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Hvar – Pine trees, Cicadas and Staropramen – 11 August 2019

The only port where we had to use the tender.

If there’s one thing P&O are good at, it’s organising. Waited in a queue to collect our ticket for the tender which was really one of the lifeboats. About 15 minutes later we were called to board the Skylark. Just a ten minute jaunt to the harbour.

We walked around the bay and took a detour up through a sort of park with Corsican pines growing everywhere. We could smell the pine resin blowing in the breeze. We also found a Cicada on one of the trees, initially pointed out by an American man. You always hear cicadas in warm climates, but it’s rare to see one.

Walked on and found a posh hotel with a low level infinity pool. Turned back at this point and walked back by a lower path. Stopped at a cafe and had a bottle of Staropramen each, then a coffee. Nice wee place where you can watch the hundreds of wee boats in the harbour alongside enormous yachts. We watched a dog jump off a boat and paddle to the shore, almost beating the couple who were rowing to the shore from the boat. I’m guessing it was too warm to be a guard dog today. We got free WiFi at the cafe too. Not many places seem to have free WiFi these days, or at least I didn’t find any.

Back at the ship we saw the polis in a speed boat huckle some poor punter and his pals. At first we thought he’d been exceeding the speed limit in the bay, but it began to look a bit more serious and they weren’t for letting them go again. Never found the reason, but it certainly spoiled someone’s Sunday.

We decided to try dancing again because Roy & Andrea (the Lovely Jubbly dance teachers) had the night off and one of the entertainment team was playing the tunes. We asked for Desposito and danced a fairly decent Salsa to it. The girl playing the music complemented us on our Armography. I’m guessing it was a complement anyway! Lovely and Jubbly were watching too, but didn’t say much. I think it was a case of “We are not amused.”

PoD was the view from the cafe.

Things I remember about the pretty little town of Hvar:
You must not go topless in the town. That rule applies to both sexes.
The swimming dog
The smell of the pine resin
The Cicada
The old lumpy tree who’s trunk was held up with a wooden post.

It’s a nice quiet looking town and we’d go back there if we got the chance. However, not tomorrow, because that’s Venice!

Dubrovnik – Astronauts, Bungee Jumping and Christina O – 10 August 2019

Arrived in Dubrovnik to find that we were berthed under the enormous bridge, not right under because we wouldn’t fit!

Breakfast on the upper deck just to make the most of another glorious day with wall to wall sunshine.

Took the shuttle bus in to town and met the most horrendous traffic jam. Only found out later that there had been two car accidents on the way to the old town, which partly explained the jam. Also it was Sunday and all the Croatians were converging on Dubrovnik.

Walked in to the old town and decided that £25 to walk the walls in the already blazing heat wasn’t going to happen. We’d walked the walls before and didn’t really feel the need to do it again. Maybe if they’d paid us the £25 we might have thought about it, but only maybe. We didn’t spend too long in the old town. Just long enough to see the statue of the man with the golden nose (?) and to have a drink by the harbour, then it was back to the long, long queue for the bus back to the ship. By long, long I really mean long, (x25) long queue. It seemed to stretch halfway back to the ship. I took the executive decision and stopped a taxi. €14 to the cruise terminal. Sounded good, then an American girl asked if she could share the taxi with us. We said ok, because it was a set price fare. She asked if she could contribute to the fare, but we had it all in hand, so she got a free ride to the cruise terminal which is also the ferry terminal. She got the free ride and we got to be good Samaritans. Ten minutes we were getting on the ship.

We’d seen the stylish boat moored next to ours and Scamp was the one who looked it up on her phone. It was called the Christina O and had originally been owned by Aristotle Onassis. It was named after his daughter. It’s had a chequered history which makes interesting reading. While we were admiring it from the balcony, its entire crew appeared and lined up on the deck. We were going out for a walk anyway, honest, so we did a slow walk past the yacht to see who of the great and the good got out of a black people carrier and after shaking hands with the crew, climbed the steps into the luxury that €630,000 per week to hire can give you. We walked on and bought a bottle of water at the ferry shop.

When we came back, I went for a snooze while Scamp went and read for a while on deck. She came back and told me there were people bungee jumping from the bridge. I took my camera and went to see what I could see. Luckily for me one bloke was getting ready to launch himself into oblivion. Got the camera ready and just as he jumped the viewfinder went black. The battery was dead. Just my luck. However I did watch this bloke plummet down until he almost touched the water 49m below. Rather him than me.

At dinner we were all discussing what we did in the real world. One wee girl of about 6 or 7 asked the man sitting across from her what he did. He said he was an astronaut. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look on her face, or the disappointment when he started to laugh and told her he was just joking.

PoD was an island we saw as we were sailing away from Dubrovnik. It looked like something from a Peter Jackson film.

Tomorrow we’re going to be in Hvar, also in Croatia.

At Sea – Lovely Jubbly – 9 August 2019

A sea day again.

At lunchtime we got to test out the skills of the new dance teachers. What could they teach us. They had big boots to fill. First off, they were English and had a totally different style. The bloke spoke very fast and gave the impression of being a bit nervous. The woman was much more self-assured and was obviously the brains of the operation. He did the talking, she did the thinking. They taught us the Social Foxtrot which we’d learned a long number of years ago and for some reason it had stuck in my mind. Something few dance steps do, so it was either memorable or simple! We didn’t go in the afternoon, already missing the dry humour of Stuart and Jane! Also the bloke’s constant repetition of “Lovely Jubbly” was becoming irritating.

Although there’s usually a lot to do on sea days, there’s not a lot to photograph. So, today’s PoD was a Royal Caribbean ship following us for a while.

Dinner was in the ‘council’ restaurant and although it was a ‘black tie’ affair with everyone dressed up, we had to wait for about half an hour for a table and then service was extra slow. Something is wrong with P&O. We think they have cut the staff and it’s beginning to cause problems. Lots of people are complaining about the time it takes to serve food. Lots of people are complaining about the difficulty in getting drinks in the bars, because waiter don’t seem to be interested in serving. Scamp thinks it’s linked to the drinks packages they sell. If they’ve sold a drinks package, the company already has your money in the bank, so they don’t need to work trying to sell you drinks. Makes sense. Also people are complaining about grumpy looking waiters and workers on the ship. If P&O are indeed cutting staff, then the remaining staff need to work longer hours for presumably the same wages. That leads to an unhappy workforce and an unhappy customer base. It’s a downward slope from there.

We danced for a while at night, but it wasn’t the same atmosphere and not the same music either. It sounded to me like midi tracks, or ‘Elevator Music’ as Scamp described it.

Never mind, tomorrow we’re in Dubrovnik.

Valletta, Malta – The Smug Smugglers – 8 August 2019

 

Today we woke to the sight of the Giraffe Crane. I think it had missed us.

After breakfast we walked along the front to the super-fast glass elevator that took us up to the viewing platform and the gun battery. We weren’t very interested in the gun battery, but we took some photos from the viewing platform, just for the sake of it.

Then we walked into the town. It looked a lot like the town we’d seen two years ago, but some things had changed. At the top of the main shopping street there was a fountain and an open tiled plaza where there had been a building site before. Also two very photogenic sets of steps were now complete where they had only gone half way up the last time.  Beautiful light on the sand coloured stone.

We stopped at a cafe for a drink and the owner(?) told me after a joke that he had been married for 47 years. I told him he was beating me by a year. We had a laugh. I had a beer and Scamp had a fresh orange juice. We paid our bill and said goodbye to the man with another joke.

We wandered round some more and Scamp was looking for somewhere for lunch. She found a little backstreet restaurant called D’ Office Bistro. I suggested Bruschetta to share as a starter and then we both had Chicken Caesar Salad. Scamp found they had a bottle of Rosé d’ Anjou on the menu, so we had that. The whole thing was gorgeous. Walked away feeling happy.

I wanted to buy some paint, Burnt Umber which is a dark brown that I use a lot. After just one wrong turning, I found the art shop I’d been in two years ago and got a tube of the paint and also a pan of Vandyke Brown which looked good. <I know this is nonsense to you, but it’s a reminder to me>.

I also wanted a cheap Malta tee shirt and Scamp wanted a coverall for when the sun gets too hot. I think the woman selling them diddled us, but that was probably ok. I needed some coffee too and found it in a wee shop down a side street. Next on my list was some electrical insulating tape and jewellers screwdrivers. The tape is to cover three little clips that keep stabbing into my fingers on my sporran. The screwdrivers are to fix the legs on my ’designer’ glasses which are the only pair I have left. My optician’s glasses broke a couple of days ago and refuse to go back together again. Hopefully I’ll have a pair to go back to from Simpsons. I found a wee ironmonger’s shop, again, down a side street and he had exactly what I wanted. Ironmongers shops are like hen’s teeth. When did you last see one? The owner was another character. He told me a story about his trip to Scotland and how he just had to get out of the car and stare at the scenery near Aviemore. He told me a good joke he read on a tea towel in Edinburgh too. Scamp reckons he’ll dine out on the story about the Scotsman who emptied his pockets and found that he’d just the right amount of money to pay for his tape and screwdrivers.

Back at the ship and in the duty free shop we took the risk and bough a bottle of gin, hoping we’d hit it lucky and get it past the guards. Got there and the scanner was covered up. Result! We will drink gin after all!

Scamp wanted to go back ashore to buy a wee dish she’d seen last week and we had a drink too. Scamp had a Rum ’n’ Coke and I had a very stiff Margherita. I could hardly walk back to the ship.

We dined at The Beach House tonight, which is the starboard side of Smash ’n’ Grab by day. My steak on a stone was good. My Hush Puppy starter tasted like … Well, let me put it this way, a pair of Hush Puppy shoes would have more flavour. The Key Lime Pie thing was much the same. Nice sorbet, but the rest had no taste. Through the middle of the meal we had to listen to boring Cap’n Bob’s lifeboat drill and I noticed that either he has a repetitive speech problem with some words or else it was the same speech as last week played back.

Tomorrow is a sea day with new dance instructors.

At Sea – Dancing with the Australians – 7 August 2019

Today was a sea day. Not a lot to see. Lots to do though.

We’d given up on the salsa class, it was just rubbish, below even beginners level. Did the dance class and enjoyed it as much as the last one. I went to a talk about the planet (or not the planet) Pluto by the astronomer again. Fascinating, and I’m not being facetious either. When someone who knows their stuff and is totally immersed in their topic gives a talk, their enthusiasm just draws you in. I could have listened to this bloke all day.

Dinner tonight for me was Chicken Cafreal with Pulau Rice and Goan Bread. Must ask Delia how authentic it was, but I don’t really care. It was great food but  the service was slooooow in the ‘cooncil’ restaurant.

Dancing with the Australian crowd who tried to teach us the Cowboy Cha Cha. I’m still not sure we got it right, but we had a go at it.

PoD was a shot of a Royal Caribbean ship that was keeping pace with us for a while.

Tomorrow we return to Malta, mid-cruise.

Heraklion – The Wee Train – 6 August 2019

It’s fascinating watching other people work, especially when you’re on holiday.

In the morning I watched a crane with grab loading scrap metal on to a ship. Maybe it’s a ‘man thing’, but I just found it fascinating. It wasn’t just the amount of scrap they dumped at a time, but also the delicate precision with which they could pick out a car tyre from the load that was dumped on the quayside and put it into another pile. Like I say, maybe it’s a ‘man thing’.

We walked in to to town of Heraklion, or rather, the Old Town. It didn’t seem like Rhodes, the other walled town we’d seen. This one seemed a bit more run-down.

After walking for what felt like miles we found a little train, a trolly train I think it’s called and it took us round the walls, in and out of most of the city gates, because it is a city, not a town.
It was quite dilapidated in places furthest from the sea. Lots of old crumbling buildings and football pitches with knee high grass.

We got off at the wrong stop which was supposed to be for a shopping centre. It didn’t look like one, it didn’t even look as if there had ever been one there, and had to walk for a bit in the hot sun. What we did find was an Italian cafe where we had an overpriced latte for Scamp and cafe freddo for me.

Walked round some ruined buildings with a new church in their midst and eventually found the town centre exactly where we’d got on train.
I got a tee shirt, probably the best one I’ve got so far
Scamp found a M&S! Demanded she have her photo taken outside it! She never asks for her photo to be taken outside Marks in Stirling or Glasgow. Maybe it’s a ‘woman thing’!

Cafe Jardin at night (second formal night). We both had risotto which was absolutely beautiful. This was the second menu.

Danced for a while, then off to bed after a wee G ’n’ T on the balcony watching the stars.

PoD was a steel cube on a plinth in a sort of town hall building. Couldn’t understand the significance of it, but very elegant building.

Sea day tomorrow.

Rhodes – City Walls and Giros – 5 August 2019

This city has walls to keep the dobbers out. A bit like Larky with sun.

We survived the winds and high seas last night and were ready to go adventuring. We got off the ship and went for a walk along the promenade then into the city through one of the gates. Inside was like a giant marketplace with shops, and restaurants. No pubs, but all the restaurants seemed to sell alcohol. It was quite a pretty place ins and little groups of trees to break the monotony. It was also full of people, lots of people. There seemed to be people everywhere. We stopped for a drink, because it was hot today. Scamp bought a table cover and I bought a dodgy looking Rhodes tee shirt to tick the box for buying a new tee shirt in every port we docked at. Bought it from a grumpy wee man.

We wandered round and round and always higher up the hill. Eventually we came to the road outside the city walls and then tried to find an alternative way back to the ship. We ended up going down the Street of the Knights which was an interesting street, very steep and with old renovated buildings on both sides. Lots of them with the original coats of arms of the knights who had stayed there. At the bottom of the street Scamp found a restaurant and we went there for lunch. She had Chicken Caesar Salad and I had Chicken Giros which is like pan fried pieces of chicken served with tzatsiki and a wrap. We’d been told to look for it somewhere in Greece years ago by, I think, a dance teacher. Both lunches were excellent. One washed down with a glass of white wine and one with red. Sat in the shade of trees outside it was lovely. If you’re ever in Rhodes I can recommend a good restaurant! Walked back down the road and finally came to the sea, from there it was a short walk to the ship. On the way we took photos of each of us at an arched window through the city walls, but we’d to wait for a couple of girls to finish their selfie poses first!

I did a bit of painting from the ship, but it started out well, then became muddy and eventually I gave it up as a bad job.

Cap’n Bob gave another of his doom laden messages this evening after we’d set sail. Oh, we’re sailing into a storm, with winds in excess of 40 knots! The seas are going to have waves 3m high! The Kraken will wake! Some areas of the ship will be locked off. Make sure you tie down all your valuables. He finished with “… and have a pleasant night on board Oceana.” Numpty.

PoD was a little lizard on the city walls.  I think it’s a Blue Tailed Skink.

If the ship survives the storm we’ll be in Heraklion tomorrow.

Mykonos – The walk of shame – 4 August 2019

Woke to find we were on the port side although we were on starboard last night. Curious!

When we looked out we were next to the dockside and looking out over a pretty little marina to the rocky and scrub covered hills behind with lots of little white housed dotted all over the place. A bit like Skye without the rain. When we walked down the gangway we were met by a long queue for the free shuttle bus to town. I made the corporate decision to go on the water bus to town instead. Paid our €4 and got on the little boat which was nearly full. A bit choppy going out past the harbour and a wee bit ‘rocky boats’ (Technospeak). Got to the tiny little harbour and walked out to more white painted houses. Some with blue doors and window shutters and a church with a blue domed roof. Very pretty. Very picturesque.

We wandered round the twisty turny streets of Mykonos and I found hundreds of photo opportunities at every corner. Finally reaching the three windmills that seem to be the icon for Mykonos. The little narrow cobbled streets are full of tourist shops. Most of them displaying no price tags. That’s a sure sign that the items are expensive. “If you need to know the price, you can’t afford it.” Up near the windmills there is a car park. Some of them have been there a long time, judging by the thickness of the dust on them and by the dates of comments and signatures on them. I added mine too! Just over the hill from the windmills is a little white walled church. More photos taken.

We stopped for a drink at a cafe near the windmills and I had another Cafe Freddo, not as good as the first, but that’s usually the way. After that we made our way back through the labyrinth and just missed the boat back to the ship. Sat in the sun and the strong wind and caught the next one. The sail back to the ship was more rocky and rolly than it had been going because we were sailing into the wind. The boat was rolling sided to side and pitching forward and back at the same time. Interesting!

Back in plenty of time. Time to do a small painting. I wasn’t all that happy with it, but the Posca white brush pen worked well for placing the white houses on the hillside! Watched the mobs of travellers coming and going from the ferry port along the dock from us.

We should have been sailing at 4.30pm, but ever more frantic messages, firstly over the ship’s tannoy and finally into the cabins calling for two passengers, Jean and Derek Hart, to make themselves known to the reception told us that we wouldn’t likely be making that cut-off. Two large suitcases were unloaded from the forward gangway and dumped on the quayside. As the clock ticked around to 5.30, the dock gates were locked and it looked like we would be sailing without the Harts. Just when it seemed they’d given up hope of finding them, two folk ambled down the road to the locked gates and looked up at the crowds standing at the ship’s rail and on balconies. A great cheer, or should that be ‘jeer’ went up and the gates were locked which allowed the Harts to do the walk of shame, grab their cases and get back on board. I imagine Cap’n Bob would have met them at the top of the gangway with “Wait outside my room NOW!”

At 11.15pm I went up on deck with a crowd of others for an open air talk by an astronomer bloke. It was utterly fascinating as he pointed out constellations with a laser pointer. Saw the Milky Way, The Plough and loads of other stuff. Like I say, utterly fascinating.

It should be Rhodes tomorrow.

Piraeus, Fish Markets and scots – 3 August 2019

Yes, you read that right, scottish with a small ’s’.

If you are a long term reader of this blog, you will already know about americans and english, unfortunately we met some scots today. Not real Scots of course. We think they might have come from Embra. But first, the rest of the day.

Woke to find the ship was being re-fuelled from a tanker boat. Took some photos and went to breakfast. Full Scottish breakfast because I’m on holiday. Then we were off to investigate Piraeus.

First we got lost because that’s what you do in a new destination, then formed a plan of sorts. We’d already agreed that we weren’t going to Athens to see the Parthenon or the Acropolis. We weren’t even going on the open topped Red Bus, because the predicted temperature was 40ºc which is just stupid-hot for us cold climate folk. We were going to head off hoping to find something interesting, get lost then make a plan. The ‘something interesting’ I found was a motorbike shop with partly eviscerated old bikes outside. Virtually everything but the frames had been stripped out. It looked like the place that motorbikes come to die. I took lots of photos and then we got to the planning.

Just in case we did get seriously lost, there was always the iPhone to rely on, but where’s the fun in that? The plan was to walk along the side of the bay, keeping the water on our left side and see what we could find. We walked for a good couple of miles and found chapels with ornate interiors, statues to apparently famous people and a shop that sold ‘chibs’, no spellchecker, not ‘Chips’, but ‘Chibs’. Seriously life threatening pieces of sharp looking metal. Everything from pen knives to Japanese Samurai swords with machetes and throwing knives in between. Crossbows, reflex bows and pistols. Try getting them through security!

Further on we had to stop, because we’d lost the sea. It was nowhere to be found, so check with the iPhone. Apple Maps had the answer and we found a way to go back that didn’t involve simply following our trail of breadcrumbs. Our route took us through a market that seemed to have a lot in common with ‘The Barras’. Loads of meat being sold from chiller cabinets. Fish in glass topped freezers and fish on slabs with the stallholders shouting that they had fresher fish than their neighbours. Loads of fruit and veg, plus, of course the usual toys and odds & ends that the sell in ’The Barras’.  Today’s PoD came from the fish market.

Stopped at a coffee shop where Scamp had a Cappuccino and I had a Frozen Cappuccino. What a taste. I had to wait ages for it because the first one the Barista made apparently wasn’t good enough and got thrown out. It was worth the wait. I’m now a convert to Cafe Freddo. At least in the summer. Bought myself a little espresso cup. Cost €2. After a while we found that we were back on the street we started from and the sea was back on our right hand side.

Went to the pool at the stern of the ship. It’s an adult pool and it’s tiny, but there are two whirlpool jacuzzis next to it. Lay and baked in the sun drinking Mojitos and thinking “This is the life”.

We went to dinner at night and were placed at a table with four of the most obnoxious individuals we’ve ever sat with. They started off by simply ignoring us, then in a condescending way they told us that they were all related (Inbred, I think is the proper term) and they apologised for leaving us out of their conversation. The ‘lady’ next to me had such a loud Morningside accent and such an enormous ‘bool in her mooth’, it was difficult to understand her. Then I realised that her slow precise speech was because she was absolutely ‘Rat-Arsed (that’s a condition about fifty stages on from ‘Three Sheets to the Wind’).  She thought she was so refined, but the smell of alcohol and smell of stale fags told the real truth. Some people should be made to wear warning signs.

We left them to their sibling ramblings and left before coffee to watch three boys crucifying pop songs. Scamp liked the songs, I didn’t

Oh yes and one last thing. There’s a bell tower in Piraeus that plays “Never on a Sunday” on the hour, every hour!  I’m sure you feel better for knowing that.

Tomorrow it’s Mykonos.

A is for Atrium – 2 August 2019

Today was a sea day.

Some folk say sea days are boring – nothing to do – nothing to see but the sea, but that’s not really the case. After a good breakfast we were off wandering around the ship again and then finished our unpacking. Tonight was a ‘Black Tie’ dinner, the Captain’s reception. A chance for a weak glass of whisky or gin and a chance to hear Captain Bob’s attempts at humour, or maybe he’d just give us the safety talk again in case there was someone on board who hadn’t been bored rigid yesterday. Later in the morning we went to a dance class – Jive, but this was Ballroom Jive, not Glasgow Jive, although the couple who took the class were Scottish so that was a tick in the right box.

After lunch we went to a Salsa class, but it was all talk and stepping through the moves which is boring. There wasn’t much dancing. I don’t think I’ll go back to this one. At least in the Jive class we got ample opportunity to dance to some music. After that we went for a splash in the ‘big’ pool. Big is a bit of a misnomer as it’s anything but big. However, it’s the biggest pool on this medium/small ship. It got very busy, very quickly but we did, at least, get wet.

Second ballroom class of the day in the afternoon and it was more of a sequence jive dance. I’ve always hated sequence dancing, but this one had more fun than some. We had to leave early to get ready for the Captain’s Party and the free alcohol, while avoiding the speech.

Dressed in kilt, white shirt, black (well, almost black, frog bowtie) and waistcoat plus all the gubbins that goes with ‘highland dress’, we made our way to the Atrium. Met a woman who complemented me on my kilt and asked what clan it was. She was English, but her mother was a McDonald from Ayrshire, Maybole of all places.  Another man slightly one over the eight asked me what regiment it was, then told me I was wearing Black Watch.  I tried to explain to him that it Clan Campbell, but he wouldn’t listen.  He was either guttered or english, it’s difficult to tell the difference.

Listened to Captain Bob attempt some humour and realised why he hadn’t thought to inject some into his speech the previous night. Whisky was cheapest they could find, Gin was thin, gave up and went for dinner which Scamp had booked in Cafe Jardin which used to be the hot chocolate place in the old version of this ship. Ahh! If only Cap’n Bob took some lessons from Noel, our waiter in Cafe Jardin, he’d be a hit with more than the sycophants. Noel, probably not his real name, sold us a bottle of sparkling water telling us it was an excellent vintage and he could recommend it. It’s the little things like that, that give a place a good name. Food was good. Scamp had Piedmont Red Pepper as starter and SeaBass with Cannellini Bean Mash and other stuff! I had Tiger Prawns and Tuscan Sausage then Rustic Chicken Supreme and Parma Ham with other stuff. We were supposed to have three desert plates each from a choice of six, but we chose only two each. Noel knew better and brought us all six! I’d list them, but you’d only be jealous. My favourite was Italian Poached Peach and Scamp’s was Affogato. All that for £15 for the two of us!

Tried dancing at night after I’d divested myself of the highland dress. I’ve danced salsa in a kilt before and it’s do-able, but the brogues have a mind of their own on the dance floor. Kept crashing into other folk on the dance floor. Tried dancing the Jive stuff we’d learned and gave up because I couldn’t remember the sequence. Finally gave a Salsa demo par excellence to show that we CAN dance!

PoD is boring Cap’n Bob giving his speech to …  Well, it looks like nobody was listening, but believe me there were brown-nosers aplenty eager to laugh at all his every attempt at humour.

Bed after a long day. Sea days are so boring, you know!