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Sunday, 28 February 2016

Trieste, Italy

Trieste

For tourists who want to see a less explored city

A few years back I travelled to the Italian city of Reggio Emilia for a conference. Staying in the same holiday apartment building was a retired couple from Australia. They apparently were regulars and had spent several years holidaying for extended time in Reggio Emilia. Chatting with them we asked why Reggio Emilia? (As opposed to Rome, the Tuscan Hills etc all well known tourist haunts) The reply was 'no tourists' they could have as close as possible an authentic Italian stay interacting with locals. Reggio Emilia is a pretty Italian city but my recommendation for a city less visited is Trieste.

Trieste over the past 10 to 15 years has had something of a transformation with many of its old buildings restored. The city council is encouraging private owners to do the same and there are tax deductions for owners who restore the facades of their buildings.

So here are my things to do and see in Trieste.


Piazza Unita (officially Piazza Unita d'Italia) the largest square in Italy facing the sea. On the righthandside of the square, being obscured by the statue is one of the oldest cafes around. Cafe dei Specchi, first opened in 1839.


Looking into the square from the stone wharf which is full of the locals promenading on a Sunday!


This picture is taken from that same stone wharf showing a cruise ship at dock. It can dock so close to land that the bows of the ships come over the road that runs along the seafront! Trieste is one of only 2 deep water ports in the Mediterranean where a fully laden aircraft carrier can dock. This piece of trivia gleaned from a lost US sailor I came across years ago. He had ended up in the suburbs by catching a local bus, I chatted to him as I steered him back to the main part of the city, at the time an aircraft carrier was in port. (For Trivia buffs, the other deep water port is Marseilles, everywhere else the carriers drop anchor in deep water and tenders bring them into the port)


Salone degli incanti. The old fishmarket, now turned into a gallery with temporary exhibitions. I've done a post on this building.

Salone degli incanti


For those who like castles, there are a few. The oldest up on the hill in the centre of town, is San Giusto castle. Huge fortified walls, storybook type castle.


Then there's the newer Miramare castle, built on a rocky headland just outside the city. Here's a post about Miramare.

Miramare




Further out of Trieste is Castle Duino, which is still owned by the Torre and Tasse family and is open to the public. It can be reached by catching a local bus in Trieste. The castle was bombed and badly damaged in World War I and large sections were rebuilt in the 1920s. What you see now is a mixture of very old and 20th century. The gardens are lovely and there is a World War II bunker that was built using slave labour, the Nazis had gun placements in the bunker to protect their naval fleet across the bay at Sistiana. Worth visiting the castle just to experience the bunker.


Another reminder of the not so good parts of Trieste's past is the Risiera di San Saba. It's the only concentration camp that was on Italian soil that had a crematorium. Before the war it had been a rice husking factory and that's the reason for the height of the buildings, the rice was dried on different floors.
The crematorium was destroyed by the Nazis in April 1945 as the war was coming to an end, you can see the outline of it on the left, on the ground are darker tiles showing the size of it. A post about the Risiera is coming!



The Roman Theatre (Teatro Romano), to be found behind Piazza Unita. For years I had been under the impression that it was found in the 1960s when the road was widened, just looked it up and it actually was discovered in 1938! It dates back to the 1st and 2nd centuries, even now there's an occasional summer concert held there.



Catch the little historic tram up to Villa Opicina, here's my post on this little tram.

Opicina Tram


This has to be my most favourite statue anywhere in the world, it's of James Joyce. He lived in Trieste for over 10 years beginning in 1904, at the time Trieste was a major port of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and a very cosmopolitan place to live. This statue is on Via Roma at Porto Rosso, he's strolling in the direction of an apartment he lived in nearby. For James Joyce aficionados you can walk a trail through Trieste looking at all the places associated with him.



Trieste does have beaches, rocky ones! They are full of locals during the summer months, all tanning to a crisp baked potato colour! As someone who's now used to Australia's sandy beaches, these rocky beaches and concrete platforms don't appeal, but the locals love them it seems!

Citta' Vecchia, Trieste has an old town centre which has been heavily restored, and it's now very expensive to buy an apartment there! The narrow streets have been converted to pedestrian only zones, and there are many restaurants, cafes and bars to be found there. All with outdoor seating in the summer!

Illy caffe' (coffee). Trieste is the home of Illy caffe' and it still has its headquarters there. Francesco Illy started the coffee business in the 1930s and it's now run by his grandson. Francesco is credited with inventing the forerunner of the expresso machine. (Coffee snobs, salute him!) 

Grotto Gigante, a huge cave in the mountains outside of Trieste, you can catch a local bus to get there. Amazing to see, it's huge, all of St Peter's Basilica can fit inside it.

In 2012 Lonelyplanet.com listed Trieste as Italy's most underrated tourist destination. It still is, but for anyone who wants to visit an interesting city without being swamped by hordes of tourists all following their leader, Trieste is great.


Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Port Adelaide

Port Adelaide

Going down to see the Endeavour replica meant a stroll around the historic parts of Port Adelaide. It was established as the port for the new colony in 1836 and was separated from the actual town settlement of Adelaide, which was inland. The town wasn't built at the port due to the lack of fresh water, Adelaide town was founded on the banks of a river.

As it was the main gateway to Adelaide and the South Australia colony, some quite substantial buildings were constructed there over the years.


The old Customs House. Taxing the cargoes of arriving ships was the main form of revenue collecting in the colony before the introduction of personal tax. This was the base for Customs until 1986 when a modern building was open in a newer part of Port Adelaide.


Infront of the Customs House tower (the black and white pole on a raised platform) was a Port Adelaide landmark. It's a traffic control device, it used to stand in the middle of the busiest intersection in Port Adelaide. It was called the "Black Diamond Corner" after the Black Diamond Shipping company office that could be found on that corner. It was placed there in the mid 1930s, and from pictures it looked as though vehicles were supposed to go around it, like a roundabout. It was finally removed in December 1968 when traffic lights were placed at the intersection. Being that it was such a landmark, years later it was placed on display and it's now in front of the Customs Building. The black and white colouring represents the local football club's colours.


The old Police Station and Courthouse, now the Visitor's information centre. The story behind this rather substantial building was that 2 ships got mixed up, one was sailing for Adelaide with materials for a prefab police station, and the other for Bombay in India for a grander public building. The ships ended up with the wrong cargo or shipping instructions and Adelaide ended up with the grand building and Bombay with the prefab! Reclaimed land has brought up the street level, the original level is now down a few steps as you go under the arches.


The Commercial Hotel, with Port Adelaide being full of sailor and wharf workers, it had a large number of pubs. Some are still open for business.


This is now the site of a Greek restaurant, which has live Greek music on a Friday night. But its claim to fame was that it was the oldest fish and chip shop in Adelaide (I think) Even the Queen on one of her visits received some prawns from this shop.


As it was a port, the warehouses reflected the kinds of industry that supported the port. The larger building on the right had been a sailmakers, and the other one was a ship's agent. In the lane way, you can see the iron pole sticking out (from both buildings) that was used to hang ropes and pulleys to hoist heavy objects into the building.


The Railway Hotel, that was opened just before the railway actually got to Port Adelaide!


Some of the more substantial buildings are the banks. This for many years was a restaurant (after it stopped being a bank) but now is a private family home. (Quite a spacious one I would suggest!)


Directly across the road, was another bank (the ANZ) and this building is currently a gallery.


The South Australian Maritime Museum, a nice place to visit for children. Among the exhibits there's a two thirds version of a ship that sailed the local waters, and children love to climb all over it.
I quite liked this, a Community Garden for locals. (The City of Adelaide clipper ship hulk in the background) With the advent of larger ships and then shipping containers the old port at Inner Harbour isn't used as much. The large ocean going ships berth at Outer Harbour, including the cruise ships. As the harbour is less of a working area, the local council are trying to encourage people to come and live close to the docks. This has had some varying success, there are some townhouses there, but not huge numbers so nice to see the Community Garden for those who do live there. 


Sunday, 21 February 2016

Endeavour replica, Port Adelaide

The Endeavour replica

Port Adelaide

The replica ship the Endeavour is currently visiting Adelaide. Whilst it's here, it's open to the public, I've seen the ship a few times, including in its home turf Sydney Harbour, but have never been on board. So I went off to have a look.

The original Endeavour that Captain James Cook sailed in the late 18th century to the South Pacific, was used as a troop ship during the American War of Independence and was scuttled off the coast of Rhode Island. (Ah research again!)

The idea to build a replica was tied in with the celebrations of the Australian Bicentary in 1988, but it ran into financial difficulties and the ship wasn't launched until 1994. (The space shuttle Endeavour was named after the ship, and it has a wooden nail on board that had been into space, and back on the Endeavour space shuttle. Nice little bit of trivia there!)

She is now used for trips around Australia, or day trips around Sydney Harbour, as her home base is the Maritime Museum in Sydney.

Along with the Endeavour, 2 other Tall Ships that are based in Adelaide were moored beside her. The Falie, which is an original ship built in 1919 and was used until 1982 to transport grain and other cargo around the coast of South Australia. She's now used as a training ship for sailors wanting to join the merchant navy. The other ship is The One and All, which was specially built by volunteers for the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of South Australia. She's not a copy, and is used for trips with young people. The One and All was also open for people to climb aboard. The Falie wasn't.


The Falie, the One and All and the Endeavour in the distance.


The replica was built to the same measurements as the original, the original had been surveyed many times by the British Navy and those records could be found in the British Maritime Museum.


One of the bow anchors, its twin is on the other side. These were cast from the original anchor that Captain Cook lost on the Great Barrier Reef, they weigh just under a ton each!


There are ropes everywhere, huge ones at that, amazing to see. I would love to see her under full sail.


The ship's bell, which regulated life on board ship for the crew.


The dinning area for the ship's crew, set up with props for the paying visitors looking through the ship. The seats were the wooden chests used for storing possessions, the large barrels I think for storing fresh water, the smaller ones for rum rations (?)


The hammocks for sleeping, this area was really claustrophobic as the ceiling was really low and you had to walk through totally bent over.


More props to give and idea of what it looked like during Captain Cook's time, dress coat and sailor's chest, below decks.



In the stern of the ship was a large spacious area where the officers could eat and meet. During the long exploration voyage to the South Pacific, the botanist Joseph Banks had a cabin next to this area. It's been rebuilt here with apparently some of his actual memorabilia, that's a shell collection on display.

Enjoyed the visit, the replica gives a really good feel of what life on board the original ship would have been like. I didn't like the below decks with the low ceiling at all, seeing that would have been enough for me to never want to leave dry land! What I really liked about the ship was that it was one that was still being used, not just a museum piece. After it leaves Adelaide, paying passengers can do a trip to Port Lincoln, a longer one to Portland (in the state of Victoria, not Oregon!) or a really long one to Sydney.





Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Soi Romanee, Old Phuket Town

Soi Romanee

Old Phuket Town

Soi Romanee is the oldest street in Phuket Town, it more of a lane way between 2 roads. I entered from the Thulong Road entrance.

When Phuket had a thriving tin mining industry, Soi Romanee was home to many brothels that were patronised by the Chinese miners. Today it's a pretty little lane with many photo spots. Apparently it's regularly used for wedding photos and fashion shoots.

Soi Romanee was the first street in Phuket Town to be restored, the overhead electrical wiring is all underground. The majority of the buildings have been restored and there's a niche market for people who want an old style tourist experience, with guest house accommodation in the street.


The building with the balconies at night gets lit up with lights that change colour so the building itself looks purple, yellow etc. It's very pretty.

Some of the buildings, such as this one, look as though they've been restored quite recently and a new use hasn't been found for them yet.


There are a few examples of some unrestored buildings as well.



The lane is a pedestrian zone but it seems cars can park there! Soi Romanee is a nice little addition to strolling around the historic area of Old Phuket Town.


Sunday, 14 February 2016

Old Phuket-Karon Beach Hotel

Old Phuket-Karon Beach Hotel


Price

The hotel offered different prices depending on what type of room you booked. There are 2 wings the older Sino wing, which has recently (October 2015) reopened after refurbishment and the newer Serene wing. I stayed in a balcony room in the Sino wing which was the cheapest option and was very happy with it.

The Sino wing, the building was in the style of the old Sino-Portuguese buildings that can be found in Phuket. Not sure if this building was an original or recreation as I couldn't find any information on the history of the hotel.

The next cost option up were these terrace rooms in the Sino wing, they had 4 poster beds in them.

This was the view off my balcony, looking down onto another level of accommodation, these villa style rooms had a spa.

The Serene wing was much newer with rooms all facing a pool. The most expensive option was to have a pool side room that you could swim up to.


Location

As the name points out, the hotel is located at Karon beach, the beachside exit has a small pedestrian street with restaurants and massage places and a convenience store. The beach is across the road, all very convenient. Karon Beach is a lovely quiet location, much less busy than the popular Patang beach area.


Facilities

There are 2 pools, the Sino wing has a small pool on the 3rd floor, as well as the larger pool in the Serene wing. Breakfast was included in the price of the room, it was served in the restaurant in the Sino wing on the ground floor. Each pool area had a bar that served food and drinks.


The rooms are well equipped with a room safe, minibar as well as free bottled water restocked each day. There is free wifi, towels are provided for the beach and pool.


The little window looks into the bathroom, it does close! I thought it was cute regardless!



The bathroom had a walkin shower, I've noticed that as older hotel rooms get refurbished the bathtubs get removed and large showers installed instead.


Behind the lobby there was a reading room, interesting to me was that the majority of the books weren't in English! Reflective I thought of the international guests who are at the hotel. The books are mainly in Russian, German and Scandinavian languages.

There is also a small gym for those who like to exercise on holiday! A games room and a small children's play area.

Optional Extras

The hotel has a free shuttle service 3 days a week which takes guest to a shopping complex in Old Phuket Town. Easy enough to get a taxi from there to see the old town itself.

There was a small altar with offerings near the lobby.

Balcony view, looking towards the mountains with the lobby building on the left.

I would stay in this hotel again, I like the idea of staying in one of the villa rooms. The staff were friendly and helpful, the location was good and the hotel itself was very quiet, which is what you want for a relaxing holiday.


Wednesday, 10 February 2016

PuttaMongkon Temple Phuket

PuttaMongkon Temple

Phuket

When travelling it's always nice when you stumble upon a site just by accident. That's what happened with my visit to the PuttaMongkon Temple. In my quest to see the Sino-Portuguese buildings of Old Phuket Town I had caught a taxi to Thalong Road. There's a small side street to Thalong Road called Soi Romanee (more on that another time), I walked down Soi Romanee to Dikuk Road and there in front of me was a brightly coloured temple. A total surprise no idea I was anywhere near a temple. It was absolutely beautiful, I loved all the bright colours. The wall to the temple grounds had a sign in Thai, not a language I'm literate in! I had to research it later to find out it's called PuttaMongkon Temple and it's often referred to as Wat Kiang which means 'centre temple' as it's in the centre of the town.



View from the main entrance which is on Thepkasastri Road, I entered by the side entrance as that's the one I saw on Dikuk Road.


Detail of the front of the temple, it was open so possible to go inside. Just remove your shoes first.


Inside the temple, it wasn't very big, but obviously used as there were fans and a microphone for the monk.


Part of the temple grounds, there was also a large Sino-Portuguese style mansion which I've since read is used as a dormitory for the monks.


Temple bell.

The temple complex is really lovely, worth a stroll around. A useful bit of information if you're looking for a taxi is that some drivers wait in the grounds. I needed to catch a taxi to get back to the Shopping Complex the hotel shuttle left from, so after my meandering around Old Phuket Town finished, I returned to the temple grounds and caught a taxi to where I needed to go.

Had a cute and funny encounter with a local in the grounds as well. A young guy riding on a motorcycle with an open sidecar rode past me and he called out 'taxi?' I replied "no thanks" and he added "fully air-conditioned!" referring to the sidecar! Ok, so I was amused!