Saturday, 24 August 2013

you go montenegro?

And when your ship sets sail do not worry
I'll wipe your sweat away
all your life you travel blind
not a peace, not resigned
at least you get to leave the pain behind
when your ship sets sail

There's definitely a buzz about swimming in the Ionian Sea. Sometimes scrabbling over rocks on a "beach" that many Brits find too rough can be quite a thrill. You can slip into the slightly buoyant - somehow oily - sea  and drift there whilst the morning sun warms you whilst building up its fiercer heat for the afternoon. Even when you're just a tourist, it is possible to get away from the crowd and spend an hour or two away from them. Lovely as they are . . . 

Okay, it was our fault. We hadn't got it together enough to sort a proper holiday out and the Motor Home is in a garage as I write waiting to have its "water problems" sorted out. Anyway, off we went to the so-called Eastern Mediterranean to join HMS Sybarite and watch hundreds of Europeans graze on a continual diet of freshly made pizza and 24 hour-at-your-service-cocktails. If it got too hot we could always go and stand in the small pool and be bombarded by the hundreds of out of control children that had been left to their own devices as their parents were "on us 'olidays" and therefore were negating any responsibility for the behaviour of their offspring. Which is why we made any attempt we could to avoid the crowd and jump into the 'Med' (or which ever sea we were in) as early as possible whilst the rest of the jolly holiday makers were still clambering off the ship and trying to stop their kids from consuming the whole of the European Pizza Mountain before waddling up to find a beach. Any beach.

Truth to tell, we took an opportunity to go to a few places we've always wanted to visit. Mrs Dave has always wanted to go to Venice, which has never been that high on my list of priorities, and I wanted to visit the old city of Dubrovnik as I've only ever seen it from the Franjo Tuđman Bridge on a ridiculous journey* to the Croatian airport a few years ago. So, along with a few Greek ports and one or two other places, they are the places we visited last week.

Ah! I wondered what had happened to Gryphon.
Venice was as busy as the London Embankment on a hot Sunday in August only worse. Yes, I went to the South Bank as well a week or so back. It was the day of a big bicycle race which meant that the World and his wife's extended family had turned up. Anyway, Venice. It was very hot but Mrs Dave was happy (actually "excited" was the way she described it) so that was good. We went back there yesterday and as there weren't so many people, I enjoyed it more. Especially when the reverse gears on the water bus stopped working on the way back to the airport but that's another story!

After visiting a non-descript Italian town at the start of the week, we finally reached Dubrovnik. It was a beautiful city to visit. As it is an old Mediaeval city that is now a World Heritage Site a few inherent problems were made immediately obvious. An ambulance reached the old gates to the city at the same time as we did. Modern vehicles can't get into the old city so it takes time to deal with emergencies. Still, we were entertained musically by a few locals who have taken on board the idea of its World Heritage status whilst waiting to pass through the city gate. Having been to Croatia before, we were aware that pre-EU their currency was the Kuna but as they had just fully joined the EU, we assumed (stupidly) that they accepted Euros. Nope. Not interested. Even when you want to buy something! Oh well, off to Greece for a few days.

Which is where we came in, of course. Swimming in the Ionian away from the crowds and taking in the rural beauty of Greece. We went to Corfu and Kefalonia but the real find was Gytheion (Sparta) which we really enjoyed and can imagine going back to. Helen and Paris supposedly found refuge here on the tiny island of Kranai, which sticks out from the harbour, just before going off to Troy. We found a wonderful small taverna where I was able to eat a big plate of grilled sardines. It's not something I can cook often as I'm the only one who seems to enjoy fish with heads and bones. Excellent.
St Peter's church on the small island of  Kranai

A couple of days ago we pulled in to Kotor, a beautiful ancient city which is the gateway to Montenegro. Nobody knew anything about the place although obviously it was where Casino Royale (the film, Brendan, the film) was set. What an amazing find! It was the highlight of the trip for me. Although we didn't really have time to climb the city wall fully (up and up . . ) we managed to take in a fair amount. We will hopefully return one day. And, yes, they take Euros as they don't actually have their own currency. Italianate in appearance and very like a mini-Dubrovnik, it was a very welcoming town.   It seemed to be full of very beautiful young ladies, er, if you like that sort of thing. Interestingly, of all of these towns we visited, there were generally very few beggars on the streets. Unlike in England. Lots of happy faces too. Again, unlike England . . .

Meanwhile back on board the Sybarite, the entertainment officer was pulling out all the stops. It's good to know that since the virtual demise of the Muppets old has-beens like Kermit can still get a job. No matter what rubbish they threw out each evening as entertainment, there was Kermit introducing us to the "Showwww!" If that wasn't to your tastes, the bars on board all had a different act on to entertain us. For some reason the "Red Bar" provided us with the best: a French couple comprising a piano player in his late fifties with a younger female singer. For some reason she wasn't allowed to sing too much but as she sounded somewhere between Edith Piaf and Marianne Faithfull we would have liked to have heard more of her. Meanwhile the Woody Allen lookalike on piano spoke through a few "hits" and every one of them to the tune of The Girl From Ipanema. They were supposed to perform "your favourites" and do requests. However, Mrs Dave had put me under absolute instructions not to request Je t'aime… moi non plus which I think would have suited them superbly. It could be a hit all over again.

Interestingly, as often happens, I was approached by an attractive young lady who asked if I was "Mr Leeke"? Er, yes . . . "You used to be my form tutor!" Blimey, nearly fifteen years ago. And I haven't changed a bit - unlike them of course.

Oh well, back to Blighty and the rain. Easy Jet managed to land us in the North Terminal of Gatwick instead of the South but we were one step ahead of them and had organised our car to be delivered to whichever terminal we arrived at so they turned up at the North Terminal. It wasn't the best journey home but we got back about two in the morning. 

Whilst all this jollity was going on the school was managing to get some of its worst GCSE results for years so the coming year ahead looks like it's going to be awful. But that's another week away:

I guess it's time to think about moving on again
Stop all this painting in the rain.
The colours only run and merge as one
Oil should be left to dry in the sun.

* A very tired taxi driver stopped on the bridge at our request as we felt we may drop in, literally, to Dubrovnik if he didn't stop and try to wake himself up!


Brendini said...

Oddly enough, I also have attractive young women approach me, but they say, "That's him! That's the man, officer!"

Dave Leeke said...

And they're right aren't they?

Brendini said...

(Shamefaced)Err, yeah. Yeah, they are.

Anonymous said...

You are, apparently, far from alone among British holidaymakers in not realising Croatia isn't in the eurozone, according to a recent news story.


Dave Leeke said...

Yes, as I've been there before I should have realised - I think it was the recent news of Croatia being the 28th country to join the EU that fuelled that belief. However, Montenegro ISN'T in the EU but does use the Euro as its currency that is a bit confusing.

By the way, Martyn, I thought you alluded to a return to Blighty recently. Are you actually returning soon?

Anonymous said...

Yup, I'm back permanently, or as permanently as anything can be (sorry - don't like to annoy fate by saying anything in life can be permanent). Got enough freelance work to keep the wolf pushed down the garden path and out the front gate. And I'm very pleased to be back indeed ...

Dave Leeke said...

And I'm sure the British Press are glad to have you back. The standards seem to have slipped recently.

Still, shame I didn't know - we could have had that drink during the summer. Never mind, there's no excuse now. See you soon.