Searching for locations: Innsbruck, Austria

On this occasion, we drove from Florence to Innsbruck, a journey of about 500 kilometers and via the E45, a trip that would take us about five and a half hours.

We drove conservatively, stopped once for lunch and took about seven hours, arriving in Innsbruck late in the afternoon

The main reason for this stay was to go to Swarovski in Wattens for the second time, to see if anything had changed, and to buy some pieces.  We were still members of the club, and looking forward to a visit to the exclusive lounge and some Austrian champagne.

Sadly, there were no new surprises waiting, and we came away a little disappointed.

We were staying at the Innsbruck Hilton, where we stayed the last time, and it only a short walk to the old town.

From the highest level of the hotel, it is possible to get a look at the mountains that surround the city.  This view is in the direction we had driven earlier, from Florence.

The change in the weather was noticeable the moment we entered the mountain ranges.

This view looks towards the old town and overlooks a public square.

This view shows some signs of the cold, but in summer, I doubted we were going to see any snow.

We have been here in winter, and it is quite cold, and there is a lot of snow.  The ski resorts are not very far away, and the airport is on the way to Salzburg.

There is a host of restaurants in the old town, and we tried a few during our stay.  The food, beer, and service were excellent.

On a previous visit, we did get Swiss Army Knives, literally, from a small store called Victorinox.

And, yes, we did see the golden roof.

Searching for locations: Windsor Castle, London, England

A fine day, on this trip a rarity, we decided to take the train to Windsor and see the castle.

This is a real castle, and still in one piece, unlike a lot of castles.

Were we hoping to see the Queen, no, it was highly unlikely.

But there were a lot of planes flying overhead into Heathrow.  The wind must have been blowing the wrong day, and I’m sure, with one passing over every few minutes, it must annoy the Queen if she was looking for peace and quiet.

Good thing then, when it was built, it was an ideal spot, and not under the landing path.  I guess it was hard to predict what would happen 500 years in the future!

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I’m not sure if this was the front gate or back gate, but I was wary of any stray arrows coming out of those slits either side of the entrance.

You just never know!

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An excellent lawn for croquet.  This, I think, is the doorway, on the left, where dignitaries arrive by car.  The private apartments are across the back.

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The visitor’s apartments.  Not sure who that is on the horse.

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St George’s Chapel.  It’s a magnificent church for a private castle.  It’s been very busy the last few months with Royal weddings.

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The Round Tower, or the Keep.  It is the castle’s centerpiece.  Below it is the gardens.

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Those stairs are not for the faint-hearted, nor the Queen I suspect.  But I think quite a few royal children and their friends have been up and down them a few times.

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And well worth the effort to reach the bottom.

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Any faces peering out through the windows?

Searching for locations: The Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong

The sight of the Peninsula Hotel is very familiar to all who visit Hong Kong, if not to stay but certainly if you want to see the last vestiges of British influence in what was once a far eastern colony.

That is, we’re talking about the front building, not the new tower at the back.  In the older days there would have been a great view of the harbor from the Veranda (that area with the blue striped canopy) where today, breakfast is taken.

We had breakfast, lunch, and the famous afternoon tea in the ground floor cafe.

These days you would mostly see taxis, buses, and Teslas, if not a flurry of Mercedes and green Rolls Royces in the small car park below.  There is no clear view of the harbor anymore.

From our room, one facing the harbor we could see the space museum, and on the day we arrived, rain, at times, blotting out the harbor and Hong Kong Island barely discernable in the distance.

As for the room itself, it was excellent, a junior suite, I think, because it had two distinctive areas.  Everything was run from a tablet computer, blinds, lights, television, and most importantly, air conditioning.  This was the first hotel I’ve stayed in where it was neither too hot or too cold, but just rights.

The bed was very large and extremely comfortable, as were the pillows.  Pillows, I’m afraid, are a bugbear with me, as no hotel seems to be able to get it right.  They’re either too soft or too hard, too tall, or too shallow.  Here, they managed to get it right.

The windows were just the right size not to affect the air conditioning, ie. let too much heat in.

I’m not sure I could say the lounge chair was comfortable, but there was only one, which makes it difficult if there are two of you.  I wasn’t going to fight for it.

The desk had a surprise in the bottom drawer, a printer!

And the bathroom, though slightly smaller than expected, had some hint of what it may have been like in the early days.  It had both a shower and a bath.

We have this sport called Australian Rules Football

In Melbourne, it’s an institution even a religion.  Traditionally it is played on a Saturday afternoon and luckily for us, we were attending such a game.

Of course, this was last year.  This year, with the COVID 19 virus everything, including football has been called off.

Except now we have ‘flattened the curve’ football can start again, only without the spectators.  Social distancing means we can’t pack the stadium, or go to a game.  For now, it will just be from our lounge rooms, watching it on the TV.

But, below, is the atmosphere that we have been missing, and probably will for some time to come, a game we attended last year:

The stadium is the MSG, one of the biggest and best in Australia.  Shortly after the start, I’d estimate there are about 40,000, but eventually, we were told there was 53,000, spectators here for a clash between the two Melbourne based teams.  It is not unheard of to have in closer to 90,000 spectators, and the atmosphere is at times electric.

For the die-hards like me who can remember the days when there were only Victorian-based teams,  in the modern-day form of the game, to have two such teams is something of a rarity.

However, it’s not so much about the antics on the field as it is the spectators.  They are divided into three groups, the members, the private boxes, and the general public.

But in the end, there is no distinction between any of them because they all know the rules, well, their version of them, and it doesn’t matter who you are, If there is something that goes against your team, it is brings a huge roar of disapproval.

Then there are ebbs and flows in the crowd noise and reactions to events like holding the ball attracting a unified shout ‘ball, or a large collective groan when a free kick should have been paid or by the opposite team’s followers if it should have been.

It is this crowd reaction which makes going to a live game so much better than watching it televised live.  The times when players take marks, get the ball out of congestion, and when goals are scored when your team is behind and when one is needed to get in front.

This is particularly so when one of the stars goes near the ball and pulls off a miracle 1 percent movement of the ball.  These are what we come to see, the high flying marks, the handball threaded through a needle, a kick that reaches one of our players that looked like it would never get there, an intercept mark or steal that throws momentum the opposite way.

This game is not supposed to be a game of inches but fast yards, a kick, a mark, a handball, a run, and bounce.  You need to get the ball to your goal as quickly as possible.

That’s the objective.

But in this modern game, much to the dismay of spectators and commentators alike, there is this thing called flooding where all 36 players are basically in a clump around the ball and it moves basically in inches, not yards.

It is slow and it is ugly.

It is not the game envisioned by those who created it and there is a debate right now about fixing it.

Here, it is an example of the worst sort.  This game is played in four quarters and for the first two, it is ugly scrappy play with little skill on display.  The third shows improvement and it seems the respective coaches had told their players to open it up

They have and it becomes better to look at.

But this is the point where one team usually gets away with a handy lead, a third-quarter effort that almost puts the game out of reach.  The fourth quarter is where the losing team stages a comeback, and sometimes it works sometimes it does not.

The opposition gives it a red hot try but is unsuccessful.  Three goals in a row, it gave their fans a sniff of hope but as the commentators call it, a kick against the flow and my team prevails.

It is the moment to stay for when they play the winning teams song over the stadium’s loudspeaker system, and at least half the spectators sing along.  It is one of that hair raising on the back of your neck moments which for some can be far too few in a season

We have great hopes for our team this year, and it was worth the trek from Brisbane to Melbourne to see it live rather than on the TV

Leaving the ground with thousands of others heading towards the train station for the journey home there is a mixture of feelings, some lamenting their teams, and others jubilant their team won.  There is no rancor, everyone shuffles in an orderly manner, bearing the slow entry to the station, and the long lines to get on the train.

Others who perhaps came by car, or who have decided to wait for a later train or other transport, let their children kick the football around on the leaf-covered parkland surrounding the stadium.

It is an integral part of this game that children experience the football effect.  Kicking a ball with your father, brothers, and sisters, or friends on that late autumn afternoon is a memory that will be cherished for a long long time.

It’s where you pretend you are your favorite player and are every bit as good.  I know that’s what I used to do with my father, and that is what I did with my sons.

But no matter what the state of the game, it is the weekend the football fans look forward to and who turn out in their hundreds of thousands.  It is a game that ignites passions, it brings highs and it brings incredible lows.

And, through thick and thin, we never stop supporting them.

What’s in the news other than COVID 19

Other than the fact that the recent twitter storm of untruths and white lies is covering up something far more sinister that certain people don’t want you to find out about.

Well, we’re on the quest to find out what it is…

There’s the discovery of a perfectly preserved ancient Roman mosaic floor under vines near Verona in Italy that dates back to the 3rd century.  This is the same site that remains of a villa was found in 1922.

And thankfully there were very few people in Rome when a sinkhole appeared in front of the Pantheon where seven travertine slabs were found 2.5 meters beneath Piazza della Rotonda.

Hardly earth-shattering, but interesting none the less.

Also, I’m willing to bet you didn’t know that scientists were looking for a parallel universe in Antarctica, not that they found one, but it would have been interesting if they had.

For that matter, since there is nothing down there but ice and snow, would they have realized they had passed to another parallel universe that was exactly the same?

What they did find were neutrinos, which are tiny high energy cosmic particles that are often referred to as ghostly because they can pass through anything without changing.

Pity about the parallel universe.  I’m sure a lot of us tired of this one not working out so well, would like to go to another where we’re hoping things will be better.

Though, if you watched Stargate SG1, you’ll know parallel universes are not always good.

Lastly…

Today I discovered the humble light bulb was invented by Thomas Edison 129 odd years ago, and made at Edison General Electric Company (now better known as GE).  In 1935 the light bulbs had evolved so much they could light stadiums, a fluorescent bulb was created in 1938, and a halogen lamp in 1959.  LED lighting was invented in 1962.

 

A new way of doing things

Well, welcome to the new world.

Perhaps in a lot of things, we should have been there a long time ago, but I suspect complacency and laziness has a lot to do with some of the issues.

Like washing your hands. It’s usually hell on earth to get a child to do anything and you have to be at them and at them to do anything.

I’m not sure about social distancing, but I’ve long wanted people in the supermarket to stop leaning over me to get stuff off the shelves when they could wait one minute longer.

Or being crowded into a restaurant where you can practically eat off the plate of the person at the next table. I like the distance, and the privacy it brings.

I’m also a fan of the new click and collect phenomenon where I don’t have to go out to get something I want; just get it delivered.

Of course, there’s still the necessity to go to a shop and physically see an item before you buy it, in my case clothes and shoes, but online sales for a lot of things are so much better, especially books and magazines.

I guess future traffic jams won’t be cars but delivery trucks.

I like the idea of working from home. Aside from having to face time with colleagues every now and then, if you don’t have to be in an office, then give it up. It will reduce pressure on roads, public transport, and reduce the concentration of the population in one place. You might even get to work on time, and get something to eat before you arrive!

As long as they get the internet right, which in this country is a pretty big if.

And perhaps now people will stop blaming 5g for the COVID virus.

Perhaps this homeschooling thing might work as well, as over the last few weeks I’ve seen it in action, and in most cases it works. Of course the isolation of students could be a problem, and there is always a need for face time for teachers and other students for interaction with contemporaries, but perhaps a compromise could be found.

Among the negatives in a time like this is the fear of using public transport, a fear no one is taking lightly, leading to children having to be taken to and brought home from school, and the fact there are potentially 800 cars needed to do it.

I used to leave home 30 mins before school end and was first in the pickup queue. Now I leave 45 minutes before and the closest I can get in nearly a mile from the school. And the traffic is a dangerous hazard in the main street, blocking driveways, bus stops, and lanes. It’s basically a mess, and it cannot continue without more organization.

Or we find a cure, or at the very least, a vaccine.

But there’s another problem. The anti-vaxxers. Everywhere in the world, it seems, not more than 50% of the population will get vaccinated, so it means that we may NEVER get past where we are now.

And the very worst problem that this new world has sprung on us, we may never travel again. Anywhere.

Perhaps we really do need a miracle.

After the anger, the serenity

I wanted to write a bit about how my day was going, and then I got angry.  It was a slow fuse because most of what I was angry about I’d been reading this morning.

And, yes, it’s about COVID 19, it’s about political leaders, those in power and those in opposition.

Listing to our opposition leader, briefly before I turned him off to watch a rerun of McHale’s Navy, it annoyed me that he had no answers to offer, only criticism.

Unfortunately, he’s not alone in the world.

Political leaders tended to blame everyone else for a pandemic that was not prepared for, totally unexpected and looking like it’s going to be a huge disaster, not just here but everywhere.

Oh, God, I’m back on my soapbox.

Forgive me.

I’ll shut up about it now.

 

It’s cold today, about 14 degrees Celsius, when it’s usually 27 degrees Celsius.  The sun is letting us down, and I suppose I should be grateful that we are not suffering from an ice age.

To be honest, I was seriously considering lighting the log fire.  Instead, we have reverse cycle air-conditioning, which is probably, in the long run, cheaper.

Have you seen how much it costs to buy wood?

But…

That could have made it difficult to write.

Not to come up with inspiration, but literally write, because my office is colder than a chiller room.  My beer in storage out here is colder than it is in the fridge.  Well, that sounded better in my head than on paper, but you get what I mean.

So, instead of writing, we sat down and binge-watched Sweet Magnolias, a light-hearted series from Netflix, and is of the same vein as Chesapeake Shores, etc, and more the sort of program I’d expect from Hallmark.

It was good.  It hooked me.

Three sets of lives intertwined in a largeish town in middle America perhaps.  I heard Charleston mentions so perhaps it was in South Carolina.

The good thing about it?  Not one mention of COVID 19.

Just good old-fashioned heartache, and trials and tribulations of trying to live your life, bumping up against the obstacles life throws up at you.

The town was called serenity, so there’s a pun in there somewhere.

It’s going to be warmer tomorrow so maybe I’ll get some writing done then.