TUSCANY: Lucca

We drove through spectacular countryside for about an hour to get to Lucca. We were driving though so it was hard to appreciate it.

We sat down for coffee opposite the Museum of Torture.
Below: We came across a couple of really large women in Lucca.
 
 

Fran and I posed outside a shop called Le Sorelle(the sisters). If you look between us in the mirror you can see Don and Bob.

We climbed the tallest tower in Lucca for wonderful views. It was an old bell tower for ringing the hours, Torre delle ore. We had this view of the Guinigi Tower with oak trees growing on top!

 

We could look down into the narrow streets.

We could look across the rooftops to the hills beyond.

We were fascinated to see many buildings

decorated with candle holders. We saw a

little fork lift truck going round replacing

candles. What an enormous job! The

streets must have looked amazing at night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lucca is the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini, famous composer of operas. In 1903, whilst writing Madame Butterfly, Puccini had a car accident and was pinned under his car after it fell off the edge of the road at night. I am glad we decided to drive home in daylight, even though we had to miss the candle lit streets.

Puccini quote “Art is a kind of illness”.

 

 

TUSCANY: Barga

Barga was not far from us. It is a beautiful hillside town of art and music.

Above: Loved this work by a Dutch artist.

Saw this in an antique shop. It matches one that I have! This one has been made into a lamp stand. Mine is in the original state but has lost the chain holding little caps to put out the candles or incense. The dealer only knew that it came from Florence.

There was a very ancient church of St Christopher at the top of the hill. That is Bob and Don at the top of the stairs.

Spectacular views from up here.

I've become interested in lions this trip. Here is one with a tasty Christian.

Inside St. Christophers. A wall plaque in the style of Pierro della Robbia. Thanks to sister Kate for teaching me about this artist whose works were everwhere in Florence.

Rustic or what!

Wall plaque outside lawyer's house. A good sentiment. (Remember the good, Forget the bad)

 

TUSCANY: The Farmhouse

We stayed at Villamandina, high in the mountains of Tuscany.

There was rain on our first day, which lent itself to some dramatic photos.

 

 

Below: Taken from the patio in front of our apartment in the farmhouse.

 

Poolside. We slowed down and gathered our strength here. Figs picked fresh from an enormous tree. Grapes from the vine. Goggles for swimming and a Japanese story written in Italian! I managed a few pages.

Bob melted into a fairly relaxed shape!

We loved our little Fiat, but not the hair raising roads with their hairpin bends, so narrow with no visibility, perched on the cliff edges or even the autostrada with everyone tearing about on the wrong side of the road!

Our fearless Scot, Donald, did all the driving while the rest of us vied for a seat in the back.

The apartment was beautifuuly built in the old style, with wooden beam ceilings supporting terracoota bricks for the floor above.

 

I couldn't believe that the bathroom was so well built with lovely hot showers. In spite of how it looked the apartment is only 11 years old. The date was on the chimney.

 

ROME

Fabulous Rome! Coffee cup chandelier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where the pasta shops are prettier than the sweet shops!

On the way to the Vatican yesterday. Beautiful blue skies!

Just loved this lion!

Floor mosaic detail.

 

The Last Supper from a huge tapestry. Who is asleep on Christ's lap?

 

Also in the Vatican Museum, by Salvidor Dali.

 

 

 

 

 

Below: everybody loves a gelato!

 
 
 

Don's gorgeous sister Fran and her husband Bob, our travelling companions in Italy. You can't not love Italy with these two afficionados at your side.

Here we all are at the Colosseum. Can you see Woody from Toy Story. We just took a photo for a guy who had Woody in all his photos and he let me have Woody to hold in the photo he took for us. I remember visiting the Colosseum 38 years ago. It had no museum or shops inside then, from memory, and once inside you could wander at will. You didn't have to queue to get in and were allowed down into the cells at the lower levels. Knowing that Christians had been thrown to the lions here I remember how glad I was to get out of the place after being struck with a feeling of fear and horror. This time it was so overrun with tourists that it was merely an interesting site to visit. Large placards detailed the events that used to take place, including plays that were put on, where people who had previously been condemned to death were made to play parts where their characters would die when they were set alight or knifed during the performance. We were about to leave the Colosseum when I found a platform that allowed us to look into those lower cells that I remembered from my previous visit. I swear I smelt a lion!

Holding cells beneath the stage. A part of the stage has been rebuilt to give an idea of where the performances took place.

OK, that's it for Roma!

 

Ireland

We are in Ireland and already we have gone native!

Suddenly we became very small!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then Don caught a leprechaun and made a wish and Oh My God!

From this……..

 

To this!

Dublin Castle

 

 

The round tower is the oldest standing part of Dublin Castle. there used to be four of them. An interesting thing about castles in Ireland is that they weren't built by the Irish but by the English to keep the Irish out!

Before the English ruled Ireland it was ruled by Vikings and Dublin was known as Dublinia. This picture is just to show how scary it would have been to come across a real Viking!

This lovely green area next to the castle exists because the ground there was too soft to build on. It was once a big pond full of filthy black water (dubhlinn/ black pool) which gave Dublin its name.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dublin Castle is open to the public but is still maintained and used for parliamentary functions and for visiting royalty and dignitaries. Over this door is a harp, the symbol of Ireland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interestingly it is also the symbol of a product of Ireland that is itself very recognisably a symbol of Ireland!

Guinness!
Our taxi driver today told us that there is now a Feast of Arthur day in Ireland to celebrate Arthur Guinness!

Getting back to the harp you can see that the Irish harp is a reverse image of the Guiness harp. It seems that Guinness was powerful enough to be able to assert its right to this symbol and forced the government to change the image they were using!

 

 

 

 

 

Saving Face.

This embroidered screen was known as a face saver. Ladies of the court who used wax to obtain a lovely smooth complexion had to hold one of these between the fire and their face if they did not want their makeup to melt when they stood close to the fire.

 

Daylight Robbery! The windows on a number of old buildings in Dublin were smaller on the top storey. It gives the building an illusion of greater height but the real reason for it was to pay less in taxes as there was a tax on glass. The servants would have lived on the top of the building so that is where the smaller windows went.

 

We made a trip to Galway and went to see Bunratty Castle where I found a couple of representations of The Last Supper.

Who is asleep on Christ's lap and what is with the crystal ball?

 

Here is another Last Supper and again there is someone on Christ's lap. This time it looks like a child or a woman?

 

Ireland

We are in Ireland and already we have gone native!

Suddenly we became very small!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then Don caught a leprechaun and made a wish and Oh My God!

From this……..

 

To this!

Dublin Castle

 

 

The round tower is the oldest standing part of Dublin Castle. there used to be four of them. An interesting thing about castles in Ireland is that they weren't built by the Irish but by the English to keep the Irish out!

Before the English ruled Ireland it was ruled by Vikings and Dublin was known as Dublinia. This picture is just to show how scary it would have been to come across a real Viking!

This lovely green area next to the castle exists because the ground there was too soft to build on. It was once a big pond full of filthy black water (dubhlinn/ black pool) which gave Dublin its name.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dublin Castle is open to the public but is still maintained and used for parliamentary functions and for visiting royalty and dignitaries. Over this door is a harp, the symbol of Ireland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interestingly it is also the symbol of a product of Ireland that is itself very recognisably a symbol of Ireland!

Guiness!
Our taxi driver today told us that there is now a Feast of Arthur day in Ireland to celebrate Arthur Guiness!

Getting back to the harp you can see that the Irish harp is a reverse image of the Guiness harp. It seems that Guiness was powerful enough to be able to assert its right to this symbol and forced the government to change the image they were using!

 

Aberdeen

 

 

 

Aberdeen is the granite city. Donald tells me that granite holds a radioactive charge so as we walk around Aberdeen we are in danger of being irradiated! It seems to have cured us.

Here is Donald in the Book and Bean, where we had soup for lunch. He used to come here when he visited his Mum, who lived in Aberdeen. Looks like Don could do with a visit to the barber shop!

 

 

This is a picture of the Castlegate with the mercat cross in the square. That is the rotunda looking thing. I have borrowed this image from the web. It is taken with a web cam and is updated every 15 seconds. We stood in the Square and looked up to see the camera. It is a nostalgic picture for Donald who used to arrange a time to phone Donna Duncan (his mum) from Sydney, so that she could stand in frame and he could see her. The wonders of technology 10 years ago!

 

A close up of the Mercat Cross. There are many of these in Scotland, not always as ornate as this one. Their purpose was to a focus in the market place and they were the place from which public announcements were made.

 

 

 

 

 

These first two pictures were taken in Slain's Castle, which is a pub decorated a la Count Dracula. The building used to be a beautiful old church.

 

 

 

This one was taken in Soul, which also used to be a church. Upstairs is a casino. A part of me is shocked by such sacreligiousness! The rest of me says better to be eating and drinking than fighting religious wars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We stayed in Bon Accord Square, just round the corner from the main street, Union Street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aberdeen is also a major port.

 

Down by the entrance to the harbour is Footdee, with some quaint little houses. Judging by the cars parked nearby they are no longer little fishermen's cottages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some retained a decent amount of kitsch though and amongst the gnomes, deer and Disney characters we spotted this little fellow wearing a saltire jersey. The saltire is the cross of St Andrew, patron saint of Scotland and is the national flag of Scotland, also part of the Union Jack, since the union of Scotland and England.