Category Archives: Postcards

Ten Years Ago – Warsaw in Poland

On 15th February 2013 I was in the Polish capital city of Warsaw.

I had never really thought seriously about going to Warsaw before and I put this down to the fact that when I was younger Iit always brought two things to mind.

Firstly, word association and the town of Walsall, which is a dreary unattractive, industrial town in the Black Country in the United Kingdom which is a place that few people would visit by choice.  Secondly the term Warsaw Pact, which was the name of the Soviet military alliance in Eastern Europe which during my early years seemed to be the sinister organisation responsible for plotting to wipe us of the face of the map in a messy nuclear strike.

Read the full story Here…

Greek A to Ω – Γ (Gamma) is for Γεώργιος or George

At around mid morning we joined about thirty other holiday makers when we arrived at the concrete quayside opposite the hotel and were welcomed on board by George himself, a man with a big flashing smile and a flamboyant sense of humour who worked hard to get us all to enjoy ourselves before casting off and steering the brightly coloured boat with the steady rhythm of its chugging diesel engine away from Corfu, out into the Ionian Sea

Read the full story Here…

Greek A to Ω – B (Beta) is for Βύρων or Byron and the Elgin Marbles

‘Dull is the eye that will not weep to see                                                                           Thy walls defaced, thy mouldering shrines removed                                                   By British hands, which it had best behoved                                                                  To guard those relics ne’er to be restored.                                                                    Curst be the hour when from their isle they roved,                                                      And once again thy hapless bosom gored,                                                                       And snatched thy shrinking gods to northern climes abhorred!

Read the Full Story Here…

February 10th – The Feast of St Paul’s Shipwreck

Malta is the most religious country in Europe…

…it has more religious public holidays than any other in Europe and 10th February is especially important because this is the The Feast of St Paul’s Shipwreck which was bad luck for Paul but good fortune for Malta because it brought Paul to the island in the year 60AD and he then went promptly about converting the island to Christianity.

Read the full story Here…

National Pizza Day (USA)

February 9th in the USA is National Pizza Day. 

First, the facts…

… Over four billion pizzas are sold in America every year, 17% of all restaurants are pizzerias, including Italy at World Showcase at Disney World at EPCOT and around about three hundred and fifty pizza slices are eaten every second. Pepperoni is the most popular pizza at just over one-third of all pies ordered.

Read the full story Here…

 

Cheapskate Travel – Part Two

Commenting on a recent post, a long term blogging pal of mine (who knows me so well) suggested that I am a cheapskate traveller.  I am so proud of this, it is like getting the Leaping Wolf badge in the cub scouts or the elementary swimming certificate at primary school…

Moving on…

…In Cheapskate Travel Part One I took a look at complimentary shampoos and shower gels and such like in modern day hotel bathrooms.  Today I turn my attention to complimentary sachets of sauce and mayonnaise etc. in pubs and restaurants.  Some people might say that these are not complimentary or ‘freebies’ in the strictest of interpretations but I am going to include them anyway.

The sort of place that I eat out in don’t have tablecloths or silver cutlery, they don’t have salt and pepper pots or side dishes with a range of accompaniments they have little sachets of sauces and mayonnaise and all sorts of exciting little packets to experiment with.

Mostly these are made available in a big heap next to the door so whenever I go to one of these places I make sure that I get my fair share.  They really come in useful for days out and picnics and for a few days away at the caravan and stop having to cart lots of stuff around from the kitchen and the fridge.

I especially like the little jars of marmalade and jams that hotels make available for breakfast and always make sure that I take a few away with me from the dining room.

One time we stayed in a hotel in Thetford in Norfolk,  The Bell Inn, or rather we didn’t stay there because it was so bad, really, really bad, that we refused to sleep there.  Despite my complaints the hotel charged us anyway for bed and breakfast and we went elsewhere for a room only arrangement and paid again.  That really hurt I can tell you.  My wallet pocket was aching that night.

In the morning we wondered what to do about breakfast and as we had already paid for the rubbish Bell Inn in Thetford, that is the Bell Inn in Thetford in Norfolk by the way, we went back and ate as much breakfast as we possibly could and took away a bag full of marmalade and preserves which came in useful over the next few days on a caravan holiday in Kessingland in Suffolk with my grandchildren.

Every cloud…

 

 

Sicily – Trouble With Traffic

“To an American, Italian traffic is at first just down-right nonsense. It seems hysterical, it follows no rule. You cannot figure what the driver ahead or behind or beside you is going to do next and he usually does it!”  –  John Steinbeck

By the third day we had used up the breakfast supplies that we had bought on day one in the street market so we needed more.  Having convinced ourselves that we had paid a premium price at the market and having identified a LIDL supermarket barely two miles away we walked there instead.

This involved crossing the bridge over the water again and venturing once more into the untidy side of the city which involved a very dangerous walk along an abandoned industrial site with crumbling buildings and potholed streets.  An area which once provided employment but now nothing, not even hope.

Road construction in Sicily it seems makes little or no provision for pedestrians and there is an almost complete absence of pavements which requires those on foot to take their chances at the side of the road or in the intermittent cycle lanes which provides little help at all because motorists just drive along them regardless.

In Italy, traffic regulations currently in force were approved by the Legislative Decree number 285 of 30th April 1992 and are contained in the Italian Highway Code called the Codice della Strada, but anyone visiting a busy Italian city or town would be certain to dispute that there is such a thing as traffic regulations or a highway code in Italy.

Crossing the road is especially dangerous, there are pedestrian crossings but they haven’t been repainted since Mussolini was in charge and car drivers just ignore them.  Local people seem to have the hang of it, they just step boldly out into the road, look straight ahead and ignore the obvious danger

The only exception to this is nun’s.  Italian drivers will not hit a nun – you see groups of them breezing across eight lane highways with amazing impunity, so if you wish to cross some busy place your only hope is to wait for some nuns to come along and stick to them…” – Bill Bryson

Italy it has to be said has some insanely different driving rules to the rest of Europe and the traffic was murderously busy and dangerously hectic along this stretch of road.

Here is a general speed limit of fifty kilometres an hour but Italians generally ignore that and this is the second problem – the drivers –  because, in my opinion,  one of the biggest mistakes in the development of the modern world was to introduce the Italians to the motor car.

Italian drivers obey no rules and have no self-control, no manners or tolerance; junction priorities mean nothing because show a moment of hesitation and this is interpreted as a sign of weakness and an opportunity to pull-out, cut you up or just simply push in.  They are impatient and, show a split-second of indecision and they go for their car horn like a trigger-happy wild-west gunslinger.  At a junction or a roundabout the Italian driver narrows his eyes and flashes a ‘do you feel lucky punk’ sort of glare while his right foot hovers menacingly over the accelerator pedal.

Traffic lights are another good example of these different rules because each one resembles the starting grid of a formula one grand prix. 

At an Italian traffic junction there is an intolerant confusion of cars all impatiently throbbing with engines growling, exhaust pipes fuming and clutch plates sizzling whilst behind the wheel the drivers blood pressure reaches somewhere beyond boiling point. 

A regard for the normal habits of road safety is curiously absent so although the traffic light colours are the same as elsewhere they mean completely different things.  Red means slow down, amber means go and green means ‘pedal to the metal‘  At a junction an Italian driver simply points his car at the exit he is aiming for and five seconds before the lights go green he shuts his eyes, presses the accelerator to the floor then races forward and may God have mercy on anything or anyone in his way.

If the normal rules of driving do not apply here then the normal rules associated with parking definitely are completely irrelevant.  But it does look like great fun.  Sometimes there is a small and hopelessly inadequate car park full of impatient drivers looking for non-existing parking spaces, blowing their horns, waving their arms and shouting at each other in that classic Italian driving style.  

More from Bill Bryson…

I love the way Italians park… it looks like a parking competition for blind people.  Cars are pointed in every direction, half on the pavements and half off, facing in, facing sideways… fitted into spaces so tight that the only way out would be through the sun roof.  Italians park their cars the way I would park if I had just spilled a beaker of hydrochloric acid on my lap.” 

So, we completed our shopping and as we suspected it was a whole lot cheaper than the street market by as much as 40% in our estimation and we had the bonus of sensibly priced bottles of wine.

But now we had to carefully negotiate our return journey, this time with shopping bags.  We were so glad to cross the bridge and get back to relatively normal traffic conditions and as we passed the cathedral we said a quiet thank you to whoever it was that had been watching over and taking care of us…

 

 

Sicily – The Streets of Ortigia

The streets of Ortigia are a labyrinth of the unexpected and a treasure chest of discovery, something new and exciting at every twist and turn…

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery… 

Sicily – I like a Kettle but Kim prefers a Washing Line

When travelling to Europe We have given up on hotels and preferred instead to stay in apartments.  They are generally cheaper, offer more space and are chock full of facilities.

I especially like that they have a separate bedroom from the kitchen and living accommodation because I generally wake first , sometimes over an hour or so before Kim and in a hotel room I am reluctant to get up and make a cup of tea for fear of disturbing here.  Many hotels in Europe don’t even have tea making facilities, so there is another consideration but in an apartment there is always a separate kitchen and a kettle.

The apartment  in Ortigia was brilliant for this even though I felt a little guilty that this was suitable family rooms converted to tourist accommodation.  A different debate that I won’t go into here.

Anyway, to get to the point, Kim especially likes washing machines and if the apartment has one makes a point of washing our clothes and hanging them out to dry in the Mediterranean way even if they don’t really need it.

Saint Joan of Arc and the Risk of Cross Dressing

I interrupt my sequence of posts about my visit to Sicily with another Saint tale…

The French seem to take this ladies wearing trousers thing rather seriously and after November 1800 it was technically illegal for a woman to wear trousers in Paris without a police permit.  Just over a century ago, exceptions were introduced for women riding horses or bicycles. Otherwise, the by-law remained in force.

Read the full story here…