Pienza

We took our time driving from Le Grazie to our next destination, Podere Montepozzo, in northern Lazio and stopped to explore Pienza. Established as the medieval village of Corsignano, Pope Pius II renamed and redesigned the place of his birth in the late 15th century. He enlisted the help of architect, Bernardo Rossellino, to create the ideal Renaissance town and it has remained unchanged since that time. We parked the car and made our way to the centre of town,

1.Pienza2.back of Pienza cathedral3.Pienza

the colours of spring brightened the pavements.

On the lookout for somewhere to lunch,

we found ourselves at the edge of the village

20.Pienza21.Pienza

stunned by the breathtaking vista across the Val d’Orcia to Mount Amiata beyond.

22.Val d'Orcia23.Val d'Orcia24.Val d'Orcia25.Val d'Orcia26.Val d'Orcia

Returning to the main square, we couldn’t resist a peek inside the walls of Relais Chiostro di Pienza, an exquisite hotel on the site of a 13th century Franciscan convent. The beautiful ancient cloister

27.cloister

led to the former garden of the friars and the perfect venue for lunch, La Terrazza del Chiostro.

28.La Terrazza del Chiostro

With storm clouds gathering on the horizon, we risked outdoor dining.

The service was impeccable, from the leather bound menu to the handbag holder (hastily produced when I placed my bag on the floor), the unique cutlery

and that spectacular view.

36.Val d'Orcia37.Val d'Orcia38.Val d'Orcia

The meals were delicious, starting with a colourful palate cleanser and a selection of breads.

The pigeon was a work of art with breast, leg and a wing lollipop coated in hazelnut & mushroom powder and the local pork fillet with wild fennel carbonara sauce and seasonal vegetables was mouthwatering.

We finished our meal just in time before the heavens opened and wandered through the opulent interior of the hotel

before braving the weather the short distance to Pienza Cathedral. Built in 1459 on the ruins of an ancient Romanesque church, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

49.Pienza Cathedral

The gothic interior is quite spectacular

with elaborate altars

53.altar

and intricately designed labyrinthine ceilings.

The baptismal font seemed simple in comparison.

I think someone was contemplating a quick confession before we left.

Returning to the car, we found divine inspiration to remind us of our objective.

65.Aperitivo Van

Picasso’s ceramics

For me, the name Picasso conjures images of, somewhat disturbing, cubist portraits. The tragic figure of Weeping Woman, painted in 1937, is a fitting case in point.

1.Weeping Woman 1937

What I didn’t realise, until a visit to the NGV last year, is that he was also a prolific ceramicist. Spanish born Pablo Picasso was well into his sixties when he met Suzanne Ramie, one of the owners of Madoura Pottery, on a trip to the south of France. Already an accomplished artist, he was eager to experiment with this new medium and learn all he could from Suzanne. He set up his own workshop close by in the town of Vallauris and over the years, produced thousands of pieces as well as creating new ways of decorating and glazing. The Picasso’s Ceramics exhibition displayed fifty nine of his works, unfortunately I only have a few to share with you. Feminine faces and figures featured across the collection,

grand vase aux femmes voilées depicts the backs of four women, their nakedness partially covered with translucent veils.

Another favoured subject was birds, particularly owls with distinct personalities.

6.Owl vase 1951

Picasso’s interest in mythology is reflected with the playful imagery of fauns,

7.Tetes (Heads) 1956

satyrs and goats.

8.Goat's Head in Profile 1952

Bullfighting was another recurring theme with many works detailing bulls, matadors and bull-rings.

9.Corrida on Black Ground 1953

One of the things about ceramics that appealed to Picasso was the ability to create new works quickly and inexpensively. By producing editions of up to 500, as well as originals, he liked the idea that his pieces would be affordable for everyday people, not just the wealthy. That may have been the case at one time but the price tag these days is definitely out of reach for most of us.

10.Face with grid, round dish 1956

Cascade Brewhouse

When Michael was recently invited to play at Cascade Brewhouse in Hobart, it was the perfect excuse for a short break and an overnight stay. Despite living in Tasmania for ten years, we have never visited Cascade Brewery. The gothic façade of Australia’s oldest operating brewery seems to dwarf the majesty of Mount Wellington.

1.Cascade Brewery

Across the road, the brewhouse is more than just the ticket office for brewery tours.

2.Cascade Brewhouse3.Cascade Brewhouse

Snippets of history await in the entrance hall

and in other rooms adjacent to the light, airy restaurant and bar.

7.restaurant8.bar

While Michael set up his paraphernalia,

I ventured out to explore the three acres of immaculate heritage gardens.

12.fountain13.hop cart14.garden path

It’s easy to see why the venue is perfect for weddings and functions.

15.brewhouse garden

22.garden23.water feature

Needless to say, the afternoon entertainment was superb, as was the beer.

24.Michael

We returned the next morning to sample the new brunch menu, I don’t have photos but believe me, the offerings are amazing. I did take the opportunity of an empty bar

27.bar

to share with you the liquid delicacies on tap at Cascade Brewery.

28.bar

A big thank you to Kirk for your hospitality and generosity, looking forward to catching up again.

Riomaggiore

Although every town in the Cinque Terre has its own charm, for me Riomaggiore was the most magical. Approaching from the water, the village nestled in a valley between two steep hills

1.Riomaggiore

and the colourful buildings beckoned.

2.Riomaggiore

Alighting from the boat, we climbed a series of stone steps, rewarded with a spectacular view along the coastline we has just travelled.

3.Riomaggiore

The small harbour of this 13th century village is beautiful. Despite tourist numbers, there was a feeling of tranquility as the fishing boats lazed upon the water

4.Riomaggiore5.Riomaggiore6.Riomaggiore

or patiently awaited their next outing.

7.Riomaggiore8.Riomaggiore9.Riomaggiore

We wandered up the main thoroughfare, Via Colombo, lined with colourful dwellings, fascinating shops, restaurants and bars.

10.Via Colombo

13.Via Colombo14.Via Colombo

Retracing our steps, we digressed for beer and bruschetta at Il Maggiore

19.Via Colombo20.Via Colombo21.Il Maggiore

while others attended to the mundane chores of life.

A storm was threatening by the time we returned to the harbour,

25.storm brewing

wondering if we would arrive in Porto Venere before the heavens opened.

26.return boat

Back in Le Grazie, a gentle rain accompanied our walk to La Marinara for a pizza dinner and reflection on our wonderful day in Cinque Terre.

Werribee Zoo

Our arrival at Werribee Open Range Zoo timed perfectly with the start of a safari bus tour.

1.Safari Bus

Fortunately, the new bus is a lot more reliable and rhino proof.

2.Safari Bus

The 225 hectare zoo, originally agistment land for Melbourne Zoo, opened in 1983 and is home to many African and Australian species. Werribee is more than just a zoo, with breeding and recovery programmes and a commitment to conservation of wildlife, the future of these precious animals is in good hands. Setting off toward the open plains, it wasn’t long before the familiar silhouette of a bison came into view. His companion, the Addax, is critically endangered with less than 300 remaining in the wild.

We witnessed the results of the breeding programmes that have brought the Mongolian Wild Horses back from the brink of extinction. Named after the Russian explorer who first described them, Przewalski’s Horses have recently been reintroduced to reserves in Mongolia.

Crossing a waterway,

7.waterway

we were surprised to see Texan Longhorn cattle.

Apparently, they look similar to cattle found in Africa and the context became clear as we passed a replica African village.

10.African Village11.African Village

The tour was momentarily held up by a group of young Scimitar-horned Oryx cavorting around the bus.

12.Scimitar-horned Oryx

It was wonderful to see wild animals roaming freely together across the savannah. Eland grazed sedately

13.Eland grazing

alongside majestic giraffes

16.giraffe

and zebra, all able to relax and enjoy the sunshine without threat of predators.

A herd of Southern White rhinoceros, the largest of the rhino species, share the same pasture.

24.rhinoceros

A nearby waterhole gives them the chance to wallow in the mud but the only resident this day was a lone Cape Barren goose.

25.Cape Barren goose

As the tour drew to a close, the last animal in our sights, the dromedary camel, was first imported in the mid 1800s and Australia now has the world’s largest population of wild camels.

26.camel

We lunched at the Meerkat Bistro, presumably named because the meerkat enclosure abuts a full length window along one side of the café. The heat lamps took the chill off the winter air, I could watch these gorgeous little creatures for hours.

Once sated, we set off to explore the African Trail, a leisurely 1km stroll with many more animals to discover.

31.Kniphofia

The Vervet monkey was well camouflaged within the branches, seemingly deep in thought.

It was lunch time for the African Wild Dogs with their unique ‘painted’ coats. Numbers in the wild are dwindling, yet again thanks to humans.

Along with the lions, habitat destruction, trophy hunting and the killing by farmers to protect livestock are threatening their existence. These peaceful pussy cats certainly didn’t appear menacing.

43.lions

Moored at the edge of the hippopotamus enclosure

sat the African river boat, Kuba Queen.

50.Kuba Queen

Hippos have long been my favourite animal

53.hippo

and I was very excited to capture one as it seemed to test the water before deciding on a swim.

Three Western Lowland gorillas live at Werribee, a magnificent silverback, Motaba and his two sons, Yakini and Ganyeka. I don’t know which one this is but isn’t he handsome?

The fastest mammal on earth was taking it easy this afternoon,

62.cheetah

my day was complete with a wink from the Cheetah.