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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
The roofs of Genoa
29/08/2009, Palazzo Rossi

One of the three museum palaces is the Palazzo Rossi. (Guess what? It's red!) On the top floor there's a flat, made of what were presumably originally the servants' rooms. In the 1950's the then curator of civic museums lived in this flat, and the architect Franco Albini (who designed the layout and displays throughout the museum's palaces) designed and furnished it for her. He created a mix of ancient, Renaissance and modern pieces which he saw as distinctively Italian. After she died her own collection was dispersed, and for a while the flat was rented out. In 2005, in completing the restoration of the building, it was decided that this flat should also be recreated, as a part of the story of the palace as a residence.
The resulting apartment is gorgeous, with a wonderful mix of modern Italian design (oh! the coffee table, the fireplace!) some exquisite paintings and ceramics, and a smattering of classical statuary.
The view is an envy as well, looking south across the alleyways, punctuated by churches and towers, and out to sea.

Places and people
Palazzi everywhere
29/08/2009, Via Garibaldi

The Genoese created a powerful mercantile empire on the back of maritime trade and then by banking. They financed everyone, most notably Charles V of Spain, lending enormous sums at very high rates of interest. The other countries paid with the massive wealth flooding in from the Americas.
During the 200 years of its greatest glory, the great princes of Genoa were stupendously wealthy. They moved out of the tiny alleys of the old town, building themselves palaces. Some were along the waterfront, but the grandest of all moved uphill, above the stink of the city to glorious views of the sea. Here there was elbow room.
On what was then called Strada Nuova (now called via Garibaldi) a series of extraordinary palaces were built. It is literally a textbook of Renaissance architecture, as the styles and formats were collected by Rubens into a widely circulated reference. These palaces were all built on the same plan, with an atrium, a colonnaded garden and surrounding grand rooms. Extravagant frescos, enormous mirrors, and spectacular art collections were used to impress and overwhelm; the grand families drew lots as to whom would house visiting state dignitaries.
Three of the palaces are now combined as one museum, containing a major collection of renaissance art, including many portraits by Van Dyck, a number of Rubens', a superb Ecco Homo by Caraveggio and many treasures of the Ligurian school. There is also a fascinating display of coinage and weights which show the hard management that lay behind the sumptuous clothes and exotic jewels.
This is the courtyard of the Palazzo Tursi, a huge wedding cake of a building around this formal frontage. It is also the City Hall of Genoa, and there are signs to the registrary, to the office of the Syndicat and other mundane activities. The main civic building is a mini-Canary Wharf, somewhat west of the old town (and nicknamed the Big Pencil by the Genoese); it's easy to see that any civic leader would want to hang on to such a showpiece as this palace if they could.

Places and people
The Gardens of Queen Elena
26/08/2009, San Remo


At the top of La Pigna is a lovely, informal garden of trees and walkways. The area has a chequered past. San Remo rebelled against the Genoese in 1753, shortly after annexation, and in 1754 the new overlords pulled down the castle that stood on the peak. An earthquake in February 1877 made the top of La Pigna unsafe and all the buildings were demolished. The garden was created in 1890 on the resulting open space, and dedicated to Queen Elena, who visited San Remo often.
From the top you get this wonderful view across the town and out to sea. It looks really calm, but this was after a day of unforecast northeasterlies blowing at over 20 knots for about eight hours.

Places and people
Mediaeval San Remo
26/08/2009, La Pigna


The old town of San Remo is known as La Pigna, the pine cone, from its shape. It has survived numerous wars and is still a casbah of alleyways and arches. The walls are secretive and blank, save for the modernities of electricity and satellite. Open doors show only steep steps up from unlit lobbies. Voices echo off the walls; children laughing, scolding parents, the lopsided rhythm of phone chatter. There are few people to be seen, and those that wander are mostly tourists. Occasionally a woman stands in her door, or leans over her balcony. A man climbs swiftly through the streets, shoots a secretive half-smile sideways and walks away. Cats scuttle from one patch of shade to the next, or sprawl, exhausted in a favoured spot.
We were stuck in San Remo for four nights. The pilot book says three, and that's clearly the expectation. But no-one took any notice of people who stayed longer, delayed by a contrary tramontana north easterly which was a bit strong for many of the boats heading west to France, and right on the nose for the few of us seeking to venture further into Italy. We shopped Italian style: ice-cream: some wonderfully cheap rope and the small hurricane lamps we've been hunting for ages, a new firewire connector, some sofa throws, truffle oil, and three very clever Brazilian tie-backs for Pip's mane.

Places and people
Musee de Picasso
20/08/2009, Antibes


We fulfilled an ambition - to visit the Musee de Picasso, which was shut for renovation this time last year. It's in the Grimaldi Castle, previously owned by the royal family of Monaco, but passed to Antibes sometime before the second war. After the war, the then curator offered it to Picasso as a temporary studio; he took the offer up and then donated many drawings, paintings and ceramics to the museum, which was renamed in his honour.
So lots of lovely pictures and pieces. We both like the Profile of a Nude by Nicolas de Stael, and Joie de Vivre and Ulysses and the Sirens by Picasso. On the terrace we took the inevitable pix.

Places and people
Lots of Louvre windows
11/08/2009, Paris

The next day we went for a wander. Our hotel, the very reasonable and beautifully located Jeanne d'Arc, was right in the Marais, just yards from the Place des Vosges. We went west, through the Jewish quarter (yummy breakfast), past the Centre Beaubourg and towards the Louvre. Here it is, with those thousands of windows.
The meander back along the Seine was lovely, and one or two house fripperies somehow joined the luggage.
An early lunch and then time for the train to Toulon. That was a simple enough journey, stopping only at Avignon before Toulon. We spend a lot of time on trains in both England and France and have a higher opinion of the British version than many. The TGV, as on this occasion, has a lot going for it. The seats are very comfortable and it's so fast. That high speed is something that the UK hasn't got to grips with yet.
But there are some things that work better in the UK. The information system is miles better: to get non-TGV trains that cross departments and regions in France is a mysterious process. Buying tickets is much easier in the UK, and there are cheaper prices to be had. Also the UK trains don't have those really high steps that can make luggage handling (let along wheelchairs, buggies or children) so hard.
We look forward to discovering how the Italian system compares!

Places and people
Romantic pictures
10/08/2009

We took numerous pix of each other (as you do), and this one of Pip is the best - she's looking very splendid too!

Places and people
Night Cruise
10/08/2009, On the Seine

We took a romantic night cruise, from Notre Dame upriver beyond Ile de la Cite and then down as far as the Eiffel tower, which was looking very splendid, and by far the brightest monument in the City of Lights.

Places and people
Paris!
10/08/2009


The doc told Sarah not to fly until 4 weeks after the op, which was a good additional incentive to take the train. And to make it easier, we decided to stop a night in Paris. Pip had never been there before, except for the Metro between the Gare du Nord and Gare de Lyons. Sarah lived there for a while - 30 years ago! (How did that happen, then?) But she'd not been back much, so this was an adventure for both of us.
At that time, Sarah had stayed a short while at the famous Shakespeare & Co bookshop, just opposite Notre Dame , and it was her only postal address for most of her stay in Paris. It's famous for being the home of the Anglophone literary scene in Paris since the 1920's, particularly for Americans. It hasn't changed a lot - it's still heaped with books from the last 100 years of American, British and Irish literature. It's got more touristy (or it seems that way) and it's still staffed by enthusiastic youngsters who in some important way do not get the complexity, longevity and pluralism of Europe. Sarah found a useful book though - that's still the same.
We stayed to listen to the historian Gregor Dallas talk about Abelard and Heloise. What might have been very interesting actually became incredibly dull, as he stretched out the story beyond belief. His main point seemed to be that Heloise had objected strongly to being made to become a nun, and that it was Abelard who had made her do it. But it took him over an hour to get to this position. After about 75 minutes, we slipped away.
We'd missed the boat trip we planned to take, so Pip headed us back to a bar in the Latin Quarter that had caught her eye on an earlier wander past. The chandeliers were hung with bra's. And there were women there. Lots of women. So we ventured in and ordered fancy cocktails. They came with sparklers. And sparkly it was: we had ventured into a male strip joint! Pip was facing the video screen and came over all fluffy. We drank our cocktails and returned to the street.
Paris is full of lesbian bars: Sarah had offered to find one. But this was a spontaneous discovery with a twist.

Places and people
Visiting Cardiff
05/08/2009

We visited Sarah's mother in Norfolk, and made an important trip to Cardiff. Our dear friend Polly is still unresponsive, and it is not clear whether she will ever improve beyond her current state. It was a shattering experience to see her. Her sister Jenny and partner Lizzie are working so hard to protect and represent her, while remaining realistic about future choices, and staying in their own jobs.
The picture above is Polly at Rye, in Sussex, taken somewhere during our convoluted trip delivering Roaring Girl from Ipswich to Brighton six and half years ago.

Places and people
Bathroom done
26/07/2009

And here it is completed (or very nearly). Pip has done a huge amount of work, painting nearly every wall in the house, organising plumbers, electricians, carpeting and generally running herself ragged. Sarah finished the contract in Merton, had a few days grace and then went into hospital for surgery. Which went very well, and adds an impressive four new scars to her already criss-crossed stomach.

Places and people
Property plutocrats?
26/07/2009

Well! We succumbed to the collapse of the property market and bought a house. The aim is to let it out rather than live in it, though in fact we will be there over this winter, and let it afterwards.
Depending on the market and our own finances, we might even buy another one in the autumn - it beats putting into a bank to do nothing!
This house needs of quite a bit of work. Above is the bathroom before Pip stripped it out ...

Places and people

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