Tag Archives: Travel

A to Z of Balconies – Verona

Supposedly the location of the famous balcony scene from Shakespeare’s love story, Juliet’s house in Verona is a popular romantic shrine and tourist honey-trap where lovers leave messages to each other on the walls and attach the dreadful lovelocks to the fences and the railings.

Although the place has become a major destination for tourist pilgrimage the house of course has no connection at all with the bard’s fictional characters and although it is old and looks authentic enough, the balcony was actually added in 1936 and declared to be “Juliet’s house” by the city authorities in a blatant attempt to cash in on the Shakespeare connection and to attract more tourists.

The balcony overlooks a tiny courtyard containing a dainty bronze statue of a graceful Juliet and people were waiting impatiently for their turn to be photographed with the heroine and to touch her right breast which is supposed to bring good fortune but I was worried that public groping was inappropriate and ever so slightly ungentlemanly so I steered clear and elected to do without the good luck boost and on the way out decided not to waste my money on a lottery ticket next weekend.

It is an interesting fact that thirteen of the thirty-seven plays of William Shakespeare were set either completely or partly in Italy and if we rule out the ten English history plays (which naturally have to be set in England) then half of the remainder of the major works are set in the Italian states and no one knows for sure just why.

Those who question Shakespeare’s authorship make the point that he sets his plays in Venice, Milan and Florence not Warwick, Oxford and York and they just may have a point!

The plays in which some or all of the action is set in Italy are: All’s Well that Ends Well, Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, Cymbeline, Julius Caesar, The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, Titus Andronicus, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and The Winter’s Tale.

“Ever a shadow, he disappears, all but utterly, from 1585 to 1592….There is not a more tempting void in literary history, nor more eager hands to fill it” – Bill Bryson on Shakespeare.

Monday Washing Lines – Rovinj in Croatia

 

Welcome to my new Project – Washing Lines

This week I am in Rovinj in Istria in Croatia.

I visited Rovinj with travelling companions in April 2011.

It was time for a coffee and there were plenty of busy harbour side bars to choose from so as we looked for empty spaces Micky reminded me of his theory that if we (the men) made a selection then this would be automatically overruled by Kim who has a curious habit of always walking to the next one perhaps in some sort of belief that it will always be better.

To prove his theory Micky stopped by an empty table at a perfectly acceptable café and waited for the girls to catch up sure enough Kim rejected it and led us instead to the one next door. It was almost identical and the coffee would be exactly the same so there really was no explanation.

Micky smirked, I smiled, Kim was oblivious.

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People Pictures – Net Fixing

“…lively commentaries on village happenings relieved the monotony of net-mending to which many women were obliged to devote the major part of the daylight hours.  Net-mending left the brain free to create its own fancies and to work on the raw material of speculation and known fact from which the tissue of gossip was woven.” – Norman Lewis – “Voices of the Old Sea”

In my previous post about Castro Urdiales  in Cantabria I referred to the net fixers working on the harbour.  Blogging pal John asked for a picture and I am happy to oblige.

A to Z of Balconies – Castro Urdiales in Cantabria

After lunch we continued our stroll to the handsome old town of Castro Urdiales where the Town Hall stands adjacent to the immaculate main square next to what was the original tiny harbour that was sheltering behind its protective stone walls.

Around the harbour side women were working under parasols repairing fishing nets and past the fish market at the far end of the harbour a set of weathered stone steps took us up to castle which stands on an elevated rocky outcrop. We made the tour of the restored fortress and then walked around the outside of the impressive medieval parish church, the Iglesia de Santa Maria de la Asuncion, which had the external appearance of a much grander cathedral.

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Monday Washing Lines – Portugal, Porto

 

Welcome to my new Project – Washing Lines

I spotted this lady pegging out her washing in Porto in Portugal.

Over the years I suspect that she has lost garments falling into the street below so she now takes the sensible precaution of the addition of an extra peg for each item. She probably can’t afford to lose her washing because (according to Eurostat) Portugal is the nineteenth poorest country in the European Union (out of twenty-seven) and easily the poorest in Western Europe.

This woman on the other hand didn’t have any washing to hang out, maybe because it has all blown away as she didn’t know the three peg trick…

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It is a challenge, feel free to join in.

A to Z of Balconies – Quarteira in Portugal.

In the 1980’s my brother Richard worked in a car sales garage in Rugby for a man called Gordon Pitcher who owned a villa on the Algarve in Portugal that he used to rent out for holiday lets.

The property was in what was then a rather remote location called Quarteira, included in the deal was the use of a car for getting about.  Quarteira is now an adjacent resort to busy Vilamoura.  I visited Vilamoura again in 2019 but I didn’t like it. The official guide boasts that “Vilamoura is unlike any other Portuguese town, gone is the dilapidated charm, replaced with striking perfection, which is simply expected by the super-rich who frequent the marina.”

It is a modern purpose built tourist resort completely lacking in any sort of character.  We prefer ‘dilapidated charm’ and are certainly not ‘super-rich’ so stayed no longer than half-an-hour before quickly leaving without a single glance in the rear-view mirror.  I should have carried out better research.

Anyway, back to the story of the balcony, Gordon was a businessman who didn’t like unnecessary expenditure so as the car was UK registered he had to remove it from Portugal by a certain time each year so that he didn’t have to pay local vehicle tax and insurance.

Late in 1986 he asked Richard if he would do the job for him in return for a few days rent free holiday at the villa and Richard agreed so long as he could take his pals along to help with the long drive back.

This was Villa Estrella and its balcony.

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A to Z of Balconies – Liendo in Cantabria

Motoring west once more on the Autovia del Cantabria the rain stopped and the sun came out again and after a few kilometres we left the motorway for the village of Liendo to find our accommodation. As usual this wasn’t that easy and we made a couple of circuits of the sleepy streets and tried to understand directions given to us in impenetrable Spanish before we chanced upon it hiding behind a high stone wall and with only a very discreet sign to identify it.

We were staying at the small Posada La Torre de la Quintana, which was a converted stone mansion with an impressive façade and surrounded by carefully manicured gardens. And we were delighted with our choice of accommodation, which was rustic and authentic and we were lucky to have the best suite in the hotel complete with a glass fronted balcony.

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On This Day – A Fuel Crisis in Spain

On 11th March 2009 it was the final day of a driving vacation to central Spain.  We had visited the cities of Cuenca, Toledo and Avila and finished in Segovia.  On the final day we were taking a drive across the mountains back to Madrid,

We stopped first at the Royal palace of San Ildifonso o la Granga…

The Royal Palace is set in extensive gardens in the French style of Versailles that was built for Philip V in the early eighteenth century and remains today an official residence of the King of Spain.  The Spanish Royal family used to like to leave Madrid in the baking hot summer months and take up residence in the mountains where the climate is cooler and more agreeable and looking around the place it was easy to see why.

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Entrance Tickets – Wawel Royal Castle, Krakow

The Historic Centre of Kraków, located on the River Vistula in southern Poland, is formed by three urban ensembles: the medieval chartered City of Kraków, the Wawel Hill complex, and the town of Kazimierz. It is one of the most outstanding examples of European urban planning, characterised by the harmonious development and accumulation of features representing all architectural styles from the early Romanesque to the Modernist periods.” – UNESCO

The Wawel Royal Castle is located in central Kraków and among the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world. It was admitted to the list at the very first session in 1978 (there were only twelve from seven countries). It was one of two Polish sites, the other being the Wieliczka salt mine also in Krakow. It was the first European City to be added to the list. It played a blinder there, getting in before Paris, Rome, Madrid and London. The following year Poland got two more – Auschwitz Birkenau German Nazi Concentration Camp near Krakow and Białowieża Forest and in 1980 it added the city of Warsaw.

In many respects it seems a rather curious first list. To begin with it is rather like Noah’s Ark with sites going in two by two. Two for Canada – L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site and Nahanni National Park. Two for Ecuador – the city of Quito and the Galapagos Islands. Two also for Ethiopia – Simien National Park and Rock Hewn Churches, the USA with two National Parks, Messe Verde and Yellowstone and two for Poland. To complete the list only one for Senegal, the Island of Goree and one for Germany and the Cathedral at Aachan.

Italy had to wait until 1978 to get a listing, France until 1981 and United Kingdom until 1986. Australia had to wait even longer until 2003.

There are only two European countries without a UNESCO site – Monaco and Liechtenstein. I don’t hold out a lot of hope for Liechtenstein, I went there once and it went straight onto my list of most boring places I have ever visited, the capital Vaduz especially so.  I have never been to Monaco and don’t really expect to, it doesn’t look especially fascinating either.

Anyway, back to Krakow. At the ticket office we had a lot of difficulty working out the ticket options that were nearly as confusing as buying a lottery scratch card at the local Co-op.

The place has so many precious treasures that understandably visitors can’t just buy a ticket and go wandering about by themselves in case precious treasures go wandering about.

Our first choice of the Royal Palace was no longer available because the English speaking guides had all gone home already so instead we bought tickets for the State Rooms. The tickets were timed and there was clearly no leeway but fortunately we made our entry time by the skin of our teeth and made the tour of the impressive rooms and displays.

Of course Kim, who has a history of this sort of thing, had to let us down by touching an exhibit in the very first room and that bought a sharp rebuke from the attendant museum guard.

This was a very impressive place full of treasures that we can see today because at the outbreak of World War Two they were rapidly evacuated out of Poland to safe storage in Canada where they remained until 1961 to prevent the Soviet Union getting possession.  We especially liked the room with the heads in the ceiling and everywhere there were remarkable tapestries and medieval furniture and treasures exhibited with generous space in which to appreciate them.

I have no photographs of the interior because picture taking is predictably not permitted. These are the Polish Crown Jewels courtesy of Wikipedia.

The rooms were huge, each one as big as a modern four bedroom detached house and I bet they were a bugger to heat in the Winter.  The tour ended in the most impressive room of all, the Senators Hall, which was large and spacious with a balcony at one end, an interestingly slanting ceiling and an obsession with tapestries depicting Noah and his Ark.

After an hour or so the tour was over and we were back in the courtyard, it was beginning to get cold and dark so we walked the mile or so back to our hotel stopping off at the Crocodile Bar on the way.

Memory Post – Barmeston Road, Catford, London

One day in 1995 I was at work and driving through London and on impulse took a detour to Catford and to Barmeston Road where my grandparents used to live to see the house that I used to visit with my parents when I was a boy.

It was having a bit of renovation work carried out to it at the time but although it seemed smaller (everything looks smaller as you grow older, especially chocolate biscuits) it looked however almost as I remembered it and the memories came flooding back.

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