“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” Lou Holtz

"I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand." Confucius

Wednesday, 27 July 2011


When travelling you need to accept the places you visit for what they are and enjoy the differences in culture  and since there are  Swiss, Canadian, American, Danish/Czech students in my class there have been many discussions on this topic.

Travelling broadens the mind and certainly some of the students here (most of whom seem to be still in nappies..ie late teens/early 20’s) are having their minds broadened….  The other day I was totally gobsmacked and delighted to discover that one student here REALLY DID think the bidet was for washing your feet in…. Yup! she really did…I had to explain it’s use to her.
I love this place and there's been very little I've had to  struggle to manage:
What I’ve found difficult but not intolerable:
  • 1.       At our place in sunny Croydon Vic,  we often leave all our doors wide open..that is all doors, between rooms and to the outside, so I’m still finding having to shut the door to my house  AND my one roomed flat  a bit claustrophobic…actually I wouldn’t bother if it weren’t for the mangy cats that are more than happy to come in if you give them half a chance. 
  • 2.       Getting used to having complete strangers looking into my window and talking to me remains a struggle.  I have to really stop and think to make sure that I’ve shut doors and windows before (un)dressing! 
There's only one I can't deal with and  is waaaaay above my tolerance threshold:
  • Spitting. To me, spitting is just plain disgusting and unhygienic and it seems to be a habit that many men (I think only men) feel obliged to do...the streets are actually very clean and clearly dog owners do "the right thing", but there are signs that someone or group of people have a spitting habit.  This was one of the topics my class discussed and we felt it unfair to lay the blame at any one group, since the town is full of locals, students, immigrants and tourists (although not many of the latter group).  Who's to blame?  not sure, but my initial comment remains the same....a disgusting habit and sadly perhaps more global than I realised.
What I really like:
  • I very much like the way you have to put on a disposable glove when choosing your fruit and veggies in the supermarket. 
  • The friendlieness of a relatively small community. I used to live in a village in England where everybody knew everybody and this place is the same….when I went out for the meal at the restaurant last week, the chef mentioned that he’d seen me riding my bike in town and today when visiting Urbino, 22km away one of the guides in the castle there said she knew me…or at least she’d seen me in Urbania!  Actually I’m not sure that women here of my advanced age behave in quite the same way as I do, so maybe I do stand out a bit!
  • The community spirit.   During July there are festivals every Thursday celebrating various ethnicities living in the area. Monday was a local saints day and so was a good reason to close all the shops and have a party. There was a special church service and a parade..at 9:30 in the evening. I was stunned how many people were at the evening service, the cathedral was packed.  The following procession around the old part of the town took 5 minutes to pass by with people walking 4 abreast.  Actually I thought the procession somewhat similar to the C of E one of (I think it's called) Beating the Bounds where one walks around the boundary of the parish.  I'd add pix of this but once again they want to be on their side ..anyone know how to get pix that are taken in portrait NOT to change to landscape when adding to my blog""
Misc points
  • Supermarkets…I love the way there is a whole aisle of pasta types and also that there might be 12 different tins of tuna but, and this cracks me up, they are ALL tuna in olive oil!
  • I love the way you can sit for hours on end in the cafe, having spent just .90c on a coffee and no-one makes you feel as though you've been there too long.
  • I've discovered that when describing myself as an old woman, I shouldn't use the word "vecchia" since that word  is used with things, not people...instead I should desribe myself as " anziana", although personally I'd prefer not to use a word closely resembling "ancient" as it makes me feel like a ancient monument, a ruin!!!
  • there are 2 language schools here, one in town one on the outskirts and it seems to me that we all live in the opposite part of town to our school.  So as I walk to my school, I'm forever passing students going to opposite way to their school.  For those of you fortunate enough to have read and enjoyed Ronald Searle's "Down with Skool" and "How to be Top", it reminds me of the  soldiers from Rome and Gaul passing each other, first going one way and then later on the other way.....
Guess that’s it.  There maybe more from here or the next post might not be til I get to the  UK.  Wish me luck…driving in the LH driver’s seat European car on LH drive UK roads will not be easy ..not only will I have to chant LH side of the road to myself, I’ll have to remember to be near the verge and hope I don’t have to overtake too many people. 

The only remaining problem I have with the car is that I still approach the passenger’s side of the car…I then have to pretend that actually I meant to do that and was just delivering my bag etc to the passenger seat!!!..oh and the other day i forgot the car was a manual and managed to stall it when in a slow moving queue...doh!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Pix…various and the final week

Old (Peglio and in the far distance) and new (outskirts of Urbania)
There’s some serious money in this town.
The blue and purple houses from the previous post  are just beyond those trees to the right.

A long walk took me into the country around Urbania
Where Dr Doolittle may have found his inspiration!

NEVER forget to take your camera with you, even when it's raining!

 The Gorge at Forli

Forli Gorge....My beautiful Megane looking tiny

Forli gorge - where Romans not only built roads, but also gouged out tunnels

Well, that 3 weeks went quickly and I’ve got just  4 more days of lessons.  Yup, it’s the final week and there is, without a doubt, an improvement in my spoken Italian..or at least I now speak alot more and unlike the first week at Florence airport where my utterances caused looks of total non-comprehension, now I  can get past the first few exchanges before I have to ask for the speed of delivery to be slower. 

So now I’m in the throes of buying presents…the bike shop has already had a nice surprise with me buying tops, socks and bidons,  as has the best ceramic place in town…

and all that left is the enoteca for some plonk although sadly this is not a wine growing area  so it’ll just have to be  relatively local wine.

Today (Monday) is the local saint’s  day and so the school is closed as are most of the shops.  I will be forever grateful for my local café..Sunrise Café for being open at all times, except on Wednesday’s, and for having free internet.  Once I realised they had free internet I was theirs, heart and soul.  I now don’t have to order my morning dose of caffeine, I just say ciao! and plonk 90 cents on the counter ……and when I say “local” I mean *really* local  almost next door in fact…a two minute walk on a VERY tired day is all it takes.    The newspaper shop also knows me well and the guy pulls out the pink sports rag when I step in the door, although now the TdF is over I’m not sure what newspaper to buy now.

No more TdF not only means no more newspaper it also means no more TV...I only get 2 channels and honestly even my desire to listen to as much Italian as possible wont convince me to watch soaps!  and I guess I'd better return to pm classes!  Since I've got 3 x 1hr private lessons too, I think this week should help solidify all I've learnt..I just hope it doesn't all disappear before I get to show off my improvement  at CIS in Melbourne!

Ah well..better cook something for evening meal...NOT pasta though!...had enough of that to last a month or so.

Monday, 25 July 2011

For those not also on facebook...

I realise finally that I've been saying the word for winter incorrectly so when I've been telling people that currently it's winter in Aus (ie inverno) I've actually been saying it's HELL (inferno) in Aus ;-) ;-)

Today is a local saints day holiday in Urbania, so no school and I'm off to do some belated sightseeing, 'cos with school, training and the TdF I've been a bit busy.

Thank you Cadel for a terrific 3 weeks of racing...it was the perfect excuse to wag afternoon classes, which were pretty tedious anyhow.  Guess I'll have to go back to them now....bugger..

Proud to be an Aussie any time but more so right now.....

.....and ALL Urbania now knows I'm an Aussie!

End of sun tan and out door riding for a week?

         Weather forecast
for Urbania
weather in Urbania on Monday
Rain Storms

Max  17°C
Min  14°C
weather in Urbania on Tuesday
Rain Storms

Max  22°C
Min  16°C
weather in Urbania on Wednesday
Rain Showers

Max  23°C
Min  16°C
weather in Urbania on Thursday
Rain Storms

Max  23°C
Min  14°C
weather in Urbania on Friday
Rain Storms

Max  24°C
Min  17°C

hmmm...looks like the ergo is going to get a work out...dammit

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Colours and food and another pix added later on Saturday

about a year ago when we had our house repainted, Alex and I were shocked to see that the red and green in our "heritage" palette were wrong...too brassy.  Well ok we thought, it'll fade.  However, after being here for a while I realise we were far too conservative...here's what we should have aimed for:

or even......


 well, ok, perhaps not the last two!!  virtually all the colours used are in the yelllow/orange /red palette.  I think these two must have been going through a manic phase..or perhaps they just wanted to be different.

a coupla nighta ago we had a  farewell evening meal for 3 of the class who were leaving and we chose the swankiest restaurant in the town.  We ordered antipasto and there was so much we never got into either the pasta or the meat courses, ..just the desert, coffee and brandy. pix will follow once I can work out how to get them to stay the right way up, failing that I'll just post them as sideways pix ;-)

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Week 3 and vai Cadel vai, vai, forza ecc!

20/7/2011..no pm class today..can't miss a minute of TdF

Now I’m not quite so tired…temp in the 20’s and low humidity…I’ve started to be VERY aware that the local church clock strikes ALL night, 24/7! 
Unlike the one in France that struck the hour  twice, just in case you’d missed it the first time, this one strikes  to tell you the hour, then another bell strikes once for quarter past, twice for the half hour etc…soooooo, the whole rigmarole of the two bells occurs every fifteen minutes….like I said, 24/7.

I’m still trying to get used to the fact that my window, when open, allows all who pass to look in and if they want to talk to me!!!!

I was delighted to see this style of parking…makes my efforts look 100% neat.

 Check out the muscle car.

 Yet more chains on bridges....?

baby seat..everywhere here..but in Aus?

Monday, 18 July 2011

Sunday 17/7/2011

Yesterday’s ride was a circuit.it was s’posed to be for >3 hours, but I arrived back at 2.75 hrs and stuff it, that was it, I wasn’t gonna do anymore!  Today’s ride, on the other hand was s’posed to be a short spin with a hill… but more than 2 hours later I got home…..seems I just can’t follow orders!  I met up with another cyclist on this ride…actually I even caught him up and found out from him that Marco Pantani was from hereabouts.  He was telling me about good rides and indicated one Marco used to train on..a 15% climb….!  At which point I used the little old lady/get out of jail free/ thanks but no thanks card!..it was somewhere in this range of hills.  Castles abound around here, one on every corner it seems.  Castles and churches.

Grapes and sunflowers..could be France, but it isn't.
Peglio in the distance, but it's the building on the left that interested me most...is that a ladder on the left of it's wall?

A question to my cycling friends…we all know that while in Europe stopping during a serious training session in order to take pix is totally acceptable under the “I may never pass this way again” banner..right? However, and I’m not quite sure if this is a question or a statement(!)…it IS perfectly ok to stop when going up an extremely long somewhat brutal hill to give your legs a micro rest isn’t it?  And if no-one sees you do it, it didn’t happen…RIGHT?

Italian language lessons
This week we have to prepare a one hour talk plus questions/discussions about our country.  I’ve already downloaded a heap pix of typically Australian things and will start the presentation with didgeridoo music. On Friday we discussed Italy and one has to say vive la difference!..Italian hands up in horror at the thought of what philistines we are to even think of having a cappuccino after a meal or offering an omelette as a meal, whereas punctuality and efficiency don't appear to be governed by the same attention to detail.

So already I’m half way through my four week Italian language course and I’ve decided to make a few changes in my timetable.  I guess there are plusses and minuses for being in a small school with small classes…plus=individual attention but minus=the range of ability within the class is very wide, and is my class of 4, at the top is a Danish girl doing Italian as a major at uni and at the other end of the range…me.  So I’ve decided to have 6 x individual 1 hour conversation sessions, 3 each week instead of some of the group lessons. And with the added spare time I might also manage to get out in the car and see things…what with classes in the am and pm, watching TdF, training, shopping etc, I’ve really only got to see the sights from the saddle.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

No pix this time, just ongoing sagas

Coincidences abound in life but who would have predicted that the new student in class this week would a) be an Aussie, b) live in Melbourne, c) go to the same Italian school in Melbourne as me and finally c)work at the same place as I do/did.

TT bike saga
On Tuesday I had a day off school to pick up my TT bike from Florence airport…I would have liked to visit the city again but one look at the temperature gage at the airport (39°C) had me scuttling back to the relative cool of the hills.  The ransom demand for the bike was only €30 so despite the delays and time taken retrieving it, it was worthwhile financially.  The TT bike, wheels, TT helmet, bag and plenty of bubble wrap was 17kg which would have crippled my wallet if I’d taken it with me.

GPS saga
I had a bit of a problem at the start of the journey to Florence ‘cos the car’s inbuilt GPS decided I wanted the keyboard in the Cyrillic alphabet!!  I dunno I think I’m doomed.  It took me a while but eventually I worked out I had to do a factory re-set.

Talking Italian saga
I’m talking a whole heap more Italian and naturally the faster I get the worse my grammar is and the more funny mistakes I make.  I’m fairly certain I asked a shop lady what time she got lost instead of what time did she open, and just now talking to an 88 year old lady I told her that in the company of 20yrs olds, as I am at language school, I felt a very cow..instead of very old. A close awareness of the other person’s facial expressions and body language soon lets you know when you’ve goofed!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Random pix

safe?? well used for sure! Urbania

street decoration at a place called Piano


Monday, 11 July 2011



The first week of my 4 weeks at Scuola Italia has passed by extremely quickly
  •  I managed to buy and use softener instead of soap powder to wash my clothes in!
  • Yet again I managed to avoid buying goat’s milk….last year it was in France where I nearly goofed.... I’m soooo grateful for pictures on cartons!
  • I buy the sports paper everyday (it’s pink) and now I can read the 2 pages about the TdF without having to resort to a dictionary …..of course I *have* already seen the race on TV the day before…it’s different when I don’t know the topic.
  •  I have classes in the morning and again in the afternoon following a 2 hour lunch break, after which I rush home to watch the TdF …LIVE!  I miss Phil and Paul but NOT Gabriel Gate.
  •  I had hoped my TT bike would be with me by now, but although it arrived in Rome on Thursday and Florence on Friday I’m still waiting to be told where to pick it up from.  My only worry is that the wheels I have with me are my race wheels with glue on tyres, so if I puncture I’m in mega trouble.
  • Saturday’s ride was a hill ride and I chose to ride to a circuit taking in the hill town of Urbino..see previous post’s pix.  The way round that I took turned out to be the easier version  so I guess I’ll have to go the other way round to get proper bragging rights.
  •  Sunday’s ride was to Piobbico and back..see map below.

  •  Good to see other places as well as Melbourne have really strange street art.  It was almost a bit like being on Beach Road……..obviously a very popular valley ride interrupted by a bit of a heave over to the next valley and back.  Piobbico has what looks like a good bike shop, the one in Urbania is basic as a shop although the mechanic is ok.
  •  My SRM cyclocomputer is still finding it’s way to me, so I’m having to use the Garmin 705 which is ok but I keep forgetting to turn the timer on at the beginning of the ride.
  •   Urbania has a very small population and a huge, totally vast number of churches…For the last 2 nights there have been special services at the church a stone's throw away from la mia casa and last night’s was at my front door.  

I had to decide whether to stay inside or out since I didn’t think I could really walk through their service in order to get to my apartment!!


I’ve still not managed to ride all the way up here and, having driven there yesterday pm, I suspect I won’t …the access road is a bit steep but maybe I’ll conquer it during my last week here. It was 37+ degrees  so I rewarded myslef with :una piccola gelata which I had to eat really quickly before it melted and if this is small I'm glad I didn't ask for medium or big!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

What you missed by not being here with me.

30+ C



Urbania..turn left at the far end and you're at my apartment

Next time I hear that noise I'll be ready!

Joke??...or not?

Free, gratis and for nothing

Urbino...I'll visit this famous  place next weekend..this time I was doing a training ride, so no stopping (pix excepted of course)

Friday, 8 July 2011

Hold the front page.....

I went to a concert of classical music.

That HAS to be the news of the decade....AND I didn't fall asllep/walk out or fidgetted (?spelling)

It was  good, and even brilliant in part...or at least the hairs on my arms thought so.  2 of the women were especially good and were a delight to listen to.   Then this morning there was a going away party for them here at the school and they sang again...this time traditional popular songs and once again the two ladies starred. 

They were mostly from USA but also Monaco, Germany and Ireland and all were hoping to become professional singers.  I was sad for one of the girls who had a nice voice but couldn't act at all..totally wooden, so i guess there's not much of a career ahead of her.

Urbania , but it could any one of many towns in Europe

chains/locks on bridges...they're everywhere

but not as much as these babies are!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

road behaviour

 click these links for a tongue in cheek but  someimes accurate commen..not always of course but enough times to ring true



Wednesday, 6 July 2011

La mia casa

Tuesday 5/7
Yay Cadel…you little ripper! 

The TV in my apartment actually worked and I was at home just in time to watch the final stages of the race and then see it repeated and dissected for an hour…fantastico! Complimenti Cadel, brava!
Today was the first full day of Italian lessons with grammar (conditional and prepositions) in the am with a group of singers from America, Latvia and Monaco then a 2 hour break followed by conversation in the afternoon with some dancers from America and Canada!  Very cultural!  
I’ve managed to avoid going on a trip this evening to a next door village for a concert given by a group of singers from another school ….it begins at 9pm and will go on til at least 11:30 or even later.  I’d be asleep within minutes of it starting.  However I will definitely *not* be avoiding the concert our school singers (the group I’m with in the am) are giving here in Urbania on Thursday. It also won’t commence until 9:00 but only lasts for an hour or so.  However it will be a long night anyhow ‘cos there’s a street party every Thursday during July and my apartment is in the town centre…speaking of which
La mia casa...and yup..it's the orange house!

Basic but more than adequate and yes, I tidied it up especially for the pix!..I opted not to include one of the bathroom…..it has all the usual bits and is nothing special either good or awful.