Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 17, 2017

Winter at the beach

I love coming home to Queensland for winter. The weather has been particularly good lately..time for a Noosa beach visit.

We woke up to this view from the hotel balcony.

The pool looked great, but I prefer the beach just a short walk away. Here is Noosa beach early in the morning.

It just keeps getting better as the day goes on.

I love nothing better than diving into the cool ocean.

Later in the afternoon a golden light descends on the beach, the perfect time for a walk.

…beautiful Noosa.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 14, 2017

All front

There are some stunning building facades in Italy. We came upon one in Bassano del Grappa in the north of Italy with a “For Sale” sign on it.

Upon closer inspection all that was for sale was the facade.

I think it’s great that it was preserved and will  be incorporated in whatever is eventually built behind it.

Bassano del Grappa is a fascinating town…more to come.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 12, 2017

A pretty church on Santorini

On our walk up to the centre of Fira, Santorini, we came upon this pretty church. I can’t tell you the name of it as I don’t speak and can’t read Greek. I will let the photos speak for themselves.

It is framed by eucalyptus trees.


The stark white looks brilliant against the bright blue sky.

The cemetery is beside the church.

There is another tiny chapel beside the cemetery.

The church is on the opposite side of the caldera and the main part of the town…worth a walk.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 8, 2017

Incredible Oia

Oia is a stunning town on the north east edge of the Greek Island, Santorini. The town extends almost 2 kilometres along the top of the caldera, the edge of a collapsed volcano.. To say that Oia is stunning is an understatement. It doesn’t seem real…a gorgeous fairyland.

The houses and restaurants are built into niches carved into the cliff side.

I want to come back and stay in one of the places with its own tiny pool. We didn’t see anyone swimming in any of the pools despite the warm weather. I so much wanted to dive in.

The tiny streets that wind through the town were crowded even in early May. I can’t imagine how hot and squashed they are in summer. Every day huge ships sends thousands of people ashore. We could see 3 waiting off shore.

There are some very cute shops.

I particularly liked this terrace and its  sun loving resident.

An old castle perches right on the edge…a popular place to watch the sunset.

The buildings are mostly white with the occasional splash of colour. Blue domed churches are dotted everywhere.

We had to have a Greek salad on Santorini.

300 steps wind down to the sea 100 metres below the town.

We didn’t walk down, or up. We were driven down to the port where we boarded a boat for a day of sailing around the island…another post.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | July 3, 2017

Suburban birds

My mother has a wonderful back yard about 30 minutes from the centre of Brisbane.

The shallow pool attracts water birds and right now magpie geese are there, along with wild ducks, ibis, water hens, a single spoonbill and a heron.

The birds gather in the morning and stay most of the day enjoying the sun. There are dozens of magpie geese. They are striking birds with black necks and heads. The distinctive knob on top of the head grows in size with age.

The birds don’t seem to be bothered by lawn mowers.

By late afternoon they are all a bit sleepy.

There are only a few ibis. These birds are becoming pests in cities where they scavenge for scraps.

The spoonbill is fascinating to watch. The bird feeds by walking through the water sweeping its beak from side to side looking for water insects, fish, crustaceans and molluscs.

It seemed happy to hang around with the magpie geese.

There are a few wild ducks. When my Dad was alive there were lots more. He used to feed them. He said it helped to make up for the duck shooting days in his youth.

The water hens are more difficult to spot. They keep to the edges under the trees.

I saw a single heron, remarkably similar to the ones that feed on the river in front of our apartment in Bagni di Lucca.

My father loved his backyard. It was quite swampy when he moved to the house. Over the years he made waterways, built bridges and with his neighbours mowed a 3 hole golf course beside the waterhole.

The house will be sold soon. It will be difficult to say goodbye to Dad’s favourite place. I hope the new owners like birds.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 27, 2017

Casa Debbio update 2017

I am now back in Australia for a couple of months, leaving our garden at Casa Debbio in the capable hands of Filippo.

The new growth each spring still amazes me. When I arrived in February, winter was almost over and there were signs of new beginnings. Once things start to turn green it all happens very quickly.

The garden has really come on this year. Our first lavender is now 5 years old, the second planting is 4 years old and the lower terrace is in its 3 summer.

The first 2 photos were taken 2 years ago. The difference this summer is amazing.


We have also planted another 100 lavender along the sides of the road up to the house. They are still quite small, but they are growing well.

The new pergola has been put to good use and we have had many lunches on the terrace.

Wisteria and roses are growing over the 2 pergolas. I am hoping they will be covered by next summer.

The last of my peonies flowered just before we left. There were 50 dark crimson blooms on one and 30 white flowers on the one beside it.

The hydrangeas were beginning to flower. The oak leaf hydrangea is fabulous and the 5 plants I have seem to be thriving.

Aquilegias do very well at Casa Debbio. They are great little plants and flower for quite a while.

The weather this spring was glorious. I rained for months last year, but this year was dry. We had warm weather early,  but then cold days returned. We had the promise of cherries, but the cool weather changed that. The blossoms came, then little cherries , but they didn’t come to much. The tree looks fine, so maybe next year will be better. We have planted 6 new cherry trees, along with apple, pear, pomegranate, olive, mulberry, persimmon, quince and peach trees. Our raspberries and tomatoes are thriving and we have a gooseberry bush.

The fig trees are laden. There are a few old trees and we have planted a dozen new ones.

Geraniums this year are happy with the fine days and are looking great.

The hardest thing for me to leave is the view. It is stunning and ever changing. The house faces south and we have sunshine all day.

I love fine, clear days, but I also love the misty days when the village below appears and disappears under the swirling mist.

Casa Debbio has been rented this summer by people from Australia, Scotland, Belgium and Poland. There are a couple of weeks available in August and September…tell your friends.

We think Casa Debbio is the perfect place to enjoy peace and quiet in a gorgeous setting. The only sounds you will hear come from the local birds and, if you are lucky Sisto, who lives below us, will play his music in the afternoons.

The village of Vergemoli is a 10 minute walk, or a 3 minute drive, if you feel like a chat with the locals. In summer there is often a party in the piazza. Drop ins are welcome.

I am counting the days until my return in fabulous autumn…time to prepare the garden for the winter.

It all started with this…amazing.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 25, 2017

Snorkelling in Silfra

One of the highlights of our Iceland trip was snorkelling in a freezing lake. I didn’t do it, but I did get to watch our friends Jodie, Allan and Hannah. Jodie was the superstar planner of our Iceland visit and Allan did a great job driving us all over Iceland.

Dive Silfra ( organises fabulous diving or snorkelling experiences in one of the top dive sites in the world. Jodie chose the Silfra fissure site, the only place where you can dive or snorkel in the crack between 2 continental plates. The underwater visibility is over 100 metres. The water comes from the nearby Lanjokull glacier. It is filtered through porous underground lava for 30 – 100 years until it reaches the north end of the Thinvellir lake.

The water is always between 2 and 4 degrees. I couldn’t snorkel because I get asthma caused by temperature changes and I am only just under the 65 age limit. I was happy to watch, especially when I saw the procedure to prepare for the event.

We arrived bright and early to the preparation area.

First of all our snorkellers put on their thermals…who doesn’t love a onesie, especially one with an escape hatch in the back?

Then came the dry suits.

Neck bands, head covers and gloves came next.

Jodie had room for someone else in her dry suit.

Then they were off to the water.

The instructor gathered the group for final instructions.

The water is very cold. The snorkellers were instructed to put their faces into the water. Apparently they go numb quite quickly…sounds like fun.

The instructor soon got them moving through the water.

From above we could tell they were having a great time. They were certainly excited as the appeared above the water and they were helped to take their flippers and head covers off.

All 3 declared it was the best thing they had ever done. The cold water didn’t seem to be a bother at all.

Then it was back to base with excited chatter all the way. The suits were hauled off and there was a welcome hot chocolate.

Thank you to the wonderful guide Deyan.

Here are some photos Deyan took from his perspective.

He even managed one of me and Jodie’s Dad.

These were taken by the snorkellers.

…and a video.


Jodie did an amazing job making plans for our Iceland trip. She sniffed out all the best places to go. If you are thinking of visiting Iceland let me know and I will put you in touch with her.


Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 22, 2017

Where America meets Europe

The North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet in Iceland. This is the only place  on land where we can easily see the effects of 2 major plates drifting apart. The plates are constantly diverging, causing fissures and gullies and creating a diverse and stunning landscape. The plates move at the rate of 2 centimetres a year.

Standing on the edge at Thinvellir national park.

Thinvellir national park is a popular place to visit in Iceland. Thinvellir lake is the largest in Iceland and it is magnificent. Like much of Iceland, the landscape is dramatic, with rocky cliffs, waterways and mountain backdrops.

We were there at the beginning of summer and there were wildflowers and new life everywhere.

It is possible to snorkel or dive in the lake. The water is crystal clear with visibility to 100 metres. You can actually see the giant fissures between the plates.  I will tell you all about that in the next post.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 19, 2017

Walk behind a waterfall

While in Iceland we visited its most famous waterfall, Seljalandsfoss. It is part of the Seljalands river and originates in the volcano glacier Eyjafjallajokull.

The waterfall is spectacular. It is around 60 metres high in a stunning landscape.

Rainbows form in the spray from the falling water.

The best bit is that you can walk behind the waterfall. We had bought some gorgeous plastic raincoats at the supermarket in Reykjavik and they were put to good use.

We entered the track to the waterfall from the left side and it a reasonably easy walk. The path is wet, but surprisingly not too slippery.

Being behind the waterfall is breathtaking. The clips on the side of the supermarket raincoat didn’t work very well, so it kept flying up over my head. Juggling a camera that was getting wet while holding down the raincoat kept me busy.


The path out of the waterfall was steep and rocky. There was a bit of a holdup when a couple of people had to be dragged up. At that point I put the camera away and hauled myself up the slope.

The view from the other side was marvellous.

It was definitely worth getting wet and muddy to go behind the waterfall.

As we left I saw some brave souls walking up a very steep path to a cave beside the waterfall. I didn’t need that experience.

Seljalandsfoss is on the south coast of Iceland near Vik. It is lit up in winter, which must look stunning, but it is not possible to walk behind as it is too slippery. Seeing the waterfall is fabulous, but the walk behind it is a great experience.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | June 16, 2017

Sunny Helsinki

Our week in Iceland is over and we are now in Helsinki, our last stop before heading home to Brisbane. Summer has arrived and Helsinki is stunning. There are flowers everywhere.

The Helsinki cathedral looks spectacular with its blue backdrop.

The Russian church is surrounded by lilacs.

The Sea Pool is open and attracting crowds.

There is music in the street.


Esplanadi park is looking wonderful and Helsinki residents are enjoying the sunshine.


I have lots more to share on our time in Italy, Greece and fabulous Iceland. There will be more posts over the next couple of months while I am back home, planning my next visit in September. I will be back at Casa Debbio in autumn to get the garden ready for the winter.



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