New England in The Fall, for Jake’s theme.

Jake’s Sunday Post theme this week, is ‘Autumn’, and although it’s Springtime here in South Africa, I remembered that I have some lovely photos taken a few years ago, on a visit to New England in the Fall. This was something I’d always wanted to experience, ever since a friend who used to live there, told me about the beautiful colours of the foliage to be seen at this time of year. It was in October, some time around Columbus day, and the pumpkins were out in force.

Porches were already decked out for Halloween.

We travelled around Vermont, staying in various B&B’s along the way. This one is ‘Mapletown Inn’ in the historic hamlet of Mapletown, on route 7. It dates back to 1810, and was used in the mid 19th century as a safe house for black slave fugitives who were fleeing to a better life in Canada.

The scenery was spectacular, and it’s hard to choose which pics I love the most.

I loved the movie, ‘The Bridges of Madison County’, starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep, and have also read the book, so was absolutely thrilled to see some of these wonderful covered bridges for myself.

I said that I didn’t know which pics I like the best, but at the end of the final day of our trip, we had the most wonderful photo opportunity, with the sun showing its face after a cloudy rainy day. Just before sunset, it came out to play, together with a stunning rainbow.

What more could I wish for?

Can you spot the Bennington Obelisk in this last photo? It’s a battle monument, and at 93 metres, is the tallest structure in Vermont.

I can tell you that this was the best time I’ve ever had in Autumn. So much beauty, and an American road trip which I’ll never forget.

To see more entries for Jake’s theme, just click here.

Weekend theme: Colour

My blogger friend, viewfromtheside, has given us a weekend theme, and this time it’s “Colour.”

What would our world be if we only saw things in black and white, even if occasionally, we did manage to have a few different shades of grey?

I used some of of my best photos for colour, for the “Capture the Colour” competition, but I still have a few up my sleeve. 🙂

This is the Ammazulu Palace where I went with my family for a belated Birthday lunch.  As you can see, the whole place is ablaze with colour.

I saw these beautiful brightly coloured spices at a market stall in Bolivia.

On a cloudy, rainy day in Thailand, the brilliant green and red of our long-tail boat, was the only  bit of colour we saw, as we  sat sodden almost to the skin, but determined to enjoy ourselves.

This gorgeous little bird posed so nicely for a photo, at Kuranda Bird World in Cairns.  They don’t come much more gaudy than this.

My granddaughter painted this parrot picture, which also shows the brilliantly coloured plumage of these exotic birds.

In Phuket, almost everyone rides around on bicycles or mopeds, with sometimes three or four crowded on at once. It’s quite unusual to see people wearing helmets, even though there are a myriad colours to choose from.

Also in Thailand, the parasails are very brightly coloured indeed, just so that one can be clearly seen against the dull grey of the sky. This is the craziest and most exhilarating  thing I’ve ever done on impulse. 🙂

I hope you enjoyed my colour  share. To see more bloggers’ interpretations of sidey’s theme, click here.

Ailsa’s Travel theme: Texture

Ailsa’s travel theme this week, is “Texture,” so I had a scramble through my photos to see what would qualify. I kept coming back to the beautiful animals that we’ve seen on our travels. The different textures of their coats, never cease to fascinate me. We humans just have boring old skin, which if we’re young, is smooth and blemish free, but as we get older, becomes less perfect, and unfortunately we can end up looking rather crumpled and in need of a good ironing.

I guess some animals can do nothing about their wrinkles, and the texture of this elephant which I encountered in Zimbabwe, was very rough indeed.

The texture of Mr. Gerry Giraffe’s face looked very suspect to me, as he welcomed us to the Lion Park in Johannesburg.

Most animals always manage to look beautifully groomed, just like Ravioli my daughter’s cat, whose coat is so silky soft, in spite of her being middle-aged. She’s so gorgeous, and she knows it.

The big cats are just as splendiferous, but I’ve never got close enough to be able to feel the texture of an adult lion. Maybe it’s a good thing, or I probably wouldn’t be sitting here typing this post. 🙂

We were privileged a few weeks ago to be able to pet some cute white lion cubs, and their fur was really soft and cuddly.

My sister has perfected the art of showing the texture of  fur, and you can hardly tell the difference between her paintings and the original photo. This is Hlaba Nkusi,

and here is her little cub.

I love the way you feel as though you could reach out and touch the fur on this painting. The hairs on the ears and chin, and also the whiskers are so realistic.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my photos for Ailsa’s theme. To see other bloggers’ interpretations, just click here.

Re: WordPress ‘typekit plugin’ issues

Some of you may have been wondering why I haven’t liked or commented on you posts for a few days. I can assure you that it’s not for lack of trying. It’s been most frustrating indeed.

Further to my post a couple of days ago, reporting that I was having problems accessing certain people’s blogs because I couldn’t get past this message ‘transferring data from ‘’, I have since been to this WordPress site  which tells me that this plugin hasn’t been updated for over two years and may have compatibility issues with more recent versions of WordPress.

I’ve only had this problem for the last few days, after doing an operating system and browser update, and I wonder if more bloggers are going to have the same problem, as their operating systems and browsers become updated. I suggest that if you are one of the ones whose blogs I can’t access, that you check your plugins, and if you find that you have ‘typekit’, disable it and let me know, so that I can try again. Thanks so much.

More about the unique and beautiful city of Venice.

We had real ‘Indian summer’ weather on our tour of Italy last October. Our last day in Venice was very busy, what with all the exploring and shopping we had to do. There were Pinocchios aplenty to choose from, although I didn’t succumb to the temptation. I’ve bought enough souvenirs in my time, and have asked myself when I got home, “What were you thinking?”

We wandered through the narrow lanes, between the towering, historic apartment buildings.

and up and down hundreds of steps. Such good exercise. 🙂

We were serenaded whilst indulging in a delicious pasta and a glass of Chianti at a pavement cafe; “Besame Mucho” and all that, by three brothers on the squeeze box, guitar and violin. How wonderful!  I was loving Italy so much. Mucho magnifico!!

Venice is such a great city to visit. It has everything; magnificent architecture, water everywhere you look, divine food and wine, music around every corner, and a decent amount of shopping. What a romantic adventure! There were plenty of tourists, but we never felt crowded by them. All the while we were enjoying ourselves, the everyday business was going on around us. I got the impression that those Italians work very hard indeed to keep the city well maintained and tourist-worthy.

We went back to our hotel to change for the evening’s activities, and in the late afternoon, again took the ‘taxi’ ride across the lagoon.

The sun was setting behind the Basilica Santa Maria della Salute, as we sailed across. The Salute is a vast, octagonal building built on a platform made of 100,000 wooden piles, and is constructed of Istrian stone and Marmorino (brick covered with stucco containing marble dust).

Here you can see the bell tower of the Basilica di San Marco on the left, with the Doge’s Palace in the middle, and The Bridge of Sighs on the right.

At the dock, our Gondolier was waiting for us, and I gingerly stepped in first. I fully expected it to capsize, but fortunately, although it rocked like crazy, I made it to the ‘love seat’ at the front, and then hubby and four other friends got in too.

We pulled away from the pier,

and set off under the ‘Bridge of Sighs’, so-called because it was the bridge over which prisoners were led before being incarcerated in the prison usually until they died, as the conditions were appalling, the cells being barely big enough for a person to lie down. There were serious renovations going on, hence all the scaffolding.

We asked our boatman to sing to us, assuming that all gondoliers were the singing types, but he just said that would cost extra.  The guy in the gondola in front of ours started to sing “Buona serra senorita,” and ours joined in, albeit somewhat half heartedly. A local man walking along the path, called out in Italian, “He can’t even sing. Why don’t you tell him to shut up?” Served him right for being so miserable. 🙂

We passed between really tall, ancient buildings, some with their stone steps half hidden under the water. Apparently in winter, all the ground floors are flooded. The plaster has fallen off the outside walls long ago, and they looked extremely ‘distressed’.

We could see through the brightly lit windows into people’s houses, and they looked so beautiful and cheery.

It was now getting dark, and a church bell was tolling in the distance. I couldn’t help imagining those prisoners of long ago, cooped up in their tiny cells under the Doge’s Palace, hearing that same bell day after day until they eventually died. It really was very spooky, and in some parts, the smell was very unpleasant. When there was a sudden gushing of water from an outlet at the base of one buildings, I had to wonder if someone up there had just flushed the ‘loo’. 😉

Here is a restaurateur waiting to welcome diners, who would be arriving by gondola.

Our ride was for about half an hour, and then we suddenly emerged out of the gloom, into the bright lights again, where more tourists were waiting to take our places on the gondola.

Our guide led us through the streets to our restaurant, the “Trattoria Do Forni,” where we were treated to the most delicious four-course meal. I had Prawn cocktail in Aurora sauce, Linguine with seafood, Fillet of sole with zucchini, and last but by no means least, the best Tiramisu I’ve ever eaten. The decor was very elegant, and don’t you just adore these Venetian glass, wall lights?

It was a fabulous farewell dinner, and a wonderful end to the trip.

So finally I’ve finished my Italian travel tale. Just doing this post has made me long to be back there again. Maybe some day.

Problem accessing certain blogs. :(

I suddenly have a problem accessing some of my favourite blogs. I get this message, and it will go no further:

“transferring data from use”

The blogs affected so far, are:

I don’t know whether it’s problem with WordPress or my web browser. I’m using Firefox on an Apple Macbook Air. Have any of you had similar problems, or can you please give me some advice? Thanks so much. 🙂

The Merchants of Venice and our “Crazy Lady” hotel

I never did get around to telling you about the Venice bit of our Italian trip in October last year. I’m not sure which was the most magnificent, the sunset we saw on arrival at our hotel,

or the hotel itself. I’ve never stayed in a palace before, but the ‘San Clemente Palace’ hotel, on its own island in the Venice Lagoon, is the closest thing to staying in a real palace; so much marble, Italian furniture, and lovely Venetian mirrors and artwork everywhere. I loved it, and could have quite happily moved in permanently.

The island itself dates back to 1131, when a church was built there. The historic courtyards and grounds of the hotel date back to the late 17th century, when it was a Cameldolesi monastery. It even has its own chapel which is used for weddings,

It was right across the lagoon from Venice proper, and a speed boat taxi was available all the time to shuttle us back and forth as we wished.

Our first evening was so memorable, and we had a half hour motor launch “Magical Venice” tour of the Grand Canal and many of its side alleys, ending up in Piazza S. Marco. It was so peaceful, with just the lapping of the water and the purr of the motor, as we slowly sailed past all the apartments, restaurants and churches. Every so often, we would hear church bells ringing in the distance. So awesome, but unfortunately too dark for any decent photos.

Afterwards, the two of us found a small pavement cafe where we ordered pizza, a bottle of wine and a delicious Tiramisu to share. We later met up with the rest of the group at the “Chirggia Bar,” in the piazza, for drinks and music. I had to pinch myself to see if it was all real. Here I was, sitting in the famous Piazza San Marco, surrounded by beautiful buildings, drinking a delicious ‘Bellini’, and listening to a great jazz trio playing really romantic songs, such as “The way you look tonight,” the theme from “The Godfather,” and “How wonderful to know somebody loves you.”

They did hot it up a bit with their fabulous rendition of “Hey Mambo,” and people were dancing in the square. Such a very happy evening.

The next morning dawned bright and sunny, but a bit cooler, and we were taken across the water once again to watch a glass blowing demo, which, although we’ve seen it done before, was still fascinating.

From a blob of red hot molten glass, the master glass blower quickly fashioned this dainty horse.

The Murano glass items for sale in the shop there were so exquisite, but no pics were allowed. I wanted to buy a divine chandelier which was made up of 380 interlocking pieces, and was decorated with flowers made of Chinese porcelain, but decided that a turquoise necklace would fit in my luggage much more easily.

The “Merchants of Venice” did quite well out of us, as we trawled the many shops in the narrow alleyways, crossing little bridges, looking at the Gondolas sailing through the waters of the canals. The leather goods are really lovely and we found that we could bargain a little with the shopkeepers if we paid in cash rather than credit card. I did get a leather jacket, bag and shoes, and hubby bought a pair of shoes and a cashmere sweater, so we certainly did our bit to keep Venice afloat.

Walking in Venice is not for the fainthearted, as there are so many steps to access all the bridges around  the city. Goods deliveries are made on metal trolleys, fitted with special wheels for getting up and down these flights of steps, and it looked to be a very strenuous job indeed.

Here is a view of the Grand Canal, taken from one of the many bridges.

We stopped in at the cute and historical “Caffe al Ponte del Lovo,” where the gold and red velvet chairs were so close together, you were almost rubbing shoulders with your neighbour.This cafe was mentioned in a speech given to the senate of the Venetian Republic in 1585, by G.F. Morosini, when he stated the following ; ” …they amuse themselves by sitting both inside and out on the street, people from all classes, drinking a black liquid, scorching hot, derived from a seed called ‘cavee’, which they say has the power to keep a man awake.” The famous writer Goldini and his friends used to meet here in the mid 1800′s, and from the daily life scenes he witnessed whilst sitting there, he got inspiration for some of his plays.

I had a delicious “Capuccino Zanetta,” served with small almond biscuits and a square of dark chocolate. Really decadent ‘straight to the waistline’ fare.

Everywhere we went, we could hear snatches of opera, small orchestras playing to diners, and the ringing of church bells. The Gondoliers in their straw boater hats were singing Italian songs to their passengers. Everywhere you look is water, and all the taxis are boats of course. What an amazing place to visit! We went back to our hotel, which in spite of its present opulence, was many years ago, a “hospital for crazy ladies,” as our guide told us. Nowadays it’s a beautifully renovated five star hotel, to which rich men bring their own modern-day “crazy ladies.”

That evening, we were whizzed back across the lagoon, where we found a little pavement cafe, and sat people-watching and dining on Spaghetti Puttanesca and a glass of Pinot Bianco Delle Venezie.

I’ll tell you more tomorrow, because now I must go to the Mall to entertain my “Platinum Pensioners.” I think I’ll play some of those romantic Italian songs, and see whether I can get them dancing in the aisles. 🙂


Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Red

Ailsa’s travel theme this week is “Red’ and she has some amazing images of red landscapes in her latest post.

I also have a few photos to show you, which depict the colour red. The first is my favourite, and I used it for my ‘Capture the Colour’ entry, which I didn’t win of course. 🙂 It’s of a baby polar bear at SeaWorld in San Diego, fast asleep, cuddled up to his red plastic comfort toy.

Next up are these modern-day Gladiators posing outside the Colosseum in Rome, looking very dashing in their red costumes.

Red seemed to be the dominant colour at this market stall in the town at the bottom of Machu Picchu. The lady minding the stall, was however, oblivious of anything around her at the time when the photo was taken.

This no entry sign in the courtyard opposite our hotel in Florence really amused me. The black silhouette, sneakily carrying away the no-entry bar, is just one of several such signs, created by French artist Clet Abraham, who has lived in Italy for 20 years.

Here is Luanne, who cooked for us last year when we stayed at a villa in Round Hill, Jamaica. The lobsters were fresh that morning out of Montego Bay. When I asked her for a photo, she quickly went and put on her chef’s hat for the occasion.

They were even redder, and utterly scrumptious, when they were served up for dinner that evening.

Talking of food, I do love to use red place mats when we have friends around to share a meal with us. It always makes the table look more festive, don’t you think.

What would a ‘Red’ post be without a wonderful sunset? This shot was taken from the jetty outside our hotel on San Clemente Island in Venice.

Last but by no means least, is our distinctive 21 metre high Umhlanga Rocks lighthouse which dominates the lovely beach here. It was completed in 1954, and its beam emits a light equivalent to six hundred thousand candles flashing three times every twenty seconds. It can be seen from as far as twenty-four miles away at sea during visible conditions. The circular tower, with its bright red top, serves as a ‘guiding light’,  which leads vessels through some of South Africa’s most treacherous coastline and warns them of hidden dangers.  It is fully automated, and has never had its own lighthouse keeper, the lights being operated from the nearby Oyster Box Hotel, which has been its official warden for almost sixty years.

I hope you enjoyed my red photos. To see more red entries to Ailsa’s theme, just click here.

Jake’s Sunday Post: Morning.

Jake’s new theme, morning, made me think of breakfast. Often when I go to bed at night, I will mention to hubby what I think we should eat for breakfast. To me it’s the meal I most look forward to.

This weekend, we had two breakfasts, which were both quite memorable, but for entirely different reasons. On Saturday, we went off up the hill to pick up my dear mom, and take her out for a late breakfast. We went to one of our favourite restaurants in a shopping mall near to where she lives. The waiter came and took our drinks orders; one large orange juice for me, a pot of tea for mom, and a mega cappuccino for hubby. Whilst we waited, we chatted and perused the menu. The waiter eventually arrived with the drinks on a tray, off-loaded mom’s pot of tea, and then somehow managed to tip the entire contents of my  glass of orange juice, plus the mug of cappuccino, all over the table and into hubby’s lap. Poor hubby sat there soaked in orange-flavoured coffee, whilst the waiter stood there in petrified horror. Luckily for mom and I, the table had a slight incline in hubby’s direction, so we largely escaped the disaster, but as I found out later, when I went to get my iPhone out of my shoulder bag, and encountered very damp notebook and tissues, I didn’t escape entirely. Mom had a few splashes on her shoes, which didn’t really matter, as she has absent-mindedly come out in her old gardening shoes. 🙂 We of course moved to another table, and the manager came to apologise profusely, and told us that our drinks were on the house. The waiter was in such a state that he forgot to bring us new menus. Our drinks were delivered very carefully, one at a time, by the manager himself, who wasn’t taking any chances of a recurrence. After all that, we did have a very enjoyable meal, and hubby’s dark jeans and jersey didn’t show any obvious stains, although he did smell rather delicious.

This morning was so beautiful, and it was such a novelty to have bright sunshine after all the rain we’ve experienced this past week. We decided to take a walk along the beach promenade before breakfast. There were many people who had the same idea, and we saw cyclists, dog walkers, mom’s running with babies in strollers, joggers, and couples like ourselves out for a leisurely stroll.

The fishermen were as usual, out in force.

We only got as far as the old life-guards station which has been turned into a restaurant since the new one was built. There was such a delicious smell wafting out of the open kitchen window, that we just couldn’t resist, and went in for breakfast. We sat ourselves down at a table overlooking the beach.

At the next table, was our doctor, a renowned health fanatic, who has told me on occasion, of the beneficial effects of drinking green tea. He was having a beer for breakfast. Caught him in the act. 🙂 We decided to have fresh orange which had to be fetched from the bar. Well, I’ve heard of topless barmaids, but this one had a topless barman.

That sign on the bar says, “Prices may vary according to members’ attitudes.” I rather liked this one too.

In spite of this, the food didn’t take too long to arrive, and was absolutely delicious; scrambled eggs on rye, topped with smoked salmon.

Fortified by our healthy breakfast, we continued on our merry way, and by this time, there were quite a lot more people taking advantage of the gorgeous weather.

This elderly couple had found a nice quiet spot to sit and read their books.

The guy in the pink shirt was just chilling out, but this dad with his three small children, was not allowed any relaxing time at all. “Keep on digging dad, until you get to Australia.” 🙂

We walked all the way to end of the promenade, past the one lonely house still left, in between all the apartment blocks and hotels.

Then we walked all the way back again, and when we got home, our Hibiscus plant greeted us with this lovely new flower.

So there you have an illustrated account of my last two mornings. I hope you enjoyed.

To see more “morning” posts, just click here





Weekly Photo Challenge: Near and Far

This gallery contains 8 photos.

Here are my photos for this week’s ‘Near and Far’ WordPress Photo Challenge. The first was taken from our colourful long-tail boat, as we were ferried around the ‘Khlongs’ in Bangkok. This one was taken from the Moorish castle which … Continue reading