Walking in Naples – i

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I fell in love in the side streets of Naples. In love with Naples.

I’d been told that if I love the north of Italy, the south would prove be a revelation. Some people love it, some hate it, but no one is indifferent. First the Greeks then the Romans found a home here, followed by a plethora of kings and duke and princelings, each leaving in their wake a city awash with a vibrant cultural and artistic legacy.

Fishing on the breakwater - ah, the Mediterranean lifestyle.

Fishing on the breakwater – ah, the Mediterranean lifestyle.

Our boat sailed in at dawn, past the backdrop of Vesuvius. Arriving by boat is a great way to see the Mediterranean. These places have been ports since the dawn of time, and old cities and towns cluster along the shoreline. You see the city through the eyes of the sailors and fishermen who have plied these waters for centuries, hear it through the voice of Homer who wrote of this coastline and islands.

Naples Bay is reputedly the birthplace of the Sirens. Although the age of the city remains unclear, mythology has it the city was built on the site where the body of the siren Parthenope washed ashore. (She drowned herself when her songs failed to entice Odysseus, a man so readily enticed.) A town was probably founded by Greek colonists, perhaps as early as the 10th C BCE, which became a thriving city before the rise of the Rome.

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A Traveller Not A Tourist In Rome

100_0359 copyWhat To Do In Rome When You Feel You’ve Done Everything


A Place to Sleep – Staying in A Convent


Once the heavy wooden door closed, I stood surrounded by silence. Flying anywhere from Australia takes a long time, and after a night and a day and a night I was exhausted. Eventually I emerged from that metal cocoon into the chaos of Rome. Tired and befuddled, I was soon in a taxi, with the driver careening down tiny streets where footpaths were more a suggestion than reality.

Double-parking on the wrong side of the road, the taxi dropped me on the Via Sistine. The convent was just a short walk from the top of the Spanish Steps. Once inside, the world became peaceful. Large wooden doors shut out the chaos of the street, and I stood in the quiet of a marble foyer.

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A Train Station In Japan



The Zen of Japanese Trains



Waiting on an empty station

Without warning, the train pulled to a stop and refused to move. I had no idea where I was. I hoped I was still en route to Koya-san, Japan’s holy mountain. Here sleeps the Kobo Dashi, revered for bringing Shingon Buddhism to Japan, and who has spent the last one thousand years waiting for the Buddha of the Future. Monks still bring food twice a day to his mausoleum, the Oko-In.

Catching a train in Japan boarders on a leap of faith. At every station the signs are a complex system of interlocking lines in a rainbow colours, and what little I could read proved no help. I was never entirely convinced that either the train or myself knew where we were headed.

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From A Paris Balcony by Ernest Dimnet – A Review

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How could I resist such a title? I’m not sure where I bought this book; wherever I go I frequent second hand bookshops, stalls at markets, op-shops; anywhere that offers something interesting to browse. The unadorned cover called to me, and I paid all of $1.00.

From A Paris Balcony – what a delightful phrase. How could I not be intrigued?

True to his word, Ernest Dimnet did indeed observe Paris from a balcony. The balcony in question was at the Hôtel Belgiojoso. This can still be seen in the Montparnasse area of Paris, and Dimnet describes the place as “graceful and yet robust, classical but imaginative, mellow in its comparative youth”.

Who could not be enchanted by such a place or writing style: “When September comes, and the early Parisian autumn begins to strew the shrubbery with the ivory balls of the symphorine…”

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Rediscovering the Elegance of Travel

A Traveller Not A Tourist

Lugging my bags over the cobbles of Venice I vowed never to travel again with an ocean

The perils of heavy bags in Venice

The perils of heavy bags in Venice

of luggage in tow. The essence of elegance is, after all, simplicity. To travel lightly and so leave a small footprint benefits not only the environment but also the soul.

The problem was amplified by the fact I was in charge of my mother’s bags as well as my own. And it was raining – the only rainy day of the whole trip. There is always a time when travelling when you have to manage your bags yourself – not just over cobblestones, but lifting onto trains or buses, boats, or struggling to the second floor of a hotel with no elevator. The boot of a hired car is rarely spacious, and I don’t like tripping over bags in a hotel room.

So now I have some basic rules:

i) if I can’t lift my bags myself, I’m taking too much.

ii) if I can’t lift my bag over my head (to put on a rack in a train, for example) I am taking too much. Taking a bag down from a height can be just as difficult as lifting one.

iii) if I have to put down my carry bag and rest after 10 minutes of walking, I am carrying too much. Airports and railways involve a lot of walking.

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The Dog of Bruges

 My hotel window opened onto one of the many canals criss-crossing Bruges. I sat on the

window seat, watching the tourist barges putter past. Under the autumn sun the water sparkled. Across the way, the occasional horse and carriage passed by. Willows graced the banks, and footbridges arched just high enough for the barges to pass. Some swans came to the window, looking for offerings from my afternoon tea.

The Groenerei (or Green Canal) is one of the old town’s major waterways, and was only two bridges away from our hotel. As I walked along it the next morning I was surprised to see a golden retriever pawing at a window of the Côté Canal Hotel. Unseen hands opened the latch and spread out a quilt, and the dog made himself quite comfortable lying across the window-sill, soaking up the sun as he watched the world go by. This was my first sighting of the famous Dog of Bruges. Every morning he gets into place as the tourist boats start up for the day. Apart from appearing in the photos of every tourist who passes, he has even starred in both TV commercials and movies (including a two second cameo for In Bruges).

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