Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Before the Iceberg struck...

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61 Today! December 5th 2005

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Who is that guy with my wife?

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Off to visit a Crusader Castle and a Roman Amphitheatre , Cyprus Posted by Picasa

A stroll in the desert...

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Penny's Dad was in Egypt in the War - there is a great picture of him tweaking the Sphinx's nose. Here his daughter is tickling its neck! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Penny's Reort on the cruise


We started from Southampton. It could hardly have been more convenient if the ship had berthed outside our door. A short drive, unload our baggage onto a conveyer belt and we were there.

First impressions: The ship is vast and it took us a long while to find our way around. There is a theatre, cinema, cabaret lounge, and a recital room. About five bars, two enormous restaurants, a cafeteria, and a cafe, three swimming pools, a kids area, a gym, beauty salon, two shops, a library, a casino and an amusement arcade. Our cabin was spacious and very comfortable, with a sitting area and balcony.

The food was delicious and we could have spent the entire day eating! Of course we didn’t, and even managed to come back almost the same weight as when we had started (almost in my case – literally in Sandy’s). We sat at a table for eight and were lucky with our dining companions. All were delightful, and we became especially friendly with Eileen and Graham from Scotland. On our first evening Sandy found himself sitting next to a man who had known Sandy’s uncle when he was a boy!

I had been rather apprehensive about the trip. I thought I might be bored. But there was plenty to do, and I wish now I had found more time to go to the talks and other activities. I joined a ‘Pilates’ exercise class, and went to this most mornings. We saw a couple of films and some great shows in the evenings.

If there was one snag to going cruising in November/December it was the weather. We had a Storm Force 12 going down the coast of Spain, and ran into several gales both in the Mediterranean and on our way home. Oriana is well stabilised, but there is an odd juddering feeling and occasional loud bangs (is it an iceberg?!). We survived the swell, mainly thanks to a bottle of Brandy, but others fared less well. Needless to say our balcony was not used all that much, while we were at sea.

Our first stop was in Spain, at Malaga. We were only here for half a day, and opted to go on a trip to the caves at Nerja, which were amazing, with the largest stalagmites and stalactites in the world. Sandy was very taken with the town, and wants to go back one day. We then had several days at sea en route for Egypt. We could see the North coast of Africa (surprisingly mountainous) and had a distant view of Malta (surprisingly flat). Dad lived on Malta in the late 1920’s with his parents, when my Grandfather was posted there by the Admiralty. It would have been good to have seen more.

Port Said, at the north end of the Suez Canal, was our next port of call. Nearly all the passengers took the chance to visit Cairo, though this meant we had to travel in a convoy of eighteen busses with police escort. It takes about two and a half hours, and fairly dull, apart from the ornamental pigeon towers attached to most of the little farms. We had a general impression of an impoverished country, very arid and flat. Cairo is enormous, full of high-rise concrete apartments and enveloped in a cloud of smog. More memories of Dad – he was here for about 4 years during the war – and I felt sorry for him, though it may have been better then.

We went to a spectacular Mosque on a hill and to Saladin’s citadel; then for a pleasant short cruise down the Nile, with belly-dancers and a good lunch. Then to the Pyramids and the Sphinx. They are amazing, but perhaps somewhat diminished by having been seen so many times before on the television! There was all the hassle with people trying to sell us souvenirs. I found it rather trying, but Sandy is more accepting of such things. When you see how poor most of the people are it is to be expected. We only had a little time there before having to embark on our long trip back to the ship.

The next day we stopped at Cyprus. We have visited the island before, some years ago, and we opted for a trip to a Crusader castle and an old Roman site. I think there was an amphitheatre every place we disembarked. Then to Rhodes, which we liked very much. We went to the pretty little town of Lindos, where we saw more ruins (well, the cruise was billed as ‘Ancient Wonders’). Bought some ceramics, presents for friends and family, and wondered around Rhodes Town, with its Crusader buildings and walls, a thousand years old.

Next to Turkey, where we visited the remains of the Greco-Roman town of Ephesus. Once a thriving city and port, the harbour silted up and the place was abandoned until it was excavated in the 20th century. It was not built over, which was the fate of so many other cities from those times. It must have been a beautiful city, with civic fountains, a beautiful library, and a vast amphitheatre. There is a sign to the local brothel! This is a fascinating place. We had lunch in the port of Kusadasi, and were amused to see a shop offering ‘Genuine Fake Watches’!

Athens was our next stop. We have visited the Parthenon before, so we opted instead to go to the Temple of Poseidon, about an hour’s drive away. The temple is high up on Cape Sounion, a dramatic and tranquil location.

Two days at sea, skirting the south of Sicily brought us to Sardinia and its capital Cagliari. An attractive city with lovely old buildings, surrounded by ancient salt-pans complete with flamingos. We visited the Museum, and were intrigued by the tiny bronze statues made by the ‘Nuragic’ people who lived here in ancient times: people, animals and ornamental boats. Our fellow travellers were less amused by the hole-in-the floor toilet. Our final visit was to the historic port of Cadiz, on the south coast of Spain, but just in the Atlantic. From here many ships voyaged to the New World. I went on a trip to Seville, a vibrant City, while Sandy opted for the less energetic sherry-tasting visit to Jerez.

Although the weather at sea was rough, every stop we made was blessed by warm dry weather – though I think we were lucky there. The gardens were full of Bougainvillea and Hibiscus in flower and it was hard to come back to grey old England. Cruising is certainly a lazy way to travel – everything is taken organised for you. Would we go again – yes, without a doubt. Maybe the Caribbean in 2007?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Our Table

Eileen, Penny, me, Beryl, Ted, Jean, Doug and Graeme on Table 42 in The ship,s Penninsular Retaurant Dec 5th 2005 Posted by Picasa

December 5th 2005

My Birthday (61) on the ship going through the Bay of Biscay Posted by Picasa

Saturday, December 10, 2005

We had a really great cruise and loved the Oriana. We crossed the Bay of Biscay in a Force 12 and hid the end of a tropical storm in the Med – but it was generally warm and pleasant at the various ports, and we could wear summer clothes. Cairo was very hot with a smog over the city – 18 million people and 16 million live on subsidised bread and beans. We were of course pestered a bit but there was no aggro – I liked the lively, cheeky people! The Pyramids and Sphinx were great – on the Giza plain above smoggy smelly Cairo.

We also visited archaeological sites in Greece and Turkey, and Sardinia and Spain. Ephesus at Kusadasi was stunning – it must have been a splendid city with it large Temples, Librray, Fountains, enormous Amphitheatre, Stadium, Gymasium (School) etc – nearby is the ruins of the Temple of Artemis (Diana of the Ephesians) like the great Pyramid of Cheops one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world – now just one great Ionian column. We went to great places like classical sites, amphitheatres and crusader castles on Cyprus and Rhodes, and visited Poseidon’s Temple at Sounion near Athens – and loads more stuff.

Our cabin was large with separate living section and balcony, and we had wonderful service. The food was great all the time but I did manage to be selective and put on no extra weight. Penny enjoyed the cruise, went to talks and attended a Pilates course each day. It was a shock getting back to winter in Hampshire – but it is actually very beautiful here with our large trees, green hills, sunrises and sunsets – so I am back to granddad duties and the school run – and soon it will be Christmas… we are already thinking about another winter otr autumn cruise perhaps in the Caribean…

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Letter to Leah - in reply to her email

Hello Leah
Thank you for your message. We left Malaga after lunch today - sunny and warm - visited a beautiful viewing place and some very old and large caves. Nan-nan and I have been soaking up the hot sun on our personal balcony. I got too much sun for this stage so came up to check my emails at the Cyber Study high up on Deck 13. We are going across to the North African coast and cruise along it for the next three days, reaching Port Said in Egypt early Saturday morning. Then we visit the Pyramids and go for a trip on the River Nile at Cairo. We hope you are all well and happy.

We had a rough two days coming from Southapmton to Malaga though the bay of Biscay. Storm Force 11! I was a bit queasy at times - the ship rocked and pitched a lot - spray all over this enormous ship. We have a lovely large cabin with separate Bathroom, sitting area and sleeping area - and a balcony with nice louging seats and tables.

The Cabin stewards and waiters are all from Goa in India and they are very friendly and courteous. The first evening I found myself sitting next to a retired Policeman born in Abbotts Ann. When he was 17 he delivered bread to my Uncle Bob at Little Ann Bridge Farm and he remembers my Uncle shouted at him for going over a plowed fireld.

Next morning I met a lady at breakfast who knew my old Landlady at Woodford Green and had had her hair done by a bloke once engaged to Lindsay my Landlady's daughter - but she died and the hair dresser never married anyone else apparently. The woman also was active in the Church at woodford Green where Nan-nan's mum and dad got married - it really does sometimes seem a very small world!

Most peolle on this ship are British - very few from any other country. Last night we went to an Iris Williams concert - she is a coloured Welsh singer - it was very good. W are having a good time but Penny's cold is taking a long time to go - it is a bit less today, but she has been coughing a lot.

It would be nice to take you and Stephanie on a cruise when you are a bit older - but there are mostly older people on this ship - but a few kids and teens.

Take care my dear and lots of love from Nan-nan and me,
Grandad X

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Oriana

We are mostly packed and ready to go tomorrow...Here she is...but I doubt we will have such good weather as this! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 17, 2005


Saturday we embark. Then we set off for Malaga in Spain - I shall attempt to keep this blog - we will see how well I get on!