Sunday, May 31, 2009

(Almost) Normal Weekend

Because of shopping during the week, we decided not to get Roz the Yaris for Saturday shopping and instead took the red jeep up to Smith Street to 'top up' the larder. To our surprise, Smith Street Safeway has turned into Woolworths, but the only difference seems to be a coat of paint. Slightly more items are self service, like the fish in the deli and there are now some check-yourself-out aisles (let the customer do the work). We didn't avail ourself of this, then went to Suede for eggs benedict for brunch.

After doing the crossword on Sunday, Sal picked us up for a trip to Carlton to the Potter Gallery at Melbourne Uni. to see a Trevor Nickolls retrospective. His paintings are quirky and somewhat disturbing as well as funny as they juxtapose Aboriginal motifs and markings with western 'advances'. We then had a coffee in Carlton. Also, Father dropped in on his way back from lunch with Julie and Ian in St Kilda and collected the April/May accounts guff.

Tomorrow, it's back to work more or less as normal.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Back at the Melbourne Hospital

Armed with flowers, P. and I went back to the Melbourne Hospital sooner than expected to visit Noel T., who has had surgery. He seemed remarkably well, partly because it was keyhole surgery, and he should be out and home early next week. We caught up on mutual news, from us on our trip and him on his medical happenings.

On the way home we stopped in Carlton for lunch. P. had risotto with pork belly and I had gorgonzola gnocchi, which I've had at L'Italia before. It was light and creamy, good, but not as good as the outstanding gnocchi I had in Katoomba late last year. We finished, indulgently, with a tiramisu each. One to share would have been enough. Back to work!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

New Teeth Watch this Space

This morning I went to the Melbourne Hospital to see the Professor of Prosthodontics from the Dental Hospital and the head of the maxillofacial unit, plus Brent from the cobbler/elves in prosthetics. They agreed (in a lot of medical jargon) to give me four implants in my upper jaw and two in my lower which will allow attachment of dentures. I've got to have a CT scan of my jaw first, then see them again on 24 June.

The implants require surgery (in other words I won't be conscious), then three months of healing to make sure the implants 'take' and don't do anything nasty like become necrotic (a remote risk). Then the cobblers can start on some dentures.

So it's a long process, and with luck I'll have new teeth twelve months after having the old ones out. But at least we're on the road.

Next week I have my 'normal' visits to Ear, Nose and Throat, and to Renal, so further medical updates are forthcoming.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Normality hits

Two days after arrival home, I've worked through all the administrative trivia which has accumulated over seven weeks away. Nothing too dramatic occurred, and it seems I can take up where I left off. We more or less kept to budget while away, according to the bank statements, but the bank creamed off more than $300 in fees for transferring money and charging up credit card debts, in other words for computer clicks.

Tomorrow, I'm off to the hospital to see the dental folk about teeth and whatever that involves.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Home Again

Our last morning in Madrid was spent first at the Archeological Museum, which is being renovated, so only had its 'treasures' on display, which were quite enough to keep us amused. Some very fine Greek vases, plus some Iberian funerary statues. There were lots of other goodies, though they lacked context in a 'best of' display. We then spent some time in the Retiro Park with its fountains and shady pathways (it was still very warm).

Off to the airport, and the three legs home: Madrid to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Singapore, and Singapore to Melbourne. The flying parts were quite speedy as we slept a lot. The tedious bits were waiting at the airports in between. There is NOTHING of interest to me in airports, even those as grand as Changi in Singapore.

Unexpectedly, Father picked us up at an ungodly hour (4.30am) at the airport and brought us home which was very welcome. After a snooze in our beds, we went off to the arvo concert of the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra Concert (Bach and Handel with oboe) which was splendid and persuaded us that being back in Melbourne was not all bad. We miss the metro in Madrid though, where you never seemed to wait much more than three minutes.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Hot Toledo

Up early this morning for the 7.50am to Toledo, which only takes half an hour in a fast train (Connex take note again). The station at Toledo has a beautiful rose garden (ditto). Because it was a very hot day, the streets of Toledo and their cobblestones were a bit wearing, however, we did see a massive amount of bling at the Cathedral (which beats Burgos on points) and some very fresh restored El Grecos at the Museum.

We did a lot more wandering around the streets of Toledo, which is quaint, but very badly signposted. Tomorrow, sadly, we head home.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Prado'd out

Last night we went to the part of Madrid where we stayed last time. The old hotel was still there, and so were the eateries, so having had a full three-course lunch we had a tapas meal with boquerones, pimentos, tortilla and croquetas and lots of wine in a local bar.

Today was our Prado day, so after our usual breakfast at our local bar, off we went. Words fail me. It has improved out of sight since last visit, with a new cafe and lots more space to breathe. The paintings especially the Goyas, Velasquez, Tiepolos etc. were all great and we staggered home to our hotel with worn-out feet late in the afternoon.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The elusive Palacio

We trundled off this morning laden with laundromatting. We talked the man into doing it rather more quickly than usual, as Frank is off back to France today, then went to the Palacio Real. No entry! This time it was full of people (perhaps too many bus tours): come back at 11 am.

We took the opportunity to do some flaneuring around the place, having chocolate and churros in the Plaza Mayor, and looking at a couple of very Barocca churches full of bling. Back to the Palacio which had a longer queue than we have seen anywhere, so we went across town to the Academy of Art for a great serving of Goya, Velasquez, Rubens, Tintoretto, Zurburan and Murillo. Well worthwhile, but will we ever see the Royal Palace?

Back to pick up the washing, a great relief to have some clean clothes, then Frank headed off to the airport. It has been good travelling with him. Then a very good lunch at one of our local little family restaurants: basic, hardly haute cuisine, but good and good value, then a well-earned siesta.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Our hotel in Madrid is very comfy in an area which Pedro described as full of prostitutes, drug addicts and gays. Last evening, we had a drink in a square full of gay folk which was good for lots of street watching.

Yesterday, we went (free) to the Thyssen-Bournemissa Museum, which was really the reason for coming back to Madrid. It was superb, beautifully laid out with paintings which looked as though they had just been cleaned. After lunch at their excellent cafe, Pedro and I continued there, while Francisco (who leaves on Tuesday for France) went on to have a quick look at the Prado.

Today, more art, this time at the Reine Sofia modern art museum, with Guernica, but much more, especially of the Gris, Miro, Dali variety, plus some temporary exhibitions. It was free too, perhaps because it wasn´t open yesterday on museums day. Who knows? Anyway, Frank has had three museums free courtesy of the state. They paid him back by closing the Palacio Real today for some official function, so we'll have to try again tomorrow.

On the way to Reine Sofia, we popped into the beautiful Atocha station with its tropical gardens and tortoises in waterlily ponds (Connex take note) to get a timetable for Toledo, in case we do a day trip there.

We have been having a vain search for laundrettes which we are rather desperate for, but today found one but it's two metro stops away. We´ll try it tomorrow on our way for a second try at the Palacio Real.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

El Escorial

After a good breakfast at our little hotel in San Lorenzo El Escorial, we went to the main game, the Abbey of El Escorial. For two and a half hours we were treated to some really splendid art and lots of royal splendour, plus some bric-a-brac like building and kitchen implements, which are often more interesting than the bling of the aristocracy and royals.

Then after lunch in the square opposite the palace cum abbey, we hopped in Don Simon Le Gris and headed Madrid-wards. After a bit of faffing around with return of the car (sob, goodbye little fella), it was into Madrid, and a very good friendly hotel. We've had our first dinner in Madrid, before the semi-obligatory dinner hour of nine or ten at night, and are retiring for a good rest.

Tomorrow is National Museums Day so all museums are free, but will probably be crowded. More reports to come. Internet is free at the hotel.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Cloister tour

Our car touring across Spain is going very well, staying in little hotels in out-of-the-way places. After the Gothic magnificence of Burgos cathedral, we stayed in the little hamlet of San Domingo de Silos with its abbey and cloisters, almost the equal of Senanque in Provence for peace and simplicity. Then on to Soria for a splendid exhibition at the cathedral there of religious art from round the province and another cloister with four different corners ranging from the Arabic to the Gothic.

We passed by Segovia to La Granja, a huge royal palace, then over a very high sierra to El Escorial, where we´ve just had dinner. Another palace tomorrow, then Madrid.

Our little car, named Don Simon le Gris, is performing well on mountain passes and little alleyways. (In France we had Henri Le Noir, and in Scotland, Blanche.)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bilbao and the Guggenheim

After a very long train journey (Rennes to Paris, then Paris to Hendaye which included overnight in Montparnasse), we settled in a very nice and comfortable, cheap hotel in Hendaye, the ubiquitous Hotel de la Gare. We had a long walk to Hendaye-la-Plage then a good dinner (our last French one), and in the morning caught the 'mole train' (the local Basque train) first to Denostia (San Sebastian), then to Bilbao, where it was a very short walk to our comfy hotel which is right on the tram line to the Guggenheim.

Bilbao has an excellent public transport system. The tram lines even have lawn growing in between them! Connex take note. Today we DID the Guggenheim with its splendid permanent collection plus two temporary exhibitions which were all very thought provoking. The building is indeed a real knockout and worth every penny.

Tomorrow, we pick up a car and head for the 'wilds' of Spain for a few days and will probably be out of internet contact in various monasteries and national parks. We'll see. Meanwhile, we are enjoying the bars of Bilbao with lots of Basque tapas which is strangely indistinguishable from Spanish tapas, but very tasty nonetheless. Our Spanish is improving at a rapid rate.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Au revoir Dinan

We spent another day meandering around the half timbered houses of Dinan and the old Port, then yesterday tackled the trip to Mont St Michel, which, like the tapestry, is all it's cracked up to be and more. We then rested in Dinan and had a cracker dinner at a local restaurant. Pierre (soon to become Pedro) and I indulged in the seafood special which meant oysters, crab, seasnails, whelks, followed by half a crayfish each, then mixed desserts. Expensive, but worth it.

Today we dropped Polly off at the train then are off to Rennes, then to Paris.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Fairies and menhirs

We've been having a great time here. First day we wandered around town, then had a boat trip along the Rance from the old port. Next day we went on a drive to the countryside nearby and saw the biggest menhir (dolmen) in Brittany (it's a loooong story) then went after a lot of difficulty finding the way to the Allee des Fees, a megalithic stone pile in a beautiful Little-Red-Riding-Hood forest. Back then to the seaside and some fresh oysters then back home.

Frank arrived, like Polly, in the little train from Dol after a mammoth trip from home and this morning we loaded up some goodies from the weekly market for lunch. Off to eat it.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


After a very pleasant drive in our new car (Henri Le Noir) from Rouen via the Bayeux tapestry (which is all it is cracked up to be), we are now installed in our house in Dinan. It is very comfortable with all mod cons and is central to everything in Dinan. The town is molto picturesque and interesting. Today we are just wandering around it with Polly, who arrived yesterday after an epic train journey from London (four changes, finishing, before Dinan, in a tiny place called Dol!)

Frank arrives tomorrow or the day after, and we'll be sleeping on three levels in Dinan (ground, first and second floors) à tout confort.

Sunday, May 03, 2009


Rouen is a bit like an historic Disneyland, but very pleasant nonetheless. Our hotel is charming, with even room to swing a small cat, and after a very economical first day (free Cathedral, cheap meals), after another cheap morning (another church, free art gallery) we had a splendid Sunday lunch at a good eatery: oysters again, salmon for me, duck for Pierre and yummy desserts.

Tomorrow, we pick up the car and head for Dinan, via Bayeux.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Paris in brief

Didn't find an internet cafe in Paris, so the news had to wait until Rouen. However, had a great budget busting time in Paris in which the highlights were a night at the opera Bastille (Verdi's Masked Ball which was spectacularly good, plus a Vivaldi concert in the best venue in the world, the Saint-Chapelle (all that surround-stained glass).

Of course, lots of eating and drinking, and the surprise, the splendid Musee Carnavelet, on the history of Paris, with lots of rooms lifted from demolished palaces. Lunch at Chartiers for old times sake. And loads of Impressionists at the Musees d'Orsay and Marmottan. And the big thrill of seeing Rover Thomas and Papunya artists at the Quai Branly.

The hotel, next door to the Place des Vosges, was very well placed, even though our room was tiny (but not frozen). Now in Rouen, picking up the car on Monday and looking forward to seeing Frank and Polly in Dinan.