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 !!!
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
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.
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.
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!!
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.
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.
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………………………
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 !!
It is with a heavy heart that I have to let you all know that Izzy has been battling a nasty Lymphoma on her throat for a few months and on Friday she finally gave me that “Bully Look” that meant “time to go”. She has crossed the Rainbow Bridge and gone to join Cleo and Mambo and the others. Needless to say I am pretty gutted as she was a wonderful dog and we had many amazing times and adventures together !! It is the end of an era for me having had Bullies in my Pack for over 30 years. I have been sorely tempted to get another, but I am not as strong as I used to be, and think it wisest if I stick to my selection of Spanish rescue dogs to keep me company. My Bull Terriers have always been the core of my team and especially my Dikram Trio who were all amazing !!!
I have many memories of her adventures and escapades. Probably the most memorable was when Izzy and Mambo decided to explore Central London as soon as RWP arrived to set up camp in Green Park for the Diamond Jubilee. Izzy was brought back by one of the off duty Royal Protection officers heading for Westminster Bridge while Mambo had made his way into one of the “stalls” in the Royal Mews and was entertaining the Queen’s horses etc !
Izzy overcame many medical and health crises but in total Bull Terrier style defied all the experts and always bounced back !!! This was one “bounce” too many and we were forced to surrender. Needless to say she has left a large hole in the household but the rest of the pack are in fine form and keeping me on my canine toes !!
Meanwhile I am going stir crazy down here…………
My November return trip to Myanmar is looking increasingly doubtful as the dreaded virus continues to sweep the planet. As soon as Pandaw resume their river cruising schedule, and it is logistically possible and safe to do so, I will be there. The Dogs Jigsaws and Netflix continue to keep me relatively sane, as I watch from the sidelines, as the world goes mad and Covid 19 triggers consequences and crises that a few month ago were unimaginable !!! Respect for, and sympathy with, many of the worlds “leading” countries is diminishing. Lets hope that the bickering and conspiracy lunacy goes away and we all get through this nightmare safe and sane. Right now the future does not look great !!!
Got back from my Myanmar trip in early December just in time for stunning result in UK Election, and an end in site to the interminable Brexit uncertainty. Australia was on fire and there was a rumour of a new flu virus coming out of China.
Hurley arrived from Adana (local dog rescue). One of a litter of 10 puppies abandoned on the mountain behind Estepona along with their mother .
Nick & Sara had already adopted Zeus & Apollo – two of Hurley’s brothers so it keeps them “in the family”. Their mother was a German Shepherd cross and subsequent DNA tests have indicated that Dad was a cross between a Brittany Spaniel, an English Cocker Spaniel, and various other Spanish Herding/Sporting/Hound breeds. Loves swimming and destroying sofas and cushions and eating carpets (anything actually)! However he has fitted in well, is much loved, and has bonded with the rest of the team (now back up to 5).
Fast forward 2 Months…………
The Chinese flu rumour has escalated to a full blown global pandemic. Seemingly unstoppable, and with Europe as the current epicenter, the world has gone into panic mode and damage control. Most countries have sealed their borders and implemented drastic policies of “lock down” and Social Isolation/Distancing. Here in Spain, the entire population has been ordered to stay at home and avoid all travel and external contact with other humans. The Police and Army are on the streets enforcing the lock down and any trips to pharmacies and food shops are controlled and limited. All shops, bars & restaurants are closed, But then, unless you have been hiding in a cave for the past few weeks, you probably know all of this already !! Depending on what country you find yourself in, and what control measures are in place, it is a very different and scary world out there !!! All sorts of shit going down and the world has gone into medical and economic meltdown !!
Fake News and other Bullshit
Conspiracy theorists are having a field day and Social Media is full of “fake news” and other misinformation, which is quite frankly bullshit. There are a very few “rays of sunshine” emerging and even fewer, sources of reliable information. The health services in most countries are stretched to (if not beyond) the limit but are doing an amazing job as they try to keep up with ever changing nightmare scenarios.
Communities are rallying together to support each other, There are unfortunately still many folk who are in denial about the gravity of the situation. Also some arseholes who are refusing to comply and thereby putting other peoples lives and well-being in jeopardy !!
I will try to stick to what I consider to be reliable sources which include:
World Health Organisation
So conspiracy theorists and bullshitters Look Away Now !!!
I will also include anything that I consider positive or that will put a smile on my/your face !!
Left Kalaw high up in the mountains. An old colonial Hill Station and now a sizeable metropolis. This was the only city/town/village on this trip so far, that was not an overwhelming sea of smiley faces and welcoming locals. Even my guide (who is from the area) confessed that she was happy to move on !! A centre for the military administration and the corrupt generals who run and are doing their best to ruin Myanmar and my first, and so far only, glimpse of the “dark underbelly” that so often festers in these wonderful Asian countries.
A two hour drive down to the idyllic Inle Lake. Everything here is either built over, floating on, or sadly sinking into the lake, This includes houses, markets, gardens and restaurants etc. Agriculture and needless to say fishing are the mainstays of the economy. Vast fields of tomatoes and a myriad of other crops floating on rafts of weed and linked with a series on narrow canals and creeks.
Virtually everything is accessed by boat, including the tourist infrastructure which tragically has “fallen of a cliff” in the past few years as a result of the adverse publicity and international reaction to the Rohingya genocide etc. Large 4/5 star resorts lie empty and in many cases closed down. Meanwhile the corrupt few who own and run this country continue to build more resorts which lie unfinished and empty, while they also spend a fortune on renovating and building new pagodas and stupas everywhere. A few tourists (French mainly and the inevitable Chinese) including Yours Truly still come here to explore and enjoy the tranquil surroundings while the local population struggle to make ends meet. The usual story that the kids are all heading to the cities and a huge range of local skills & crafts that have been handed down through generations are fading away and slowly sinking both economically and physically into the lake !!
The usual collection of amazing faces and a veritable forest of Stupas and Pagodas.
Lots of well nourished temple dogs. The Milk Bar is open…
Sunset and Sunrise over Inle Lake and then a flight to Yangon for a quick city tour terminating at the gobsmacking Shwedagon Pagoda. The biggest and goldest and holiest in Myanmar and the logical place to watch the sunset before heading back to Home which involves 4 flights and hours of hanging about in airports etc.
Street food in China town. Decided not to risk it so back to the safety on hotel cuisine.
These folk have a lot to learn about tourism and service and cant keep blaming it all on the “Generals”. They are constantly “shooting themselves in the foot”. Yesterday as the Shewdagon Pagoda I bought a guidebook that promptly started to fall apart. Priced in $$s they refused to accept a brand new $100 bill as it had an ink stain on it. It was part of the watermark !!! Then refused a $20 bill because the picture *Abraham Lincoln” was old and out of date ! I explained the he was dead but to no avail. Their currency meanwhile often looks like it has been through the mangle in a sewer and definitely warrants much hand washing after handling etc. I was probably the only customer they had had all day !!
A wonderful country, and am booked back next year for another month. I fear that they will take many generations (if ever) to recover from their history and legacy. So I highly recommended it as a place to visit before it descends into further anarchy and total chaos !!
Steer clear of the cities. The rivers are the way to explore this extraordinary country and have been the transport arteries for thousands of years. The roads are virtually non-existent !!
Am home now with happy dogs and a new addition to the pack – Hurley – brother of Zeus & Apollo – Nick and Sara’s latest additions to their family.
So far so good in that Max seems to have accepted him.