whites and soft Reds these days.

As far as the eye can see is a blanket of vines - it reminds me of Chablis or Napa Valley.
 A little history from Wikipedia.
The town was named by George Bass after his friend, the explorer and British naval officer Captain Matthew Flinders. Settlement commenced in 1854 and many pioneers and settlers are buried at the Flinders cemetery. Flinders Post Office opened on 7 March 1863 as the population grew.

The original Flinders Hotel was built in the 1890s as a large
double-storey wooden building that could house 100 guests.

Across the road was this beautifully manicured hedge of contrasting greens.
By this time the heavens really opened up and the whole area was covered in low lying mist.

Even the ducks had gone into hiding from this pond just down from the hedge.

On arrival in Flinders we stopped at this totally deserted Cafe in search of a Devonshire Tea.
And still the rain fell.
A lone couple walk back along the jetty to shore.

Flinders sits within a small cove within Westernport Bay.
This was the second time that we had stayed a weekend in Flinders and on both occasions the sun decided to hide but I'm sure in the middle of summer this sleepy little hamlet's population swells to twice its size or more. Dotted along the shoreline are both modern and historic holiday homes with fabulous views over Westernport Bay. Along with the good weather will come the crowds - maybe a wet weekend is a nice time to have been here - anyway it was relaxing before going back to work on Monday.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Here we are - 3 funky guys who enjoy their bike riding and socialising together.
Yes we are wise and we do like to monkey around.

But Sue has a differing opinion

The weekend is not looking good with heavy rain forecast however we are joining about 20 couples for a weekend on the Mornington Peninsula. It will be a coffee, wine and foodie experience in a really nice part of the world with fun people.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010


Our week long stay in Monticchiello had come to an end. The little Citroen C3 was chokkas full of our cases - why is it that on your first big overseas trip, you pack more than you need. We travel with less these days.
I think Tuscany was sad to see us leave as the sky was crying. We had rain most of the way but by now I was comfortable driving in all conditions with the steering wheel on the opposite side.
The drive took us by the many towns we never had time to visit. The signs enticed us to Cortona, Arezzo, Prato, and Bologna as we drove along the A1 before diverting to Venice on the A13 to Padua.
We decided we wanted to be in Venice as early as possible to explore as soon as we arrived - well that was a silly notion. I think it took as much time to find our hotel as it did to drive to Venice.

What more can I say - this is Venice as we all imagined!!

The view from San Marco on a rainy day as the water encroaches on the Piazza.

The bridge of sighs where between the Palazzo Ducale and the prison.

On arriving at the Tronchetto parking island we were escorted by what we thought were very thoughtful and courteous valets to our waiting water transport to Venice proper. WRONG!!
These guys were Venice Cowboys soliciting motor boat transportation at incredibly high taxi fares compared to the normal water buses. We were ushered down flights of stairs and out of the car park to some shaky wharf to be whizzed off with one or two other couples. Oh, well - you live and learn. And we did because on our return journey a few days later we took the water bus.

And how lovely is the Rialto Bridge across the Grand Canal?
 We arrived just near Piazza San Marco by the cowboy water taxi and our first view was of Palazzo Ducale.
With my hand in my pocket, I paid our fare and before I knew it, the water taxi was gone to look for other unsuspecting souls like us.
With map in hand, we walked the labrynth of Venice with no idea where to find our hotel. Sue need to stop and absorb her inner self before returning to the map. Being the Mule, I quite enjoyed the rest and took off my back pack and leaned against a wall for less than 5 minutes before we were off again. Before I knew it, I was less one backpack. PANIC. I couldn't remember what was in it. Our travel documents, I don't remember. Back and forth but no backpack to be found.

These two photos were taken from either side of the Rialto bridge
We finally found our hotel and reported our stolen/lost backpack. Sue hates me, I feel so miserable.
The people at the hotel when told of our predicament were so helpful and our room was lovely after a full on stressful day.

The following day we emerged from our hotel to discover Piazza San Marco flooded. The Piazza was set up with trestle type walk ways so the tourists didn't get their little cotton socks wet, while the locals wore gum boots.

We were walking on the trestles when confronted with a swarm of Japanese tourists, all with cameras raised at eye level. We turned and scampered away before almost being pushed into the knee deep in water.

We spent the whole day just wandering the streets and taking in the truly uniqueness of Venice. Our afternoon coffee was interrupted by the familiar accent of Aussies and we couldn't help ourselves in joining in with them. They were a bunch of mature women enjoying a crusine tour and cooking classes.

That evening we had no idea where we would eat so we decided to just stroll the narrow passageways and let our noses choose the way. I can't remember our meal but I do remember striking up a conversation with a couple from California, well San Francisco really. I do like their relaxed accent. I told them that I spent a summer there in 79 and they said that I was fortunate to be there at that time. They had recently move to one of the outlining wine growing valleys and had become disenchanted with SF city life.

Our stay in Venice was short but very moving and the photographs bring back pleasant memories despite the trauma of losing my backpack and the documents that I believed may have been inside. But this all had a very strange twist to it and more will be revealed next Wednesday.