Celestyal Cristal Ports of Call part 1

Our first port of call on the Celestyal cruise is Khusadasi. Troy was the only one of our group that hadn’t been to Ephesus so we had him book a tour and agreed to meet him at one of the coffee shops in the arcade linking Khusadasi and the ship terminal at 11am. It was his birthday and we didn’t want him to spend all morning alone. We’d got to sleep in and relax on the balcony for a couple of hours before being at the rendezvous point.

At 10.30 we disembarked and headed to the rendezvous point…I resisted the urge to stop at each stall along the route to the arcade and made it to the coffee shop without opening my wallet. It would be a different matter on the return walk to the ship however!!

We waited for a short time before ordering coffees, assuming Troy would turn up at any minute. Our coffees arrived, we sipped slowly, it was now 11.20am and still no sign of him. The ship was due to leave Khusadasi at 12 noon. ‘If he isn’t here soon we’d better make our way back to the ship’ Ty said, I agreed saying ‘Perhaps the tour was delayed or perhaps he was roped into the carpet factory’. We laughed at the thought as on my first trip to Ephesus we had been taken to a carpet factory supposedly to see how Persian carpets are made! The tour group was ushered into a large room and the doors duly locked behind us…no visible means of escape. The salesmen then went to work on how fabulous these rugs were and why everyone should buy a Persian rug to take home, they’d even be kind enough to ship if for us…we pay the shipping of course. I was a little naïve all those years ago but quickly learned getaway tactics to save me from dreaded pushy sales pitches. I don’t like being forced into anything like that on a tour, I understand that everyone is entitled to make a living however those on a tour should be given the chance to opt out of any ‘we’re just going to call in to this factory and learn how carpets or ceramics or huge wooden tables are made’. Yes, huge wooden tables that weigh several ton, the spiel is the same, ‘of course we can ship that to your home for you’…’how many chairs would you need to go with it’? So I was amused at the thought a carpet or ceramic salesman was trying the hard sell on our friend Troy….. bound to fail as Troy does not give up his cash easily for any salesperson……unless it’s for a Tiffany watch and for that I’m there by his side giving him as much encouragement as possible!!!!

At 11.30 we decided to wander back to the ship, stopping at the shops along the way. No rush just a slow stroll but still no sign of Troy. Eventually, as we stood on our balcony, we saw Troy in the distance…he waved, we waved…he didn’t look happy though. Back on board he complained about how we abandoned him on his birthday….now hadn’t he just had a lovely time on a tour to an amazing ancient city? Yes, but that wasn’t the point…we weren’t at the meeting place. “We were there just that you were late back. Let’s have lunch” I said trying to placate him….food or a drink generally worked!!!

This afternoon our ship docked in Samos. As well as being the home of Pythagoras, Samos is a large island in the eastern Aegean and home to 33,000 inhabitants. It covers approximately 5,000 square kilometres. On arrival in Samos the wind had finally eased and the day was glorious. Love this hot weather! We chose not to take a tour but to wander around parts of Samos on our own. Our preferred tour was cancelled.

Samos

Samos

Walking around Samos was thirsty work….a drink stop was necessary! Monos Bar looked inviting for a cold drink. We wandered in, chose a seat in the shade and the menus duly arrived. I decided on a frappé with ice cream…..’No, we don’t have ice cream’ said the waiter. Hmmm, are things on Samos so bad they can’t afford ice cream or had there been a run on ice cream and they were waiting for the next delivery? I said this to no one in particular. I ordered a frappé without ice cream but added a dash of Baileys.  Frappé arrived with half the coffee and double the Baileys. Thankfully we chose to sit and watch the view for an extended period of time! Whilst watching the world go by we couldn’t help but notice a people wandering around with large bags, other people were washing clothes and laying them out to dry on the bench seats at the waterfront. What’s that about? Then we realised these were possibly refugees making their way across from Turkey to Greece on their journey to Germany or The Netherlands. Majority were men, not many women. The newcomers were sitting around on the steps of buildings or wandering in the streets or shops. A large number of refugees looked more Pakistani, Iranian or Afghanistan origins.  We had all been thinking the same thing but not saying anything at the time.  Our thoughts were confirmed later, in news broadcasts, when we were in other parts of Europe -the reports confirmed not all refugees were from Syria.  Either way this is a sad situation for the people and the countries, such as Greece, where they were landing and expecting help them until they could complete their journey to their country of choice. Although this was confronting at times I was glad we were able to see this first hand as news broadcasts at home do not always tell the whole story.

This evening I had booked a table for 4 in the Amalthia dining room because the other dining room was still closed due to a private function. Hopefully it will be open again tomorrow night! I had also ordered a surprise birthday cake for Troy to be brought to our table tonight. Dressed for dinner we convened in the lounge outside the dining room. Entering Amalthia I mentioned I had booked a table for 4 earlier but we were directed to a table where 4 other people  already sat. Not what I had requested nor wanted but the waiters were quite terse. We did as directed as it was Troy’s birthday we didn’t want to spoil it. The evening menu was a little limited and the dishes couldn’t be altered even to leave a sauce off or change a sauce….obviously not cooked as you ordered but already pre cooked which was very disappointing.

The 3 courses were very unappetising as if not much effort had been put in, I started to think, perhaps, whoever was holding these private function in the other dining room was getting the better service than the rest of us. We had completed out second course and they now came and asked what we’d like for dessert, which surprised me because I’d ordered a birthday cake for Troy. I’d been good enough to remind the maître d on our arrival and I couldn’t say anything in front of Troy so just hoped the cake would arrive with the promised fanfare.

Dessert arrived, no cake and no mention of cake. It was getting late and people were vacating the room….time to go and see why the cake hadn’t turned up. Oh, they forgot!! Ten minutes later, in an almost empty dining room, the cake arrived with one waiter playing guitar and a couple of others singing. Troy was suitably surprised and embarrassed so I was pleased about that but still felt the staff were not very attentive in the dining area and there was room for improvement in customer service.

Baileys

Baileys

Over the next 7 days the Thalasso bar at the rear of the deck 5 became our place of relaxation. Ivan was our barman…a young Cuban man. He supplied menus, we ordered drinks. The cocktail list looked impressive so most days it was cocktails all round….my choice was Baileys Iced coffee. So easy to drink naturally it became my staple on a daily basis….without the cream, of course. A girl does have to watch her weight!!!

Apart from the islands above our cruise would take us to: Milos, Syros, Cesme, Lavrion (Cape Sounion), Kos, Ios and Santorini. We opted for excursions on Kos, Syros, Cesme and Milos and Cape Sounion. Unfortunately several of our pre booked excursions were cancelled – very disappointing for us. Two were due to lack of participants, another had been listed and able to be purchased but wasn’t even available on this cruise. The Kos excursion we had chosen could be cancelled due to the refugee situation as it was deemed unsafe to ferry passengers on a smaller craft to another island. This excursion was duly cancelled as well. What did we have left? The excursions on Milos and Cape Sounion – that was it. I would have been extremely angry if Cape Sounion and Milos were also cancelled. Poseidon’s temple was a favourite of mine….that view looked amazing in photos.

The excursion to Milos was extremely interesting and I’d certainly recommend a visit to Milos.  Milos is where the Venus De Milo was discovered. One part of the island has a moonscape, quite extraordinary scenery, made up of a white, chalky surface. Vegetation does not grow on the pure white ground but the vision is breathtaking with the deep blue of the sea glistening against white cliffs and odd shaped rock formations. In several places caves had been carved out below the cliff face. These caves, our guide told us, were possibly used by the men harvesting the rock for shelter from the sun and they may have even lived in the caves for weeks or months at a time.

Moonscape

Moonscape

After an hour it was time to return to the bus for the next part of the excursion, the ancient burial crypts on the other side of the island. Our tour was supposed to be an English speaking tour however, as with everything else on this cruise, that was not the case. There was a group of people of subcontinent heritage on the ship and although they lived in the US only spoke in their native language. We don’t have any issue with that but if you’re part of an English speaking tour then, I feel, they should speak Englishman respect the tour guide and their fellow tourists. Unfortunately they didn’t feel it necessary to speak English, listen to the tour guide giving us tour information and historical facts or return to the assigned meeting place within the requested time frame. It was increasingly uncomfortable trying to listen to our tour guides whilst these people talked incessantly, shouted to one another over the other passengers in the bus and habitually returned to the bus at least 20 minutes after we should have left for our next destination. Most of the English speaking tourists agreed this group should have been split into 2 groups but I suppose the cruise excursion office did not take the cultural differences into consideration. I would also assume they were saving money by putting both groups onto one bus.

When we reached the next site, the burial chambers or catacombs, there was a long downhill walk to the entrance of the chambers. We followed the guide along the winding path but the other group, save one, ignored the guide and stopped at the top for a discussion of their own. This gentleman pushed past us on the path. We arrived at the base and the second group arrived in dribs and drabs. The guide gave each of us a number, this would be the order in which we were to enter the chamber. As you can imagine the burial chambers were a labyrinth and not very well lit so very easy to become lost if you step away from your guide. I’m not keen on dark, underground spaces so I would certainly be staying close to the guide!! We had all received our numbers when the final group arrived. They took their numbers and proceeded to head toward the chamber entrance…the guide called them back ‘ We must wait our turn, another group is in there now’. ‘I will tell you when it is your turn’ he added. Further discussions took place as they checked their respective tickets. Several of the women looked at our ticket numbers and went to speak to the guide. ‘ You are in the tour after these people’ he pointed in our direction as he spoke. More discussions within their group and we gathered, from the facial expressions, they weren’t happy.

Contention seemed to be that the man who headed down in front of us had a number between ours. Finally the tour in front of us returned and it was our turn, however, as the guide called our numbers the other group rushed forward to enter the chamber. The ever patient guide caught them and sent them back to the waiting area as they waved their cardboard numbers. We finally entered the burial chambers unimpeded. They were gesturing to the man in our tour and I’m assuming they thought they should be allowed to jump the queue to join him. I did notice he didn’t offer to step back and wait for the next tour!

Catacombs

Catacombs

Tour over it was time to wander up the path to wait for the bus and as had become the order of the day, the second group of people with no regard for anyone else decided to wander off somewhere else or sit and chat below for 20 minutes. The arrogance was starting to annoy the guides as well because they reiterated the importance of returning to the bus on time. A bit harsh you think?? Not really, we’re on set excursion times and there is a lot to cover. Plus returning to the ship or the port in plenty of time we’re able to have a relaxing drink and watch the passing parade!! A most enjoyable pastime.

Rather than lunch on the ship today we decided that Mariana’s on the waterfront looked the place to be.  The tables and chairs sat under shady vines which kept the dining area cool.  Gorging Gonz was in his element when he saw the items on the menu. he couldn’t choose just one plate so chose 3 entrées! He started with Bell pepper filled with mince and rice followed by red pepper stuffed with feta and finally a beef hotpot.  ‘Where do you put all this food’ we asked him on a regular basis. He’d shrug and laugh.  The rest of us had one meal each.  The total cost of the meal with drinks for 4 was 54 euros.

Lunch over we wandered along the boardwalk and Lord Lunchalot spied an ice creamery. Ice creams all round….1 euro 80 a scoop for takeaway or 2 euro 30 for eat in.

Our next port of call was Kos which has a lovely harbour dominated by a 15th century fortress and an ancient Agora which is free to enter and wander around.  As the ship was inching closer to the dock we noticed metal fencing around us and several security cars and police cars, we thought how odd this was and it looked very uninviting.  We didn’t realise till a short time later that this was protection for the ship and her passengers.

Kos Harbour 1

Kos Harbour 1

Initially the street across from the harbour looks very cramped with shops and cars but once you walk through the lanes you arrive at a large main square with restaurants and shops sitting around the edge.  The square is very pretty and puts out a feeling of spaciousness whilst inviting the visitor to sit at one of the restaurants to enjoy a relaxing drink whilst watching the world go by.  Just fabulous.  This island caters very much to the English tourist or we assumed so.  The menus have the typical english breakfast fare of sausages, eggs, tomatoes, bacon, beans and mushrooms and the Aussie breakfast came without beans and mushrooms!

Kos main square

Kos main square

Ty spied a charity tent for cats and dogs so he wandered over and was there for over 30 minutes chatting.  He came back with information about the charity and the woman running the charity.  She was from Bondi in Australia, retired and spends her Aussie winters in Kos and Greek winters back in Bondi….what a life!

It was hard to imagine what the island would be like without out the large groups of displaced people sitting around the town, filling the travel agencies and waiting outside as well, the huge tent city that had been erected around the ancient walls.

Kos Agora stone

Kos Agora stone

The area where the cruise ships docked was fenced off with high metal fencing and patrolled by guards to stop the people from trying to board the cruise ships.   The ancient Agora had also become a home to many or at least being used as an area for lighting fires to cook (I assume) and their toilet. How do I know that?  Whilst walking through the ruins I passed a couple of places where fires had been lit in the long grass.  As for the toilet I stepped into an area, between a number of fallen columns, dotted around with human faeces.  I stepped back very quickly warning the others not to venture any further.   About 200 metres away under a clump of shady trees sat a large number of men who I assumed were refugees but, as in Samos, they appeared to be Pakistani men.

It was also on Kos that, whilst sitting in a cafe, we had the misfortune to be annoyed several times, by a number of young girls pushing plastic cups into our faces and insisting we give money.   The girls were working in a group with a teenage girl checking the amount of money they were collecting.  I have visited the Greek Island numerous times and have never witnessed this before. The restaurant and bar owners were trying to move them on and were very embarrassed.  As one bar manager apologised he also mentioned how the crisis was hurting their businesses very hard as tourists were staying away.  He went on to point out the people arriving on the island didn’t want to be on Kos they wanted to move on to Germany and the Netherlands as the islands were ill-equipped to deal with such large numbers of people.  ”Unfortunately”, he told us,  ”most don’t have any papers to prove who they are so can’t be moved on”.  We were informed that the refugees were coming from a number of countries not just Syria which we noted ourselves in Samos.  We were to hear and see a lot more on the refugee crisis in the coming weeks as we moved from Greece to Eastern Europe.

Moving on from that unfortunate situation our next port of call is Cesme a Turkish coastal town with a thriving night life, beautiful beaches and clear water.  The excursion we had chosen was actually not offered so none of the tour staff could give us a reason why the excursion was still ‘live’ on the website.  Well, we would just have to amuse ourselves today … I’m sure that wouldn’t be a problem for us.  Gorging Gonz would eat his way through the day, Lord Lunchalot would stop for drinks and food as well and we’d indulge them their favourite pastimes and join in.

Given this post is quite long I thought I should give my readers a break so Part 2 Celestyal Cristal ports of call covers the other Greek Islands visited and will posted shortly.

 

 

 

 

 

Likes and Dislikes on the Celestyal Cruise August 2015

This likes and dislikes blog is for those who might want to ‘cut to the chase’ given the previous blogs on the Celestyal cruise were quite long.  I also have a number of readers who specifically want to read a ‘likes and dislikes’ list.

To those regular readers that may feel I’m being harsh, or if you’re reading my blog for the first time, this is my 6th cruise and 4th around the Greek Islands.  The 3rd cruise on a Louis/Celestyal cruise line.

Before going on I do have to state the ‘must have’ item for people on this cruise was……

DSC03376

Lord Lunchalot

a captains hat….as modelled by Troy.  Let’s not be picky here, yes I thought you’d notice, it is a little small and lopsided but he was the best model on the day.

 

 

 

Let’s start with the experiences we liked…

  • Our balcony and stateroom on Deck 6 – we had one of the presidential suites
  •  Our bar waiter Ivan on deck 5 Thalasso bar

    IMG_6544

    Drinks on Deck 5

  •  Islands visited and some amazing scenery
  • Unpacking once
  • Our cabin person although he didn’t make any towel animals until the very last night of the cruise. Towel animals are an important part of a cruise😀
  • The relaxing facial and massage we had at the on-board salon, although not so sure about the foot reflexology.
  • The first time we went to the Karaoke Lounge
  • The following staff were great: Our cabin steward although I don’t think I ever really knew his name! Elvis Troy’s cabin steward, Kataryna pool bar waitress, Kadek and Wayan in dining room and Ivan (again – he rates a second mention as he was exceptional in looking after our drink needs). These five crew members were outstanding in their customer service, always smiling and helpful.
  • Troy loved his towel animals, a different one was sitting on his bed every night.  he took  a picture of each one to make me jealous because we didn’t have any till the last night.

    Troys Towel animal 1

    Troy’s towel animal #1

  • The check in process was efficient
  • The cruise ship daily newsletter was very informative
  • Cleanliness of cabin and public areas was good
  • Housekeeping staff were very friendly
  • Drinks package and selection of drinks on offer was good
  • Pricing of excursions, places visited and punctuality of commencing the excursions was good.
  • Cruise was chosen for the destinations visited.
  • Amusing ourselves at the Thalasso Bar playing uno and drinking the wonderful cocktails Ivan prepared for us.
  • A couple of the shows on board were enjoyable
View from our balcony

View from our balcony

DSCN2911

Our lounge area

 

 

 

 

 

Now for the experiences we disliked during the cruise………

  • One or two of the breakfast crew who were quite rude when we chose our own seat
  • A male supervisor in the Amalthia Restaurant never smiled or engaged in conversation with passengers (that we saw).  He bumped into a few of us at different times but no apology not even a grunt!
  • This is a Greek Island cruise without the friendliness and hospitality of the Greeks
  • We all felt the cruise director was looking after one cultural group
  • The main meals except for breakfast
  • The fact we purchased the top beverage package and still had to pay for ice cream  (Ty and Troy love their ice cream)!!!  We found that a little odd. Other cruises include ice cream in the top beverage package

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    Ty & Troy & the ice cream cart.

  • The fact that the Olympus dining room was closed for the entire cruise to all but a small group of US citizens of sub continent background meant the choice of dining for the majority of passengers was the buffets or the Amalthia restaurant with a very small al la carte menu.
  • Food at both buffets was repetitive,very bland and much of it appeared to be leftovers from the meal served in the dining room the previous night. The hot food was very often lukewarm or cold.
  • Cancellation of 3 of our excursions…one wasn’t even offered yet we were able to purchase it on the website 6 months before the cruise departure date.
  • Troy’s stateroom on deck 5 was not as advertised. Staff uninterested
  • My beauty therapist trying to sell products before letting me out of the treatment room.
  • One lunch time a bar b que was being cooked on deck when the pool cleaner arrived and proceeded to clean the pool. Passengers had to endure loud noise form the machine and dust particles rising through the air whilst trying to relax and enjoy lunch.  If the pool needed cleaning urgently the most sensible option would have been to just close it and clean it later.  Again lack of customer care from management.
  • Care factor of crew was non existent which reflects on cruise line itself.
  • Several of the breakfast waiters were extremely rude especially if we wanted to choose our own table.
  • Second time we went to Karaoke Lounge when a different cultural group came in and asked DJ to play their country of origin music.  The DJ played the music and ignored requests from everyone else until all other groups eventually left the Karaoke Bar.
  • Reception staff very often couldn’t answer basic questions. Troy’s key was disengaged on the second night of the cruise …. no explanation available.
  • Tour desk staff and excursion guides were mediocre. We were on an English speaking tour but the minority so tour guide conversed in language other than English.
  • Female supervisor around pool area never smiled, tried hard not to make eye contact with passengers and reprimanded a waiter in front of passengers. We thought this very unprofessional behaviour.
  • Early morning excursions. We’re on the cruise to relax so I avoid as many morning excursions as possible!!!

Areas we feel require improvement…

  • Food in all dining areas, provide more menu options in dining rooms
  • Reception staff need to be more informed
  • Most of the crew which means the cruise line itself….happy, engaged crew make for happy passengers. Majority of  workers with sour faces on this cruise ship…rare to see a smiling crew member.  Previous cruises passengers generally develop a rapport with some of the crew and share a joke or friendly banter – not on this cruise. Have to think the issue comes from the top down.
  • Staterooms could do with a revamp especially deck #5. What was advertised as bright and airy was in fact tiny, dark and dingy. Perhaps truth in advertising might be a consideration as well.
  • Uniforms were badly in need of  repair, iron, or to be tossed out and new ones purchased.  Unkempt/tardy dress can often show a lack of interest in the position they hold, lack of pride in themselves and lack of care in the work being performed.
  • If the excursion is English speaking only place English speaking passengers on the tour.  We had several english speaking tours where people that could speak and understand english were placed on the tour. However once on the bus they proceeded to speak extremely loudly across the bus in their language, drowning out the tour guide and acting as if no others were on the bus.  As I mentioned earlier they were from the US so no excuse to be so rude. No one has any objection to people speaking in their native tongue to one another but, in my opinion, when they choose to take an english speaking tour speak english when in the Company of others.
  • If you have a group of 50 people out of a total passenger list of 1000 it may be worth reconsidering how you allocate sections of the ship to allow for the group to hold a private function or to have separate menus for their evening meal without affecting the rest of the passengers. Many felt the food in the dining areas suffered due to a small number being catered for with special menus.
  • If you’re going to charge premium rates for cabins perhaps you should employ a specialist to ensure the cruise lives up to the standard expected for that price range.

In the event readers are wondering or thinking why didn’t you convey this to the cruise line – we completed satisfaction surveys which were less than favourable in many areas but we also mentioned the positives.  The surveys contained much the same information as in this blog so, given we haven’t received any response to any of our feedback forms we assume customer service/customer care seems to be non existent across the business.

I doubt I’ll travel on this cruise line again, I know that one of my friends definitely won’t and as it stands I can’t recommend Celestyal Cruises. There were positives and enjoyable parts but the negatives on board outweigh them unfortunately.  I chose this cruise for the destinations visited as it’s the only one that goes to the smaller islands and for that we weren’t disappointed.

Celestyal Crystal

Celestyal Cristal

A Mocha and Oversize Cabin Baggage

Bags checked in for flight it was now time for coffee except the coffee shop had a long line of customers waiting and there were no seats left.  Through the glass wall I could see another coffee shop so we decided to forgo any duty free shopping and passed through the luggage scanners.  Of course I was stopped for a bag scan and a body pat down.  How many other people out there have the same experience as me? It’s very rare that I can walk through the customs check without anyone stopping me for a scan of some sort.

All that done we lined up for coffee and something to eat. We noticed that there wasn’t much available seating at the flight gate so Ty went to find us seats whilst I waited in line at the cafe.  The line wasn’t too long but gave me time to decide what I should ask for given I find the coffee in Europe too strong and there was no chance of asking for a half shot I decided a mocha would be best. I thought it best to order the food first and then launch into the coffee order…Ty’s was easy he just wanted a coke zero.  Now for mine ‘ Could I have a Mocha please ?’ Blank look….Hmm, why did I think the young barista would know what a mocha was? “Ok”, I said to myself, ”check the list of coffees available on the board”…I see Hot Chocolate…’ I suppose I’ll have a hot chocolate please’.  The next customer was an Aussie and she said ‘easy enough for him to put a shot of espresso into it’….’you’d think so’ I replied.  ‘Could I have a shot of espresso in it please?’  He looked at me then he put a small shot of espresso into my hot chocolate…..I’m sure he thought it was an odd request….didn’t care I got the mocha.  He brought the coffee to the counter and clasped his hands together as if in prayer.  ‘Are you praying? I asked.  He smiled, replied in the affirmative and said ‘I don’t want you to order anything else, it’s too much for me!’ I laughed….so a chicken roll (not much chicken), a donut, a coke zero and a mocha was too much for him!!!!!!

We found seats at the departure gate to wait for boarding.  An announcement came over …..the plane had been overbooked would anyone like to take the later flight…we offer €250 plus a free flight.  We would not be taking up the offer….we just wanted to be sitting by the pool at the Villas.

When boarding was called were were amazed at the size of some of the bags people were bringing on this little plane. The overhead luggage compartments are not that deep so some luggage had to be forced under the seats in front of people. We were on the flight early in the boarding process with seats in the middle of the plane so we had a fun time watching the young men and women trying to place their oversize luggage somewhere, anywhere they could fit it!! The girl behind us originally had her suitcase standing between the back of my seat and the front of her seat then she realised she couldn’t sit down, next she tried placing it on the actual seat and sitting on it…eventually the suitcase was forced under the seat.  GG helped the girl that sat next to him push her suitcase under her seat but it was so big it also encroached on his side of the plane.  Gorging Gonz was also in line of sight of the propeller on the left side..not something he was terribly keen on.  Of course Lord Lunchalot was in row 2….a seat suitable for a Lord I’m sure..hahaha.

We had a slight delay whilst the cabin crew tried to force oversize bags into the overhead luggage compartments.  One of the crew pushed one bag with such force we thought it might go through the side of the plane. That bag wouldn’t be moving anywhere no matter how much turbulence we might have.

It seems that if you’re travelling with a small amount of hand luggage you need to board the plane first to ensure space in an overhead compartment before people with hand luggage and a suitcase board the flight.

The flight was short and smooth, cabin service was fast, no sooner receiving a can of drink when it was collected again in preparation for landing. Once the plane landed it was amusing watching people trying to retrieve their oversize bags form the tiny luggage compartments – much huffing and puffing whilst trying to free the bags. The bag that the crew had forced into the luggage compartment was firmly stuck, even with the help of her friend the girls couldn’t free the bag.  Eventually it wasn’t funny because we couldn’t leave the aircraft till they had the bag out – Ty stepped up and helped release the bag.  So a tip for my readers  –  be mindful when flying to the Greek Islands – the planes are small and luggage compartments are even smaller. Even though you might think it’s a faster exit to take your bag on board because you’ve only packed 2 or 3 pieces of swimwear, a towel, a ton of make-up/toiletries, hair straightener and an outfit or 2 for the evenings the bag just will not fit and may be off loaded to the hold anyway.  What’s the rush it’s the Greek Islands and nothing moves quickly here.

Once on the ground we collected our luggage and proceeded to the car rental desk, then the next and finally the last car rental desk.  Normally we would have booked a car in advance but we weren’t sure what our travelling companions preferred to do. Perhaps they’d want to hire motor bikes or quad bikes.   We wandered over to the taxi rank outside the terminal and a very friendly female driver packed the bags onto the taxi roof and we set off for our Villas in Messaria.

 

Copy of Kerins disc 3 Prague to Munich 026

Santorini

 

Embarkation day Celestyal Crystal Idyllic Aegean 7 Day Cruise

Mykonos weather was incredibly windy making it difficult to spend any time on the beach or dining around Little Italy waterfront area. No surprise then that, after 3 days of constant strong winds, we were looking forward to boarding the cruise ship. I had originally thought the ship docked at 6.30am….perhaps wishful thinking on my part as there isn’t really a lot to do on Mykonos in wild weather…only so much restaurant sitting a person can do before boredom sets in. Don’t get me wrong, Mykonos is a beautiful island and I do like it but, for me, 2 days is plenty to wander around as I’m not a person that can lie on a beach for too longs and this was my 3rd or 4th visit.

 Wearing baseball cap (not my preferred type of hat) and scarf for protection against the wind...

Wearing baseball cap (not my preferred type of hat) and scarf for protection against the wind…

Ty used Google to find a Marine website which would giive the approximate coordinates of all ships at sea, the Crystal hadn’t left Athens yet!  Damn, it wasn’t due in till 6.00pm this evening, another day of battling the wild winds. “Hmm, what shall we do today?” I asked at breakfast, “We could take a local bus around to one of the beaches on the other side is of the island”. Silence. “Ok, perhaps we won’t”. Troy didn’t seem keen on taking local transport whereas I quite like it….you get to see areas away from the main tourist sections. We finished breakfast, packed up our bags and took them to reception where they would be held until we were ready to go to the cruise terminal. Helena would drive us back to the terminal. I just felt like a boiled egg for breakfast this morning…very tempted, then again I remember Gordon Ramsay’s programme on Hotel disasters. Oh well, guess I’ll wait till I go home.

We spent the last few hours drinking, eating and drinking and eating…..in that order!! Coffee at a café called Caesars, lunch at Boulangerie Atika. A ham and salad roll, salmon wrap and 2 soft drinks cost €10.90. Good value and very tasty. Of course, as in all places in Europe, we had an ashtray on our table, we moved it to the table next to us, the cleaning lady put another ashtray on our table, I moved it again. We had a little chuckle about that and continued eating our lunch when, not 5 minutes later, the cleaning lady returned with yet another ashtray. Wasn’t she wondering where the ashtrays were going? I now had 3 on the floor beside me and still they kept coming. If we stay for another hour I’d have all of the café ashtrays on the floor beside me. Lunch completed it was time to let others sit down. A unanimous decision was made to go back to the hotel where we would try and find a position on the balcony out of this annoying wind for a while. Arriving back at the hotel we had only been seated on the balcony, in the wind, for less than 10 minutes when the receptionist came to tell us Helena would be going out soon and she could drop us at the Port now rather than later if we preferred. We thought that was a good idea as surely there would be a bar we could park ourselves in for a couple if hours. The short drive to port was all downhill this time so uneventful.

The car pulled up at the port, Ty unloaded the bags from the little green car, we said our thanks and goodbyes to Helena, by the time we lifted our bags she was gone. We walked across to a concrete building with a number of entrances, there was also a small kiosk to one side. We stepped inside the entrance and found a large, dark room with a few concrete seats and nothing else. Not the type of room we were hoping for so this was going to be a long 2 hours waiting for our ship to come in. There was nothing in the vicinity remotely like a café, restaurant or bar. Not even a lot of people watching around here either!!

Ty, Frank and Troy took turns in wandering over to the edge of the dock to look towards the horizon for our ship…..at one stage we got a little excited as, in the distance, we could see a ship heading this way. It wasn’t ours! After an hour had passed more people were arriving at the port however they were embarking on the ship we could see on the horizon. We had placed the bags in the dingy waiting area and, just for something to do, to alleviate some of the boredom, we moved the bags out under the awning of the dingy waiting area. Yes, that used up not even 5 minutes of the waiting time….now what? Ah, yes, back to walking to the edge of the dock and looking to the horizon.

We had placed our bags at the end of the awning, up close to the fenced area,beside a small seat under the awning and I had just stood up to talk to Troy when several Italian girls wandered into the area with their luggage, pushed past us and squeezed into the small area beside me between the fence and the edge of the seat….mind you there was no need to do that as we were at the very end of a large area. Anyway, once they muscled in, we could no longer sit with our luggage and we couldn’t get them to move out of the way so we could all retrieve our bags. It’s instances like these when we remember how considerate and conscious of personal space most of us Aussies are.

Finally, I hear excitement in the voices of Ty and Frank…our ship, they believe, is on the horizon and heading straight for us! Finally, it had been a long day of waiting and sitting around – our ship had come in!!!

Celestyal Crystal

Celestyal Crystal

Yes, they were correct, our ship had come in and had berthed about half a kilometre from where we had been waiting. Collecting our luggage we all headed for the ship. We reached the ship and were stopped by security….tickets and passports were required and ‘now please sit over there’ we were instructed. The security person pointed to a couple of seats along the wall. We needed to wait till all the passengers had disembarked for their excursions before we could embark the ship. More waiting!!

We sat patiently, then impatiently, we fidgeted and took turns to stand, as we watched all the passengers file past us in a slow procession defying the instructions of the crew and excursion organisers for 2 lines only. As the procession dwindled we became annoyed by the one or two stragglers that ambled past, then another three or four would wander past as if they had all the time in the world. Well they did of course but we just wanted to get on the ship and have a drink….we all joked about how inconsiderate these stragglers were!! Didn’t they know we’d been waiting since 6am this morning to board? Finally, after almost another hour had passed, everyone was off the ship and we could board.

The embarkation process was fairly easy, although they didn’t have the camera at the entry door so we received our shipboard card without a photo. Given this simple security procedure wasn’t carried out proper that probably should have been a warning to us that this cruise may not be as slick and organised as we had come to expect of cruising. We had pre booked our drinks package and 5 excursions so, with no further rituals to go through, we were taken to our respective cabins.

Our cabin was a suite on Deck 6. It was our anniversary so we had decided to go the ‘whole hog’ (Aussie slang for the most expensive or top of the range). We had a separate living area, a bedroom with a mini walk in wardrobe, a bath and shower in the bathroom and a very large balcony containing a whirlpool, a table and four chairs plus four sun lounges. Our suite was at the front of the ship and named the Presidential Suite due to the younger of the George Bush’s staying in this particular cabin. There were two suites of this size on the ship.

Our balcony

Our balcony

The ship was not a new modern ship full of bling, such as the Splendida we cruised on last year, but it had undergone a refit around 2011 (I think) and it held a maximum of 1200 people. It was a smaller ship which enables it to manoeuvre into some of the smaller Greek Islands and that’s the reason I chose this cruise; it visited 5 different islands to the usual Greek cruises.We had previously cruised with Louis Cruise lines and found them to be quite satisfactory and Louis has since undergone a name change to Celestyal Cruises. In the European summer they cruise the Greek Islands and in the winter the ship moves to cruise Cuba.

We unpacked then waited for our companions to join us in our cabin before taking a walk around the communal areas of the ship. Of course, all my clothing, shoes plus bits and pieces was neatly placed in the little walk in robe but Ty spread his clothing and other items over 2 wardrobes, several side benches, a couple of drawers and the lounge room table!! Hmm, perhaps these suites need another revamp to include a second walk in robe!!!

Companions all present and accounted for it’s now time to start our tour of the ship. The ship had two a la carte restaurants, a buffet eatery and a bbq area near the pool. As well as several bars and a gelato wagon. We peeked into the hairdressing salon, wellness spa and gym. I wouldn’t be using the gym this cruise because my right foot and ankle was still extremely tender and, although the swelling went down a little at night, very swollen during the day. I definitely looked like I had cankles, well, one cankle anyway so that probably looked even stranger. For those of you not sure a cankle is an ankle that has no tapered shape….essentially this part of the leg is the same size/shape from top of calf to ankle bone. There was also a large showroom, a karaoke bar and a very nice lounge/bar at the rear of the ship.

“Ok, we’ve surveyed our surroundings what’s next?” I questioned. I was met with a chorus of “Food and drinks”. We didn’t think we were dressed appropriately for the dining room so we opted for the buffet. Not my choice as I’m not a fan of buffets….food left sitting uncovered or not properly refrigerated and people picking at it, very often with their fingers, makes me very wary of buffets in general. In my opinion the food didn’t look particularly appealing…the salad veggies looked a little tired (perhaps they’d been waiting around all day as we had). The cold meat had been cut into smaller pieces as had the cheese which brought to mind the saying ‘like a boarding house scrap of butter’ meaning the portions on offer were cut very small to make it go as far as possible or feed as many as possible. My opinion didn’t change as I wandered along the food line nor did I find much to eat….some say I’m way too fussy………Gorging Gonz managed to fill his plate in the shape of a mountain and Lord Lunchalot had quite a full plate as well. Must just be me or it’s a man thing!! I felt sure the a la carte would be a different story and in future we would do our best to eat our meals in either the Olympus Restaurant or the Amalthia Restaurant.

We ended our first evening of seven with a few drinks at the Thalasso Bar on deck 5. We chose a lounge area at the back of the bar trying to sit somewhere out of range of the cigarette smoke…..we learned fairly quickly this would be impossible. We just sat back, enjoyed our drinks along with the calm seas, and talked about our thoughts of the ship so far. Lord Lunchalot was not happy with the size of his cabin, it was very small for a deluxe cabin with barely any room between the twin beds. If this was a deluxe cabin what did a standard look like? Gorging Gonz booked the cheapest inside cabin available on deck 3…..we had visited both of their cabins and GG had more floor space in his. Can you imagine how dark GG’s cabin must be when the light is turned off? I couldn’t stay in a room without a window to the outside world and letting in the light. Ty and I were happy with our suite and also more than happy to share our large balcony and our outdoor amenities and furniture with the others although the whirlpool would fit 2 of us in it at a time but 4 was definitely out of the question.

Tomorrow was Lord Lunchalots’ birthday and the first port of call was Khusadasi in Turkey. We would eat in the Amalthia Restaurant as, unbeknown to him, I had requested a cake for him.

Mykonos Without Petros the Pelican

Mykonos Street Cat

Mykonos Street Cat

The prearranged taxi arrived at the Santorini villas at 10.45am for the short drive to the new port and our ferry trip to Mykonos. We were travelling on the Highspeed 4  a larger capacity ferry and less likely to have too much movement if the sea is rough. The road to the new port is not for the feint-hearted as the road is narrow and winding with buses, trucks, motorbikes and cars all vying for space. Our trip was interesting and at one stage the driver decided to pull out to overtake a bus but quickly changed his mind when confronted with an oncoming bus. GG (Frank) pulled a funny face….it was very contorted not sure whether with surprise or with the thought his life was flashing before his eyes….he was in the front seat so probably more worrying for him. This much excitement cost the small sum of 20€.

The ‘new port’ is big and berths are not well sign posted so it was decided I would step into the Hellenic Seaways office and asked the desk person where we need to be. He pointed and said “turn left”. ‘Thanks’ I replied. We walked left, a building had a sign ‘Departures’, we entered a hot, stuffy room..supposedly a departure lounge but more like a large garage with a few bench seats along the wall. I walked to the back of the room where there was more space to breathe. We stood around for a few minutes but the stuffy atmosphere was very unpleasant so Ty thought we should step back outside and sit in the shade. Ty deduced the ferry would dock a little further down the dock….hmm, ok, I thought ‘ but that is the departures lounge and assume it’s that for a reason as we need to show passports and tickets’. About 20 minutes later the ferry came in and docked up on the other side of the departures lounge!! My thinking was right and we would have been at the head of line and out of the sun now we had to join the back of the line in the sun….I had a chuckle to myself because husband was sure he was right!! He’d checked all the berths and where the buses had lined up and decided the big ferry needed the bigger berth.

Boarding and disembarking the ferry was a little like a cattle stampede. The bags were left on the car deck level under the sign for your destination, which wasn’t too difficult, but retrieving the bags before disembarking was very messy with people going every which way. We had pre booked our tickets and the cost per person for business class seating with a table was 68€.  The ferry stopped at Naxos, Ios and Paros before our stop. The three and a half hour trip was relatively smooth.

When we reached the port of Mykonos the owner of our hotel met us. Helena was her name and there she stood among other collection agents holding up signs with guests names on them. We saw the sign  ‘Starr’ and made a bee line for Helena who was in discussion with another couple but turned to us, we introduced ourselves, and she  motioned for us to follow her.  As we turned to follow she said to the young couple ‘I will come back for you, wait here I will not be long’. Weaving through cars and buses we eventually came to her little car….wedged between cars on all sides….’this will be interesting’ I whispered to Ty ‘if we manage to get into the car how she’s going to get this out’. All of us squeezed in the car and now what? Well, Helena grated the gears and moved the car a little forward, no, that wouldn’t work, a quick turn of the steering wheel, a small reverse, stop, move forwards a little more, stop, say something in Greek, turn steering wheel again, move a little to the side…no, not going anywhere here, the little dusty green car was certainly parked  in on all sides. I whispered to Ty,” perhaps you guys need to get out and lift the car over the other car beside us”. Eventually the drivers of the other cars came back and moved off allowing us to drive off as well, not before abusive words were uttered between Helena and a couple of the drivers.

Helena’s little car was ok on the flat but when it turned a corner onto a steep gradient it had problems, partly due, I’m sure, to the load in the car; Helena herself wasn’t a little lady; 3 men and myself with about 70kgs of luggage in the very back made the little car really struggle. Suddenly a car came round a blind corner in front of us, Helena stepped on the brake, a car was close behind us as well, the oncoming car wasn’t stopping and passed us.  Helena grated the clutch, changed gears and hit the accelerator……dust and rocks flew up around us as we rolled – backwards. Brakes slammed on again, very quickly, as Helena crunched the gears and tried again to force the little car up the hill. No, the little green car was having none of that as we started to roll back down the hill again. The car behind us hastily went round us as we rolled further back down the hill. I was thinking to myself ‘As long as we stop before the car rolls back to  the main road I’m not too worried’. After a few more tries Helena finally revved the poor little things motor as much as possible and it made its  way to the top of the hill. I looked at Ty and we laughed (silently of course) welcome to Mykonos and hotel Spanelis our home for the next 3 days. Helena dropped us at the hotel, hurriedly gave us our room numbers and rushed back to the port to the other couple she had left on the dock. Luckily it was quite windy so they wouldn’t be wilting in the hot sun.

We were each registered and given our room keys by an assistant. Our rooms were a disappointment to all of us, extremely small even by European standards, very old, shower base was tiny with a curtain, we did have a large balcony but it was so windy you couldn’t enjoy it. There was only one useable powerpoint as the other was behind the bed head. The view from the balcony was not as it was on the web page. The web marketing of the hotel was very slick but incorrect in many details. The website also mentioned access to the pool complex at the hotel next door was available when you buy a drink at their bar. However, when we enquired with Helena she said ‘you can ask but they may not let you’. So more false advertising. The hotel advertised it was 500 metres from centre….it’s about 800 so not too much difference and the walk isn’t too bad.

The weather in Greece had been unusually windy and we’d hoped it wouldn’t follow us to Mykonos but it did. As with Santorini the locals on Mykonos were very happy to have the wind as they’d previously had extreme heat with no breeze at all. Heading down the hill to town was easy…we had a tail wind, dodging the passing traffic was a different matter. At one point, on the little road, there was a stand-off  between a van and a couple of cars. It was hard to get past them so we stood in a small lay by and watched as they gesticulated back and forth….eventually the larger van won out and the cars reversed back until the van could pass them. The show was over so all those walking could continue on their way.

Lonely Windmill

Lonely Windmill

We arrived at the edge of town and decided it was time for afternoon tea at the waterfront….Little Italy and the windmills weren’t going anywhere so there was no rush. We sat at one of the many cafes, we chose Kouros Cafe, with a view straight out to the breakwall and sea. Of course the first question Troy asked was “Do you have wi fi”. We’d come to realise that it wasn’t whether the food was good or he liked a dish on their menu or even that the view was quite spectacular….no, the main ingredient for Troy (Lord Lunchalot) was wi fi. As in many holidays there is often one overriding factor for making choices when choosing places for refreshments….ours would be wi fi.

This also meant that on occasion meal times would stretch out longer than Ty and I would usually spend sitting and eating when we were on holidays. Lunch and morning tea especially.

Time to move on to take in the other sights of Mykonos…..we headed around to Little Italy via the sea wall but, because of the wind, the waves were crashing over the sea wall making the walkway very slippery. I was still carrying my injury from Santorini so I wasn’t going to risk slipping over as a trip to another Greek hospital is not on my agenda…(previous visit to Greek hospital was in 2007 when I broke my 5th metatarsal bone and left the hospital plastered from toes to knee). If I’ve broken anything this time it will have to wait till I return home. Anyway, we had to turn back and take the long way round through the little narrow streets, passing many shops along the way, stopping at some, eventually coming out to the right of ‘Little Italy’.

It wasn’t as picture perfect as the last visit in 2010 mainly due to the restaurants at the edge of Little Italy being closed, their chairs and tables stacked up untidily away from the crashing waves. The owners would not be happy losing business at this time of the season, or anytime for that matter. They have only a short time to make their money before winter sees the tourism on the Greek Islands come to a close.

We wandered up to and around the windmills, took the usual photos. Although I’m not sure why I was taking photos I have so many from every angle from previous visits I hardly need any more and then there’s what to do with them? Oh well, just can’t help myself.  Always trying for that postcard picture.

We decided to amble back to the hotel for a relaxation break before walking to town for dinner later in the evening. One thing the hotel had in it’s favour was wi fi…so that kept both Lord L and GG happy.

It was good to sit and relax for a couple of hours as our holidays are usually quite hectic. No matter how much I say I’m going to take time out to relax and write it doesn’t happen. Hmm, perhaps I need to take a holiday on my own to a  villa in a cute little village somewhere in France or Italy…… although I have the feeling my husband would want to come along as well…to relax!! We wouldn’t relax ‘cos within an hour of settling in to write he would say ‘So, are you ready yet’? or ‘How long do you think you’ll be doing your writing for?’ He’s over the relaxation or the ‘I’m catching up on some writing today’ bit within the first hour. He doesn’t realise that once you get into a rhythm with writing you can’t place a time limit on it?  Why am I telling you this? To explain why, very often, my blog is a few days or even weeks behind.

Back to Mykonos…..showered, changed and time to meet up with fellow traveling companions. Well one at least, as GG is generally 5 to 10 minutes late turning up to our meeting points and Troy is 10 minutes early.  All present and correct we start the trek back down the hill to dinner. Tonight I have a scarf to pull up onto my head if my hair starts to blow around.  I know, not really a good look but so tired of looking like a windswept wreck every time we venture out. We only made it to the edge of town this evening as we liked the look of the menu at Kavlos Restaurant earlier today. The restaurant faced the waterfront and we could look across to the other restaurants and stores that arced the seafront. Very pretty scene as the sun was setting. Food and the service was very good but it was interesting watching the waiters as they flirted incessantly with every female customer…one waiter in particular named Petros was over the top in the attention he gave to the women he came in contact with. Around 10.15 we decided it was time to drag our tired frames back up the hill and home by 11pm. The room was hot and stuffy but at least the air conditioning worked very well. This room was also a non smoking room and, amazingly, no previous guests appeared to have smoked in the room ‘cos the air quality coming out of the air con didn’t smell like stale cigarettes….2 pluses for the hotel so far – wi fi and good air con!

No sign of Petros around town today – maybe we’ll see him tomorrow.
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Up reasonably early this morning, not because we have somewhere to be but because breakfast was only on till 9 am. Showering was a challenge so that would take a little more time…..it was hard enough standing in the small shower base but the shower curtain kept sticking to me…not just one part of my body but to all of me. How many of you have ever tried to shower wrapped in a nylon shower curtain? Let alone tried to wash your hair? Ty had to intervene and hold the curtain back so I could wash my hair. The floor was a swimming pool after each shower…we used most of the towels as bath mats.

Breakfast wasn’t too bad and consisted of cereals, toast, boiled eggs, although after watching Hotel Rescue I’m very wary of boiled eggs, cheese and hams which are the usual staple of European breakfasts and slices of cake. Coffee was not the best but that’s only hearsay ‘cos I don’t drink thick black coffee..

Day 2 in Mykonos and it’s still disappointingly windy…thinking of shaving my head because this wind is playing havoc with my hair and I’ve lost the battle to keep my hair in place….Ty said I shouldn’t worry about trying to keep a style in place – everyone has the same problem with this wind. So I wear the baseball cap we bought in Santorini – flat hair is the alternative to windblown hair I suppose.

So far this trip there have been a few wild and silly statements being made from my companions but I don’t have a head for remembering all those spur of the moment comments….although I do recall Lord Lunchalot’s first statement of the day about the street the hotel is on was ‘ At least it’s a nice, quiet two way street’!  Quiet?! We’re dodging small cars, little trucks, motor bikes and larger cars on our daily walks back and forth to town. A quiet street is not one where I have to back myself up as close as possible to a rock wall to ensue the oncoming car misses me!

A little shopping was in order today.  had bought 2 swimming costumes with me but I hadn’t realised that one of them was a little stretched in the top from our Aqua Zumba classes so didn’t hold certain ‘assets’ as it should…..it needed replacing.  Luckily Mykonos had a Hondos Centre so in I went to find myself a new costume followed by my travelling companions. I found the swimwear section and eventually chose a couple of items to try on. I tried on one and popped out of the change cubicle to see what Ty thought…he thought it was ok but from the other side of the store I heard Troy’s voice ‘your bum looks big in that’. Other customers turned to look in my direction as Frank also made a comment….ok back into the change cubicle and  on with the other costume. This one was a black one piece with a panel down the front with red roses on the black background….quite pretty. I stepped into it and peeked out to show Ty when the other 2 said ‘Come on out so we can see it as well and give our opinion’. Not sure I really wanted their opinion again. Anyway I stepped out of the cubicle and they all agreed this one looked much better, so did some of the other customers, so I had no choice but to make the purchase! I changed clothes and as I came out of the change cubicle Ty took the costume and bought it for me…that was very good and it was also discounted by 30% so that was even better. We both got a bargain.

That was my shopping expedition over. Three men is two too many to shop with when they all have an opinion on what clothing I might want to purchase or even take off the rack to look at.  One nods yes and the other two shake their head in a no motion….best to find somewhere for lunch that way they’ll be focused on food, oh and wi fi. Restaurant of choice for lunch was Rouvera Restaurant. Gorging Gonzo chose the ‘NY Sunset Berger’, yes spelt exactly as I have it, and he says it was the best burger ever!!! Only thing we forgot, from previous travel around Europe, was that, in a number of countries, an eatery will place a basket of bread on the table without you asking and the diner is charged for it. So if you don’t want bread with your meal or you don’t want to pay for it ask them to take it away before they place it on the table. They won’t be happy chappies because it’s a bit of cream on top of the meal price for them. When you receive the bill you’ll notice you’ve been charged anywhere between €1.30 to €1.70 per person for a small basket of bread slices….mostly containing 1 small slice per person and 1 extra. Occasionally you might receive a few little bread rolls.

We decided the Mykonos pigeons were very well behaved as they didn’t bother diners at all. The Aussie pigeon would terrorise you for a crumb, be around your feet and, if you accidentally dropped a morsel, another 20 would turn up. Pigeons and sea gulls can be the bane of outdoor dining in Australia. The Mykonos pigeons didn’t seem interested in the eateries or the diners.

Lunch over GG had some shopping to do plus we’d over eaten again so needed a walk. Gorging Gonz had purchased a certain brand of olive oil moisturiser last time he was in Mykonos so the challenge would be finding it 5 years on. I was also pleased the focus of attention had moved to someone else for a change! After wandering around the pretty alleyways and stopping at each herbal shop we finally found the brand of product. GG went in to the store to ask if it was still available. We waited outside, I like olive oil in cooking but the smell of olive oil soap is quite strong and particularly unpleasant to me. About ten minutes later out he strode swinging a small plastic bag….shopping successfully completed.

It must be afternoon drinks time and by the sea was a good place to have them. We chose Kavlos again. The order was 2 gin and tonics and 2 vodka lime and soda or in the case if Mykonos, vodka, soda, a slice if lemon and sugar in the bottom of the glass! Drinks duly arrived, 2 with pink straws, 2 with yellow straws. The waiter seemed confused on what coloured straw went with which drink so it was left to us to try and sort it out. Well, that didn’t work because we couldn’t agree and just when we thought we had it right someone would say ‘no, this isn’t gin’ and we would start the process over again. I chose what I thought was vodka only to be told ‘no it isn’t that’s gin’ so my glass was swapped again…turns out I had been right. Only discovered after Ty and Troy ordered another G&T each and the coloured straws in their drinks were the ones they thought were the vodkas! Vindicated….I knew I’d drank a G&T instead of the vodka I’d ordered!!!

Whilst we were enjoying our drinks a couple at the next table asked Lord Lunchalot to take their photo, Troy agreed and then they got chatting. This couple came from a town not far from Troy’s home in Queensland. What are the chances of going half way around the world and meeting people from your local area?? The world is definitely shrinking. Although I never meet anyone from my town…but then that may have something to do with me keeping a low profile when I’m overseas and there are other Aussies around. I don’t feel the need to ‘hook up’ with fellow countrymen.

This evening we dined at Salparo Restaurant, on the waterfront, of course. My choice was the Salparo Salad which contained caramelised pear, feta cheese and rocket…..very tasty and healthy as well. Our waiter was a rather large, thickset, unhappy man. He glared and scowled at everyone as if we were an imposition on his time. I’m not sure that the career path he has chosen is the right one for him…

Dinner over we decided to move on to a little Boulangerie for cake and coffee…it’s like an eatfest isn’t it??? Before I do that though I should go to the ladies room. This was an experience ‘cos many loos in restaurants in Europe are, for want of another word, interesting and this one was no exception. Through a section of the kitchen, nothing strange about that, turn left and go up the stairs, turn right at the top and you’ll see the toilet, were the instructions. The stairs were actually a blue metal spiral staircase, very slim in design and a little greasy so care was needed going up, at the top was a storage area and beside it the loo…one for ladies and one for men. Ok, negotiated going up the stairs without too many problems but coming down was another matter. Very greasy, not keen on holding the hand rail either, God knows what bacteria would be living on that, but no choice because there was no room for error getting back to ground. My concern was someone might try to pass me on the stairs…..no chance!! Thank goodness for the antibacterial hand wipes that go everywhere with us.

We leave Salparo and cross the road to the boulangerie, I purchase a Christmas bauble to replace the one I dropped last year along the way. We had almost finished our cake and coffee whilst GG was still ordering his. Eventually he placed his tray on the table, on it sat a very large slice of cake, a custard filo, a muffin and a drink. My goodness he can eat….makes he full just looking at the amount of food he tucks into.

GG and his cakes

GG and his cakes

Whilst we were eating Lord Lunchalot expressed a concern that he hadn’t heard from his mother since 10.30am our time yesterday. He said ‘I keep sending her pictures but she isn’t responding’. I couldn’t resist so I replied ‘your mum is probably staying quiet do you’ll stop bombarding her with photos’. He didn’t think my reply was amusing….the rest of us did. Well, generally people will place one or two pictures of places visited on Fb or MMS a picture but not LL he puts as many as he can in whatever timeframe he has available!!

Still no sign of Petros the pelican today and this is our last evening on Mykonos – tomorrow we embark on our Greek Island cruise. We were looking forward to seeing the crazy bird and its antics especially given we’d told Troy all about him.  Perhaps Petros had been replaced by the busker with the cool Labrador wearing a  baseball cap and sunglasses.

Cool puppy

Cool puppy

Santorini Quad Bikes and Three Sunsets

After arriving in Santorini we decided to hire a car, however, there were only large expensive cars available. We discussed it and decided a big car was not a good idea to manoeuvre around the streets or for parking…we walked away.

There were plenty of taxis at the rank so with bags placed in the racks on top of the taxi we headed for Villa Irini. At least is was a Mercedes so there was plenty of room for the 3 back seat passengers. The weather was hot and windy…very windy, unusually windy for this time of year. The locals told us it very unusual but it had been extremely hot so they’re happy…..I wasn’t – I don’t like dirt and dust flying into my eyes and mouth, my hair blowing all over the place. I end up looking and feeling like a wind blown wreck. Fingers crossed it would subside sooner rather than later.

The taxi fare from Santorini airport to the Villas in Messaria was 20 €.

We were checking in when Ty asked about hiring bikes and quad bikes (ATV). Receptionist said she could organise it for us and have them delivered…..everyone agreed that would be a good idea. LL and GG chose motor bikes at a cost of 110€ and 97€ respectively for 3 days rental. Cost to fill the bike was 7.50€. The Quad bike was 135€ for 3 days and cost 17€ to fill.

The bikes were delivered within 30 minutes and the ‘boys’ (using that term lightly) were eager to get out on the road. Our Quad had a box at the back to hold the helmets and handbags etc, the other motor bikes also had boxes at the back. Surprisingly the Quad was comfortable as there was a padded backrest. Wasn’t so keen on the vibration through my feet when I put them on the footrest…spent most of my time trying to keep them off the footrest as much as possible. This was also my first time wearing a helmet – not the best experience in the world….tight, hot, hard to get on and off AND it flattens your hair badly against your head….did not like helmet hair…needless to say I would spend the next 3 days with the worst hair ever!!! The wind didn’t help when I took the helmet off either…it blew the flat helmet hair in positions a comb couldn’t fix. Doubt I’d ever be a biker unless they bring out a helmet with a layer that protects the hair from being flattened, keeps the style in place and has vents for cool air to circulate. Thinking about that sentence, it wouldn’t matter biking is not my style. Sitting up behind the rider with a skirt or dress hitched up as far as you can to enable you to straddle the seat whilst trying to hold onto your scarf so a) you don’t choke or b) it doesn’t attach itself to a passing cars’ wing mirror and take you with it

We headed into Fira, parked in a dusty car park and wandered up to the main square to have a cold drink at George’s creperie. We arrived in the main square. Looked up and down, spied the chairs and tables where we thought George’s should be…..sat down …. No George. George’s cafe had closed. Oh well, they come they go….we found another cafe, perhaps not a friendly as George but still serving good food. Akinos (perhaps not the correct spelling) ran this cafe.
We didn’t go to Oia for the sunset this evening, there was no need, sunset on our balcony is just as good and less crowded. We didn’t need to jockey for position or worry about having hundreds of people in our photos. Sunset photos taken we’d decided to walk up to Señor Zorbas for dinner…..we’d eaten here previously with other friends and the food wasn’t too bad. Sort of Greek Mexican!!!!

Of course Lord Lunchalot (Troy) found that Sangria was on the drinks menu so when in Mexican Greece etc etc…..we ordered a jug. Four jugs later I’d tipped my glass over and cracked it….. I didn’t spill all the sangria but my companions wouldn’t let me finish my drink in case the glass cracked. Which meant I was marginally more sober than they were! Now remember I said this was a Mexican Greek restaurant so imagine the waiters face when a large group of people wandered in and requested pizza. It wasn’t even on the menu….the group wasn’t happy. The ladies were dressed in their best dresses, all blinged up, high heeled shoes, hair perfectly styled and throughly disappointed there wasn’t any pizza. The whole group was terribly overdressed for a very casual open air restaurant, hanging over a cliff edge, on an extremely windy night. Perhaps they’d come from a wedding. It was a funny night…lots of silly laughter. We recognised the older American waitress from our last trip…she was still very friendly, working very hard and being treated badly by the young Greek (assume) waiter. He could do with a bit of her lively personality…no need to take the world so seriously. We certainly couldn’t be accused of that tonight.

There were special celebrations for the volcano this evening…9pm fireworks which we watched from our table during dinner. Ty took photos, I abstained, as there only so many photos of fireworks you can take …they don’t tend to have anything different from other firework shows.

Dinner over, Sangria drunk, everyone a little tipsy it was time to head back to the villas and bed. We had quite a few laughs over dinner ….mostly at my expense I think!!! Dinner this evening cost 30€ each. We started the walk down the slight incline to the villas, we’re chatting and laughing when suddenly, and not unusually, I missed a little step in the footpath and stumbled, Gorging Gonz grabbed me just as my right foot twisted under me. Was it too many glasses of the lethal Sangria or not looking where I was going? Not sure about the answer to that although my companions will tell you it was the Sangria!! Whatever the cause my foot was extremely sore and blew up like a balloon in no time.

We sat on our balcony for a short time, coffees all round with GG and Ty settling in with cigars, although Ty only had a few puffs in his when he decided he didn’t really like it. Eventually we turned in for the night….us upstairs and the others to their respective studios on the side of the Caldera. It had been a long day…
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Monday morning and the windy weather is still with us! It doesn’t make it any more bearable because the locals are happy to have a respite from the hot dry weather they’ve been experiencing. Nor do the words ‘It’s unusual for windy weather at this time of year”…..sure, I know that, I’ve visited this beautiful island in August and September and the weather has always been fabulous.

Leisurely breakfast this morning on our balcony before we packed towels, sunscreen, cosies and placed them in our storage boxes at the back of our bikes. All packed, it’s time to head off for more food at our new friend Akinos who we christened George the 2nd. We ordered crepes and coffee then headed off to Kamari for a swim, sun bake and lunch at Zorbas Taverna. After a very pleasant lunch the guys ordered a double shot espresso, I didn’t want a coffee so the waiter suggested I try a frozen yoghurt.
Told me it was the best desert ever so I said ‘ok’… He was partially right, it was very nice and the small amount of chocolate drizzled over the top gave it a rich taste. He said if I didn’t like it I wouldn’t pay….I finished it then told him I didn’t like it…..needless to say he didn’t believe me.

Frozen Yoghurt

Frozen Yoghurt

After lunch we changed clothes again and headed to Oia via the mountain road….lots of curves and the quad steering has trouble turning corners easily, so did Troy’s bike so that was a challenge to ensure we took the corner, not the oncoming traffic or not over the barrier on the edge of the mountain. We found a parking space on the side of the road and wandered up into Oia. Aim was to photograph the three blue domed churches together. After much ducking and weaving between other keen photographers the aim was accomplished…time to head back to the pool at the villa…a few drinks, a swim and a short sun bake.

Oia and blue domes

Oia and blue domes

Leaving Oia the quad stalled a couple of times as we tried to turn in front of traffic……..in this instance it was a large bus with a patient driver. Not a good look as the other 2 watched and chuckled in amusement. How embarrassing holding up all the traffic and with pedestrians watching. Eventually the cars behind the bus started to toot horns which, had I been driving, would have made me so nervous I’d never have started the bike.

We didn’t feel like getting dressed up and heading backing into Fira and we had noticed a little eatery across the road with sign saying ‘authentic Greek food’ and the previous evening it was packed. ‘Shall we give that place a go?’ I asked everyone….’why not’ came the reply. Around 7pm we crossed the road and walked into the eatery. Only one other customer this evening, sitting on the back verandah, we were early for Greek dining time but we were a little tired and Gorging Gonz was a lot hungry. We were all a little hungry……

The place was very plain inside, nothing special but given the number of people in last night we assumed the food made up for the nondescript interior. The waitress handed us menus, somewhat limited but we all found something we liked….I’m the fussy one so I had a little more trouble than the males deciding. I chose the lamb chops….no price though…no matter they sounded very good. Waitress asked what I’d like…’Lamb chops please’ ‘We don’t have lamb chops…there is no price beside it and this means we don’t have’ replied our waitress. ‘Oh, ok’ I said with disappointment. I chose a salad instead. After the meal we thought we might look at the dessert menu ‘No, we have no dessert’. We all looked at each other, shrugged and said ‘we’ll have coffee then, what variety do you have’ ‘No, we don’t have coffee’. She started to walk away. ‘Could we have the bill please’ ahh no trouble with that request. Wouldn’t recommend this place at all.

Back to our balcony for instant coffee….not me though, I don’t do instant coffee!!!
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Our last full day in Santorini started with breakfast at George 2s establishment…..it was quite busy this morning so we were contemplating going somewhere else but he made room for us. We’d become popular customers however, clearly not as popular as we were with original George who supplied us with homemade liquor each morning after breakfast!!

Nothing much planned for today….just a wander through the laneways checking out the shops, clothing, jewellery and souvenir places available.eventually it was time for lunch so we found a little eatery just at the edge of Fira town which gave a good view of this little section of walkway between the shops. Food was very tasty, meal cost us around 20 euros each including coffee and dessert…..fabulous homemade ice cream who could resist…..not me.
We didn’t rush our meal, it was very relaxing sitting there in the shade watching the people passing by. Eventually it was time to leave, get back on our bikes and head off into the sunset…..not really but I like the sound of it….

After a little more window shopping we decided it was time for a siesta (don’t know Greek word for it) for a few hours and then a refreshing swim and drinks by the pool. Today was our anniversary and we had dinner booked at The Sphinx Restaurant this evening….same place we held our wedding dinner. Unfortunately the windy weather was still with us so it was going to be a bit blowy up there on the caldera edge.

On the way back to the villa Ty was pushing the quad bike to it’s limit I’m sure. When I thought we were going too fast I would dig him in the ribs….that was the only way to communicate whilst we were on the bike,which I’m sure he was happy about, and would probably prefer to communicate this way most of the time!!

We reconvened at the pool around 4.30pm for wine and nibblies.

All dressed up for dinner this evening, did my hair as best I could given it was still excruciatingly windy and I had to put a helmet on. Almost time to go for dinner Ty said ‘I’m going out to start the bike, don’t be too long’. A few minutes late I was ready and had decided to go without the helmet. A scarf would suffice to keep my hair in place tonight. I also had a dress on which I had to hitch up to my thighs…so here’s the picture…..I’m on the bike high heel shoes, dress hitched up to my thighs, a scarf around my head, wound around my neck and tied. Now there were still the edges of the scarf to deal with….they would just be flying in the wind which I’m sure looks very chic however the prospect of being attached to a passing bus mirror made me hold on very tightly to those ends!!

Managed to make it to the bottom of the hill below the restaurant without any wardrobe dramas and with hair relatively in tact…..although with Ty trying to break the land speed record on the little quad bike I was wearing the helmet home after dinner. Overtaking slow bike riders is fine until a bus decides to overtake a biker on the opposite side of the road! As well he and Gorging Gonz would enjoy overtaking each other.

Taken out for dinner on the Quad bike. Where's my Merc when I need it?

Taken out for dinner on the Quad bike. Where’s my Merc when I need it?

We arrived at the restaurant a little early in spite of the traffic jam getting into Fira. It only has small streets and a one way system to get into and around the main part of town.. There is no driving through the centre so everyone has to drive the same way route to get to where the action is.

We had a table right on caldera edge….lovely views over to the volcano and the cruise ships in port but oh so windy. The sunset, once again, was very good from this vantage point.

Luckily we all bought jackets with us to protect against the wind and we used them. We had a bottle of wine (shared – not all for me), cocktails spirits and 3 courses plus coffee throughout the evening. The food was good, the service was a little on the slow side. There was a family sitting near us from Canada and the woman had spent some time on Santorini, 27 years ago, as a backpacker. Now returning for a holiday with her teenage children and husband. Their son was thinking of travelling to Australia so he asked a number of questions about Australia which we duly answered but with a little Aussie humour thrown in!!

We were the last ones to leave the restaurant apart from the wind it was a relaxing evening. We thought the staff may have been wanting to go home as there was no one left to serve and they’d cleared and cleaned all other tables. Time to ask for the bill and I’m sure they breathed a collective sigh of relief when we did. The total wasn’t too bad, they also gave us a €35 discount…obviously an anniversary discount so the discounted bill was €270. We paid the bill and suggested the other two companions cover the tip. I had bought a pair of flats with us for coming home because I didn’t think I could get back on the quad in high heels plus my foot was still swollen and tender from the trip a couple of nights ago.

We wandered back down the hill to the bikes, jumped on and, in Ty’s words, Hells Ankles rides again!! Of course there was a race between GG and Ty to get home first….sensible idea to wear helmet home!!
Once again we finished the day sitting on our balcony chatting until, one by one, we toddled off to bed. Tomorrow was a busy day as we’re moving on to Mykonos.

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Our last morning in Santorini, last breakfast at George 2nds and our bikes are being collected at 9.00am….which means it’s an early breakfast at George’s. This morning 2 stray dogs, a male and a female, sauntered over and sat themselves down in the shade behind us. I had a cheese, ham, capsicum and tomato crepe even though I’d ordered a vegetarian crepe – I’m not vegetarian but I don’t really eat ham either. Rather than waste the ham I thought the dogs might appreciate a bite to eat. When George was otherwise engaged I threw each dog some ham which they wolfed down. I continued to do this until it was time for us to leave Fira and head back to the villa in Messaria. As we left I took my camera out to take a photo of the dogs but as I took the photo the female took exception to the camera and moved toward me with a low growl and then a warning bark. Needless to say I moved out of their way as quickly as possible. I’ve had typhoid shots, tetanus and diptheria but nor Rabies so best to err on the side of avoidance. The Greek cats are much more photogenic, they just look at you lazily or totally ignore you.

I can’t finish this post off without telling you that everywhere we went, whether it be a shop,or an eatery Ty told everyone we had been married on Santorini 5 years ago and we’re here to celebrate our anniversary. I’m sure he even told people in Athens why we were here. I threatened to get him a T-shirt with ‘ I was married on Santorini’ emblazoned across the front…..well, it would save him having to mention it to everyone he meets. Although he’d need 2 t shirts as we also had a ceremony in Vegas 2 weeks later!!! I probably shouldn’t be too harsh…..I’m lucky to have someone who loves and cares for me so much and is proud to have me as his wife.

Oh dear a soppy end to my post, apologies, I’ll be more careful not to fall into Mills & Boon ending in future……………

Athens and Her Ancient Highlights in a Day.

After several connecting flights we finally arrived in Athens 35 minutes earlier than scheduled to land. Now that’s a very rare but welcome outcome to a long flight!! Our friends had already arrived ahead of us and had been at the Hotel Melia for a couple of hours.

For this trip I’ve named our friends Lord Lunchalot ( every fb entry seems to have Troy lunching some where) and Gorging Gonzo (has ability to eat his way through the days). Throughout this and other blogs on this trip either name or initial (LL or GG) may be used for them, depending on how I feel. For those familiar with my blogs LL is our friend who temporarily resides in Toronto and has accompanied us on our NY trip several years ago. At that time I described him as our Ninja. GG travelled with us 5 years ago to Greece for our wedding. So there you have the 2 extra characters who may feature in these next few travel tales.

Now that’s sorted let’s get back to Athens……that grand old lady of civilisation.

For this trip we chose to stay at the Melia Hotel, there had been good and bad reviews not for the hotel but the area it was situated in. However this was my 5th visit so I know Athens is old, a little on the decrepit side, dusty and dirty in some places….but it goes along with the character of the place. Athens IS OLD……the Parthenon was built in 447BC to replace an existing temple….the city was inhabited long before that so don’t come to Athens expecting an amazing new city. On the fringes you’ll find the newer sections with many resorts but for character and the real Athens come to the centre, to the Plaka and the streets around the Plaka. Wonder at the expertise of the early builders, plumbers and, of course, the law makers, doctors and mathematicians. Civilisation began in this area. The grand old lady says “take me as I am, no airs and graces, no massive skyscrapers big and better than anyone else, I don’t need that”. “I am central to the start of civilisation and the Olympics”.

I made a last minute decision to book a taxi to pick us up from the airport, the Company was Welcome PickUps and was a normal taxi but prearranged so we didn’t have to wait in line. Stepping into a cab at Athens airport to City was 35€ and the prearranged taxi was 38€ so not too much different but worth it not to have to stand in a taxi line. Our driver discussed the issues of the Greek economy the world has been hearing about…..putting some things into presepective for us. Mainly the facts around only being able to withdraw 60€ a day from the banks and ATMs. This is cash however they’re still able to pay all their bills and rent/mortgage via the Internet banking. The driver said unless you have to visit the doctor a couple of times a week 60€ a day is plenty.

The 40 minute drive to the hotel passed quickly and we were soon standing at the check in desk. The desk clerk gave us our room keys and a number of vouchers as well as our 2 companions room numbers. We dropped our bags in our room, had a quick shower, changed into our cosies and headed to the rooftop pool and bar area where we found Lord L reclining on a day bed with his book. GG was in his room resting! He met us at the pool area a short time later. We had a swim and sat by the pool till closing time – the pool closed at 6pm to allow time for it to be changed into a dining area from 8pm. We showered, changed and met back at the rooftop restaurant at 8pm for dinner. I had prebooked a couple of weeks before the trip thinking we may be jet lagged and not wanting to head out into the streets trying to decide on a restaurant for dinner. The food was good and the waiters were very pleasant. A very relaxing evening. Met a young English fellow from Essex who was with his partner, after a chat with us he decided he and his partner should join us so off he went to bring him over…..they never came back…we assume his partner didn’t fancy a chat with 4 Aussies and we were fine with that as we were contemplating heading to our rooms.

In bed before 10pm.

Up early the next morning, Saturday, for the whirlwind tour of Athens and it’s highlights primarily for Lord  Lunchalot as he is the only member of the party who hasn’t been to Athens before. We left the hotel at 8.15am heading through the outskirts of the Plaka for the Acropolis. A good walk and best done early. We spent about 90 minutes at the Acropolis before deciding it was time for morning tea and finding a spot in the Plaka for fresh fruit salad and ice cream. The fruit here is so tasty ….. all fresh not refrigerated. The frappe wasn’t too bad…..Greek coffee is way too strong for me so I added some ice cream…a little better and drinkable.

Ok, time to move on to the next highlight….Lycabettus Hill and St Georges Chapel. At night this landmark is lit up as much as the Acropolis. We would not be walking this one….this landmark is much higher than the Acropolis. Taxi was the only way up!! Unfortunately 3 men and a lady in a small taxi make for a squishy ride. I, of course, was seated in between 2 men in a Skoda sedan. Thank goodness the distance wasn’t too great nor did the driver speed. Seat belts are not mandatory which was just as well because there was no way I could’ve put a seatbelt on.

View of Lycabettus Hill from hotel roof top

View of Lycabettus Hill from hotel roof top

The taxis can only go so far up the hill then the is no choice but to walk the rest. The face was $6 euros – quite reasonable. We had asked at the hotel how far it was and the best way to go….he said “you could take the train to Omonia Square station then walk for 25 minutes but in this heat taxi is best”. We weren’t going to argue with that!! After the drive we all agreed 25 minutes was a gross exaggeration – more likely to be 1 hour and 25 minutes if I managed the first steep incline. As it was it took 15 minutes, from where the taxi dropped us, of climbing stairs and winding corners on this goat trail to the chapel so another 10 minutes back to Omonia Station would have had to be by helicopter. Oh, there was a sign that said cable car available from Kolonaki to the chapel return….we thought we might take the cable car down.

The chapel is perched on the very top of the mountain and leads to thoughts of how the materials were transported here for the build and why someone would even build a chapel up here. The scene below is well worth the visit and a leisurely lunch extends the time a visitor has to take in all the views.

We had lunch at the K Grill a few steps below the chapel, not sure it was a healthy lunch but the souvlaki was good, LL’s Greek Salad looked appetising too and I can’t list the items GG ate – as his name suggests every meal is a feast for him.  Whilst having lunch we noticed a man leaning over the small wall that surrounds the church and helps protect people from falling.  As I looked closer I realised he was having a partial body wash using a hose. One way to cool down I suppose….although the way he was leaning over he would  definitely had a blood rush to the head. That would have made me dizzy and over I’d go….all the way to the bottom!!

Church of St George. Look closely for man using hose to wash.

Church of St George. Look closely for man using hose to wash.

Lycabettus Hill is the highest point in Athens at 277 metres above Athens city centre. The Church of St George, built in 19th Century, stands at the very top. I mentioned the cable car earlier ……well, we couldn’t find it ….a few signs but no actual cable car. I assume everyone preferred to walk it so the cable car became obsolete lol….or it never existed.

After lunch we made the journey back to where the taxi had dropped us….we passed a number of people heading up the stairs that were a little heat distressed, we gave them words of encouragement to help then reach the top…words such as ‘not far now’ or ‘ just a few more sets of stairs’ and ‘ you’ll love the views once you recover from the climb’…..not sure our words were always welcome but we tried!!!

Hmm, no taxis at the bottom so we walked a little further along hoping one would be parked under a tree just waiting for us. No such luck… We sat for awhile then LL said ‘Oh, wonder if they have Uber here’. ..he uses Uber in Canada so he checks and, yes, they do. Lord L sent a text and our Uber taxi was on it’s way. I was hoping for something a little larger than a Skoda but, no, here I was squished in the middle again!!!

Next stop was the Panathenaic Stadium, the hosted the first modern Olympics in 1896. The cost of the taxi ride was €4.20….. but the savings in time and to our legs was enormous. It was time for taking photos of us on the dais…deciding who should be at 1st wasn’t too difficult …I stood there and refused to be moved whilst the others jostled for position on 2nd or 3rd. At one stage there was one with a foot on first and one on second. We asked other tourists to take our photos whilst we performed different actions for the photos. One young couple who we had already photographed on the dais a couple of times saw our antics and came back to do the same thing, then others also copied us. Next it was time for the 3 men to compete in track and field….well no point in a pic of someone standing stock still looking like a statue – may as well make the pic interesting! We wandered around the Stadium for an hour until the sun beating down on our heads forced us to consider heading to the nearest cafe for a cold drink. We were the only customers and the language barrier took a little time to sort out each coffee choice. Cold coffees, unless espresso or Greek, seem to be the easiest to get. Fortunately 3 of us chose cold and GG decided on a cappuccino which took almost 10 minutes longer than ours.

Panathenaic Stadium

Panathenaic Stadium

It was now after 4.30pm so time to head back to the Hotel for a swim, shower and get ready to head back to the Plaka for a wander round the markets and shops before dinner. The Plaka was a leisurely 15 minute walk from our hotel.

We decided to dine at Kapyatie Restaurant beside Ydria Cafe where we dined on our last visit. The food was good and the service wasn’t too bad either although the wine I thought I was choosing was positively awful. It was called a Moscato and those of you who know me well know any Moscato on the menu is for me. So we asked if it was a wine with a bit of spritz, ‘yes’ came the reply from the waiter. When the wine was poured and tasted it was a ‘sticky’ not a moscato as I knew it and was not to my liking at all. Needless to say I wouldn’t be falling over after one glass of wine this evening.

I must also say, dear readers, I did not succumb to temptation in the shopping district. I thought about it but I wasn’t interested in souvenirs ……had purchased enough during previous visits. Clothing and shoes are always of interest but thought I’d have a better look tomorrow.

Wandered back to the hotel around 10.3opm….again a leisurely stroll back window shopping as we went. Not a lot of people around once you move out of the Plaka district but felt quite safe.

We have a couple of hours tomorrow before we need to be at the airport for our flight to Santorini.

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Up a little later this morning, breakfast at 8am , had plans for going shopping, but forgot it’s Sunday and shops do not open in Europe on Sunday’s. Plaka stores are open but it was the ‘normal’ clothing stores I wanted. Missed my chance……so completed my packing, Lord Lunchalot came to our room for coffee. He didn’t have a coffee maker in his room which caused him some distress. Packing process done we moved to the pool bar for a decent coffee combined with some sunshine and Internet time. When ordering the coffee we were told the machine needed 10 minutes to heat up, ‘Ok, we have time’ said LL to the waitress. Twenty minutes later we cancelled the coffee – I had arranged a van to pick us up rather than a squishy taxi. Cost for a new, clean Mercedes van was 80€ …..well worth it between 4 of us.

Our flight to Santorini was leaving Athens at 1.20pm.

China Southern Flight Experience

This year is our fifth anniversary and so we’re heading back to Santorini…..how time flies and how life can change in a few short years…

So, as I do when we’re on a budget and I don’t want to scare Ty with holiday expenditure too early in the planning phase, I managed to find a relatively cheap business class flight from Sydney to Paris via Guangzhou with China Southern then onto Athens with Aegean. A long trip to Athens but for comfort and cost this was the best option at the time. So it’s a case of “suck it up princess” if we want to travel business class. The flights were booked in October the previous year and once flights are booked we worked on where we wanted to be and what we wanted to do. One of my friends, Lesley, had travelled with CS last year when we met for a few days in Paris and she was happy with the planes and the service, a few others had also flown with this airline.

We arrived at the airport with 15 minutes to wait till check in opened. We had tried to check in the night before, for no less than 45 minutes,and it just wouldn’t let us. We gave up and left it for the check in staff. The check in member had the same difficulty as we did which was good in one way …we knew the problem wasn’t with us! It took him around 25 minutes to get the system to accept us. We’ll accept Ty, it accepted me immediately of course!! We think it has something to do with his first name being consonants and appearing to be two initials T Y. We found this out on MSC Splendida last year when the Indonesian and Pilipino crew read his onboard card and name on the computer as T Y so they would call him T Y…. ‘Hello T Y ‘ ‘Have a good day T Y’. It was amusing.

Our seats this flight are 3 H&K and the second leg we are in 2A&C The flight left 55 minutes later than scheduled departure time. Many other reviews I had read mention the same thing. We received the usual toiletry bag containing toothpaste, toothbrush, comb and moisturisers but also a pair of scuffs for pottering around the plane a drawstring bag to put bits and pieces needed during the flight such as iPods, iPads, glasses etc. beats losing them under the seat when the seat is extended!!! Which is what happened to my book. and glasses😔 There is a little shelf beside the seat that holds the remote control plus has room for other items , thankfully the cabin crew managed to retrieve them for me…..left me a bit embarrassed. It wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have some little mishap….now would it my readers?

Lunch was several courses: chicken soup, salmon and prawn entree and I chose lamb cutlets for main. Ty chose a rump steak for his main. Not sure what happened to my main but it ended up with pieces of pasta that looked like rice, Cabin person was apologetic but I couldn’t remember what was supposed to come with it. A little later she bought me a mini lemon meringue pie as a peace offering. A short time later a fruit platter arrived for each of us and Ty also opted for a cheese platter. I abstained.

Wine was offered with the meal – 2 whites and 2 reds although only one white was available. This one was a little dry for my taste but I still managed to have a glass! All drinks that should be icy cold were warm so a bit to learn there.

After lunch the attendants came around offering water, cup cakes and fruit.

Could hear a slapping sound behind me and thought it odd but maybe someone had dropped something and perhaps it had broken…..eventually, when the noise hadn’t stopped, I took a peak and the young woman behind me was reading a book and the passenger beside her was watching a movie but looking unimpressed. I could still hear the noise and as I went to turn back I saw what it was. The young woman reading the book and what looked like a spatula and she was reading whilst slapping herself with this object.

Not long into the flight an announcement broke the sound of the planes engines and buzz of conversation. ‘Is there a doctor on the flight?’ ‘ If so could you make yourself known to the crew please’. I thought to myself, there always seems to be a doctor on board which to my mind says either we have a large number of doctors per head of world population or all doctors travel more than the average individual.

Very soon a man was brought through into business class and seated in one of the spare seats in row 1. The female doctor was with him as were several crew members. I was very pleased there was a doctor on board because China Southern tend to run late regularly and I wasn’t keen on the plane making an emergency landing in some other country. Trip is long enough already and another delay would not be welcome.Fortunately for all of us the young man was given a little whiff of oxygen and only required one further check.

Second meal of the day, a light meal prior to landing in Guangzhou, was getting underway. We had preordered drinks earlier…no alcohol was offered on the second meal. Just water, juice or soft drink. Ty chose coke light and I an orange juice. His coke was flatter than flat…if that’s possible and the glass my juice was served in was not a clean crisp glass but rather murky and crusty on the outside. I abstained from drinking the juice and as the cabin crew didn’t understand a lot of English left it at that. Tea or coffee was not offered again, as wi the meals we were required to choose all meals and drinks in the first hour of the flight. I don’t mind ordering the meal but would prefer to have the option to choose my drink at the mealtime. I thought this a little strange.

The cabin crew are friendly and efficient and service good and polite but don’t expect exceptional service as they’re not there. CS is only a relatively new player in the market and there’s still some room for improvement if they want to attract a larger share of travellers outside Asian markets.

As our arrival into Guangzhou approached the crew gave us thank you cards. A very nice gesture.

The Sky-team Lounge was very hot, air conditioning only worked in one small section so at 30 Celsius with humidity at 90% it was very uncomfortable in the upstairs lounge area. Thank goodness for the ability to have a shower before boarding the next leg.

It was a long wait for the Paris leg but we chatted to a woman on her way back to Sydney after a 7 week holiday in Europe and, later, to a man from Birmingham who had been working in China.

We knew access to Facebook is banned in China but didn’t realise Google is also banned. We needed to print boarding passes sitting in our gmail account for the Paris to Athens leg but that was not possible. Very odd to think in this technological age that countries would stop their people and visitors from accessing websites!!

We wandered to our gate with plenty of time to find the gate had actually been changed. We turned and headed back in the direction from which we came….a little bit of extra exercise would do us good. The new gate number was downstairs…’I think this means we’re being bused to the plane’ I said to Ty. We stepped onto the escalator that took us to a smaller departure hall crowded with people. There were 6 gates down here and hardly any seats and definitely no air conditioning. It was stifling. We couldn’t find empty seats so we stood for about 10 minutes Ty decided to ask the young airline worker manning the our gate number for the boarding time but he spoke no English. No help there and it was so stuffy we decided to go back upstairs and find a seat.

About 15 minutes later Ty went to check the indicator board to see if the flight was boarding yet…it was so off we trundled back down to the hot dungeon below. The crowds were even worse as we made our way to the far end of the room and our check in counter. There was a small area for business class passengers to stand. After a few minutes we were checked through the gate to waiting buses. Economy class in one and us on another. We were then driven away from the main arrivals and departures area across the tarmac and down a couple of roads to another area where planes sat. We drove by a large number of planes and eventually pulled up at our plane….A330-200. One high set of steps at the back and all the economy passengers lined up at the stairs came into view We were told to wait on the bus for a minute. The airline staff member came back and ushered for us to leave the bus. The economy passengers were stood aside to allow us to head up the stairs onto the plane.

A family with a baby just under 12 months joined our bus and the child was already crying. At that point I wondered whether my ear plugs were up to the challenge of drowning out any screams throughout the 11 hour flight. I really needed to sleep on this leg! The business class cabin on this flight was in 2 sections, thankfully we were in the first section and the baby in second section…the galley and loo separated us. Unfortunately the man of Asian nationality opposite us made disgusting sniffling noises instead of blowing his nose….just disgusting. We did have a small reprieve when he slept for a few hours. There’s something to be said for the first class fully enclosed pods that some airlines have on the A380……unfortunately the cost is prohibitive for the budget conscious traveller and majority of travellers😕

This second left was also late by about 45 minutes.

Breakfast was not too bad this morning…orange juice, cereal (careful not to take in too much milk), French toast, brioche and toast more like a cruskit with strawberry jam and a cup of tea. Only strange thing is they serve the juice and cup of tea at same time. I like my cup of tea (when I drink tea) towards end of meal. As well as the Chinese cabin crew we had a French girl, who had excellent English…made the flight a little easier language wise. When they were clearing our breakfast plates away I hadn’t finished and the Chinese girl went to remove the food I was still eating, French crew member said you must leave it till passenger has finished!!! I know they gave a timeframe for completing all tasks but Even though Ai was enjoying a leisurely breakfast without the water views I wasn’t going to rush it!!

It was very foggy and 16 degrees as we descended into Paris Charles but I’m certain it won’t be at all foggy when we land in Athens later today, Our landing at CDG was very fast so braking was quite sudden – had to push back in our seats…amusing.

Would we travel with this airline again? Most certainly but would only fly with them if stopover was shorter, 6 hours is too long for me, if travelling on to Europe.

Breakfast french toast

Breakfast french toast

Seat/bed

Seat/bed

Monaco via St Tropez

The Splendida docked in Marseilles at 8am – it’s almost time to disembark. Last night we received notification of disembarkation times and were surprised to read a disembarkation time of 9.45am. “Assemble in the Aft Lounge and await further instructions” stared at me from the memo placed under our door.  Passengers would be disembarked at 15 minute intervals by coding….we were code Green. Given we docked at 8am we thought we’d be off the ship by 9am and on the road to Monaco by 10.00am so our plans to stop at St. Tropez and Cannes would now need to be revised.

We sat in the Aft Lounge for about 30 minutes and then decided to mingle with the code Red group being ushered to the allotted deck for disembarkation into the Baggage Hall. Ty had watched the luggage being unloaded onto the dock at 7am so we couldn’t see any other reason to keep us waiting. Group tours disembark from a different deck to ‘do your own thing’ passengers as do the passengers leaving the cruise ship. So it wasn’t an issue of crowding or causing excursions to run late.

Off the ship, luggage collected, we moved to the taxi rank. The line wasn’t too long but we expected a short wait. Suddenly the Japanese man behind us pushed between Ty and I, waving his hands excitedly then proceeded to aim his camera at something he found interesting on the other side of us. I looked to see what was so exciting given we were standing in the middle of a massive concrete quadrangle with nothing to view but a continuous stream of taxis. “Ahh, he’s very excited about the Mercedes taxi that had moved up beside us” I whispered to Ty and continued with “you’d think it was made of gold or something the way he’s bouncing around surely he’s seen a Merc before?” At the same moment the family of 7 that were next in line rushed for the Merc but the rank coordinator called them back and tried to get them to take the people mover behind the Mercedes. After much shaking of heads and hand waving the family squashed their luggage and themselves into the Mercedes. As they drove away the scene inside the taxi looked disturbing, the younger children of this middle eastern family were literally squashed between the back of the front seats and the back seat passengers, seat belts and keeping children firmly seated does not seem to be a priority here nor does there appear to be a maximum number of passengers rule. The kids would be sitting on the floor or standing. Guess the adults wanted to travel in a Mercedes and this must have been their one and only opportunity to do so!!!

Finally, our turn and we didn’t care what car turned up as long as it took us to the Hertz Depot, it was now almost 10.30am. Our driver seemed pleasant enough, spoke a little english but we didn’t really engage him in conversation, there was no overwhelming smell of stale cigarettes either. Ty told him our drop off point was the Hertz Depot behind Saint Charles railway station. “Oui” he said and we were off. Weaving in and out of traffic at a fast pace we made from the Port to the station in very good time….as we approached the station we reminded him that we needed to go to the rental car area in a street behind the station. “No, I only go to taxi rank” he stated. “We need to go to Hertz, that’s what we told you at the Port” Ty replied. “No, taxi rank Saint Charles only”. There was no point in arguing for whatever reason he wasn’t going to drop us at the place we needed. As we unloaded the bags Ty asked how we get to Hertz from here (we’d driven there a week before so we knew the general direction but not walking) the driver pointed towards the station and said “That way”. Funny and really annoying that he couldn’t take us to Hertz given a taxi happily picked us up from Hertz to take us to the Port without issue!! Sad to say we weren’t too fused on Marseilles the first time we ventured in and this driver only helped to heighten our dislike. Perhaps he got out of bed on the wrong side or just couldn’t be bothered with foreigners…who knows.

More time was now being wasted whilst we walked to Hertz….firstly we had to enter the station and find our way out the other side. The main station doors opened and we entered this large empty area, one end was being renovated so that was a no go area, to the left there were escalators so we took the escalators which took us to the main concourse area…trains and people everywhere. We stood and took in our surroundings, both of us becoming frustrated with the situation. Ty spied 2 men dressed in official uniforms leaning on a table chatting so he went over and asked for directions to the rental car companies. They looked at Ty quizzically but, thankfully, another man joined them and he understood what Ty was asking and gave directions. Out the back doors of the station down the road to the next street turn right at the next street turn left…it was another 10 minutes before we reached the Hertz office. By then we were very hot and tired of dragging our luggage up gutters, down gutters, between parked cars and drivers that wanted to park their car where we were walking (no footpaths here) as well as trying to dodge puddles of water that had formed in potholes; I was a little aggravated but when you’re on holidays in a foreign country these things happen….it’s all part of the experience…right??

The process to collect the car took a little more time than expected as the car they were offering had a 1.2 litre motor with a diesel engine and we had hills to climb….this poor thing wouldn’t have managed the first hill out of Marseilles. The car Ty accepted was a Ford CMax, manual and diesel. Luckily the Hertz assistant offered to go and bring the car up rather than explain where the car was parked….it could take us the rest of the day to find the car and load up the luggage and leave town. We were thankful for his offer and accepted graciously. Just as well, it was 10 minutes before he returned with the car!! I must say all the Hertz staff we dealt with in Avignon and both times in Marseilles were extremely helpful and very pleasant.

At 11.45 we drove off in the general direction of Monaco via St Tropez only 2 hours later than we’d hoped to be leaving Marseilles. The temperature was already in the high 20’s with blue skies all around….a great day for a drive around the French Riviera. We opted to take a couple of toll roads, to speed up the travel time, as well as the roads winding around the sea to get those fabulous views however we found that even those roads headed into the hills so no water view was clearly visible.

We knew we’d almost arrived at St Tropez by the slow traffic ahead of us, we inched our way into this coastal town placed on the map by the rich and famous many years ago and the St Tropez holiday tradition of the well known faces and bodies continues to this day. Unfortunately, I probably wouldn’t recognise one of them if they were sitting next to me, I’ll never be able to say “guess who I saw in St Tropez?” Nor take that spur of the moment pic magazines will pay a motza for….no, your writer missed out on a celebrity radar when they were handed out. Must have been shopping that day!!

After doing a lap around St Tropez, crawling in bumper to bumper traffic, looking for a parking space somewhere other than the marina car park we decided a car space at the marina with a short walk to the hub was better than this. This town was buzzing….the marina car park was bursting at the seams but we managed to find a space…

Alighting from the car we took in our surroundings so we would be able to find the car on our return. Nothing worse than losing your car in a crowded car park! Ty knows all about that and we don’t have 40 minutes spare today to look for a lost car!

We strolled along the edge of the marina looking at the cruisers moored beside old fishing trawlers and marvelled at the amount of money some of these luxury craft cost. As we turned the corner at the far end of the marina we stopped in out tracks….’oh my goodness’ I exclaimed ‘look at the people, it’s crazy’. The footpath from the marina to the main tourist area was lined with craft stalls and artists plying for trade either selling their paintings or offering to paint your portrait. As you can imagine there was not a lot of room for one or 2 pedestrians let alone large groups so we spilled out onto the road.

Before I left home one of my sisters had told me about a little wall clock she has seen in a shop in St Tropez and now wished she had purchased. Isn’t that always the way, we really like something we see on our travels, we can’t decide whether we should buy it or not, we walk away still indecisive, we come home…’damn, I wish I had bought that little item now’…. Given this is me on a regular basis why should my sister be any different. So we said, ‘ok, if we find the shop and the clock is still there we’ll buy it for you and send it home’. What a silly idea…first of all Lianne described where the shop was – ‘it was a little shop that sold teapots near a coffee shop on a corner in a quiet street off the main tourist street’. Any street name or address? Name of the shop? Well you would have asked those questions too! ‘No, I can’t remember, we could try and Google the streets’. ‘Well,’ I said, ‘we’ll see if we can find it – won’t promise anything though’.We decided to take a walk around the back streets away from the crowds and see if we could spot this little shop. We found a number of knick knack come homeware type shops and strolled in to explain what we were looking for….the shop owners were very pleasant, well most were very pleasant, as we explained the item and as they shook their head in the negative. Eventually gave up and wandered back to the crowded waterfront. Time to shop for souvenirs, have a Movenpick ice cream and make our way back to the car to continue the journey to Monaco. One thing about St Tropez that you probably already suspect is the souvenirs are very expensive.  I collect fridge magnets, amongst other items, from each place I visit…they don;t take up much room in your luggage! Generally the price ranges between 2.95 and 4.00 euro for your basic fridge magnet.  St Tropez magnets started at 4.00 euros, the humble shot glass was from 6 euros – a supersized increase on the base price of 1.95 euros that you normally find.  Yes, of course I bought a fridge magnet…

We were only in St Tropez for several hours, certainly not enough time to get a real feel for the town but first impressions for me – it had nothing more special than other coastal towns I’ve visited. It lacked the pizazz I expected. The stories of St Tropez just conjures up so many amazing pictures….I didn’t really see anything that amazed me – oh except for the crowds.  May need a revisit at some stage:)

We left St Tropez and followed the coast road around through St Maxime…which was a very pretty town, it appeared uncluttered, if you know what I mean, not choked with traffic and the beach front looked very inviting. This looked like a place where I would like to spend some time – sit on an apartment balcony overlooking the town square and out to sea writing my blog and adding another chapter or 2 to my book I’ve been trying to write for a number of years…

By now we were very late for our planned arrival on Monte Carlo so we bypassed Nice. It will have to wait for another time. We did see a few interesting things on our drive. Two which deserve a mention was a Golf Polo with a motorbike tied to its roof and a little Fiat towing a mini caravan with a fully inflated rubber dingy tied to the roof of the caravan – both were bigger than the car.

We finally drove into Principality of Monaco around 5.30 pm which was very exciting for me as Monaco had been on my travel list since I was a young girl. Partly because of the romance of Grace Kelly and the Prince coupled with the Monaco Grand Prix. Yes, you’ve noted the Grand Prix is on in May and I’m here in August….so I still have to fulfil the rest of my dream of attending the race….God willing I’ll be able to do that one day as well. For now just to be driving into Monaco is a dream come true.

The views driving into Monaco didn’t disappoint, they’re spectacular with the horseshoe shape of the mountains enclosing the harbour.  No long queues of traffic for miles crawling into the town, as in St Tropez, just a quiet drive down and around the mountain.

Our hotel was easy to find…I had booked us into the Port Palace Hotel directly across from the Marina situated on a section of road that becomes part of the Grand Prix race track in May. Hotels in Monte Carlo are not cheap but I knew that would be the case and if you want to stay in Monte Carlo you have to be prepared to pay a higher price.
After much research the Port Palace was a standout for me for location and the middle of the road price, just over $600 Aussie dollars per night for a deluxe suite.

OK, moving away from the dream and back to reality – the driveway into the hotel was quite a tight turn. Now picture this, it’s Monte Carlo, a very expensive hotel, we’re driving a Ford c-max, the marina alongside us harbouring multi million dollar cruisers and yachts, a bright yellow Lamborghini parked under the hotel driveway awning and a Maserati parked in front of that..Ty has to manoeuvre the fabulous non luxurious c-max onto the driveway without connecting with the very large pots alongside the hotel entrance, the valet standing beside the entrance and guiding him in or the luxury cars in front of us. He completed the manoeuvre without any incidents and in one turn. The valet was impressed and asked if he wanted a job as they’re looking for people with extremely good parking skills. In those several seconds Ty dreamt about the Lamborghini’s, Maserati’s, Porsche’s and other amazing cars he’d get to drive before I stepped into his dream and reminded him being a valet may not pay enough so the lifestyle would suffer and things would be very expensive in Monte Carlo. No, he’ll just have to look and dream…it’s good to have dreams!

Time to stop dreaming, hand over the keys to our not so luxury car and head into reception so we can check into our very expensive room. As we walked away I wondered where they would hide our rental car…doubt it would sit proudly on display under the hotel awning. No, it would be whisked away as quickly as possible so as not to damage the reputation of the hotel….I was beginning to feel sorry for the car.

Our room was spacious with king bed, double wardrobes, lounge suite, dining table and still plenty of room for moving around and the bathroom was extremely large with a spa bath, separate shower room, double vanity area and separate loo. I would highly recommend this and would not hesitate to stay here again. Oh except for the Grand Prix, as much as it would be a great vantage point and you could almost touch the cars as they whiz by, the 8,000 euro for 2 nights price tag turns me off that idea. However if there’s anyone out there that would like to pay my accommodation for the 2 nights at Grand Prix time I’d happily accept the offer and write a report on it – my birthday is in May as well – just a couple of days before the race. Of course Ty would have to join me couldn’t go to the Grand Prix without my better half!!!!

The room had a great street view of the marina and the boats…I will enjoy staying here for the next couple of days. Tonight we’ll find a place for dinner, go for a walk to explore our surroundings. Tomorrow we start our tour of Monte Carlo in earnest!

DSCN2303

Patonga – a night at the local and not really a travel tale!

Yes, my fabulous readers, as the heading suggests, this blog breaks my norm. We’re told on a regular basis that change is good! However, this is just a detour, an observation, I felt I needed to add to my blogs….
It does contain a small portion of travel so it won’t disappoint totally. Leaving our house we travelled about an hour via local roads where we saw kangaroos dining on lush green grass, headed onto a 3 lane freeway, turned onto town roads, climbed narrow winding roads, enjoyed magnificent views of the coastline and finally wound our way down a very narrow, winding, road to reach the hamlet.

A little history – Patonga is a hamlet on the Central Coast of NSW with several shops and a large pub all centred around a white sandy beach. I have no idea of the population however during holiday season it is extremely busy and to bring visitors to Patonga the local community holds various festivals. One such festival is the Blues festival which is held on a Saturday in November each year.

This evening, after the festival, Ty’s friends’ band was playing at the pub for those still in town. We had arranged to pick up my friend Maryanne and head to the pub for the evening. The band, Null and Void, are regulars at the Patonga pub so I assume they also have a local following too.

Null and Void

Arriving at the pub I noted the place was crowded outside and we heard the band in full swing. The regular security guard was hovering around the stairs as we walked past. We stepped into the darkened bar area and pushed our way past the people to a table near the band. Taking up our positions we settled ourselves in for an evening of music, wine and entertainment, which included people watching as well as great music.

The band members, Kai ad Bob acknowledged us with a nod and a wave. Looking around the room I noticed quite a number of interesting characters, many more than our last visit. There were a few that I recognised from last time and had to assume they were locals.

As the band played the next song a woman shimmied her way to the dance floor and continued to move to the music. Dress sense did not appear to be her strong point or perhaps I’m a little old fashioned with textures and colours that should be worn together. This lady was wearing what looked like my late grandfather’s multi coloured striped pyjama pants that had been cut off above the ankles with a top large tricolour stripes going crossways around. I couldn’t watch her any longer because the colours and the stripes were beginning to clash very badly. I turned my focus to the bar area….

Sitting at the bar facing each other, holding hands and looking lovingly into each others’eyes were two rather large lesbian girls in their 20’s. One was wore a baseball cap, matching fleece jacket and jeans, the other in a black singlet top and jeans. They appeared oblivious to anyone else in the room as they moved closer and started to kiss passionately…ok time to shift focus again!!! I know men seem to find this interesting for some reason but doesn’t do much for me.

The man I considered to be a regular was seated at a table beside us, with a couple of other men. I named him ac/dc or ‘aca daca’ last time we were here and you’ll read my reasoning further on. The men at the table were interesting characters…there was ‘aca daca’ with his greying mullet hair do under a black baseball cap, his sunglasses perched on top of the cap and wearing a dark grey fleece jacket with sleeves pushed up, a pair of grey jungle print shorts and a pair of black runners. He was slight build, his features were best described as scraggy and not a tooth in his head – as my darling husband would say ‘he couldn’t bite you but he could give you a nasty suck’. Hopefully I’m not offending all those that prefer no teeth to false teeth..it’s unintentional. Aca was a happy gentleman and I think he may have had an eye on Maryanne..

The other two men had mullets as well…most mullets I’d seen in one place for a very long time. One man was extremely thin, bordering on anorexic I’d say, he wore tan pants with thick white socks and black scuffs. He had a walking stick which he seemed to keep losing! He was quite chatty and obviously another local as people came over to chat with him regularly. The third man was in black and was more inebriated than the other two staggering to the bar and spilling the drinks on his return.

Suddenly a man burst onto the dance floor, spinning round and twisting to the music…dressed in black t shirt, black shorts and wearing his dark sunglasses. I gathered he liked this song. Several women were dancing near him so he slid over and joined them but from their body language I gathered he wasn’t welcome. After the next song had finished the man in black stepped back towards our table…not looking at us but still facing the band. He moved a little closer to Maryanne then suddenly wandered off. When the set finished I mentioned him and Maryanne said incredulously ‘he put his hand on my leg’! ‘You’re kidding’ I replied ‘No, I pushed him away’ was her reply. We couldn’t believe it….what sort of people are out there? We couldn’t believe the audacity of him. Where’s the respect?

Scanning the room and the dance floor I noticed that hats were popular with the males; baseball caps, panamas, fedoras, a trilby or two, flat caps and even a cowboy hat….they were all here and in varying colours. Some looked good, a couple were too small for the heads they adorned and several more should have been thrown out years ago. There was a rather tall, rotund man in a mustard coloured t shirt, a cream raffia fedora on his head that was way too small, standing at the bar with a corona in his hand who thought he looked pretty cool. Guess that’s all that matters!!!!

Whilst we’re on the subject of men, some stood around in a trance, some bopped to the music as they eyed the females in the room…as only men can do. Some men stood in circles and danced, others danced and sang to each other. Ah, music really does make the world go around and it doesn’t matter what gender you are it’s quite acceptable to sing and dance with each other. Although not too many years ago we wouldn’t have seen two or three heterosexual men bopping around the dance floor together and getting up close to sing a chorus of a song.

‘Wait for it’ I’d said to Maryanne earlier in the evening, ‘aca daca will throw himself onto the dance floor air guitar revved up and ready to go’. It was time!!! Aca moved onto the floor and proceeded to move across the dance floor playing his air guitar and gyrating to the music. He modus operandi was to slide across the floor in front of Chris, the Null and Void guitarist, and play his air guitar in time with Chris. He is so close rocking back and forth I’m amazed he doesn’t fall into Chris or step on the electrical gadgets up front. Then he’d scoot up towards the singer, Bob, and bass guitarist, Kai, to play air guitar with them. The only one safe was the drummer. The amazing thing is that his sunglasses never moved from his cap throughout his whole performance….we were impressed! So if you know of the band AC/DC (even if you don’t find them on you tube) and how Angus Young moves around the stage that’s your man aca daca. At several points in his dance he tried to catch Maryanne’s eye and that was amusing. The locals always recognise new blood in town!!

Aca Daca

Aca Daca

Whilst aca was playing air guitar,sliding and side stepping across the dance floor one of the three men had left and the other had moved to the bar to order the next round of drinks, a blonde and her partner moved to the table thinking the previous guests had vacated….they hadn’t!! The young man in the tan pants with the walking stick returned with the drinks to find he had some new friends to chat to. As much as the couple tried to be polite but uninterested it didn’t work. The blonde decided to take a photo of the band and our man in tan thought it time for a selfie with his new found friends. He quickly moved across to them, beer breathe breathing in their face and was very persuasive in getting in a selfie with the couple. We thought it very amusing.

The blonde and her partner had been dancing – mainly for the crowd – you know the type. They think they’re the best looking couple in the room, she’s playing to the room, flirting with all the men in the room looking around to see who’s watching…the partner is a bit on the broody side…thinking he’s a modern day Marlon Brando (young Marlon of course). There’s always one couple in the room. They were standing near us before the move to aca’s table. As she flirted to the room there was the one person who thought she really did have her eyes on him. Up wanders our man in the mustard t-shirt with the tiny fedora on his head…at close range he’s quite a hairy gentleman. For a minute I think he’s making a beeline for Maryanne but he steps up to the blonde. He puts his hand out ‘let’s dance’ blonde shakes her head in a no motion and moves closer to young broody Marlon. Mr tiny fedora moves closer and thrusts his hand at her this time young Marlon says something to her…perhaps ‘we’re in a corner here you better dance with him’ or ‘he’s bigger than the both of us just dance one song with him’. Whatever he says she moves to the floor with Mr tiny fedora. As they danced the blonde was looking to her partner and trying to move back towards him but her dance partner was having none of that. He kept pulling her back to him, at one stage she walked back to her partner and shared his chair but Mr tiny fedora followed her, had a few words in a cross manner and took her back to the dance floor and there she stayed till the bracket of songs ended. I figure in a crowd such as this it’s better to be a wall flower than attract too much unwanted attention.

When the next bracket started the same people jumped up onto the dance floor to start their moves all over again but another had joined them. A man all in black, hands in pockets, staring into space seemingly oblivious that other people were on the dance floor as he moved to and fro in time to the music. He moved further into the midst of the dancers still with that spaced out look on his face. He was a slight hazard and the dancers, I use that term lightly given some of the gyrations, had to move out of his way.

Suddenly a very tall man came into view to the right of us. The is man had a bored expression on his face, beer in hand swaying to the music with the tiniest amount of knee movement. Maryanne and I decided to call him Lurch. The man with the vacant stare was still on the floor and was now sidling up behind or beside some of the female dancers and at one point came a little too close to Maryanne and actually placed his hand on her leg! That hand was shoved away very quickly and he moved on to one of the lesbian girls. I leaned over to Maryanne and said “Now that is going to end badly for him!” and we then watched as the other lesbian girl pushed him back off the dance floor towards the bar area. People were moving out of the way as the other lesbian girl came for him as well. Security stepped in and broke up the little incident. The man was spoken to and later removed from the premises.

As the set ends a couple of men come up to the singer and cuddle him for the great songs he’s singing and tell him how much they love him. Music tends to do that to men!!

The conversation at the table behind us during the break was interesting…..all about weed and coke. It was clear they weren’t discussing your everyday garden variety weed nor coca cola. We heard about how cheap these items were ‘years ago’ and how they could no longer get ‘high’. This conversation and their anecdotes of days gone by continued for a time……amazing what you can learn on a night out in Patonga. Now we know why some of the patrons look so spaced out. Both Maryanne and I agreed we’ve lead such a sheltered life.

I heard a slight commotion behind me then I felt the dampness….the anorexic man in the tan pants sitting behind us had knocked a glass of red wine off the table and it landed right on my backside. Great now I’ll smell like a wino for the rest of the evening…thank goodness I was wore a mostly black top… Can you imagine a white top with a fabulous red wine stain across the backside?? Our friend was very apologetic – so what could I do except smile (through gritted teeth) and say “it’s ok accidents happen”. He rushed to the bar to get a cloth for me to mop up but that really didn’t help…my clothing eventually dried.

The dance floor was still bopping along and a man in a yellow shirt and hat danced like a rooster however there was no hen in sight to be wooed. A young couple stepped onto the dance floor, stood in one spot smooching with a little bit of rocking to the music.

The band broke into the song Tainted Love. This song revved up the crowd and they rushed to the dance floor. Men were sliding across the floor, women dancing round in circles with hands in the air….the whole of sleepy Patonga would have been woken by the beat.

Next came the song Let Me Go Wild, and aca was still up front playing air guitar, 5 males were dancing in a circle, a woman was crouched down at the bass guitarists feet, swaying with the music, when she slowly started to move her hands up his leg towards his groin…..he continued to play, we laughed and before she got too far up his thigh someone helped her up. We laughed about it with him afterwards but he did say he was getting a little worried there for a while and wasn’t sure what his next move would be to unlatch her from his leg. One of the perks of being in a band?

Music does some strange things to people or is it alcohol??

As the band played it’s last couple of songs in final set the harmonica player entered the group and played a number. People started to leave, not aca daca though – he had more air guitar to play. A couple of songs into the set a man who had been standing near us stepped over to Maryanne and asked her to dance. She obliged, Ty and I also joined them on the dance floor.

The music ended, dancers shouted for more, the band gave in and played another song, people danced as if they’d never hear another song again. Maryanne’s dance partner asked for her phone number and the night drew to a close.

As with most venues people are often slow to move on especially if they’ve enjoyed themselves so it was the job of the security people to move the patrons towards the doors and home.