Here Comes The Planet 73 – Rome (2018)

As we’ve both been to Rome before, this time we opted to check out some of the spots we’ve skipped during past trips. We sought out the Quartiere Coppedèo neighbourhood for its unique architecture, the modern art museum and finally the Castel Sant’Angelo, which along with some great views over Rome has some very cool old weaponry on display.

Also, we muse on the timing of church bells over Rome!

Read Amanda’s entry about this part of our trip!

Eltham Palace, a Medieval Festival and NEON!

I spent a rather varied day yesterday. I discovered a medieval tournament was going to happen not too far away so I caught a train, then light rail, then a bus, and arrived at Eltham (pronounced elt-am) Palace just after the event started. I hadn’t really thought about the fact that the thing was going to be held in a field so I only ended up staying for two hours (hay fever) but they were very enjoyable!

Tickets to the tournament also entitled everyone to wander around the buildings.

Eltham was originally a church, then a royal residence for one of the Henrys, then fell into disrepair. At the beginning of the 20th century it was bought by a very wealthy couple who restored it and built on a stunning art deco house.

They were keen entertainers and everyone from politicians and royalty to movie stars came here to get away from it all. The ceiling in the photo above was my favourite part – not lights, it’s a glass and cement dome.

However much of it was damaged in the Second World War and the owners moved away. Eventually it was taken on by the National Trust and is used today for a range of events including weddings.

The tournament was happening in a field out the back and so I had a wander around, watched the falconry show, and chatted to the guys in the beer tent who told me that rubbing nettles on myself might cure my hay fever. Nice try, I said, and didn’t.

I drank some rhubarb cider…

And ate a traditional medieval burger…

And listened to some story-telling…

Then it was time for the main event! The jousting!

The jousting was an entirely authentic experience (well, as much as could be). The four men and horses who performed the jousts were professional jousters, which I didn’t realise was a thing, and I learned ( in the beer tent) that each horse cost a thousand pounds to insure for the day.

The jousting, once the talking-it-up and the make-the-crowd-hoarse-with-cheering bit was over, was quite fast paced and very impressive. The rules were explained and everyone in the crowd got right into it.

If my eyes hadn’t been filled with pollen or grass seed or whatever I would’ve stayed all day.

Before I left I had a walk around the interactive tent-displays and chatted to various stall holders about how they got into doing what they were doing and historical accuracy and the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism, a global medieval revival group that I was once part of) which is not very big in the UK, since they probably had all their historical recreation stuff in full swing before the SCA got going in America.

After leaving Eltham I caught a dizzying array of public transport to Walthamstowe. Even though I had to change buses and trains a bunch of times the longest I had to wait was 10 minutes and having Google maps to direct me at every stage made the whole thing so painless I couldn’t help but reflect on what a difference technology has made to travel in the last two decades.

I was in Walthamstowe because I’d read there was a neon store that was Instagram-tastic.

And there was.

God’s Own Junkyard was terrific.

It was glorious. I love lights and colour and this place immediately lifted the spirits.

I think I heard someone say all the signs were for sale!

When I win the lottery I will come back.

There was also a craft brewer and a gin place next door. If you have time and you’re in east London on a weekend I highly recommend making the trip and trying the apple pie, which I feel goes well with something as all-American as neon.

Cesky Krumlov

The word ‘quaint’ barely does the town of Cesky Krumlov justice.

It is divided in two by the bends of a river and dates back to before the 12th century.

View from the castle.

Cesky is also home to the largest castle in the Czech Republic outside Prague. We spent the morning having what turned out to be a private guided tour, since no one else turned up. We met our guide, a young lady from Cesky, in the town square and walked around the centre of town. Her accent was a little hard to understand. If the difficulty of Czech words for native English speakers is anything to go by, I’m amazed we could understand her at all.

A lot of the buildings here have stonework or alcoves with statues painted on rather than actually there. It’s a really weird effect that makes it look like the whole place is a Hollywood set or made of cardboard.

The weather continues to be surprisingly warm and so we found a table at a cafe by the riverside and sat down in the sun, feeling quite content. This really is a postcard-perfect town. In fact I bought quite a pile of postcards to send home just to show people how lovely this place is.

Next stop was the castle. It had been owned by a succession of rich families over the centuries and each had added various parts with no apparent consideration as to the style that was already there. It drifts in sections from medieval to baroque to classical but is still attractive and very imposing, set on a hill overlooking the town.

The views from the castle are magnificent and each of the several thousand Japanese and American tourists who were there today would agree with me.

Ooh, can’t forget the gastronomic highlights of the day, firstly, pastries cooked on a metal tube and then rolled in sugar and cinnamon. What could go wrong?

For our dinner we had an early meal at ‘The Two Marias’, a place recommended by the manager of the hostel. We opted for a share platter that included chicken, ham, millet cakes, wheat confections, salad, cabbage and potatoes. The meal was supposed to represent a selection of traditional Czech food from the last few centuries.

It was extremely tasty, with the noticeable vinegary tang of preserved cabbage and paprika on the chicken. Czech cuisine is pretty unknown to me, outside of goulash, so it was nice to try some unknown things. We’re saving the goulash for tomorrow.