Funny that even though retired, I still regard July and August as holidays so getting away in September is like an extended holiday season. And September 2018 has certainly been busy.
TASTE OF WEST CORK
I started with a few days at the Taste of West Cork Festival – following good advice booked into a “nice” hotel: Liss Ard House just outside Skibbereen where everyday started with a delicious breakfast and finished with drinks and chat in the drawing-room.
Taking everything at a very leisurely pace I savoured the fairy and ghost stories of the area in Killeena House just outside Baltimore, with a gorgeous fish lunch overlooking Sherkin.
I followed Michael Collins’ eventful last journey to Béal na Bláth as well as taking in his home place and other places relevant to his history starting with a wonderful lecture on his life.
I shared a wonderful evening with in-laws in the Church Restaurant in Skib. Finally spent a morning in Glandore exploring perfume making using natural ingredients, coming away with many samples including “an elixir of youth” which claims to “take years off any face”!!!!!!!
BOOT CAMP WITH NATALYA BRASHOVETSKA
I returned just in time to attend a four-day Boot Making Workshop in Kilteele. I ended up with the dearest pair of boots I’ll probably ever own but it was thoroughly enjoyable. The felt makers are a great group and Natalya was excellent – sharing her many tips and also a lot of labour so that all projects were completed in the allotted time. Hard work!!!!
Boots awaiting soles
CRUISING THE ADRIATIC
DAY 1 VENICE and welcome aboard!
We set off for Venice on the 22nd transferring from Marco Polo Airport to the cruise ship – oh boy! was embarkation a lengthy process: to guarantee safety for the cruise passport checks, bag checks, photo for IDs cards, luggage collection. Eventually we got to our cabin which was huge (think mobility issues helped with assigning!!!) and it was great to sit on balcony and see all the sights as we left Venice.
DAY 2 Bari
Before disembarking in Bari, we had compulsory Emergency Drill to which of course we forgot to bring our life jackets!!!! Then we made our first use of the Shuttle bus system to bring us into the old town of Bari.
We had decided to give the organised excursions a miss and we took a little train through the old town (Bari Vecchia) where we visited the Basilica of St Nicholas (Santa Claus, Bari’s patron saint. The tasting of local produce (which I missed) was a bit over-rated.
I hadn’t realized the Normans had made their way so far south but we saw the 12th century Castello Normanno-Svevo before a glass of vino and back to the ship!!!
Tonight was our first Gala evening on the ship so we put on our finery and off to the restaurant. We had changed to First Sitting and as we were quite close to the kitchen our food was piping hot ( it had been a bit disappointing last night). Also the wine list had been improved – all making for a lovely evening! Ending up in the Zebra Bar
DAY 3 Katakolon (MOUNT OLYMPUS)
Overnight we crossed the Ionian Sea and were able to view from the balcony some of the Greek Islands before arriving in Katakolon. Again we decided to give official excursions a miss and proceeded to the taxi rank where we met 2 other travelers of like minds and we shared a taxi with them to Olympus. The heat there was unbelievable and luckily we able to hire a horse and carriage for a trip around the ancient site, this time-sharing with a very loud but funny Portuguese group who were convinced the Irish were very wealthy!!!! We were lucky to get back to the taxi in time but glad to have seen Temple of Zeus, the Hippodrome and the Stadium. It’s a UNESCO site and worth even the short visit. Our taxi driver returned us to the town (again at breakneck speed and with NO regard or road signs) where we had some retail therapy followed by ice cream!
DAY 4 Mykonos
Today we had our first experience with “Disembarkation by tender” procedures. The little port of Mykonos was lovely, quite like a fishing village and we both explored at our own rate(!!!!). I stayed pretty close to the port, paddling in the sea, sunning myself on beach and some “linen” shopping with a group of American ladies.
Seemingly the town was designed to confuse invaders and thwart pirate attack with its layout and it certainly flummoxed some of us who were lucky to get back to port for return to ship. This proved to be a pretty painful process as we all arrived at the port together and had to queue for tenders, many of our fellow travelers having no concept of THE QUEUE. I had to avail of the “free sea sickness tablet scheme this evening as the ind rose and the sea got pretty rough! And the captain informed us that due to stormy conditions the port of Piraeus was to be closed for a few days and we would now be sailing to Nafplion(?????) The sea was very choppy during the night with howling gales – thank God the pills worked and I slept like a log!!!
DAY 5 Nafplion
Tenders again today to get into the town of Nafplion, passing the Bourtzi.
A Bourtzi is a fortified islet. The Bourtzi in Nafplion was built by the Venetians in 1473 and protected the entrance to the harbor from Pirates. In the 19th century this is where the executioners for the prison at the Palamidi fortress lived since it was bad luck to have them live in the city itself. We could have taken a taxi to the top of the Palamidi fortress but thought the only access was the hundreds of steps!!!! After a short spell ashore we hit back for the tenders before the crowds. We also wanted to be sorted ‘style-wise’ for the 2nd gala night!!!
DAY 6 Saranda
Saranda on the Albanian Riviera was our port of call today. We had no plans for the visit but were met at the entrance to the port by a taxi driver who showed us the sights available – 4 postcards.
By luck rather than design! we picked the Butrinti ruins. Amazing! And no wonder they are a UNESCO site. We strolled around at our leisure through the ruins of a number of successive civilizations and supported some local artisans by buying knickknacks. Once again we got our driver to drop us back to the town for some shopping and eating before embarkation. It proved very difficult to find a restaurant that served food – “sorry only drinks!!!” We eventually found a little jewel where it was suggested we have a local dish. We think it might have been a stew veal ( an animal that mooed!) washed down with a FULL glass of local wine! A walk along the sea front market indicated the great poverty in this country and we purchased some bits and bobs just to add to the weight in the cases and support the local economy!!!!!
DAY 7 Dubrovnik
As we are both Game of Thrones fans we had to come ashore today in Dubrovnik. (I think it might be the setting for the fictional capital of Westeros????).
We came in through the Pile Gate and visited the Franciscan Monastery. I strayed a wee bit up the Stradun (main Street) but friend went as far as San Blaise Church and had her throat blessed! We found a lovely alleyway restaurant and had the most delicious shrimp risotto. We did some quick packing on our return to the ship before the farewell dinner. Our cases had to be out before 1am for collection.
DAY 8 BACK TO Venice
We had an early start this morning and our first sit down breakfast of the cruise – we had availed of the buffet breakfast up to this. There was massive confusion on disembarkation about water taxis, water buses, shuttle buses and the usual difficulties with queues. Eventually we landed on the quay side in Venice and hired a porter to take us the Scandinavia Hotel for our stay here! We took a ramble to get our bearings and find a Trattore for dinner – no dressing up tonight.
We found an amazing seafood restaurant whose owner remembered the Ireland/Italy game of the 90s and their hero Scillachi. Our hotel was situated quite centrally on the Campo S. Maria Formosa and we sat out well into the night (once we fetched our jackets!!!) with an Irish/Scottish/N Ireland group.
DAY 9 Murano and Burano
Murano and Burano were on the cards for today. The islands are gorgeous and well worth a visit: Murano to see the glass works and Burano for its (very expensive) lace.
The water buses are filled to capacity and beyond but as long as you ignore the aspects of safety AND you get a seat, the trip out through the lagoon is lovely.
While it was getting late when we got back, we had to see the Bridge of Sighs, The Doge Palace and St Marks and take a few photos. We made a return visit to our Trattore before back to hotel.