The Colosseum

We were both looking forward to seeing the Colosseum while in Rome and had booked a tour well in advance. Not just any tour, one that would take us underground through the  tunnels and dungeons where gladiators and animals awaited their fate. Having to fit in around other plans, we only had one day available to do this and it was a national public holiday. We were very disappointed to learn, two weeks beforehand, that the decision had been made to close the Colosseum on that day. Instead, on a drizzly Roman morning, we boarded a “hop-on hop-off” bus to see the sights. Approaching the Colosseum, it became apparent that it was, in fact, not closed that day. The sheer size of the construction was breathtaking.

1.The Colosseum

We easily arranged another tour with a small group, it didn’t include the dungeons but it was a fabulous experience with a very entertaining guide. We had time to admire the Arch of Constantine before the tour began. The largest surviving Roman triumphal arch was erected in 315 AD to commemorate the victory of Emperor Constantine over Maxentius. The arch is decorated with an array of intricate Roman sculptures.

2.The Arch of Constantine

Originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, the Colosseum was commissioned in 72 AD by Emperor Vespasian of the Flavian Dynasty. The nefarious Emperor Nero had built a huge palace for himself after a great fire destroyed Rome in 64 AD and then took his own life four years later. Vespasian gifted the land back to the Roman people and built the arena as a place for public entertainment. The amphitheatre opened in 80 AD, celebrating with 100 days of games in which more than 2,000 gladiators lost their lives.

3.The Colosseum

The exterior has three storeys of arched entrances supported by semi-circular columns of which each storey has a different style.

4.The Colosseum

More than 50,000 spectators, with numbered pottery shards as tickets, would enter the stadium through passageways that led to a tier of seats.

5.steps to seats

The best seats were allocated to the Emperor and the Vestal Virgins, followed by the senators. Some of the areas have names carved in stone, presumably reserving the seats for the notables.

6.The Colosseum7.reserved seating

The rest of the tiers were filled according to social ranking, with standing room only at the very top for those less worthy. Gravediggers, actors and former gladiators were among those banned from the Colosseum entirely.

8.standing room only at the top

Measuring 190 by 155 metres, the Colosseum was the largest amphitheatre in the Roman world.

9.The arena

The maze of tunnels underneath the arena

11.the hypogeum12.the hypogeum13.the hypogeum

were connected to the outside to allow for animals and gladiators to be brought in. There were elevators and pulleys for lifting caged animals as well as scenery and props.

10.tunnels

It seems to me that modern arenas have followed the ancient Roman design, nothing much has changed. At ground level, there are eighty entrances, each one numbered, so the venue could be filled and emptied quickly.

14.exits15.exits

The stadium was used for four centuries, until gladiatorial combats were no longer considered the height of entertainment. The Colosseum was abandoned  and used as a source of building material. Along with vandalism, earthquakes and natural weathering, two-thirds of the original structure has been destroyed. I know I always say this about ancient technology but the complexity of the stonework never ceases to amaze me.

 

There were many different types of gladiators in ancient Rome and each had his own set of weapons and armour, some fought only specific foes. They are represented in these preserved bas relief sculptures.

21.Bas relief of gladiators fighting22.Bas relief in the Colosseum of gladiators fighting23.Bas relief in the Colosseum of gladiators fighting

Various popes sought to conserve the arena as a sacred Christian site in the 18th century. In the early 19th century, triangular brick wedges were added to shore up the walls

 

and in the 1990s, restoration efforts began in earnest. We caught a final glimpse of the Colosseum as we went in search of lunch and the opportunity to ponder life in ancient Rome.

26.The Colosseum

Mersey Bluff

The waters of the Mersey River travel 147km from Lake Meston in the Walls of Jerusalem National Park to escape into Bass Strait at Mersey Bluff on the northwest coast of Tasmania.

1.Mersey Bluff

The dolerite headland was formed 185 million years ago in the Jurassic Age. As the rock cooled, joints and fractures were created along with some very flat surfaces, providing places where the Aborigines would sit and carve.

2.Mersey Bluff

Tiagarra Aboriginal Cultural Centre and Keeping Place has been closed for quite some time due to lack of funding. The building houses the history, art and culture of the Tasmanian Aboriginal people and there are several rock carvings and middens along the bluff walk.

3.Tiagarra

The lighthouse was completed in 1889 and was automated in 1920. The addition of four vertical red stripes in 1929 make it quite distinctive.

We followed the footpath around the bluff with spectacular views of the coastline to the east.

6.Mersey Bluff

There are many rock formations along the way, it’s not difficult to see why this one is called ‘the hat’.

7.The Hat

The lighthouse receded behind us

8.lighthouse

as we rounded the point, the sun highlighting the colours in the rocks.

9.rocks

I could sit for hours and watch the incoming tide sneak its way into each crevice, retreating angrily in defeat.

10.Mersey Bluff

11.Mersey Bluff

Diamonds sparkled on the water as far as the horizon.

14.Mersey Bluff

We passed a craggy memorial to a brave young man who lost his life while trying to save another.

17.Mersey Bluff

The path continues to Mersey Bluff Reserve but we took the short cut back instead, through the picnic ground with serene water views.

19.Mersey Bluff20.Mersey Bluff

County Donegal

After a very comfortable night and hearty breakfast at the Ramada Hotel in Portrush, we took an early morning stroll to admire the scenery before continuing on our circuitous journey of Ireland. The small seaside resort town was quiet this time of year, the snow-capped mountains confirming the advent of winter.

1.Portrush2.Portrush

A panoramic ten minute drive

3.drive

delivered us to Portstewart. Founded in 1792, this fishing village became a popular holiday destination for middle-class Victorian families. The two miles of golden sandy beach are still popular

4.Portstewart

and waterside homes have a stunning backdrop.

5.Portstewart

The spectacular Derryveagh Mountains accompanied us on our route through County Donegal,

6.Derryveagh Mountains7.Derryveagh Mountains

until we met the coast again at Ardara. The beautiful beaches, perfect for swimming, were serenely deserted.

8.Ardara9.Ardara10.Ardara

To the east, the Blue Stack Mountains loomed out of the mist.

11.Blue Stack Mountains

We stayed the night at the Holyrood Hotel in Bundoran, the tourist season was obviously, well and truly over.

The Gorge

We recently crossed another item off the bucket list with a wonderful lunch at The Gorge Restaurant in Launceston. Located in the Cliff Grounds at Cataract Gorge, the building was constructed in 1896 as a tearooms, replacing the white refreshments tent that previously served picnickers.

1.The Gorge Restaurant

In the early 1970s, the Gorge Restaurant opened, being the first licensed alfresco dining area in Australia.

2.The Gorge Restaurant

The Victorian style gardens were showing signs of spring.

2a.Cherry blossom

We opted to dine inside, the relaxing ambience was most welcoming.

3.The Gorge Restaurant4.The Gorge Restaurant

Our window seat afforded lovely views over the garden and tree tops.

5.the view6.rhododendrons7.the view

We settled in with a refreshing Clover Hill sparkling rosé from the Tamar Valley

8.Clover Hill Non Vintage Rosè

while nature provided the entertainment.

9.sparrow

The extensive wine list was narrowed down to a Frogmore Creek 2016 Riesling, sustainably grown in the Coal River Valley. It proved to be the perfect choice.

The friendly waiter was very patient while we decided on our meals, there was so much to choose from. We were very happy with the Crispy Spiced Quail, red cabbage & gin slaw, cauliflower puree and maple bacon,

12.Crispy Spiced Quail

Braised Beef Cheek, Paris mash, thyme roasted baby carrots & lager jus

13.Braised Beef Cheek

and Tasmanian Bush Pepper Calamari, chilli & lime rice vermicelli, coriander & rocket.

14.Tasmanian Bush Pepper Calamari

We savoured the wine while the chairlift glided past the window, sometimes with a passenger, sometimes uninhabited, before ordering dessert.

15.chairlift

My Deconstructed Pumpkin Pie, candied pecans, ginger crumb & spiced cream had to be seen to be believed.

We shared tastings of the Warm Chocolate & Hazelnut Brownie, white chocolate parfait & raspberry coulis

19.Warm Chocolate & Hazelnut Brownie

and the Coconut Lime Tart with rhubarb & blue curacao sauce.

20.Coconut Lime Tart

We walked off some of our decadence returning to the car park, pausing on the suspension bridge to take in the stunning landscape.

21.Cataract Gorge upstream22.Cataract Gorge lower basin

It was difficult to focus on this magnificent cormorant enjoying the sunshine, the bridge was swaying not me.

23.cormorant

Deredia a Lucca

There were some interesting additions to the city of Lucca on our last visit. Spectacular sculptures by Jiménez Deredia graced the main squares, their smooth, spherical lines a startling paradox to the surrounding ancient buildings.

1.Deredia a Lucca

Jorge Jiménez Martinez was born in Heredia, Costa Rica, in 1954 and began sculpting at the age of 13 after attending an art workshop. His signature style was influenced by the pre-Columbian sculptures of the Boruca tribe, monumental granite spheres he had seen in a museum as a young child. We came across the first sculpture just outside the city walls at Porta San Pietro, Genesi Costa Rica.

2.Genesi Costa Rica, Porta San Pietro

Martinez moved to Italy when he earned a study grant at the age of 22 and started working in marble and bronze. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Carrara, the marble from the Carrara quarries has been used for centuries for both building and sculpture. Juego was waiting at Piazzale Vittorio Emanuele, her bronze curves impossibly smooth.

In the early 1980s, Martinez changed his name to Deredia. He created a series of works known as Geneses in 1985, representing the transformation of matter and his belief that we are all just stardust, transmutating over time. Reclining in Piazza del Giglio, Recuerdo Profundo looks comfortably serene.

6.Recuerdo Profundo, Piazza del Giglio

Mistero seems incongruous against the 13th century façade of San Michele in Foro.

7.Mistero, Piazza San Michele8.Mistero, Piazza San Michele

Feminine qualities feature strongly in Deredia’s work, from motherhood, fertility and birth to different stages of life after birth. There were another three sculptures in Piazza San Michele, Germinacion,

Encuentro,

12.Encuentro, Piazza San Michele13.Encuentro, Piazza San Michele

and a very contented Plenitud.

14.Plenitud, Piazza San Michele15.Plenitud, Piazza San Michele

Sentinella was waiting in Piazza San Giovanni

16.Sentinella, Piazza San Giovanni

while the perfect spheres of Essenza and Transmutazione continued the theme of fertility in Piazza San Martino.

The sheer size of the sculptures was breathtaking. Pareja in Piazza dell’Anfiteatro with a breadth of more than three metres, was a beautiful, imposing presence of two women leaning on each other, the roundness of their bodies reflecting the light.

19.Pareja,Piazza dell'Anfiteatro

It was a privilege to experience Deredia in the enchanting city of Lucca.