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.

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.

It’s surely not that time already – 1 August 2019

My initial thought as the alarm sounded at 3.15am. No time or desire for a shower, because it didn’t really feel like we’d been asleep, despite the comfortable room and bed. Just wanted to get out and get going.

Walked across to the terminal and checked in without waiting in a queue. Then we found out why. The security was where the queues were. We were there too early because it didn’t look as if they opened until 5am. Then the gates lit up and we were through. Something in or on me triggered the metal detector and I got the full body scan. I think it might have been my old amalgam fillings that the metal detector didn’t like. Basically, everything went as smoothly as any airport departure can. Loads of leg room on the Jet2 plane, but oh those annoying announcements were doing my head in “Remember to Bookle Up” What on earth is a ‘Bookle’?

Out of the plane, picked up the cases followed the ‘Orange Bats’ to the waiting coach and from there we were in the P&O machine. Possibly the most efficient embarkation system in the world.

Malta was hot. Thankfully we only had to wait about an hour for our cabin to be ready and then we could get changed into shorts and shirts and explore. The cabin was lovely. The balcony is maybe just a little tight, but it’s a great viewing gallery. The first thing that caught my eye was a crane painted like a giraffe! Much of the ship was as we remembered it, but it wasn’t until later that we realised some things had moved around in the recent refurbishment.

Because it was still afternoon we had plenty of time to go back ashore and get some tonic for the gin we were allowed to carry on board. We just wandered around the tourist shops and cafes by the portside.

Decided on an early(ish) dinner because at 8.30pm we had to play ‘Dress the Dolly’ with our lifejackets in the most excruciating safety drill. Captain Bob gave everyone a warning that they must do as he instructed or he’d want to know the reason why. What a dick. He’s coming right off my Christmas Card list. Really, I know it’s a serious business and is (apparently) a legal requirement, but inject a little bit of humour Bob and you might put the message across more smoothly.

Disappointed at dinner when we were shown to a table for two. One of the great things about cruising is meeting people and there was no opportunity for that tonight. Maybe it was because we were early and the ship wasn’t very full yet, but I hope that’s the reason.

We didn’t have the usual sailaway, but maybe that’s a blessing in disguise. I hate the jingoism of it. The reason was they wanted to play with two of the lifeboats, or they were painting the ship or something. I think Captain Bob was just in another of his moods.

PoD was the Giraffe Crane which stood across the port from our cabin.  Really did look like a giraffe!

Early to rise, late to bed. It’s been a long day!

The day before – 31 July 2019

Not a lot you can say about Wednesday, so I’ll give the bare minimum.

We went to Milano for lunch and thereby avoided the torrential rain. Pizza was good, but not excellent. It felt as if it had been sitting under the heating lights for too long. More frazzled than hot. Scamp’s fish ’n’ chips was good in parts. Forget curate’s eggs. What’s a curate anyway? We don’t have them in Scotland. The chips were deemed good, although I didn’t like the taste of the sample I was given. The fish was fine apparently, but the batter? Oh the batter was about 10mm thick in places and I’m not exaggerating. It had been put on with a trowel by an apprentice plasterer. Scamp complained as she usually does these days when things she’s paying for aren’t quite right, and that’s what we should all do. By the time we were leaving the rain was off, so it was back to last minute checks before the off. The ‘off’ was 6.30, aiming for a 7.00pm arrival at the airport.

You know when you have a nagging feeling that something isn’t right, but you’re on the motorway and you haven’t time to check? That’s what I was feeling. Surely I had packed the laptop, hadn’t I? Still I wanted to check and when I finally got off the motorway at the airport and parked outside the long stay parking I found that for once I was right in trusting my instincts. No laptop. Drove back to Cumbersheugh. Picked up a laptop that was sniffling on the coffee table because it though it wasn’t going on its holidays. It was, it did and if I hadn’t driven all the way back through more torrential rain I wouldn’t have been sitting here on a balcony in 30º heat typing this.

Dropped the car off. Bus to the hotel and and expensive pint of lager and an equally expensive glass of red while listening to some Ya, Ya english bam sounding off to his Scottish squeeze (Glasgow? That’s quite rough isn’t it?) Kevin Bridges you’ve a lot to answer for!

Then it was time for bed for at least 3 hours before that bloody alarm would ring.

PoD is a wet wee sow thistle after the deluge that we missed when we were sitting in Milano’s.

New Specs – 30 July 2019

Off to Larky in the morning to get our eyes tested.

Drove to Larky and spoke to the nice man at Simpsons Opticians who said my eyes were fine and I didn’t need new glasses. That was before he looked at the scratches on the old glasses. Then he said “Oh yes, I see the problem”. The problem is that I don’t see through the old glasses, so I ordered a new pair which should be available soon.

Of course the optician had to put drops in my eyes to irritate me and make me squint when I walked outside into the not so bright sunlight. That made driving difficult so I had to drive carefully to Lanark Road End garden centre to get some lunch and allow my eyes to return to normal. The place was a nightmare with noisy weans charging about the place and everyone shouting. Do the drops make your hearing super sensitive as well as your eyes I wonder? Still, I survived the Babychino disguised as a Flat White and the roll ’n’ sausage that had about a tin of pepper in it. <Thinks! Do the drops make your taste buds supersensitive too?> Walked round what used to be a garden centre but now looks a bit like an Urban Ex centre with broken flower pots, dead plants and empty staging. Maybe all the gardeners are on holiday. We left.

Drove back home through some light showers, expecting the heavy cloudbursts that were forecast, but never appeared. Scamp went on a scouting party to Tesco and when she returned, I went out for a walk down the Luggie and got today’s PoD of the poppies. Saw some butterflies that might or might not have been Painted Ladies. The ones that fly incredible distances to enjoy our usually cold summers. They will be disappointed this year with all the heat that’s in the air. Back home it was prawn stir-fry for dinner, a Scamp special.

That about summed it up for the day. Not a lot done, but maybe tomorrow will be better. It’s already feeling better. Weather fairies are predicting more rain showers and possible thunderstorms as well. Scotland in the Summer.

Strawbs and rain – 29 July 2019

It was a dry start to the day, but it didn’t stay that way for long.

The clouds descended and the rain began.  It was going to be a dull, wet day.  I’d already timetabled a backup for my Linx laptop for today and it went without a hitch.  That was lucky and it was the last good thing that happened.  After restarting the laptop, the message I’d not seen for ages blocked access to everything else.  Apparently Windows 10 wanted, no, demanded that it be allowed to upgrade the OS.  Oh well, I wasn’t going anywhere, so I let it get on with it.  Two hours later the laptop greeted me with the news that it had been updated to the  ‘New’ April 2018 version.  Was this what had taken two hours?  Apparently it was.  I wasn’t impressed.  I promptly got rid of it and downgraded it to the previous version of the OS, only to find that as well as removing the ‘New’ April 2018 version, it had also removed at least one of my apps.  A Windows app.  One of the few things that Mickysoft make that actually works, the one I use to occasionally post the blog.  Thankfully I’d made that backup this morning.  Twenty minutes later the laptop was returned to the state it was in first thing this morning.  Now I have to find a way to block Mickysoft from reinstalling any ‘New’ version.

The rain persisted all day and I took the opportunity to do a little still life of some strawberries fresh from the fridge.  Not our strawberries from the garden, these three came from Tesco.  They got PoD.

Salsa tonight was interesting and exhausting.  New move from last week was called Sombrero <Something>  I’ll fill in the <Something> when we remember – you can see how memorable a name it was!  So was the move!!  We also covered Archangel, Dame Pa’Fuera, ‘New One’ and ‘Old One’.  He must take ages making up these names 😉  That said, he is coming up with lots of short interesting moves that are easy to join together in different combinations.

When we were driving home from Glasgow about 9.15pm the sky was clearing and there was a lovely sunset.  Then the automatic headlights came on.  Nights are fair drawing in already!

Tomorrow we’re off to Larky to get our eyes tested.

More rain, more drizzle, then sunshine – 28 July 2019

It rained in the morning, but my weather app said rain would stop at 1.30pm and it did.

Yes, it did stop then, and the sun shone for a while, but it wasn’t really trying very hard.

It was a day of not doing much apart from clearing up after last night and writing yesterday’s blog. Sometimes you just have to admit it and play catch-up. Hardly went past the door for most of the day. Took the chance of a bright spell and grabbed some photos in the garden. Front garden shots were best today, especially the PoD of a hover fly on an Eryngium Planum (Sea Holly).

Other than that, it was preparations in the afternoon and watching an amazingly interesting F1 GP from Germany where it looked like there wouldn’t be enough cars left to form a quorum for the podium.

Spoke to JIC in the evening and got up to date on all things going on in Cambridgeshire.

Tomorrow we have no real plans, apart from intending to go dancing at the STUC in the evening.