Archive for September, 2014

September 30, 2014

29 Sep 2014 Mykonos

Took a tender to the small island of Mykonos with a million other passengers. Our tour guide showed us around the island by bus. He pointed out buildings that housed pigeons (for eating), some now derelict; the traditional white houses with rounded corners; chapels with red roofs that house the family ancestors (each family has their own); dry stone walls that are all over the island, which is very rocky and made of granite. I also noticed a lot of prickly pear and not much else growing except for some eucalyptus trees outside hospitals and monasteries for medicinal purposes.

We stopped for coffee at Taverna Thalassa and a toilet break (15 minutes wait in a half hour stop!). It had a lovely view over the water and free wifi. Next stop was the lovely Panagia Tourliani Monastery originally built in 1542. Preservation was sponsored and it still houses a very old icon, which has been covered in silver to preserve it. We also stopped at Kalafatis Beach, which has some preserved windmills. They no longer work and most are private homes now. Our guide, Constantine, walks us through the maze of shops and cafes to Little Venice where we have lunch then wander our way back to the ship along the foreshore.

September 29, 2014

25 Sep 2014 At sea; 27 Sep Athens, Greece; 28 Sep Kusadasi, Turkey

26 Sep 2014
At sea. Full day today. Breakfast then first session of my free boot camp class. Only 5 people showed up. Alex, the trainer, nearly killed us but we certainly needed a hard session after the food and drink we’ve all consumed!

Went to a GoPro session and met Peter there. He was doing a digital camera talk before it. Learnt a few things. Pity I didn’t bring it to try them out!

Saw a short acrobatic display then on to pilates. Not as hard as the boot camp but I will be sore tomorrow!

Formal night tonight. We got prettied up and schmmoozed with the other passengers. Some weird and wonderful outfits out tonight. Lined up for a plethora of formal portraits. Hope they turn out okay. One couple before us in the queue had a little dog with them! Thought that was unusual until the photographer said it was a companion dog and alert to when its owner is having a fit. Had at least half a dozen portraits done then moved on to dinner in the Symphony Restaurant. No bookings but you get an alert when you can get in. Food was great. Took my free bottle of wine voucher. If you don’t use it all they keep it for when you come back. Nice service. Also got a free voucher for a photo of our choice with a frame from the travel agent.

After dinner it was on to the Soul Show which was really good. Motown tunes that we know. Pretty spectacular. Peter wanted to watch the Irish comedian around 11pm but we didn’t stay the whole show. Been a big day. Off to bed around midnight.

27 Sep 2014
In Athens today. Our tour took us to the Acropolis, where the Pantheon is crumbling into ruins even though they are trying to restore it. Also the Sacred Erectheum and the Porch of the Caryatids. Views of Athens below are spectacular. The place was crawling with tourists and we were there by 10am. The number of buses in the place is horrendous.

On to the old town of Plaka shopping district. A short walk around showed that it is very touristy. Apart from a few leather handbag shops we didn’t look at much. And we didn’t buy anything except a cup of coffee in a cafe (and some Greek yogurt with fruit) to kill time before going to Tabepna Karokepinos restaurant for traditional Greek food and dancing. Zorba dancing optional!

Back to the ship to watch it struggle to get out of the port while I read my book. Then on to check tons of portrait photos and be present for the raffle. We didn’t win anything! Late dinner at Symphony Restaurant again. The food is excellent.

28 Sep 2014
Kusadasi, Turkey. Another looong wait to get out of the ship and onto a bus for our tour of Ephesis and Terrace Houses from the 2nd Century! The wind was very strong and the ship had trouble docking. Another ship came in as well.

Fatih was a great guide, very knowledgeable and very respectful. He studied for 5 years to be a guide and is also an inspector of tour groups. We travelled a short distance to the ancient city of Ephesis. It was a slow, downhill walk on rocky ground seeing ruins on the way. The Celsus library has a large entrance and looked like it played an important role in the area. The Great Theatre had seating for around 20,000 and is massive. Fatih showed us a shopping area with logo of a shop as a heart on the front entrance and also in the mosaic floor.

The Terrace Houses are the most recent to have been excavated and contain 6 self-contained dwellings with room for families with servants (they traded slaves in the marketplace). The mosaic floors and wall frescos are very detailed, some are still complete. Only about 10-15 percent of the area has been unearthed. If it ever is all uncovered it will be a massive area.

After the tour we went to a cottage industry shop (Artisan) to see how they hand weave carpets. It is painfully slow and they use wool, cashmere and silk. They are absolutely beautiful. We got to walk on them barefoot to feel the difference. If you turn them around the pile changes like velvet to different shades. I was mesmerised! Of course, I picked a carpet for our hall in green colours. Peter was not keen but I was insistent!

Our 4-hour tour turned into 6 hours. We got back to the ship just before it sailed at 5.30pm after looking at some of the other market stalls and stopping for apple tea and a doner kebab (we missed lunch) at a cafe. It is a fascinating place and I could have spent a lot more time exploring if we were here longer.

September 26, 2014

25 Sep 2014 Dubrovnic

25 Sep 2014
Another wait for a bus into Dubrovnik, Croatia (Hrvatska) this morning. First a panoramic view then down to walk the 1.2 miles of city walls with a stop at the Maritime Museum in the middle. The day started overcast but eventually bloomed into full sunshine. The Old City was crammed with orange-tiled roof limestone brick dwellings some from 3rd Century BC. They were filming ‘Game of Thrones’ while we walked around. We came back to the ship for lunch and I went back for a short walk around the shops near the ship. We were both exhausted and had catnaps this afternoon, ready for our massages tonight to celebrate our 38th wedding anniversary.

The couples massage treat was really great. We shared a room and had a massage each (Peter – hot stones, I had exfoliation and massage). Peter had a sauna but not me, then a relaxing bath. They even brought food and drinks to complete our experience! Off to the Princess Theatre for a live show then we parted for Peter to try the casino and me to organise my photos and blog.

September 26, 2014

24 Sep 2014 San Marino and Ravenna

24 Sep 2014
Up early to take a tour of Ravenna and San Marino a bit down the road from Venice. Waiting around for everyone to arrive is painful but necessary. There were about 16 busloads out and about today! We were number 10.

San Marino is a walled city with winding streets and steep steps around the slopes of Mt Titano. It is the oldest surviving sovereign state and republic in the world. The tour ended at La Rocca o Guaita (1st Tower) and we had lunch in the Nido del Falco Restaurant at the top overlooking the countryside. Tagliatelle for Peter and ravioli for me. We shared Grandma’s custard cake.

After lunch we cruised the many tiny shops on the way down. We came across the ‘Torture Instruments Museum’ and thought, ‘Why not?’ Bad mistake. We were out again in 5 minutes. It was similar to a wax museum but not good. Oh well. The leather handbags and shoe shops featured heavily. I was very tempted!

Back in the bus and off to Ravenna. The main attractions are the Basilica di San Vitale and the Tomb of Galla Placidia. Mosaics feature heavily in both buildings. Tiny pieces that date from the first century; some are in original condition. Hard to believe!

Back on board and we are looking forward to both having facials (special from the first day). Will probably fall asleep because of our early morning start!

My facial was good and I got sucked into buying cleanser and scrub. It is much cheaper to buy it here but is not available in Australia. Dinner at the Horizon again and off to see the Princess Live show. Peter’s gone off to the casino and I’m settling in for the night.

September 26, 2014

22-23 Sep 2014 Gatwick to Venice

22 Sep 2014
Perry cooked a beef pie filling and Lin made the pie for dinner tonight. They are both good cooks. Clotted cream with dessert!

23 Sep 2014
Perry and Lin drove us to Gatwick airport at 6.30pm this morning! Not my idea of fun. They were wonderful hosts. Very attentive but not intrusive.

Gatwick is a big airport where we waited around some more. Traffic in the morning is horrendous so we were there way too early. Had breakfast in the Rouge Cafe and killed a bit of time.

The flight only took 1 1/2 hours but we were half an hour late arriving around 1pm Venice time – just in time to check into the cruise. Unfortunately there were 7 calls before us at number 21!

It is a BIIIIG ship! More confusing than the Pacific Jewel we were on before. We are on Deck 11 and there are 17 decks. We had a look around and were particularly interested in facials and massages. Booked a facial for me and a man treatment for Peter for tomorrow after being out all day.

Got back to the cabin to find our bags there. Peter was peed off because the handle had been pulled off his. He was even more peed off when the TV wouldn’t work but that was sorted out.

I left him to it and went to put some raffle tickets into a draw in the fitness room. It’s really just a lot of hype to get people excited, I know. The raffle was vouchers for the Lotus spa where we’d booked already. Didn’t win any of them but I was called out for another competition with another guy. How good are we at doing push-ups for a bootcamp voucher?! I did about 20. Not sure what the other guy did but the audience clapped us both equally so we both got vouchers for 2 bootcamps on the ‘at sea’ days worth $75! How good was that?

Chased up Peter to let him know but couldn’t find him. We eventually had dinner at the Horizon Bistro (pig trough) then off to bed. Up early tomorrow for our first excursion. Doesn’t feel like the ship is moving!

September 23, 2014

22 Sep 2014 Lunch with Mike

21 Sep
Dinner last night was at Rajdani Indian Restaurant in West Kingsdown. It was really late and not much was open on a Sunday after the drive to Canterbury. The food was great. I had beef bhuna and Peter had butter chicken. Joe also joined us. The owners know Lin and Perry fairly well and are very friendly.

22 Sep
I made myself porridge for breakfast and went for a walk (with a map and phone) to the shops. It really is not far! Did a round trip and back in 20 minutes. So glad I didn’t get lost this time.

Had a quick trip to Brands Hatch near Perry and Lin’s place. It used to be the Grand Prix circuit. Today there were motorbikes on it. I can still hear them roaring around.
On to an English village for a tour and tea at Riverside Tearoom in Eynsford where the River Daren’t crosses a ford. Back in time to meet Mike Whelan (who was waiting for us because we were late back) for lunch at the Moat. Bangers and mash for me, Cornish pasties for the boys. Trifle for dessert was scrumptious. We could have talked all afternoon about the family tree but Mike needed to pick up Marilyn.
Trust me to forget the key to get back in when we were finished. Lin and Perry were both out! All was not lost as we talked to Mike a bit longer and Lin came back from the shops shortly after.

September 22, 2014

21 Sep 2014 West Kingsdown to London

Had a whirlwind day through London today. Started by seeing the millions of poppies around the Tower of London (spectacular) then drove with Lin and Perry past Fleet St, Law Courts, Australian Embassy, Trafalgar Square Picadilly Circus, queens guards. Stopped at Covent Garden and saw Pearly Kings and Queens, had lunch at Casting Pipe, watched buskers and browsed through Jubilee Market Hall.

Not long back home and then off to Canterbury for a quick look at Canterbury Cathedral and shops from 16th Century. It is fascinating to think that people have been there that long and it hasn’t changed a lot. Lin and Perry’s daughter is starting at Canterbury Uni and staying in the student accommodation in the area. It is very quaint and beautiful.

September 22, 2014

19-20 September West Kingsdown to London

19 Sep
Went to The Castle, Eynesford, for dinner. It’s a lovely pub with great meals, run by a local family. The salmon with scallops was delicious as well as the dime bar cheesecake for dessert.

20 Sep
Slept well and got up for a short walk around the town this morning. Turned right and kept on the same road towards the Hever Road shops. Coming back I couldn’t find the right house and got disoriented. Kept going over the same territory but nothing looked familiar. I stopped to ask a tradesman but he wasn’t from the area! He did let me use his phone because I hadn’t brought mine, nor did I have a map or the address of the place we are staying! Starting to panic then. I knew I wasn’t far away but couldn’t figure out which way to go. The tradesman finished his job and offered to drive me around to try to figure my way back. I remembered the number of the house and finally figured out I was on the right road after all! It just didn’t look the same going back. I nearly kissed him when we pulled up outside the right house. When I went in Peter commented that I’d been a while and I burst into tears!

Joe, Lin’s son, drove us to Swanley station and Peter and I caught a train into Victoria Station, London. Didn’t take very long. Victoria station is massive. We bought lunch and then wandered outside to get our bearings. Walked to Cafe Nero and had coffee while we looked at some maps to decide which way to go. Westminster Abbey was not far away and we had a look inside. They were having a service and were not happy when Peter took some pictures. On a bit further was Westminster Cathedral and the crowds were getting thicker. Bloody tourists! Deans Yard is worth a look. Over Westminster Bridge where the shysters were ripping off people guessing which cup had the ball in it. There must have been half a dozen of them. I think they are franchising businesses!

On the other side of the bridge is the London Eye. We queued up for a ticket then queued again to get on it. At least it wasn’t raining and the queue moved quite quickly. We’ve done it now but the day wasn’t very clear and we couldn’t see very far. The views are better than on the Melbourne one though. Sat down in the City Hall bakery for a drink after all that. It seems blasphemous that there are fast food restaurants in the former City Hall building.

Walked on further to the Imperial War Museum. It is an imposing building in lovely gardens. I queued (again) to get into the WW1 exhibition while Peter waited in the cafe. I skimmed through as the crowd was taking forever. The world in 1914 was nothing like we know it. Not many lived past 55. Children only had to go to school until they were 12. Not many went past 16. Only 2/3 of men had the right to vote and no women.

Perry cooked dinner at home tonight. We had steak, mushrooms, chips and asparagus with berry cheesecake for dessert with double cream. Mmmmm.

September 20, 2014

18-19 September 2014 Melbourne to London

Left Melbourne on a miserable spring day to catch planes – 9 hours to KL was doable but 13 hours to London was soooo long to be cooped up in one spot. But we made it and arrived at 6am! Perry and Lin picked us up from Heathrow and we went to their place in Kent. Peter, Perry and Lin talked about what’s happening at Metro for a while until I suggested we change the subject. Lin took us for a drive around their local area. It is very pretty English countryside.
We saw Roman ruins of The House and Granary not far from where they live from around 120AD and Lin’s local church from 11th Century. Having some chill out time now to catch up from the jet lag. Out for dinner tonight.