Cruising up the Dordogne with visits to St Emilion, Libourne and the Medoc region.

We left Bordeaux – slight delay as our captain anxiously awaited the very late arrival of the French pilot – required because the Gironde is tidal and we had a low bridge to contend with (more tidal stuff later) and sailed up the Dordogne to moor at Libourne from where we visited St Emilion.

St Emilion a real gem and thankfully not swamped with tourists. Apart from countless more wine sources and shops, it includes a cathedral (very ancient and hewn out of the limestone cliff. Too dark (and strictly forbidden) to take photos. Only problem is a huge tower/spire which was a late addition and threatens to bring the whole lot crashing down. So there is much subterranean concrete and steel being installed.

Lots of nooks and crannies and hidden cloisters all designed to convince you to consume and purchase their fine wines

Meanwhile the kids seem to be fine at Posh Pets. Also what was nearly the most expensive “selfie” ever as I whisked of my mask and an Airpod went flying!!!! Fortunately one of my fellow travellers spotted it on the edge of the precepice so crisis averted!!!

Next morning went on a walking tour of Libourne. I was the only participant so had my own private guide. Everyone else has opted for yet another wine tasting!!

Next a cruise out of the Dordogne, past numerous Chateaux and a soggy tour of the Medoc region in the rain – they don’t call it Aquitaine for nothing. Some of my fellow geriatrics/travellers and places seen along the way….

Back to the mooring at Fort Medoc: now somewhat overgrown but one of three forts across the Gironde to stop the Brits sneaking up river and taking back Bordeaux

We have to keep manoeuvring to avoid getting swamped by the twice daily Gironde equivalent of the Severn Bore (Le Mascaret). A tidal phenomenon which comes roaring up river twice daily complete with surfers and kayaks etc

Keeps the captain and crew on their toes!!! Full moon and all that!!!

Everyone else buggered off to yet another Chateaux for more wine tasting and a Classical concert – dressed in all their finery. I opted to stay on board to take advantage of liberated WiFi as we cruise back to Bordeaux where they will rejoin the ship. Tomorrow off to Cadillac and more Chateaux..

At last – back on a river again!!!

House all closed up and The Gang off to Summer Camp – They fall for it everytime!!

All settled in at Posh Pets – Their Home away from Home and where Daisy did 6 weeks of rehab earlier this year after her knee reconstruction.

Great flights from Malaga to Bordeaux via Paris with Air France who have been brilliant throughout the past 18 months of cancellations and postponements. Turkish Airlines and Expedia still on my serious Shit list after 18 months of body swerving and no refunds etc. Avoid them at all costs!!!

Nice hotel overnight in Bordeaux before boarding the Scenic Diamond – my home for the next 11 days – so time for a wander around the city and some sight-seeing etc

First glimpse of Scenic Diamond moored in Bordeaux

A morning to spare before Embarkation so a visit to The Cite du Vin. A very high tech Museum with everything you need to know about wine and it’s history.

Ah those were the daze!! At least I won’t have to drag any home and deal with excess baggage etc!!

Next stop is an amazing sensory experience inside a WW2 U-boat pen. They couldn’t demolish it so have converted it into an “art experience”. Mind blowing and quite disconbobulating. Not for epileptics or vertigo sufferers!!

Some of the visuals…..

A visit to the obligatory cathedral and then off the boat to check in

Only in France!!!!

Checked in on board Scenic Diamond. All very civilised, welcoming and just what the doctor ordered. Off up/down The Gironde to the Dordogne. Coming up – St Emilion and Libourne. Next Post.

Will publish this now as WiFi seems a bit sluggish so let me know if photos come through as they should. More later……R

Stand By for Resumption of Travels !!! Not to mention the recent devastating Wildfires behind Estepona

Anyway…..

After a year of no travelling, Postponements and Cancellations too numerous to count, it looks as though I may finally be able to resume my river explorations in a couple of weeks. Exotic destinations – Myanmar, India, Vietnam & Laos are non-starters at the moment due to Covid complications and Coups and have been postponed, so I have had to focus on closer to home. Even a long trip down the Danube has had to be put off until next year despite all countries to be visited or transited were in the EU !!

So I have put together an itinerary that includes:

  • 11 Day cruise in France on the Dordogne and Garonne
  • Train to Amsterdam
  • 8 Day cruise down the Rhine to Basle
  • 5 Day “Panoramic” Train tour of Switzerland (Lakes, Mountains and Glaciers (if there are any left !)

After a brutally hot summer in Spain and raging fires on the mountain behind me as I type, it will be good to get some cooler weather and doubtless some Rain and even Snow !!

Due to set off on Tuesday 21st September.

Then Train to Amsterdam

Some of you who have “followed” me in the past may have received a new invite as I dust the cobwebs off the site ! If you have already “registered” please ignore. Otherwise explore and enjoy !!! R xx

Ageing Sucks – Robbie goes bionic with the addition of something called a pacemaker

Got back from my Italian adventure just in time without getting caught up/out in the latest round of Curfews, Lockdowns and Travel bans. However I had been feeling pretty lousy for many months and, without going into too many of the details and symptoms, things were deteriorating and felt myself grinding slowly to a halt. Lots of tests and scans later and some help from my Apple Watch we noticed that my pulse was dipping into the low danger zone (low 40s). Ok if you are a professional athlete but I’m afraid that I am not and never have been !!

Anyway after a hectic week of scans and scopes it was decided that a Pacemaker was in order. It all happened extremely quickly, but went into a very swish hospital in Marbella on Thursday, and by Friday evening was home with a sore shoulder and “Gizmo” inserted below my left collar bone.

Since then my pulse hasn’t dipped below 55 and am feeling a lot better !!! So guess that I may have to “celebrate ” my 70th in a few weeks after all.

Many thanks to Triay Medical Centre and to all the Staff at Helicopteros Sanitarios Hospital. Huge thanks also to Sara for driving, hand holding and dog/house sitting !! And of course Max, Daisy, Bella & Hurley for behaving while I was away and welcoming me back on my return !!

Next trip not due until I hopefully sail up the Danube next May, and then the Irrawaddy & Chindwin in November. Vaccines are appearing on the horizon so finger crossed that 2021 will be a vast improvement on 2020 and some semblance of normality will return.

Now if someone would sort out the Trump & US train wreck before there is no normality to return to ……………………….!!

Stay Safe, Wear a Mask, and just get used to the fact that Christmas may have to be postponed for 12 months. Not the end of the world surely – especially if you are a turkey !!! Just think of the money saved and grief avoided !!!

Onwards and Upwards

R

Naples & Pompeii

Naples is a combination of gridlocked streets and dingy dark alleyways. Found my “boutique Hotel” in a courtyard in the historic part of town – very quaint and very pleased to see me as once again I seemed to be the only guest.

A day trip with guide and driver to Pompeii and Herculaneum – both virtually deserted so no queues and a great time to see both sites. Quite extraordinary but got totally drenched at Herculaneum as the heavens opened. Reading Robert Harris’s Pompeii puts the whole thing in perspective, especially the petrified remains of the fleeing/cowering inhabitants – an amazing “time capsule” from what was a very luxurious and decadent civilisation. The Archaeological Museum in Naples is crammed with amazing stuff that has been excavated.

Back to Naples and two days of Cathedrals, churches and museums until I couldn’t take any more and resorted to reading (Pompeii by Robert Harris) and trying to keep abreast of the Covid nightmare as strict curfews are enforced across Europe. Most especially Italy and Spain. It looks as though I will hopefully make it home by the skin of my teeth!!!!!

A trip underground to see the old aqueduct. Impressive and very narrow. Good job I’m a skinny bugger these days! Lots of steps though.. A lot of Roman & Greek stuff underneath the urbam mess that is Naples today. Not a city that I would rush back to. Good Pizza is one of its few good attributes! Otherwise a bit of a shithole…..

All bars and restaurants closed in Naples at 1800 from yesterday much to the annoyance of the Mafia and local tradesmen who took to the streets in protest. Nationwide curfew in Spain from 2300 to 0600 for the foreseeable future. Providing my flights home via Paris go ahead as scheduled I arrive in Malaga at 2330 so curfew breaking will be required for the drive home.

Trip home so far on schedule, so should be home around 0100 then off for canine reunion in the morning. A few medical issues to be investigated and resolved. 6 months of Covid restrictions ahead so what else am I going to do??? Next scheduled trip up the Danube in May. Surely they will have got a handle on this mess and a vaccine by then!!

This has been an extraordinary trip. Not easy but worth it to see the world – well Italy anyway – without tourists. IPad blogging seems to have worked. Next step is to master the new iPhone 12Pro camera and dump the clunky Canon around my neck. Looking forward to getting home and taking my f***ing mask off!! And hopefully seeing Trump get the arsekicking that he deserves!!!

Stay Safe!! Happy Xmas and let’s hope that next year is dramatically better than this one! Robbie xx

Venice Revisited

Got back to Venice. Warmer, dryer but very misty. Hotel very welcoming but only a handful of guests in evidence during my four day stay. Bought a four day Vaporetti pass and soon learned my way around the canals. Very easy to get hopelessly lost in the labyrinthine maze of passages and alleyways as I did a couple of times

First stop St Mark’s Square to collect my Museum pass. Experience proved that access to anywhere required booking an allocated time slot to avoid frustration and denied entry. Social distancing strictly enforced with compulsory masks and hand sanitizer everywhere. Took the elevator to the top of the Campanile and looked down on a virtually deserted St Mark’s Square. Had to feel sorry for all the cafes, restaurants and shops but a real treat to see it all without tourists and a forest of selfie sticks!!!

Cathedral basilica closed for restoration but Museum open with good views down into it from the gallery.

Quite a lot of the churches and museums are only partially accessible but still plenty to see before art and Catholicism overload kicked in.

Spent quite a lot of time remembering the extraordinary Pink Floyd experience of 1989. My guide book lists it as one of the Top 10 Historic Events in Piazza San Marco along with the founding of the Doges Palace, Napoleon remodelling and the Campanile collapsing!!! Spotted a few familiar buoys that we used as mooring our monster barge.

A misty trip out some of the Islands – Murano etc. Some impressive glass blowing and colourful houses.

Reading (for the second time) The Unfinished Palazzo which chronicles the lives of the three extraordinary woman who owned and operated out of what is now the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. It covers most of the 19th century and biz are goings on that linked the three heiresses. Well worth a read. Modern art has never really appealed to me and still doesn’t but set the scene for what was some extraordinary behaviour and decadence!! Also to see where the remains of P Guggenheim and her animals (Dogs) are interred.

Discovered some great little restaurants in the alleyways near the hotel.   Fantastic food and very attentive staff – just delighted to see someone, apart from a few locals.

Next up – train for 5 hr trip down to Naples. Trying to keep ahead of Covid and threatened lockdowns across Italy, France and Spain which will have to navigate as I head home on Tuesday. Meanwhile missing the Gang who seem to the very happy, settled and popular in their holiday camp.

Sitting in Air France lounge at Paris CDG on my way home. Will post this now and move onto Naples & Pompeii etc later.

Arrival and overnight in Venice then onto Florence

Malaga airport virtually deserted but a joy to navigate. Madrid somewhat busier but got to Venice without problems. Arrived with my expensive and negative Covid test but no one asked to see it or my other virus related documents. Better safe than sorry as they say. Italians offering Covid tests on arrival but avoided that detour as it seemed to involve brief quarantine waiting for the results.

Malaga Airport

Autumn came to Venice last week and brought with it lots of rain. The new flood barriers were deployed and worked !! So no wellies required to cross St Marks Square and Venetians relieved after decades of controversy, corruption and vast amounts of dosh !! Dark when I arrived so only a brief glimpse of Grand Canal. Very “Don’t Look Now” – kept expecting to see the flash of a red cloak!!

Arrival at hotel

Then departure next morning

Leaving Venice after brief overnight stay. A palazzo to myself and now on the train to Firenze – A carriage to myself as we cross the causeway with snow capped mountains to the right and nasty industrial shit to the left.

Very glad that I packed a coat as it’s 8 degrees and damp. What little I saw of Venice (back for 4 days next week) – not a tourist in site – just Venetians going about their business. Needless to say it is still outrageously expensive but then they have always been bunch of pirates and still are. All done with Italian charm!! Train very speedy and efficient though clean windows would be a major improvement!!

Florence has been amazing. Two long days pounding the cobbled streets visiting churches and museums until my legs and feet were about to drop off ! A long climb up 400+ stairs to the top of the Campanile (Bell Tower) – well almost to the top – had my muscles screaming at me ! I must remember that I’m nearly 70 !!

Streets quite crowded mainly with locals (well Italians anyway). It must be hell on earth when you add tourists to the mix. Many Hotels and Restaurants are closed but enough open to satisfy the current demand.

Most museums etc are open, but with limited access. Masks and hand sanitiser everywhere with social distancing strictly enforced. Booking time slots in advance on the internet is the way to go but can lead to a somewhat disjointed schedule!!

Food is wonderful and totally outshines Spanish fare !! Makes me wonder why I ended up in Spain. Could have something to do with the cost of stuff – cheap it isn’t !!!!!

This is what you would get if you crossed Hurley with a Dalmatian

Meanwhile an update from the kennels. No sign of Hurley but I am sure that he’s there somewhere. Up to no good no doubt

On the train back to Venice now for 4 days. At least the bell tower in St Mark’s Square has an elevator!!

Will post this now while the train WiFi holds. Between tunnels.

The Great Escape

After several very frustrating months “holed up” at home, my Italian Trip starts tomorrow. This latest adventure has expanded to 14 days including 4 days each in Venice, Florence and Naples.

Its been a constant battle to keep up with cancellations and re-bookings but hopefully I have got there in the end !! Just heard from the travel agent in charge of the Venice section that they have had a last minute cancellation and I am the only “Member” of the Group. Oh well so much for getting to know my fellow travellers !! It should be amazing so see places that are normally swarming with tourists and selfie sticks, virtually empty !!!

Talking about “battles”, and I know that the travel industry is going through hell at the moment as are most “industries”…. Turkish Airlines and Expedia (US version) are top of my shitlist at the moment as 8 months later they are still giving me the run around as far as my cancelled Turkish trip that was scheduled for last March. As far as buck passing is concerned they are unbelievable. The last time I saw such a display was at a Rugby match at Twickenham !! They are only too happy to accept your booking and take your money but try getting it back after they cancel ………….

Most of my other cancelled bookings – Pandaw, Air France etc have been rescheduled or refunded. As they should be !!

Anyway back to “the Now” so: Covid19 Test Certificate at the ready, its off to Malaga airport in the morning. The test cost as much as booking an entire family on EasyJet. That should keep the riff-raff at home and at bay !!!

The kids have gone off to their Holiday Camp. A first for Hurley but they seemed to settle in almost immediately.

I will be travelling light on this trip and relying on my new iPad skills to update my blog. So bear with me, as there is a bit of a learning curve underway here. A few decent train rides ahead so will hopefully catch up with Posting as the Italian countryside flashes past the window.

Stay Safe and I will endeavour to do likewise !!

Living in Hope !!

Myanmar is still totally off limits to all, and so Pandaw have “thrown in the towel” and cancelled any/all cruising plans for 2020. So my Irrawaddy and Chindwin cruises are now rescheduled for November 2021. By which time much of the world will hopefully be vaccinated and long haul travel will be back on the horizon !!

In the meantime, to stave off the boredom, and retain my sanity, I have been looking and booking ahead for places to hopefully visit in the upcoming months. Have scheduled a 4 week cruise up the Danube in May, from Bucharest and the Black Sea to Amsterdam. 7 different countries – all currently EU members so hopefully not too many closed borders and if the Covid shit hits the fan, getting home to Spain should be achievable.

However May 2021 is still a long way off (9 months), which seems like an eternity, so to keep the travel demons at bay and to make use of a soon to expire voucher from my cancelled Turkish trip earlier this year, I have booked a short Italian excursion for October (this year !!). 4 days in Venice and 4 days in Naples to see Pompeii etc.

Hopefully the Gondoliers and other disgruntled Venetians will have forgotten or at least forgiven the havoc that we wreaked in 1989 with Pink Floyd. After three years on the road with “Momentary Lapses of Reason” and “Delicate Sound of Thunder” there was no stopping our production “juggernaut” as we rolled/floated into the canal in front of St Mark’s Square and swatted away any/all of the local pirates who were determined to stop us, or at least profit from our incursion into their territory ! Heads rolled, promises were not always fulfilled and we snuck off to Marseilles for the tour finale. Probably should leave any PF swag at home just in case……

A couple of reminders………………………

The Night Before……………
The Day of……….

So then, providing I escape recognition, a train ride down through Italy to Naples and a few days exploring Pompeii before heading home for what looks as though it will be a thoroughly grim and depressing winter waiting for the Vaccine to kick in !!

I am totally prepared for disruptions to any of the above. So watch this space for updates, as I learn some new IT skills, which will hopefully mean that everything can be done from my iPad, and I can leave the laptop and its peripherals at home !!