Archive | November 2019

Still exercising?

I haven’t been doing my exercise since I’ve come back from travelling.

But it is not for motivation or for want of physical activity.

Australia is burning.

It’s not even summer yet and we have out of control bushfires and catastrophic fire conditions.

Sydney is in a basin in which smoke settles.

My suburb is in the northern suburbs of Sydney, quite close to the bush that is the end of greater Sydney. So we often get smoke haze even if smoke hasn’t settled in the Sydney basin.

Morning. Sunrise. The smoke makes it a scene from a post apocalypse film.

I think I started with a minor head cold.

The smoke haze added the double whammy.

On the train to the city for a work meeting just over a week ago, I was coughing like I had the Black Death. Kindly, a fellow passenger offered me his water bottle. Saved me. Thought I wasn’t going to stop coughing. Thought I was never going to breathe. Thought I’d have a heart attack.

Then I had a similar attack four nights later. Mr S gave me his asthma puffer. Two puffs of Ventolin and then a puff of a preventer. It calmed me down.

Actually I’ve had over two weeks of disturbed sleep due to coughing in total.

After a week of the coughing I went to the doctor. No infection. Just irritated lungs; all the nerves are firing.

Doctor prescribed the magic of codeine and a Ventolin!

I feel fine. And then the magic wears off. I’ve cancelled going to the theatre. Can’t guarantee that I won’t be the patron who disturbs everyone with a deep, spluttering cough.

I did one session with Olga, the Russian PT, heavily doses up on codeine and Ventolin. She sent me home the week before I went to the doctor. “Not exercising with no voice. It will go to your chest.” Well, it did but without any help from exercise!

Thank heavens I’m escaping to the northern hemisphere for a bit over summer. I don’t think we will have clean air for a long while.

Looking across the street. The grey sky is smoke.

Don’t dream it’s over

Hey now! Hey now! Don’t dream it’s over.

The trip has ended.

Back to reality.

I need to get my life in order. Back on the path to being more organised and getting my house to be orderly and gorgeous and more stylish. And my finances, don’t mention my finances.

I had time to think while on the trip. Contemplate about things I want to stream line; things that need fixing; things I’ve learnt from the Italians. (Which I learnt from the French but didn’t put into practice: that is, have a life beyond work – socialise more.)

One thing we both realised is that we need to do more of what we love: go on adventures.

Mr S is manic for paying off the mortgage. But when we were talking about future travels, he realised it would be years before we visited his family in the US. And given that his cousin has visited us three times, we probably should return the favour.


I bought tickets to go on Boxing Day.

Complete the sentence.

Two long haul flights in the same year are….

  • a) Decadent.
  • b) Outrageous.
  • c) Environmentally unsound.
  • d) All of the above.
  • Our youngest, The Dreamer, thinks this is not what our family does: disappear on Boxing Day. He’ll cope. We wanted to maximise the time Mr S’s cousin had off from work between Christmas and New Year. (With a week to think about it, The Dreamer decided to join us!!!)

    But to take this trip, and have our year off, and overpay the mortgage, and get the house and garden in order, means making some choices.

    Firstly it means saying sorry to our neighbours. Sorry, we can’t afford to replace the fence which has fallen down and is rotten. No, can’t do it. We’re too busy jetsetting and paying for holidays.

    Live for the frivolous. It’s never really been us. Solid. Hardworking. Paying bills on time.

    But off we go.

    I don’t think Germans can read and other Lucinda musings on television

    Dubbing vs subtitles

    There’s a lot of American, and some British, TV shows on German TV.

    And it is ALL dubbed.

    I watched an episode of Miss Marple with Joanna Lumley! Dubbed! Joanna Lumley, dubbed!!!! Both her and Miss Marple’s voices are so distinctive. It loses something without their own voices.

    Many lifestyle shows are annoyingly dubbed. They start with a few words of the English speaker, then have the English soft in the background while the German is dubbed over the top and sometimes end with the English again.

    What is the point?

    Is it to show the show isn’t originally in German? Which is stupid ’cause it is obviously not German.

    Why can’t they just use subtitles? What do the Germans have against subtitles?

    In Italy, I’ve found a host of shows not dubbed and without subtitles. Law and Order SVU. Bay Watch. Father Brown. (Shows I wouldn’t watch at home – more on that in a minute.)

    Strangely, some of the titles and end titles were in Italian, like the disclaimer of Law and Order not being a true story, but then all the dialogue was all in English.

    Where do you stand on this? Dubbing or subtitles? Which do you prefer?

    Crap TV

    While thinking about dubbing, I realised I watched several hours of a crap TV show – RBT and several episodes of Law and Order (the latter not all crap) – over several nights while travelling. I watched for no reason. Just put it on and left it on.

    Then again, sometimes I feel like watching something light on TV. Something mindless, but not annoyingly so, on the idiot box so I can switch my thoughts off and relax.

    One night in Rome I had one of those moments. I needed to watch something light. (I know. Watching TV while in Rome!!! But we’d walked over 20,000 steps that day and we were not going out after dinner.)

    My choice of English speaking programs was extremely limited. There was one program.

    So I watched it. The Worst TV forensic crime drama EVER! CSI Miami, I think. The script, costumes, lack of reality, delivery of lines, characterisation, how the people died. It was shit with a capital S. I watched the whole episode just to be sure. Yep. Pretty atrocious.

    While I’d never watch this at home, I realised I watch too much shit on TV at home. Out of habit, I put the TV on and sit in front of it after dinner and fall asleep or am just too tired to get up, turn the TV off and go to bed.

    Watching TV every night, whether it be crap or something more worthy – is a habit I need to break!

    I didn’t need it every night while travelling.

    So while travelling I decided to break the mindless watching TV thing when I get home.

    Two weeks in, it hasn’t been going too badly. It has been helped by the fact that a son pulled out the cord for the cable TV so I only get free to air. But I just haven’t felt the need to find out how to fix it. So I leave the TV off.

    Do you watch TV out of habit? Do you just automatically turn it on?

    Jet lag

    Travelling from Australia to Germany, I had no jet lag.

    If may be because the direction of travel – west. Or maybe because we had a day stopover in Hong Kong where we raced around madly and thus I slept for much of the next leg.

    Coming home, I was hit with a big dose of jet lag. Just couldn’t adjust my body clock.

    The flights home themselves were fine. Two long, but almost equal, legs. I didn’t sleep much on the first – just a couple of hours. On the second leg, I slept for about three or four hours.

    We arrived home at about 11.30pm. I didn’t go to bed until about 2.30am. Spent the time talking with my sons, unpacking the bag, reading, washing clothes.

    I only slept for three hours. Woke feeling hungry.

    And then I had to get moving. I had a hairdresser’s appointment and other chores to do. I was shaking I was so tired and fell asleep for a bit at the hairdressers.

    Got home about 2pm and crashed. Slept soundly for three hours. Which then put me out for the night.

    Didn’t go to bed until way after midnight. I was tired but just couldn’t sleep. So I took some melatonin which helped me sleep soundly. But only for about five hours.

    Woke early. But felt heavy and tired. Just couldn’t get up and going so read in bed. I slept in the middle of the day and generally slothed around.

    I have done everything wrong to avoid, and get over, jet lag.

    Mr S is fine. When he got on the plane, he adjusted his watch go Sydney time. And immediately forced himself to “be” in Sydney time. He slept most of the first leg – it was night in Sydney after all. (Mr S has the ability to shut his eyes and fall asleep instantly.)

    He slept for some of the second leg. But as it was day in Sydney, he didn’t want to sleep too much. When we got home, he didn’t stay up as long as I did. He also didn’t run around madly doing personal chores on the first day; then he went to bed and got up at his usual time.

    Yes, he was tired but didn’t feel all out of sorts. (Until he got a head cold.)

    Ever had jet lag? How do you avoid it? Recover from it?

    PS: My trip is over. People who recently followed my blog, I hope you’ve enjoyed my scratching. You may want to drop off now as I blither about things such as decluttering, gardening, going plastic free and more frivolous things, such as eyebrows. I will return to travel in January, with an upcoming trip to California.

    Banksy? Or Banksy-like?

    Opposite our apartment in Koblenz, on the embankment wall of train line, we spotted this little piece of street art.

    Largely on its own, not surrounded by other street art or graffiti.

    It was down low, level with the footpath. Possibly easily missed. I know I walked past it a couple of times, my focus on finding my way and not getting lost, before I noticed it.

    I googled it. And could only find two images. One in Cologne. But there were no details. And one that looks like the same as mine.

    It is definitely subversive with a strong political message.

    Anyone know anymore? Or able to find out more?

    Making the utilitarian an aesthetic asset

    Drain covers. Do you ever notice them?

    Me neither.

    Until I went to Germany. At the first town, Koblenz, I noticed the design on the drain covers.


    Was the boy vomiting? Spitting out the water because it is awful? Neither seemed appropriate for the local water board.

    I found out the story of the Schlängel and have previously posted about the statue of the spitting boy.

    Then I kept my eyes peeled at each town for their water covers.

    Sure enough, I spotted different covers at the next town, Trier.


    Then more:






    I love the attention to detail. Decorating the utilitarian, and making it into art.

    I love the branding of each town. Taking an image or symbol, and putting it, in a subtle and artist way, on things all around us. Things we normally ignore as we stride or dawdle around.

    The symbols don’t have that appearance of being designed by marketing copywriters or designers that change with fashion. They are something that stand for more than marketing. Something that comes from the town’s history and has, and will, stand for centuries.

    I get that symbols can be problematic – who has been overlooked, excluded, repressed; who does not feel a symbol represents them. Maybe it helps that Germany is largely a mono-culture? I couldn’t imagine what symbol could be placed on the drains of Sydney, Melbourne, or Brisbane and whether the symbol would be accepted by most, and be one that would be acceptable in years and decades hence.

    All these little details add to the beauty of each town. There’s artwork everywhere.

    Public art in Germany

    The town centres of Germany have a wealth of street art, in the form of statues and fountains. Some quirky. Some traditional. Some representing stories of important people or myths or local legends.

    Äachen. Outside a book store

    Cologne / Köln


    Some invite viewer interaction. Some require viewer action to operate. They are not just for looking at and for tourists to take photos of.

    I love how the statues gives a focus for parents walking their children. I can imagine it adds a purpose and an element of fun when a parent suggests a walk to burn their child’s energy. “Let’s go for a walk to see the pigs.”

    Bremen – Which came first. The street name? The statue? The historic use, of course.

    And who wouldn’t want to jump on them?


    I love how some statues call for a tactile response. You can see where some statues are repeatedly stroked or patted or sat on.

    Bremen. Everyone wants to pat the donkey.

    I love how they give an opportunity for passing on local stories.



    I love how they give a focus, a central point to a square or Stadtplatz. Somewhere to meet or hang.

    I love how they add to the beauty of a place. They catch your eye and force you to have an emotional response. Like it? Love it? Confused by it? Unsure of it? Want to look more closely?


    Mainz. I could imagine in summer kids jumping under the umbrellas to get wet.

    This one’s a ring in. From Como, Italy.







    Baden Baden



    Äachen. You make the fountain operate by pressing a button. It’s not obvious at first.

    Just in time or a large breathing space

    I am chill about some things, but get highly anxious about a few things.

    Upcoming train and plane journeys, I get really uptight about. Turn into a real nervous Nelly. Which is bizarre because what is the worst thing that could happen? I have to spend another night in a place? I lose a bit of money from having to purchase a new ticket?

    Anyway, fear and anxiety are illogical.

    I want, nay have to arrive extra early for planes. As I have written before, Mr S hates waiting so he likes to leave a smaller window between arriving at the airport and the plane leaving.

    I have to constantly remind him that departure time is not when boarding takes place or the doors close. OK, I don’t HAVE to constantly remind him, but I do anyway.

    I like to leave time for contingencies.

    Sometimes that means we have to wait a bit longer.

    But sometimes it is really good that I stand my ground on arriving with plenty of time.

    Evidence for my case.

    1. Leaving Italy

    I bought our flights to and from Germany before I plotted out our itinerary. When I added Italy, I looked at the best way to get back to Frankfurt. We were travelling around Europe by train but I decided we would fly from Rome to Frankfurt and have two nights in Germany.

    People asked, “Why not just fly from Rome to meet your connection?”

    No way! I couldn’t stand that level of stress. Flights would need to meet up. What if they didn’t? (OK, I would have to take more time off work. So sad. But that’s not the point.)

    Of course, I don’t tell people I’m nervous and cover with the argument that we would have some time to finish our German discovery – buy some stuff and eat some food.

    Which we did! We had Kaffee und Kuchen, a German thing like afternoon tea. Such a yummy cake, I started eating before I remembered I wanted a photo.

    Perfect cake.

    And we ate dinner at a very old beer Keller. Twice. It was delicious, traditional German food.

    This red cabbage was as good as my mother’s. And that’s not a sausage; it’s a roulade of beef.

    Wandered the pedestrian zone, looking at street art and church windows and museums, several of which were free, and memorials.

    Unusual mermaid – with upper legs and two separate tails

    And guess what? My planning was lucky. Not because of what we saw and experienced, which was wonderful.

    We flew from Rome to Frankfurt on Lufthansa. The day we flew home, Lufthansa were on strike. For 48 hours. Had we flown to meet our Cathay Pacific flight home, we’d have missed it and been stuck in Rome. Imagine my stress?

    2. Getting to Frankfurt airport

    Mr S was all for catching the 10am train. I wanted to catch the 9:30 train. It’s only a short trip to Frankfurt airport station. Mr S said we’d be there by 10.30, two hours before our 12.40 flight, plenty of time in his eyes if we took the later train.

    No allowances for contingencies, though.

    I was adamant that I was getting the earlier train. And I wanted to leave early for the train. Mr S wanted to wait in the hotel. I get that the station was only a five minute walk. But what if there were issues buying tickets? Turned out there were issues. The ticket sellers were on strike and there were lots of people at the ticket machines. And it took ages to get our tickets. If we’d left the hotel when Mr S wanted to we’d have missed the 9.30 train.

    Then when we got to Frankfurt airport station, we had to take a shuttle bus to Terminal 2. And boarding of the flight was at 12, not 12.40.

    Urhm! I am right. Again!

    So are you a “last-minute-er” or an “early-arrived”?

    Quiet places in Rome

    Although I knew the Spanish Steps weren’t really that exciting, I wanted to see them.

    Yuck! The crowds were unbelievable. As they were along the shopping streets. In fact, it seems everywhere is crowded from 10am on.

    Our tour guide of the ancient area advised us that if you want quite, head to the hills. Most are topped with church organisations and they are quiet for contemplation.

    I think they are also quiet because people are generally too lazy to walk up the hills, and they only want to tick off the main attractions.

    Mr S and I visited a number of quiet places. They all had much to look at. Also, not being pushed and shoved and negotiating around people was a relief.

    The Protestant Cemetery

    Just behind the pyramid, across from the Pyramid metro station lies the Protestant cemetery, which is also a cat sanctuary. It’s quiet and green and cool.

    The statue of the Angel of Grief – shows such anguish which the sculptor Celt at the loss of his wife.

    The poets, Shelley and Keats, and some family and friends are buried here.

    The Aqueduct Park

    A short metro ride and a short walk away from the centre of Rome is the Aqueduct Park. Locals are riding, jogging, walking their dogs. But there were no crowds. Just open fields with the aqueducts, trees and a pond. We walked around and marvelled at the skill of the Romans and how soil level rises and covers what are huge monuments.

    The hill behind Trastevere

    We walked up the hill and, as is our way, got lost and and wandered around, discovering things.

    We had the path along the fence on the other side of the Botanic Gardens to ourselves.

    There’s statues and memorials to people we don’t know. One we thought looked out of a western. Love the bird having a free ride on his shoulder. It was part of the statue.

    The Knights of Malta Hill

    On the way up, we walked around the streets, admiring the beautiful houses in the area. (OK, we got lost again but enjoyed the walk. OK, we really had a little blue over map reading. But we still enjoyed the end product.)

    I read to expect a queue of people wanting to look through the keyhole towards St Peter’s. There were many people. (Though Mr S did get annoyed at one group of Americans, each of whom wanted to take a photo and one of whom tried several times with three different cameras.) The view is amazing. (I didn’t bother trying to take a photo. I knew if I googled it someone with a better camera would have put one out there.)

    See the flag of the knights of Malta?

    The door, worn from all the tourists.

    Someone else’s photo of the view. It was like this by more amazing. The line of trees were beautiful

    After we peered through the keyhole, a huge tour group turned up. Still walk a few steps away and we had parks and views to ourselves. They only come for the look through the keyhole.

    Mr S calls this, Another tower of Pisa, only better as its not broken/leaning

    We didn’t get to the Mask of Truth but probably glad as it would have been covered in tourists. We had this fountain to ourselves.

    A burning martyr in a park on the hill

    Our last view over Rome. (Interesting fact: no building is allowed to be taller than St Peters basilica.)

    Green and peace abound!

    Like a tornado

    I awoke on our second morning in Rome to warnings of a tornado from Apple weather.

    Nope, sunny outside. Seems like Sydney got the warning too. Lucky there was no wet or stormy weather, we had much to see. We we’re going to be storming around like a tornado.

    On the recommendation of Laura, I booked a walking tour of the central historic area. I am so glad I did. We skipped lines (which were massive) and had history, ruins and buildings explained. Not only did this help us appreciate what we were seeing but what we were looking at made sense.

    You know, I heard and read so much, I can’t remember which arch this is.

    Up on Palatine Hill. Sunken floor mosaic

    Looking down on the Forum ruins from Palatine Hill. See how crowded with ruins it is!

    See! Even more ruins in the Forum!

    Another triumphal arch

    The tour was three hours! A lot of walking. My right knee began to suffer. This is not the one I injured two years ago in a skiing accident. I hope it is just from all the walking on cobblestones. Time will tell. I’ve had problems with my knees before – it was this that made me definitely put Cinque Terre on our itinerary. My knees won’t last forever.

    Anyway, once the tour was over we had lunch. Again, on Laura’s recommendation I had cacio e peppe pasta. Yum. So glad I did. I would not have picked it before, thinking it was too plain. (Loved it so much I had it again at another restaurant in Trastevere two days later.)

    After lunch, we walked and walked. Through the Circus Maximus. And the old Jewish quarter and well, everywhere.

    As we did on other days.

    This market was probably very close to the markets of Ancient Rome, or of any period really. Crowds. People selling and buying stuff. Haggling.

    If you don’t like noise and crowds, the main areas of Rome won’t be for you. But you can escape. I’ll post some quiet places tomorrow.