Wednesday, 19 December 2012

A Serious Request for a Dutch Xmas

Those who know me, will know how little T.V. I actually watch. And just how much I dislike utterly and totally anything that smacks of Big Brother or talent style T.V. programmes. I came to this opinion a few years ago, realising that in the UK, the majority of participants are chosen expressly to clash and be unpleasant with each other, and that, just in case there isn't enough natural strife to entrance a prurient public, the producers set up situational traps which are designed to encourage argument, jealousy and spite.

The Dutch (who I seemed to think invented 'Big Brother' or at least adopted it in a big way) have their own special Xmas reality show which brings together pretty much every form of media out there. And this is one that I thoroughly approve of! It's called 'Serious Request', headlined by 3FM radio and every Xmas 3 DJ's are locked in a large glass box for a week, with no food, and only two specially cococted (and apparently not yum from the faces that they pull! ) fruit drinks a day.  This glass box gets moved to a different town square every year for the public to parade past and watch as these guys have to run a full time show non-stop for the week running up to Christmas Day, when they are finally let out. There are slot boxes around the box - not for the public to push bananas through, although it might be tempting after a while - but cash donations to the years chosen charity. There is  continuous live TV streaming, a live twitter feed, and live sms feed with the predictable koochi-koo and marry me statements rolling past .

The fun part for me is that the DJ's don't get to choose their music either - all of it is requested by the public - at the price of a donation to the cause - with the exception of one song an hour. That's given to an unsigned band to perform their soon-to-be famous single in - for a small donation of course!

And 100% of the money goes into providing the actual service the charity provides - not admin. Yep - 100%. Not 92% or 95% or anything. Which poses an interesting challenge to the radio station : they still have to pay royalties on the music played, and most stations royalty budget is based on x% top hits, y% b-class hit z% golden oldies and a smattering of unknown stuff. This takes any ability to forecast what they are going to pay completely out of their hands and puts it in the hands of the public - since the donations don't contribute.

There are also some interesting twists - the radio traffic reports during rushhours are judged on accuracy  after the fact  and for every kilometre of jam or delay they fail to report, the radio station donates a Euro. - Not big money, I grant you but certainly incentive to get it pretty accurate pretty fast since there is a nation of motorists on their mobiles waiting to jump in and report their failure.  There are famous singers and bands who donate their time to come in and do cameo time in the box to add some excitement for the public. There's a continuously running web-auction with goods and services donated by Dutch companies. In previous ( pre-Crisis) years the Dutch government matched the end donation - thus doubling the sum raised.

I love the fact that the Dutch have managed to take a media artform that the British have turned into something nasty, spiteful and mean in a scrooge sense (its all about profit) - and turn it into something that truly reflects the spirit of Xmas - thinking about those who live a life less fortunate than you and making a difference, instead of pouring all that money into a commercial bonanza. And yes, for a lot of people, the Xmas present is a donation to Serious Request ;)

So, for 2012 - in the words of 3FM's Serious Request  - 'let's hear it for the babies' - I hope they break the 10 million euro barrier this year.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Back to......

So, yesterday, I went back to the daily grind. It's good to be using my brain again in a different way, and it's fantastic to have predictable cashflows again. I'm suffering some minor teething issues getting paperwork and kit sorted but mostly that's coz it's a new company in NL and lots and lots and lots needs to get done all at once. Here's to an exciting positive year.

Sadly, this does mean I won't get so much time crafting or online gaming anymore - but tbh, that's not the end of the world. I won't be giving up cooking though - I've really enjoyed my new forays into it and have recently been experimenting with 'deconstructed' cooking - mainly crumbles of various sorts. Must lay hands on some whole oats, because I can see acres of potential here - and even crumbles made with ground almonds or semolina.

On another area of food experimentation  - I finally got around to trying out some tweaks on my traditional lasagne. Yes, I know, the book chefs have been doing it for ages, but good ol' lasagne is such a mainstay dish it's hard to move away from the classic. The most successful suggestion was made by a norwegian friend - add layers of fresh spinach to it between the mince and bechamel layers : awesome result and much recommended. I've finally found a *good* dutch cheese for making it with - old gouda gives a fab taste, without too much grease, unlike a lot of the younger dutch cheeses.

With Hannukah just gone by, it seemed like a great idea to get the fryer out and some latkes on the table's the recipe on epicurious which I based my end result on :

A few lessons learned :
 - not all kitchen paper holds together with the onion squeezing, so muslin is a better idea
- be damn sure to mix and spread around the garlic in the potato mixture, because a wholly garlic latke is a bit of a shock!
- taking a shortcut and buying a ready made dutch apple sauce can be fraught with pitfalls : I ended up buying something that was more like an apple syrup/jam rather than the apple chunky sauce I envisaged. Actually turned out to be a superb mix after all!

Monday, 10 December 2012

Silent Protest

Louie doesn't like it if I use the computer, and ignore him. As a result he's taken up a silent protest. Yes, this was taken from over my shoulder, and this is my normal view when interacting with the PC.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Pickle days

I love moroccan cooking and one of the primary flavours for me is the use of  salt-pickled lemons. Whilst they are source-able (at a ridiculously high price) in the UK ( Waitrose, Tescos, Sainsburys) , here in Holland they just don't seem to exist - even in Feijenoord, which is the moroccan ghetto of Rotterdam.

So........pickling time :

  • Organic unwaxed lemons
  • Salt
  • Water
  • A pickling jar
Chop up lemons into big pieces, insert in jar, top with LOTS of salt ( sufficient that it forms a layer on the base of the jar, even after the water is added and shaken up), fill with water and place in a conspicuous place to remind you to shake it up each day.....

A few weeks down the line, I look forwards to lots of lovely nom nom nom!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Levitating cat....or not

Louie needs fingers. I've spoken earlier in the blog about his bizarre requirement to chew methodically through your fingers first thing in the morning, but I think, today took the biscuit.

Today, he couldn't wait for me to get my morning coffee, so in a desperate attempt to multitask, I hoisted (yes, hoisted, he's a BIG cat)  him up into my arms, with his  rear paws and butt cradled in my left hand and his back against my left arm and crook of elbow so I could feed him fingers inbetwixt pushing buttons on the coffee maker.

Apparently, the length of time it takes to push a button is too long to be bereft of fingers. Before I knew it, he'd managed to invert himself in an attempt to simultaneously balance on and chew the fingers of my left hand.

<facepalm> or should that be <faceplant>?

I wish, I wish I'd had a camera. Louie is currently nursing his wounded dignity on a cushion on top of my crafting box next to the radiator. Fingers no longer have priority in his world.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Cookie cravings

I haz cookie cravings. Lots of cookie cravings - and as there is no such thing as 24/7 supermarkets here, I just had to satisfy them myself.

Whilst I swiped the base recipe from an online site, I had to make some variations on ingredients - given the limited resources in my larder.  So :

200g butter
90g dark brown sugar
90g granulated sugar
1 egg
225g self raising flour
175g mix of chocolate chunks, cranberries and pecans

Cream the sugar butter and egg together, mix in the flour and remaining ingredients, and spoon the mix onto a well greased baking sheet in large blobs. Heat oven to 190 degrees and cook for 12-15 minutes. They will be very gooey when they come out but harden up as they cool. If you don't thoroughly cream the butter/sugar/egg mix, you get a crunchy texture to the biscuit from the sugar crystals.......

Remove from oven, acquire a glass of chocolate port, and enjoy.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Cat chaos.

Louie has taken a great liking to sitting on top of my pc. It keeps him warm, and he gets to jab me in the leg with a claw when he wants. The PC however, is not so keen : the graphics card regularly overheats once or twice a day and crashes now. In an attempt to save my technology, I've taken to nudging Louie off when I notice him. He has, however, discovered an even better way to interfere with computer usage : he now comes and sits between the keyboard and me, with a languid claw monitoring mouse usage........

Sunday, 4 November 2012

My Keralan chicken curry

Yesterday, I had a great success improvising a Keralan-style chicken curry  from my store cupboard.  If you like mild curries, I recommend you have a go!

Ingredients :

1 thumb sized fresh ginger piece
4 cloves of garlic
6 green cardamoms
1 stick of cinnamon
10 methi grains (fenugreek)
7 curry leaves
1 tsp tumeric
1sp garam masala
1 pinch cumin seeds
4 tomatos, diced
2 chicken breasts
1 onion, diced
1/2 tin of coconut milk
salt to taste

Heat some oil in a pan, add cardamoms, cinnamon, cinnamon, and methi ( fenugreek) to the oil and cook for a couple of minutes to flavour the oil. Add onion, cook till softened. Grind or crush ginger and garlic to a paste, add to oil, cook for a couple more minutes - don't 'burn' the garlic so keep it on a low heat. Add chicken and all the remaining ingredients and simmer gently until chicken is cooked and flavours are developed. Add salt to taste.

Voila! Ultra simple and very quick to make, served with a flavoured cardamom rice with toasted cashew nuts.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Supermarket sweep..............

I've always considered myself to have a very diverse repertoire of cooking, but now I'm faced with a really bizarre dichotomy. Dutch supermarkets have an awesome selection of Indonesian/Surinaam ingredients - 2/3rds of which I have no idea at all what to do with - and an amazing dearth of some of the most basic ingredients in the world, like bicarbonate of soda, strong flour, golden and maple syrup.

As a result, I'm having to learn a whole new genre of recipes (awesome!) and innovate madly to replace some of the basics of baking and dessert making (scary!). Watch this space............

Monday, 29 October 2012

Insomnia strikes

After another night of insomnia, and trying very hard to count sheep ( did you know they come in multicolor versions?) I ended up retreating to reading until the early hours...

I've been reading a lot of works in the 'urban fantasy' genre recently , and I've kinda worked my way through the majority of the well known authors - as far as I know. But I really had the hunger for a bit more bad-tempered witchcraft vs various other supernatural beings. I managed to find one author I havent read so far : Kevin Hearne. I've made my way through the first book, am two thirds through the second, and I can forsee an Amazon-expensive future...

Worth a gander?

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Autumn Soup days - Pumpkin/Coconut soup

With autumn closing in and the days getting increasingly dark and damp, I'm getting real cravings for warm hot soups. I was going to have left over chilli last night, but just couldn't resist jumping up in the 3 minutes between two activities and throwing together some soup.

Amounts are approximate but it's hard to go wrong as long as you taste as you go :

1/2 a small squash/pumpkin
1 large sweet potato
Stock ( vegetable or chicken, your choice, I used chicken)
1 medium sized knob of fresh ginger
1 small carton ( about half a tin) of coconut milk
2 limes, juiced
salt/pepper to taste
1 chili ( optional)
lots of chopped coriander

Peel and chunk the pumpkin, sweet potato and ginger (chili if desired). Pop in pan with stock and salt/pepper, and simmer til tender. Blend til smooth, add coconut milk, coriander, and lime juice and heat til warm again. Voila - delicious served with a lovely fresh hunk of bread.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Making paper

I've never made paper before! Today is make my own note paper for writing all those lovely memos and reminders down on. I was given a paper making kit for Xmas years and years ago, and it's time that it saw the light of day and got put to use.

Having read through the *brief* instructions in the kit, I decided that I wasn't going to invest in all the other gubbins it called for, and invent as I go along. First, pulp creation - lots of A4 paper,cut or torn up into lovely small strips, and soaked for hours. Note to the clumsy : don't attempt to remove the tip of your finger with the scissors as you cut the paper up. Now, I have a soupy mush with a hint of blood tinting it - and whilst it may have some strange mystical meaning behind it, it really isnt a very attractive color. So, cooking expertise to the fore : what's the one spice you want going absolutely no where except for directly into it's chosen dish or container - tumeric! I added a generous dollop to the mush and it's tinted it a pleasant shade of yellow. I have also found a use for all those 'orts' ( tail ends and bits of colored threads from changing colors in your tapestry) you collect as you stitch and knit  : a generous handful of woolen orts makes for beautiful red/gold inclusions across the paper.

I can't wait til it's dry to show you, so here's the drying out version! 10 sheets of A4 computer paper made enough pulp for 4 sheets of A5 thick crafting paper. You could probably do better, and get thinner paper if you dipped in the mulch vat instead of pouring out of a mug into the draining frame but nonetheless, I'm happy with the results.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

It's not easy being Green

I've been reading my way through blog after blog of 'how to recycle cheap junk' over the last few days, and I have some serious craving to try some of those ideas out. It's probably very appropriate given my current straitened circumstances , and the economic climate, plus it feeds an innate desire to be a bit less consumer driven than I have been in the past.

Whilst in my native habitat (UK), that's not such a difficult thing to do, since charity shops and cheap shops abound - all the more so since the crisis has caused so many other shops to close down, and landlords are desperate to fill shop space. However, I'm currently in Rotterdam, NL and it's remarkable difficult to find out what thrift shops are called when you don't speak the lingo! I've managed to trace down 'kringeloopwinkel'  as a common term for recycling shops, and identified that the dutch don't seem to do the charity shop thing, it's all commercial recycling in 'circle of life' shops. Interestingly, the Dutch are the best at recycling in Europe, hitting an awesome 70% recycled target compared to the UK's 35%. They are so good at recycling their waste now, that they don't have enough combustible waste generated to fuel their waste-combusting powerstations  and have to import from surrounding countries.

So, what to try? I don't have a sewing machine handy, and I was never terribly good at dressmaking. There isnt a lot of space out here to fill with pretty 'clutter' projects and actually utilitarian items such as furniture might be of more use to me at the moment. That said, I've also decided I have a real dislike of painting lovely natural wood and woodstained items  in pastel colors and declaring it to be 'gorgeous'. So I guess I'm not going to make it big on the refashionista circuit anytime yet with 'easy' 1 hour furniture projects!

 I've self imposed myself a limit of €10 per project, and a max of 3 crafting projects in progress at anyone time (with knitting and beading projects in flight that limits me to 1!), so now with my extremely abundant project float, I'm going thrift-shop hunting.
So, off to try and trawl the grey rainy streets to see if I can spot some by eye!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Where to find that wool from?

I was talking to a very good friend the other day, and mentioning that I've been picking up the knitting again..........and he mentioned that his menagerie sheds sufficient fur to enable him to make his own wardrobe, if he so desired......

I'm now wondering if I should be asking him to start collecting the fur balls, or storing the cat fur I retrieve from Louie on a daily basis.........I have got the carding and spinning equipment......and for inspiration......


Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Knitting the threads of life

So, I've decided to try and dent my craft stash some : I have probably exceeded 'SABLE' (stash accumulated beyond life expectancy) but since I'm still unable to stop myself oooooohing and pulling out the wallet at junk sales, craft stores, and miscellaneous thrift shops, it's time to do something about utilising excess materials.

My knitting skills have never been extreme - generally maintaining the right level of tension on the thread has been an issue, with jumpers turning out significantly looser and baggier than intended - so I've eased myself back into it with a basic scarf, out of a lovely 'eyelash' wool in red and gold shades.

Minor hiccup number one : I clearly haven't purchased enough wool when I bought it on spec, and the balls have long lost their identifying labels. Cue an extended search of UK and US knitting and yarn shops in a desperate attempt to try and match the wool. Finally identified through a process of reduction ( I don't recognise any of those brands, it's definitely 'eyelash wool', it's classed as 'fashion wool ) I managed to find the brand and type but, since fashion wools turn around almost as fast as fashion clothing, no shop continued to stock the precise color. However, eBay to the rescue - sourced 2 more balls from a seller and think I may just have enough!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Shibari OCD cat life

Its been a long break. Life kinda got in the way, and somehow I just didn't have the inspiration to write a blog. Most of the thoughts I was thinking weren't really printable, and job applications have a monotony and routine that are uniquely depressing in their own right. Maybe one day, I'll write my "how to apply to jobs" page, but I don't find it interesting whilst I'm in the middle of it. Generally it's a cycle of 'wow, I got a cool call from an agent/interview request/positive feedback' followed by extended silence then 'oh, sorry, you don't have the experience in 'n' industry ( no, really? didn't you read my CV before you made me spend time and money on interviews????)

Still no job, but I've got myself back into crafting and that's given me a bit of a buzz about life again. So I think the 'nomady' will continue - a bit less about travel, and a bit more about whacky wonderful life. As a taster to start the day, let me introduce you to Louie.

Louie is a slightly overweight, extremely verbose, OCD cat that I spend a lot of time with at the moment. He starts the day, with an extended demand to chew on fingers - not just the tips, but a desperate vertical guzzle that maximises his ability to fit the totality of your finger in his craw. And as each finger is duly drooled and munched on, he decides in his own particular fashion as to which finger he will go for next. I say OCD, because if you attempt to disrupt his sequencing ( and it's pretty much identical every morning) he gets extremely miffed and expresses his displeasure in verbose and strident terms. So my morning routine at the moment is two step : desperately dodge cat whilst acquiring coffee, followed by submitting to a feline manicure with coffee drip on hand.

I've been trying to find a way to encourage Louie to exercise a bit more, but as he lives in a 3rd floor flat by a major road intersection, outdoor freedom is not really an option. With a bit of trawling around, I came up with some bits of rope and decided to try some feline shibari to make a harness. Unsurprisingly, Louie was unimpressed initially - but as soon as he got outside, he decided that cats are just as capable as dogs at going for walks.

Louie, the Shibari cat!

Friday, 27 July 2012

Luxembourg & kniddelen

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg was the next substantial stop on the north bound run - Janine and I spent a day on the motorway, running between Chamonix and there, and although we enjoyed the countryside views, there just isn't that much you can say about the junk food that is the lot of the long distance driver.  It is an amazingly verdant area - there are very few towns or villages visible in the southern side so you approach through fields and countrysides. Luxembourg itself is a deceptive mix of old and modern, until you get near to the centre, and get a sudden glimpse of the river gorge that runs right through the centre of it. 

The heart of the old town is based around 'Lucinburhulic' the original fortress, started in 963. Over time  it was grown and morphed, eventually ending up as a Napoleonic style fortification built on and through the cliff face, albeit mostly dismantled as a result of the Treaty of London in 1867. The internal 'casements' are however still there, and have been pressed into service in numerous ways since then. In WWII the population of Luxembourg sheltered in them from the bombings, and the remains of the 'sand loos' are still visible, complete with reminder to take your sand with you into the loo. The stench of humanity in such a confined space must have been pretty unpleasant. Other parts of the casement have been made into telephony and electrical hub rooms, and still others are the gold vaults of the national bank of Luxembourg - sadly we were not allowed to tour that part of the casements! Some of the original guns have survived, and one is still standing guard in solitary splendour, whilst the others have been removed to the central museum for preservation, away from the damp mizzle that lines the tunnels.

Luxembourg is also home to the largest stone bridge in Europe - it's quite imposing, reaching as it is across the breadth of the valley. Our guide blithely informed us that as a part of the plans to modernise the city, the bridge is soon to be completely dismantled, strengthened, and since they've got it down and in pieces, widened, and replaced back up 'exactly' as it was before.

In the heart of the city, you find the Cathedral - an interesting architectural experience for a religious building of such prominence, as it is predominantly 1920s and 1930s built. There is also, for some unknown reason, just outside the Duke's palace, a large herd of blue plastic sheep. A somewhat sheepish attendant tried really hard to persuade me that it was bringing world  peace, goodwill and an end to just reminded me why I have little patience with a lot of modern art.

Lunch was an exploration of Luxembourg cuisine - I decided to go for Kniddelen with bacon and cream. Kniddelen are essentially dumplings, and whilst it was a very flavoursome dish and I'd recommend it for a winters day, it sat rather heavily during the rest of our trogging around town!

Val d'Aosta, Mont Blanc & Chamonix

Leaving Bologna, Janine and I headed north up though the Val d'Aosta and into France through the Mont Blanc tunnel. I have to admit to having felt some trepidation at the idea of the 'van going over the Alpes - I wasn't a 100% sure the engine was going to cope, after the fairly hairy journey through the Sierra Nevada in Spain. However,  the road through the Val d'Aosta is cunningly designed to trick you into believing that you are travelling on the perfect flat - and although the satnav showed the height above sea level gradually rising, for the most part you hardly noticed the fact you were going up and up.

Aosta itself is a pretty little Roman town, complete with triumphant arches, amphitheathre and other roman remains. In the summer it's fairly quiet, and seems to focus on the sale of 'porcini' or  Boletus Edulis/Penny Buns for the majority of it's income. It's a different story in winter of course when it becomes a major ski resort and the town nestles in a blanket of white. For us, we had the interesting experience of wandering though the streets in bright sunshine, and 34 degrees heat, whilst surrounded by snow capped mountains. Since we seemed to have stepped into a bizarre world, we decided to add to round it off, by enjoying Virgin Mojitos, and an apple flavoured sheesha, before heading off towards France.

It has been a long time since I've been through the Mont Blanc tunnel, and one of the legacies of the 1999 fire is the severe hike in price to get though. There are substantial safety improvements, with clear delineated driving distances, and escape areas - a good thing to see that the money is being spent on the tunnel management since it cost over £50 to take the van through one way. Once on the French side of Mont Blanc, we stopped to stretch our legs, but also to replan our route - we decided to drop Switzerland from the agenda and stop overnight in Chamonix instead.

 Chamonix in summer is full of fit young things in hiking and mountaineering clothing, striding energetically around. The deep verdant green is a real contrast to the white of the surrounding hills and glaciers, but the river is still the green white of glacial run-off - freezing cold and not suitable for a quick dip! We had dinner in one of my favourite restaurants, and as always, I heartily recommend trying the local cheese dishes - tartiflette is filling and simple, raclette is awesome and calorific!

San Gimigniano & Firenze

Place holder for completion when I get photos off my camera!


Placeholder for completion when I get my photos off my camera!!

Tuffa carved walkways and natural spas : Saturnia, Pittigliano, and Sorano

Placeholder to be completed when I manage to get my photos off my camera, which I've managed to forget in the UK!

More Etruscans

Day two on the trail of the Etruscan dead sees a visit to the Necropolis della Banditaccia, at Cerveteri. It's *another* world heritage listed site (clearly a theme here), and has acres of  tuff built tombs, in two different styles - in circular raised mounds or in long lines of square rooms cut into a mountain edge.  Only some are open for viewing, and less than a third of the actual necropolis is excavated as far as I know.

There is a certain Lara Croft feeling, as you scramble down into the tombs, and push aside plants whilst forging a path between half buried mounds. That said, I bet Lara Croft didn't have to resort to using her asthma inhaler in an attempt to counteract the musty mouldy air within the tombs. Unlike Tarquinia, only one or two have any paintings within them - the majority of the tombs are defined by the carved shapes and the sarcophagi which lie within them. The museum authorities have also set up an interesting 'sound and light' tour, which uses projection, mirrors and theatrical effects to give an idea of what the tomb would have been like 'in life'. It's quite enough to make you jump even when you arent in the tour, to climb down and find a ghostly figure appearing in the cool dimness of the grave!

From Cerveteri, it was a drive back up into Tuscany, passing through a number of hazelnut orchards on the way. It was easy to see why so many people fall in love with Tuscany - the long gentle drive over small country lanes was beautiful.

Fro The evening was spent camped on the edge of Lake Bolsena, with local food cooked at the campsite. Interestingly, it was the first campsite on the entire trip that I've found that required you to buy hot water tokens for the showers - thankfully the cautious approach of buying two tokens per shower was taken, as one certainly didn't last long enough to get shampoo out of long hair!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Tarquinia - Etruscans, Necropoli, and flagellation

After an early morning wake-up we finished the run down through the Apennines, Tuscany and into Lazio, arriving near Tarquinia at lunchtime. We decided to have 'lunch on the run' opting for take-away pizza slices and cold drinks. For those of you who know me, I'm not a huge fan of pizza, but this was awesome - two 'pizza biancas' (i.e. without tomato) - one with potato slices, cheese and rosemary , the other with garlic, salt and herbs. The entire lunch including large multi-flavoured icecreams came to less than five pounds per head!

By this time, we were starting to wilt in the heat, so what better to do that to visit some underground tombs? They will be cool, wont they? The Etruscan necropolises around Tarquinia are made up of  some 6,000 tombs, 200 of which include wall paintings. The main site is the Necropolis of Monterozzi, with a large number of tumulus tombs with chambers carved in the rock. The scenes painted include erotical and magic depictions, landscapes, dances and music - life and death in the Etruscan world. Because of the fragility of the paintings, maintenance of their unique microclimate is vital, and not all the tombs are open to visit - they rotate on a secret and unknown schedule, so what you see is what's around on the day.

In addition, when you finish stumbling down towards the tombs themselves you realise that they are closed off behind a thick double glazed iron door, with a push button light up system to allow peering visitors to see inside. The fact that this is both vital and sensible is brought home to you rapidly as you suddenly discover that far from being cool, it's hot, muggy and incredibly humid down at the end of the tunnel, there are drops of water forming on the moss around you, and any dry item of clothing you thought you were wearing can now be wrung out to water a small garden with.

A number of the paintings depict gods and demons of the Etruscan world, such as this colorful pair of Charontes who are guarding the portal into the tomb; or Vanth, a butch looking female, seen here escorting a mother and child into the Netherworld.

Others are less concerned with what happens after death, and more so about how to enjoy the life you have - feasting, dancing and general merriment is very common as a depiction. Sadly, Tomba Della Fustigazione was closed, so I've had to borrow a picture from wikipedia to demonstrate some of the more earthly pleasures depicted!

 Tarquinia itself is a walled city some distance from the sea with the normal maze of small cobbled streets, limited motor traffic and many many churches. As with every good Italian city, whilst on route to your next destination, you can fortify yourself with a quick cake shop visit.

The museum is housed in an old papal palace - the building itself is spectacular, although somewhat faded in it's grandeur. There is a superb collection of Etruscan sarcophagi, all with the image of the person reclining at a somewhat uncomfortable angle on top of it.
Grave goods from the Necropoli around also make up the vast majority of the displays, and there is a remarkable amount of greek pottery on display.

By this time it was heading on to 8pm, so we headed out to Lido di Tarquinia, and camped up at the beachside for the night. Word to the wise : Italian beachside campsites, particularly near Rome are not the most pleasant of areas to stop at. The site was incredibly crowded, with people squashed in cheek by jowl in huge numbers. Avoid!