In defence of photo albums

An early casualty of the digital photo revolution was the traditional photo album. During our stay in the UK and Italy last year I took 4,626 photos. Of that vast number exactly none have been printed out.

They are all stored on my iMac, and on two back up drives that sit humming away next to it. If we want to show people the photos we gather around  the television and run a slide show with commentary provided by Jean and I as our guest’s eyes slowly glaze over.

We have lost the tactile fun that is a photo album – and we were reminded of this when my brother and his wife visited last weekend. They had just returned from a trip to Texas and the East Coast of the USA. Upon returning, brother Geoff had taken the memory card from his camera to the local photo printing place and returned with 6×4 glossies. All of which are now in photo albums.

Going through them was a pleasure. All of us huddled around the albums as they were passed around. Fingers pointing at certain shots and describing the situation that went before or after. Turning pages to connect one shot with another. We spent an hour going through them and didn’t realise where the time went.

So here’s the thing. If you’ve got all your photographs sitting on hard drives or CDs of DVDs, go non-digital and print off an album or two. I intend to.

A day at Pompeii


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For our visitor’s final day in Italy, we visited Pompeii, one of the three towns destroyed by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79 AD.  What sets Pompeii apart from other roman ruins is the fact that the eruption buried … Continue reading

Amalfi, Ravello and dinner


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On Sunday we took our visitors to Amalfi and Ravello.  This a drive of only 25kms from Positano but it takes the best part of 50 minutes given the narrow winding road along the coast.  You pass through picturesque villages … Continue reading

Visitors to Positano

This weekend we will have visitors staying with us at Villa Greta.  Our friend Gill from the UK is flying in for the weekend with her Mum and her Mum’s husband Allan from New Zealand who are on their first trip to Europe. Positano is their first stop outside the UK and the trio fly into Naples airport on Friday evening and stay until Monday.

With so many things to see and do and so little time, picking the best activities is critical.  At this stage there is definitely a trip to Pompeii on the cards.  A walk around Positano is a must and a trip down the coast to Ravello or Amalfi is a good way to see the local area.  But beyond that the weekend is an unwritten story.

Suggestions anyone?

Tuscany in three and a half days – day three


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No trip to Tuscany is complete without a visit to Chianti.  We took the back road from Siena through Castellina to Greve.  We couldn’t resist showing Charlie and Isabel the deli in Greve particularly as Isabel’s business is dairy.  Although … Continue reading

Tuscany in three and a half days – day two


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When thinking about where to take Isabel and Charlie, we decided to focus on the smaller places.  They had already spent some time in Florence before arriving at our place and we felt that most people equated Tuscany with rural … Continue reading

Today is a big day

Today Jean’s sister, brother-in-law and their wee baby arrive in Positano. Charmaine, Mike and James have been in Europe for the last 2 weeks visiting London and Paris. They should be well acclimatised and ready to tackle the frantic pace of life that is Positano.

This is their first trip to Italy and we are really excited to have the chance to show them around.

They fly into Naples airport later this afternoon (Wednesday) and we have arranged for a car and driver to pick them up and bring them over the hill to Positano. We’ve already asked them not to judge Italy by what they see during the drive. While there are parts of Naples that are beautiful the parts you pass through on the way to the Amalfi peninsula are not those ones. I’ve never really experienced the third world but I imagine it’s a bit like southern Naples.

The Amalfi Coast with the coast road cut into the cliffs - look closely and you'll spot it

The good news is that all that is forgotten when you crest the backbone of the peninsular and the view is the blue sea with the thin ribbon of road winding along the coast cut precariously into the cliffs and with small villages hanging to the cliffs in seemingly impossible places.

We’ve also warned them about the width of the roads (or lack thereof) and the propensity of Italians driving everything from scooters to tour buses to overtake or undertake or to do u-turns or simply stop for no reason at all.

Thankfully the limousine drivers are experts at negotiating these roads however I do recall one occasion a few years ago when almost all the luxury Mercedes car that we started the trip in made it to the end.

It had a wing mirror removed by a passing car that got a little too close. All I remember was the sound of tearing metal and smashing glass, and the sight of the mirror flying past the side window of the car. No one stopped but we did learn a few choice Italian phrases that we could use if we found ourselves in a similar situation.

Charmaine, Mike and James – welcome to Italy.

Catching up with Kate

Last night we caught up with Kate and her family who are spending 2 months travelling around Europe. Kate used to work with Jean at Clemenger but she is currently based in the UK with her partner.

Jean had put Kate in touch with our villa wizard friend Olga when their trip was being planned but made sure to recommended a villa we had stayed at previously. Villa Crognole is a beautiful villa tucked into the Chianti hills with a view down the valley towards Radda.

We called into Crognole yesterday afternoon for a drink or two along with Olga and her husband which meant the afternoon was spent sitting in the sun discussing travel, news from home, and any other subject that wandered into people’s minds, all in a mix of english, italian and kiwi.

We went to dinner with Kate and her family at Le Vigne restaurant just outside Radda. It was dining al fresco with a view over the vineyards that produce some of the great Chianti Classico wines.

Dinner was lovely and all done on Italian time. That simply means that the wine and various courses rolled out through the evening until we finally left the restaurant, just before midnight.

Good people, great company and truly la dolce vita.

We’ve got mail

One thing we pondered when we arrived at Casavacanza Vesta was whether letters, packages or parcels from home could find us.  While almost all of our correspondence is by email or text, we thought there may be the need for good old fashioned postage.  You know, documents that need signing, letters that need reading and packages that need opening.  Could the Italian postal system work it’s magic and deliver mail to our door?

We have mail.

Jean’s Mum helped us out by mailing a test letter a fortnight ago and the good news is it arrived yesterday – lovingly delivered by Mrs Patritzia.  She seemed a little surprised to be the final link in the Poste Italian supply chain as I suspect we were the first guests in Casavacanza history to get mail.

So, gentle reader, let’s put Mrs Patrizia to work, feel free to write or, even better, send presents.

Visitors from distant shores

We are starting to plan for the arrival of summer visitors. Today we bought a small freezer which now holds pride of place in the kitchen (and the dining room and part of the lounge) so we can do ice cubes, gelato and actually store meat for more than a day or two. And get beer really cold in a hurry.

The barbecue is being specified at present. We are thinking charcoal as that seems to be the accepted norm. Around here gas seems to be for gattino – look it up. Also a slew of other home comforts are being put in place because it’s the beginning of the visitor season.

In the next month and a half we have visitors galore.

Villa Crognole outside Radda in Chanti.

First up we catch up with Jean’s friend Kate Maclean who worked with Jean at Clemenger. Kate and her partner are working in the UK. Kate’s family are coming over from New Zealand for a holiday which involves a week in a villa in Chianti. It has been arranged through our villa wizard Olga and is the same one we stayed at in 2006. A fantastic place. We are popping up for drinks and dinner in mid June.

Next up is a flying weekend visit by Gill from the UK. We are thinking pool life combined with excellent meals in Siena. And the odd bottle of New Zealand Chardonnay mixed in.

At the start of July the Mowday family packs the car and leaves Tuscany heading for Positano where we have rented an apartment off the lovely family who own and run Eden Roc Hotel. The really good news is we get full hotel privileges (pool, bar tab, meals on the terrace, Tony’s cappuccino for breakfast, etc) but stay off site so the dogs don’t disturb the hotel’s peace and quiet. We are there for two weeks and Jean’s sister Charmaine, brother-in-law Mike and their baby James arrive towards the end of the stay.

Jean, Josh, Andre, Gill and Jordan around the pool in 2010 while the dolphin watches on.

Back to Toscana with Charmaine, Mike and Jimmy for a week and then Gill, Josh and Jordan arrive from London with Andre following after his pilgrimage to the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring. We are still looking for large, slightly disturbing, inflatable animals to go in the pool prior to their arrival.

We are also expecting a mate from work, Danny Malone, to put in an appearance at the end of July on his 2011 European trip to round things out. An excellent month at our place.

We then head south to Rome for a weekend at the end of July with Charmaine, Mike and James before aiming the Peugeot at Nice for a car swap in early August – and a week at the delightful Hotel Welcome in Villefranche sur mer. See an earlier post for rave reviews.

After that we are ready to welcome other kiwi visitors – you know who you are – through August and September as the summer crawls to an end and our thoughts turn to autumn.

Excitingly it looks like our old friend Isabel and Charlie will be visiting in late September/early October as well. I think I can call Isabel an “old” friend as we both have had very significant birthdays this year.

Let the fun commence.