Sunday, 26 April 2015

The Jolly Roger

Today we had a slightly different visitor to the Bay in the shape of the Jolly Roger. we get several tall ships here during the year but this is a first as far as I'm aware. It is actually the Shtandart, a Russian ship that has been given full make up for an up and coming roll in a television Peter Pan sequel.
Regardless of all that, it is always good to see these ships in the bay, they fit in very well.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Venice Part II: Early and perfect

I have always liked the island mentality! You know, that 'make do and mend' attitude that people have when they have no easy way of getting what they want or need! Venice is like that and it takes a little getting used too! Obviously there are no roads and so everything has to be transported by boat, you know this but it is still strangely surprising to see builders mixing concrete on a boat and then wheelbarrowing it into a building! It shouldn't be when you think about it, but it is!
Understanding that Venice is a working city helps you work out the best way to get from A to B without getting stuck behind a large group of sightseers. Like any city there are the tourist magnets and then there is the rest of it, trust me when I say that 'the rest of it' is magical and really needs to be explored.
We arrived by train again for the second time time and again got here early. That's important and I can't highlight it enough, early is good!
Arriving early means that you see the city wake up. People are walking to work, children are going to school and getting about is easy.
Venice is small and easy to walk around without the need for water taxis or the vaporetto (water bus). Taxis are expensive and the vapoertto, whilst obviously convenient, means that you miss out on walking through the real city.
My next gripe relates to the 'too expensive' way of thinking. If you want a couple of coffees and a sit down in St.Mark's Square, expect to pay upwards of twenty Euros. If you walk for literally a couple of minutes to one of the smaller but prettier little piazzas you will spend about six Euros. This doesn't mean you should not have a coffee in the incredibly impressive St.Marks, it is an experience like no other, you just don't need to do it every time you want a drink.
Just remember that the locals will not be spending tourist rates for a cup of coffee so go and find where they drink and enjoy the atmosphere.
Above all though, Venice has proved to be a nicer, more impressive place than I could have imagined and it is utterly unique!

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Peschiera, Sirmione and a villa with a view.

Today we headed west from Verona on a train that, from the outside at least, looked as if it had survived an avalanche! No matter though as the journey to Peschiera took just under fifteen minutes and the little town that awaits is well worth a visit. Sat neatly within fortified walls, the old town sits at the very southern tip of Lake Garda and is the perfect place to start exploring this beautiful part of northern Italy.
The harbour and its many different sized boats dominate the town and the views of the snow-capped mountains in the distance don't do it any harm at all. Don't rush to leave Peschiera, although the crystal blue waters of the lake and the terracotta roofs of distant buildings may be calling, as you might just miss out on a gem.
After a time we jumped on the bus to Sirmione, a small town some twenty minutes up the road crammed on a spit of land that juts out into the lake. I had read about this place and really wanted to visit the incredible Roman villa that lies at the very end of the peninsula. The town itself is lovely, with a 13th century castle guarding its entrance and is made up of enough shops, bars and restaurants enough to keep the visitors happy. a quick note here, try the ice cream!!
The town is busy, but most people do not seem to visit the villa to the north and don't take the beautifully scenic, twisting path. The Roman remains were quiet, peaceful and incredible all into one, showing just what money, power and expertise could achieve so many years ago.
The views from here, across the lake to Garda, are just as superb and need to be experienced.
This is another place that I need to re-visit!

Monday, 20 April 2015

Trains, boats and the City of Water

Venice is special!
You realise that as soon as you set foot out of the railway station and catch your first glimpse of the City of Water. That view does not disappoint and for me, the rest of Venice didn't either.
We got there early, as the city was waking up and those that work there were getting ready for just another day. Early in the morning is good for any town or city perhaps but here, when you know it is going to get busy, this time of the day is sheer heaven.
First point of call was the Rialto Bridge and then on to St.Mark's Square, two of Venice's prime landmarks and both much more attractive when quite. St.Mark's Square especially will blow your socks off if you manage to see it empty!
There are many such attractions that really must be seen, this is after all one of the most famous tourist traps in the world, but when you have done this leave the crowds and explore.
If you have followed my ramblings for a while, you have probably realised by now that I like to get off of the beaten track!
So immerse yourself in the city and its culture, leave the crowds behind (as much as you can anyway) and
find your own space, take as much time as you can to really see what makes her inhabitants work.
You will not be disappointed.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Day 2: Blue Skies, back streets, sunsets, saints and tv aerials

The old town of Verona is a maze of cobbled back streets and piazzas that are just aching to be explored. The main parts of the city are superb of course, the architecture alone could keep you amused and puzzled for days on end, but leave the well beaten tracks, disappear in to the shadows and just walk. You can't get lost here because the river surrounds three sides of the old city and pretty well every road will take you to it or the stunning Roman arena.
Head across the river to the north west and climb the steps past the Roman theatre to the Piazzale Castel San Piedro that sits high above the town. The views from here are incredible and give you a chance to see just where you have been wandering.
The city is littered with museums, churches and historic buildings most of which seem to be missed by people in too much of a rush. If I have learned anything here it is to slow down, and not just because you will be run over by a car or a bicycle if you don't.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Just Call Me Signore Footprints

For the next week I will be in Northern Italy and so instead of being able to wander the Isle usual, I will be based in Verona and seeing what I can find.
We arrived today at about 9 o'clock after a perfect, trouble-free journey. Our luck continued as we collected our cases (just six other cases on the plane) and stepped straight on to the shuttle bus that would take us to Verona railway station. the ticket machine caused a few problems but nothing too severe!. A few minutes later we were trying to figure out what bus to take from the station to the centre of the old town where we are renting an apartment. Italian is not a language I am totally at home with but luckily the locals were as friendly as they were patient.
Soon after 10am we had the keys, dumped the cases and went out for the first wander.
Our apartment is very close to Ponte Alreardi on the east side and so we decided to follow the river as it curls north surrounding the old town.
This part of Verona is a maze of streets and beautiful piazzas and there is a lot of fun to be had just following the sounds and seeing where you end up. A few markets and cafes later we stumbled across a food festival near the ancient arena and stopped to refuel.
There is live music there later and it would be a shame not to check that out!

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Poole Harbour Sunset

As the Sun set on another perfect Spring evening all was well with the world. The tide came in, drawing the wading birds ever closer and while the water turned from blue to gold to red, the soundtrack of the harbour took over.
It was at this time that my new best friend, an Egret, appeared and I spent what time I had left watching him fish.

Quiet but never silent.

I missed the Sun this morning, not because I was late but because the early wander was done and dusted by the time the clouds cleared. When...