How to explore Umbria, Italy

How to explore Umbria, Italy

If it wasn’t for the Etruscans, there might not be olive oil or wine in this region of Italy. Let’s head to the hilltop fortress towns of Umbria and enjoy the legacy of the ancient invaders.

It had been a carb-overload lunch hosted by chef and pastamaking teacher Lorenzo Polegri, a showman and a man of smiles and passion as he demonstrated how to perfect the art of pasta making. None of us in our group were very talented but who cares? We enjoyed our repast in Ristorante Zeppelin in the quiet midday ambience of the mediaeval Umbrian town of Orvieto.

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This town, a natural fortress, is one of the many glorious fortified towns and cities of the Umbrian region, which includes the spiritually robust Assisi, the glorious mystery of Perugia and this elegant site of Orvieto, all founded by the very late, lamented Etruscans who disappeared into the emerging Roman empire in the third century BC.

After eating food fit for Etruscan epicureans, we scattered to waddle into the narrow curved streets of this city bathed in autumnal afternoon light.

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Curving past small shops, drifting along, I lifted my eyes and saw the most confoundingly beautiful structure – a green and white striped cathedral – a bold statement against the stark blue sky – with intricate, delicate relief carvings on the capitals with sumptuous cornerstones. The bold marble panels adorn the façade and are respected as one of the masterpieces of the late Middle Ages. It may not be the biggest and the best in the world – but this striped beauty captured my heart.

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Orvieto Cathedral is one of Italy’s most celebrated cathedrals. The 14th century edifice was built between 1290 and 1500 and she shines as brightly as ever. Built under papal direction, the building is famous for its mosaic inlay facade.

Duomo di Orvieto is widely considered the most glorious example of Italian Gothic. A miracle is said to have occurred in 1263 in the nearby town of Bolsena, when a travelling priest who had doubts about the truth of transubstantiation found that his Host was bleeding so much that it stained the altar cloth. The cloth is now stored in the Chapel of the Corporal inside the cathedral.

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Next stop along the way on our escourted journey is the jewel of Umbria, Perugia. Perugia is the capital city of the region of Umbria and covers a high hilltop around the area. Another Etruscan beauty, Perugia is known for its universities (the first founded in 1308) and is celebrated for its culture and artistic pursuits.

The city has centuries of tumultuous religious and political (same thing then) history and all of it immersed in the stone here.

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The Rocca Paolina was the ‘underground’ city, built in 1373 at the then highest part of the town. The richest merchants of 16th century Perugia lived here but it was destroyed by local citizens in an uprising provoked by the Pope. The town disappeared but the streets have been uncovered and the mediaeval homes that were a platform for the new fortress are now on show.

The stone houses with Gothic doorways and tunnels look as if they are waiting for people to go about their daily business. The atmospheric route through the fortress by escalators take you through Rocca Paolina under the portico of Palazzo del Governo.

We headed out into the night and into the strange and curious labyrinthine streets underground. After ascending to ‘uptown Perugia’ to the historic centre, in a state of wonderment we found ourselves in the vigorous city of Perugia, with its night lights on and aromas enticing us into a 21st century pizza house.

Next stop across the Umbrian Valley is the mother ship of holy hilltop fortress cities: Assisi. Birthplace (in 1182) of Italy’s favourite saint, Francis, the city is always buzzing with pilgrims.

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Saint Francis and female favourite Saint Clare are the drawcards for the fans. The bodies of both saints were discovered in 1818 and luckily they hadn’t been tampered with by grave robbers. For centuries, holy relics had done great business across Europe.

So what is left (bones of Saint Francis) and preserved remains of Saint Clare is on show as the faithful and curious pass by in snaking queues through Basilica di Santa Chiara (where Clare is) and the Basilica di San Francesco.

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There are fine examples of Giotto’s frescoes and Cimabue’s painting to be viewed and other cultural attractions includes many little pottery statues of chubby monks and waving popes. And for fans of Norberto, the famous Umbrian painter, there’s a small gallery with an excellent variety of fine prints to aquire.

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It feels like we’ve ticked off the holy trinity of hill towns in Umbria and look forward to the next stop in Tuscany. More and more I appreciate the fact that we enjoy these splendid visits, and afterwards hop back on to a comfy coach which takes us to our next stop. So far we have been transported from Rome, taken to ‘secret places’, had intimate meals with welcoming local folk, and been invited into authentic experiences. Each night we have been put to bed, well fed and happy, in lovely hotels.

As we anticipate lunch and tastings of the local olive oil, and a meal of regional cooking in another handsome hill town – this time Spello, with its historic centre still enveloped by Roman walls. We stretch our legs in the coach, chat about the marvellous day we have had and agree that those Etruscans knew a thing or two about leaving an amazing legacy in Umbria.

Writer, Bev Malzard was hosted by Insight Vaations insightvacations.com.au and found the itinerary exciting and edifying. She recommends sampling gelato at every stop along the way. You will not be disappointed.

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Vienna’s best breads

Vienna’s best breads

A slice of life

I love bread. Sourdough, rye, Turkish, flatbread, brioche, French sticks, naan, roti, wholemeal, soft white rolls, Italian focaccia and am not ashamed to admit to a couple of slices of white Tip Top bread with butter and vegemite.

And part of travel is eating lots of bread . . . (sorry to the gluten intolerants). Naan to mop up curry sauce and dhal for breakfast in India and beautiful European breads with cheese washed down with coffee.

Years ago when I first travelled to Austria I was naive and hadn’t been exposed to sliced heavy bread in the morning. My first taste (not toast) was accompanied by a cream cheese and a fat slice of ham. And that’s when romancing the loaf began. No matter where I am, I’ll try the bread on offer.

Europe sets the standard for good, wholesome, hearty breads. And Vienna is upping the ‘brot’ ante for the comeback of artisan bread. For too long Vienna has loafed around with heavy, commercially manufactured bread and now it looks for a slice of the crusty good life.

The renaissance of small bakeries in Vienna is full on – here are a couple of snaps taken around the back streets where the aroma of freshly baked bread drew me into the bakery for a bun or two.

I was taken around the city bakeries by ‘Brot Andi’, Andreas Djordjevic, an institution in Vienna. Andreas is in charge of the bread cart in the two Michelin-starred Steirereck, the best restaurant in Vienna. The restaurant is divine with the most beautiful ceiling, amazing food styling – and flavour of course – and then there’s the brot . . . .

I rather fancied the name of Arthur Grimm’s bakery – no relation of you-know-who.
This was a scattering of breadcrumbs to entice you to walk the streets of Vienna in the early morning, and  . . . just follow your nose.

Writer, Bev Malzard once joined with a work colleague to experiment with ‘the sandwich as a meal’ concept. Over a week of 21 meals they managed to put every meal on a sandwich. Eggs on toasts for brekkie, a salad and ham sando for lunch, steak and chips between two slices of bread for dinner. Great strides in gastronomic adventure were made when there was a pie and sauce sandwich, a fish and chips sandwich, a pea soup sandwich (this had to be made and eaten rather quickly), a baked dinner sandwich, with gravy and beef and black beans and fried rice sandwich and the surprise meal . . . an apple pie sandwich. That was an  excellent week. 
The divine image at the top of the page was taken by the gifted Monika Grabkowska.

Scandinavia: Great Danes

Scandinavia: Great Danes
‘Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen, friendly old girl of a town’ . . . continues to enchant visitors with tradition and its easygoing personality. But there’s more to explore as its varied and eclectic architecture ­– old and new – stirs ‘for’ and ‘against’ controversy, eventually melding into the visual fabric of the city, just as it always has. 

If you’re not walking, boat or bicycle is the way to discover Copenhagen. Denmark’s capital city is a true, natural beauty that has, over the centuries, been designed, primped and polished to within an inch of its life. Always on show, and stepping up to the mark as a pretty, chocolate-box-toy-soldier presentation, the city on the water has burst out of its uniform ambience and over the past decade presented a collection of new buildings which have changed the face of the harbour shoreline, canals and through some of the quiet streets.

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When you think of Denmark, what comes to mind? Hamlet, pastries, a little mermaid, fine china, a certain princess, Vikings, beech forests, Hans Christian Andersen, herrings and very down-to-earth sensible people? All of the above, but what shines the light on modern Denmark, the ancient centre of Scandinavia, is design. Everything in the country, and especially the city of Copenhagen is about excellent design. Whether it’s mediaeval churches, Renaissance castles and country homes, ordered streets and canals, or pretty, colourful harbour-side storied houses of the cities’ that flourished in the ‘golden age’ from 1588-1648, the element of design surprise continues to grow and be embellished to mellow into the 21st century.

A leader in industrial design for the last century or so, Danish design conjures names such as Bang and Olufsen (audio and stereo brand), Bodum (coffee chic), Royal Copenhagen (fine china) and Geog Jensen (the famous Danish silverware brand).

The essence of the country’s individual design is to be found in its timeless simplicity, quality materials and functionality.

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Danish architecture, in Denmark and abroad is a standout on the international architectural scene. And it is often at the centre of public scrutiny and controversy. For example, take one of the world’s most famous buildings, the Sydney Opera House designed by Jorn Utzon. This universally admired building was bankrolled by a public lottery, caused so much dissention within the ranks of the state government in the 1960s that the design was drastically modified, much to the architect’s disappointment at the time.

Utzon designed beautiful buildings all over the world and in his own country. In the dock area of Copenhagen, the Paustian furniture store, also Utzon’s brainchild is a place of inspiration. Contained in the stunning building is Denmark’s largest collection of quality furniture and carpets, lighting and accessories and basically the best interior design from Scandinavia and the rest of the world. Perhaps not the best place to pick up some souvenirs but fine for picking up design and decorating ideas.

Two newish buildings that have had Copenhagen residents atwitter over the past few years are the amazing Copenhagen Opera House (designed by Henning Larsen), completed and opened in 2004 and the Royal Danish Library (known as the Black Diamond), a looming construction pressing the shoreline and designed by Danish architects Schmidt Hammer Lassen. It is named for its outside cover of black marble and glass.

The Black Diamond has a host of detractors and as many admirers. It leans dramatically over the waterfront and reflects the water and light, constantly changing its hue. This extraordinary building is an extension to the 19th century red brick Royal Library. It certainly catches the eye and the imagination as you glide by in the harbour.

Best view of these beauties before actually heading indoors to experience Opera and books is to take a canal boat trip and get your bearings of the harbour and all it offers. In fact it’s a lovely way to start your discovery of Copenhagen.

In and around town by foot or bicycle you’ll find beautiful old buildings from various eras that undoubtedly caused a stir in their time too.

The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, a fine art museum is an imposing grand period design standing on Hans Christian Andersen Boulevard. This museum is full of wonderful items including Etruscan art, 19th-century paintings from Denmark and France and many sculptures than span 5000 years. There are a few starts on show here – but two favourites are the work of Paul Gaugain and more than 30 pieces by Rodin. Take a rest from art here and you’ll be having coffee and cake or maybe a meal at a beautiful tropical plant filled winter garden restaurant.

Also one of the oldies but goodies is the famous Tivoli Gardens, an amusement park that has charmed adults and thrilled children for more than 160 years. It’s not Luna Park or Disneyland, but an area with old-fashioned gardens, a host of food pavilions and rides galore from the innocent, romantic rides of the past to the modern Demon – a corkscrewing roller coaster and the dead drop Golden Tower. The Tivoli is at its best at night when the magic of lights turn the park into a fairytale enclosure. Kitsch and schmaltz rule the day and from the behaviour of the visitors this is just the atmosphere desired.

Along the waterfront the Amalienborg Palace is an austere standout as there are four ‘mansions’ in the square making up the one home for the royal family. The buildings surround the centre square and the royal precinct is guarded by sentries. There is a ceremonial changing of the guard at noon daily. Amalienborg is one of Copenhagen best examples of Baroque architecture ­that didn’t run riot with the curls and swirls.

Head inland to view the splendid Frederikskirken, the marble church with its glorious dome that can be seen from all over the city.

You can’t visit Copenhagen without a thought for Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid. It’s odd that she sits patiently looking toward the shore and not the harbour, which could take her away from all the attention and fuss. Nostalgia aside it feels disrespectful to see tourists putting their arms around her and invading her tiny space on a rock.

If you still have a hankering for unusual architecture there’s Holmen’s red brick warehouses, barracks and foundries that were built on reclaimed land in the 17th century for the Danish military. Holmen is home to schools specialising in drama, film, architecture and music. For architecture fans the Royal Danish School of Architecture holds regular exhibitions in Meldahis Smedie in Holmen.

But brilliant design isn’t just about buildings. Copenhagen’s restaurant and café scene underwent an amazing transformation in the mid nineties. This modern Scandinavian revolution has produced, to mention the tip of the eatery iceberg, Café Victor, Dan Turells, Café Sommersko, Ultimo and Quote. These new and very fabulous eateries and wine bars made their name for their interpretation of Danish cooking as well as their good looks.

Window shopping shows the sophisticated design side of fashion, from men’s and women’s clothing to cutting edge shoes and accessories. Homeware shops have so many innovative kitchen implements and interior design items that the best advice you can get before travelling to Copenhagen is to pack your suitcase to half full, then take half out ­ – there’s serious shopping to be done here.

 

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There’s good food, great accommodation, excellent transport and activities to keep you going for a week or so, but spare a thought and perhaps your appetite for what is considered by many to be Denmark’s crowning design glory ­– the open-face sandwich. Forget wraps, baps, filled croissants, bagels and foccacia – this is the real Danish deal, cheap and more than cheerful.

There are 13 one-Michelin stared restaurants in Copenhagen (Google them) and if you want an amazing, three-starred Miclein meal – book (well before you visit) Geranium or AOC – mad if you don’t!
(The featured image at the top of the page was taken by Pierre Chatel-Innocenti.)

‘Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen, friendly old girl of a town’ song written by Frank Loesser for the film Hans Christian Andersen (1952) starring Danny Kaye.

Switzerland – Zurich’s best car park

Switzerland – Zurich’s best car park
Ah Switzerland, land of glorious scenery, of alps, lakes, elegant cities. So why am I writing about a Car Park? Cos it’s a cool car park.

It’s not often visitors to Zurich get excited about a Car Park – but you never know what this city is going to turn up. A couple of years ago the land in front of the Zurich Opera House was dug up to prepare it (down several layers) for a Car Park to service the city.

Going down a few layers revealed the well-preserved, substantial remains of a ‘stilt’ village: stilts, rudimentary tools, domestic implements, fishing nets and shamanistic tokens.
The archaeological discoveries made under the so-called ‘place of the Sechseläuten (festival)’ in Zurich were so numerous that assessment work lasted five years.
This find confirmed how the early/first people of this region lived. Villages were perched around Zurichsee (Lake Zurich), with the houses and community dwellings sitting over the edge of the water. Popular theory is that they lived over the water, up high because of marauding wild animals and there would always be food to be caught on the lake.
(Top image is of the reconstruction of the Neolithic lake dwelling site.)
The remnants of life on the lake were sowell preserved because they had been immersed and lacked in mud/silt therefore not disturbed nor destroyed.
The remarkable age discerned and documented puts the life and times of the village at 4300 years BC!  So more than 6000 years to date.
The Car Park went ahead – very carefully and in a thoughtful and intelligent manner. There are display cases with some of the finds, a film of divers and what they found at the edge of the lake and the finest damn Car Park in town.

The vast square on top of the Car Park spreads out before the Opera House. The surface is covered in oblong squares of Switzerland’s finest granite. Lots of grumbling from the locals at the exorbitant cost but there’s every chance it will last as long as the stilt houses!
There are a few randomly placed chairs which are happily filled with people, their faces tilted to the ever welcome sun.

Just another surprise in Zurich – go see for yourself.
www.zuerich.com

Tasmania’s Bruny Isand

Tasmania’s Bruny Isand

 

Getting my glamp on!

Camping? No. Been there, done that and the thought of the cold ground seeping up through my bones, cutting through a wafer thin foam mattress and a patchy, duck feather sleeping bag strangling me is about an attractive proposition as being kept awake by the flapping of a nylon tent in a gale-force wind. So there.

But, here I am, snuggled in a king-size bed, with crisp white linens crackling around my face, darkness folding itself across the entrance of the large tent (should I call that a habitat?) and smiling to myself and remembering that I was never going camping again.

But, glamping. Yes! How civilised, how wonderful and how about this location?

We began our journey in Tasmania to enjoy the ‘Bruny Island Long Weekend’ experience with an early morning pick up at Daci & Daci Bakers in Hobart. No hurry, a fresh-out-of-the-oven pastry and a hot cup of java and then we are delivered to a private boat at the waterfront and so it begins . . .

We enjoy smooth sailing on the silky Derwent River and watch the city fade as the ancient coastline emerges.

There are dolphins at play and at the bottom of the steep, sandstone cliffs there appears to be a gang of sleepy seals playing possum. Sea birds swirl around the tops of the cliffs and we feel very far from civilisation.

We disembark. North and South Bruny is connected by a narrow strip of land called The Neck which is easier to say than isthmus.

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The island is around 50km in length and during a couple of days here we get to see the various hotspots.

Our bags (travelling light) are stashed and we waste no time before we begin to walk. We take a narrow path and begin our walk to a cape on the east coast of Bruny Island. Along the way we see no other human beings. Our hosts/guides/protectors are Robert and Dave who guide us gently through the sea level scrub before we start to rise higher where the scraggly, tough native trees are either gathered tightly together or are out on a limb leaning to the north. When the wind she blows . . . she blows.

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I haven’t done a lot of bushwalking in the past few years but realised how much I like it. Pushing the legs a little harder than usual, breathing in the crisp, end-of-summer scented air is invigorating. The remains of the wildflowers and tree blossoms are hanging on to the endless summer (and it’s been a cracker this year).

The max number of guests on any given Long Weekend is eight, and we are seven which makes getting to know each other easy and companiable.

Our walk takes about five hours with a packed picnic lunch stop, a visit off-the-beaten-track to an old hut that had been built years before – a kind of men’s shed in the wilderness; a trek to the farthest cape and a walk along a splendid, deserted beach with a smattering of rocks that boast of geological marvels and weathered history.

We are on our way to our camp but stop first to gaze at the smooth water of Great Bay to see how the famous Bruny Island oysters are farmed. A clutch of gnarly shells are brought out from the waters, shucked and eaten, au natural with great gusto. No that’s how you finish a bushwalk!

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The camp. Nestled in a clearing mid an old growth forest is our accommodation for the next two nights. The roomy tents (with big beds) are camouflaged in the bush and are a decent distance from each other. (It’s funny, throughout the normally silent night as the toilet is up the hill, away from the tents, all you hear is the sound of tent zippers opening and closing.)

Down the hill is the outdoor shower. Standing under pounding hot water and staring out at sentinel stands of eucalypts is a pretty special experience.

Then the big surprise unfolds. The hut where we eat our meals (like a bunkhouse) sits alone and as I wander down for pre-dinner drinks a fine film of smoke wafts into the air. Ah, dinner is cooking!

We sit in the fading afternoon light chatting while Dave and Robert work like a well-oiled team cooking our dinner. Mmmm, roast lamb, vegetables, hot rolls, and a sweetheart of a dessert.

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Into bed afterwards and asleep before I hit the pillow.

The chefs are at it again for breakfast – bacon and eggs? Don’t mind if I do.

The rest of the gang went on another bushwalk today to East Cloudy Head to stretch the legs and for a view of the wild Southern Ocean. I opted for sightseeing.

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The landscape is gentle and dotted with little farms, old and new. Decrepit houses and shacks make for good photography and by chance we saw the famed white wallaby make a brief appearance in the bush as we drove past.

The highlight of the day was to visit and climb the stunning Cape Bruny Lighthouse. First lit in 1838 the lighthouse is a stunning example of the best lighthouse architecture of its time. And it’s Australia’s longest continually staffed lighthouse.

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We stopped later at The Neck for a lazy lunch and I returned to camp early and bagsed the first shower.

Another evening of good company, gourmet food (local pork and vegetables), fine Tassie wines and late-night laughs. One of the guests had shouted herself this weekend to celebrate her 60th birthday. She loved it, as we all did.

This ‘glamping’ business suits me.

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Robert Knight and Dave Lane.

We walked and talked and learned so much about the nature of the island, the history and how to have a luxury experience without the four walls of a hotel.

It was a lazy start the last day, for me. The others took off for another walk but I wanted to hug a few trees before departing.

And continuing being ‘gourmet-spoilt; we had a long lunch at The Jetty Café to keep the high standard up.

I felt a little sad leaving Bruny Island as I was just beginning to understand this wild and beautiful part of Australia.

Well done Robert Knight (director of the company) and super cook and guide Dave Lane for a truly memorable long weekend. Amazing how little time it took me from ‘no camping’ to ‘I love glamping’.

Writer, Bev Malzard looked back on her pictures from many years ago (below) from her bushwalking days/daze. There are tiny tents she squeezed her sleeping bag into, billy cans with porridge and dried fruit cooking up for breakfast, heavy walking boots kicked off after a long day’s walk, and shots of her pouring red wine into her mouth from a wine skin. Ah, those intrepid times . . .

Bev Malzard enjoyed the hospitality of The Bruny Island Long Weekend (and heartily recommends it). For more information on the itineraries, departure times and now, the winter package, visit www.brunyislandlongweekend.com.au

 

 

 

 

 

 

England’s treasures

England’s treasures

Three sisters and a legacy of wonderful fiction, and all written by three women who lived in a quiet, out of the way village in Yorkshire – The Bronte sisters.

I had always imagined Parson Bronte’s daughters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne, living in remote, windswept Haworth, in a damp, dreary stone cottage with no neighbours, confined to indoors and infinite boredom as the rain and sleet swept over their abode from the moors that were like a lonely and fierce moat oppressing them.

I was wrong, well, mostly.

Even though on the early spring day I visited – the village was tempered by misty rain, I discovered a charming village, much the same as it had been when the three literary sisters lived there in the early 19th century. The village is situated on
the eastern slope of the Pennines, located close to the river Worth. Yorkshire has retained many fine villages and most set like Haworth in glorious, wild nature precincts. It provides a landscape that was ripe for three imaginative young women to draw dramatic, romantic tales from and set them to paper.

A long, narrow cobblestone street rises from a sharply dipped valley and slim residences line the street locked in by little shops, cafes and boutique stores. Cafes are full of chattering folk and mothers wheel their prams up the steep thoroughfare.

It is this road that the ‘girls’ would have trod in sturdy boots, and there’s the local post office where Charlotte sent her manuscript of Jane Eyre under the pseudonym Currer Bell. In fact the three sisters took the Bell name, Emily was Ellis and Anne was Acton Bell, which veiled their gender – in a time when it wasn’t seemly for women to write novels.

The Brontes arrived at Haworth from Thornton in April 1820 and settled into the parsonage. Patrick Bronte outlived his six children (two daughters died in 1825), his wife, the three daughters and son Bramwell who was a loving brother but a troublesome son. He lived a complicated life and through drunkenness and the use of opiates his health declined and he died in September 1848. In December the same year Emily Bronte died and a year after, Anne passed away in the seaside town of Scarborough. She was buried there to spare their father from burying yet another one of his children.

The paintings above are rare and were painted by Branwell Bronte. The one of the three sisters on the left featured Branwell at the back of the composition but he painted himself out. The picture on the right is of Charlotte. 

So, the lives of the Bronte sisters weren’t long. They were well-educated by their father, a man whi crusaded for better education for the village folk and also better sanitation for the poor village of Haworth. \

The sisters also spent time in boarding school and their lively minds fed off each other creatively as they wrote together in their home by the Moors.

Today the parsonage is a museum of charm that invites visitors to look around and see just how they lived. The dining table is most evocative, it’s where the girls would gather to talk and write and walk around reading aloud to each other. The table is in the parlour, as is the couch where Emily died.

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Patrick Bronte.

There is a collection of personal items such as purses, books, modest pieces
of jewellery and clothes owned by Charlotte – the last to live in the house
as a married woman.

Charlotte – great and small

There’s a dress on a stand that she wore which is fit for a child, so small with the tiniest waist. And shoes of soft leather like ballet slippers – yet again, minute. Charlotte was only 4 foot 10 inches (147cm), a tiny woman, constrained by her life and times but with great ambitions. One of the artefacts on show is a book so tiny it would fit in the palm of a small hand, in script almost unreadable because of its size, which was written by Charlotte, part of her obsession with all things secret and tiny.

I enjoyed the house and the welcoming shop where you can’t help but pick up a fresh new copy of one of the Bronte’s novels. I settled for The Tenant of Wildfell Hall written by Anne Bronte.

It was Charlotte who lived the longest in Haworth, living in the parsonage until her death at age 39 in 1855. She married Arthur Bell Nicholls a year before her death.

Literary giants in their own time and beloved authors down the years, the Bronte, were three formidable sisters. •

 

Writer, Bev Malzard returned to Sydney to binge on all the movies made from Bronte books. It’s still a toss up with Jane Eyre – the Joan Fontaine or the Mia Wasikowska (as Jane) which is her favourite. Which is yours?

 AND Qatar Airways flies to Manchester daily from Australia via Dohar. Visit: [@]

www.qatar. com

The closest railway station
is Keighley Trainline ([@] thetrainline.com) buy tickets from London Kings Cross via Leeds.

Visit: Bronte Parsonage Museum ([@] bronte.org.uk)
More information: [@] www. visitengland.com [@] http://www.visitbritain.com visitbritain.com 

 

 

Top 10 sites of Stockholm

Top 10 sites of Stockholm
Stockholm Syndrome . . . 
Never get enough of Scandinavia? Love Scandi Noir? About to visit Sweden for the first time? Want to have your check list ready? All this and more too, and remember to stop, sit at a cafe and watch the world go by in this fabulous city. No hurry here.
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If you are p;anning a trip to this Scandi beauty, here’s how to get to know Stockholm. Tack!
In just one day you can stroll along cobblestoned mediaeval streets, take a boat trip to the archipelago and enjoy world-class shopping. Get to know Sweden’s capital in 10 easy stops.
The top 10 sites:

1. Vasamuseet. Scandinavia’s most visited museum – and it’s easy to see why. This miraculously preserved 17th century ship and the building that houses it combine to make an extraordinary experience. The Vasa, one of the grandest war ships ever built in Sweden sank on its maiden voyage in 1628. (How embarassing.) It was salvaged (below)in 1961 and is the best preserved ship of its kind in the world. Don’t miss this.

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2. Skansen. A beautiful, spacious open air museum that offers a romantic picture of rural Sweden from centuries past.
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3. NK. Shop or browse in the stupendous department store. NK (Nordiska Kompanier) is steeped in the stylish tradition of excellence.
4. ABBA, of course. A museum dedicated to the Swedish super-group is on the northern edge of Sodermalm. Tickets can be purchased from the info. desk on the ground floor at NK.
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5. An evening stroll along Monteliusvagen on the edge of Sodermalm, as the sun sets slowly over Stadhuset and the city centre.
6. A boat trip to Sandhamn, a bustling island off the edge of Stockholm’s stunning archipelago. It has sandy beaches, beautiful views and some excellent places to eat.
7. Moderna Museet. Visit the museum (below) on Skeppsholmen and appreciate the building’s design (by Rafael Moneo), its impressive collection of modern art and its great restaurant.
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8. Walk through the winding alleyways and mediaeval squares of Gamla Stan (below). The Old Town has been designated a cultural landmark. A walking tour will reveal where a famous poet was killed in a tavern brawl, where Dominican monks walked and where the classic haunts of the artists are. Most tours depart from the Obelisk on Slottsbacken outside the Royal Palace.
Historic centre of Stortorget, Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden, Scandinavia
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9. Fika. Swedes love to have a ‘fika’ – spending a long leisurely afternoon with a friend over cups of coffee with a pastry on the side. Embrace this tradition at Chokladfabriken, a cafe that shares its name with the Swedish title of Roald Dahl’s book about Willy Wonka. It serves truffles, marzipans and hard to resist sweet treats.
10. When you’ve had your fill of fika, you have to try the national dish of ‘sill’. Once the simplest of foods, sill is now a delicacy served on almost every national holiday. It’s marinated herring which comes in glass jars with many different flavours. Once you have tried it – you’ll be hooked. Or, that’s the story.

(What’s On? Official tourist & events guide can be picked up from tourist kiosks and hotels around the city. The brochure has an excellent map and comprehensive information about the city and surrounds including best restaurants, museums, tours, entertainment and cruises.)
OK lovely readers I know there are many more experiences to be had here – please add them in the Comments box.
Writer Bev Malzard left Stockholm on a dark and near-wintery night feeling a little frustrated at the amount of money she’d spent in that expensive town. She caught a train to the airport and when the train station guy told her how much her ticket cost, she exclaimed: “What? are the bloody seats made of gold?” He  replied: “No, that’s first class and the tickets are more expensive. But for you my Queen, I’ll put you in platinum class.” And that was the last genuine smile she had for almost 40 hours. The airport wifi was down, the plane was four hours late and she would miss her connection in Bangkok. She was ushered off the plane in Thailand, given a hotel room and a meal for a nine hour stopover and arrived in Sydney in a scary, demented state. She has since recovered – but has a twitchy eye.
(Writer flew Thai International Airways, which was superb through all crazy circumstances.)
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SEE SWEDEN BY BIKE: The best time to visit Sweden is at the height of summer, when there are longer days and short nights. See Sweden by bicycle with its many cycle paths and dedicated cycle routes. Active holiday specialists Outdoor Travel based in Bright, Victoria offer guided or self-guided cycling holidays to Stockholm, Södermanland and the Kattegattleden Bike Path on Sweden’s west coast.


Guided or self-guided tours focus on the capital Stockholm and the nearby mostly flat rural landscapes of Södermanland.  An area of expansive forests, pastures, boulders strewn moorlands and over 400 lakes formed by ancient glaciers, there are many charming red-painted wooden houses and elegant manor houses dotted throughout the region.
Cycle to Gnesta then take the train to Katrineholm to see castles and palaces and Viking sites with ancient runestones and rock carvings. In Stockholm city tours include Drottningholm Palace and Gripsholm Castle and a boat trip to see some of the many islands.
On the menu too are a traditional smörgåsbord of hot and cold dishes, including a casserole of potatoes, onions, cream and pickled sprats (small anchovy-like fish), locally caught lobster, prawns, langoustines, mussels, oysters and of course herring, served in almost any way you can imagine – smoked, fried, pickled, marinated, baked, au gratin, with dill, beetroot, mustard, onion, or even blackcurrants or lingonberry jam.
The Kattegattleden Bike Path on Sweden’s west coast forms a part of the 5,900km EuroVélo North Sea Cycling Route. Outdoor Travel offers an 8-day (7-night) self-guided cycling tour along a portion of this epic coastal journey from Helsingborg.  
Bike Sweden Järna - Trosa (1)
Tours depart from May to September & costs start from $1530 per person twin share.
Guided: http://bit.ly/2mabVNB
Self-guided: http://bit.ly/2D6k6St
For more information call Outdoor Travel on 1800 331 582 or see www.outdoortravel.com.au