My Diary, Trip

Train tripper

I love trains. So yesterday we spent getting on and off trains all round East Anglia. Lovely flat land as far as the eye can see. And the English countryside! And the cloudscapes! Green green green! There’s also a lot of water because we were on the edge of the Norfolk Broads where a lot of people spend their time cruising in river barges and boats. I went on a boat trip from Ely to Cambridge once and loved it, almost eye to eye with the waterfowl! My daughter said” I’m going to get off, I can walk faster”. Lots of different points of view in this family. I’ve sent you a famous song which is worth listening to, maybe with subtitles because there’s a lot of boating vocabulary! Go on, singalong!

We arrived in Lowestoft in time to have lunch in the “Joseph Conrad”. I should imagine you’ve all read his “Lord Jim” or at least seen the film. Of course you all know of the 1970’s film by Francis Ford Coppola “Apocalypse now,” based on Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”. The walk along the seafront was great, very bracing (that’s English euphemism for quite chilly and windy!), the buildings a reminder of when no one jetted off to foreign destinations, before Spanish package holidays became the norm and you had a seaside holiday at home! There was an amazing kaleidiscope of dress. People in wind jackets, people in vests. There honestly weren’t a lot of people on the beach which is nice and sandy; everyone had a windbreak and I noticed a conscientious life guard watching the bathing kids with close attention. I’ve bought you a rude postcard, they don’t sell them any more because of political correctness I suppose. They used to be pretty off -colour,about vicars and actresses. I think this one is quite inoffensive.

Then off to Norwich. I’d read a glowing account of the town but maybe I went the wrong way because I found it very tacky, so many ambiguous nightclubs and girlie bars. Didn’t like it at all. But we did find the cathedral. ( The cathedral is in the news because the dean had a helter-skelter installed in the nave temporarily). Nothing ever comes near Ely cathedral I’m afraid, but this one deserves a better, longer visit. Especially Cathedral Close full of green lawns and trees, and beautiful old houses.

>On the way back ,knackered! I saw lots of piggeries and you’ll all be pleased to know that my breakfast bacon came from porkers living in the open air with space, green grass and mud to roll in. If you’re not a vegetarian that’s a comforting sight.


My Diary, Trip


I went by bus to Cambridge (the company is called Stagecoach and comfortwise it’s about as comfortable as a real stagecoach might have been) It takes me right into the town centre next to some of my favourite shops, and honestly it’s so hot here that I didn’t want to go traipsing about for too long. First stop Penhaligon’s perfume shop then onto the real objective of my trip, the book shops! I was absolutely convinced that I’ d find what I wanted in one of my very favourite places. I love Waterstones’ bookshop. They have everything: places to sit, coffee, flowers on the tables… but oh dear, not what I’m looking for.

So off I go looking for the next bookseller. I went down this  lovely side street where they had put up the bunting for my arrival (!) and on the way I was sidetracked into  going into a craft gin store! They have gin history, gin tasting, gin mixing, gin everything. I was feeling a bit mischievous so I told the young man I thought gin was probably on its way out as a trendy drink. Maybe it is…but not ours, he said. From the horse’s mouth!

Even the second bookshop didn’t have what I wanted but advised me to try a historic secondhand bookshop. I’d never been there before but David’s is now on my must-go-to list for the future even though I didn’t get what I was looking for but I did get some very useful advice. I guess by now you’d like to know what book I’m searching for so desperately? Gogol’s Taras Bulba. I’ve been offered the film (a very old version with Yul Brynner), the wonderful Janaceck tone poem and Amazon actually sent it to me in Russian! I bought it relatively easily in Italian for my daughter, but in English…. hopeless! One of the problems is that it’s a short story generally found  in a collection and if the seller doesn’t show you the index you won’t really know what you’re buying. I can get it from America with a long wait and absurd postage prices.

You’ll be happy to know that I  gave up and went to have lunch (?) at 4ish in a very nice restaurant called “The Ivy”, tended by rather higher level language students than you generally find. I was going to have fish and chips yet again and I’m not the only one who loves them as you can see by the sign intended for tourists.

However, I plucked up my courage and opted for Shepherds’ pie. Our equivalent to Sardinian shepherds’ suckling pig (only joking) .It’s really good, mutton and mashed potatoes served with gravy and mint sauce, aaahhhhh. I will not tell you about baked apple tart flambéed in Calvados served with vanilla ice cream because my doctor might be reading this!

Back to get the bus but on the way I dropped in to my favourite store for….everything except books. And dulcis in fundo I found some gorgeous glasses especially made for gin,  a satisfying day!

My Diary, Trip

The Charterhouse of Pavia.

This time we had our cappuccino and croissant BEFORE buying our rail tickets so the start of the day was not stressful at all. We decided to go via Rogoredo because there are more trains and I was curious to see such an ill- famed place. No one else seemed to be going our way and we got off lonely, at the station. An incredible experience! No signs, no indications of the glorious place awaiting, no welcome, nothing. Outside the station, midday and under a scorching sun. I always associate these deserted, burning places with Mersault’s mother’s funeral in L’Etranger, a book that had a huge impact on me when I was an adolescent and has never left me. It comes back, year after year to haunt me.

The only way that I could see to get to the Charterhouse was to walk. A pretty conservative estimate according to the signpost being 10/5 minutes along a deserted road with no shade. Get stuck in. I insisted on using my umbrella as a parasol, but was informed that I didn’t look Japanese at all and it looked like a cheap brolly not a beautiful Japanese parasol. I do my best!

When we got there it was closed so we went to a restaurant which in spite of its unpromising looks was actually ok. I had a special bread roll made with one of the side dishes on the menu, it wasn’t really a bread roll at all, it was more like a Danish open sandwich made with Pugliese bread…but the important thing is that it was really delicious.

When we finally got into the grounds of the magnificent Carthusian Charterhouse (1394) it took your breath away. Not a square centimetre is left undecorated. The tour inside was fascinating, if superficial and the information was scant. Photos are not allowed thank god although there’s always the smart alec who has more rights than anyone else. We were able to take pics of the monk’s cells which would put modern two-roomed flats to shame size-wise. And my hostas too.

My Diary, Trip

A tale of an abortive trip! – The End.

targhetta informazioniAfter the exhibition, we rounded the corner and found the big red “i”  we had been looking for, so remember, in Pavia information is always just round the corner! So we set off to be tourists in earnest.

Off to the castle. And his lordship was out too!  Closed until 230!

IMG-20190809-WA0004IMG-20190809-WA0008There were two guys waiting outside so I started my rant about things always being closed in Italy and not tourist-friendly but I was ticked off gently by the men who were actually custodians. The castle is quite magnificent and beautifully kept. I was curious about the ugly striped tape surrounding the two huge trees.
Unfortunately the guardian didn’t know how old they were and we both agreed that the tape was both useless and an eyesore.
IMG-20190809-WA0010Now off to the basilica of San Pietro in ciel d’oro; hot, tired- footed then you step down into this shadowy cool symmetrical church and everything’s ok again. It has a wonderful colonnaded crypt.

After San Pietro which alone merits the journey, we went back to see if the Duomo IMG-20190809-WA0002was open, it was. What can I say? Go! Go again and again. All those bulbous excrecsences on the outside transform into rounded chapels and a huge dome. The light is incredible. We just stayed and breathed in the beauty,really there’s not much I would know how to say.

Before getting back on the train it was gelato-time and we found a prize- winning ice cream shop, world class! Fitting end to a world class day out.


My Diary, Trip

A tale of an abortive trip! – Continued …

Well, having got over the disappointment of not finding an Info point and certainly no hop-on hop-off buses we wend our way along a rather drab little street towards (hopefully) the town centre. On the way a pit stop for water and a beautifully drawn map of Pavia on the back of a small paper serviette thanks to the friendly barman! Now we can really get going. We arrive in front of an imposing hotchpotch of a building which must be the cathedral, but it’s closed, God’s out for lunch maybe? It’s all bumps and additions and carbuncles ,inside it must be quite fascinating : from the outside I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like.

We walk round the corner and desperate to actually see something (anything),find an art gallery open, inside you’re confronted by talking heads! The deep burgundy background makes a wonderful backdrop for the figures , torsos and busts of “Genius loci” in this spazio arti contemporanee del broletto. These opere which at first glance are Greek- Roman perfection until you look closely and see they are distorted, crying for help. Stefano di Giusto’s sculptures of suffering and tribulation a kind of “memento mori” of the difficulty of being human. Honestly I didn’t really like them immediately, until two or three days later when I started to think about them a little less superficially and they’ve been with me ever since

Down Corso Strada nuova to the famous covered bridge decorated as usual with bunches of keys and locks. It must’ve been a locksmith who started the craze off because there’s no other reasonable or even unreasonable thinking behind all this,” I love you, here are the keys to my heart,Ok darling but what are the locks for?” Locks and keys, chastity belts that’s not very loving. No, I’m convinced that it was a locksmith, no lovers could be daft enough to think keys chains and locks could symbolise love, could they?