29 July 2011

Holiday Slideshow: Gaeta, Italy

Do you get a bit sad on the final night of your holiday?  I always get a bit sad.  Because I know I'm heading back to reality, to bills and emails and groceries and laundry.  Because I know I'm saying goodbye to the possibility, the anything could happen, of travel (at least for a little while).  Even writing this post, about the final stop on our holiday is making me feel a little bit sad!

After getting off the big boat we headed towards Rome and stayed in a little seaside resort called Gaeta.  The old town is rather pretty and lovely to walk around, and we had the best meals here (seafood pastas, simple grilled fish, yummo!).  Gaeta is packed with hotels and restaurants and places to camp.  It feels a bit like the kind of place where families from Rome would go every summer holidays, year in year out.  A bit like Sorrento or Torquay in Victoria (what would be the equivalent in your neck of the woods?  Maybe the Gold Coast for Queenslanders?  Or the Sunshine Coast for New South Welshians?)

We stayed in a stunning hotel a bit out of town, Grand Hotel Le Rocce.  It had a beautiful little beach (though it was quite a trek getting down to it and back, probably for the best after all that pasta...) and gorgeous terraced gardens with the most amazing collection of succulents. If you have a few days to kill and you're flying out of Rome I'd highly recommend a couple of days swimming and eating in Gaeta.

Our holiday ended the way all our European holidays end - with my husband completely underestimating the amount of time it will take us to drive to Rome airport, which leads to a very nervous hour or so watching the clock in the car and me telling him to 'drive like the wind!'.  And then we get to the airport with barely a moment to spare, so the husband throws the step-sons and I out of a moving vehicle whilst yelling 'grab the bags! run to the check in desk!' while he speeds off, throws the car keys at the poor hire car guy and sprints back to meet us.  Ahhh, the fun of family traditions huh?

ps. thanks for indulging me and my holiday slideshow posts!  I hope you enjoyed them - if so, there are lots more photos on my Flickr.  And if not, normal programing will resume shortly!

28 July 2011

Holiday Slideshow: Venice, Italy

So here's the thing - we were not going to get off the big boat in Venice!  I know, some of you might think that is crazy but we have all been to Venice numerous times (not that you'd ever get tired of it), the view from the boat is really quite wonderful and unique, plus Venice at the height of Summer is not as magical as it could be (the heat! the crowds! the rip offs!).  Hence the plan was to spend the day on the boat - relax, enjoy the empty pool, soak up the birds eye view, and maybe have an early cocktail o'clock.

But then we realised that the Biennale was still on, and how often do you happen to be in Venice when famous artists from all over the globe are staging a show?  So we dragged ourselves off the boat, paid some hideous amount for a cab driver to take us 20 meters, and threw ourselves into the stinking out streets of Venice.  Unfortunately by the time we ate lunch (pizzalicious!) and walked all the way from the port end of Venice to the garden end (where the Biennale is held), it was time to get back on our big boat (or risk being stranded in Venice forever, a concept I am not totally at odds with).

I was a bit disappointed not to have made it to the Biennale.  I am a total sucker for 'concept' art, and I've been lucky enough to visit the Biennale once before - it was fantastic!  The pavilions alone are wonderful (each country has their own, built in different styles and eras) - lots of deco and mid-century modern goodness to soak up there.  And then there are the installations which range from the wonderful to the surreal to the comical (and which also neatly reflect the stereotypes of each country, so that in the German pavilion you'll find weird stuffed toys hanging from the ceiling wearing gas masks, and in the Japan pavilion you'll find giant anime/cartoon characters constructed from animal skeletons).  Oh well, I guess I'll just have to visit Venice again in two years time...

27 July 2011

Holiday Slideshow: Dubrovnik, Croatia

I adore Croatia and I especially adore Dubrovnik (doesn't everyone?).  It was our third visit here and it just made me want to come back and spend a lazy Summer month exploring the little back streets of the old town, jumping off rocks into that stunning Mediterranean Adriatic water, and whiling away afternoons with a gelato and a cool beverage.  Unfortunately we only had half a day so we couldn't quite do all of that, though we did do most of it (including the leaping off rocks bit - well, I didn't leap but others did!).  Even with the summer hordes and the stinking hot heat, Dubrovnik was as beautiful as ever.

26 July 2011

Holiday Slideshow: Istanbul, Turkey

It was this stop on our cruise itinerary that gave us our 'Song of the Trip', which was of course Istanbul (Not Constantinople) by They Might Be Giants.  It was also this stop that I was most looking forward too.  My husband has been lucky enough to get to Istanbul three times previously, but I'd never been and it's probably been number one on my 'cities I want to visit list' (followed very closely by Chicago.  And St Petersburg.  And Jerusalem.  And...).

Istanbul did not disappoint.  It was sprawling and beautiful and delicious (and surprisingly clean and organised).  And chock full of aesthetic inspiration.  I think I have 100 photos of painted tiles - the colours, the patterns!  Oh my!  We spent most of our time at the Topkapi Palace (if you ever go there, it is well worth paying the extra money to see the Harem), but also managed to have a look at the Basilica Cistern and The Grand Bazaar.  I can't wait to return to Istanbul one day...

25 July 2011

Holiday Slideshow: Izmir, Turkey

First stop for our big boat was Izmir, Turkey! (As a side note...despite all the drawbacks of going on a cruise you do get to see cities from perspectives you couldn't get any other way - like the one above, as we pulled into the port of Izmir - which is all kinds of awesome).  People stop at Izmir to see Ephesus (or Efes in Turkish), an Ancient Greek and then Ancient Roman city (the 2nd biggest Roman city for awhile, actually).  So that is exactly what we did too.

The cool thing about Ephesus is that the ruins are surprisingly intact.  Even when it is packed and swarming with tourists (like it was when we visited, damn cruise boat tourists!), you get a real sense of what it might have been like to live in the city way back when.  This is especially so when you round a corner that takes you to the main street of Ephesus, still paved with marble and still flanked by the ruins of various temples and buildings.  It's quite an amazing sight.  Actually, if you squint you can imagine all the other tourists in togas...  

23 July 2011

Holiday Slideshow: Bari, Italy

Next stop on our travels was Bari.  We went there to catch a boat (a very big boat!).  This is my second time to Bari (both visits have been boat related) and I have to say that aside from catching a boat there is no good reason to go back.  The old part of town, which is where all the boat people go (and by boat people I am not referring to the kind that most Australians seem inexplicably afraid of, I mean the hoards of tourists piling off the cruise boat when it pulls in to port).  It has a lovely old church and lots of winding, cobbled alley ways, and is (relatively) clean and prosperous.  

But outside of that Bari looks like a town that is decaying one brick at a time.  We dropped our hire car at Bari airport and got a cab to the port, and when I wasn't fearing for my life (if I never catch a taxi in Bari again it will be too soon), I saw boarded up buildings, parks filled with rubbish, sports arenas rusting away.  All rather sad and depressing really, and not the thing for a holiday slideshow...So instead, here are some shrines!

Being raised in a secular country by parents who where decidedly not into organised religion, I am always intrigued by people and places where religion plays a significant role in everyday life.  I love these little shrines that you see everywhere in Italy (especially in the south).  I love that they are so well maintained; I love the plastic flowers, the mix of kitsch and reverence; I love how they fit in to the landscape, that they peak out from freshly laundered sheets and sit next to traffic signs.  

22 July 2011

Death by Doxie: The King of the Castle Edition

For regular readers it will come as no surprise to learn that Elfi is a dog of discernment, taste and distinction (when she's not leaping in the dishwasher looking for scraps, that is).  She has an eye for style and for comfort.  One expression of this is the way she likes to take our throw cushions, flip them over, arrange them into a nice comfy pile and climb on top.  This combination of a small Florence Broadhurst cushion (from Signature Prints) plus a big one from my sister's range (which you can get here) is one of Elfi's particular favourites.  It's quite a sight to see her go about this (such focus! such drive!) and kind of an impressive feat for a short legged doggie.  Elfi is indeed king (queen?) of her castle!

20 July 2011

Holiday Slideshow: Lama di Luna

First stop on our two week trip was the agriturismo Lama di Luna.  It's in the south of Italy just near a little town called Montegrosso, about an hour or so up from Bari.  It used to be a farm in the 18th century but now it's a ridiculously beautiful place to spend a night.  It's not at the bargain end of agriturismo, but it is so very lovely!  

It's surrounded by stony Mediterranean hills and rows and rows of olive and fruit trees, and is set on a small incline with a view across fertile fields falling in to the coast.  The hosts are welcoming, friendly and helpful; and do not fear when they tell you dinner is a 'buffet'.  What they're reffering to is a cosily rustic dining room where local produce (like mozzarella di bufala and freshly picked nectarines) and tasty dishes are laid out for guests to help themselves.  It was wonderful.

ps. you may not believe me but this is a heavily edited selection...more photos will be on my Flickr, at some point (hopefully) soon.

Holiday slideshow!

[ps. click over for a funny product description!]

You know those interminably long post-holiday slide nights that people used to have in way back when?  Where people would be wearing brown slacks and orange jumpers, sipping on something fruity and trying to hide the fact that they were bored to tears by stuffing themselves with cheese on a stick? The ones were the host says 'oh, this is me standing next to the post office', 'now that's Bob buying a stamp', 'and here I am posting your postcard'?  That sort of thing?

Well buckle up dear blog reader because I am back from my glorious holiday and this blog is about to become that, for the next week or so.  I guess at least you can get yourselves cups of tea whenever you want.  And I don't mind if you wear your jim jams.  Plus I'll still be posting some other fun stuff, amongst all the holiday snaps.  Okay?

18 July 2011

Guest Post: Swedish Meatballs with Jessica from A Girl Writing

I hope you've eaten before reading today's guest post, because Jessica from A Girl Writing is going to make you drool a little with her recipe for Swedish meatballs - yummo!  Jessica found me through @gnomeangel who retweeted my call for guest bloggers!  Isn't Twitter a wonderful thing? I'm super happy to have Jessica on the blog, especially because I haven't cooked meatballs before, I think my life may be incomplete until I do!


Cast of Characters: Ground beef, salt, pepper, beef stock, bread crumbs, EVOO [that's olive oil, for those of you a bit slow on the up take like me!], cream cheese, minced onion, minced italian parsley, egg, and minced garlic.  So I'm a bit of a cheat and hate to mince garlic, it ends up all over and then the sticky fingers.  I'd just rather not deal with it.

[Click on 'Read More' to see the full recipe after the jump!]

16 July 2011

Guest Post: Good Things with Ngaire from fox and deer

Today I am very happy to welcome fellow dachshund lover Ngaire to my blog!  I'll let her fill you in on the details...


Hi and Hello!  Lovely to meet you!  My name is Ngaire (pronounced Nigh-re), I'm from Brisbane, Australia and I'm the curator of fox and deer blog.  Emily and I have formed a wee bit of a doxie appreciation friendship after I started following her on Twitter, and loved her beautiful photos of Ferdi and Elfi. [awww shucks Ngaire - you're making us all blush over here!]  I am also the owner of a doxie, of the overly large and red kind...this is Lola!

Aka DDW - Dead. Dog. Walking.  So named for her unending ability to ruin, eat or otherwise destroy practically everything we own.  She too is a dishwasher diver and appreciator of sun baths and food. ANY KIND of food (food being a fairly loose term, as her ideas of food and ours do differ somewhat...).  So, that is how Emily and I began to know each other, and I am thrilled to be filling in for her on this blog post while she is away.

I thought I would challenge you to think about your own list of five good things - what if you had all the resources in the world at your disposal?  And world peace and food for all were taken care of? What would be your top five items of pure desire?  Welcome to Good Things: The Wishful Edition! (Also, I love writing lists so any opportunity for a list?  I'm there!).

1. Eames furniture - brilliant and timeless design.  Specifically, this chair and this house bird.


2. An Abyssinian kitten - look at the wee darlings!

3. A full and unending supply of Sharpies.  All kinds, forever!  Why?  Because I love them!  Starting with these beauties - the brand new fabric Sharpies!

4. A Blythe doll called Miss Sally Rice.  I consider myself a collector of Blythe dolls ('cos two is a collection, right?) but this little pretty is my ultimate...if I could ever talk myself into paying over AUD $300 for a dolly.  I guess that is why she is on this list...
[Image from here]

5. Mounted deer head - now there is a small problem with this last item on my list...because I am quite open to a real deer head on my wall.  I do not advise the killing of a wild animal, but I do feel for those who have been killed and are under appreciated.  I feel if they are already dead, at least in death I can offer them love and a happy home.  Does that make sense to you, gentle reader?  No? Well it doesn't to my husband either, which is why I have chosen to show a faux deer head instead...

And I would be more than happy with Mr Faux here, but if there are any real deer heads out there reading this...you are very welcome in my home!  I just have to make sure DH doesn't give you the decent burial he feels you deserve.

Do you blog?
Why not write up your own five good things list in a blog post and share it with us in the comments? I would LOVE to read what your own heart desires!  

Lovely to meet you!  Peace, Ngaire


I'm pretty sure that's the first time we have ever had a cat on Good Things*.  Ferdi and Elfi are less than impressed, but then Lola is so adorable...all is forgiven!  What a list Ngaire - thank you!