Friday, 30 September 2016

At Loggerheads on Kefalonia

Thursday 15 September 2016. It's another tender boat day today for our last day before flying back to England. We have breakfast and head up to the Medusa Lounge to pick up tickets for the tender boats.

We are in Kefalonia. Thomson Dream is moored in a lagoon and being ferried by tender boat to Argostoli. A steep zig-zag road with hairpin bends climbs the mountain on the opposite side of the lagoon.

Once again we have forsaken the organised tours for getting off and hoofing it. Though one of tours was intriguing as it visited an underground lake at Melissani.

However Argostoli had its own surprise in store for us as we walk alongside the moored boats and find a huge loggerhead turtle swimming happily towards us!

He wasn't on his own. All the way along the side of the lagoon groups of people are stopping to watch and take photos of the turtles. In 2013 a scientific study counted 27 individual turtles. Nothing keeps them here, they are here because they want to be.

Carrying on down the edge of the lagoon we come to a massive market stall loaded down with fresh vegetables and fruit.

Ah... and I'll just check up on my flower shop... Anyone who knows me will know I can't tell a tulip from a sunflower...

I am a bit too late to get a decent shot of the road train passing out of sight, but the church makes a lovely sight on its own.

The bridge across the lagoon, splitting it into two. The half that Thomson Dream is moored in leads out to the Aegean Sea and the side to our right in this photo leads to the Ionian Sea.

Cafe bars stretch along the water's edge, smiling staff asking if it's time for a coffee or drink. I'm standing on the bridge taking this photo when out of the corner of my eye I see something thrown into the water and an instant commotion around it.

A shoal of fish is excited at the unexpected snack!

Walking down I had said a casual "Maybe later..." to a young lady at one cafe. Walking back she said "Is it later now?" and ... why not? Our lagoon-side table is visited by a passing turtle!

Miss Franny points him out as he makes another pass.

Refreshed and feet rested, we turn away from the lagoon to have a look around the town. A short narrow street leads to a marble-paved modern shopping street. It is a long street, but kept traffic free and we wander along the entire length and back again.

Down a little square off the street is a 1964 Ford Taunus, the equivalent to the UK's Ford Cortina MkII.

The back end reminds me very much of Dad's Ford Zephyr 6 Mk IV, which was this very same colour!

It's 25 minutes to twelve and 29 degrees centigrade. Warm, but not too warm. We decide to have lunch off the boat to give us more time to look around. We buy some postcards and magnets to weight the fridge down - so annoying when it floats off... and Miss Franny buys some sandals.

We head back to the same cafe bar we had a drink at and have some lunch, but the waiters are making mistakes and the owner is in a bit of a mood, shouting at them, so it takes the edge off it a bit. There are the same groups of turtle watchers along the side of the lagoon.

The fish too are still swimming up and down, hopeful of a few treats being thrown in.

Palm nuts, growing on one of a row of trees planted alongside the lagoon.

There is a queue for the tenders and we walk past to see what there might be along the lagoon if we walk the other way. There isn't a lot... A small car ferry sets off with a small number of cars that have reversed on, so they can just drive off without any manoeuvring. Looking back it looks like the queue for the tender boats has shrunk considerably and we set off back and wait to board a boat back to the ship.

We had eaten every night in the Orion Restaurant on Deck 4, which gave us waiter service. We had stuck with the same waitering team that we started with last Friday and since the Monday evening our Assistant Waiter, Jayson, was waiting by the door as the restaurant opened to take Miss Franny's arm and lead her towards our table. Many nights we would find Pauline and Brian seated on the next table and with just a small partition between us we were soon chatting to them as our meals progressed from course to course.

And it's our last night aboard for this time, so time to scoot up to the Waters' Edge Bar and listen to 2 Intense, Tomas and Maris.

With Ben playing we have not been able to chat to them between their sets unless we lost our seats and went somewhere else. Tonight after their last set we head off to the Lido Restaurant which is very quiet by now (it's gone midnight).

We spend another hour with them then regretfully have to finish the last bits of packing in order to leave our cases outside the cabin by 1:30 am, from where they will be taken off the ship when it docks at Corfu in the morning and arranged so we can just find them and put them onto a coach for the airport in the morning.

We'll meet again...

Iconic Islands Index

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Loving Chania

Wednesday 14 September 2016. We are in Crete today, in the wonderful town of Chania (the locals pronounce it as though the 'C' is not there).

The town is a four mile (6km) bus ride from the port and this costs Euro 1.70 each way per person. We fell in love with this place on our last visit with David and Jeannie in 2015. This time on the bus from the port someone asks if anyone has ever been here before. We say yes and when asked, we tell them how to get to the harbour but once we get off the bus they follow everyone else instead and on the way back we hear people saying "I thought there was a harbour...?"

The harbour is a few streets' walk from the bus drop-off but is well worth finding. It has a large three-sided basin, with a further basin off to one side and this is where we are sitting as I take this photograph. The fisherman has a couple of lines out and catches the occasional fish. I'd have called them tiddlers really - he'd need a big plate of chips if he was to have a decent dinner from them...

Opposite us is the deserted harbour wall or mole, with a lighthouse built in 1824-1832 on the base of a previous Venetian lighthouse. The region was under the rule of Venice from 1252 more or less continuously until the Ottomans took over in 1645. Chania has deeper roots than these however, as a Minoan city is buried beneath it. This was called Kydonia and lasted roughly 1000 years until the Romans came in 69 BC.

We sat for a while and I got out the sketch pad. The sun beat down and we were a little exposed where we were - there were no trees or other shade and we got extremely warm!

As we sat, two groups of riders on the ship's mountain bikes came past us. The easy tour, free-wheeling and taking their time. The more athletic group whizzing through in a blur of pedals and sweat and determination...

We were in dire need of a drink after sitting in the direct sun for an hour and my Coke came complete with its own mini-bar equipment and accessories! As we sat cooling down and enjoying our drinks a couple of familiar faces from the ship came past. Alan and Pat, both in their 80s, a lovely couple who never failed to get up and dance to Tomas and Maris each night in the Water's Edge bar.

"Did I see you drawing?" he asked as he passed. I showed him the sketch and we talked about it for a few minutes before they moved on.

Fran wanted to buy some sandals for both herself and for Miss Jeannie, back home. Sizes seemed to be a problem. As a consequence we spent more time in the shopping streets than we did on the harbour, but it was a pleasant day and we found once again how the shopkeepers were willing to search cheerfully high and low for exactly the item required.

At one shop a very attractive lady had just started to talk to us when another girl came in and slapped her on the shoulder before passing into the shop without a word. Almost staggering, she laughed at my surprise and said "My Bestie!" "Do all your friends hit you?" I asked, tapping her lightly on the arm. "Ooh! Thank you!" she said. "Ask if she's got these in a size 6..." came a tolerantly amused voice on my other side...

Singer/guitarist Ben Moss who took turn and turn about sets with Tomas and Maris each night. We remembered him as a shy 18-year-old on the Thomson Celebration four years ago. He's maturing into a great and confident artist.

Though once again tonight someone else is up on stage... Everybody does The Shadows for a guitar instrumental, but I like to be a bit different and play a Bert Weedon track which lets me talk about Bert's book Play In A Day. It gave so many famous guitarists a kick start to playing. I almost got it right too... I followed it with an audience participation sing-along - Billy Fury's Halfway To Paradise.

Iconic Islands Index

Monday, 26 September 2016

A Return To Rhodes

Tuesday 13 September 2016. Thomson Dream diverts to Rhodes for the day. We had been scheduled to spend the day at Syros, Turkey, but the wind was a bit too much for the single tugboat at Syros to bring us safely to dock. Our captain took the decision to divert and, as we love Rhodes, we are not too disappointed.

So we can pile off the ship happy that we will be able to wander round without getting lost. Moored opposite us on the narrow jetty is Costa Riviera. We exit the port by a different gate than we have been used to and walk along the coastal road towards the city.

The Marine Gate was the main entrance to the city. It has reliefs of St John and St Paul and the Virgin Mary. We decide to carry on walking around the coast road though.

Some of these boats are shops. Racks of shelves on the back swing open like doors to double the width of the ship and they sell goods made of shells and sea sponges and loofahs.

There is a small fortress on the corner of a dog's leg on the coast. It gave command of the approaches to Rhodes from the sea and withstood sieges from the Ottoman Turks.

It was the entrance to the city used by St Paul on his travels once he left the Holy Land. The bridge to the fortress is still known as St Paul's Bridge. From here the coastal path leads to the old harbour, now more a marina for private and fishing hire boats.

The two columns are said to be sited where the legs of the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the World once held up the mighty statue, so large that ships could pass between his legs without their masts bringing tears to his eyes...

We have a rest on a bench before heading into the town itself. We walk back, retracing our steps for a little while before entering the city here, on a path we aren't too familiar with.

We find ourselves walking round the main fortress in a part of Rhodes we haven't seen before.

The castle was the stronghold of the Knights Hospitallers, who moved to Rhodes following the loss of Jerusalem to the Saracens. The fortress is huge and it's a fair walk around the massive walls.

It is very hot. Small lizards bask on the warm stones, but scurry away as we approach. The dry moat that we are walking round is a perfect killing ground. Cannon embrasures are angled to cover the approaches from either side.

We are approaching the town and I start to recognise bits of wall towering above us that we have walked on top of on previous visits. We pass under the arch into the castle outer bailey and then through a tunnel under the main gate. You can see a couple in the distance on the left about to pass through the tunnel. Look for two grey dots (I did say they were in the distance) between the tree and the woman in the red top under the shadow of the arch. It is dark in the tunnel but not so dark that I fail to spot the large square murder holes in the ceiling. Hot oil or rocks could be dropped down these onto the heads of any invaders.

We come onto streets that we had trod before. Maris had told us to look out for a cafe called the Blue Lagoon near the castle. We would know it because there was a parrot in a cage near it. This one is called Mama Mika but it fits all the other criteria and the under tablecloth had a blue design of fish and shells so we wonder whether it had changed names. Our drinks come in glass wellington boots that are quite heavy!

There is no shortage of cafe bars in Rhodes! They line the streets everywhere. We take a turning from the main street and again find ourselves exploring new territory.

And then back to the main street leading down towards the ruined cathedral and the Marine Gate.

Pottery, dresses, jewellery, carpets, wall plaques are just some of the goods on offer. The cafe owners will quite happily watch you turn down half a dozen invites from cafe bars further up the road. Each time you refuse one of their neighbours makes them more convinced you are waiting until you reach their cafe bar...

We make our way back to the port. We walk past the gate where we usually had left and entered and reach the gate where we came out this morning. Which is locked... Back to the usual gate then! There is some restoration work going on to the old windmills and walls of the docks.

Iconic Islands Index