Sunday, December 30, 2012

The FIAT Panda 4x4

I've always been a fan of the FIAT Panda's, especially their 4x4 models.  There are many originals that are still in good working conditions.  These are the work horses of the Italian farmers.  These little cars, like a mountain goat, can go anywhere.  I wanted one then and I wouldn't mind one now.  When the Mark 2's came out in the mid-2000's.  They quickly became popular and well respected.  Here we have 4x4 which can do just about anything and sure it doesn't have all the gadgets and the low ratio box of a Land Rover.  It had a certain class.  Moving on to 2012, the Mark 3 Panda 4x4 makes it;s debut and I have so say, I love it.  I want one, it is a SUV for thinking people.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Three days and three nights in Venice

The European Open went well. Whilst I didn't win any medals. It was nice to know that I can get marks in the 80's. Average scores for hand form, sabre and spear was 85. Not bad and not bad for consistency. It was an improvement over the British Open, where I got 82 for sabre. I'm going to keep this up and don't want to be in the 70's. The day finished and I was tired. I left in the morning. The bus was at 8am. I almost missed it as I can't find the bus stop, was just by me. It was a close call, miss that and the next wont be until 4pm. I needed to get to Venice as soon as possible.

The Italian railway is rather strange. It is great that the stations are manned, even on a Sunday. But the tickets are the size of airline tickets. Then you have to use a machine to validate it for the trip. You do this for the bus too.

Venice
Cold, with the smell of the sea. Not as smelly as people say. Plenty of shops to cater for tourists. The whole city is geared for tourism. There are some very good craft shops, but even more are the shops that sell cheapy tourist tack. Nothing unusual there. There are plenty in London.

My first official day here in Venice. I woke up to a fine sunny morning and a freezing -5. The flood has come and gone. Doing what needs to be done, I went Christmas shopping. There are plenty of fine shops here. They make money as some have been trading for a very long time. I find it strange to ask if something was made in Venice or Italy. I decline to by what are cheaper imports, such as from China. They have no right to be marketed and sold as local goods. Local craftsmens and artist do not profit. Oddly, I'm not hungry during the day and since it is cold, I should be. I really enjoyed walking through the lanes and alleyways, crossing numerous bridge, only to meet a dead end. I learned a lot and amazed how Venetians lived. There's still quotes few places to see. They're really isn't anywhere like it. Yes there are other cities in canals an so forth, none so distinct. It is a learned place. One has to be cultured or adventurous to fully enjoy what Venice has to offer. There is an eeriness in winter. For the most part, the city is relatively quiet. There is no doubt a distinct charm about it. The city has not changed a lot since Canaletto's day. It feels strange that your seeing buildings that you recognise. I came across the Campo San Vidal, which was better known as the location on Canaletto's famous painting, the "The Stonemason's yard". Much has changed since then. Only the well head remains. Yet, I feel the connection.

The second day, I made by way down to St Marks and them walked down to Castello. I rather liked this part of Venice. There is the genuine feel of a village here. It is much unspoilt and not many tourist wonder this far. There are more open spaces and trees line the parks and gardens. The shops are also a bit cheaper. I was in impressed with the Arsenale, not a lot has changed since the height of Venetian power. It stands much the same as in Canaletto's painting. It was a pity you can go inside, as it is under the jurisdiction of the Italian Navy. There are palaces here in Castello as good as any along the Grand Canal. But here in Castello, you have the best of all worlds. If I was to live in Venice, then Castello would be the ideal area. The Italians crave administration. In a city that is home to many trees. The Ministry for forestry has an office in Castello. The Italians are also very keen on policing. On a normal day it is not incommon to see the Polizia di Stato, the Carabinieri and Guardia di Finanza walking their separate beats. Yet you will also see the local Polizia Locale and Vigil Urbani from time to time. Yesterday, walking from St Marks and along the waterfront of the Riva Degli Schiavoni. I spotted all three of the former. Yet there were what looked like refugees from Africa selling fake designer handbags. I presume this is illegal, yet the Guardia di Finanza who were nearby did nothing. I thought this was their thing.

This day I walked through four sestieri of Venice. In the afternoon I walked across the Rialto to San Polo. Tuesday was market day, but I was late, the best sights in the market have gone. But as a living, working market goes, I'm impressed. I then made by way to the sestieri of Dorsodoro. There is a different culture here. Not so may tourist here, but you see more of local Venetians going about their daily lives. They are used to tourists. This area is very cultural, with many artists and craftsmen plying their trade. You also have Academia, the intellectual centre of Venice. The closer you get to the old Customs building, the nicer the houses are. I was in awe of Santa Maria della Salute. I've seen in many times in paintings by Canaletto and Guardi, but to see it real life is something else. After Dorsodoro, it was back through to San Polo and then San Croce. The latter I thought was the least impressive of the six sestieri. Then off to the bus station on the Piazza Roma to by a bus ticket for tomorrow's bus journey to the airport. I had a wonderful meal at the restaurant next to the one I visited the previous evening. Octopus with polenta, followed by gnocchi Venetian style. A great meal, the bread was a bit dry, but the food was good.

I got up and made last visit down to St Marks. I had to follow my passion and take some last shots. What can I say, I love Venice.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sixth Tai Chi Chuan & Chinese Internal Arts Competition

The Sixth Tai Chi Chuan & Chinese Internal Arts Competition was hosted by our Italian friends at Lignano-Sabbiadoro in the province of Udine. Lignano-Sabbiadoro is seaside town on the Adriatic coast, that is known for her beaches and resorts, but perhaps not by people in Britain. I can imagine the place to be very lively during summer, but still a pleasant place to be in winter. I like many were wondering how to get there, but it was quite straightforward as public transport in Italy isn't as poor as people suggest. 

The tournament was held in a facility which I could only describe as excellent. The event was organised very professionally and spread over on two days. With forms on Saturday and pushing hands on the Sunday. The timing was pretty spot on, and with an hour for lunch. We had comfortable lodgings next to the sports hall and there were paramedics on hand. Our Italian friends have thought of just about everything. 

This is the first European that I was completed in and to me, the whole experience was both interesting and daunting. I learned and taken away more than I have put in. For me competing here was tough, but watching others helps you see where you are in terms of skill and experience. There were some great performances there and I would have liked to watch them all, but the downside to competing is that you can't let your focus float off somewhere else. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the experience, made new friends and I look forward to the next European Tournament.