tiger tenants

The seasons have turned here in Tasmania and our long days of summer are behind us. Once again, we shared the garden with our reptilian residents for a few months but they have now found cosy homes for the winter. We can’t blame the snakes for wanting to live here, after all, we have created a paradise for them.

1.pond paradise2.pond paradise

We named our first lodger Suzy. She was quite small and liked to try out a variety of spots to capture the warmth of the sun.

Strangely, our large goldfish liked to keep her company.

5.Suzy

After a while, she left to make a home for herself in the forest and someone else moved in. He was looking rather dull and spent a lot of time among the rocks.

He then took to burying himself in the mulch, a bit worrying as there were times he was completely hidden. We assumed he was preparing to shed his skin, I was hoping to witness the process but I think it was done in private, we never did find the evidence.

8.tiger in mulch

It was at this point we realised we had two occupants, with one under the mulch and another in the favourite afternoon dappled shade position.

9.sleeping tiger

A short time later, perhaps after shedding, one moved out and the other remained. We would see her every morning catching the sun on the eastern side of the pond and then on the rocks under the callistemon in the afternoon. We had visitors for a couple of days in January and there was no sign of our tiger tenant until the afternoon of their departure, when she moseyed across the lawn to resume her residency.

10.tiger returns

Supposedly, tiger snakes don’t stay in one place for long but it seemed as though it was the same snake. She knew our voices and routines and was quite comfortable to lie undisturbed by our presence, we had a mutual respect for personal space.

13.tiger

We had a couple of very hot weeks in February where we saw no snakes and assumed she had moved on to start a family in the forest. One evening, we saw her (we like to think it was her) making her way up the driveway straight to the low birdbath we have for the wrens. I have never seen a snake drinking before, she was very thirsty.

14.thirsty tiger

When she had finished, she once again curled up in the shadow of the callistemon. You can watch a video of her drinking here, you’ll see the shadows of the wrens flying around, they weren’t happy.

 

Villa Boccella

When we returned from our first trip to Italy, we couldn’t help sharing our experiences and our fascination with this wonderful country. Our friends’ daughter was starting to think about her future wedding and the seed was set for a Tuscan location. Of course, we made it quite clear that we would be attending, what better excuse for a return visit? Nevertheless, we were very excited and honoured to receive the invitation, not only to the wedding, but to stay for a week in a villa with the bridal party and other guests. After our two nights in Lucca, we collected the hire car and drove the ten kilometres to Villa Boccella.

1.Villa Boccella

It sounds simple but we had great difficulty finding the entrance gate and, finally asking directions from a local, we were the last of the party to arrive.

2.arrival

There are six properties on the estate and our accommodation was to be in the two limonaie where, originally, lemon trees in pots were moved to in winter to avoid damage from the frosts. Limonaia Grande is the larger of the two

3.Limonaia Grande4.Limonaia Grande

and became the hub of activity with its fabulous kitchen

5.kitchen

and dining room,

perfect for a wedding feast.

11.wedding table

The enticing sofas in the sitting room

12.sitting room

were bathed in the light flooding through the French windows.

13.sitting room

The ample bookshelves were well stocked and quirky ornaments adorned every surface.

There were two options for al fresco dining, one with barbecue and pizza oven

22.al fresco

and the other overlooking the swimming pool.

23.al fresco24.pool

Across an orchard of peaches, plums, figs and cherries, Limonaia Piccola faced Limonaia Grande and was equally as opulent as her big sister.

25.Limonaia Piccola

The large windows downstairs captured the light no matter what the time of day.

26.sitting room27.sitting room28.dining area29.kitchen

Our upstairs bedroom was gorgeous

30.our bedroom

with a magnificent view across the orchard to the mountains beyond.

32.view from bedroom

Between the two limonaie, we could see the 17th century main villa in all her glory

33.main villa

and a glimpse of Boccellina, the original gatehouse to the estate.

34.Boccellina

For outdoor relaxation there were several settings to choose from.

35.garden chairs

The rose covered pergolas were in full bloom.

37.outdoor seating38.outdoor seating

Terracotta planters scattered colour around the garden

50.planter

51.planter

and the orchard still held some surprises.

56.garden

A pair of blackbirds were lucky to have such a beautiful home.

As well as our wonderful memories, we have a special gift to remind us of our time at Villa Boccella. The bride & groom had commissioned an artist in Darwin to create an illustration of Limonaia Grande as a memento for the guests.

62.illustration

Thank you all for an unforgettable week.

Vergemoli

When we first visited Italy in 2014, we were invited to lunch at the home of friends, Deb and Jim, in the mountains of the Garfagnana. We recalled the drive as being somewhat hair-raising but, when invited again this time, we couldn’t resist. With much trepidation, we ventured forth, stopping in Gallicano for a heart starter coffee and pastry.

The road out of the village certainly fits the description of ‘narrow’,

6.Gallicano

as we passed beneath the ancient aqueduct.

7.aqueduct, Gallicano

It almost made the road to Vergemoli look like a highway,

8.road to Vergemoli

excepting when there is more rock than road.

9.road to Vergemoli

Clouds gathered as we climbed into the mountains,

10.road to Vergemoli

looking back the way we had come, the view was spectacular.

11.road to Vergemoli

The mountains loomed closer and before long we had reached Vergemoli.

12.road to Vergemoli

Turning left at the small piazza, we parked at the top end of the village by the 17th century church of Sant’Antonio.

13.Vergemoli14.Vergemoli15.Chiesa Sant'Antonio

We had allowed time for a stroll through the village before lunch, our first discovery was an outdoor theatre, a lovely spot to watch a play in the summer months.

16.outdoor theatre

We could see for miles across the valley,

17.Vergemoli view

a stone bench perfectly placed to catch your breath after walking up the hill.

18.Vergemoli

The houses were neat and colourful,

some seemed to end suddenly at the edge of the cliff.

23.Vergemoli

There was no shortage of intriguing doorways.

The parish church of San Quirico and Santa Giulitta, in the middle of town, dates back to the 10th century.

27.Chiesa dei Santi Quirico e Giulitta

I’m not sure what this stone monument represents but it is dated 1637AD

28.Vergemoli

and another close by is unidentified.

29.Vergemoli

Alleyways veered in all directions filled with dwellings built at impossible angles.

Some had room for a garden shed

37.garden shed

or a beautifully maintained shrine.

38.Vergemoli

We didn’t see many locals but the four-legged inhabitants were very friendly.

We could see our destination, Casa Debbio, waiting comfortably on the hillside as we returned to the car and drove the track to the house.

44.Casa Debbio45.Casa Debbio

Although the weather was too inclement to dine on the terrace,

46.terrace, Casa Debbio

the vista across to Vergemoli was stunning.

47.Vergemoli

The drizzle didn’t deter us from exploring the garden with its quirky residents

and some of the most fabulous flowers I have ever seen.

From the terrace at the back of the house, there is a lovely view of the wisteria on the pergola

57.pergola

and of new plantings as the garden blends with the wilderness.

58.garden

A few more flowers and treasures

59.garden

and we returned to the house

66.Casa Debbio

with that amazing view

67.Vergemoli

to enjoy a slice of Angela’s hat.

68.Angela

We farewelled Deb and Jim and made our way back down the mountain. If only Australia wasn’t so far away.

69.geraniums

Casa Debbio is the perfect place to escape and unwind for a few days or weeks and is available for holiday rental, take a look.

Blarney Castle

After spending the night in Cork, we fortified ourselves with a substantial breakfast and headed for Blarney Castle.

1.Blarney Castle

The walk from the car park, crossing the River Martin, warmed us up a bit.

2.Blarney Castle

The castle presented a stunning backdrop for the burnished autumn foliage.

3.Blarney Castle

Across a bridge over the river,

4.Blarney Castle5.Blarney Castle

we stood looking up at the north wall. The original Blarney Castle, a timber hunting lodge, was built in the 10th century and replaced by a stone construction in 1210. The existing castle, built on the edge of a cliff, was completed in 1446 by the King of Munster, Dermot McCarthy. The castle changed hands over the centuries, to Oliver Cromwell in 1646, back to the McCarthys fifteen years later before they lost it again in 1690, then sold to the Governor of Cork in 1703.

6.North Wall,Blarney Castle

The rather elaborate windows, halfway up the wall on the right, are not the romantic bedchamber embellishments one might imagine. They are, in fact, garderobes, the medieval answer to the ensuite.

7.garderobes

We followed the path past the guard tower

8.guard tower

and well-worn steps that led to the dungeons

9.dungeon stairs

before starting our climb to the top of the castle. Our ascent was frequently interrupted to take in the spectacular panorama through the windows.

10.Blarney Castle

13.view

There wasn’t a lot of breathing space in the passages, I can’t imagine running along them dressed in a suit of armour.

14.Blarney Castle

The narrow, spiral stone steps finally ended at the top of the castle. Looking down, we could see where the three floors would have been in the main living area.

15.standing over the main room

The pigeons are the only ones on lookout these days.

17.pigeon lookout

At the top of the tower is the infamous Blarney Stone, believed to give anyone that kisses it the gift of eloquence. At one time, anyone wishing to kiss the stone would be at risk of plunging from a great height but there are now railings to hold on to and some underneath to break the fall.

18.Blarney Stone

Even so, we didn’t join the queue to bend over backwards from the parapet, there is only so much blarney one needs in life. Besides, the Blarney Stone has been named the most unhygienic tourist attraction in the world.

19.Blarney Stone

The magnificent view from the battlements was well worth the climb.

20.view from the battlements

Once back on terra firma, we discovered Rock Close, a garden landscaped in the 18th century around existing stone monuments.

21.Rock Close22.Rock Close

It’s easy to believe the tales of Druids and Fairies in this mystical place, the senior Druid Priest was reputed to have lived in the Druid’s Cave.

23.Druid's Cave Rock Close

We would have liked to spend more time in this enchanted garden but time was ticking on.

Legend has it that there is a witch who will grant wishes to those who can walk up and back down the wishing steps with eyes closed (I didn’t get a photo of the steps, nor did I try this). In exchange for this gift, she is provided with firewood for her kitchen. I didn’t get a photo of the kitchen either, but we did see the witch stone. Some believe it was the Blarney Witch who told McCarthy about the power of the Blarney Stone but it remains a mystery how she became entrapped in the rock.

27.The Witch Stone

City Park

A stroll through Launceston City Park on a perfect spring morning is a lovely way to start the day.

1.City Park2.City Park

Established in the 1820s by the Launceston Horticultural Society, the park was handed over to Launceston City Council in 1863. Entering the western gate, the 19th century former caretakers cottage, now the studios of City Park Radio, has one of Australia’s oldest wisteria vines, planted in 1837.

3.City Park Radio

The John Hart Conservatory was erected from the John Hart bequest in 1932 and refurbished in 2010. John Hart was a mariner, merchant and parliamentarian who spent most of his career in the 1800s in South Australia. He died in 1873 at his home, Glanville Hall, at Port Adelaide. He must have felt some connection to Launceston having arrived there on the ship, Isabella, from London in 1837, even though his stay was brief. The same plans were used to build a conservatory at Parramatta Creek in the 1970s. You can see that post here, The Conservatory

4.John Hart Conservatory5.John Hart Conservatory

The garden beds at the front of the building were blooming with a stunning display of violas.

Myriad plantings edged the spacious interior, the tranquil ambience invited us to linger.

8.John Hart Conservatory

9.John Hart Conservatory

Majestic orchids thrived amidst lush greenery.

Outside, colourful poppies bounced in the breeze and the bees were already busy collecting their nectar.

There are many magnificent mature trees in the park. Apparently, the English Elms are all clones of a single tree brought to England by the Romans. Their descendants arrived in Australia on ships hundreds of years later to be planted in parks like this one. The tallest trees, the Sequoias, presumably arrived in the same manner.

The band rotunda was built in 1908 and is dedicated to Chester Edwards who joined the Launceston City Band at the age of 10 and conducted from 1906 until 1958. A plaque reads, “Erected in appreciation of the sterling services rendered by Chester Edwards in the musical activities of the City of Launceston.”

29.rotunda

The ornate drinking fountain was intended to be a gift from the children of Launceston to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887.

30.Jubilee Fountain

Things didn’t go quite according to plan. The fountain was ordered from Saracen Foundry in Scotland, however, the funds were not raised in time and the installation was postponed until the Diamond Jubilee in 1897. The moulded shields above the arches depict both dates as well as a bust of Queen Victoria.

The fountain was initially positioned outside the main gates and was moved inside the park in 1908. The design incorporates symbolism popular in Victorian times; griffins are guardians of priceless possessions, lions symbolise guardianship, cranes for vigilance and eagles represent immortality.

34.Jubilee Fountain

A bronze statue of Ronald Campbell Gunn stands proudly in the shade. Arriving in Tasmania in 1830, he became Superintendent of Convicts and Police Magistrate. His career path soon led to politics but he is best known as a botanist. He collected, recorded and sent many specimens back to England (as well as a living Tasmanian tiger in 1858).

35.Ronald Campbell Gunn

The ‘Senses Garden’ was created in 1978, raised beds are filled with plants selected for their aroma or texture

36.Senses Garden

and the terracotta dolphin fountain has centre stage. The fountain was initially erected in a different area of the park in 1861 and is the second oldest fountain in Australia (the oldest being the Val d’Osne Fountain in Princes Square, less than a kilometre away).

37.Senses Garden

Reluctantly, we tore ourselves away from the garden, there were more adventures awaiting.

40.Senses Garden