Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 4, 2015

Ship ahoy!

A pirate ship appears to have sailed up the Brisbane River and docked at Southbank.

Notorious

It is actually Notorious, a replica of a 15th century caravelle. It was built by Graeme and a Felicite Wylie after they were inspired by a Port Fairy legend of the Mahogany Ship. An ancient wreck was said to be discovered in the sand dunes in 1836 and then lost in the drifting sands in the 1890s. It was believed to be a Portugese caravelle from Mendonca’s secret voyage of 1522.

Caravelles were used by Vasco da Gama, Mendonca and Christopher Columbus. Columbus’ Nina and Pinta were caravelles. It is incredible that these tiny ships were able to travel so far in uncharted waters…what brave souls they were to head off across the ocean never knowing where they were actually going and if they would return.

Notorious is a full size replica. It weighs 55 tonnes, is 17.5 metres long and 5.5 metres wide. The keel is ironbark and the rest of the ship is Monterey Cypress covered with tar. It was launched on February 7th 2011 in Port Fairy, Victoria.

Notorious

There is just one day left to see Notorious before she sails off on her next adventure.

Notorious

Southbank is looking great in the winter sun.

Southbank Brisbane

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 2, 2015

The Romans and Van Gogh were here

Arles  sits just downstream from where the Rhone River forks into 2 branches, forming the Camargue delta. The city has a long and interesting history. The Ligurians were in the area from about 800BC. Later the Celts were there, followed by the Phoenicians who set up a trading post. Later it was taken over by the Romans.

It became an important town and an aqueduct, amphitheatre, triumphal arch, Roman circus and city walls were built. It was closer to the sea at that time and it served as a port.

The Roman amphitheatre is still standing…with some help, and is still used.

Arles amphitheatre

 

Arles amphitheatre

Arles amphitheatre

For a fee you can enter this very impressive building.

Arles amphitheatre

Arles amphitheatre

Arles amphitheatre

…all the way to the top for some great views over the town to the river.

Arles amphitheatre

Arles amphitheatre

Arles amphitheatre

Just around the corner from the amphitheatre is another Roman ruin, also still in use for  performances…those Romans built things to last.

Roman ruins Arles
The centre of town is Place de la Republique, a lovely, open square lined with interesting buildings and little streets heading off in all directions.

 

Place de la Republique Arles

To one side is the church of St Trophime, a major work of Romanesque architecture. The Last Judgement on its portal is considered one of the finest examples of Romanesque sculpture.

Arles church

The 12th century portal was restored in 1988 – 1995. On the right side chained souls are being dragged off to hell and on the left the righteous are being delivered into the hands of the saints. Full length statues of apostles and saints stand guard on either side.

St. Trophime Arles

The nearby cloister from the late 12th century has pillars with capitals decorated with sculptures of biblical scenes.

St Trophime Arles cloister

 

The city reached its peak during the 4th and 5th centuries. It remained important until the 19th century when the railway diminished river trade. By the time Vincent Van Gogh arrived in 1888 it had become a bit of a backwater…exactly what he was looking for. He produced over 300 paintings and drawings during his time there.

The surrounding countryside offered lots of inspiration, but the city centre did too. The laneways and cafes were captured by the artist. A cafe he painted is still there.

Arles cafe

 

Van Gogh in Arles. Google image

Today it is a busy, vibrant town that manages to mix old and new very well. The streets are extremely narrow, making driving a bit difficult in the city centre. Luckily, there is ample parking at the edge of town and the centre is not large, so it is easy to cover on foot.

We stayed in the Hotel de la Muette, a hotel in a 12th century house. It was in a great location, the room and bathroom were lovely and the young woman at reception was delightful. She spoke excellent English and was extremely helpful. We enjoyed perfect croissants for breakfast…we will be back.

There is an amazing market held every Saturday. It is the biggest and best stocked street market I have ever seen and I will show it to you in another post, as well as some street scenes in lovely Arles.

Arles, France

 

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 29, 2015

A little bit of Italy in Brisbane

I went to the wonderful Powerhouse Markets on Saturday, a gorgeous winter day…23degrees, blue sky and sunshine. At one of the stands I met Lorenzo from Bologna (right) and Alessandro, originally from Rome, but a Brisbane resident for 12 years.

Mr Motta and Lorenzo

Lorenzo is here for a year to travel, work, earn some money, learn English and experience a different life before returning to his beloved Italy. Youth unemployment in Italy right now is horrible. Lorenzo is a graduate in journalism, but there are no jobs. I asked if he would like to remain in Australia and he replied that although he loves it here he does want to go home.

I think this is great. Italy needs its young people, especially those who have had the courage and drive to leave their homes and discover how other places do things. I hope many of them return to Italy with new ideas and the enthusiasm to start some new enterprises and help Italy to thrive.

Alessandro Motta makes buffalo mozzarella and his wife makes delicious croissants filled with Nutella and they sell them at the markets. Lorenzo was there to help with sales.

Casa Motta mozzarella

Casa Motta mozzarella

Casa Motta croissants

Farmers’ markets are becoming very popular in Australia, which is a good thing. Just take a look at some of my purchases.

Powerhouse Market produce

Of course I bought some Casa Motta mozzarella…here it is.

Casa Motta mozzarella

The Powerhouse markets happen every Saturday morning near the beautiful New Farm Park. Here is a winter day in Brisbane…the reason I return from Italy every June.

New Farm Park

New Farm Park

We had some grey clouds and a bit of rain today, but that is fine too, especially when the sky looks as good as this.

Brisbane sky

Casa Mottacasamotta.com.au

Powerhouse Markets…janpowersfarmersmarkets.com.au

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 26, 2015

La Foce…a magnificent garden in Tuscany

La Foce lies close to the Tuscan towns of Montepulciano, Chiusi and Chianciano Terme in the Val d’Orcia.

The 15th century villa was restored by Anglo/American Iris Origo and her husband, Marchese Antonio Origo in the 1920s. She was the daughter of a very wealthy man who died when she was a child. Her mother rented, then bought Villa Medici in Fiesole, near Florence, where Iris was brought up.

Under the management of Iris and Antonio the property was turned from an arid, desolate, poverty-stricken group of farms into a beautiful estate in the ‘crete senesi’ (clay hills). They brought prosperity, cultural and social changes to the people who worked the land. At its height the estate had 57 farms over 7,000 acres.

Crete senesi…clay hills.

Crete senesi La Foce

Today the estate is owned and managed by Iris and Antonio’s daughters. It is possible to stay in one of the apartments or the B&B on the property, or, as we did, visit the garden. It is open to the public for a small fee on Wednesday afternoons.

The garden was designed by family friend, Cecil Pinsent, who also designed the garden at Villa Medici.

It is a simple, elegant garden filled with perennials, green enclosures, box-edged beds and walks lined with soaring cypress trees.

La Foce

 

La Foce

Come for a walk through this delightful garden. We began at the wisteria tunnel…I want one!

 

La Foce

La Foce

La Foce

On one side of the tunnel are gorgeous beds filled with peonies, roses, acanthus and more.

La Foce

La Foce

On the other, steps lead down to the more formal gardens.

La Foce

La Foce

La Foce

La Foce

La Foce

La Foce

La Foce

La Foce

The most outstanding part of the estate is the Strada di Valoresi, which has surely inspired many other scenes in Tuscany.

La Foce

La Foce

La Foce

Iris Origo was also an author. I have just read her book “War in Val d’Orcia”, which tells of the awful time during WWII when the Origos were caught in the middle of fighting in the area.

They had taken in 60 children and helped escaped prisoners, partisans and refugees struggling to find food and shelter. I recommend it highly. When you experience the beauty and tranquility of this lovely place it is almost impossible to imagine the misery that was inflicted in those horrible times.

La Foce

La Foce…www.lafoce.com

Strada della Vittoria 61,

Chianciano Terme.

(39) 0578 69101

email…info@lafoce.com

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 23, 2015

A visit to Campiglia Marittima

Campiglia Marittima is a well preserved medieval town not far from the Tuscan coast south east of Livorno.There are lots of wonderful winding laneways and stone arches to explore. We wandered through on a lovely spring day.

Campiglia Marittima

I found a fine collection of doorways.

In the centre of town is the Palazzo Pretorio dating from the 13th century. The outside of the building is covered with 65 crests of the Capitani del Popolo.

The ruin of a castle sits at the top of the town. La Rocca was built between the 12th and 14th centuries, possibly on the site of an earlier castle or fort. Until the end of the 13th century the buildings were inhabited by the Della Gherardesca family who were responsible for turning a group of huts into a village.

Campiglia Marittima

There isn’t much left of the castle, but there are some excellent views from the top.

Campiglia Marittima

The Church of San Giovanni sits just outside the main group of houses in the town. It is surrounded by a graveyard in a lovely garden setting.

Campiglia Marittima

Campiglia Marittima

The church stands on a bare platform…I have not seen a church like this anywhere else. It is quite stark, but there are some interesting statues and stone carvings.

Campiglia Marittima

Campiglia Marittima

Campiglia Marittima

Campiglia Marittima

Around the church of San Giovanni are some strange symbols. On the ground in front of the church door is paved with what is undoubtedly a tombstone. This bears various inscriptions and a very curious central motif; an androgynous body which is male below the waist, female above. The figure seems to be holding a torch in its right hand, while supporting itself against a board.

Campiglia Marittima

The same figure, but more distinct is to be found on the house at number 4 Via B.Buozzi in the village. Here the figure seems to be holding a number 3 rather than a torch. The figure is a bit of a mystery…perhaps it was an early pizza shop and he/ she was ordering 3 pizzas.

Campiglia Marittima

Campiglia Marittima

Campiglia Marittima is well worth a visit…see if you can work out what is the meaning of the figure.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 20, 2015

My favourite house in Lucca

I am back in Brisbane for a few months to enjoy our subtropical winter. Over the next few months I will go through the many photos I took in Italy, France and Spain this year and tell you about my travels.

Just before I left Italy I stopped in front of my favourite house in Lucca. I pass it each time I drive to Lucca along Via Matteo Civilita.

Villa Ducloz was commissioned by Luigi Ducloz de Piazzoni in 1903 and designed by architect Gaetano Orzali.

Villa Ducloz Lucca

 

It has a gorgeous sunflower motif at its Art Nouveau heart.

 

Villa Ducloz Lucca

 

Villa Ducloz Lucca

Villa Ducloz Lucca

Villa Ducloz Lucca

The gardens surrounding the house are lovely too.

Villa Ducloz Lucca

Villa Ducloz Lucca

 

Villa Ducloz Lucca

I would love to see inside, but as it appears to be a private house, this seems to be unlikely.

There are many more beautiful Art Nouveau houses around the outside of the Lucca walls. It is well worth a slow walk past to admire them.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 13, 2015

Casa Debbio roundup

It is time to go home to Australia and leave my garden at Casa Debbio behind. We have done a lot of work to create a new garden on the terrace below the house. Things are growing (too slowly for me) and it is beginning to take shape.

This is what we started with. The photo was taken in late winter. The trees were cut back last year because the chestnut trees had a weird growth in the leaves and the hazelnut had a big crack in the main trunk. The lavender and rosemary were also cut back.

Casa Debbio

This is what it looks like now.

Casa Debbio

I spring there were wild daisies all over the place.

Casa Debbio

We have planted another 4 rows of lavender, 1 row on either side of the path below the house and 2 more on the side of the hill. After a slow start they are growing and I know they will put on a good show next year.

Casa Debbio

As well as lavender we have peonies, rhododendrons, hydrangeas, lilac, fruticans, roses, azaleas, wisteria, lilac and several other lovely things. The lavender is spectacular this year. The flowers aren’t open yet, but there are double the number of flowers we had last year.

Casa Debbio

The fruit trees flowered and small fruit is appearing on some. We have quince, apples, pears, peaches, plums, pomegranates, figs and persimmons. There will be lots of figs this year. We won’t have cherries because the old trees were pruned heavily, but there will be lots of raspberries.

Casa Debbio

We are building a frame for the wisteria beside the house to grow on. I can see lovely wisteria flowers hanging from there next year.

I saw a gorgeous moon from our terrace. At night the house is surrounded by fireflies turning our garden into fairyland.

Casa Debbio

I awoke last week to a spectacular rainbow.

Casa Debbio

The other day I climbed up the terraces above the house for a birds’ eye view of Casa Debbio.

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Casa Debbio

Best of all, the first peony I planted grew 21 buds and most turned into spectacular flowers. I am hoping all 35 peony plants will produce next year.

Casa Debbio

I will be leaving my garden in Filippo’s capable hands. I can’t wait to see it in September when I return. I will have a huge crop of lavender to pick this year…and lots of plants to prune.

Casa Debbio is still available for a few weeks this summer, so if you would like to spend time in a very beautiful part of Italy and experience an authentic Italian mountain village email me at debrakolkka@gmail.com.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 11, 2015

A silly goat

I’m sure you have all seen those people dressed up as statues in front of tourist sites. They stand still on a box pretending to be a gladiator or Dante or another figure from history.

They stand there and you put money in a box. Some are better than others. I came across one in Barcelona on the way to Park Guell that made me giggle. He/she was covered in a bed sheet and had a goat’s head sticking out in front.

Silly goat

Silly goat

When you put money in the box, the goat reached forward and gave a little bleat.

Silly goat

 

Silly goat

…maybe you needed to be there, but I was highly amused.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 8, 2015

The view from a sidecar

I have something different for you in this post. Our good friend Paul has a collection of vintage motorbikes, one of which has a sidecar. He drove his motorbike with his friend Kevin in the sidecar to Casa Debbio for lunch.

The table awaits.

Casa Debbio

Kevin filmed the drive on his Gopro. Follow the ride up the mountain to Casa Debbio.

I know this road very well, but it looks quite different from that angle. I would like to try it one day.

 

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 6, 2015

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia is Antoni Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece. Even surrounded by cranes it is magnificent.

Sagrada Familia

Construction began in 1882 and Gaudi took over the project a year later. It is a mixture of Gothic and Art Nouveau design. Gaudi devoted his last years to the church. When he died in 1926 less than a quarter of the building was completed.

The outside of the building is a bit of a mixture of designs, some I like more than others.

Sagrada Familia

As fabulous as the outside is, I think it is the interior that is the real star. You could seriously develop a neck problem if you spent too much time in the church. Perhaps they need to provide flat beds so you don’t get a crick in your neck from looking up.

 

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

 

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

We booked online to get a time to enter the building, which was a great idea. We also booked a time to take the evelator to the top of one of the towers. We then walked across the top of the church and  down the spiral staircase, stopping along the way to admire the view and bits of the church.

This is looking down the spiral staircase.

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

…and this is looking up.

Sagrada Familia

Work continues on Sagrada Familia and it is hoped it will be completed in 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death.

Don’t miss the Sagrada Familia and do book ahead…be prepared for big crowds.

 

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