05 April 2014

Random jots

Le Bord du Mer
Sunday Streets
Last Sunday, they closed down the main road through here for recreation. Everyone could go for walk, ride or play games. There was a jumping castle, pony rides, a kids gym, and battery powered racing cars for kids. No stink, and loads of space. How nice would it be if it was permanent.

April fools
Nearly at the top, 800m
The no. 1 favourite trick here is the fish of april. That's a paper cutout fish which the kids colour in, and then stick on someone's back. So, every kid at Louis' school came out ready for action with a couple of paper fish.

For Ollie, it was red dots on their faces. Every kid in the whole school had the measles! I only saw Ollie and his dotted face. Marie explained he's got the measles. Gee I'm a sucker.

The boys sort it out
On TV, they ran some old jokes. A report annouced the transformation of part of Versailles for public housing. It was to reduce homelessness, and increase supply of housing, in areas where there was vacant space. They delivered it so straight faced that it got groups of protesters out on the streets. Another one showed half the Eiffel Tower being helicoptered away for maintenance.

School lunch is in the canteen
We were talking about the kinds of food they get at the school canteen: the different kinds of entree, cooked main and desert.
So I told Ollie how we always had sandwiches for lunch at school. "They served you sandwiches at the canteen??" he said in horror. Having a sandwich for lunch is unthinkable, only if you really don't have time to eat properly eg when you want to go for a bike ride, hiking etc for a couple of hours.
St. Jeannet and the start of the walk to the Baou.
I always had my sandwich packed in my bag before leaving home. And I had to explain that canteens didn't serve cooked food. Ollie after thinking for a bit "...for real???"

Bushwalk to the Baou
The Baou of St Jeannet is the towering chunk of rock that sits looking over the Var river near Nice here. The village is about 300m altitude, then you walk up to 800m height. Not bad for the littlies. The view around is great. It's amazing that it's so close to town.

10 March 2014


The road into town from the sea gate.
Today we went off to Pompeii. A rattly old train ride around the mountain, the volcano towering above all the villages and buildings, ready to rain down fire anytime. The last time was 1944. I suppose it wasn't as bad as the various earthquakes and then the allied bombing. You get off the train, wander past the ticket booth, then up a hill and into the Sea Gate. It's a arch in a wall, with a stony path through it. Each side of the path vees up about 30cm, in a way that no street does now. It's clear this is the real thing from a good 2000 years ago. The city has lots of Greek bits in it from a long time before that.

An altar for animal sacrifices. Not enough!

The ref sends them off
Sadly an earthquake had knocked down a lot of the city. Although the things we see today are well preserved from 2000 years ago, lots of rooves and structures are half there. All the wood has been burned out by the hot volcanic ash and stones, including people. Where they fell down, they blocked a space. Then their flesh decayed away, leaving a body shaped space and a skeleton. The clever diggers filled the space with plaster, dug around, and hey presto, there's a body forever frozen in their final resting place.

The kids play in the streets.
There's a home restored to original condition, a open gymnasium/field that's huge and an amphitheatre, like the Colliseum, but in amazing condition, as if parts were build recently. This place is a highlight of this trip and our whole time here, just amazing. Thanks to Angelo, the father in law of Yumiko, grandfather of Ricky and Allen, who went to school with Ollie, Louis, Rubina and Leonie.

Countertop in a shop. Holes are for vases full of goods.
On the last day we went to the archeology museum. Most of the frescoes, mosaics, and day to day objects from Pompeii were moved here to get it out of the weather.

The people of Pompeii had homes we can only dream of today. The frescoes are really beautiful. Imagine having enough artists to do paintings all over your walls. The mosaics are intricate and very realistic. Even the ceilings were lavishly patterned, as were the ceramics and metal plates (for food I suppose). The most amazing thing is to see the glass cups, for drinking. They really had every comfort except for good lighting, TV and internet. Now we need to see the film!
Down the Gladiators entrance into the amphitheatre

Typical home with a private courtyard in the middle
In the afternoon, we visited the underground tunnels of Naples. 1km of the whole 170km network is opoen for viewing. Slaves in Greek times cut the Tufa, which is porous and easy to get out. Then they used them to supply water to the city. Then there was a cholera outbreak. Finally they were used again for an air-raid shelter.

Today's the first day back at work. Sigh.

Red roof, fresco walls, white marble floor.

06 March 2014


The monastery of Santa Chiara in the old town.
Today I got up early to get Gabriella, Leonie and Rubina from the airport. The first part takes 10 minutes, and the last km takes 15 minutes, with buses, trams, cars and pedestrians all trying to get in and out of Place Garibaldi. This time, we don't get lost walking.

The craziness of the place is rubbing off.

Closed in shopping centre
Lunch was anchovies done rollmop style with vinegary red onions, and creamy fennel sauce, really amazing. The restaurants have a lot of competition, and have been great. We stopped at an old nunnery where they care for kids. You follow another street that's about a car and a half wide, go through an arch, then arrive in a big courtyard. Entering the church, we're at choir level. Every piece of wood is hand sculpted, the roof painted, and the grill incredibly ornate. The nuns would normally go in for life, and never appear again. It's a large island in the middle of the street chaos outside. The roof above slopes down so the old ones can lie down on it, and attend mass.

Piazza Plebiscito

Ollie and Leonie at our place.
Santa Chiara monastery is similar but bigger. Lemon and orange trees drop their fruit on the grass. Each path is lined with tiled columns. Each scrap of wall is coloured with frescoes, or more tiles. The library has 500 year old hand written colour books, some of which are starting to decay on the spine. There's some ancient baths being unearthed in one of the gardens.
Rubina and Louis walk the streets.

Frecciarossa to Napoli

The Frecciarossa goes up to 300km/h and is painted red.
Today we got up at the crack of 7 or 8, (Marie) got everything together and got on the train. It was one of the new ones, the Frecciarossa. Everything about the Frecciarossa is awesome. We had 4 super comfy seats around a table that folds out. The boys spent the time doing drawings, while the speedo on the video screen clicked past 200, then just on 300km/h. And it's smooth. Kids travel free. Tuesday to Thursday 11am to 2pm, tickets are half price. There's a Freccia waiting lounge. Near us, there were two toilets. When someone's in there, the WC letters change to red. We need that at work. Sometimes you end up going up 3 flights of steps to find a free one. 

Catching a train like that is cool.

The distance is about 220km, or Sydney to Budgewoi and it takes 1 hour 10 minutes. Napoli is another world. Marie says it's like Asia in Europe; bikes flying around everywhere, cars here and there, often there's no footpath. There's a table across one footpath. People were seriously gambling on the three cups and a ball thing. The back streets are a maze. We get lost. This place is positively medieval, a shock, and a taste of real Italy. They say they invented the pizza here, and it's seriously tasty. For the afternoon, we took a train to the seaside, and hired a 4 seater bike object. Ollie ran along beside most of the way.

Typical streets of Napoli
On the way home, we tried the lottery that is Napoli shopping. This time we lost. For a couple of bits of cheese, olives, a packet of pasta, pack of biscuits, and a bottle of wine, it cost 39 euro. Everything was artinasal, which means hand made and expensive. Stopping at another shop, we got a loaf of fresh bread for 50 cents. Lunch was 30 e$ for 3 massive pizzas, 2 beeers and 2 bottles of water. Can't complain.

Via dei Tribunali, where we're staying - claustrophobic, mad.
Naples is proof that people will drive no matter what. Our street is about 2.5m in the middle. The footpath is
just marked by steel bollards. Mostly people use the side to display things for sale, or parking. So people, cars and motor bikes mix in the middle. The cars and bikes are generally calm. A handful try to go hard and brake hard when people appear. It's crazy. This place is not designed for cars. Cars park here, there, double and triple parking on the main roads. 

Going natural

Going natural - the predators stalk Lou
I've been reading all sorts of good things about the Via Appia. It was the principle road south out of Rome. It's amazing it's still existing. It is all very pretty. The wall museum was good.

Ollie and the kangaroos
Then we walked along the road in the rain on a 50cm strip on the side, while cars roared past. You need a lot of imagination to go back in time. We got to the catacombs at 12, just when they shut for 2 hours. We ate a bit, then gave up.

Boys get inside the head of a T-Rex.
The next stop was the Zooligical museum, which the boys really liked. Lots of skeletons, stuffed birds, stuffed kangaroos, models of fish, fleas, ticks, snakes bats etc. After 30 minutes of waiting around for Rome's confusing buses to turn up, we got home.

Dino puzzle.
For our final day, the weather was clear. Better late than no clear days. So we walked around. At the parliament buildings, there are several different popes names on different impressive buildings and monuments, Clemens, and Innocent. It's like the popes are each trying to outdo each other. We wandered to the Trevi fountain again, and the Spanish steps, which has a pretty crap view of town, and at least one more pope's name.

The papal competition continued at the Vatican, where surely the winner is the dude who did the horseshoe thing around the main square. 4 rows of columns ring the thing in a massive circle, and his name is in massive capitals all over the place. Surely he's the Max of Pontifex Max.'s, his name up in lights, and being infallible. There's a road leading away along the river, which has the best view we'd seen over the city, a highlight of the trip.

The boys fiddle around while Rome waits.

We found another rare park for kids, and our kids went nuts. Walking back over a bridge home, there is a tiny little monument with someone's name on it. He must have been a mediocre pope with such a tiny thing.

Paulus 5's effort - a bit lacklustre.

28 February 2014

Friends, lend me your eyeballs

Memorial Complesso del Vittoriano
It's the school holidays at the moment. Easyjet flies cheap to Rome and Naples, so that's where we're going. We're in Rome for 2 more days. We got here Wednesday night, thanks to Google directions.

Day 1, we walked out the front door, past some market, the Area Sacra Argentina and it's multitude of super friendly cats, Piazza Venezia, Forum and Colliseum. Then got the metro the wrong way.

Lone cyclist at Piazza Venezia

We then tried a bus, read the list of stops, and caught the right one. But it seems, it had already passed where we wanted to go, so it ended up taking us further the wrong way. We gave up for a bit, and gave the kids a break, at a great kids playground with a flying fox. We chatted with the locals. Not sure what they were saying.

We tried catching the train the right way this time. But now the ticket stopped working. We were within the 100 minute limit. The ticket said it's for one trip only. So bought another lot. After getting home, we realised this leg was also the long way. We've still got no idea about the buses around here.

When in Rome...
Day 2, we got a transport/museum pass so getting lost is no more expensive than going the right way. We walked the streets where there are no footpaths or skinny ones, but acres of parking. The EUR area is a traffic toilet. The Rome Civilisation museum is listed as one of the great places you can go with the Roma Pass. When we finally find it, there is a small sign on the door saying the museum is closed. The nearby prehistoric one is not bad, even if the kids made us belt through it super quick.

The 30 bus goes near us, but the destination says Laurentina. So we crossed the road and caught a 30 going the other way. Sadly, this was actually going to Laurentina, so once again we got a 15 minute ride the wrong way. Lesson no. 2 of Rome buses; the destination on the front is not necessarily the destination.

Trevi Fountain in the rain... and loads of it!
We're getting closer to working it out. Though the huge number of different routes, having no idea of the places and no bus map, means that after 2 days of bus use, it's still impossible to get from A to B, unless you're extremely lucky, or have an Italian internet connection. Despite entitling the user to all buses, the Roma Pass map has no bus information whatsoever.

It's been raining all day today and cold. In the afternoon, we walked pass the Spanish Steps, some expensive clothing stores, and the beautiful Trevi fountain.

Menton lemon festival

It started looking like being a lemon... 
Saturday, I helped Hugues sand, and then PF3 coat the walls of his new place, while Marie went mad with the kids.

Then Sunday was the Fete de Citron at Menton. There's two parts: the garden and the street parade. The garden looks to be the better of the two, with it's elaborate displays. It's 10 for each one, and we went for the street parade. The parade is just like Carnivale in Nice, but a bit smaller, and with lots of oranges and lemons.

But then we got a bit closer..
At the start we didn't see much, with the large crowd in front. Suddenly everyone started to leave. The parade continued, the boys picked up some handfuls of confetti, we got a view, and things got much more fun.

And all the performers were super nice.

Like you're the only one there.

Heaps of t and a, only one photo, and by Marie.

Personal confetti shower.

Closer to the floats.

Distant yet approachable.

18 February 2014

Not much happening

Where else can you play in the sand and look at the snow
Just a quick post to say nothing much happening here. So let's talk about the weather.

It's warming up. The boys even wanted their window open tonight, and it's not the end of winter. It got them to sleep like magic.

The winter olympics are on. It's supposed to be cold, and it's in Russia. Yet it rained.

Louis is Rubina's amoureux. Ollie sits next to Leonie in class.

Normally, I ride to work dressed like a Ninja. Tonight I left off the ski mask, boot covers, and plastic sports jacket, which can be a bit boil in the bag. It was perfect.

It's been raining a lot here, so there's heaps of snow in the mountains. We went toboganning. The boys loved it.

Us and the Divoux. Check out the snow behind.

So, what else. . The carnival came to town. The kids got dressed up in costumes. There were 5 Brazilian girls in bikinis shaking it all. Sadly we had to watch the kids running around.

Marie had a weekend away with some girls in Bergamo. This weekend is the lemon festival in Menton. I'll be gasping for that one.

We went toboganning

In other news, the president is onto his 3rd first lady. As Colbert says, the first lady happens to be the last lady he's sleeping with. And hey seems like they won a couple of medals today, judging from what was on TV. Peugeot is no longer a family owned French company. They've been half taken over by DongFang.

The king and the cereal packet gladiator.

17 January 2014

Nice finish

Hmm, now what did we do for the last two days of Fil, Mill and David's visit? I know one of them we went into the old town of Nice.

On the last day, we had a choice of snow or shopping. Well, which one do you think we'd do? We went shopping in Sanremo. Apparently there's a beautiful old town in the centre there. Next time we have to try harder to find it!

Sunshine as soon as the school holidays finished.
It rained non stop on the day, so apart from a couple of shops, it was a wash out. My jeans and shoes were thoroughly soaked. We need to go shopping again to buy gum boots, and a longer coat.

Really nice to have our guests, and please visit again! Of course, like you knew it would, the very day that Fil Mill and David took off, the weather was picture perfect blue skies. And this the day after most flights were cancelled due to the conditions.


Downhill on the roller coaster!
Day 6: Montpellier

After all the promises, we finally got onto the TGV! It looks very space age inside, for someone who grew up watching Space 1999. The carpets etc are starting to look a bit beaten after 20 or 30 years of service. It's hard to tell how fast you're going. It's much quicker than the car.

High speed bend.
Montpellier a medium large city, very beautiful. The town centre is mostly closed to cars. There are loads of new trams rolling through. The kids had a great time on the mini roller coaster.

Day 7: our last day! Everyone went to the fantastic gardens in town. Me and Ollie had to leave for the train. We stopped in Marseille, and scootered around for a couple of hours.

Praying the wind doesn't change, again. Montpellier.

Another pretty town centre, Montpellier.

Ollie being a pest, Montpellier.