Ponte Vecchio

A visit to Florence would not be complete without experiencing the Ponte Vecchio. We strolled a little further west to the Ponte Santa Trinita for a mid-river view of Ponte alla Carraia. Originally built from wood in 1218, the bridge was the second in Florence and was then called Ponte Nuovo, being renamed when it was widened to allow carts to pass. Succumbing to numerous floods over the centuries, the rebuilding has resulted in a few different versions, the current structure was completed in 1948 after the retreating German Army destroyed it in 1944.

Cafes and designer shops occupy the beautiful buildings along Lungarno Corsini on the north bank of the river.

To the east, the magnificent Ponte Vecchio spans the Arno at its narrowest point

and stunning apartments defy gravity at the water’s edge of the south bank.

The Ponte Vecchio dates back to 994AD but became another victim of floodwaters. The present bridge has endured since 1345 and was the only bridge spared bombing during the German retreat.

The Ponte Santa Trinita is best viewed from the Ponte Vecchio.

Similarly assailed by floods, the original wooden structure if 1252 was replaced seven years later with stone. This, too, was lost in 1333, rebuilt with five arches, destroyed by floods in 1557 and reconstructed with the three arches seen today. In 1608, statues of the four seasons were added to greet pedestrians at each end of the bridge. Another casualty of the retreating Germans, the bridge was rebuilt and opened in 1958 with original material salvaged from the river.

East of the Ponte Vecchio is Ponte alle Grazie, originally constructed in 1227 it suffered the same wartime fate in 1944. After the war, a competition was held to create a new design and the modern, reinforced concrete structure was completed in 1953.

In 1565, Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici commissioned a secret passageway to connect his residence, the Palazzo Pitti on the south side of the river, with the seat of government, the Palazzo Vecchio on the north side. Designed by Giorgio Vasari, the one kilometre long Vasari Corridor (the square windows above the arches) follows the river to the Uffizi Gallery.

The Vasari Corridor crosses the river above the shops on the Ponte Vecchio.

Initially, butchers, fishmongers and tanners plied their wares along the bridge but the stench was so bad in the Corridor, in 1593 the Medici heir, Ferdinando I, decreed that only goldsmiths and jewellers be allowed to own these shops.

A bronze bust of 16th century goldsmith, sculptor and author, Benvenuto Cellini, has pride of place in the centre of the bridge. His most famous work, Perseus with the Head of Medusa, stands in the Loggia dei Lanzi in the Piazza della Signoria.

From the bridge, we noticed an enticing spot to partake of a riverside beverage.

On further investigation, we found ourselves with Prosecco in hand at Osteria del Ponte Vecchio from where we enjoyed a different perspective of the bridge.

Huka Falls

Our wonderful four days at Buckland B&B had come to an end and it was time to move on to new adventures. We had booked a house on Lake Taupo for the next three nights but there were amazing things to see on the way. Huka Falls may not be the highest we have seen but they are certainly spectacular.

The largest falls on the Waikato River, the name Huka is the Māori word for ‘foam’ of which there is much generated by the falling water.

From the lower lookout, the power of the falls soon dissipates while the river continues its journey to the Tasman Sea.

We wandered upstream to a footbridge crossing to the other side. New Zealand’s longest river at 425 kilometres, the Waikato is normally up to 100 metres wide. It narrows abruptly to just 15 metres as it crosses a hard volcanic ledge, a huge volume of water collides before rushing over the cliff face and under the bridge we were standing on.

At this point, the water is flowing around 220,000 litres per second, enough to fill an Olympic swimming pool in 11 seconds.

We followed the footpath to the top of the falls where the water bursts out of its rapids and over the 11 metre drop

back into the Waikato River.

Mr. Pickles

After a wonderful morning meandering our way around Hamilton Gardens, we were ready for a spot of lunch. We asked the lovely ladies in the gift shop if they could recommend somewhere, preferably by the river. Without hesitation they suggested Mr. Pickles, a new establishment they hadn’t actually tried but had heard excellent reviews. Despite their detailed directions, we had to ask a couple of locals before finally finding it tucked away off the main thoroughfare.

The interior was light and airy

but on this beautiful day we dined alfresco

overlooking the Waikato River.

The tapas style meal was incredible and we complemented it with a glass of 2018 Seresin Pinot Gris from the Marlborough region.

The first dish, tantalisingly named Saucy Boys, combined fried squid with spring onion, peanuts & house made xo sauce.

Next came baked potato dumplings with crispy bacon, brown butter & chives and beef cheek croquettes with habanero mustard.

Grilled scotch fillet with roast capsicum & zucchini salsa and spiced sticky eggplant with sesame & ginger followed.

With little regard for our cholesterol levels, we couldn’t resist the duck fat crushed potato with parmesan & truffle salt.

Once sated, we wandered along the riverside

for a different perspective of Mr. Pickles

and the magnificent Waikato River.

Wrest Point

Michael’s gig at Cascade Brewhouse in January gave us the opportunity to stay in Hobart overnight and the perfect excuse for a belated wedding anniversary celebration. We hadn’t been to Wrest Point since a holiday in 2007 when we enjoyed a fabulous evening in the revolving restaurant, it was time to revisit. Not only did Wrest Point become Australia’s first legal casino in 1973, its fascinating history dates back to 1789 when a chap named Thomas Chaffey was transported for life to Norfolk Island. He married Maria Israel, was made a constable and given 39 acres of land. When the settlement on Norfolk Island was closed, he received 62 acres of land in Hobart and built a house on land at Queensborough which became known as Chaffey’s Point. Thomas’s son, William, built an inn on the site called the Traveller’s Rest in 1839 and it was later purchased in 1939 to create a prestigious international hotel, the Wrest Point Riviera. The current Wrest Point hotel was built on the same site and is still the city’s tallest building at 64 metres.

1.Wrest Point Tower

The complex has been extended over the years and now includes a conference centre as well as a range of bars and restaurants and three accommodation options depending on your budget. We had booked a Water Edge room but were upgraded to a newly refurbished Harbour View Deluxe  King on the sixth floor of the tower. The décor was tasteful

and the view stunning, although we didn’t have much time to spend admiring it.

5.river view6.river view

After the Brewhouse, it was a quick freshen up and change for our reservation at The Point on the top floor of the tower. A selection of breads were presented, followed by a delicious venison taster.

For entrée, we both chose the Rannoch Farm quail breast, house made falafel, onion, Cygnet mushrooms, herbs & red wine jus.

11.quail

We differed on main course with Tasmanian slow cooked lamb rump & braised neck, cauliflower, sweet potato, snow peas, almonds, green raisins, herb salsa verde & dukkah seasoning and honey glazed duck breast, braised red cabbage, parsnip, bread dumplings, caramelised chestnuts, duck & orange jus.

Had we not opted for the table d’hôte menu, we would have declined dessert, not realising the meals would be quite so generous. We soldiered on. I had textures of rhubarb & berries, honey crème brûlée, elderflower, milk crumble, lemon sorbet, pistachio sponge & meringue, while Michael managed the walnut & maple syrup tart, buckwheat pastry, red wine poached pear, sauce Anglaise & yoghurt sorbet.

With no room for another morsel, we were presented with a mist shrouded platter bearing chocolates and a congratulatory anniversary note. How could we refuse?

16.Happy Anniversary

The following morning, a spotlight of sun pierced the clouds, illuminating the Derwent River and the cast of players waiting in the wings.

17.morning light18.rowers

A group of rowers appeared on the stage

followed by a lone paddle boarder, obviously confident enough to carry a backpack.

It wasn’t long before a seaplane landed then cruised downriver and disappeared from sight.

With the water entertainment over, we wandered through the venue to explore the immaculate grounds.

32.lawn31.pond

Cormorants preened on mussel crusted rocks,

with an enviable view of the Tasman Bridge and Mt. Wellington beyond.

35.Tasman Bridge

Vegetables and herbs are grown in the gardens, a ready supply to serve the patrons.

Boardwalk Bistro

39.Boardwalk Bistro

overlooks the marina.

40.marina

It is no surprise that Sandy Bay has the most expensive real estate in Hobart.

41.Sandy Bay

Our only disappointment was that we weren’t staying for longer but there is always a next time.

42.Wrest Point Tower

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