Europe diary, day 5: ISO meeting begins

Wednesday 8 November

Again we had a bit of trouble sleeping fully through the night and were awake around 05:00. We got up just after 06:00 and had breakfast – the muesli we bought last night.

With time to spare, we decided to take a walk together over to the Tampere Market Hall, a covered market with various food stalls. M. was planning to visit later, perhaps for lunch, and wanted to get her bearings and figure out where it was relative to our apartment. We rugged up heavily for the cold outside, with our newly purchased thermal underclothes, then regular clothes, a heavy coat, scarves, beanie, and thick gloves. We ventured out at 07:45, still almost half an hour before sunrise, though the sky was lightening with twilight behind thick overcast. There were several other people walking around, also rugged up against the cold.

We crossed the swift-flowing and extremely cold-looking river, walking across a bridge that looks like it extends into a main street of the city, with many shops lining the sides. The Market Hall was just a couple of blocks past the bridge. Having found it, we backtracked the same way so M. could remember the route.

After stopping back at the apartment, I grabbed my backpack with laptop and headed off to the Tampere Technopolis conference centre for the first day of my ISO Photography meetings. It’s just a few blocks away, and I passed a nice old church that I paused to take photos of along the way. The Technopolis is right next to the huge Nokia Arena ice hockey stadium. And we actually have a great view of the stadium right out the window of our meeting room, which is up on the top (8th) floor of the conference centre.

There were about 30 delegates at the meeting, from Japan, USA, Germany, Finland, China, and me from Australia. We kicked off with the usual administrative session, going over previous meeting minutes and action items, then future meeting planning. I gave a report on the planning for the October 2024 meeting which I’ll be hosting in Sydney. Then we had liaison reports from associated standards and industry bodies. This led us up to lunch, which we took early to provide additional time for the afternoon technical sessions, which would potentially run long with a lot of discussion.

For lunch I took a short walk outside, a couple of blocks to a nearby shopping centre. Inside was a Turkish street food place named Baba’s, where I got a chicken kebab plate, sitting on tall table with stools outside the small shop, inside the mall with a view over the central atrium. The food was good! Also inside this mall was a climbing facility, with dozens of climbing walls with different themes and challenges. It looked cool, but was closed and nobody was climbing there.

Back at the meeting, the afternoon sessions were devoted to discussions of the two HDR standards the group is working on. The HDR format which was developed quickly into a Technical Specification is going to be upgraded to an International Standard. But the bulk of the discussion was on the new proposal for HDR gain map definitions, to allow mapping to SDR and other displays. This is a topic with a lot of technical details, and input from multiple people. The session went a bit long, past the scheduled 18:00 closing time, which itself was later than our usual 17:00 close, to try to squeeze in an extra hour for this topic.

I walked back to the apartment to collect M. and then we went out for dinner to a place we’d passed this morning, a brewpub called Pyynikin Brewhouse by the river that looked good. I’d checked it out online and booked a table for 18:45. We ordered some garlic bread, which turned out to be fingers of dark rye bread, served with a spicy tomato dipping sauce. What a great idea, making garlic bread out of rye bread! Why haven’t I seen that anywhere else? It was delicious. For mains M. had the vegetable burger, while I had to try the sautéed reindeer, served with mashed potatoes and beer-marinaded cranberries. The reindeer was sliced thin and was tender and tasty, with a slightly gamey flavour unlike any other meat. I also tried the Pyynikin stout beer to wash it down, and that was good too.

M. filled me on on what she’d been doing during the day while I was at the meeting. She checked out the Market Hall, grabbing some snacks from various stalls. Then she spent the day wandering around the shopping area, staying indoors a lot to avoid the cold. She found an artisan market called Stable Yards, consisting of a collection of small wooden buildings that she said was very interesting.

As we finished dinner, I overheard some familiar voices at a table across the room, behind a partition. Sure enough, five of the ISO delegates were there having dinner. We figured we must have made a good choice as one of them was the local Tampere meeting host and would have known where to take the others for a good meal.

We headed back to the apartment for the night, had showers, and rested up a bit before bed. Hopefully we’ll have a better night’s sleep tonight, as we’re both getting very tired by dinner time as our bodies slowly adjust to the time zone.

Europe diary, days 3 & 4: A big Roman walk, and travel to Tampere

Monday 6 November

We slept in fits through the night, waking up on a few occasions, but managing to go back to sleep. We finally gave up about 06:30 and decided to get up for the day.

I found a nearby pasticciera using Google Maps, which opened at 07:00, Panificio Biscotteria Roscioni. We walked the two blocks over there to find a small bakery selling biscuits, cakes, and pastries. They had cornetti with Nutella filling, custard, and pistachio cream, but none with jam which was what M. wanted. I asked the man in Italian (as it seemed he spoke very little English) if they had any with jam but he said no, the fresh croissants were too hot to cut and fill just yet. So we got a plain one for M. and I tried a pistachio cream, which was less like the custard I expected and more like a pistachio Nutella, very sweet and sugary. After eating these we looked at some fo the other delicious looking things in the displays and M. selected a biscuit that looked like the Napolis we get from the Italian bakery at home. The man warmed it up for us in a microwave and cut it in half. It was indeed a Napoli and the filling was rich and intense with cocoa, not too sweet, which was nice after the pistachio cornetto!

We went back to the hotel to prepare for the day out. We decided to visit Trastevere, since we could just wander around and look at the various things there. I thought we could go there via the Colosseum, so we headed out in that direction. We got there quite early and walked around the huge structure, taking several photos in the morning sunlight. The weather was good despite a forecast of possible rain. Around the Colosseum we passed by the Arch of Constantine and then walked past the Palatine Hill archaeological site to the Circus Maximus. From there we passed the Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosmedin, which houses the famous Bocca della Verità. We wanted to see if we could go in and see it close up, but we were there at 09:00 and the church didn’t open until 09:30. Rather than wait, we crossed the Ponte Palatino into Trastevere.

We walked down Via dei Vascellari, stopping early on for a drink at a place called Terra Satis. It said it was a wine bar, but in the morning it was simply serving coffee and pastries like any other coffee bar. M. had a cappuccino and I had a spremuta orange juice. We then used the toilet before departing.

We continued down the street for several blocks, enjoying the quieter back street ambience before crossing over to the main Viale di Trastevere with its traffic and trams. At Via Emilio Morosini we turned west and then north into the maze of small streets that gives Trastevere its charm. We stumbled across a small produce market in Piazza di San Cosimato and bought a couple of small bananas, an apple for me, and some almonds for snacks. Next to the Piazza was a food store selling all sorts of Italian groceries and ingredients, which was fascinating to browse through. M. had a coffee in Bar Picchiotto on the western side the piazza and then we continued exploring.

We explored some of this area last time we were in Rome and accidentally managed to find and have lunch in one of the best pizza places to be found (Ivo Pizzeria). I was hoping we could find it again, but I remembered neither the name nor where it was, and we had no luck. But we found a decent looking place and stopped for lunch at Hosteria del Moro. We had an insulate caprese to start, followed by pizza margherita for M. and a pizza diavola for me, with spicy salami. We were also given a basket of hot bread slices with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, which was really delicious – very nice bread. The salad and the pizzas were very good too.

After eating we decided to walk past the Vatican, so headed north. When we got there, there was some sort of service thing happening on the giant video screens in front of St Peter’s Basilica, but I couldn’t see where the video was being captured from, so maybe it was just a recording or something. There were hundreds of people shuffling along in a queue to get inside the basilica, but having been in there a couple of times before we didn’t feel a need to go on again.

Heading east back to the river we were stopped from reaching Castel Sant’Angelo by some large construction work being done, which forced us to go back over the Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II, rather than walk to the Castel and cross Ponte Sant’Angelo with its angel sculptures. We walked along the river as far as Ponte Umberto I and then took a route inland along Via dell Orso. We passed a couple of very nice looking restaurants and grabbed their business cards, since we’ll be staying in this area next week and could use some good places for dinner close by.

This eastward route took us into the high fashion shopping area of Rome, where M. browsed in some shops and we slowly wended out way towards the Spanish Steps. These we climbed up the hill so we could take the straightest route back to our hotel along Via Sistina and Via delle Quattro Fontane. This completed a circuit of Rome that completely enclosed the loop we did yesterday!

Back in the hotel we freshened up with showers and resting for a bit before heading back out for dinner. We had dinner booked for our special anniversary dinner at Il Convivio Troiani, a rather fancy place. But it required another half hour’s walk back to almost where we were earlier near Via dell Orso!

The restaurant is a nondescript door in an old wall along a tiny alley. You have to ring the doorbell to be let in, revealing an atmospherically lit dining room with square columns and arched vaults. The wait staff consisted entirely of gentlemen in immaculate suits and ties, who performed an amazingly choreographed and intricate display of attending to the dinner guests. We were the first to arrive and were shown to a table after they closeted my jacket in an and wooden garderobe. M. tried to hang her jacket over her chair back but was politely informed that that was not allowed, so she folded it and placed it on her handbag, which was resting on a small, plushly padded footstool provided next to the table.

Suspended above the centre of our table by a fine thread was the dried stems from a bunch of grapes, holding eight or ten potato chips of different colours. The waiter said we could eat the chips from the table decoration. He presented us with menus in oversized cloth-covered folders. These contained the degustation menu and an almost exclusively non-vegetarian a la carte selection. I apologised for not warning them in advance that M. was vegetarian, saying that I has looked at the menu online and saw several options, and could we please know what the vegetarian options were. The waiter summoned the manager, who came to speak with us and listed several variations they could make to dishes. M. selected a fried zucchini flower appetiser, which had an anchovy sauce replaced with a miso sauce, and a pappardelle pasta dish which had another substitution. I chose a fried octopus appetiser and a spaghetti amatriciana with pork cheek. We also ordered a serve of mixed vegetables as a side. The waiter asked, “Is that all?” in a slight tone of voice that made me wonder if they expected us to order more food. But as it turned out it was plenty.

After ordering food, they brought the wine list, which came in a ring binder of well over 100 pages. There was one page of wine by the glass, plus another of aged wine by the glass. Some of the latter were pretty expensive, topping 100 euro per glass. We chose a 2006 Sangiovese from the non-aged section. The sommelier returned with a bottle and a gadget for extracting wine without removing the cork. He had three glasses and first poured a sip for himself to try, after which he gave an enthusiastic “Wow!” before pouring a taste for me. I tried it and approved, and he poured our two glasses. The wine really was very good, rich and full-bodied with plenty of interesting flavour development.

Food service began with an amuse-bouche. This consisted of a bite-sized rye bread roll for me, with salted cod and crispy cod skin, (vegetable like fennel?), and blueberries. M.’s vegetarian substitute was a tiny bowl of pumpkin soup with chestnut pieces. These were accompanied by a small glass with about three sips of spiced port wine mixed with some sort of juice or something (it was difficult to remember the full verbal description given by the manager). After this was a bite-size raspberry macaron filled with some sort of meat cream for me, soft cheese for M., and studded with granulated nuts. This was accompanied by another drink, a tropical juice with another liquor which he said was “infused for 24 hours” with some herbs and spices.

After this they brought house-made sourdough in a small individual loaf sliced into about 8 slices. It was still warm from the oven and delicious. The appetisers came out and looked amazing! They were both delicious, with different flavours and textures throughout. The pasta was also fantastic. The waiter served M.’s pappardelle and poured a green sauce into the hollow tubes formed by the pasta. He also said that the plate was only half of her serve of pasta and they would bring a second plate when she finished the first, to make sure it didn’t get cold as she ate (although I didn’t hear this at the time and thought she was getting a rather small serving!). For the mixed vegetables we expected a simple bowl of steamed carrots and zucchini or something, but what arrived was an intricately plated mix of mushrooms, cauliflower florets in white, yellow, and purple, semi-dried tomatoes, fried kale leaves, and dabs of orange and green sauces made from other pureed vegetables.

We looked at the desserts but one of the two options contained tobacco, and the other was a sweet penne pasta with various creamy and fruity things that didn’t appeal to me. The first one actually sounded good apart from the tobacco. So we passed on dessert and settled the bill. But on the walk back to the hotel we passed Giolitti, and so stopped in for some gelato. I had a cup with banana and black cherry flavours, and it was really good.

We were back at our hotel about 22:15 and prepared quickly for bed, since we set alarms for 06:30 to be up and check out of the hotel so we could catch a train to the airport tomorrow for our flight to Helsinki.

Tuesday 7 November

We are still getting used to the time zone shift, and were wide awake at 5:00, although we slept fairly well before this. We sat up and read for a while and then at 06:00 we decided to go to the station without out luggage and get an early breakfast, then return to the hotel to brush our teeth, finish packing, and check out.

We went back to the same place where M. had got her snack on arrival two days ago, but the pasticciera wasn’t open yet, and the lady there pointed us at another place opposite that served mostly sandwiches. But they had a few cornetti, including ones with apricot jam, so we got one each and M. had a cappuccino. After eating these we stopped at the station to buy tickets for the express train to the airport. Then we went back to the hotel, packed our bags, and checked out.

Back at Termini station ten minutes later we saw a Leonardo Express train sitting at platform 23. So we walked out there but the train lights went off and the doors wouldn’t open. We stopped to wait, thinking the train would be turned back on again in a little while. But I decided to walk back down to the indicator boards to see if there was any other information such as a departure time. I saw that the next express to the airport was due to leave from platform 24 at 07:35, in ten minutes. So I walked back to M. and told her we had to switch to the other platform. As we walked around, we stopped to inform several other people also waiting on 23 with luggage that they needed to walk over to platform 24. Hopefully they appreciated the advice! And indeed just as we made it to 24 another train pulled in. Travellers got off and we walked up to the front to get on.

The train left a few minutes late and deposited us at Fiumicino Airport just after 08:00. We checked with the Finnair check-in counter in case we needed to do anything, or check any of our bags. The man there said as long as we had a boarding pass on our phones (which we did) we could just go straight in through security. He also said our bags were fine to take into the cabin. So we passed through the security check, which only took a few minutes as there were virtually no queues. Again we didn’t have to remove anything from our bags, and there were large signs saying to leave everything, liquids, laptops, etc, in our bags for scanning. They said (in Italian and English) that it was the security screening of the future. I commented to M. that it was also the security screening of the past.

We wanted to grab some food before the flight, because it’s a bit of a budget flight and they only have snacks that you can buy on board. Upstairs in the terminal is a large area with restaurants, cafes, and other food places. M. grabbed a quick cornetto with Nutella from a coffee shop, and then we sat down in a large seating area served by a cluster of food outlets nearby. One of them had salads and vegetables, and I felt that would be good. I went to order a chicken salad and a large cup of fruit salad for M., but the woman there indicated that her station was closed, but I could order from the adjacent pizza place. When I went there and asked for the salad the lady looked at me funny and said to go next door. I told her that it was closed, and so she walked over to the other woman and they had a brief conversation, and then she came back and told me to go over there and grab what I wanted and bring it back here to pay. It was all a bit weird, but I managed to get what I wanted.

After eating those M. wanted a coffee and suggested sitting in one of the restaurants that had a coffee machine. I said I could still eat something else as well, so we did that. The place M. liked the look of turned out to be some sort fo weird Brazilian-Japanese fusion place. I ordered plantain chips with wasabi mayonnaise and some shrimp gyoza kind of things which came with a spicy banana dipping sauce. It was strange but decent.

Once done there it was almost 10:00 and our flight would be boarding soon. We walked down to the gate and people were already queueing up. We joined in, just before they started letting people into the queuing corral. We got seats in the fourth back row of the plane, a small Airbus A321. The back door was open and I could see it had started raining outside, and it got heavier before we took off.

In flight they crew sold snacks and provided complimentary water and blueberry juice. We both tried the juice and it was nice. We’ve never had blueberry juice before. The flight landed just 2:45 after take off, making our arrival in Helsinki around 15:00. At the airport we stopped at a bakery to get a snack. M. had a rye sandwich with cheese, lettuce, and cucumber, while I tried one of the tempting looking cinnamon buns. M. also had a coffee.

Then we walked out to the railway station, which was deep underground below the airport. We could feel the cold, as the temperature on arrival was 8°C. On the platform were ticket machines, blue ones for local trains and a green one for long distance trains. We used the green one to purchase two tickets to Tampere, and it printed a local metro ticket for an 8 minute journey to Tikkurila and a long distance ticket from Tikkurila to Tampere. The next train to Tikkurila was only 4 minutes away so we didn’t have long to wait. At Tikkurila we switched platforms to wait for the train to Tampere. The ticket machine had assigned us seats in car 4, and we tried to find the right place on the platform to wait for the correct car. As the train pulled in, we saw several of the Japanese ISO delegates, who came over and greeted us with handshakes. They boarded elsewhere, but one ended up in the same seating area as us a few seats behind. Our seats were across the aisle from each other, as everyone else in the carriage seemed to have single seats by the windows. But at the first stop the woman next to M. got off and so I moved across to sit in that window seat so we could be together.

The train arrived in Tampere a few minutes late, just before 18:00. It was dark, the sun having gone down around 16:00, and colder than at the airport, around 4°C according to the Internet. A light misty drizzle was falling, but we could see some drifts of old snow on roads and footpaths. We walked the couple of blocks to the pizzeria Bianco, where we picked up the key to our accommodation. It was just around the corner and we entered to find a nice apartment, a little worn in places, but certainly fine for our needs for the next few nights.

After dropping our things we went out to get some dinner. I found a Spanish place just a block away and we liked the sound of that so we went over to Bodega Salud. There we followed the example of others before us in using the large cloakroom to put our coats, hats, and gloves into a locker and take the key. This is completely foreign to us, having to deal with cold weather clothing like this. We were shown to a table in the nicely atmospheric decorated restaurant. We ordered tapas: patatas bravas, codfish croquettes, garlic bread, and a dish of spicy chick peas and spinach, together with glasses of Spanish Tempranillo wine. The food was all good and filling enough to serve as dinner without ordering more.

On the way home we stopped in at the supermarket next door to buy some supplies: shampoo for the apartment, muesli and milk and yoghurt for breakfast, and we threw in some fresh blueberries to go with that. I also grabbed a cheap tub of chocolate mud ice cream to serve as dessert each night while we’re here, and M. got some liquorice and chocolate. Then it was back to the apartment to have showers and turn in for the night. Basically a full day of travel, which was rather tiring!

Europe diary, days 1 & 2: travel to Rome, first day in Rome

Saturday 4 November

My wife (henceforth “M.”) and I slept in a bit this morning to get a good rest before our flight to Europe. I was still a bit full from the large dinner we had out at Turka (a local Turkish restaurant) last night, so I didn’t have breakfast before going out for a run. I only did 5k, not wanting to over-exert and also use up more of our preparation time before departure. After returning from the run, I ate the leftover bread from last night’s dinner with my own home-made hummus.

M. went up the street to drop Scully at the dog groomer and there she met her friend Rachel for a late-ish brunch. She had an awesome looking French toast with fruit and mascarpone (she sent me a photo). After Scully was groomed, she put her in Rachel’s car and she took Scully home to look after for the next two weeks while we’re overseas.

Meanwhile at home I had the leftover spicy potatoes and couscous salad from last night’s dinner for lunch. I cleaned the house, vacuuming, cleaning the shower, and making the bed with fresh sheets so it’s nice when we get back home. I got out my camera and charged the batteries. I took the chilli plant down to our neighbour downstairs to look after while we’re away. I also fed the sourdough starter with a drier mixture than usual and put it in the fridge, where it should be okay for the next two weeks.

M. returned home and we did final preparations. I packed clothes in my luggage and finalised packing toiletries and other things. We were ready to go just after 15:00 and decided to leave a little earlier than we’d planned. Unfortunately it was drizzling as we left, and we had to get out our umbrellas to walk to the station. Although this was better than earlier in the day, when it had been raining heavily. The rain stopped as we reached the station and we dried our umbrellas as best we could before putting them away a bit later.

The train took us to the airport, which was fairly empty, with not many passengers. We went straight in through passport control and security, without having to wait at all for either. We were pleasantly surprised at the security check when they told us we could leave everything in our bags – all the liquid toiletries and even the laptop computer. All I had to do was empty my pockets and remove my belt. This was much better than the ritual we’ve had to go through for the past 20 or so years. I quickly browsed the duty free shop and bought a bottle of Glenmorangie Scotch whiskey and some Diplomatico Reserve rum, to be picked up on our way back into Sydney. M. bought four little plush koala and kangaroo keyrings to be used as gifts if we meet anyone we feel like giving them to on our trip. This is a thing we decided we should so after our last trip to Japan, where Atsushi and his wife were very kind in inviting us to dinner in Yokohama after the ISO meeting.

Then we went to the Singapore Airlines lounge to relax before our flight. They had plenty of good looking food, but we restrained ourselves a bit and had only a bit of a snack to tide us over until dinner on the plane. I had some fruit salad, cheese and crackers, and then tried the tiny squares of cake. Our flight was announced as being 15 minutes late, but hopefully that still leaves us enough time to make the connection in Singapore onto our Rome flight, as we only had 90 minutes. I realised I hadn’t called my mother in a while and so quickly rang her and said we were about to fly out from the airport.

We left the lounge and boarded the plane, which departed at the expected time just 15 minutes late. We settled into our seats for the 8-hour flight to Singapore.

Sunday 5 November

Our flight arrived just after midnight Singapore time. We landed among frequent lightning, although there was no rain at ground level when we landed. We had enough time to stop in at the Singapore Airlines lounge to sit and rest. Our Rome flight departed at 02:05, and the information in the Singapore Airlines app said it would begin boarding half an hour earlier at 01:35. We had drinks and I tried some of the tiny cakes. The rest of the for looked amazing like last time we were here, but we’d eaten plenty and had another meal on the flight to look forward to, so restrained ourselves.

We left the lounge just before 01:30, thinking we’d be at the gate pretty much as they began boarding. But as we walked the long distance to the gate, we passed an information board that said the gate was closing already! We rushed a bit and got there in time, but everybody els was already on the plane! Never mind, we made it okay, and settled into our seats for the long-haul leg. There was more lightning as we took off.

I had the beef option for dinner with some red wine from Douro, Portugal, which was very nice. After that we tried to sleep for as much of the flight as possible, since we’ll be arriving in the morning in Rome and will want to stay awake all day. It was tough sleeping though and I didn’t really get any. I started to get hungry in the middle of the flight and had a banana, before waiting for the breakfast service about two hours before landing. I watched a couple of movies: Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves, and I rewatched Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, which I’ve been meaning to do for a while in preparation for thinking about plotting for Darths & Droids.

For breakfast they had the traditional eggs and sausage, but I chose to have the dim sum selection with rice and roast duck slices, which was very nice. We landed at Rome in very heavy rain with a good deal of turbulence. As we disembarked, the rain was bucketing down, and I feared we might have to deal with this on our first day, before our hotel room would be available for check-in. But by the time we had passed through passport control and exited the airport to catch the train to Termini station in Rome, which didn’t take long since we could go through an automated passport check channel with our Australian passports and we didn’t have any checked luggage to collect (so it must have been less than 15 minutes all up), the rain had stopped!

We bought tickets for the Leonardo Express train to Termini, and after a half hour trip it deposited us there. M. stopped at a large cafe right in the station to get a coffee and her first cornetto con marmellata. Then we walked the few blocks to The Hive Hotel. But being just after 09:00, our room wasn’t ready to check into yet, which we expected. We dropped our luggage though, and set off to walk around Rome for a few hours until we could check in at 14:00.

We walked first towards the Trevi Fountain, which was maybe 20 minutes away. But we stopped a few times so may have taken longer. One stop was to buy a comb (which M. forgot to pack) and a pair of nail clippers to deal with hangnails. The Trevi Fountain was a little busy, but we’ve seen it much more crowded when visiting in summer. There seem to be plenty of tourists around, though not as densely packed as the other times we’ve been here.

From the fountain we walked towards the Pantheon, although we diverted north to check out the bakery where we’d bought biscotti several times last time we stayed in Rome. We found it looking very similar to then, but replacing the old woman who served us then was a younger man. He didn’t seem to speak any English, but that was okay and we got a cannoli siciliano for me, and an amaretti biscuit and a cornetto con nutella for M. I thought the cannoli was filled with chocolate custard, but it tasted more like Nutella, and a lot of it! The sugar rush definitely helped us continue walking.

We passed the Pantheon, where there was a long queue of people waiting to be admitted. We assumed they must open it to the public at 11:00, as it was a few minutes before that time as we walked past. Every time we’ve been in there we just showed up and walked straight in. We headed to Piazza Navona and walked around there to see the fountains and stopped in at the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone, which was open for I think the first time the we’ve seen it. It was nicely decorated inside, but we didn’t stay long.

We headed to Campo de’ Fiori to have a look at the market stalls there. I tried a couple of types of cheese from one of the cheese stalls, but when the man asked where we were from and I said Australia he said, “Oh, you can’t take cheese back to Australia.” Obviously he knew about our quarantine laws, probably from other Australians telling him they can’t take cheese home.

It was getting close to lunch time and I thought we’d continue south to the Jewish Ghetto area and try to find something to eat around there. But we passed a small cafe which had decent looking sandwiches on various types of bread and decided to stop there. M. had a bagel caprese, with tomato and mozzarella filling, while I had a focaccia with sliced beef and lettuce. They weren’t very big but they sufficed for a quick lunch. M. had a cappuccino and I had a spremuta orange juice.

After eating we continued through the Ghetto and turned back towards our hotel. This route took us up the hill to Campidoglio and past the Roman Forum then down to Trajan’s Forum on the other side. Passing through this we emerged in the Monti district, which is an area we haven’t explored in past visits to Rome. We passed several nice looking restaurants, bakeries, and other food places. We stopped in at one to make a booking for dinner at 6pm. The lady said they normally only open at 7:30, but because today is Sunday they are open all afternoon, and she said she’d see us in the “afternoon” for dinner.

Back at the hotel a bit before 14:00 we checked in and went to our room. Finally it was time to clean up and have a shower after the long flights, plus several hours of walking around Rome! I began typing up some of this diary, but M. was in danger of falling asleep so we decided to go out for a walk. I found a “department store” a couple of blocks away and we went there, but it was really mostly just clothing, with a few strange knick-knacks. Across the street was the Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore, which was open for visitors, so we went in to have a look. This is a large basilica with several side chapels that we could go into. One held the body of Pope Pius V, and then downstairs in a small crypt near the main altar was a large silver reliquary which looked like it had the remains of Pope Pius IX. There was a service going on in one of the chapels with people singing, and there were several confession boxes with priests ready to hear confessions in multiple languages. One box listed no fewer than eight languages in which the priest could hear confessions!

We were both very tired and decided to go back to the hotel so M. could take a nap before dinner. But when we got there we went up to the roof to look at the restaurant and bar, and decided to sit out there and have a pre-dinner drink instead to keep us awake until dinner time. M. had a “spicy cream” which had coffee and chocolate liqueurs, while I had a “sud negroni”, which replaced the traditional Campari with limoncello spiced with pepper. My drink was really nice, clearly inspired by the traditional orange negroni, and with a strong kick of pepper.

After our pre-dinner drinks I gathered my jacket because the day had turned into a chilly evening and we walked back down to the restaurant we’d booked for dinner, da Robertino. There was only one other table of people there when we arrived, so it wasn’t necessary for us to have booked. We ordered garlic bruschetta to start, then M. had spaghetti cacao e pepe, while I tried the spaghetti Robertino, which had anchovy and burrata and breadcrumbs. When it arrived, the waiter turned it over several times with a spoon and fork to mix the burrata through the pasta. Both the pasta dishes were pretty good. I finished off with a house made raspberry cheesecake, which the waiter referred to as “strawberry”, we think because he got the English names of the berries confused.

After this early meal we walked back to the hotel to get an early night. Hopefully we can sleep a solid 10-12 hours or so to catch up on sleep and then our body clocks can be more or less in the right time zone from tomorrow.

Still a bunch of travel prep

I meant to have more travel prep done today, but I was so busy with other stuff that I basically haven’t done anything. Well except make sure my comics are buffered for the absence. I got the luggage out of storage , but haven’t got anything ready for packing yet. I’ll have to do all of that tomorrow.

For some reason it always feels like this last minute rush whenever I travel somewhere. I feel like next time I’ll be ready and packed a full day before I leave, but it never seems to happen.

My last ethics classes were today – four classes before a three week break. They restart on Sunday 26 November, which gives me a few days to recover and relax after getting back home from Italy.

Also, since by this time tomorrow I’ll be in the air, I’ll try to post some daily diary updates of what I’ve been doing, but I won’t be posting comic content links each day while I’m overseas. See you back in Australia on 20 November!

New content today:

Running down the perishables

One of the things to be done before leaving on a big trip is to run down any perishable food supplies. The goal is to end up on the day of departure with no milk, no bread, no eggs, no fresh fruit or vegetables in the house. So last week I bought less than the usual supplies of things, trying to make sure we didn’t have anything left over that would need to be thrown out before we leave.

Today I used the last of the cauliflower in dinner, and last night I used the last onion. I’m not quite sure what we’ll do for dinner tomorrow, because all we have left is two eggs and three carrots (although I suspect the carrots will actually last 3 weeks in the fridge, and so won’t need to be discarded). There’s non-perishable stuff, so I guess I could make two eggs with… rice, or lentils.

On the other hand, I’ve been looking at and booking some food experiences in Rome. I’ve found some good looking restaurants and made online bookings, and I’ve also booked this cool looking Roman market tour. We get to wander around with a local and meet market sellers and sample a bunch of foods from the markets! It should be a lot of fun.

I didn’t do much else today other than running 5 ethics classes online, walking Scully a couple of times, and polishing off another Darths & Droids strip – the last one I need to complete before leaving on my trip on Saturday.

New content today:

Pre-travel scramble

I missed my update yesterday because I had my evening teaching class at the university – the last class for image processing this semester. The students are on the final stretch of their assessment tasks and will be submitting their reports and videos on Friday. Normally I’d then have to mark a bunch of them, but this time I’m flying out to Europe on Saturday, so the marking will be done by all the other tutors. When I got home from the class I was too tired to type up a blog post, so I’m catching up tonight.

My day yesterday was mostly working on writing and making new Darths & Droids strips to fill the buffer while Im overseas. I still have to do at least one more strip, and that will be a task for tomorrow. Today I worked on this week’s ethics class lesson plans: Shrinking and Enlarging for the younger kids, and Revolutions for the older ones.

This morning I walked with my wife and Scully down to her work, where we sat at a cafe and had a special morning snack together. This was our wedding anniversary special event, because that’s today! But we didn’t have time for anything else. I considered surprising my wife with a picnic lunch, but I told her and she said it was good that I didn’t as she had a work meeting at lunch time today. And we couldn’t do anything special for dinner tonight because of my ethics classes. So we had to take the opportunity for something in the morning. I had an almond croissant which is one of my favourite types of pastry.

And, well, there’s not really much more to say. It’s all just a bit of a rush to get through things prior to leaving on our trip on Saturday.

New content yesterday:

New content today: