So,  how do you order a coffee?

Duomo - Milan

Duomo – Milan

One of the joys of Italy is coffee, particularly if you know how to order it!

After two days my desire for a decent coffee has seen me get

  • an Americano, when I wanted a long black
  • a glass of white wine, when I wanted a white coffee
  • an espresso because my favourite person couldn’t get the waiter to understand macchiato.

All of this is of course our fault because we can’t speak Italian and when we try the results are hilarious.

However, the last straw was making a dinner reservation last night for two “due”, to which the restaurant  queried whether my booking was for “three” or “twelve”. Clearly I have some work to do!

In frustration, I have now downloaded the Google Translate App which has been successful in me being able to ask where the toilet (gabinetto) was and actually making them understand! This is progress, however I have a very long way to go.

Our day in Milan was an opportunity primarily to walk amongst the shops. We found Cos which has become a ritual for us on our travels.

We also found a lovely food hall in the department store next to the Duomo, at the end of Gallerie Vittorio Emanuele ll. Although I struggled to order a coffee, when after two goes, that included an Americano, I did get a macchiato and it was very good.


Perhaps the biggest difference to previous visits to Italy was the overt police and army presence which in a way was quite comforting. That said, having our bags searched as we entered the Duomo by someone in khaki with a bullett proof vest and machine gun was a chilling first!


These are certainly interesting and troubled times.


Gallerie Vittorio Emanuelle ll


Castello Sforzesco


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We saw elephants and much more 


So after 3 days in Sri Lanka I definitely want to come back. It wasn’t even on our wishlist until it was suggested by the travel agent as a stopover.

Colombo is a bustling city. You take your life in your hands (many do!) walkng across the road. There are cars, tuk tuks, buses and bikes stretched across the road. It seems the road markings are only for decoration. It’s a form of organised chaos. This is definitely not a place to get your international drivers license out hire a car. You’d be taking you and others lives in your hands.


We packed plenty into our short stay.

Friday afternoon Drinks at the historic nd recently renovated Galle Face Hotel and walk on the beach at Galle Face. On a bright hot sunny day this was pretty special and a far cry from drinks at our local (albeit very pleasant bar).


We searched for a tuk tuk for the return trip to our hotel from Galle Face, looking for one with a metre as instructed by the hotel. One of the numerous security people directed us to a tuk tuk. No metre of course but the security guard told us the fee would be 200 LKR (I know, I could hear Chris De Burgh’s, “Don’t pay the ferryman, don’t even fix a price” in my head, as I was doing this!). No we weren’t interested in the one day gem sale that both the security guard and driver seemed keen for us not to miss. Just back to the hotel. As we stepped out of the tuk tuk I gave the driver what I understood to be the agreed fee 200LKR and he said no it was 300LKR. I said no and we walked off to cross the road (at the traffic lights).

One of the main reasons we were enthusiastic about taking up the suggestion of a stopover in Colombo was to see the elephants. We arranged a day trip to the Pinnawala Elephant Orhanage and Kandy just 110 Kim’s away. The hotel suggested an early start – 6.30am as it was going to take at least 3 hours to get to the elephant orphanage about 80kms.

I’ll let the pictures tell the story of our time at the elephant orphanage. It was fantastic!






I also discovered how “yummy” the bananas were! No wonder the elephants like them!

The day wasn’t all about elephants, actually it was! We travelled onto Kandy at a “snails pace” taking in the views.


The traffic was quite incredible. We’d been warned. The horn is the most used part on a Sri Lankan car, bike, tuk tuk or bus. Also I learnt that passing only when safe to do so, means whenever there is a gap! Everyone seems to accept it. There were only a few occasions when I was certain we would have a head on collision.


We didn’t visit the Temple of the Tooth because I was wearing shorts having opted for comfort for the day. They have strict dress rules – predominantly white and long pants for men. I could have bought something to cover me from one of the ever present street sellers but decided not too.

We just made it in time to the Tea Museum which was definitely worth a visit. The history of tea in Sri Lanka is fascinating and the tea is great.


We scheduled a trip to Galle for Day 2. Galle is about the same distance from Colombo as Kandy but takes about half the time.

Our driver took us on the coast road. We stopped to watch the fisherman set their nets on a beautiful beach. There are also a number of turtle sanctuaries along the road to Galle and are worth a visit.


At first glance, Galle does seem pretty much like every beach resort with large hotels on the seafront. I’m not really beach person but I could be if these were my local beaches. I was struck by the number of people who were quickly being roasted in the Sun. We thought about stopping and having a drink at one of the many bars but decided to wait and do so at lunch at the Fort.
imageThe fort area is incredibly touristy. The mansion museum is interesting. It’s also worth walking through the streets. There are lots of restaurants and we chose one in the Dutch hospital building so we could sit and watch the boats come in while sipping a G&T and having a light Sri Lankan influenced lunch.

Walking along the fort battlements we had great views of the fort precinct and the ocean. It was very hot but the strong breeze made it easier to cope. I also loved that I could take in a couple of overs of a local cricket match at the Galle ground.


We packed a lot into our short stay. I’d like to think we’ll gear chance. To come back again sometime.

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From unpacked with places to go to packed and ready to go

Italy 2015 beckons!

We have moved from




So now we are actually ready to go.

We quickly moved past the “we can get by with one bag” to “don’t be silly, of course we need two”.

It’s always a challenge packing for 2 climates. It’s 35C plus in Adelaide today and will be 30C and humid in Singapore and Colombo and then 6C in Milan. So, it’s shorts and t-shirts and full coats all in the space of a week.

We’re excited but I’m not sure the animals are quite so keen?



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Thank you Spotify, Pandora and iTunes

My thesis is now submitted. Yippee!

My computer has seized up. It’s last action being to successfully convert my thesis from Word to PDF. After that it simply gave up and so has my brain. 

The submission process was like nothing I’d ever experienced. I delivered it (3 bound copies) to my university’s research office not into a chute but into the hands of one the staff, who with big smile said “Congratulations”. From there it was a casual conversation with one of the professors, who also gave me a hearty congratulations and onto the library where I could access my Dropbox account to download my thesis for submission electronically. I then received an acknowledgement form the research office that I had met the requirements for submission and with that my Honours program was complete!

My thesis contained a series of thank yous to key people who had inspired me, mentored me and supported me throughout the last two years, but there is another set of thank yous that are also appropriate. Thanks Spotify, Pandora and iTunes whose collective music libraries have sustained me across approximately 40,000 words.

Intially it was Springsteen whose tour downloads provided me with at least two months of listening. Then it was my music staples Tori Amos, Rick Wakeman, The Beatles, Bob Dylan.

In the days leading up to my exam as my anxiety levels reached levels I hadn’t seen since my Professional Year to qualify as a Chartered Accountant, it was a diet of classical music and it was here that Spoify was true gold. Playlists that others in a position similar position to me had carefully crafted.

I also found country, a new genre for me. I’ve loved listening to The Dixie Chicks, Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves and The Band Perry. 

So often though, it was the music that had sustained me through High School and Teriary study in the  70s that I listened too. I don’t know how many times I’ve listened to Rick Wakeman’s Six Wives of Henry VIII, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, and Myths and Legends in the last two years. I’ve reacquainted myself with Wings. I’ve gone album by album through The Beatles and Joni Mitchell. There’s been Carole King and Pandoras Soft Rock stations made up almost exclusively of 70s sounds – James Taylor, Jim Croce, Seals and Crofts etc.

I’ve also listened to New Zealand radio station, The Sound. Their approach to playing  album tracks and sides made them a good option on occasions when I didn’t want to think about what to listen too. 

 I don’t know how many songs I’ve listened too but it is thousands. I have too say that right now I don’t think I could listen to another song. I’m sure in a week or two it will be different but just not today!

So now it’s up to the examiners. I hope they are kind. 

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No summer for us

We have most likely had our only glimpse of summer, a weekend at the beach as we prepare to go away.

G & Ts on a warm summer ‘s night

Normally at this time of the year we are preparing for a hot summer at the beach 


Not this year. In just over a week we will be in the north of Italy trading late spring for late autumn.

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