Saturday, June 17, 2017

Europe 17 Day 22 & 23 The End

This is the final holiday post although there may be some things I might mention in the future about things I have not mentioned already.

I kind of wish we had taken the ship tour to Pompeii, or a private tour, at this last significant city we visited, aside from Rome where we just docked and shared a taxi van to the airport. Instead we wandered the streets of Naples, absorbing what we could, getting a little lost, as usual and cafe sitting. The further we went into the city, the cheaper the food and drinks were.

It is interesting to contrast Naples to the other place we visited in Italy, Livorno and Pisa. Livorno and Pisa seemed peaceful and orderly, with traffic following lines marked on roads and generally following the road laws and showed patience with the huge numbers of tourists. This did not seem to be at all the case in Naples, and I thought it was chaotic. At least one multi laned road had no marked lanes yet the traffic managed to keep moving. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learnt here. The better the lane guidance system, the more rules there are, the less the time to play with phones, radios and music players when driving. Believe me, from what I saw in Naples, full concentration was required when driving.

Naples was ok. I mean by that I did not get the bad feeling as I did in Marseille, but for mine, Naples was just a big and very busy city. No doubt it has its delights, not visible or noticed by us in perhaps the six hours we were onshore.

Shortly before docking we passed by Mount Vesuvius and nearby Pompeii. Naples is also the stepping off point to get to get to the Isle of Capri.

I was watching Naples as the sun rose and slowly lit the city starting with the dominating St Elmo's Castle.

The Art Deco port building was very attractive.

A mural within the port building.

This was to be the site of an underground train station right at the port, however construction was stalled when Roman ruins were found.

The first road for us to cross after leaving the port, with disused tram tracks and wires. Naples does have trams after almost or completely doing away with them and the network is now expanding.

The was a long boardwalk past the diggings and then we passed Castel Nuovo. We then became most horribly tangled up with tour buses unloading a gazillion school children, no doubt out to explore the wonders of Naples. I wonder if the local government has ever thought of providing a proper off the street tourist bus parking area where people can get off a bus and not be in the middle of traffic. I noted, no child was killed or maimed.

I was very impressed by this building, Galleria Umberto. We walked through and out the other side.

It was time for coffee and some free wifi.

Fountain of the Artichoke!!!

We walked along a wide 'carless' street which has many narrow streets running off to the left or right, full of shops, cafes, bars and residences. Cars are banned from inner Naples, haha. There were many. It is a lawless city. The illegal vendors pack up as the police approached on foot and reappear as soon as they have passed. It is all just a game.

We had a panini and coffee at this cafe, which was much cheaper than the one closer to the port.

My fashion tip for our next season. Very 70s. Of course they will fit you. Of course your bum won't look big.

Will this be the latest men's hair fashion to hit Australia? There was no doubt that people we saw in Naples who appeared to be locals had a great sense of style.

R's sister K had managed to find two gorgeous dresses for our niece twins and bought them. I did not ask how many euros she paid. I bet quite a few.

Nearly back to the ship. R, K and J sat on a wall for a little break while I examined the ticket machine at the bus stop.

The front of the port building. A clock is set into one tower but what is the other dial? If you can't see it well enough, the numbers are 70 to 79. Please someone tell me what that odd dial is all about.

The next day we arrived on time in Rome and we all shared a taxi with another couple to Rome Airport, quite a long way from the port. K&J went to their hotel near the airport where they would stay overnight before returning to England and R and myself went straight to airport where we departed mid afternoon. It was a very nice new double deck plane back to Dubai, and then a very old plane back to Melbourne, arriving about 10pm. Rome airport is massive. We used a train to get to our gate from the main terminal. It has the rather obvious name of Leonardo da Vinci in an area called Fiumicino, which I have no idea how to say. Wombat???

Security was strong, with soldiers at the airport with machine guns at the ready. They looked so serious, but an old lady waltzed up to them and asked directions and they were helpful and smiling. Once she left, the stern and intimidating don't fuck with me faces immediately returned.

While Italy apparently accepts same sex unions, I was left wondering how far this extends. At border control was a male and female couple with a child. We were standing side by side ready to be next. The family left and we were called forward. No, you, meaning me, go back. R on his own was called forward and then I was next. She was not too easily and instantly recognise we were family too, I suppose, but wouldn't people travelling together usually be called forward together, especially if it was only two people. That was the first time it has ever happened. In fact in Paris some years ago at British border security, we were admonished for not coming forward together. Then R was queried why he didn't use his British/Euro passport when travelling. There is no point in him getting through quicker than I do as he then has to wait for me, so he travels using his Australian passport. And he is a proper Aussie .

A little art at the airport

Close up?

Friday, June 16, 2017

Europe 17 Day 21

We were at sea again for a day as we sailed from Montenegro back to Italy, passing between Sicily and the mainland again, but in the other direction.

I refer to my notes as I have no memory of the day but all I wrote was K got very drunk. I suspect she too wanted to be home back in old Blighty and she takes on everyone else's stress and troubles.

Here are the last ship photos. Asian ship passengers learning to waltz.

I only saw this once, where the water was so shallow, as the propellers went into action, our ship churned up the seabed.

This just found phone photo looks like Santorini to me.

These ship passengers learnt to play the mandolin in about 9 days and held a concert.

It was quite good.

I suppose this was some kind of reference to a Venetian masked ball. It was fun. I was watching from one side and unbeknownst to me, R was watching from the other.

We were determined to see the last big show in the Princess Theatre. We arrived 15 minutes early and sat in the very last available seats.

The woman with the ponytail was a deaf signer.

 The back of the monster outdoor tv screen.

One does wonder what these orb things were about. I should have asked.

Naples tomorrow. What will that be like?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Europe 17 Day 20

You've probably heard of Montenegro. Where is it? Not South America as I thought. Ah, that's Montevideo. It is on the Adriatic Coast with a short Croatian border to its north, then Bosnia Herzegovina, Serbia to its east and Albania to its south. Yes, one of those countries. It has a complicated history and was mixed up in the terrible war in 1992 to 1995. It has existed in some form or another for centuries but only became fully independent in 2006 after separating from Serbia.

At home in a local cafe we once received a packet of sugar for our coffees with the country of origin being Montenegro. It doesn't seem like a climate where sugar cane would grow, so I assume it is sugar from sugar beet.

The main town we visited was Kotor, set in the most beautiful bay with the same name. It was just so atmospheric and peaceful.

As usual I was up fairly early to record our arrival. Passengers wasted no time hopping into our tenders to travel to shore. As we do, we managed to be ready by about 10, just as some people were returning the ship, having beaten the crowds.

The ship tour was very expensive. We looked at the hop on hop off bus where we disembarked, but we did not immediately decide. Very near this point was a triathlon event to take place.

We sat and looked at maps after avoiding all the offers of private taxi tours. Along came a tout with good English and the gift of the gab and convinced us that he was a good person for us to take a tour with, for €50 for four of us in a van. He spoke in the first person.....I will take you and show you....etc. We agreed, but all of us were unspokenly unsure about the legitimacy of the tour. Come with me, he said, we will walk. Another younger man joined us and the original older man left us. The traffic is very bad, he said. We can't get the van in close. You don't mind walking? We didn't, though it was quite a hike. Another young man joined us and the second one left. We kept walking. This third one was our guide for the day and he was very handsome, polite, friendly and knowledgeable. We eventually reached the van and off we set, up into the hills. What is to become of us? Will we be held for ransom? Oh, our government will never pay ransom money. We are stuffed.

Walls running up into the hills, many of them.

The traffic heading towards where we had been was at a standstill. Are we at fault, I asked, meaning so many ship passengers descending on a small town. No, it is the triathlon, Igor explained. We have a cruise ship in nearly every day during the summer season. It is no problem.

The road we travelled on was of quite a high standard with lots of guard rails, which was just as well as the hills were very steep. We stopped at a lookout point and wow, the view was mind blowing.

Would you like to stop for coffee, Igor asked. Ok. He pulled into a very nice cafe with beautiful views of the coast and sea. I asked for the wifi password, but Igor said, don't worry. You can use my phone as a hotspot, so we did and he left it on back in the van. We paid for Igor's coffee, at our insistence. Being a Sunday, the cafe was quite busy. Back home, it was Mother's Day. I sent Mother a text message to be automatically read out to her on her landline phone. I scheduled it to be sent at 2am our time, an appropriate time for her in Australia, but by then we had no phone reception. It went at about 6am, still an ok time for her and she received it.

It was quite a long drive before we reached the resort town of Budva, south of Kotor. A lot of construction was underway but we had noticed some along the way had begun and then had been abandoned. Igor explained, it was Russian money coming it but then Russia became upset as Montenegro has decided to try for European Community membership and Russia pulled a lot of money out. Montenegro also already uses the Euro as currency.

Within this very old fort was almost a township of shops, bars cafes and housing.

We can buy opium? Where's my pipe?

On the edge of beach.

A short and very modest pier.


Prime locations for the monied classes up hill.

Igor took a telephone call. He asked if we would like to spend €40 extra to see another special place and take a boat ride. Using a tunnel, the trip back to Kotor rather than the hills was much quicker and through Kotor to the north we travelled to Perast. Apparently his boss did not know what time the road north would reopen after the triathlon. The phone call was to tell Igor that the road was open. We are heading out to these two islands, one natural and one man made over a couple of centuries, I think.

Perast wasn't very large and there were lots of police around. Later we saw an EU delegation on a boat bound for the islands, hence the police.

This is the man made island, with a church and small museum. It is known as Our Lady of the Rocks and has an interesting history.

We didn't realise we could take interior photos as we took a short guided tour of the church, so we went back inside to take photos, but after a large tour group had arrived.

This is the other island, St George's Island, is closed to the general public. The building is or was a monastery.

Back on shore, doesn't this look like a nice setting to dine.

One couple was gorging themselves on mussels, making me very jealous. R and K were worried about getting back to the ship on time, in spite of not having eaten since breakfast and it was now mid to late afternoon.

So this kind of bad parking is not exclusive to Australia.

Igor drove us back to Kotor and left us near our ship tender embarkation point. He was a little disappointed that we could not see the old part of Kotor, but we wanted to get back to the ship. We took photos of him with three of us, changing over so we were all in a photo. He had been a great guide and we rounded the €90 to €100 as a tip and bid him goodbye. He does actually work for a proper and professional company. He said that if they don't have bookings, they go to the ship disembarkation point to find them. Golden Bay Tours.

This gap our ship just passed through to leave Bay of Kotor was no more than about 200 metres wide. Goodbye Montenegro (mountain black). You were an absolutely delightful and stunning surprise. 

This is the last large posts about our holidays, with a couple of short posts to go.