Monday, July 30, 2007

Priceless Moments in Rome #3

Seeking refuge, from the scorching heat, in a department store where the air conditioning is like a reviving wave.
In the same instant hearing the pop and hiss of a ring-pull and finding a chilled can of Coke Light thrust into my hand by a young woman, part of a promotional team.

Going back to pop my empty can in the bin and having another pressed into my hand.

Wandering around in this lovely cool, welcoming department store, sipping Coke, and discovering a must-have pair of slacks reduced by 30%! (the summer sales are in full swing here).

Having an extra 20% (!!!!!) taken off when I go to pay.

Being given yet another ice cold can as I leave!


Priceless Moments in Rome #2

Perching on the edge of a wide pond in the Borghese Gardens, jeans rolled up to my knees (does the girl have no class?!?!?), as the official temperature hits 36 degrees.

Watching a family of four little boys laughing, splashing and launching themselves recklessly from a rock in the centre of the pond.

Chilling my bare feet in the cool, clear water, while munching on a juicy peach, and listening to Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” being read on my iPod.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Priceless Moments in Rome #1

Stumbling upon a pizzeria in a tiny back street off the Via Nazionale with a mouth-watering selection of freshly made pizza slices covered in mushrooms, tomato sauce, prosciutto, and creamy white mounds of soft cheese.

Sitting on tall stools at a counter to eat our pizza while washing it down with an ice-cold beer (Di) and a chilled white wine (Boak).

Finding out that this busy, friendly little pizzeria appears to be the Roman equivalent of the bar in “Cheers” – where everybody knows your name.


Friday, July 27, 2007

It's heating up

The View of the Piazza from Keats' room.

Without meaning to, our sightseeing has somehow managed to fall into daily themes. Yesterday we feasted on the incredible treasures of the Vatican Museums and St Peter’s Basilica. Today, feeling somewhat ‘overfed’, and expecting 36 degree heatwave temperatures, we took a less challenging path and wandered along to the Spanish Steps to visit house where John Keats lived when in Rome, and where he died.

Already extremely ill with tuberculosis when he arrived in November 1820, the views of the Piazza di Spagna that we enjoyed from his bedroom today would have given him little joy. The house, immediately beside the Spanish Steps, has a large and fascinating collection of letters, manuscripts and pictures relating to the Romantic poets, particularly Keats, Shelley and Byron, and Keats’ bedroom is set up as it would have looked when he lived there.

Apparently he was well enough for a time to be taken out for rides to the park on Pincio Hill where a belvedere affords spectacular views right across the city, so we climbed the steep hill to enjoy both the views and the ever-so-slightly cooler air.

Rome was really heating up by now, so we stripped off our shoes and socks and soaked our walk-weary feet in a pond in the Borghese Gardens.

When in Rome…..

On the opposite side of the Spanish Steps to Keats’ house is the elegant Babbington’s English Tea Rooms, quiet and cool, where we recovered from our energetic excursion with afternoon tea and scones with jam and cream - and a glass of prosecco - as many a foreigner has done before us.

Five things I'm loving about Rome

1. Not having to wait in long queues to gain entrance to museums etc, as we had expected. Even the queue for the Vatican Museums yesterday which, when we arrived, snaked down the hill from the entrance, right along another road, and round another corner almost to St Peter’s Basilica (gulp!), moved steadily, and we were inside in around 40 minutes.

2. Eating ‘al fresco’ in the cool of the evening at sidewalk cafes full of character, and watching the locals 'fare la passegiata'. But just who is watching whom??

3. Free public toilets! No longer is one met with the ubiquitous grim-faced old woman indicating, with a demanding arthritic finger, a saucer on a table where money must be left before toilet paper will be issued. Whee! (or should that be wee?!?)

4. Gelati.

5. Friendly Italians. Today, as I was looking up and down a busy road for a pedestrian crossing, a distinguished looking gentleman actually stopped his Mercedes and motioned for me to cross. Being past the age of expecting to get my bottom pinched in Rome, it’s nice to be on the receiving end of such gallantry.
(Or have I now become the proverbial “little old lady”?!?!?)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Rome 'behind the scenes'

The second leg of the journey passed quickly, since we spent most of it sleeping, and I woke just in time to photograph a spectacular band of colour on the pre-dawn horizon as we passed over Cairo. I thought of Jenny Bowker, asleep in her Cairo home below, and of her love of colour.

At 7am Rome was already hot. The heat haze that had settled over the west coast of Italy had prevented us from seeing the countryside below until our plane was nearly low enough to land, and when we emerged from the terminal at Leonardo da Vinci an almost tropical humidity surrounded us. Southern Europe is apparently in the grip of a heatwave. We were freezing in Sydney – and now we have more than thawed out!

We are staying only a stone’s throw from the Trevi Fountain but neither our hotel nor the Trevi were ready for us at 8.30am. The romantic fountain was still being spruced up ready for the busloads of tourists who would soon arrive, following their parasol-wielding guides down the narrow streets, like lemmings, to converge on the small piazza and photograph each other tossing a coin into the water. It was empty, and workmen were busy sweeping up the coins tossed into the fountain by romantic visitors and scooping them up into bags.

A breakfast of coffee and gelatis gave us a taste of Rome and a much needed energy-boost as we set out to explore.

Although this is our fourth visit, we’ve never been here in the summer, so we weren’t prepared to find that Rome’s public parks look very thirsty and the grass is brown and crisp and not looking cared for at all. Perhaps it is because the Romans (rather sensibly) flee Rome in the height of summer, and so a little bit of neglect that they don’t see doesn’t trouble them. We did, however, manage to find a small patch of green grass in the shade, where we could rest a while when the heat slowed us down.

Lunch was a slice of absolutely delicious Italian pizza in a little back-street pizzeria – one of those serendipitous finds, where they appeared to be doing a brisk trade with the locals. Then it was time to return to our hotel, formally check in, and collapse for a siesta – and blog!

Am I having fun yet? You bet!

I’m here in beautiful Changi Airport on our first stop, amidst the lush indoor fern gardens, brilliantly coloured orchids. And shops - lots of them! Stretching as far as the eye can see. So many that I found it easy to become quite disorientated – or was that just the heady excitement of all those computer shops with the latest gizmos and gadgets?

I’ve stitched for most of the Sydney-Singapore flight, and already have two Ohio Star blocks (in predominantly Kaffe Fassett fabrics) completed towards a quilt I’m making to give to a special person later this year. Watched a Sandra Bullock movie, “Premonition”, similar to “Sliding Doors” but not as neatly put together or as gentle.

Our flight to Rome boards in half an hour, and we’ll be there by morning (after passing a very long night in the air). It’s 12.30am. I hope Boak turns up by boarding time. He was last sighted cantering towards the Mont Blanc shop, nostrils flaring with excitement, to check out the pens. We all have our addictions!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

A Visit from the Princess

All rugged up against the cold, our little Alexanne, and her Mummy and Daddy, came to visit after church this morning.

She's becoming quite accustomed to her Grandi diving for the camera every time she comes, and seems to regard me with bemused resignation.

But sometimes a girl's just gotta tell the paparazzi "Enough! No more photos thanks!"

Being a megastar is so exhausting......
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The Bag

My friends all know, and laugh at the fact, that I can never travel without making a special bag for the occasion, and this is the one for Italy.

It's basically a pattern from the Blue Willow Cottage girls (, but with a few of my own variations to make it more secure - like longer handles so I can wear it across my body (can't be snatched by those Vespa riders), lots of zippered compartments, and a zippered closure on top. I finally worked up the courage to cut into some of my 'holy' fabric, this scrumptious Robyn Pandolph "Hannah Bella" border print, and its co-ordinating all-over floral.

There are pockets outside for my water bottle and my sketch book, and my lightweight little red computer even fits neatly inside! Bravo!
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Almost there...

Well, we're almost ready to stagger onto the plane tomorrow and be whisked off to sunny - and rather hot - Italy. Why is it that those last few days before a holiday are always filled with the frantic finishing off of so many loose ends in one's life? Or is it just me being anal? - I suspect so!

On Friday morning I had my hair done, then we gave a sausage sizzle for the tradesmen who have been working so hard on the renovations to prepare the flat for Ben, Sunny and Alexanne to move in next week.

I spent the afternoon with the wonderfully creative ladies of our church handcraft group, stitching and enjoying some fabulous "Show and Tell". June (photo above) is working on a king size crochet quilt for her granddaughter, and it's looking stunning! Ina, holding the quilt with June, is a self-styled "natterer": she used to be an accomplished dressmaker, but macula degeneration prevents her sewing these days, and so she comes along for the company, and adds lots of laughter to the group.

When they had all left it was time to tackle some more items from my "To Do" list, so I cleaned out the two fridges before dinner. Phew! It's a good feeling, though.

Boak has had his own busy schedule, including working alongside the painter from time to time, and he'll be more than ready for a break next week.
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Friday, July 20, 2007

We've lost three dear friends this month


The bells of St Mark's rang out a sombre, half-muffled peal on Monday morning for an hour before Nancy's memorial service. For the third time this month we climbed the sandstone steps, signed the condolence book, and entered the church to say goodbye to a friend, a well-loved member of our church family.
First there was Marcia, who had suffered so long and so bravely with cancer, enduring treatments with uncomplaining resolve, while her tiny body grew more fragile. Always thinking of others, Marcia was herself loved by many, many people.
We had no warning that Ross was about to die, even though he was elderly. One Sunday he was at church, a big teddy bear of a man, warmly greeting me with his customary kiss, and smiling happily alongside his little wife, June. By the next Sunday he was gone, having suffered a sudden heart attack.
And then dear Nancy was finally taken home, after many months of ill health and suffering. She lived a life that impacted on thousands by her philanthropy, yet shunned publicity about it. On Monday, though, we were finally able to publicly celebrate her generosity. She was a gracious, lovely lady, with a mischievous, if dry, sense of hunour and a love of life - but I loved her most of all for the special bond she had with my husband and her constant words of support for him.
Three dear friends, integral to our St Mark's family, all passed on this month - I'll miss them.

The Latest Photos of our Princess

At 3 months, I think Alexanne scores pretty high in the cuteness stakes.

Here she is with her doting Aunty Sare.
It will be hard to leave her next week when we take off for a month's holiday overseas. But the good news is that by the time we arrive back Alexanne and her Mummy and Daddy will have moved in with us - and we'll be able to see her whenever we like. We're going to have such fun!