This chapter will cover my (our) various activities from age about 47 to 57. So the major subjects covered will be redundancy/retirement, holidays, Munchkin's demise, arrival of Pippa and anything else that comes to mind.
Throughout the late 80s, and in the early 90s, British Aerospace was in a state of flux and workers were being laid off in their thousands. In October 1992 I, with lots of others in the computing department, received a formal notice of redundancy, effective from the end of the year. After much kerfuffle this was delayed until the end of April 1993 and, at the start of December, it was rescinded. Others were not so lucky as wave after wave of reorganization took place. Computing departments at other BAe sites were closed and one of our tasks was to take over the other systems, modifying them to suite our own methods if possible. It was not a pleasant job interviewing other systems programmers to pick their brains before they were put on the scrap heap. But all the time, you couldn't help thinking "this could happen to me".
In January 1993 I was promoted to Principal Systems Programmer and, in August of that year I received a long-service award (a camera, rather than a clock). In November it finally happened (after a fashion) - it was announced that we were all going to be outsourced to another company, but would continue to do the same job for the same money. On the 1st April 1994 we were transferred to CSC, an American company who had gobbled up people like us many times before. We were not happy. Some people (mainly senior) would be kept on as members of BAe staff, and some would be offered early retirement. In July 1994 CSC announced that it was going to consolidate all the data centres into one - and it wouldn't be Stevenage, but Bristol (Filton). Most of our operators would be let go, but just a few would be transferred to Bristol (if they agreed); but us systems programmers would continue to support Stevenage software from Stevenage. In July and August of that year CSC were doing consultancy work for Railtrack (British Rail IT people had, like us, been outsourced) and I had to travel to Crewe several times - since Railtrack no longer exists, I have no idea what happened. In October 1994 CSC announced a series of redundancies, and asked for volunteers. I asked for such severance and, in February 1995, this request was granted - but no date was given (it was explained that the move of Stevenage mainframe systems to Filton had to be completed first). In March and April we moved the systems from the commercial mainframes (all systems were closed down, backups of all the disk packs were taken, ferried down the motorway, and restored onto brand new kit, then the mainframe connected to this kit was started up (network reconfiguration taking place at the same time) - it all worked a treat, hardly anybody noticed the change. Of course, you had some very sleepy sysprogs on your hands - we had been working through the night down at Filton. So, at the end of May I was formally made redundant and received a lump sum and a pension from CSC. They had promised that the monies woukld be exactly the same as if we had been made redundant from BAe. It wasn't so - they hadn't really understood the BAe redundancy system (and I had documentation to prove it). After much hassle I eventually got what I was due - they were not very happy (but I was).
I was now officially unemployed (even though I was receiving a decent pension) so I had to look for work (or I would lose my state benefits). This meant going to the Jobcentre, filling in forms and being interviewed by clerks who knew that there was no job available for me. I read the computing papers and sent off my CV like a good boy. Eventually, one of the companies (Tesco) invited me for an interview, then offered me a job (as a DBA at their headquarters in Welwyn Garden City). It seemed to be quite a good job (with a salary only a little less than I had been getting at BAe), and the people were all very friendly, so I accepted, joining in June 1996. After a slow start, I got into my stride and really enjoyed the work and the people. But I was also missing the free time of being "retired". They were happy for me to work part time (this had been discussed at the interview) and I reduced to four days a week in January 1998, and to three days a week in August. In September of that year I received a phone call from a manager at BAe - "Would I like to come back and shepherd the IMS systems through the year 2000?". Like a fool, I said yes and left Tesco and rejoined CSC for a fixed term contract. I hated it - I could no longer do things my way, and the CSC project managers treated me like dirt. Luckily I was on one week's notice - so I left, and have been properly retired ever since.
Meanwhile, the closure of the Warren Spring Laboratory had been announced in early 1993 and Maureen was offered early retirement on the 10th January 1994. Since the only alternative was relocation to Oxfordshire, she accepted (Bernard Bushby was too young for early retirement so relocated). A closing-down "do" was held on the 30th March followed by a meal (at the local Harvester) in the evening. Maureen signed on for her unemployment benefit on 7th April and was sent on a Job Review Course in October - but by then she was truly retired, going to yoga classes etc. WSL was later demolished and Glaxo are now on the site.
|WSL group photo|
One evening, shortly after I had rejoined CSC, I was on the PC upstars when Maureen called me down. Munchkin was walking round and round the living room like an automaton. After some experimentation we realised that she coudn't see. The next morning we took her to the vets - he said that she had had a stroke and would probably be OK if looked after. He prescribed a low-dose aspirin. However, she had a couple more strokes and eventually couldn't stand up. We took her to the vets and, very sadly, had her "put to sleep".
|Pippa as a kitten|
This was a coach tour of the South of Italy run by the late-lamented Magic of Italy company.
Saturday 5th May - We got a taxi to the station at six o'clock then, via Kings Cross, Victoria and the Gatwick Express and enormous queues at Gatwick, we checked in at 8.40 and eventually took off at 10.10. Breakfast was sausage, bacon and mushrooms, roll and marmalade, tea. We landed, with a bump, at Napoli at 1.30 local time, the coach setting off at 2.30 (with a strange bunch of fellow travellers) down the motorway towards Bari. Lots of broom and nice wild flowers on the way, we stopped at a service station for a drink (spremuta di pompelmo (M) cappuccino (J)) and arrived at the Hotel Trani about six. Dinner (tables for six) was penne, veal in a neapolitan sauce, salad, fresh fruit, vino bianco and water.
Sunday - After breakfast the coach set off south, along the coast to Bisceglie. A pair of locals was consulted about how to get to Castel del Monte, and we had to stop and ask two more times before we got there (In case you need to know, it's on the SS170 (near the SP234) south of Andria). It was built for Frederick II, and is octagonal with a central courtyard - interesting, if rather strange. We made our way back to Trani, stopping at a bar for a gelato (melone e fior-di-latte) on the way. We looked round the cathedral and the church of Santa Maria delle Scale then walked down to the port where there were stalls with fishermen selling their catches. We had lunch at "I Templari" - no menu, but shown a table from which we chose antipasto (lovely tender octopus, stewed peppers, sardines and other fried fish) - then shown a live lobster (refused) and a huge dish of macaroni (ditto) then just had a simple salad. We got lost on the way back to the hotel so asked a small boy "Sempre dritto!" - he was right. After a delay because a lady had had her bag snatched, the coach set off again, this time to Bitonto. We had a quick look at the old town, then went to the cathedral (Apulian Romanesque - very good). Onwards went the coach, getting lost again (this was the first time the tour had been held), meeting a herd of goats and long-legged sheep ("the politeness of Apulia") and stopping at Molfetta. After a drink at a bar on the front we looked at the Spanish-style church and had a quick stroll. Back late to the hotel, dinner was cappelletti, fritto misto, cheese, vino bianco and a glass of moscato di Trani; coffee in the lounge.
Monday - A late start because we had to stop at the police station to retrieve yesterday's snatched bag. We drove along the motorway into Bari and visited the church of San Nicola (told to leave all valuables in the coach). A lady (Welsh?) and her friend tried to get a taxi to the local war cemetery to see the grave of her husband, but there wasn't enough time. The statue of San Nicola, and several "relics" were on display ready for the festa in two days time. After a quick look at the crypt we went through the old town to the cathedral, the sacristan showing us the early Christian church underneath. We then drove to the castle of Frederick II (only four of us were under 60 so had to pay) - so so. Most people only wanted a snack for lunch so we drove to a nearby Motta and had a slice of pizza and a pastry. We then drove south and then inland, stopping near Locorotondo to look at a trullo that was being done up for modern habitation, then on to our next hotel, "L'Aia del Vento" in Cisternino - nicer than the last one. We had a little wander round the town, bought postcards, stamps and a bottle of water then back to the hotel for dinner - macaroni with peas, ham, funghi, cream and oregano, pork with mushrooms and chips, fresh fruit salad (M) cheese (J), local vino rosso - then coffee at the bar.
Tuesday - The coach set off quite early, got lost as usual, and we were dumped in the piazza in the middle of Lecce. Barbara (our guide) walked us to the recently restored church of Santa Croce (lovely golden sandstone, but a bit baroque for me) then on to the cathedral which was full of scaffolding - hideous. We made our way back to the piazza via a couple of other nondescript churches. We then had a lightning visit to the museum (some nice paintings but not much else) then back to the piazza for a snack lunch at a rosticeria. After lunch we visited the ampitheatre (tick) and bought a guidebook. In the afternoon the coach got lost on the way to Oria where we visited the castle and practised our Italian on some children. Had a drink at a bar (lemon-soda) and didn't have time to visit Ostuni (whoever designed this tour hadn't looked at a map!) so drove back to the hotel. Dinner was orecchietti in tomato sauce (I had seconds), cotoletta milanese & salad, cheese then coffee and sambuca at the bar (had to ask for the three coffee beans).
Wednesday - Weather fine and bright again, we set off the Egnazia (on the coast, south of Bari), visiting the Roman ruins and then walking round the headland - the Adriatic was a beautiful, clear blue - and the museum (nice mosaic pavements). We were shown round the necropolis by an Italian girl (difficult accent), then the coach took us just down the coast to Savelletri where we had a drink and looked at the stalls selling fish (zaragosa was £40,000 a kilo) - Antonio the driver bought insalata del mare for his lunch. We then drove to Alberobello (the "village of the trulli", and a god-awful tourist-trap where the people spoke German to us as they tried to lure us into the trulli/shops). We had lunch at a pizzeria and bought a postcard for my mum. Back at the hotel I got a stomach ache and had to take a paracetamol and lie down, Maureen got a few twinges later - avoid Alberobello if you can! Feeling a bit better, we went down to dinner - spaghetti with ham, a strange mixture of salad, tepid spinach, prosciutto, a small panzerotto, tasteless cheese - I didn't have any wine so Maureen shared with somebody else. Maureen woke up in the night with stomach twinges and had a paracetamol.
Thursday - Still feeling a bit tender, we packed our bags and had an early breakfast, setting off through Martina Franca, the outskirts of Taranto, then Castellaneta Marina eventually to Matera. After the usual rigmarole of finding where to park we walked to a bar for toilets and a drink (previously we had started a trend for lemon-soda, today we did the same for glasses of acqua minerale). The Carlo Levi exhibition was closed so we went straight to look at the sassi (ancient cave dwellings), several of which were still occupied - young couples waiting for a council flat can claim one just by putting up a door. Rainwater was the only safe source of drinking water, otherwise it's the river below and take your chance with cholera, typhoid etc. We had a snack at the local bar - ham and cheese sandwiches and a sort of cheese pie, water and a glass of vino. We then had a very long drive, via Potenza, to San Marco above Castellabate for our next hotel, the Approdo. Took ages for our cases to arrive and then there wasn't any water in the bathroom - had to ask for it to be turned on. We had to dust the wardrobe before we could unpack - I don't think this room had been used for some time. Dinner, eventually, was sartł di riso (a sort of flattened risotto of meat and cheese), roulades of pork (M) ham and cheese (J) (so so), vino rosso (although asked for rosatto). Avoided the "American piano bar".
|Maureen at Paestum|
Friday - After a horrible breakfast we set off for Paestum. We started off in the museum, being shown round by Dr Nunzio Daniele, who certainly knew what he was talking about, but whose English sometimes let him down. Then, after a short time to look round by ourselves, we were shepherded across the road to look at the two temples (mass of school parties). As we have been there before, I won't describe them again. After time for a drink, the coach set off for Santa Maria del Castellabate in time for lunch. We found a fish restaurant ("L'Arleccino") on the front (our guide and driver were there already - a good sign) - swordfish and pimentoes (J) frittura mista & insalata mista (M), very strong wine. Then the coach headed south down the coast to Velia - this was less commercially developed than Paestum. We walked up to Ponta Rosa and the Acropolis, then drove back to the hotel. At dinner (even worse than last night), whatever wine people had ordered all came uncorked; one lady complained and the waiter obviously stuck a cork in the bottle and then uncorked it again. They obviously had some sort of scam going.
Saturday - Breakfast was bread with square cheese and square ham. Off we went again, to the Hotel Sonia in Santa Maria del Castellabate, where the rep checked up on our flight (delayed). Eventually we made it to Naples airport and a bumpy takeoff. Made it home for sandwiches at Maureen's mum's, then picked up Munchkin.
This holiday was organised by Lancaster University Summer Programme, with Frank Salter as lecturer.
Saturday 11th August - The taxi came at five a.m., and we were at Gatwick Airport by seven (Munch to Mrs Goater's last night as usual). Frank was at the front of the queue, and we recognised several people from last year. After a delayed takeoff (9.45) we had a cooked breakfast, and arrived at Pisa airport at 12.30 local time, luggage taking an age to come onto the carousel. By the way, this was the first time that there had been any restrictions when flying - we had to put cameras and any electronic equipment in our hand luggage. No sign of the courier, but Frank found the coach and talked to the driver in French (their only common language). After stopping to ask several times, we eventually found our hotel (the Mediterraneo) in a side street of the commercal district south of the Arno. Our room was OK, if a bit small, and had a balcony with a view of a building site. After a short rest we set out to explore (we got the hotel manager to show us where the hotel was on our map), turning right and heading down to the river (green with algae). We came across a strange octagonal church (San Sepulcro) that was quite nice inside, then continued along the Lungarno Galileo Galilei to the small Gothic church of Santa Maria della Spina, set right on the river bank - rather like a wedding cake, with graceful spires. We then passed through the Logge dei Banchi (used to be wool and silk markets) and sat by the church of San Paolo a Ripa d'Arno (in scaffolding) before turning back towards the Piazza della Republica and buying ice-creams. We walked up and down the Corso Italia then went back to the hotel. Dinner was minestrone, slices of unknown meat with potatoes and salad, ice-cream, cheese.
|Flag waving in Siena|
Sunday - After an early, but nice, breakfast we set off on a day trip to Siena and San Gimignano (still without a guide/courier, but Frank was the only person bothered). We turned off the motorway at Poggibonsi (one of my favourite Italian placenames) arriving at San Gimignano about 10.30 (you could see its towers from afar). Domenico (the driver) dropped us off by the gate and arranged (in French) to pick us up again at 11.50. We walked up through the Piazza del Cistino to the Piazza del Duomo and looked at the frescoes in the cathedral. We bought tickets that covered all the museums and went into the Etruscan Museum (not much cop), the Museo Civico and the ornithological Museum. Beautuful black cat in a shop doorway, and a beautiful ginger and black one that didn't want its picture taken. We were then taken to Siena, being dropped off at the usual place and told to meet the guide in the Campo two hours later. The Campo was being prepared for a Palio so we had lunch in the posh Ristorante da Guido some way away - ravioli al burro e salvia (excellent), mezzo bianco (served in a jug on a silver gilt coaster - the Italians at the next table had Chianti in an ice bucket), scallopine (M) cinghiale (J) (ditto both) (£59,000, which was cheaper than the menu turistico). The guide did not appear so we did our own thing. The Pinacoteca was closed (again) so we did the Duomo, then the Museo del'Opera Metropolitana next door. We climber a spiral staircase for the panorama then, as I was preparing to take a photo, my panama hat blew off and landed on a rooftop below (how will people know I'm English?). It started to rain a little later so we sheltered and watched some banner-waving. The rain got steadily harder so we went into a bar for a while, bought some riciarelli and panforte, then dashed for the coach. Dinner that evening was prosciutto e melone, chicken, fruit tart. It was a hot and sticky night so slept with no covering - Maureen got lots of mosquito bites.
Monday - After another nice breakfast (other people had bites as well) we had our first study session (Madama Butterfly), in a proper lecture room. It was very hot and stuffy; Frank found some fans but they had to be turned off during the music because of the noise. At lunch break we just bought some filled panini then bought some bottled water at the supermarket. After the afternoon lecture, dinner was soup, veal, fruit, cheese.
|Maureen at Torre del Lago|
|Maureen in Pisa|
Tuesday - The morning's lecture was Act I of Tosca, During the break I went to the bank down the Corso Italia and changed some traveller's cheques; Maureen popped into Upim for some insect repellent (didn't have any) then into a farmacia and got some. After a short lunch break (just a panino) we had a guided tour of Pisa (usual places) then we had some time to ourselves so we looked round the Camposanto, and then found a replacement hat. Early dinner was pea soup, meat with some sort of sauce, desert. Then the coach set off, and we reached Torre del Lago about 8.00 (on the way, Frank dished out a refund of £5,000 because of no guide in Siena). We walked down to the lakeside, past Puccini's house, and bought a souvenir programme with libretti for both operas (£12,000). You cross a bridge over part of the lake to reach the open-air theatre - there were two policemen with swords at the entrance. The performance was a bit mixed, some of the singers wern't particularly good and the "special effects" were a distraction; there was a second interval between acts II and III - I prefer them to be played as one with the "humming chorus" to link them. There was a bit of a scrum to leave, and we got back to the hotel about 1.30.
Wednesday - Lecture continued after breakfast, then we had lunch at the Spartaco Ristorante - fettucine ai funghi, insalata mista, vino bianco, minerale, coffee (£40,000). Tosca lectures continued in the afternoon, then dinner was pea soup, cold pork with capers and a sauce, torta. Off we went after dinner, arriving at 8.30 in plenty of time. The opera was very good indeed, though Tosca kept having trouble with the train of her dress, and her final leap wasn't very convincing.
Thursday - After a later breakfast, we went to Torre dell Lago, all trouping down to Puccini's hous where we were shown round together (the guide had nice slow Italian). After a little free time, we had an early lunch at Antonio's - ravioli ai nocci (delicious), insalata mista, mezzo bianco e minerale (£31,000). Then we rejoined the coach and were taken to Lucca where we parked in the Piazza Verdi. We walked up the Via San Paolino to the Via di Poggio and the Casa natale di Giacomo Puccini. Our Italian guide had been born in Liverpool. Then we walked round the corner to Piazza San Michele (nice church with elaborate facade) then the Piazza Napoleone and the Piazza San Martino to the Duomo (the tomb of Ilaria del Carretto is fenced off as her nose is being worn away by people touching it for luck). We walked through the town to the Torre delle Ore and had a drink, then to the Palazzo Guingi (tower with trees on top) and into the elliptical Piazza Antiteatro (on the site of a Roman ampitheatre). After visiting the Romanesque church of San Frediano we went out onto the walls and looked at the fortifications and walked back along the walls to the Piazza Verdi. Dinner, back at the hotel, was soup, rabbit with polenta, dessert.
Friday - Some people were having a trip to Florence today, but we just did our own thing in Pisa, lots of walking about visiting churches etc in the morning. We had lunch at Spartaco again - raviolo with a creamy mushroom sauce, fritto misto, insalata mista, mezzo bianco & minerale, coffee (£61,000). After a siesta we went to the Museo Nazionale di San Matteo (nice paintings upstairs), then walked back through the Giardini Pubblici. Dinner was soup, fish with salad & spinach, profiteroles, vino rosso (plus a bottle of prosecco per table).
Saturday - After breakfast, we packed and went for a short walk, then the coach took us to the airport. Plane diverted over Nice and up through France. Back eventually.
Tuesday 2nd July - Munchkin had been taken to Mrs Goater's yesterday as usual. The taxi came at 6.15 for the station; we got to Kings Cross at about 7.00, then it was Piccadilly Line to Heathrow at about 8.00 and booked in at the Swissair desk in terminal 2. Ate our sandwiches and had a drink. The delayed flight (in an Airbus 310) eventually took off at 10.50 and we were given a reasonable breakfast and landed at Zurich at 1.10 p.m. local time. We had to rush to get our train from the airport to Zurich Central, then found the right platform for the train going to Milan. The train announcements were in German / Italian until the St Gothard Pass, then in Italian / German. The train was quiet, smooth and seemed to be travelling slowly; the scenery was lakes and hills then mountains; we had a beer from the trolley that came round about 4 p.m. The rep (Christine Lee) met us at Lugano station, but our luggage would arrive on a later train (it missed the connection). A minibus took us to the Hotel Internazionale au Lac (on the lakeside but close to the centre of town) where, at reception, our Italian was ignored and we were firmly talked to in English. We had a small but pleasant room on the 3rd floor; we had a bath and changed into what spare clothes we had carried in our hand luggage and went down to dinner - salmon mousse/jelly, consomme with vegetables, turkey escallope, cheese, mezzo bianco & minerale. We went for a short stroll along the lungolago and called it a day.
Wednesday - After a reasonable breakfast (continental, with extras charged for), we looked round the hotel's garden (steep with terraces to sit on) then went out for a look round the town. The shops and restaurants look expensive. We sat in the rose bower of the Parco Civico for a while and went back and looked in the church of Santa Maria Degli Angioli (nice frescoes) then returned to the hotel to meet the rep (booked a few trips - but not St Moritz as it's on the day we fly home). We bought two focaccio topolino (cheese, ham, salad - 5 Fr) in a shop on the Piazza Riforma and some water in a supermarket - ate them in the Parco Civico. We walked on to Castagnola and the Villa Favorita but it was shut; so we walked back, buying a local newspaper and a drink of lemonsoda on the way. We sat on a wall in the park where a river flows into the lake - then bought some gelati and ate them strolling along the lakeside, then found a little park that had modern sculptures (including one by Jean Arp). Dinner was antipasti ticini, soup with beans and pearl barley, lamb chops with rosemary, fruit boats, rest of yesterdays wine and water.
|A Lugano miscellany|
Thursday - An early breakfast before the coach trip. A coach went round all the hotels picking people up (mostly English and German), then we were transferred to another one in Paradiso. At the Chiasso border our passports were checked - my European Union one was scrutinised but Maureen's nice, old-fashioned UK one was just waved away. At Como, we were set down in the square by the harbour and the guide gave us a quick tour of the cathedral (dark, with silk tapestries, nice rose window). Then we were escorted down the main shopping street and managed to escape when there was an "opportunity to buy" in a silk shop. We found the rather nice church of St Fedele then wandered back round to the cathedral, being accosted by an American lady who wanted to know what to do and see before her train left in 4 hours. We walked along the lunglago as far as the Tempio Volta but didn't have time to go in. We had a drink then wandered back to the coach and returned to Switzerland, being waved through at the border. Had panini in the park for lunch again then went to the Museo Cantonale d'Arte Lugano, mainly to see an exhibition celebrating the 700th anniversaty of the Swiss Confederation. Bought postcards and stamps then wrote them up and had gelati in the park on a bench with a lake view. Dinner was vegetable terrine with a sauce, consommé with egg custard, roast veal with zucchini etc., ananas with kirsch (undetectable), bottle of local Merlot. After dinner we walked into town and posted our cards then walked back through the jazz festival and had a coffee in a bar.
Friday - After breakfast we walked up to Paradiso and caught the funicular up to San Salvatore, having to change trains half way up. Then a five minute walk to the top and a climb up the church tower for a 360° view. The bar wasn't open yet so we went back down and walked back to the hotel. We had focaccio misto and water in the park for our lunch, then caught the coach for today's trip. It went through Paradiso then north up to Cadenazzo (the lowest point in Switzerland) and onto the plain of Magadino, crossing the Ticino river. At Lago Maggiore we turned up the Val Verzasca at Gordola, stopping for a photo opportunity at a hydrolectric dam. We continued up the valley, through the village of Vogorno, stopping at Lavertezzo then on up the valley to Brione and, finally, to Sonogno (a pretty village) where we bought postcards and a little jug (boccalino, since given away). We walked past the communal bread oven and up a country road by a river with mountains and little farms on either side - very hot, so we had a lemonsoda in a bar before returning. Dinner that evening was mushroom vol-au-vents, potage Léopold (dunno), grilled salmon steak, pear tart, rest of last night's wine and water. We went down to the Bar Cocodrilo for a coffee and called it a day (Maureen had swollen ankles and I had three bites there).
Saturday - After breakfast we went down to Lugano Giardino and bought boat tickets for Morcote (half price with Swiss Travel Card). We walked down to the park and back in time for the 10 o'clock boat ("Elvetzia"), sitting right at the front. The boat stopped at Paradiso, Melide, Melide Paese, Capolago, Poiana and Brussino before Morcote at 11.30. We climbed up to the church of Santa Maria del Sasso (nice frescoes, cool after the hot climb) then back down a more panoramic path. Lunch at the Ristorante al Batello was ravioloni, insalata mista, minerale (42 Fr). Sat for a while then walked up to the Parco Scherrer - very hot and sticky therefore lots of stops in shady spots. We had tč freddo at a bar on the way out then went back and sat on a seat by the lake and had gelati before the boat took us back at 4 p.m. Dinner was smoked trout with horseradish sauce, consommé, scallopine, caramel mousse. Had a passegiata then a coffee at a bar.
Sunday - After breakfast, we walked down to the Imbarcadero Lugano and bought boat tickets for Gandria (half price as usual). Walked to the park until the boat left at 10.30 and went via Paradiso, San Rocco, Caprino, Cantine di Gandria, arriving at Gandria at 11.15. We walked up and looked at the dark, dingy church. There wasn't much else to do so we decided to just get the next boat back - however, the several fish restaurants all looked good so we had lunch, plumping for that at the Albergo Moosman - insalata mista (with sauerkraut), filletti di pesce misti (M) coregone in a white wine and dill sauce (J), glasses of bianco and water, gelati (fatti in casa) (90 Fr but very good). We walked back to the jetty and got the 1.40 boat back. We went back to the hotel (Maureen's ankles swollen again), I changed into my shorts. We sat in the park for a while then went for a stroll. Dinner was carpaccio al pesto, potage Saint Germain (green pea soup to you), roast chicken, apple fritters with vanilla sauce, finished off last night's Neuchatel and started a bottle of Fendant Superior. Usual stroll and coffee.
Monday - Did a bit of shopping then got the funicular up to San Lorenzo (nice stained glass and frescoes) then made our way down to the town for iced tea and then lunch of focaccias in the park. Then it was time for the afternoon trip - the coach went into Malcantone then stopped at Cademario to visit some "botanical gardens" then on to Miglieglia. Maureen didn't fancy the chairlift, so we walked up and had another iced tea at the top. We walked down a shady "strada verde" in the direction of Novaggio, then back and had cassata in a cafe. The coach returned via a different route. Dinner (last one) was ham mousse, consommé with omelette?, braised steak, raspberry torte, finished up the wine & water. After doing most of the packing we went down to the Piazza Riforma where the silver band of the Guardia di Finanzia were playing (the announcer had wonderfull clear Italian). We stood and listened for an nour then had our usual coffee at the Bar Cocodrilo. The air was sparkling clear when we went to bed but we were woken up by a thunderstorm (and doors banging).
Tuesday - Had breakfast, paid our bar bill, then went for a stroll (there was a market in the Piazza Riforma), sat in the park for a while then bought focaccia to eat on the train. Coach to the station, the rep showed us how to validate our tickets. On the journey we bought a beer off the trolley and ate our focaccia and watched the scenery go by. Changed trains at Zurich Central and got to the airport in plenty of time. Bought a copy of "Oggi" and some "Toblerone" to use up our coins. The plane was only ten minutes late, and had Singapore Airline stewardesses - cold chicken curry, red wine (better than it sounds). Efficient baggage retrieval meant we were back in time to pick up Munchkin.
Wednesday 21st August - We took Munchkin to Mrs Goater's early, then I went to work and Maureen packed and did household chores. We got a taxi to the station just after 7 p.m. then train to Kings Cross and tube to Heathrow, and a courtesy bus to the Hotel Ibis for an overnight stay.
Thursday - Hotel bus to the airport at 6 a.m. then long queues at the Alitalia desk. The plane took off, only a quarter of an hour late, at 8.20 - substantial breakfast - arrived at Milano Linate at 11.05 local time and waited for a flight from Manchester. We were all then driven to our hotel ("Drago Center") at Assenza di Brenzone on Lake Garda (stopping for a panino at a motorway service station). Unpacked and went down to the bar for a quick drink, a short lecture and then an early dinner (spaghetti with a bacon and tomato sauce, roast beef, chocolate mousse). The coach got away just past six, stopping at Garda for Maria (guide) to pick up vouchers for our tickets. It was packed by the time we got in, but we managed to get reasonable seats at quite a low level. A nearly-full moon came out and then the opera (Rigoletto) started at 9 p.m. Our ears took some time to get used to the sound level, but we were OK by Act II. The singing was a bit mixed, but Gilda was very good. It ended about midnight, and we were back at the hotel before two (crickets chirping).
Friday - The lecture started with a post-mortem of last night's performance (we were seated in a different part of the arena from everyone else, and had seen several things that the others had missed). We had lunch at a ristorante just down the road - rigatoni con panna, pomodori & prosciutto, insalata, minerale. Had a quick wander round the town (doesn't take much time) then back to the hotel for a wine-tasting tour at 1.50. We picked up people at several stops on the way (Malcesine, Torbole and Riva) then we were off, up from Nago-Torbole into the Trentino-Alto Adige region, past Trento to Maso Rover. We had a quick taster of a Pinot Blanc then were shown around the vineyard to see the various grape varieties. Then it was back to the winery for a taster of a red, and panini with salami from the farm next door (they help each other out at busy times). A lecture on fermentation etc was followed by a single glass of a sparkling Moscato. We picked up our presentation pack of three bottles (some people bought extra) and we were back at the hotel by 6.30. Dinner was pasta, scallopine with funghi, fruit. Coffee at the local pizzeria, then back to bed with the sound of noisy crickets again (and some traffic noise as we are on the main road up the East side of the lake).
Saturday - After breakfast we had a trip, by private launch, to Sirmione. We crossed the lake and went down the west side, looking at several villas, including one of Mussolini's. Weather was warm and sunny, if a little windy on the lake; scenery got less mountanous as the lake broadened out. We walked down the main drag and then took a lower, panoramic route, ending up on the shore. Did some more wandering, and found the church of Santa Maria Maggiore (nice murals and modern stained glass). Getting rather hot by the time we returned to the boat; it set off back at midday, passing the villa on San Vigilio point where both Churchilll and Charles & Di have stayed, and getting back to the hotel at 1.15. Had lunch at the Ristorante Da Sole again - frittura mista, insalata, vino bianco, minerale. Frank's afternoon lecture was on Turandot, finishing early at 4.30 as some people were returning to Verona for a ballet. I popped down to the supermarket for more water, then had a swim in the hotel pool (rather cold). Dinner was tagliatelle al ragł, roast veal, rum & raisin ice-cream then went to Da Pippo's for coffee. Didn't join in the folk dancing in the street.
Sunday - This was a free day as most people were off to Venice. After a leisurely breakfast we went out for a walk, turning right by the church and up a road that turned into a mule track, up through olive groves with good views of the lake. Past the village of Sommavilla Pozzo it became obvious that the track was climbing for ever so we returned the way we had come. Bought a local newspaper (to see what was happening in the attempted Russian coup) then walked along the beach back to the hotel. After sitting in the garden for a while, we went to Da Sole's for lunch - tortellini con panna & prosciuto, insalata, vino rosso, minerale, cappuccino. After lunch Maureen washed her hair and I had a swim. Dinner was risi e bisi (meh), "cordon blu" (deep-fried ham and cheese), fruit.
Monday - An early breakfast for today's coach trip to the Dolomites, picking other tourists up at Riva, then heading along the Adige valley and up the motorway past Rovereto and Trento (flat country with the Predolomites towering above on both sides) - vineyards giving way to apple orchards. Non-stop commentary in English, German and Italian. We stopped at Ora for a coffee and strudel (German the predominant language). We then started to climb along the Val di Fassa but had to stop near Cavalese as one of the Italian ladies at the back of the bus was taken ill (ambulance called). Stopped for a photo opportunity at Rosengarten then arrived at Passo Pordoi where we had lunch at Maria's - polenta, salsicce & funghi, salad, beer - then a short walk (lots of wild flowers and butterflies, and definitely cooler). Back the way we had come, then turned up through Vigo di Fassa to the Carezza lake (photo stop) then back to the hotel just in time for dinner - tortelloni con panna & prosciutto (had seconds), trout, salad, finished up yesterday's wine & water. After dinner there was a heated discussion about when the excursion to Verona was (cancelled in the end).
Tuesday - Wrote postcards after breakfast and then went to Frank's morning lecture (more Turandot). Lunch was fuselli al tonno, salad, banana gelato. Frank finished off Turandot in the afternoon then we left reasonably early for Verona, having time to drive round the main sights (San Zeno, the Della Scala castle, the Adige bridges, Roman ampitheatre, cathedral). Walked to the Arena and picked up our tickets (prima gradinata today - some people had paid extra for poltroncine). We bought some panini and started to queue at 6.45 - weather clear but hot. We had reasonable seats, but I would prefer the seconda gradinata where you sit where you like. Everything about the opera was very good, staging, singing, acting - the late Ghena Dimitrova played the lead role. Had to wait to get in the coach back while the driver's lady friend made herself decent!
Wednesday - Did some packing after breakfast, then it was Frank's lecture on Nabucco. Lunch was spaghetti carbonara, pollo arosto, tiramisł, finished wine & water (bar bill £55,500 for the week). After the afrernoon lecture we bought some filled panini at the supermarket (made to order). Drove to Verona and picked up our tickets, queued up and eventualy found seats reasonably near the stage. Ate our panini and watched the performance (of the audience). The opera started at 9 p.m., and was very good (though the special effects were no better than at Preston), ending at 12.30 - back at the hotel by 2.
Thursday - Maureen finished packing and, after breakfast was the three hour drive to Milan airport then the flight was delayed by an hour and a half. Flew in over the white cliffs of Dover and got home eventually.
Saturday 11th April - There had been an IRA bomb in London so we decided to leave earlier than planned in case the Underground was affected. We caught the 8.53 from Stevenage to Kings Cross then the 10.00 Gatwick Express from Victoria, booking in at 10.45 without incident. There were long queues at security and passport control and then a long wait in the satellite building. The Dan Air flight eventually took off at 2.09 and arrived at Catania at 5.45 local time. Had to wait an hour for our luggage then there was a three hour trip to our hotel (Excelsior Palace) in Palermo. We dumped our cases then went down to a late dinner - prosciuto & mozzarella, cold chicken, ham & beef with tomatoes, cannoli.
Palm Sunday - After a nondescript buffet breakfast, we left at 9.30 with courier Alberto and local guide Nino (short for Antonino) to Monreale. You climb up from the coach stop to the cathedral - lots of opportunities to buy plaited palms and such. There was a service in progress so Nino told us what to look out for and let us loose. There was a very interesting procession as one service ended and a second began; the cathedral had very beautiful mosiacs. The earlier drizzle had ended and the sun came out as we left the cathedral and visited the cloisters (in restauro). We drove back to Palermo and had lunch in a pizzeria (with salad, mezzo bianco & minerale - £29,000 - very good). We had a little wander, visiting the Vergogna fountain and the Piazza Pretoria before returning to the coach. We then drove to Cefalł (on the north coast, east of Palermo), walking up from the seaside to the cathedral (strange). The symbol of Sicily is made from three legs, like that of the Isle of Man - the guide joked that they both represent seasons, and Sicily has no winter and the Isle of Man has no summer. You can't normally get fresh bread on a Sunday in Italy, but we saw it being sold from the backs of cars. We wandered back to the coach and returned to the hotel for dinner - conchilie al ragł, scallopine, mezzo rosso & minerale, fresh fruit salad, coffee.
Monday - After breakfast we had a little stroll before getting the coach at 9.00 and driving west along the motorway to Erice. We walked up through the town to a ruined castle where there would have been good views if it hadn't been misty, then through the so-called English gardens (friendly cat) and back through the town (useless museum) to the Bar Tupilano where we had very good cappuccinos. We then drove back to Segesta, having lunch at a small bar/shop/trattoria outside in the sun then going up to visit the Doric temple (very nice setting, with views over the Golfo di Castellamare and lots of wild flowers) and then across to the Greek theatre. Dinner that night was risotto con funghi, chicken with rosemary, tiramisł, vino bianco.
Tuesday - After breakfast (room full of Germans) we left for a tour of Palermo, visiting the cathedral and then the catacombs, then to San Giovanni degli Eremiti (garden full of citrous fruits - lovely smell) and the Cappella Palatina. We left at midday and drove south-west to Agrigento, stopping by the side of the road for lunch on the way (panini with prosciuto cotto & provalone, arancini) and arriving at 3.15. Alberto took us to the Museo Nazionale while he sorted out the hotel. We were picked up after an hour and taken to the Hotel Kaos (nice sea view); dinner was cavaletti with a tomato and aubergine sauce, involtini alla siciliana, insalata, fresh fruit. Early to bed because of an early start tomorrow.
Wednesday - An early 8 o'clock start - We picked up a local guide (Claudio) and went to the top of the Valley of Temples starting at the Tempio di Guinone (Juno) at the eastern end of the Via Sacra (good, interesting explanations by Claudio) then made our way along the sacred way, being shown (as well as the antiquities) acanthus (as in Greek decoration) and hemlock (death of Socrates). The Tempio della Concordia was the best preserved as it had been converted to a Christian church; next was a paleochristian necropolis, then a villa restored by one Alexander Hardcastle (Claudio had difficulty with that name) then, across the road, the final ruins of the Tempio di Giove, most of whose stone has been removed to build the port at Agrigento. At 10.30 we set off for the Roman Villa Casale near Piazza Armerina, stopping for lunch at a small trattoria. At the villa, the local guide only spoke Italian so Alberto translated. Aparently a large landslide had covered and therefore protected the mosaics - nicely laid out, with walkways above the mosaics, most of which were complete and all very interesting. At 3.45 we set off for Taormina, the countryside becoming less rugged with lemon and orange groves around Catania. Although it was sunny, the sky got darker as we neared the erupting Mount Etna and we had to divert up a hairy road with hairpin bends and had to transfer to the hotel minibus for the final part. We booked into the Hotel Jolly Diodoro (pronounced Yolly) at 7.15 and our luggage followed on, arriving just before dinner at 8.00 - ravioli di carciofi, pesce spada, torta, vino & acqua.
Thursday - After a large, very good, buffet breakfast we went for a walk through the local part of the town and then the giardini publici. Our fellow travellers were calling the hotel the "Jolly Deodorant". At 9.30 we were told that the Etna trip was cancelled and an alternative was to some gorges - we decided to do our own thing instead. We spent the morning investigating the town and doing some shopping, meeting groups of escapees now and again. We had lunch at "Mamma Rosa" - pasta con sarde (this is now something I make at home), fritto misto di mare (J) calamari alla siciliana (M), insalata, vino bianco & minerale, coffee (£51,000 - very good except for the accordion player). After a short siesta we had another little stroll and sat in the gardens until it got chilly. Dinner was very good - tortelloni in brodo (J) risotto con formaggio (M), scallopine alla Malfi (J) soglia con burro & limone (M), cassata alla siciliana (the cake, not the icecream), vino & acqua.
Good Friday - After a decent breakfast, the coach left at 8.00 for Siracusa, through dull, often industrial country in the drizzling rain, but the sun came out as we reached our destination. We picked up our local guide (Nino, an elderly gentleman with a sense of humour) who took us to the Tempio di Apollo, then through Ortigia to the cathedral (very old, originally a temple to Athena, very nice), then back through Piazza Archimede and a market to the coach that took us back to the mainland. On the way to the Greek theatre the guide pointed out a nespolo tree (he translated it as loquat, but I think it should be medlar). After the very large, and well preserved Greek theatre we went to the Latomia del Paradiso (ancient quarries) then the Roman ampitheatre (with a sort of pool in the middle to flush the blood away). We had lunch in the trattoria next door - macaroni alla siciliana (M) ditto arrabbiata (J), mezzo bianco & minerale (£25,000). After lunch we were taken to the papyrus museum (very interesting and everybody escaped without buying any!) then back to the hotel just at 5.15, when we went out for a cappuccino and a "n'zuddo" (hard almond biscuit) standing up at a bar. At seven we went out to watch the Good Friday procession but missed the cross and the local saint in his coffin so went back for dinner - macaroni ai funghi, tuna braised in onions and tomatoes, some sort of dessert.
Saturday - Had a cooked breakfast then wandered into town and bought some Marsala secco and some marzipan fruits before having lunch at Mamma Rosa again - gnocchi alla neapolitana (one between us), insalata mista, involtini di pesce spada (J) frittura mista (including fish with heads) (M), mezzo bianco & minerale (£48,000). Then back to the hotel and sat in the lounge until it was time to go - left at 3.00 and got to Catania airport at 4.30. Long queue to check in then the flight left at 7.20 (lady pilot). I got into conversation with a young chap from Catania who was going to England. He was a student and interested in computing - he taught me various Italian terms (e.g. "scoglio" which means a submerged rock but also a bug in a program) and I explained the English currency and showed him the coins. Landed at 9.15 UK time and picked up our luggage at once. Home before midnight.
This was another walking holiday organised as part of the Lancaster University Summer Programme.
Sunday 26th July - Took Munchkin to Mrs Goater's yesterday as usual, remembering to tell her that she had had some teeth out recently and wasn't eating quite normally yet. We set off just after nine and reached Wetherby by midday, listening to the Headingly test match (against Pakistan) on the radio. We had lunch at the "Wharfedale Gate" in Ilkley again (scampi & chips (J) chicken marsala & rice (M)). We stopped again at High Bentham and ate some fruit while listening to the cricket, then continued to Lancaster, arriving about 3.30. We were allocated separate single rooms in Witherslack house (part of the John Creed building) that had en-suite facilities. Keith Percy gave his usual introductory talk, then dinner was a peppery minestrone, roast beef etc., apple crumble, cheese. Then we went to the course introduction - Paul Tolcher was leading this time instead of Ian Brody (there are only eight of us, plus Paul, his wife and their poodle). Went to the wine reception then called it a day.
Monday - Had an early breakfast, spoke to Ian Brody (doing Local Rambles, and about to give up teaching to become chairman of the Friends of the Lake District), then boarded the minibus and off we went just after nine. We parked in Grange-over-Sands and climbed up through Eggerslack Wood to Hampsfeld where we stopped for a drink (this was a similar walk to one we had done previously). There were a few drops of rain as we descended into Cartmel but they had stopped as we had lunch in the Royal Oak (open ham sandwich (M) cod in beer (J), chocolate fudge cake (M - hog!). It was a bit chilly but we warmed up climbing up through the golf course. Sat down at the top for a drink break and a view of Morecambe Bay. There was another short shower as we descended through more woods, and we ended up at the "Tea Trail" tea rooms (very good - I was tempted to a piece of carrot cake). Dinner that evening was melon, chicken Kiev (butter spurted everywhere), fresh fruit tartlet, cheese & grapes. Had a look in the book shop then went to the lecture on "Leisure Pursuits in the Early Nineteenth Century", then onto a team quiz (our team got 48 out of 60). Finally there was Frank Salter's "musical evening" - he talked and played CDs of overlooked or taken-for-granted pieces ("Entrance of the Queen of Sheba", "Scheherazade" etc.). Frank tells us that he will be taking an Italian opera trip to Torre del Lago and Macerata next year - we'll almost certainly go.
Tuesday - After breakfast we left in the minibus just after nine, driving to Settle (the way we had come) only just managing to park as it was market day. The walk started with a long, quite steep climb up a track and then through fields. There were good views over Ingleborough and you could see the copper cupola of Giggleswick School (where Russel Harty taught). The going was then gentle, over grassland, with good views (spotted some wheatears) and sunny weather that was not too hot. We went past Victoria Cave (where bones of pre-ice-age hippos and rhinos had been found) then started to descend into the village of Langcliffe for lunch - leek and potato soup, tuna sandwiches (M) ham sandwiches (J). The walking in the afternoon was easier but less picturesque, passing a giant lime kiln then down to the Ribble, following it back to Settle by 4 o'clock. Dinner was cheese and herbe paté, pork with apple sauce, coffee gateau, cheese. Maureen didn't have the legs for the barn dance, but we went to a crossword quiz (1 hour to do as much as we could of three different styles of crossword).
Wednesday - We set off, after breakfast, for Ambleside (Dan had a blister so didn't come; Tom came only to spend the day in Ambleside as he had hurt his ankle). We walked through the town, past a church and through some parkland then it was a climb first over tarmac then through a small wood and a rocky path through bracken. At the top we had a drink break with views of Windermere and Ambleside. The walking was then on the level and we came o a small tarn with water lilies, bog asphodel and cottontails. Descent was a bit rocky and Maureen was rather slow as usual. We passed Loughrigg Tarn and stopped for lunch at "The Oaks" - farmhouse platter (M) cheese platter (J), tea. The weather was cloudy and humid; we walked up a road then more rocky ground round Rydal Water to the slate quarry. Then we went down to the lakeside, up past Rydal Mount then back into Ambleside. There was heavy rain on the drive back but it cleared up in time for dinner - Florida cocktail, cold buffet, raspberry millfeuille. Afterwards I went to "Taste of Croquet" and Maureen went to "Gardener's Question Time". Then we both went to the Preston Opera Company's performance (with Frank as usual)
|Walking to Malham|
Thursday - After breakfast we set off to Settle again, then through Langcliffe and parked in a car park. We made the short walk to Malham Tarn then back to Malham Cove where we were met by a photographer from Lancaster University. We walked over a limestone pavement (part of the Pennine Way), down steps and into Malham village itself, having lunch at Beck Hall - ham sandwiches, strawberries & cream(M) spice cake (J). We then walked through the village and up a long road that was steep in places then over grass and some rocky bits to the minibus. Had a look at birds on the tarn, then back to Lancaster. Dinner was vegetable soup, braised steak (tough), meringue nest, cheese. Maureen went to a yoga taster and I went on a canal walk with Ian Brodie (ended at the "Stork" public house).
Friday - A full complement today; we drove to Skelwith, walked down the road and took a footpath back along the river to Elter Water with a view of the Langdale Pikes. We walked on through woodland to Elterwater village, stopping there for a drink and "comfort break". Then up again, mostly through woodland, past slate quarries and a potash pit and through a few field to the "Three Shires" for lunch - quiche & salad (J) Lancashire cheese ploughman (M). We walked towards Wetherlam and then through woods and fields to Colwith bridge and then on to Skelwith bridge where we looked round the Kirkstone gallery then it as back to Lancaster. Met Ian Brodie and Frank Salter at the sherry reception then dinner was avocado (insipid), chicken with mushroom and rice (boring), profiteroles, cheese.
Saturday - Uneventful drive home except for some roadworks.
Friday 18th June - Yesterday we had taken Munchkin to the Grey Shingles Cattery near Mardley Hill as Mrs Goater was on holiday - she seemed to settle in OK. Today we woke up early and the taxi came at 8.00 for the station. London was in the middle of the rush hour and everwhere was crowded, but we eventually got to Heathrow at 9.45. I always set of the alarm and get frisked. On the plane the Italian announcements were easier to understand than the English ones. Decent flight and good food; luggage came off quickly and we were whisked away to a motor taxi with another couple. They were dropped off near San Marco and we came round past the Salute, down a bit of the Grand Canal and then the Rio San Vio, stopping in front of the Hotel American where a Citalia rep met us. Our room was on the "primo piano", and was rather small. After unpacking we went for a stroll, down to the Zattere then turning off through tha Campo Agnese, had a quick look at the Gesuati ("in restauro") then back along the Zattere to the Stazione Marittima. We branched off inland and visited the church of San Trovaso (in the shape of a Greek cross) and looked at the "squero" (gondola repair yard). We then got a bit lost, and ended up in the Campo San Margherita where there were signs pointing to the Ponte Accademia. We walked back and had a look at the flat we were in last time then past the Guggenheim and to the hotel. After freshening up we went out for a pizza at the "Ristorante alla Zattere" then walked along to the Dogana and back to the hotel.
Saturday - Woke up to another sunny day with boats delivering goods and removing rubbish in the canal outside. Breakfast was slow to come and not very exciting. There was a French couple who actually spoke Italian to the waitress (a virtually unknown phenomenon). We walked down to the Zattere, bought our vaporetto tickets then got one over to the Giudecca. We turned left and walked down the Fondamenta right to the end where there were a couple of small exhibitions that were part of the Biennale - but they wouldn't be open for another hour and a half. We went "inland" and walked back through old and then modern flats where people were delivering new telephone directories everywhere. Popped into the Redentore then found a small park with a view of the Lido, then a nice-looking restaurant ("Altanella") that we earmarked for lunch. We stopped at a bar for a drink then visited the church of S. Eufemia (nice gold triptych), carried on past a group of photogenic cats and looked at the menu outside "Harry's Dolce" - rather steep so we returned to Altanella (not cheap but good value for money) getting a table on a little terrace overloking a canal - spaghetti alle seppie nere (M) polipetti (J), orata (M) seppie nere & polenta (J), inslata mista, mezzo bianco & minerale, sat for a while, formaggio (shared), cafe (£92,500 but very good). We caught a ferry back to the the Zattere then back to the hotel for a siesta. We set out again about 4.00 and walked past the Accademia through to San Polo (paintings by Tintoretto & Veronese and the "Way of the Cross" by Tiepolo (coins for illumination). We passed the Ponte dei Pugni (marble footprints) and looked into San Pantalon then ended up at the Riva del Vin by the Rialto then worked our way back to the hotel. For dinner that night we went to "Ai Cugnai" (same two ladies and old man running it) - tortellini in brodo (J) gnocchi al pomodoro (M), cotelette alla milanese (J) scallopa alla marsala (M) - plates turned up haphazardly - mezzo rosso & minerale (£55,000)
Sunday - Loads of French people at breakfast. We set off, on another hot and sunny day, just after 9.00, over the Accademia bridge and looked into the church of San Stefano (ceiling like a ship's keel) then went on to Campo San Angelo and through to Campo Manin. At the Rialto we continued north towards the Strada Nova, making a detour to look at the church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli (in restauro), past La Maddalena (only round church in Venice, also in restauro). At the top of the Strada Nova we turned right to the Ghetto and sat in the piazza for a rest. We had a look in the museum (quite small) and then had a guided tour of the synagogues (had to wear a skullcap, quite interesting). We started to walk back and were captured by the patron of a snack bar and had a simple lunch of panini (very tasty, £10,000). We walked on to the Gesuiti then on to the Fondamenta Nova, where we sat and decided what to do next. We walked along the Fondamenta and turned inland into the Campo S.S. Zanipolo with the statue of Colleoni. We popped into the Scuola di San Marco where there was an art exhibition then sat outside at a cafe and drank a té freddo until the church of S.S Zanipolo (San Giovanni & San Paolo in Venetian) opened. It is a large, brick church with lots of tombs and monuments to doges - the Bellini polyptych was being restored. We went on to the Campo Santa Maria Formosa (church closed) and then through the Piazza San Marco, on to the Accademia bridge and home. We went to the "Agli Alboretti" restaurant, behind the Accademia, for dinner and were shown through to a sort of covered garden at the back - risotto ortolano (carrots, peas, zucchini), fegato alla veneziana (M, melted in the mouth) nodino di vitello with herbs (J), bottle of Bardolino (no carafe or half bottles) & mezzo minerale, coffee (£123,500 but very good).
|Maureen writing her diary|
Monday - After breakfast we set off, over the Accademia bridge, through to the Campo San Maurizio and looked in the church of Santa Maria Zobenigo (large paintings) then through to the Fenice where we looked at an expensive restaurant where the opera stars eat. Looked into the church of San Fantin (nothing special) then back past Harry's Bar into the public gardens and sat watching several ladies feeding the cats. We walked along the Mole to the Riva degli Schiavoni then through a little sottoportego to the Campo San Zaccaria (nice Bellini in the church). Next door was a moden art exhibition ("Artisti Dopodomani", not much cop). We went into the Istituto Elenco (next door to San Giorgio dei Greci, lots of nice icons but very hot and humid). We went back to the Fondamenta and had to shelter from a brief shower then walked on towards the Arsenale and popped into an offshoot of the Biennale (strange, but we survived). We walked down the Via Garibaldi and had a substantial snack lunch of schicchiale filled with prosciuto and salad then walked through the Giardini Pubblici to the Biennale itself. The national pavilions varied greatly - some were really good and others were total rubbish. After about three hours we escaped and walked back along the Fondamanta, stopping for ice-creams, skirting the Piazza San Marco and looking at the "snail staircase" at the Palazzo Contarino del Bovolo. We returned to the hotel via the Accademia bridge then, after a rest and a shower, went out to dinner practically next door at the Cantinone Storico, sitting inside by an open window - tagliatelle al ragł (M), raviolini ditto (J), San Pietro mugnaia, creme caramele, coffee (£67,000).
Tuesday - (25th Wedding Anniversary) - After breakfast we walked along the Fondamenta towards the port then wandered around by the Angelo Raffaele, the Ca' Zenobio then north parallel with the Campo San Margherita and on to the Scuola Grande di San Rocco (loads of Tintorettos on three floors). We then wandered almost as far as Piazzale Roma and sat in the Giardino Papadopoli for a while. Then we walked along the Fondamenta San Simeone Piccolo (one of the few places that you can walk along the Grand Canal) and, on the way to the vaporetto stop, found a little pizzeria ("All'Anfora"). So we went in and sat in the garden at the back - had calzoni (swapped halfway through), mezzo bianco & minerale (£33,000). We decided not to go back by boat so went to the Campo San Giacomo dell'Orio and sat in the shade for a while. Then we went to the church of San Stae that was open as part of the Biennale (floor converted into a white, raked platform - but is it art?). Then we worked our way along the Grand Canal past Ca' Pesaro (closed for June), the fish market (shut) and the church of San Giacametto (oldest in Venice), eventually back to the hotel. For our anniversary dinner we went back to Agli Alboretti (as we would for some future ones) - prosciutto e melone (M) carpaccio con funghi (J), scallopine alle ciglieie (M) cappe sante a Marco Polo (with cream and saffron, J), golositą di Torcolano (glass of sweet wine & dipping biscuits) (M) latteria vecchio (J, but we shared both), bottle of prosecco, acqua, coffee (£144,100).
Wednesday - I nipped out to get a local newspaper before breafast to check on the weather forecast (localised heavy rain). It was sunny with a clear blue sky as we walked all the way to the Fondamenta Nova and caught a No. 5 to the cimiterio at San Michele (boat full of ladies with flowers) - very large, and quite interesting - we found most of the famous graves. Came back and walked along to the Gesuiti, then back and inland to Campo Santa Maria Formosa (nice painting by Vivarini (with a free light switch)) then wiggled through to the Ca' Querini Stampalia where we got into the museum with reduced-price tickets (did they think we were students or OAPs?). There was an exhibition of painted bronze sculpture by the American artist John Seward Johnson II (very good). We had a snack lunch at a bar back in the Campo Santa Maria Formosa, after which we meandered (with Maureen navigating) to the Campo San Lorenzo (shady seats, lots of cats) then the Campo Bandiera & Moro then to the Arsenale where we found a fountain to wash the apricots we had bought. We didn't know where the Arsenale part of the Biennale was, and got lost looking for it ending up at San Francesco della Vigna where we sat for a while listening to the organ - then found we were locked in, but managed to find a side door and escaped. We went back to the Arsenale and found the Biennale, spending over two hours there (mostly very good). Walked back along the Riva and had another ice-cream, then got back to the hotel just as the heavens opened. After waiting for the thunder and lightning to subside we went out to the Trattoria San Trovaso for dinner - rigatoni San Trovaso (M) tortelloni primavera (J), frittura mista (M) ossobuco ai funghi (J), mezzo bianco & minerale, coffee (£67,000). Got back before the rain returned.
Thursday - Another hot, sunny day and, after breakfast, we went and sat by St George's English chuch facing the Grand Canal and wrote postcards, then walked along to the Salute and looked at the menu outside "Ai Gondolieri" (thought we might try it tonight). Then we walked past the Guggenheim, looked at a glassblower at work in his little workshop, then over a wooden bridge back to the Salute for a visit. Then back to the hotel to consult our address book (for the postcards), then off again, over the Accademia bridge to the Ca' Gustinian for another bit of the Biennale (so so) and the Palazzo Grassi (exhibition by Marcel Duchamp but we didn't bother). We saw a shop that had wonderful wooden scultures of things like woman in a shower, pair of pants hanging from a washing line (no prices!). Then we went to the Fortuny Museum where there was a Peter Greenaway exhibition (good in parts, but mostly video) and escaped in time for lunch at a self-service near the Rialto that was filled with Italian offce workers (panino, plate of prosciuto, ditto of cheese & tomato, salad, bottle of water (£17,000)) (by the way - it's the second one you come to downstream of the Rialto bridge on the San Marco side, and is very reasonable with a good selection). Back to the hotel for a short pause then back out to the Campo San Agnese for a sit. We did a bit of (food) shopping and looked in the famous "Ricordi" music shop. Then it started to rain so we dashed back to the hotel before it got worse. We went out for dinner just after 7.00 but Ai Gondolieri didn't open till 8.00. We were quite hungry so went back to Cantinone Storico - tagliatelle al ragł (M) affettato italiano (J), frittura mista dell'Adriatica (M) seppie alla veneziana with polenta (J), creme caramele (M) macedonia (fresh, J), mezzo bianco & minerale, coffe & amaretto (M) sambuca (J) (£80,000) (waiter talked to us in French because he thought we were Dutch !?).
Friday - Blue sky with flufy clouds. We got up early, finished packing and took our suitcases downstairs and had breakfast. The water taxi came (with the Citalia rep) just after 8.00 and took us to the airport, stopping near San Marco to pick up another Citalia employee). [By the way - it is no bother just to get a vaporetto to Piazzale Roma and then an ordnary bus to the airport. That's what we do now.] Uneventful flight and trains got us back home about 1.30. We picked up Munchkin in the afternoon and the lady complained that she had fleas - we won't take her there again.
This was another opera study tour organised by the Lancaster University Summer Programme.
Sunday 8th August - We had taken Munchkin to Mrs Goater's yesterday as usual. The taxi arrived at 6.15 a.m. and took us to the station; train and tube got us to Heathrow at 8.30 - we should have checked in by 8.00. Eventually they let us check in at the gate and our bags were put through an X-ray machine and despatched down a shute. We met Frank, then boarded the flight to Bologna which left 20 minutes late at 9.45, the food was quite reasonable and we actually had real cutlery! We arrived on time at 12.35 local time but it took ages to get through passport control and customs. We were met by an "English-speaking driver" and the coach sped off down the motorway on the eastern coast of Italy, having a stop for a drink on the way. We turned off at Loreto and arrived at Macerata at 4.30 p.m., booking into the Hotel della Piaggia in the centro storico (pleasant modern room with air conditioning). After unpacking we went for a little stroll, had an ice-cream and visited the pinacoteca in the church of San Paolo. Back at the hotel, Frank was in a tiz as no lecture room had been organised. We went out to the "Piccolo Mondo" restaurant (sadly now gone) for dinner - penne con panna, funghi & prosciuto, involtone (M) saltimbocca alla romana (J), fresh fruit, vino bianco & minerale; coffee in the bar next door.
Monday - The hotel doesn't seem to have a dining room, so breakfast was just a crosissant and cappuccino in the bar. We had vouchers for the tickets, so went down to the ticket offkce - it didn't open till 10.30, so we went for another walk, down to the walls and then back and found the duomo (large and dark) and the seminary (nice bronze doors) next door. It's a typical non-touristy university town with lots of bookshops. We then sat for a while having a coffee at a bar, had another stroll and went to the ticket office and got our (and Frank's) tickets. We found a little trattoria full of locals and had pizza for lunch, then back to the hotel for the first lecture. It was in the hotel's office and was a bit cramped and hot and Frank had problems with his CD player, but we got through the first two acts of Le Nozze di Fagaro by 5.30. We all had dinner at Piccolo Mondo again (spaghetti alla carbonara (M) risotto ai quatro formaggi (J, stupendous), saltimboca alla romana (M) arrosto misto (J), loads of wine, gelato (frutti di bosco), coffee. Most of us had a sambuca at the bar next door then we called it a day.
Tuesday - After breakfast we walked down to the giardini pubblichi which are just outside the old-town walls and sat in the sun reading our books then walked back into town and did a few bookshops then went to the town-hall square and had a snack lunch. Frank finished off Le Nozze di Figaro in the afternoon, we had an early dinner in the same place again (penne con panna, funghi & prosciuto (M) spaghetti alla scogliere (seafood, J), salmone (grilled), fresh fruit salad. At 7.35 we left for the opera at the Teatro Lauro Rossi in the Piazza della Libertą - we had good seats just a few rows back from the orchestra. The opera was in modern dress; the cast were all young and energetic, and all the singing was very good. It didn't finish till just before midnight and some of us were nodding off in the heat. Air conditioning not working very well back at the hotel, but we got to sleep eventually.
Wednesday - Had breakfast then went to look at the market that stretched from down by the ticket office all the way up to the piazza outside last night's opera. The morning's lecture was Rigoletto after which we had another stroll and ended up at the Trattoria Crescimbeni for lunch (two pizzas, mezzo vino & acqua £14,000). Lecture continued in the afternoon, dinner again at Piccolo Mondo, then we trouped down to the Sferisterio where we had good seats close to the middle of the incredibly wide stage area. The opera was very good, the sets sliding back and forth automatically. Frank says the score used was Verdi's original without the normal later additions. The singing was good (Renato Bruson was Rigoletto) and the costumes were traditional tonight. It ended at 12.50 then we went straight to bed.
Thursday - We had breakfast and took our suitcases to the top of the street where a minicoach was waiting. It took us an hour and a half to get to Pesaro and then the driver had to ask several times before he found the hotel (Hotel Capital, close to the beach and only 5 minutes from the Palafestival but 20 minutes walk from the Rossini Theatre). Left Frank worrying about lack of lecture room and went for a stroll, finding the Rossini Theatre and the tourist office, having a snack lunch, then back along the front to the hotel. Frank has given up on lectures. We walked to the Palafestival (open but deserted, I had a wander round the arena) then on to the Rossini Theatre where we got our (and Frank's) tickets for the two operas (Maometo II and Armida - neither of which we had ever heard of. We then walked back down the street to Rossini's house and had a look round, then to the Tourist Office and picked up our tickets for the trip to Urbino tomorrow. At dinner there was no menu, Frank was on the phone so we started on his wine - rigatoni al ragł, scallopina with piselli alla romana, vino bianco, factory ice-cream. Frank had managed to borrow a private room in the headquarters of the hotelier's association.
Friday - We needed an early breakfast but the hotel wasn't interested - we went down to a beach cafe and had coffee and a brioche. An air-conditioned coach took us to Urbino through hilly countryside in about 40 minutes. There is a lift from the bus station up to the centro storico from where we climbed up to the main square. We popped into the Duomo first (nothing special) and then visited the Ducal Palace (very good indeed) - beautiful rooms with views of the countryside, very good paintings (some famous ones by Piero della Francesca). We had a little stroll round the town then went back down in the lift and got the bus back to Stressa where we had lunch at the Bar Ariston (prosciuto crudo, tagliatelle al salmone, insalata mista, mezzo bianco & minerale £38,000). Got back to the hotel and set off with Frank to the Associazione Pesarese Albergatori where there was a nice cool room with confortable chairs, Frank being behind a desk and lecturing on the music rather than the plot. Dinner at seven was fuselli, veal, peaches & plums after which we went to the Palafestival (big sports hall); Maureen and I had seats with Frank up on the left side of the stage, the rest having seats in the poltrone. The music and singing were very good (Cecilia Gasdia played Anna). It finished just after midnight and we all had a cappuccino back at the hotel. Left our zanzare machine on as Maureen had had bites earlier.
Saturday - After a reasonable breakfast on the verandah we had another lecture in the same place as yesterday. Lunch at Bar Ariston again was antipasto all'italiano (J) prosciuto & melone (M), insalata di mare (shared), vino, acqua, coffee (£48,000). It was very hot as we walked into town so we sat in the shade for a while then had a wander and did odds and ends. An early dinner was spaghetti then veal. We got to the Teatro Rossini at 8.15 where we shared a box with other people - a French girl had already bagged the best seat so Maureen sat beside her and I had a stool behind her (we swapped at half time). The opera (Armida) was better that I expected, the music especially being very good (the ballet scene was not nude as Frank had predicted).
Sunday - Home (no details recorded)