26th September, 2010
We leave Sifnos one week today or that is our plan. We have planned to spend two nights in Patras on the Peloponnese, take a 24 hour ferry up the Adriatic to Ancona in Italy, stay at Lake Lugano and then drive to Metz in France where we spend the night before going on to Zeebrugge in Belgium for the ferry to UK. Unfortunately, Pauline’s Mum was taken ill last night and had to go to hospital this morning. It is uncertain how serious it is but, if we have to, we will try to urgently rearrange and leave a week early by leaving the island on Monday night. We will see.
If there is a hiatus in this Blog, it will be because of the above.
27th September, 2010
Unfortunately, we have had to make the decision to leave the island tonight – six days early. Pauline’s Mum had a bad night and we have been instructed to get home. We have contacted three different ferry companies and three different hotels and all have been wonderfully helpful and rearranged our bookings at the drop of a hat and at very little extra cost. I think a £2,000.00 trip has been rearranged at an extra cost of about £150.00.
Tuesday we get on Anek Lines Olympic Champion.
We will be in Hull at 8.30 am on Saturday morning.
28th September, 2010
Having sailed through the night on the F/B Korais and arrived in Piraeus at 6.00 am this morning, we have driven through the lorry blockade to Patras on the Peloppenese. It is now 11.00 am and we are having breakfast and waiting to board our Anek Lines ferry, Olympic Champion to Italy. It is a sweaty 27C/81F and we retreat to the airconditioning of our car to wait in comfort with a copy of The Times.
When go on board, we upgraded to a Deluxe Cabin which is huge, has a settee and armchairs, a television and a fridge with complimentary wine, etc.. In brochure terms, we should have paid an extra 140.00 but, because the boat is so empty, we were charged just 35.00. After an early dinner, we had an early night.
29th September, 2010
During the night, my mobile bleeped messages from Albania and Croatia and, as we woke, we are five hours off Italy. Clocks go back an hour and the bacon & eggs breakfast is a little harder to eat. I use the ferry’s satellite for internet connection and listen to the Today programme. Poor old David Milliboots. He has to start again.
Our cabin is dominated by a huge floor to ceiling porthole which, as I write at 8.00 am (UK time), shows a blue sky and fleecy, white clouds over a calm and blue Adriatic sea. We are about four hours from Ancona and the next leg of our drive.
The ferry docked two hours late and put us under pressure to reach our hotel at Lake Lugano. We still stopped at the local Italian supermarket and bought huge chunks of Parmigiano Reggiano and about fifty bottles of glorious red wine. To add to our problems, our Sat. Nav. decided that the quickest route was through the centre of Milan at rush hour. Twenty years ago, Pauline and I flew to Milan and spent a few days sight-seeing. We stayed in the Hotel City on the Corsa Buenos Aires – the biggest and busiest shopping street in Milan. We were in awe of the traffic chaos even then. Imagine my shock when I found myself driving past that hotel in the street at 6.00 pm in the twilight. I’m glad I did it but I don’t want to do it again too soon. Below is a photo I found of the Corsa Buenos Aires, Milano with the City Hotel on the right.
We didn’t arrive at the hotel, which overlooked the lake, until 9.30 pm. If you’ve ever staying in a Swiss hotel, you’ll know that the restaurant closes promptly at 10.00 pm. We just made it.
30th September, 2010
The BBC website had said we could expect rain throughout our journey. In fact we saw none until late this afternoon as we approached Metz, the capital of the Lorraine region and where we will stay tonight.
I haven’t had chance to tell you yet but just as I was surprised to hear from Mike out of the blue so I was shocked to receive a text message as I dozed on a 22 hr ferry passage from Greece to Italy. You may all be aware that, as you travel across country borders so you swap mobile airtime providers. Even within Greece we are constantly swapping three different providers: Cosmote, Vodafone and Wind. As our connection automatically drops one provider and picks up another, we get a text message welcoming us to the provider. This can happen four or five times per day. When travelling through Europe, it happens even more often. As we sailed down the Adriatic with countries on both sides, we are inundated with ‘Welcome’s. When another one came in, I was about to delete it when I was flabberghasted to find it was Liz. First Michael and now Lizzie Dripping. This is what she said:
I was reading all the back blog last night as I’ve not been able to access it recently. Hope Pauline’s Mum is OK and that you and Pauline take care on your way back. I enjoy your Blog and would want you to carry on. Me ‘got issues’. What ever do you mean?
Almost immediately afterwards I received a text from Ruth in a strange language saying:
Flying back 2dy Liz has told me abt Paulines mum will ring u 2moz lots of hugs 2 u both
Ruth & Kevan
I emailed Liz from Metz:
How lovely to hear from you. I was sailing up the Adriatic when it came in and it was a lovely surprise particularly having just heard from Mike a couple of weeks before. You will see I have featured it in the Blog for this week which I am currently writing in a hotel in Metz in northern France.In my view, Jane felt a little challenged when the Blog / Website became required reading for members of the family. She saw/sees herself as the lynchpin (anointed by Mum) and it must have looked as if the prodigal had returned and was usurping her hard won position. In actuality, I was just trying to enjoy my writing while also trying to mend a few fences but, obviously, not very successfully. We all have issues not least Caroline and Jane and Me. You dont exactly hide yours but why should you? They define your relationships with others in the family. Mum was fond of being scandalised, on the one hand, by family members isolating themselves while encouraging it, on the other hand, by playing family members of against each other.
These issues are part of the joy and sadness of life. Now I am retired, I have more time to reflect on them and put them in perspective. Have a lovely weekend. Im going to be house hunting. Lovely to hear from you. We should do it more often.
Lots of love John
1st October, 2010
Left the Metz hotel still full after the most amazing dinner last night. We forwent breakfast and drove to Thionville at Sortir 40 on the N4. We try to stop there at the Carrefour for more wine, mustard, patés, oils, etc. By that time we gave in and had breakfast of croissants with apricot jam and delicious coffee. We left at 11.00 am and drove the last three hours to Zeebrugge. We read last Sunday’s papers while we waited to board the final ferry. At 4.00 am we get to our Club Class cabin where I drink my first British beer for six months and watch British television.
We went to bed over full again after a fantastic dinner and go to bed early after losing two hours on our Greek body clocks. The weather is excellent and the sea is calm. Our cabin is quiet apart from my snoring. Just before we sleep, the BBC News tells us that two competitors in the Gordon Bennett race are lost, feared drowned in the Adriatic off Italy. If I’d known sooner, I could have looked out for them!
2nd October, 2010
Huge buffet breakfast and then disembarcation. We spent an hour on the motorway from Hull to Huddersfield. Straight to the Vodafone shop to buy a mobile internet dongle. Much better value than the Greek one. We can have 3Gb per month for just £15.00. After buying Sainsburys out, we drove over to our new accommodation in the warden-assisted apartments that Pauline’s Mum occupies. From there we will look to get a flat to rent for a month or three while looking for somewhere to buy in the South.