Friday, 21 November 2008

The Audreys

I went to see the Audreys the other night, they are a "blues and roots" Australian band for those who may not know. I never really know what blues and roots means. But I think it must have something to do with banjos, harmonicas and fiddles (I don't think they are called violins by blues and rootsers). It was an awesome concert though, in what has to be one of the best venues I've ever been in.

It was like they were playing in your living room, granted your living room would have been pretty big, with no furniture and a well-equipped bar in the corner, but it really had that feel. There were maybe 100 people, if that, there and you were so close you could have reached out and touched them if you wanted. There was no security watching out for crowd surfers, no full beer bottles being hurled over the crowd and definitely no fights breaking out. Just generally a really great vibe, an unwashed vibe, but still very chill. I think I have very low standards for what constitutes a great vibe, no threats of physical violence is all it takes, but then that can be hard to find in Australia.

I wish I'd taken my camera with me as it isn't that often you can get that close to ARIA award winners and I don't think it's going to happen again in my life. So unfortunately you don't get to see any photos, and the lead singer was wearing a lovely sparkly dress too.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Do I Need a New Camera?

I used to like the photos I took with my little compact point-and-shoot. But then two of my brothers got those massive SLR things (and started putting the photos on the web, which is the most important point as I think I had seen maybe 3 photos total from one of my brother's last 5 years of photo taking). Ever since then I have been slightly depressed with my photo-taking ability. It seems my photos look good only when the sun is shining, not to mention the fact I find it hard to take photos when the foreground is dark and the background light.

So I'm thinking of joining the ever growing ranks of people with massive cameras around their necks. I guess on the upside it should give my muscles a bit of a work-out, even if I do look like an American tourist. It is near Christmas though, I mean if you walk into a supermarket at the moment you would think it was next week, and I do work for an investment bank now, though they are being smashed at the moment. I suppose the up-shot of all that is if I still have my job in December, maybe I'll start looking at fancy-ass massive cameras, the bigger the better I say! So maybe you'll see a dramatic improvement in my photos, and if you don't notice anything I'll just tell you that I lost my job and didn't get a camera for Christmas :).


So I know I still have stuff to tell about Egypt, but I'm more in the mood for writing about Italy and the few days we spent at Como, before flying back to Australia. This area is definitely a place I want to come back to, it was so amazingly beautiful. Even though the centre of Como had been flooded in the past few days and there were fences and makeshift bridges running along the streets.

It was certainly a bit of an adventure to get there though. We had to catch a train from Florence to Milan and then another to Como. I was starting to learn by this stage that Italian trains never run on time. Our train to Milan was delayed by an hour, but then we were the lucky ones as other trains had been delayed by 5 hours.

Luckily I hadn't pre-booked the train to Como as there would have been no way we could have made those. You should have seen the numbers of people running for trains when we arrived, quite amusing. I foolishly thought that after my year in Paris and all my train-travel that I was an old-hat at the ticket buying/platform finding thing. And was fairly confident that we could just turn up in Milan and everything would go smoothly. Oh, how little I knew. The first thing about Milan train station is that the departure board only shows you the terminating station for the train, so unless you are a seasoned Italian train traveller you have no idea where any of these stations are or which one could possibly be yours.

They don't give you train numbers, or lists of intervening stations or anything that could be classed as useful information. Instead you have to take a punt on the departure time listed on the board and your ticket and hope that you choose the right one. Once you have hauled all your luggage to your guessed platform you can then check on the individual board which stations the train was stopping at. Luckily I chose well as the other option was at the other end of the station and down multiple flights of stairs, not fun with 40 kgs of luggage.

I had foolishly assumed that all train stations would have a departure board with semi-useful information on it. But we made it there in the end, even though we missed the first train due to an inability to find ticket machines and an indecipherable departure board. But then I think that is just one of the joys of travelling in Italy, the unknown, just be prepared to wait.

Once we arrived in Como you could certainly understand why George Clooney has a villa there, if only I was a Hollywood actor or a funds manager I would probably have one there as well. Though if I was a fund manager I would probably be having to sell my villa now to pay off my debts now that my employer had gone bust.

Even though it was cloudy pretty much the whole time we were there, it was just the perfect ending to our European adventure. A day and a half of relaxing in the middle of the Italian Alps.

Whilst we were there we went for a lake cruise up to Bellagio, which is at the intersection of the two arms of Lake Como. Really if you are planning to visit that area I would recommend staying there. It was the prettiest town I think I've ever seen, with winding pedestrian streets up the side of the mountain, in the middle of the Alps. There looked like there was heaps to do there too, with donkey rides and mountain biking and so forth. I think if (or rather when) I back there, this is definitely where I will be spending my time.

The streets of Bellagio.

The Como flood, not really that bad, but Como is situated at the end of the lake valley and I guess if there is a lot of rain there aren't many places for the water to go except straight through the middle of Como.

Could this be George Clooney's villa? There were so many lovely houses on the edge of the lake it was impossible to tell (that and I have no idea what George's house looks like)