Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Professionals at Work

Anyone of the teachers who have worked with me on making film and teaching children movie making skills will be in no doubt about my passionate advocacy for the simple tripod.

I was thinking of my colleagues when I took these photos (no tripod, but elbows on the railing in lieu) on the Ponte Sant'Angelo spanning the Tiber River in Rome.

Professional photographers were lining up to capture the magnificent sunset followed by the evening illuminations of Castel Sant'Angelo and other buildings.

I couldn't resist grabbing my phone and capturing this unexpected sight on our evening stroll to the Vatican.

They all had set-up tripods and I think one would feel uneasy joining their lineup without one!

Right now across our Manaiakalani schools our clever teachers are up-skilling themselves to create a movie with their learners to share on the BIG screen at the Manaiakalani Film Festival 2016. Every year we dissect the difference between the movies that are a hit with the audience - because that is the ultimate test, right? - and the rest. It is always the same answer.

Three things:

  • A compelling story, to paraphrase Kevin Roberts. Engaging the audience' emotions whether through humour, pathos, sympathy, joy, adrenaline or whatever. The story is essential.
  • Vision. Are we going to feel sea sick watching this? Did you use a tripod? Did you keep your back to the light source (windows, fluro lights)? These are not fancy techniques for frazzled classroom teachers. Just common sense tips.
  • Sound. Consistent sound levels. Clear speech. Background music only used if needed and used well. The post production team can do a lot to improve the sound you if you keep the sound clear and consistent.

And yes, I do recognise the irony of using inferior 'snaps shots' to illustrate this piece :)

Cross posted on Manaiakalani Blog

Trevi: worth a good look

The Fontana di Trevi - or Trevi Fountain in English -is a fountain in Rome, Italy. It is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and the most beautiful in the world.

I can’t imagine going to Rome, whether for the first time or the 50th, without visiting the Trevi Fountain. It is entrancing. And this trip we were the beneficiaries of Fendi having spent millions of dollars on cleaning and restoration work. Visitors during the 18 months it was closed would have been keenly disappointed. Read more about that here.

It must be frustrating as a Roman citizen to have this stunningly beautiful taonga in your home town constantly swamped by teeming crowds. Millions of people visit every year and not only is it impossible to take in an unimpeded panoramic view, but it is so busy there is no space to sit and contemplate either.

I took a photo this time of the people rather than the fountain, and you may notice as I did that the majority actually spend most of their time with their back to the fountain. The point of the visit appears to be being recorded in a photo at it, rather than soaking it up. Even those who contribute to the 3000 Euro gathered daily by tossing a coin over their shoulder spent very little time facing it!

Click on photo to enlarge to original size

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

60 Pairs of Haunting Shoes

Our arrival into Budapest by boat enabled us to take in the city sights from our vantage point on the water before we docked and one of the things pointed out to us was the Shoes on the Danube Bank memorial erected in April 2005
“ to the memory of the victims shot into the Danube by Arrow Cross Militiamen in 1944 - 1945”

Hungarian Jews were herded here, made to strip off their clothes and valuables and step out of their shoes. Then summarily shot, keeling forward into the river.
It was a dark and vicious time in their history and all three local tour guides we spent time with spoke passionately about the horror.  
One guide recommended we view the video I have embedded below.  It is titled, “Tell your children”, although in our context it may not be something to show children as it is haunting viewing.
The Shoes on the Danube Bank is a memorial in Budapest, Hungary. Conceived by film director Can Togay, he created it on the east bank of the Danube River with sculptor Gyula Pauer to honour the Jews who were killed by fascist Arrow Cross militiamen in Budapest during World War II. They were ordered to take off their shoes, and were shot at the edge of the water so that their bodies fell into the river and were carried away. It represents their shoes left behind on the bank.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Cows in MainStreet Budapest

I heard the cows before I saw them as I was walking down one of the main streets of Budapest!

I have no idea what this is about at all, only that I was standing at the traffic lights and heard some distressed mooing.

I looked around and saw a light truck transporting a couple of cows. For the rest of the morning I kept noticing them - sometimes in horse floats, on trailers and once a larger truck with around a dozen quite agitated beasts making their presence known.

It may have something to do with the farmers who brought their cows into town on April 4th 2016 "to protest cheap imports and tax evasion which they say are destroying fair competition and blocking their access to local markets".
Or it may not.

It attracted my attention. 

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Airs Above the Ground: Vienna

Vienna has been synonymous with the Lipizzaner horses from the Spanish Riding School ever since I was a child and first read a book my mother and grandmother had been enjoying, “Airs Above the Ground” by Mary Stewart. So when Google told me that the day we were in Vienna there was a show on, I was keen to get there.

We headed off the boat first thing this morning with our tour guide and had a fun and informative overview of what she considered the sights and highlights of Vienna and then we peeled off on a hunt for tickets to the Vorfuhrung. It was a bit of a mission. 

Buying the tickets was easy, but the woman at the ticket counter sent us off on a wild goose chase, “Go out the door, turn right three times and go in.” We joined multitudes of tourists trying to find the elusive door and eventually a local student came to our rescue.,_Vienna.jpg
Lipizzaner horses from the Spanish Riding School 
We had bought the cheap seats - no seats- and stood for about an hour and a half. But it was worth it.  We managed to stand behind the goal posts (imagine it as a rugby field) and had a super view of the show.  They pulled out everything I had imagined, from beautiful music to the airs above the ground high school dressage moves. And the show culminated with the eight horse "School Quadrille".

We were not allowed to take photos at all, so I have included a photo labelled for reuse and the ticket we were issued.  If you look at the photo you may be able to tell from my ‘behind the goal posts’ description where we stood above the entry door.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Panorama Bistro: Danube Menu

The Avalon team host a “Panorama Bistro Food Tasting” for a small number of guests, and having greatly enjoyed participating last week, we signed up again.  

The food is delicious and sitting in the front of the boat with 12 people in total creates a very special dinner party atmosphere- with three people to look after us, and goodness knows how many in the galley!

Here's the menu, with the photos I took:


Smoked Trout Fillet

Waldorf Salad

Basil Praline (tofu)

Schnitzel (we were sailing into Vienna!)


Goulash Soup - hat tip to Austria again

Main Dishes

Beef Roulade (certain men had two of this)

Fillet of Pike Perch



Austrian Apricot
Bright Chocolate

Cheese plate

All with wines and coffee/tea etc

Room with a View: Durnstein

Our visit to the fabulously beautiful Durnstein Abbey included a side trip, and I was delighted to discover another treasure. 
This wee room had blinds over the window, but opened up onto a beautiful view of the courtyard. A perfect place for nuns over the centuries to escape from the pressures of life for a few contemplative moments.


The courtyard view from the outside

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Room with a View: Cesky Krumlov

After lunch at the Two Marys restaurant in Český Krumlov, in an old house with the atmosphere of a medieval pub, I climbed the narrow, winding stairs to discover - a room with a view!

I couldn’t photograph it in a way that would do it justice because of the irregular shape of the room, but seated way up high, one could look out over the river and the beautiful town below.

I am clearly not the first to have been captured by the view from here because my Google search of the restaurant turned up other photos of this unique room !


Tuesday, 17 May 2016


These peonies, bought at the gorgeous flower markets on the seventeenth century canal ring in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, have brought much pleasure over the week as they blossomed in a boat cabin.

 Sadly, today only two flowers remain.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Clipping the ticket: lamb

The menu tonight included a rack of New Zealand LAMB, and we couldn’t resist it -we’ve only been away from home for three weeks, but it had an immediate nostalgic appeal at the end of a cold day. And the kiwi couple we were sharing the table with were perhaps even more interested as Dick farms sheep.

I don’t think the photo does justice to the delightful presentation of the three wee lamb ribs that appeared as one of the many courses. The jus, mint crust and creamy potatoes were to be expected, but we were intrigued by the sprig of rosemary fried tempura style.

In the course of the meal we heard from Dick that he got $5/kilo for selling his lambs, on average $80 per lamb. And it costs more than that to raise it. Not easy to make money from them.

At the end of the meal the chef, Johnny, came out to check how the kiwi contingent had received his dish and of course we congratulated him - cooked to perfection.  We chatted a little and Dick asked the question: “How much did he pay for the racks of lamb?”

$117 New Zealand Dollars per kilo
( 70 euro/kilo, but I have calculated the exchange rate on the day.)

Something is not right here!

Friday, 13 May 2016

Gondolas and Riesling

Friday’s port of call was Rüdesheim am Rhein, a picturesque winemaking town in the Rhine Gorge and part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

On arrival we were put into a dinky-toy train and trundled through a few streets to a point where we divided into groups of those wanting to visit the Mechanical Music Machines museum and those wanting to take a cable car up the mountain to see the Niederwald monument. We thought we might get a bit more fresh air and exercise in doing the latter and were not disappointed.

It was the first day of rain on our travels and we managed to get thunder, lightening and some chilly rain to add character during this excursion.  The view from the chair lift was stunning and we were able to look down on the riesling vines below, as well as taking in the stretch of the river and our boat docked in the distance.

The monument is a most imposing and powerful representation of its military theme. It was constructed to commemorate the foundation of the German Empire after the end of the Franco-Prussian War. The photo on the right gives an indication of its size in proportion to the people climbing over it.

We decided to partake of the local riesling in the place it was grown and headed for the kiosk at the top of the hill. It lived up to the hype.  We were most amused by the regimentation even in this casual outdoor setting and couldn’t resist taking a photo of yet another set of rules!

The rain bucketed down for a bit and, with lightening continuing, the gondola operator decided to close it down until it was deemed safe to use.  We looked at the long line of people, thought about the cute shops and coffee waiting below, and decided to forget the ride and hike down the mountain. It was a fun walk through the vineyards and although a bit damp we were very pleased with ourselves when we reached the bottom at the same time as the person in the front of the gondola queue when we left.

Our boat people had organised for us all to meet and enjoy a local coffee - Rudesheimer Kaffe.  This turns out to be similar to Irish coffee but with brandy instead of whiskey. Great way to warm up after our brisk walk downhill in the rain.

Also got in a wee bit of shopping and a small something was packed and posted home to NZ from here.

On the River: Day 4 Rudesheim

River Cruise
Day 4 Rudesheim, Germany

After our journey through the Rhine Gorge and lunch we docked at Rudesheim, a wine-making town with about 10,000 people living there. Most of my notes for this stop have been posted here. This is a place that sets out to welcome tourists and everyone we encountered spoke English well.

We enjoyed our few hours there and could happily have stayed much longer and explored more.

Back on the boat we had signed up for the first of the Bistro Food tasting meals. A small group of passengers sit together upstairs and eat many tiny samples of local food the chef has prepared. They offer more if you like it, but there is already so much to taste that you would struggle to have seconds.

A sample of what we ate follows below- recorded more for the memory of local food from the Rhine than a foodie guidebook! Not recorded are the cheeses and the wines.

Notes were supplied daily by Isabel, the Cruise Director, to keep us informed and on time. Click on the links below to open and read.

On the River: Day 4 Rhine Gorge

 River Cruise

Day 4 Rhine Gorge, Germany

With Sally, a teacher from Wairarapa, NZ
One of the benefits of travelling in this way are the many extras included. On Day 4 we travelled through the Rhine Gorge and our camp mum (Cruise Director) brought us a live commentary over the speaker system as we glided by romantic castle after castle. So from the comfort of our deck chairs, with supplementary notes and cameras in hand, we were able to absorb the history and significance of what we were seeing. What a privilege.

This was a photographer’s delight and certainly an ABC (Another Blimmin Castle) segment of the journey. I have embedded the map I made of the locations below and will save most of the photos for the pinpoints on it. One of my favourite places had to be the Mauseturm (Mouse Tower) with it’s fairytale story which can be read here.

The significance of this water way and the way the rulers in these castles use their location to demand taxes and tolls from people who needed to use it became apparent as we travelled through the gorge.

And like everywhere we went in Europe, the Romans seemed to have been there first!

Notes were supplied daily by Isabel, the Cruise Director, to keep us informed and on time. Click on the links below to open and read.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Cologne Cathedral

The Gothic Cologne Cathedral drew the eye as we sailed into the city of Cologne.  The skyline is a mix of modern and ancient structures, but once we were on shore we were keen to walk to the cathedral and explore it inside. Construction began in 1248, and was worked on in several stages over 7 centuries and was not completed until 1880. It reminded us of Notre Dame in Paris. 

The scaffolding outside is apparently a permanent sight as the exterior requires ongoing upkeep and renovation. This magnificent building emerged intact from the bombings during the war.

Inside, the structure is awe inspiring and one of its claims to fame is that relics of the Three Wise Men were brought to the city in 1164 and are enshrined here.

NB: The image below has been uploaded in original format, so should open large enough to read if clicked on....

The Nose Knows

This trip has reminded me of the significance of our sense of smell, and the role it plays in evoking strong memories.

In Hawaii the frangipani were in bloom, and I was given a couple of gorgeous lei made from frangipani. So everywhere we went wafts of frangipani fragrance took us back to our years in PNG.

In Amsterdam we relived the seventies in a smoke saturated atmosphere- on the streets, eating or having coffee outside cafes, walking along the canal paths. You certainly couldn’t use the Bill Clinton excuse here!

Then Cologne, the home of 4711, containing the scent of my grandmother and mother. In the 1960’s (maybe the seventies as well) Air New Zealand used to give out a complimentary phial of 4711 Eau de Cologne to passengers and because my grandparents flew to visit us regularly, I had an ongoing supply of 4711. This was my first ‘big girl’ perfume and of course Mum and Grandma wore it. So the home of 4711 was an important stop to make as we explored the town of Cologne.