Posted by: Debra Kolkka | December 3, 2023

A Paris food market

There are many wonderful food markets in Paris, but my favourite was one that was close to our apartment on Ile St Louis. I came upon it by accident on one of my daily walks. I didn’t realise it was close to the island as I found it in a roundabout way.

One day I walked across the bridge, took a nearby short street and found the market at the end of it. There is a cluster of fabulous shops which are permanent and a few times a week a tented market appears.

The permanent shops include a bakery (La Maison d’Isabelle) that has a long queue every day, a specialist cheese shop, a deli and more.


The temporary stalls have fruit and vegetables, cheese, preserves, fish, meat and food prepared and cooked on the spot. My favourite was North African food cooked by a family. I went as often as I could to have a delicious pastille au poulet. I was disappointed if I rounded the corner to find no tents!



There are other stalls as well. I wish I was in need of a hat.

Don’t miss this excellent corner of Paris…Place Maubert, cnr Boulevard St Germain and Rue de La Montaigne Sainte-Genevieve. It is not far from the excellent Cluny Museum, the subject of my previous post.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | November 26, 2023

Cluny Museum Paris

Before I share my visit to the Cluny Museum, I will go back to the previous post. There was a problem with the connection to my post about the stunning Galerie Dior. Here is a link to it,  definitely worth a look. La Galerie Dior

The Cluny Museum is the National Museum of the Middle Ages and it is fabulous! The building combines a Roman era thermae and the 15th century Parisian mansion of the Abbey of Cluny. We came upon it on our wanderings in the 5th arrondissment and were attracted by the exterior decorations on the building and vowed to return to see the interior.

The building has an interesting history. It is a rare example of medieval Paris architecture, rebuilt by Jacques d’Amboise to replace an earlier structure in 1485 – 1510. Later residents included Mary Tudor, sister of Henry VIII of England.

In December 1832, archeologist and art collector Alexander Du Sommerand bought the Hotel de Cluny and used it to display his large collection of medieval and Renaissance objects. Upon his death the collection was bought by the French state and opened as a museum in 1843.

It was closed for some time while improvements were made and reopened in May 2022. It contains around 23,000 artefacts dating from the Gallo-Roman period up to the 16th century. The collections contain pieces from Europe, the Byzantine Empire and the Islamic world of the Middle Ages.

Come for a walk through this fascinating museum, beginning with Ariadne and lion heads from 6th century Constantinople and Roman Empire.

Beautiful jewellery from the Frankish Kingdom, 6th – 7th centuries.

The Altar front of the Basel Cathedral from the first quarter of the 11th century. Stamped gold on an oak core.


Clothing and accessories from the Coptic civilisation in Egypt 5th – 10th centuries.

Treasure of Guarrazar from the 7th century kingdom.

A stunning room full of treasures.

Virgin and Child, polychromed wood from the end of the 12th century, Auvergne, made to be carried in procession.

Binding of a Gospel book from northern Italy, beginning of the 12th century.


Fragments of a wall decoration, Burgundy, 12th century.


Cloister capitals, northern Catalonia, 4th quarter of the 12th century.


Voyage dans Le Cristal.Crystal appears in many archaeological sites. Egyptian artist used rock crystal in luxury objects. The 2 rock crystal vases from 757-754 BC are exceptional examples. I love these pieces!

We entered a glass topped space filled with sculptures removed from Notre Dame.

Headless statues of apostles and saints from the southern facade of the transept of Notre Dame, 12th century.

7 heads of the Kings of Juda from the western facade, around 1220.

Queen from the northern side.

Adam from a niche above the door that led to the bishop’s palace, about 1260.


Moving on…stained glass windows from Sainte-Chapelle.

Seated virgin and child from the collegiate church of Notre-Dame de Poissy, 1310-1320.

Not sure who this is but he looks happy.

Teaching professor from a funerary monument, Bologna, about 1340.

Effigy of the wife of Jean does Martins, Chancellor of Provence, 1450-1460.

I love the hat!

Stained glass and some jaunty knights.

A candle holder from about 1480.

More stunning stained glass. Chess players 1450 – 1460.

Bagpipe player from around 1500. I think this one is delightful.

I have saved the best and most famous exhibit for last. The Tapesteries of the Lady and the Unicorn, a 6 piece tapestry cycle featuring the coat of arms of the Le Viste. It is a magnificent example of the millefleurs style, featuring a background strewn with floral motifs. Walking into the darkened room lined with these huge tapestries is amazing. You need to be there.

The six tapestries woven around 1500 represent the five senses against a detailed red background. The sixth sense, explained only by the inscription “A mon seul desir” (To my only desire” has enspired countless theories. It could be courtly love or a reference to free will.


The final photo is not mine, I somehow missed this one.

The Cluny Museum was a highlight of my Paris visit. I am very happy that we strolled  by and followed the signs.

Cluny Museum

28 Rue du Sommerard, Paris

Open every day except Monday from 9.30 am to 6.15pm.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | November 18, 2023

La Galerie Dior

One of the best things I did in Paris in September was to visit to the Galerie Dior. It opened in spring 2022 in the private mansion of Monsieur Christian Dior, off Rue Montaigne, beside the Dior Shop. It is a permanent and unique exhibition of the brand’s creations. I could not visit Paris without seeing this.

I booked online, but there was still a bit of a wait to get in. Guests are ushered through the entrance and pointed towards a lift, which takes you to the third floor, where the exhibition begins. On the way to the lift is a spiral staircase diorama with 1874 iconic Dior creations recreated in 3D-printed miniatures.  Visitors get to walk down the stairs at the end of the tour.

Christian Dior began his career as an art gallery owner in 1928, before he became a couturier.
The 1929 financial crisis brought his family’s fortune, and his gallery to an end. For many years he worked as an illustrator and designer for other fashion houses, before opening his own haute couture house in 1946.

The museum presents a beautiful history of Dior from its beginning in 1946 to the present day. Along with the work of Christian Dior other designers who have designed for the house in the decades after the death of the Monsieur Dior in 1957. The first was Yves Saint Laurent, followed by Marc Bohan, Gianfranci Ferre, John Galliano, Raf Simons and Maria Grazie Chiuri.

The exhibition begins, as it should, with the New Look, launched in 1947. The “New Look” celebrated feminity and opulence. Rounded shoulders, cinched waist and a full skirt was an antidote to the restrictions of the war years. It was a new outlook as well as a new style.

From there the viewer is taken back through the history of the fashion house showing garments designed by Christian Dior and the other designers who came after him.

The visitor can walk through Christian Dior’s office to see where the master did his work.

Nearby there is a glass floor to the atelier below.

Then more beautiful clothes to admire.

The white room is wonderful.

Much more to enjoy.


Behind glass, a wall of accessories and small models.

There is  lovely cafe, which was full when I was there…next time.

I went into the stunning shop next door. It repeats some of the displays in the Galerie.


There is a divine cafe in the store where I decided to stop for a coffee or snack. The tables were all full so I sat at the bar and had a chat with the charming attendant. He handed me a menu. A coffee was €16 and a pastry €22. I settled on a caffe tiramisu. It was the best coffee I have ever tasted, probably coffee, cream and chocolate on top.

I loved my visit to the Galerie and the shop and would be tempted to return for another expensive coffee…you only live once.

Click below to see my previous visit to the Christian Dior exhibition at Arts Decoratifs.

Christian Dior Paris

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | November 11, 2023

Home for a while

There are lots of good reasons to be back in Australia for a few months. It is great to catch up with family and friends. Here are a few more reasons.

Mangoes and cherries are my favourite fruits. No doubt I will have had enough by February.

There is also the occasional breakfast out with a friend.

And now a shameless plug for the shop I share with my good friend Sam. The shop is his, he makes to order and I play in the front of his shop. I think we are a good team.

I will be in the shop from Wednesday until Saturday 10.00 – 2.00 each week until I go back to Italy sometime in February. Drop in if you are nearby…239 Boundary St, West End (corner Corbett St)

I make cool summer clothes in cotton and linen. I find fabric on my travels and drag it back home to add to my collection. I am trying to work my way through it but it seems to keep growing.

I also make tablecloths and napkins, good Christmas gifts.

I couldn’t resist some pretty baby fabric in Paris and Kyoto so I will be making a few items for babies.

New things are arriving in the shop regularly and Sam is working on some special Christmas party dresses. Come in and say hello.
There is a great cafe next door for a coffee. It is called Alphabet and there is a queue most mornings. Pasta Club (they make their own pasta) for on the other side but it is only open for lunch on Saturday.

Sarva…239 Boundary St, West End. (Corner Corbett St)

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | October 27, 2023

A wet farewell

It is time to go home to Australia. The weather was great in Paris (apart from the heat in the first week) and Italy. It has been a warm, dry autumn until the last few days when skies have thrown down heavy rain.

The river in front of our apartment in Ponte a Serraglio has turned into a raging torrent. I admit that I like to watch the scene unfold from the safety of my window, but I am aware that it causes some damage.


The Devil’s Bridge has a brown reflection.

At Casa Debbio the rain was torrential and the wind has brought down some trees. Houses in the village below are a bit more exposed than our place and several roofs have been damaged.

The swirling mists in the mountains around us make a beautiful scene…from the comfort of my bedroom window.

As I write this the sun has come out and the river is more calm.

I will return in February. I still have several posts to write about Paris and the road trip I did to Abruzzo and beyond with my son.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | October 17, 2023

Guardiagrele, come for the view, stay for the cake

Guardiagrele was named la terrazza d’Abruzzo (the terrace of Abruzzo) by poet Gabrielle d’Annunzio. It sits in the foothills of the Maiella mountain in the Provence of Chieti in Abruzzo, in central Italy. We stayed in the town for a couple of days to visit a friend of my son.

The stunning Santa Maria Maggiore is the biggest church in Guardiagrele. The facade is 14th century gothic.



The Coronation of the Virgin sculpture in the portal lunette is attributed to the school of Nicola di Guardiagrele.

Under the colonnaded portico, next to the side door, is the fresco by Andrea De Litio (1473) portraying Saint Christopher.


I liked the little chap in the alcove off to one side.

The bell arrangement on top of the church are quite unusual.

We were in town the weekend of the La Rocca festival. It was great to see the town filled with people enjoying the fun.

We woke up Sunday morning to see the piazza below us filled with a market.

The views from the terrace with the market are lovely.

Delightful Alessio and his lovely partner organised lunch at their favourite restaurant. The food was delicious.

After lunch they took us a little higher to a plateau near Pennepiedmonte with stunning views.

There is a tiny shepherd’s shelter on the side of the mountain.

There was a memorial nearby to Andrea Bafile (1878-1918) a Lieutenant during WWII. He was awarded a post-mortem Gold Medal for Military Valor.

Now for the cake. Sise delle Monache (nun’s breasts) is a speciality from Guardiagrele. It is a 2 layer sponge cake that is filled with custard. It is often served together with a brush to dust the icing sugar sprinkled on top of the cake off your clothes.

It is said to refer to the 3 nearby mountains, Gran Sassi d’Italia, Maiella and Sirente-Velino. It was mischievously transformed to “nun’s tits” by a person who noticed some especially whitened cakes and decided they resembled nun’s breasts. There are a couple of other explanations, but the cakes have become a treasured speciality of the town.

There is said to be a statue of the cake, but we could not find it after considerable searching. We had to make do with the small one outside the shop where you can buy them.

Here is the real thing. Alessio made sure we got to sample this delectable sweet treat.

A brushing off was required after eating.

Thank you to our lovely friends for a wonderful visit to your town.


Posted by: Debra Kolkka | October 15, 2023

Finding the Warrior of Capestrano

I saw a photo of the stone statue of the Warrior of Capestrano on a site and immediately wanted to see it. It just happened to appear a couple of days before my son and I were heading to Abruzzo to see a friend of his. Capestrano was on our way…what a coincidence.

The 2 metre statue was discovered by accident by a farmer ploughing a field in Capestrano in 1934. There was also a female statue and tombs discovered in later excavations in the area. It was discovered that the vineyard where the statue was found was above an Iron Age cemetery.

The statue is a Picine Warrior dated to the 6th century BC. It was found in the Vestini territory but the man is wearing a Picene hat….and what a hat it is!

We went to Capestrano to visit the castle where a copy of the statue resides.

Unfortunately, even though the website of the castle said it was open, it was not. It has been closed for some months for restoration.

There was nothing to be done but head to Chieti to the Museo Arcologico to see the original. I think you will agree that the Warrior is special. He is the last exhibit in the wonderful museum, which I will share with you in another post.

Take a look at the stunning warrior. The hat is removable.


The statue, made of local stone and marble, belongs to the ancient Piceni population that flourished in northeast central Italy in the 6th century BC. It appears to have been originally painted. It was a funerary statue adorned with weapons and armour. The hat is a large crested parade helmet. He would have been a warrior, nobleman and a leader.

I am delighted to have found him.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | October 10, 2023

Giacosa caffe has reopened in Florence

Giacosa was always my first stop in Florence. It was a gorgeous cafe, the birthplace of the Negroni. It was part of Roberto Cavalli’s shop in Via della Spada. It had been a famous cafe in Florence for a couple of centuries before Armani took over the space and it was closed.

I loved my visits for people watching and great food and coffee. I met 2 lovely sisters there who told me they had been going there to meet friends all their lives. I missed them when the cafe closed.  Three beautiful girls at Giacosa in Florence

There was also  Beautiful boy sighting at Giacosa

Three months ago Giacosa reopened and yesterday I went to see the new cafe. It is in Via della Spada, almost opposite its previous location.


I love the new Giacosa! The setting is fabulous and the coffee and food excellent. I will definitely be there for aperitivo on my next overnight stay in Florence and sample a Negroni.

Now I am torn. I moved to Caffe Gilli in Piazza Republica when Giacosa closed and it has become my first port of call. Maybe I will have to stop at both to begin my day in Florence.

I had a quick look around Florence.

Perhaps you need a yellow giraffe to go with your orange boots.

Antonio Marras is about to open. Dolce & Gabbana has closed next door and something new will appear soon.

The Duomo and Baptistery are still looking marvellous.

Take a look at Luisa Via Roma.

Buy the green shoes.

Or have lunch at the cafe upstairs.

The market is still selling its wares.

The Porcellino is still waiting to have its snout rubbed for good luck.

The sheep is still watching from above.


Neptune is still scowling.

I love that face.


Signore Medici has a look in the same direction.

Michelangelo’s graffiti is still on the wall of Palazzo Vecchio.

Hiding behind this.

The Ponte Vecchio is crowded as usual.

But the views from the bridge are delightful.

I love this shop in a quiet street, so much to choose from.

…a quick look in some shop windows.

Then it was back to the station. The tunnel leading to the station has been renovated. One minute you are under the sea.

Then blue Lego blocks are waving towards you.

Then bananas appear.

It is great to spend time in lovely Florence.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | October 7, 2023

Siamo in Italia

We are back in beautiful Bagni di Lucca for a while. Autumn is beginning to show in Ponte a Serraglio.

The river is low as it usually is after summer with little rain.

The poor flowers on the bridge are hanging on. It is very difficult to keep them alive over the summer.

With Filippo’s wonderful work the garden at Casa Debbio has thrived and grown this year. The garden is winding down now, but grass has grown over the driveway up to the house, on the terrace below and around the driveway paths up to the house.