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Frecko in Italy 16 - 23 May

California 26 Feb - 28 March . . 28 March - 18 April | France 18 April - 16 May | France 2 23 May - 6 June

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G'day . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . week ending 23 May

Torino Palazzo MadamaItaly!

After a fantastic train trip through the snow-covered mountains between France and Italy, arrived in Torino, or as we call it in English, Turin.

This is the Palazzo Madama, a castle built in the 13th century, just around the corner from the Turin cathedral with the Shroud of Turin ensconced.
Torino shopping centreThe streets of Turin are littered with marble, with kilometres of porticos or covered walkways along the city streets. A very beautiful city. (And they will be hosting the 2006 Winter Olympics.)

This is Sophie, Alice's French cousin, Alice and Tonie walking the marble-floored and -pillared cinema of Turin.
Balcony from hotel windowThe Italians are very much into balconies, and contrasted with the plain walls of their buildings, they are picturesque as well as practical. This is one opposite our hotel window in Verona.
Verona roman theatreThe roman ampitheatre in Verona, built in the first century, is used today as the local opera house and seats 20,000. The area suffered an earthquake around the 12th century and all but a small section of the outer wall collapsed at that time.
Verona clock tower The torre dei Lamberti, next to the Arco della Costa or Costal Arch. The arch is interesting for the feature added centuries ago, of a whale rib that is suspended under the arch. The legend has it that it will fall when a 'just' person walks under it.

'Tis still there.

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Bricked clock towerThe Torre del Lamberti framed by the bricks of the castle bridge. Many very old buildings are built from these flattish bricks, when it isn't marble. In this case, the Ponte Scaligero over the Adige River was reconstructed after destruction during WWII.
Verona castle bridgeThe Ponte Scaligero looking back towards the 14th century fortress of Cangrande II, or Castelvecchio. Quite impressive.
Statue of movementThe Ponte Garibaldi hosts four great statues on each corner. They somehow manage to portray a certain amount of grace while conveniently showing an appropriate modesty.
Juliette, is that you?For Shakespeare fans, Verona is the setting of Romeo and Juliet. Thus the city has managed to 'find' a balcony fitting the description and have founded a statue of the famous Capulet.
Not on these wallsA recent offshoot of promoting Juliet's house as a tourist promotion for lovers, is that thousands have posted notes on the surrounding walls, despite warning signs not to. Some have written directly onto the wall, others have left notes stuck down with chewing gum. Naturally, as the notes weather away, this leaves a wall of gum, not unlike, bubblegum alley in San Obispo in California!
Canal coloursVenice.

All that water. All those very old buildings. All that colour. All that tranquility.

Despite all those tourists.
Gondola trafficMind you, there is still the odd gondola traffic jam!

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GondolaBut out on the main thoroughfare, the Grande Canale, the going is much easier. We usually opted for the more prosaic, and cheaper, ferries - at A$18 for a full day, whereas the gondola is A$110 for 50 minutes.
Canale edgeThe length of the Grande Canale and many of the smaller canals are lined with amazing buildings. Amazing because so many of them are so old. Amazing because many of them are not entirely straight. Amazing because so many of these are made from marble. Amazing because of their design and decoration. Amazing because many of them have surprisingly high high water marks, up over the bottom steps on some of them.
Another canalAround nearly every corner is another canal, another bridge, looking its own picture. So wandering around is all you need to do, and Venice just shows you itself.
Venice fish marketThe Venice fish market, part of the Mercati di Rialto, right on the edge of the Grande Canale, in a very, very old marble building that has served the same function for centuries. And a great selection of fish too!
Lower Grande CanaleHeading further down the Grande Canale to its mouth is the Salute area capped by the 17th century church, the Santa Maria della Salute.
Dome of SM d SaluteGet a bit closer and the Santa Maria della Salute is an impressive structure festooned, perhaps a little too much, with statues decorating the facade. But hey, who am I to say what is overdone in Venice?
Palazzo DarioAlong the Grande Canale is the Palazzo Dario, built 1487 and still going strong, if not altogether straight.

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Hotel viewWe stayed in the Cannaregio area not far from the railway station on Campa Geremia. We had the 18th century Palazzo Labia (on the left) and the 11th century San Geremia church (on the right) opposite our room. The bell tower of brick is one of the oldest in Venice.
Morning canalEarly morning walks are always best, and Venice looks its best at this time too. Nice calm waters. Peaceful. Gradual awakening of activity.
Morning streetThe buildings, the footpaths, the bridges, the marble, the people, all combine to make Venice appear timeless. This photo could be 1904 as easily as 2004.

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Canal burdenStatues are not all about glory and victory. Here is a nice one that is part of the corner of a building, showing a man supporting a basket on his shoulders. He has been carrying that burden for hundreds of years, and I can't seen any respite ahead for him.
Early morning VeniceThe beauty of the early morning walk in Venice.
Venice deliveryWith no roads for vehicular traffic, all goods are delivered by boat. This tends to be an early morning job too, with supply boats delivering everything from newspapers to newsagents, to restaurant supplies to furniture.
Smith buzzerI always thought that Smith a good Italian name!

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Classic VeniceJust to show that even an average tourist can take a classic photo of Venice.
Gondola heavenThough not as good as some....
Grande pictureJust to show that the cook is still with us, on the Grande Canale, at the Ponte dell Accademia.
San Marco floodedClearly not one of my photos, but it illustrates the problem that Venice has with a combination of subsidence and slowing ever-rising tides. The Piazza San Marco usually floods during the winter period.

This keeps the tourist numbers down!
The clan at San MarcoBut there were no floodwaters the day we were there. The Frecko Clan in the Piazzeta San Marco with Saint Mark's Basilica in the background.
Spiral staircaseThe external marble spiral staircase at Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo, built in the 15th century. A great piece of work.
Venice at nightA night view of Chiesa de San Giorgio Maggiore across the Canale di San Marco from Piazzeta San Marco.

Or the church over the water.
Final breakfast VeniceThe last meal in Venice, a lovely breakfast of croissants and coffee and orange juice with the Campo Geremia and the Palazzo Labia in the background.

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Duomo FlorenceOnwards to Florence and the fantastic Duomo (catherdral). It is more than the size of the building, it is its magnitude.
CamponileThe cathedral was started in 1296 and took 150 years to finish! The facade was redone in the 19th century. The bell tower, called the Campanile, was started in 1334 and is 82 metres high with 414 steps. No, we didn't climb up this time.

Just standing outside and looking up at the camponile and the face of the cathedral was sufficient.
Marble marvelInside, the cathedral is fairly bland, but it does have some great marble designs on the floor. Using different colours and great design, they have achieved some remarkable three dimensional effects.
Ponte Vecchio long viewThe Ponte Vecchio bridge across the Arno River, as seen from the upper reaches of the Uffizi Gallery.
Ponte Vecchio houndsA bit of the Ponte Vecchio seen from the Ponte Santa Trinita, the next bridge west.

Trust a couple of tourists to get in the way!
Ponte VecchioThe Ponte Vecchio tourist free!

Built in the 14th century and still going strong. Despite a close call in World War II, when all the other bridges in Florence were destroyed. It is all jewellery shops, and hawkers selling everything from sunglasses to fake leather bags.
Buy buy buyIn fact there are markets everywhere in Florence, not pretending to be anything other than for the tourist.

Get your leather bag.

Get your postcards.

Get your lambswool or silk scarf.

Get your chess set.

Get your leather belt.

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BijouNot that I am necessarily recommending this hotel in florence. It just make a nice picture and illustrated the Italian word for floor or level - piano, which caused some amusement initially.
Sleeping through ItalyMamma Frecko is going to produce a book on her travels in Italy. It will have a title something like - 'How I Slept Through Italy.'

The text will mostly be a series of zzzzzzzzzzzzs. The odd photo will be all black or the odd blurred forest through a train window. The appendix will be a copy of the Italian railway timetable. Should be a bestseller!

G'day . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . week ending 30 May

The clan at PisaThe clan at the famous tower in Pisa that, when measured against the cathedral itself, does indeed lean.

Mind you, after several centuries of an increasing lean (one mm per year), engineers have now altered the ground under the tower so that it has stopped leaning (as of 1998). Awwwww. We aren't going to see it fall, after all....
Flag throwersIn Torino the second time around it was festival day for the province. There were many displays of local trades, skills and many carnival acts. One of the more interesting was these flag throwers. They had large flags on poles that they spun around, then threw into the air and caught or swapped with others. Quite spectacular with different coloured flags.
Italian parkingHow to park in Italy.

Brings new meaning to bumper-to-bumper.
Wandering BagnolsBack to France and a look around the Beaujelais region north of Lyon.

Sophie, BF and MF on the trail.
Beaujelais grapesThese are the vineyards and these are the grapes, very tiny at the moment, about caviar size.

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Rare breedsIt is surprisingly rare to see livestock in France. The pigs and chickens would naturally be housed. And while many of the cattle are too, there are none of the necessary sheds either. And no sheep seen.

But we did see a couple of (fat) cows on our meander around Bagnols. Plenty of good pasture.
Laundering of oldeBuilt over 120 years ago, this would have been the district communal laundry. Situated to catch a passing stream that provided a constant influx of water, this shallow pool had smooth sloping sides for hand washing of clothes. No doubt the local centre for gossip with it! While not in use now, the roof has recently been restored to help in its preservation. Very interesting.
Resting at BagnolsA reset at the end of our 8 km walk back at Bagnols with a great view over the valley.

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Bagnol pencillingLots of little stone buildings around the vineyards near Bagnols. This one, the most impressive, in a hexagonal shape with a roof rising to a smaller conical top.

G'day . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . week ending 6 June

The Louvre entrance The first stop in Paris is one of the most famous art collections in the world - at the Louvre. It is the result of 500 years of art collection by the French Government, and the collection is so vast as to require a few days to see it all, so it is a matter of being particular on entry about what you want to see.

This is the glass pyramid near the entrance - a square pyramid as it turns out, and does look quite spectacular.
Somewhere in MesopotamiaOne of the wall carvings in the Mesopotamia section of the Louvre. The museum is not limited by the scale of the works. Many of the paintings are huge. The 'Raft of the Medusa' by Gericault is five by eight metres!
Slaughterman in stone It is refreshing sometimes to see some realism in art. While the statues such as David by Michelangelo and the Venus de Milo appear to portray the perfect - in their own perfect way - some realistic images help to balance them out.

Thus we have the slaughterman in marble. Going hammer and tongs at the evisceration of a goat. The details are quite accurate as anatomy and technique go, and the slaughterman is clearly enjoying his work. Or was he pleased at being a subject for sculpture?

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Life imitates art They say that life imitates art. This is as good an example as I have seen. The girl is sketching another statue, but is seated beside a statue of a man sketching.
The Eiffel Tour The Eiffel Tower is probably well known for its shape. But what really makes it spectacular up close is its size. It is surprisingly big. Even when you have seen it before, or even been up it before, the nearness to something of such size still surprises. And it is not just the structure itself, then, that makes one wonder. It is the mind of the person who thought of it, than managed to bring it to reality. Looking at pictures or reading about things, however famous, cannot do that in quite the same way.
Ants or people? This is the view from the first level of the Eiffel Tower, looking down on all those ants - I mean, people - on the ground so far down. Above there is a second level and, of course, the third or top level right near the top of the tower. The second level and the first were comfortable enough.
The T shirt indicator What is popular in tourism circles? I use something that I call the 'tee shirt indicator.'

It is quite simple. In every major city with a tourism aspect to it, there will always be a tee shirt vendor with a display of the tee shirt designs that he or she is selling. And the reason he or she is selling them is because they are 'hot.' They must be hot as tourists keep buying them, and presumably tourists keep buying them because they represent what they wish to remember or take home with them. (This last presumption may be a bit shaky.) The thing that moves them.

Thus, Paris is largely Eiffel Tower, the odd painter, Eiffel Tower and Eiffel Tower.
Sacre Coeur Sacre Coeur will probably always be worth a visit. Apart from being a spectacular church of stone, it has panaramic views and lies close to the Montemarte centre of artists.

It is not so surprising that so much effort is put into a building dedicated to a god - and such work and such craftsmanship. What is amazing is that it was done again and again in a different city, in a different country by a different group of people in a different age - or in the case of Venice, pretty much just in the next street by the same people!

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