Europe Trip 2017

London, UK

Saturday, 13th May:  Arrived in London after a longer than anticipated flight, via Dubai, with an extra stop at Muscat where the plane refuelled – necessary to avoid the problems of a threatened two hour holding pattern over Dubai. Some very annoyed passengers with missed connections! Apart from that and the usual discomforts of long haul travel, the journey was comfortable enough. Just think of those nineteenth century families, from whom many of us are descended, making the trip to Australia by sea, in cramped conditions below deck, with limited food and water and facing the dangers for all shipping along our coastline at that time. We’re doing this for pleasure. Their journey was from necessity. Stop complaining!

Sunday, 14th May: A visit to Kew Gardens and a much anticipated meeting with an old friend from Wollongong, now living and working in London. Perfect weather and great to catch up and revisit happy times shared with mutual friends. I was grateful to Safia for taking the time out of her busy life to meet up and for suggesting Kew. An interest in plants and the history of botany is one of my failed potential career directions, although it always did seem like a luxury pursuit. We walked through many of the main parts of the gardens, the Palm House, conservatories, rockeries – an amazing witness to centuries of collecting. The tenacity of those engaged in this enterprise – from both the famous and wealthy, like Banks, to the largely forgotten independent collectors across the world, who worked for them – incredible!

I was listening to (sleeping through) Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things on the flight over. It included some of the history of Kew and Banks role, as part of the background to her fictionalised version of events, introducing her story. I’ll have to go back and read it properly – I have a hard copy at home (and, I confess, a digital copy on my Kindle – serious book addiction!).

Anyway, thanks again to my friend, Safia, for sharing the day. I’m attaching some photos, although none of our afternoon tea. The cakes were delicious but it is a shame they don’t make more of it given the history of the location and the hype on their website. I’m sure the staff may have meant well but didn’t seem to have any idea of what they were expected to offer in exchange for what they were charging.

A wonderful day out, however. Thanks, Safia.


Monday, 15th May:  Trapped in the V&A! The weather changed to variable with occassional showers, so a day spent at the Victoria and Albert Museum seemed not too hard to take! Something to everyone’s taste, here: the Arts and Crafts movement including Morris & Co to centuries of clothing fashion, design in all its form, iron work, leaded glass, ceramics (a major feature in parts of London he building’s interiors), casts of ancient buildings, tapestries, fabrics and wall hangings from Asia and the Middle East – a day is hardly enough. Among the clothing fashions, I was interested to find that the dresses I liked best were from the forties – maybe a memory of  clothes my mother wore??. Any way, I’ll attach a few photos.


Tuesday, 16th May:  Meeting up with Keith, today. Heading to Spain and the Picos de Europa, tomorrow. I hope I’ll have some web access while we are there!!

Walking in the Warrumbungles has been on my bushwalking wish list for more than twenty years. Spending three full days walking here was very satisfying. The views are amazing and the park very green with well maintained tracks around the most popular spots. While the area is recovering from the damage from the fires of 2013, it is still very obvious how bad the destruction must have been. A huge amount of money must have been spent here to replace what was lost. Some areas are still closed to visitors.

I am posting some photos from those I took during our walks which may give some idea of the extraordinary nature of this place.

Views of and around the Breadknife and the Grand High Tops and side walks:

Above: Belougery Spire and The Breadknife from Spirey View

Above: Belougery Spire

Above: Walking near the Breadknife

Above: Breadknife close up

Above: View of Breadknife from Grand High Tops
Belougery Split Rock and surrounding area:

Western High Tops, Cathedral and Arch via West Spirey Creek:

Coonabarabran Megafauna – Diprotodon optatum: (at Coonabarabran Tourist Information Centre)

View from Whitegum Lookout – a good place to start or to recap on where you have walked:

Making a trip from Rome to Naples and the two Archaeological sites, Pompeii and Herculaneum is an easy, if expensive, day trip from Rome. Avoiding the crowds using the local train from Naples Garibaldi station is another matter and not something to be recommended with small children. Ageing adults aren’t too happy either. Herculaneum is the smaller site and, while still busy, more comfortable to walk around than Pompeii, a very large development. 

It was a very hot day and, at Pompeii, many streets and foot paths were blocked with construction work, so following the maps and signs, often with conflicting names and numbering was frustrating for some. Serendipity might have been a better approach. As well, main streets and points of interest are often blocked with several, very large guided groups visiting at the same time. Another time of day or year, may be better if visiting, and avoiding the local train at peak times – not sure when that might be!

The local train service is called Circumvesuvius and you do get a view of Vesuvius from several sides, at least on the trip back when the crush is not so bad and you can see something other than the next persons armpit.

Both sides and their related museums give us an idea of the lives of ordinary people, here, 2000 years ago and both have some very sad stories to tell, which, I guess is part of the attraction. Now, the mountain looks peaceful, but could this happen here again?


  Near the boat houses – once on a beach

  A grinding mill





  Another type of grinding mill!

  Old fountain, some with water, were common. The tap is modern, of course!

  The amphitheatre updated for modern use. The pyramid in its centre suggested Aida, perhaps?


There are several places around Rome where the remnants of Aqueducts you see in many parts of the city appear more prominently. We visited some of them and I’ll add a few pictures. While most started out in Ancient Rome, some have been repaired, notably by civically minded Popes who have added their names to some of the fountains as a memorial to themselves and the service to the city that the Aqueducts continued to make, in some cases up until quite recent times.




Walking around Rome

When visiting a city, it is sometimes enjoyable to just walk, not being too concerned about achieving anything specific. So much has happened in these cities that you are bound to find something of interest. Just getting to know the main streets or the public transport system can be fun if you aren’t too concerned about getting from A to B by the most direct route. Walking along the river (Tiber/Tevere), which winds through Rome you see many old bridges. In some sections the route is tree lined, providing relief from the summer heat. Many of the piazzas seem too open and unbearably hot to me, although most have fountains, reclaimed from past, more affluent times and places, still functioning and tempting for tourists wanting to cool off! Frowned upon, however.

There seem to be hundreds of museums, maybe a response to the continual unearthing of ancient remains, which can slow progress in construction. Maybe this is why the metro is taking so long to complete. 

A couple of streets to walk along which can give you a sense of where things are in Rome: Via del Corso is an obvious one. It runs from Piazza del Popolo (below that wonderful view from Borghese Park) to near the unmistakable (love it or hate it) Vittorio Emanuele II monument and the several museums on Capitoline Hill, not far from the Forum. Trajan’s Column is near here, too. 

The side streets off the Corso link to many tourist highlights. For example: the via Coditti in one direction to Spagna (fashion shops, Romantic poets’ former haunts, the steps (‘Spanish’ :-/) up to the Borghese park) and the other direction towards the river, past the Palazzo Borghese; Marcus Aurelius Column is opposite a small shopping Centre: the Galleries, and near to turn off points to the amazing Pantheon and the excruciating Trevi Fountain – for both there are signs but a map is also important, it’s easy to get side tracked, buying gelato, perhaps, and miss a street sign, sometimes hard to see.

Walking along Via Nazionale from Piazza d. Repubblica, I noticed on the map that the Via Delle Quattro Fontane led almost directly to Spagna. Four fountains along the way made it sound appealing but were not quite what I expected, all being together, at the highest point on the route and on the corners of the four buildings opposite each other at a crossroads. In the distance was one of those small obelisks. Continuing on towards the obelisk, I arrived at a viewpoint and realised I was just above Spagna (and its steps) and not far from Napoleon’s lookout point above Piazza del Popolo and another excuse to visit the Borghese Park.

On the other side of the Tiber and not far from the Vatican, bus 64 (very crowded) took us to the starting point of a walk up above Gianicolo, some amazing lookouts across Rome, to give an opposite perspective to those we had already seen. There is a bus you can catch up here, when it is too hot to walk, but the walk is generally pleasant if you can pick up the pedestrian paths. There are various monuments along the way, Garabaldi among others, and Pope Paul’s Fountain (mentioned elsewhere, with his aqueduct). Our walk ended in the park surrounding the Villa Doria Pamphili, where our hunt for that aqueduct ended (see photos in Rome Aqueduct section of my blog). [For information on this walk see: ‘Rome the second time around: 15 itineraries that don’t take you to the Colosseum.’ Dianne Bennett and William Graebner. Curious Traveller Press, 2009. Available electronically with google map updates. This walk is itinerary 2.]

Here are just a few more pictures – not the best. May change them later! TBC

Crowds lined up at the Vatican.

Looking across part of the Forum in the direction of the Palitine Hill.

  Bridge across to the island in the Tiber

  Ponte Fabricio across to Isola Tiberina and Ponte Cestio

  Marcus Aurellius’ Column in the Piazza Colonna

Close up of part of Marcus Aurelius’ Column

Ostia Antica

Ostia Antica is a well preserved, archaeological site which provides access to the remains of an old Roman town at the mouth of the Tiber. It was a busy port for Ancient Rome but lost importance as the course of the river changed and with it, easy access to the Mediterranean. As it is only half an hour by train from Rome for just the price of a metro ticket and a small entry fee, why would you miss this opportunity? The train service is regular and not too crowded, with many travellers dressed ready for the nearby beaches.

Our day here was a pleasant change after the crowds in Pompeii. While there is none of the drama of a Vesuvius event here, no exciting books or films to promote the site, it does provide at least as much archaeological detail  as Herculenium and Pompeii, and , in some ways, is a more interesting place to visit.

  More grinding mills!



Large areas of Rome seem to have once been given over to Baths of one time or another. In my earlier stay in Rome, I had visited some remains of Diocletian’s Baths, near Termini train station, 3rd century, I think. Not far from the Colosseum and Palatine Hill are the remains of Caracallas Baths (3rd to 6th Century), covering an extensive area of parkland. You can see the remains of the mosaic floors and the now empty,  warm and cool pools and fountains. Such extravagance with water! Apart from the obvious basic need for drinking water, and operating grist mills for flour and bread, what a shock it would have been  to the Roman way of life, when the Goths damaged the aqueducts in the 5th/6th Century, and cut off the Roman water supply – if only that was all that occurred at this major turning point in European history.

 At Caracallas baths

 Marble, Mosaic Floors in some bath areas.
 A large pool area at Caracallas baths.

 A ‘board game’ at the side of one of the pool areas.

A few streets away from the Baths is a small museum developed from excavations under a church, revealing the remains of two Roman houses and some evidence of two martyrs, San Giovani  and San Paolli said to have been buried there. What was most interesting about this location was how dwellings from different period had been built almost literally on top of each other, leaving or incorporating hidden remnants of what went before.

As might be expected, nowhere in Rome is far from a church and most days here we visited at least one! St Clements provided access to its basement which showed earlier parts of the church and an underground waterway. No photos permitted here – not sure why. The Bascillica of St Giovani – the main church of Rome was not far from St Clements and was on our main route back to where we are staying, which is not far from the second great Bascillica St Maria Maggiore (St Peter’s doesn’t count as it’s in the Vatican). So much money spent on these places!!


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