A Travellerspoint blog

Perth

It's time to go home.

20 °C
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Well - we made it - but it was tight! At 1.30am we whipped through Doha Airport like a couple of contestants on "The Amazing Race"! We were lucky that this flight was a bit late as well. We joined the queue of travellers at Security and breathed a sigh of relief. It was nice to hear all the Aussie accents.
We'll be landing in Perth in just a few hours, so I'm bringing this journal to it's conclusion. We've been very fortunate to be able to take this brilliant journey. Fortunate to have the financial means, to take extended leave from work, to be healthy enough to endure 8 weeks of sometimes rigourous travel, and very fortunate to have a loving family who gave us their blessing so that we could take off and explore.
We have taken around 10,000 photos over the last 8 weeks - broken down as follows:
Turkey - 3,500
London - 1,000
Prague - 700
Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina - 2,100
Budapest - 600
Crete - 1,500
Lake Como - 1,600
We've included just a couple of photos to close with - from what both Red and I agree was the highlight of our trip - the hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia - Turkey.
After over 37,000 words and 66 x A4 pages - enough said.
We hope you've enjoyed the read.

Cheers - Anne and Red
The highlight of our holiday.

The highlight of our holiday.

We will never forget this day!

We will never forget this day!

Posted by Gibbo54 12:01 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Doha

A brief stopover on the way home to Perth.

semi-overcast 35 °C
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When we arrived in Italy a week ago I didn't change the time on my phone - I just never got around to it. So consequently, when I set two alarms on my phone for 7.00 and 7.05 this morning - it was actually 6.00 and 6.05. We didn't realise this until we'd been up for half an hour. Oooops! We could have had an extra hour's sleep! On a day when every bit of sleep counts!
Ah well - had we have slept in till 7am we probably wouldn't have had the time to take our coffees and walk up all the steps here on the property to the top garden. We did this at about 9.30am - what a gorgeous morning it was. The view was just magic! We took our very last "Selfie" - Red will be relieved about that - and took more photos - just so that we don't forget. We will miss this place. Hopefully we'll come back, and if we do we'll stay at the Villa Albertina.
Enzo was ready for us at 10.15am, he told us that Antonella had knocked on our door earlier to say goodbye, and we weren't there. It must have been when we were up in the top garden. Anyhow, she passed on her goodbyes through Enzo.
We went downstairs with our bags and into his garage. It's actually made out of rock, he explained that they had to dynamite it out to make a hole for the garage! Crazy stuff! The 3 of us drove to Varenna Train Station in his little car - most cars are small here in this Italian region. The gentleman that he is - Enzo wheeled my bag on to the station and after a quick chat we bade farewell to our Italian friend.
Close to the arrival time of our train we walked across the tracks to the middle platform, and a couple of minutes later Antonella and Lago came bounding across the train tracks and up on to the little platform to say goodbye. She and Lago had run all the way from their home up to the station, hoping to catch us before the train arrived. We were so thrilled to see her and so touched that she and Lago made the effort to come to say goodbye to us. Actually, Lago would have loved the run, but Antonella was puffing, and she is super fit. An Aussie guy that we'd been talking to on the platform took our photo - so we have this moment recorded forever! More farewells, double kisses and waves goodbye - and our train arrived about 2 minutes later.
We watched the beautiful mountains pass by, and then all of a sudden - no more mountains. Just flat territory, then little towns, then suburbs, then Milan.
Our transition from one train to the next was seamless - so different to our arrival in Milan. We walked from one platform to another, and hopped on the Malpensa Express. There weren't many people on board, there was plenty of storage room for our luggage (memories of the nightmare on the train from Zagreb to Budapest!), the train was air-conditioned, roomy, quiet and took off smoothly.
We arrived at Milan Airport in 45 minutes and found our way to the Qatar Check In counter - one of a multitude of Check In counters. Malpensa Airport is huge. We got caught again with my small cabin baggage - not for weight, but for width. The woman who was tagging cabin luggage announced to me - "It doesn't fit Madam, you need to take something out". Oh, just great! We found a quiet corner and moved some gear from my cabin luggage to Red's big bag. When we went back - the lady wasn't even there - it was unattended! Now that's inconsistency! We got to the Check In counter to be told that our flight had been delayed by 2 hours. Oh, just great! Qatar requests that you arrive 3 hours before your flight's departure time, so instead of having 3 hours to kill, we had 5!
This was not necessarily a big concern, because we had a 3 hour stopover in Doha, which would have been reduced considerably, but our main concern now is that we might miss that flight to Perth. We took off 45 minutes later than the 2 hour delay. Our expected arrival time in to Doha is 1am, and our flight to Perth is boarding at 1am!
Antonella, Lago, Red and I - a farewell on the platform at Varenna Train Station.

Antonella, Lago, Red and I - a farewell on the platform at Varenna Train Station.

Enzo's tool shed - two hundred years old.

Enzo's tool shed - two hundred years old.

Appreciating the view up in the top garden of the Villa Albertina.

Appreciating the view up in the top garden of the Villa Albertina.

Looking straight out over Lake Como.

Looking straight out over Lake Como.

This photo gives an indication as to how steep the property is - and how beautiful the view is.

This photo gives an indication as to how steep the property is - and how beautiful the view is.

Looking down on the township of Varenna.

Looking down on the township of Varenna.

Our very last Selfie - Lake Como is in the background.

Our very last Selfie - Lake Como is in the background.

Panorama shot - Lake Como at 9.30 in the morning. Just stunning!

Panorama shot - Lake Como at 9.30 in the morning. Just stunning!

This place has left lasting memories with us - Lake Como.

This place has left lasting memories with us - Lake Como.

Posted by Gibbo54 11:40 Archived in Qatar Comments (0)

Varenna

A walk through the Gardens of the Villa Carlotta.

sunny 36 °C
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Today was our last day in Varenna, and as we had not yet visited the Villa Carlotta - this was our last chance. Once again we had a late exit from our apartment and headed down the hill for the last time to catch the ferry to the Villa Carlotta's own port - in between Bellagio and Tremezzo.
Our timing wasn't great for this ferry and we had 35 minutes to kill before it arrived. We had some last minute shopping to do for family members - this really is the last bit of shopping that we'll do. So we hot footed it around the lake from the port to a dear little shop that sells hand made ceramic pieces - just beautiful. I've already paid this guy a visit - he makes the pieces himself in Lecco. After we had bought these last few gifts we hurried back around the path on the lake. It's called The Lovers' Walk - but there wasn't much loving going on for us - just a sheer determination not to miss the next ferry.
We were there in plenty of time, the ferry picked us up and we were dropped off at the Villa Carlotta about 20 minutes later. The ferries don't move too quickly here - but when you've got the view of Lake Como that we've had - who cares!
The Villa Carlotta was built at the end of the 17th Century. In the second half of the 18th Century, Princess Marianne of Nassau bought the villa and gave it as a gift to her daughter Carlotta as a wedding present. Hence it was renamed. Carlotta's husband Georg was passionate about botany and made some extensive additions to the gardens. The villa is set in 70,000 square metres of gardens.
These gardens are absolutely stunning - beautifully designed - very pretty, even though the flowering season is almost at an end. We spent over two hours walking through the gardens, taking photos as we walked. So green, so peaceful and right on Lake Como. It was like being in a Botanical Heaven.
We went inside the villa after we had walked all through the gardens. It's an impressive building, but we felt that there was no real consistency inside. The lower floor was empty apart from a display of statues, there was either no signage provided, or if there was - there were only spasmodic english signs. Upstairs there were rooms that were furnished, but once again - not alot of signage. There was a display of modern sculptures, but these didn't really fit with the ambience of the building. The staff weren't forthcoming with information, and were not what I'd call welcoming. The signs that were in plentiful supply were those telling visitors what they must not do! That sounds like alot of complaining - not really, just stating the facts. The gardens though were probably the most spectacular that I've seen in that size.
It was hard not to compare today's Villa Carlotta with yesterday's Villa Balbianello. They're quite different really. Villa Balbianello's gardens are much smaller, but just gorgeous and the Villa itself - well, it exudes soul and charm. The gardens of the Villa Carlotta are an absolute credit to the botanical experts who manage the estate.
Unfortunately we just missed ferry to take us home to Varenna, so we had a 45 minute wait on the banks of Lake Como. By the time we got home we were hot, sweaty and tired (think I've said that before). This humidity is a killer - we won't miss it.
At about 7 o'clock we went upstairs to Enzo and Antonella's garden to have a drink with them. Antonella was actually out (she's a Yoga teacher), so we shared some time and a bottle of champagne with Enzo and two of their friends of 45 years - Faustus and Fiorenza. They are a lovely couple, very friendly - and interested to have a chat with us. This was a special time for us - sitting and talking with local people who've lived in the area for decades, their views on family, friends, politics, sport. Marco and Marta came out at separate times to say goodbye to us. They are great kids - and they are part of a great family.
We said goodnight, making arrangements for Enzo to drive us to the train station at 10.15am tomorrow morning. Then, we walked down stairs and along little alleyways and found a restaurant that Enzo had recommended for our last dinner in Italy, and Europe for that matter. We had a really beautiful meal, this one was a step up from our usual dining - delicious food - beautifully presented, in a lovely quiet atmosphere.
After dinner - we took the long way home - down by the water. It was a beautiful night - calm and warm. Our last night - we won't forget it.
Bellagio Port.

Bellagio Port.

Villa Carlotto - Lake Como. Photo taken as we sailed past in a ferry.

Villa Carlotto - Lake Como. Photo taken as we sailed past in a ferry.

Looking out over the gardens facing Lake Como - taken from an upstairs doorway of the Villa Carlotta.

Looking out over the gardens facing Lake Como - taken from an upstairs doorway of the Villa Carlotta.

Exquisite horticulture.

Exquisite horticulture.

Tranquil gardens surrounding the Villa Carlotta.

Tranquil gardens surrounding the Villa Carlotta.

Turtles in one of the ponds in the gardens. The one on the left was trying to make his way up on to the mat - he failed!

Turtles in one of the ponds in the gardens. The one on the left was trying to make his way up on to the mat - he failed!

Peaceful walkways.

Peaceful walkways.

With the end of spring, apparently the flowering season has ended. But there were still beautiful colours everywhere.

With the end of spring, apparently the flowering season has ended. But there were still beautiful colours everywhere.

Have never seen Hydrangeas this blue!

Have never seen Hydrangeas this blue!

This waterway runs down the centre of the gardens - spectacular.

This waterway runs down the centre of the gardens - spectacular.

Beautiful lawns and manicured gardens - perfect match.

Beautiful lawns and manicured gardens - perfect match.

This colourful garden is visible from Lake Como.

This colourful garden is visible from Lake Como.

Red geraniums in the foreground, Bellagio in the background.

Red geraniums in the foreground, Bellagio in the background.

Jasmine like we've never seen before!

Jasmine like we've never seen before!

Trees that are hundreds of years old. Red standing by this tree gives a good indication of it's size.

Trees that are hundreds of years old. Red standing by this tree gives a good indication of it's size.

Beautiful forecourt of the Villa Carlotta - Lake Como.

Beautiful forecourt of the Villa Carlotta - Lake Como.

Last supper - dinner out on our last night in Varenna.

Last supper - dinner out on our last night in Varenna.

A couple of swans in a sea of begonias - the Gardens of the Villa Carlotta.

A couple of swans in a sea of begonias - the Gardens of the Villa Carlotta.

Crooked Selfie - in the Gardens of the Villa Carlotta.

Crooked Selfie - in the Gardens of the Villa Carlotta.

Posted by Gibbo54 10:34 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Varenna

Another one to tick off the Bucket List.

sunny 36 °C
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In our living area at home we have two large Howard Behrens prints of Lake Como - one of the Bellagio Promenade and the other one is of the Villa Balbianello. These prints got us talking years ago and we decided that one day we'd go to Lake Como. On our last trip to this region we walked along the Promenade at Bellagio and sailed past the Villa. Today we visited the Villa Balbianello.
We walked down to the dock this morning and bought tickets for the ferry. We usually manage to time things well and today was no different. Within a couple of minutes our ferry arrived, so we piled on with our fellow tourists and sailed along Lake Como once more. We stopped in at Bellagio and Tremezzo and got off the ferry at Lenno.
Internet research had revealed that it was all very confusing as to how to get to the Villa from Lenno - so we didn't quite know what to expect. We needn't have worried though, it was pretty straight forward.
It was another sunny, hot and steamy day today - so the walk from the ferry was a bit uncomfortable, but the setting was so idyllic - it didn't matter. We walked around the Promenade and then up into a heavily wooded area - a forest would be a good name for it. Uphill we walked (again!), and actually got quite high up. The view through the trees was spectacular. We then levelled off and continued in a downward direction. The Villa Balbianello sits on a point with views to Bellagio, Varenna and surrounding towns - a perfect spot. We arrived and bought our tickets - for the gardens and also a tour of the Villa. We had time for a quick look at the gardens before our guided tour of the Villa started at 12.20pm.
This was a brilliant little tour. The tour guide - Luisa - was a real card with a great sense of humour, a good command of the English language with an Italian accent that you couldn't cut through! The Villa and the Loggia were built in the last years of the 1700's. The Loggia is a separate building - two rooms connected with a roof and arches to let the breeze through and to provide stunning views from both sides. A Ficus plant was planted about 180 years ago, this grew and attached itself to the pillars of the arches and has been trimmed to perfection. It is still the original plant.
There have been several owners, but the most recent owner and the man to make so many changes to the Villa was Guido Monzino - a prominent Milanese businessman, fervent collector and a dedicated explorer. This guy was astounding. He led numerous expeditions in his lifetime - one to the North Pole. He also climbed Mt. Everest in 1973. Monzino died very young of a heart attack at the age of 60 in 1988. He had never married - he was too busy, and probably no woman would have put up with him. He left the Villa to FAI - Fondo Ambiente Italiano - the Italian National Trust. He also provided enough funds to maintain the Villa after his death so that the property could be well maintained into the future.
We were taken in to all the rooms of the Villa - it was fascinating. Guido Monzino's instructions were that things were to be kept exactly as he'd left them. That is exactly what has happened. In his office there is an opened packet of cigarettes on his desk - the packet that he never finished. In his bar there are bottles of spirits half full. His library contains more than 4,000 books on expeditions and explorers. In the attic is a collection of his exploration gear including the sled that he used on his trip to the North Pole. He has collected exquisite pieces of furniture from all over the world. I could go on and on - but will consolidate by saying that our visit to the Villa Balbianello was absolutely enthralling. At the end of our 1 hour tour - we spent about half an hour walking all through the gardens and admiring the beautiful views - just outstanding on a beautiful sunny day.
We made our way back to Lenno and had lunch and a beer in a cafe right on the water - really pleasant, enjoying the cool breeze coming in off the lake. We walked back to the dock in the blazing sun - and about a minute later, our ferry arrived. Stopping off once again at Tremezzo, Villa Carlotta, San Giovanni, Bellagio, and finally Varenna.
Today has been so hot and humid that we turned the air-conditioning on when we got back to our apartment. It's hard to believe that in 3 days we'll be back in wintery Perth.
We spent a bit of time tonight getting ourselves organised - and started to pack up our gear. Realisation has hit us - that this adventure of ours is coming to an end.
Lake Como - photo taken from the Villa Balbianello.

Lake Como - photo taken from the Villa Balbianello.

Selfie - in the grounds of the Villa Balbianello.

Selfie - in the grounds of the Villa Balbianello.

Beautiful sculptures surround the Villa Balbianello.

Beautiful sculptures surround the Villa Balbianello.

The Holm Oak trees in the grounds of Villa Balbianello provide amazing shade.

The Holm Oak trees in the grounds of Villa Balbianello provide amazing shade.

Another view of the Loggia in the Villa Balbianello - Lake Como.

Another view of the Loggia in the Villa Balbianello - Lake Como.

Originally a church when the Villa was built by a wealthy Cardinal - it was converted in to a kitchen.

Originally a church when the Villa was built by a wealthy Cardinal - it was converted in to a kitchen.

The walk to the Villa Balbianello - Lake Como.

The walk to the Villa Balbianello - Lake Como.

Lenno - Lake Como. Photo was taken from the Villa Balbianello.

Lenno - Lake Como. Photo was taken from the Villa Balbianello.

Photo of a photo - Guido Monzino during his trek to the North Pole in 1971.

Photo of a photo - Guido Monzino during his trek to the North Pole in 1971.

Photo of a photo - this is how gardeners trim the Holm Oak trees on the estate. They come up from under the branches and trim from there.

Photo of a photo - this is how gardeners trim the Holm Oak trees on the estate. They come up from under the branches and trim from there.

Photo of a photo - Monzino's office in his Villa.

Photo of a photo - Monzino's office in his Villa.

Photo of a photo - the display in the attic of the Villa Balbianello. Monzino's sled is in the centre of the room - fascinating.

Photo of a photo - the display in the attic of the Villa Balbianello. Monzino's sled is in the centre of the room - fascinating.

Photo of a photo - the Library in the Loggia.

Photo of a photo - the Library in the Loggia.

Photo of a photo - this is the Villa Balbianello - Lake Como.

Photo of a photo - this is the Villa Balbianello - Lake Como.

Lunch on the Lake - at Lenno.

Lunch on the Lake - at Lenno.

The Loggia at the Villa Balbianello.

The Loggia at the Villa Balbianello.

The Loggia at the Villa Balbianello - Lake Como.

The Loggia at the Villa Balbianello - Lake Como.

The ficus plant that over 180 years has firmly established itself around the columns on the Loggia.

The ficus plant that over 180 years has firmly established itself around the columns on the Loggia.

The final resting place of Guido Monzino - an unobtrusive cross adorns the wall.

The final resting place of Guido Monzino - an unobtrusive cross adorns the wall.

This little hut on the estate of the Villa Balbianello is where the late Guido Monzino lies.

This little hut on the estate of the Villa Balbianello is where the late Guido Monzino lies.

The grounds of the Villa Balbianella - Lake Como.

The grounds of the Villa Balbianella - Lake Como.

A perfectly trimmed Holm Oak tree in the grounds of the Villa Balbianello.

A perfectly trimmed Holm Oak tree in the grounds of the Villa Balbianello.

Stunning view of the gardens and Lake Como - in the grounds of the Villa Balbianello.

Stunning view of the gardens and Lake Como - in the grounds of the Villa Balbianello.

Posted by Gibbo54 10:46 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

Varenna

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of Summer.

sunny 35 °C
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We met our hosts this morning. Enzo and Antonella returned from Istanbul yesterday - it was great to meet them. Lovely people - they invited us up to their garden tonight to share a bottle of wine and something to eat. Enzo and his sister inherited the property from their parents, who bought it 40 years ago. He was telling us that his father bought one small ivy plant, planted it on the side of the house - and in 40 years it's taken over the whole place. The only trimming they do is around the windows.
Today we visited the Gardens of the Villa Monastero. We went when we were last here, but it was so good that we wanted to come back again.
We left the apartment in the early afternoon, taking our rubbish with us. In this region of Italy households need to take their rubbish to communal rubbish bins in the town centre. Recycled bottles are in a different location to normal household rubbish - of course they are! So, we placed our rubbish in bins outside the church in the Piazza, and our bottles we placed in bins about 300 metres further up the road - right across the road from the gardens that we were visiting.
The gardens are in the grounds of an old Monastery - and are truly beautiful. We took our fair share of photos - and took our time, walking the length of the gardens - along the lake. It was so hot though - and I can't remember humidity like this. Thank goodness that there is beautiful cold water from the mountains - springing from taps all over Varenna. There's no need to buy water here - we can just fill up our water bottles wherever there is running water.
We sat at the outdoor cafe in the shade on the banks of Lake Como, drank our beautiful cold water - and had a Gelati! Heaven.
We walked slowly home in the heat and crashed for an hour or two. At around 7pm we went upstairs in to Enzo and Antonella's garden and spent a really enjoyable couple of hours with them both as well as their daughter Marta and their beautiful dog Lago. We love him! Spending time with Lago makes us realise how much we miss our own dogs. From their garden, Enzo and Antonella have the most awesome view of Lake Como. I think we'll look back on the time we spent with them and wonder if it really happened. A surreal experience.
There was a fair bit of translating going on, but we were able to converse pretty well. These folks are friendly and generous - living quite happily and simply in this beautiful part of the world. Yes - there are rich and famous people here, but the vast majority are everyday Italians living the same way that they have for decades.
We said goodnight to our hosts and came back downstairs to our apartment. I've been sitting here for the last couple of hours updating this journal - with the windows wide open to let in the cool breeze. There are the sounds of church bells, cars, scooters, boats, and animated Italian family conversations. Another moment in time to be remembered.
A view of Varenna from the Gardens of the Villa Monastera.

A view of Varenna from the Gardens of the Villa Monastera.

At the end of the gardens stands small lake hut full of mirrors. We couldn't help ourselves.

At the end of the gardens stands small lake hut full of mirrors. We couldn't help ourselves.

Red and Anne in the Gardens of the Villa Monastera - Varenna.

Red and Anne in the Gardens of the Villa Monastera - Varenna.

Almost perfect symetry - a peaceful place - Varenna.

Almost perfect symetry - a peaceful place - Varenna.

One of Varenna's main attractions - the Gardens of the Villa Monastera.

One of Varenna's main attractions - the Gardens of the Villa Monastera.

Inventive architecture - spiral columns.

Inventive architecture - spiral columns.

The Gardens of the Villa Monastera were planted in the 18th Century.

The Gardens of the Villa Monastera were planted in the 18th Century.

Age old urns provide an inviting walk down to the Gardens.

Age old urns provide an inviting walk down to the Gardens.

The spectacular entrance to the Gardens of the Villa Monastera.

The spectacular entrance to the Gardens of the Villa Monastera.

Lake Como sunset.

Lake Como sunset.

Lago!

Lago!

Just in case we forgot where we were!

Just in case we forgot where we were!

Serenity.

Serenity.

There are many places to sit and just look at the stunning views.

There are many places to sit and just look at the stunning views.

Gorgeous!

Gorgeous!

Fiumelatte in the distance.

Fiumelatte in the distance.

The Gardens of the Villa Monastera - a beautiful, picturesque spot on Lake Como.

The Gardens of the Villa Monastera - a beautiful, picturesque spot on Lake Como.

Posted by Gibbo54 09:36 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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