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A decade ago, in 2005, I was in Venice for my sixtieth birthday.  It was a very pleasant evening involving an excellent restaurant and an operatic recital to follow.  This trip we'd be in Italy a bit earlier as I'd intended to spend my next significant birthday in Berlin.

The trip started out as planned.  A week in London then a flight to Sicily for a few days followed by the overnight boat to Napoli (Naples).  I particularly wanted to visit Pompeii because way back in 1975 my original attempt to see it was thwarted by a series of mishaps, that to avoid distracting from the present tale I won't go into.

But the result was to 'bookmark' Pompeii as a place I had missed seeing and I wanted to get it out of my system. 

 

Vesuvius still looms over Pompeii
Pompeii - the one that got away

 

Wendy on the other hand was an old hand at Pompeii visiting and was dismissive.  She contended that it was not extraordinary and that we have been to more interesting places like Machu Picchu or even Rome. 

After Naples we'd take the train to Firenze (Florence) which would be a base for day trips to nearby towns and then go back south to Perugia for a couple of days as a secondary base in Umbria.  But things didn't quite turn out as planned.

 

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Travel

Romania

 

 

In October 2016 we flew from southern England to Romania.

Romania is a big country by European standards and not one to see by public transport if time is limited.  So to travel beyond Bucharest we hired a car and drove northwest to Brașov and on to Sighisiora, before looping southwest to Sibiu (European capital of culture 2007) and southeast through the Transylvanian Alps to Curtea de Arges on our way back to Bucharest. 

Driving in Romania was interesting.  There are some quite good motorways once out of the suburbs of Bucharest, where traffic lights are interminable trams rumble noisily, trolley-busses stop and start and progress can be slow.  In the countryside road surfaces are variable and the roads mostly narrow. This does not slow the locals who seem to ignore speed limits making it necessary to keep up to avoid holding up traffic. 

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Fiction, Recollections & News

Egyptian Mummies

 

 

 

 

Next to Dinosaurs mummies are the museum objects most fascinating to children of all ages. 

At the British Museum in London crowds squeeze between show cases to see them.  At the Egyptian Museum in Cairo they are, or were when we visited in October 2010 just prior to the Arab Spring, by far the most popular exhibits (follow this link to see my travel notes). Almost every large natural history museum in the world has one or two mummies; or at the very least a sarcophagus in which one was once entombed.

In the 19th century there was something of a 'mummy rush' in Egypt.  Wealthy young European men on their Grand Tour, ostensibly discovering the roots of Western Civilisation, became fascinated by all things 'Oriental'.  They would pay an Egyptian fortune for a mummy or sarcophagus.  The mummy trade quickly became a lucrative commercial opportunity for enterprising Egyptian grave-robbers.  

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Opinions and Philosophy

Overthrow and the 'Arab Spring'

 

 

Back in April 2007 I was in Washington DC and wandered into a bookshop for a coffee.  On display was Stephen Kinzer's  National Best Seller: Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq.  So I bought it to read, before bed and on the plane. 

It is a heavily researched and work; very well described by the New York Times as: "A detailed passionate and convincing book... with the pace and grip of a good thriller."  And like a good thriller it was hard to put down.  I can recommend it.

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