Friday, 29 October 2010

Adriatic Cruise Part 5: Corfu, Lipari and Roma

21 September, 2010: Corfu

The clocks went forward in the night, so that made us GMT+3. That meant we lost an hour’s sleep so we were a bit tired.

 The view over Corfu from the Achilleion

The excursion was to the Achilleion Palace, high above Corfu, built in 1890 for Elizabeth (Sissy), then Empress of Austria.


And another

Bronze atlhete

It has beautiful gardens with a number of bronzes. Around the patio, there are marble statues of the muses, the graces and representations of literature and philosophy. Apparently, also, Prince Philip was born in the Palace.

Marble Muse

Muses at the side entrance

The Sculpture Terrace

Bronze plaque beside the front entrance

Front entrance


The inside , unfortunately, does not reflect the beauty of the gardens. It is an odd  mixture of Germanic and classical influences. In one room, there are large (2-3 ft) putti on the walls. Horribly kitsch!

We then went down to Corfu old town and had a wander around. The guide didn’t seem very keen to guide so we had a look round the shops and then settled into (yet another) bar to people watch.

Corfu Old Fortress

Cool Streets

It was getting even hotter as we made our way back to the boat. After our usual salad lunch on the open Boat Deck, we sat in the sun for a while. It was cooler in the sea breeze. When we put to sea, the breeze got too strong for all the parasols so the crew put them down but, by then, the sky was a bit hazy so it wasn’t too hot in the sun. The sea was a bit less calm than we’ve had so far, but nothing to get excited about.
Marea decided not to come in to dinner so she could get some rest. I went up to the boat deck where there was no-one but Morag and Martin who share our dinner table. It was warm with just a light breeze so we sat and talked rugby. They are great rugby fans and go to the Melrose Sevens every year. The deck was lit up and it was a very pleasant hour. Dinner was a farewell for all those who would be leaving the ship in Rome, mostly, I think, the Americans (Annette and Denise, Karen and her daughter, Amanda) who are flying back to USA from Rome Airport.

The clocks went back again, so we regained the lost hour of sleep.

22 September, 2010: Lipari

Lipari is one of a number of tiny volcanic islands (the Aeolian Islands, named after the demigod of the winds Aeolus) also called the Lipari Islands. The other well-known islands are Stromboli and Vulcano, both still active volcanoes, Stromboli spectacularly so. There’s not a great deal to do in Lipari itself so there are excursions to the other islands. They left at 7.30am so we decided not to bother but to take the tender across to the port (it’s too shallow for Orient Queen to berth) and just go our own way. There’s a cathedral on top of a very high hill just outside the town (isn’t there always?) but with Marea not 100% and my Achilles tendon still playing up, we decided not to go that far.

Arriving at Lipari

Crossing on the tender

One of the many Lipari churches

The front and the obligatory fortress

We found a shop called “Our Lady of the Volcanoes” which had some very different ceramics and artworks but it was closed. The notice on the door said it would open at 10am so we went for a drink intending to come back. At 10, we were back in front of the shop and, of course, it was still closed. However, we waited a few minutes and a young woman came to open it. (note to self: really must learn patience).

 Loredana Salzano

It turned out that she was the artist/potter and that she had shown at the Florence Biennale last year and won a prize.

We bought a small flat dish and a 3D representation of Stromboli – a small jug.

Stromboli by Loredana Salzano

Returning on the tender

Getting aboard

10.30 we were back on the tender heading back to the ship to take up our positions on the Boat Deck to read and doze. It’s really rather peaceful on board when we are in port and most people are off the ship. The last tender came alongside at 12noon and we sailed for Civitavecchia (Rome’s port) at 12.30.


23 September 2010; Thursday: Rome
We got into Civitavecchia in the early morning, about 6am and were off in the bus to Rome by 7.30. Civitavecchia is about 80km from Rome so the bust takes over an hour. It’s possible to get a train into Rome Termini but you then have to get yourself around Rome and, most important, back to the boat in time to sail. Sometimes this seems too much of a risk but, perhaps, we’re just too timid; others did take the train, though some of them had a rather expensive experience with the fares on the regional, as opposed to local, train.

Rome: Castel Sant'Angelo

It’s interesting that Rome managed to develop such a large empire considering it’s not an international port. Rome does have Ostia on the Tiber but the reason for Civitavecchia is that Hadrian needed somewhere with deep water to get his ships in.
When we got to Rome, it was very hot. We were passed, by our excellent guide, Claudia, to a local guide Katia, who used walkie-talkie radios to give her commentary. However, the sound quality was so bad I couldn’t even understand whether she was speaking in German of English (we had both in our party) so I dispensed with it. Rome’s traffic is notorious so we ended up waiting in the hot sun for the bus to return after we had been round St Peter’s. I was brought up as a Roman Catholic but, for a myriad reasons, I no longer want to be associated with Catholicism, or theism in general. I know the art is superb and the endeavour is wonderful but my strongest feeling is that if all that passion, endeavour and money had been ploughed into helping humanity live better lives without the ‘promise’ of a better hereafter, the world would be a better place.

The Vatican

St Peter's: interior

The main altar

The Forum

The Coliseum

We drove around the city looking at the Forum, Coliseum, etc. until, finally, we were dropped near the Trevi Fountain which was absolutely heaving with people. We took a few photos, but the rather self-absorbed girl standing on the railings and clinging to a lamppost to have her photo taken would not get down so she now appears on everyone’s photos (which, presumably, was the idea - some people are so boring!).

The Trevi Fountain

Spanish Steps

We walked in the direction of Piazza de Popolo and stopped at a small restaurant for a rather expensive meal of pasta and pizza plus freshly squeezed orange juice; cost about 40Euros.
The walk to Piazza de Popolo was rather long in the heat (about 1.5km) and we arrived tired and hot. Marea found the walk a bit of an ordeal because she was still not particularly well.
Our American friends, Denise & Annette and Karen and her daughter, Amanda left the ship at Civitavecchia to fly back to Atlanta. We got back on board and sailed immediately for Marseille.

Piazza del Popolo

On board, the daily notice said we had to leave our cases outside the cabin by 1am so we had an interesting logistical exercise with washing bags and clothes for the next day, not to mention having to slip out in my underwear to place the cases in the corridor. We gave personal tips to Marissa and Sylvestre, the cabin staff who have been absolutely wonderful. They clean and tidy the cabin twice a day, including turning down the bd while we are at dinner. I even went out of the cabin late one night, about 11.30 to find Marissa dusting the corridor lamps. Over a very pleasant dinner, we said our first goodbyes and gave tips to Raynil, our waiter, and Lemuel, the wine waiter, who hav given us great service. Finished packing, put the cases out and were in bed by midnight.

Tomorrow, Marseille, Paris, London and home.

Friday, 22 October 2010

First Frosts

It's that time of year again: frost patterns on the cars, my Highway doesn't work first thing in the morning - like me, it doesn't like the cold

And the spiders' webs are hanging in damp rags

People are planting daffodil bulbs everywhere

And we've set about clearing out the pots, digging the bulbs out of the shed and replanting everything. Hopefully, we can expect a decent show in the Spring

A few of the best climbing pelargoniums set aside ready for the Spring because they're a bit expensive and wouldn't survive outside.

We've been moving plants around. I dug out the acanthus and made a huge space for some shrubs. lots of bulbs in here also. I'm hoping the squirrels don't eat them all.

Still, we've lots of logs cut

And more wood still to be cut so we might get through the Winter without buying more.

Finally, the bad puns are out again. What is it with non-conformist churches and limp puns? I think there's a factory somewhere churning them out.