Nothing much

Nothing much

That’s what I have been doing all day nothing much. Today is Thursday and it is Heritage day in South Africa and the whole place is closed. I am working out of my apartment which is not the ned of the world. All the locals are off and many of them watching a cricket tournament which started this week. I am staying in the “Mapungubwe” an apartment hotel. Not sure what it used to be but it has been converted from something. To get to my room I take an elevator to the second floor then down the corridor out into another section. Take another elevator up to the sixth floor then go out onto the stairwell and up half a flight of stairs and here I am home.

A nice little room but none of my adapter plugs (and I have two different sets) work. I had of course forgotten this is the only place with the three pin round plugs (like the old English ones). No should that be a problem surely I can survive, well probably not with two Pc’s a Blackberry an iPhone and a camera it is difficult to be too far away from a power source. Anyway I manage to borrow one from reception so all is not lost. The Mapungubwe is right opposite where I am working so convenient if nothing else. It of course also means I have not seen anything of the city. The usual round of taxis and conference rooms, dont get me wrong it is still somewhat exciting but you never really get to enjoy a new place on your own you need someone to share it with.

I did go out for a stroll in the later afternoon after getting a little stir crazy in my room. Johannesburg has a physical style of a mid western American town. Built with very tall solid square buildings with few embellishments. Tall buildings do not allow much sunlight through and there is always one side of a block in shadow. My walk only took me a few blocks everything was closed and whilst I probably saw a hundred people the only Caucasian I saw was my own reflection in a shop window.  Not sure if I was worried or not I have to say I was aware but not much more.

Looking for something to do this weekend and there are probably too many things to choose from. Soweto is probably a must along with a tour of the city. Not sure I need a shopping expedition so maybe the Maropeng exhibition which is the “Cradle of life” site.

An interesting anecdote from my arrival. My taxi was not there and I was struggling to raise them on the phone. A woman near by offered to help and said she would phone them for me. Anyway it did not get answered so I wandered off to check the 50 + drivers stood around none with my name on. After about 5 minutes I get tapped on the shoulder and it is the woman again. The taxi firm had called back and she came looking for me through the crowd (and it was a big crowd). I thought that was very kind she was obviously waiting for someone herself and to leave her position and come and find me. She even still had them on the line. So I managed to get myself into town only 15 minutes late. You know sometimes people amaze you. There was no need for her to look after me especially trawling through the arrivals area to find me. I suppose its one of those “Random acts of kindness” they talk about.

Friday funtime

Ok enought of the drivel I put out it is Friday so I thought I would cheer you all up with a few websites you can visit.

They should provide you with some entertainment but no laughing out loud please people will start to look at you funny and avoid your cubicle (or room)

idiotic signs and things

i still love walmart (think I may be in a couple of these)

Just for young elaine,  “when duck tape just do’nt cut it”

This one is very very worrying on many levels

Have a really great weekend have fun and remember
“A job is for now and not for life” 

Regards Steve

30 minutes

It is surprising what you can see in 30 minutes. That’s how long I had to go out this morning and get the dry cleaning. It has been ready since Monday but you know how it is there is no rush except I need to get it before I depart this weekend as I doubt Judi will have the opportunity. The reason I have 30 minutes is because it does not open until 10 am and I have a conference call with someone in Sophia at 11 so I allocate quarter past until quarter to to dash out.

The first thing is to get outside then remember to go back for the rubbish, remember you have to take it out yourself. Ok second try and I am out, dump the bag and out onto the road. The first thing I notice is there seems to be leaves everywhere. Possibly a sign Autumn is here which probably means it will be over by the time my trip is over in two weeks. People diligently clearing up the leaves alongside the people sweeping their allotted section of the street. These people all seem to wear overalls which have florescent rings on which improves their safety but not their style. Cut through at the lights and cross the small park. Only a couple of people drinking beer but it is only 10:18.

Down the side alley passed the fish market. On the other side of the alley there are a few stalls selling various produce, fruit and veg, Honey, biscuits, ladies underwear?. Anyway there is an old dear selling chrysanthemums from a shopping trolley. Not in itself an unusual sight many old people will bring there surplus products and sell them on the street. I have purchased before but not today. I need to get on. Around the corner to the small mall where the dry cleaners is. I need to visit the supermarket as well and need to do that first or I will have a problem with the bag of cleaning.

They don’t like people taking bags into supermarkets in fact any supermarket. I think ti is a throw back to times when perhaps things were different. Anyway it is a pain so I avoid taking excess bags into these places. The guard eyes me suspiciously as she is busy cutting up strips of sell tape which the use to seal the plastic bags they make you put your stuff in. This should be easy, nuclear milk (so called as it never goes off). We go through a lot these days and I think the 0.5% on the label means there is only 0.5% milk in there and the rest is well not sure but whatever it is it takes a lot to change the color of my coffee. Next onions not sure why but useful. Cat litter as Eric seems to spend 25 minutes rearranging the contents of her litter tray so I think maybe she does not like the brand and hey she needs looking after as well so I am getting something different. Now I need to find some little spongy pan scrubs. Judi declared the one I was using a health hazard and threw it away. Now given I am the only on using it maybe I would have survived or maybe she has saved me from a fate worse than death we will never know. After quite a hunt it find them and am surprised at the range I can get 10 for 18 rubles or 2 for 68 rubles, I vote for 5 at 9 rubles and happy I have everything now move on towards the checkout. Today I get the lass grumpy one so almost pleasant.

The Dry Cleaners is a tiny place which must be a pain to work in. below ground no windows and tucked away in a corner so no view of passers by. Possibly why they always seem excited when you go in. I struggle to find the receipt even though I know I have it. Search everything and find it at the third attempt in my wallet. (am I becoming forgetful, I cant remember). Ok done and ticked off swing around the back of the first Metro and decide as I am in front of schedule I will take 5 minutes for a cigarette at the metro nearest the flat and people watch.

Only on person drinking, some policemen as usual although on has a machine gun over his arm, this happens when there is some event or someone is visiting Moscow. They just put a few more frighteners on view. There are a couple of guys dressed in army fatigues with guitars and a stand with their own CD’s on. They don’t sound that good but neither do s lot of people these days. I spot a woman who must have gone into the clothes shop and asked for something which will make me stand out in a crowd and look overweight. She of course got exactly what she asked for. A lime green checked pants suit. She really stands out in fact it is difficult not to focus on her. A gut in one of those very very shines suits they have over here. They are so shiny you think they may have a plastic cover or at the very least be buffed up with pledge every now and again. They are always light colored and the nearest thing I can think of is silk, shiny silk that is. There is an old woman selling flowers but she has lots of orchids and roses so I think she may have cut out the grow you own bit and just selling on. A few people handing out flyers and some with “sandwich boards” not something you tend to see in other countries.

I finish my cigarette and head back. I need to prep for my

R-E-S-P-E-C-T talk about what it means to me R-E-………………………….

Well I have to comment on some interesting things which happened over the weekend which relate to respect.

My mum got quoted on Facebook the other day the quote was “There is no excuse for bad manners” which sort of explains itself. However I think there are some people who many not know this yet as over the weekend we had outbursts from Serena Williams at the US Open, Kanye West at the VMA and Emmanuel Adebayor an English soccer player. All of these I think may be classed as bad manners or maybe being disrespectful which is a worry.

Serena’s outburst is probably the most forgivable as I really believe it was a heat of the moment thing and was just a reaction to the event. What is not forgivable was it took two days and the threat of a possible ban before an apology was given. I can understand with imposing manner she could be viewed as aggressive but the reality is that she has never done this before, admittedly she has had the odd moment but there are normally confined to chastising herself for failure rather than targeting other people. (Her fine by the way was $10k and she earned $350k go figure if that is enough of a deterrent)

Kanye West on the other hand got up on stage when his personal favorite did not win an award and took the microphone from the winner to give “his” opinion. Subsequently he has apologized 3 times (once on Jay Leno) but of course the transgression can not be taken back. This of course is not the first time he has had an outburst on a show. He famously stated he was robbed of the top prize at some awards and that he would never return, well until the next year that is. I wonder if he gets invited back next year, well he has apologized so its ok, isn’t it ???

Adebayor’s outburst and there were actually two of them in the same game is slightly more worrying. After scoring a goal he ran the full length of the pitch and taunted the opposing fans (he used to play for them). What is interesting is when both Managers were asked for an opinion both said “I did not see it” well excuse me the 35,000 people there saw it and the millions watching on TV saw it. Both of them as professionals in a sense acted in a way which either condoned the action or worse still accepted it as ok and part of the game. Well it is not ok. It is not ok that he subsequently stamped on another player (a case not proved yet but my vote is yes he did) and it is not ok for people to ignore the actions. One of the most worrying things about the players behavior was that he had spent the week disrespecting these fans and their team. In a sense you could say maybe it was inevitable. In retrospect it is less of a surprise than the others.

This type of behavior in people is not that uncommon. I could quote hundreds of people who have acted inappropriately so what’s the big deal why bring it up now (apart from the fact I need to blog on something)

Just as our children shaped by us we are shaped by the people around us. There is lots of talk about role models but do we want a role model who ignores or condones unsportsmanlike behavior. Do we think it ok to be disrespectful to others. What is so smart about imposing you view on someone else. I can not say I am white as snow here my mouth has got me into trouble lots of times. The worry for me is who is left to hold the line who stands up for respect when the very people we are expected to respect don’t.

So the question is really how to deal with this type of behavior and where do people get the impression that it is ok. If they get it from us then we need to shape up. I think it is our own tolerance for inappropriate behavior which allows these things to get out of hand. The person dropping litter or pushing into a queue is possibly where it starts. I got a very sour look from a guy outside of Athens airport the other day when I got up from my bench and picked up the cigarette butts he was dropping on the floor and put them in the bin. He seemed offended I saw it as the right thing to do. Maybe next time he might do it himself you never know.

Sometimes the right thing to do is not easy and it takes courage. To stand fast when the world is hell bent on brining itself down is not easy but if I don’t do it who will. Maybe I am in the wrong century and my views are long out of date but I was brought up to believe “there is no excuse for bad manners“.



Easy on Saturday morning

A very bad parody of Lionel Richie’s “Easy on Sunday Morning” so by now you should have gathered it is Saturday and for some reason Judi is up probably because she wants to get an update on the Tennis. The rain in New York has upset the rhythm so we are still waiting for Nadal’s game to be completed so whilst we hang around we plan the weekend. We need to shop for food as we sort of ran out a while back and have already consumed the meager contents of the fridge and the “emergency Pizza” when a while back.

I want to branch out and go somewhere new as we should not be dependant on a single place. You would be surprised what you find when you step off the beaten path and branch out a little. I get over ruled, although I question if the cat really has a vote given Eric never actually accompanies us. So the plan is Shop back for the UK football, then Tennis, Sunday filing (seems Judi is not entirely confident of my new process) holiday planning then more tennis and a home cooked meal. Well I can live with that. I actually though I would be traveling Sunday but is has been pushed back a week.

I am designated drive and the trip starts well, stop to get some cash (as you know everyone pays cash at the supermarket). About 3 miles from home just as we are trying to escape the city we come to a grinding halt. For some reason the traffic is choked up. It is reminiscent of our days in Brussels when on the odd occasion the whole place ground to a halt and mayhem takes the place of transit. I can see police redirecting traffic and it is not an accident so out of the back of my mind comes a though, I read there was a road race this weekend and it looks like our current route takes us along it. Well I say along it there is no way we are doing down that road today. We try a couple of alternative back roads only to find the police have beaten us to it. I can see runners stripping down so my guess seems well founded. So we eventually head back to the Garden ring (remember the ring with NO gardens on it).

We go round for a while until we can stop and regroup to find somewhere else to shop. Gavin our pet GPS system suggests a place 11 miles away and off we go maybe I will get my wish to visit somewhere new after all. The road is big and busy but we make good progress until we hit another jam close to our destination. Not a problem the big malls (and there are many of them) all have jams as the “relaxed” driving style of the Russians means lane discipline goes by the wayside. Only one problem there does not seem to be a Mall around. Judi says there should be an IKEA which is synonymous with a supermarket as there are always built together. Not a Mall in sight, maybe Gavin is just taking us for a ride so we turn around although we have to travel another couple of miles and do this outside a very large army barracks. There is a police checkpoint which always makes Judi nervous so probably not the time to tell her I had forgotten to bring my driving license which is a cardinal sin over here. Anyway we are not pulled over but many are and there is nothing you could put you finger on to say why. I think it is every 5 car or some simple process but maybe there are on a quota for the day and want an easy afternoon.

Ok so heading back towards town and come across the motorway so we can use this to get to our normal shopping center which we do but by now we have been traveling for about an hour and a half. First thing is to get a coffee and regroup. We wander around the shops for a while not buying just chilling then we agree it is time to hit the supermarket.

I am designated trolley man which means I need to follow someone to their car and get their trolley when they have finished. They don’t seem to employ people here to collect them and bring them back except at the end of the day and why should they when as I see all around people pairing up a full trolley with a new shopper which seems to work. The down side is my team seems to have parked as far away as possible I think for a moment they planned to steal it but with me in tow maybe they changed their mind. It takes the best part of 15 minutes to get back to Judi who is idly people watching at the entrance.

It takes another hour to get around the store, shopping here is not one of those pleasant strolls you get in the US where you can go several isles without seeing another soul sometimes wondering if you are the only one there or the place is actually closed. Here you are constantly avoiding people and they push trolleys like they drive which is dangerously. Anyway we get most of what we need and find a till with a small queue (4 people is a small queue). Pay what is quite a lot of money but we do have Printer cartridges and wine which are both equal to the price of Gold. Only one small issue, Judi has picked what she thinks is a cucumber and priced it at the weigh place and it is a pickle. (Paula you need to keep my jar I am sure it will get better with age) . There is no way we are going back to re-price it so it gets left behind.

We know we can not get home the normal way so we head along the motorway for a junction or two and then turn back into town. Even though I have no idea where we are I know the road. I cam along here at 4:30 the other week when my flight was delayed so it must be the road from Domodedovo one of our airports. So an easy drive home and we are back by late afternoon.

Judi decides to do the filing today (which when finished she declares was not that bad) and I set up the Pc to play through the TV so we can watch the UK football. Settling down Judi declares we have nothing for tea ?

Nothing for tea I have just carted 15 bags of produce from the car. It seems we have lots of things but not the right things so off to the local super market to find Lamb and Beef for tonight and tomorrow. I can do that I am pretty good at identifying raw meat. The girl behind the counter is not happy, you know that sort of “I really don’t want to be here and I don’t want to be serving stupid customers, I‘m too pretty for this and I should be on the fancy cakes counter” type of attitude. This only serves to make me smile more as I try my best to raise a smile on her face. It did not work and she dumps my purchases on the counter. Never mind maybe next time.

Back home to watch my team win away even when they go a man down, not a bad result and it seems there is life after the 80m pound sale of Ronaldo to Real Madrid. We lie second in the table and it bodes well for the season.

So an easy Saturday really.

Being home

Been at home now for 5 days and nearly recovered from the holiday. Not sure how many loads of washing were done but enough for me to run out of places to hang them. Then of course the ironing backs up and I need to get through it ( Judi, electricity, Heat and water don’t mix so I do it) as I will need some items for my trip next week. Eric was sort of please to see us and even I thought she looked fat. I might take to chasing her around a bit to run it off her. 20 minutes 3 times a week should do. She must have heard me as she decided to get us up at 5:30 by jumping on the bed and yowling at us. Judi who took to wearing ear plugs whilst we were still in the US does not hear or is she does she hides it well. So it is up to me to explain to Eric that it is not really time yet. I can do this quite effectively with one swipe of a pillow if I am quick.

Whilst we were away all the channels went missing from both our TV’s. I think the landlord is a little tardy paying these bills so I should also worry about Internet access, I can live without TV but not the Web. We managed to get some of them back after a day or so which was a relief given the US open is on. Even I am getting into this tennis watching only but it’s a start. Maybe build a court next to the swimming pool in that house in France. Anyway given where we are Geographically we start to watch late in the evening and finish off the following morning so we sort of get to see everyone but only in bits.

We went to stretch our legs on Sunday and could not get into Red Square. It seems its Moscow’s birthday it is 863 years old and they have some form of “Tattoo” going on. The square is full of grandstands and it looks like they are enough seats to have around 20,000 people in it. A tattoo is like a show but probably with some military content and some marching bands. Any tourist who comes this week are going to be bitterly disappointed as there is no access and almost nowhere where you can view the historical points even St Basil’s is off limits and you don’t mess with a a Russian security guard when he says “net” so lets hope the Travel agents have been well briefed. On the plus side there are fireworks every night for a week and we have a grandstand seat from the apartment. Little consolation for the tourists as they don’t know where we live.

Other than this life is normal (if the life we lead can ever be classed as normal). Passports registered, some shopping done, enough to keep us alive for a few days. I think we might try a big shop on Saturday as I am out for a couple of weeks and Judi works late these days.

The other big news of the week is not the Bank of England leaving the interest rate alone, Obama’s speech on Healthcare and education or England’s soccer team qualifying for the next world cup it is Sir Terry Wogan leaving his daily slot on BBBC Radio two’s morning program after several decades. If you don’t know him he is one of those iconic institutions who you somehow believe will go on for ever. There was a DJ Jimmy Young who seemed to last forever but in the end we were all glad when he was forcibly removed. Not so for Sir Terry he is still in his prime even at 71 he has that twinkle and easy manner which seems effortless. Well we still have a couple of months before he stops and is replaced by someone who is around half his age so still time for a change of heart.

The weather here is still holding up at around 70 -80 degrees the leaves are turning but summer is still here. Reading our guide books it has a chapter on winter, a page or two on summer and Spring and only a sentence on autumn. It just says it comes and goes quickly.

This is a link to the fight I mentioned which happened between monks in the holy Sepulcher church, which I mentioned the other week. it is a shameful reminder that even the holy places are not immune to aggression. Watch and weep for mankind.

Raising a stink

Now hands up how many of you thought this was going to be a “rant” ( shame on you all) its just a ramble.

I was reading an article on the web about Honolulu City considering banning smelly people from their bus’s although the definition was a little weak and I could not tell if strong perfume was in or out. No matter it provoked some thoughts. In England some group of doctors is attempting to get alcohol advertising banned which is the thin end of the wedge. This is how the anti smoking lobby started and look where that is now. Yes I know I should not smoke I know it will possibly kill me and it makes me smell ( I wonder if that would get me thrown off a bus in Honolulu ). However it is a personal choice and as long as I do not inflict it on anyone else I think it is ok. I observe all banned areas and even some which are not. Last week I had a woman who asked me not to smoke within 25 meters of the ping pong tournament on the open deck of a cruise ship which was possibly taking it to its very limit.

So we have an interesting conundrum who sets these standards who decides what is good and bad or acceptable or not. Is there a vote or is it some mad scientist or overly protective parent. I remember being told Coffee is bad for you and they could prove it. If you give a rat too much it gets ill. That to me is not science that is common sense. Give anyone too much of anything and it will upset them. (watch out you drinkers) It does not actually mean that is it bad it means excess is bad and remember what happened to King Midas.

Recently there was a very successful campaign to reduce the fat content or food which got everyone rushing for “trans-fats” or what ever they are although I assume this has pushed up the price of “dripping” (google it) as it will now be a luxury item. Health warnings abound on items we buy or we have taken all the “interesting” ingredients out including sugar, salt, caffeine and I think there is something going on with corn syrup as well as I keep seeing advertisements saying it is ok ( a sure sign someone is nervous ). I wonder if I have hay fever I could stop my neighbors having flowers.

Why is it everyone has become so “Super Sensitive” these days with new and exciting allergies to worry about and more an more things to avoid in case it provokes an outbreak of the plague. Now even I worry about the handles on toilet doors and open them with a paper towel or my foot. I had concerns that where I am now I can not fine that axel grease they call margarine and have to make do with high quality butter. I think the world is becoming too sanitized and this is to our ultimate detriment. My Mother used to say “You need to eat a bit of dirt before you die” Maybe that’s our problem we don’t eat enough dirt so our bodied have forgotten how to fight off these evil bugs which are lurking around just waiting for an unguarded moment.

Another thing, why is it always the things we like or enjoy, how come nobody ever tells us kidney pie will kill you or you need to reduce your intake of spinach. It always has to be the things we enjoy or how could those protectors of the human race get their kicks. Well we shall see.

I am off for a sandwich with butter and ham and cheese, put my feet up and watch TV, have a drink and a cigarette and probably go to bed late after spending too much time hunched over my computer. If I don’t blog for a couple of days you know one of the things I enjoy got me in the end.

PS if you are looking to raise you intake of dirt I recommend a book “How to eat fried worms” so not only do you get dirt you can have it with protein”

Vacation in Review

Well I thought I would take a moment to review the holiday now we are back to the grind of daily life. I find that memories fade very quickly so you get little or no chance to savor them. It is more like “that’s over put it away in a box”. There is a tendency to actually work during vacations as well and I have done it myself. I was on an all day conference call on the 26th of December one year whilst everyone else was out on snow mobiles. (Note to All of you, you NEVER get the time with your family back)

So back to the holiday

Rome was superb and quieter than expected with no big crowds. It was great just to wander around. A mistake not to check the opening hours of the Sistine Chapel which means we need to go back. A couple of lazy days strolling around in the sunshine with something to marvel at around every corner.

Sorrento was cute with lots of cafes and quiet backstreets and alleyways and a very nice place to be. Pompeii was good but more for the putting the story to the place than what you actually see. The story is one everyone knows the place could do with some more information and possibly reconstruction of some areas to show what it was actually like.

Alexandria was a mix, a little under played and think given its historical importance I sort of expected more. Great Fort and the Story of the original library was always one of those myths you read about. The new library whilst impressive is just a library. There was no 7th wonder (the lighthouse) but we knew that. We took some time to wander around the local market which was a blast. Maybe we should focus more on this type of vacation as the sights, sounds and smells will stay with me. A little like my first encounter with local markets in Thailand. You have this desire to do it and a fear of what you will see, but that is the fun seeing how ordinary people go about their lives. No blackberry for the guy selling herbs from his bike and no iPod for the crew scaling fish on their stall.

Port Said was more of a stopping point but the port was something else ferries darting across full of locals trying to dodge these huge container ships and bulk carriers. Not much else really. We stopped to pick up the overnight Cairo pyramid tourists. A word about the pyramids don’t go on am 8 hour trip and spend 7 of them on a coach. Stay overnight if you can. For me these are probably the best thing I have ever seen. I have seen grander and more ornate historical sights (Royal palace in Bangkok, Petra in Jordan, Mayan temples in Belize) but nothing has given me that rush of “how the hell did they………: they need several hours of staring at to be appreciated and take some time to go to the Museum of Cairo for the artifacts they are a mess but worth the effort. If you only get the chance to see one thing in you travels my recommendation will always be the pyramids.

Jerusalem was very very interesting. We did not really get time to draw breath and the biblical sights whizzed by so fast it was difficult to get a sense if their real importance. This is the place where the stories become real. All those religious lessons and bible reading were actually about “real” people with real lives and placing them amongst the sites gives you a funny feeling. As a child I spend quite an amount of time in churches (mum’s influence) but actually be there and see and stand in the places I have heard about so often was, well not sure what it was so I will have to go back and see them again to find out. As for safety I don’t think it is as bad as it is painted. Yes the local cultures do not get along and yes there are lots of point where you question if anyone is actually practicing what they preach however I can honestly say there was no issues and would suggest that it is less of an issue for tourists so don’t let it put you off.

Kusidasi and Ephesus well what can I say Ephesus was somewhat disappointing. Whilst it is elaborate in the Roman style it lacked a lot due to the poor restoration of the main area. The terrace area which is an extra gives a good view of houses of the time and these are far more interesting than the general site. The amphitheater at 25,000 seats is the biggest I have ever seen but that is not enough for me to tell you to rush there. Kusidasi has certainly come on over the last 10 years and is now a somewhat pleasant place and well organized. No local beaches so people come to shop and stay elsewhere.

Patmos is one of those idyllic Greek islands and if you can stand doing nothing for a couple of weeks then go for it. I could probably do 3 days then I would get itchy feet. It evokes everything you see in those pictures of simple Greek life. Slightly laid back so a little slower then the rest of the world and possibly it does not care much about that. Certainly worth a look

Santorini was just as we had left it several years ago. Like Patmos nothing really changes and it is up to you to slip into the rhythm. Some great Gold shopping and really good views. We spent two weeks here in 2001 and I think it was our last real do nothing holiday together. The artists shop which I though was expensive then still is but this time I don’t go away regretting not buying so both he and I are happy.

Athens, this was actually only port to airport so another place I need to return to. I never really had a desire to do Athens but think I should so it can go back on the list of “places we need to go when we get time“.

Hope all this is useful and I am not rambling to myself. We had a great time overall and whilst not everything was marvelous it was all a great experience and we come away slightly different. My Mother used to tell me “everything colors your life” which I took to mean the places you go and the people you meet add a richness to you so we will continue to add more color as we go along.

Now where to go for Christmas Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Day’s 13 & 14 Patmos & Santorini


Well we are over all the tours and the excitement and are winding sown the vacation. Today it is Patmos a very small Greek island. St John was exiled here when he was caught preaching in Ephesus. He lived in a cave half way up the main hill and it was here that he wrote “Revelations” the last book of the New Testament. There is a monastery on the top of the hill which looks more like a fort which says a lot about the time it was built.

We are not doing any tours we are just going to wander up and down the front. Greek islands have this slow pace which you cannot escape. You just fall into the rhythm and your steps become easier as you drift around. We stop for coffee we go into a Jewelers where the owner only says good morning, none of this let me help you spend your money or tugging your arm or where do you come from etc. In fact he never even got up from his chair.

We settle in one of the little restaurants on the front looking for “Tzatziki” and find ourselves in the only “authentic” local café which does not serve it. Not a problem the host apologies and points us towards a place he says serves the best on the island, he suggests we come back for our deserts as he has plenty. We move 40 yards and sit down again order our tzatziki, a feta cheese salad and some Saganaki (fried Cheese) Greek Style. Probably much more than we needed as we have eaten far too much on this trip and most if not all of it excellent. There is however something about simple fresh food which warms the soul and here it is. Something they make every day and have perfected over thousands of hot summer days. Fresh and simple remember that, it is always a winner.

We stagger back to the ship a little fuller and more relaxed. I notice a small van selling fresh fish with two sun dried old men doling out stuff from the back, two young girls sat in the van playing and a cat wandering around looking sometimes hopefully and sometimes suspiciously around the activity.

Dinner is relaxed and as the US Open tennis has started we retire to watch it in the cabin. Tomorrow is Santorini a place we know well as we spent two weeks there several years ago.

Santorini is quite a spectacular place to visit. It was formed after a massive volcanic eruption several millennium ago and the myth has it that Atlantis is somewhere around here. It is very dry and the houses are either perched on top of or hanging perilously to the side of an outcrop. They are white and blue and the story is that when the Germans occupied the place in WWII they banned the national flag so the locals painted their houses in the White and Blue of their national flag. No idea if the story is true or not but it fits well.

When we were here we saw a shop which was part Jewelry and part Art. There was a necklace I should have bought at the time which I have remembered and regretted not purchasing almost every day since. We did the same in Savannah with a picture we saw on the first visit and had to go back 4 years later to buy. So we know where we are going.

Off the ship at 10:30 and onto the pier 10 minutes later we join the queue for the cable car. The other option is to take a donkey ride up the very steep slope which isn’t going to happen. The cable car is enough of an adventure sort of a cross between transportation and a Disney ride it bumps and sways and the white marks Judi made in the back of my hand with her nails should heal in a day or two. We find our shop right where we left it 7 years ago which is a relief and wander around it. Less jewelry than last time but the art is still stunning. A parody of fish movement in metal and glass. We don’t buy just yet as we have all day. We want to savory this for a while and wander off for a coffee and to find another jeweler with lots of necklaces of which there are many.

We complete our search and leave one very very happy man behind as we walk out with both necklace and earrings for Babe made by a local artisan. Certificates and tax rebate form in hand and back to our art shop. There we meet the artist who was not there earlier. It was a one man show first time around but not we see crates marked up for the Intercontinental in Dubai and some for places in New York so it seems he is doing ok. We purchase and wander back down the narrow whitewashed streets full of smiles. Approaching the cable car we decide walking down the donkey path would be ok. Well walking will be better than riding. It took 40 minutes but it seemed far safer than either of the alternatives.

Tonight we must pack but not just yet so we can have our last dinner which will be full of Highs and Lows and baked Alaska which for some reason is a tradition.

Day 12 Ephesus and the rest

Not quite an early start today so I have time to write my blog on the deck. Not a bad idea as I am near the coffee machine however I am in sight of the Joggers on the deck above and they keep crossing my eye line. The normal group going at different paces all except one who is Jogging backwards, yes backwards. What one earth he thinks he is doing. I move away so I can concentrate and end up near one of the doorways. Like yesterday I greet each person passing with a cheery “Hello there, nice day, enjoy” with mixed results. I am even greeting the crew which I think is unnerving them. It takes around 30 minutes to complete then back to get Judi and a quick breakfast.

10:30 sees us in the lounge with our stickers E-1 today. A small bus so only around 20 people for this tour of Ephesus. The guide is young and a little nervous. This ability to use the phrase “you know” more than one in a sentence is remarkable. The People you know used to live here you know and you know they were very you know sophisticated. He gets better as he settles into his rhythm. The site is 30 minutes away so an easy drive. It used to be a small port but it silted up however it remains an iconic name amongst ancient ruins.

It is impressive but a little ragged, I think it could do with a little more organization. It does have some impressive mosaics and frescos but these are not generally on view they are in a part sectioned off. We get in because we have paid they little extra. They do show how detailed people were in those days. A swimming pool kitchens, bathrooms. All quite well preserved, all of the archeological work being done by some Austrian university. There is a two story library which was at some point supposed to rival Alexandria but of course fate is cruel and everything was lost. There is an extremely impressive amphitheater which seats 25,000 so by far the biggest I have seen. Shame they have been using it for rock concerts and the acoustic vibrations had a detrimental effect on it so there are repairs going on. I say going on I could only see two workers both asleep under a tree but there was a big crane.

I am not actually disappointed in Ephesus but I have to say they could do a lot more with it. There are many stones with inscriptions on just lying around and you can tell some of the restoration work was poorly thought out. columns change shape half way up, cornices do not match so it looks more like some form of leggo set. That said the physical size of the amphitheater and the mosaic floors (if you can get in to see them) are possibly worth the entrance fee and it is only a stones throw from Kusidasi where we are docked and we are soon back there for a little retail therapy. I have to say the place is very neat and tidy and a welcome relief from the harassment we have suffered at some other places. It is possibly only the culture difference but I don’t appreciate being bullied into buying something. There is a repetitive nature to the shopping, Jewelers, tiles, clothes, cafe, jewelers, tiles clothes, cafe. so it becomes slightly monotonous but the streets are clean and nobody is grabbing hold of you (I really hate vendors grabbing my arm). We make a couple of minor purchases for the flat, Judi says it needs some stuff to make it look like ours as right now it looks bare. Bright tiles and hand painted bowls should do.

Back for an hour or so lounging around. The two piece band is hard at it although nobody notices. They play on deck in the casino lounge and in the upper cabaret lounges every day and I am in constant amazement at the singers fortitude in standing on deck in the full sun and have watch as she gets more and more of a tan.

Dinner is interesting as we comment on the American Open Tennis championships which started this week. The provokes a debate on players and interestingly the English couple really seem to dislike Andy Murray because he is Scottish and the Irish couple do not like Roger Federer because he is Swiss. Now neither have met them and of course it is of no consequence what these tennis players do. They just play tennis they do not dictate Governmental policy or actually do anything bad or are troublesome about anything they just play tennis every now and again. What I found fascinating was how someone can form an opinion about another person based only on conjecture. How can you hate someone for no good reason. You can “Prefer” someone else and even support someone else but there is no reason to violently dislike. I point this out because over the last few days we have met lots of cultures which hate other cultures for things which did not happen to them themselves and on occasion may have happened centuries ago. In fact some may never of really happened or may have been distorted through the telling of the stories and yet here we are 2009 with the same thing. Maybe we have not moved on very far at all.

This got me thinking do “I” dislike anyone. Well there was a man I said I would never work with again (a long time ago) that was because I always had the impression he was a little violent. I added another a while back because it seemed he could only be right by making everyone else wrong which got tiring after a while. I have never met anyone who was “always right” and probably never will but we live in hope.

An easy day tomorrow Patmos a Greek island not much there so only a gentle stroll planned.