A dog’s day in Italy

It’s a strange and notably hairy day in Trieste. Wherever I wander through this northern Italian port city I see plenty of pooches on parade. It’s as if Canis lupus familiaris has become the must-have fashion accessory. And like most stylish Italian accoutrements such as handbags, sunglasses and shoes, the dogs of Trieste are fashioned in all shapes and sizes, much like their owners.

Joyce statue Trieste

A social hub of this relaxed Adriatic city is the Canal Grande, an excavated channel that served as harbour for merchant sailing ships in the late 19th Century. Crossing the porto rosso, a bridge straddling the canal, I pass a bronze statue of Irish author James Joyce who, while living here, wrote the final chapters of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

And while resident, Joyce also wrote his play Exiles, conceived his most famous book Ulysses, and also penned his prose poem Giacomo Joyce, the only Joycean work set in Trieste. But I don’t think Joyce ever wrote a word about the local pooch passeggiata. But then every picture tells a story ….

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The world of the serial cruiser

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Cruising – for some a better deal than a retirement home

My earliest insights into the rarefied world of serious ocean cruising were provided by Delhis Mary Wolf of Pompano Beach, Florida, who knows all about being at your best when everything about you is all at sea.

We met aboard a Holland America ship. Mrs Wolf had boarded in Los Angeles at the start of a 62-day voyage to Australia and New Zealand. After this extensive journey she would take a ‘back-to-back’ Caribbean cruise. Having already sailed well over 100 cruises, on a variety of ships, she showed no signs of slowing down.

The first insight provided was about motivation. Sailing the high seas, she said, was a far more attractive proposition and heaps more fun than the alternative – being moribund in an old age home. She asserted that costs were not that different, whereas the benefits were incomparable.

“Not all cabins cost $1000 a day, although that’s what you often read in the media,” she said. “Consider this: I have cabin crew looking after me, all meals included, lectures and activities during the day, live shows at night, a library, cinema and a casino. And there’s also a doctor and nurses on call should I ever need them, God forbid.”

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A second insight was social. Private parties are crucial to the voyage  calendar. Mrs Wolf had thrown her own soiree early in this current cruise. “Tonight it’s my sister Zelma’s turn. It’s the best way of meeting people on board. I’ve made so many friends from around the world while cruising,” she said.

“You see, we cruisers really are a community afloat. Many of us are old friends. My late husband Larry and I began cruising way back in the 1960s and since then so many people we’ve met on ships have become close friends. I’ll sail the Caribbean with a dear friend I met on the Mediterranean.”

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A commemorative cruise tile

I assumed anyone with her cruising record, status and obvious means would have a suite or a cabin with private deck at least.  “Oh no, dear,” she said, “I want stability and size. The higher up you are in a ship, the more there’s that rolling movement.

“I’m happy on Main Deck, amidships, in an inside cabin. They’re more spacious than outside cabins. And anyway,” she added, “I don’t really like looking at the sea.”

Before I could react to this unexpected declaration she’d glanced at her watch and dashed off to the hairdresser. Life aboard ship means never a dull moment.

Where else in the world?

‘Tis a funny odd place Las Vegas, a city that lures you there so it can make believe you are  somewhere else.

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Faux Florentine bridge at Lake Las Vegas

I’m no gambler. For me, visiting Vegas is all about gawking at the human tide along the Strip and seeing stupendous shows. I will mention Cirque du Soleil in particular as I’ve been incredibly lucky to see not one but three of these extravaganzas, being Mystere, O and Love. They rock!

These stage spectaculars and the outstanding spread of dining options are enough to satisfy me. But what I also find fascinating and hugely entertaining about Las Vegas is its brazen attempt to fashion the idea that you are actually elsewhere.

The Eiffel Tower on the Strip

The Eiffel Tower on the Strip

The last time I rolled into ‘Lost Wages’, I ended up staying in Paris. Or was it Venice? Maybe it was Florence – or was that the time before? It’s difficult to recall when I spent most of my time wandering through what may possibly be the world’s biggest outdoor stage set.

I recall thinking that in the years immediately following 9/11, the main raison d’être of Las Vegas other than building ever more elaborate casinos was to create credible facsimiles of some of the world’s greatest destination cities, simply so fearful Americans never had the need to travel abroad again.

By simply strolling along the famous Strip, which is a mandatory activity on any Nevada visit, it’s possible to “travel” from past to future; from the pyramids of ancient Egypt at the Luxor, past the pop-cartoon castles at Excalibur and on to the high-tech high jinks at Stratosphere.

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A touch of Rome

And in between these opposites you can indulge in some European ‘history’ by visiting the plazas and fountains of Rome and then hop across the road to Venice for a paddle along a canal.

Your “global meandering” can be fuelled by having a coffee with croissant in Paris before winging your way to New York and then moving on to the facsimile of a signature Fairmont hotel in Canada.

At least this Disney-like castle below looks like it belongs in the USA:

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Only in America – or make that Vegas

In comparison to all this architectural confection I find the newer, high-end Vegas developments such as CityCentre and Wynn to be flash but boring, totally bereft of fantasy. And without fantasy what’s Vegas all about?

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A dash of Venice