Staying in a Convent When Travelling in Italy

I've stayed in convents in Venice, Florence and Rome. One was an old palace, another consisted of white-washed walls and perfect coffee. Convents and monasteries make for an interesting alternative when looking for somewhere to stay - perfect locations, historic buildings, and usually much cheaper than hotels in a similar area.

Above is a view from my room onto a shared courtyard; the top photo shows the entrance to a place I stayed in Venice. Naturally there was a gondola stop outside, and the convent was literally less then 200 steps from St Mark’s.

Another offered this perfect view onto the neighbouring apartments. A true Rear Window experience, watching everyone come and go, complete with a grandma cooking all day long. And in the grand hall below my room, a renaissance fresco was being loving restored.

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Images of Venice

Since Venice has floated grandly on the seas for centuries, the best way to approach is via a water taxi. I believe everyone should fly into Venice at least once in their life; then catch the vaparetto from the airport into Venice. This day the city hid behind the mist; I felt alone with the sea, until suddenly the boat arrived at the Piazza San Marco.

Squeri, or gondola repair shops, once filled Venice. A few remain, such as the Squero di San Trovaso. Hidden in a side canal, it is closed to the public, but standing on the other side of the canal I got more than a adequate view of a craft which has been handed down the centuries.

The Doge's Palace can be overwhelming with its sheer opulence, the enormous size of so many of the paintings, and the overall grandeur of the building. After all, it was built to reinforce the splendour of Venice to all who visited, and render mere mortals to feel inadequate. Yet even the tiniest details are exquisite, such as patterns on a marble stairc…

Port Vila in the Rain

A soft rain was falling as I sailed into Port Villa, Efate in the South Pacific. Yet an island paradise it proved all the same.

Why I Love Melbourne.

A building inside a building.

Is there any reason not to love Melbourne?

Dusk in Halong Bay

It is said Halong Bay was created when the Dragon of the Gods plummeted in to the sea. His tail gouged out the limestone cliffs, and the waters rushed in to fill the desolated land.

Whatever the tale, Halong Bay is a place of mystery. At dawn, and again at dusk, the fantastical cliffs and rocks loom into view and then fade away in the soft light. Caves beckon at the water's edge, and birds circle above the pinnacles of limestone.

And somewhere, hidden amongst the magical shapes, sleeps the Dragon of Halong.

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Vintage Drawing of a Dragon of Halong Bay, Vietnam
by EnsoCreations

London in 5 photos

Strangely enough, I found a futuristic side to London. The roofline at Kings Cross Station was stunning. After taking my daughter to Platform 93/4, we sat upstairs on a terrace beneath this roof, and watched the world go by - which was largely watching queueing. the English are impressive at queueing.

Then there's the traditional. Coming out of Paddington Station I was greeted by St. Mary's Paddington. It is a huge hospital complex, with Gothic spires reaching to the sky. The main street is filled with cafes and take-aways, yet just around the corner hide those delightful mews so typical of London.

The Italian Gardens in Kensington Gardens were delightful (especially as Italy was my next stop). Fountains, ponds, statues, marble from Carrara, flowers everywhere.

St. Dunstan-in-the-East proved an oasis. Not far from Monument Station, this ruined church dates back to the Saxons. Burnt, rebuilt, collapsing rebuilt, bombed; finally it was turned into a public garden in the midst of…

A Bath-tub in Singapore

My first visit to Singapore, and I wasn't quite sure what to expect. A bath-tub in a bar was definitely not on the list.

The Gordon Gin Bath sits in pride of place in the hotel's Long Bar. Quite fitting, really, considering this is where the Singapore Sling was invented (which contains a significant amount of gin). The drink rose to fame after featuring in Somerset Maugham's play The Letter.

Time only for one sling; Singapore needed to be explored.