Monthly Archives: August 2011

End-of-life law in Italy…

Polls show that at least 70% of Italians would like to be able to choose their own medical treatments and make their own end-of-life decisions. Many have expressed their wishes in “living wills.”

In spite of this, in mid July Italy’s ultra conservative government came up with and managed to pass through parliament an absolutely appalling, so-called “end of life” law, which effectively—once it receives final approval by the Senate this fall—will give doctors the supreme power of deciding what is best for those patients who, for whatever reason, are unable to speak up for themselves. From now on, doctors can simply ignore the wishes that their patients might have expressed in “living wills” and can have them force-fed and hydrated. And the patients’ family and/or appointed tutors can have no say in the matter…

Our fate, should we become somehow incapacitated, will soon lie in the hands of our doctors…

(You can imagine what I think of THAT…!)

I wanted to point out that at least one member of Mr. Berlusconi’s government is opposed to this new, atrocious law: Giancarlo Galan, the Italian Minister of Culture. During an interview (see “La Repubblica,” July 14), he declared that the new end-of-life law is unjust and wrong and it takes away freedom while adding nothing. He believes that we should be allowed to choose how to end our life, how to spend our last few days…

(No kidding.)

Now, I would like to point out that the Italian Constitution states the following: Nobody may be forcibly subjected to medical treatment except as regulated by law.  That law may in no case violate the limits imposed by the respect for the human being. (Article 32.) Well, I’d say that force-feeding and hydrating are clear and violent violations of this article…Therefore, this new end-of-life law seems to be UNCONSTITUTIONAL…

But nobody is talking about this issue right now…just a few “living will” supporters.

I suppose most people think that bad things only happen to others…after all, that’s what I used to think, too…before my cancer diagnosis…(more on this tomorrow…)

Celery and parsley against myeloma…

I have already written a few posts about apigenin, a common flavonoid found in celery and parsley (see http://margaret.healthblogs.org/antioxidants-and-chemotherapy/chemoresistance-apigenin/). When I first began reading the apigenin studies, I just knew that this compound would kill myeloma cells, too. But I wasn’t able to find a specific apigenin-myeloma study. Until today, that is…

A Chinese study on this very topic was published just yesterday in “Molecular Cancer.” The provisional PDF, yes the full study, is available online: http://goo.gl/CyO3Y. Super!!!

As we can read in “Results,” this group of researchers found that apigenin killed myeloma cells but NOT normal, healthy cells. The gist of the headache-causing paragraph discussing STAT3 and NF-kappaB is that apigenin was found to inhibit a rather impressive bunch of signalling processes and evil proteins that are all involved in myeloma cell survival. In the end, all the inhibiting and downregulating by apigenin inexorably led to the DEATH of myeloma cells. :)

Another thing: apigenin helped two drugs (geldanamycin and vorinostat) deplete what the researchers called Hsp90 clients. Now, here I would like to digress for a second on the topic of Hsp90, known also as heat shock protein 90.

This is one of the most common proteins you can find in a cell. And, as its name suggests, it protects cells that are exposed to high temperatures and stress. When that happens…well, let’s try to explain it with a Cape Cod (Massachusetts) summer scenario. The Cape has 215,000 year-round residents. In summer, though, when the summer people arrive, the Cape’s population doubles. Well, that’s essentially what happens with the Hsp90 “clients.” When these “clients” enter a myeloma cell, that is, they go nuts and start proliferating like mad, doubling their normal numbers. Now, I don’t mean to sound negative towards tourists (Cape Cod really needs ’em!!!)…I just needed an easy-to-understand image that would help understand how this process works…and the doubled population of the Cape came to mind. That’s all! 

So, in conclusion (of this part!), multiple myeloma cells, as well as other cancer cells, contain more Hsp90 than normal cells, probably because they are subjected to more types of stress (than normal cells, I mean), such as low levels of oxygen blablabla…

And so Hsp90 has become a cancer treatment target. If you are interested in the Hsp90 topic, have a look at http://goo.gl/IDc0z Please read what Dr. Paul Richardson had to say about the halting of this trial…very interesting. As usual, the patients’ best interests are less important than big pharma profits…

But let’s get back to the apigenin-myeloma study. I liked it a lot also because it explains the meaning of many acronyms and describes their activities, instead of assuming that readers will automatically know all this stuff…For example, see how the authors discuss Cdc37, which is one of those pesky Hsp90 folks that is, quelle surprise (not!), overexpressed in myeloma. “Overexpressed” is like Cape Cod traffic in summer…or like traffic in Florence (Italy) all year round (except in August, when Florentines are on holiday)… 😉

At the end of page 4 we get to a description of apigenin, which, we are told, is abundant in common fruits and vegetables. It stops MM cells from proliferating…but the best bit of news is that it exterminates them once and for all, by suppressing CK2 as well as halting the nefarious activities of Cdc37 and the Hsp30 “chaperones.”

Skip skip skip to bottom of page 10, where we find some “Results,” which simply confirm the death of two important myeloma cell lines—U266 and RPMI 8226. The effects of apigenin on those two cell lines was dose-dependent, which means that the effects change if and when the dose is changed…For example, if you take 500 milligrams of curcumin, you most likely will not notice any improvement in your cancer markers. If, however, you increase that dose to 8000 mg, you most likely will notice a change. So curcumin’s effects are also dose-dependent…

Back to the study. Apigenin also inhibited what are called antiapoptotic proteins, such as Mcl-1, Bcl-xL and survivin (I’ve written about these in several posts…do a “Search” of my blog if you want details; use the Search box on the right). These are some of myeloma’s best buddies…They help keep myeloma cells alive and well…as do some of the signalling pathways, such as STAT3 and AKT. Well, these buddies and evil pathways are inhibited by apigenin. A note about doses: these studies are in vitro only, so we’re talking about CELLS…So it’s too early to tell what sort of dose might be helpful in humans…

One interesting paragraph has to do with cells donated by (12) MM patients and (5) healthy donors. The cells donated by 11 of the MM patients turned out to be sensitive to apigenin (yaaay!), but those from donor no. 12 only showed a slight growth inhibition. So they weren’t much affected by apigenin (the authors discuss this later on in the study…and say that they are now trying to figure out why this occurred). The healthy donor cells were unaffected by apigenin, which is great, of course…Like curcumin, apigenin therefore seems to be able to distinguish between cancer/myeloma and normal cells. Super duper…

The “Discussion” part suggests that apigenin’s anticancer activity may be caused by its strong proteasome inhibition activity. Earlier in the study we’d learned that apigenin inhibits proteasomes…just like Velcade and curcumin. Interesting

Important: the researchers mention EGCG and resveratrol as two other CK2-inhibitors, but I would like to mention curcumin, too. Oh, and of course, curcumin inhibits Hsp90, too…almost goes without saying, by now!!! 😉

There follows an interesting discussion concerning the members of the Bcl family (=evil, mafia-like protectors of myeloma cells)…and Mcl-1, another noxious protein that becomes overexpressed in myeloma cells. When Mcl-1 is downregulated (=calmed down, sort of), myeloma cells die. I would like to note that curcumin also downregulates Mcl-1, although by now that sort of announcement shouldn’t even make us raise an eyebrow… 😉

Good discussion also of how myeloma cells proliferate, the roles of IL-6 and VEGF and so on…

Well okay, what does all this mean, all of this multiple signalling pathway and kinase activity inhibiting stuff? Basically, that it would be a good idea to start eating lots of celery and parsley (though didn’t I read somewhere that huge quantities of parsley can be toxic? So be careful with that one…). Other foods that contain apigenin are rutabagas and also, in smaller amounts: apples, beans, broccoli, cloves, grapes, leeks, onions, tomatoes…hey, and tea and wine!

But mostly, in order, parsley (#1), then celery (#2) and rutabagas (also #2)…

Ecstasy and…myeloma?

Today I’m going to introduce a rather bizarre topic…a recent discovery concerning the surprising anticancer properties of a terribly dangerous hallucinogenic drug, which here in Italy is still, unfortunately!, immensely popular in discotheques and dance clubs among young folks, mainly because it gives them a crazy sense of euphoria, brushing aside any feelings they might have of anxiety and fatigue, which means they can spend several hours dancing and having “fun” (!) without stopping…The common name of this awful, dangerous drug is “ecstasy.”

Here in Italy those young disco-going, ecstasy-taking Italians dance all night and then, in the early morning hours, get into their cars all confused and dizzy, frequently causing accidents. Deadly accidents. It happens almost every Saturday. Well, there is a lot of info online about this terrible drug, which has very serious short-term AND long-term effects…from blurred vision to strokes. But harping on drugs is not the point of my post today…

The point is: what does ecstasy have to do with myeloma? Well, some of our MM, MGUS and SMM support group members on Facebook have recently brought up and discussed the results of a recent ecstasy/cancer study (as you may know, I am a co-administer of that support group, see FB link on right-hand side of blog). Today, after Beth A.’s comment (yesterday’s post), I decided to give it a go…

First, have a look at this “Time” article: http://goo.gl/lAVbl Please note the following sentence: the dose of ecstasy needed to fight cancer would have to be so large, it would kill the patient. No comment needed…!!!

However, the article notes that a University of Birmingham team has recently developed and tested two ecstasy analogues. And their lab tests show that these compounds can KILL blood cancer cells, including myeloma ones. Now, before getting too excited about all this, let’s not forget that so far this team has been working with CELLS. So these are in vitro tests only…

Moving on to another, possibly related (?) topic…The “Time” article discussion concerning neurotransmitters reminded me of something I’d written about in 2008. About curcumin. See my September 12 2008 post: http://goo.gl/mJSnu

I have no idea if the antidepressant effect of curcumin can be linked in any way to the recent discovery made by the Birmingham team, but here goes anyway…In 2005, a team of Chinese researchers discovered that the chronic administration of curcumin had an antidepressant effect on rats. Curcumin, they found, increases the levels of serotonin in the brain, and it affects brain dopamine levels, thereby reducing depression…See my post for more details and links to the studies…

Now, let’s go back for a second to the “Times” article where we can read the following: Intriguingly, receptors for serotonin, dopamine and other neurotransmitters aren’t found just in the brain–they’re also located on immune cells. WHAAAT?!!! They’re located on IMMUNE cells? Intriguing(ly), indeed! :) Since I’m not a scientist, though, I find myself unable to put together the pieces of this puzzle. All I have is a hunch. Not enough. And so I find myself forced to move on…drat…drat…drat…(Comments welcome, as usual!)

Okay, now for another interesting titbit. This morning I discovered that a clinical trial testing curcumin together with Prozac (scientific name: fluoxetine) was completed last year: http://goo.gl/1D1F8

That was particularly…intriguing to me since, as the “Time” article tells us, the Birmingham “ecstasy” researchers […] patented the new cancer indication and tried to get pharmaceutical companies to fund clinical trials of fluoxetine. Unfortunately, none were interested. Prozac can be obtained so cheaply, now that it’s off patent, that if even the drug were approved for the cancer indication, it wouldn’t be profitable.

Not profitable? Hmmm, now, where have we heard THAT before? :) And, surprise surprise, the clinical trial testing curcumin and Prozac took place in…India.

Case closed…

To be honest, today I don’t have the energy or the desire to launch into another tirade against the medical status quo and/or the evils brought to us by profit-chasing big pharma. I’d just like to point out that if you log onto Pubmed you will find several recent studies on the antidepressant effects of curcumin, such as this 2011 one: http://goo.gl/8u6JF And, if you are feeling brave enough, you can go read this full scientific study about curcumin and depression: http://goo.gl/qtwdf

In conclusion, it’s simply too early to tell what these ecstasy analogues might mean for us myeloma folks…

Just my opinion, as usual…

Help page update…

Today I tried to make my blog’s Help Page a bit prettier, but I’m not very good at that. Not like Hanna! :) But anyway, pretty or NOT (more like the latter!), I did update my “Help Page.” To have a look at it, just scroll down the right-hand side of my blog…or click here: http://margaret.healthblogs.org/good-or-bad-for-myeloma/.

Let’s see…mainly, I added my findings on aspirin and NAC. Oh, and I also added the link to my curcumin protocol, which is actually the protocol that Prof. Aggarwal sent to me in January of 2006…and the link to my Page on side effects and warnings. 

From the messages I receive daily from new readers via my blog’s Contact form, I have come to realize that my blog is overwhelming (and not just to “newbies”), so that is why a Help Page might be of some…well…help! Hope so, anyway! :) 

Okay, it’s time to take some time…off. It’s the weekend, after all! Speaking of which, if you’re anywhere near Hurricane Irene this weekend, please stay safe! Even though Irene seems to be weakening a bit, she still looks like a really bad storm…I’ve been through a few of those…no fun… 

Sea views…

Nothing like a few sea views on what is promising to be another boiling hot day in Florence (but last night was quite cool, yay!).

I took the first two photos at Minack Theatre, which is an open-air theatre built in the 1930s (?) into the granite cliffside overlooking Porthcurno Bay, not too far from Land’s End, in Cornwall.

Wikipedia tells me that minack from the Cornish meynek means a stony or rocky place. Anyway, the first photo gives a view of Porthcurno beach…the second is a shot of the theatre taken from above. It was a stunning place. And we happened to be there on one of the rare (during our holiday) sunny days, which made it even more perfect…

My third photo, which came out a bit on the dark side (it was late afternoon, and the sun was in the wrong place…or perhaps we were in the wrong place… 😉 ), shows St. Michael’s Mount…yes, similar to Mont St-Michel in Normandy, France…

During low tide you can walk over to the (tidal) island–and in fact, if you look closely, you will be able to see the beginning of the causeway–but if the tide is high, as it was when we chose to go there, you have to get there by ferry boat. Or swim. :) We chose the ferry boat (the one we missed can be seen on the left in the photo)…

And, in case you were wondering, this is another National Trust property ;), though the castle, perched on the top of the island, is still the official residence of Baron St Levan…

My last two photos are of Durdle Door and the Man of War Bay. We spent a couple of days near the end of our holiday on the Jurassic Coast (which was completely booked…sigh). What can I say about the Jurassic Coast? Stunning, and very relaxing. And even though it rained most of the time, there is always something entertaining to do (National Trust properties, e.g.; hmmm, since I keep mentioning the NT, I suppose I should declare officially that I am in no way affiliated with it!).

Yes, we did look for fossils on the beach at low tide but found none…though Stefano and I did bring home a pile of, er, promising-looking (?) stones… :) Now all we have to do is get a small hammer and open them…carefully…

Durdle Door is a really magical, lovely place. Even the crowds didn’t bother me. We sat on the cliffs above the Door, admiring the views, soaking up the sun rays (vitamin D!) and watching swimmers diving happily off the limestone rocks…

So beautiful…so relaxing…

A few notes of interest: Durdle Door is a natural limestone arch near Lulworth, in Dorset. According to Wikipedia, Durdle is derived from an Old English word ‘thirl’ meaning bore or drill. Even though the Door is privately owned, it is open to the public. And in fact I watched (with a bit of apprehension) teenage kids climb all over the first part, the less steep part, of the arch. Eeek…

The last photo, as I mentioned, shows a view of the perfectly-shaped Man of War Bay, which is right next to Durdle Door. I tell ya, if we’d had our bathing suits with us, we’d most certainly have gone for a swim down on that lovely beach…The sea looked absolutely glorious…

Oh well…next time! :)

P.S. Since I don’t wish to bore you (and me!) with TOO many photos (I took hundreds), I decided to skip the ones I took in many other places, such as Tintagel Castle, which is associated with the King Arthur legends…in fact, this castle is supposed to be the birthplace of King Arthur…

Eden Project, Cornwall…

One of the places we visited in Cornwall was the Eden Project, which is located in an abandoned 170-year-old china clay quarry. One of the friends who was travelling with us wanted to go there because she remembered that (part of) one of the James Bond movies, “Die Another Day,” starring Pierce Brosnan, was filmed there in 2002. And, since we all like plants, plus I was curious to see a real live turmeric plant (see photo no. 3 below, left), off we went.

In a nutshell, the Eden Project is the world’s largest greenhouse. It has been called the eighth wonder of the world, I read this morning. Its two massive, weird-looking, artificial, covered “biomes” (see my first two photos–the one with Honey gives an outside view, the other, an inside view) host and protect a huge variety of plants from all over the world…The Rainforest biome contains tropical plants; the second biome contains plants from the Mediterranean/South African/Californian area.

These two “domes” are made of hundreds of huge hexagonal and pentagonal plastic bubbles (that’s what they look like, at any rate) supported by steel frames. There are no internal supports, as far as I could tell. Bizarre. But it works.

We spent most of our time inside the Rainforest biome, which is 3.9 acres (55 metres/180 feet high, 100 metres/328 feet wide, and 200 metres/656 feet long…ah yes, it’s BIG). Boyohboy is it hot in there! And it gets progressively hot as you wander up the path leading towards the panoramic platform. In fact, it got to be so hot and damp up there that our camera lenses clouded over (so we couldn’t take any more photos), we began sweating madly and one of my friends started feeling a bit ill, so we stopped to rest in an air-conditioned chamber so that she could recover.

In the end, we didn’t quite make it to the top of the biome…the heat and damp were too overwhelming (I mean, after all, the four of us went to the UK in part to escape from the Tuscan summer heat…!). But even though we didn’t get to the panoramic platform, see photo no. 2, we found what we were looking for—namely, the cocoa plant (yeah, chocolate! Photo no. 4), the nutmeg tree, the curry leaf plant, and various other spice plants, from paprika to cinnamon…And we had a very nice baobab smoothie, made with baobab pulp, coconut milk, pineapple juice and some mint.

At one point, I came across a plant that I’d never heard of—Devil’s Tongue, or Amorphophallus konjac. It’s an eastern Asian edible plant. I took a photo of the sign describing its medicinal properties, and here follows the transcription: As it contains no fat and is low in calories it is suitable as a diet food. Due to its high fibre content it can help reduce the causes of cancer, heart disease and gallstones. It is also used as a treatment for wounds, tumours, skin diseases plus snake, insect and rodent bites. Interesting. The photo came out a bit too blurry…sorry about that.

For me, the most interesting part of the second biome, the Mediterranean area one, was the area devoted to chilli pepper varieties (see photo no. 5). I had no idea there were so many. One of the hottest chillies in the world is called Dorset Naga (Capsicum chinese)…On the Scoville Scale of Heat, it measures 1.6 million. YIKES! If you eat an entire one of these chillies, you will probably end up in the hospital, so beware! Compare that to cayenne pepper, which is “only” 400,000. Wow, I cannot even imagine…and I really enjoy hot, spicy food, mind you…

By the way, the Scoville scale measures the amount of capsaicin (=the myeloma killer, yeah!) present in the fruit. And here is a bit of trivia: pure capsaicin measures 15 MILLION units on the Scoville scale…YIKES!!! And did you know that law enforcement grade pepper spray measures 5 million units? That’s the equivalent of more than three Dorset Nagas! Ouch.

Now we get to the controversial part of this post.

I was fascinated by the Eden Project, and in a way I still am, but I have to admit at being absolutely horrified and shocked by what I read a short while ago on various websites…for instance, one of the EP’s partners is a British mining company (!!!!!!) called Rio Tinto. What the…??? This company is supposed to begin (or perhaps has already begun…) mining in Madagascar for titanium dioxide, which means that a large area of that splendid coastal forest will be devastated, with unimaginable consequences for the local flora and fauna. Helloooo????? Where is the positive, environmental friendly message in that??? :(

I also read that the Eden Project accepts funds from some rather nasty corporate environmental offenders/polluters such as the Syngenta Foundation, which was founded in 2000 by Novartis (hmmm, where have I heard that name before? 😉 ) and AstraZeneca, both promoters of genetically modified technology (HORROR!!!!!!). Both of these companies manufacture hazardous chemicals, such as paraquat…No, I’m not kidding…and, to be honest, I didn’t know that Novartis was involved in crap like this…not that I’m surprised, eh…! Not at all. 

And then I read that the Eden Project, which is supposed to make the world into a better place, hah, has not taken a position on genetically modified foodstuff. HRRRUMPH!!! Shame shame shame!!!!! :(

My post began as a celebration of the Eden Project but has turned into a partial condemnation, due to the EP’s ties to the evil, polluting corporate world…I am verrrrry disappointed, to say the least…

Oh, I wanted to mention one more thing. Out of curiosity, I read the biographies of a few past and present members of the EP’s board of trustees, and I was most definitely not impressed—defence contractors as well as Nestlé (evil Nestlé!) and chemical industry executives…simply incredible. Or perhaps not, come to think of it. Well, there is a lot more information online, if you are interested in reading more about the EP’s corporate ties…

In retrospect, had I known about all of those negative corporate polluter connections, I probably wouldn’t have gone there at all. But I have to admit that it was interesting to see a real, live turmeric plant as well as other tropical spice plants that I wouldn’t be able to see otherwise…And it’s also true that the EP has provided jobs for lots of people in an economically depressed area…

But now I very much doubt the EP will change the world, which is what it intended to do…originally…theoretically…

Well…who’d have thought my post would take such a disappointing turn…

Signs…

Premise: I like signs. 

I like reading street signs or signs that I see in shop windows or tacked on people’s doors. Signs of all sorts. Mostly, I enjoy taking photographs of signs…the funnier, the better.

Yes, photographing gorgeous landscapes or handsome buildings is all fine and dandy…but when I get back home from a holiday, what really puts a smile to my face is looking at the quirky photos I took.

And many of those photos are of amusing signs… :)

Therefore, here follows a collection of some of my best “sign” photos from Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall…

The top two–Volvo and Opening Times–were taken in Dunster village, Somerset. I found other “-ish” shop signs during our trip…and they always amused me. Besides, that Volvo sign is precious…one of my favourites!

I took the third photo (“If you want breakfast in bed…” on the right) in Lacock village (see yesterday’s post). Inside the organic soap shop. Hehe. 

Photo no. 4 (on the left): this “One way…Another” sign was stuck on the roof of a thatched cottage in Porlock Weir, a small, cute village and harbour located about 1.5 miles from the coastal village of Porlock (which apparently boasts the most elderly population in England!) in Somerset… 

Photo no. 5: This “Slow!…” sign (on the right) stands at the entrance to the “prettiest village in England,” i.e. Castle Combe (see yesterday’s post). I thought I’d misread it as we were driving past, so, as soon as we’d parked our car, I walked back to have a second look.

Castle Combe also had some handwritten “Slow please. Ducks on road” signs, which was nice for the ducks… :)

Land’s End, photo no. 6 (above, left), is a headland in south-western Cornwall. It’s actually the most westerly point in England (mainland, of course)…

I wondered about the “John O’Groats 874” reference (btw, sorry about the shadow that almost entirely obscures the lettering) until we returned to Florence, or rather, until I finally got my hands on a computer and was able to look it up. From Wikipedia: Land’s End to John O’Groats in Scotland is a distance of 838 miles (1,349 km) by road and this Land’s End to John O’Groats distance is often used to define races, walks or charitable events in the UK. Ah, ok. All clear, now… 

Photo no. 7 (also on the left): I took this “Thank you for…” sign inside a tea room in the city of Wells (Somerset) where we visited the cathedral, of course, as well as roaming around the Saturday market located near the cathedral, where Stefano and I bought some Stilton cheese to bring back with us to Florence. I still can’t believe we actually did that…but yes, we did, and in fact we ate our bits of Stilton last night, together with my parents. :) Does “perky” have a different meaning in British English? If not…well, then that definitely is a bit of an odd sign…

Last but not least, here is the helpful “Keep Calm” series. Hehe. I found the complete series (of which these are but a few) in a shop window in Exeter, in Devon, which we visited mainly for its famous cathedral…but where we also ended up having perhaps the best meal of our entire visit, at Angela’s, in New Bridge Street.

After raving with Angela about our meal (I had sea bass surrounded by a lovely sauce that included caramelized ginger, spring onions and definitely some chilli…), the chef, Richard, came out of the kitchen to meet us, which we enjoyed very much…

Okay, now, since you might begin thinking that this is turning into a travel/food blog (NOT!), let me add a link to an article I just finished reading about a new study suggesting that MGUS patients do not receive adequate evaluation, follow-up, or treatment for their conditionhttp://goo.gl/08FJ6 Eh…

Hottest city in Europe…

Hottest city….in all of EUROPE??? No kidding…Ah, which city, you ask? Er, that would be Florence. Yes, Florence, Italy. My city…sigh…40 degrees expected here again today…

I ventured outside briefly this morning, just enough time to run a few errands, and it was
36 degrees by the time I got home…mammamiaaaa! Pant pant…

Ok, I really need a cool thought right now, which means that I must turn my thoughts to our recent holiday in the UK. Ahhh, I feel cooler already (not…!)… 😉

My first photo of the day shows a view of the Lacock Abbey inner courtyard, where some scenes from the Harry Potter saga were filmed. In fact, Harry freed Dobby in one of these cloister walks. Remember that scene? :) Apart from the Harry Potter connection (ah, by the way, in case it’s not obvious, I’m a huge HP fan… :) ), this is a lovely abbey, managed by the National Trust.

That reminds me: if you are visiting England, I think it’s a good idea to become members of the National Trust (or of English Heritage, depending on where you are…in Wales, we chose the latter). We paid, as I recall, £83.50 for an annual membership (of course, now that we have returned, I see that you can pay online for quite a bit less…sigh…story of my life), and once you are a member, you can enter all National Trust properties for free, so in the end it MORE than paid off for us…

I would also like to mention that the entire village of Lacock (Wiltshire) is lovely, not just the abbey. Many films and BBC series have been filmed there–the fabbbbbbulous 1995 BBC rendition of Pride and Prejudice, and also Cranford (2007). And quite a few others…Worth a visit, certainly…We bought some luscious organic handmade soap at a shop called “Quintessentially.” Mmmmmh…

Photo number two: Honey outside Lacock Abbey (that small thingy perched on the fountain…).

Photo number three: a view of the village of Castle Combe, “the prettiest village in England,” also located in Wiltshire, about 12 miles from Bath. On the right, you can get a glimpse of its 14th century market cross. Lots of history there…all the way back to Roman times…

Photo number four: this is a view of the famous (even though I confess I’d never heard of it…) Palladian bridge in Prior Park, an 18th century landscape garden located right outside Bath. Again, a National Trust property.

In case it isn’t clear from my photo (and no, now that I’ve had a closer peek, it most definitely isn’t), let me warn you that the climb down to the bridge is amaaaaaazingly steep, which is OK as long as you are going down. However, getting back UP the hill is an entirely different matter.

So don’t even think of going to Prior Park unless you are well prepared. For instance, you’d better be wearing sturdy shoes, not a pair of flimsy flip flops. And you’d also better be somewhat fit.

After going down the hill and taking about a million photos of the bridge, the pair of swans near the bridge and whatnot, we started to climb back up the hill, heading for a gate located just under that Georgian manor (see the very top of the photo). Let me tell ya, by the time we reached that gate, our hearts were pounding like mad…Spectacular views of the city of Bath from up there, though…

Oh, and it’s one of only FOUR remaining Palladian bridges in the world…How about that for a bit of trivia? :)

Photo number five: one of the adorable thatched cottages in Selworthy, a small village in Somerset. It is part of the National Trust’s Holnicote Estate (Exmoor National Park). Ah, the National Trust…again. :)

Photo number six…Well, just a shot that I particularly liked. A goat resting in a field with his little feathered buddy just outside of Arlington Court, in Devon. Yes, you guessed it…another National Trust property… 😀

Last but not least…a rainy day view of the rather rough sea off the coastal path near Crackington Haven, in Cornwall.

Ahhhh, the scenery…loved it! Even on a rainy day…and we had many of those during our two-week holiday. Didn’t bother us in the least…

Photos of Bath…

Stefano and I returned from the UK yesterday. Let me tell ya, it was quite a shock, going from temperatures of 15° (UK) to 40° (Italy)…Celsius, of course! In fact, as soon as we descended from the plane and met our first blast of horrendous heat at the airport in Pisa, I turned to Stefano and said: “Holy cats, let’s get back on the next flight to the UK!” I was joking, of course…or was I? 😉

Well, as tempted as we were, we decided against returning to the UK, which means we are back home in HOT Florence now. Pant, pant. But seriously, all joshing aside, it’s good to be home again…

My poor Stefano went back to work early this morning…I instead have another week or so, so I have more time to get acclimatized, so to speak…

But ok, enough whining about the heat…Here are a few of the photos I took in the city of Bath, which was the first stop on our itinerary. We spent two days there…Of course, all I could think was how it must have looked when Jane Austen lived there…Ahhh, dear, beloved Jane…sigh…

The first photo (top left) shows a view of the river Avon and a peek of the Pulteney Bridge (on the left), which is Bath’s “Ponte Vecchio,” that is, it is one of only FOUR bridges lined with shops in the entire world. And that was something I didn’t know…Please notice the sign “No Diving.” Uhm… 

As you can see in photo number two (top right), my Myeloma Buddy, whom Stefano named Honey, came with us. She always does, incidentally. And she will be featured in quite a few of the photos I plan to put on the blog in the next few days. This one shows her at the Royal Crescent, which is a simply stunning bit of Bath architecture, …thirty houses built in the late 18th century in the form of a crescent, as the name suggests…

Photo three. We went to the Roman Baths and yes, I was quite overwhelmed. I had no idea they’d be so interesting. And well preserved. As you can see, they are below street level (notice the cathedral in the background). In the afternoon, we had cream tea in the Pump Room. The food wasn’t comparable to what we had years ago at Fortnum & Mason in London, but we enjoyed the experience and our surroundings. 

And, in spite of Lorna’s warning, I did taste Bath’s spa water in the Pump Room. As I recall, it contains more than 40 minerals, which definitely gave it a strong, odd (awful?) flavour…it was also quite hot, of course…but I managed to drink my entire glass, whereas Stefano only managed to stomach a quick sip…hah. I win. 😉

Photo number four shows a partial view of The Circus…again, this is a very well-known, lovely spot in Bath–a perfect circle of townhouses built in the 18th century. I went around and took photos of many below-street-level gardens and patios. Splendid…

Photo number five…well, just a funky photo showing a sign post…nothing more…

And these photos take care only of our first TWO days in the UK! 😉 No worries, I won’t post photos from my ENTIRE trip (I took hundreds, so that would be impossible anyway), just a few highlights. :)

Greetings from Cornwall!

We’re in Penzance, Cornwall…will be here for a few days before driving back up the coast. We LOVE Cornwall! We’ve had such a lovely time so far, in spite of the fact that the weather hasn’t been that great.  But we put on our rain gear and go out anyway. We even went on a coastal walk in the Exmoor National Park in the pouring rain. And who says English food isn’t good? We’ve had some fabulous meals! Anyway, I have to be quick…This is the first time I’ve been able to get my hands on a computer, and it may well be the last until we return to Italy. The reason I can’t stay here long is that this computer belongs to our very kind and helpful B&B host. But I just wanted to say a quick CIAO to everyone…hope you are all well. I don’t have time to read any comments or messages right now, so please don’t get antsy if I don’t respond…I do NOT have access to my e-mail…

Another week on holiday…OK, time to go off and have some fun! Ciaooooo! :)