marjorie73: (Default)
 One of the things many visitors to Venice do is to go up the Campanile of St Mark's, to see the views over the city. However, you have to queue, and the queues are long. I don't like to queue.


So, instead, I decided to get the ferry across to San Giorgio Maggiore, which *also* has a Campanile with great views, and which seems to be a little of the beaten track, so far as crowds are concerned. Plus, bonus boat ride!


 

There are nice views back across to St Mark's, from the boat.

 

 


When I got to San Giorgio, it was still closed (there does seem to be a certain unreliability about information places provided regarding opening hours, but there are worse things than pottering around a marina and looking at Venice in the sunshine!)


 

 

But being early did mean that when I went up the tower (there is the luxury of a lift) there were only 2 other people up there. And some bells. The views are pretty great.



It turns out also that 25th April is the feast day of St Mark, and St Mark is pretty popular in Venice.From the campanile I could hear the brass bands in St Mark's Square.


After leaving San Giorgio I decided, on a whim, to go to Murano, another of the islands, famous for its glass-making.

 

 

The Beast from the Lagoon

There is a glass museum, which has some interesting exhibits. I liked the sculpture garden, where I found the creature from the lagoon, and some glass cuttlefish (or maybe squid).

 

 

Glass Squid (or Cuttlefish) : Murano

The museum also has displays showing the history and development of glassmaking in Venice . I ave to admit that Murano glass doesn't actually do a whole lot for me, but the museum was interesting, and some of the exhibits are pretty impressive. I mean, I'm not entirely sure why anyone would want a glass trumpet or a glass celestial globe, but it's quite impressive that people are making them...


Mosaic peacocks, Chiesa dei Santi Maria e Donato, Murano

After the museum I visited the church of Saints Maria and Donato, which is one of the oldest churches in Venice. St Donato apparently killed a dragon, and brought the bones with him to this church, where they are displayed behind the alter. It would be churlish to suggest that they look a lot like whale bones..


 

The church also house some rather nice 12th Century mosaics on the floor, including  a very nice pair of peacocks.


 

Back in Venice itself, I spent some more time exploring the quieter streets, and came upon the Ponte del Chiodo, the bridge without parapets. Apparently, originally, none of the bridges in Venice had parapets, but this is the only one left in the city itself (there's another on Torcello) 


 

I ended up back at St. Mark's again. There was still a lot of celebrating going on. I'm not a big fan of crowds or crowded places, but it was all very good tempered and non-threatening. 

 


 

There were also nuns selling red roses - apparently it s a tradition, that Venetian men give roses to their wives or girlfriends, a rose on St Mark's day, so the nuns sell them on behalf of the Red Cross.


Museo Correr

 

 spent the evening visiting the Museo Correr, which is at the far end of St Mark's Square from the Basilica. It is, as you can see, another subtle and understated building!

 

 

 

 

It was originally built in the 1620s and then updated and extended under Napoleon, who wanted a suitable palace for his brother-in-law. 

 


The museum has a collection of Canova sculptures, and also some beautiful 17thC globes, with little painting of ships to decorate all the oceans.  The building also houses the city's archaeological museum, so there are some Roman sculptures and Egyptian sarcophagi, as well as the more modern stuff, and a whole suite of rules decorated in the 18th Century with images inspired by Pompeii.



I finished the evening with a stroll down to the Rialto to enjoy the views over the Grand Canal in the dark.


It was a good day.

marjorie73: (Default)
 I've always wanted to visit Venice, and decided that this would be the year I did so, so I have just returned after 6 days there. 


I loved it.  


I was staying in a convent guesthouse which was basic but very central, less than 5 minutes walk from St Mark's Square and less than 10 from the Rialto Bridge. I took the boat from the airport to Venice, rather than the bus, which meant approaching across the lagoon and along the Grand Canal, which is definitely an interesting way to arrive!  And I saw my first gondola within minutes! 



The first evening I had time to go out and explore a little, visiting St Mark's Square, as it gradually emptied, and walking along the quay, admiring the moored gondolas and the views across the Lagoon.



The following morning I made an early start and explored further on foot, to see the Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs), with an early morning gondola, then walked as far as the Arsenal (where they used to to build, and moor, warships, in the 12th to 16th Centuries.

 

 

 

 I didn't go in, I think some of the buildings are still military, and it was too early for the Navel Museum to be open.

 

 

 

 

 

 After walking back to St Mark's Square I decided to visit the Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace).


It's pretty impressive: Most of the current building was built in the 15th and 16th Centuries, (Apparently there has been a building there since the 9th Century, but the Palace had a habit of major fires so they have had to rebuild it quite a lot)


Giant's Staircase

In some respects it reminded me a little of Versailles, in that it is never knowingly underblinged. Still, I suppose if you have Tintoretto and Veronese and Palladio hanging around with nothing better to do you might as well get them to do a bit of home decor!


Sala del Senato 

 While I was visiting they were having a Hieronymus Bosch exhibition at the Doge's Palace, and I decided to go. I'm glad I did, because the exhibition includes some of the major rooms in the Palace which it would have been a shame to miss. 


There were only 3 actual Bosch's, the rest of the exhibition related to those who influenced or were influenced by him. 

Detail from 'The Hermit Saints', Bosch


But the details on the pictures they do have were very .... interesting.  The guy had a very odd imagination!

 

 

The visit to the Doge's Palace also includes the chance to cross the Bridge of Sighs (which is, as you might expect, much less attractive on the inside)

After visiting the palace, I spent the afternoon exploring, including crossing the Grand Canal by traghetto (the poor man's gondola - for just €2 you can be ferried across the Grand Canal by a pair of gondoliers, although admittedly there are no gilded or carved decorations on the boats, and the gondoliers don't wear their trademark straw hats!


Traghetto

 Having wandered far enough to reach the railway station and the Scalzi bridge, visiting several churches along the way, including Chiesa degli Scalzi, where there was an Easter display of Murano Glass, including these rather appealing wine goblets! 



After which I took  the advice of my guidebook and taking the vaperetto (water bus) line 1, which goes all the way down the Grand Canal to San Marco, giving you the chance to admire all the canal-side palaces. Which is nice.


 
marjorie73: (Default)
After booking my holiday, it occurred to me that Sorrento and Naples are not too far from Rome, where my friend Nathalie lives, and when I got in touch with her it turned out that she was free on Monday, so we were able to arrange to meet up.  Nathalie generously agreed to come to Naples, and as Monday was my last full day, and I had a very early flight home on Tuesday morning, I'd booked a hotel in Naples for Monday night, so I travelled from Sorrento and checked in there, and Nathalie travelled from Rome, and we met in the lobby.
The weather had broken overnight - I was woken at 2 a.m. by a tremendous thunder storm - I thought for a moment the hotel was falling down around me! the rain lowered the temperature, which was nice, and it also meant it was a little clearer, although not by as much as I would have expected.
We set out to explore Naples - we started with the cathedral of San Gennero, as it turned out it was the day for the annual miracle, when some vials of St. Gennero's blood are brought out of the bank-vault in which they are normally kept, and the dried blood inside 'miraculously' liquefies. As a result, the church was very full, overflowing with nuns, and men in cassocks, and local dignitaries; we saw the tail-end of the procession going to the Church, but didn't wait for the miracle itself (although I gather this took place as advertised!)
'Dissillusion' (Pic from museum
website)
 

We also visited the Cappella Sansevero, which houses a very famous sculpture of the 'Veiled hrist'. Unfortunately they have a very strongly enforced 'no photography' rule - however, the sculpture is incredible - really gives the mpression of a body covered with a veil, through which details such as the wounds on the hands and feet can clearly be seen. The veil itself has delicate carved lace along the edges.

The sculpture is in the entre of the chapel, which also contains a number of other statues all having allegorical meanings, and with many references to freemasonry. To me, the most impressive is the statue depicting  disillusion, which has intricately carved stone
netting!

Below the main chapel,  is a smaller chamber which contains two 'Anatomical Machines' which consist of two human skeletons, male and female, showing all the veins and arteries, and at least some of the internal organs.

These were made in the 1760s, and no-one is entirely sure how they managed to do it. One theory is that it was done by injecting something, but according to the reading I've done since, it's now believed that the circulatory systems were made using wire, and plaster and beeswax, but it is still an incredible achievement - not least as it displays a much more accurate depiction of the circulatory system than was thought to be current at that time! The two bodies are looking somewhat the worse for wear, but very interesting, in a slightly gruesome way.
We went to the church and cloister of San Chiara, which
features a cloister with majolica tiled pillars and seats. Most of the tiles feature either daily scenes of trading or hunting, or of maginative scenes of coaches drawn by lions, or peacocks, or sea monsters. Inexplicably, the scene in which the lions turn on their grooms and devour them, llustrating why cats are not suitable for this kind of work, is omitted.

We could only find one scene which related to the life of the convent, showing a nun feeding cats - two of which we identified as Bengals...

The church also has a small museum, in which none of the exhibits are labelled, so you find yourself looking at a mummified leg in a gilded case wondering who it (is supposed to have) belonged to.
We also visited a number of other churches, and we tried quite hard to visit Castel Nuovo, but unfortunately it was closed. It has a pretty impressive gateway, though!

We did, however, manage to find a nice restaurant where
we ate pizza and drank beer, and later, we had coffee at Gambrinus,
which is the oldest coffee shop in Naples, and still serves excellent
coffee!

We were also unable to return to the archaeological museum, as that, too, is closed on Mondays. We did however, pass through the Galleria Umberto I, which is a huge shopping area, built in the 1880s, and featuring lots of angels, and glass ceilings and plasterwork. As shopping
centres go, its pretty impressive.

There were a few more churches, and admired some .. interesting.. pieces of sculpture. I personally have no problems with Artemis of Ephesus or with one-legged Sphinxes as part of a tomb in a christian church, but I'm curious to know how they came to be approved, and what they were deemed to symbolise to make them acceptable for such a place!

We also spent a sensible amount of time sitting drinking granita and chatting, and
simply wandering around, looking at streets and graffiti and stalls selling crib-figures, (and some figures *not* suitable for cribs, such as statues of Berlusconi and of various other celebrities and politicians.)
I really enjoyed the day - spending it with a friend made a wonderful finale to my holid´╗┐ay!
(Although I did realise, when i got back to my hotel, that I had forgotten to give Nathalie the jar of home-made bramble jelly I brought all the way to Italy for her...

And then on Tuesday, I got up very early in the morning, and caught my flight home.

marjorie73: (Default)
Sorrento itself is perched on top of a cliff - it's only when you get down to the bottom, to sea-level, and look back up that you realise quite how much work must have gone in to to building those cliff-top hotels and homes so they won't tumble down..

In order to get from the main part of the town, you can either walk down a steep staircase, and then a short, hair-pinned cobbled road, or down a longer, smoother path which zig-zags its way down (and at one point through) the cliff, or if you feeling lazy, you can pay your E1 and take the lift! I don't think I've ever come upon a beach serviced by a lift, before..
Most of the beaches are private - you pay your 8-12 Euros, depending on whether you want a sun-lounger and/or a parasol, but I decided to stick to the little public beach (on the right of the photo) when I ventured down for a swim. The beach is black, presumably the sand started life as volcanic ash and stone - and the water is disconcertingly clear, blue and warm.

As I was growing up, most of my seaside visits, and therefore most of the swimming in the sea I did, were in England, so I expect the sea to be grey, and cold, and full of sand and therefore stirred up by the waves. Additionally, swimming in the sea normally involves being regularly slapped in the face by icy waves, so the concept of being able to paddle around in clear, placid water is unnerving. And I am used to having to get out of the sea after a relatively short swim, as all my extremities turn blue and I start to lose feeling in them, so the concept that it is possible to stay in the water long enough to start worrying about sun-burn and prune-y skin instead is very strange (I mean, I could get used to it, if forced, but it does feel a little unnatural!)
I also took the opportunity to make a day-trip to Capri, which is of course only a little way off the coast, from Sorrento. Capri seems to be entirely made up of precipitous cliffs and you get around in little tiny buses, which have to go onto the wrong side of the road in order get around the hairpin bends, which makes bus travel exciting.
I went up to Anacapri, from where you can ride a chair-lift up to Monte Solaro. I love chair-lifts - they're a bit like hot air balloons, in that you get to float, almost silently,above the world.

In this instance, the views from the lift, and from the top of the mountain were not as good as they could have been , as the air quality wasn't the best - lots of dust and haze in the air, but even so, the views were pretty darn good!

When I went down again, I visited S. Michele's church, which has a majolica tiled floor with a picture of the garden of Eden, which includes a charming elephant with paws, as well as lions and bears and horses and a slightly random unicorn.

I  also got a bus round to the Grotta Azzurra, which is one of the most famous attractions on the island. The water is, indeed, very blue, and very beautiful. Getting in, however, is . .. interesting.

After rather a lot of queueing, you have to scramble into a small rowing boat, and then, as the entrance to the cave is very low, it's necessary to lie flat on your back in the bottom of the boat while the boatman performs a kind of limbo while pulling the boat into the cave using a chain!

If you are not acquainted with your travelling companions before you get into the boat you certainly will be after lying next to (or on top of ) them to get in and out of the cave!

After that, I took my slightly soggy and dishevelled self back to Capri town, where I founbd that a 50/50 mixture of lemon granita and freshly
squeezed orange juice is even better than either one alone..  An important discovery, I'm sure you'll agree.

And a little later, my evening included spaghetti con vongole, and wine made by the restaurant itself, and an odd but tasty fennel liqueur.
marjorie73: (Default)
After finishing my visit to Stonehenge, it occurred to me that the day was still young, and also that Avebury is not that far from Stonehenge (about 20 miles) and is also somewhere I haven't been for a while.
Driving cross-country I was surprised to see ahead of me a White Horse.

One of the small, unconsidered bonuses of having no sense of direction is that such things can sneak up on one!

This is not the White Horse I usually see - That is the Westbury White Hprse (which is visible on my drive home from work every day, if I remember to look, and provided it isn't raining) This one is the Alton Barnes White Horse, and it doesn't really belong in a blog about visiting prehistoric monuments, having been made in 1812.

 
I didn't go up to it, but enjoyed the view for a while.

 
The next unexpected pleasure was coming upon Silbury Hill. 

 
I normally approach Avebury on a different road ,which doesn't go directly past the hill, and I had forgotten it was so close.
 
It's another very impressive place.

 
Legend has it that there is a King buried under the hill, who will, as such Kings are wont to do, return when required. I admit, I can't think of very many situations in which we would find the arrival of a neolithic king useful, but still, that  may simply be a lack of imagination on my part!

 
Archeology says there is no (apparent) burial, but that the hill is entirely man-made, and that it was completed in aroud 2500 BC, making it  a similar age (and size) to the Great Pyramid of Giza.

 
I'm not sure how impressed we should be by this; on the one hand, kudos to our stone-and-early-bronze-age ancestors  for building the thing, but at the same time, given that the Egyptians were busy empires and inventing writing, and politics, and art, and so forth, building a big heap of chalk with only a deer antler or two seems just  a little slow off the mark.. Although I suppose they had better weather, and perhaps therefore more spare time.

The acheologists seem to think that the flat top may have come later, when the hill was used (possibly defensively) during the Saxon period.

 
Visitors are no longer allowed to go up the hill, as it risks erosion and damage to the structure (and upsetting the sheep)

So, after admiring it from the bottom from several angles I moved on to Avebury.

 
Avebury is best known for its stone circle (see how the Neolithic theme continues?) but the National Trust also owns Avebury Manor, which is a 16th Century Manor House and gardens, so I decided to pop in for a look around before going around the stone circles.

Unfortunately it turned out that they had had to close the house early, as several of the volunter stewards had had to leave early, so I wasn't able to go inside.

The gardens are very nice, however - I particularly liked the eometric patterns of hedges outside the back of the house, and the parsley borders in the herb garden...

I shall have to go back to see the house another time.

 
Avebury (the circle) is big - perhaps the only way to get an idea of the size and scope is from the air.

 
 

 
From ground level it is hard to get an idea of how large the circle is, as you can't see all of it at once. However, unlike stonehenge it is possible to go right up to the stones and even on to them.

 

 
You can also see the outer ditch, and when you consider the tools they had to work with, it really is an amazing construction.

 
The Avebury circles are thought to be older than Stonehenge, having been constructed starting in around 3000 to 2800 BC - the stones themselves were not imported from Wales like the ones at stonehenge, but quarried in the area (Clearly, this was a local stone circle, for local people, none of yer nasty foreign muck..).
A lot of the stones were destroyed or removed in the 13th - 16th centuries - apparently this was initially because the Church disapperoved of these nasty Pagan stones (although the local people buried the stones ather than removing them altgether) and later, stones were actually broken up in an attempt to clear the land for farming and to use the stone for building.

 
Alexander Keillor, the Marmalade Magnate who bought Avebury in the 1930's excavated and re-erected many of the  stones, and marked with concrete pillars where he found evidence of missing stones, and later geophysical surveys have shown that a further 15 or 16 stones are still buried.

 
One of he oddest things I learned was that, as far as they can tell, no-one actualy lived in the immediate area during the period the Stones were in use; it seems to have been purely a religious/ceremonial/sacred area. The other thing (which makes sense but which hadn't occured to me) was that it probably wouldn't have been turfed so it's likely the whole area was white from the chalk, so it would really have stood out against the surrpounding coountryside.

 
I went for a walk along the top of the mound, before heading back through the village for icecream, and a drive home.

 
On my way home, I did a little detour via Rowde, and the Caen Hill locks.

 
This is a flight of 29 locks on the Kennet & Avon  canal - they ccome in 3 groups - this one, of 16 locks, is the longest and most dramatic. Although having been on a canal boat holiday or two in my time, I can't help feeling it would also be awefully hard work, especially as there are no moorings so I'm pretty sure you have to do the whole flight at once....

 
Because it is so steep, with so many locks close together there are extra "pounds" storing water to the side of each lock.

 
The canal was completed in 1810 and was still in use commercially until 1948, then it fell out of use until it was restored in the 1970s and reopened in the 80s.

 
It was very peaceful, and was a lovely end to a delightful day.

 
One of the nicest parts of the day was when I was wandering around Stonehenge and saw a family - the little boy (maybe 5 or 6 years old) was talking 19 to the dozen, very excited - he was (I think) Spanish and I couldn't understand most of it, but every other word was 'Pandorica'... I noticed he had a Dalek in one hand, too.
I didn't see any (other) Daleks, hoever, and no Docctor or plastic Romans, either (more's the pity)

marjorie73: (Default)
Saturday wasn't a good day: I got woken up at 1 a.m. by some very drunk, very raucous tenagers, and things didn't get much better. So I decided to stay home & read, on the basis that if one is having the kind of day when things get dropped, broken, and generally don't work, its probably best not to be driving, or cleaning  the crockery cupboards...

This morning, however, it seemed like a very nice morning, and I decided to go out to play.

I startd by heading to Woodhenge, because I've never been. This is a site where there are Neolithic Eathworks (Durrington Walls) and the remains of a wooden Henge- It was dscovered in 1925 when it was surveyed by air, and dates to about 2600BC - I have to admit, however, that it isn't overly impressive to the non-expert - cConcrete posts have been set into the ground to show where the post-holes from the original structure were found, but  I have to admit that to me it just looked like a lot of concrete posts in a field....

The earthworks are more noticable - there is a pretty impressive ditch & mound.

The site is about 2 miles from Stonehenge as the crow flies, and I was able to park in Larkhill and walk across to sStonehenge (much less thaan 2 miles -about 20 mins walk) across the 'Stonehenge Downs' and via the 'Cursus' - a set of barrows which have been dated to about 3600 BC (which makes it older than the Henge itself. They don;'t know what the Cursus/barrows were built for..

I then got to Stonehenge itself,. It's one of those places I drive past fairly regularly, and which I have of course visited before,  but not for a while.

 
Of course, on a beautiful, sunny, September  Sunday it was very busy, but  one of the advantages of the fact that you cannot go into the circle itself is that no-one else can either, so provided you're willing to wait for a break in the crowd you can get an uninterrupted view.

 
And, strangely (to me, anyway) a surprising number of people come, pay to get in, and  yet don't bother to walk the whole way around the henge, so around the far side it is less crowded.                            
And even with a crowd, it is a pretty impressive place, paticularly when you think it was built at least 3,600 years ago by people for whom bronze tools were still and undiscovered technology...

 
When I left, it as still gloriously sunny, and I had half the day ahead of me, so ather than go home, I decided to do a little more in the way of Ancient Monument Inspection.
(to be continued...)

marjorie73: (Default)
More rain, today, definitely no chance of anything outdoorsy, so we opted for the long, lazy lie-in (We finished breakfast at around 11, I believe, then went to Bideford, where they were holding a Quilt exhibition at the town museum.

Patchwork & Quilting being  something which my mother is interested in, it seemed like an interesting thing to see.



Some of the quilts were what I think of as being more traditional quilts which might even be used on bed, others were definitely art quilts suitable for hanging on the wall.

We also looked at the rest of the museum, which has Bideford's Royal Charter granted by Elizabeth I, and pottery made by the potteries which used to be in Barnstaple and Bideford, one of which my Granmother worked for before her marriage.

We finished with a quick trip to Westward Ho!, to wander by the sea, but as it is a very pebbly beach, and it started to rain shortly after we arived, we had only a VERY brief walk, before heading home for a relaxed evening.

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