Day 8: In Martone, Italy, we meet family & friends we never knew we had!

My Journal, 2014

One of the happiest and proudest moments I think my husband experienced on our travels together was when we visited his mother’s birth town of Martone

8 May 2014

While visiting family close by, “we took the opportunity to visit Martone. This was a 10-minute drive up the hill with the most gorgeous views over the water and little townlets (sic) built into the mountain side. Martone is a little place at the top. After parking the car we walked up to the church. … We went over to a group of people sitting outside to ask if they knew where [my husband’s] mum’s family home was located. This was the beginning of a wonderful sequence of events that led us to find cousins and friends who remembered not only his mum (who left the town when she was 15) but who also still kept in contact with Zio Peppe’! [his mum’s brother in Australia]. An elderly gentleman took us up to the house- not 100 metres up the road and then we were invited into a bar [Osteria ‘La Via del Vino’] owned by a cousin*, Carmela, where she offered us chinotto and where we spent the next hour talking of old times and of people they remembered. It made Joe [my husband] very happy. He wanted to take photos of the street, the people and the church, as if I hadn’t already done so. We met Carmela’s son, Giorgio, and after fond farewells went to the cemetery to pay our respects to other family members who had passed. Joe was soooooo happy and excited to have seen the place. It was terrific!”

Joe in Martone, 2014

*not Joe’s cousin as such but related somehow to the family (twice removed) – you know how it is… 🤣

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Day 7: Our 25th Wedding Anniversary – London calling

Our 25th Wedding Anniversary was pretty much all organised by our eldest daughter, who had spent the previous 6 months studying at Oxford Brooks University in Oxford, UK. I left her there after our visit to the Holy Land. After a week together in London and Oxford, checking it out to ensure she would be ok, I returned home on my own. That, I have to say was tough.

“Rather teary farewell but she’ll be fine and in no time we’ll be off again to London to reunite as a family. This will be a great experience for Nikola, one which I would not take from her. … Can’t wait to hug Jules and P xxx … A presto Nikola ❤️”

Anyhow, she organised it all. We just had to get to London. My husband, our youngest daughter Julia and I arrive in London on the 18th.

18 December, 2011

“We were lucky when we got to our hotel at 7:30am or so cause our room was free, so we went straight in … we arrived to a temp of -0.5° C!!”

“Our road, Penywern, is actually prettier than our street from last time”

We stayed at London Town Hotel. Penywern Road is mostly white buildings that light up in Christmas blue at 4 pm – which is pretty much already dark.

While Nikola traveled on the bus from Oxford to London to meet us, we had breakfast.

“She arrives about 9:30 am. She looks good but sounds different … She’s become very independent like even more than she was at home!!”

All together again, 2011

Our anniversary apparently begins today. Off to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, then Surprise number 1 – Madame Tussauds. 

Day 1 over, we return to Earl’s Court, Nikola catches the bus back to Oxford. She has an exam the next day!

19 December, 2011 – While Nikola sits her last exam we experience Surprise number 2 – Tower of London

20 December, 2011 – Our 25th Wedding Anniversary

“Slept in, missed breakfast LOL! Dressed and off to Westminster Abbey. Porridge, danish and hot chocolate out front. LOL!”

After a tour of the Abbey and celebratory pre-Christmas ritual, Nikola meets us again outside and off we trot to Surprise number 3 – London Show of Billy Elliott at Victoria Palace Theatre!! Wow, wow, wow.

Finally, that night, we travel in a black cab to Surprise number 4!

My journal, 2011

The whole time I was secretly hoping Jamie would come out to say hi, but alas, he wasn’t there. That aside, the meal was D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S. Our mains consisted of fritto misto, tagliatelle, chicken liver tortes and squid risotto!

“… and dessert, OMG they had BOMBA on the menu, same dessert served at our wedding back in 1986! I told the waiter who promptly brought a piece out with a candle – on the house! Only thing better was if Jaime himself had served it hahaha. Waiter blew me a kiss when we left. Great day – Thanks!”

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Day 6: Terra Santa – Our tour with the Italian Community

In 2011, my eldest daughter and I joined a group of our Italian community and went on a tour of Israel! Mostly they were nonni, with a few of us young ones thrown in for balance hehehe. Oh my what laughs we had (remember the eye girls? 🤣). What lasting memories. I made this trip for my mum whose short life robbed her of the opportunity to travel. I felt her there at the Church of the Annunciation.

“I could ‘feel’ mum in this church and I was overcome with emotion.”

Some of our traveling companions – the Italian Community

Just like the visits to the Louvre in Paris brought my art books to life, so this tour of the Holy Land breathed life into the Bible for me. 

In the hills around Jericho, “the place where Jesus most probably spent the 40 days in the desert, … I truly thought that if I stayed just looking long enough Jesus would appear…” wandering through that desert and mountainous range.

Sea of Galilee, Israel. My journal, 2011

7 August, 2011 – On the road to Jerusalem

“Leaving Nazareth and onto the road to Jerusalem finds us driving through some amazing landscapes. It goes from green, full of date trees and palms and then – it’s desert! A dry, grey white, then suddenly up pops a town perched on the side of a hill. The cliffs are carved through to allow for the roads and every time one moves in and out of the precincts, we pass a check point. We encounter no problems, everyone just lets us through.”

My journal, 2011

But then….

8 August, 2011 – Bethlehem

“Getting in was fine at the checkpoint. Getting out was a little scary. Armed soldiers boarded the bus and asked to see our passports. Soldiers held machine guns and were very young, but scary nonetheless.” 

9 Agosto, 2011 – following the Passion of the Christ, (no, not the movie)

My journal, 2011

11 August, 2011 – Yad Vashem, a ‘name’ & ‘place’, Holocaust Museum

The Children’s Memorial

“The triangular corridor is dark with 5 candles illuminated and reflected on mirrored walls representing all the children killed. A voice recites all the known victims. The walk through was very sad, words cannot describe the feelings that come, only tears fall from your eyes. You feel their innocent spirits around. [It’s not creepy, it’s sorrowful] The museum doesn’t hold back on images nor on information about the Holocaust.” 

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Tomorrow we’re off to London …

Day 5: A day at Villers-Bretonneux

I just cannot leave the Western Front without one more post. I’ve been going through my journal that covers this particular trip and have just come across pages of epitaphs I had documented. Once again those feelings return. I remember walking along the gravestones, many unknown, I can hear the bees, feel the warmth of the sun and the cold of the stone block where I sat teary and emotionally exhausted after I had finished transcribing the messages that had caught my eye. 

11 April 2009 – A place that will never forget the Australians

Just west of the town of Villers-Bretonneux in the Somme, we make a quick stop at the Adelaide Cemetery

“We found the place from where the unknown soldier was taken and is now in Canberra – very emotional moment.”

From here we visited the L’Ecole Victoria. A school dedicated to remembering our diggers from the Great War. I peered in through the windows as the school was closed that day, to find beautifully coloured drawings of Australian animals. The artwork continues on the external walls and a great big sign oversees the playground “DO NOT FORGET AUSTRALIA”. Every classroom looks out onto this sign. ❤️ Never. Ever. Forget.

Do not forget Australia. My journal 2016


My journal, 2011

We then visit Viller’s Memorial to pay our respects.

The epitaphs …

“Time passes but memory clings until we meet again”

“Your memory like the ivy clings”

“A nation’s gain. A parent’s loss. A sad bride. ‘Neath the Southern Cross”

“He has fought the good fight”

“Think what a man should be. He was all that”

“He died that we may live”

“Peace, perfect peace”

“My Pal”

Lest we forget 🌺

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Day 4: Our visits to the Western Front 🌺

In 2009 I joined my school group on a tour of the Western Front. It would be the first of several visits in the years to come. I could write lots more, but suffice to say these trips left an indelible mark on me. I will Never. Ever. Forget. 

8 April 2009 – Ypres, Belgium

“The ‘real’ Western Front tour began yesterday … when I woke up this morning, the beautiful Cloth hall in the piazza was still there!” 

The day before we had visited multiple sites traveling from Paris and onto the Western Front. We had our own bus with Fausto at the helm. A loveable character who spoke no English. We loved him, though I have no idea how we managed to tour the Western Front over the two weeks. It was a mix of broken second languages, lots of map pointing and patience but we got there!

The Fausto Express

“Fausto, our bus driver is excellent, the best U-turner in the country. I speak to him in a mix of broken Spanish, Italian & French and he speaks back in Spanish!”

The Western Front experiences were many and varied. Each time we visited I saw and felt new things. We met many well know characters along the way, who openly and graciously shared of their experiences. I have always found it difficult to discuss my experiences of the Western Front and the emotions I felt. My journals were my escape, they were the ones with whom I shared, sometimes hurriedly scribbling what happened, many times just relishing in drawing, cutting and pasting. It was the time where I could pour out my day so that I would have room to ‘feel’ tomorrow. In this post I briefly touch on just 3 moments: seeing Cobbers, Otto Dix exhibition, and the Last Post at Menin Gate.


As we all stood solemnly around the sculpture of Cobbers, listening to Ian as he told the story. I was instantly catapulted back to my under-graduate days and into the sculpture studio at MCAE (Melbourne Uni). You see the sculptor, Peter Corlett, was my lecturer for a bit and here I was in front of the original piece, in Fromelles. (There’s a copy that stands as a memorial to Australian soldiers and their sacrifice at the Battle of Fromelles on July 19, 1916 in the Shrine Reserve in Melbourne if you’re interested in seeing it). However, nothing comes close to the feeling that comes over you standing on this land, in front of this sculpture looking over yonder at VC corner where so many of our boys fought and died.

Otto Dix

It had been a full day but nothing prepared me for the images I saw at an exhibition later that day displaying the war etchings by Otto Dix. Harrowing. I could not draw them fast enough so I could leave and close my journal!!!

My hurried sketches of a skull and a rotting corpse

Menin Gate

In Ypres, every night at 8pm the last post ceremony is held under the Menin Gate. It has taken place every night, whatever the weather, since 11 November 1929. The only exception to this was during the four years of the German occupation of Ypres from 20 May 1940 to 6 September 1944. 

My journal, 2011

Lest we forget 🌺

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