Wordless Wednesday: sunset departure

Boat at sunset Gardenstown
Pink sky at night sailors delight, Gardenstown Scotland

Rest and relaxation in Bologna

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Piazza Maggiore

Just over twelve months ago we spent three nights in the medieval centre of Bologna, heart of the Emilia Romagna region of Italy and the perfect location for meat loving gourmands. The Atlantic Hotel was home during our stay and it was well situated between the train station and the main piazza. It did take us a little while to find it, for some reason I lost all sense of direction and had us going the wrong way before Hubby stepped in to ask for directions. Each of us had a role on this trip, Hubby was languages and I was logistics, it worked really well most of the time. Once settled in our hotel we set off to find typical Bolognese food to eat. We had experienced illness on and off since arriving in Paris, it had affected our appetite and our energy levels and we were keen to use our time in Bologna to recover. The main reason we included Bologna on our itinerary was food, we’re not connoisseurs of gourmet food but we do like eating good food and exploring the medieval old town also had its appeal.

Tamburini  deli is the most amazing shop to walk into, from floor to ceiling the shop is stacked with the most tantalising produce. I was in heaven. The choices were overwhelming so we asked them to recommend something suitable for a picnic in Piazza Maggiore. Unlike other Italian cities we were not discouraged from eating in the piazza, surrounded by like minded tourists and locals we devoured the selection of cheese and mortadella that had been prepared for us, delicious with chunks of fresh, crusty bread. That simple but tasty meal was the beginning of our food focused visit to Bologna. While enjoying the atmosphere of the piazza we got talking to a couple of university students, one of them was walking his neighbour’s dog, a cute French bulldog called Frati (I think that was his name). Sadly, Frati’s owners didn’t take him out much because he had wheels as a result of not being able to walk properly so this student kindly took him out for regular walks. Frati was extremely friendly and seemed to really appreciate the chance to be out of the apartment and say hello to random strangers. I certainly appreciated the opportunity to get some puppy cuddles and I tried taking a few photos but Frati was too busy and the lighting was poor. So typical of me to remember the name of the dog but I don’t remember the name of the students, both spoke english beautifully and were happy to chat with us about travel, Australia and the Paris attacks (which had happened a week before). They recommended checking out the part of Bologna where all the students go to eat and drink, there we would find good food and wine and good prices. We took their advice and spent an evening in that more lively part of town and we tried the wine, it was good and of course we could not help but indulge ourselves at one of the many gelaterias.

Eating out in Bologna was a bit like walking into Tamburini, so many choices that deciding where to dine was really hard. One night we seemed to walk around in circles before coming across a small, underground restaurant in the back streets and for lunches we returned to a busy little cafe situated in the old market in the Quadrilatero, the food was good and the prices were right for our budget. During our stay we tried all the typical dishes: tortellini in brodo, lasagna, antipasti platters of cheese and meat, meatballs, roast pork, grilled seasonal vegetables and little round bread called Tigelle. The narrow alleys of the old market was thriving, lots of noise and activity as shoppers and shop keepers went about their business. Dining alfresco provides the perfect opportunity for people watching however I tired of the beggars constantly hitting us up for money, at one sitting we were approached by at least 5 different beggars. The following day we sat indoors, the weather was much cooler so it didn’t take that much to convince Hubby. The begging in Bologna was constant or so it seemed, perhaps because the central historic area is smaller and more condensed than some of the other cities frequented by tourists. Hubby and I tended to buy dog food at the supermarket and give that to the beggars and homeless that were with their dogs, most seemed happy to have food for their furry companions.

Museums and galleries weren’t a priority for us while in Bologna however we did venture into an old church, the Basilica di Santo Stefano which is known locally as the Sette Chiese or Seven Churches. Supposedly established in the 5th century over the top of a pagan site of worship, the church has been added to over the centuries. Even Hubby enjoyed walking through Benedictine cloister, Pilato’s courtyard and the chapels of varying ages. To one side is a small museum of paintings and sculptures, entry is free although a donation is welcome and it is well worth seeing. For the most part, we wandered through the city via the porticoes which make it easy to get around regardless of the weather. Medieval timber porticoes can still be found in the historical centre, the majority are made of stone, brick and concrete. In addition to tracking down the timber porticoes we searched for the hidden canals of Bologna of which there is roughly 60km, mostly covered over. Two canals can be found near the edge of the historical centre where the Reno river enters the city, and the Moline canal we discovered by accident down a side street.

Bologna is an incredibly fascinating city and well worth including on an Italian itinerary, being there in November made it the perfect time to indulge in some of the more hearty dishes on the menu. Being the capital of the Emilia Romagna region, it is also centrally located making it easy to get to other food lover destinations such Modena and Parma. We did not venture to either of these cities, instead choosing to take it easy in Bologna and recover which was a wise decision.

Wordless Wednesday: Renaissance Florence

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Memories of our girl

Monday marked six weeks since we farewelled our dear old Maxi. Some days it feels as though it was only yesterday when I held her in my arms and said goodbye, her not being here doesn’t seem real. Other days I feel her presence, I close my eyes and she is right next to me. There has been plenty of tears, but also a lot of reminiscing about the funny side of life with Maxi. I miss hearing the click clack of her nails on our tile floor as she paced through the house, and come dinner time I picture her standing in the doorway eagerly awaiting her food. I miss the happy dance that she did once she realised dinner was ready and I watch with sadness as Bundy heads to the garage alone when I go to work. I wish I could kiss her forehead again and feel her soft ears in my hands, did she know how much I loved her.

Yesterday the custom urn from Vitrified Studio arrived. After seeing their beautiful urns on the  oh melvin (and yo jake) (and hey doug) blog and reading the recommendations I knew that nothing else would do for Maxi. Such a special and beautiful girl, she deserved something special to rest in. On the back of the urn the artist has stamped (at my request) ‘you had me at woof’, one of my favourite dog related sayings and the most meaningful. At the moment the urn is on display alongside the Maxi photobook I created after sorting through hard drives and boxes to find all the photos. It makes me smile to see her face, the photobook is filled with hundreds of photos taken throughout her life and each photo has a funny story or a special memory that comes rushing back when I browse through the pages. Also in the photo is the silver memorial necklace from Earth Shine Designs1, it arrived today and even though it comes from the other side of the world it makes me feel as though she will always be close when I wear it. Gone, but never forgotten.

In memory of our dear old Maxi girl
Our Maxi, gone but not forgotten

Wordless Wednesday: Lunch time in Paris

Lunchtime menu at L'Auberge Nicholas Flamel
Lunchtime menu at L’Auberge Nicholas Flamel, the oldest inn in Paris.

This time last year…

…I had the hugest grin on my face because Hubby and I were standing under the branches of a willow tree on the tip of the Square du Vert-Galant, a small public garden situated at the western end of Ile de la Cité in Paris. The weather was gloomy and grey, but who cares when you’re in Paris? Too excited to sleep in, we headed out early to explore the area near our hotel before the streets came to life, plus we wanted to find a patisserie for breakfast. Our hotel served breakfast for a price, but we thought it a little too expensive especially when buttery, sweet pastries could be had for a couple of euros.

During a walk along the Seine we found ourselves in the middle of a garden filled with sculptures, we found out that it is an open-air sculpture museum featuring more than fifty sculptures.  You can find this unexpected delight along the Quai Saint-Bernard between the Pont de Sully and the Pont d’Austerlitz. I’m sorry that I don’t have any photos to share, the light created a few challenges for me so I settled for enjoying the walk sans camera.

The entire day was dedicated to exploring the 5th and 6th arrondisements, Hubby doesn’t like to fill his day with sights (unlike me) and prefers to just wander and take in the atmosphere. Regardless, I did manage to convince him that we should find the hidden roman arena, Arenes de Lutece after spending an hour or so wandering through Jardin des Plantes. This ancient arena is located not far from Place Contrascarpe and Rue Mouffetard, it was constructed in the first century AD and lay hidden until discovered in the late 1800’s. I thought it might be a nice place to sit and enjoy some lunch, Hubby was less impressed with that idea.

Lunch turned out to be another unexpected pleasure, Antonella, an Italian lady travelling solo joined our table for lunch. Antonella lives in Rome and as it was on our itinerary, she told us all about the wonderful weather they were having and that she also has family in Australia. It was great to have someone else to talk to, Hubby and I aren’t used to spending all day every day together and conversation can be hard to come by sometimes.

St-Germain-des-Pres lies next to the Latin Quarter, home to cafes such as Le Deux Magots, Cafe de Flore and Le Procope once frequented by famous historical figures as well as the Musee d’Orsay makes this area a tourist magnet. I loved wandering through the streets and narrow alleyways, not knowing where we were going and somehow ending up at the Luxembourg Gardens. The gardens were filled with people making the most of the last hours of light, it is a beautiful place to relax and to one side of the Luxembourg Palace is the much photographed Medici Fountain. Vibrant autumn colours of yellow and gold provide the perfect contrast to the dark water and shaded fountain. Soon we are chased out of the park, whistles blowing and visitors herded out the main gate.

Dinner that night was in the Latin Quarter at Le Mouffetard Bistrot, we had eaten here on a previous trip and loved the atmosphere of the Rue Mouffetard plus the service was friendly. As we walked to the bistro from the Pantheon we watched the sky sky change colour from monotone to vivid blue and pink as dusk fell. It was a spectacular sun set and bode well for good weather the following day. With a belly full of crispy, delicious duck and potatoes and red wine I slept well that night.