GB's version of the Ventura cruise, July 2012
Posted Jul 24, 2012
Once on board the Ventura, HRH the Princess Royal, standing to attention on the deck of the Patricia in the pouring rain, took the salute. As her arm dropped, she raised her other arm to wave and gave us a big smile. This was her first Royal Salute and the ship's first. Pity about the weather, the flyby of the Red Arrows was cancelled.
We left the ship to do our own thing as Gordon had arranged to meet up with his friends whom we'd stayed with at their villa in 2010. It was hot and sunny, and we had a great lunch followed by lush ice cream. I was back on board ship in time to tune into Wimbledon and watch the Andy Murray semi-final, which he won!
We'd booked a coach tour on Corfu and as we disembarked I spotted an old friend in the brilliant blue, cloudless sky: the waning moon. We visited a Kumquat distillery and shop - free samples! I bought a litre bottle of coconut liqueur for 8.90Euros. Then we had another ice cream stop and visited the beach.
We went our separate ways for this destination as Gordon had booked a cable car excursion (I declined the offer on account of my preferring my feet firmly on the ground), so he headed off to his coach immediately after breakfast. There were free shuttle buses into town for those not going on booked tours, and as I didn't want to hang about on board the ship on such a beautiful day I set off with a group of other passengers to board one. I felt quite safe while on the bus, but when we left it in the Old Town I realised I was alone in a strange country for the first time. I spotted the moon and felt comforted that I had a friend with me. I headed for the coast and was admiring the view when the guide of a walking tour came and stood near me, pointing to an overhanging rock in the bay. In broken English he said: 'This rock is waiting to fall into the sea. He was left there from our last earthquake. We hope it will not be today'. I piped up: 'It won't be today'. He turned to me, put his hands together in prayer, looked skyward and said: 'I do not know the mind of God, lady'. I replied: 'Well I have his ear, and it won't be today'. A lady in his tour group made a beeline for me, linked her arm with mine, pointed at me with her free hand and exclaimed in a loud American drawl: 'I'm staying close to this Blessed child!' eliciting laughs all round. Unfortunately I wasn't part of their walking tour so I waved them off. I enjoyed a leisurely solo walk around the Old Town in the shade and had a welcome cooling drink of Dubrovnik water from an interesting, if cheeky fountain. After about 90 minutes I could no longer stand the searing heat so I found a Ladies to freshen up then found the shuttle bus stop no problem. As our ship left port lots of little boats accompanied us out, with loads of people on board waving at us. I thought I saw a figure on the extreme shore which I waved to, but no-one else could see it. At dinner that night we were seated with a couple of retired NASA workers. Imagine my frustration and annoyance that I did not learn this fact until Gordon was having his Irish coffee and we were 2 minutes away from departing to watch the John Denver tribute artist. I just managed to learn that Julius had studied moon rocks and Pam had worked with Buzz Aldrin...before we parted company. I hoped to meet up with them again later in the cruise but I never did.
I was looking forward to this trip so much and the sail in was wonderful. We got a tender boat to Murano to tour the glass-blowing factory. There were so many visitors at the same time that the seating was full, so I ended up sitting on a bottom step about 3' away from the furnace which was spewing out 1200degC - now I know what Hell feels like, I promise to be good! I didn't fare any better in the gift shop; we were told that any breakages would have to be paid for and a glimpse at some of the prices had me paranoid I'd have an accident in the crush so I didn't hang about. Bitterly disappointed, but I'd forgotten we were then sailing to Burano, to witness some lace-making. This was much more civilised, Gordon headed off with a walking group while I sough the shade of the lace shop. I already knew the craft of lace-making as I have done it myself, but it was interesting to watch the lady at work and the shopkeeper provided sparkling wine and biscuits to the influx of thirsty potential customers. I am allergic to wine so I asked if she had any water, she disappeared then reappeared with a large bottle of ice-cold water which she handed over to me. I bought 2 lovely little lace samplers, a spray of Lily-of-the-valley (my birthmonth flower) and a pair of kittens playing with a ball of wool for my daughter Laura who was taking care of my cat Goldie while I was away. Back on board I noticed that the Captain's Log (on channel 1 on the cabin TV) was wrong. Luckily I trusted the Captain and was sure he provided the correct information to the underling who was typing it up for the passengers.
The ship set off back towards Croatia and we boarded the ship's own lifeboats, which was quite a thrilling ride, to land at Split. We'd booked a tour to Salona and after we boarded the coach the tour guide asked us if we knew who had been born in Split and won the men's singles at Wimbledon in 2001. It went quiet so I shouted out 'Goran Ivaniševic!' and the guide was happy that someone knew. We arrived at Salona, an old Roman settlement where we went around the ruins, the cemetery and later, the impressive amphitheatre which housed 70,000 people during is heyday. We also visited the museum and examined some stored sarcophagi, statues and grave goods which had been unearthed. In the coins section I spotted an extremely well-preserved one dated by the museum at approx. 545 BC, it showed the two-faced Roman god Janus. We were whisked through the museum in 30 minutes, I would have liked at least an hour to browse, as it was we missed a lot, but we were on a fixed timetable. Back on the coach towards Split we were dropped off at Diocletian's Palace. Diocletian had been born in the area and when he was Emperor of Rome, he was responsible for the killing of half the Christian saints as he tried to stamp out the fledgling religion. In fact he was the only Roman emperor ever to abdicate, and he organised the construction of a retirement home on the coast of the Adriatic Sea in 305 AD. Diocletian's Temple of Jupiter is now the Baptistry, complete with a cross-shaped tub large enough for the complete immersion of 4 adults, and a striking, taller-than-lifesize statue of St John the Baptist, dressed as he would have been in life. On one outstretched arm his elongated fingers beckoned the curious to come and be baptized. I was amused to learn that Diocletian's mausoleum later became St Duje's Cathedral. We toured the cathedral and saw the 13th Century pulpit, the 15th Century Altar of St Anastasius and the Romanesque Bell Tower. Captain's Log sill wrong.
Before we docked I went up to the top deck at 4am to witness an alignment of the Moon, Jupiter, Venus and Aldebaran, all in my starsign of Taurus. I was joined by a fellow passenger Steve, who had head me talking about it earlier on. We commandeered 2 sun loungers, rechristened them star loungers and saw 5 Perseids between us, and the ISS! As it was his first time viewing the ISS, he was understandably thrilled.
We didn't have a trip booked in Palma (it was Sunday and the place was shut), so we caught the shuttle bus to Palma Cathedral, where we saw a happy little girl preparing for a special event, she was dressed like a bridesmaid so I asked to take her picture. Back on board ship, a Force 9 gale blew us through the Straits of Gibraltar. Captain's Log still wrong, finally I went to Reception to complain. The female behind the desk looked at me like I was insane, but said she would send a note through to the Bridge.
On the Tagus River we sailed under the suspension bridge which wasn't as pretty as the Humber Bridge back home but I did enjoy seeing the cetacean artwork at the base of the pillars and the 100m-tall statue of Jesus. We went on a coach tour with a stop at the King Edward VII Park, named after the British King's visit in 1903. Our guide informed us that cod is the national dish of Portugal. They have created 365 different recipes so they can choose a different cod dish each day of the year. I guess on Leap Year Day they have haddock for a change. The shoreline is peppered with cafes, souvenir shops and fish restaurants. The latter don't have menus, as you enter the waiter tells you that you can have anything you want so long as it's cod. On to Estoril and the miles and miles of golden beach, and trying to avoid thousands of sun-loving tourists. The temperature was the hottest so far, hitting 39degC. We admired Belém Tower and the Jerónimos Gothic Monastery, which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, but for me the amazing Monument to the Discoveries has to be seen to be believed. After we got back on board ship, the cruise manager announced on the tannoy that he'd managed to engage a Portuguese dance troupe to see us off. That was fun to watch in the shade of the deck with a cool drink to hand. Captain's Log still wrong. Gordon asked the ship's cruise manager what day it was, and where we, and when he'd replied, Gordon told him that that's not what the Captain's Log said.
Back in Spain, we had booked a trip to a church at the top of a mountain (I hate those narrow, steep Spanish roads) where we had a lovely walkabout and great views of the harbour and town of Vigo. Then onto a manor house with huge gardens to admire, which was wonderful except for the flies. I met Mercy Angel who was being bitten quite badly so I lent her my insect repellent. Next stop was a 5* hotel for tapas and wine. Well, I had a croissant and a glass of orange juice, everyone else had tapas and wine. On the way out I visited their Ladies - which was bigger than my bungalow. Captain's Log said we were due to dock in Southampton that day and I wondered if anyone else on the cruise noticed we were still in Spain? Next day was a sea day and Mercy Angel found me at breakfast to thank me for my help the day before. As I was leaving the room I spotted quite a few people whom I'd been lucky enough to meet and spend time with; the Scottish lady who watched the Wimbledon final with me, the Yorkshire couple who seemed to be on all our tours, and even the budding astronomer and his wife who informed me that she hadn't relished hearing about our adventure on the top deck at 6am!
Days at sea
I attended a talk on emeralds (my birthstone) which gave me the best laugh of the holiday: after his presentation he asked if we would be interested in seeing a photograph of his wife wearing her emeralds, which she loves. As we agreed, up popped an image of Naomi Campbell, actually smiling, adorned with huge emeralds around her neck and dangling from her ears. I laughed out loud, what a great joke, he should have taken the place of the dire comedian Martin Gold whom we saw one night. The Chocoholic Tea Party requires no more explanation than the 3 photos I have supplied, except imagine a whole room filled with tables covered in every conceivable chocolate concoction. The Elton John tribute artist whom we saw twice, and Darius who gave a show then spent a whole afternoon at a meet and greet session. In the queue to meet him I was chatting to the lady behind me who came from my home county of Lincolnshire, hurrah!
Posted Jul 1, 2012
...is going to be GREAT!
Thanks to Andy Murrayfor waiting until I got home from Gordon's summer concert last night before blasting into the 4th round of Wimbledon in a nail-biting clock-watching end to a thrillerI'll catch his next match but if he progresses, would someone PLEASE text me so I can tune in from the ship?
When we get home I'll be counting down the days to the Olympics. It was an honour to witness the Flame's procession through Cleethorpes, and I've been quite moved watching (some of) the Flame carriers in the rest of the United Kingdom. The community spirit which has been displayed has been marvellous, did you know Louth's Mayoress even turned out in a sausage costume (in honour of the great Lincolnshire sausage which has just been turned down for a PGI) but of course she's being derided by some who said the outfit was offensive because it looked like a giant penis. (Please choose your keywords carefully if googling for a picture, Pailaway and Auntie Lil). We didn't witness it but Gordon, who is used to hobnobbing with the Great and Good, calls the Mayoral party "the Chain gang", so he when I told him about the Mayoress' costume.
Posted May 25, 2012
In the early hours of yesterday morning, Gordon's home was burgled. Entry was gained through the rear of the house; they found his keys and legged it with his car as well as 2 TVs, 2 clocks, laptop, cash left out for the cleaner, kitchen house phone handset (must have thought it was a mobile phone?) and the projector which we use for our Blue Cross talks. They tried to wrench the large TV off the wall in the lounge but failed. The police were thorough and found his car quite quickly, that's still with SOCO but hopefully he'll get it back today.
I am counting our blessings that no-one in the house was hurt, especially Snoopy who is a Jack Russell, I don't know if they *knew* him, or that just because he didn't bark or attack them, they left him alone.
Suffice to say that new security measures are being put into place, this was Gordon's first burglary and he intends it being the last.
I am still upset at the thought of what might have been and last night was scared to go to bed for the first time since I've been living alone. It's not a nice feeling, I hope it soon goes.
Posted May 8, 2012
Assuming you survive the initial radioactive fallout, would you want to live in a post-apocalyptic world?
Volunteers required (photo opportunity)
Posted Apr 1, 2012