Sunday, 27 August 2023

Two Fur Coats in Bantry House... and a Colourful Bathroom.

As I promised, here's some more from my trip to West Cork in Ireland.  One of my favourite trips was to Bantry House. I'd wanted to see it for years, after K visited it and highly recommended it as "a bit crazy".  So T and I drove out there one rather drizzly day.  

Here's the house, distantly viewed against the Bantry bay's foggy backdrop.  Can you make out the hills on the other side?   

 Bantry House looks very like an English country house, built in English style by the Earls of Bantry, who were English earls. But of course it is not English.    When Ireland became a republic in 1922, many of the English gentry's mansions had had a pretty rough time.  But more of that later.   

And here's a more formal view, backed by the tall cupolas of the house's two sets of stables in the background on either side. To have a set of huge matching stables gives an idea of just how much money was flying around in this place in the nineteenth century. 

In those days, Bantry House was known for its contents - the Second Earl's astounding collection of fine art and antiques.  In its heyday, too, there were 24 gardeners, making sure that the gardens and grounds surrounding the house were worthy of the stupendous contents.    

But the title was extinguished in 1899 when the last Earl died without a son and heir, and the twentieth century brought a very different world. Independence was on the horizon for Ireland, after many centuries of occupation.  It was finally achieved in 1922, and before that, in a spiral of upheaval, the British gentry's houses were quite often burned down by Irish republicans who didn't see why they were needed by anyone at all. 

Even after 1922,  and even with the houses that survived, there were problems.  The Great War of 1914-18 changed society radically.  After it ended, servants became harder to find, big landowners were hit by savage taxes, and everyone involved with grand mansions began to realise the palmy days were coming to an end.   Many big houses, both in England and Ireland, were abandoned or demolished for purely financial reasons.. 

Bantry House, though, struggled through all this.  This was probably largely thanks to a woman called Arethusa Leigh-White (below) who married the house's owner, Edward.

She was a public spirited and compassionate woman, who when chaos gripped Ireland, offered to put Bantry House at the disposal of the local Sisters of Mercy nuns to use as a hospital for the local poor and wounded, including all those who had fought in the independence battles, no matter what their political views or circumstances.    As philanthropists, she and her husband were also more popular with the local people than many an English landowner.  The picture above, the only image of Arethusa I could find online, is captioned with information about her dedication to the Girl Guides/Girl Scouts movement and its work for internationalism and cooperation. 

Bantry's fate might have been different if Arethusa's husband had not died relatively young.  The biggest disaster in Bantry's existence, though, occurred after he died and his eldest daughter inherited the estate. 

  Clodagh Leigh-White, (above) was only a teenager when she inherited, so was only able to take control of the house when she reached the age of 21, in 1926.    She seems to have been a pleasant lady, but not the brightest diamond in the diadem.  She began selling off the house's contents to keep going, and also opened it to the public in 1946, but seemed to have no real idea of what to do apart from keep selling things.   Unfortunately, it apparently never occurred to her to learn about the treasures she was selling, let alone get an idea of what they were worth.   

 The catastrophe came in 1956, when she sold a priceless set of Renaissance paintings by F & G Guardi for £300 to a sweet talking sharpster from Dublin.  The value of this intact set of eight huge paintings, even in those days, was gigantic, and today it would be truly inestimable, running into tens of millions of pounds.  What a difference even a fraction of that money would make to the house now. 

  From all accounts, Clodagh did not fully realise what she'd done. She was apparently pretty pleased with herself for making the sale, and went on a cruise, or so I was told by one of the guides working at the house. Towards the end of her life, she was reduced to living in the vast library (part of which is shown below) wearing two fur coats to keep warm.        

 The library is a gigantic room, and the rooms above had to be rebuilt so its ceiling could be as toweringly high as the earl required to suit his  megalomaniac tastes.  This set of doors used to lead into a magnificent glass conservatory, now vanished, and it now offers an unimpeded view of 100 steps cut into the hill. Only the earl,  his family and their guests were allowed to use it (and they would have needed to be reasonably fit to do so) but the view from the top was really spectacular.  Here it is in the house's heyday, with the conservatory in place.  

  Now, Bantry House relies on part time or volunteer gardeners. Inevitably the grounds lack the formal perfection of old, but recent owners have harnessed several years of EU-funded restoration, and with dedicated volunteer helpers and clever economising they have maintained a charming and creative setting for the house.  

Arethusa's descendants still own Bantry House, and are still working hard to keep it going. They have tried various things.  You might like to watch the Channel 4 programme about Bantry in its "Country House Rescue" series in 2012 on Youtube   to see the kind of challenges they have faced.  The solutions put forward in the programme were not really practical, though, and by 2014 the Leigh-Whites had decided to sell the entire contents of the house, and were pleading for help.  It turned out that the auctioneers didn't have the right licence to sell the items, and somehow (I never found out quite how) the sale was avoided and the house has been keeping going partly as a wedding and event venue, and partly on other schemes which capitalise on its setting.  Money is still tight, though, and some areas of the house are still not open to the public because they are too dilapidated.

What I liked about the place, apart from its seat-of-the-pants recent history, was the welcoming and  - yes - happy atmosphere.  One of the family members now helps out doing the gardening and running the tearoom in part of the old kitchen. The food is simple, but very good, and I liked the notice warning customers about the family dogs which may appear hoping for food.  

The people who work there obviously love the place, and there are personal and humorous touches everywhere.  I loved the picture-within-a-picture below: a lovely little painting of a chair stands on the chair itself.  

 I didn't research the family emblems, but there's a stork-like bird with a coronet which was presumably associated with the earldom.  Here's a stone version, coronet around its neck, guarding the front door. 

Similar birds appear on ornaments, or holding candlesticks. 
 They feature, too, on amusing direction signposts in the garden.  Here is one about to partake of a cup of tea... 

these two are respectively using a wheelchair or else need baby changing facilities.

And what is the house like inside? Well, even after decades of selling off the contents, there is no shortage of interesting and beautiful things to see.  Here are a few photos at random, starting with part of the atmospheric front hallway with a dramatic Russian Orthodox shrine in the background.

A most beautiful dolls house full of furniture stands in one of the bedrooms. 

And there is a remarkable dining room, the biggest I have ever seen outside a hotel.  Its splendid and elaborately carved sideboards stretch across three walls.  There are lovely tapestries, beautiful china and imposing oil paintings. 

One wing of the house, is now given over to the family's bed and breakfast business, and that's something I would like to try.   No rooms were available during my visit, but when I return to Ireland I hope to stay there if I can.  What sold the idea to me is that apparently, after hours, when night falls, the guests are allowed to open a secret door into the library and creep in to light the fire ....  

....and play music... 

..... read some of the interesting books, lounge on a sofa with a drink, admire the details of the architecture

 and generally make themselves at home while the trees blow in the darkness outside. 

Of course all old mansions worth their salt have a ghost, and Bantry's ghost seems to float vaguely around upstairs without anyone being too sure of who it is supposed to be.  I'm sort of glad it's not the  the shade of poor Clodagh in her two fur coats.    I'm also glad that the house's air of life and character makes it feel as if it will survive.   1922 is long enough ago now, and Ireland is now doing better than Britain in many ways.  I think it can afford to see places like this as part of its own history, and not merely as symbols of oppression.

Coming back to today, in my last post, I said I'd show some photos of the multi coloured washrooms in the airport hotel at Cork.  We stayed there the night before flying back to London, and I only wanted to wash my hands before going into the bar that evening but when I walked into the washroom I was  thunderstruck - all those huge square sinks standing in a circle, each with an oval mirror above and all bathed in bright pink and purple colour.  I loved it. It was like a nightclub. 

I was busy examining the basins and wondering what they were made of - they seemed to glow. And then suddenly I realised that something about the room had changed. 

and before I realised it, everything was bright green. 

I started taking a bit more notice of the hotel. At first glance it had  looked fairly bland in an upmarket way, but thx  I found it wasn't bland. The breakfast was amazing, and a little quirky, and if the bar food is as good as the breakfast that'll maybe help explain why local people seem to drive out from city to spend the evening there, even if they're not flying anywhere. Some unusual coffee table books were to be found in the reception hall. They included sample books from trendy designers,  and were very interesting to look through.  I think I'll stay there again next time I go to Cork. 

Tuesday, 15 August 2023

Back from Ireland

When I look at this picture it reminds me of my teenage years in Malta, when we would go down stony paths that wound through ancient stone fortifications, and then swim off the rocks at the shore.  But if this had been Malta, I'd have taken the photo in winter or early spring, because the flowers in the foreground would have been long gone by the time the blazing hot summer arrived.  

Anyway, as the title of my post suggests, this picture doesn't show long-ago Malta. It shows an Irish scene - a view from the coastal path towards Charles Fort, at Kinsale, Co. Cork.  The water around the coast of West Cork is beautifully clear, and half a dozen people in the sea were clearly having a wonderful time, even though the water probably wasn't too warm. Even the sunshine didn't last, because Irish weather changes by the minute, and two hours later the scene was foggy!  

I've been wanting to get to Ireland ever since I got my Irish citizenship during the Covid pandemic and I finally made it earlier this month. 

I'm really proud of my Irish passport, which I am eligible for because I had an Irish grandfather.  (Both my grandfathers were Irish, in fact,  but one happened to be born in England).  This is the grandfather in question:  my dad's dad, Richard, who was born in Kilkenny. 

Many of my male ancestors were in the army, or in jobs that required them to travel around.  They came from poor backgrounds, where the only alternatives to trusting your luck in the big wide world were (a) labouring in awful jobs on the city or (b) labouring on the farm, both of which were often just another way of being cruelly exploited.  One of the big attractions of the army was that you could rely on steady pay and getting fed.  And who knows, you might come across some interesting opportunities in your travels. 

As far as I know, nobody in my family was ever stationed in Charles Fort, though they may well have stayed in places like it.   It's very well preserved, and we had a good guided tour of the site, which made me feel  specially interested in the family quarters.  I have put a pink arrow on this photo, which ....

...marks the fort's arsenal -  that building with the pointy roof .   It was packed to the rafters with explosives and guarded 24 hours a day. Any soldier who needed to enter it, for whatever reason, had to strip down and put on a linen smock and wear wooden clogs on his feet, an outfit considered to be less inflammable than his regular uniform.   

The soldiers' married quarters are just opposite the arsenal! The building would have been crowded with women and children as well as soldiers, so they'd have been the first to go up in smoke if there'd been an explosion. You can't see the officers' quarters in this picture since they were separated from the arsenal by a huge wall.  It might not have protected them much, but perhaps it made them feel safer. 

 It's generally thought that only officers were allowed to take their families with them on their travels but according to our guide, some soldiers also got the opportunity to have the family along, even if it did mean living next to the gunpowder.   My great-great-great grandad seemed as if he may have been one of these.  Apparently, soldiers had to enter a lottery if they wanted to be accompanied, and if they drew a winning ball, the family would be provided for.   Their wives and daughters cooked and cleaned, while the sons were either enrolled as soldiers as soon as possible, or became bugle-boys or other undesirable jobs.  There was no privacy and several families lived together in one huge room.   But still better, it seems, than staying back home on the farm. 

My great-great-great grandfather's name was John Harper, and he was born in Halesworth, Suffolk. His wife was called Catherine Miniter, who had been born in Scarriff, Co. Clare. The pair married when they were both in Canada, so Catherine's father, (who was also born in Co. Clare) was almost certainly a soldier too. In that case, she'd have been well used to the military life, and the nine children she and John produced all survived to adulthood, even though every one was born in a different part of Ireland, England or Canada.  

 I tried to imagine her travelling to and across the Atlantic with the children - almost certainly in steerage - pregnant a lot of the time and frequently suffering Canadian winters into the bargain.  As well as this, the Fenian wars and other instability were plaguing Canada - which I suppose is why my great-great-great grandad and his father-in-law were out there in the first place.  Sadly, I don't know where and when Catherine died, but I hope she got back to Clare eventually, like her dad apparently did.   

"Miniter" is an unusual name which still survives in Clare. Many Irish records before 1850 have been destroyed but the name may be Norman French in origin, and I have the beginnings of a plan to visit Scarriff on my next trip to see what kind of a place Clare is.   

To return to Kinsale, it's the site of a battle which changed the course of English and Irish history.   Walk along that lovely coastline and you'll come across a few signs like this.... 

...and if you like military history,  here's more information.   

The town of Kinsale today could hardly be more different from how it was then.    Now, it is a pretty old place, with houses painted up in many colours, and a lively "foodie" culture. They're proud of their Michelin-starred restaurant, "Bastion" and there are several other highly rated restaurants offering  different cuisines, not to mention great artisan ingredients to buy.     How times change, eh? 

Here's one other photo that I liked taking at Charles Fort.  These structures are by the main gate are connected with the water supply, but I love their simple and satisfying shapes.  I just wonder how they worked. Were they bases for wooden water tanks? Or did the troughs fill with water? Is that a well in the middle of each one? 

In the end,  Charles Fort rather fizzled out. It only saw combat once, in 1690, when it was  attacked by King William of Orange.   After a thirteen day siege, King Billy breached the walls, helped (according to the guide who showed us around) by a sleazy sounding guy who had supervised building the fort in the first place. Not only had that man creamed off money from the building for himself, but he also told the enemy that the eastern walls hadn't been properly built, so naturally William concentrated his attacks there.    

After this, Charles Fort lingered on and eventually fell into ruin. It's now run by the Irish Office of Public Works, which I can't imagine will ever give it up or sell it on. Before they took it on, though, the fort had a brief period in the 1970s when it ws occupied by a hippy encampment.  That's the time I'd have liked to known it.   What a nice spot to go and sit and think about peace & love, have a nice swim on a hot day, and look out at the ever-changing sea. 


Friday, 28 July 2023


 I'm putting a post up today to see if my old Blogland friends are still around  - I suspect that notifications of my posts aren't going out any more, but maybe I'm wrong. So if you've followed me in the past, it would be great if you'd comment, even if it is just to say "hi" ...  it would be good to know if anyone's out there!    😀

Right now I'm sitting in London feeling very grateful that the weather is mildly sunny, and we are not getting the scorching temperatures of more southerly bits of Europe.    Some of the hottest weather I've had this summer has actually been in Edinburgh, which we visited last month.  It's correct to say that  lots of sun isn't a famous feature of Scottish weather and, as one of my Scottish friends said, everyone had been very excited lately because of the huge bright thing they'd noticed in the sky.  They had apparently been lolling in the parks, sitting outside cafes and doing all sort of essentially non Scottish things.  One thing I had never seen before is the Scott Monument in glaring sunlight. To me, it looked a little bit like an Indonesian temple instead of its usual dramatic, misty, gothic self.

During our visit, we spent some time in the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. What a friendly and welcoming place - can't say I had expected it to be but it just shows how wrong I was.  It was built at various times in a variety of architectural styles, and everyone seemed so pleased with it and happy to be working there.  I thought the main medical library had an atmosphere right out of Harry Potter or even Alice in Wonderland....  do you agree?

We were staying in Leith, where we met up with old friends who had moved from London years ago.  K had found an unusual b&b which added to the fun. It's a curious little house whose three floors are linked by spiral stairs, overlooking a rose garden.  It looks old but is in fact, fairly new, and it's built slap bang against the Finnish consulate (which is in a genuinely very old house).  I supposed the Finns were the ones who had cultivated the rose garden, but it was hard to be sure.  What a place to find in the centre of a slightly rough-round-the-edges back street of what used to be the sailors' area of Edinburgh.   

Leith has mostly cast off its somewhat dodgy reputation and is indeed now considered to be one of the  coolest places in Scotland. There are loads of cafes, pubs, and some really good, and not at all pretentious restaurants.  And yes, by the time I took this photo the big bright sun had gone away, but then, I never really expected it to stay. 

On Saturday in Leith there's a farmer's market. The Two Raccoons here caught my eye. They transform surplus fruit into home made wine,  and very good it is too.   

One afternoon I went for a walk along the Water of Leith.  It's a riverside path which was well used by local walkers, cyclists and hangers-around, yet it seemed uncrowded and peaceful too. Some parts of the riverbanks were  lush and covered in wild roses, and I only wish I could share the birdsong with you - an aural embroidery of bird calls such as you almost never hear in a city. How lucky the locals are to have it.  

At first I thought this life sized figure was real, although I was quite glad it wasn't.  

And I was very pleased to see the Swan family out with their many children when they passed silently in a well posed row through the dark water...   

We were in Edinburgh for three nights, and when we finally returned to London on the train the sun had returned.  This is Berwick upon Tweed, which looks handsome from the bridge. Mind you I've never actually been there, but as the countryside rolled past the windows I thought I'd make a few more trips around these islands in parts far away from London and Suffolk. Just to remind myself that they're there. 

Have you taken a short break anywhere recently? 

Monday, 10 April 2023

Coronation, Cherubs, And Baffled in Turin.

  I posted an account of my trip to Turin long ago on Easter Monday.  Then I tried to alter it on my phone, failed, and messed it up.  So I took it all down again.  It's a little way down this page, and I hope you don't mind the delay!  

The Coronation of Charles III has been our big event here in England! It mostly pelted with rain, so I didn't go out all day, but put the TV on instead.  Our picnic in the communal garden was abandoned and the rain continued into the night.    

But yesterday things improved and we visited a nearby street party. Everyone was out with tables, and chairs,  food, games music and socialising. 

Regarding the ceremony, I thought Charles looked tired, not that I was surprised. At 74, he's the oldest monarch ever to be crowned in England, so is entitled not to romp through it. True, he's used to pomp and ceremony but even a fairly young fit person might find it tough to wear those heavy robes for hours and carry  around those huge metal and rock objects.  (Srange to think of gold and jewels like that, perhaps, but .... well, that's what they are!)   I did wonder, also, how he felt when his older son kissed him in homage, but the younger one looked on on this biggest day of his life, having rejected all that he stood for. 

He looked a lot happier out on the balcony at Buckingham Palace, and no doubt felt pleased that all had gone well.  I believe he has always tried to do his duty, like his mother and father did, and I wish him all the best in his reign. 

So, back to Turin.  The idea had been to go to Paris and take a train in a big loop from Paris to Turin, then Genoa and then Marseille,  and then back to London. So one March morning, after a pleasant overnight in Paris, we set off to Gare de Lyon to Turin.   As you see from its clock, we arrived pretty early to begin our trip to Italy. 

 BUT.... instead of the usual bustle of a big station, we were greeted with empty spaces and long queues of despondent people. 

Rail strikes, which should have finished the day before, were escalating instead. All was chaos.    
We'd booked accommodation in Turin that night, but no tickets to anywhere were being sold at the station that day.    And plane, bus, and hire car were simply not practical.  

To cut a long story short, after several tiring hours of queueing and arguing, we got a later train and believe me I jumped like a cat on a mouse on the chance to stand in its corridor for six hours!!  Not the best trip, I'll admit.    If you're sitting on your luggage,  you don't see out of the windows. So the beautiful Alpine scenery on route rushed past the windows unseen.  
We were shattered the next day, but I don't think that put me off Turin.  Nevertheless, the city seemed so much darker and sterner and colder and grander than I'd expected, and I never quite warmed to it. It was hard to find pleasant parks and gardens and little neighbourhood squares to sit in on a sunny day and watch the world go by.  

Of course there were lots of good things. My favourite was a small and under-publicised museum called Fondazione Accorsi-Ometto, It's a mansion full of the lifetimes' acquisitions of art collector Pietro Accorsi.  Don't look it up online - even though it's absolutely charming, nearly all the focus is on Mr. Accorsi's valuable paintings and furniture, with very little about the intensely personal, humorous nature of the place.  It seemed so full of colour, interest and character to me.   

Of all the things there, my favourite was a room of hand painted Chinese wallpaper, showing a detailed panorama of old Chinese daily life.  As well as being amusing and intriguing, it is also touching and mysterious, because the world it portrays has passed beyond living memory.  I couldn't find much information about it.  But I still loved it, so let me try to show you why....      

Here is most of one panel. Do you see in the middle, on the left, are two people? They're standing on  a box or table with nobody taking any notice of them.  

Go closer (below) and they are larger, clad in finery, and carried on a box by four men. Are these people actors so skilled they can perform on a small box being carried over mud roads? Are they statues being taken to some new site? Or are they actually rich people who choose to live out their lives in full public view while trying not to fall off?     Whatever they are,  nobody cares.   Even the woman with the howling child doesn't spare them a glance....  

And anyway, what about this woman and child?   She carries a basket , so perhaps she's carrying something to market. The little lad is being pulled along, crying. Is off to a school he hates? Or can't he go to school even though he wants to?  Who knows?  They're surrounded by tiny rice paddies with half naked peasants toiling knee deep amongst wet rice plants.  And there on the right are a richly dressed group carrying placards and flags and emblems. Are they part of a noble household? Perhaps that's the nobleman on the horse, the only one not walking?        

But ah, though, see the wider picture. (below) He's got a companion, also on horseback, They are accompanied by servants carrying things which could either be luggage or gifts, and they're emerging from a sturdy building. Perhaps they're going hunting or maybe on a trip to visit some important person.  On a path at bottom left of the rice field is a peasant with a bird perched on his outstretched arm. Is he a hunter of small mammals? A birdcatcher? Whatever, he seems to be working with the tradesman with the two tall baskets, presumably collecting small livestock to sell.    

Back to the big picture and look at the top left. A red and black banner flows down a waterfall, a magnificent sight on a river. It is probably associated with the building  And that's probably a temple, with a broken old wall with flags at the entrance, with someone reading important words from a scroll.  There is a pole with some mysterious emblem, and two ladies watching.   A religious ceremony? A trial? Is that poor kneeling figure in his straw hat praying or pleading to the well dressed figures surrounding him?   

Oh, what does it all mean? If only this fine little museum would put its treasures into their cultural context.  The whole teeming lost world of lovers and ladies and tradesmen and labourers and women and ceremony and entertainment, and it's all such a mystery.  All i can say is, if you are an expert on Chinese art, or if you know of a description and explanation of the wallpaper, please get in touch - I'd love to know!  

I spent half a day admiring the many other wonderful things in the Accorsi-Ometto, and could have stayed more.    Some highlights - well, I'd love a few bits of this brassware in my kitchen. And see the lifesized "silent companion" lady servant figures in the back, keeping everything clean and tidy? The dresser was full of animal china of wonderful quality.  

And the most wondrous birds, butterflies, flowers and bees were found throughout the place, making you feel as if you had a grandstand view of a magical natural scene. 

 I was intrigued by the beautiful but crazy marble statue of a seller of cherubs shown below.   I expect that you, like me, think of cherubs as sort of baby children.  So I was shocked to see  this bored looking peasant woman taking one out of its cage and displaying it to a ladylike pair who obviously had a house to decorate.    They all clearly saw the cherubs as a species of animal. 

I gave myself a mental shake when I thought this, since I know that actually cherubs are totally fictional anyway, and so neither human nor animal.  But on thinking about it, I think they might be a great deal happier as animals. Real humans would get mightily tired of sitting up on ceilings and on columns for years on end, whereas many members of the animal kingdom would be perfectly happy to do so. Spiders, for instance.  

What do you think? LOL

So this lovely little museum charmed me, made me think and entertained me and I'd definitely return if I went to Turin, just to see it all over again. An additional bonus is that the staff were so friendly and helpful that they made it a pleasure to be there. 

By contrast, the most famous museum in town is about cinema. Before I visited, I wasn't sure that a provincial Italian town could have a world class cinema museum, but I really was wrong.  I thought it was amazing, and not just because of what was in it.  For a start, it's situated in one of the most noticeable buildings I've ever seen.    If you don't believe me, look at the panorama of Turin below, a view which I took from high above the town on a country hillside.  

 Yes, you can see the cinema museum.  There it is!   This domed construction,  nearly three times the height of the surrounding buildings,  is called "Mole Antonelliana" and construction started on it nearly 200 years ago.  It is completely unique, and if you are interested, you can learn a little more about it here. 

Like Accorsi-Ometto this museum is really wonderful, but I found it considerably more frustrating. In fact,  I was peeved that I couldn't see more of it.  I hadn't a clue that if you bought a ticket on the door, they might not let you actually go inside for many hours.  And that they would sell you a ticket with a very late entry time, so even when you had got in, you had far too little time to see the museum before it closed.  .  

But I was so impressed with what I did see.  The museum has made good use of its remarkable building and constructed a gigantic glass lift which rises through the middle of the entire building and into the dome, offering panoramic views of Turin from an outside walkway. So many curious things are glimpsed through the lift's glass walls...

After the lift, we started the tour, on the  "archaeology of film", as they called it - the pre history of film, before cinematography got going. It had  one of the best collections i've ever seen of magic lanterns, toy theatres, peepshows, mechanical music and other ingenious old fashioned curiosities 

And some cool sets and props... like the giant fridge and room full of toilets. They almost certainly relate to some film or other.   

I recognise this from "!02 Dalmatians."  I think. 

If I'd had more time I could probably have got the captions of everything, but this was as far as we managed to get. before the staff started closing down at 5.30 to be sure we were all out at 6 pm. 

   I don't want to sound as if I am moaning. The place was very busy, so they were obviously doing most things right.  And I am sure if I'd had better Italian language skills, I wouldn't have felt so much at sea. But as I said, I never quite felt I gelled with Turin, and everything about it felt like a struggle to me. Not just the museums, but everything.   

It was a bit of a relief getting on the train for the quirky and charming city of Genoa, and then, a few days later,  from Genoa on to Pisa - a place I hadn't expected to revisit (Marseille and Paris remained inaccessible.).   Everything improved.  The sun came out, people smiled, and you could sit in pavement cafes and feel surrounded by bustle and city life.  

So overall it was a good trip, but we returned home with several days of the interrail pass left unused.  
And that's fine too.  The company have said they'll credit the lost days to our next interrail pass. So now we just have to decide where to go. 

It can be anywhere you can reach by train. And, we've just had an invitation from a friend in Dresden, a place I have never been.  Sounds promising.  

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