Monday, 29 June 2009

Ravello

Wednesday 24 August 2005. After we left Amalfi the coach took us up into the hills and we stopped for lunch.

This turned out to be pasta, which I don't really like, but needs must - yeuch! An then on to Ravello.

The village is gorgeous, but we have come here in particular to visit Villa Rufolo, famous for both its gardens and as a venue for open air performances.

I didn't pay much attention to the chap crossing in front of me at the time but can lay people's minds to rest by reporting that he was whistling and not reacting to a bee sting...

This corner was laid out with chairs ready for a performance. Whatever it was, it wasn't to happen during our visit!

The venue hosts performances from opera to Elton John. This is the main stage, erected on scaffolding on the very edge of the cliff face.

Elton John wasn't there at the time we visited though, so I took advantage of an empty stage to stand on it myself and give a short but extremely worthy aria... or something...

The stage actually overhangs the cliff and couldn't be in a more spectacular setting. Wagner wrote part of his Parsifal here.

The gardens were a riot of colour whilst we were there. My Grandad would have loved it. His greenhouse was always a riot of colour and that heady smell of plant growth and compost when I was a kid. Apparently when I was a baby I found the paint brush he had been painting his greenhouse frame with - this being in the days of wooden-framed greenhouses. Apparently soap and water had to be deployed to get the green paint out of my mouth... Somewhat thankfully I don't remember this myself...

The view over the cliffs. This is one of the most common postcard views of Ravello.

This is another. Google for Ravello images and you will see these twin towers again and again.

Villa Rufolo originated in the 13th century as a convent. There is still plenty of evidence of that time of quiet religious contemplation, but try as I might I could find nun of the original inhabitants...

Never-the-less, these quiet remains of a previous way of life gave the place an alternative character and the cool of the vaulted room was welcome after the heat and glare of the sunshine outside.

It was time to leave Villa Ruffolo, so we came out to the pleasant square we saw earlier, where this shop quickly got the attention of the ladies.

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Sunday, 28 June 2009

Happy 21st Birthday!

Today we played for a 21st Birthday Party out to the north of Preston. We've played this one a few times now - not always for a 21st of course, but we did the young lady's 18th and her brother's 21st and this year was her turn to be the magical 21.

The garden party started in fine form with brilliant sunshine as you can see.

By the time the champagne cork popped and smacked David in the face - were they trying to tell him something - anyway, two and a half hours of his singing had not done much for the weather, as can be seen here as he poses with the wayward champagne cork.

Not long after this, thunder rumbled and then the heavens opened and stayed open and we had to quickly drag everything back into the tent/gazebo. The rain wasn't going anywhere though and we had to dismantle and start to dry everything out.

At least we had managed to do a brand new version of Bridge Over Troubled Water for the party girl's gran - as promised a couple of years ago!

Blackpool Zoo

On Friday we met up with David and Jeannie and we all went to spend the day at Blackpool Zoo. It was a gorgeous day and a brilliant day out. We spent 5 hours at the zoo and had a great time. It would have cost a fortune in the days of films and developing costs!

End of words - photo flood follows. In the interests of space I've kept it strictly to one photo of each animal. You'll find the others at Flickr. There's 125 photos altogether.

Meerkat

Lioness and Cubs

Giant Tortoise

The Clicky Monster!

Giraffe

Rhea

Llama

Sea Lion with 3-Day-Old Pup

King Colobus Monkey

Black Faced Spider Monkey

Orang Utan

Red Panda

Zebra

Flamingoes

Pelicans

Goats

Ring Tailed Lemur

Lizard

Iguana

Baby Donkey

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Day Trip to Wales

Apart from Wednesday and Thursday when I've been at a conference, I've been off work this week and on Tuesday we had a drive down into North Wales.

The view of Conwy Castle as you approach over the bridge that spans the River Conwy is stunning and I've never taken the trouble to walk back over to get a good shot. So I did this time!

We had lunch in a cafe housed within one of the towers on the city wall and bagged a window table overlooking the RNLI Lifeboat House and the river harbour. A stunning view.

Then a walk along the harbour wall. Britain's smallest house is said to be this tiny red painted cottage along the city wall. There was a group of schoolchildren sitting opposite it, all illustriously drawing it. That takes me back - remember going out to draw something from school, being very self-concious and hating it if anyone tried to look over your shoulder?

We exchanged a few words with the lady in Welsh National Dress (she didn't sound Welsh to be honest) and had a walk through the city wall and then up a steep hill to re-enter the town through another gate in the wall.

Fran bought a Liliput Lane model of the smallest cottage - the woman in the shop sounded more Merseyside than Welsh too...!

Then we drove towards Snowdon, Yr Wyddfa, Wales' highest mountain and Britain's highest mountain south of Scotland.

We were fancying a ride on the Llanberis Lakeside Railway, having last done this in 1992. It was an extended railway from the 1992 layout. It is one of the Great Little Trains of Wales and is a pleasant way to spend an hour and a bit!

From the railway you get good views of the Snowdonia mountains and travel alongside a couple of lakes, though many visitors, I'm sure, as I did will think of them as one.

A small steamer passed by in the opposite direction on the lake, passengers exchanging waves with those on the train whilst the two steam powered vehicles exchanged polite toots on their whistles!

We had our evening meal in a cafe in Llandudno - an absolutely huge chunk of gammon steak that even I had to admit defeat over... And I was always taught to clear my plate! (Looks at waistline and thinks "and see where that got me!!!")

Corporate Event Gig

Last night we played for the JISC Regional Support Centre (RSC) Northwest annual conference at Southport Theatre and Convention Centre after I had been involved in the event with my work hat on!

A few people were wondering what to expect and some were possibly a bit gobsmacked but lots of nice comments folks so thanks for that!

A birthday party on Sunday will make the 3rd gig in 8 days!

Large version of photos: creeping bentgrass

Monday, 22 June 2009

Birthday and Charity Night

Saturday was my Mum's 75th birthday.

Ever since Dad died five years ago she has organised a charity bash at the caravan park where she lives in aid of Cancer Research. Over the years she has raised somewhere around £3000 at those events.

The afternoon is devoted to raffles, tombola, name the doll, the whisky wall and a bring and buy.

In the evening the band has played. Outside if the weather is fine and in a large barn if it's cold or threatens rain.

This weekend we were in the barn and David and I gave the residents and holiday makers 3 and a half hours of country, folk, sixties and rock and roll. We started with Don Williams' Gypsy Woman and ended with everyone in a circle singing You'll Never Walk Alone with a whole host of stuff along the way, including a first airing (without even a rehearsal) of Billy Fury's Maybe Tomorrow as part of a five-song tribute to Billy's memory.

Large versions of the photos: Mum, John and David

A Day in Zakinthos

Wednesday, 6 May 2009. Our last day cruising on the Ocean Village Two brings us to Zakinthos in Greece.

We got off the ship to a display of Greek dancing on the quayside. The girl in the middle had a face like thunder for some reason - probably not helped by the two morons watching who were saying loudly, "Oh, she's not a happy bunny in the middle!" totally ignoring the fact that just because they didn't speak Greek it was quite possible she could understand what they were saying...

Today we weren't going to do a trip. After all the excitement of Corfu I might never do one again... Anyway, we just got off the ship and wandered off on our own to see what delights Zakinthos could offer us.

It was a bit early in the season perhaps - or all the Brits that haunt the bars and fling their clothes off for the late night Sky One shows were still sleeping it off and hadn't yet woken up to think "My God - who's he/she/them?"

A walk around the back streets and shopping streets gave us a mixed sense of Zakinthos. The shopping streets had some large shop windows and marble pavements with cool arcades to shelter shoppers from the sun whilst elsewhere, even on the same street were older, smaller shops with broken pavements and many with fish displayed outside, strong smelling and not particularly appealing except to cats and, I suppose, the locals. Though I have to point out that when it comes to fish, we don't particularly eat a lot of it anyway and of what we do probably more than half comes wrapped in batter from the local chippy!

There was a large amount of building work in evidence - I said that deliberately rather than "going on"... This probably added to making the atmosphere a bit dusty.

It wasn't dusty enough to be unpleasant or to even be aware of it, but most surfaces and cars were caked in dust. Perhaps they just conserve their water, I don't know. Car parking seemed to be a challenge to many drivers. One chap found the space between two cars less than he needed, so he just left his car in the middle of road, next to them and wandered off down the street to do his shopping. Someone else had parked nose to the kerb in order to use a small space.

There were loads of cars double parked, sometimes whole rows of them, making it impossible for anyone parked next to the kerb to drive away. Your average British traffic warden would have loved it - I'll bet they all go there for their holidays, just to dream. Probably leave notes on the windscreen saying "if only this were on my patch..."

We made our way down to the seafront and walked along the Promenade for a while. We kept meeting couples from the ship who all asked the same thing - "Is this it?" We told them about the shopping street we had found and they tried to look excited, but yes, as nice as the seafront was - that seemed to be it.

We walked for another quarter hour and then turned and walked back all along the front, buying a drink from a stall.

The dancers had packed up and gone, perhaps leading away an inconsolable young woman from the middle with the words "I know I shouldn't have stepped on your foot, but if you could just look like you are enjoying it...? We went back to the ship and found a quiet spot to read for the afternoon.

Then we had a last meal in the La Luna restaurant, served with steak by Epris and able to relax and watch the sea glide past through the window.

We ordered this gigantic banana split - 4 bananas, 6 scoops of Walls Carte D'Or vanilla ice cream, 4 chocolate twirly sticks, chocolate sauce, strawberries and cream. By heck!!! The average cruiser puts on a stone in a week. We were careful all week and put it on all in that one dessert! Tomorrow we fly back to England. And that's a sorry tale to come...

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