Friday, August 29, 2008

Georgetown Visit

Oldest mosque in Penang

Same mosque

Hindu Temple in Georgetown

Some colonial building.

Leigh at GeorgeTown seafront

Last night we hit the food stalls and hawkers again. We had a great feed of satay, black pepper prawns and murtabak. This was an expensive meal for us $22, not counting a beer or two. The food is outstanding.

We then went a bit berserk buying a few more clothes things such as Tshirts for a few people etc. The copy brands here are awesome, but some people are a bit taken in. I saw one guy battering for a Tag Heuser Ferrari w3arch, believing it was the real thing!

This morning we jumped on a bus and headed into Georgetown. We didn't know what to expect, but after fighting off a persistent trishaw operator who took personal offence that I didn't want his services, We walked with good navigation from Leigh and we found the old colonial centre of Penang, saw Fort Cornwallis and cross to the mainland, then we took on the scary traffic and walked qlong the port area trying to see the 13k bridge that goes to the mainland. We ran out of time and made our bus back.

Once again we sunned and swam until a final pool side drink and fabulous feed at the food court where we ate "big squid like rubber bands" (which was beautifully tender), chicken and cashew and dried chillis (which was very hot), fried rice and sambal fish (which was outstanding) all for a total of $14.00!

We are packed to fly out to Singapore tomorrow and on to NZ the following day.

IT Support

Check out the link on the left to How To Videos. This is anew blog I have set up with simple how to videos to use blogs, wikis and RSS etc. It will be added to as new stuff is discovered. Please visit and comment.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Relaxing in Penang

Leigh dining at the Food Court

At work with the EEE PC.
Tuesday 26 August
Exploring the hawkers last night was quite good fun. First off we found a great food hall type place where there was a huge range of foods available at a very good price. We started with chapati and dahl and chapati and chicken for 7 Ringitt ($3) and followed this with a shared Chicken Murtabak for 5 rng ($2). The three beers cost 37rng ($16). The food was outstanding and served amongst a chaotic mix of tourists, locals and serving people.

From there we explored the hawker stalls where Leigh and I bought matching 'Rolex' watches for $22. We also explored some sarong type things for head students and are looking for batik poker shirts for Pete and Marcus. Bought some stuff, but a combination of running out of money and bags getting too heavy our options are limited. Will look at buying Lucy and Leigh some 'Puma' or 'Nike' shoes tonight for about $30.

Spent the day beside the pool. Only a couple of burnt patches from yesterday. Once again we had curry puffs for lunch before returning to the pool where I largely snooze and observe a few bikinis while Leigh reads.

The pattern seems to be very hot days followed by rain in the evening after the build up of big black clouds in the hills.

Plan to do much the same tomorrow and not do any of the sightseeing stuff. Will take my laptop to pool side and start pulling all the thinking together. I have to write a review of the EEEPC which has been awesome apart from a few little limitations. I also want to begin writing the sabbatical report that the MOE needs which will also act as a report to our BOT and plan for the future. The Australian part of the sabbatical, however, is still to come and will influence the final report.

Leigh's New Blog

To make sure I can teach people to blog in preparation for launching this teaching and learning tool on my staff I ran a tutorial for Leigh to create her blog. She is determined to create one for the school Library. I have now taught Terry and Leigh. Anything is possible! Check her site out and make some comments to keep her motivated.

First Full Day in Penang

Leigh relaxing by pool at Penang.

Pool surroundings.

Beach from pool area.

Hotel from beach.

Monday 25 August
Believe it or not this feels like the first day off on the whole trip. We were at breakfast at 9.30 and beside the pool at 10,30. Out in front of us on the beach there arte a whole line of touts selling watersports activities (parasailing, jetskis etc) and horse riding and massages. As soon as you approach the beach they hit you like a pack of sharks.

We spent the morning swimming and sunning and watching the touts ande other tourists in action. There are enough bikinis to keep a bloke interested. The oddest are the large number of muslim women in full burkhas accompanying their husbands who are in togs. Some swim, but in full body suits.

Around lunch we wandered off to find an ATM and had some curry puffs, bought off a roadside stall for lunch, followed by an espresso bought at a small western style cafe run by a Malay family.

On our return I taught Leigh how to create a blog as she is planning to create a library one to act as a newsletter and then to develop a wiki for kids to put book reviews etc on. A link to her blog is on my principalpossum site.

If I can show Terry and Leigh how to do it I am confident that I can get all staff to do so with the aim of developing class blogs and wikis next year.

We then returned to the pool for swimming and lolling and then a walk along the beach We only really got hassled once by a tout, but he did go away.

Shortly we will visit the food etc hawkers down our road. This should be quite chaotic.

Monday, August 25, 2008

In Penang

Sunday 24 August
We've made it to Penang. Terry and Dallas were up and gone to Kuasla Lumpur at sparrow's fart and Leigh and I didn't have to leave Singapore until 11.00am. We jumped in our taxi only to discover the main highway was closed for a big run/walk event so we had to go the long way! However, we made it with plenty of time to spare.

The plane was only 1/3 full and we got lunch which was a bit of a bonus. We were met at the airport and had a 45 minute ride to our hotel, Golden Sands Resort at Batu Feringhi. After check in and unpack we wnt to the pool bar for a beer and satay. It is hard to get used to the prices. It might be 20 ringit for a beer, but that is abouit $9.00 so things seem very expensive at first. Though, to be true the prices in this resort are much higher than out on the street.

When the rain stopped we walked down the road. There are a large number of food, clothing and other shops along this strip of beach. At night, apparently it is alive with hawkers selling lots of copy brand stuff. We bought some rambutans to chomp on and at a bar across the road from the hotel I had a couple of beers while Leigh had 2 Singapore Slings (buy one get the second free).

Because it is raining and we are very tired we decided to use one of our vouchers and had a meal in the hotel restaurant. It was a buffet and I had fried rice, vegetables and roast duck followed by ice cream I chose what I thought was vanilla, but it turned out to be durian, which is the fruit banned from hotels because it smells like an open sewer. The ice cream was OK but burping afterwards is not very pleasant!

We're watching the Olympics closing ceremony in Chinese before crashing. The plans tomorrow are to loll around the pool and generally relax.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

St Andrew's High School and Final Day in Singapore

Belinda Charles with Terry and I

Little India Street

Temple in Little India
Saturday 23 August
Yesterday afternoon Leigh and I walked down Orchard Rd looking at shops before trying the metro and ending up at Raffles where we had the horrible experience described above.

It was Terry's turn to selct dinner so under his direction we jumped on the metro and headed to Chinatown where we entered a local restaurant and had a great feed of rice, pork and chilli, chicken and mushrooms and szechuan fish with a couple of beers. $72.00 for four was great value. We metroed home and walked back around the outskirts of Arab Town which is opposite our hotel.

This morning Terry and I went to St Andrews School where we met with Belinda Charles who is principal of the high school there. They are a strong rugby school and I am certain that we played them when Ngaruawahia High School toured in 1983.

The school is 146 years old and has as its motto, “Capture the past; prepare for the future.” They take a full range of students and as a result have many hurdles to overcome. She has stuck with this policy, despite pressure to select students for enrolment.

To ensure that the needs of her diverse range of students are met she has developed multiple pathways, adopted restorative practices and introduced programmes of emotional awareness. One such programme is called Self Science and is based on a programme from USA called “Six Seconds”.

She is very keen to research further boys education and I have undertaken to send her some information on Ceilia Lashlie.

We were very appreciative of her time with us. She was very open about the challenges her school faced and was generous with her time considering it was Founders Day and she had some big formal events starting as soon as we left.

Because we had arrived early we had a strong sweet coffee with condensed milk at a local eatery! Whew!

After that visit Leigh and I visited Suntec Mall but couldn't get into the Mall scene. I was feeling a little under the weather actually. We left there and metroed to China Town but it was pouring with rain so it was difficult to browse the stalls. We then metroed to the river (walkable, but dry on train) where we established there was no place worth eating at. In fact, this area had gone downhill since our last visit.

We then metroed to Little India which would have been a great place to spend time, but it was raining so persistently it was difficult to move as everyone was trying to take shelter under the available shelter. We bailed out of there and met up with Terry and Dallas, had a beer by the pool and then went to the restaurant we went to on our first night, Maggie, and had another superb feed of rice, calamari, chicken curry, beef and dried chillis and deer meat on hot plate.

We're now packing because tomorrow morning we go to Penang.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Photos from NUS Visit

Don't Drink at Raffles Hotel

Don't Drink at Raffles Hotel (unless you have a lot of money!)
Leigh and I decided to drop into the Long Bar at Raffles where Somerset Maugham used to hang out. You eat peanuts and throw the husks on the floor. I had a beer and Leigh had a Singapore Sling as you do in Raffles. Terry and Dallas joined us and by the time we hqd finished I had had 3 half pints of cheap old Tiger Beer, Terry had had two (he arrived late), Leigh had had 2 Singapore Slings and Dallas had had one Sling and one Bombay Gin.

The bill was $191.85!!! $16.00 per beer, $22.00 per sling and $17.00 for the gin, 10% service charge and 7% GST! What a shocker. Don't go there as it is daylight robbery. We were caught out! Don't do it.

Last night we went down the road and had as much fried rice, ginger chicken, calamari, fish and bok choy with 2 large bottles of chinese beer and mineral water for four for $70.00.

At least we have ticked off having a drink at the Long Bar in Raffles!

NUS High School of Science and Maths

Thursday 21 August
We have just arrived in Singapore after a straight forward night flight from Frankfurt. The flight was packed and the plane was a bit interesting. Just after take off the oxygen masks on the row of seats across the aisle from me came down. They couldn't put them back so hd to evacute those seats. I then had to use a piece of cord I had to tie up the storage flap in front of me because it was broken and hung against my knees.

I then discovered that my reading light did not work. Then the guy's seat diagonally in front of me would not go up after reclining so the poor guy behind him was getting annoyed. The plane also rattled alot.

It was terrible to hear of the air crash in Madrid that must have occurred while we were somewhere in transit.

We're all resting up now before heading out for an exxplore and some tea. Tomorrow morning we are meeting with a local principal who has a curriculum strong in the sciences and whose buildings hve been influenced by the current guru on learning spaces, Prakesh Nair

NUS High School of Maths and Science
Today Terry, Dallas and I visited the National University of Singapore High School of Maths and Science. It opened in 2005 and is a government initiative aimed at targetting gifted students who excel in maths and science. It's motto is “Experiment. Explore. Excel” and has a strong culture of research. Students have to submit a thesis to graduate.

Secondary students in Singapore sit A Levels and O Levels but sitting two external examinations wastes learning time so some schools have been given permission to sit only O Levels. NUS High School students sit neither but complete an NUS Diploma which is recognised by Singapore's Universities and from prestigious universities throughout the world.

Our students are epected to complete three years of external qualifications!

We were hosted by GOH Hock Leong who is the Director of the Office of Research Innovation and Enterprise for the school and Dr SEAH Wee Khee who is the Head of that department.

We were ggiven an overview of the history of the school's creation, its philosophy and some information about its curriculum and structure. They run a modular structure which is made up of core, elective and enrichment modules. Only core and elective modules are graded.

Learning takes place within three contexts: classroom (though this involves tutorials and group problem-solving discussions and very little lecturing), field (including at least one international experience in their time at school) and independent (self study, peer tutoring and research projects).

Students have had their work published in academic journals and presented at international conferences alongside PHDs and professors.

The key elements of their curriculum are: differentiated, compacted (don't do stuff they already know), small group discussion and peer tutoring, research focused, relationship centred and pro-risk taking.

We went for a tour of their school which included to one of only three observatories in Singapore, their boarding hostel, where all students must stay in their 5th year to concentrate on their research project, their library, some classrooms and their impressive concourse which is a covered, open space where students gather, hook up their laptops to power points in the floor, and where there is a timeline in the floor of major scientific and mathematic discoveries.

Tables and chairs were set up outside the staffroom so that students and teachers could meet to discuss work and issues. A student common room sppace existed in a covered outdoor area, and there were gardens in available open spaces. The netball and tennis courts were on the roof, soon to be covered by more science labs to be built above them and the canteen is beneath the 400m synthetic track!

Once again we have come across a model which has at its centre differentiated learning with all students working with mentors to develop their own Independent Learning Plan based around real life issues and problems which the students see as authentic and relevant to them. Teachers act as facilitators to help them experiment, explore and excel.

It has also been reinforced to me that the actual spaces and atmosphere created by them play a big impact on the learning approach and motivation of the school.

We need to convince the Ministry of Education that we must rebuild most of Opotiki College. Our request will have more chance of success if we embrace the required pedagogical changes and do what we can with what we have.

Arriving in Singapore

Wednesday 20 August
We have woken up for our last morning in Rome and have a long flight viaa Frankfurt to Singapore where we will arrive on Thursday afternoon. We are all packed and in the process of checking out of Maria's Bed and Breakfast. This has been a great place to stay as we are 2 minute walk from metro, 5 minute walk from train station and 30 minute walk from the Colosseum area.

I have just been interrupted to be told that we haven't paid our deposit. I will have to check our statements at home because I have a copy of the fax I sent authorising the payment. Always little hassles.

Last night Terry and I were able to do all the check-ins on-line with a couple of pints of Guinness in our puku. It's a good thing that we did because Dallas was sitting elsewhere on the plane.

We all then went out to Plazza Navona for dinner. This was a vibrant place in front of a Pope's palace with lots of restaurants and outside entertainers. Marco, our waiter, was very jocular and most of us had a great meal, but we could see the prices were quite a bit higher than we were used to.

Terry had a proscuitio and salad appetiser followed by a spaghetti and meatballs main, Dallas had Caneloni, Leigh had fettucini alfredo and I had calamari which was not as good as the ones I had in Spain.

This was all washed down with a nice Montepulciano red and a Venazzia white. Dallas had a tiramasu, Leigh a liminicelli thing and I had some ice cream with whiskey. We were a little bowled over with the bill of 180 eur, but it was a good final meal to have in Rome.

The taxi ride home was as madcap as the dash by taxi to the restaurant.

This morning we had a gentle start to the day and after organising for our bags to be left at Maria's we walked to Plazza Republique (31 degrees at 10.00am), bought an Italian Rugby cap for the boss which I might keep because it is so nice (!), 2 dresses foe Leigh, a couple of more gifts and then checked on-line the best way from Changi airport to our hotel.

We are now sitting in the departure lounge waiting for our flight to Frankfurt which has been slightly delayed, but has now just been called for.

We are now in Frankfurt Airport after a straight-forward flight from Rome. The flight was delayed a little and I'm glad it wasn't for longer as it took us lmost 30 minutes to make our way from arrivals to our departure area. No time for the cold beer I was looking forward to.

During that walk we talked with a young woman who was finishing a year's exchange in Italy. She was from Trident High School and her mother used to be in Playcentre with Leigh and sold real estate briefly in Opotiki. Her last name is Probst. It was a chance encounter just after I greeted a guy going the other way in a Chiefs shirt!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Last Full Day in Rome

Tuesday Update
Leigh and I headed off in one direction and Terry and Dallas in the other this morning. We metroed to Plazza di Popoli and wandered around lo0oking for gifts fror people. We bought some neat Italian glass things thet people wear around their necks and wrists.

I've been hunting all day for an Italian Rugby beanie for thje Boss and so far have only found an Italian Rugby cap. It may have to be that.

After checking emails and updating the blog we bought a beautiful tomato and mozarella focacia thing which we ate in Plazza Pinesse which was an open air fruit and vegetable market. This was an neat part of town we hadn't been to before.

We spilled out at the Campidoglio which seems to be where many roads lead to to find police and barricades and TV cameras everywhere. It looked as if someone famous was expected. It was too hot for us to hang around.

We wandered around getting a little lost looking for a dress that we had seen the other day for Leigh, but as of yet have not found. I was a little annoyed when she said at some point that it wasn't important to find it! I think she was feeling the heat – 32 degrees at 10.00am!

Thankfully we found an Irish Pub! so I could have a beer and cool off.

It was about 3.30pm so we decided to head home and do some packing and rearranging as the bags are getting fuller. It was a good decision as we were able to see Nick Willis snatch and hang on for the bronze in the 1500m! What a huge effort!

Terry and I are now going to head off and see if we can check-in online for tomorrow's flights.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ruin Photos

Roman Ruins

Tuesday 19 August
We're about to start our last full day in Rome as we have to be at the airport by about 3.00pm tomorrow to fly to Singapore.

We're all avoiding the big sight seeing sites today as we are a bit shattered from those experiences and will spend the day trying to find the Boss an Italian Rugby beanie!

Yesterday we were up and gone by 9.00 and boarded a city tour bus at about 9.30. This took just over 2 hours and was very informative. It stopped for 20 minutes at St Peters so we got off to get coffee. Two coffees for 8eur ($15!!). Must remember not to buy near tourist sites.

We got back on the bus, completed the circuit then got off at the Colosseum. Rather than paying 10eur and lining up for 2 hours we paid 22eur and got a neat guided tour and no line up. I now love those tour groups that annoyed me before!

The Colosseum was impressive. It could hold 50,000 spectators and had an elaborate seating system and a complex set of corridors and elevators beneath the arena out of which emerged slaves, wild animals (including porcupines!) and gladiators. These corridors are now exposed and can be seen in my photos on the blog.

After that we joined our complimentary tour of the Palatine Hill and Roman Forum which was the centre of Ancient Rome. One of the emperors used his surplus 90,000 slaves to level a lot of the Palatine so he could build a huge palace. It was at least 6 stories, 4 below ground and 2 up and 100s of metres square, built in 5 years. The marble remnants were stunning. We also stood on his balcony from which he could observe the vestal virgins bathing. They weren't there when we looked!

Our tour guide here was a young woman from Canberra who was confident and with a great aussie/NZ sense of humour. Her looks, speaking and bubbliness reminded me of Alicia Gleeson!

We then lined up for ½ an hour to go into Augusta's house which was built in about 75AD. The frescoes are brilliantly coloured!

We then dropped into the Roman Forum and walked along the Via Sacre (Sacred Road) which was the first road in Rome and down which all Roman soldiers marched off to war and then on their triumphant return.

Leigh and I then did some internet before returning home to catch up with Terry and Dallas. We went out to an average restaurant which gave us a menu and when we went to order only had 3 dishes available. It wasn't too bad though and I think they under charged us.

Terry, Dallas and Leigh had veal and I had pizza!

Rome Photos

Going to Church

Sunday 17 August
It's Sunday so we went to church! Quite an important church apparently. Our host Maria supplied breakfast of cereal and yoghurt, warms rolls, toast and coffee and then we were off at about 9.00 via the subway to Vatican City.

We arrived into St Peter's Square and saw a line so we joined it! It was very hot, even at this time of the morning. The line moved quite quickly, however, and within 15 minutes we were filing through the Tomb of Popes. Jimmy the Third is also buried there. I was surprised by the intensity of reverence, especially in front of the tomb of the most recent pope.

We then went into St Peter's Church which is huge in an almost unimaginable way. It is also very opulent. I know Terry was quite moved by the experience and that was cool. Obviously, it doesn't mean the same to me, but I have learned a lot from him by asking stupid questions.

This is a very wealthy church/religion!

We walked from there to the St Angelo Bridge and boarded a boat cruise of the Tiber River where we learned a lot about the bridges that cross the river. St Angelo's Bridge which connects at the tomb of Hadrian at the Cassel del Angelo was started in 27 BC and is the only bridge to survive the many floods of The Tiber.

We then headed off walking to the Tervi Fountain, but diverted to the Campidoglio and Pantheon on the way. The Pantheon appears to be another old church. About now my back was beginning its daily throb from walking and standing so I start to lose a little motivation.

However, we soon came across the Tervi Fountain which was a spectacular tumble of water over and amongst statues into a pool which was thronged by hundreds of people. We managed to make our way to the pool and I even dunked my head under to cool off. We also filled our water bottles. Throughout Italy there are many sources of drinkable water available for people. This is much appreciated at this time of the year.

After walking home and getting a little lost near the end Terry and I headed off in search of an internet cafe to check emails and update blogs. I have been using my phone to regularly check the Herald for Olympics news. I hope this is not too expensive, Joc!

It has been good to hear of our Olympians' successes and the awesome win by the AllBlacks, but frustrating not to see any of it. We only see Olympic events in which Italians feature! I am sure it is not like this in NZ.

It was great to receive an email, though very brief, from Lea and another from Alison, all of which I appreciate.


We're about to go out for our second dinner in Rome. It was a very hot night last night so not everyone slept well and Dallas, in particular, is very tired.

We metroed to Plaza del Popolo and walked amongst the streets looking for a restaurant with an outside table. As we approached Redegliamici a group left their table and with a “You couldn't fit four of us in there could ya mate?” we connected with our waiter, Paulo, who was a star.

We started with a complimentary glass of champagne and when he arrived to take our orders he started with, “I am here to answer your questions.” He provided our wine and after he smelled the cork and swirled some from one glass to another he offered it for tasting. Very flamboyant.

The food was superb. Terry and I had spaghetti puttacetta (olives, tomatoes and anchovies), Leigh had Canneloni for Kings and Dallas had Rissotto in fish sauce. Whe4n we had finished Paulo provided us with a glass of liminchello.

Paulo really looked after us and his humour added to the enjoyment of the evening.

We then headed to the Metro via the Spanish Steps and crashed after another busy day.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Day 2 in Rome

This morning we were served breakfast by Maria and we were on the Metro to Vatican City by 9.00(ish). We lined up in a huge line in the searing heat to visit St Peters and Papal tombs. The line moved surprisingly quickly and we were soon being impressed by the opulence and grandeur of this big old Church. I'm sure I saw a popish figure scuttling around. I'll post the photo tomorrow.

We then did an interesting boat tour of T Tiber and learned a lot about bridges. We then visited the Pantheon, another old church, and then the Trevi fountains which were very impressive and I dipped my head ro cool down.

Tomorrow we plan a city bus tour and possibly the Cistine Chapel which was closed today.


Tuscany to Rome Photos

A Day Getting to Rome

Saturday 16 August
Last night we went back to the Il Granaio Pizzeria where Leigh and I had the grilled pork bits and salad and Terry and Dallas had beef and mushrooms all washed down with a Chianti.

This morning it was very difficult to leave Comboliolo, our villa near Radicondoli. After farewelling Graziano we headed south towards Grossetto and ono Rome via the coast road. It was a faily straight forward trip and we managed to see NZ female cyclist win her pursuit heat on tv at a roadside cafe. We also heard of the successes of Evers Swindells, Twaddle, Drysberg, Roulston and Vili as well as keep updated with the All Black score via Meg's texts.

We were disappointed to find the rental carpark at Rome airport so easily, thanks mainly to directions from We then trained into Rome and taxied to our neat Bed and Breakfast in Via Lucculo where Maria, our host cannot speak English! It is a neat apartment with a neat cage escalator.

We immediately headed off to the Information Centre then headed down Via Nazionale for a couple of beers in an Irish Pub! We then walked around the Roman Forum and Colloseum at sunset before a meal of spaghetti for me, veal for Terry, gnocchi for Leigh and Ravioli for Dallas.

We've just got back and are ready to crash, but it is almost too hot to sleep.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Trip to Follonica

Friday 15 August
Our final day woke to thunder and lightning and this was our planned beach day. We heded off anyway just before 9.00 and made our way through heavy showers to the village of Massa Maratima. We entertained a couple of local kaumatua attempting to use the fully automated petrol pumps and drove into the village where we had pastries and coffee while the rain blew through. Some of the thunder had been spectacular to that pont.

As we approached Follonica the sun came out and it warmed from 17 deg to 31! This place was bigger and more crowded than I expected, but after some good spotting we grabbed a park one block from the beach. Most of the beach requires you to pay but we parked very close to the small public beach.

Terry, Leigh and I swam a couple of times in the beautifully refreshing and mild med while Dallas went for a walk. There were a large number of hawkers selling clothes, bags, rugs and sunglasses.

Aqfter drying off in the sun we drove back to Massa Maratima for lunch where we all enjoyed aa glass of the locals' finest with lasagne and tortellini. We then headed off for what should have been a straightforward trip home, but we missed a turn though I did say we should take it. This resulted in Terrenzo navigating us in a zig and zag fashion back to our village in time for the next thunderstorm.

I am about to go up and check emails and update the blog. Tomorrow we cope with the drive to Rome!

Follonica Photos

Siena Photos

A Day in Siena

Thursday 14 August
This morning we were up and gone for Siena which is just under an hour away. We took some neat photos of a field of sunflowers, which are a major crop here. We wound through the narrow streets of Siena to find a carpark building and walked up the hill to the main square, Il Campo, which was being prepared for the huge horse race which is held here this Saturday. It is a pity that we will miss it, but after watching a DVD of the race in a local theatre when we arrived I am a little relieved as it looks absolute mayhem. It is a huge regional event which has strong religious links, with the horses being blessed in a church before the race.

We sat on a very narrow balcony above the track having a coffee to get a feel for the event.

We then visited the massive cathedral, Duomo, which is the most impressive that we have visited. We then went through the Museum D'Opera, which has nothing to do with opera! Te highlight was climbing the tower through very narrow spiral staircases to have a great view of the city.

After that Leigh bought a couple of leather bags, because you can never have enough bags! We found the Hertz Office to get directions to the Hertz Office at Rome airport because that's where we need to go on Saturday.

When we got back Terry and I went to the village to email and blog etc. Unfortunately, Terry was not able to connect which was a bummer. I was able to update my blog and also read neat emails from Robyn, Jacquie and Alison. It's great to have these little moments of contact. I have been getting updates from Charlotte as well.

We returned for a swim and chatted with a doctor from Edinborough, but he didn't know Kerr Wright! We then sat on our verndah tasting nice wines (Camporignano, Cabernet/Merlot, 2005 and a cheap Rose with ice cubes (Cipressto 2007) before dining on bread, cheese, tomatoes, salami and ham for tea.

It has been frustrating to not have news of NZ's Olympic efforts, but I check the Herald on my phone most days.

Time for bed as plan to go to beach tomorrow.

A Day Relaxing

Rest of Wednesday 13 August
I wandered up to join the others for a cold beer and after buying a few provisions went home for a feed of bread, ham, cheese, tomatoes and olives. This was followed by a dip in the pool. Terry, Dallas and I drove up to the village to check out the internet. They were all being used, but we got enough time to check and send emails.

We also purchased a Radicondoli Card which we should have bought on arrival as it gives discounts in restaurants and unlimited wireless access. We also booked ourselves in to a local restaurant for tonight's meal.

We headed back home for cold beer and pizza left overs and a bit of a relax. It has been great to have a much slower day and, in hindsight, I wish we had had more relaxing days here. Tomorrow we plan to head off by 8.00 to visit Siena. I hope it is not an all dayer.

On Friday I am keen to drive to the beach for a couple of hours and get back quite early in the afternoon as we havee the pressure on Saturday of driving to Rome and dumping the car at the airport.

Right, I've just got back from dinner at La Pergola in Radicondoli and had a table on the verandah under the pergola. The view was outstanding. Dallas had Rabbit with Etruscan Sauce, Terry had Paollo (chicken), Leigh and I had Pasta with a Tuscan meat sauce. This was washed down with a bottle of Podere La Fonte, Radicondoli, Vino Rosso Toscano, Vendemmia 2007 ( and a bottle of San Gimignano white. Our first course was followed by Leigh and Dallas with a Tiramisu, Terry with a Pannacotta and I had profiteroles. Awesome!

Friday, August 15, 2008