Saturday, 14 September 2019

Palaces and Pyramids on The Ocean Village

A series of articles describing our experiences onboard the Ocean Village cruise ship 22-29 April 2010. The cruise was called Palaces and Pyramids and our itinerary was Heraklion, Crete > Day at Sea > Port Said, Egypt > Rhodes, Greece > Kusadasi, Turkey > Piraeus, Greece > Herklion, Crete.

Each article can be accessed by clicking / tapping the photographs below. A link at the end of each article will return you to this index page.

The Ocean Village Cruise Ship

A look at the Ocean Village cruise ship that we travelled on 22-29 April 2010.

Ocean Village seen in Rhodes port. Built in France and launched in 1988 as Sitmar FairMajesty, the Sitmar cruise line was bought by P&O cruises the same year and the ship was sold and sailed as Star Princess with Princess Cruises in 1989. In 1997 she sailed with P&O as MV Arcadia and when P&O's less formal brand Ocean Village was launched in 2003 she was named after the brand and was joined by Ocean Village Two on which we had sailed in 2009 up the Adriatic Sea.

Both ships were, despite being seen as a "cheap brand", very well equipped and furnished. Both had structures on the top deck for acrobatic and trapeze acts and these were also performed in the high atrium on both ships.

There was a modern coffee bar on the ground floor of the atrium, for the latte addicts. Coffee from here was not included as part of the usual food entitlement, but had to be paid for.

Reception was also to be found in the atrium.

The atrium rose to cover three decks and descending by stairs required you to walk to opposite ends of the atrium on each floor.

One of the main lounges. These featured entertainment at night.

Our cabin. Compared to cabins we had had on other ships you could have called it a stateroom. Apart from the double bed, we had a three-seater settee.

This was a handy place to read, listen to music or watch TV - something I have never done on a cruise and I'm not really sure why anyone would want to unless they have small children...

The balcony was small, but we hadn't expected to play tennis on it...

A lovely ship. 2019 addendum: Shortly after this cruise, the Ocean Village brand ceased operating. The ship transferred to P&O Cruises Australia, sailing as Pacific Pearl under which name she sailed until 2017 when she was sold to Cruise & Maritime Voyages for whom she is currently sailing as MV Columbus.

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The Pyramids of Giza

Saturday 24 April 2010. After our morning looking at the stepped pyramid of King Zoser, we were to head back to Cairo to see the famous pyramids at Giza.

We were surprised to see just how close to the outskirts of Cairo the pyramids really are. But before we get to see them up close we have a stop at a restaurant for lunch, together with several other coaches, each with their armed security guard. Ours was ok - he didn't speak English but was quick with the smiles and he went to sleep on the seat in front of us with his holstered gun sticking between the seats right in front of us. I could have drawn it far quicker than he could have...

I did the same trick again with the glasses - left my sunglasses on and the normal glasses on the coach. Therefore once in the fairly dark restaurant I stumbled about gathering weird buffet concoctions onto my plate - cheese with sardines and pasta with waiter's cleaning cloth... I managed in the toilets ok - someone screamed at one point but it was a chap, so I knew I'd gone in the right door...

Fran was chuckling when I came out. "One of those blokes with a gun just came out with wet streaks all down his trousers... here... don't rush me... What's the hurry?!?"
"Come on,"
I urged, "We don't want to miss the bus!"

Then onto Giza and the most famous pyramids of all. There are 140 plus pyramids dotted all over Egypt but how many of you could name them all and spell them correctly? Me neither...

Lots of camel jockeys, postcard and jewellery sellers, enthusiastic would-be guides. Most Brits make the mistake of saying a polite "No thanks..." which results in the invisible glue between yourself and your new best persuasive buddy getting stronger. Best way to avoid them is to ignore them totally. It's their culture. They find ours just as mystifying. "Hey if we just ignore them maybe they will come to us and ask to buy!" "Oh yeah, right, sure - I think your brain fell off with your fez!"

Luckily there are Tourist Police here to protect us. One saw Fran stumble and indicated a safer way down from a pile of rubble. Then he grabbed her arm and led her off away from me to look more closely at the stones of the Great Pyramid. I uttered an authoritative "Fran!" and he let go, cursing me that I'd realised he was about to charge around 20 euros for whatever insignificant fact he was about to impart... They are all at it!

There are three major pyramids here, the Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops in the Greek) which is the only survivor of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, at its side that of his son Khafre, which is the one with the cap of facing stone still in place. Further to the side is the pyramid of Menkaure. Smaller pyramids at the base of the large ones are tombs of queens and princesses. All around are lesser tombs and mastaba of court officials and followers.

We wandered around the pyramids and piles of attendant rubble for a while until the colour of my shoes had changed to the colour of our surroundings. When it started to creep up my legs we headed back to the bus which was now about to head slightly down the hill to another ancient monument that I had wanted to see for a while.

The Sphinx pre-dates the pyramids by a couple of thousand years. It wasn't built to guard them at all but it is possible that they were built to be guarded by it. Not necessarily though - if you look at any Egyptian image of a bird, god, animal, or person it will be a profile - a sideways view. So the Sphinx is definitely not intended to be guarding the pyramid that sits right behind it.

Nor, apparently, was its nose shot off by Napoleon and his band of lager louts on their away tour through Europe. It was depicted in drawings as early as the 1300s AD with no nose. I was rather disappointed by the Sphinx I am sad to relate. For one thing the sun was behind it so it wasn't all that easy to see any detail on it - I've increased the contrast of the photo by several times to get it as clear as this. But also it's smaller than I imagined. The head is incredibly small for its body and it is thought by some that it did have a lion's head originally to match the body but that some lordly "Hey look at me, I'm a Pharaoh!" type such as Rameses II had the head re-whittled in his own image.

Guide, Manal demonstrates the flexibility of a papyrus stem prior to us being shown how the Egyptians made papyrus paper. Then it was back through the Cairo traffic. Ha! This has to be seen to be believed. And I thought it was bad in Naples or around the Arc De Triomphe roundabout in Paris!

Cairo traffic is a doozie! Almost as entertaining as the Pyramids themselves... And why did most pick-up trucks have either a couple of cows in the back or a pile of stuff reaching as high as a double-deck bus?

Once on the freeway on the way back to the port, a siren-blaring military-looking police van with three armed guards in the back waved us into the kerb and then led us in a convoy of coaches back through the traffic, which was stopped at every junction to let us through unimpeded. This apparently is a regular occurrence and has been for a number of years but when you're not expecting it is a bit of a facer. Fran described it as "a bit scary" but the armed escort on the seat in front of me didn't seem worried and the guards in the back of the open truck in front looked bored so I wasn't too bothered. Although if they had marched us off to a brick wall whilst handing out blindfolds, our friend in the seat in front would probably have just joined them and taken aim...

We got back to the port and ignored the vendors wanting to sell us more souvenirs. "Two Euros for you all to go back to England!" muttered one as a joke for his mate. They'd had a long day at the port. "Ten!" I tossed back, wittily...

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Friday, 13 September 2019

Sorrento Holiday 2006 Index Page

A series of articles chronicling a hotel-based holiday in Sorrento, Italy in 2006. We had taken my mother with us which made steep hills (and wishing wells...) more of a challenge but a good time was had by all.

Each article can be accessed by clicking or tapping the appropriate photograph and link below. A link at the end of each article will return you to this index page, or simply use the [BACK] key.

Monday, 9 September 2019

Technology Index Page

A series of articles covering items of miscellaneous technology. Technology defined here as an item designed to do a specific job, whether manual, electric/electronic, articulated or otherwise.

Each article can be accessed by clicking / tapping the relevant photograph below. A link at the end of each article will return you to this page.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Record Players Index Page

A series of articles about record players from the 78 rpm era to the resurgence of vinyl as a major player in the reproduction of music.

Each article can be accessed by clicking / tapping on the photographs below. A link at the end of each article will bring you back to this page.

Please note that articles relating to jukeboxes can be found on the Coin Slot Machines Index Page