Archive for the ‘Bus’ Category

While the cat was away …..

November 17, 2017

Well it had to happen some time. We have been very lucky in our holidays abroad to have had no real health issues. This time it finally caught up with us and one went down. However that is not the “it” that I was referring to, no, “it” is the fact that I am writing a blog (after a period of prompting).

Whilst the boss was laid low I made my usual excursions around the town and now have to report on them. Early on the first day I was making my way to an appointment at a certain bookstore when the clock on this building began to chime and doors under the clock opened and these four characters paraded to the front. Each hour they undertake a routine of coming to the front pirouetting bowing and otherwise performing before doing an about face and returning home.

Following this I made my way to an area of the city I was not familiar with and found my way to a somewhat famous bookstore. Here I found myself confronted by a large number of excited adults (some children, but they were in the minority) queued to enter said bookshop.

Once inside, after having to purchase a ticket at a store two doors away and leave all my worldly goods locked away, I found a veritable host of people milling around taking multiple photographs and generally ignoring the books and only showing interest in one particular author.

Some may well recognise the setting!!

Or perhaps the ceiling!

In my experience of visiting this bookshop I believe they have now given up selling books as they are obviously making a good fortune out of the number of people visiting. Not only do they charge an entry fee to go into the bookshop, in the shop they have set up as a ticket office they also sell souvenirs and memorabilia, not only of Harry Potter books but also other popular books and TV a series including Game of Thrones.

Next door there was a very old store with all of its features preserved and repurposed.

Early the next morning I went on my usual wander and found a section of the original city Wall and with the early morning mist it made quite an eerie scene.

On the way back to the market I came across one of the more amusing aspects of the narrow streets in Porto. Next to the market there is a bus stop and the buses turn out of the Main Street into a much narrower street. As the photo shows it pays for both pedestrians and bus drivers to coordinate their activities.

At the market that morning there just happened to be a group of 7 or 8 music students performing.

I learned later in the morning that this same group had serenaded Bernice as they performed in the street immediately below our apartment.

Wandering a little further afield I found this shop which should be of interest to you in particular Christine!

And obviously the person who created this mural on a wall only metres down the road also had an interest in the shop.

And just to finish off, here’s another attempt by a bus driver to play the local game of “pin a pedestrian”.

This may have been claimed as all my own work however frustration set in part way through and as I am a damn sight better dictater than writer, Bernice took over secretarial duties!

Bernice here…I think that should be dictator!!

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Mendrisio

November 5, 2017

We arrived in darkness and eventually found our hotel. After getting off the train we started looking at the maps we had with us, as well as google maps, also checking the notice boards at the train station to figure out where our hotel was, after he saying this way, and she saying no it’s that way, we looked up from our maps and directly across the road from the train station was our hotel staring us in the face!!! Well, that was easy.

As we had had a bite to eat in Milan we decided an early night was in order ready for a day of exploring. The next morning we headed down stairs to have breakfast in the hotel, although adequate, it was nothing to write home about so we made the decision to find our breakfasts elsewhere. Our first port of call today was to visit the Catholic Cathedral here in Mendrisio as we knew this was where Roy’s GGrandfather had been baptised.

Here in the canton (region) of Ticino, a ticket/voucher is issued by your accommodation provider which entitles you to free bus and train travel within the region plus a discount on other forms of transport and special tourist attractions plus free access to museums and the like. This is a brilliant scheme that we took full advantage of by catching buses into town and exploring the region via train.

Top map has Mendrisio marked by blue dot, the bottom picture is a closer version with Mendrisio marked in red.

We found the Catholic Church on top of a hill in the centre of Mendrisio. I have to add here that everything around here is either at the top or the bottom of a a bloody steep hill. You definitely need to have mountain goat genes to live here.

We went into the church for a quick look around. This church was replaced between 1863 and 1875 therefore Damiano would not have known this building. After wandering around the outside of the church we went inside for a look.

the church – La Chiesa dei SS. Cosma e Damiano Di Mendrisio

There was no one in sight anywhere so we had resigned ourselves to not having any luck today.

Just as we were about to leave a gentleman came in, through our limited Italian and his non existent English, we finally worked out that this was Father Claudio, the senior priest of the parish. Roy had written a bit of an intro and a list of names we were looking for and had used google translate which he had saved to his iPad which he showed to Claudio. With a flurry of oohs and ahhs, Father Claudio said follow me.

the Rectory

We ended up in the rectory next to the Church where he went and found another priest, this one spoke reasonable English and was very helpful. With more “follow me”, both men led us down two stories to the archive room where low and behold all the original Church registers are held.

With appropriate dates given, they found the right books for the baptismal records and we started to troll through the entries, how amazing to be able to handle and search through books over 300 years old (and no, we did not have to wear white gloves). Lo and behold we found Roy’s GGrandfather, however his name was registered as Santinus Damianus Vanini (note the one ‘n’ in the middle of the surname) but the details for his parents matched perfectly. We photographed the entry and then started looking for his siblings, we found just the one entry, for his sister Maria but the other two brothers who were born later were nowhere to be found. They could well have moved to another parish or even town by this stage.

Once we had exhausted all the options by searching the appropriate books, it was time for us to go, but not before Claudio disappeared for a moment or two to reappear with two books in hand as gifts for us! One book is on the Church and it’s history and the other on it’s Madonna. Now we just have to get our Italian up to scratch to read them, but the pictures are great!!

The priests would not accept anything in exchange for the books and we left feeling very lucky to have had such a welcome and such great assistance. Before we left the men suggested that we visit the local municipal building to check out records. They informed us that however were closed from 12 – 2pm so we had plenty of time for some lunch before we went.

We found a charming looking small bistro in the backstreets away from the main centre which was being frequented by both office workers and workmen alike. We were very warmly greeted, and sat down at a table for a drink to start with. We ascertained from the menu that today’s special was a chicken dish, we watched as others were brought the dish and it looked delicious. So that was my choice, Roy went with a pasta dish.

It was a great meal, so much so that all was required for dinner that evening was a snack!

Soon it was time to head to the municipal building to see what we could find. Unfortunately, we had no luck as they had no records prior to 1850 or 1860 as there was no central registry requirement in Switzerland at that time.  In fact, registry came in over a period of about 25 years Canton by Canton.  They did however suggest that we go to Bellinzona which is the Capital of Ticino Canton. We shall go there tomorrow.

Landed in London

September 30, 2017

Oops I did it again, I accidentally swiped the publish button on the last post before I had finished writing it.

We eventually landed at Heathrow 30minutes later than scheduled, by this time we were both exhausted and restless but ready to disembark. We were one of the last off the plane as everyone else was in a hurry and blocking the aisles for a good 15minutes before we were able to retrieve our hand luggage and disembark. Then it was off on the long walk to immigration and customs, why is it that all our flights seem to end up at the gate farthest away from our next point of departure? I know we need the exercise but by this time we were shattered. Next we were to face the long queues of people lined up at the “other” passport entry, fortunately I travel of my British passport so it was straight to the UK & EU line where there was just one couple on front of us. A cheery passport control man welcomed us to the UK where we chatted about the length of our flight and the prospect of a good cuppa before we were through and off to collect our bags, then straight through the green exit line to where Alex was waiting for us.

It was close to 5pm by this time and the traffic on the motorway was a bit slow at times but it wasn’t that bad and we were soon on our way to her lovely home in Erith.

Erith is circled in red in the above map.

Erith is just a 40minute train ride into central London, and is right by the Thames. A very pretty area that we shall enjoy exploring over the coming weeks.

Alex and Ian have bought a lovely home which they moved into earlier this year and they have already done some decorating to put their stamp on the place. That evening we managed to stay up until around 8pm before bed was calling out for us to sleep. Oh what bliss to be able to lie down. The following morning Roy and I managed to get the bus into the village (well, I say village but the population is around 68,000 people) the bus goes right past the house and even though there is no official bus stop in the street you just hail the driver and they stop for you. Assisted by a very friendly and helpful bus driver, we got into the centre of the town where the bus driver told us this was where we got off then she made sure we knew where to catch the bus home again and which number bus we needed, extremely helpful.

We wandered around the local supermarket, Morrison’s, where we were like kids in a sweet shop as everything was so cheap. To top it all off, we got free wifi in the store so we could chat with Alex about various matters (getting UK/EU SIM cards for our phones tomorrow). We could not believe the price of food compared with NZ, especially the price of fresh produce, the store even has cheaper versions of fruit and veg if they are deemed “wonky”. The wonky veg looked perfectly fine to me, as well as the price the range and quality was good as well. For example, baby gem lettuces were two for 50p, raspberries were two 250gm containers for £1.50, tomatoes were similarly priced. They even offer a pack of wonky veg for £3 which they say is enough to feed a family of four for a week. We had to restrain ourselves from buying too much as we knew we had to carry it back with us so we just got the essentials…….including Melton Mowbray Pork Pies!! Of course essential supplies included rum and gin, all available at the supermarket and at prices cheaper than Duty Free!

and the variety of different brands was extensive and impressive.

We headed back home with our bags of goodies, again with the help of a very kind bus driver who stopped the bus practically outside the door advising us this was where we should disembark.

We have tried to reestablish our sleeping patterns with the time difference, it has taken a day or so but we are pretty well sorted now. I have to admit that I take the No Jet Lag tablets available at New Zealand airports, which does help me as I have suffered jet lag (nausea and disorientation) previously on one long haul flight when I forgot to take them.

Alex & Ian have of course been working all week, so now we have the weekend together to do some sightseeing and some shopping. This evening we are going to a curry house, a typical English thing to do apparently, for dinner and to meet Ian’s family which we are really looking forward to.

PS. The weather has been very good to us so far, quite warm with very still days. Let’s hope it continues.