Duomo di San Cristoforo

At the highest point in the medieval hilltop town of Barga, the Duomo di San Cristoforo is well worth the climb.

1.Duomo di San Cristoforo

Built in the year 998, the white marble edifice was enlarged during the 12th and 13th centuries and has been modified further over the years.

2.Duomo di San Cristoforo

The arch above the main entrance is carved with acanthus leaf motifs, the bas relief above the door depicts scenes of a grape harvest. The two lions at the top of the columns symbolise the strength of faith.

3.Duomo di San Cristoforo

The castle-like belltower houses three bells that are still played manually.

4.Belltower

The first thing I noticed about the interior was the absence of seating. The second thing was the ancient faded fresco of Santa Lucia above an elegant marble font.

The stunning wooden ceiling replaced the old one, in the same style, in 1862.

7.interior

The nave is divided into two parts by a large barrier made from red marble slabs framed with decorated white marble.

8.marble pluteus

The 13th century marble pulpit is a spectacular work of art. The front section has an intricately carved depiction of the Annunciation and the Birth of Christ, a Latin inscription explains the symbolism.

12.pulpit,The Annunciation and the Birth of Christ

The other side represents the Adoration of the Magi, the three kings bearing their gifts for baby Jesus. Partially blocking them is a group of figures portraying the four Evangelists; Mathew as the human, Mark as the lion, Luke as the ox and John as the eagle. The human figure on the left is thought to be Joseph.

13.pulpit, The Four Evangelists

Four columns support the pulpit, each with a unique carved capital at the top.

There are two lions at the base of the front columns symbolising the triumph of Christianity over evil and heresy. The left one has a serpent (evil) between its legs and the one on the right is standing over a man (heresy) who is stroking the lion with one hand while stabbing it with the other.

One of the rear columns rests on the back of a midget (the pagan world) and the fourth rests on the floor (the Christian world).

20.midget, pulpit

The long, narrow stained glass windows have many more stories to tell.

A 9th century wooden statue of Saint Christopher, the patron saint of Barga, stands within a niche behind the main altar.

23.St. Christopher

Leaving the church

24.view from door

we lingered a while to appreciate the breathtaking vista across the rooftops to the mountains beyond.

26.view from cathedral25.view from cathedral

The Krystyna Campbell-Pretty Fashion Gift

This exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria was top of our ‘must see’ list when we visited Melbourne in June. Philanthropist and NGV Foundation Board Member, Krystyna Campbell-Pretty has purchased more than 250 garments since 2015 and gifted them to the NGV in memory of her late husband, Harold Campbell-Pretty. We took our time absorbing the wondrous collection of haute couture garments on display. This was more than just a presentation of beautiful attire, it was a reflection of a changing society and the evolution of women’s roles. The gowns of the Belle Époque, French for ‘beautiful era’ (spanning 1871– 1914), portrayed a diverse range of styles. Around the turn of the century, the exaggerated S-shape was attributed to the diabolical corsetry endured by women of this time.

1.(L-R)Félix,dinner dress 1889; France, day suit 1900

Callot Soeurs was established in 1895 by four sisters who had previously owned a small shop that specialised in quality lingerie, ribbon and laces.

2.(L-R) Callot Souers, afternoon dress 1900; Callot Soeurs, afternoon dress 1905; Callot Soeurs, evening dress 1910

Charles Frederick Worth, considered to be the father of haute couture, founded the House of Worth in the 19th century.

6.House of Worth, evening dreses 1912

Around 1906, dresses became more linear and women were freed from their constricting undergarments.

The Jazz Age of the 1920s brought loose fitting, unstructured garments adorned with sequins, beads, lace and fringing.

The Parisian couture house of Boué Soeurs opened in 1899 and was known for its feminine, romantic style. Their 18th century inspired robe de style featured lace, embroidery and ribbon-work flowers. The contours of the wide skirt were achieved with the use of hoops underneath the fabric.

15.(L-R)Boué Soeurs, evening dress 1923; Boué Soeurs, Romance, robe de style 1925

Elsa Schiaparelli began designing her own collections in 1927. This beautiful green evening coat, part of her Speakeasy collection in 1932-33 during Prohibition, had a small back bustle where a flask of contraband alcohol could be concealed. The black silk velvet evening coat was created by Lucien Lelong in 1935, around the time he was elected chairman of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture (the governing body of the French haute couture industry).

16.(L-R)Schiaparelli, evening coat 1932; Lucien Lelong, coat 1935

In 1854, the U.S. forced Japan to open up its borders to international trade and the French term, Japonisme, encompassed the resulting fascination with Japanese goods. Capes, cloaks and coats of the early 20th century reflected the form of the kimono, often embroidered with Japanese motifs.

19.(L-R)France,evening coat 1920; France, evening cape 1925; Madeleine Vionnet, evening cape 1928

Madeleine Vionnet was known as the ‘Queen of the bias cut’, her designs were feminine, streamlined and close fitting.

21.Madeleine Vionnet, (L-R) evening dress 1933, 1931, 1938, afternoon dress 1923

Formally trained as a sculptor, Madame Grés began producing high fashion in the early 1930s. The art of pleating and draping was perfected in her designs, the bodices were exceptionally elegant.

Jeanne Lanvin’s garden party dress and Jean Patou’s afternoon dress of the 1930s were floral and feminine.

A marvellous display featuring many incarnations of the ‘little black dress’ took centre stage in a gallery among mid 20th century paintings. The inception of the LBD has long been associated with Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel.

Evening dresses of the 1930s exuded glamour and luxuriant fabrics enhanced the female form.

The 1940s brought a spectrum of silhouettes, from evening dresses to dinner jackets and day suits.

40.1940s

Schiaparelli’s afternoon dress seemed remarkably demure next to Molyneux cocktail dresses.

Moving into the 1950s, the evening gowns were nothing short of spectacular.

50.evening dresses 1949-1952

Christian Dior created thousands of pieces in the ten years he presided over his couture house, continually manipulating hem, bust and waistlines. His stunning, shorter style dresses were in company with those from Rochas, Lanvin and Carven.

55.(L-R)Christian Dior, dress & jacket 1956; Christian Dior, Cuba evening dress 1954; Rochas, dress 1950

57.(L-R)Christian Dior, Mexico cocktail dress 1954; Lanvin, cocktail dress 1955

The creations of Cristóbel Balenciaga reflect the changing trends through the 1950s and 60s.

Paco Rabanne liked to make garments from unconventional materials rather than cloth. I don’t think I’d like to sit down wearing this metal mini dress.

62.Paco Rabanne, mini dress 1967

Through the 1960s and 70s, Yves Saint Laurent presented more contemporary designs with masculine lines and bohemian elements.

His garments from the 1990s returned to more feminine contours, the tribute to his couture house ensemble (on the left) took 700 hours to complete. The rock-crystal and gilt embellishments were all hand embroidered.

70.(L-R)Yves Saint Laurent, Look 46 coat and dress 1996; Yves Saint Laurent, Look 89 evening dress and robe 200171.(L-R)Yves Saint Laurent, Look 96 evening dress 1990; Look 67 evening dress 2000; evening dress 1990

The square shouldered, tailored suits of Claude Montana and Thierry Mugler were a sharp contrast to the flowing form of Azzedine Alaìa and golden ensemble of Zandra Rhodes.

72.(L-R)Claude Montana, jacket & bodysuit 1992; Thierry Mugler, suit 1998; Alaïa, dress 1985; Zandra Rhodes, evening ensemble 198173.Alaïa, dress 1985; Zandra Rhodes, evening ensemble 1981

Christian Lacroix is known for his opulent, colourful garments and his varied designs reflect fashion history.

The exhibition also included original sketches and drawings, photography and fashion magazines as well as handbags and shoes. Far too many to photograph.

Le Grazie

When we first travelled to Italy, we didn’t get the chance to see Cinque Terre so this time we were determined not to miss out. When I started planning, I soon realised that staying in the coastal villages was nigh on impossible with a car to park. Instead, I found a B&B in Le Grazie that suited our needs, or so I thought. After driving around for an hour trying to find the place, it turned out to be virtually inaccessible to anyone with more than hand luggage, down fifty or so very steep stone steps. With no Plan B, we were very lucky to find Hotel Le Grazie had a room available for two nights, a very nice room at that.

1.Hotel Le Grazie

In need of solace after our ordeal, a short stroll around the corner rewarded us with the tranquil vista of Le Grazie harbour.

2.Le Grazie harbour3.Le Grazie harbour

Nestled in a sheltered inlet between La Spezia and Porto Venere, this gorgeous village seems to have escaped the teeming tourist numbers of the neighbouring towns. The inhabitants have a reputation for being proficient divers and have thrived for centuries on boat building and fishing. Adjacent to the boat construction yard, the pine wood offers a shady meeting place for locals. A war memorial honouring  partisans, civilians and military personnel and an old cannon remind us of a less peaceful time.

4.pine wood

The roundabout, marked by a solitary cycad, seemed somewhat superfluous on a straight road.

6a.roundabout Le Grazie

After a restorative Prosecco we wandered further, past colourful buildings

7.Le Grazie8.Le Grazie

and beautiful boats moored in the marina.

9.yachts, Le Grazie harbour10.yachts, Le Grazie harbour

The village takes its name from the Santuario Nostra Signora delle Grazie (Sanctuary of Our Lady of Grace). The church dates back to the 11th century when a group of Benedictine monks came from the island of Tino. The present church and monastery were built in the 15th century, though the monks were driven out in 1798 and the church became a parish church. The ancient convent is now a private residence and I am lost for words.

11.Santuario Nostra Signora delle Grazie

It seemed a good time to rest for aperitivo

15.aperitivo, Le Grazie

while soaking up the atmosphere and sunshine.

20.Le Grazie harbour

We continued along the promenade until we could go no further.

21.walkway

The Varignano Fortress, built in 1724, dominates the headland. Originally used as a storage facility and quarantine station, it then became a hospital before being taken over by the defence forces. Since World War II, it has been the headquarters of the Navy Divers and Raiders Group, named after Major Teseo Tesei who invented the human torpedo. No prizes for guessing how he died.

22.Varignano Fortress

With the descending sun glistening on the water, we ambled back to seek sustenance.

23.Le Grazie harbour

Ristorante Il Gambero was the perfect setting

to observe life in the village and harbour

27.Le Grazie30.Le Grazie harbour

31.Le Grazie harbour

while enjoying delicious fresh seafood.

There is only one way to end a perfect day.

35.crème brûlée

Maroondah Dam

The day we had planned for a scenic drive from Healesville dawned wet and windy but, with limited time, we forged on regardless. Ten minutes down the road, we parked at Maroondah Dam and braved the elements to explore the beautiful gardens. Landscaped in the early English style after the completion of the dam wall in 1927, exotic and native trees cohabit. Some had shed the last remnants of their autumn apparel

1.Maroondah Reservoir Park

while evergreen stalwarts proudly displayed their verdure.

2.Maroondah Reservoir Park

The Rose Stairway, constructed in the 1940s, was so named because the stone steps were originally flanked by roses. For some reason, they were replaced around 1980 with Golden Pencil Pines.

3.Rose Stairway

We ascended the stairs to the small rotunda at the top and,

4.Rotunda, top of Rose Stairway

following a signpost to the dam wall, passed another of the five rotundas in the park, the Bell Rotunda.

5.Bell Rotunda

The path led across the dam wall to a lookout on the other side but we weren’t willing to challenge the ferocious wind.

6.dam wall

With camera in one hand and inverted umbrella in the other, I ventured far enough to catch a glimpse of Maroondah Reservoir. The 26,000 acre catchment area is entirely eucalypt forest and no human activity is allowed on the water.

7.Maroondah Reservoir

Risking life and limb, I was determined to get one shot of the temple-like outlet tower.

8.outlet tower

The impressive 41 metre high concrete dam wall is arched to withstand the pressure of the water upstream.

9.dam wall

We beat a not too hasty retreat down the Rose Steps, hoping to avoid spectacular slippage,

10.Rose Stairway

stopping to admire a very late or very early Azalea bloom.

11.Azalea

The towering dam wall is even more dramatic when viewed from below.

12.dam wall13.dam wall

The valve houses have stood the test of time and are even more beautiful wearing nature’s adornments.

14.historic valve house

Seemingly a serene lily pond, the compensation channel is the point where water released from the reservoir flows back into the Watts River.

15.pond

Spring would be the perfect time to explore the park, stroll along the walking trails and perhaps enjoy a picnic. We will just have to return one day.

farewell Ireland

The final hours of any holiday are difficult, what to do to make the most of the remaining time before the impending trip to the airport? We set off from the hotel in the direction of the Grand Canal, the same one we discovered on our first day in Ireland at Edenderry.

1.Grand Canal Walk

The canal begins in Dublin at the River Liffey and, 43 locks later, connects with the River Shannon 131 kilometres away.

2.Grand Canal Walk

We noticed a naked female figure seemingly climbing the wall of the Treasury Building.

3.Liberty Scaling the Heights

The sculpture is titled Aspiration – Liberty Scaling the Heights by artist Rowan Gillespie and was installed in 1995. Representing Ireland in the struggle for freedom that took place in 1916, it is fitting that this building was once occupied by Éamon de Valera who was a key figure in the Easter Rising. He was arrested and sentenced to death but instead, was released and went on to be President of Ireland from 1959 to 1973. Although the figure appears to be made from bronze, it is actually foam-filled fibreglass.

4.Liberty Scaling the Heights

We wandered further to Grand Canal Docks, the world’s largest docks at the time they opened in 1796. With the advent of the railways they fell into decline and by the 1960s were almost completely derelict. The land was rendered toxic by a history of chemical factories and tar pits until regeneration began in 1998, with millions spent on decontamination. Since then, significant redevelopment has seen the docklands become the location for multinational companies.

5.Grand Canal Docks, inner basin

A functioning mill until 2001, the gorgeous 19th century stone block building of Boland’s Mill is a protected site. The concrete silos, however, have since been demolished as part of the Boland’s Quay reconstruction.

6.Bolands Mill

I could imagine living in an apartment overlooking the docks,

7.Grand Canal Docks

although new construction was encroaching on some of the characterful older buildings.

8.Grand Canal Docks

The chimneys of the Poolbeg Power Station, known as the Poolbeg Stacks, dominate the skyline to the east.

9.Poolbeg Stacks

It seems that construction will be an ongoing enterprise in the docklands,

10.credit crunch construction

something to keep the resident cormorants interested.

The time had come for us to make our way to the airport and one more taste of Ireland before boarding the shuttle to Heathrow.

17.Dublin Airport