Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Return to my Favourite city!!

Last Thursday I was lucky enough to be able to fly out to Amsterdam for a weekend ! I really love the City and it was lovely to go back! Its amazing just how much there is to see that I have never seen before! This time I found a street market, a cafe with a fantastic view all over the city and a part of the Red Light district  that we had passed by before. We also found that Dam Square had been turned into an International Beach Volleyball venue!

Amsterdam remains a friendly happy city with brilliant shops and restaurants,I can't believe that we had not visited Albert Cuypmarkt before. It is the biggest market in the Netherlands (allegedly!!) It took us a good few hours to walk the length of it. It was stuffed full of the usual market wares with the added bonus of several bars to help us recover from the non stop shopping along the way. 

We went back to a fabulous hotel called The Neighbours Magnolia. Its in the suburbs near the famous Vondelpark. Its on a tram line (The number 2, described as one of the most picturesque routes in the world) - I am not sure I would describe it in the same way! We arrived early (6am flight from Luton) and were made to feel very welcome, we dropped our bags and we were offered a cup of tea before we headed off to the market.

Our rooms were on the first floor up a flight of very steep stairs, we had the rooms over the front door and the one with the balcony, there was a bit of tram noise from outside but nothing that kept me awake, I was so tired on Thursday night that I didn't move all night!!! The people at the hotel were really lovely very helpful, lugged our bags up the stairs while we were out, every time we came in they offered us a cup of tea! The only curious thing was that in my room was a plain canvas with an outline of a magnolia bud in the corner, at night it glowed in the dark ! Very odd!!!

We wandered around the area outside the Rijksmuseum, every visit there is a different exhibition, the last time it was globes, this time it was Miffy in various disguises! Always off the wall!

One evening we decided to go and watch a beach Volleyball match between New Zealand and USA. One of the guys who was playing for the USA was one of the tallest chaps I have ever seen, he must have been 6ft 10 plus! The atmosphere was fantastic, Between each point they played loud music and wound up the crowd! It was a great evening.

So heading home was eventful, we were due to fly back to Luton on the 9.30 flight, we got to the airport early as the shuttle was unable to collect us at our 'preferred' time, so once we went in and checked the flight info we found that the flight was delayed until 11.30pm. We asked at the Easy Jet counter and they said that there were 'technical' issues with our plane and they were trying to repair the plane , which is always a worry! we asked if we could swap to another flight, we were lucky as there was a flight going to Stanstead at 9pm an we got the last two seats! We managed to get back to UK before our original flight was due to leave. The Luton flight finally got away at 12.30am. 

Although I was glad that we had swapped flights, in the back of my mind was the worry that may by it was one of those situations that you read about where one plane crashes and the headline reads 'last minute swap saves passengers lives' or conversely kills them!! Luckily we all got back safely!"

Back to work :( but worse than that, no prospect of any holiday until October. Its going to be a long summer. Have a good week!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Last of the Cruise....

Our last port of call was Dubrovnik in Croatia. It was a beautiful place, the weather was hot and sunny and we had our last trip of the holiday there. 
Because we had free on board credit we decided that best way to spend it was on a trip package. We didn't have a choice as to what type of trip we did in Croatia as there was only one in the package. It was quite an experience!!! We took a coach from the ship to the walled city centre where me met our guide - Yacob. He spoke good English so encouraged we set off on the tour. It soon became clear that this was to be the quickest and least informative tour of the trip!! We walked down the slope and into the city, the pavements were made of marble, it was beautiful. Yacob marched on and we all scurried after him! All the tours are graded by the ship to give people an idea if they will be able to physically do them and this one was graded as suitable for limited mobility. It soon became clear that this was not the case. Yacob had certainly decided that it was in his interests to get the whole tour over as soon as possible. So we made a concerted effort to keep up with him, within 30 minutes the tour had been reduced to half of those that had started, undeterred Yacob marched on whizzing us through museums and churches. At one point we caught up with him and realised that he was simply reading passages off of the wall!! (I am good at reading and I am certain I could have managed that myself!!) The last stop of the tour was a museum at the top of a flight of 50 stone steps with no hand rails! This resulted in one lady having an asthma attack. We hung on to the end but I don't think we learnt anything !!

It was a very pretty town and I am sure it might have been interesting if the guide had been a bit better!!

We had been lucky enough to have a balcony cabin, but every time we docked in port our cabin had looked out over the sea and not the port. It is so hard to appreciate how big the ship is and I had planned to identify our balcony and photograph it from the shore. At last Dubrovnik was our only chance of doing so. So I  took a series of photos showing just how big the ship is!

So here is the ship docked.
I stuck a piece of white paper to the glass on our balcony to try and identify it.

Zoomed in a bit our balcony is above the second life boat from the left on the second floor.

Now you can start to see the piece of paper.

Finally a close up showing the piece of paper!! Its amazing just how huge the ship is !!

The holiday seems like ages ago now, I am already thinking about planning next years, I am keeping an eye on the promotions and I plan to book early, we might get lucky and sneak a free upgrade again!! 

So MSC if you have the Google bots set to search for references to your cruises just in case you are looking to give away a free cruise.... Choose ME!!!!!

Sailing away from Croatia we had the most beautiful sunset.

It was the only one of the cruise, which was odd as we had beautiful weather, it was just cloudy at sun set on the other evenings!

I have just returned from a week at Conference in Glasgow. I can honestly say that I am knackered and was really glad to sleep in my own bed again. I stayed in a Premier inn which was new and comfortable but you really quickly get fed up with eating out and hotel beds. 
The hotel was on the banks of the Clyde in an area that had been regenerated it was nice but with one major downside, no local facilities, no corner shop and a three stop train ride into central Glasgow. It meant that I was trapped in a small area as I had to be in conference at 9am and stayed until late on in the day. Because we were captive we had to buy from the venue which of course was venue prices. 
The one big bonus was the scenery I managed to get the below shots on my phone!!

So back to the usual slog this week! I hope you all have a good week.

Friday, June 12, 2015

On the eve of a trip 'Up North'!!!

Tomorrow bright and early I will be heading for Luton Airport I am away on a work trip to Glasgow for a week. I can't say I am looking forward to my usual pat down at security, I had better allow myself plenty of time to get through! The strange this is that the flight time to Glasgow is longer than the trip to Amsterdam!

Back to the cruise, the next stop was Istanbul. I had wanted to visit for a while but I was a little worried after a trip we took to Tunis, was very unpleasant. Again we went on an organised trip (mainly because we had on board credit to spend and as our drinks were included what else could we spend it on??)  Coming into Istanbul the weather was overcast and threatened rain. I wasn't sure what to wear, in the end I decided to pop a hoody in my bag and throw caution to the wind and wear a tee shirt. It turned out to be a lovely cool day and we saw all the major sights! Above are some of the Mosques, including the famous Blue Mosque which we later visited. 

Above is a view of part of the Palace. 

Inside the Mosque the decoration was beautiful. Our guide was very informative I hadn't realised that Mosques do not have any depictions of people.Every decoration is pattern based, which I think is why I liked them so much, I am always drawn to a good regular pattern!!

After the Mosque we visited the Hagia Sophia which is now a museum but was formally a Church and a Mosque. 

Because this was a combined Church and Mosque there were both Christian paintings and Muslim patterns and words. It was a really informative tour which ended up with an hour in the bazaar for a spot of shopping.

The Blue Mosque 

Turkey was in the middle of campaigning for a general election. They are into flags in a very big way. Everywhere we went the place was covered with flags, there was one side with Orange and Blue flags and the other side with Red flags. They also had HUGE picture flags, I mean 6ft x4 ft big, strung across the roads and hanging from trees.  It was  lovely to see!

I love all things crafty and on our walk around we came across this tiny little shop which was stuffed with loads of beautiful bits and pieces of jewellery. They made us feel very welcome we went in had a cup of apple  tea and they showed us their wares. There was so much to choose from that I could have spent hours in there! In the end I settled on a beautiful floral bracelet which cost next to nothing!! 

I hope you all have a lovely week and think of me slogging away in Glasgow ;) 

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Next stop Katakolon for Olympia !

Here we are arriving at Katakolon in Greece. I had decided that as we were on our own I would have to rely on my trusty selfie stick ! I have already upgraded it to a blue tooth version which is overall much better, the downside is it does sometimes result in 'unwanted' photos of your armpit and shoes when the trigger is accidentally activated!!! Anyway on this morning we were up on deck when  another passenger decided that we should benefit from her photographic expertise, she simply took over and wanted us to pose in all sorts of ways, we were trying to just get one shot. In the end she took around twenty and only around 3 were not shaky or out of focus!!! The look on Toms face says it all!!!

We disembarked and joined our tour visiting the original site of the Olympics. The weather was a bit of a shock, very hot and the site was very dusty! The tour guide was fabulous and told us loads of interesting facts. We had around two hours visiting the ruins which we really enjoyed. At the end we got back on the bus and he took us to a street of shops so we had a look around and took the coach back to the port. When we arrived back there were huge queues to get back on the ship, I think all of the various tours had ended at around the same time. So we started to queue and while waiting another ship docked and in doing so stirred up the water and the smell was awful. For some reason it was too much for me and I had to go and sit down as I felt a bit light headed. A member of staff noticed I was looking rough and came over and got the pair of us back on the ship. Once I was out of the sun and the smell I felt much better. It was quite scary as I have never had that happen before.  

When we left Venice docked alongside was MSC Musica, we only coincided with them in Greece and didn't seen the ship again until we arrived back in Venice.

The next morning we arrived in a very rainy Izmir in Turkey. Another first for me, never been to Turkey before! It was a complete change of weather from the day before which sort of threw us, we were only planning for sunshine!
When we arrived at the port we were bombarded with street vendors, all of them trying to sell us genuine Marc Jacobs  perfume out of a carrier bag, we tried to get by them but they were ten deep trying to flog us all sorts of 'genuine' goods! Once we finally got free we headed into the town and looked around. At one point we had to stand under an awning as the rain was so heavy.

We did find a lovely Turkish delight shop, we were able to try a few samples while we waited for the rain to pass. It was at this point that my phone suddenly sprung into action and realised that it could find a 3g network so I was swamped with messages. I was hoping that my Bank wasn't going to repeat its trick of two years previously when it decided that I had used my debit card in Italy and that was unusual. The annoying thing is I had taken the trouble to tell the Bank we were travelling!! This time I didn't tell them and they didn't notice!!

The one thing we found a little odd was the packs of dogs that roamed the streets , there were loads of them everywhere we looked. They all seemed to get on OK they didn't interfere with passing pedestrians. In the centre of the town there was a park where the dogs all went for food. Apparently the locals feed them and there is a concerted effort to reduce the numbers, so some of the dogs have ear tags that indicate that they have had the snip.

Tomorrow we do Istanbul!! Have a lovely week. Don't work too hard!!

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Happy Birthday Tom!!

Well its that time of year again when we celebrate Tom's Birthday. This year we were not able to get all three children together, so I managed to get the annual pictures with just the girls!!

Laura is still sporting her pale and interesting look!! I think more so as I have a bit of colour after my holiday!!

This is a particularly good photo of me!!! (I'm behind there somewhere!) I hadn't realised how similar Laura and Beth look, its not all the time but the photo above is one of those times!!!

I really pushed the boat out birthday cake wise!! I had asked Beth to ice it, but she pointed out that Dad doesn't really like icing and always picks it off, so we went for the minimalist look!!! (if you can call a 12 candle candelabra minimalist!!!) 

After ceremonially blowing out the candles we all had a bit and Tom said it was one of the best cakes he had eaten in a while - note to self - don't try to impress with custom made birthday cakes in the future!!!

Our first port of call on our cruise was the Italian town of Brindisi. It was a very small town with a beautiful town and port area. I had forgotten to pack a hairbrush,. which is a vital piece of my equipment. I have no idea why it was left at home. I had to struggle the first morning blow drying my hair using Tom's small black comb! I checked out the ships shops and they did not have one, so it was top priority to find one in Brindisi. 

My search for a brush took us up all sorts of side streets looking for likely shops, we eventually tracked down a pharmacy, but they didn't have one!  

So we had to rest up and have an ice cream!!

We stopped a nice ice cream parlour, which was quite difficult to work out, eventually we worked out that you helped yourself to what you wanted and the price was decided by weighing the finished product! It was lovely I had pistachio flavoured yoghurt ice with strawberries!

We eventually come across a small supermarket and finally I was able to buy a hairbrush !

Once back on board we had dinner and headed off for the Theatre, after that we found a bar and ordered a cocktail. We were shocked to receive a   tap on the shoulder from a lovely lady, who had been a waitress on our previous cruise - Rinthing!! She had recognised us and asked how our friends Richard and Sue were!! I couldn't believe that she had remembered us!How many thousands of people must she see every year??? Perhaps we are infamous???

We only just caught her because her contract was up this week, one week later and we would not have seen her! 

Hope you all have a lovely weekend, I'll be back soon with the next thrilling cruise instalment!!!