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Back on dry land – 22 June 2016

IMG_3284- flickr--175--174Well, technically it isn’t dry because it’s raining. Not heavy, just a drizzle. Poor organisation by P&O. Shambles of queueing passengers in every available space on deck five with tannoy instructions telling us to wait in the comfort of the public areas. If that was comfort, I’d hate to see what they deem uncomfortable. However, once we got moving things went a lot more smoothly. We were first on the coach for a change. Oh! Where will we sit? Now waiting for the dribs and drabs of fellow travellers to appear. Might be a long wait.

Earlier we watched the forklift trucks doing their little dance as they ferried the boxes of cases (Scamp would call them “Yorkies”) from the ship to the warehouse where they get placed by deck order. Quite fascinating to watch.

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In the Doldrums – 20 June 2016

20 June

Well, not literally in the Doldrums.  We are nothing like becalmed, with winds blowing from the north at about 20-30 knots and the ship moving at 20 knots, effective wind speed on deck was 50 knots which apparently is Fresh Gale.  Cold too, with that wind and cloudy but with the prospect of some blue skies later.

Painting class today was a Tuscan farmhouse and was a lesson in using graduated washes and planning a painting.  I enjoyed it and was quite pleased with the finished article.  Afterwards we wandered round the ship.  You couldn’t do much because most of the deck and promenade are was cordoned off because of the high winds.

We didn’t see a single ship until late in the afternoon when we passed another cruise ship off on the starboard.  The weather had improved a bit.  The wind had dropped and the sun had come out, but it was still quite windy, so I took the above shot from the cabin window.  I was quite pleased with the finished article.

Dinner was in Epicurian and was an experience.  From getting my ham starter cut from the leg at the table (not the leg of the table!) to the creme brulee being flamed and the white chocolate ball being cracked open by the waitress, it was a brilliant meal.

Headliners show at night was really good, then drinks at deck 18 before bedtime.

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Walking on Sunshine – 19 June 2016

19 June

 

Cadiz today.  The last port of call on this year’s cruise.  Cadiz is a favourite of ours, it’s got history, lovely buildings, beaches and cats.  What’s not to like.

Breakfast first then watch the mad scramble to get off the ship.  We had already had a warning in the Horizon newsletter that ALL the shops would be shut today, so best to book early for one of their excursions.  If you’ve read the first paragraph, you will note that shopping is not among our highlights for Cadiz.  Of course the big shops would be shut, but we knew that as long as there were punters out there with plastic and Euros in their wallets, there would be entrepreneurs ready and willing to remove some from us.  So it turned out.  We just did as we usually did.  We walked through the parks with the fountains, the trees and the jakies.  Lots of jakies.  Some noisy, some snoozing.  Nobody giving you any hassle.  We found our way to the Cathedral Square and I sensed the chance for another 15 minute sketch.  While I was drawing away, Scamp went for a look inside the cathedral.  She said it was less ornate than she had expected, but interesting.  My sketch was the same.  Not ornate, but I enjoyed it. Sketching in ink is very unforgiving.  You can’t rub out, so you either have to adapt ‘wrong’ lines or choose to ignore them. There were a lot of ‘wrong’ lines.

From the Cathedral it’s an easy transition to the promenade and it goes on for miles, right around Cadiz.  I wanted to see the cats again.  They live among the gigantic concrete cubes that make the breakwater.  The cubes have holes in them to make them easier to lift, I imagine, and the cats seem to use these holes as hiding places or simply a place to cool down.  They needed to find shade today, because it was very hot.  27°c  was the predicted temperature today.  After getting some shots of the cats we headed in search of a beer.  We found a place near the castello with good views of the beach and the sea.  Good cold beer, lovely!  We decided that we’d walked far enough and pointed ourselves in the general direction of the Cathedral which stands on a hill, so is fairly easy to find.  When we got there we found a nearby bar advertising free WiFi.  Got connected and then lost the signal.  Tried again and couldn’t get back in.  I think there were just too many folk wanting in.  Anyway, it only cost us a beer and you need to properly hydrated in this heat, well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

Finally Scamp followed her nose and found us a route to the ship.  We had to pass through security on the quayside and once we were through, I saw a sign advertising WiFi area.  Logon was free with no password, but a long wait to be connected, but once I was in, I got the two pages of the blog uploaded, because there was no chance of free WiFi for the next two days on P&)!

When we were back on board we did some serious sunbathing which nearly turned out to be sunBURNING, but I think I remembered in time to put on the sun cream and prevent a painful peeling session.  After that we got dressed for dinner and went to watch the ‘sail away’.  Felt quite sorry to leave Cadiz.  It’s still one of our favourite cities on the ‘med.

Dinner tonight was weird, or rather the rest of the guests at the table were weird.  One ex-pat Scot (allegedly) who had a very big ‘bool in her mooth’ and her husband who reminded me of the fat bloke judge from Masterchef.  One older lady who used big words in exactly the right places (I wasn’t having wine so she asked if I was ‘abstemious’.) and a part Indian lady who was sitting next to me with her husband and she was very experienced in reading body language.  Strange group who seemed to know each other, but didn’t seem to particularly like or enjoy each others company.   I can’t put my finger on it, but I felt we were being assessed.

Entertainment tonight was Jimmy James.  Old School Motown and soul singer.  Absolutely brought the house down.  May go and see him again.

Tomorrow is a day at sea.  Eating in the posh restaurant, Epicurean!

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A life on the ocean wave – 18 June 2016

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnother day at sea.  This time we are sailing down the south coast of France and then Spain aiming to pass the straits of Gibraltar at around 4.30am tomorrow and no I don’t intend getting up to see it happen.  I’ll rely on the captain and his minions to do it all by themselves and without my help.  Hopefully we will arrive in Cadiz tomorrow morning.  We’ve already been warned by the excursion staff that all the shops will be shut, so we might as well book one of their visits to Seville instead.  Why?  Will the shops be open there?  I’m sure there will be restaurants open in Cadiz, anyway, who chose to have sea days on Saturdays and Mondays and port days on the Sundays when all the shops will be shut?  P&O you are becoming a pain in the arse.  We hear more and more people becoming dissatisfied with the service they are getting from this company.  However, there are the fanboys who are counting up the days they’re accruing from this old fashioned, out of touch company.  I know I’ve said it before and reneged, but this time I’m sure.  I won’t be back.

What of the day?  It dawned cloudy with the chance of the sun breaking through.  By 11am that promise had been confirmed, and it was hot.  I had gone to the watercolour class and managed a reasonable likeness of the sunset we were asked to paint.  It turned out a bit dark and I messed up with scraping the side of the round brush across the paper, but that’s just down to lack of practise.  Others in the class were happy to suck up to the teacher, but of course I put my foot in it when she asked me what make of paint I favoured and I said “The cheapest”.  She definitely has Scamp’s disease.  NSOH.  No Sense Of Humour.  Very po faced she is.

Sunbathing on the deck then lunch in Smash & Grab and it was very tasty, but again, very little info as to what is in front of you in the buffet.  “Assorted Fish” or “Assorted Meat” doesn’t instil much confidence.  After lunch Scamp went to her class, I went for a snooze, got lost trying to find Scamp, she then couldn’t find me and finally we both met up again in the cabin.  Scamp went for a quick spot of sunbathing and I went looking for the mysterious deck 19, the highest point on the ship.  It was pretty breezy up there.

Tonight was a Black Tie night again so I wore my kilt.  We were at a table with an ex farmer and his wife, a market gardener and his wife and a single lady.  Conversation was lively with the farmer.  The market gardener asked questions, but didn’t listen to the answers.  Perhaps we bored him.  The old single lady it seemed couldn’t read.  I don’t know if it was a sight or a mental problem, but I felt really sorry for her.

After dinner we watched the sun set and Scamp thinks she got a few photos of a pod of dolphins passing by.  Drinks in Metropolis Deck 18 and then it was time for bed.

This little Windows 10 tablet/computer is great for typing up these blog notes, but I really need to find a way of disabling the touch pad.  It just seems to fire the cursor anywhere it feels like and before you know it you’ve typed a whole line of nonsense.  Nothing new for me, but unintentional drivel is different to my usual nonsense and should be avoided.  The other stuff cannot be avoided!

Cadiz tomorrow.  A walk around the city walls is in order.  My memory of Cadiz is this graffiti on them:  “My life is shit … And you?”

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Napoleon, Napoleon, Napoleon – 17 June 2016

17 June

This morning we docked at sunny Ajaccio which was the birthplace of Napoleon.  You’d never tell, though.  There are bars named after him, coffee shops named after him, statues to him round every corner, there’s even an ice cream shop with a picture of poor old Nap holding a cone.  As with every other port on this itinerary, we’d been here before.  It’s a bit of a mixture with some old streets connected to the shore by narrow alleyways and also some modern buildings, some high rise, on the outskirts of the town, although it prefers to call itself a city.  There are also a host of fancy yachts moored at the quay.  Not the kind with sails, the ones that have price tags running seven figures.  Massive great beasts they are and so are some of the blokes guarding them.  One stuck out as different from the  rest.  It was grey/blue for a start rather than the traditional white.  Also the front of this rich boy’s toy looked more like a WW1 battleship with a vertical prow and no rake.  Quite strange.

We walked into the town after breakfast, through the open air market and found that the prices of the fruit and veg were on a par with what we pay at home or slightly more expensive.  So far on this trip, the produce in the markets is a lot cheaper than our supermarket prices, but it looks like Ajaccio is moving up market (no pun intended).  We looked in vain for a little boating pond we’d found ages ago on our first visit.  We’d sat there eating tart au pommes in the sun.  It had disappeared under a new carpark.  Strangely, when they were building the carpark they unearthed the stonework of the original Roman docks.  Some of the earthwork and stonework is there to be seen now while the cooncil decide what to do with it.  I hope they don’t decide to build another carpark on top of it.

I gave myself a target today.  One sketch in 15 minutes done in the open air, in public.  I actually managed to do two ink sketches one 15 minutes, one 10 minutes.  Both were of buildings.  I quite like buildings.  They don’t move about and don’t get stroppy when the see you watching them.  Also, they’re not critical of your work and say you’re giving them too big a nose.  Yes, buildings are good and safe as an art project.  Painting class on Monday has a building in it, a Tuscan farmhouse.  I’ve been studying them.  They have small roofs compared with UK buildings and the overhang is greater at the eaves.  Tomorrow is a sunset at sea Sad smile Not impressed or enthused by that, but I’ll get a chance to use my new brushes so that should be good.

We had had a coffee on the main street earlier.  White coffee for Scamp and a tiny little strong espresso for me, but it’s hot work this investigating new places, so we were on the lookout for a cafe with WiFi so I could upload the blog.  Found one and although the beer was expensive, it was much better than the beer on the ship.  While I was struggling with the WiFi connection that kept coming and going, Scamp had been eyeing up the salads that were landing on tables near us.  She eventually decided she’d have some Ajaccio lunch and opted for the mixed fish.  Since my French wasn’t strong enough to make sure there was no shellfish in the mixed fish (there was no written menu), I chose the lamb which I’d seen at a nearby table.  Both meals were lovely, although my lamb was on the raw side of pink when it came.  I later blamed that on my upset stomach tonight.  Like the beer, the meal was expensive, but we both enjoyed it.

When we were finished, we just had enough time to wander over and negotiate the motorised wheelchairs, the disability scooters, the zimmer frames etc. to get back on what has now become known as The Cripple Creek Ferry (apologies to Neil Young).  These things, or to be more exact, the dim drivers of these things are a menace.  They either stop right in front of you, giving you no time to avoid them or drive right into you.  The drivers look straight ahead and remind me of the cartoon people in the Far Side cartoons, you know, the ones with no eyes.  Blank looks everywhere.  They drive the bloody things in to breakfast in the morning and get the waiters to park them because they can’t do it themselves.  Then, when they’ve gorged themselves and complained that the tea is cold or the coffee tastes funny, they tell the waiters to turn the scooters round for them.  These idiots don’t seem to know what a three point turn is.  Now, I realise that some folk need wheelchairs and I appreciate what a boon it must be to have the mobility they offer.  I also realise that one day I may need one myself, but I’m sure not every one of these people need these mobility scooters.

Tonight we sat with the bloke from Liverpool.  I thought before that he was a bit of a pain, but tonight I enjoyed his repartee, in fact everyone at the table was conversing so well that we missed the start of the show and had to wait to go to the 10.30 showing.  It was a song and dance review of hit west end shows and was great apart from The Lion King or to give it its proper name That Bloody Lion King.  As you probably realise, it’s not my favourite show.  The rest of the show was excellent, just TBLK spoiled it.

Tomorrow is a sea day, so it’s up early and grab a couple of sun beds, then think carefully about what the PoD is going to be.  We saw a whale tonight, so something like that would be good.

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Windy Civitavecchia – 16 June 2016

16 June

Our second and last day in Italy dawned dull and cloudy, but with a 26knot wind.  Civitavecchia was going to be busy today.  We were the second cruise ship to dock.  The Queen Victoria of an unknown to Scamp line was first.  No sooner had we docked than the enormous Harmony (monster) of the Seas.  It really is ginormous with a capacity of around 8000 punters.  It looks like a block of flats that’s fallen into the sea and floated away.  I was going to photograph it, but I didn’t have a wide enough angled lens.  Just joking, of course I had a wide enough lens in my arsenal, but you get the meaning.  I don’t like slabs of steel like this, pretending they are ships.  This one we are on is big enough, in fact it’s probably too big.  One step down would be fine for me.  Big enough to give you the space you need, but not so big that you spend the first week of your holiday trying to find your way around.  Possibly the worst design feature of this behemoth is the inside balconies. Really, I ask you what use is a balcony that gives you a view other balconies across the middle of the ship?  Is this a feature for those who live in flats at home and WANT to look into other people’s lives rather than the ports and scenery passing by?  Not for me.  As I write this, one of the Azamara fleet is sailing past our window.  It’s a bit smaller than our home for the fortnight, but it looks quite elegant, and even more important, it looks like a ship, not a floating block of flats.

We took the bus in to Civitavecchia today (Isn’t copy and paste wonderful?  You can copy‘Civitavecchia’ from anywhere in your text and simply paste ‘Civitavecchia’ back again where you need it!).  You could walk out of the harbour, but it takes you 20 minutes or so.  I remember doing it a couple of years ago when it was calm, but walking into a 25mph wind is not my idea of fun, especially when the bus is free.  We were going to have coffee at the cafe we used last year for our WiFi, but alas it was closed and shuttered.  Gone.  We walked up the main street of the town and I bought a wide flat paintbrush and a smaller one too.  We visited a wee market and liked the fact that the local trees had been allowed to grow and the roof of the shed that held the market had been built around them.  We had a pizza and a beer each at a wee restaurant where the service was very slow and so was the WiFi, but it met the specification of being free, the WiFi, not the beer and pizza.  We had a short walk along the prom, but it wasn’t much fun with the wind roaring in off the sea, so we went back to the ship.  Security is tight in Italy.  Armed soldiers at the bus station and yesterday there was an armoured car and soldiers at the ship.  It makes you realise just how dangerous life is these days.

Back on the ship, Scamp went for a swim while I put the second load of washing in the machine, then joined her at the solarium pool where, despite the cloudy sky, the roof was rolled back and the water in the pool was lovely and warm.  Came back to take the washing out of the tumble dryer and had quick G&T to prepare us for dinner.

It should have been a tropical themed night, but there was little evidence of it on this dull ship.  Apart from the waiters all dressed in colourful shirts, there was no tropical atmosphere.  One dire singer who was apparently Kenny Rogers singing songs for the geriatrics, the entertainment was worse than usual.  They appear to be catering for a much older demographic than the one we are living in.  One of the table guests at dinner knew everything about everything and expounded on it at great length.  The only thing he didn’t know was how to shut up.  The rest were fine.

Dead beat after dinner and went to bed early.  This cruising is tiring. 

This upload is brought to you courtesy of JMM in Ajaccio.  Dear beer, but tastes better than the ship’s Carling.

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Livorno, Terrapins and Pigs – 15 June 2016

15 June1It’s Livorno today and yes, the sea was a bit rough again last night.  I don’t think it was as rough as the night before, but maybe we were just really tired and fell asleep more easily.  Anyway, as I said, it’s Livorno today.  Livorno is an old friend.  It’s the port for Pisa or Pizza as the great unwashed call it.  It’s also the port for Florence (who was the cow in Magic Roundabout, strangely there isn’t a town called Zebidee, at least not in Italy).

We were not going to Pisa or Florence or even Pizza.  We were just going to Livorno.  It’s got lots of places we like like the big town square that is actually a big long bridge over one of the canals.  It’s got a flea market much like The Barras, but Scamp doesn’t like it.  You can get a pair of jeans there for €2.  One careful owner, well at least one anyway.  You know all those charity bags that drop through your letter box?  Guess where a lot of that stuff ends up.  We walked round most of the places we’d seen before, but like we do on Skye, we were looking for new roads, new places we’d never been.  I thought I could see a park on the outskirts of the town along the road from the Town Square Bridge. This would be our new attraction for the day.  It was a strange place.  First there was an imposing sandstone building that looked like a courthouse or a council building of some sort, but it was boarded up and locked down securely.  Next was a dog park, well, that was what it looked like.  There were a couple of jakies  hanging about and a man walking a pair of serious looking dogs.  There was a sign about dogs and I took this to mean that it was it was a dog walking park.  Not the sort of park you’d take Vixen to JIC.  More a Carbrain style park, but without the knives!  Next was the park proper.  It looked like it had been a substantial park at one time with a mini-zoo and a boating pond, but it had fallen onto hard times and was in need of a fair bit of TLC and money thrown at it.  Such a shame.  There was a fountain, or at least what had been a fountain.  Now it was just a pit with a brick surround and some dirty green water in the middle.  There were dovecots without any doves.  There was a pond with ducks, geese, pigeons and terrapins.  There must have been at least twenty terrapins sitting on rocks warming themselves in the sun.  Over by the side of the dried out boating pond was what looked like a factory, also fallen into disrepair.  With the sun shining through the gaps in the roof and also in the round windows on the far side, there were textures galore to capture.  Really now it’s a roosting place for even more pigeons.

Once we left the park, we retraced our steps back into town to find some free WiFi.  The first place was ok, but I couldn’t get the laptop to connect.  A mixup with what I thought Scamp had ordered and what she actually wanted and also the fact that our waitress seemed more interested in keeping up with her Facebook and email conversations than in actually making our coffee, coupled to the fact that I’d got the password wrong, meant we left under a cloud.  Not a digital type cloud computing type cloud either.  We found another coffee shop quite easily and got connected easily there.  Also, Scamp was a bit more accurate in indicating exactly what pastry she wanted, so we all left happily.

Back at the ship, Scamp headed for some sun time, while I grabbed my drawing stuff and got the bus back into town.  Before I went, I tried out the free Port WiFi and got connected immediately with no password.  Just goes to show that we in the UK are lagging behind with the digital connections.  Glasgow apparently now has free WiFi in the city centre although since I’ve discovered the speed of 4G, I’ve never felt the need.  Wandered round the town again and got Hazy’s welcome text.  Actually, I really was thinking about texting you H, to see what the outcome was.  Really pleased for you.  Got the sox by the way!  After that I sat and sketched one of the buildings I liked in Livorno.  I’d photographed it last year and tried to paint it from the photograph.  This time I took my courage in both hands, sat down and drew it.  Unfortunately, the painting teacher was wandering around waiting for the bus back to the ship.  Also one of the African “Lookie Lookie Men” was hovering around trying to sell me a selfie stick.  He tapped me on the shoulder and said “Bueno!”  I think he thought if he praised me he’d get a sale.  Sorry mate, it doesn’t work like that.  Got the next bus back to the ship and found that Scamp was checking out the inside pool because the sun had gone in behind some clouds.  Found her and found that the sun had reappeared and the roof had been retracted.  Did a bit  of gentle swimming and jacuzzi lounging before heading for the cabin to prepare for dinner.

Scamp has wanted to sign up for Freedom DIning for some time.  What it means is that you don’t have a set time or a set table.  You just turn up and say you are happy to share the table with whoever is there.   Sometimes it works out fine, sometimes it’s a disaster.  The good thing about it is it’s only a disaster for a couple of hours, not the rest of the holiday.  Tonight was one of those disasters.  The couple at the table were fine.  Then two dobbers arrived.  The guy was ex-police and he started explaining where the French police had gone wrong in dealing with trouble at the Euro football thing.  He then went on to tell all and sundry what a clever guy he was.  Oh dear.  At school I had a friend called Arthur Cunningham although the name is irrelevant.  He was the first one I ever hear talking about ‘Pigs’.  I always thought of them as police or polis, never ‘pigs’.  Now I see where he was coming from.  This guy was a pig.  So was his wife.  She just wanted to inject herself into every conversation.  ‘She had done this, She had done that.  If she hadn’t done it, her grand daughter had done it.  Strangely, her son and daughter hadn’t done all that much. I pitied the other couple at the table.  They had done interesting things too and so had their sons and daughters and their grandsons and grand daughters, but the pigs didn’t allow them to talk about it.  Maybe Arthur was right after all, all those years ago.

Well, it’s nearly midnight.  Time for my beauty sleep and to face the port for Rome tomorrow.  Hope we have Welsh folk, not pigs at breakfast.

 

Today’s upload comes courtesy of La Classica Pizzeria in Civitavecchia.

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A Wild Night – 14 June 2016

14 June

 

Last night was a wild one and no mistake.  50mph winds and heavy seas.  We’re down in the bowels of the ship and therefore we feel it the most.  Last year we had the room below the kitchen and this year we have an even noisier room.  Worse still, the weather is to be equally bad tonight.  Oh what fun.

We were up and out early this morning and waiting in line for our ticket to freedom.  Ville Franche is a small town and the dock area is nowhere near big enough to take a ship the size of ours, so we are ferried off with a tender.  To achieve a semblance of order, you have to queue for a number.  Once you have this you have to wait in one of the restaurants or bars for a tender to become available.  Since there are around 2000 people on board and a tender takes less than 100, it can take a while.  The tenders themselves have to obey the local speed limit of 5 knots in the open water of the bay and 3 knots nearer shore.  This means the transfer takes even longer than it needs to take.  French rules apparently.  Also, because the tenders are constantly travelling there and back, they occasionally need refuelling.  It was going to be a long morning.  Actually, the girl who was giving out the tickets estimated an hour and she wasn’t far wrong.  One of the blessings of tender departure is that there are no bloody motorized wheelchairs or scooters.  These things are not only a menace, they are a downright danger in the close confines of a ship.  I understand the need for wheelchairs, but the amount of them, and the bloody bleeping scooters on this ship drives me to distraction.  I was standing in a bar tonight and some idiot decided to park their son’s scooter right behind me then proceeded to get shirty when I wouldn’t let him drive over me.  Apparently I should have had eyes in the back of my head!

Once we got our tender across to Ville Franche, we were on one of Scamp’s route marches to the station to get the train to Monte Carlo.  Train took 15 minutes to travel the 9 or so miles  to the millionaire’s playground.  Once we got off, we followed the crowd up the stairs, up the escalators, up in the lift and out at St Devote corner, famous to F1 fans.  We walked down the street, down steps, down in a lift and on to the harbour where we had a pizza each, shared a carafe of wine, and with free WiFi got two blogs posted.  Then we headed back, thinking that we’d need to climb up the near vertical streets to get back to the station.  Then we met an Indian family who had been on the train in.  They had found a much easier alternative route.  This took us from street level along a gentle incline on a travellator directly into the station.  Superb.  No climbing necessary.

Back in Ville Franche, we wandered round a market, I took some photos and we headed back to the ship.  After an hour or so of sunbathing it was time to get ready for dinner.  We sat with a cheery Yorkshire contingent who were on their first cruise, and they kept us amused throughout dinner.

Afterwards, we went to see the Piano Brothers second performance of the week and then had coffee in the buffet on 15 before turning in.  It’s getting a bit noisy now with crashy waves, so I’m off to get a few hours shut eye because I didn’t sleep much last night.

Tomorrow is Livorno, an old friend.  We both like Livorno with its canals and markets like The Barras.

This blog upload courtesy of Grand Bar in Livorno.

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Land of the Custard Tarts. – 11 June 2016

11 June3

My Uncle Bob, when he was returning to Larkhall would say “Back to the land of Sugartops.”  For those not born in Larky, a sugartop was a Saturday morning staple.  It was a bit like a flattened roll with sugar syrup on top.  The syrup acted like an adhesive to hold the lump sugar on top.  You spread butter on the flat bottom of the sugartop (unsalted butter was best) and ate it for breakfast on a Saturday.  As far as I know, they were only made in Larky and then only by one bakers, Eadie’s which closed a long time ago and took with it the sugartop.  If Larky was the land of the sugartops, Lisbon must be the land of the Portuguese Custard Tarts.  I know you can get them in Costa’s in the UK and I’ve seen recipes for them in books, but nothing comes close to the Lisbon Custard Tart.  With that in mind, our first stop once we alighted from the bus was the tart shop.  Scamp remembered how to get there and flew as straight as an arrow to the cafe.  Two custard tarts, one sprinkled with cinnamon (for me).  One sprinkled with icing sugar (for Scamp).  Two coffees, one white, one black.  Cost?  €4.50!  A bargain in anyone’s book.  You eat the tart and drink the coffee standing at a shelf in the cafe.  There are no seats.  It’s a eat an go thing.  Maybe Eadie’s in Larky should have adopted that strategy with sugartops.

After our second breakfast we wandered round the squares of Lisbon.  By the way, when we were at the breakfast table in the restaurant this morning, it caused great hilarity when I said we were off to find some tarts in Lisbon.  I can’t see why.  We walked up and up and up the hill to see the view from the top.  On the way I listened to a girl singing and playing a spanish guitar.  A dangerous thing to play in Portugal I’d have thought.  The don’t have much truck with their bigger neighbour.  A bit like Scotland and England, so I can understand their mindset.  Anyway, I listened to this girl playing and singing and I quite liked what I’d heard, so I bought her CD for €5. Then it was time to start on the upward trek again.  The view from the top when we reached it was great.  I remember it from the last time.  The easy way to get up to the viewpoint is to take the funicular tram.  We chose to use this tram to get us down to the level of the three central squares.  It only takes about five minutes to complete the downward journey and halfway down you meet the other tram coming up.  Very neat and orderly.  I don’t know if they use the downward tram as a counterbalance for the other one coming up to safe energy or not, but it’s a gentle way to spend five minutes on these veteran trams.

I like Lisbon, we both do, and not just because of the custard tarts either.  The city seems as if it’s stuck in a timewarp.  Some of it looks quite Victorian, some of it harks back to the ‘50s, but not a lot of central Lisbon is modern.  The train station which also houses Starbucks has a lovely Art Nouveau frontage.  Possibly the poshest Starbucks I’ve ever seen.  Just along from Posh Starbucks is a tiny wee shop that is always seriously locked up with steel shutters on the door and behind the windows.  In the window is a wide selection of wicked looking knives.  Best of all though is the advert on the side for pistols, carbines, rifles and ammunition.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they could furnish you with an AK47.  They used to also sell fake, but very convincing police ID in a variety of nationalities.  They no longer have them in the window, but that doesn’t mean they don’t sell them inside.

Back at the ship we found a small pool at the stern and settled into sunbeds there, only to find that we had left the oversize towel pegs at home.  Scamp thought I’d packed them and I thought she had.  Oh dear.  Maybe we’ll find a Lakeland at Gibraltar tomorrow and get a new set.  They’re so useful for attaching your pool towel to your sunbed.

We stayed there until we sailed away from Lisbon for this year.  Hopefully we’ll be back.  As we sailed under the combined road and train bridge on our way out of Lisbon, I thought back to 6am this morning standing on the deck in my shirt sleeves freezing in the chill wind photographing us going under it on the way in.  It’s still impressive and it gives you a sense of scale of the ship seeing the minimal clearance between the top of the mast and the underside of the rail bridge part.

Show tonight was “Blame it on the boogie”.  Least said the better.  Not so much Boogie as Boggin!

Much later arrival in Gibraltar tomorrow, 11.30am.

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It’s Called Tomorrow–10 June 2016

10 June2

Today was the first port of call on this year’s cruise, Vigo.  We’d been there before, we’ve been to all the ports on this cruise before, some more than once.  We had breakfast in the sit down restaurant as opposed to the buffet (where you also sit down to eat, but one of the ladies at our table this morning called it the ‘smash & grab’ restaurant, I understand that).  After that, we made our way off the ship on to dry land.  I remembered most of the layout of the town.  It’s a straggly layout, spread over the side of a hill which rises up to a citadel at the top.  We weren’t going there.  We weren’t going to the park we visited last time either.  It was a bit overgrown and untidy looking.  Scamp grumped most of the way there, but agreed there was a great view from the top.  I liked it.  I like Vigo too.  It reminds me more of an Italian town than a Spanish one.  It’s very laid back, taking things easy, the Italian way.  Anyway, we walked up the hill a bit, but avoided the park.  I was looking for a cafe with free WiFi to send my previous two blogs.  We had passed a couple of them on the way up.  On the way down again, we took a few turnings to bring us down near the harbour.  Finally we found a cafe with the free WiFi sign and got two coffees and the password.  It didn’t work.  No combination of the numbers, space or dashes made the slightest difference.  It wasn’t a big deal.  I was happy to pay for the coffee and continue our walk, but Scamp was determined to find a place for me to upload the blog.  Finally we got back to where we had started our circumnavigation of the centre of the town, and she was off.  She knew where there was a free WiFi cafe.  It turned out to be a lovely cafe called Cosmos Cafe.  I had a beer, Scamp had a red wine.  I got the password and it worked.  I uploaded the blog, then we decided to have tapas for lunch (Cooked ham with paprika and sea salt, Chicken Fajita and Tortilla [tortilla was also the password for the WiFi!]).  Scamp had another red wine and I had one too.  Sitting in the sun eating tapas and drinking wine under a blue sky in Spanish Spain.  That’s the life.

We walked back to the ship and found some more streets we’d passed down in our previous visit a few years ago.  When we got back, we went to the Smash & Grab (that name is catching) for a coffee, then went looking for a couple of sunbeds from which to watch the sailaway party.  We weren’t long sitting when this fat, overexcited camp ‘entertainer’ got up on stage and started shouting and screaming his excitement into the mike.  Obviously nobody had told him that with a mike, you didn’t need to shout, that’s what the mike is for, duh!  From then it was mayhem.  One side of the ship versus the other to see who could do the best Macarena and who could shout the loudest.  Oh, spare me!  We left. I had forgotten to pack my earplugs.

Dinner in the sit down dining room.  I found myself next to a woman who had been in the art class and we spent most of the time discussing what paints we used and what we painted.  A woman across from us with a wig made from steel wool, well, that’s what it looked like to us and her granddaughter(?) were from Ayr and they had flown down from Prestwick.  As Dylan said “A question in my nerves was lit …”.  Were these two the couple who held us up in Glasgow on Wednesday morning?  The two who had decided to fly down and not tell the bus company?  I hope not, because contrary to what you’d think, steel wool is very flammable!!

After dinner we went to see the Piano Brothers.  Not the comedy act I’d expected, but a pair of very talented pianists.  Scamp was entranced.

We decided to go see if we could get some salsa played to dance to in the Atrium.  Yes, the lady said, they could organise some SOLSA.  I didn’t want to correct her, and we did dance, very badly.  Scamp’s heart, for some reason, was not in it.  I was too cautious of causing more damage to her weakened right shoulder and basically we were crap.  After that, the night was a dead loss.

While we were finishing off our tapas in the afternoon, I noticed a bloke with a paper carrier bag.  This was on the side of it:

“Life always offers you a second chance.  It’s called Tomorrow.”

I hope that’s true.

Lisbon tomorrow.  Portuguese Custard Tarts here we come!