3 Flapping fish
7 Olive Oil
8 Wholegrain Bread
3 Flapping fish
7 Olive Oil
8 Wholegrain Bread
March 5 2012 was a momentous day in life of the Year 5 students at St Joseph’s CPS in Bulli. Students were issued with their individual iPad purchased by parents to support the learning vision of the school. We have been using iPads for two years but only as staff development and in pods with total school ownership. The new iPad project is totally funded by individual families which is the ideal way for schools to go however there are loop holes in doing things this way. It becomes an unmanaged project in that families have ultimate control of the use of the devices during out-of-school hours.
This model requires careful planning and high expectations of the school and families. Trust, responsibility and clear guidelines are the elements needed for this model to work effectively. Thankfully I am satisfied that these do exist and I am grateful to our parents who are more than prepared to invest time, money and wisdom to provide their children with an exciting learning tool that we believe will transform the way students go about their learning.
At Rome airport waiting for flight back to Frankfurt then onto Singapore then home. I know there is so much more to Rome than what I have seen but the little I got to see was amazing. The evidence of ancient civilisation is everywhere from city streets to the iconic attractions. Catholic Cathedrals are like McDonald stores, they are everywhere and all magnificent structures that have stood for centuries. I made 2 visits to the Vatican, one with a guided tour through the museum and Sistine Chapel, the other just to look around and take in the atmosphere and take some more photos.
Walking was the best way to see Rome and many hours were spent doing just that which was a mighty task in the heat. I was able to get a real flavour of the city and got to many of the famous sites. Getting your bearings even with a map can be quite a task as the network of streets are like veins and arteries running through your body.
It is hard to fully appreciate the age of the place and the history but it is obvious that in the early part of human history, power, protection and survival were key which in some way explains the grandeur of the castles and cathedrals, the walls built around cities and the battles that took place as empires tried to spread their dominance.
The weather is getting hotter the further south I go so walking for a few minutes leaves you in a lather of sweat. Italy is experiencing a heat wave although it is usually hot in summer but not this hot.
Florence is a beautiful place set in the Tuscana valley surrounded by magnificent hills. It has a touch of Adelaide about it with the hills dotted with settlements for as far as you can see.
The Catholic feel gets stronger the closer you get to Rome although it’s strong throughout Italy. The thing that strikes me most is that the churches keep getting bigger.
In London the Abbey and St Paul’s, then Notre Dame in Paris, then Venice, Pisa now Santa Maria in Florence. I can only imagine what Rome will be like.
The majority of the tourist icons on the city map of Florence are of churches.
The people in Florence have been the happiest and friendliest in Italy.
I took an unexpected stop in Pisa to see the famous bell tower. Seeing is believing and more. My original stop over in Pisa was only 20 mins however the trains to Florence run every 20 mins and my rail ticket was valid for 6 hours so it was too good an opportunity to miss. The walk to the Campo dei Miracoli complex is about 20 mins from the station and when you finally get to the end of the narrow street and see the cathedral and leaning tower it’s breathtaking.
All the buildings in the complex are built of white marble and so its magnificence hits you after seeing so many old stone buildings and typically grey drab streets of Europe. The bell tower really leans – I was gob smacked and I couldn’t help think it will fall soon. The tower is 55m tall and can you believe, the construction of the tower commenced in the 12th century and wasn’t completed until the 14th century.
I read that construction of the tower was stopped for many years because of the subsidence of the foundations. I wonder who the brave engineer or front person was who gave the go ahead to complete it? Wow!!!! What a decision. Well worth the stop.
Venice and the Adriatic Sea one day then across the country to the Cinque Terre and the Mediterranean Sea. As the train approached La Spezia the scenery became breath taking as you peered out the window with seemingly nothing below you expect the aqua blue water of the Mediterranean. The train resembled a pizza oven so seeing the crowds dotted in the water was making the last 30 mins or so to Monterosso seem like a marathon.
Monterosso is the northern most village in the Cinque Terre with 4 other villages making up the region. Vernazzo, Manerola, Corniglia and Riomaggioro. Monterosso was the biggest village but all had their own distinct beauty and commonalities. Corniglia was different in that it was set on a high rocky point and I imagine missed the tourist trade of the 4 other villages built close to the sea. What hit me most when I finally stepped from the station was the colour of the water. It looked so refreshing I couldn’t wait to be in it. The beaches have course pebbles and rocks unlike Wollongong and, no waves; just a gentle bay like feel. After my first swim I thought I’d relax on the beautiful lounge chairs under the umbrellas provided. It wasn’t long before the lifeguard expelled me because the whole beach was private. My thoughts of asking Wollongong Council to consider umbrellas and chairs at our beaches turned to gratitude for our free parks and beaches which are by far the best in the world. At least with our beaches you don’t need a donkey to get back to the village.
The village atmosphere of busy restaurants and packed narrow streets was lovely to experience. Something I would highly recommend if visiting Cinque Terra is a day trip on the local ferry, which gave me time for a swim and sight seeing in Vernazzo, Manerola and Riomaggioro. For those who love to hike, buying a Cinque Terra card gives you all day travel on the local rail system and access to the national park which stretches along the beautiful coast line.
Milano, Verona, Padova, Venezia. Seems like a dream passing through these famous towns of northern Italy that I have heard of over time but they are like any other in many ways with the cheapest real estate along the rail lines and the buildings decorated with graffiti.
The train out of Milano passes through the biggest train cemetery I have ever seen with thousands of obsolete trains finding their resting place.
Venice is no doubt a world phenomena and a must see with the Adriatic Sea lapping at each and every door step but the romance of the yachts and gondolas is soon dampened by the musty smells of the alley ways and the claustrophobia feel of the buildings.
Tourists are obviously the life blood of the city with every nationality represented. Only those with money could afford to spend any length of time in Venice. The beggars of Paris are simply replaced by the sophisticated gondola drivers who I hope pay taxes.
I have been amazed by many things on my trip but Venice is just one of those places where words can’t really describe. Seeing Marco Polo’s house and hearing stories of how the city came to be is an unforgettable experience.
The train trip south from Lucerne snakes its way through some of the most beautiful countryside in Europe. The Swiss Alps are just spectacular but trying to comprehend the cost of infrastructure for road, rail, communication and electricity is difficult. The waterways, the sheer mountain walls and depth of valleys is one thing but equally as impressive is the network of rail, road, communication towers and power lines hugging the valley walls. The engineers and construction workers in this part of the world have certainly earned their keep.
When I was at school I was taught that the crossing of the Blue Mountains and the Snowy Hydro Scheme were the great human achievements known to man but a trip to Europe changes all that. The engineering feats of the Swiss surpass my comprehension.
Water cascades through the tress and over bare rocky cliffs like silver snakes. The towns and villages occupy the narrow valley floors with lakes and rivers adding appeal. The mountains are littered with many castles seemingly on the highest peaks. Their construction is beyond my imagination.
The scenery as you exit tunnel after tunnel is like breaking the seal on a new jar of coffee. My neck strained from looking up, I resemble one of those show clowns with head rotating and mouth wide open. The journey is disrupted by the beautiful places of Bellinzona, Lugano and Como.
The transition in country side from France to Switzerland is dramatic and there is no mistaking what country you are in as you pass through Basel and into the mountains of the Lucerne region. My stop over in Lucerne is only brief but well worth the effort.
The city is a buzz with tourist from all over the world but of more significance is the world cup rowing regatta being held and after chatting with an Australian rower from Sydney I was informed that my old colleague and ex-Joey’s student Tim McLaren is here with the American rowers. Unfortunately saying hello by word of mouth is the best I could hope for but it did seem a coincidence.
The natural beauty of Lucerne is renowned world over and it is definitely a place I hope I might be able to return to explore the water ways and hiking or skiing in the mountains (although they look a bit high for me). I am doing my best not to dabble with the famous swiss chocolate.
If first impressions were what I had to go on then it wasn’t going to be a pleasant city. Arriving by rail from London in just over 2 hours was quite remarkable but it wasn’t long before I felt I should take back every negative thought I had about London; at least the majority of people spoke English. Paris International train terminal seemed like a hostile place with a heavy bag, no sense of direction and no French. After 2 subway rides I was informed that I was at the opposite end of Paris to where I should have been. A further 3 subway trains got me to Place Monge in St Germain and I think the local commuters were relieved to see the end of me.
My hotel was only a short stroll to Notre Dame Cathedral, an impressive structure to rival St Paul’s and Westminster Abbey but being summer time the queues stretched on forever so I was disappointed not to view the inside. My disappointment was compensated by being able to find plenty more cathedrals and local churches scattered through the streets of Paris that were magnificent in their own right.
I could stand for hours on any one of the many traffic intersections where 5, 6,7 or even 12 (as is the case at the Arc de Triomphe) roads and lanes cross and watch the mix of bikes, scooters, cars, buses and pedestrians all scamper for a destination only apparent to them. In the mean time I am not the only one amazed by the organized chaos. The round-abouts obviously provide prime location for the café’s and brasseries all packed with Parisiens with their chairs facing the street, dogs obediently squatting beside them as they puff away on Marlboro’s. AND wait for it; it actually costs more to sit outside and take in the smog, noise and fumes of the traffic than to go inside.
The more one explores the more beauty unfolds. It is difficult to fully appreciate the history, culture, art and architecture but an organised tour on the river Seine is one way to take in the depth of history as well as a 9 hour walking tour of the city. 34 bridges cross the Seine linking the right and left banks of the inner city. 20 districts make up the city with a very organised street and sign system which I haven’t quiet comprehended.