Kildare Retirees in Slovenia

Another great Kildare Retired Teachers trip – my first one abroad – and it lived up to all expectations.

Even the Ryanair delay in Dublin airport followed by a “mirror of Naas bypass” between Treviso and Trieste couldn’t dampen the spirits of the Kildare retirees.   Following check-in  in  Ljubljana’s  City Hotel, we  took off in packs to find late dinners. It’s quite a small city so we had the geography of the place almost before bed.

Day 1

We started with a walking tour of the city with Yuri our Slovenian guide, taking in the highlights, the many bridges  that cross the Ljubljanica River- the Dragon bridge, the Triple Bridge,

The Triple Bridge

Building decorated in Slovenian colours

the Cobblers’ Bridge, the Fountain of the Three Rivers outside the Mestna Hisa (Town Hall) and finishing with a cable car ride to Ljubljana Castle which dominates the skyline of the city.

Posing on the Triple Bridge with Franciscan Church behind
Ljubljana Castle

The group broke up  then for an afternoon of leisure. Leisure my eye!!!! Our crowd found a lovely place in the Market Square for lunch before dashing off to the Urban Train (a little electric train that took us around the city again to see some of the morning’s missed sights – Plecnik’s (the architect of Ljubljana) House, the Tivoli Gardens, some theatres and churches.

The Embankment

The river is the landmark in the city and so a group of us took a river ride  and it was amazing to see the embankment and hear the many interesting stories of the past. Plecnik designed most of the city with great thought – the willows along the banks were sown as swings for the youngsters to launch themselves into the water as well as to mimic the women who came down to the river’s edge to wash clothes; a cage hung from beside the Cobblers’ Bridge to dunk cheating bakers; Emperor Franz Josef paid for the Dragon bridge so that his Eagle emblems could be displayed, instead the Mayor had 4 copper dragons, the symbols of Slovenia, sneaked in.

Day 2

What a lovely surprise this morning – clear blue skies although a storm had been forecast!!! An early start (really hearty buffet breakfast in hotel) as we headed off to the Postonja Caves, reputedly, Europe’s most spectacular caves, 12 miles of chambers and tunnels.

Related image
path through Postojna Caves

Luckily, it can be viewed from a subterranean railway that swerves through the stalactites like a fairground ride with passengers ducking at times to avoid overhanging rocks. One could exit the train for an hour’s walk through some of the chambers; however a few of us decided to carry on by train and relax with ice cream by the Pivka river.

We had time for a  little retail therapy before boarding the bus for the Adriatic coastal town of Piran.  A free shuttle service was available to take us into the centre of the town where there was a market square (Tartinijev trg after the local born violinist and composer Tartini – another famous Slovenian I had never heard of) and lovely restaurants along the sea front for a well-earned lunch. Piran was quite a wealthy little town, its wealth based on the salt produced here. Now it is more a fishing or seaside village.

Vinekoper in Koper was our next port of call. This celler owns most of the vineyards in Slovenia and specialises in a wide range of wines.   My favourites, Refosk was available to “taste” and purchase. There’ll be a few of us checking out O’Brien’s and Aldi and Lidl for Slovenian wines after this!

Our crowd went down the town tonight for dinner – lovely restaurant beside the river where suckling pig (my choice) and veal were served with roast potatoes (unavailable last night!!!) and veg.

Day 3

The mountains beckoned today – another early start and another glorious morning as we headed first for Lake Bojin, the largest lake in Slovinia. The cable car ride to Mount Vogel gave us spectacular views of the lakes and rivers.

Sitting out in the wooden chalet type restaurant brought the story of Heidi or the Sound of Music to mind. Vogel is a ski resort and there was still some snow with many Alpine flowers peeping through to add to the picture card effect.

Church on island in Lake Bled

Back to the bus for our trip to Lake Bled with its fairy tale scenery – an island church in the middle of the lake which can only be reached by traditional canopied rowing boats, and a castle located on a sheer cliff overlooking the lake and Tito’s palace at the boat jetty (now a hotel).

Tito’s palace

It was well-worth the efforts of climbing the 99 steps to the Church of the Assumption to ring the Wishing Bell inside. The climb to the Castle was more demanding with its uneven surface and extremely steep incline. But there were many helping hands and almost all the crew made it to the courtyard.

Lunch by the lake shore before hitting back to Ljubljana was well earned.

Day 4

We may have wondered why an umbrella hung in every room in the hotel – today we wondered no more – the rain was bucketing down from early morning. Luckily today we were left to our own devices and many chose indoor activities – shopping, galleries, museums. The Emporium (a Kildare Village lookalike including prices) was a favourite. But we thought a Blanchardstown look alike would suit our purses better and it was only a taxi ride away. The weather cleared somewhat in the afternoon allowing for some more outdoor sightseeing.

Image result for sokol restaurant ljubljana

Rena ( and helpers) sussed out a local restaurant Sokol (the Eagle) for our group tonight – lovely meal followed by a sing song. Great way to end the holiday!


A great few days – lots of laughs and stories – however “what happens on tour stays on tour” is a good motto for a blog and there were many funny incidents that will not be recounted here. Our guide Yuri was excellent. The hotel was clean and friendly and located centrally which is a big plus. Food was good but different – Slovenians don’t seem to eat at night and many places were closed by eleven. Everyone noted the cleanliness of the city and the good manners of its occupants. Those who visited the churches were impressed with the respect and participation in the services and reported the most beautiful music. Slovenian wine was excellent and very cheap. The city centre is “car-free” and that certainly lends to the calmness. Small electric bus/cars are available free, originally designed for the elderly but now used by anyone.  Otherwise you cycle or walk.

Well done Rena – where are you going to bring us next year???

The Blue Panther

So many great memories of summers of fun and excitement – our heroes in blue. and now the poignancy of remembering one of the Dub’s greatest players and one of their most stalwart fans – both gone.

It was really sad to read this week about the passing of Anton O’Toole at the age of 68. This marks the first death among one of the most famous teams in GAA history.
Anton, or the Blue Panther as he was affectionately known by many supporters, won eight Leinster SFC medals – six in-a-row from 1974 to ‘79 as well as in 1983 and ‘84.

Jim was one of his greatest fans and one of the songs of the period – Fourteen on fourteen was off – was among Jim’s repertoire of party pieces.

Derek Warfield of Wolfe Tones fame penned the song following Dublin’s victory over Offaly in the 1979 Leinster football final. Despite Dublin player Jimmy Keaveny getting his marching orders, ‘the Dubs’ famously went on to claim victory with only Fourteen Men.

Am) And there was fourteen on fourteen was off,
(G) Jimmy on the sideline havin a gawk,
(Am) Heffo and the boys were working out a plan,
How to beat the Offaly lads (G) without the extra (Am) man.

On hill 16 they never gave up hope,
Without Jimmy Keavney the man they call the pope,
The last six minutes the hill was going mad,
While Offaly in the Hogan, they were looking very sad.

In the second half, Dublin should be proud,
They put it in the net twice to get the goal allowed,
The dubs may come, and dubs may go,
while history was made six lenister’s in a row.

And then came the goal, it came from centre-field,
Briany fists a tall ball down to Pat O’Neill,
Anton O’Toole’s pass I never will forget,
Bernard Brogan kicked a bomber, it landed in the net.

Heffo’s Army/The Jacks are Back written by Mick Swan and Daire Doyle (who also wrote Gallipoli for the Fureys) is another Dubs’ fan song of the time. It was a massive hit when released in the 1970’s, especially around Dublin. Interesting to listen to commentator Michael O’Hare through the song on You Tube.

The Jacks are back the Jacks are back, ok
Oh the Dubs are back the Dubs are back
Like the railway in ko-barmey ? I KNOW we used to sing “Let the Railway end go Barmy”
‘Cause hill 16 has never seen the likes
of Heffo’s Army.

We’ll be marching down from Ringsend,
And from Ballyfermot too.
From Eastwall and Marino,
To support the boys in Blue.
For 11 years we’ve waited
and there’s nothing left to prove
So lets here it now from Dublin
Heffo’s army’s on the loose.

The Jacks are back the Jacks are back, ok

The Jacks are back the Jacks are back, ok
Oh the Dubs are back the Dubs are back
“Let the Railway end go Barmy”
‘Cause hill 16 has never seen the likes
of Heffo’s Army.

We came marching out of Leinster,
But no one thought we would.
Then we smashed the mighty champions
When they said we never could.
For 11 years we’ve waited,
Now there’s nothing left to prove,
So let’s hear it now for Dublin
Heffo’s army’s on the loose.

The Jacks are back the Jacks are back, ok

Oh the Dubs are back the Dubs are back
“Let the Railway end go Barmy”
‘Cause hill 16 has never seen the likes
of Heffo’s Army.

So here’s to Heffo’s army
And to all the boys in Blue
When the odds were stacked against them
They knew just what to do
So let’s stay right behind them
Keep them on the winning track
With a mighty roar from Croker
Let them know the Jacks are back

Oh! the Dubs are back the Dubs are back
“Let the Railway end go Barmy”
‘Cause hill 16 has never seen the likes
of Heffo’s Army.

Western Med: Days 3-5 ITALY


It was lovely to wake up to sun and sea and our view from the balcony was stunning as we sailed into Genoa, the birthplace of Christopher Columbus. No BIG BUS or open Top Bus for us! Instead we got a lovely taxi driver who brought us on our own personal tour of the city stopping at the Palazzo San Giorgio, Piazza de Ferrari, the San Lorenzo Cathedral.

Sitting on the back garden wall of Christopher’s house

The piece de resistance of course was Columbus’ house, situated in the old town beside the Soprano (upper) gate.

Fiona took off on her own today while I sat by the pool with kindle – soaking in the rays. As most of the passengers were ashore (gone to Pisa or Florence which were ours away!) it was peaceful to just lie and relax!
Our only regret is that we didn’t realize that a short train ride would have taken us to Cinque Terre (Five Lands) a breathtaking stretch of Italian coastline. It’s named for its 5 villages which are wedged into a series of coves between sheer cliffs.
Fiona bought me the guide book – so perhaps a return visit will be in order sometime! And what about La Spezia – she got the LITTLE TRAIN and passed the Castle of St George she thinks! Rather under-impressed I think!
Rumba classes by the pool were a bit loud for our liking so we moved to pool at back of ship (aft I think it’s called!!!) and sun soaked some more.

This is one of the largest ports in Italy. The name means “ancient town”. We decided today to the “Rome on Your Own Tour” on our own. So we partnered up with a couple from Australia and a brother and sister and their 2 kids from Latvia and hired “an English speaking Taxi” to take us to Rome. To guarantee that we would be returned to the ship, payment was promised at end of trip. A brochure showed us the sites we would visit.
The English-Speaking-Taxi consisted of a lovely driver with about 3 English words and a CD that was played during the drive about the sites of Rome. Price was agreed and off we hit for the Eternal City.

Over Looking the City of Rome

What a trip … it was like having our very own chauffeur who dropped us at the entrance to all the more important sites – parking and traffic meant little to him as long as he got us to the entrances.

St Peter’s Square

A visit to St Peter’s Square was a must – some of the more able- got up to and into the Vatican for a few minutes – I just enjoyed being in the square and seeing the famous Basilica, watching my bag as there are pick-pockets and street sellers everywhere. Our second stop was to the Pantheon, again right to the door. Long queues that moved quite quickly allowed a view inside.

Vitoriana Monument

We stopped in the middle of a very busy roundabout to visit the Vittoriano , a colossal mountain of white marble , modern by Roman standards as it was built at the turn of the 20th century to honour Italy’s first king. Since 1920 It encompasses the tour of the Unknown Soldier.

The Coliseum was our next port of call before the Trevi “three coins in a “ Fountain. The place was mobbed and we were lucky to be able to get a photo without half of Italy in it!!!! Some time for retail also and a quick cup of coffee before the return trip to the boat. It was an excellent trip and for those who don’t/can’t walk about much THE ONLY WAY TO DO ROME.
Almost last onto the boat!!!!!
Lovely dinner (well I thought so but then I’m not too fussy and a show – Songs of Tina Turner. One of our many losses tonight – mobile phone – but luckily handed into reception and it was retrieved in the early hours of the morning!!!! Another story for the dinner tomorrow!

WESTERN MED Days 6-8 France and Spain

Was in Cannes a few years ago and it was lovely to return – we knew exactly where we wanted to go – the main shopping street.
The place was gearing up for the Festival and the place is just as glitzy as I remember. We spent a lovely afternoon shopping and eating gateaux.

Image result for macaroons

Russell headed for the mountains while Indu and Brian hit off along the coast to Monte Carlo so we had great exchange of stories over dinner.
Did some ship shopping tonight only to have it forgotten with a jacket in the bar!!!! Hoping that we’ll be as lucky as last night and someone will hand in the lost items!!! Our dinner crowd will never believe this!

Hard to believe that after 43 years I return to the site of my honeymoon. We landed in Palma before hitting off into the wilds of the island to a very under-developed ‘resort’ called Alcudia. Alcudia now is like Palma – row upon row of hotels and shops along the beach front and stretching back into the slopes of the mountains. There was a promise of good weather for the day and departure from Palma was late, we decided to spend the morning by the pool. Times like this when you return to a place from your past, you have to wonder where time goes?????

Palma de Mallorca

By the time we went ashore for the shuttle bus to city centre / Cathedral there was a deluge. We just got back on the shuttle and returned to port.
But what a story for dinner – as we tried to explain how someone, thinking they were in Barcelona. decided against visiting the great gothic cathedral as “ they had already seen it”! At least my reason of “weather, climb, distance, mobility” were understandable!

This is NOT Barcelona!

Some fond/nostalgic memories of my only previous trip here: my honeymoon. Weddings now are so different and the expectations are so high. We were married in my Parish church in Walkinstown, our reception was the Sports Hotel, Enniskerry- within easy driving distance for all guests- early departure from reception for bride and groom: it was almost “mandatory” to leave to allow guests to go home!!!! Now weddings are two and three day affairs. We had scraped together the money to go “abroad” and got a special in Alcudia, Mallorca. NO WONDER – it was like a building site: our apartment block was the only completed building in the resort! But the beach was great, the weather wonderful, food different, we hired a car and went to the Caves, life was good – we were young and in love!!!


Bags had to be outside cabin at midnight to be brought ashore. We had our last “hearty” breakfast at the buffet before disembarkation at 9.30. As flight was not till late we decided to send bags ahead to airport and spend the day in Barcelona. We had both been here before and opted for a ramble on Las Ramblas with some retail and refreshments rather than sightseeing. Cities now are so alike re shops; I think they call cosmopolitan!!! Yet it’s amazing that “foreign” branches of home stores still hold an attraction – probably stocking different goods to the ones at home and purchasing will be done?

Great to see the mime artists, the local craftspeople, flower stalls, street-side bars and the new pavement mosaic in the centre of Las Ramblas designed by Barcelona-born artist Joan Miro – the spot where 2017 tragedy occurred, a poignant reminder of how quickly tragedy can strike.

It took us the day to walk the 1.2 km of La Rambla from the Christopher Columbus statue to the Placa de Cataluya where we discovered a gorgeous Spanish restaurant. Taxi back to airport for return flight; a

Western Med DAY 2 Azaccio

After a hearty breakfast in The Marketplace – an all day buffet of every type of food you could want from fast food to carvery, Chinese to Italian, starter to dessert. We spotted “our” LITTLE TRAIN from the balcony and so knew exactly where to head for when ashore.

We spotted the Little Train

I’m a big fan of traveling through a city and not having to walk or drive, stopping at some of the important attractions and having a roadside coffee. All at an easy pace! The Little |Train offered two types of trip – long and short – and we chose the longer route and had to haggle seriously to get places when eventually the particular train arrived.


The town is famous as the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte who was born here in 1769 and there are few places that do not pay testament to his life – his home, where he was christened, where his brothers lived, etc. Other landmarks such as the Citadel are a memorial to the many wars fought here. Ajaccio was the first French city liberated from the Nazis at the end of
WW2. However, the train buzzed by most sites with little explanation only to stop at the top of the hill at Napoleon’s Grotto.


The “LONG” trip was about to begin, out along the coastal Routes des Sanguinaires (the road of the Bloodthirsty!) to Pointe de la Parata passing houses of famous actors and singer – none of whom we knew (though they drew Aws and Ahs from the French tourists). We also passed an amazing cemetery, Cimetière d’Ajaccio (a replica of that in the film Double Jeopardy where Ashley Judd was incarcerated in a tomb by her husband). In Ajaccio, the houses of the living are alongside those of the dead and so the dead are interred in rows of monuments. The cemeteries are so much like a city that at the time of the war, the Germans, by mistake, bombed the cemetery.

It was a journey of “musical seats” as the little train swayed from side to side along the road, making sure to hit ever pot-hole! But what a treat at the end: The story told in French about the tower that regulated maritime traffic and the harbor that was used to quarantine the African coral traders was lost on us but the view at the end of the promontory was awesome. And there was some great HOMEMADE NOUGAT for sale in a little van!!!
Back to Ajaccio for coffee and some retail therapy (hat and bag) before embarkation!

We enjoyed sharing stories of the day with Russell, Indu and Brian and hearing about their exploits in Corsica.



The indomitable duo (Fiona and I) hit off again, this time TO BARCELONA (at the crack of dawn as usual). Heartiest thanks and well done to the OCS team of helpers who not only check in your bags but transport you quickly past/through queues, passport control and  security to the step of plane (and beyond if necessary!) Even offer to help you with shopping in Duty Free. Big thanks to you guys – it’s very much appreciated.

We were met by MSC courier in Barcelona, a very pleasant girl who translated all our jokes for the (my) Spanish transport assistant. Only two Irish couples on flight for cruise, one a honeymoon pair from Laois – Fiona knew her father from school and the other a Dublin couple (she originally from the Tenters who went to school in Warrenmount!) We’re a very small island.

Our home from home!

MSC Seaview is a massive ship and our cabin is right at the back – aft I think they say – on the 15th deck. We had barely settled in when we were called for mandatory evacuation drill – heartening! Then we did the quick obligatory tour of the boat to get our bearings ( even though I frequently got lost after). An elevator almost our own private on, outside cabin, brings us to most of the ship’s facilities easily – pool on back deck, buffet, etc

Back to the Cabin to bling up for dinner – it’s always interesting to see who you’re seated with as more than likely you’ll be there every evening with them.

We were lucky – Brian and Indu from Trinidad and Tobago and Russell from Naples in Florida and two no shows (they did on the third night – a young couple from Miami who quickly assessed our age and interest profile and never returned) .