Author Archives: Ian Dadd

Florence to Turin

Our favourite market in Florence was the Mercato Centrale, literally 30 steps around the corner in San Lorenzo Square. On the ground floor are outstanding artisans – the rules ensure that only “healthy, good, tasty food” is provided and it truly was like heaven for food lovers. Outstanding seasonal fruit and vegetables, meat and fish of all sorts. You can see the the second story in the photo, which houses about 20 different food outlets – and this is where locals also go to eat and drink for a casual, good value, evening out.

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It was time to bid farewell to Florence and travel to Turin by fast train. Ian has recently made contact with some previously unknown Italian relatives, and so we were privileged to have a very special travel guide and a wonderful interpreter. Grazze mille, Claudia and family and to Lorena – your generosity made our two days in Torino an outstanding experience!

Claudia & Alessandro

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We shared several beautiful meals, wine and family time with Claudia and her extended family. No wonder this region of Piedmont is known as the centre of the ‘slow food movement’.

Turin is a very impressive city, with wide streets and beautiful architecture.

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The Egyptian museum was founded in 1824 when archeology was all the rage and it is ranked as Number 2 in the world, only after Cairo! It houses many floors of antiquities dedicated to culture and art and was truly impressive. We only saw a small part of this collection and these few photos don’t really do it justice. A ‘must see’ museum if you are at all interested in this fascinating period of Egypt’s history.

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It was so sad to say goodbye to the family in Torino at the train station. We hope to return one day, and that they will also come to visit us in Australia.

And now, off to explore Venice and then meet up with our American friends to go cruising – just a tiny bit excited!

Ponte Vecchio & Galileo Museum

Of course no visit to Florence would be complete without walking across the Ponte Vecchio – the Old Bridge – across the Arno River.

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There have been shops here since the 13th century including butchers, fishmongers and tanners. You can imagine the pong! A happy solution: King Ferdinand 1 decreed in 1593 that only goldsmiths and jewellers’ shops would be allowed on the bridge.

During World War II it was the only bridge not destroyed by the fleeing Germans. Instead they blocked access by demolishing the medieval buildings on each side. A tragedy!

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Very close to the Ponte Vecchio is the Galileo Museum. There is some material of Galileo’s there, but it houses a lot of 16th & 17th instruments used in many other disciplines beside astronomy.

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The ornate fashioning of some of these instruments in brass and wood is a joy to behold. The Italian way of doing things didn’t include ‘plain’…

History really is on every cobblestone and corner in this beautiful country. Ciao for now!

More Wonderful Florence

Please enjoy some of the amazing pieces of art to be found in the huge Uffizi Gallery in Florence. It  has been open to the public since 1765 so really is one of the first modern museums.

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This is mostly the legacy of the famous Medici family who regularly collected and commissioned works of art. The last Medici heiress was very specific in her will that all these treasures must remain in Florence – clever woman!

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We could just imagine artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo gathering here to create their masterpieces and relax.

We really enjoyed our Tuscan cooking class with Walkabout Florence. It really could have been a disastrous day: cool and wet, but our guide Mollie (yes, an English art historian immigrant!) led about 30 of us through the back streets of Florence and explained all sorts of interesting social and culinary history. This also required drinking coffee and eating the most exquisite tarts. The seasonal delicacy was a sweet bread dough covered in small black grapes that are only ripe just now…. Yuuuummmy.

After collecting food from the fresh market for our class, we travelled out to a beautiful farmhouse in the hills behind Florence to start cooking. Our lovely chef demonstrated all the techniques e.g. making fresh pasta by hand (Ian made the best tagliatelle in the class!) along with a meat sauce.

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Onto the pizza dough and toppings and the best ever bruschetta – we are sure the secret is the quality of the olive oil, all pressed and bottled on the premises.

Next was the Tuscan roast pork and potatoes … And just to top it all off, Tiramisù.

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In one way, we were surprised to cook dishes which we already associated with Italy but in fact it was a superb lesson in cooking techniques and creating the correct flavours. We enjoyed sharing our meal and excellent regional wines with our fellow students – a great bunch of people and a wonderful way to spend 10 hours!

 

Tuscany

We woke up very early on the morning that we were leaving Rome, so decided to wander around the local streets. There seemed to be a busy buzz on one corner… And we had stumbled on the amazing Mercato Trionfale, the largest fresh market in Rome busy stocking up for the day’s trade.

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We were definitely a curiousity – tourists up early! Many stall holders gave us tastes…warm breads, pickles, cheeses, ham off the bone, gorgeous berries and pears. And the seafood section was pretty astounding – check out the eels and swordfish!

Sadly our booked transfer to the train station was a no-show, so we did a last minute dash up several flights of steps to find a taxi rank. Naturally he was a ‘pronto’ driver so we just caught our train to Firenze (Florence) and sat back to soak in the scenery at varying degrees of warp speed! Ian still feels a little uncomfortable travelling at 300kms per hour on the ground…

We are in Florence for 4 days – beautiful, old and stylish. Our beautiful apartment in via Rosina is an ideal location, walking distance to all the major places we want to visit and 10 mins from the train station. Laura, the owner, enjoys making tourists welcome and gave us many helpful ideas and maps.

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Off we went on a HUGE day out exploring a little of Tuscany with Albatravel. It is chocolate-box pretty, especially with a tinge of early autumn colour on the trees. First stop was Monteriggioni…..

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In Siena we walked down very steep beautiful medieval streets past an array of beautiful palaces, the cathedral and hundreds of shops to the Piazza del Campo. This is the location for the crazy bareback Palio horse race – you’ve probably seen it on TV – let’s just say the rivalries are deep and emotions run high! We wandered off and found a local spot where we had the special of the day – mackerel and vegetables, along with a (of course) vino bianco and a basket of bread and olive oil. Message to self – do not rely on memory! Write down the name and location of good places to eat – especially when they don’t do cards, Facebook etc because they don’t need to!

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San Gimignano is a tiny medieval town (and a world heritage site) with interesting buildings and shops. The old city is surrounded by huge walls built in the 13th century, although the Etruscans settled there in the 3rd century. The antiquity is  quite overwhelming, and then we remember that Australia was settled 40,000 years ago and that puts it all in perspective!

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We ended at the Tenuta Torciano Vineyard, privately owned since 1720. The peppered olive oil was deluxe, also enjoyed a luscious balsamic vinegar and then there were the wines. Well, some were yummy, and some just OK, and wow, do they have drinking rules!  Just don’t think that drinking un-chilled white wine in our West Australian climate is going to catch on any time soon.

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We think the photo above shows us in our perfect natural environment, and hope that these other photos capture the beauty of the vineyards, olive groves, castles and farmhouses we have seen. More to come soon on our visit to the Uffizi Gallery and our Tuscan cooking class!

Italy…

We have been planning (and saving for!) our Mediterranean holiday for 18 months.

First off we spend 9 days exploring some of Italy, then we cruise around the Mediterranean from Venice, finishing with several days in Barcelona.
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Enjoying every moment of our time in Italy so far. We won’t bore you with travel details from our home in Perth [the most isolated capital city in the world apparently] to Rome – let’s just say “time passed”…
Yes, we could have used public transport to get to our apartment one block back from the Vatican City but it was so welcoming to find our ‘driver’ (booked weeks before) actually waiting for us. This is a top service offered by even small scale accommodation.
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Ginny reckons Rome looks and feels pretty much the same as her last visit 35 years ago – it’s grungy,  graffiti-ised to the max and the traffic is insane …. But of course it is all so fascinating that we just ignored all that and relished the architecture, the antiquity and the statues on every corner.
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We are lucky to have two opportunities to enjoy the ‘Eternal City’ as we will return during our cruise, so joined the hop on, hop off bus. Yes, we know that it’s a ‘touristy’ trip in any city, but it’s also a good way to find your bearings and earmark places to explore further… Which we did!
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Then La Bella Roma turned on the sprinklers for us (a.k.a. A beaut thunderstorm!) and out of the woodwork came touts to sell brollies and ponchos. Us two wet people decided to be semi-sensible and return to our apartment to change clothes before our beautiful afternoon walking tour with Viator.
This was a great way to see some of the beautiful squares, monuments, fountains and artwork. First stop, the Pantheon…
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It was also a good reminder of how the ancient cobblestones look absolutely fabulous but play havoc on your feet and legs – thank goodness for a rest and a refreshing gelato!
Fortunately we didn’t have to park… It’s a nightmare! But amusing, and we fell in love with the tiny cars that can – and do – park anywhere!
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Meal of the trip so far was at La Locanda di Pietro – a stunning combination of finely sliced medium rare beef, pear slivers and pecorino to which we added drops of olive oil and a luscious balsamic vinegar. OMG.
By the end of two days we had walked many miles and seen some astonishing sights – some that just give us so much joy and some that will make us sad for the rest of our lives. Mark Twain called Rome “a museum of magnificence and misery” – a great description.
Ciao for now!

Guess where we are going!

Our next trip has been planned for about 18 months now, but finally we can almost smell the avgas at the airport… we’re just a little excited!

This occasion apparently required a new suitcase for Ginny, so we paid a visit to our favourite luggage shop Leather and Luggage in Mt Lawley. And what do you know, she managed to find the only PURPLE one in captivity!

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(In case you didn’t already know, this photo tells it all – yes, purple is her favourite colour!)

So where are we going? Hint 1: we’ve been learning ‘survival’ Italian from the lovely Juliana from Fra Amici language school. Between us we think we’ll be able to find out where the toilets are (always useful!), how to ask for prices…  and most importantly how to order a ‘vino bianco’ and English tea with milk!

Our first 10 days will see us in Rome, Tuscany and Piedmont. Then we train to Venice to meet our friends for the next part of our itinerary – which we won’t tell you about right now, but here’s Hint 2 – Viking Cruises!

Julimar Conservation Park 4WD jaunt

We are members of the 4WD Club of Western Australia and have been on many great trips with them. This one was a ‘Julimar Jaunt’ through the Julimar Conservation Park to have a look at the wildflowers there.

We met at the amazing Bindoon Bakehaus (great coffee, pies and cakes!) and then headed south for a bit before turning left onto Flat Rocks Road, where we proceeded to the Western Boundary Road. There we aired down our tyres before getting into the park in earnest. We meandered through most of the tracks on the map and a lot that don’t crack a mention.

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Lots of wildlife in evidence – ‘roos and emus, some with chicks. And of course wildflowers…

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The park is mainly laterite gravel and that determines what grows there. Some species of trees and plants are pretty well confined to this type of terrain. It sometimes beggars belief what will grow on some of the poor soils here in W.A.

There are huge areas of ‘grass trees’ or Zanthorrea and the contrast between those trees that have been subject to a controlled burn and the untouched ones is interesting to see…

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We were led on our ‘Jaunt’ by club member Barry Callen who is very familiar with the area and had Jim Cheeseman bringing up the rear as ‘tail end charlie’.  John Harman managed to stir up this bullant nest and this firmed up our decision to move on… There were seven vehicles on the trip. There was a little moderate terrain encountered, but in the main was a very easy and enjoyable day out.

This club is one of the largest 4WD clubs in Western Australia, catering for all makes of vehicles and age groups and run all sorts of one day, weekend and extended 4WD trips, social, recreational and educational events.  Visitors and new members are always welcome – if you’d like to find out more, click here!

Wildflowers & Scenery East of Geraldton

Leaving Wooramel Station on our trek home, we stopped at Northampton, a small but lovely historic town 50 kms north of Geraldton. Returned for another meal [bangers and mash for me and pepper steak for Ginny] at the ‘bottom’ pub. Yes, there are 3 pubs, and although they all have proper names they are locally known as the Top, Middle and Bottom Pub – who are we to argue, they all sell cold beer and good tucker!

Our aim was to get photographs of the very rare Wreath Flower (Leschenaultia Macrantha) which seems to favour disturbed ground such as the roadside where graders have been turning up the soil. Not sure they don’t occur in the bush as well and it seems they are prolific in some areas and very scarce in others…

We also wanted to explore the very beautiful rolling hills and countryside in the Chapman Valley – one of the most agriculturally productive areas of Western Australia. At this time of the year it is spectacular – huge acreages of wheat and canola as well as well-fed sheep and beef (yum)… The green and yellow is beautiful. We travelled through this region for an hour without seeing another vehicle of any kind!

The weather for our stay was fairly overcast, but we managed to get some sunshine and the cloud formations were pretty amazing.

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On the Pindar Road out of Mullewa we found biggest mobs of the very elusive Wreath Flower plants – neither of us had seen so many in one place. Outstanding stuff.

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From the Chapman Valley we moved south to Mingenew – via Dongara for the famous pepper steak pies from the bakery! The Mingenew pub is for sale if anyone is interested. Nice place, but would need cleaning up and money spent on it to bring it up to somewhere special… Maybe if we win Lotto… [Note from Ginny – not in my lifetime!]

Using Mingenew as our base we drove 35 odd kilometres to the North East to the famous Coalseam Valley where we were told that some early wildflowers were in evidence… The rumour proved correct and there were carpets of everlastings of every description.

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Some really nice ‘free camping’ spots at the Coalseam Conservation Park as well and we intend coming back for a longer stay. The ‘break-away country’ round this area is very scenic. The flora seems to thrive on these formations and it is very pleasant. And it is quiet!

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A Miners Camp layout

We were a bit early for the real wildflower season and we think that in about 2 weeks this area will be awash with flowers! Some areas have received early rains, but most are having a late season so it would be good to revisit then… maybe next year?

WA is lucky to have this amazing and beautiful season each year. We have flown over miles (kilometres in new money) of seemingly unending carpets of these flowers, I can vouch for that…

People come from all over the globe to experience this time of year here… Why don’t you give it some thought?!

Exmouth!

We escaped!

After an amazingly mild winter so far in Perth, suddenly the Bureau of Meteorology site predicted cold and wet weather so we packed up the caravan and drove due NORTH in search of the sun…

Spent some time with Michele and her Mum Audrey in Geraldton.  We had one good day of weather before it started raining which we spent in the Chapman Valley

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The Greenough river was interesting after recent floods – many trees uprooted and debris suspended in the trees lining the creek bed.

Took off to Carnarvon in rain and it continued intermittently for the next three days. That didn’t stop us from eating all the beautiful produce there – amazing fresh vegetables and fruit. Plus of course the pink snapper and freshly cooked huge king prawns at $18 per kg from Pickles Point Seafood!

Pulled out of Carnarvon for Exmouth in rain and it continued until half way between Minilya and  Exmouth. Fortunately there was a short break while we were setting up our driveway camp thanks to friends Jan and Jamie.

First day was very miserable with intermittent rain and overcast conditions – not unknown in Exmouth as we can attest from past experience. However, it cleared up over night and for the last three days we have had wonderful conditions – blue skies, no wind and temps in the high 20’s… Bliss!

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We have had a good look round and noted changes in Exmouth – the town is growing with a lot more homes on the marina and construction going on in town as well.

We revisited the Ningaloo coast as far south as Turquoise Bay and some of the coastal camping spots – all full!  No vacancies anywhere down there.

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We must try to book a spot some time in the future, as it is a magnificent coast with lots on offer.

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We are not into ‘swimming with whalesharks’ and we have done whale spotting elsewhere. So we are happy to go fishing and do some photography in the area. Lots of chances of great land/seascapes… but please tell us which photo above you like the best?!