Monthly Archives: July 2015

My most boring blog post so far

Genoa is the city where the word jeans comes from. The French spelling of Genoa is Gênes and it was this word that was borrowed and became jean in English. It refers to the jean fabric which, used as in legged denim garment, became jeans, short for ‘a pair of jeans’. The word denim, interestingly, is from de Nîmes, after the city where the French tried to copy the manufacturing of this product. This was all long before it became stonewash, skinny jeans etc.

Genoa itself got its name from ‘knee’, because it’s located in the knee of the Ligurian Sea. Its etymology is similar to that of Geneva which has a comparable location at the Lake of that same name.

After Genoa I cycled along the coast to La Spezia ever following the Via Aurelia, it had quite a few climbs and it was hard work in the unrelenting heat. To keep my mind off this oppresive condition I tried to do some math to see how the sun was getting less powerful every day because of its declining position at the sky. A month had passed since the summer solstice after all.

You can skip this part as it is really boring….

So how did that work: during the summer solstice, the sun has its highest position and at the Tropic of Capricorn (23,5 degrees North) it stands at its zenith, that is at 90 degrees. For positions further north that is obviously lower. Genoa was at roughly 44,5 degrees latitude, so the sun’s highest point in that city was 90 + 23,5 – 44,5 = 69 degrees during the summer solstice. During the winter solstice that figure is 90 – 23,5 – 44,5 = 22 degrees. Thirty days after the summer solstice it would be: 45,5 + 23,5 cos (30 / 365 * 2 * pi). This amounts to 66 degrees which meant the sun stood already 3 degrees lower in the sky at noon that day than during the summer solstice. And yes, I had to get down from the bike to do the cosine thing on my calculator. I can’t do that in my head… And no, it didn’t help anything knowing this, because I still had no idea how the angle of the sun determines its strength.
The above calculation is with a few simplifications and doesn’t allow for the fact that the orbit of the earth around the sun is an ellips rather than a circle. According to Kepler’s Second Law the earth moves slower around the sun as it stands further from the sun, which means that summer on the Northern Hemisphere is slightly longer than summer on the Southern Hemisphere. People in Australia might not like this…

After two days I arrived in La Spezia and the road flattened out. It was still hot and the coast was very developed and ugly.


I don’t like children. Hell is other people, Sartre said, but I’d like to improve on that maxim and change it into: Hell is other people’s chldren. I came to that conclusion on a campsite near La Spezia where children were running and screaming around my tent while I was trying to recuperate from another day of cycling under the glaring sun.

Pisa at times seemed to be merely the medieaval decor for African migrants selling sunglasses to Chinese tourists. The first day I made some sketches in the Palazza Blu. The second day I decided to stay another day in that city because of violent thunderstorms. After that the heat returned, so I got back on my two wheels.

No photos as I didn’t make any. Boring…



Still in Genoa because it’s too hot to ride a bicycle.

In the morning I sat for my tent and watched two Italian wall lizards dazing in the sunshine on a tree trunk. Next I saw how a lilttle green grashopper jumped audaciously some thirty centimetres in the direction of the lizards. The smaller lizard moved swiftly and next it had the little insect in its mouth. The other one circled it jealously but to no avail: reptiles are not well known for their empathy.  With my mug of morning coffee in my hand, I enjoyed this little scene immensely and I only missed the elegant commentary of Sir David Attenborough.

It wasn’t too hot for swimming and so I descended the long flight of stairs once more to swim in the Ligurian Sea. When, after some vigorous breast  crawl, I took a shower I noticed how the lifeguard, who was sitting nearby, was softly singing in Italian. For some reason it seemed very appropriate.

From a photo

From a photo

Sketching makes me understand why photography is so widely popular: proportions and likeness are so much easier achieved by means of a camera. And so much faster.

I Pittori

I Pittori

My little sketch of ‘I Pittori’ was based on a painting in the Museum of Modern Art in Genoa which, in it’s original, is much bigger, but I was pleased with the abstract I was able to make.

Portraits are very difficult because as humans we are evolutionary adept in recognising each other. It’s much harder, however, to recognise individual pinguïns as there is little evolutionary advantage in being able to do so. For that reason it seems evident that sketching pinguïns is much easier even though it never really caught on.

Sketches from sculptures in the Wolfsonia:


Wolfsonia 1

Wolfsonia 2

Wolfsonia 2


Wolfsonia 3












There are about 60 million Italians, but they sound like so many more when you are in Italy.

They are a loud people.

In Savona I cycled around to find a supermarket and I stopped  to ask questions of an Italian with a speech disorder. Hair was growing out of his face at unexpected places. He looked like he might actually work in a supermarket: shabby clothed and knowledgable about where I could find the sugar. He spoke good Italian so I didn’t understand a word of what he said, but he repeated quatro, ‘four’, and because it was a Sunday, I assumed it was only open till four o’clock. That was alright, it was only half past two… When I got at the supermarket it found it closed and a sign that said it would open from 16.00 to 20.00.

To get back to the campsite I cycled along the beach. It was a pebble beach, but that was okay, because it was covered with bodies of people being stone grilled. Thinking it over I concluded that this was a good thing: I’d rather have Italians in the water than on the road…

The following day I followed the coast to Genua on the so called Via Aurelia or, less poetical, the ss1. Navigating in Genoa was only marginally less frightening (and exasperating) than it was in Lisbon.

On my first day I visited two museums in Nervi: The Raccolte Frugone Museum and The Museum of Modern Art. The first had some fine art and I asked to make some sketches which was alright. It was nice and cool. When I was nearly finished with a portrait I stood up and no sooner had I packed my bag or some woman took my chair and put it back where I had taken it. When some time later I left the building she stood outside smoking a cigarette. ”Buongiorno’, I said and smiled. She exhaled. ”Buongiorno’, she said and looked at me in a way that could only be describe as in an unsmiling manner.

raccolte frugone

Nice view from the Raccolte Frugone Museum. I liked the ‘special effect’ in this photo caused by the window gauze…

The Museum of Modern Art, housed in another monumental villa, was much nicer. The lady who sold me the ticket smiled and said I could sit and sketch anywhere I want and stay as long as I like. She also showed me the toilet.
I was the only one in the Museum and I enjoyed it thoroughly, it was fantastic. I loved the work of Rubaldo Merello with its abundant colours.

I forgot who this was...

I forgot who this was…

The day after I bought campingaz and read in Jules Verne in the original French. I had beans for dinner.

The third day I took the train to Genoa. The old city had narrow alleys which were dark and cool, even in the midday heat. There were many little groceries and I bought some delicious plums for little money. I walked through the monumental Via Garibaldi which was on the UNESCO World Heritage list. It was deemed to be ‘of outstanding value to humanity’ . It was also very hot.

To Italy

Because I wanted to ride the Grand Corniche to Italy, I decided to visit Monaco as a separate daytrip and so I  took a train to the principality, which was built by the French to transport guests to the newly built casino. For that it was necessary to change the name of the locality. It was called Les Spelegures, which meant ‘The den of Thieves’.  Approriate but  hardly flattering for the expected guests. So it was renamed to Monte Carlo, a much nicer name most people felt.

Monegasque train

Monegasque train, Always wanted to use that word: Monegasque…

The gambling house was a huge success and the prince decided to abolish income tax as it was no longer needed. The rich came as ants to a bowl of sugar.

When I arrived at the train station I had problems finding my way to the waterfront, which is remarkable because the city state is only 4 kilometres long and less than a kilomtre wide. But it is a maze of tunnels for cars and elevators for pedestrians. Luckily, there are enough people to ask the way as it is the most densely populated country in the world.

Eventually I made my way to the marina which was full of toys for the ultra-rich.

[foto here, I’ll do that later, it’s dark now and I can’t find my camera]

It was very hot and I spent most of the rest of my time in Monaco, sitting in a shady corner of the park of the Casino. After all,  I was here merely to tick of another country.

The train back to Cagne-sur-Mer was uneventful.

The day after that I got up early to get the most of the morning cool and cycled to Nice. From here it was a steep climb up to the Grand Corniche. It was only 8.30 when I got there but even then sweat was dripping from my head on my knees when I was working like a pack horse to crawl up the moutain at a speed of around 7 km / hr.

The views from Monaco were wonderful. Much nicer than from the city self.

In Latte, just across the border in Italy, I found a campsite and put up my tent. That evening I drank Lambrusco.