The Black Madonna of Montserrat perched high above the congregation. Hand outstretched, she rested on an ornate throne decorated with Venetian mosaics. From where I sat I could see people kissing her, with the queue of waiting pilgrims stretching back down the stairs, into the Santa Maria de Montserrat and out the door. The basilica is dark and spacious, filled with candles and gold, shadows and incense. The voices of the famed boys’ choir filled the air.
Wings outside a cathedral. Nothing unusual about that. Not for Venice, anyway.
Her streets may be thronged with tourists, but the city is alive with those who live and work here – simply rise at dawn and wander through the fish markets behind the Rialto, or have a quiet coffee with the locals in a backstreet cafe before they head off to work and you realise how many people live in this place of no cars.
Despite being so close, I find the lands of Australia and New Zealand are so different. Three hours by plane (it takes me five hours to fly from Sydney to Perth) and suddenly the landscape is long and thin, with snow-topped mountains reaching towards my plane. Even the light of New Zealand is different.
Dubrovnik is a town which rises beyond its reputation. Even when drowning under a sea of summer tourists, as cruise boats arrive by the score and unload their passengers, there is much to do here, and places to escape the sunburnt crowds. Aside from the beauty of the Adriatic lapping at her feet, and the wealth of museums and sights within the town (not to mention her cafés and restaurants), side streets stretch off in all directions, begging to be explored. There are hidden nooks at every turn, lined with ancient houses and walls of crumbling stone.
So far this month I have made 50 cents selling my photos online. With so many blogs boasting of how they’ve retired to the Bahamas on their earnings, I’m finding my foray into the field pretty exciting.
I stood in the middle of London on a summer’s day listening to birdsong. Sparrows and other small birds hoped around me and darted through the undergrowth. A breeze cooled by the foliage softened the heat. The sounds of traffic were barely audible. Some people from the nearby offices sat amongst the stones and vines eating their lunch, nodding to us as we wandered by.
London in summer continued to surprise me. With only two days I planned to show my daughter a range of places, from the old to the new, from the hidden to the startling obvious (yes, Big Ben was included). Common tourist sites are popular because they’re great places to go – but there are always other places well worth hunting down. Half the delight is in the contrast between them – followed by lunch at a nearby pub.