Cee’s FFC: Fire

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week, is to “show off a few photos of the Chinese element of fire.”

The only photo I have of real fire, is this one which provided a very welcome bit of warmth when we went for dinner one evening in England to ‘The Barn at Alfold’. The Barn was built in 1590, and its wooden beams are all original, dating back to the days of the Spanish Armada. I wonder if the fireplace is the same age. Incredible to think of how many people must have basked in its warmth, including Ernest Hemingway, who frequented this establishment in the 1940′s, during the Second World War.

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We’re all familiar with the sight of candles on a Birthday cake. Elyse managed to blow them all out at once.

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At night, houses can look as though they are on fire, like these we saw in Savannah in December.

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A true gold and orange sunset like this one over the Venice Lagoon, really makes the sky look all aflame, and that’s when I think the sun looks really hotter than hot, almost like molten lava.

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To see more bloggers’ interpretations of Cee’s challenge, just click here.

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If you haven’t yet voted for my ‘Trump Tower’ photo in the Rodposse Photo Competition, you can see my entry here. Thanks so much to all of you who have already voted for me. I really appreciate your support. 🙂

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Word a Week: Clouds #2

One of my favourite songs is this one, and it seemed rather apt for Sue’s challenge.

Bows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all  ~ Joni Mitchell

Here’s my second take on Sue’s ‘Word a Week’ Cloud challenge. Yesterday I got a bit sidetracked by the sweet little love birds, but today I’ve decided to give you some serious clouds. Just click on any photo to get a slide show.

I hope you enjoyed my cloud pics. To see more, just visit ‘A Word in Your Ear’, by clicking here.

Ailsa’s Travel theme: Mystical

Ailsa says, This week’s theme is inspired by a beautiful photograph Vlad posted over at Wind Against Current. Click the link to see his photo, and when you pick your jaw up off the floor, come on back over here and join in this week’s challenge.

Mystical is an evocative term with many nuances. I chose this word because it can be interpreted in so many ways. It can mean spiritually symbolic, otherworldly, ethereal or mysterious. I also love how this word sounds when you speak it aloud, and I can’t help but associate it with mists that conceal the everyday, cloaking the mundane in a veil of mystery. The verb ‘to mystify’; to make mysterious or obscure, is derived from the words mystic and mystery. Ooh, the possibilities are endless.”

I have found myself in a few mystical situations, and usually when we were experiencing less than perfect holiday weather. Some trips seem to be all sunny skies, ice cream and beautiful sunsets, but when we visited Phuket for the second time earlier this year, we were very disappointed with the weather, and especially on the day we were due to take a boat trip across Phang Nga Bay. The tour leaflet advertised “Sail to verdant limestone islands, honeycombed with caves and aquatic grottos, which soar perpendicularly to heights of 984 feet or more, from almost perpetually calm waters.” Well the “perpetually” part fell away when the morning of our trip arrived. This is the best black and white photo I’ve ever taken in colour. 😀 It certainly looked dark and foreboding, and I was more than a tad worried.

Sailing across the bay, those “verdant islands” just looked grey and mystical, but there was no mystery as to where the water which was pooling on our table, was coming from. The boat’s tarpaulin roof had more than a few holes in it. The sea wasn’t at all calm either, but my dad used to be a sailor, so no problem there. 🙂

At one point, we transferred to a canoe, and were taken into one of the ancient grottos. This was definitely a very otherworldly experience, and the fact that there were many bats clinging to the roof of the cave, made it especially eerie for me.

Despite the incessant rain, and paddling ankle-deep in muddy water through the Sea Gypsy Village, the boat trip was a memorable, if  somewhat soggy mystical experience.

Now, I’m sure you won’t object if take you on a little detour to the Grand Old Lady of Venice. On our first evening there, we had a half hour motor launch “Magical Venice” tour of the Grand Canal and some of its side alleys, ending up in Piazza S. Marco. It was so peaceful just sitting in the boat, with just the lapping of the water and the purr of the motor, as we slowly sailed past the decaying grandeur of the ancient palazzos and restaurants. Every so often, we would hear distant church bells ringing, and that together with the fact that we were in total darkness, really made me feel that we were on a magical mystery tour.

Our evening gondola tour, a couple of days later, also turned quite mystical and rather spooky, when we left the main canal, and sailed into the narrow, silent smaller ones. We passed between tall apartment buildings, some with their stone steps half hidden under the water. The plaster had fallen off the outside walls long ago, and their once magnificent facades were looking extremely distressed. As a bell tolled in the distance, I couldn’t help imagining those prisoners of long ago, locked in their tiny cells under the Doge’s Palace, hearing that same bell, every day and night for the duration of their incarceration, which was probably until they died.

Lastly,  I’ll never forget seeing the 386 metre grey columns of Devils Tower appear through the mist, as we drove through Wyoming, on our way to Mount Rushmore. Part of Steven Spielberg’s science fiction movie, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” was shot here, and you really don’t get much more mystical than that. 🙂

Well, those are my most mystical travel experiences. If you want to see what other bloggers have come up with for Ailsa’s theme, just click here.

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.

Travel theme: Sunsets

When I saw Ailsa’s new travel theme pop up in my inbox, I knew that I had to share these photos taken in Venice last year. We had just arrived by speed boat taxi, at the San Clemente Place Hotel, which stands on its own island of San Clemente We stood transfixed, watching as the sun went down over the Venice Lagoon. I still have to do a post on the Venice leg of my trip, but here are just the sunset photos for now.

It’s very early on Sunday morning here, and I’ve been lucky to be able to get a strong enough internet signal to post this, probably because most people are still asleep. I’m having a great and busy time here in Johannesburg, and will tell you all about it when I get back home next weekend. My son and granddaughter go back to New York on Tuesday evening, but hubby and I are staying here a few days longer to attend our eldest granddaughter’s academic award ceremony on Thursday. I do manage to pop in occasionally to some of your blogs, but will catch up properly when we return home. Missing you all lots.