Wednesday, September 19, 2001

Email from Bob

Stienta, province of Veneto, northern Italy
Tuesday 18 September 2001

Dear friends,

Sorry about the group email, but at least I can contact you all!

Carolyne's condition has improved significantly over the past couple of days, thank goodness. Although she is unable to do any heavy exercise without getting weak and tired, she is now able to enjoy the good food, company and walk around the delightful countryside.

Have been in Italy since Wednesday 5 September, and on Sunday returned to Stienta after 5 days in Rimini. We are staying at the apartment of a friend, Giulietta, whom we met at a hotel in northern Spain 4 weeks ago. In Spain Giulietta was travelling with her partner, Stefano, and several friends from the area. Stienta is a small village on the Po River, about 15km from the large regional centre of Ferrara, a beautiful walled city of 120,000 people, where Stefano lives. We're about 60km from the Adriatic coast and 60km from Bologna. The countryside is quite flat, a great contrast to northern Spain and eastern France.

Today we spent several pleasant hours walking around the top of the Ferrara city walls, which are tree-lined and have a constant stream of joggers and cyclists, and around the streets and parks of the city. We enjoyed the many lovely buildings, with an occasional break for a coffee or gelato.

Giulietta has been wonderful to us both, but particularly to Carolyne. She is 46, has a 23 year-old-son who is in Greece on holidays, and is a designer for Armani. She speaks alsmost no English but Carolyne can communicate with her, in a fashion, in Italian, and I do the same in French. Each evening Stefano comes for dinner and he speaks reasonable English. Both of them are well educated, interested in international affairs, history and culture and are leftist in their politics. Tomorrow Carolyne and I will go for a long day trip to Venice. It is only 1 hour 15 min by train from Ferrara, and there are are frequent trains. After returning here late tomorrow night, we will leave Stienta on Friday and head to the eastern Mediteranean coast of Italy where we will drive slowly to Nice over 8 days. We fly from Nice on Tuesday 2 October, arriving in Canberra on Thursday 4 October.

Our trip to Rimini for the World Duathlon Champonships was a mixed bag. Carolyne's condition deteriorated slowly after we left Spain where her ears became infected after a triathlon. By the time we left Stienta for Rimini, we knew she would be unable to compete and that she would have difficulty enjoying herself cooped up in a hotel with me while I competed. Giulietta offered to come with us to Rimini where she her closest friend lives. Carolyne and Giulietta stayed with the friend whose apartment was only 2km from my hotel. It was an excellent arrangement, allowing me to see Carolyne frequently but with the 2 women as company for her and able to assist her if needed.

The Australian team for the Championships was accommodated in 2 adjoining hotels, one block from the waterfront. I knew several other competitors which made it fun for the 2 days I was there before the race. The race comprised a 10km run, 4 laps of a course around the streets close to the waterfront, followed by a 40km cycle, 6 times over a course back and fro along the waterfront, and finally a 5km run, twice over the same course as earlier. It was well organised and conducted although it rained steadily before the start, making the cycle course slippery and dangerous in several places. Many cyclists fell, including one immediately in front of me on a tight bend. I had a good race and enjoyed it, but finished well out of medal contention.

Last Tuesday, 11 Sept, is one I'll never forget. We had lunch with Stefano in Ferrara and afterwards, when passing a shop, noticed on the TV the skyline of New York, with smoke coming out of the World Trade Centre. When we arrived home, about 4pm, Giulietta had her TV on and indicated that planes had hit both towers. While we watched the Pentagon was hit, and we watched transfixed while the fires raged and both towers collapsed. It was the first time Carolyne and I had watched any disaster live, let alone one of such magnitude. It was frustrating that although the pictures were from CNN, the commentary was all in Italian. We had difficulty getting the details until we bought a paper the next day. Unfortunately, good English language papers, particularly my favourite, the International Herald Tribune, is available locally only about 3 times per week. It hasn't been easy keeping up with subsequent developments.

Must send this off as it is late and we leave early in the morning for Venice.

Regards to all, Bob & Carolyne
Bob Harlow
(0438) 51 3653


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