Europe diary, day 9: food shopping, walking tour of Monti

Sunday 12 November

I woke up a bit early but M. slept in until after 08:00. We had leisurely breakfast (the muesli we bought yesterday on the way to the apartment) and showers. The shower stall is so narrow that I couldn’t raise my leg to wash my foot like I normally do, and had to kneel down on the floor instead.

First up this morning we went to the market in Campo de’ Fiori to buy some fresh vegetables for cooking our own dinners. I searched for other farmers’ markets or fresh produce markets, but all of the ones near here were closed on Sunday. We walked down to the Campo via Piazza Navona, which wasn’t too busy that early in the morning. At Campo de’ Fiori we found a vegetable stall and selected a romanesco broccoli, an eggplant, an onion, a couple of tomatoes, and a couple of apples. The woman looked askance at the tomatoes and pinched off some stalks of fresh basil to add to the bag, free of charge. Clearly you can’t buy tomatoes in Rome without getting basil as well! We looked for fresh chilis, but none of the stalls seemed to have any. I also bought a small chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese from a cheese vendor. I tried asking if he could cut a small piece, explaining that we’re only in Rome for a week and will only be cooking two or three times, but it seemed all the cheese was pre cut and wrapped and they wouldn’t cut chunks to demand. But the second cheese seller I approached had one smaller chunk wrapped in cling wrap in the display and I asked if I could have that, so he sold it to me.

M. stopped to have a coffee at a cafe-bar and said it was really good. We walked back past the Pantheon, and I tried again to duplicate the photo of M. standing in front of it that we took in 2001:

Pantheon

and again in 2012, eleven years to the day later:

Pantheon, 11 years exactly

We’re here again eleven years later again, but not to the day, alas, as those photos were both taken in April. I used the old 2001 photo on my phone as a reference and think I was standing in pretty much exactly the same spot. It was difficult in 2012 because they’d put giant concrete flower boxes in the spot to act as traffic barriers, but this time they were gone again, so that was good.

I popped into a supermarket near the Pantheon to get some eggs and also some shower gel/shampoo for use in the shower. I looked again for chilis, but they didn’t have any either. Very weird. That was all we needed because I’d checked the kitchen cupboards before we left and found some essentials: olive oil, salt, pepper, white wine vinegar, Nestlé Quik chocolate powder, and… a can of tuna for some reason. I dropped the food at the apartment while M. went back to a clothing shop to buy the vest that she had her eye on before we went to Finland. Then she brought that back to the apartment as well and we decided what to do for the day. We wanted to take it a bit easy, and I found a walking tour of Monti in the Lonely Planet guidebook of Rome, which we thought would be good.

We set out walking over that way to the south-east, taking streets we hadn’t explored before and enjoying the sights along the way as we meandered across the city. On the way we stopped at Antica Trattoria Due Colonne for lunch, getting panini. M. had a caprese filling while I tried a sausage and chicory. The caprese had heaps of mozzarella and she removed a bit to share with me, and I added it to my sandwich. The sausage meat was a flat patty, served hot with wilted chicory leaves. They were pretty good.

We continued on to Monti, passing behind the back side of Trajan’s Forum on the way. The walking tour took us along streets in the blocks east of Via dei Serpenti (the Street of Snakes!), where there were many shops and food places and interesting things to look at. Some of them were closed for Sunday, but enough were open that it was interesting to stop and check them out. I grabbed some gelato from Gelateria dell’Angeletto. I picked a cup size that I thought would be good for two flavours, and chose the cheesecake with raspberry and the ricotta and chocolate. But the guy insisted I choose a third flavour, even when I told him two flavours would be fine. So I quickly picked banana and he added a third spatula-load on top. They were all very good.

We stopped in at Antico Forno ai Serpenti (Ancient Oven of the Snakes!) and grabbed some sweet bites. M. had a biscotto with chocolate chips, while I had a sfogliatella, with crispy layers of pastry around a custardy filling. We ended up finishing the walking tour at Bookàbar, a book store hidden inside the lower level of a huge building, the Palazzo delle Esposizioni. This is a strange place, with exits from the book store leading into a basement warren of square tunnels that house a cafeteria and toilets and exhibition spaces. M. felt like another coffee so we explored around a block to find a likely place and stopped at a small cafe-bar that we stumbled across. M. said it was fine, but not as good as the morning coffee.

We were near the Quirinale Gardens, and decided to see if we could go have a look at those. We’ve never seen them on previous visits, and it’s never been clear to me how to get access to them, as they are on a hilltop and all of the surrounding streets seem to be many metres below the garden, facing impenetrable walls that give no access to the garden above. We walked around about 75% of the perimeter, but found no way to get in. Looking it up after we returned to the apartment I found that the only way in is through the Palazzo Quirinale, which we didn’t go past. But it’s not open on Sundays or Mondays, so we wouldn’t have been able to go in today anyway.

We wended our way back to the apartment slowly, taking different streets to explore more. On the way past the Antico Forno bakery I stopped in to get a loaf of bread to have with out dinner. They were big loaves but the price was listed per kilo and I saw one cut in half, so I asked for a half loaf, which the man was happy to give me. We arrived back a bit before 17:00.

M. suggested we could find a wine bar or something to have a drink before cooking dinner for ourselves tonight. I searched and found Vinoteca 900 just a few blocks away, which opened at 17:00. We actually went about half an hour after that, and found the place empty. Clearly that’s too early for pre-dinner drinks when most of the restaurants don’t even open until 19:30 or 20:00. We had a glass of red wine each. M. requested something light and dry, and the server suggested a wine and had me taste it. I asked M. if she wanted to taste it, but she said she trusted me. I thought it was good and the sort of wine she’d like, so had the server pour her a glass. I chose a Nebbiolo for myself, which was also pretty good. The wines came with a complimentary plate of nibbles: taralli, olives with small pieces of preserved lemon, and salted peanuts, all in tiny bowls on a long oval plate, with another empty bowl for the olive pits.

As we nibbled and drank, one of the staff put on a live soccer match, Lazio versus Roma. All the staff plus some men who just seemed to hang around outside the bar watching the TV screen were transfixed by it, and cheered when Roma apparently scored a goal, but the referee disallowed it for some reason that was entirely unclear to me. Three ladies sat at a table outside and ordered wine as well, the only other customers to arrive before we left to head home. On the way we stopped in at Antico Forno once again to get some dessert for me. We got a slice of the crostata, which the sign said had frutta secca (dried fruit).

At the apartment, I chopped up the vegetables we’d bought this morning and cooked a frittata, with fresh basil leaves and shavings of Parmigiano on top. It took some preparation and was tricky juggling the minuscule amount of kitchen space to organise. When it was ready I had to call M. to come grab her plate to make space, while I had my hands full serving my own plate with no flat surface left to put it down on. The result was pretty good though, with lovely fresh bread sliced and drizzled with olive oil.

Later as I typed up this diary entry I tried the crostata. I’m not sure about dried fruit as such, but it was rich with walnuts and had a layer of raspberry jam on the bottom and apricot on top of the nuts. Very sweet, but delicious. I only ate half and will save the other half for another night.

Europe diary, day 8: travel day, Tampere to Helsinki to Rome

Saturday 11 November

I’ve figured out why Finns like saunas so much. It’s not for the heat, it’s for the humidity. The cold air outside is humid with the rain, but the temperature is so much warmer indoors that the relative humidity is very low, and it’s playing havoc with my sinuses and mucus membranes. I was sniffling with a scratchy nose during the night and it’s a bit uncomfortable.

Today was another travel day. We got up about 06:30 and had breakfast, then prepared to leave our apartment accommodation in Tampere. We washed the dishes, stripped the bed linen, and placed all the linen and towels on the bathroom floor as instructed. We also had to take the garbage out, and the instructions said the bins were found in the apartment courtyard. I went out to find them and had to search a bit to locate the courtyard. I out plastic into a recycling bin, but the paper and general garbage were supposed to go into huge rectangular things like giant garbage skips – except they had heavy metal lids and were hooked up to power, apparently to open and close the lids hydraulically. There were a series of buttons on the side and instructions… in Finnish. I tried a few things but nothing worked. Eventually I noticed a handle on the general bin and tried using that to force the lid open, which managed to do the trick. I tossed the rubbish in, but then had to figure out how to close the lid as it was now too far away to reach. But I spotted a rope attached to it and used that to pull the lid down and closed again.

That task done, we checked we’d packed everything and left the apartment, leaving the key on the dining table. We walked over to the train station and bought tickets to Helsinki. I tried using the ticket machine to select seats next to each other, but every single window seat on the train was booked, except for some in the first class cabin which would have cost extra. So we ended up with seats across the aisle from each other again. But when the train pulled out, the window seat next to M. was still empty, and the first stop was over an hour away, so I moved over. But I noticed a weird smell there, which was unpleasant. I went for a walk around the carriage, going downstairs to a section that was for passengers travelling with dogs. Down there were plenty of seats free. M. checked them out and suggested we move down there, which we did, and it was much more pleasant away from the weird smell. M. said she thought it was the guy sitting in the seat in front of us. Anyway, I’m glad we moved.

The trip was just over 1.5 hours long, with only a couple of stops in the suburbs of Helsinki before depositing us at Helsinki central station. We found a luggage storage room and left our bags there for a few euro. The lockers were self-operated using an electronic system, and we had a ticket with a QR code to open the locker when we got back.

We walked out of the station and down the main street towards the park. The day was very dim and grey, but thankfully no rain, and a few degrees warmer than Tampere but still very cold. Shops were just opening as it had just turned 10:00. Many were decorated for Christmas, and there were many trees with lights in the streets. On our way back to the station later we saw workers hanging large wire-frame baubles with lights on cables above the street.

After turning the gentle corner into the park and walking down that a bit we decided it was more interesting to walk along the street shopfronts. M. stopped at a patisserie and we got some snacks. She got a gingerbread pastry and I had one with lingonberries. Both were delicious. We continued walking to the end of the park, where there was an open plaza on the waterfront, with several market stalls selling wooden and fabric crafts, souvenirs, clothing, and so on. There were some stalls selling hot food, and these had small marquees erected with tables and chairs inside so people could eat out of the cold. I went into one to have a look and it was warm inside. One stall was selling salmon soup, which M. said was a Finnish specialty and that I should try it somewhere, but we were full from the pastries, so I didn’t, even though it sounds good.

It started to rain lightly and we put our umbrellas up. We walked back along the other side of the street, stopping in a souvenir shop to get out of the cold for a bit. Among the usual sort of souvenir stuff they had a display full of amber jewellery, and also some amber dice. They looked cool, and not too expensive, so I bought half a dozen to use for games. M. stopped in a craft shop to look around and bought some small souvenir items to give to people back home. The whole time we were in that shop, several minutes, there was a lady serving a customer, sitting in front of a mirror, with multiple layers of cloth of different colours laid over her shoulders. The assistant was talking rapidly in Finnish, presumably about the colour matching with the customer’s complexion and eyes and hair or whatever, and then switching the coloured fabrics to show how they coordinated.

Further along we stopped at a cafe for M. to get some coffee. It was busy with people having late breakfasts and there was a huge buffet of stuff. We realised this cafe was part of a hotel. We went to use the toilets one at a time, and finding them a maze of navigation, going along some corridors, downstairs, and through more twisty corridors. After finishing her coffee, we left to walk back to the station and reclaim our luggage. Then we just had to work out how to get to the airport.

We found some green ticket machines, and I searched for the airport as a destination, only for the machine to tell me that tickets to the airport could be bought from the blue ticket machines. The green machines are for long distance trains and the blue ones for commuter services. The problem was there were no blue machines anywhere in sight. We had to search for them, and found some out near the platforms. We got tickets and then walked out to the platform for the next train to the airport. It stopped at several stops on the way, taking just over half an hour to get there.

At the airport we went straight in through the security check, which had no queues. Then we stopped at a cafe that had some nice looking sandwiches and other things. M. got a rye sandwich with cheese and egg and salad, while I had a spicy falafel bowl, which included some fruit salad on the side. When I bought them, the woman behind the counter asked if I’d like dressing for the falafel bowl. I said yes and she said they had peanut butter, tahini, or lemon dressing. I chose the tahini, and she poured some from a container into a fancy porcelain milk jug for me. In fact, the whole decor of the cafe was a bit grandmother’s living room, with my falafel salad in a fancy porcelain bowl, and lots of flowers and frilly things around. They also had some amazing looking cakes, with mounds of pink icing and stuff like that.

To pass the time we both went off individually to look around for a bit. Eventually we moved over to the departure gate for our flight to Rome. The plane was parked outside the windows and it looked even smaller than the one we’d come to Helsinki on. It’s an Embraer ERJ-190. On the previous flight we had seats in row 40-something, most of the way down the back. This time we are in row 13, and I thought we’d be right up the front of the plane, but it turns out we’re about halfway back. Once again we enjoyed the complimentary blueberry juice on board, and had a pack of Pringles that we’d brought all the way from Australia to snack on during flights.

The sun went down as the plane crossed Europe towards Italy. We landed, exited the airport, and once again got tickets for the Leonardo Express to Termini Station – after wrestling with a recalcitrant ticket machine in the airport terminal that refused to give two people in front of us tickets, and also refused to accept my credit card for payment. I tried again at a machine closer to the station and that worked smoothly. The train to Termini ran pretty slowly, and arrived something like 15 minutes later than it should have.

This time, at Termini we went down to the Metro lines and caught a train three more stops to Spagna, the closest stop to our new accommodation. From here we walked down Via dei Condotti towards our apartment for the next week. We tried to book the same apartment that we stayed in when in Rome in 2012, but it didn’t seem to be available any more. But I managed to find another one just a block or two away, in the area north of the Pantheon.

We located the door on a small, dark alley, and had to use the torch on our phones to see the labels on the door buzzer to find which one would let us in. Inside was pitch dark until we located the light switch, again using the torch. At the apartment door was a lock box with the key inside, and I entered the combination in our check-in email and after some fiddling with the metal gate that is in front of the wooden door, managed to get us inside. The apartment is nice. A little rustic, but in a nice antique sort of way, rather than tired and run down. There’s an ornamental electric fireplace that just looks pretty and apparently doesn’t provide any heat at all.

After dropping our things, we ventured out for dinner, it being just after 20:00 by now. It turns out that one of the restaurants we grabbed a business card from earlier in the week, thinking we should go there one night, is literally just around the corner from where we are staying! So we tried that first, Ristorante Laganà, but got rejected without a reservation. So we continued the half block or so to Ristorante Pizzeria La Segrete. Here we got a table right away in the tiny dining room – they also had many tables set up on the street outside.

We ordered some bruschetta semplice (i.e. garlic bread), a pizza margherita for M., and a pizza “La Segrete” for me, which had Italian sausage and mixed vegetables on it, mainly zucchini, eggplant, red capsicum, and mushrooms. The pizzas were pretty good, with paper thin crusts. After paying the bill we went for a walk to Gelateria della Palma. I got a cup which I assumed would hold two flavours, but the guy serving me kept asking me for more flavours until I had four: sesame and honey, crunchy black cherry, hazelnut, and pistachio.

From here we walked back slowly to our apartment. Passing by Laganà again, I popped in and made a dinner booking for us for Tuesday night. Once back in the apartment we prepped for sleep. We’ve moved an hour back in time zones again, so it feels later than it is, and perhaps we’re likely to wake up early tomorrow, although we feel very tired so hopefully we can use the time to grab an extra hour of sleep!

Oh, and the weather in Rome is thankfully warmer and more humid than in Tampere! My nose feels much better.

Europe diary, day 6: technical topics and imaging demos

Thursday 9 November

I have terrible luck with shoes overseas. Yesterday the pair I brought here developed one sole in the process of peeling off from the heel. It’s been making a rubbery flapping noise every time I take a step, and was slowly getting worse as the sole progressively peels away from the rest of the shoe. This exact thing has happened at least twice on other overseas trips.

I woke up a bit early this morning, but not as bad as yesterday. M. got a better sleep. We got up just after 07:00 and had breakfast. At 08:30 we left, me heading for my meetings and M. for a cafe for her morning coffee.

Today’s meeting was packed with diverse technical sessions, after yesterday’s marathon on HDR images. Today we discussed image information capacity (using Shannon information theory to measure the signal to noise ratio across an image), depth metrology (characterising depth image cameras), angle-dependent image flare (measuring lens flare caused by light sources outside the field of view of the camera), removable memory (revising a current standard to deal with the fact that camera technology has moved on from removable memory), and vocabulary (revising the list of technical camera-related definitions to update old definitions and add new ones as technology changes).

For the lunch break, I went back to the same Turkish place as yesterday since it was so good. The woman remembered me from yesterday and welcomed me back with a hearty greeting. This time I had the falafel plate instead of the chicken, and it was just as good.

Despite the load of topics, the meeting wrapped up just before 15:00 today, because we had a special event planned for the afternoon. We had to make our way to the Finlayson neighbourhood, which is all old warehouses and industrial buildings, converted into restaurants and tech companies. One was hosting a mini imaging industry event, to which we were all invited.

But on the way back to the apartment to pick up M. I stopped off at a shoe repair place that I’d found by searching online. It was right next door to the restaurant where we’d picked up the key to the apartment, and so on the way. I had some stereotypical idea of an old Finnish cobbler who didn’t speak English, so I prepared by translating a few sentences explaining my predicament into Finnish using Google Translate. It was fortunate that I did, because the shop was indeed run by an old Finnish man who didn’t speak English. I showed him the translation on my phone, which explained that these were the only pair of shoes I had with me on this trip, so I needed either to buy some glue or to get a quick repair done while I waited. He examined my shoe and held up two fingers, saying “two minutes”. It ruined out to take maybe 10 minutes as I waited, thinking we were going to be late for the industry event. He did a bang-up job on the shoe though, for 10 euro.

I collected M. from the apartment and we headed to the event. We got a little lost in the building, climbing the stairs from the ground floor to what we thought was the first floor, but turned out to be the second. So we rode back down a floor in the lift. I think ended up on a kind of mezzanine level, half a floor above the ground level. From there we were confused as to where to go until we spotted signs pointing to an imaging event, which sounded right. Following these we entered a conference room area, where women at the door asked us to sign in on a list if invitees. I couldn’t find my name there, and we had to explain that we were ISO delegates invited by Ari to this event. This got an “ah!” of understanding and they handed us a blank sheet to write our names and affiliations on.

I hadn’t quite known what this event was going to be, and was a little surprised at all this. We entered room with about a hundred people sitting watching a presentation, and hovered near the back until someone brought us a couple of high stool chairs to sit on. The presentation was a series of 5-10 minute presentations given by people from various local imaging tech companies and university institutes here in Tampere. Most had brought demos of their technology, which were set up in a series of small rooms off the main room, and where we could go play with the demos after the talks were over.

But when the talks were done they first had some entertainment! An improv comedy group named Okay 10 performed for about half an hour, doing a series of 6 or 7 different improv pieces. The group was two men and a woman, with one man playing guitar for a few of the skits. He did a whole improv song, using title and word prompts from the audience – the song was named “Nimble Swimming” and when they requested a musical style someone yelled out “jazz!”, so the guy said, ah yes, he’d do it “in the well-known jazz guitar style”. He started singing and the woman occasionally called out audience words that she’d collected while the singer wasn’t listening. He was really good and the song was hilarious. This was the highlight of several good sketches.

After the comedy, we had a stand up buffet dinner, with mixed vegetables, potato rösti, braised beef cheek, braised pork, and falafel patties with spicy tomato sauce, along with beers and wines. The food was pretty good, with the beef cheeks delicious and tender. We filled up, and also went and tried a Microsoft HoloLens at one of the demos, which was fun.

Full of free food, we departed to head back to the apartment. But M. suggested stopping at a cafe for cakes and hot chocolate. It was still very early, just after 18:00, as the buffet had started at 17:00. M. led us to the cafe Kaffila. We passed three or four other cafes on the way which I pointed out, but M. said they didn’t “look cozy”. I saw what she meant when we arrived at Kaffila, which definitely had that “cozy” vibe. I ordered M. a large hot chocolate and asked the woman behind the counter about the cakes. I had my eye on what looked like a lemon cheesecake, but the adjacent cake with layers of cream looked intriguing too. She said the first was a pear cheesecake, which sounded good and I wanted to try it, right up until she said the other was a carrot cake and “that’s my favourite”. Well, the staff favourite had to be tried, so that’s what I had. It was indeed a very good carrot cake, with layers of cream filling.

Now truly stuffed, we headed back to the apartment for the night. The only issue outstanding is that when in the shoe repair place the man asked about my other shoe and I assured him it was fine. But… as I was leaving with my newly fixed left shoe, I noticed the heel on my right shoe starting to peel off… M. cracked up laughing when I told her this and said I’d have to go back and get the guy to fix the other shoe tomorrow.

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:

A week to Rome

We’re starting to prepare for our trip to Europe, departing on Saturday. Laundry was done to wash clothes that we plan to take. We also prepared our chosen shoes by spraying them with Scotchgard to improve waterproofing. We only take one pair of shoes each and it would be bad if they got soaking wet, either in rain or the possibility of snow in Finland. We’ve also been getting a bunch of reminder emails about checking in and stuff from the airline.

This morning I did a 5k run. But we slept in and I got up a bit later than normal, and it was a warmer day, so it was significantly warmer than when I ran yesterday morning. After showering and changing (and cleaning the bathroom and shower) it was almost time for lunch.

We went for a walk to the Grumpy Baker at Waverton, where we had spicy vegetable rolls. And the took Scully down to the waterfront park for some ball chasing exercise. It was a pretty standard day for the most part.

This evening I had my first set of ethics classes that will be the last ones before our trip. I told the kids I’ll be away for the next three weeks, and will see them next on Sunday 26 November. So yeah, the trip is getting close now!

New content today:

Well that was a game

So, that was a brilliant game of football last night. Australia beat Canada 4-0 and proceed to the knockout rounds of the Women’s World Cup in top position in their group. This means we most likely avoid the strong England team in the first knockout game.

It was an amazing game, against one of the strongest teams in world football, as Canada are the reigning Olympic champions. It could have been 5-0 too, with another goal being overturned by one of the silliest applications of the offside rule ever seen.

The next game, probably against Denmark, is on Monday next week. That should be one to watch too.

Today, I finished off my class plan for the new ethics week, on alternate history.

And I ticked off a major thing: booking flights to Rome in November. My wife and I have looked at the options to visit Helsinki for the ISO Photography standards meeting there. We want to extend the trip to have a vacation too, and thought Rome would be suitable, as we like Italy, and it won’t be as cold as northern Europe in November. I checked flight costs for trips:

  • Sydney-Singapore-Helsinki; Helsinki-Rome; Rome-Singapore-Sydney
  • Sydney-Singapore-Rome; Rome-Helsinki; Helsinki-Singapore-Sydney
  • Sydney-Singapore-Rome; Rome-Helsinki; Helsinki-Rome; Rome-Singapore-Sydney

The first two are triangular options, while the last one we basically just get a return ticket to Rome, and then book a return flight from Rome to Helsinki. The way the dates work out we could have two nights in Rome before going on to Helsinki, and then a week in Rome after leaving Finland. It turns out that although this is more flights, it’s actually about 20% cheaper, because of the way that return tickets are costed cheaper than two one-way fares. So that’s what we went with, and I booked the Sydney-Rome and return legs tonight. Tomorrow I’ll look at booking the Finland flights.

New content today:

Prepping for Finland

Mundane things: Last three classes on the “Heroes and Villains” ethics topic. I took Scully for a couple of walks, and did some ball chasing with her in the park. Weather was nice today, a warm winter day.

Speaking of winter… The next meeting of my ISO Photography Standards group is in November. In Tampere, Finland. The local organiser gave us info about the city, including typical and extreme climate data. The average daily high temperature for November is 1.5°C. The average low temperature is -3°C. The record high is 11.1°C, and the record low is -22.3°C.

Now… I live in a pretty warm place. 11.1°C is… well, I don’t even know if Sydney’s ever had a winter day that didn’t exceed that temperature. It gets lower than that at night in winter, but around where I live nowhere near as low as 1.5°C.

I don’t even own clothes that would keep me comfortable at temperatures close to 0°C.

I don’t even want to think about the possibility of experiencing temperatures around -20°C. Now, if I want to travel to such a place, I need to work out how to survive. Obviously I need some serious cold weather gear.

But, apart from this three days in Finland, I’m most likely never going to need such clothes again in my life. So buying heavy winter gear seems stupid. So today I searched to see if there was any way to hire suitable clothing in Finland. Maybe something at Helsinki Airport, where incoming travellers can pick up the stuff they need to survive the weather, and drop it back off before getting on their outgoing flight. It appears that such a service actually used to exist, according to one website I found, but the link to the company offering the service was dead.

And then I found some forum posts asking the same sort of question. Almost all of the responses I found said that sure, you can hire winter clothing once you get to Lapland – the northernmost region of Finland – but nobody knew of any place you could hire winter gear in Helsinki. I quote one:

In Helsinki, if you won’t be spending long periods of time outside, a ski jacket and wearing lots of layers might be enough – such as wearing a pair or two of leggings under your jeans etc. Although I’m saying this as a Finn, who is used to the cold and doesn’t mind freezing for a short while.

Great… I don’t have a ski jacket or two pairs of leggings to go under my jeans!! I don’t want to buy a ski jacket! And even if I have all this and I’m not a hardy Finn used to freezing for a while, I’m probably gonna die of the cold anyway! “might be enough”!

Anyway, I decided to email the local organiser in Finland to see if he knows any way I can hire some winter clothing for the trip. Hopefully he’ll come back with useful information and won’t laugh at me too much.

New content today: