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

Dunluce Castle

The light was beginning to fade as we left the Giant’s Causeway and we had yet to find accommodation for the night. Heading to Portrush to do just that, we diverted to investigate Dunluce Castle. The ruins of the medieval castle perch precariously on the edge of a cliff and are reached by a bridge connecting it to safer ground.

1.Dunluce Castle

The first castle at Dunluce was built in the 13th century by the 2nd Earl of Ulster. In the 16th century, Sorley Boy McDonnell arrived from Scotland and based himself at Dunluce Castle, consolidating his territories in both Ireland and Scotland.

2.Dunluce Castle3.Dunluce Castle

He certainly couldn’t complain about the view.

4.Dunluce Castle

There is a pathway leading down to the cove, looking back at the castle gives a rather startling perspective.

6.Dunluce Castle7.Dunluce Castle

There is a story that the castle was abandoned in the 17th century after the kitchen , along with the kitchen staff, fell into the sea when the cliff face collapsed. It’s easy to believe but apparently a myth, as paintings from the 18th and early 19th centuries show that end of the castle intact.

8.Dunluce Castle

There are caves under the castle, although we didn’t venture that far.

9.Dunluce Castle10.Dunluce Castle

The north wall of the residence building collapsed into the sea sometime in the 18th century, I wonder how long before this one follows?

11.Dunluce Castle

Spirit Bar

We don’t tend to venture out in the evenings, especially in winter, unless the enticement of food and beverage is involved. Last Saturday was one such occasion, with the added incentive of superb entertainment.

3.street signage

Occupying the ground floor of a gorgeous old building in Burnie,

1.Spirit Bar

the Spirit Bar proudly serves only Tasmanian beer, cider, wine and spirits. There is a stunning array to choose from, Michael found his favourite.

1a.Quiet Cannon

The inclement weather kept us out of the courtyard,

2.courtyard

but on the other side of the front door

4.front door

the warm, comfortable ambience is inviting.

8.interior

10.interior

The menu offers a delicious selection to choose from for informal grazing.

The building was the first home to the Burnie branch of the Launceston Bank for Savings, the first Tasmanian savings bank, established in 1835. The bank then became Tasmania Bank and was eventually bought by the Commonwealth Bank. The Burnie branch opened in 1928, the photo from that day hangs on the wall

19.Launceston Bank 1928

next to the original bank vault door.

18.vault door

Michael regaled the appreciative audience for two hours, performing originals from The Tramp as well as covers.

Outside, the wet pavement provided the perfect background for inventive promotion.

24.pavement sign

There are no food photos to tempt you as I was otherwise occupied filming Michael’s stellar performance but I will leave you with some sound advice I discovered in the ladies’ loo.

23.sign in ladies' loo

To find out more about the Spirit Bar and their fabulous Tasmanian products, visit  https://www.facebook.com/SpiritBarTasmania/

Parco Villa Reale

When we first visited Italy in 2014, I spent a blissful morning exploring the former estate of Napoleon’s sister, while Michael was busy building his guitar. A year later, Villa Reale di Marlia was sold and has undergone extensive restoration work. I returned with Michael this year to see the transformation. Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi purchased the 16th century villa, along with some neighbouring properties, in 1806. The reflection of the villa can be seen clearly in the pristine waters of the lake.

1.Villa Reale di Marlia2.Lago

I thought the villa was beautiful when I first saw her but she has been rejuvenated to perfection.

3.Villa Reale4.Villa Reale

The 18th century Chapel of St. Francis Xavier, protector of missionaries and tourists, has received some special treatment, too.

The statues and stonework in the Italian Garden are looking decidedly brighter

and the water now spouts from the mouths of the masks (although they don’t look too happy about it).

The mosaic work in Pan’s Grotto is much brighter than I remember but the gargoyles are just as disturbing.

The water in the Spanish garden is certainly cleaner, the fountains helping with the circulation in the main pool.

The blooms are as lovely as last time.

The scattered statues are enjoying their revival

and the rear gates have clearly been attended to.

Arno and Serchio look like new men as they relax at the end of the 17th century fish pond in the Lemon Garden.

The statues and fountain in the atrium of the Green Theatre sparkle in the sunlight

48.Fontana Teatro di Verzura

while Columbine, Pantaloon and Punchinello patiently await their audience.

50.Teatro di Verzura

The most spectacular reformation is that of the Clock House.

53.Palazzina dell' Orologio54.Palazzina dell' Orologio

The stables, kitchens and servants’ quarters around the back have been given a stunning facelift.

58.Palazzina dell' Orologio

Once again, the statues and fountains of the Water Theatre have been refreshed

and the grotto fountain springs new life.

I recall Villa del Vescovo was a magnificent building with intriguing courtyards and fabulous views across the park.

69.Villa del Vescovo

It is currently under renovation, no doubt the same attention to  detail will continue.

73.Villa del Voscovo

I guess we will have to return when it is finished. To learn more of the park and the restorations, visit the website https://www.parcovillareale.it/

Giant’s Causeway

The Giant’s Causeway was discovered by the Bishop of Derry in 1692 and much debate ensued as to the origin of this amazing phenomenon.

1.Giant's Causeway

One theory was that it was created by an Irish giant called Finn MacCool who was challenged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Finn built the causeway across the North Channel to meet his foe but he chickened out when he saw the size of the Scot. Instead, he disguised himself as his own son. Benandonner took fright at the thought of just how big his rival must be and retreated to Scotland, destroying the causeway as he went. The mystery was solved in 1771 when French geologist, Nicolas Desmarest, announced the structure was the result of volcanic activity around 60 million years ago. Almost 40,000 basalt columns were created as the molten lava cooled, forming a pavement from the cliff to the sea.

2.Giant's Causeway

Most of the columns are hexagonal,

3.Giant's Causeway

the tallest being around 12 metres high.

4.Giant's Causeway5.Giant's Causeway

Some of the formations have been named after objects they resemble. In the distance are the Chimney Stacks and about two thirds along the cliff to the right, the Organ Pipes.

6.Chimney Stacks

There was a lot more to see along the Giant’s Causeway Walk but unfortunately, it was too late in the day to tackle that. I was happy just to be standing in this spectacular location,

7.Giant's Causeway

Michael was a little more adventurous.

8.Giant's Causeway