Thursday, July 27, 2006


Where to start. With Romulous and Remus the founders of Rome.

We loved the old buildings.

We loved the modes of transport (even if we did not try them all!)

Low traffic lights are a new one on me!!!

Walking around Rome is the most amazing place - you come around a corner and there is...the Trevi Fountain or a tiny street filled with people and restaurants. Every turn is amazing.

We love the food, not so the coffee.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Dinner on Wednesday

Well it is winter and we do need some comfort food. So the mid week blues are satisfied by this recipe. Roast fennel and garlic rissotto with baby spinach. Rissotto is rolled into balls and served on a bed of baby spinach.

If you want the recipe let me know and I will post that too.

You may be interested to know that my children did not think the taste was intense enough for them and so added soy sauce as you do.


Monday, July 24, 2006


Anfiteatro, a Street Crossing,

The Odien, Pompeii with view to Vesuzius

Kitchen and street

We had to leave Praiano, though we asked to stay longer as we were really very happy and relaxed. We were taken to the bottom of the hill by the the daughter of Margherita. We then caught the bus to Sorrento and then the train to Pompeii. We stood around outside the station for a long time trying to work out where the hotel was and if we needed a taxi. We did. Eventually we arrived at the Hotel Diana. Opposite the station this hotel was listed at one star, but we were relieved to see that it was actually three star. Very clean and spacious, with a bunk for the kids. We headed straight out to visit Pompeii.
Andrew was most interested in the dogs that hung around everywhere and followed us for some time.

We found more dogs at Pompeii station. All were rangy but seemed well.

Pompeii at 9pm - J is sent out to purchase tea. Comes back with the best Margerita Pizza we had the whole trip. Only 2.50euro or $5AUD. MLR missed out as she was asleep. The next day we headed back to Rome through Naples on the train and the start of the bus trip.


Toilet Stories

You know we had to have them! Vaguely in date order.

  1. The day we left for Europe, Michaela (the owner of most toilet stories) had to go to the toilet twice at Canberra airport. J and I gave a stern lecture about the importance of only going when you had to. You will be pleased to know that MLR never gave up her love of toilets for the whole two months.

  2. On one plane journey I went looking for MLR as she was supposed to be in the toilet. I found her outside the first class toilet with a hostie telling her that she could not use these toilets. I was about to take her away when MLR informed the hostie that she was "busting" and the hostie walked us around to the other side of the plane and pushed MLR in front of a man waiting and then we both went to the first class toilet. Let me tell you it is no different to the cattle class. The major difference is that the lotions and potions come in glass bottles instead of plastic ones.

    We all thought the bidets (or bottom ticklers) we found all through Italy were hilarious.

  3. On the eurostar from Rome to Naples, 10 minutes out of Naples station, MLR became locked in the toilet. J tried to jemmy the lock with his expensive prescription sunglasses and I stopped him. J went off to get help from the staff. I talked to MLR through the door and several people in the carriage offered various help and advice (in Italian of course), to no avail. Finally I tried to jemmy the lock with my $5 sunglasses and successfully released MLR to cheers from the crowd. I then had to run through the carriages to find J - who was now returning with a bewildered train employee. After much gesticulating we managed to persuade the train person that MLR was alright.

  4. Why is it that when you do not need a toilet there is always one around (like the street toilet in front of our apartment in Paris) and when you do need one you cannot get one for love or money such as the day we went to the Eiffel Tower. Having eaten at a loveley cafe off the Boulevard Saint Michelle, we headed for the Eiffel Tower via the left bank of the Seine. We saw tents pitched directly beside the river. We walked along the road, past street stalls with flags and posters, teatowels and magnets for sale - read somewhere that some of these stalls had been around 300-400 years! Had a toilet break in a cafe just after the Musee Dorsay (we checked out the statues outside, but the queue to get in was too long). Shortly after we left the cafe A developed an urgent need to use the toilet again, after much wriggling and uncomfortableness a toilet was found in an Italian restaurant. A very expensive set of drinks was purchased to ensure use of the one toilet and a very relieved A. We did eventually get to the Eiffel Tower and another toilet stop. A will never take toilets for granted again.

  5. On our way back to Singapore we had MLR brought back to us from the lounge upstairs, where she said she was "looking for the toilet". Must try that one next time we are in one of those planes. On our last let from Singapore to Sydney, MLR decided to spend a long time in the toilet and came out with slicked hair and smelling beautifully!.

Queue to the ladies toilets at the Colloseum. This was one queue I did not join.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Amalfi Coast

We stayed at Praiano on the Amalfi Coast between Positano and Amalfi. For more information see Praiano
Our Hotel in Praiano

More of our own photo's

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Trip from Rome to Praiano

Having spent 36 hours in Singapore, we left on the 1am flight for Rome. We successfully walked around Rome a little, ate and then slept.
Here is the view from our hotel window in the old part of Rome.

We woke early still tired and suffering the 6 hour time difference from Singapore. Taxi ride to the Rome Terminii station, to catch the 12.30pm train to Naples. It was a nice comfortable trip. The train was a Eurostar and we had reserved seats. So two comfortable hours later we arrived in Naples. Then the comfort finished.

We were travelling with 2 large suitcases (approx 20 kgs each), 2 medium sized suitcases (approx 15 kgs each), and 2 carry-on bags (maybe 5 kgs each). Additionally we had a shoulder bag carrying the new fangled video camera, our 4 passports, pocket camera, etc. You get the picture? Whenever we moved from A to B, B to C, …, Y to Z, we were shuffling a bit of luggage as well. After getting off the Eurostar at Naples, we made our way, awkwardly, to the Circumvesuviana Station, via many, many stairs (similar to the ones you’d see at Wynyard Station, not an escalator or lift in sight anywhere). Also travelling to Sorrento on the Circumvesuviana were an American couple that we’d met on the Eurostar. They were warned by the guards that they were wearing too much “bling”, to take it off, and to beware because there had been a lot of robberies on the trains so far that morning!! We eventually got our bags to the correct platform and the six of us bunched together to wait for the Circumvesuviana. It is a commuter train that travels from Naples, through the outer suburbs, including Pompeii, to Sorrento an hour away. When we boarded, the train was packed and we stood all the way, jammed close to the doorway. It would have been a pick-pocket’s field day. The train seemed to be 3 quarters packed with locals, not terribly impressed with all the room we were taking up with our bags, and the other quarter were obviously tourists like ourselves sporting expensive cameras, and bling.

We spent the hour on full alert but alighted at Sorrento leg weary, but having suffered no material loss. It was now mid afternoon. We needed to catch a bus from Sorrento to Praiano (approximately one hour away). We needed to buy tickets for the bus at the “biglietteria” (a ticket office/newsagent/tobacconist) located downstairs. Not wanting to lose our bags, we took them into the shop. A went elsewhere to find a drink, while J joined a queue. Meanwhile Michaela made the mistake of picking up one of the comic books. “SIT DOWN on the floor and don’t touch anything!!” screamed the old dragon behind the counter (she had a wonderful way with potential customers) , though in Italian, her meaning was pretty clear, and Michaela understood perfectly. J decided it safer to take Michaela by the hand and keep her in the queue out of harms way. After J had managed to ask for the four tickets to Praiano in primitive Italian, J made the mistake of asking for further assistance, where would we go to catch the bus from? She just screamed at J to get the bags out of her shop! We didn’t understand much of what she screamed, but it sounded nothing like “Welcome to Sorrento”.

We found the bus (we hoped it was our bus) and after loading our bags hopped on board and enjoyed a fascinating ride through Sorrento and along the Amalfi Coast road. This was a full-size bus riding on roads jam packed with motor scooters and tiny European cars (the cutest being the Smart Car). How it made it through the skinny winding lanes, I have no idea. Along the coast, in some areas you are inches (2 or 3, no more) from the concrete wall of only 2 feet or so high and maybe 8 inches wide. After that? A hundred feet steep drop into the Mediterranean. These drivers honestly have nerves of steel, truly incredible. We took some footage. Seeing is believing, and if I hadn’t seen it, I wouldn’t believe it. Half way along the coast road a loud bumping noise was heard, and then people at the back of the bus began to shout. Apparently the cargo hold had opened and luggage was being strewn out along the road behind us. The driver nonchalantly stopped, walked back along the road collecting the discarded items and returned them to the cargo hold. I was having a cardiac because I’d put my new camera in our luggage while going through Naples, thinking that a thief would find it harder to make off with a 20 kg suitcase, then cutting and running with my shoulder bag. Thankfully our bags were not included in the “fallen”.

After an hour, we arrived in Praiano. We hopped off the bus, collected our luggage, and yelled out a loud “grazie” to our bus driver as he disappeared along the coast road. We had arrived in Prainano, but had no idea where the hotel was located, and had no phone to contact them. And so we started walking, luggage in tow. Not too far along the road we came to a fork. The fork to the right was a continuation of the coast road. The fork to the left was a very steep, narrow road that climbed up the mountainside. This steep road had a sign for our hotel. With hindsight, it would have been infinitely more wise for J to have searched out the hotel by himself on foot, while A and the kids stayed with the luggage. Then J could have returned with someone from the hotel to collect family and luggage. But this is not what we did. We kept thinking that the hotel must be just around the next corner. And so we walked about a kilometre up this steep road, having to duck to the side of the road whenever a scooter, or smart car decided to use the same narrow strip of bitumen. (Did I mention that it was hot, and the luggage was beginning to seem heavier by the minute).

Amalfi Coast Road east from Praiano

Eventually, at around 6 o’clock, we rounded a corner, and found a grouping of houses that included our hotel. Of course when we checked in we were told that we should have called, they would have come and picked us up! Next time. We were exhausted, but that night after having freshened up and gone to dinner, we felt elated to have finally made it, and we had arrived in a truly beautiful place. We slept early, and well that night.

Praiano is located along the steep sides of the Monte Comune & the mountain Sant' Angelo a Tre Pizzi. There are wonderful towers that are perched on rocky crags. I loved the Cathedral of San Luca. San Luca was founded in about 1123 A.D., but it was restored in 1588. Praiano is still basically a fishing village with warm, kind people. The fish and seafood served at the hotel was beautifully fresh and cooked to perfection. Praiano has little family run shops that sell everything. Il tuto per tuti, was the one we bought bread and cheese, ham and wine from - keeping them from their siesta we realised later. The gardens in the terraces around the hotel are worked as market gardens.

Hotel Magherita : view out window from bedroom

Andrew enjoys the view

J enjoys the serenity

The views are imprinted on my brain and I will never forget.

Here is a photo of the market garden opposite our balconey. The woman you see came out at 8am and again around 4pm to collect herbs and other vegies each day into her basket.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Brocklesby Station part 1

We stayed three nights with our friends S and J at Brocklesby Railway Station, at Ulceby, which they are restoring.

The photos below are of the dining room, which faces the station platform. If you look out one of the dining room windows it appears as if trains are coming straight towards you, which can be a tad unnerving to say the least.

The two J's solving the world's problems

A, S, J and J

Andrew and S

Check here to see how Brocklesby Station used to look.

A couple of links to other photographs of Brocklesby Railway Station.
Models of Hull collection
Brocklesby Station 1997

The origin of the name Ulceby:
the name Ulceby is from the Old Scandanavian Ulfr+by, or "farmstead of a man called Ulfr". It appears in the 1086 Domesday Book as Ulvesby.
["A Dictionary of English Place-Names," A. D. Mills, Oxford University Press, 1991]

Then of course there is the Australian Brocklesby Station.

More photo's later.


Arriving in Chester was a little complex, as there are many one way roads and junctions that are not straight forward. The worst was realising that we were driving in a bus lane, we turned left to much tooting of horns. It was then that we realised that we had turned into a one way street, the wrong way! We eventually found the Tesco's car park and parked on the roof.

Chester is a Roman town, complete with Walls and Baths. There is a project in which they are attempting to reconstruct the Roman relics, click here for more information.

MLR,AJR and Me on the Roman Wall, Old Dee Bridge and Weir with new St Mary's Church in the background.

More information on the River Dee.

The main shopping street has covered galleries, known as the Rows. It is an amazing feeling, walking along what is effectively a veranda all the way along the shop fronts. We stopped in the "all you can eat" Chinese restaurant on the corner, which was ordinary, but the kids loved it. How many fried spring rolls and oily prawn toasts can you eat? Lots according to my kids. On the same level we found a shop selling armour, any size you like, along with swords and other medieval memorabilia. Here is a picture of one of the armoured items we bought in Chester.

It was interesting talking to the proprietor about the problems he had in his store. It is heritage listed so he cannot make any structural changes. He gets dust through his floor boards from the Roman baths two storey's below.


What?: What a strange heading you might say, however washing was a big part of life on the road.

You cannot go on the road for 7 weeks and 5 days and not wash. Though on the bus trip for 12 nights it was suggested that we bring enough clothes to last the whole time, as there would be little time for washing. I want to know how many families of four can pack for 12 nights with no washing?????

Where? sink, bowl, bath, washer/dryer combo, front loader/laundromat.

Now having washed in the bowl at Praiano and the sink and bath in several hotels I can tell you that your back aches from the bending over and then your hands ache from squeezing the water out. Washing at Praiano and in Paris was good as I could hang clothes out to dry, on the balcony in Praiano and in front of the open window in Paris. In hotel rooms it was hung in the bathroom and the light left on to encourage the drying. One morning in desperation I got up at 5am and dried unmentionables with the hairdryer. At another hotel the hair dryer was on a timer switch, so I just left it on and then came back and turned it on again - amazing how much warmer the bathroom can be with the help of the hair dryer. The washer/dryer in London and in Somerset both got good workouts and I like the idea, but it does take a long time to get a load of washing through. The one time I used the laundromat, I spent the waiting time checking email and blogging so that was the best wash I did.
I will never take my washing machine for granted again.

When? middle of the night/after a day on the road/early morning

At Oban the lady who ran the B&B washed and folded all our washing. At friends in South Humberside, UK our friend did the washing while we toured - very appreciated it was too.

The only one I did not try was the washing service in the hotels due to the cost per item. For instance $3 for one top. It is enough to make you wear dirty clothes!!


Monday, July 17, 2006


Well we have a number of tales of taxi's starting with the rip off in Rome on our first day. We arrived jet lagged from the flight at about 7am Rome time. Got into the customs queue, only to find out as we progressed closer to the front, that we were in the wrong queue and had to re queue (is that a word)!!

Standing around trying to work out where the taxi's were, when we were approached and offered a taxi, J tried to get a fixed price, but the taxi driver would not commit and had we been more awake we would have just said no. We got safely to our hotel, but we paid about three times too much for the trip we found out later.

Other than that we had great experiences with Taxi's.

Michaela and Andrew in a London cab

The kids loved the dicky seats and we all loved the space. I only hit my head once on the door frame.

We used cabs in Edinburgh as well to avoid the parking issues.

We had three taxi's in Paris without any trouble.

Parisiene Cab

Of course when we returned home we also cabbed it home without issue - got a bit of a diatribe about selling nuclear energy and what we should do with the waste and other ecological issues and the fact that Howard and Costello are still in a tussle for the "top" job! Good to see we did not miss much on that front.