Thursday, 14 November 2019

Mediterranean Spirit Cruise on the Island Star, 5-12 July 2008

A series of articles describing our cruise around the Western Mediterranean with Island Cruises on their ship, the Island Star. Our Itinerary will be: Palma, Majorca > Day at Sea > Messina, Sicily > Naples, Italy > Livorno, Italy > Toulon, France > Barcelona, Spain > Palma, Majorca.

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

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Blackpool Steam and Transport Day, 1982

Sunday, 6 June 1982. We walked down to Blackpool Airport to the Steam and Transport day. Stand by for traction engines and fairground organs galore!

It wasn't the best of days as far as the weather was concerned, but the weather is never all that predictable in Blackpool anyway and can change ten times in as many minutes. The scene as we walked in alongside the steady stream of cars heading for the car parks.

Visiting the site today, you could be forgiven for wondering where all these fields were, but at the time the terminal building was a lot smaller and the hotel and pub restaurant were not even thought of, so there was a lot more space than there would be in later years.

Prospector up close and personal. This is the last surviving showman's engine built by Foden. Dating from 1910 it was built for W Shaw & Sons of Sheffield and toured all over Yorkshire, hauling fairground rides and providing their power until 1939 when it was sold to someone for preservation.

I can just about remember the last days of steam rollers, puffing away in the 1950s as hot tarmac was poured onto a road, followed by shovelfuls of grit, the resulting mixture then compressed by these leviathans to thin layers on top of previous layers to form a road. Feeling the earth shake as they went by and watching the hot steam rise from the newly-made surface. The clanking of chains and rollers as the steam roller was steered by the simple method of the steering wheel causing the chains at either side of the front roller to pull on one side of the axle whilst going slack on the other to allow it to swing. This is Cinderella - all these steam engines seemed to have a name as well as the registration (MB 5846) and a serial number (10906). It was made in 1924 by Aveling & Porter.

DH 2482 Goliath was a traction engine commissioned by the War Department in 1917 and delivered the year after to pull artillery guns to the front in World War I. Made by J & H McLaren with 3 gears, serial no. 1623. Used after the war as a showman's engine.

FA 2316 Dolphin the last showman's engine to be built by Charles Burrell & Sons Ltd at their Thetford factory in 1925. Serial no.4030, she had 3 gears and passed through several owners before becoming bogged down in a field and finally rescued for preservation.

A display of vintage motorcycles standing in a row.

An early (1920s?) Indian motorcycle from the famous American manufacturer. Unfortunately I've been unable to ascertain the exact model. Usually if a vehicle of this age is still in existence you can google the make and registration number and find out the required details, but in this case I drew a blank. If anyone knows more, please leave a comment.

An early motor scooter. I fared just as well with this as I did with the Indian above. There is a Mrs W.R. something or other that lives at No. 4820 of her road in Maine USA...

The other big draw to the day for me was the reason for this gathering of folks whose attention has been gathered so fully...

There was a good collection of fairground organs at the show!

Large ones, small ones, some with wooden flutes, some with metal pipes.

Almost all with animated figures. Some with percussive instruments like castanets all the way up to sets of drums and glockenspiels.

The largest of them had all of these things; full sets of both wooden and metal pipes and auxiliary instruments too.

I had taken a tape cassette recorder with me and still have a set of recordings made on this day of the different organs. Plus some of the sounds of the steam engines and noises of the fair. It was the start of an ongoing family joke, where I used to take a small cassette recorder on holiday and capture sounds of sea and events and family. I christened it Captain Slog from the Star Trek phrase: "Captain's Log..."

Return to Blackpool Attractions Index Page

Monday, 11 November 2019

Sketches from Outside the UK, Part 4

Continuing my series of articles about my sketches done on holidays abroad, here is another collection spanning the years 2013-2017.

The first is of one of my favourite ports of call on the French Riviera: Villefranche. We were cruising with friends for the first time and, having walked all the way around the bay, sat in a café for a coffee with a view of the sweep of the bay.

Later in the year we took another trip, visiting Rhodes which I sketched from a high viewpoint on the ship itself. I ignored all the modern buildings but included the medieval ones.

Somehow I skipped a year in 2014 - the trips we did mustn't have had enough free time or I just didn't have the muse (now where did I put my muse...?) or whatever. So we jump to 2015 and this one was done on our second trip with David and Jeannie, from Zorba's café bar on the Greek island of Mykonos.

The girl who served us was looking at the sketch as it developed so I took her email address and emailed a scan of it once we got back, getting a thank you email in return. I did this the same afternoon on the ship, looking at the photo I had taken on the tiny screen on the back of my camera.

Sitting on a corner of the harbour at Chania on the island of Crete, I sketched this scene. We took one of the glass-bottomed boats out to see the sea life just off a nearby small island.

In 2016 we went with our daughter and son-in-law and granddaughter to Disney World in Florida and stayed in the Caribbean Beach Resort. I did a few sketches there in the all-too-brief moments of calm and relaxation. Mainly with an early morning mug of coffee on the table in front of me.

Fish could be seen swimming below me and large birds with long bills and some white storks were flying or hopping about, looking for scraps left by those who opted to eat breakfast outside.

This was another view of the resort's lake, done on our last morning between breakfast and the time we were due to catch a bus to the airport to come home. A cheerleader came jogging round and said "That's really pretty!" as she passed. Someone else came along and stared at it before saying doubtfully, "Is that bit the water?"

This was done as we neared the end of the two-week stay. The weather was far hotter than we were used to and with two weeks of walking all day I lost half a stone over the holiday. This day I decided to just take the chance of a half-hour's sit down and sketched one of the shops in Walt Disney World. The chap next to me kept looking but didn't say anything. He nodded though. "Does it look anything like?" I asked eventually, a bit unnerved by his silent scrutiny. He tapped his ear. "Deaf!" he whispered...

I had done one of this carousel at the time in pencil, but wasn't too happy with it. Once we got home I did this one with coloured pencils.

After the hectic nature of the Florida holiday, when we joined the Thomson Celebration cruise ship later that year I was determined to have a more relaxing holiday. We joined the ship in Corfu and I did this from the Promenade Deck on Deck 9.

It was on this cruise that we first visited Santorini. We had done four previous cruises with this fabulous island on the itinerary but never before managed to get there. It is prone to cross winds that make it dangerous for ships to enter the lagoon in the centre of this once massive island. It is in fact a volcano and blew itself almost out of existence a mere 3,600 years ago, give or take a week or two. By legend this was the famed destruction of Atlantis.

Later in the week we visited Bodrum in Turkey. Formerly known as Halicarnassus it was the site of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World - the Mausoleum of Mausolus. He ruled here from 377 BCE and his tomb was so beautifully decorated that his name became synonymous for all above ground level tombs. It is not recorded how it was eventually destroyed, but by the time the Knights Templar of St John arrived in 1402 they were to record it as being in ruins. It had been standing apparently in the 1100s as it was mentioned by Eustathius in his commentary on The Iliad. Many of its stones were used in the building of the castle. The site of the mausoleum is known and can be visited - though at the time of our visit we didn't know that.

Another from that cruise in 2016. We revisited Chania in Crete and I chose a different part of the harbour to sketch.

In 2017 we took a cruise on Thomson Celebration once more, sailing from Newcastle for a two-week cruise visiting Norway, Iceland, and the Faroe and Shetland Isles. This is Stavanger old town in Norway, as seen from the warmth of a lounge window on the ship. We were docked quite close!

Isafjord (Isafjordur in Icelandic) is down a fjord on the north west coast of Iceland that juts out from the corner of the mainland. This was drawn from the Celebration's coffee shop on Deck 5.

Once more in Norway, later towards the end of the cruise, this is Bergen.

Later the same day, once again from the comfort of the ship as we waited to sail away with just one last port of call to make before sailing back down the North Sea to Newcastle.

Our second cruise in 2017 took us up the Adriatic Sea and I spent a couple of hours sitting at the far end of the port of Dubrovnik, ignoring most of the many boats and ships in the harbour, but including the Thomson Dream on which we were sailing and the Karaka a wooden sailing ship. By the time of our next cruise the following year the name Thomson would have gone and the fleet of ships rebranded as Marella.

Return to Sketching and Artwork Index

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Ancient Roman Amphitheatres

A look at some of the Roman amphitheatres that we have had the privilege of seeing during the course of holidays over the years.

We start in Sagunto, Spain. It sits near the coastal port of Valencia. The shocking thing about this particular Roman amphitheatre was that the locals had rebuilt it. Not particularly to look exactly as the Roman original would have done...

"Ah, well, it is illegal of course," our guide told us. "The architects have been told to dismantle all the restoration work next January..." Well that was 2007 and I believe it still looks this way. Sometimes I feel that a bit of restoration wouldn't go amiss to give the vistor an idea of what it may have been like in its heyday. But restoration is the key - not a modern brick wall just stuck onto a few original stones.

Taormina in Sicily. Equally as spectacular for the view along the coast to Mount Etna, which was puffing smoke out at the time.

It is described as a Greek amphitheatre, but is built mainly in brick which suggests that the Romans built over an earlier Greek theatre. Here the back wall of the stage is original - and a very rare thing.

Verona, Italy. This arena held 30,000 spectators in Roman times, though the current set-up with the stage area has reduced this to 15,000 for current visitors who go to watch opera more than death and destruction. Oh... no wait a bit... The yellow finger points out Miss Franny who decided she wasn't climbing all the way up just to watch me take a picture...

Here we went into the arena where the rocky ceiling above us shows how sophisticated the construction was in the days when lions rather than the odd off-key note brought about the death and mayhem.

The Coliseum (or Colosseum) of Rome, built 70-80 AD and the largest Roman amphitheatre in the world. It could hold between 50,000 and 80,000 people and was the site of games, gladiatorial combat, executions and re-enactments of Roman battles (complete with actual slaughter...).

It is one of the most instantly recognised of any building on the planet and receives millions of visitors every year. Unfortunately the one-day tour we were on during a cruise didn't have time to go inside.

The Great Theatre of Ephesus in Turkey was first constructed in the Hellenistic Period, in the third century BC during the reign of Lysimachos. Once the Romans arrived it was enlarged and formed its current style as seen today. It seats 25,000. The Apostles St John and St Paul both preached here, sparking off the Riot of the Silversmiths, who made their living making and selling silver representations of their goddess Artemis. The ruins of her temple, one of the original Seven Wonders of the World, lie scattered across a field a short distance away.

The amphitheatre of Segesta, Sicily. The back wall of the stage is completely gone and the result is an amazing view for miles with the sea flowing into a bay on the horizon and the road from Trapani to Palermo, snaking in an elegant S-bend whilst elevated from the ground on pillars.

Miletus is not far from Ephesus in Turkey and was a major trading city in ancient times. This was where goods from Asia were bought and from where the great caravans set out south and west across the Holy Land and Greece then west to Italy and Western Europe. The theatre held a crowd of 15,000 spectators.

The four columns would have supported a canopy for the rich folks to keep dry and be sheltered from the sun and flying limbs from defeated gladiators.

Once again in Turkey, this is the amphitheatre at Side (pronounced "see-day"). We approached from round the back and then found we couldn't get in because they only accepted Turkish Lira and I was carrying Euros which were ok in most of the shops. They also didn't take credit cards. However as we walked on, we found the ruins of a Temple to Dionysus (the Greek equivalent to the Roman Bacchus - the drink-loving god) and once past that we turned to see a perfect view of both the temple remains and amphitheatre. Again it held 15,000 spectators.