“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

Monday, 31 October 2011

Jet lag's a bitch

back home..awake too!

Random thoughts: 

***Rome was a bit of a trial…
  • I was really tired and nearly fell asleep while on the open top tour bus…actually, unless they missed out a part of the tour I think I DID fall asleep since I didn’t get to see what is described as the most famous fountain in the world……!
  • Sadly the Lazzaretti bike shop was a disappointment…I keep forgetting that in general European  and UK bike shops are very small and don’t have much on display to gaze at..we’re lucky in Aus, not only do we have easily found bike shops in many suburbs, but they also have heaps of stock/things to look at  and make browsing worthwhile. 
  • Memo to self ….if you’re going to claim a return of VAT from goods bought in Europe…don’t fly out from Rome.  Here you have to do the following….put tax free stuff in checked in baggage, go and get it checked in, go to customs with checked in baggage, passport and boarding pass, wait in queue for up to an hour, get paper stamped, put luggage on special location, go to a special gate once through security to wait in another queue to get cash refund or a different one again for a credit card refund.  Had I known it was going to be soooo slow I’d not have bothered, but when I went to check  out what to do there was no queue at all.  Still an'all...I got 32 euros back. 
  • On the positive side..... unlike  in Florence, either people living in the part of Rome I was walking in don't have dogs  or the dog owners clear up after the dogs 'cos the pavements were really clean.

***The flight was bearable..
  • The leg from Dubai wasn't direct, it was via Singapore which turned out to be a good thing  since, even although it ended up a couple of hours longer, it broke the journey into bite sized chunks and what's more there's free internet at Changi ;-)
  • Since there is always a queue for the ladies toilets everywhere, but especially in airports…….what should be the  ratio of  toilets provided  to the expected number of females in the building at anyone time!!?...1 each, 1 for every 5,10,15??????  I feel distress for anyone with continence issues.
  • Sitting next to a tall person is the same as sitting next to a fat one…they take over your space..boney elbows and knees.

There's always a group pix on the last day..and as usual 100% multicultural..Dutch, Japanese, Swiss, Spanish, American, Brazilian, Australian with  Lorenzo the Italian teacher at the back.

Many of the Japanese girls stayed a year or so working while learning the language
As one loved by mozzies, this was a sign I  couldn't ignore


Friday, 28 October 2011

Farewell Fabulous Firenze+late extra pix

I guess eventually all good things have to come to an end, and my holiday  is rapidly approaching it's conclusion.  Today is my last day at school and tomorrow I get the 08:40 train to Rome for a day's worth of sight-seeing before reluctantly, resignedly getting on the plane for a 10pm departure.So today I have to ensure my walk during the 2 hour lunch break takes me to the parts of Firenze that I've yet to explore.

Firenze... a city of many parts,  full of tourists, noise, dirt, motor scooters, art, shops full of leather goods, street markets,and beautiful buildings.  I will miss it all, although being a total Philistine who refuses point blank to queue, museums, galleries and churches do not feature high on my list of things I must  do anywhere, even here.

Yet more statues

 Stenciled on a very old building....graffiti Italian style?

Hmm.........what to do while in Rome?.....(memo to self to be very very aware of pickpockets).

First up...visit the famous Lazzarotti bike shop of course!  then I might walk over to the Vatican City to wander in the gardens if it's allowed although with my anti queue policy there'll be no visit to see anything that requires standing in a line. At least I'll have my UK passport with me which is proof positive that I'm not only a citizen of Europe but am also over 65 and so entry to most things will be free. I didn't get to see the Colosseum last time round and of course I'll be keeping my eye out for typos, signs and other quirky  things to take pix of.

yup.......despite the dog poo on the pavements!

thanks all for reading this blog, there have been almost 2000 visits to it.  There'll be only one more post on my adventures in Europe, then back to the usual, written in a somewhat less exotic locale.

Late addition...in 1966 there was an enormous flood...the river Arno broke its banks and the flood water damaged many works of art and beautiful buildings.  The photo below is of a building perhaps 500-600m up from where the river is now and the small white-ish plaque to the right of the  first floor window (English style first floor...not American 1st floor) is the level the water got to at this spot.

 I was lucky to notice this plaque..... I was chugga-lugging a can of lemon tea and so had my head back and eyes up otherwise I'd never have seen it......

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Sunday in Firenze Part 3

Weird fact about Firenze:
It is forbidden to put heating on in public buildings until November 1st and it must go off completely at the end if March!
Apparently there is also a similar rule for other parts of the country with different dates, depending on whether it's north and therefore colder sooner or south and not quite such an issue.

Old walls!

More old walls
Old streets

Boar's head outside a shop.....which was selling...?

View from the rose garden

and from the Michelangelo Piazza, high on the south bank of the fiume Arno

and finally 2 signs....
well,  perhaps I wasn't s'posed to take it...whoops!

and this one .......well ..... the shop is in the tourist area and was closed when I took the photo on Tuesday at 1pm

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Sunday in Firenze part 2

Transport of all types
Segway I think

Tour group plus guide

The best size car for Firenze..electric too, so quiet and cheaper
Quadrem??..or am I making that up!

Monday, 24 October 2011

Sunday in Firenze - "exploration by foot day" Part 1

We were extremely grateful that the weekend's weather was clement, since the thought of spending alot of time in our room in the apartment was not a good one.  Actually, had it been wet, I would have hired a car and gone out of town.  In the event the weather was good and while my sister went to Fiesole, I opted to go on a 6 hour walking tour of parts of the city I'd not yet explored.

I got the camera in action early on but realised I'd left the SD card in the lap top and so the early pix were saved to the camera's memory and are only accessible when I get home.  I eventually found a place to buy  a new one.

This was in front of a fort in the vicinity of the main station..not sure why or what.

Same as above..located in the private area of a government building
 The following statues are located in a rose garden just below the Piazzale Michelangelo.  I'd walked past this locale many times when I was here with the bike tour and never once noticed it.

Lots of really quirky statues..a lovely spot.....quiet too.

No...this is not a trompe d'oeil....the statue is the frame of the case, the rocks and the ship...the rest is space through which you see......Firenze.

I think I'm going to have to make time to go there again.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Who's reading my blog?..!

I've just been looking at the stats for this blog ..seeing how/why readers arrive at it... ie via which web sites.
While most are  known to me, I clicked on 1 of the ones I didn't know to see what sort of web site it was to see why they linked to mine.....

and it was a porn streaming website...I clicked off VERY quickly:-) if only 'cos I'm using my host's WiFi!

so now I'm looking at the titles of my various posts to see what on earth enticed someone looking for porn ended up reading my blog!....was it the discussion about saddles...or the "fat knee" post about a wasp sting?...whatever it was they must have been sorely disappointed!

Lucca - bikes and dogs

 I'd think this was a security move but the lack of a chain sorta gives it that derelict look
I suspect this is what the UCI think women over 60 should be riding!

Generally speaking, Lucca was a disappointment..I'd heard so much about it, but in my opinion, when comparing it to San Giminagno or Florence, it falls far short. My opinion could have been  skewed by the presence of white expo tents in at least 2 of the big old piazzas, but.........

 So we were just leaving, talking of our disappoinmentand wondering what we'd missed when we noticed a crowd of people and so went to see what was going on....and then the whole mood of the day changed.  Why? well 'cos what we saw was a fun run for dogs and their owners. ....and I thought only the Poms were stupid about dogs!!!! Our grins became a mile wide.

 keen and eager centre shot, but check out the expression of the Alasian on the left!
 definitely not the sporty type..sorta reluctant
Hmmm that pre-race massage was sooooo good.
yes... it's a dog ..at least I think  it must be, it has a lead!
and they're off and running..or at least some of them are!

I slept in the train on the way back to Firenze!..too much  slow walking in a group for me is always a recipe for 100% exhaustion.

Lucca 2 - churches

I tend to switch off after the first few minutes of the first church visit and Lucca has more than it's share of churches.  The exterior of most of the churches in the area seem to be marble and I can't say I'm impressed.  The only things I found of interest inside were:
a request for donations for Botox(??!!)
and the knowledge that when kneeling you could either be macho and kneel on hard boards or you could take the soft option


When we were here last year I opted to go on a training ride while the others went to Lucca and all of us got caught in a thunderstorm.  Consequently today's trip is my first to this popular walled and historic town famous for being old and walled and also for having trees growing on the top of a tower!
First view of Lucca
View from the tower
Trees on the top of the tower

One week down and 1 to go

Well that's one week of language school in Firenze finished and only one more to go.  Since it seems to take me a week to get my mouth around speaking Italian, I think in future a longer period is probably better for me.

What to do during the free weekend?  The school has organised a trip to nearby Lucca on Saturday, which we're both going to and on Sunday we separate with my sister going to Fiesole (a part  of Florence about 6km from the centre with ruins of an ancient Etruscan town, Roman baths theatre etc etc) while I will walk miles exploring the part of Florence south of the river....it used to be the wrong side until the Medici family bought a property there. There's only so many ruins i can gaze at before my mind shuts up shop...a result of being bored out of my tiny brain while being dragged, protesting, around Roman walls and ruins while very young...and we have the pix to prove how bored I was!

 Ponte Vecchio...the top part comprised a private walkway for the Medici family so they didn't have to mix with the hoi polloi

One of the many bits of iron scattered all around walls of the city...just incase you need to tie up your horse.....or whatever this particular animal is!!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011


3 days into the 2 weeks of school and  this language school is one I’d highly recommend; it’s is much more efficient and professional than the previous one I went to.  There must be heavy promotion in Japan and Switzerland since there are many students from those countries with many of them staying for up to 6 months.
So my day starts with a 2 km walk to school arriving early enough to be able to swig a quick espresso in the café next to the school followed by a dash up the 91 steps to the classroom in order to beat the rush  of students who clog the WiFi bandwidth to crawl speed..

This is the entrance to the school which is right in the heart of the city
 these are the first of the 91 steps I climb to my classroom...I could take the lift of course.

 a slightly out of focus pix of the Swiss/Brazilian/Italian/Australian(missing) morning group
one can only wonder at what happened here!

The first class of the day is dusty dry grammar  and after a 20 min break (down 91 steps, into café, swig espresso, climb back up 91 steps) we have a conversation class til 12.55.  Then we have a 1 hour+ 5 mins break for lunch (down 91 steps, eat lunch while walking/sight-seeing, climb back up 91 steps….my cycling fitness has dropped but walking and stair climbing are keeping total deterioration at bay and I have a sore hamstring and a blister on my toe to prove it!). 

The afternoon class is another conversation class and this one has been a hoot…we are given a scenario eg going into a shop and just wanting to browse....the teacher is the other half of the conversation and  since she is a born actor  the class is a riot and the 2 hours pass very quickly. We fumble our way through the scenario we are given and then she tells us the more colloquial expressions we need to know eg grammatically when asking how much something costs you’d say “Quanto costa?”, but Italians say instead “Quanto viene?” My conversation skills are well below those of my morning and so I’ve opted to change that class into private lessons to allow me the time to converse without stress and at my own level…first one today.
So every day is a full day from 9am to 4pm with time at the end for a bit more sight-seeing followed by a meal, homework and bed.
The school organises tours most days, but we’ve avoided all so far except we are signed up to go to Luca on Saturday; Sunday may well be a day for hiring a car and exploring Tuscany although the Cinque Terra also beckons.
bikes everywhere
yet more padlocks
just gotta love those street names