Thursday, 28 November 2013

A Monster Decision

The Green Monster, aka Enki's 2005 Volvo Penta D3 engine, was extracted from its lair today by man and crane, and placed in temporary custody. It is believed that the troublesome beastie is for the chop, but local sensitivities preclude too much being said at this stage.

The delicate operation was performed in near perfect conditions by an experienced technical team in front of a small and involved crowd. There were no serious complications and all parties are satisfied with the outcome. A follow-up procedure is scheduled for next week. In the mean time, the lair,  aka engine room, will be refreshed and made ready for a more suitable occupant. Further details to follow.

A photographer with an intimate knowledge of the prior behaviour of the Green Monster was on hand to record its removal. He took grim pleasure in it all (probably the most expensive photographs he's ever taken).

Cockpit floor removed, and the stripping begins 

Up comes the gear box

Body parts are wheeled away

Engine computer and electronic sensors - these have no place on a cruising yacht

The grunt arrives

Informed spectators take their places

Here comes the beastie  - watch those toes

The faces say it all, but not a scratch anywhere


Swinging high, with a towel for the drips

The fag must help (say some)

 A goner

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The afterglow

This time last year we were meeting new people of like minds at the upstairs bar of the Pineapple at Netsel marina, and loosely discussing plans to cross the Atlantic around about now. Time passed. We stalled. Others meanwhile have been moving steadily west. Yesterday we received an email from Jane and Russell on Ta-b saying they were leaving today from the Canaries bound for Barbados. They have 2750 nautical miles to cover, and expect to be at sea for about 23 days. They're nervous, and excited....

We, on the other hand, are relaxed and comfortable (to quote a former Australian prime minister). There are new faces at the Pineapple, and we've a (wet) winter ahead to bed down all the good memories we've made this season. What's the hurry?

Looking across to the Vatican from above the Spanish steps

Waiting for San Pietro in Vicoli to open at 3 pm

Who's looking at me in my Ferrari?
Roman recycling - Hadrian's mausoleum was converted into a papal fortress called Castel Sant'Angelo

Now she needs a job - new graduate outside a university engineering faculty
The new man is Lorenzo di Medici, based in the Pincio gardens
The road to ruins - the Roman Forum
A twist of marble in Santa Maria in Aracoeli
Making the call

That's only half the truth. The more we travel around this loveliest of seas, as travel writer Jan Morris calls the Mediterranean, and the more we read and realise how much there is to learn from being here, the more inadequate our time frame for cruising appears. But that's life, isn't it?

We tread lightly on his bones
The giant in the room - at the Capitolini museums
Sunday crowds pour through the old city gates  leading from the Piazza del Poppolo

Piazza del Poppolo

One of four spouting lions in the middle of the Piazza del Poppolo 

The Fountain of the Four Rivers, by Bernini, in the Piazza Navona

The sense of time running out partly explains why no sooner had we docked in Netsel marina than we were off to Rome and Venice. The other reason is that travelling in Europe in the dead of winter, when the days are short and the nights long, and you never know when airports will be closed by bad weather, is hard work. As it was, we just sneaked in our Italian holiday before things got seriously cold (well, for us). The temperature is O deg C in Venice today, and three deg C in Rome while in Marmaris, we're basking in 18 deg C and coaxing our minds around to the jobs at hand.

Servant of the state, near the Vatican
Piazza Navona retains the shape of the Stadium of Domitian, built in AD 86

It's all about the legs (and below)

On the Ponte Sant'Angelo (below) which crosses the Tiber to the Vatican

We had three more days in Rome after Venice. This time we were in a different part of the city, near Piazza Barberini, in a small hotel which we'd highly recommend.  In one direction, it was a short walk up Via Sistina to the top of the Spanish steps and in another, a roll down the hill to Bernini's merman fountain in the middle of a busy roundabout. We could look across to St Peters from the elegant Pincio gardens above the Spanish steps in the mid-morning light and in the evening walk down the Corso from Santa Maria del Poppolo.

20th century Italian sculpture, by Emilio Greco
Keeping watch in San Pietro in Vicoli

Santa Maria in Aracoeli
This time we - or should I say, I, because Alex starts from a different place - didn't panic in the churches. Rome is so ridiculously full of churches, a colossal dome or church front on every second block, it seems. I was repelled by the heavy ornamentation of the first church we visited, Santa Maria of Trastavere, and if Alessandra (see the first Rome post) had not picked up on this aversion and directed us to very early Roman churches which have much simpler interiors, I might not have been able to stomach any more. As it was, we progressed slowly. We looked at the outside of St John of Lateran and Santa Maria Maggiore, and then walked on by. We walked some way to get to San Clemente, then walked straight out again. In Venice, the capital of baroque - where else do you find interior church columns wrapped in dark red, heavily embroidered velvet? - we started to go into churches when we saw an open door, so that by the time we came back to Rome, we broken in, so to speak.

Santa Maria del Poppolo

The Pantheon, built by Marcus Agrippa, was the first temple in Rome to be converted to a church in 609

The dome of the Pantheon is the largest masonry vault ever built

Caravaggio in the French national church in Rome
The thing is, so many of the best Renaissance painters were given commissions by churches, and their works are still there, not in art galleries. In Venice, you might stop by a seemingly unimportant church and see the brilliant gleam of a Bellini painting in a side chapel. In Rome, you do the same and you find a series of three Caravaggio paintings. Or a Michelangelo sculpture.

Then there are the floors. A family called Cosmati made decorative geometric mosaic floors in many Roman churches in the 12th and 13th centuries. Their signature patterns are immediately recognisable once you take notice of them, and in some churches they are the most entrancing, dazzling feature.

Floors by the Cosmati family in San Clemente (and below)

Moses, by Michelangelo, in San Pietro in Vicoli

The Vatican museums - Raphael room
We left the Vatican museums and St Peter's itself until this second visit to Rome. I wasn't even sure I wanted to go. I'm not attracted to conspicuous displays of power and wealth, nor do I tolerate crowds well. As it turned out, the very much smaller Borghese galleries, which contain one cardinal's private collection (and what a collection) were more crowded than the Vatican museums. And while there was a thick river of people waiting to go through security to get into St Peter's in the early afternoon, by the time we were spat out the end of the Vatican museums, our attention span in shatters and our necks aching from so much looking at ceilings, the people had gone.

The entrance to St Peter's is so much more imposing than anything I have ever seen, and the soaring interior so vast and so richly decorated and the acres of marble flooring so endless that any other Roman church, even the venerable Santa Maria Maggiore, pales in comparison. You can only stand and wonder, which is the intention, I guess.  Somewhere in the far distance, a choir was singing and an organist was playing a beautiful Mass. The acoustics were exquisite. I could have, and did for several minutes, closed my eyes and been in heaven. Perhaps that too is the intention.

Vatican museums - Roman mosaic

I, Claudius

Raphael did the decor - and below

Bernini built the monumental twisted gilt-bronze structure which dominates St Peter's interior (and below)

Close of business (and photos below)

Michelangelo's Pieta, and below, his dome