The Black Madonna of Montserrat

 THE Black Madonna of Montserrat

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.

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The Allure of Unusual Venice.

Unusual Venice

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.

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On Discovering a Painting by Vasari

On Discovering a Painting by Vasari

 

I know of Vasari largely through his Lives of the Artists (considered the first work on art history). I read this once in Florence, and it brought to life the works adorning the city around me. Born in 1511, Giorgio Vasari lived in Florence through the High Renaissance, and was befriended by Michelangelo; he knew many of the men whose biographies (and gossip) he recorded in his seminal work.

Vasari was also an architect – hence the eponymous Vasari Corridor in Florence. He designed the Loggia for the Palazzo degli Uffizi, as well as the corridor connecting Uffizi to The Pitti Palace across the Arno.

Yet I did not expect to stumble across one of his paintings in the port of Livorno.

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Snake Season in Hong Kong

 

Apparently it’s snake season in Hong Kong. So The South China Morning Post informed me.

Despite having found a traditional snake shop hidden away in Central, I have never really though of Hong Kong as a place for snakes. Australia, yes. We have more than our fair share of venomous creatures, and I once sat on a red-belly black when nine months pregnant (another story). As we’re always telling visitors here, everything in Australia wants to kill you. But Hong Kong is a city of high rises, not snakes.

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The Light of New Zealand

 

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.

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St. Francis in Dubrovnik

Franciscan monastery, Dubrovnik

 

The Franciscan Monastery of Dubrovnik

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.

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