Travel is part of the story -Salzburg

Salzburg features in ‘One Last Look’


Along with My Fair Lady, another of my favourite musicals was Sound of Music and having seen it a number of times over the years, it had conjured up a number of images of Salzburg in my mind, and with them a desire to go there.  We had been to Salzburg once before, an overnight train stop between Vienna and Innsbruck, an afterthought, but what we saw then was reason enough to come back later and spend several days.

A pity then the day we arrived, and for much of our stay, it rained.  But, like hardened travelers, very little stops us from doing anything, and particularly sightseeing.

We stayed at the Crowne Plaza – The Pitter in a very well appointed room.  Breakfast included, it was a great way to start the day.  The afternoon we arrived we went for a short walk to the old city passing through the Mirabelle gardens with the Pegasus Fountain, Rose Garden and Dwarves Garden.  Later we discovered that the archway had been used in part of the filming of Sound of Music.

We took the Festungsbahn funicular railway up to the Fortress Hohensalzburg, dating back to 1077, and the largest fortress still standing in Europe.  We spent a pleasant afternoon wandering through the rooms and exhibits, and then had lunch at a café, the Salzburg Fortress Café, that overlooked the country side.  This was where we were introduced to Mozart Gold Chocolate Cream added to our coffee.

It led us to searching for the product which we eventually found in a confectionary store, Holzemayr in the Alter Markt.  Not only sis we find the Gold liqueur there was also a dark chocolate variety as well.  We bought a whole box to bring back with us, as well as a number of other chocolates including Victor Schmidt Austrian Mozart Balls, a delicious chocolate and marzipan combination.

With another afternoon to spare we visited the Salzburg Residence which previously housed Salzburg’s ruling prince-archbishops.  We visited the reception rooms and living quarters, as well as the Gallery.  It is as ornate as any of the palaces in Austria, resplendent with furnishings and paintings.  After that, the visit to Mozart’s birthplace was something of an anticlimax.

But, what we were in Salzburg for, the Sound of music tour, and the places we visited:

The Mirabelle gardens, where Maria sang Do Re Mi in front of the gates to the gardens.  We spent some time here before and after the tour, and also has a look inside the Mirabelle Palace, which is not open to the public as it is the city administrative offices.

Leopoldskron Palace where the boating scene was filmed as well as exteriors.  They were not allowed to film inside the place and were only allowed to use the exterior.  An interesting tidbit of information, one of the children nearly drowned.

Helbrunn palace is now home to the gazebo where Rolf and Leisl sang their song, ‘16 going on 17’.  The interesting part of this was the fact the Gazebo used to film the scene was much larger than the actual Gazebo on display.

The walkway from the fortress back to the old city passes Nonnberg Abbey where Maria was a novice, and where the opening scenes were filmed.  A number of scenes were filmed here, including the song ‘Maria’ in the courtyard.  The tour only showed the exterior of the Abbey.

Salzburg lake district where panorama and picnic scenes were filmed.  Even on the dullest of days, during which throughout our tour in continually rained, the scenery was still magnificent.

Mondsee church, where the wedding scenes were filmed.  It was surprising just how small the church really is.  It was also a stop to have afternoon tea or some ‘famous’ apple strudel.

Needless to say we watched Sound of Music straight after the tour, and managed to pick out all of the places we had been to.  The only downside to the tour, singing along to the songs.  I’m sorry, but I do not sing, and some of those that were, well, I say no more.

The serial continues – Episode 29 published

Episode 29 of the “Cases of PI Walthenson” is now available

To read it :

My Website :

My First short story – “The Price of Fame” :




PS Don’t forget to comment if you wish, make a suggestion, join in the conversation

The serial continues – Episode 28 published

Episode 28 of the “Cases of PI Walthenson” is now available

To read it :

My Website :

My First short story – “The Price of Fame” :




PS Don’t forget to comment if you wish, make a suggestion, join in the conversation

Travel is part of the story – New York

New York features in ‘Sunday in New York’ and ‘Echoes from the Past’


Getting there is half the fun!


It is an amazing coincidence that both times we have flown into New York, it is the day after the worst snow storms.

The first time, we were delayed out of Los Angeles, and waited for hours before the plane left.  We had a free lunch and our first introduction to American hamburgers and chips.  Wow!

I had thought we had left enough time with connections to make it in time for New Years Eve, like four to five hours before.  As it turned out, we arrived in New York at 10:30, and thanks to continual updating with our limousine service, he was there to take us to the hotel.

The landing was rough, the plane swaying all over the place and many of the passengers were sick.  Blankets were in short supply!

We made it to the hotel, despite snow, traffic, and the inevitable problems associated with NYE in New York, with enough time to throw our baggage in the room, put on our cold wear, and get out onto the streets.  We could not go to Times Square but finished up at Central Park with thousands of others, in time to see the ball drop on a big screen, exchange new year’s greetings, and see the fireworks.

Then, as luck would have it, we were able to get an authentic New York hotdog, just before the police moved the vendor on, and our night was complete.


The second time we were the last plane out of Los Angeles to New York.  After waiting and waiting, we boarded, and then started circling the airport waiting for takeoff permission.  We stopped once to refuel, and then the pilot decided we were leaving.

This time we took our eldest granddaughter, who was 9 at the time, and she thought it was an adventure.  It was.

When we landed, we were directed to an alder part of the airport, a disused terminal.  We were not the only plane to land, at about one in the morning, but one of about four.  The terminal building filled very quickly, and we were all waiting for baggage.  The baggage belts broke so there were a lot of porters bring the baggage in by hand.

One part of the terminal was just a sea of bags.  To find ours our granddaughter, who, while waiting, sat on top of the cabin baggage playing her DSI until the announcement our bags were available, walked across the top of the bags till she found them.  Thankfully no one was really looking in her direction.

Once again we kept our limousine service updated, and, once we knew what terminal we were at, he came to pick us up.  This time we arrived some days before NYE, so there was not so much of a rush.  We got to the hotel about 3:30 in the morning, checked in, and then went over the road to an all night diner where we ordered hamburgers and chips.

And a Dr Pepper.


Next:  New York after a snow storm.

The serial continues – Episode 27 published

Episode 27 of the “Cases of PI Walthenson” is now available

To read it :

My Website :

My blog :

My First short story – “The Price of Fame” :


PS Don’t forget to comment if you wish, make a suggestion, join in the conversation

A pleasant Sunday morning in suburbia

All I wanted was a cup of coffee.

OK, I could have made one, I have a Nespresso machine, purchased after watching an inspiring George Clooney advertisement (well, my wife bought it) but I was after something with a little more oomph!

We have a small shopping centre just up the road about a kilometer and I thought, what’s five minutes and a short drive against a cup of hot, steaming, delicious to the last drop, coffee?

That’s where any semblance of sanity ends.

I walked out the back door, and forgot the car keys, so I had to go back in.  The door opens and the cat gets out.  Not so bad you think, but no, after three road kills, the cat getting out is a major catastrophe (pardon the pun).

Ten minutes later, cornered like a rat in a trap, he is back inside, I have the keys, and out in the car.  It’s a hot day, and the air conditioning isn’t working.  Damn.  It’s like 45 degrees Celsius in the car.

This is the time to give up and go back inside.  The omens are telling!

I don’t.

Our driveway is up a slight hill and usually we back the cars up so it’s easier to drive out onto the street.  We live in a corner house, and whilst it is not a busy intersection, it has been known for cars to treat it like the third chicane of a grand prix.  Late at night cars have rolled trying to make that tight corner.

I’m reversing off the driveway, too lazy the previous day to back it up, and you guessed it, Enzo Ferrari’s brother is making heavy weather in the third chicane and takes the corner wide, sliding across to the other side of the street, a) because he’s going too fast, and b) because he just saw me backing out of my driveway.

I’m having a heart attack and waiting for the bang, and he’s rapidly accelerating, smoke pouring from streaming tyres, and engine roaring in first or second as the revs pass 9000 and are redlining.

Disaster averted.  One speed junkie and daredevil happy, one old man shaken to the core.

So far I’ve travelled 10 metres.

On the radio the station is playing the James Bond theme from ‘You Only Live Twice’.

Apt, very apt.

I am now very sedately driving to the shopping centre, the road following a wide curve.  Nothing can go wrong here, until I reach the T intersection.  I stop like I do every time, and look.  No cars from the left, and one opposite me, turning into my street.

I start to turn.  The car opposite decides to do a U Turn, and I slam the foot on the brakes.  The driver of the other car is oblivious to me, happily chatting on her mobile phone.  Didn’t stop, didn’t look, didn’t care.

My heart rate is now 170 over 122, and perhaps I should be clinically dead.

Coffee is the last thing I need.

But I persevere.  How much worse can it get?

The shopping centre is not far, up to the roundabout and a right turn into the shopping centre car part.  Usually there are plenty of parking spots, today there a none.  I drive down one of the lanes, and nearly get hit but a reversing driver.  Again, not looking, or perhaps distracted by four children in the back seat.

Or the very, very loud music coming from the car.

I thought at first it was the pounding of my headache, brought on by high blood pressure.

I back up the car a) top give the driver more room to reverse out, and b) so I could turn into the spot when he vacates it.

More fool me.  The car backs out, another driver swoops in and takes the spot.

I get out to remonstrate, but he’s three feet wide and seven feet tall with a scarred face and tattoos on both arms.  Time to move on.

Yes, there’s nothing like a tall hot steaming cup of coffee on a pleasant Sunday morning.

In hell!

Travel is part of the story – Firenze (Florence)

Florence features in ‘What Sets Us Apart’


Apologies now if I have misspelled any street, piazza or any other names.


The first time we arrived in Florence was by train, from Innsbruck in Austria.  We had been booked into the Hotel Brunelleschi, based on the fact it was built over part of a 12th century monastery, it was conveniently located, and was a luxury hotel.

We took a taxi, not knowing how far it was, and found it tucked away in a street, via Sant’elisabetta, not far from Florence’s cathedral, the Duomo.  The taxi barely fitted through the streets.  First impressions, it was old, second impression, the room we were given was amazing, with a view over the main street, and wafting up from a food shop below, the aroma of newly baked waffles.  We had to have one.

Words cannot describe how amazing it was to wake up that first morning, and look out at the bright sunshine and blue sky.  We were in for a hot day, but that wasn’t going to deter the tourist in us.  Of course, after we had a great breakfast.  I particularly liked the crispy bacon.

The first place on the list to visit was the Piazza del Duomo, where the cathedral is located, and the Porta del Paradiso.  We went into the church, and also did a side trip down into the crypt.  We did not climb to the top of Brunelleschi’s cupola.  We tried the pizza, and hearing that the gelato was very expensive in the main part of the city, ventured further afield and found a gelato vendor that was inexpensive.  As the day was very hot it was a welcome relief.

The Ponte Vecchio, the bridge that crosses the Arno.  We walked to the bridge, taking in the views up and down the river before crossing to the other side, then back towards the Piazza Santa Croce.  On out most recent visit there was a football competition, Calcio Fiorentino, in progress that had taken over the whole Piazza, and during the day there was a parade where all the teams and others dressed in the historic clothing dating back to the 15th century.

The Galleria dell’Accademia was also high on the list of places to visit, and we left the hotel early as we had heard the queues are long to get in.  They were right.  We were at the end of a very, very long queue stretching back to Via delgi Alfani.  We were in the queue for about an hour and a half and it didn’t seem to move very quickly.

Then some people passing by said that we could go to the Museo Di San Marco, and purchase tickets to enter the gallery at a particular time.  We had also read or heard something similar, and, taking a risk we left the queue and went in search.  We found it at the Piazza San Marco, purchased tickets for 13:30 and had time to have lunch before turning up at the entrance for our timeslot, and sure enough, with others who had also purchased tickets, we went in.

Just out of curiosity I went back to the queue to see when the people in front of us were, and they still had an hour before gaining admission.

We saw everything that was recommended, including the famous statue of David, though I had a lot of trouble taking a photo when people kept walking in front.

The Piazza della Signoria has a large number of statues, including another of David, the Marzocco, the symbol of Florence, Il Perseo, fountain of Neptune, Poseidon, Perseus with the head of Medusa, and a hall of statues adjacent to the Palazzo Vecchio.

Florence is old, the roads are cobbled and narrow, and there are many trails one can follow and discover something new at the end of every twist and turn.

I have to go back, other than the fact I need a new wallet and belt made from Italian leather.  My wife loves the purses and handbags, also leather, though the scarves have only recently been added to her list of most wanted items.  I want to simply soak up the atmosphere, relax, eat the pasta and drink the endless supply of Moretti’s.


Soon – Rome, and the hottest day I’ve been sightseeing

The serial continues – Episode 26 just published

Episode 26 of the “Cases of PI Walthenson” is now available

To read it :

My Website :

My blog :

My First short story – “The Price of Fame” :


PS Don’t forget to comment if you wish, make a suggestion, join in the conversation

The serial continues – Episode 25 just published

Episode 25 of the “Cases of PI Walthenson” is now available

To read it :

My Website :

My blog :

My First short story – “The Price of Fame” :


PS Don’t forget to comment if you wish, make a suggestion, join in the conversation

Travel is part of the story – Greve in Chianti

Greve in Chianti features in ‘One Last Look’


When we decided we were going to stay in Tuscany for a few days it was necessary to select a central place to stay.

What I researched first before selecting what would be a central location, was tours.  I considered doing a cooking tour but these turned out to be quite expensive so we decided to look at other types of tours.

Bus tours went out of Florence so our initial intention was to stay there.  We’d been there before and stayed at the Hotel Brunelleschi and loved it.  It is perfectly situated in Florence, especially for discovering the city by foot.

Then I found an interesting tour company, Very Tuscany Tours, run by Sara and Andrea, two people who specialize in showing visitors the Tuscany area and I thought; what could be better than tour guides with local knowledge?

So began an exchange of emails, the upshot being that it would cost less if we stayed in Greve.  On that basis, we booked two personalized tours so we could see notable landmarks, scenery, a number of wineries, and sample the real food of Italy.

The tours fulfilled our expectations, and then some.

But back to Greve in Chianti.

We booked an apartment at Antica Pastifico, an old converted pasta factory, a room in fact with a name.  Ours was called ‘Iris’ located on the first floor of the yellow pasta factory.

It was the middle of June and summer so the days were very hot and the evenings were cool and one night it rained.  It was beautiful to watch the raindrops on the terracotta tiles, and take in the aroma of the rain interacting with nature through open windows, and feel the gentle breeze in your face.

It was equally delightful in the morning, to look out over the garden and take in the early morning coolness and scent of the flowers whilst getting ready for the day.

There was a church, The Santa Croce church, at the top of the Piazza Matteotti which we could see from our apartment, and every morning at 8:00 am the bells would sound, making it a much more effective of being woken up than the usual conventional means.  Sadly we never got to visit the church.

Where the apartments were situated it was a five minute walk to the shops and a particular coffee shop where we went every morning for coffee and cake.

A walk on the other side of the square took us past a bakery where every morning the aroma of newly baked bread pulled you in.  There’s something about Italian bread …

Further around was a butcher shop, Antica Marcelleria Falorni, with an incredible collection of meat, small goods and cheese that made selection almost impossible.

Suffice to say our diet mostly consisted of wine, cheese, salami and bread.  It was also served at all the wineries we visited with their wine tastings.  One of the interesting facts is how good the inexpensive wine is and it was not difficult overindulge.

From our visits to several wineries we learned a great deal about the Sangiovese grape and the wine made from these grapes.  Apparently only a small group of wineries can market their wines as Chianti and to prove it is authentic the label has a distinctive cockerel motive on its label.  There is the Chianti Classico and the Chianti Classico Riserva that interested us the most.

There were several restaurants on the piazza and one in particular had my favorite version of pasta, wild boar.  Although the apartment had a full kitchen it was easier to go out and eat rather than cook for ourselves.  We did attempt to cook breakfast several mornings after finding a type of supermarket, Coops, tucked away several streets from the Piazza.

But as for the location of Greve in Chianti, it is very central to all the major tourist spots such as Siena, San Gimignano, and Arezzo.  We visited both Siena and San Gimignano a second time this trip having stayed for three days in San Gimignano as our central base the last time we were in Tuscany.

The only downside to the latest visit was that it was not long enough but isn’t that true of any holiday?