Sunday, April 26, 2020

The Home of An Explorer

My previous post was all about touring Lake Como by boat.  Today I'll show you one of the stops we made on that boat trip.  We toured a place called Villa del Balbianello, a grand villa that began life in the 13th century as a Franciscan Monastery.  In fact, those two towers you see in the photo above remain from that era.

We stopped at the small boat dock below the villa and then climbed this lovely, green hillside up to the villa where we met a guide ready to take us through this interesting place.

The villa changed hands several times over its life from its days as a monastery to a Cardinal's summer retreat, to an American businessman's European get-away and finally to Count Guido Monzino, a great explorer and the first Italian to climb Mt. Everest. 

Monzino did extensive renovations to the villa and filled it with antique furnishings, tapestries, oriental carpets and a vast collection of art works.

He also filled it with artifacts from his many explorations.  He began exploring at age 30 by climbing The Matterhorn.  He followed that with expeditions the North Pole, Mt. Kenya and Kilimanjaro, Patagonia, The Alps, Himalayas and of course, Mt. Everest. 

My favorite room in the house was the museum-like room filled with items from his many adventures.  It included the sled in the center of the room along with climbing equipment and various uniforms.

There was quite a lot to see in this small place.  I especially liked seeing the fur clothing he used in so many very cold places.

Looking out a window from the villa, I saw another remnant from the 13th century monastery.  A statue of a cardinal forever watching the activities on the lake.

As our tour was ending, our guide told us of a few Hollywood connections this villa holds.  It seems it was used as a backdrop in many films including Casino Royale and Star Wars.  Yes, the lake retreat scenes for Star Wars II, Attack of the Clones was filmed here.

What an interesting as well as beautiful place to visit.  From the beautiful rooms and interesting artifacts to the well manicured grounds, it was a place I will never forget. 

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Boat Tour on Lake Como

One thing I thoroughly enjoyed when I visited Lake Como in Italy last spring was the boat tour on the lake.  My friends had reserved a boat and guide and he took us from one end of the lake to the other pointing out the sights along the way.  I'll show you a few that we saw.  Above is Villa La Gaeta, a castle-like villa that I think is now broken into condos or apartments.  This place was featured in the James Bond movie "Casino Royale”.

Villa Maria was looking very grand in its lakefront setting.

St. Lorenzo Church appears to have quite a few visitors by both land and water.

Villa Sola Cabiati dates back to the 16th century and you can rent the whole thing for a mere $7,709.28 per night for parties up to twelve.

I didn't expect to see a pyramid in Italy but there it is.  It is a mausoleum for a prestigious doctor, Joseph Frank who left this world in 1842.

Richard Branson's villa is surrounded by the tall cypress trees so common in Italy.

All the boat tours like to point out George Clooney's villa.

It is a very lovely place but George wasn't at home.

At one point, our tour guide steered the boat down a narrow passage so we could see a beautiful water fall that was almost hidden from view.

Not all the villas were huge and imposing.  Some were quite modest but still grand looking in that splendid setting.

This one has a grand patio and what appears to be a boat house at lake level.  

This one is called La Placida and is another one that has been divided into condos.

There were so many beautiful villas to admire.  Some of them were even open for tours.  I'll show you one of those in the next post.  

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Missing Post

Update:  The problem that was causing photos to blotted out appears to have been corrected.  I've added back my post about Lake Como and I corrected the post from April 12th.  Fingers crossed that it stays fixed.

I've taken the Lake Como post down today because of the problem that seems to exist with either Blogger or Google that is causing my photos to show up as black squares with a circle and minus sign in them.  I'm trying to determine what is causing the problem which seems to be pretty sporadic.  I left up the post from a April 12th even though all the photos have now been obliterated.  Up until yesterday, that post was fine.

If anyone has any clues as to what is causing this problem, please let me know.  I'm still researching it.  I will post again once a solution is found.


Sunday, April 12, 2020

Putting Men on a Pedestal

London England is a city full of monuments and memorials with statues of great men and women scattered all over he city.  Anyone who has been there knows about Admiral Horatio Nelson atop his tall pedestal in Trafalgar Square and you've probably seen some of the many tributes to Prince Albert.  Today I'm going to concentrate on some of the lesser known people who have warranted a statue dedicated to them.

Up first is Francis Duke of Bedford.  His statue has a prominent position in Russell Square, the park I posted about last week. His given name was Francis Russell and the park was named for him.  He was a politician and aristocrat who was responsible for much of the development of the Bloomsbury area of London.

Not far away is another fellow adorning a park.  Charles James Fox who has a commanding view over Bloomsbury Square was another politician who was also a good friend of the Duke of Bedford.  During his political life, he championed a range of liberal causes including American Independence.  Good for you Mr. Fox!

John Stuart Mill is almost hidden among the trees and shrubs in a small space at Victoria Embankment Gardens.  Mr. Mill was a British philosopher and political economist.  He was considered one of the most influential, 19th century thinkers of classical liberalism.  He was author of an early feminist work called "The Subjection of Women" and was the second member of Parliament to call for women's suffrage.

I'd say he's well deserving of his place on the pedestal.

This statue is of Prince Henry the Navigator, 1394-1460.  There is a bit of mystery about this statue which dates to 1915.  It was the first statue of a Portuguese person ever erected in London and apparently there is a duplicate of it in Fall River Massachusetts.  He was a central figure in European maritime discoveries and expansion.    He can be found hiding in the gardens of Belgrave Square.

Another resident of Belgrave Square is Elias George Basevi an English architect who worked in both neoclassical and gothic revival styles.  His designs included buildings in the Belgrave Square area which to this day is a very aristocratic place to live.  It is also home to a number of embassies.

William Edward Forster can be found standing proudly at Victoria Embankment Gardens.  He was another liberal politician who played a significant role in the establishment of a national education system.  He has a professorial look about him don't you think?

James Henry Greathead has the most precarious place to stand, in the middle of a very busy street in front of the Royal Exchange.  Mr. Greathead was an engineer who invented something called a traveling shield which made it possible to cut the tunnels needed to create London's deep level tube system.  Given the engineering feat of the London Underground, I'd say he's well deserving of a statue.

Of course this only touches the tip of the iceberg when it comes to statues scattered throughout the city of London.  I hope you enjoyed learning about these men as much as I enjoyed researching their accomplishments.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Russell Square

London is full of wonderful green spaces and huge parks.  The last time I was there, I stayed at a hotel across the street from Russell Square, a beautiful park that was well used by city dwellers and the occasional tourist like me.

It even had a little cafe where you could enjoy the view while having lunch or a treat.  I didn't stop there but I thought it was a very inviting venue.

In the center of the park was little fountain and as you can see, people took advantage of the relaxing atmosphere to sit for a while.

Around the center of the park and scattered all through it were benches that were dedicated to a variety of individuals.  This one is dedicated to Robin Jackson, 1935 - 2011.  Below his name it says "Never tired of London".  That could certainly describe me too!

Pathways through the park led it all directions so it was easy to crisscross to get to your destination.  

Green Park, Hyde Park and Hampstead Heath were always my favorite parks in London but now I've added Russell Square to the list.  It's a perfect spot of peace and quiet right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the busy city.