Cycling Lake Garda

Entrance to Lake GardaDefying bleak weather forecasts on the long weekend of November I headed up North to test the new bike path overhanging Lake Garda. The lake is stunning in its ruggedness, steep rocky mountains that slide into the lakeside and with the misty clouds around it had almost a sinister air. In contrast to Lake Como and Lake Maggiore it’s beguiling in a dramatic way, with enticing villages to explore along the shoreline. The largest of the Italian lakes with a long list of interesting Museums and Villas to visit and hot Springs to relax in.

But cycling Lake Garda was our objective even if only for a short distance, and we Limone sul Garda beachwere headed for Limone sul Garda to find the new bike/footpath that clings to the steep rock face. Having taken our time to get there we were disappointed as there were no bikes left! But we were not to be beat and searching high and low discovered another rental place back on the top road. High in spirits and energy we swooped back down to the shoreline at a reckless pace to begin the tour through the village and onto the new trail.

Limone sul Garda

Cycling through the tourists wandering the sidewalk, in and out of shops and restaurants not an easy feat as the main street turned into a pretty alleyway adorned with bougainvillea and tiny piazzas filled with fishing boats.


The surprise to come were the steep ascents through the outskirts of the village, the wobbly stone pavement on the descents, and the surprising quantity of pedestrians on the same route making manoeuvring difficult. Now we understood the offer of an e-bike at the rentals! But we were not to be dissuaded from our target and finally we were there!New bike path

It’s a short, (2km) flat, magnificent experience, opened only last year with the hope that other Councils will take up the initiative and continue the trail further along the  lake. Lake Garda bike - footpath


Bike - Footpath





Views of the lake even more spectacular and a sense of satisfaction and relief that the rain held off and the ride certainly kept us warm.

Besides it’s so much safer than riding along the rather narrow road that hugs the Cycling Lake Gardacoastline amongst the professional cyclists. Accessible to everyone, even wheelchairs and prams and a definitely well worth the ride. If you want to do more serious biking check out these suggestions. And this is only a small part of what Lake Garda has to offer.Lake Garda view



Badged and Badgered

The Tourist guideIt’s time to get badged again! After much thought and procrastination I have decided at this ripe (old) age to get another badge as an Italian historian tourist guide. Which means a year course and lots of art history studies, starting next week. So blog posts may become erratic or worse still I may take you all along with my studies, bit by bit, to the most beautiful monuments and art of Florence!

You may well ask, do you need a badge, or more appropriately, do you need Tourist Escort badgea license? In fact it’s true and any time you have had an art historian guide in a city like Florence you may have noticed their badge dangling conspicuously around their necks. For those who have travelled on tour with me may remember my badge, but if you looked closely it was a Tourist Escort  (Accompagnatrice Turistica) badge easily gained for anyone who has an Arts/ Humanities degree (like me) and for those that don’t attendance on the Tourist Escort course.

Mother henIn classic Italian style, loads of jobs require a license and justifiably so, to show you have a minimum of skill and expertise in the area.  Although I always felt my Social work background was a bonus in being a good ‘Mother Hen’ of my delightful ‘chics’

A Tourist guide is usually quite jealous of their license and ever on the look out to defend their status against unlicensed intruders or even against Tour Escorts.

I have vivid memories of a Tourist guide in Padua shouting at me for being a ‘guide’ and threatening police intervention when she saw me with my group. All of which could have meant a hefty fine if I was ‘guiding‘ but then I was just doing my usual Tourist Escort job  – pointing out the toilets and where we would meet again after the group’s free time. So no risk of any fine but she was adamant, as well as very flashy, parading around with an enormous flower as her guide banner. An unpleasant incident which ended in a shouting match.

The badgering did not impress my group who were Alternative Guide badgeso protective that they made me a ‘new badge’ and at the end of the tour gave me this beautiful whirly whirly to use in future! Wow, what a lovely My Guiding flowergroup that was!

My whirly whirly unfortunately has never left the house as I know how much  groups, especially Aussies, hate to be herded, and I forever tried to be discreet when we were out and about. At best…or worst I made do with one of my colorful umbrellas that I have not lost and continue to use.Guide umbrellas

Still the gift was much appreciated as was their ‘official tourist guide’ badge which sticks in my cork board, yellowing a little with age now.

I will be honest and say I am not sure if I am going to get this badge, but I will be giving it my best shot and have already been doing preliminary studies. Naturally it’s going to be all in Italian so after 30+ years here, it will be good to brush up on my Italian and boost my vocabulary!

Agrigento guide LorenzoTourist guides have always fascinated me, they are true story tellers, making ancient monuments come alive, bringing the past into our laps.Such an art in story telling and not something that everyone can do. Many of my Tourist guides (chosen personally) have kept my groups spellbound and entertained without being overwhelming.

And when on holidays I always use a local tourist  guide – from Darwin to Cuba to Matera, my last experience! At the same time I never regret my Tourist Escort time as that really is another job altogether, which Tourist guides experience rarely.  Spending days and weeks together with people is another art in itself and keeping that large family happy not always an easy task.

So wish me luck…and I will keep you posted on my progress!


Out of the woodwork – Back on tour!


Rome Piazza Navona

Rome- Piazza Navona

I have been enticed out of retirement and will be back on tour in April 2017….oh my!?!     But not on my own fortunately, as it has been Angus Stewart, the ABC garden expert, who has lured me out of the woodwork to be his Tour manager on a proposed Garden tour around Rome and Southern Italy.  The tour leaves Australia on the 17th April and returns the 5th May, 2017.

Wow, I’m already excited!

Map Garden tour


As the tour brochure blurb reads:The Amalfi Coast is an area of coast line a couple of hundred kilometres south of Rome. The largest city is Naples (Napoli) whose landscape is dominated by the famous volcano, Mt Vesuvius, and of course Pompeii is a ‘must see’ attraction nearby. For gardeners the area to the south of Naples is the real attraction, with smaller towns such as Sorrento, being the places to spend your long lunches around visits to landmark gardens.

There are a couple of ‘must see’ gardens that showcase perfectly the borrowed landscape of the plunging cliffs and slopes that border the spectacular sea views. We visit Villa Cimbrone, the picturesque village of Ravello, the volcanic island Ischia filled with beautiful villas and gardens and home to a botanically themed garden called La Mortella. This tour offers a rich and inspiring window into the art of Mediterranean gardening……..

Angus Stewart is a professional horticulturist and plantsman. He has turned his lifetime Taormina gardensof horticultural experiences to good use to lead tours to some of the great gardens of the world. Angus is perhaps best known for his work as a gardening presenter on the ABC, both with Gardening Australia for the last 11 years, and on ABC 702 radio station in Sydney where he has been answering gardening talkback questions for around 25 years.” 


As you can imagine it’s not just a tour about gardens, but an immersion into the culture and specialities of Southern Italy’s cosmopolitan melting pot in fabulous Spring weather. To tempt you – the over-the-top stunning baroque of Ortigia-Syracuse, Sicily


Taormina theatre



And fabulous Taormina – Sicily, with spectacular views, staying in the magnificent San Domenico Palace hotel a 13th century ex monastery! Not to be missed!


For the itinerary and cost click here on Opulent Journeys

So it will be “Buongiorno Possums” all over again, without of course stealing Angus’s thunder and sunshine as Tour leader!


View of Sorrento


I’m looking forward to the tour despite having been so many times to the Amalfi coast and Sicily as there will be new gardens for me to see as well as some old time favourites like La Mortella and Ninfa gardens.




Come join us and don’t forget to tell Opulent Journeys you are clients of mine!             For info and bookings contact Tony Phone: 1300 219 885                                         Email:


Positano – Amalfi Coast



Summer in full spin – Florence

And Summer is in full spin in Florence as around 500 cyclists braved the 30+degree heat to do a marathon cycle in one of the most panoramic piazzas of Florence – Piazzale Michelangelo.


Michelangelo’s David was aghast and had to turn away before he fainted, while us lazy onlookers enjoyed the tension, the rousing cries, and the stamina of the cyclists pounding away to the beat of the music. What a way to go!

Florence Merry-go-round


For the families there’s the classic Merry-Go-Round in Piazza della Repubblica that never seems to go out of fashion. And the wonderful bubble maker who delights the kids from the world over.

Florence rickshaw

To take you on a tour around town is Matteo ( and others) with his electric rickshaw from Velotours, for a quick jaunt of 20mins or a full immersion in the labyrinth of Florence while hearing its history and legends.

Past popular pork snack bars, now an all time favourite for tourists in Via dei Neri – All’ Antica Vinaio or La Prosciutteria, although I cannot understand why one would queue for a sandwich and wine to eat sitting on the pavement! Or rest tired feet under one of Florence’s most dramatic statues – Perseus while listening to a sentimental busker.

Then as dusk falls look for a place to have an aperitif – a spritz is still the most popular cocktail, although on a hot Summer day a chilled beer or wine goes down well too.

Florence Reale Cafe

Florence boasts new bars this season, one of which is right next to the train station and looking very snazzy. – Reale Firenze. I understand it’s run by the promoters of the Central Market food mall and soft music wafts across the fountains as the sun goes down.

A contrast along the Arno river is the Wood bar with recycled warehouse crates and benches, and the music is lively.

And nearby, still on the river, is the open air dance venue of Summer Suites, so if you are around on Tuesdays that’s salsa night! Free dance workshops and it rocks on until dawn.

And while some clubs are new, some things never change – like the Red Garter club, which has been the haunt of American students ever since I came to Florence 30 years ago and is still going strong by the looks of the crowd spilling out onto the street. I have to admit I have never been inside as under 21yrs pour down alcohol like water enjoying the freedom of Italian regulations….not like back home!Florence Re Garter clubHowever if you’re after some peace and quite, head for the hills outside Florence as it’s been shooting Summer moonstar time, and quite dreamy waiting to make a wish on the forever elusive meteoroid burning up on it’s way to earth!


Walking on water- Christo!

Christo Floating piers

Christo’s Floating Piers had to be seen to be believed and we were not to be put off by the thousands of visitors which increased steadily until the last days. Besides it was our chance to ‘walk on water’ and the experience was not to be missed!



Christo had invaded Lake Iseo, Northern Italy with a rather unusual project – 90,000 Floating Piers Christo sketchsquare meters of yellow fabric sewn into panels and stretched across 220,000 polyethylene cubes covered with a 70,000sqm of felt to form a Floating Pier. A 3km walkway from the mainland to the large Island of Monte Isola, across and around the tiny (privately owned)  Island  of San Paolo and another 2.5 kms of fabric lining the streets in the villages of Peschiera Maraglio and Sulzano.

The experience was fantastic! Walking across the enormous expanse of silky gold, the gentle rocking beneath our bare feet, the rhythmic undulating rolling of the waves massaging the pier and us into a magic sunset.


Floating PiersThe Art Installation was literally taken by assault as soon as it opened on June 18th averaging around 75,000 visitors in a day, and the enthusiasm did not wane despite the blazing heat and the queues and general chaos to get there. On a reassuring note 120 lifesavers and 150 assistants monitored the walkway, although with the record crowds they were a mere drop in the ocean….or should I say Lake!?

However there were no tragic incidents and the crowds enjoyed strolling across the floating pier, and those fortunate enough like us sat and bathed in the sunset over the Lake.Floating Piers

Christo decided that the installation should open during the period in the year when there were more daylight hours, to maximize the light effects on the fabric: “On the lake the humidity is constant and the colour of the fabric reacts and changes constantly. It is red in the morning and goes to yellow and gold in the day. ”  So true.

The Floating Piers has cost $15 million and was financed by the artist through the sale of his works. As all installations of Christo and Jeanne-Claude it was temporary and is being dismantled today and the materials to be recycled.

Weird as it may seem it was a great event, an amazing experience and a delight to be softly rolling with the vibes of Lake Iseo!.Christo Floating Piers

Christo wrao Sydney coastine

I had vague memories of Christo‘s previous works – wrapping buildings and a very early one wrapping the Sydney coastline in the late 1960’s! His famous work wrapping the Riechstag in Berlin, together with many other awe inspiring projects, details of which were on display in the Museum of Santa Giulia in nearby Brescia.

For more about Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s bio, works, up-to-date exhibition listings, check out Artsy’s Christo and Jeanne-Claude page






The curtain falls on Milan Expo

Expo has closed after entertaining us for 6 months, with its exotic world pavilions, dramatic displays and superb presentations. “Feeding the planet, Energy for life” was the theme and I am only able to publish photos now as every ticket holder was bound to a ‘no publicity’ agreement. Not that they were likely to find my little blog….but you just never know?!

It has been a great success, with 21.5 million visitors, and a 140 countries represented. I was one of the early birds to go in May and it definitely had a WOW factor. An architects paradise inside and out: stylish, avant-garde, a smidge bizarre, technologically impressive, reflecting the heart and soul of each country.
Pavilions designed around the concept of sustainability, low impact energy systems using recyclable materials. External green spaces were important and a blessing to the eye and tired feet, a well earned place to stretch out and relax, lulled to the music of water fountains.

Turkey pavilionThailand



Italian pavilion

Italy’s pavilion, while looking like squirted paint gone wrong, was actually made of smog ‘eating’ concrete, and inside a full immersion in mirrors.Italy pavilion expo
 Expo Italy pavilio
 Expo Mexico
Expo French pavilion
French pavilion
   The French pavilion had laser cut undulating wood panelling while Mexico was encased in husk leaves.

Expo UAE


Sand dunes lead the way into the United Arab Emirates, the rice food cluster reflected the public doing yoga in its mirror walls, and solar trees lit up the German pavilion.





Expo rice cluster



Each country proudly told it’s own story of climate change, harnessing new energies, converting sea water to sweet, new and ancient customs and the move away from monoculture industrial agriculture.


You could feel like a bee humming in the hive in the UK, bounce into Brazil along the interlaced cord, be absorbed in incredible 3D movies in Israel and UAE, or spin off on a Coca-Cola seat.

Expo Brazil

Expo Kazakhstan
The Kazakhstan sand painting  introduction was fantastic as was the rest of their very sophisticated exhibition, definitely my favourite!  And in a moment of relax, we were entertained by Bielorussia performers
I was disappointed to see no sign of Australia nor think Australians even knew of Expo‘s existence!

My enthusiasm never wanes and I went back for a second visit with the crowds in October as I found the pavilions remarkable, both inside and out, and a wonderful opportunity to learn about gastronomic traditions and the new technologies being employed to increase sustainability.

Expo China


China Expo







Expo Slow FoodSlow Food Biodiversity park



The Slow Food exhibition offered much food for thought – like our inappropriate industrial food chain that is leaving the land scarred and barren, doused in chemicals as we continue to eat more processed foods. The contradiction of millions still remaining undernourished while others die of ailments from too much food. It made me feel guilty about eating quinoa seeing the changes it has made to Bolivian farmers!  On a lighter note, we were treated to a sensory display, sniffing and feeling into boxes to guess what food….a lot of laughs there, and then rested amongst the cabbages and tomatoes in the biodiversity park outside.

Time will tell if the Milan charter signed by millions will reach its goal, but it has certainly raised people’s consciousness,  produced hours of global discussions and we can only hope it will make positive changes to this tired old world submerged in problems and daily dramas which we see only too close in Europe.

Expo entrance


Expo Israel






The Italian pavilion will remain (eating smog) together with some of the other pavilions, and the Tree of life will be our Eiffel Tower. The rest is to be dismantled, returned to each country or auctioned to the highest bidders, while the remaining area will most likely to turn into a University campus, research centre and Red Cross headquarters.Expo Cezch Republic

Expo Tree of Life

Tree of Life



For more info see this Expo site










Being a bookworm at Mantua



The Renaissance charm of Mantua  is the perfect setting for a 5 day literature festivalpalatial buildings, cobble stoned streets, elegant porticos and spacious piazzas. It becomes a abuzz during the festival with people attracted worldwide to listen to words of wisdom, heated discussions, poetic readings and relaxing music.

  Mantua residenceA mini Verona, where it would not be a surprise to find Romeo and Giulietta hand in hand gliding across the piazza or furtively meeting in a secluded garden declaring their long lost love.

Are you bored? Open twitter. Are you bored? Open facebook. Are you bored? Open the fridge. Are you bored? Open a book. You'll not be bored anymore

Are you bored? Open twitter. Are you bored? Open facebook. Are you bored? Open the fridge. Are you bored? Open a book. You’ll not be bored anymore











There is something for everyone; bookworms meeting their favourite writers expounding the virtues of their latest book, to seminars discussing more current issues like immigration, the sharing economy, world hunger, and climate change to name just a few. Even something for the kids!Child's playRichard Flanagan

Joseph O'Connor






As my godfather said recently, “Curiosity is the Noblest form of Intellect, and the best way to keep the brain stimulated.” My 5 days at Mantua were a constant stimulation, a teasing out of ideas, a confrontation of opinions,  a dialogue between experts and the public and  a marvellous opportunity to meet one of my old time favourite writers – Richard Flanagan. The program was extensive, and interpreters  translated with artistic perfection, giving due emphasis even to the asides. Beautiful palazzi, churches and courtyards for the presentations, regular book readings in the garden and crooning music in the piazzas to relax to at the end of the day.

Ducal palace

Ducal Palace

Standing in the queue for the presentation on the ‘System of Corruption’ a fellow ticket holder politely asked me in English if I was in the ‘right’ queue as the presentation was very much an ‘in-house’ argument! When I responded in Italian and explained my years of stay in Italy, he added “Well then, you know we have some real experts here!”Mantua

Nonetheless I was not deterred nor disappointed. Each of the various socio – political – economic presentations that I had selected gave food for thought on a positive note, rather than wallowing and going nowhere with problems that seem unresolvable. And a varied international and well informed audience had their own questions and contributions to share at each workshop.

Mantua piazza

Wole Soyinka






The power of the African voice came from Okey Ndibe talking of the stories that must be told. Wole Soyinka Nigerian playwright, poet, and political activist spoke of the need for global policies which recognise the ‘Dignity of Existence’ to avoid the tragic deaths during immigration.


A revered Stefano Rodota`, University professor, jurist and politician with Luigi Zoja, psychoanalyst and writer, discussed ‘Solidariety’ which Europe appears to have put aside, and how the new social networks have anaesthetised our sensitivity to the current dramas in the world.

Acclaimed scientists and researchers on atmospheric changes, debated the increasing efficiency of renewable energy and the need for the decarbonisation of society. Naomi Klein and Jeremy Rifkin had been here in 2014 to present their new books (both of whom I follow with great interest) and some of their protégés were present, continuing their line of thought.

But it was not all intellectual stuff, although I crave that sort of intelligent debate, I was also very entertained by a sleazy crime book reading by author Massimo Carlotta accompanied by a blues guitarist/vocalist and jazz saxophonist/flautist. Massimo CarlottoCarlotta had made good use of his time in prison to write florid accounts of eccentric characters using ‘The Alligator’ private detective to delve into rather dodgy stories.Mantua theatre




And then there was Mantua to explore: a theatrical tour of the old and new theatres,  and a must do visit to the Ducal palace, the prestigious residence of the Gonzaga family.

And Prince Gonzaga’s ‘playhouse‘ ,Palazzo del Te, where he found ‘intellectual restoration’  offering lavish banquets and recreational activities! And last but not least, a personal tour by the Gallery Director of the Ligabue exhibition.


I came home from Mantua with a stack of  treasured books with personal dedications and a new yearly appointment to pursue so I never lose my curiosity.

Mantua bus

“Better crazy than boring!” Written on the side of the bus.



Folon, the man with magic in his hands

Belgian artist FolonI promised, a post on the Belgian artist Folon, who fell in love with Florence and provided us with the most magic images in his last exhibition in 2005, in Forte Belvedere. While that was 10 years ago many of his works still adorn the city and his spirit lives on here.Fort Entrance

At the exhibition it was a delight to wander past pastel watercolours of fantasy figures, or bronze sculptures of characters – bookworms, clock heads, where fish may fly, business men carry dreams and circus figures perform….we had walked through the looking glass into Folon’s wonderland! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFolon Fountain

Folon statuesStatuesAnd I did it with kids who just adored it, playing amongst the characters creating their own fantasies till dusk fell and we collapsed on the storytellers lap to hear the last tale of the day.With friends

Folon was born in 1934 in Belgium, a great traveller and an ardent creator of murals, collages, etchings, animated films and finally sculptures. He thought Florence was a magical place and would be more than happy to know that after his death his wife donated many of his sculptures to Italy, mostly to Florence. Folon was always very particular about  where and how his work was displayed believing that “sculpting never finds its completion, the seasons will continue the work and will give it the colour of time”.( )

Fish man fountain

Fish man fountain

Man with dream case

Man with dream case









I am sure he would be pleased with the location of the 12 sculptures now permanently displayed in the Rose garden of Florence, just below Piazzale Michelangelo, with a fabulous panorama of the city.  It’s an ideal place to take time out, relax on the grass, and avoid the crowds in the square. It’s open all day and it’s free!

I don’t get the chance to go there much but am lucky to drive past my favourite fountain ‘umbrella man’ almost every day. And any tourist staying at the Hilton Hotel at Rome airport will see another of his statues there and many elsewhere in the world.Folon fountainView from Fort

Not long after the Folon exhibition was the first tragic accident which closed Forte Belvedere until 2013. It reopened with a fantastic exhibition “Soul and Matter” by Zhang Huan «Art cannot change the world but it can raise the questions and help more people to think about the future in a wider contest»





Planet of the Apes

Ape monsterApes? They are Italy’s infamous pick-up trucks. The  Piaggio Ape has been in production since 1948 when Italians needed a cheap transport vehicle to get them back on the road to recovery after WW11. Ape Ferrari





I’m not sure how the name Ape ( meaning Bee) came about, although the noise they makes as they reeve up is like a ‘humming bee‘ and at every gear change the buzzing starts all over again.Ape vans

Driven like a scooter, with handlebars instead of a steering wheel (until the bigger model) they are super practical, cheap to buy, economical to run, and in the old days you didn’t even need a license to drive one!? Mamma mia!



I love them and seriously searched for an excuse to get one but no such luck. Living in the country I see them often, scooting about, on dangerous angles, overloaded, working hard and seemingly indestructible.Ape truckApe panel vans






A friend of mine had a delivery van and in the old days we would regularly pile in the back and buzz into the centre of Florence to park right outside the cinema – obviously illegal! All it needed was to take a corner too sharply and we would have splattered out of the tarpaulin cover across the road. Still if it tips over, you can just pick it up and sit it back on track!Ape trucks

They come in all sorts of versions – open, closed, cross country, 3 and 4 wheel drive and various motor sizes. I understand now they are produced in India still under the Piaggio name.

Farmers dote on them, and dangerously career around with unbelievable stacks of hay or cut wood balancing precariously on top. Builders, Library Apecleaners, florists, green grocers, small businesses, an exhaustive list of people use and abuse them. And now in Pisa there is even the mobile library Ape “BiblioApe”

Ape aperitivo Ape Aperitifs





Well known outside of Italy as ‘pop up stalls’, a great idea although unfortunately Italian bureaucracy finds it difficult to get its mind around that. However I did find this great Aperitivo van seen in Naples and I only hope we see more of them. We are all addicted to apertifs and apericenas. Such an elegant custom before dinner, or at an apericena a vegetarian like me can dine on the tasty specialities served in most clubs with a fashionable spritz, prosecco or glass of wine in hand.

Ape Ice cream van

Ice cream stall

Ape Coffee pop Up

Coffee pop up





These pop ups In Copenhagen:




Ape souvenir stall

Souvenir stall at ‘The Mermaid’
















I also discovered two crazy Italians – Apenautis who travelled thousands of kilometres across Europe and Asia in 2 apes, in 212 days and their ventures are documented here on you tube. Check it out!  Only Italians could think of trusting an Ape to do that and the guys are still travelling!

In Sicily I spotted quite a few converted into tuc tuc tourist taxis services  elaboratelyApe tourist taxi decorated and one even appeared here in Florence this Summer.



I am not the only one who loves this practical little van as can be seen with this Wedding car Ape parked outside of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. Is that not the sweetest ceremonial car?

Ape wedding

Ape wedding





Incredibly I also found a company who converts them into  mini campervans, although you may need to be the size of a  gnome to sleep in one!

They may not be as cute as the old Fiat 500 ‘bambino’ but the Piaggio Ape certainly merits attention.




B is for Buddha, Beautiful, Burma…..

Buddhas; there were lots of them, sitting peacefully, reclining, standing awesomely, imposingly large or small they were all over Burma.  Buddha

Reclining Buddha Temple WicksIt is a fascinating country with stunning sunsets over breathtaking temples, luscious lake and postcard beaches. Surprising sunrises as we scramble onto a local train to rattle and laugh our way through a 15 hour ride, or sit waiting for our 12 hour ferry to depart enshrined in fog. Magic temples, chaotic markets, agile fishermen, angelic monks, cheeky monkeys stealing water bottles, delicate women bearing fruit…..endless curiosities in a blaze of colour, and lots of feet washing! Inle lake

monks Nimble fingers and toes produce exquisite  handicrafts. Poverty in our terms abounds, yet locals show with pride their homes, and welcome us to their local festas and schools.  Children sing ‘Brother John (Frere Jacques)’ and giggle at our  ‘Waltzing Matilda’ response.







The countryside held it’s own surprises, far more beautiful than I had expected – an idyllic lake with floating gardens, a paradise Ngapali beachbeach of silky bleached sand and palm trees, and golden temples beckon on crazy hilltops.

Bagan temples





Bagan sunsetFisherman







Our local guide could not have been better, giving an insight into Yangon trishawthe country of today and entertaining us with his stories. It wasn’t easy for me to play a back seat role as it was my first time on tour as a participant and many a time I caught myself checking on luggage and recounting the group! Words cannot describe it all so I hope my photos will do it justice.

I stick with Aung Sang Suu Kyi calling it Burma instead of its current Myanmar and look forward to election results in 2015. Aung San Suu KyiShwedagon Pagoda There is even an Italian connection as the name Ngapali (silent ‘g’) is said to have come from the similarity to Napoli beaches….but take it from me, no Naples beach looks anything like this paradise coastline!kids