Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Internet Related Injury

For almost 3 months now, I've had a pain in my arm.

Not in my butt, not in my neck, but in my arm. My forearm to be precise. Twixt wrist and elbow.

Being a very brave manly man's man, I didn't even think of going to the doctor until about a month had passed and when I did go, the locum said it was probably a slight muscle strain, possibly being aggravated by my spending too much time on my laptop. WHAT ?? The quack !!

He prescribed some low dose co-codamol, gave me a pat on the head and I left with a lovely raspberry lollypop.

I did little to cut down on the hours I spent on the computer and the pills did nothing except add to the number I take daily so 3 weeks later I went back to the surgery and this time saw a different doc.

She did nothing except listen to my tales of bravery and stoic acceptance of my pain and said that I needed to give it time and that as I was soon to be going to Italy and would be without my laptop, things should be much improved on my return. Ha ! Little did she know me.

Just over two weeks later my laptop and I returned from Italy (!) but due to having a wonderful time and the fact that wi-fi hadn't reached most parts of rural Tuscany, I'd not used it much except to download photos.

Sadly my arm pain was as bad as ever.

So I made another appointment and this afternoon I saw another locum but this time he was a doctor from the old school. He faced me, listened to me and then got up to give my arm and hand an examination, something the first doctor had done, but not the 2nd one. He asked me to grip his finger and when he convinced me he wouldn't fart, I gripped it hard and winced. Then he smiled like a magician about to perform a clever trick and said he knew what the problem was.

I can't remember the exact medical words but basically I'd torn the muscle that runs from my left ring finger right up my arm and torn it where it naturally split in the middle of my forearm.
Seeing the doubt on my face (as after all, tearing a muscle implies using it in the first place and the most exercise my arm gets is doing the dishes) he asked me to bend back my ring finger and when I did so, I went owie, owie, owie as a sharp pain hit my forearm.

He smiled knowingly but still gave me a lollypop for the pain.

He also gave me a prescription for some sort of gel to rub on my forearm 3 times a day and another one for a support bandage to....well put on my arm. Then we talked about Italy for 10 minutes and exchanged stories about our favourite places and in the end I thought about the patients still waiting to see him and said I'd better let him get on with it.

What a nice man.

My pharmacist didn't have the gel in stock so I can't comment on it yet but I did get the support bandage and although I now can't feel my fingers and two of them look like a couple of pork and sage sausages, my forearm does feel a bit better !

He also didn't tell me to cut down on computer use but it may have been implied in his advice to rest my arm and hand as much as possible.

At least that's how I'm interpreting that advice !

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

No Man Is An Island - Or Needs One !

Long before I started to lose my memory, I started losing my hair. At least I think so !

As usual with the first signs of hair loss, it took someone else to tell me about it as I wasn't very good at looking at the back of my head and that's where the rot had started to set in. Hair rot ! Lovely expression.

I was probably in my early to mid twenties at the time and after the initial panic when I tried shoe polish, felt tip pens, indelible markers and embracing Judaism so I could wear a kippah, I decided to simply let nature take its course.....and wear a baseball cap during every waking minute !!

Over the years, hairs continued to permanently jump ship, so to speak, until by my 40's, things had settled down to a sort of compromise between the few remaining hairs and a vast tract of bare exposed scalp. A sort of 80/20 compromise with the bare exposed scalp on top. Literally.

Peer pressure is something we men have to deal with all through school, university and working life and so it was with some relief that one of the first things I did after retiring in 2001 (aged 49 in case you're adding things up and believe I'm much older than I really am) was to cut my own hair. This initially appealed to my sense of financial fortitude and after I'd worked out a balance between cutting it short enough to never have to comb it again and yet not leave me looking like a member of a chain gang, I've been cutting it myself ever since.

But back in the 90's when I was regularly visiting my friends in Michigan, I went to their local hairdresser who was the first to describe the little tuft of hair at the front of my head as 'my island'. This was very apt because the tuft was not connected to the rest of my hair but I still wanted to keep it around as let's face it, any hair is good hair.

Since then, my 'island' has been a source of much discussion and lively debate between the 'hack it off as it looks ridiculous' detractors and the 'leave it alone as it looks sweet' proponents.

My feeling has always been that at a certain angle and with the light in a favourable position, a front facing photo of my head still gives the impression that I have a full head of hair.

See my profile photo at the top right for a good example of this visual phenomenon.

Sadly over the last decade or so, my island has been going the way of many of its South Sea relations and has been 'sinking' under the relentless march of the scalp. It was downgraded to atoll status in 2002 and then a reef in 2006. Not even a barrier reef mind you, more like a coral reef as there were even gaps appearing in its tuftiness.

So after I'd run the number 3 guide over it this morning and glanced in the mirror, I made the tough (or tuft) decision to remove the guide and consign my reef to the depths forever. Two quick passes with the blade and it was no more. It was an ex tuft.

The thing is, when you cut hair away, the scalp underneath remains darker than a bald area as the roots remain. Maybe a couple of swipes with a cut throat blade would help matters but that isn't going to happen. With the anti-clotting pill I'm on for my heart problems, I'm not risking a head cut which usually results in me bleeding like a pig. A pig that shaves very badly indeed.

The other thing is that from the minute I put away the clippers, my island tuft will have started to grow again. That's the nature of things and so I've given myself a weekly task of keeping it in check.

It won't be a big task of course !

So right now I'm getting used to the loss of my island.....sorry coral reef.....and am not brave enough to post a photo. Once the counselling sessions are over and I've become accustomed to my new look, then maybe. Maybe.

Until then I'll continue to watch tv wearing a baseball cap and curse those bank robbers and terrorists who have given balaclavas a bad name !

Is it just me or is it really cold today ?

Monday, September 28, 2009


It's been a while since I last posted an Ulster Word Of The Day but watching a few contestants on Britain's Got Talent via YouTube last night, got me thinking about that word....talent.

Once again it's probably not just confined to N. Ireland, but when we used the word talent, we didn't usually mean that someone had some sort of skill or ability. Far from it, we used the word talent to mean something that the person had little to do with - apart from being born with it.

Talent - attractive people.

As in........

"Lets go to the dance and check out the talent"

Going to boarding school during most of my teenage years meant that I rarely got to go to dances of ANY kind as I don't regard dancing with Sister Perpetua that Saturday afternoon when I was 12 years old as a real dance, no matter what they said about us afterwards.

Of course 'checking out the talent' wasn't confined to dances and could be overheard before a trip to the pub or anywhere where groups of the opposite sex might gather. Even in church !

Yes some of us were so starved of female company that we'd use going to Mass as an opportunity to meet girls. As altar boys, we had them literally lined up before us at communion time and afterwards, when changing upstairs after the service, we'd discuss 'the talent' and try and rush outside to meet up with any that we'd spotted earlier.

Many an unsuspecting young girl was asked out on a date by a spotty altar boy just because she had tried to dislodge a speck from her eye when receiving communion.

And before you ask, yes a few times I was that spotty altar boy.

After all, getting a wink from a girl at ANY time and for ANY reason was something I couldn't afford to pass up.

Even when it was from Sister Perpetua.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

I'm Doing My Bit

Being born in 1952, I can't exactly call myself a war baby and I've no memory at all of any of the momentous events that happened during the first couple of years of my life.

Everest was scaled for the first time, the first hydrogen bomb was detonated, the structure of DNA was discovered, Stalin died, JFK married Jackie Bouvier and Queen Liz came to the throne.

I was always puzzled by that last one as in our house, we called the toilet 'the throne' and so I wondered why Liz going for a pee or a poop on June 2nd 1953 was so historically important. I just assumed it was a slow news day but maybe she produced a massive floater.

I've seen The Madness of King George so I know those things are important within royal circles.

But I digress.

Important as all these things were, a slightly less important event took place on this day in 1953 but one that I do my best to celebrate and commemorate every year.

On September 26th 1953, sugar rationing was abolished. Now for the first 15 months of my existence, I may not have been all that bothered that I wasn't getting my fair share of sugar in my diet but it obviously had a major impact on the rest of my life. I now realise that when people peered into my pram and said "ohhh he's so sweet" that they were simply lying. My sweetness was being severely restricted by law and I feel that my current Victor Meldrew attitude to life all started during those formative years when I was probably allowed a lick of a stick of rock every 2nd Sunday of the month.

If only that Hitler fella had realised how much we Brits loved our chocolate, he'd never have invaded Poland. That's a fact you'll never see in a war documentary.

Basically I've been making up for those sweet rationed months ever since and as usual, on the anniversary of rationing being lifted, I'm sitting here with several mini muffins and a large glass of coke.

With the power of t'internet I can now share my personal celebrations with you all and in doing so, help to raise awareness so maybe it'll become a National Holiday some day.

So raise a glass (of non diet pop) and have a nibble on your curly wurly to recall that momentous day 56 years ago when we, as a nation, became a whole lot sweeter.

I'm doing my bit...and then some.

Friday, September 25, 2009

You Think You've Had A Bad Day.......??

When we came out of the Basilica Papale di San Francesco d'Assisi a couple of weeks ago, we found ourselves in a lovely open grass area leading to the centre of the beautiful old town of Assisi.

There, in the middle of this manicured lawn, was a modern statue of the great man himself, sitting on his horse.

There was a plaque on the ground next to the statue and it had an inscription in Italian and in English. I was more than usually interested in the story of the statue given the particularly depressed aspect of the subjects and this is what was inscribed on the plaque...........

"Lord what do you want me to do ?"

"Go back to your city and you will be told what you must do."

At the break of day, Francis, with his reformed inner self, desired only to conform to the will of God.

Now remember that Francis, or Francesco, was a bit of a lad in his youth and in his early 20's he enlisted in the army when he had the life altering dream that is referred to in the inscription above. This dream became a religious revelation and he returned to Assisi a much changed man who gave up all his worldly ways and founded the holy order that bears his name.

I guess in my simple way I always think that a religious revelation, a life altering moment, would be a happy event. Then again it may depend on the sort of life you were leading before the revelation and if you were enjoying it. I suspect Francis was enjoying every minute of his but you'd think a statue on the grounds of his basilica, a basilica he helped build, would want to reflect the joy and happiness he felt when receiving the dream, this message from God.

In that case, I think this statue is sending out a mixed message as both Francesco, and his horse for some reason, don't seem particularly happy about the turn his life is about to take. Maybe they are both bowing their heads out of respect but it looked to me as if he was reading a letter telling him his pet dog had just been run over by a speeding ox and cart back in Assisi.

His inner self may have been resolved but I think he needed a bit more work on his outer self !!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Lost In Translation - 2

When travelling abroad, I always love seeing signs that the locals have tried to translate into different languages for the benefit of tourists - usually tourists from the UK, Germany and France I have to say. I guess those languages cover most of the tourists from Europe and, well, America which as we all know, is the rest of the world.

Only joking, people !!

Visitors from places like China and Japan ? Well you can just look at the pretty images and work things out for yourselves.

I'm usually pretty good with signs but try this one out. Look at the images before enlarging the photo to read the descriptions underneath them. See how many you get right. Yes they've all got to do with things you might want to do on a beach but I suspect at least one might have you puzzled.

I'm not sure what those wacky, speedo, thong wearing Italians expect when it comes to beach 'services' but sadly we didn't see any massages being offered where we were. I suppose that meant the sign was working.

The word spoilsport comes to mind.

And just to prove that they've used the same online translation webpage to help with these things, here is another example from another resort but this time they've added a national flag just so we read the correct translation !

I was a rebel and read the French one.

Now if you're the type of person who found most of those images hard to work out without reading the text, then the design on this t-shirt is for you. It's in the 'leave little to the imagination' category and is about as subtle as a tailgating Italian driver on a narrow road.

Now before you have a pop at me for posting smut and porn, the rough translation is "love means supporting each other" which I think makes the image funny rather than offensive.


I decided not to buy it though but that was more because it didn't apply to me.

Despite those boxers (see previous post) !!

Of course when I put the Italian into my online translation website, it made a bit of a pigs ear of it. It was fine with massages but even though there is a slight connection, it didn't cope well with supporting dangly bits.

Arrivederci i miei lettori fedeli

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Italy Day 3 - 29th August 2009

We were up early on Saturday and thanks to the hotel shuttle bus, were dumped in Rome city centre with about 10 hours of tourism ahead of us.

Again I'm going to illustrate this post with slightly unusual photos as others have taken the classic Roman sights much better than I did and a Google search will take you to them. These will be ones you probably won't find in any search results, unless you search my hard drive !

So we walked past the Mouth of Truth again and within a few minutes we were at the Circo Massimo, or Circus Maximus as we'd call it. This is where chariot races would have taken place and it was a huge arena with sadly little evidence left of its once exciting heritage. In its heyday it would regularly hold 270,000 spectators and today it can still hold a huge number of people for concerts and special events. The rock group Genesis played before a crowd of 500,000 there in 2007 and the previous year, around 700,000 packed in to help celebrate Italy winning the World Cup.

We walked along the central median, or spina, and made our way out the far end which left only a short walk to The Colosseum.

We had to join one of two very slow moving lines to get inside as they came from both sides and there were only 2 ticket windows open to deal with tourists. Once inside, the true scale of the building was laid open for all to see, literally speaking as there was no stadium floor left and so in fact we could see what the original spectators never got to see.

I listened in to one of the many tour guides and found out that contrary to popular belief, gladiators did not come up from below the stadium floor but rather they walked in at ground level from an adjoining area where they waited their turn. It was the animals that came up from below via trapdoors as their appearance was supposed to amaze and thrill the spectators who would never have seen such exotic creatures before.

It has been estimated that over 500,000 people and over a million animals were killed during the active lifetime of the Colosseum so there must be plenty of DNA around to keep experts happy for decades. Maybe it has a shelf life. I donno.

I was also reminded that as well as being an impressive structure, capable of holding 50,000 spectators, the Colosseum originally had a cover to shade them from the sun. This consisted of a sail type canvas covering that was pulled out over the seats using ropes and pulleys and this only added to my amazement that this was all possible almost 20 centuries ago. Add to this the fact that it only took 8 years to build and it puts modern construction times into perspective.

Once outside we passed the usual plethera of locals who were making a career out of dressing up in leather and short skirts. These ones were much more savvy about the process and were insisting on money up front before allowing photos to be taken. They didn't like being photographed for free but with a zoom lens and a lifelong loathing of paying for anything, they were two time losers in my book.

I usually didn't hang around long as seeing someone coming at you with a drawn sword tends to give you wings faster than downing any can of Red Bull.

As we walked up the wide and impressive Via Del Fori Imperiali, we spotted a few more part time gladiators making their way to their spot around the Colosseum. I have to say that this one wasn't quite as intimidating as most of the others and I can't put my finger on why that was the case.

At the end of this street, we ended up back at the Piazza Venezia and as by now it was 2pm and very hot, both horses and drivers were taking a break from work.

We popped into a restaurant we'd seen on the first day and it seemed to be a favourite location for the local police. There were so many uniforms on display that I'd no idea what role they all played in Roman life but these two were very friendly and happy to pose for me.

I think they were probably friends with that last gladiator but I might be wrong.

We moved on to The Trevi Fountain which was a huge tourist trap as it turned out. It was also very hard to get a decent photo of the place as it's surrounded by buildings and it's pretty huge in itself. There were also hundreds of tourists all over it with police trying their best to keep them from going into the water.

Given how much money was being thrown into the fountain's waters, I'm sure the police were keeping people out more for financial than conservation reasons. I wonder who collects the money ? It would be nice to think it gets used for the upkeep of the fountain but somehow I doubt it.

We were going to continue moving North to The Spanish Steps but we were getting very tired and decided to instead go in a westward sweep back to the shuttle pickup point as this would take us past two more sights on the list, The Pantheon and The Piazza Navona with it's 3 fountains.

One led to the other and after filling up our water bottles in front of The Pantheon, we went on to The Piazza Navona and had a well deserved rest and gelato beside the middle and most impressive fountain, the Fontana Del Quattro Fiumi (fountain of four rivers). This fountain has a Hollywood link with the Trevi fountain as the coin tossing scene in the 1954 movie was filmed at Trevi and for the 1990 version they used the Fiumi fountain for some reason.

Sticking with Hollywood, the Dan Brown thriler, Angels and Demons, featured the Fiumi fountain as one of the Altars of Science and last summer Ron Howard filmed scenes for the movie version of the novel (starring Tom Hanks) at the same location.

This blog is just SO informative !!

Some of the sculptures on fountains were worth photographing as they weren't all nudes or nymphs or dolphins. Here's one which was pretty gruesome really.

And finally, on our way back to the shuttle stop, we passed a small shop selling all sorts of Italian souvenirs like t-shirts, flags and the like. This one was selling a fine selection of boxer shorts and as with any item of clothing, I felt the need to hold my selection up to my body to be sure it would be suitable.

In the end I decided not to buy them.

I mean when buying boxers, size is VERY important !!!

That large thing dangling down is my zoom lens by the way. I know you wanted to know.

And it's probably a good time to remind readers that all these photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

If Only I'd Thought Of It Earlier............

A few weeks ago, as documented in this blog post, we had a blowout in Tuscany.

Now that's not to say we had a slapup meal of spaghetti bolognese at some Italian version of Mrs. Miggins Pie Shoppe. Oh no, no, no. We actually had a right rear tyre blow out quite dramatically as we toddled along the autostrada from Rome at 130 kph.

In the course of getting ourselves back on the road and on with our tour of Northern Italy, we had several conversations with the lovely, helpful people at Budget Car Rental. If you detect some sarcasm there, you'd be right. We were pretty much left to our own devices.

At various times we had to tell different people on the other end of the phone our names, rental reference number, car make and model, location and so on even though we thought they should have had all that on record already. Well apart from our location I suppose. It all got very annoying after a while and we were wishing we had something different to tell them about the state of the car as we obviously weren't getting through to them that it couldn't be driven anymore.

Later that evening, once we were at the hotel and getting less stressed by the minute, I had one of those "I so wish I'd thought to say that at the time" moments. In fact I'll let you make up what I wish I'd said all by yourselves.

You really only need two facts :

1) Our tyre was totally shredded and the wheel rim was damaged so we were effectively down to having only 3 wheels.

2) The car was a Ford Focus Wagon.

I really hated to have let such a verbal golden opportunity pass but I consoled myself with the idea that we WERE in Italy and so it may all have been lost in translation anyway.

It helps me sleep at night.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Dirty Leeds

This is a phrase used a lot when footy fans in the UK are talking about Leeds United Football Club and although it goes back to the infamous team of the 70's, the description gets carried along with every new generation of fans and so I think we're going to be stuck with it forever.

But this post isn't about our football team. It's about the city itself and how it has now got the same reputation as the team and it's such a sad thing to have to say......but the city of Leeds has become a mess and a dirty disgrace and I'm embarassed to say it.

I don't know why it is this way and having travelled abroad a bit more this summer, I have to say it's only helped to show Leeds up in an even worse light - when it could so easily be such a lovely modern city mixed with a good sprinkling of beautiful old Victorian buildings and arcades.

I was in the city centre yesterday as I had to get my eyes tested but what my eyes saw, was much more than the usual amount of litter that seems to be the Brit disease in most cities.

That was bad enough and again I just don't get why it's there. Why do Brits drop litter in such quantities ? It's along the road sides, at beauty spots and of course, all over our city streets. Are we incapable of taking an empty crisp packet to a litter bin ? If a bin isn't handy, can't we crumple it into our pocket and wait till we do find a bin or get home ?

And don't get me going on ciggie smokers ! Ever seen one take a butt to a bin ? Well actually they do - the streets are their bins. I honestly think many believe that butts are biodegradable and over time they'll break down and simply disappear. Ah no, they won't. They get into every pavement crack and look awful as you walk the streets. And someone else has to come along and pick them up for you.

Ever watch a smoker open a new pack of ciggies ? If you do, you'll see them remove the clear wrapping, then the little foil piece and toss both on the ground. Just about every time. And if you try and show them the error of their ways, you get verbal abuse at best or end up in casualty at worst.

But even more than the litter I had to endure yesterday were the streets themselves. It seemed to me that every single street in Leeds city centre was being worked on. Why ? Why can't they leave them alone ? There is never ending construction in Leeds and although I know cities need to be maintained and made 'nicer' for the residents and visitors alike, that doesn't mean new construction on top of new construction.

I don't want to pick out specific streets as no one outside of the city would understand anyway but we have a lovely wide street running north to south right through the city centre and many years ago it was pedestrianised. Lovely. Over the years since then it has been tinkered with and yes, most of these tinkers have added to the look of thoroughfare. Pavements lowered so the street was the same level right up to the shops on both sides; lots of metallic benches added down the sides for tired shoppers to sit on and have a rest; hanging baskets added to improve the ambiance....those sorts of tinkerings.

I thought it was done.

Yesterday it was a nightmare. They'd let in stallholders to sell 'exotic' hot dogs, crepes and ice cream and you had to walk around these traders. There were entire buildings knocked down and surrounded by construction hoardings. There were metal benches at funky angles right along the street instead of at the sides so you had to avoid those too. There were 3ft rods sticking up everywhere to obstruct vehicles from driving down the street so I donno how the hot dog vendors worked their way past them.

Oh and a few bins but not big practical ones to hold all the rubbish - oh no, just little metallic fancy ones that look nice but hold diddily squat.

So now instead of a lovely wide pedestrian street that could be looked down and enjoyed, there was a chaotic street with people forced to look where they were going to avoid all the obstructions I've mentioned above. It might as well not have been pedestrianised as you'd have spent less time checking for passing cars anyway.

And the powers that be have had this long held idea that laying down bricks of different colours and at different angles looks good. Yes tile a street as it looks good (and provides a nice resting place for ciggie butts !) but all one type and going the same way please. All they've done is add to the shambolic look of the streets.

So many other streets were being 'improved' as well that I couldn't help but think back a week or so to the Italian towns we'd visited. Almost unchanged for 2,000 years and looked great for it. Yes I know we need modernisation at times and fibre optic cables and new gas and electric pipes need laying from time to time but all this construction really needed ?

The streets were covered with a fine layer of concrete 'dust' which added to the feeling that I was in a huge construction site. An entire shopping mall was now a empty shell and that shell was being renovated.

Lots of the construction areas had artist impressions of what the streets will look like in late Autumn so when I return in early May, I'd like to think that the dust may have settled and Leeds streets might be clear of the mini bulldozers and diggers and be uncluttered again.

Somehow I doubt it and I really believe that the work I saw yesterday will be in the middle of being worked on again as those in power in Leeds seem to believe a modern city has to be in a constant state of change.

Take a street. Pedestrianise it if you want. Stick a few benches on it and add a few hanging baskets and then LEAVE IT ALONE for a few decades so we can enjoy it.

It's not development rocket science after all. Oh and add a few more bins too as you never know, attitudes MAY change although I'm not holding my breath on that one either. Try fining people instead of threatening to fine them. Try telling the many different wannabe city police officers to actually spread out and keep our streets clean rather than gathering in groups to have a chat.

As you can see, one of them wasn't too keen on being photographed and I was SO hoping he'd come across and try and stop me. Oh I do wish he'd tried !!

Sighhhh......I guess I'm just missing Tuscany.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Italy Day 2 - 28th August 2009

Our second day in Rome was also our first full day and did we pack a lot into it ?

Well yes, we packed a lot into it.

We may not have walked far, but most of it seemed to be upwards. Considering we went to The Vatican City and St. Peter's Basilica, then that seemed apt although I never really felt closed to God at any time.

I've decided not to post lots of standard photos as they'd be just that, standard. I didn't actually take that many inside the Basilica as I wanted to just enjoy the experience of being there. Yes I took a few to remind myself I HAD been there but they weren't very good and there are plenty of professional ones out there if I want to see all the building details again.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. On the way to our usual shuttle drop off point near the Mouth of Truth, we were at some traffic lights when a film crew sped across the junction. I didn't have much time to take a photo but snapped this one through the front of the shuttle bus just in time.

Maybe it was a remake of Roman Holiday but more likely it was a for a tv series.

After we exited the shuttle, we walked the few yards to a bridge over The Tiber and we decided to walk to The Vatican by following the route of this capital river. We went down a flight of stone steps to river level and part of the decision to follow the river was because we knew it had to be flat - and we realised we'd have a lot of climbing to do later on. Oh hell yes.

This part of The Tiber wasn't navigable with a series of weirs and boulder filled sections but later on, it became much more of a city centre river with tour boats and pleasure craft aplenty.

We climbed up more steps to road level as we approached The Vatican City walls and walking along a typical narrow Roman street, we saw more examples of iconic Italian parking. Why park one small city car in a parking bay when by going in front ways, you can park two ?!

Motorbikes and these small town cars dominate the little traffic that exists in central Rome so like I said earlier, there must be some sort of very effective congestion system in place to keep others out. It certainly made for lots of examples of unusual parking practices !

As we approached the end of this narrow street, we could see a broad thoroughfare at right angles to it and once there we turned left and this was the view before us.....

Having been brought up a Catholic, it was quite something to finally see St. Peter's Basilica with my own eyes. With the clear blue skies and the stunning white marble of the Basilica on the horizon, it was enough to make me stand and stare at it, not quite believing I was really there. It was a Grand Canyon moment and I never thought I'd ever get another one of those again.

Thankfully there wasn't much traffic going by and even the tour coaches were stopping over on the left of the wide road. This meant I could walk halfway across the long pedestrian crossing and stop to take that photo.

After entering St. Peter's Square and taking some more photos and video clips, we joined the long line of people queuing to get into the Basilica. We got a little bit of hassle from people trying to get us to go onto their tours to avoid waiting in line but we already knew that the line would move along quickly and that was the case. Just as well as we were in the direct sunlight for all the time and it was HOT there.

I had taken some long back golf type over trousers with me in case my knee length shorts were deemed too short for entry to St. Peter's but thankfully I was let in without having to put them on. I'd advise men to do this as you really don't want to be turned away after going to all the effort of getting there and yet wearing long pants for the rest of the day in Rome would be awful too. I thought bringing lightweight over trousers was a brill idea. They'll be called my 'Vatican Pants' forever more.

Once through a fairly basic security check, we were inside the huge main doors of the Basilica and wow....what a feast for the eye the inside was. In a way, St. Peter's is just too huge to give any sensations of religious peace, tranquility and closeness to God. There wasn't even much peace as there were no requests for visitors to 'keep it down a bit' and so the level of general chit-chat was quite offputting and spoiled the overall experience for me a bit.

I had hoped to take an iconic shot of a shaft of light coming at an angle through one of the many windows and illuminating an individual in deep contemplation - but that didn't happen ! Ah well, I can google for such an image I guess.

After spending a while exploring the cool interior, we went back outside into the heat and joined a much slower moving queue to go up to the top of the Basilica dome. You could pay one fee to get the lift up the first part or pay a bit less and climb steps from the start. We took the lift !

You exit onto part of the Basilica roof which affords limited views of Rome but these are mostly obstructed by the building itself. From here you climb a few steps and pop out inside the dome itself and as you walk around it, you look down on the ant sized visitors down on the floor.

Then you really start a narrow climb to the top. At one point it's very obvious that you are going up the side of a dome as the wall on the left pushes you over to the right and you really feel the 'dome shape' as you climb the very narrow steps. Sad to say that a fat person, never mind an obese one, would never get up to the top.

Hell the sheer number of steps would probably kill them before the narrowness did ! We were sweating profusely and had to stop to get our breath several times.

Once out at the top, the whole 'getting up there' effort was instantly forgotten. Once again it was a view I'd seen so many times before in photos and on tv but to see it and experience it with my own eyes, well it was something special.

I tried to take some panorama photos as the view before me cried out for one and I put up one effort on an earlier post. Without a tripod or monopod it wasn't easy but the single image above is a good substitute.

As you can imagine, it was very tight up there with all the other tourists wanting to be taking photos too and none of this helped poor Stephen who has both acrophobia and claustrophobia so kudos to him for actually getting to the top with us. He had to do it a few more times on our Italian trip as we went up more towers than on a normal trip abroad as Italy is that sort of place. Well done, mate.

On the way back down you are under pressure to keep going and not hold people back but I let the person ahead of me get some distance away and here is a shot I took to show just how steep and narrow the steps were in places and believe me, these were some of the easier ones as they were below the sloping dome level where you really were pushed over at a severe angle while climbing/descending.

Once on ground level again, it was 3pm and we went for a bite to eat at a nearby restaurant. Fortified by sandwiches and pop, we headed around the outside of the Vatican walls to the Vatican Museum which provided entrance to The Sistine Chapel.

Here there were no lines but security was tight and I was stopped from taking photos inside the impressive foyer. I even had to delete the photo I'd already taken.

We only wanted to see The Sistine Chapel but the museum complex cleverly takes visitors on a very long one way system so that you visit loads of other places before you can get to The Chapel. Photography was allowed everywhere UNTIL we got to The Sistine and inside there, several attendants ensured that no photos were taken AND that noise was kept to a reverential level. I'm not sure why they bothered really when there is no such restriction in the main Basilica.

I found many of the long corridors leading to the Sistine Chapel just as impressive so here is one photo to show what I mean.

Much as I would've loved to have taken photos inside the Chapel, in many ways it was right to ban them. For one thing, it forced everyone to simply admire the paintings without trying to capture them as memories for later viewing. Again there are plenty of professional photos to be found if you want to do that. It was actually a relatively small room, considering it's where all the cardinals meet to elect a new pope.

So we stood and took in the stunning masterpieces of the best of the Renaissance artists like Raphael, Botticelli and of course Michaelangelo. It was wonderful to actually see the ceiling panel containing the Creation Of Adam with the iconic fingers almost touching.

Oh ok here is a copy I've nicked of the internet.

What a day; what experiences; what views and what incredible artistry we'd been privilaged to see for ourselves.

It was a day to live long in the memory for sure.....but I'm still very glad I have my photos too !!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Victory For Victor Meldrew

As anyone who knows me will tell you (and are usually more than happy to do so at the drop of a hat), in many ways, Victor Meldrew was based on me. For those who do not know Victor, he was a character in a UK tv series who constantly complained about everything in his life and never seemed to be happy with his lot.

Now I'm not quite THAT bad but I do feel the need to get things off my chest and I do like the email medium for achieving this as I then don't have to deal with people face to face. Yes I'm a cowardly old Victor Meldrew but that way, my blood pressure goes down and my face remains unmarked - apart from the marks left by Father Time but I gave up trying to email him about that years ago !

So, a few days before I left for Italy, I went online and bought some Euros from a web site I'd never used before as they offered the best rate going AND they promised to deliver my Euros to my door the following day at no extra charge. Now don't jump the gun here as this part of the story went fine as this (recommended) company were as good as their claim and I had my Euros delivered the following morning and I was a happy bunny.

Skip forward 3 weeks when I looked in detail at my credit card statement. There was a whopping charge on it for a 'cash advance' tied into my purchase of the Euros. Yes I'd used my credit card to pay for them on that site as I'd never used it before (the site) and wanted some protection in case things went belly up. Call me a financially naive old Victor if you like, but I thought that the purchase of Euros from a 3rd party site using my credit card was no diferent to buying groceries or a tv set or something on eBay. What did it have to do with my credit card company ??

But it was treated by them as a cash advance just like I'd taken it out of an ATM which I do know incurs a charge.

So I'm steaming now as not only was there that one initial charge, but a while later there was another one. I went to contact them and found I had two options; I could ring them for 11p a minute or I could use their web site 'email' panel to write to them but I would be limited to 750 characters ! Can you imagine trying to limit a tirade by Victor Meldrew to 750 characters ?

I'd need that many just to air the expletives !!

But rather than ring, I wrote and it took me several rewrites to get my moan below 750 characters, I can tell you. Then I was informed they'd take at least 3 working days to reply to me. That was last Friday and while waiting for their reply, which as usual I knew would just tell me nothing new as it WAS my mistake after all, the flames of my indignation at being charged by my bank for the first time in almost 40 years burned ever stronger within me.

Or maybe it was the curry I'd had on Sunday night. Indigestion and not indignation.

Mid afternoon Tuesday (yesterday) I could stand it no longer and throwing logic and 11p a minute out the window, I rang them. For 3 minutes I got a cheery male voice telling me about new services offered by my bank and then 'he' informed me of my current credit balance, how much the minimum payment needed to be, what the weather was like in Torbay and that his wife was expecting twins in December. All at my expense.

No not the twins, just the rising cost of the call.

I was finally given 7 options and as tearing out my hair wasn't one of them, I pressed 6 to speak to someone. I wonder how many people ever hear option 7 ? Maybe it's to speak with a stress councilor.

Anyway Mr. Cheery Bank Employee wasn't fazed by my tirade and calmly told me why I'd been charged and yes, he saw my point of view completely and yes he knew he worked for a load of thieving money grabbing bastards but the perks were good and he got an hour for lunch. But there was nothing he could do as I'd been the stupid jackass who had paid for foreign currency using my credit card. Silly boy. I felt I'd just been tapped several times on the head by this pimply youth and at 11p a minutes, I gave him no more satisfaction and hung up.

That afternoon I got the reply from my 750 character complaint. The most annoying part was being informed that I was being charged for that currency purchase on a daily basis until my statement was paid off and as I do that in full every month by direct debit, there were a couple of weeks still to go till that would kick in.

So I had to go online and pay my bill off immediately to stop these charges and then I was told this would be processed in 2 working days. Arrrrgggggggg. They can start a charge in 2 nanoseconds but somehow take 2 days to stop it.

But now I had an email address to reply to myself ! Ha ! I was able to get quite a lot off my chest and boy did it feel good. I hit send and then got that awful feeling you get when you wish you could hit an unsend button and have a wee think about what you just wrote.

Ah well I'd not used VERY offensive language or made any unnecessary threats really and I'm pretty sure at least one of the bank's board of directors WAS born out of wedlock so I shrugged my shoulders and reasoned that I'd not be visited by the police for the email. Hopefully.

This morning there was a reply !

Lots of apologies, blah blah blah, customer satisfaction is very important to us, blah blah blah.

I sped read the first part of this and then my eyes settled on the next papragraph..........

However, on this occasion, I have already refunded the cash interest charge mentioned in your September statement and this credit will reflect in your next statement. However, I must stress that should a similar situation arise in future these charges may not be refunded.

So I got a result - with a sort of ticking off not to do it again. Fair enough. I may be financially stupid at times but I'm not in the habit of doing something stupid twice, not where my money is concerned.

I had to laugh at the bit where I was told that customers can reply at length to the email reply from the bank to their 750 character limit web mail service. In other words they set a tiny limit up front, then in 3 days they'll reply to that and the customer, if he or she can be bothered, can use that new email address to reply to the reply - at length. What a wonderful system, eh ?

Of course I had already done just that, and got a result. See, all those years of watching Airline paid off. In this day and age age if you complain enough, you often get your way. Terrible.

So as fair is fair, I replied again, thanking them for removing the charges, even though I felt they were outrageous in the first place. Hey I had to get a last moan in after all.

And blow me I got a reply within 15 minutes thanking me for thanking them. So we've gone from 3 working days to one working day to 15 minutes. I expect we'll be using Yahoo Chat any time now and I'll be able to find out about the birth of the twins at Christmas.

Banks ? We can't do without them but my God they make it very hard to like them.

As for my Victor Meldrew personna, well he's back in the box for now but I'm sure he'll be out again soon enough. In 6 weeks time I'll be off to America for the winter and setting that up with certain companies (tv licence, house insurance etc) will have him ranting and raving again.

I'm updating my expletives list in readiness................

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tunnel Vision

Exactly a week ago we were sitting at a restaurant table waiting for our meals to be delivered and looking out over one of the most spectacular views possible from an eating establishment.

And we weren't even in Italy.

We had passed into the ministate of San Marino that, with a population of only 30,000, ranks just above Monaco and the Vatican City in terms of smallest states in Europe.

But more of that another day.

When we returned down from the city of San Marino to the lower town of Borgo Maggiore via the cable car, we were about to head for the car park when we passed the entrance to a tunnel. We decided to explore further and this tunnel led to another one and we eventually came out at a not-very-exciting dual carriageway and so we just turned round and walked back.

The tunnels themselves weren't all that exciting either but when I took a flash photo inside the first one, the effect was quite unexpected. Where little colour was visible to the naked eye, the image captured by the camera showed a vivid orange glow that gave the dull tunnel an almost beautiful appearance.

Sometime the camera shows images hidden to our eyes.....or in this case, is it just a false image created BY the camera and flash ?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Italy Day 1 - 27th August 2009

Getting into Rome airport just after noon and being to our city centre hotel a short time later, gave us plenty of time to take the shuttle and be on the streets of The Eternal City by mid afternoon.

Of course I can only speak for myself on these blog posts but my senses were overloaded when I stepped off that bus. Everything was just so different from anything I'd ever experienced before and I was like the proverbial kid in the candy store as I wanted to go everywhere and see everything on that first half day.

Thankfully the first place on our 'list' was only a hundred yards from where we'd been dropped off. This was the Basilica Di Santa Maria In Cosmedin, a minor 6th century Basilica not far from the banks of the River Tiber.

Because it WAS so close to the shuttle dropoff and pickup point and had that very distinctive tower, it made it easy to use as a marker for getting back there again. For me though, the main reason for wanting to visit the Basilica was to see La Bocca Della Verita, a 1st century marble carving of a man-like face which from the Middle Ages was thought to be a sort of lie detector as if you put your hand in the mouth and told a lie, you'd lose your hand. This sculpture and its lie detecting properties were seen by most people in the 1953 movie, Roman Holiday, when Gregory Peck pretended to lose his hand when with Katherine Hepburn. He just lost his heart instead. Awwwwwww.

As a fan of the movie, it was cool to see it myself and coming just a few minutes after getting off the shuttle, it was a gentle introduction to sightseeing in Rome.

There was a long line of people waiting to be photographed with their hands in the 'mouth' and as I didn't fancy the idea of sticking my hand inside it anyway, I was happy to take this photo and move on. Plenty more places to see, you know !!

The only other place we wanted to visit that first late afternoon was the Piazza Venezia but to get there, we passed so many stunning statues, buildings and streets that we got a wonderful taste of what we'd see over the following 2 days in Rome.

Actually, for anyone wanting to use these blog posts to get some help for their own trips to Rome/Italy, I can say that even for oldies like me, Rome is a very 'walkable' city and it's just as well it is. Driving in Rome is like playing Russian Roulette - but potentially more lethal. Statistics show you are 50 times more likely to have an accident in Rome than in any other capital city in the world and this includes Paris ! There are lots of articles you can find to explain this so I'll not go into the reasons here but basically, Italian drivers are crazy. Mind you, walking comes with its own problems and as many of the roads in Rome are as wide as 6 lane highways (well you needed wide roads when out for a spin in your chariot remember) and have no crossing points, you REALLY have to watch out for yourself.

Even a pedestrian crossing offers little safety as the cars and motorbikes will still zoom past you on both sides as they only regard the couple of inches covered by your feet as the no drive zone. Remember too that these drivers will be talking on their phones, arguing with a driver near them, eating a slice of pizza or just in a hurry to get to point B. So YOU need to look out for THEM as the reverse just ain't gonna happen. To them, you're simply a moving target in their daily game of 'kill the tourist'

Anyway like I said, despite the need to have 360 degree vision at all times, Rome is very 'walkable'. On this first day, or what was left of it, we walked to the Piazza Venezia and passed the magnificent Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, a relatively new monument to honour Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy. It was started in 1911 and completed in 1935 but such is the power of Rome, that it seems to fit in perfectly with buildings 2,000 years older.

That's the thing about Rome, or at least the part that we had mapped out for our time there. Everywhere you look there are magnificent ruins, some needing a lot of imagination to 'see' them in their original state and others, many others, almost perfectly complete. It's like a gigantic building site but you're never sure what is going up and what is slowly coming down.

Another thing we noticed was the lack of traffic on most of the wide streets. I've not looked it up but I have to assume Rome has some sort of advanced congestion charge which unlike in London, is so severe that few can afford to drive around the city centre. So despite what I said earlier about taking your life in your hands when crossing roads, this is only because the drivers that ARE on the roads, are the creme de la creme of tourist killers ! The Top Guns, Italian style.

There are plenty of places where you can have a rest in tranquil surroundings. This is a Good Thing as the heat of an Italian Summer can kill you. When you are as unfit as I am, this is a serious concern so you need to pace yourself when sightseeing and so always try and take advantage of any oasis of peace and calm.

You also need to take plenty of water onboard and thankfully this is not a problem anywhere in Italy as in every town and city, there are numerous water fountains providing free, refreshing drinking water for the weary and dry mouthed tourist. Just carry a water bottle with you and get cool, clean refills every time you pass one of these fountains.

Walking down a street leading away from the Piazza Venezia, we found a restaurant and I had my first Italian lasagne and also got my first indication that eating was going to be the biggest cost on this trip. A simple lasagne and a can of coke was about 15 euros so work that out in your own currency. It was the same all over Italy although in the less touristy locations, it might drop to 11 euros.

To make a comparison, two of us have just had a Leeds pub carvery lunch of 3 types of meat, veggies, Yorkshire pudding, new potatoes and 2 cokes all for less than 10 euros.

But "que sera, sera" and "when in Rome" and all that good stuff and we had loads of excellent meals in Italy. After this first one, we headed back to the shuttle pickup point and were driven back to the Rome Sheraton after a very long and eventful day that will last long in the memory.

Yes even mine although I may need to watch Roman Holiday again !!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

With Pizza, Who Needs Fast Food ?

Having only really spent time in the UK and America, I guess I thought that the fast food market domination of companies like McDonalds, Burger King and KFC was worldwide.

If I Googled those companies and their worldwide locations, I'd probably find that they do indeed have outlets in most countries and I know my recent trip to Italy was only for 2 weeks so I only visited a few places, but I only saw a couple of McDonalds along the roads and only one in a town (Como) and even there it was tastefully encorporated into the environment. As for the other companies, they were conspicuous by their absence.

We passed through and stopped at lots of small Tuscan hill towns that looked like they'd not changed much in centuries. A modern fast food outlet would've been so out of place that I was glad we didn't see any. Actually it wasn't just fast food outlets that would've been out of place there; the way that the locals incorporated their shops into the old style buildings was a joy to behold.

In most cases, these stores and shops never encroached beyond the original walls and looked like some of the so called new areas in our UK cities where we've tried to create fancy boutiques and antique shops in old abandoned warehouses, empty dockland areas and Victorian tunnels and alleys. In many places we visited in Italy, they've done it so much better because they had whole towns to work with and not just a few select areas.

Along every street we'd come across shop after shop almost hiding in arched recesses or more elaborate sections somehow carved into the stone walls and we could imagine how the products had simply changed over the many centuries from simple earthernware cooking utensils to the more modern wares on sale now. Nothing had changed along these streets except the products on sale in the shops and now that tourism was key to the survival of these small hill towns, only the occasion rack of postcards or a small table of beautifully glazed plates would break the continuous smooth lines of the walls.

When the shutters closed every evening, the narrow streets would revert to how they looked many centuries ago with no signs at all of any modern business taking place there and it made for lovely quiet walks and we could easily imagine the towns as they were 2,000 or so years ago.

With the bright Italian sun casting deep shadows along the tall narrow streets, it made photography difficult as often one side would be in deep shadow and the other side in blinding light as the sun shone on the steep smooth walled buildings. Again our eyes could just about cope but I needed more ability with the camera to capture it properly.

But you can see how a BK or KFC would've been so out of place there and who needed them when you could buy a slice of pizza and walk along enjoying it and the spectacular surroundings. With a napkin as support, it was all the fast food you needed and there was no carton or box to dispose of afterwards.

The ultimate fast food and just so, so Italian. Perfect.

Ronald, mate, you're just not needed in Italy.....or San Marino.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Leeds To Rome

I've been to Italy you know.

As well as taking over 2,000 photos, I also used the video feature on my little Nikon compact camera to take 209 video clips as often, moving images were the only way to really record what I was seeing. Sometimes it was scenery, sometimes it was something amusing that I saw but initially it was the flight from Leeds to Rome on 27th August.

Although I do have a digital camcorder, I didn't want to carry more than I had to on what I knew would be long tiring hot days of sightseeing. So I decided on the little Nikon for it's ability to take video and half decent still photos and the Canon SLR with the 200mm zoom lens for capturing close ups and better quality photos at times. The video quality is therefore lower than I would've liked and also in full frame format as opposed to widescreen but looking back now, I'm glad I made the choice not to carry the camcorder around with me.

I'd like to post video and photos in the correct order rather than jumping all over the place as then the blog will be a better record of the trip for me to look back at in years to come......assuming blogspot doesn't go under and all my posts go into a black hole.

So I'll start with the video I took on the plane that day.

We left on a lovely sunny day from Leeds Airport and as we crossed the Alps, the views out the window were spectacular. Then we came along the coast of northern Italy and on down to a smooth landing at Rome Airport.

Arrivederci England, buongiorno Italy.

Leeds To Rome from Silverback on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Bird Man Of Assisi

Being the good Catholic that I am (just don't read any of my blogs about my school days and basically everything else I've ever said or written since 1970 !!), I just had to drag my good friends, Daphne and Stephen, to the town of Assisi on Tuesday.

Assisi has a special place in the hearts and souls of Catholics as it was there, a few years ago I believe, that St. Francis was attacked by birds in a scene that was later made into a movie by Alfred Hitchcock. I think those are the basic facts.

Anyway after this attack he changed his ways and decided to wear a brown robe all day and call himself a Franciscan, which was really handy as his name was Francis you see. Loads of his pals wanted to join up too so they created an order of monks called, wait for it, Franciscans and they all lived happily ever after.

Ok so maybe this all happened back in the 12th century but I'm sure birds were involved and certainly a man named Francis was a key player. The Basilica of Saint Francis is a huge ediface up on the steep hill on which Assisi is built and it hits you between the eyes when you approach the town.

I told Stephen to brake hard !

To say it dominates is putting it mildly and here is a panorama I took to show what I mean.

That bit on the left is all part of the Basilica and there was one built on top of the other, Inferiori and Superiori, so you got two for the price of one in those days - just as well really as I can't begin to imagine the work involved building anything in these hill towns in Tuscany. We've visited quite a few of them and they make the streets of San Francisco look like somewhere in Norfolk.

Boy we've walked up some steep streets on this trip. My ears popped a few times just getting to the car parks and then you have to walk the rest of the way of course. I've taken over 2,000 photos so you'll get to see a few after I get home tomorrow as right now we just want to rest for the evening and be packed and ready for the flight home in the morning.

Just one photo before I go. This was taken this morning minutes after we left our overnight B&B up in the Tuscan hills and came down to the (still) hill town of Pitigliano. Once again we were staggered by the idea that a town had been built like it had been sculpted out of the rock - like some sort of Italian Mt. Rushmore except without any faces and not in America. But APART from that, very Mt. Rushmore like I think you'd agree. Astonishing anyway.

So that's it from Italy and Daphne has written a very good blog post herself just now - we ARE a sad t'interclacker pair aren't we ??? We'll be home mid afternoon tomorrow and then I can post photos till you're sick and tired of our Italy trip, probably by Saturday !

Ciao for the last time.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Paradise On Earth

After the stress and worry yesterday, we needed a good day today and we got it in spades as we went to Lake Como, the place I'd wanted to visit ever since seeing photos of it years ago.

We left the opulance of our hotel in Piacenza and after I managed to get us going the wrong way (South and not North) on the same autostrada we had the tyre blowout on yesterday thus incurring 3.60 euros in extra tolls to get back North again, we made up the time and arrived without further incident in Como around noon.

We had another traditional Italian meal at a McDonalds (have they the monopoly in Italy ??) and then walked to the lakeside. It was a bit overcast and I was gutted as of all the locations where I wanted blue skies, this was it.

We didn't stay long and decided to head on up the lake road to Bellagio, a town I only knew about when I visited it's namesake casino in Las Vegas some years ago. A strange link I know but hey, it got me here. As we went up the incredibly narrow winding road to Bellagio, God heard my pleas and the clouds lifted and out came the sun again and the temps went up about 15 degrees.

It was a startling transformation and suddenly the lake became a magical, wonderful, beautiful place and I could understand why George Clooney has a place here. I would !

As we went north to the town, with awesome views on both sides, we were looking out for places to stay, not knowing if any would be available and if so, how much they would cost in this very ritzy location. We saw a sign for a 3 star hotel off to the side of the road, overlooking the lake so we turned around and came back to it as you just cannot slam on the brakes on this road as there is always someone right on your ass, so to speak.

In fact the drivers toot their horns if they think you are going too slowly and expect you to pull over to let them pass - several were very annoyed with us for not doing so and gave us strange gestures as they passed us at totally ridiculous places on the road.

So back to the hotel. We were told we could have 2 joining rooms for the night for 'only' 104 euros so we said yes immediately. We went up to see the rooms and both had their shades down so we didn't know if we had a view at all or if it was a view of the road or the lake or the hotel dustbins. We opened the shades with some excitement and once our eyes had become accustomed to the sunlight streaming in, this is the view that greeted us from our balcony........

Please click on the photo for a better look.

We were all gobsmacked and a few OMG's were expressed although mine was the only one with any merit as I was the only one of us who actually believes in Himself. What a view and at the best rate since we left Rome so all in all, a good result. This is another composite photo and I've rushed to get it merged and up on here so forgive it's appearance but it hopefully gives the idea what we see out the window and will wake up to tomorrow......without even getting out of bed. For once I won't mind sleeping with the curtains open ! Can't wait for sunrise. Well ok maybe not sunrise but 8am should be just fine.

We left the hotel and drove on up to Bellagio for the evening and it was so odd to drive into the small town for the first time and yet I felt I'd been there before as I'd checked it out on Google Street View many times from home. It was better seeing it in person and we had a lovely evening walking around the town and having a meal outside on the edge of the lake. We checked out the boat rides and may return to Bellagio tomorrow to get out onto the lake for a while.

We wanted to add another night here in this hotel, the Hotel Ristorante (G.L.A.V.J.C.) but they were booked up for the weekend and that's not a surprise. If you look at the only photo on the site, our rooms are two in from the right on the 2nd floor down and so overlooking the darker roof. Of course we also overlook the lake which is the main thing.

The hotel doesn't have wi-fi but I'm pinching it from someone called Alice so thank you very much for not securing your router, Alice. Much appreciated.

Right, time for bed but here are two photos of a part of Bellagio, the same view taken in the late afternoon and then again at night.

Ciao for now.

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