A MASTER-FUL BUILDING

         I confess without embarrassment that I’m an unabashed Tiepolo fan.  For those of you who aren’t aware, this was the name of not one, but three famous painters, a father and sons combination renowned for fresco work during the late Renaissance and touted as the finest of them all.  Three of Tiepolo’s rare paintings are actually in the Victorian Gallery in Melbourne, one insured for 300 million dollars.  It is the father Giovanni Batista Tiepolo (aka Giambattista) who is responsible for the bulk of the works though, and that’s whose art I came to see.

BISHOP’S PALACE ON RIGHT

So it was that this time I was passing through Udine I’d made a point of seeing what I missed out on last time; the Patriarchal Palace.  Inside were some of the works with a piece de resistance apparently in a hallway.  I yearned to go and see the rooms that Patriarch Dionisio Delfino had had painted in order to impress.

We lucked out with parking, found a spot but two blocks away from the palace and beneath the museum on the hill which was number two on the list.  We found our way to the Diocesan Palace by asking locals and duly paid the entry fee, a modest six euros for old farts and they’re not concerned about which country you come from – pensioners are welcome, unlike in Britain where our own head of state disowns us.

DOMENICO FABRIS

There are so many works of art in this building you’re rubbernecking all the time from the second you head up the stairs.  Domenico Fabris’ 19thC ceiling fresco of the mission of Saint Ermacora (a local Aquileian lad) looks like it was painted only last week.

NICCOLO BAMBINI CEILING

Then, time in the hallways and library (the first public one in Udine –dating from 1711) with Niccolo Bambini’s ceiling, set above gilded framed portraits of cardinals, will have you gazing upwards in awe.   You can’t help but notice the meticulous stuccoworks that line each room and stairway either, and that all the frescoes are in excellent condition.  On a wall somewhere, Tiani has a voluptuous and decidedly buxom La Maddelana gazing at angelic figures high in the woods which catches my attention, probably because her breasts are exposed.

TIANI

In the Sala Azzura, yet another of the highlights, the intricate work of precious grotesques is by Giovanni da Udine, then it’s on to fifty three pieces of unusually crafted Friulian wooden sculpture, laid out chronologically from the twelfth to eighteenth centuries. 


We wind up in the guest gallery, designed to impress, a masterpiece by any standards.  It’s an elongated hallway with stunning works from Tiepolo, exquisitely composed and elaborately framed, reflecting his use of light, depth and space.  The fresco of Rachel stealing the idols, from Genesis 31, has me shaking my head.  I also can’t believe we’ve got the hall to ourselves (and most of the museum for that matter).  Were this in Rome or Florence there’d surely be a queue waiting to get in?

TIEPOLO’S MASTERPIECE

It was here that Tiepolo’s ascent to fame was completed and he was then sought after everywhere.  I tarry in this gallery a tad longer than Lorraine, happy to wallow in such splendour, whose like I may never see again. 

ANOTHER OF TIEPOLO’S WORKS, YOU CAN TELL BECAUSE THERE’S AN ARM OVERLAPPING THE FRAME; ONE OF THE QUIRKS OF TIEPOLO TO MAKE THE PAINTING MORE REALISTIC

All too soon we’re out in the 30 degree temperature again, back adjacent to the carpark and walking up a mercifully shaded zig-zag route to the top of Udine’s only hill where the Civic Museum is located.

BLEEDING IN BLED by Ian Smith

It’s bleeding hot, one of the hottest summers in Europe for some time.  Every day is over 30 degrees and today is no different.  The only positive I can find is that it’s not overly humid, which would explain the constant dryness in our throats and longing for liquids.

0LD STYLE BOAT CALLED PLETNA

Our goal today is Bled or, more specifically, Lake Bled; the one of a million postcards that emanate from Slovenia and, why not?  Here is a body of water with three things going for it, two churches and a castle.  This puts it a couple of rungs above any ordinary lake though it has to be said there’s a temptation to take a dip in the water, one of the reasons we brought our swimmers.  The ones that are in our luggage that still hasn’t turned up that is.

We head off around the lake, not sure how far it is or how far we’ll go, but the walk is pleasant, there is no gradient and there’s lots of shade to be had.  We’d already enquired as to how much it would be to tour in the grand manner of horse and carriage but decide the 50 euros is a tad more than we’re prepared to part with.

The 1000 year old castle is perched precariously atop a dramatic 130 metre cliff and constantly diverts the eye while the bells from the Church of Mary the Queen, that sits delightfully on an island, reverberate continually and divert the ear.  It once had a temple to the pagan goddess of love, Ziva, but that was built over in 1465 when the tower was built and, in the 17th century it attained its present baroque form.  There are 99 steps leading up to it and grooms are expected to carry the bride up every one of them should they choose to get married here.

With every 100 metres the view is different, the alignment of things giving varying perspectives of the same highlights.  As we meander further a main road is encountered and we pause a third of the way around for morning tea.

There are many ways to enjoy this venue.  There is the pletna, a traditional boat dating back to the 16th C which is propelled by two vertical oars in gondolier manner but it’s about twice as wide and flat bottomed.  You can also hire rowboats, paddle boards, canoes and kayaks, all of which are out on the surface as we get moving again.  We’re both amused by a young lad with his dog on a paddle board.  The dog starts barking and won’t stop so he is dispatched overboard and the boy paddles away.  This seems to work and the dog is quiet when he’s retrieved about seven minutes later.  By this time we’ve subconsciously decided that we’re probably going to walk all the way around, though we have no idea how far it actually is.

Now we move into a forested area where there’s shade aplenty and we come across a swimmer or two.  By the time we reach the far end there are more swimmers and then there’s a tiny village where there’s a hundred in the water and just as many sunbathing on the grass.  There’s also no end to the number of walkers and cyclists, seemingly representing half the countries on earth. 

By the time we sit down for lunch on a low balcony in soothing shade at the end of the hike, we’ve worked out that it was 6 kms all the way round and well worth the effort, especially when we get served up one of the best meals we’ve had on the trip and Lorraine tries a special type of spritz full of mouth watering flavours.  Some days are diamonds.

A WALK IN THE BLACK FOREST

It was around a week later when I finally returned to Narrow Neck.  I’d started the day at Scenic World and was on my way home when a spur-of-the-moment decision led me down Glenraphael Road.  I thought there might be some birds I could photograph but, upon reaching the gate about halfway along, plan B kicked in.  That was to descend to the swamp, for what reason I could only echo Sir Edmund Hillary – “Because it’s there”.

From above it was such a contrast.  The charcoal banksias set upon a lush green swamp, flourishing after the recent rains.  Then, when I started to descend, the unmistakable sound of water on sandstone.  Could I get that lucky?

The descent, thanks to my dodgy knees, was slow and somewhat tortuous.  Trying to work out a route that avoided getting black all over my clothes was also time consuming, but the sound was as a magnet.  New growth backlit by the midday light was also attractive, shining shades of red, yellow and vivid green were a delight to the eye; but by now I was on a mission. 

The banksia forest was a formidable obstacle, the protruding branches still retaining spring indicating they weren’t actually dead, though the seed pods had burst.  They were so dense that I didn’t get through unmarked and, once you’ve had a black brush or two, does it matter if you get more?

There was a ledge that perhaps offered a view so I worked my over to it and yes, there was the waterfall, though the view was interrupted by vegetation.  Still, it was tantalizing to see some of it and now I wanted more.  Looking further along the overhang there was a scary little opening onto a small outcrop; not a place for the faint-hearted.

Without pushing branches aside there was no way through and my clothes were so battle scarred that I pushed through anyway, reaching the viewpoint and then turning around to a stunning spectacle.  The creek, I later learned, has a name – Mitchells.  It’s not one you’ll find on any guide book for the Blue Mountains and not as exciting a name as Bunba Yaka on the other side.  There wasn’t a large flow but, with the background of the massive shaded overhang, it looked stunning and the small rainbow at the base of the cataract made it just that more special.

I sat and soaked it up for a while, scarily teetering on the edge, and listened to the water’s echo; this special place deserved some time.  When you leaned over just a little more, the path of the creek way below became evident as a series of cascades took the water away towards Megalong.  No doubt the creek was somewhat ephemeral and wouldn’t have been flowing at all just a couple of months ago but now the landscape was truly surreal.

After a time I lurched to my feet and brushed the banksia aside once more, heading for the swamp that seemed so incongruous in this burnt out setting.  A lone frog let me know that not everything had died but there was no bird life to be seen or heard.  I’d carried my heavy camera gear down for nothing but pondered the fate of the honeyeaters that would normally relish a place like this.  Sooner or later every forest suffers the fate of what had happened here but you can’t help but feel a sadness that we’re exacerbating it.

There were some odd plants I’d never seen before beside the waters that flowed through the swamp grass.  It’s so different compared to much of the Blue Mountains it’s an environmental treasure.  I felt privileged to have spent some time here and, climbing back up, almost forgot that my clothes were getting blacker by the minute, because, by then, I simply didn’t care.  The waterfall had made everything else redundant.

MUCH MORE THAN FAKE

Tired of following the guide with the flag?  Looking for something more authentic in Verona than a fake balcony?  How about you try San Zeno Maggiore?  According to legend, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliette were married in the crypt. (Verona is full of “authentic” sites of this fictitious couple.)

San Zeno Maggiore is the finest and most architecturally important in Verona and one of the most important Romanesque churches in Northern Italy. The large basilica, with cloisters and a separate bell tower, was part of a Benedictine monastery that often housed the Germanic Roman emperors during the early years of Christianity. The standout building is easy to admire even without an understanding of all the underlying symbolism of the art and its history. Because it’s a few blocks removed from the center of Verona, San Zeno Maggiore can be peaceful even when the rest of Verona is unpleasantly packed with day-trippers.

The first church was erected here in the fourth century to house the bones of San Zeno but the present building dates mostly from the twelfth century, although the apse and roof are late fourteenth century. The separate campanile was completed in 1178 while the cloisters date from 1123 to 1313.

Saint Zeno (ca. 300 to 380) came from northern Africa but spent much of his life in Verona – first as monk but later as bishop. He is associated with fishing and often portrayed with a fishing rod.  During the eighth century Charlemagne conquered Lombardy and put much of Northern Italy under Germanic rule for centuries after. The German (Holy) Roman Emperors treasured the region and often spent time and money here.

The church was just a part of a large Benedictine monastery, trashed by the French during the Napoleonic era, that often housed the emperors when they were in Italy. Only the watchtower (to the left of the church) and cloisters survived from this abbey.

The western façade displays Romanesque elements typical for the region. Two pillars are placed on the backs of two lions – justice and faith – and guard the church so evil elements cannot enter. The marble bas-reliefs depict images from the Bible as well as early-medieval themes.

The tympanum has San Zeno at the center and portrays the people of Verona, as was good politics at a time when Verona was a city-state. The roof cover helped to protect much of the colouring.

However, the artistic highlight here is the magnificent bronze doors. Of the around 20 similar doors that survived in non-Byzantine Europe, these are considered to be amongst the best. The exact artist and origin of the doors are unclear. However, the doors very much reminiscent of similar doors in Hildesheim in Germany.

Not all figures in the 48 panels can be identified but note San Zeno with a fishing rod. Furthermore, the bronze panels were not originally designed for this specific door and have probably been hung out of its original chronological order.

The large rose window in the western façade is in the shape of a wheel of fortune. It was created by Brioloto (1217-25) and is an early example of a style element that would be very prominent in later Gothic designs.

The freestanding campanile at San Zeno is typically Romanesque. It is 72 m tall with a double row of arcades at the top. The bell tower has six bells – the first cast in 622.

Entry to the church is usually via the cloisters at the opposite end of the church from the campanile. The beautifully restored cloisters are mostly Romanesque but some newer sections are Gothic. It was built between 1123 and 1313.  From here, visitors can enjoy lovely views of the side of the church, with lovely horizontal stripes of pinkish red brick and creamy tufa stone. Typical Romanesque elements include the smallish, round arched windows and two rows of rounded arch friezes below the roof of the nave and the top of the church.

The church can be divided into three main areas: the triple naves of the basilica, the lower crypt, and the elevated choir or presbytery. Artworks adorn many walls but the architectural elements are just as interesting.

The presbytery and choir are elevated but can still be seen from the main church. The apsis is more Gothic in style and fully painted. It was completed in 1398 and therefore around two centuries newer than the rest of the church. The twelfth-century statue of a laughing Saint Zeno in red marble here is considered the most venerated in all of Verona.

However, the artistic highlight is the polyptych by Andrea Mantegna. This San Zeno Altarpiece (1457-60) is considered to have been the first major Renaissance artwork in Verona and served as inspiration for many local artists. The lower three panels (predellas) are copies of the originals stolen by the French during the Napoleonic era. (The originals are on display in the Louvre and in Tours.)

The crypt of San Zeno is very large, untypical for the region, and clearly inspired by the Kaiserdom (Imperial Cathedral) in Speyer, which was a major center for the Salian emperors who ruled the Holy Roman Empire at the time of the present church’s construction.

This is the oldest part of the church and partly dates from the tenth century. Note the individually carved capitals of the 49 columns.  The crypt houses the remains of San Zeno, which are paraded on his feast day (April 12) or in Verona on May 21, in honour of the translation of his relic to the crypt on May 21, 807.

So, don’t get caught up in looking at a 19th C fake balcony, take time out to see something truly worthwhile while you’re in Verona.

WYARALONG – A DAM GOOD DAY

Every day this man posts pics on Facebook.  That’s because every day he goes out photographing birds.  He knows where all the good stuff is and it’s in two places.  One is the Scenic Rim, the other is Wyaralong Dam; that’s where I’m going to meet him.

The best pics are nearly always around sunrise but, that’s about when I wake up, then there are animals to feed.  Oh, and it’s also an hour drive to get to the carpark where John, for that’s his name, is going to meet me.

I rock up in plenty of time before he arrives, jump in his 4WD and head off to a secluded area at the end of the pondage.  There’s a parking area, a sign with information and not much else.  I’m pleased I came with John as a guide, because I doubt I’d ever have found the spot.  Apparently it’s a go to area for runners and off road cyclists as well, John informs me as a familiar jogger bounces past.

The entire area John scouts would only be about a kilometre long but he knows where all the birds are, the best times and when to sit down and wait (most of the time apparently!).  We have a moderately fruitful time but John insists that, to get ideal conditions, we need to be here earlier; thus arrangements are made to meet again at an earlier time two days hence.

There’s still a bit of bite in the air when I arrive at the pickup point slightly pre-dawn, but I’m keen to get going.  Laconic John just gets on with it and, as we alight, I’m taken by the mist caressing the surface of the lake.  It infuses the dead leafless trees with a hint of magic and the birds I’ve come to photograph are forgotten.  A partly submerged fence line adds to the allure and I’m off and almost running with my phone/camera.

The sun’s early rays sparkle in the dew and kiss the cloud remnants on the horizon giving them some delightful pastel shades that resonates with the foreground.  As a photographer, you know when moments are special.  The only problem is what to take a picture of first; there are so many competing images.

I squelch along the foreshore and it’s only the rising of the sun, the dissipating mist and the shortening shadows that makes me return to what I originally came for.  Changing cameras I get back to the birds.  John’s camera has a longer range than mine so he gets large images of the birds than I do but, my consolation is that the photos can stand to be blown up more.

RED BACKED WREN

John’s a patient man, which is why he gets such good images, while I tend towards jack-in-the-box and want to move on.  Still, today is more exciting than the first and I get to see my first chestnut breasted mannikins, a whole flock of them deep in a thicket with red browed finches and they keep popping up unexpectedly, checking for danger.

CHESTNUT BREASTED MANNIKIN

The trees in the dam are the refuge of black ibis and royal spoonbills, the latter with their probing beaks tucked away beneath their wings, while along the foreshore black necked stilts and double banded plovers are aggressively chasing a feed, casting an occasional glance at the patrolling pelicans.

WHITE NAPED HONEYEATER

It all seems to come to an end too quickly, but much time has flown, so I bid farewell to John, thanking him for putting up with me and showing me one of Queensland’s little treasures.

JUST HANGING FOR IT

I’d decided to take the mountain bike.  This would be its first trip away and I planned to use it.  My main goal was Hanging Rock, a dazzling precipice somewhere in the Blue Mountains that I’d seen pictures of but never really chased.  Then someone posted a dawn shot on Facebook and I was truly hooked this time.  I queried as to how to get to the place and received a reply.  Now it was written in ink.

There’s a trail by the name of Burramoko, off the end of Ridgeway Road, which leads you to Baltzer Lookout.  From here you can get shots of Hanging Rock.  I determined that I would try for a dawn rendezvous but that’s not always as easy as it seems.

VIEW FROM BALTZER lOOKOUT

After setting up at Coolah I’d been nearly a week in the wilderness and loving every minute of it but Hanging Rock would make the trip truly worthwhile.  It kept dragging me further ahead of schedule than I’d originally intended until I arrived a full day early and decided to try for a sunset ride just to check everything out.

The lady at the National Parks office at Blackheath had been very helpful, plying me with maps and relevant information to the point where I wasn’t sure which one to consult next but it was photocopied mud map that was the key so I sought out Ridgewell Road and travelled to the first locked gate.  It was here, I had been informed, that you could park your vehicle but, when I arrived, I was so glad it was late and a week day because your odds of getting a park would be zero on weekends and holidays.  There’s a sum total of about 6 spots and only two where a motorhome would fit.  I was lucky.

The map said it was 1 ½ kms to the second locked gate and then a further 4 kms to Baltzer.  I was so glad I’d brought the bike.  I set out without glasses because the light was getting poorer by the minute and regretted it soon after when clusters of insects smacked me in the face and a couple got under my eyelids.  It was a real roller coaster ride with erosion humps everywhere making the downhills a bit thrilling but the real excitement was further on.

I reached Baltzer and parked the bike; you have to walk the last 200 metres.  It’s only then that you get a sense of just how epic this spot is.  There are no fences, just vertiginous drops into the abyss of Grose Valley.  Your sense of balance becomes instantly heightened; the slightest breeze becomes cause for alarm as the ridge narrows to its ultimate conclusion.  I couldn’t see Hanging Rock initially and looked in vain for the tell-tale overhang before finally figuring that photographing that iconic view involved going left down a trail that I had no wish to try now the sun had actually vanished from sight; so I retired from the scene and pencilled in the morrow.

As ever, wanting to get up without an alarm means little sleep will be had and only about four hours maximum was had in fits and starts before 5.30 arrived and it was suddenly panic stations because I knew I wanted the right light, nothing’s quite like the golden hour.  Spurred on by the raucous cry of a lone currawong I frantically got my riding gear on and headed out.  Flecked between the woodland vegetation a brilliant smoky red sun indicated its presence, tormenting me with colours I knew would be gone by the time I reached the lookout.

BURRAMOKO SUNRISE

However, it was the bush track I had to concentrate on, especially the sandy bits and the erratic downhills.  I made good time and worked out that after leaving the bike I had to drop off left of Baltzer to get the shot that every other snapper worthy of the name already had.  But my, how steep was the track!  In a word, “very”.  I hesitated here and there because there was only a rutted trail beside the canyon wall, one slip and you could appear in the obituary columns next week.

GROSE VALLEY FROM BALTZER LOOKOUT

The sought after scene came into play at last as I neared the bottom and passed three bolts to which rock climbers could fix their gear.  I knew already why I didn’t go rock climbing, this merely served to confirm that view.

Being close to Hanging Rock makes you even more in awe of how geology works.  This protrusion, that will one day collapse (never with me on it!), is epic in scale and deliverance and, once you’re there, it’s easy to understand why people come here despite the safety hazards.  Somehow the other distant cliffs pale into insignificance beside this wonder of abstract art.  It took me some time before I decided to leave but I was secure in the knowledge that I had, at last, viewed and recorded this iconic platform.

LEFT: HANGING ROCK, RIGHT: BALTZER LOOKOUT

The road back was almost lost in reflection except that the wildflowers had been kissed by old sol at shallow angles and their colours shone brilliantly.  It’s not always that planned days work out as you’d hoped, but this had exceeded my expectations.

AT THE COAL FACE

                                                 

It was a lot of driving again.  After five hours that turned into six the day before, I wasn’t really looking forward to another five behind the wheel in Arizona. 

I’d left reasonably early and was in cruise mode when a varied rocky outcrop caught my photographic eye and bade me pull up.  The fact that it was on private property only made it more attractive.  Yet again I’d stumbled on something you don’t see in the tourist brochures but, after a fortnight in Utah, you learn to expect something of this calibre every day, jumping out and surprising you.  Transpires that it has a name, Square Butte, and what everyone seems to have missed is that, around the tallest spire, there is some dramatic scenery and, just beyond that, on the White Mesa next door, are some extraordinary flukes, towers and canyons – stuff I only found out about later.

Square Butte

Subsequent searches revealed that no-one seems to have made the climb all the way up to capture the drama, just drone images.  Still, what was on show was impressive and certainly not crowded, although I did see a lizard scurry away.  It looked like some Moenkopi brown formation sandwiched between layers of Kaibab sandstone.  Better not to flaunt my little geological knowledge in areas I really am unfamiliar with though.  I’d like to say I hurdled the fence but old age has prevented me doing that so it was another scratchy entrance via some barbed wire.

More Square Butte

As I worked my way through the arroyo on the left hand side, the occasional footprint was visible along with some hoof marks.  Scrubby bits of vegetation were barely surviving in the sandy soil and I tried to carefully watch where I put my feet in order to not crunch any delicate flowers, though they were few in number.  Angles came and went until, after about an hour, I guessed I’d need too much time to explore further so I returned, still not 100% sure of where I was going.

To compound the felony, I’d left my copious research notes behind on the day when the trickiest directions where what I needed.  That’s how I found myself in the Tuba City library, re-doing the research.  Every entry said it was tricky getting to Blue Canyon and lots of dirt road was involved so I weakened and canned the idea, opting for Coal Mine canyon instead.

While grabbing a shake at Maccas, my first visit to such an establishment, I enquired of a local as to where Highway 264 is, this street or the next one along?  “No, never heard of it.  Where do you want to go?”  Coal Mine Canyon I informed him.  “Oh, that’s this road here.  Just follow it.”

“Thank you” was my parting and as I accelerated down the street, I couldn’t help but notice the sign for 264 standing proudly on the footpath.  Something obviously the locals have overlooked.

Moenkopi

Just down the road was Moenkopi, a Hopi area with a population of just under a thousand and it sits in a neat fertile basin surrounded by low cliffs.  The irrigated green colour tends to stand out a bit from the surrounds.

Luckily I had the directions to Coal Mine this time, because there is no sign, it’s on private property and you can’t see it from the road.  Between mileposts 363 and 364 you turn off onto someone’s property and aim between a two-storey house and a windmill.  It’s okay, they’re about half a kilometre apart.
I pulled up beside a photogenic ruin and grabbed my gear.  As I stood up, the attraction of Coal Mine became clear.  It was everything I’d hoped for and more.  The reality of it was simply that it was the finest canyon I’d ever seen.

The wonder of Coal Mine

Sure, it’s not as deep as the Grand Canyon, doesn’t have as many hoodoos as Bryce, doesn’t quite have the sheerness of Zion and has no more colour than Cottonwood Canyon Road; but, it has everything; all of those features crammed into one of the earth’s most magnificent compact canyons.  Why it’s not a major attraction I don’t quite understand; perhaps it’s where it is that causes people to miss it.  This would be backed up by the fact that other nearby canyons are rarely visited also.  Perhaps it’s because this is distinctly Indian country, as was the Square Butte earlier.  All along the main routes you see stalls selling jewellery.  I couldn’t help but think if they got a bit entrepreneurial they could make an absolute killing by developing some of the sites.

Coal Mine Canyon

Still, I was more interested in this washed out hole in the ground.  It’s on the edge of the 120 mile wide Painted Desert. The colours were the like of which I’d never seen before in one geological place.  I moved around to parts where you could get out to; couldn’t stop shaking my head at what was there in front of me.  Weird shapes, the layer of coal that used to be mined almost on top, the patterns in the rocks; I didn’t know where to look first.

It has the “wow” factor

After I’d spent over an hour poking in here and there I worked my way further south until I came across the benches that someone has put there.  However, to my despair, I noticed there’s also a rope-supported trail to the bottom just a bit further on.  Physically, I hadn’t enough left in me to go down but, know when you go that it’s an option.  If you want to get to this point first you should drive to the side where the windmill is.

I’ve read another report since on another site that indicates you can drive to two other access points as well, further down the road, but I was unaware of those at the time.  Also, you’ll read that you are on Indian land and, from every bit of information I could glean, it’s Navajo up the top and Hopi down the bottom.  I’d boldly suggest you do just what myself and most people do; just go there.  I tried to contact the Hopi re a trip to Blue Canyon but ran up a dead end, so I gave up after that.

So, if you’re looking for a café and accommodation beside a major attraction, you’ve come to the wrong place.  However, if it’s solitude and a wonderful natural experience that fits the bill, then look no further.

Abandoned cottage before the canyon

Meanwhile, I was heading back to my accommodation via a shorter route which would allow me time to have a quick look at something else.  Vermilion Cliffs were out there somewhere.

Nearing Page I slipped off to the left, heading, as it turned out, towards Marble Canyon and Vermilion Cliffs, crossing beside the historic 1928 Navajo Bridge above the Colorado River, whose 837ft span sits 467ft over the river. 

Vermilion Cliffs

Turning down Lees Ferry Road, soaking up more spectacular scenery, I pulled up beside the pavement where some solid looking huge mushroom shaped rocks caught my eye.  The information board indicated that the huge lumps of Shinarump conglomerate on top actually fell down aeons ago from way above and have rested on the softer Moenkopi sandstone while it wears away. 

Being intimidated

They’re surprisingly intimidating when you pose beneath them.  The largest is imaginatively named “Balanced Rock” and sits right beside one that has already toppled off its perch.  All of this in the foreground of Marble Canyon and a hundred potential hikes; none of which I’d ever be taking.

Part of Marble Canyon

Vermilion Cliffs are inside Marble Canyon and I had no idea where the boundaries lay but it was good to get a sniff of them both before I wound up for the day.  Coming back into Page I made a bee line for Walmart; I’d made an irreversible decision to buy another pair of their sports shoes since they were so comfortable and the laces didn’t come loose.  At around $35 Aus, I could just afford them!

My First Blog Post

Schloss Nymphenberg
Ah yes, the palace in front of the cafe. It doesn’t take up a single city block. No, it makes a massive circle around what would roughly be two city blocks and then, naturally enough, there’s the small garden out the back, once French style but later British mode. I looked down the main track astride the elongated lake, fashioned after Versailles, for about two kilometres and noted some trees blocking further vision. Whether or not that was the end of it I have no idea.
However, inside is yet another splendid example of the baroque lavishness that adorns so many European palaces, this one also obviously influenced by the French. There is no spare centimetre that doesn’t have some display of fresco, the stonemason’s art or gilded wood. Of course, that would be neglecting the silk walls, the tapestries that took 12 years to make and the finest chairs from Paris, but we won’t mention them.
This house of the Wittelsbachs reeks of history; whether it’s Ludwig I’s affair with Lola Montez that ultimately brought him down or the birth of Ludwig II in 1945 (mad Ludwig, who built Neuschwanstein Castle, the Disney one) that piques your interest, there’s a hundred stories contained in these walls. I gawked at the couch that Ludwig II was born on. For me, it completed a cycle as I’d also been to Neuschwanstein (new swan’s castle) and his resting place in the crypt at St Michaels church. The latter was a complete fluke.
I also had paid for entry to a “little” hunting lodge place for the lady of the house. It’s called “Amalienburg”. This highest flowering of the Rococo genre is one of the classics of European art. Naturally enough, this was as grand as you and I mere mortals could never dare dream of. Spectacular chandeliers surrounded by seven metre high mirrors awash with Rococo makes an unforgettable impression. It was the size of around three normal houses and, set in the woods, with its splendid neo-classical façade, I thought I wouldn’t mind spending a quiet weekend or two taking tea there, after the bike races around the gardens I assume.

HORSING AROUND

The Schloss Nymphenberg also has a museum area where all the extravagantly baroque and rococo carriages are displayed, along with a myriad of harnesses, each one worth more than my nephew Brian’s three horses combined, not that these would ever adorn anything equine again.

Upstairs they have the largest display of Meissen porcelain outside of Dresden. In behind the display at many places were art treasures, with two of my favourites getting a gig (Dou and Ribera), while a couple of no names such as Raphael and Murillo were also featured.

The way they were shown was designed to highlight the works to best advantage. The direction and intensity of the lighting had obviously had much thought put into it so that the vibrancy of the colours was a beautiful sight to behold. Just the thing to impress the aristocracy who visited before they went on a gilded coach ride.

Taking You To Places You've Never Been

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.

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Introduce Yourself (Example Post)

This is an example post, originally published as part of Blogging University. Enroll in one of our ten programs, and start your blog right.

You’re going to publish a post today. Don’t worry about how your blog looks. Don’t worry if you haven’t given it a name yet, or you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just click the “New Post” button, and tell us why you’re here.

Why do this?

  • Because it gives new readers context. What are you about? Why should they read your blog?
  • Because it will help you focus you own ideas about your blog and what you’d like to do with it.

The post can be short or long, a personal intro to your life or a bloggy mission statement, a manifesto for the future or a simple outline of your the types of things you hope to publish.

To help you get started, here are a few questions:

  • Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?
  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?

You’re not locked into any of this; one of the wonderful things about blogs is how they constantly evolve as we learn, grow, and interact with one another — but it’s good to know where and why you started, and articulating your goals may just give you a few other post ideas.

Can’t think how to get started? Just write the first thing that pops into your head. Anne Lamott, author of a book on writing we love, says that you need to give yourself permission to write a “crappy first draft”. Anne makes a great point — just start writing, and worry about editing it later.

When you’re ready to publish, give your post three to five tags that describe your blog’s focus — writing, photography, fiction, parenting, food, cars, movies, sports, whatever. These tags will help others who care about your topics find you in the Reader. Make sure one of the tags is “zerotohero,” so other new bloggers can find you, too.