A Dream Come True

2018Article posted by Gilly

It has been many months since I last wrote my ‘blog’ but it has been a very full year which has included the most wonderful holiday overseas, our first in 20 years, and which was partly to celebrate my 70th birthday! How I have gotten to be that old I don’t know! I certainly don’t feel it! Although at the moment I’m sitting here in a ‘Moon Boot’ having fractured my ankle about 5 weeks ago, slipping over on honky nuts (a large, golfball-size gum nut to any overseas readers) whilst I was walking my dog. Which has curtailed my ability to paint as I like to stand at the easel, but I am beginning to do some drawing in preparation for the next masterpiece once The Boot is off!

As painting has been on the back burner I thought you might like to hear about our holiday, which was fantastic and included Rome, Florence, Venice, Southern Ireland and England.  We were away for five weeks and I do admit that it is great to be home again and no longer living out of a suitcase. But that was the downside, as was hubby’s estimated 18 hours that we spent traversing airports!!! Not having flown for over 20 years all the  do it yourself checking in and technology was very confusing and stressful to us, but somehow we managed, albeit very slowly and often needing help!

However, being able to relax in Emirates lounges at the airports and flying business class was a luxurious joy, and having mattresses, blankets and seats that slid down into beds meant that we actually slept for parts of the long flights. I also binged on the entire Harry Potter series of movies and read a complete book! Also, the limousines provided by Emirates to transport us from home to airport, airports to hotels, and finally back home again was another enjoyable perk!

We weren’t impressed with the two hour shuffle to get through passport control in Rome after  our 20 hour journey from Perth, nor with the way people manoeuvre their wheelie carry ons in front of you to block your path so that they can get in front. The blessed nuns were the worst! However, the rest of our Italian tour was great. We arrived a day earlier than the tour in order to get over any jet lag and spent that day wandering around the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Also went to a church just across the road from our hotel and saw the wonderful horned Moses sculptured by Michelangelo, my all time favourite Renaissance artist. Also across the road from our room was the palace once occupied by the Borgias!

Most of the people in our tour were Americans but we didn’t really become friendly with anyone. We chatted, of course, and lunched with a couple of ladies from North Carolina on occasion, but mostly hubby and I were at the back of the group listening to the guide’s monologue on the little radios we had to wear. I can still feel that ear piece in my ear!!!! I had been to Rome when I was thirteen and still feel it is a concrete jungle. I didn’t even bother to throw any coins into the Trevi Fountain this time. Still, it was all very interesting. And one day we took an optional tour and went to the Tivoli Gardens which were really beautiful. In fact, the only time we had any rain was there, a 10 minute drizzle. For the rest of the five weeks that we were away in Italy, Ireland and England we had the most amazing hot weather. We could not believe it, I even got sunburnt in Ireland!

A highlight of our Rome section was having dinner in one of the Vatican courtyards, overlooked by the wonderful dome. Michelangelo’s Pieta that I remember so well from my childhood was disappointingly a long distance from the public for viewing, but the Sistine Chapel was breathtaking. I had seen it before it was cleaned and to see it again in all it’s jewel-like glory was like a dream.

Of course, with the Michelangelo connection I did enjoy our stay in Florence although the crowds and queues were overpowering for both of us. We live in a semi-rural area and aren’t accustomed to so many people all in one place! Even ‘though we’’d picked this particular tour because it was just the three cities, so much sight-seeing was packed into each day that we were totally exhausted by the evenings!

Another side trip was to Pisa where, again, I had been as a child. This was also a revelation as it has all been cleaned and the marble just glowed in the sunshine. I had climbed the Leaning Tower when I was thirteen so thought I could give it a miss now that I’m seventy!!!  And, later, seeing The David, the real one, was just a dream come true for me. None of the replicas do it justice.

Another side trip was to the village of San Gimignano which I think  is included in most Italian tours of the region. A very quaint, medieval village renowned for it’s strange towers and single main street.

The absolute highlight of the Italian trip, for me, was Venice. It was everything I’d dreamed it would be and I was very emotional that first day when we stood on the bridge outside our hotel, on the Grand Canal, and I could actually tell myself that I was there at last. I loved everything about it and could have stayed so much longer. On the island of Murano I was able to buy my genuine Venetian masks and on the island of Burano I bought the Venetian lace I’d promised myself. I also took so many photos of canals and bridges, and we just about walked our feet off!! We stayed an extra day after the tour was over and explored even further. I didn’t want to leave!

But we did have to leave as we were booked on the flight to Dublin. We spent two days in Dublin and toured around on the hop on hop off tourist bus which was a good way to see the city. And, yes, it was still very hot and sunny! Then we collected a hire car and drove two hours south to County Kilkenny to stay with some old friends whom we hadn’t seen for almost 20 years. They live on a 3.5 acre property in an absolute mansion of a house.
We stayed with them and their two beautiful German Shepherd dogs for just over a week and it was wonderful to just relax and sleep after the whirlwind of the Italian tour. We did do some sightseeing with them and Ireland is just beautiful. But then it was on to England and more touring and meeting of friends we had not seen in many years. We stayed the first night in Bushey, Hertfordshire with a friend I had not seen for 49 years and it was as if we’d only talked the day before, it was all so easy and relaxed. We then drove on to Oxford for two nights and had dinner with another friend I knew from my Roleystone Theatre days who has lived over in England for more than 20 years. Oxford was beautiful and, again, we explored on the hop on hop off bus. Another drive and we were just outside Swindon where I grew up, an interim stop and a huge surprise as we’d booked the accommodation on line and discovered it to be an 18th century mansion set in the most beautiful park with a lake and white swans with cygnets, an absolute delight. All those years living there as a child and I never knew of the place’s existence!

From there we went to Bristol and stayed for three days with a girl I went to school with in London, so it was 54 years since I’d last seen her!!! But, again, it was as if we’d been together only the day before (of course, we’ve been corresponding for many years) and we had such a good time with her and her husband. One day we spent in Bath, another old haunt of mine, and on another we went to an aviation museum where there is one of the Concorde ‘planes which we were able to enter, so I can now say I’ve been on the Concorde, too! Also many old planes beautifully restored. Very sad to leave them and begin our homeward journey. The next night we spent in the most amazing room in an 18th century inn in the small town of Marlborough, huge and filled with antique furniture and overlooking the high street. Nearby was Avebury, one of the magical stone circles from 6000 years ago and which I also knew from my childhood in the area, so we went there for the afternoon and I was able to hug the stones which are part of my heritage and were put there by my very ancient ancestors.

Finally, we returned the hire car to Heathrow - and, yes, driving on English roads and motorways is a very scary experience. I had my international driving permit but there was no way I could manage - either the country roads were so narrow and twisty or the motorways were so very fast that I just couldn’t do it! My husband managed magnificently, although he said he was nervous a lot of the time, and I was very, very proud of him! Anyway, we spent our final two days in London, the city of my birth, visiting the Victoria and Albert Museum and popping into Harrods (I now have a Harrods tea caddy in my Aussie kitchen!) before beginning the long, long flight home.

So, that is it! A condensed version of our five week trip. It was amazing and wonderful and a dream come true and I don’t want to go anywhere else for a very long time!!!!!!

On our return I had been booked to do an oil painting demonstration for Trigg Art Group. It was the day following the discovery that my ankle was fractured but I couldn’t let them down at such short notice so, with the help of good friends, I was able to get there and did the demo sitting down. Awkward, but it seemed to go OK. But I did have to pull out of being a demonstration artist at the Pastel Society Exhibition that weekend, which was a shame as I always enjoy that, but did manage to enter my two paintings. Neither sold!

Since then I’ve done a lot of reading, some of it art-related, and am beginning to imagine the Italian montage I want to paint on a large canvas.

Hopefully, I’ll manage to write another ‘blog’ in much less time. thank you for your patience!

Love xxx Gilly xxx


John Collins | September 15, 2018

WOW, sounds as if you both had a wonderful time in Italy, Ireland and the country of my birth, England. I did a tour many years ago now which took in Venice and which included most of the places where you visited. So pleased the weather was in your favour because when it is bad, IT IS BAD in the UK.
Sorry to hear of your misfortune regarding your ankle and trust it is healing just fine now. Bet the dog made a fuss of you when you went down??
Good luck with the painting, the ones you submited were fabulous. So great to have such a wonderful talent. Very best of luck to you both. John.

ali raza | March 10, 2019


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