The big city – 14 November 2019

Travelling with the ordinary folk

This morning we got the bus to Puerto del Rosario. Paid the princely sum of €2.90 for both of us to travel to the big city. About a 20 minute journey, equivalent to a ‘fast’ bus to Glasgow, but at a fraction of the cost.

We didn’t have an agenda, although Scamp wanted to go to the beach which had looked interesting the last time we were on the island. We got off near the big shopping mall and Scamp immediately found a shoe shop. There she started a conversation with two Scottish women in the shop and discovered that they were from one of the cruise ships that was berthed in the harbour.

We found our way back to the “Church with the Bar”. The bar isn’t actually in the church, but it is in the church grounds. Can’t see that happening here! We got interviewed by two students who recognised us as tourists. I was shocked, I thought we fitted in perfectly with the locals! They were doing a survey for school and wanted to know if we’d been to Fuerteventura before, what we thought of it and why we came back. The boy especially spoke perfect English. I felt ashamed of my “Two beers and where’s the toilet” in Spanish.

Lunch was in the same café we went to last time we were there and after a bit of a panic, when I thought I was eating shellfish stuffed peppers, only to find it Hake, we had a great meal for a very, very reasonable price.

There were two Cruise ships in the port. One was the gigantic Aida Nova and the other was tiny by comparison, the Marella Explorer.
It was the Marella, the two ladies Scamp met were sailing on. We walked along the prom and were forced to listen to a street drummer playing to a seemingly endless set of midi files.

Lovely and warm in Puerto del Rosario, but cool when we got back to Caleta. It took us almost twice as long to get back. We must have boarded the island equivalent of the X3 by mistake.

Went to the Island when we got back and had a couple of Mojitos (one each!) sheltering from the wind.

PoD was one of a group of little shells. About 100 meters from the sea and not near any river. How they got there in the middle of what’s really a desert, I do not know.  Also saw a Spoonbill.  Never seen one before.  Such a strange looking bird which Scamp thinks looks like a pelican from the front.  Yes, it does, but from the side there is no likeness at all.  It was interesting, but  the little shell won PoD.

Danced to Tina at night. Even got a namecheck. “My two friends from Glasgow” she called us!

Tomorrow we’re hoping to walk into town to go to the market.

A walk in to town – 13 November 2019

Still windy but still warm.

After breakfast we walked in to Caleta and had a paid-for beer. I think we must have picked one of the most expensive bars in the place. €5 for a pint and a half pint of lager. Not what I’d expected, but a lot cheaper than back home.

We hadn’t intended going much further today, so we walked back to the hotel, noting the very few changes that had been made to the town. It was still very windy, and although the wind did keep the temperature down, it wasn’t too cold. Certainly still shorts ’n’ tee shirts weather.

In the afternoon I walked out across the wilderness, almost to Museo de Sal and took some crashy wave shots. Trying to get to grips with the new 4K mode in the TZ90. It certainly has a lot more settings than the TZ70 and the results on the Mac look acceptable. Also saw a Painted Lady butterfly. Hard to believe that they fly all the way from the UK down as far as southern Spain and maybe even as far as the Canaries!

Tonight was our Italian dinner and although we had had one before, a few years ago, it was just as good. I remembered the sweet that I described as “Disgustingly Good!” It hadn’t changed. Mascarpone Cream on a Crispy Ice Cream base.

Afterwards our entertainment was a sad group of jugglers. You lose a bit of interest when one of the jugglers drops the hat she’s supposed to catch. It wasn’t totally dire, just a bit tired.

Couldn’t sit on the balcony and have our traditional G ’n’ T because that bloody wind didn’t drop much in the evening, so it was a bit of light reading with a drink after the entertainment.

Today’s PoD was a Bird of Paradise hidden among the bushes. A Bird in the Bush, Not the Hand, so to speak!

Tomorrow we’re hoping to get the bus to Puerto del Rosario.

Another day at Monklands – 26 September 2019

Not for me this time, but for Clive.

Woke to a text from Clive’s daughter telling me Clive’s leg had been giving him some concern during the night and also giving her some concern now. After a bit of discussion with Scamp we decide we’d try the Kenilworth surgery first, but we really needed to take him to A&E. After a fifty second wait while a recording of one of the doctors played, explaining how a doctor’s surgery operated (I know the difference between condensation and condescension) I finally got through to a person who said they didn’t have a treatment room (yes, they do) or a nurse (yes they do) her recommendation was to take him to A&E. What she meant was they have nurses who start at 9am, this was about 8.15am and it’s those nurses who open the treatment room.

We got him ready and drove to Monklands. I dropped him and Scamp at A&E and went to park the car. By the time I’d walked back, he was in seeing the doctor. Waited about 20 minutes and then went to ask if we could see him on the pretence of giving him a bottle of water. It worked and I walked through to the patient’s area where I found him sitting looking a bit fed up. Talked to him about what had happened and found that the doc had said he was fairly certain it wasn’t DVT which was what we’d all feared and was just the result of a bump he’d had last week. Then the consultant and the doc returned. I handed Clive the water bottle and made a hasty retreat. Fifteen minutes later he was out. Just over an hour all in. Not a bad result.

It’s not until you see who comes in to these places that you realise the problems the doctors and nurses have to deal with. In the time we were there, there was a very poorly looking man whose daughter was telling someone on the phone he’d had “another stroke”, a young guy who said he’d hurt his back at work and a little boy who had a stone lodged in his ear … and Clive who was worried he had a blood clot, but hadn’t, thankfully. Drove us all home for toast and a cup of coffee.

We’d planned to drive to Perth today. I know I usually call it Perf, but I’m giving it the Sunday name today, Perth. That’s just what we did. Weather was rain for a while and sun for a long while on the drive up the A9. Lovely scenery. Saw a skein of geese heading sort of north. Clive suggested they may be Canada geese heading for new pastures. He’s probably right.

Walked down the Main Street in Perth to the observation ledge over the Tay. River was heavy and it looked as if someone had put some kayak gates in the river under the road bridge. Didn’t see anyone in canoes. Got coffee beans and then went for a walk through the park before coming home via Dobbies in Stirling where Scamp got a chrysanthemum pot plant. Then it was back home.

Clive and I pored over an old map overlay before dinner. He and Scamp sat and watched a recording of one of the Proms broadcasts from Albert Hall later while I caught up with yesterday’s blog.

A sort of vague response from the ‘Flickr Hero’ about how to get Inktober 2019 back on track, but basically it’s now worth the bother. They have their money and they’re not interested in the nuisance the cause. Wasters!

PoD is a 3 frame pano of a crane in Perth.

Tomorrow we’re hoping to go to Summerlee. Nothing else planned.

Kelpied – 24 September 2019

Today we were all Kelpied!

Today dawned dry but a bit dreary. However, it soon brightened up and we thought we’d risk a run to the Kelpies. It all went well until we were almost at the M9 then the car seemed to be misfiring, which is strange because it had been running so well since its last service. I hadn’t bought petrol from anywhere other than my usual two petrol stations and I hadn’t run the level down until the red light came on. So that should rule out the possibility of a little bit of dirt getting in to the carburettor or the jets, whatever it is the Juke has. Made the decision to detour via the Nissan garage in Stirling, where the service manager came to see what the problem was. He gave it a fair run through the gears, fierce acceleration and gentle driving, but could not replicate the problem. There was little more the poor man could do, but he took it in to the service bay, put it on the computer and pronounced it clean. No problems listed. Finally he suggested we drive off and if the problem reared its head again, we should book it in for a full day check. Clive and I were puzzled. We couldn’t agree on a possible cause and he knows a lot more about cars than me. It ran perfectly for the rest of the day.

Got to the Kelpies and wandered round them just taking them in. Glad to see that Clive was equally entranced with these beautiful equine sculptures. We both took lots of photos of them from different angles and in different lighting conditions. Scamp was also taking photos, but I think we were the subjects. People are more important than places to her and that’s probably her greatest photographic strength. She captures people very much better than me.

From Grangemouth, we said goodbye to the Kelpies and headed round the outskirts of Falkirk to The Falkirk Wheel. The giant boat lift was one of the things that Clive had wanted to see and we arrived just as it was doing a lift, so he got to see it in action right away. I took the car away to park it and met them in the shadow of the great wheel where we discussed the mechanics of this modern wonder. We waited for another boat to be lifted and after a swift look in the visitor centre, I found the one ticket machine that was working and paid for our parking. For a visitor centre which was meant to show this wonder of engineering design, there were a host of machines with OUT OF ORDER signs on them. Almost nothing of any note was working. Poor show Falkirk. Drove home and arrived just as the rain was starting.

PoD was a view of the Kelpies reflected in the turning pool of the canal.

Tomorrow we may go to Glasgow, but it depends on the weather.

Split – Almost a dolphin – 13 August 2019

Because of our late departure from Venice and because, Cap’n Bob said, of traffic on the sea lane from Venice to Split, we were late arriving in Split. The sea was calm, almost flat calm and … was that a dolphin just breaking surface?

I got a lovely shot of where the dolphin had been, and maybe just the ghost of a grey object below the water, but it wasn’t until we were home that we found Scamp had actually captured one of the mammals with it’s fin just breaking the surface. A lucky shot, but luckys count.

We’d been to Split before and weren’t impressed. If you follow Game of Thrones, there are places you’d love here, be as we hadn’t ever watched a whole episode, it was just another ferry port to us. However as a preparation I’d watched a short YouTube video about the town and found that we’d missed the main part of the town, the new part, not the old town. We were berthed at the very edge of the dockside and had miles to walk in to town. Not that it mattered and we had all day to pass in this place and it was the last port on the trip, so we’d make the most of it and the heat. I found a tea shop, i.e. a shop that sold dry tea leaves. Got some Assam and some fruit teas too. Found some impressive looking wide piazzas and squares also an old elegant looking opera house. Lots of shops and then we were in to the old town with its teacup water fountain. The forum was mobbed. It seemed that everyone had decided to descend on it today. Maybe it’s like that every day. It looked very grand and the two punters dressed up as Roman centurions were doing a roaring trade fleecing the punters for €5 a time to get their photos taken with them. Walked through an old market area, had a beer in a dockside cafe and then back to the ship.

Spent the afternoon lounging on the balcony watching a group of boys daring each other to jump from higher and higher places on the cliffs into the sea. That and watching another group swimming with two dogs that seemed inexhaustible climbing on rocks and swimming. I must admit I was tempted to go for a swim myself. The water looked a beautiful green-blue colour. However, I left it too late and then it was time to leave Split for the long run down the Adriatic into the Mediterranean and on to Malta.

One final dinner in Cafe Jardin, but no dancing tonight. Already our thoughts were turning to the packing we’d have to start tomorrow, but not before we had a G&T on the balcony and watched the stars.

PoD was the Forum filled with people. Is this how it would have looked in Roman times? Probably something similar.

Tomorrow is a final sea day.

Venice – Breakfast on the balcony – 12 August 2019

Today was Venice and it was Scamp’s idea that brought breakfast to the balcony.

You get so used to the ridiculously expensive ‘opportunities’ from P&O, but not solely from them, others do it too. A couple of times we’ve had cards through the cabin door, or waiting on the bed telling us that we can have champagne breakfast delivered to our cabin for only £25 pp. They just become part of the background ‘noise’, simply ignored. Then you realise that you’re on your holidays and simple luxuries are there to be had at no extra cost. So it was that, on Scamp suggestion, we order a ‘normal’ breakfast to be delivered to our cabin for the sail in to Venice. Surely one of the great arrivals of the trip. We sat in comfort watching Venice slide past while we enjoyed our orange juice, cereal and pastry!

We’ve joined the crowd on deck on a couple of occasions watching the sail in and listening to the commentary, but it’s no fun trying to see over the heads of the three layers of people who were probably up at 5am staking their claim to an area of the ships rail. So much better to be sitting on your own balcony and watching without having to crowd with the great unwashed! The sail in took about an hour and a half and was orchestrated by two tugs at the front and one tug at the back of the ship just to make sure that no boats got crushed this time. It seems that this might be one of the last times a cruise ship will be allowed to sail past St Mark’s Square. Plans are afoot for a cruise terminal outside the city.

After our al fresco breakfast and the chance to watch this city slide past our balcony we joined the queue on the dockside for the water bus to take us to St Mark’s Square and Venice proper. The ten minute journey took us to just outside the square and dropped us in the University area. A short walk and there we were with the rest of the tourists. After a few wrong turns we found the canal side cafe that has become a traditional morning coffee and cannoli stopping point for us. Since we had only had a rudimentary breakfast we added a small pizza each to the menu and I had a Salt Beer which was very good. More like ‘heavy’ than lager.

Wandered around some more and Scamp got a bead for her Pandora bracelet. I saw some cute little goldfish bowls complete with goldfish, made entirely from glass. They were in varying prices, ranging from €30 to €10 the further you went from St Mark’s. Didn’t get one though. Saw a selection of bow ties too on the Rialto, but decided I could probably make one for a fraction of the price. Scamp liked a set of giraffes and I would have chosen two glass cats in a posh shop in the square, but there were no prices displayed! I think my favourite was a silk shirt for a ‘Special Price’ of €340 with a matching tie €50. I got neither, of course.

Got the water taxi back to the ship just as it was beginning to rain, another tradition in Venice. Due to sail at 5.30, but waited for over an hour to get clearance from the port authority and for the tugs to arrive so we could leave Venice for Split. Because we were so late leaving, the sail out wasn’t as dramatic as the sail in, but we sat there and watched it all flow past anyway.

PoD is a shot of a man collecting shellfish from the sandbanks at the start of the sail in. Just imagine as you go to work tomorrow that this bloke probably does this every day. Beautiful scenery, but backbreaking work.

Tomorrow it’s Split in Croatia. The last port on the cruise before Valletta in Malta.

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!

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.