CAVTAT, CROATIA. JULY 21st-AUGUST 31st. A welcome visit from Craig and our first week.

(The red line indicates approximately where our villa is)

Four years ago we came to Cavtat on the ferry from Dubrovnik on a free day from our coach tour.

The sun was shining, the water gloriously blue, clear and clean, and the surrounding vistas magical.

Loved every second of this day and now four years later we get to spend six weeks relaxing and visiting the surrounding countryside and countries on day trips.

We booked a villa in the old town of Cavtat which is like stepping back in time with its winding alleyways and old stone houses.

The villa being on the top of the peninsula is in the most fabulous location with a few minutes walk down to the harbour on both sides.

One is the more busy side with private mostly luxury boats coming in for the day and where the restaurants and fresh produce stalls are.

On the other side the path which goes all the way round so both sides are linked by this route is the quieter side only one restaurant and places to make a spot for the day for sunbathing and swimming.

Cavtat has become more popular since our last visit which means the prices have gone up substantially in the restaurants and so has the accommodation.

However there is a buzz around and our lovely villa with terrace area is always quiet and welcoming as are our hosts.

We arrived fairly late in the evening with Michael meeting us at the bus stop where he had told our Uber driver he would be. There was handshaking and jolly hellos as we started up the path home. You can’t take a car into the old part which makes it peaceful and great for walking.

There was limoncello to toast our arrival and promises of coming down to show us where to go etc another time. Which of course he did and they have ordered a small freezer for the villa so we can then stock up at Lidl when it arrives. With offers to take us to lidl and a country drive we aren’t complaining about our welcome.

Like all new places everything is slightly different and I’m really impressed how relaxed we are now about quickly sorting out what we will need to buy or ask for to make our stay comfortable.

We quickly realised that paying $6 a day each for sunloungers on the rocky waterfront will add up so we bought thick yoga mats and a couple of cheap beach towels for our stay. We can leave them here for the next visitors.

A few days later we decided to buy an extra layer of padding to our original purchases and a couple of blow up pillows. Our age is catching up with us and our bones need a bit more comfort from the concrete shore front. I also bought a cheap blow up lilo (sea mattress) I can’t wait to try it.

We had bought a SIM card at the airport and after spending too long trying to get it to work decided it was time to go to bed and worry about it tomorrow. I had trouble going to sleep even though I was tired, I was just too excited to be back in my happy place.

A lazy first morning saw us walking to the harbour side for breakfast and walk around the other peninsula that makes up Cavtat. There is a massive hotel over there which we wandered through. A lot of package tours we suspect.great facilities though and awesome coastal views.

Anyway we did a pretty big reconnaissance of the waterline part of Cavtat. It actually climbs up from down here to the main road quite steeply, so again glad we made the choice to spend a little more and stay in the old town.

Ice cream is just huge in Europe and here it is so cheap $2 Aus for a scoop. So many flavours I’m looking forward to trying them all.

On our second full day we took the bus that goes to Dubrovnik but stopped off in the village of where there is a shopping centre.

First we walked down to the waterfront to see what it had to offer. It appeared to be more families here and a newer slightly manufactured look to the development.

Saying that having a shopping centre would be a real bonus for families wanting to self cater as we do.

Unfortunately the fresh produce was not so fresh and the meat not so appealing.

We rethought our purchasers and realised that the more expensive but much fresher and appetising fruit and vegetables down here on the waterfront would be our best bet.

We however stocked up on some other basics and made our way home back on the bus. Oh I also found and bought a bottle of gin for around $8.

Time for a walk to find ice cream and then home to cook our first meal here and of course for me to make my jug of sangria.

On our walk around the town we started talking deals with the locals on getting some discounts. Managed to get ten return tickets on ferry to Dubrovnik for the one way price. A slight discount on one trip we want to make and discount on car hire which we won’t need to have consecutive days. This will allow us to spread our sightseeing over the time we’re here.

We made a trip into Dubrovnik to check out a few things before we take our mate Craig in for a day exploring when he arrives. Having been here before we had some idea of what we want to do but it’s good to have made sure all is organised before we share a day there.

Our days started falling into a routine of getting down to a spot on the waterfront in the shade by 9:30 to spend the time there till around 3 pm when we lost the shade and it became too hot for comfort.

We’d spend the time reading, swimming, either bringing lunch or buying something simple, having a coffee and perhaps a few little shut eyes.

I still am in awe every time I look up from my book to see the beauty of this place.

Although busier than our last visit it still retains a charming village feel.

I like that there is a variety of things to do here which means you can easily stay for weeks or months here. We’ve settled in easily and happily and our first week flashed by.

Over that first next week we started seeing some of the same people each day and started chatting to a local woman who spends her time between Croatia and Germany in fact in the same town our friends Andrea and Thomas live in and where we stayed with them in December 2017. What a coincidence.

Often on the walk home we will pop into the local Pemo grocery store for something for dinner and maybe an ice cream from one of the many sellers.

Back home we relish the aircon and it’s usually early cocktail hour with James having a beer and I’ll make a small jug of sangria or a gin and tonic for me. Crackers and cheese, potato chips or peanuts are the usual accompaniment before it’s time to make our dinner.

We’re waiting for Craig’s arrival for our eating out week. With quite a few long day trips booked for his week with us I’m sure we won’t want to be cooking more than a couple of times.

Our landlord is taking us to Lidl for a big shop now that the freezer has arrived so we’ll have a better selection of meat on hand once we’ve been there.

Our trip to Lidl was mixed. It was great to have a larger selection but we still weren’t finding all the things we normally would in a large supermarket elsewhere.

But we’re getting better at just working with what’s on hand and making tasty enough meals to still believe we’re eating better at home than out.

The time came for us to go and meet Craig at the airport and start our week long program of outings and fun.

Everything went to plan , and we were soon back at our villa and having a beer to celebrate his arrival before it was time to shower and head to the ferry for our trip into Dubrovnik and our 8pm dinner booking.

We had made a reservation at the restaurant as we wanted to score a table with a view. It was a brilliant night and perfect first outing. All three of us enjoyed our chosen meals and after a quick stroll through the town afterwards headed to the ferry for the trip home.

Tuesday we had a three island cruise booked and luckily it didn’t start till 9:30 am so a fairly easy paced morning.

We visited the islands of Kolocep, Lopud and Sipan. The weather was perfect and although the first to stops weren’t long we managed a swim at them both before having our third and much longer stop where we hired a couple of beach umbrellas and a sunlounger for Craig as we had our beach mats with us.

On the boat we started talking to a lovely family from Finland on holiday with their three young daughters. Funnily we kept running into them after that and had a lovely evening drinking beer and cocktails with them on their last night.

Once home from our day cruising I cooked a risotto and we had beer o’clock while we waited to eat.

A fairly early start on the Wednesday as we had to catch the minibus at 8am for our trip to Montenegro.

Unfortunately our minibus wasn’t that comfortable and the windows didn’t allow for the best viewing but we stopped at some great places and when we got to Kotor were able to enjoy a nice lunch, guided tour and a break at the waterfront for a swim and cold drink before the return trip.

This was James and my second time to Kotor and we were pleased at how much reconstruction had gone on since our last visit. Sadly it was just too hot to want to stroll around the town for more than the hour guided tour. The cool water was calling us.

We had a fairly easy border crossing and back home in Cavtat we decided to walk down for a dinner of pizza. Great meal with terrific service.

Afterwards we walked around the waterfront and stopped for cocktails at one of the open bars. Two local girls (twins actually) were playing guitar and singing so we moved closer to enjoy the entertainment. Found out they would be playing again on the Friday night so decided we’d go again then.

Thursday was our designated chill out day so we packed up our beach mats and headed to where James and I had started to go most mornings and set ourselves up for the next four or so hours. Had lunch at the local bakery and by the time the sun had taken over the shade we were all ready to return to the villa for a little rest before we headed out for a walk around the peninsula with the idea of an afternoon swim. In fact we walked right round then headed up to the cemetery for the view.

On the way back down we stopped at a very small cafe/bar for a drink and ended up spending a good while here chatting with one couple from England and then we all welcomed a father and daughter into the group when they turned up. Really great ending to our chill out day.

Friday saw us up even earlier than ever with a 9am coach to catch for our day trip to Mostar and the Kravice waterfalls in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Happy to say we had a proper coach for this excursion which totally made the day so much more enjoyable than the cramped conditions of the minivan to Montenegro.

We had a brilliant day and we’re all blown away by Mostar and it’s bridge, old town and General vibe.

We also visited a mosque in Mostar.

And we went to a museum.

The waterfalls were lovely and though not on the scale of Plitvice were a pleasant stop for a swim and relax.

It ended up being a pretty long day as we didn’t get back to Cavtat till after 8 pm. Having bought some fresh produce including a basil plant I made bruschetta for dinner and we ate cheese, fresh figs and crackers while I made the bruschetta. Although it had been a fairly long day we were all still keen to go out after our easy dinner for more cocktails and to listen to the girls entertain us again.

It was fun to then run into both Michael and Mira our landlords and our Finnish family there.

Saturday was our second chill out day and Michael had offered to take us for a drive to the mountains behind us to get the awesome view and then a drive into the valley area for a complete contrast. We had a fantastic local guide in Michael and we enjoyed a little aperitif and coffee at one of his favourite restaurants which was cooled by the trees and water running past it. Would definitely like to go back sometime.

We found a different spot for swimming in the afternoon and then came home for our daily beer o’clock and dinner of tortellini before heading out for cocktails at our now local favourite bar. It was waterpolo night at the waterfront so an exciting addition to our evening and of course we ran into our landlords again and our Finnish family.

Sunday was our designated Dubrovnik day. Our plan was to get there and walk the walls, have lunch then get cable car up to mountains behind then enjoy a few drinks and swim before having dinner and coming home.

Unfortunately Craig began to feel unwell as we started walking the walls and he went back down and met us on our return from our walk. We had walked the walls four years ago and were amazed at how many more little rest stations offering drinks, meals there now were.

We caught up with Craig and had a pretty ordinary lunch, to be honest once Craig found the slug on his lettuce it put me right off my salad and the boys weren’t really enjoying their meals either. We decided a swim would be a great thing and it really cooled us right down.

We decided we would do the cable car and then head home as it was just too hot and Craig still wasn’t feeling that great.

The view from the top made it worth the trip but the heat really was debilitating and we were all quite sleepy on the ferry ride back but a swim once we got off cooled us down again and a rest at the villa saw us then ready to head out for Craig’s last night for a farewell dinner which was delicious and the meals were huge.

On the way home we did some souvenir shopping with Craig and we were all quite happy to have an earlier night.

Monday was a sad day. After James cooked the boys a grand breakfast and I helped Craig pack his suitcase to fit in all his new purchases we headed for a last stroll of the waterfront and coffee before it was time to walk Craig to the taxi stand and wave him off for his long trek home to Auckland.

Felt sad as we had really enjoyed his company and all our adventures together. It was great having a face from home and an English speaking friend to share some time with.

We went and installed ourselves on the waterfront and read our books and had a swim before heading home for a very late lunch and rest inside in the aircon.

Chatted about our week and how how much we had enjoyed ourselves with our mate.

PARIS THE LAST THREE WEEKS, JULY 2018

Continuing the Paris life.

With our navago travel ticket we can go to Versailles.

It was so easy to get to and we packed our baguettes, fruit and water and hit the estate for a massive day of walking and ogling.

Once you get through seeing inside the main palace and all the throngs of people ( was anyone left in Paris) you can really enjoy what this incredulous estate has to offer.

The gardens are immense. 230 acres of gardens to be precise but in total the land is over 2000 acres.

There is just SOOO much to see.

In all honesty a day doesn’t really cover it. So my suggestion is go early, take a sarong or something similar if it is a warm day and do what we did,take a little snooze under a tree for a good break so you can get the most out of this awesome place.

I’m not going to go on and on but really try not to miss Marie Antoinette’s little farm hamlet.

Also visit the summer palace also called the estate of Trianon.

We prefer this to the large palace but that’s our opinion only.

The above gives you an idea how big Versailles really is. You’ve all seen the photos of how huge the palace is so just look at it in perspective of the whole estate and you will see what I’m talking about.

Needless to say we covered some ground over 23000 steps for the day.

I was quite keen to go rowing on the canal but James wasn’t, he could tell who would be doing the rowing and who would be lying back relaxing and he didn’t see his role as favourable 😂.

Another day we chose to meet for a 2:30 pm free walking tour of The Marais area of Paris. You do pay the guide a tip which the suggested price was slightly more than we expected but hey it was a great look around somewhere we hadn’t fully explored before with some invaluable local knowledge so well worth it.

The great thing about our navigo pass is that we just don’t think about not going somewhere because you can always find your way home using the bus and metro network together. We also don’t mind going for a walk knowing we can always get a ride home if we get too tired.

This way we have ventured out all over locally and just enjoyed finding interesting places.

We also walked to the Eiffel Tower and were going to walk along the Seine when my sandal strap snapped and it was easy to just hop on the metro into the city where we knew a Decathlon outdoor store was and purchase a new pair.

When friends from back on the Coast were in town and called saying they were at The Tower, we knew we could meet them there quickly and easily and go off with them anywhere and not worry about getting home.

Another day we used it to go to the other recommended Chateau Fontainebleau.

This was a magnificent day out and we thoroughly enjoyed both the Château, it’s grounds and the town it is in.

The Chateau was unbelievably less crowded than Versailles and as the home of so many Kings, Queens and the Emperor Bonaparte richly decorated in that over the top elegance that only royalty of those times seemed to be able pull off.

We would highly recommend a trip here to anyone who either has already been to Versailles or just doesn’t do crowds very well.

Some place I have wanted to visit from when I first read about them but hadn’t managed to either find them or have the time on previous visits to Paris ( still can’t believe I can say that. Doesn’t seem that long ago that a once only visit was all I could hope to have here) was the Catacombs of Paris.

The story of this incredible but strange now popular tourist attraction is well worth a little research on google if you’re so inclined.

But to save time I’ve taken a few photos off the catacombs official site and I use them purely as reference material only and claim in no way that I did this research.

It seems we keep adding to our list of places to go and see but we keep going out everyday and tick at least one off our list.

Having been to our local flea markets we decided to go to the BIG PARIS MARKETS one Saturday and were just totally blown away by the scale of these markets and the variety of goods on offer and also the way they are displayed.

From your paddy’s market type of stall right through to arcades full of gorgeous furniture, paintings, chandeliers, rugs and so much more all which could easily have been in any Chateau or stately home.

There was modern art and furniture from all different eras.

Clothing, Nic nacks, even a stuffed lion, oh and a space ship.

So much to see you could spend weekends here just wandering taking it all in.

Another place we wanted to visit was the Buttes Chamond Parc so the next day we made our way on the metro and bus.

The park is full of people running, cycling, exercising whether it was fitness classes, yoga or tai chi. There were families picnicking, lovers like us strolling and everyone enjoying the sunshine.

This isn’t a flat park but rather lots of rolling hills and bridges as well as a big pond circling around. With all the trees and green spaces it’s a nice reprieve from the city.

From there we took the bus down towards the Canal Saint- Martin.

A lively area full of things to do on the canal or on its banks.

There were row boats, motor boats, restaurants and bars both on the canal in boats or on the land. Children’s playgrounds, sandy areas for deck chairs and lots of people watching to be had.

The only spoiler was the condition of the canal itself a real shame that rubbish has been left to build up and algae.

Still we were glad to have found yet another spot in Paris we wouldn’t have seen if we’d only had a week here.

The next day we were off to Orly airport to pick up a car for four days to go see our friend Brigitte which I’ve written up about separately.

Back to Paris after our wonderful time away we settled in for our last nine nights of living in Paris.

We dropped our car off at the airport on Thursday night rather than trek out there again Friday morning and we took two buses home; all on our navigo card.

The next day we lounged at home. James did quite a bit of office work on the iPad and I spent time writing about our time away and looking at our photos.

We had planned to walk around the city that evening as the 13th is an open night at fire stations and lots of parties but we ended up relaxing with a wine at home instead.

We didn’t know about the big parade on Bastille day down the Champs-Élysées or we would have gone. We saw it on the tv and were disappointed we hadn’t made it there.

Anyway we did go to see the fireworks off the Eiffel Tower that night.

They started at about ten past eleven and not too far away from where we are is a great area for viewing them.

We weren’t the only ones with the same idea and it was a very well behaved crowd of mostly locals who oohed and ahhed as you do when something is done so well as were the fireworks that night.

Well done Paris. It was really spectacular with a great use of the tower, using sparkling lights, moving patterns projected up and down the tower and of course spectacular use of fireworks. A 30 minute entertainment for all.

The next day Sunday the 15th was WORLD CUP FINAL DAY.

We started the day wandering down to the local Sunday markets and looking for a venue to watch the cup final that was starting at 5pm. We found a great bar and was told 3:30 would be a great time to arrive. Unfortunately we arrived about 3:45 and there wasn’t a seat to be had so we wandered back towards home and found a spot in a smaller bar with a great view of the tv screen and settled in.

Several beers and of course with a score of 4-2 there were quite a few moments of rapturous cheering to be had. Car going past beeping their horns and General good spirits.

It was fantastic to be here for their win and a great memory of our time in Paris.

After the game there was dancing and much jubilation on the streets around.

after all the excitement of the last few days we spent the next day at home again catching up on affairs from home etc. But by Tuesday we were ready to go off exploring again. This time we made our way to Provins and incredible Medieval town out of Paris which fortunately we could still get to with our magical navigo pass.

James didn’t really know where we were going and I had only decided to chose here on looking at someone else’s blog.

Winner winner chicken dinner.

What a great place. I don’t know really what to say but it was a great day and here are the photos.

But I should mention the church was built 1000 years ago ( third picture down). And King Henry the first lived in the tower the only circular tower built in a square base.

The day till our departure started to draw closer and we spent a few days in the last week finalising some plans and starting others and of course had a look at our packing.

We had booked a 15kg check in bag in case we needed to and decided that we would any way just to give us the opportunity to take a few books and some toiletries we had that were over the 100 ml size.

we have now started to look forward to our new adventure where swimming will feature and a week visit from a great mate from my teenage years in NZ Craig.

On one of our last days we ended up having a massive walk around Paris and walked home. My home made sangria never tasted so good. But we saw some beautiful sunflowers and mounted police officers. We also could see the great clean up the city had done after their huge weekend.

On the Friday our last full day in France we took the train out to the town of Rambouillet. Here this a lovely Chateau with some very nice grounds.

The Chateau to be fair doesn’t show off a lot of rooms nor a lot of furniture. It does however boast to being the summer home of the Presidents of France and where heads of state are received. On the ground floor is an extremely ugly room all made of marble which is where the first G8 summit was held.

The interior of the rest of the Chateau is Rococo and Neo-Pompeian style.

There was however a particularly strange exhibition on throughout most of the rooms while we were there.

Some very weird taxidermy, some odd animal skin yurts with peep holes in to see lit up animal designs. Anyway made it interesting if not quite in keeping with the property.

The formal French gardens hold canals and six islands and also an English garden. We made the mistake of napping under a tree and a man came along and blew his whistle at us to get off the grass. Oops.

The grounds also house a couple of quirky buildings one which is la Laiterie de la Reine otherwise translated to The Queen Dairy. Built by Louis the XVI for Marie Antoinette it holds an unusual sculpture for a dairy called Almathee and the Nymph.

And the other odd building was a very ordinary country home with the most unusual interior a round high walled room completely and richly decorated with shells.

The sea shelled thatched roofed cottage was built in 1779 by the Duke of Penthievre for the Princess of Lamballe.

We saw the Dairy and the sea shell cottage on a guided tour which was free with our entrance ticket and the only way you were able to view them. Unfortunately the entire hour tour was in French but we got to see them and that was our ultimate aim.

It was one of the only days we’ve seen rain and we got caught out after having nothing but great weather. Still we enjoyed the outing and were home in time for our little cocktail drinks before dinner and to relax on our last night of our French experience.

Thanks to the many people here who have shown us tolerance and patience with our non existent French apart from the few cursory and obligatory Hello, thank you and please.

In a city of 2,250,000 locals welcoming almost 25,000,000 tourists a year I have found every one to be extraordinarily pleasant considering how many times they get asked for help by strangers, have the trains and metro seats taken by tourists when after a day at work they would love a seat. The bad behaviour by some tourists must rankle at times but they accept that the tourists pay a lot of wages etc. There will always be that person who has a bad experience and lets it ruin their stay or make that their focus on storytelling but mostly around the world if you’re polite and respectful to others they give it right back.

Thanks Paris you’re very charming for a big city and we leave with lots of great memories.

Next stop Cavtat Croatia.

Thanks for joining the ride.

BRIVE-LA-GAILLARDE, 9-12th July 2018

Back in September 2017 while James and I were doing our month in Sanur, Bali we met the lovely Brigitte from Brive in France.

We have non existent French but Brigitte has some English and we made it work and we enjoyed her company.

So when she once again invited us to come stay while we were in Paris we looked at our dates and decided to hire a little car and go country.

James did a great job of driving FiFi Fiat ( thanks for the name Christine Lavers).

We made a couple of food and liquid stops before succumbing to a flat tyre.

Being such a little car the spare was one of those small temp tyres and we had to drive at a reduced speed.

We finally made it to Brigitte’s home in the picture postcard town of Brive-la- Gaillarde.

What a lovely town and Brigitte’s home is a glorious traditional stone house on three levels with a wonderful eclectic mix of art, artifacts,and personal touches that makes her home both welcoming and fascinating.

Hugs and kisses greet us as do lily her little dog and Camina another dog she is looking after for a society that takes care of dogs for people who are unable to for a period of time. Perhaps they are in hospital or in Gaol.

We shared a lovely meal and her daughter Lea came for dessert and before we knew it we were ready for a shower and bed.

The next morning after breakfast on the terrace patio where we ate all our meals as the weather was just perfect for this, Eric took James to see about our flat tyre and they organised a replacement tyre to be fitted the next day.

Once they returned we all hopped into Eric’s car for a day tripping around the Dordogne countryside.

What a fabulous day with our friends we had.

The countryside is outstandingly beautiful and with the sun shining made everything glorious.

We started with a visit to Lascaux where a cave system filled with prehistoric paintings was discovered in 1940 by a young local boy walking with his dog. Returning a few days later with three friends they found the cave entrance led them into the most incredibly preserved prehistoric wall art and by 1948 this incredible find was open for public viewing.

Unfortunately the reality of doing this started a decline in the paintings quality and it was regretfully closed to public completely in 1963.

An incredible undertaking began to complete a totally authentic like experience with the opening of the Lascaux centre and recently only a few years ago a new and even more spectacular centre opened giving people a very much realistic experience of what this find looks like.

From here we whizzed around to Sarlat-la-Caneda.

One of those gobsmacking medieval towns that have you wandering around in awe at the architecture and the skill of the craftsmanship from so many centuries ago.

We love these places and as we wander around we also exclaim “well we’re not in Woy Woy now”.

The temperature was very warm so we sat at a very nice outdoor covered area for a drink from the bar/cafe before it was time to take the trip back to Brigitte’s home. We bade a fond farewell to our new friend Eric and he sped off to his evening shift at work leaving us all in awe as to how he would cope after driving us all around and walking in the heat.

Brigitte is one of those cooks who makes everything tasty and quickly prepared a large potato omelette (cooked in goose fat) to share along with the sweetest small vine roasted tomatoes and a simple salad of leaves, walnuts, pine nuts and sharp cheese shavings with a tasty vinaigrette. We opened the Moët and Chandon we had bought to share and a after dinner coffee we talked Brigitte into walking into the town centre to watch the end of the World Cup semi final which saw France make it into the Grand Final. There was much rejoicing in the town. Horns beeping, flag waving, cheering and singing and our walk home saw us all happy and ready for bed.

For our last full day Brigitte had us once again whizzing around the countryside in her little car with the roof down and with The Beatles playing we sang along and again marvelled at the countryside before we arrived at the hilltop town of Turenne.

Again we enjoyed winding through the streets and taking in the surrounding views.

But wait there’s more! From here we to Collonges La Rouge. All the little town is built in the same red brick and so carefully preserved and pristine that it’s no wonder this is a popular tourist spot. There were a lot more people here than our last stop where we seemed to be almost the only visitors amongst the locals. Still it didn’t detract from its overall attractiveness and we had a look at a few of the stores here as well.

Next we were back at Brigitte’s where she had a meal of duck and green beans on the table with a bottle of rose’ before you could blink.

By now we were realising you have to say no more at Brigitte’s restaurant or we would never fit in the little fiat for our drive back to Paris.

Brigitte and James picked up the new tyre so we were all good to leave the next day ( sadly).

And off we went again for an afternoon at Rocamadour.

Just when you think you’ve seen everything you come around the corner and see this place.

We are developing bulging eye tourist syndrome. Honestly we couldn’t believe what we were seeing.

Brigitte drove us to the other side of the gully so we could get the best pictures before driving back up to the top where we took the inclinator down to next level where we walked through the church. This stop is part of a pilgrimage walk so very sacred.

On the next level down was the town which had lost some of its charm by the over tourism and abundance of shops.

The crowds do detract somewhat but you still know you’ve seen somewhere extraordinarily special.

On the way home we stopped for some dinner ingredients as Brigitte had invited her best friend Hyam and her partner Yannick along with Brigitte’s son Adrienne and his girlfriend Sophie and her daughter Lea to come for drinks and a nibble type of dinner with James cooking the tasty thin sausages on the bbq.

I couldn’t believe that Brigitte took it all in her stride. We got home at 8pm the time everybody was expected. Luckily they were all fashionably late so we had a bit of time to get a few things together and Brigitte to make her famous “soup de champagne “ OMG. Yummo. Mix one cup each of sugar, lemon juice and Cointreau with lots of ice cubes then pour in champagne. ITS A WINNER.

We had a lovely lovely evening with almost everyone there speaking a little English.

We felt very welcomed and included. The weather has been divine and sitting outside with no flies is heavenly.

After Bisous bisous when everyone left we climbed the staircase for shower and bed and fell asleep feeling very happy.

Our last morning was spent breakfasting again on the terrace and then walking through Brive -la-Gaillarde, Brigitte’s home town with its historic centre and displays of windmills and umbrellas to celebrate summer.

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We went to a little food market where some goodies for lunch were purchased and then back home for lunch of figs stuffed with foie gras, salad with slices of duck and nuts and I think the right term for our other dish is duck/ goose rilletts.

Finished off with goat cheese from Rocamadour and of course for Brigitte and I a glass of rose’

What a fabulous way to end our true living with a local experience.

Our goodbyes were heartfelt and with sadness that our time together had come to an end.

Our drive back was thankfully uneventful, no punctures and we dropped the car back at Orly airport and took the bus home rather than returning it the next morning.

Our few days away were just what we needed. A breath of country air and a smiling friend to share some laughs with.

PARIS. MAY 31st- JULY 21st. The first four weeks.

Having made the trip across from Dover to Paris on the Thursday 31st May we stayed one night in a cheap hotel near the bus station as it was an 8 pm arrival and we weren’t due to take the keys of our apartment in the 15th till the next day.

We had booked this seven weeks early in 2017 with the idea it would give us plenty of time to really live like a local.

As it turned out it was another lesson in why the slow travel comes into its own.

My mother’s illness escalated so quickly that my trip to spend time with her while she was well enough to enjoy the visit became a mercy dash to make it back in time to see her before she passed.

After meeting Andie the owner on the Friday I booked my flight back to New Zealand for the Sunday evening.

From Friday till Sunday mums condition had worsened to the point I was worried I wasn’t going to make it back in time.

Fortunately I did and I got to say goodbye to my mum both in person and at her lovely service.

Mum knew I wasn’t that great with dates so I knew she chose our wedding anniversary to pass away so I’ll never forget the anniversary of her passing.

Mum was nearly 90 so it was a celebration and congratulations for reaching such a great age that we celebrated on the Tuesday before I left on the Friday to return back to Paris.

I was well supported by family and incredible friends and I got to enjoy some catch up with both these groups whilst I was in New Zealand.

James remained in Paris for the 13 days I was away and really got to know his way around using the transport and his navago pass we had purchased that first day in the city. So on my return he proved a great tour guide.

I was extremely lucky by getting some good rests on both trips there and back and didn’t succumb to jet lag either ends which meant I was ready to start making use of the five weeks we still had in Paris.

On the Sunday 17 th June we started the day by walking to the big market held each Sunday just down the street, covering quite a few blocks you can purchase all your weekly food needs with fish, meat, vegetables, fruits, cheeses,flowers, sweet treats , breads and so much more.

We luckily found it not too difficult buying with our non existent French language skills but a polite Bonjour certainly helps.

We bought quite a lot for our €49 and look forward to using our fresh produce over the next days.

After returning home and putting our goodies away we took the bus travelled into Luxembourg gardens which were just gorgeous with plenty of different areas for people to enjoy including hiring little miniature sailboats to race across the manmade pond.

We ate our baguettes that we had made up with salad fillings at home and walked from there to the Pantheon basilica. We weren’t immediately sure if we would bother paying the charge to go in but decided it would be interesting to see the crypts which held the likes of Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, Alexander Dumas, Pierre and Marie Curie as well as many famous French citizens from the resistance and other circles of French life.

It was magnificent but nothing could beat the 3€ tour to the top of the dome outside with 360 degree views of the city I would easily say it is the best value when it comes to getting the overview of the city. Highly recommended.

By the time we got home we were keen for our dinner which we made from ingredients bought that morning at our market shopping trip and the pork we used in the stir fry was the tenderest we had ever eaten.

The next day we did some office work before we headed out to Montparnasse to look around.

Not as exciting as the previous day but I did manage to buy a couple of pairs of light weight cotton pants at a reduced rate to replace the pairs I’ve been wearing for over a year now and James bought some weetbix from Marks and Spencer’s food market to add to the marmite we got for him yesterday.

Our apartment is very comfortable with a full kitchen and user friendly lounge,dining,bedroom,bathroom and separate toilet. The laundry is in the basement where we have our own washing machine.

The place is full of all the necessities for living long term and our lovely landlords Andie and Georges had James for dinner one evening whilst I was away. They live in the building next door and are delightful Andie originally bodes from New York but has lived in Paris with her French husband Georges for many years. She’s a little pocket rocket and has a warm and friendly manner, just what strangers to town are looking for.

Continuing our exploration of the city we decided to tick one of our list places off by arriving in time for the opening of The Musee d’Orsay to find it was subject to a strike and likely to open later.

We decided to check it out again another day and that we would now walk down to Notre Dame Cathedral and mooch around the Latin Quarter. We spent four hours strolling the waterfront and all around Ile St-Louis before walking around Notre Dame.

As the queues were extensive and we had both been before we skipped along to the Latin Quarter and enjoyed all the restaurants, cafes and busy scene there, whilst looking for The Breakfast in America diner we had read about in a book by the owner whom documented his trials and wins in setting up the business in Paris. We weren’t interested in eating there the prices pretty hefty and it was packed but we were happy to find it and James recognised the author who was hands on working in the diner.

Taking the metro back to two stops before ours we walked through those neighbourhoods and noted that there were a lot of well patronised bistros and cafes during the fairly lengthy lunch time service. May return there for a meal of the day sometime soon.

With such a good length of time we have been able to go out everyday and see different parts of the city without having to race. Some days we are out four or five hours and others more, it really depends on when we feel we’ve seen enough for the day and how many of those hours have been spent walking or climbing stairs to get the view.

We’re very lucky that one of our local buses takes us across the seine, past The Louvre and up to Montmartre.

This is a great trip and we’ve made the most of it and the metro as we get around finding new suburbs to spend time in.

Sometimes what we planned to do hasn’t worked out due to strikes or huge queues so we’ve moved onto something else on our list.

We finally got to the Musee d Orsay and bought a ticket that gave us entry to the Musee d l Orangerie giving us another day trip out.

So we spent the next days wandering around Montmartre and taking the stairs to the top of Sacre Coeur for the awesome view. Took in the Musee d Montmartre.

visiting cemeteries where world famous people are buried including the one at Montparnasse and Pere Lachaise.

walking the gardens of Tuileries near the Louvre and revisiting the wonderful gardens Luxembourg.

To the side of the Tuileries gardens is the wonderful Musee de l’Orangerie one of the best art museums you will find. It is a relatively small Musee but boy it packs a punch. Purchase a ticket combining the Musee d Orsay for around €18.

This Musee then gives you the opportunity to hang in the gardens on one of the many supplied metal chairs some even tilted for more relaxing and taking in that most popular of activities, people watching and just soaking up the sights and atmosphere of life in Paris.

Among other random things we went to the Oz bar to watch the State of Origin football, wandered around our local area and found a great park not far away with exercise equipment and pond,along with just going to the local street food markets to buy produce for cooking at home.

One of the ways we have been able to afford travelling is to live like a local that means eating most of our meals at home and taking lunches out with us. I know this sounds dull to some of you and we certainly shout ourselves a meal out occasionally but we have found that this is one of the most cost saving ways to keeping our budget on track and to also keep an eye on what we’re eating.

It about experiences not always luxurious meals that we are after.

There have been plenty of stays where we haven’t had a kitchen and we found it sometimes difficult to find meals we either liked or were within our budget threshold. Also using public transport in a large city is key to keeping our costs down and most of the large cities if you’re there for a month have some kind of deal. Hiring a car though like we did in the UK for our last ten days gave us the flexibility we wanted at an affordable price and well worth it.

When you take into account what your monthly outlay is at home including entertainment, home and car expenses, we are often living cheaper than we did in Australia.

I’ll leave it here and add the rest of our Paris adventures in a separate post.

MOUSEHOLE, CORNWALL and The U.K. 6th – 31st May 2018.

BINGO! Did we arrive into London on the most spectacular day or WHAT! Not a cloud in the sky and glorious views all the way down on the train to Penzance and taxi to our gorgeous seaside cottage “little Dorris” for the beginning of a 20 night stay.

First we had a brilliant Uber ride shared with Belinda and Patrick Peck with our fantastic driver Ali giving a great city tour on the way through to Paddington station. Here we hugged our new friends adios as we went on our separate journeys and we had to change to Marylebone station as Paddington was closed for maintenance.

We actually scored a great seat on the train with a table and although I would have liked to have a nap it was so hard to as the scenery was just too glorious in the sunshine to miss.

Once at Penzance we discovered no Uber here and having only just missed the last bus as it was a Sunday, we took a taxi to our home in Mousehole.

The taxi driver was a great source of local knowledge and when we arrived at our little cottage were welcomed by Pat and Allan with champagne and flowers and a box with a few necessities to get us through till we could go shopping, greatly appreciated.

We didn’t un pack much, just a look around our abode before venturing out for a stroll around the town.

We booked Mousehole from the photos we had seen of this quaint village and it sure hasn’t disappointed our vision of what we hoped for. It is full of the cutest odd shaped little cottages and laneways with the seaside fishing boats and walled seafront as a background ( think Doc Martin the tv program for an idea of the vista).

A dinner at The Ship Inn pub a few doors down and it was time to call it a day.

Unfortunately the first night the shower wasn’t successful as the hose leaked so badly but, a quick email the next morning to Pat and when we returned from our day out all was sorted. This is the difference between a good stay and a bad one when you get quick responses to any little problems that come up.

MONDAY the 7th of May was bank holiday here in the UK and luckily the weather was holding up for a glorious coastal walk to Penzance via Newlyn which is another gorgeous seaside fishing village.

We had a great day exploring both Newlyn and parts of Penzance. An interesting and informative visit to the information centre meant we had heaps of ideas for our time here and some great local knowledge makes all the difference.

After the requisite Cornish pastie and coffee we organised a SIM card with data and hit the supermarket for some shopping essentials.

The extra cost of having a whole cottage to ourselves is more than offset by the cost savings of constantly eating out.

Food here in the supermarket is very reasonable but the prices in restaurants when we have to almost double the price for conversion to Australian dollars is crippling.

The small local bus bought us within 50 metres of home and after putting away our packages it was time to rest.

We had our first home cooked meal in over 10 weeks. We kept it simple till we regain our cooking skills and familiarity with the kitchen and it’s on hand utensils.

The next few days we spent walking back into Wherrytown where they have a Tesco for a little more shopping and a lot of time walking the local countryside including a fantastic coastal walk to the very quaint Lamorna, which was fairly challenging at times as I didn’t really have the right walking boots, but hey when on holiday you somehow make do.

The coastal views were well worth it and a lovely coffee in the cafe at Lamorna coastal waterfront was a welcome break before we turned and headed back to our cottage home.

There are some lovely little villages with some stunning rural vistas and some of the public footways are not more than flattened grass tracks often leading into farmers fields sometimes with cows in them! Which we’ve discovered several times now. This still seems strange to be walking through farmers fields with no questions asked, but it certainly gives you some great scenery and lovely rural walking.

We were pleasantly surprised to know that another couple from the ship were coming for a week stay in Mousehole from Thursday the 10th. It turns out their cottage is only about 50 metres from ours so it wasn’t ever going to be hard to catch up and it was a laugh to walk into the deli cafe on the Friday morning for a coffee ( the best flat whites in town) to see them sitting there having breakfast.

Unfortunately the weather started to be a bit up and down since their arrival but still on the whole we’ve been very fortunate.

We had a plan to share the Sunday taking a train to St Ives but with Sue waking up and being ill, Terry popped down to say they weren’t likely to be going. James and I changed our plans and took the bus to Marazion and as the tide was out walked over the sand to Saint Michaels Mount.

Saint Michaels Mount is a tidal island and you can see it for miles around and it’s history is incredible from monastery from the 6 th century to private home for the St Aubyn family till handed over to the National Trust in the 1960’s. Steeped with so much folklore it’s a wonderful few hours with glorious views.

Back on the mainland it was another walk through the historic town of Marazion before walking back into Penzance then bus home.

Honestly it’s crazy how glorious the the scenery is and we’ve really enjoyed getting out and about in the countryside and little villages.

The next day we took the bus to St Ives, the village we visited on our 2013 tour of the UK and which had sold us on the idea of returning to Cornwall for a longer stay with hopefully much better weather than we experienced that 2013 trip.

Enjoying the sunshine and coastal walk from one side to the other and up the hill to the little chapel then strolling the laneways is always a great way to spend a few hours. Oh and a great flat white too.

We got home just in time to welcome Belinda and Patrick ( also from the COLOMBUS cruise) whom we invited to stay a few days with us if they could get down this way.

It was a great couple of days exploring all over the countryside and coastal views in their little grey rocket Skoda.

A fantastic visit to the Minack theatre with an evening show of music by a group called “ praying for rain” was a highlight.

Watching the day turn into night was spectacular as the evening draws slowly from dusk to dark here in the warmer months.

This theatre really is a gem of Cornwall and if you ever come here it’s a must see and definitely get to a show if you can.

Along with touring around we managed to enjoy having Terry and Sue join us for dinner on two of the three nights Belinda and Patrick were with us.

Everyone was in great spirits and generous with bringing food and drink to the table and I especially enjoyed sharing Sues lovely gin.

This is one of the joys of travelling meeting new friends and supporting each other on our travels, sharing what we have with each other to enhance the whole experience.

Both couples were leaving on the Thursday so there were hugs all round as we waved Sue and Terry goodbye and goodnight after they left our Wednesday night dinner at our cottage.

On the Thursday we left with Belinda and Patrick for more countryside driving until we got to Newquay where after a pub lunch with great views they waved us off as we boarded our first bus on our way back to Mousehole.

This was quite the trek with the first bus taking us to Truro a lovely bigger town with imposing Truro Cathedral quite a statement in the township.

We spent an hour here before our next bus to Penzance and our final one back to Mousehole. We left Newquay at 1:30 and arrived home at 6 pm.

It was a quiet cottage we returned to and we both said how great the last days had been with The Colombus crew around.

It’s now back to organising our next sector from here to Paris and I’ve got to get the blog from our time onboard posted.

Of course there was THE WEDDING to watch on Saturday 19th and it was lovely to be in the UK for this special day.

When we mentioned we would be coming to Mousehole my eldest brother instantly gave us the heads up that he had friends nearby at Newlyn, Elaine and Stan Fenton.

So now that we had waved goodbye to our ship mates we got in contact with Elaine and Stan and Elaine suggested meeting at the Old Coastguard cafe/ restaurant and guesthouse for coffee on the lawn. We quickly agreed as it’s a beautiful garden overlooking the water.

Well a coffee turned into two and then a wine. Lovely couple and we appreciated them giving up their Sunday to share about 3 1/2 hours with us.

Elaine has since sent through some of her ideas for us to spend our last week here doing.

Having made our mind up to hire a car to drive to Dover and pick up a bus to go over on the ferry with, then take us into Paris, we decided to get it earlier as price was so good.

On Monday the 21st May we took the little bus from Mousehole to Penzance picked up our weeny car an Hyundai i10 and drove to Geevor tin mine.

They said it would take around 2 hours but we spent 4 and a 1/2 it was just so interesting. With a tour of an underground mine plus a spectacular walk along the coast to see the ruins of both Geevor and Levant mine then add a stop at St Just another quaint village before a bit of grocery shopping and it was a full day.

We’ve occasionally seen the show Doc Martin on telly and we decided to take the opportunity to drive to Port Isaac where the show is filmed to take in the quintessential Cornwall quaintness this town embodies.

It didn’t let us down. The scenery is breathtaking. And it was a fairly easy drive and even the few narrow lanes we did drive down were every bit as pleasant with their hedgerows covered in spring flowers.

Another wonderful day was having a little boat ride from Mousehole on The Cormorant a delightful little boat captained by Mick. We had a lovely tour down the coast just past Larmorna cove where we had walked the coastal path to. It was great seeing it from the water and even better we saw the caves along the coast used for smuggling back in the day and the cave that the village of Mousehole is named for. It is much larger than it originally was due to erosion but still a good story.

Mick was a great character and we had a little fella on the trip wearing a VW tee shirt with 1962 written on it. Mick gave him the wheel for a while and we gave him a pair of our captains glasses to wear. We had bought them on board with the intention of leaving them with Mick so kids could wear them on tours with him. We felt it was a good home for them. They have traveled around the world with us almost twice since Paul and Michelle bought them on our world cruise last year 2017.

After our wonderful boat ride on a truly magnificent morning we popped home for a quick lunch before taking “little Blue” back down towards The Lizard.

This time we parked the car on the village green and took a walk to Kynance Cove.

SPECTACULAR is the only way to describe this place.

The water was the most glorious colour seen usually only in a tropical paradise.

With the dramatic cliffs and rocks surrounding this beach along with the paddocks and spring flowers this whole visit was a highlight.

Having driven along a few country lanes by this time James really had his driving skills tested when the next day we visited Falmouth for a longer visit and took the scenic road back towards Helston, before linking up for the rest of the drive home.

These are one lane wide at most, and occasionally barely enough room for one car.

It’s a testament to the locals of their good manners and driving skills that anyone makes it safely home with their stress levels surely tested everyday if they live along these lanes.

James did brilliantly and as people wave as they get past he even copped a “ Perfect” score from one lorry driver, big praise.

Falmouth has a lot to offer including a thriving harbour with ferry rides to other areas including Mawes.

A maritime museum and lots of quaint shopping streets, a castle and wonderful views.

On our trip back we also went past a number of open to public gardens which would be worth another day out.

James had a birthday while we were In Mousehole it was a very low key day. Started with me making him a cooked breakfast then heading to the deli cafe for coffee. Returning back to our cottage to spend some time organising our belongings for our onward trip heading towards Dover to spend our last days tripping around down that area before heading to Paris.

A last dinner at The Ship Inn and before we knew it Saturday 26th was here and we packed our kit into little blue and drove off.

We took a side trip to Torquay then headed into the lovely town of Wilton.A lovely wine and beer at The Greyhound Inn while we looked up accommodation for the night and we struck it lucky with an Airbnb close by at Susan’s home with a Scottish theme room and our own bathroom.

Susan welcomed us and her house was very quaint with all the accompanying paraphernalia you would expect from someone who is a Druid.

We drove down to have dinner at would you believe it! A pub called The Ship Inn. We chatted to a local couple in the car park and ended up sharing a table for dinner together. Bob and Mandy had lived there their whole lives living next door to each other before marrying.

They were great company and made it a lively evening for us.

Back at our accommodation we enjoyed a very comfortable bed.

Going into Wilton again the next morning for coffee we had a lovely walk around this village and it’s very old properties and arrived at Wilton house in time to watch the vintage cars leaving from an early morning event.

From Wilton we headed into Salisbury. What a fantastic place.

The Cathedral was massive with a lovely garden and large green spaces surrounding it and with the township also made up of character filled homes and shopping streets you certainly could spend a few days in this area.

Heading off again we decided to stop not too far away to spend the night.

Our next overnight stop was one of those forgettable beside the highway hotels. Which was clean and had good hot water, what else is there to say.

But the next day we had a great day driving down the coast and visited Hastings along the way to Dover and beyond to the large seaside town of Deal.

We had never been here before and were thrilled that it was as quaint and gorgeous as most places we had seen.Our Airbnb was a great price and was just off the High Street.

The flat was exceptionally well set up so you could easily live there.

All the comforts and bits and bobs that you would have at home.

There was only a few draw backs. The bed was really only a double and quite small for us and the 62+ stairs to reach it were very narrow treads.

But on the whole we were very happy to have such a great space for three nights.

The town was lovely and although some rain had started to set in we enjoyed our time here. Once again we bought supplies so we didn’t have to eat out each day.

The next day we got some administrative stuff sorted, James got a haircut and we drove into Dover and had a great four and a half hours at Dover castle.

We would highly recommend a day there if you’re near by.

Great history and there are several World War Two tunnels to visit as well.

The next day we drove the coast heading towards Margate but we never made it that far.

TAKE A LOOK AT THE NEXT TWO PICTURES. ONE FOR HAM AND ONE FOR SANDWICH I thought it very funny.

Stopping at the town of Sandwich which was delightful and then onto Ramsgate another great seaside town full of amazing big mansions and rail history as well as the port.

A mist like fog started rolling in just after 3 so it wasn’t worth going on any further so we headed home to relax for the evening with a red wine or two.

This was the day I found out my mum had liver cancer and we started looking into me flying back to NZ for a few weeks.

We were taking the bus and ferry to Paris the next day so packed our things and was sad that our last day in the UK was so visually great but heartbreakingly sad too.

We thoroughly enjoyed the UK and will definitely be back.

Next stop Paris.

SUEZ CANAL, PIRAEUS-GREECE, MALTA, GIBRALTAR and LONDON DISEMBARKATION 25th April – 6 th May 2018

SUEZ CANAL. Wednesday 25th April 2018.

The day of our ANZAC service was also the day we sailed through the Suez Canal. Our second time in one year.

As we took so many photos last year we added only a few this year.

PIRAEUS, GREECE. Friday 27th April 2018

We had decided that we would take the metro into the Plaka area today but a lucky encounter with Belinda and Patrick with an invite to join them for the day meant we got to spend the day with them and their longtime Greek local friend Oreistis.

After meeting us at the train station 3 stops from the port we all jumped in his car and headed to one of The marina’s for coffee and chat before heading on down the coast for spectacular scenery, great company and delicious Greek food.

Back in close to the port we finished the day walking past the fabulous local churches and shops before we walked back to the ship in time for our early sail away.

VALLETTA, MALTA. Sunday 29th April 2018

We enjoyed Malta immensely on our last trip here in 2017 and were very excited to be coming back for another day here.

The sail in and out of Valletta is one of the most spectacular you’ll have.

The island itself is full of rich history and character and just an absolute treat to experience.

We paid 15€ for the hop on hop off bus along with Belinda and Patrick and many others from the ship and headed to Mdina the old walled city high on a hill.

It’s late April and certainly not hot summer yet so we weren’t going to the blue grotto swimming as we had last year.

The Mdina is a beautifully preserved town of great architecture and charm.

We had coffee and cake at the same restaurant we went to last year which is placed on the walls surrounding the town with expansive views. The cold wind drew us inside one of the two glassed in rooms to enjoy the delicious cakes and coffee without loosing the vista.

From the Mdina we walked to Rabat and walked through the catacombs, World War Two shelters and St Paul’s grotto all underneath the church.

We then hopped back on the bus for the blue line trip back to Valletta which took us by countryside and the seaside holiday towns already seeing the first of the tourists.

It gave us a chance to see more of this great island and reiterate that we could easily come here for a longer stay.

Back in Valletta we walked through the town from coast to coast stopping for a few pastizzi and a beer before arriving at the upper battery overlooking the harbour where our ship was docked and enjoyed the view before it once again was time to head back home to the ship.

Malta is magical and if you get the chance to visit definitely do.

Only one stop left before we take the final run to Tilbury and the end of this cruise and the start of our next adventures on land.

Life onboard is still enjoyable and we are still meeting new fellow cruisers everyday.

We are so inspired by the huge amount of travel people we meet have done and planning. It’s great to talk with fellow travel lovers and learn more of the wonders to be seen and experienced on this planet.

GIBRALTAR. Wednesday 2nd May 2018.

We have driven past Gibraltar several times on tours but had never actually been to “The Rock”.

This was our last port call before three days at sea and disembarkation at Tilbury London.

We were expecting cooler weather and dressed appropriately in layers. We ended up with a cool crisp morning and stunning warm, blue sky day to visit this famous town.

What a fabulous surprise to see a beautiful town with super friendly locals whom must be tired of pointing out places to tourists but didn’t seem to let it show.

We only had a short time here and determined to make the most of it we walked into town and straight to the cable car to take us up The Rock.

Glorious views were our reward and with battlements and St Michaels caves to also see up there it was a few great hours of enjoyment. The caves are some of the best we’ve seen and the natural auditorium hosts concerts and other events in what was used as a hospital during WW2.

The Rock also has a glass skywalk which I was brave enough to walk on and is home to many Barbary Macaques monkeys which you have to be careful of as they are known to bite and attack to get food from tourists. Though they seem to be well fed from the amount of food we saw being put out for them by local rangers.

I returned to travel down by cable car and James walked down and headed off to the tunnels, moorish castle and suspension bridge while I had a pleasant wander through the town shops and enjoyed a flat white coffee before returning to the ship for our 2 pm sail away.

Gibraltar was an unexpected delight and would certainly go again.

By the way it’s duty free heaven for those wanting some great alcohol bargains.

1litre gin from £5.

It was pleasant enough to sit at the back of the ship on sunloungers for sail away with a cocktail and a beer.

While I was busy getting ready the trivia team of James, Wendy, Sandy, Phil and Kin won and there’s a Bottle of wine to share. It’s a hotly contested game so kudos for the team to take it out at least once.

The trip is quickly coming to an end and people are making arrangements for last lunches and dinners with new friends they’ve met and contact details are being exchanged left, right and centre as the time to start the packing begins.

This next photo is of Paula,Beryl, Pat and myself. My English mates I met onboard. We sat next to them most days on our sunloungers. They all either live part time or full time in Spain and were great fun.

We have met several English couples whom live in Cornwall and have found another couple who are headed down to Mousehole for a weeks holiday so we should be able to catch up with at least one or two of them whilst down there.

AND IT ALL COMES TO AN END.

Before we knew it May 6 th arrived and on a stunning blue sky day we landed on the docks of Tilbury London and with lots of goodbyes and hugs we left all our Colombus ship friends and with Patrick and Belinda we called an Uber to take us To Paddington station.

There we parted company and we headed off to catch our train to Penzance, Cornwall and start our next adventure, 20 nights in Mousehole a cute and quaint fishing village.

DUBAI, OMAN, CHEFS TABLE, EGYPT, JORDAN & ANZAC DAY. 14th April – 25th April 2018

DUBAI,UAE. Saturday 14th April 2018.

Sad day today as our friends Karen, Stuart, Robyn and Paul disembarked, after enjoying their company for 7 weeks they will be greatly missed.

We had had a wonderful tour last year of Dubai and as we weren’t having a huge amount of time here this year decided to keep it simple and took the free shuttle to the Dubai mall and spent our day there.

It is of course a tourist destination in itself with not only shops but an aquarium, fountain, hotel and access to the observation deck in the Burj Khalifa.

We were quite happy not to be out braving the heat and enjoyed the good but expensive coffee we had and a chance to get some wifi and catch up on news from home.

It was a pleasant evening for sail away and we got to meet our new table companions.

MUSCAT, OMAN. Sunday 15th April 2018.

Having a late arrival here at 2pm till 8 pm allowed everyone to do their normal morning activities before having midday lunch and getting ready for the afternoon ashore.

We had gone to the shore excursion talk to get an idea of what you could do independently or if a ships tour would be the way to go.

We decided to go off on our own and explore.

Muscat was fabulous we absolutely loved it.

You really felt you were in the Middle East but as Oman is known as one of the safest countries in the world we enjoyed the friendly people, the cleanliness, and the interesting architecture and souks.

We took a long walk to the grand palace enjoying the beautiful waterfront and sights along the way.

We ended up getting a small amount of money then to get a taxi back and get a few cold drinks as well as a few extra to bring on board.

By the time we arrived back to the area closer to the ships port, the souks in Muttrah had fully opened and it was wonderful wandering through with the locals also shopping there. This is a contrast to the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul where the locals no longer shop there like they used to.

This is of course a Muslim country so the dress is from slightly modest to the full dress where eyes only shown. But the friendly smiles and Hello and welcome we received was lovely.

There are lots of lovely things to buy if you’re here for shopping as has been the case for most of the stops and it looks like quite a few have done just that.

Rose the lovely English Indian lady who helped me with my sari on the Bollywood night is now up to 9 cases!!

Some of the ship went on dowel cruises which gave them a lovely view from the water of the rugged coastline. The water looked gorgeous and with the mountains behind the whitewash buildings of the town made for great photos.

Having no expectations we were thrilled to have enjoyed this lovely port of call as much as we did.

CHEFS TABLE, Tuesday 17th April 2018.

With a six day stretch of sea days we decided to treat ourselves with the degustation dinner with wines otherwise known as the chefs table.

We met our table companions at 6:30 pm in the library and were all given a glass of sparkling and a canapé with a run down of the evening before we all went for a tour of The galley.

As it was dinner time they were working in the galley and we got to see it in full production. A great experience for us all.

Taking the escalator back up to the dining room and our little alcove area especially designated for the Chefs table dining nights the full experience began.

More champagne, several different whites, a red and dessert wine all accompanied the nine courses plus petit fours with coffee/ tea to finish.

The courses were magnificent and much more than the bite size tastes we were expecting.

The company was great and a memorable evening was had by all.

SAFAGA, EGYPT. Sunday 22nd April 2018.

Our first port of call after 6 sea days where the day before on the 21st we celebrated Queen Elizabeth’s birthday with games on deck and buffet lunch outside as well.

We had booked to go to Luxor, The Karnak temple and the valley of The kings.

It entailed a very early start, on the bus by 5:15am and a long drive to Luxor.

Along the way the first few hours was mostly desert but once we started getting closer to Luxor we passed more townships which would have been great to stop to get some great real life photos.

There were plenty of checkpoints to go through and I don’t think I’ve had my bag scanned as many times ever as we did today.

There were some incredible scenes of everyday life and some really strange ones where police or military are carrying huge guns but they’re smiling and waving at you.

The security measures were pretty significant and they certainly have plenty of people in each of the security points we passed through.

The kids in particular were smiling and waving madly whether they were riding on the back of a donkey drawn trailer, motor bike or just walking down the street.

Our first big stop was at Karnak temple, just incredible, couldn’t stay as long as you really need to to do it justice but we will look at our photos and remember the spectacular remains of this place forever.

It was added onto over a period of 700 years staring 1900 bc with each Pharaoh wanting to leave his stamp.

To have seen it when it was standing complete and without destruction must have been an overwhelming sight as it’s still awesome now.

A buffet lunch at a lovely hotel overlooking the Nile was next and we enjoyed going and watching the Nile with the dry arid mountains in the background and the lush vegetation on the river banks as sailing ships passed by.

It was hard to believe we were actually in Egypt it felt surreal.

Of course everyone on the 9-10 coaches we had going on this trip were all looking forward to the valley of the kings and it didn’t disappoint.

We actually went into Tut Anhk Amuns tomb and though we weren’t allowed to take photos we saw his mummified body and sarcophagus .

Some of the tombs were just beautiful with their rich colours and amazing paintings and hieroglyphics.

We visited the tombs of Rameses the 4th and 9th and the tomb and sarcophagus of Siptah.

What a once in a lifetime experience we had and as we drove back to the ship we enjoyed the street scenes once again while also having a few sleeps.

Two weeks till we disembark!!

AQABA, JORDAN. Monday 23rd April 2018.

Last night we had to put our clocks forward not backwards which meant two big days in a row for those undertaking Petra today. Luckily we were lucky to have enjoyed the magic of Petra last year from The Sea Princess.

The ship had organised a shuttle into Aqaba town so we hopped on and visited the information centre along with a few others.

We partnered up with Belinda and Patrick ( a husband and wife team of intrepid travellers who make our own travels so far look pretty lame) and grabbed a taxi to South beach to have a snorkel in the Red Sea.

The wind was a bit high and the sea a bit cooler than expected which kept the boys on land but Belinda and I had a nice little snorkel before we headed for to a hotel for Jordanian coffee, reminiscent of a Turkish brew.

They had brilliant wifi so we all took the chance to catch up news from home and post a few photos before we headed back to town centre for a wander and an amazing local lunch of all things delicious, hummus, lamb, falafel, tabouleh, pita bread, pickled vegetables, and some other dishes and I enjoyed a glass of lemon, mint juice.

From there we walked to the Kepinski hotel the poshest hotel around and after they took a copy of our passports and informed us we weren’t allowed to use the beach we did exactly that…. the boys ordered one beer each and we spent the afternoon under a brolly on sunloungers relaxing, swimming in their private beach as we enjoyed their beach towels, free water bottles that they bought around and ice cold watermelon on sticks and nuts. Before we sat in their hot spa tub and infinity pool before we were then asked to leave. Oh well we were just going anyway.

After another walk around the town we caught the shuttle back to ship in time to shower and change ready for our 8pm dinner sitting.

Three days at sea including the transit of The Suez Canal and I believe they maybe putting on a dawn service that morning which will be the 25 th for our ANZAC day.

The temperatures have started to drop into the 20s now and we know the lounging by the pool days are probably coming to an end soon. Well it’s been great while it’s lasted and the seas have been so calm from Sydney we could be on a lake.

we did indeed have an ANZAC day service. It was very well organised and MC’d by the ships entertainment director Tony.

Australians and New Zealand filled the theatre early morning and some were given leading roles in a very dignified and emotional service, ending with wreaths placed in the pool on deck.