Saturday, May 26, 2012

Compton Acres in Poole Dorset, a Beautiful Garden

In our visit to UK last May of 2012, my daughter Mel, took us to Compton Acres, a very beautiful garden.  The garden built in 1924, represents a historic garden in Poole, Dorset. There are over 1,000 different new plants in beautiful ten acres of gardens, with two cafes, shops and a specialist Plant Centre.

I was marvelled by its bonsais pine trees on sale at very reasonable prices.

To wander  around 1,000 different new plants over 10 acres of display, with the mixed style design of seven distinct gardens is truly delightful. The Italian and Japanese gardens were outstanding. The Italian garden gives a spectacle with water, fountains, statuary, topiary and mass plantings of seasonal flowers in variety of colors.  Despite the presence of the wrestlers of Herculaneum, there radiates an atmosphere of peaceful bliss.



Compton Acres claims that the "Japanese Garden is recognized as one of the best in Britain".  I specially love the Japanese garden, where we had a quick picnic lunch with bagel prepared by Mel. The good weather accompanied us. 

Visit the Compton Acres' web site:

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Trip to Florence and Pisa, April 2012

My sister Ivy, came all the way from USA to celebrate with me my 65th birthday in Florence and Pisa, Italy.  Together with my son Ron and my daughter Melissa who came from work from Paris for four days, we enjoyed Florence's artistic and architectural heritage, ranked by Forbes as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, noted for its history, culture, Renaissance art, architecture and monuments. Its numerous museums and art galleries, such as the Uffizi Gallery and the Pitti Palace, amongst others, still exert an influence in the fields of art, culture and politics.

Florence is also an important city in Italian fashion, being ranked within the top fifty fashion capitals of the world; furthermore, it is also a major national economic centre,being a tourist and industrial hub. In 2008, the city had the 17th highest average income in Italy. Source: Wikipedia

Florence is filled with street markets that are put up in the morning and removed after three pm like any regular flea market.  Ron, knowing her Tita's weakness chose a hotel that is just a few meters away from the  San Lorenzo Market, which is the biggest market in Florence with the largest variety of goods.  Here you can find souvenirs, leather goods, clothes, bags, shoes, scarves and more.  The market is as market go--a cheap and cheerful place for shopping, although definitely not the best quality items  (and not always a bargain). Close to the San Lorenzo Market, we have been to several other markets such as the Central market--an indoor market held in a Liberty-style building built in the late 19th century.  It has been Florence's main fruit, vegetable and food market since then.  Today, you can still find an array of the city's butchers, delicatessens and bakeries, etc.  But the star of the day forme, was the porcini mushroom. I found all of the fruits, vegetables and meats more expensive than those in Spain but better in appearance.

We also went to see The Mercato Nuovo which  is located in the Piazza Della Republica area. The market has been there since the 11th century. It is a comparatively small market that sells cheap souvenirs, leather goods, and t-shirts.

The cathedral commonly known as Il Duomo - Santa Maria del Fiore, is an amazing basilica that anyone who sees it is overcome with awe looking  at the building and the facade  and no photos can give it any justice, although the interior is somewhat disappointing. The phenomenon on the construction of the Duomo is hard to imagine. If you really think about it, there are no supports in the center and just the sheer curvature of the enormous dome structure keeps itself up and for hundreds and hundreds of years! Brunelleschi really achieved an amazing engineering marvel.

For me, the most outstanding plaza is Piazzale Michelangelo (Michelangelo Square) due to its magnificent panoramic view of Florence. The famous view from this observation point overlooking the city has been reproduced on countless postcards and snapshots over the years.

Walking by the  Ponte Vecchio is so interesting with its several jewelry shops, and it is one among very few bridges maintained with shops that exist worldwide.

It is also nice to see artists by the bridge. The reflection of the lights on the water makes it so spectacular to see at night but during the day, the small boats on the Arno river is also a pleasant sight.

Flea markets occupy many areas in Florence during the day, and one of the most famous of them is the Mercato Nuovo on Via Calimala near the Piazza della Repubblica.

At its rear stands a  fountain of a bronze boar  with a very shiny snout. Il Porcellino (Italian for “piglet”) is his name and he is supposed to bring good luck to those that rub his snout and put a coin in his mouth (which drops into the grate below).

Actually, this is the second boar to stand beside this open market, a copy of the first one which was showing signs of damage from so much love and good luck giving and now on display in the Museo Bardini. Source:  Virtual tourist.

There is an open air museum (Logia) in the Piazza della Signoria with famous sculptures that whenever we passed by, there were people gathered looking at them with awe.  Neptune, the Roman god of the sea, is its center piece.  By the Piazza, there seems to be permanently playing his guitar instrument, a guy that sells his CD's.  I bought one for 15Euros for my sister, which I think is a good souvenir.  Here are some of our pictures:


There are so many things to do and see in Florence, that it was a pity to leave, but then we were also anxious to see the leaning tower of Pisa, this time we did not have time to visit the Uffizi museum, it was then a waiting time of two hours plus it takes at least 3 hours to see a bit of it, so we decided to miss it this time. I already considered myself lucky to be able to see a couple of exhibits in the Pitti Palace and be able to get a brief view of the Boboli gardens.  It was such a beautiful experience.

But then, what will be a trip without any anecdotes to tell?  During the four days that we were travelling, there had been several funny incidents.

1) In the first restaurant that we went to for lunch in Florence, we found this quaint trattoria near our hotel.  Ivy did not like  where we were being seated and we found a table that was more private inside.  As we were looking at the menus, Ivy seemed like she would sneeze.  The waiter, who was beside her, quickly moved away, arching his torso,  as if to defend himself from catching any virus.  Ivy did not sneeze finally, and yet the waiter went running for a tissue to  give it to Ivy so she can cover her mouth just in case!  We all laughed except the waiter.

2) As we rushed to catch the bus, Mel being in charge of buying the tickets while the rest of us went to find a good seat, came to us saying that she only paid for two, since the driver did not have but two tickets to sell.  That saved us 2 tickets.  Ivy said "Oh, we should not have rushed then we could have saved four instead of only two.  But Ron said, yes but probably you would not be seated now!

3) In another restaurant, where we were attended on my birthday by a charming young lady, and yet at first when we asked her to take our picture, she excused herself saying that she was very busy.  But another waiter stopped by and offered to take our picture.  We were happy.  But then when we looked at the result, we saw the picture as blurry.  Then the same charming waitress as before came back to offer the same service and we gladly obliged.  But to our dismay,  the picture was not properly focused.   But food service was good and that was what really mattered.

4) Ivy while lighting a candle in the dome, which is actually a Basilica, was observed by Ron as lighting  every candle and soon enough, probably getting worried that his Tita will linger a lot of time to light all of the candles, came to me saying with a smile:  "Mami, Tita is lighting all of the candles".  When I went to check, I found so many candles lit and having been curious, I asked her why she was doing so.  I thought  she probably gave a lot of money, but then, why so many?  This is what she said:  I was re-lighting the candles that were left half lit because people get scared of getting burned when they put the candles by the candle holder, and it was for their intentions that I had to re-lit the flames of the candles. Wow!

As we went to Pisa by train, we did not realize that we had to validate the tickets by passing them though the machine situated in front of the train stop.  It was tough luck that an inspector had to come at the last minute (I think he must have been observing before we got on the train, that we did not validate the tickets).  We were fined with 5 Euros each, (Mel was not yet with us) but we were informed that it could have been 40 €.  As if we were to be grateful after all!

After finding our hotel which was about 5 minutes away from the train station, Ron brought us to what seemed like a cheap hostel and I thought,  Ron couldn't afford a pricey one?  He rang the door bell and out came a man of about middle age. He soon commented looking at Ivy and myself that we probably thought that Ron chose a lousy hotel.  Then he confirmed that he was just staying where we just rang and that what Ron rented was across the building.  Not that there was much change in appearance, but then when we went up, we were met with a cozy apartment, with a terrace, double decker bed for Ivy and Mel and a big room with a wide bed for Ron and a small bed for me.  Then the host, eager to be useful, wanted to give us a history background of Pisa but when a few minutes passed and he did not seem to want to stop and unmindful of the short time for us to visit Pisa, I started to look bored, Mel followed the gesture and so did Ivy, leaving Ron the only one listening.  I had to cut off the conversation so we could go.  The host looked offended and made a remark about it.  Good thing he did not throw us out.

We did not lose any more time and proceeded to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  Everyone wanted a picture trying to support the walls, but it was not easy to get a perfect shot.

We tried and tried until it got dark, but we  could not get the right positions of our hands and had to give up since we were getting hungry too.

And what a better way to end the day than having pizzas in Pisa!