Sat, 09th February 2013, Off Mandurah, Western Australia
Well so far we have done alright. We had a really bad start, but clawed our way back over the next 3 legs down the Cockburn Channel, and out Challlenger Passage (N of Garden Island). We passed our main rival Blondie just before the turning mark out of Cockburn Channel & towards Challenger Passage. The day started on an ESE'ly, until we were nearly to the southern end of Garden Island on the west side, then the sea breeze started to come in and we were in a very good position to take advantage of it. We then had a bit of a tussle with Blondie, until the tacked away to the south, and we are heading further out to stay in the breeze.
More to come soon.
Fri, 08th February 2013
Test remote blog post from iPad Safari with photo of course (as the crow flies) of the Fremantle to Busselton Iberia Tace this weekend 9th-10th February 2013
Wed, 27th June 2012, Ballajura, Western Australia
Well our wonderful holiday together is over, and I thank Vera for experiencing it with me - it was great.
I wanted to finish the trip off by sharing some lessons learnt and some goods & bads about what we experienced and the things we did.
Firstly Technology - I like to have my technology with me; iPhone, iPad & sometimes mini Notebook, so that I can access the net, e-mails, blogs, travel information, and entertainment. We normally take a power board from home so we only need to have to worry about one electrical plug converter and we can re-charge electrical devices quicker. Camera's were good although with the LCD/LED screens now they chew up the battery pretty quickly; so I intend getting another battery for mine and have it with me in my camera bag. I always carry a spare memory card. iPad & mini Notebook; well I wont do that all the time, but definitely bring the iPad for the entertainment factor. iPhone is a must; this time I had the phone with my Australia SIM in it, but next time I will take a spare iPhone (older - with hotspot capability) to use as an in country phone. I borrowed a Pocket Wifi device from Shawn Offer (a friend from RPYC who was in London with us), which worked great but some countries dont know it when buying their SIM card and configuration was a problem, so instead I would use the in country iPhone for hotspotting other devices - everybody knows an iPhone so I dont see a problem with configuration. I will go into wi-fi for the particular locations we were in; but basically where ever possible I would hook into somebodies wi-fi and were we went it was pretty much everywhere (not like Australia) costing nothing. The only places we had to pay were the big hotels; which just doesnt make sense. Where we had rental cars I took our TomTom with that countries maps. The Greece maps are a cross between Greek & English. French maps were fine.
Tipping - I tend to always tip if I have received good service and in particular when it is been beyond their call of duty. Wait staff are generally really good for tourist information.
London - Well there is not much to say about London as it was pretty much taken up with Cumberland Cup regatta. But from a tourist point of view; getting on a hop-on/hop-off bus as soon as possible is a necessity because it helps with a good overview of the central city, which helps you with planning and getting around. Definitely get the local travel card - reasonably cheap and easy.
Paris - Eurostar was great to get from London to Paris - quick and comfortable and not too expensive. If you want a car in Paris; get it small and be ruthless with parking, and practice a extreme parallel parking (this is particular for anywhere in Europe). Again do the hop-on/hop-off bus as well as the hop-on/hop-off river ferry; and you always get extra vouchers. Dont expect to see everything in Paris; if you really do allow a month or come back plenty of times.
More to come soon.....
Wed, 13th June 2012, Athens, Greece & Enroute Perth, Western Australia via Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Well today was the last official day of our fantastic holiday; even though we didnt do anything. I want to thank my beautiful wife for enjoying this wonderful adventure together. We experienced so many different things; and saw som any wonderful sites.
We got up reasonably early and had breakfast and then came back to the room to start packing. Everything went well; knowing this time we would each have 30kg's of checked-in luggage available, rather than carrying too much on board.
We checked out of the hotel, grabbed the rental car, loaded the bags, and drove to the airport. We got there in a reasonable time, and had a chance to relax in the airport for a little while. Our plane was due to leave at 1640 local time. That was a change from the rushed transfers we had previously, and a great way to finish off the holiday in a relaxed manner.
We left a little bit late due to air traffic congestion out of Muscat, but nothing to worry the transfer at Dubai. We arrived in Dubai in the late evening and it was still 36degreesC, but when we arrived in Perth it was cold and raining; with Alysha & Simone meeting us at the airport.
I will give a summary of the learnings, goods and bads later; and will upload some photos to the gallery.
Thanks everybody for reading; and especially thanks my beautiful Vera for a magnificent holiday - love you babe.
Tue, 12th June 2012, Athens, Greece
Today we decided to take a Hop-on/Hop-off bus around Athens. We had found this to be quite useful when we were in London & Paris. It gives you the opportunity to either check out the major sites before deciding where to go and visit, or identify sites that you didnt now about.
This time we hopped-off at the National Archealogical Museum. This is quite large; although no where as large as the Louvre, but it would still to a few days to get around, and pretty much covers all the ages of Greece and surrounding areas; including other related cultures. This time we solely focussed on the major era's of Greece. It was quite good, and as usual they had the special exhibition which was about a Roman shipwreck that they recovered many a pieces that had been stolen from Greece by Rome. Because a lot of these pieces were buried, or partially buried under the ocean floor they were amazingly intact.
Once we were finished there we hopped on to the bus and finished the tour of Athens. We went back to the hotel to refresh and then Vera wanted to do some shopping, so we headed down the road; although not before we got the obligatory photo with the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
After shopping we went for our last dinner in Athens at the Placa.
Mon, 11th June 2012, Athens, Greece
Today was a road trip day. To get out to the archealogical site of Corinth and have a look at the Corinth Channel.
We set the TomTom for Corinth which would take us over the Corinth Channel and give us the opportunity to look around there before heading on to the archealogical site. It only took about an hour to get there. The Corinth Channel is cut between 2 bodies of water that ultimately link the Adriatic side of Greece (west) to the Aegean side of Greece (east). Then distance between the 2 bodies of water is about 10km (I think), with a maximum land height of about 80m. It had been touted to be down for centuries and centuries, with the most notable being Nero's failed attempt way back when. And, then had been attempted a number of times throught the Middle Ages and failed due to the amount of rock involved. But in the 1800's it finally happened with a partnership between the Greek government/royalty and another European country that I have forgotten. It is only 24m wide, so in the 1800's it was suitable, however now is mainly used buy tourists (small boats) and tourist operators. By the looks of it only 1 boat is allowed in at a time, unless maybe if it is an organised convoy, and they are gates at each end.
We then headed to Ancient Corinth. There were 2 parts; the Acropolis (which means hill? in the city) and the city itself. We decided not to drive up to the Corinth Acropolis as it look like quitea distance up and we had to be mindfull of the 3pm site closures, so we just found our way through a little village to the Corinth site. Again, there is plenty of information, and guides sitting around the grounds if you need further information, plus there is a small museum. It is quite a good site, with further archealogical digging taking place. The focus, like many of the ancient sites, is the town being built around a fresh water spring. This is still operational and the town still draws water from it.
We then headed back to Athens for a wander around some shops and a bit of th Athens central area.
Sun, 10th June 2012, Athens, Greece
Well today is our first day in Athens and it is straight to the Acropolis Parthenon and surrounds to look around what should be the most significant archealogical site in Greece if not in the world. We had a bit of trouble finding an entrance close enough to our hotel, but we made it. Cheap enough to get in 8Euro (~AUD12), and that gave access to a number of other different sites as well. Just inside the gate was 3 fully stacked vending machines of bottled water - definitely a must to stock up on a day like this (0.50Euro each). All of the major parts below the Acropolis have excellent information and signage, and they are continually doing further excavation/restoration to preserve the site. One of the open air theatre's has been restored to full use, and was currently set up for an orchestra. But, to look at the magnificent of what the other one was is quite staggering. The carving and architecture is outstanding.
We continued to walk up to the Acropolis Parthenon itself, which is undergoing major restoration, so dont expect a pure site when you get here; there are cranes and scaffold around it. The entrance is just magnificent and so much better in person that what you see on TV in doco's. The rest of the site is very awe inspiring, and it is just a shame that it has been attack and changed so many times over history so that it difficult sometimes to really understand what it really truly looked like. But if it wasnt for that type of history it wouldnt be notable history. And, to look out over the city from this location just goes to show why an Acropolis in a city becomes such a prominent structure or place. Athens does not have very much high rise, barely any and so it is continuing to sprawl out in all directions. But, from the Acropolis it provides a view to all the other significant historical sites as well, and the one that stands out so much was the Temple of Olympian Zeus; which is partly in tact by appropriately immense - it was shut by the time we got there in the afternoon.
After wandering around the Acropolis for a while and taking, I dont know how many photos, we headed down to the Agora on the other side of the Acropolis. From my understanding the Agora is like the area of the historical city of Athens that serves the Acropolis. He they have restored/re-created an ancient building to act as a museum, and there are still some other buildings still in very good conditions.
After there we walk back around the front of the Acropolis/Agora area to the New Acropolis Museum. This new museum is solely dedicated to the Acropolis Parthenon and has been built on concrete stilts on top of a working archealogical site. Some parts of the ground floor of the museum are glass and you can see right through to the excavations below, which they are going to open for public access sometime in the future. Some of the mosaic freco's on the floors of some buildings in the excavation are still very well intact and show immense detail.
We then headed towards the Temple of Olympian Zeus knowing that it was probably going to be closed (which it was) and then onto the Olympiad Stadium, which is the elongated stadium re-built for the first modern Olympics in the 1800's and is still in use today. It is completely re-done in marble and stone, open air and one end is open (so it's is a U shape) and is immense.
When then walked across the road and on through the National Gardens back to our hotel. A long hot day. When ended the day with dinner in the Placa again.
Sat, 09th June 2012, Enroute Lefkada Town, Lefkada Island, SW Greece to Athens, Greece
This morning I quickly nipped around to the Vodafone Greece store to sort out the issues with the PocketWifi SIM card while Vera finished getting ready. But, he wasnt able to help. He did say that there are minor differences in the wireless network in Greece, Croatia and the other Balkan countries. I'm not too worried because pretty much everywhere in Greece has Wifi; including many museums and central areas.
Anyway, we got on our way and decided to head to the archealogical site of Delfi on the way to Athens. It was a great drive along the inner gulf of Greece and we stopped of at one particular interesting looking village that was obvious a location for charter yacht cruisers. Very pretty.
We drove through the many hundreds (thousands) of years old olive groves on the plains below Delfi; very interesting to look at from up high, and then up the switchback road to Delfi. We went through the town of Delfi, almost getting side swiped by a semi-trailer going through tiny narrow streets (at slow speed); but amazing how these guys maneouvre their trucks on tight winding streets and roads. But all was okay, although I think the car behind us had to back up quite away to let the truck past.
We got to the main archealogical site at about 1445, and it was closing at 1500 and they wouldn't let anybody else in. This is amazing that in Greece that significant archealogical tourist sites close so early. I had a bit of a discussion with a Greek guide who was guiding some English & Australian tourists and he said it was because the government wont pay the staff after 1500. Stupid thing is that if it is open longer the tourists will continue to come and the money is available. Proves why Greece is in the way it is. This is the case for many archealogical sites and smaller museums; although the bigger museums are open late and sometimes until 7 or 8pm.
Anyway, we had a look up at the site and it is absolutely magnificent. Apparently the Temple of Athena was still open so walked the 200m to there and looked around. It is amazing to see and imagine the architecture and the thriving communities that there were here. All built on an extremely steep high mountain; just down from snow fields.
After than frustration we headed on to Athens; although we needed to get to the airport to swap the rental car over. We decided that the Citreon C5 was too big for Athens and wanted to go with something smaller but in the same class so we ended up with a VW Golf.
We headed back into Athens to our hotel; quickly stopped out front to drop our bags off and then off for me to find where the hotel had a deal with a car park to store the car while we are not using. Finally found it after talking to the non-English speaking young attendant. It was one of those car parks that they take your car from you, put it in a lift and store on an upper level. It was a little unnerving to leave a rental car that you are responsible for with somebody else you dont know; but everybody seems very trustworthy, and in many of the central Athens carparks you see the businessman and customers waiting at the bottom while an attendant fetches the car.
We got sorted out in the hotel room, and because it was late we thought we would make our way to te Placa for a look around and some dinner. When we got there we asked how late they stayed open and they said for as long as there were customers into the early morning.
We had a great meal, with some great live Greek music as entertainment.
Fri, 08th June 2012, Lefkada, Lefkada Island, Greece
Today we were up and ready to head out to drive around the island of Lefkada. This island is supposed to be a very touristy spot within Greece with many attractions; charter yacht bases, kite surfing, beaches and night life for all ages. You can hire all sorts of vehicles to get around the island including scooters and quad bikes; however we just stayed with our Citreon C5 even though it was a bit big. You can drive around the island in about 2-3hrs.
We started out by heading down the eastern side; where there are many inlets and mooring areas protected by the island and the other two island next to it. It seemed like a good layover for many long distance ocean cruisers in one particular inlet the stretched well into the island. We went to a waterfall half way down the coast with a rock pool at the bottom; the water was very cooling and refreshing. When we looked up at the top of the water fall (maybe 30m) there was a goat looking down at all the strange happenings below. We had lunch at the top of a huge hill overlooking a sheltered bay that was obviously a good place to pull your boat into; it seemed a bit like Vis Town on Vis Island in Croatia to me. And, you had a magnificent outlook to the SE away from Lefkada island. We counted 24 yachts way out to the horizon.
We then travelled around the SE corner of the island and then needed to find our way to Porto Kastiki; which is apparently the best beach on the Adriatic. However we turned too soon (even though the sign post indicated) and ended up on a very narrow winding road leading to the road that led to the southern tip of Lefkada and to Porto Kastiki. But the big citreon just made it around the hairpin switch backs and we made it to the road heading south. We drove for about 30mins until we reach the road that led 'down' to the bay, and this was even narrower than the other road but we made, even passing a cement truck on the way (interesting to say the least).
Porto Kastiki beach is overlooked by the cliffs that surround and is absolutely amazing. The water is beautifully clear and the cliffs very white. The beach is made up, as you expect, of pebble - by very very clean looking pebbles; which actually hurt our soft western feet to walk on. Words cannot describe this place it is absolutely magnificent (I will let the photo attempt to do it justice). We hired a couple of deck chairs and umbrella; order a couple of coffees from the boys who sent up to the restaurant above and relaxed and went for a swim.
After the refreshing swim and a good time relaxing we headed back up to the hot car and the drive back up the west coast to Lefkada town. Again the roads are very winding two thirds the way up the mountains overlooking little villages and very rocky shores; with the occassional rocky (pebbly) beach.
Thu, 07th June 2012, Enroute Psarades, Prespa Region, Greece, to Lefkada Town, Lefkada Island, SW Greece
Well today was to be a long drive. We had a leisurely awakening, with the normal breakfast served by Vasilis. While I sorted some of or stuff out and attempt to do some blog updates; Vera had a final walk around the village. The village where her mum grew up. I suppose it was emotional for her, and her wanting to spend as much time here as possible, wishing she could stay longer. But we will be back.
Anyway, I sat down with Visilis to give us some pointers on where to go and what to see on our route to Lefkada, and then the following days enroute to Athens and while we are in and around the Athens region.
We decided that we would see a couple of smaller sights on the way, and then see if the TomTom could guide us to the archealogical site of Dodoni, which was supposed to be pretty well preserved.
About an hour out of Psarades we stopped off to see a stone bridge that was quite hold. While there when I was attempting to get a good side view of the bridge I interrupted quite a large snake that was sunbaking on a rock when I jumped down into its vicinity. Luckily he was just as scared of me as he had startled me and shot off into a rock hollow. I took the picture and as I was getting out of there I looked around the others holllows and figured that there probably are a number of snakes here; so I was out of there as quick as possible. From my understanding of snakes I dont think he was poisonous; but I didnt wont to risk it and interrupt our holiday with a visit to a Gree hospital.
We set the TomTom for Lefkada via Dodoni; however once we were in the vicinity of Dodoni (well what we thought was past it actually) we figured that TomTom wasnt quite taking us to the archealogical site. Some how the TomTom wasnt picking up the 'via' directions and was continuing us on to Lefkada. Anyway, because of the distance and because of some time we lost earlier we decided to give it a miss and move on to get to the coast before heading south to Lefkada.
We arrived in Lefkada quite late; although it was still light. We sorted the hotel room our and headed down to one of the Lefkada strips for a meal. Lefkada is quite a big town for charter boats and as it was getting to the end of the week there are a lot of people in town ready for the Saturday change-over. We had a reasonable dinner and then headed back to the room as it was quite late and were tired. Tomorrow we were planning to drive around Lefkada Island.
Wed, 06th June 2012, Psarades, Prespa Region, Greece
Today we got up early in preparation to go out with Visilis on his boat for a tour of a couple of the local sights. However, the wind was in the NW and was making the opening to the inlet a bit too rough, so we said that we would try later in the day. So, we sat down to a nice outdoor breakfast in the morning sun, and let Visilis tell us about the local history and the sights. Germanos turned up a little later and said the wind was dropping, so we quickly got organised and went down to the docks and jumped on to the little boat. We went to two little monastries that are set up in the cliff walls of the Greek part of the bay. These had been refuges for the monks when different ethnic groups would try to get at them! We also went past two other little refuge monastries that are set in the cliff side, but you cant get to them easily from the water. There are also a number of frescos that people have carved into the rock walls along the water in memory or tribute to somebody.
As far as wildlife goes; birdlife is seriously prolific with pelicans, herons, sea birds, and many many more - everywhere. Seals can also been seen on the rocks at the right time of the year - although not at the moment. The area has also got a lot of land based wildlife; including wolves, wild cats (mountain ones - not domestic types) and brown bears. The brown bears regularly come down to the waters edge to fish, and I was on the look out to get a photo of some. Last week Visilis had got within about 5m's of a mother and 2 cubs; with the mother growling at him to stay away. However, this morning we were not lucky; probably too late in the day for them. Later in the day after we did some driving around, Visilis was out with some bird watchers and saw a mother and 2 cubs - bugger!! Anyway next time.
We went to the island in the middle of little Prespa Lake called Agios Achillios. There is a number of archealogical sights on the island, and when Vera was here last you had to be rowed out to it in a boat, but now there is a floating walkway all the way out; about a 5-7min walk. Sea snakes make their nests under the walkway, and on our way out we frightened a number into the water that were baking in the sun on the walkway deck. The island is quite hilly and you are only really following goat tracks between each of the sights. We probably walked about 3-5km's up and down. We had a light lunch at the taverna when we were finished. However, on the way our path was blocked once by a small herd of sheep, a number of cows which wouldn't let us pass until we moved aside, and a land turtle. Many of the archealogical sights have gone through different religious owners and get changed and changed again over the ages; as is the way with many sights in Greece and I suppose many other archealogical sights around the world.
After we finished on the island we went up to Agios Germanos which is where Visilis comes from and had a coffee at his brothers taverna. While we were there a number of local stray dogs came and sat by us. It is quite amazing in Greece the number of stray dogs; and when you think stray dogs you think small dogs - no not in Greece these guys are big dogs; German Sheperd crosses, Dobberman crosses, all sorts of big dog crosses. They seem to be pretty well fed as well. Visilis' brother ended up having to shoo them away, otherwise I suppose they just continually hang around one place. We also went to the little village near Agios Germanos called Millnos which is where Vera's Mum's Buba (grandmother) came from.
Psarades is about 800m above sea level, and Prespa Lake is freshwater. The mountains to the NW on the Albania side, which still have snow in some places, are over 2000m. Later in the day when we came back from the looking around the air was so clear, and the sky so blue with barely in clouds that you could see these mountain tops so very clearly.
After we had come back from our boat trip we went off driving around the area, basically going to the end of the roads through villages. Because of the closeness of this area to the Albanian border, there is quite a bit of police presence on the roads, and every now and then you get passed by a military armed personnel carrier. Even the local high speed police boat has an automatic machine gun mount on the bow.
When we got back to Psarades I chilled attempting to do some e-mailing and blog entries without much luck, while Vera went off walking around the village and along the inlet shore. She ended up walking out to the end of the inlet and to get around the outer point of the inlet she had to go through a cave, which seemed to have been grafitti'ed by people from Diamond Head (presumeably Hawaii). All the time thinking that what would she would do if she came across a brown bear. When she got back she said the Visilis that she sould probably just jump in the water; until he told her that they can swim quite well.
There are a number of natural springs in the area and the water is cold, clear and absolutely beautiful to drink.
Tue, 05th June 2012, Enroute Thessaloniki, Greece to Psarades, Prespa Region, Greece
Well after a delayed start leaving Thessaloniki via rental car, because of much stuffing around trying to get a Vodafone Greece SIM card for the PocketWifi device we finally got on our way just after midday. The drive is about 4-4.5hrs.
The northern part of Greece; in particular the NW part is very beautiful, especially when you get up in the mountains. We are heading towards to the village of Psarades in the Prespa region of NW Greece. This region has a major lakes system called Minor & Major Lake Prespa; with the bigger lake being intersected by three different countries right in the middle of the lake; Albania to the W & NW, Greece to the SE & Macedonia (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia - FYROM) to the NE. The village of Psarades is where Vera's Mum was born and family lived for many, many years and it has been 16yrs since Vera has been back.
Driving up towards to NW of Greece is amazing; the villages slowly start to be made up of buildings that are built from local stone, with some that are built from blue stone looking absolutely fantastic; although they are small buildings. As we get further in the mountains the countryside becomes spectacular. When Vera was here 16yrs ago she has a vivid memory of the mountains being logged and de-nuded of trees. However, she (& me) was pleasantly surprised to see the mountain slopes green and well wooded. We later found out that this region was becoming more and more protected and many re-aforestation programs occurring. And, it really does look magnificent. As we got past Florina, which is the Prespa prefecture 'capitol', and into the mountains the roads obviously got narrower and more and more windy, with sheer drops on one side and especially the hairpin switchbacks. Vera kept reminding me to stay away from the edge, as in the left hand drive car I tended to drive to far right on the road, and on these mountain roads there is not much room for error.
We went over the land bridge between minor and major Lake Prespa, and there were birds everywhere. Apparently the Prespa region is a serious ornithologist destination, and there are hides and bird-watching locations everywhere.
We finally made it over the last mountain and around the last hairpin corner to get to the village of Psarades. Psarades is set at the end of the road leading to an inlet of Lake Prespa and looks to the north towards Albania. There are many new (or renovated) buildings in the village, but there are also many derelict buildings. The buildings in this village, like a few others in the area, are all protected and nobody is allowed to demolish them just because they are falling down. You are allowed to re-build them, renovate them or maintain them but no demolishing.
We are staying at the Taverna Syntrofia which is owned by distant cousins of Vera's. Now Germanos (brother) & Christina (sister) Christianopoulis run the tavern after the untimely death of their parents in a road accident in 2005. The are assisted by Christina's husband and a close long time family friend Vasilis Germanos who is from a village about 30mins away. We were warmly welcomed, and after settling in we were presented with some 'on the house' refreshments and meal. Christina was away for the night at her in-laws and Germanos does not speak English too well, so we were well looked after by Visilis. As well as helping out with the Taverna he also conducts boat tours to the local sights including bird-watching tours. He is a guru on local sights, flora & fauna, history and in particular birds. He also has a local marine snail named after him back in 2008. After talking with him for a while, we also found out that he travels widely through Greece and the Balkans guiding bird-watchers and is very, very knowledgeable.
He said that if we were ready early enough in the morning (8am) and the wind was right he would take us out on his boat for a tour for a couple of hours.
Mon, 04th June 2012, Travel Dubrovnik, Croatia to Thessaloniki, Greece via Frankfurt, Germany
Our flight out of Dubrovnik left at 7:30am; which meant we had to be up at 4am. The one good thing the owner of Apartments Mia did was he knew a reliable taxi driver who picked us up at 4:55am (and help us with our bags) to take us to the airport).
We travelled via Frankfurt, Germany; firstly via Croatia Airlines which were good, but then we had to change to Aegian Airlines to get to Greece. Our bags were checked right through however because they were over weight we had to trudge from one end of Frankfurt Airport to the other to get our boarding passes because of the excess baggage - so we were buggered and didnt have much time to look around. Then there was a hassle with the plane or other passengers getting on to the Aegian Airlines plane and we ended up leaving about an hour late. Lots of passengers were shuffled around in their sets, but luckily we stayed put with one spare seat next to us.
Once we got to Thessaloniki Airport we picked up our hire car, turned on the TomTom and drove into the middle of the city to find Hotel Le Palace. There wasnt any parking, but luckily it was a national holiday and we were able to briefly park close by. We checked in and then the hotel gave us a discount voucher to a local car park for 24hrs.
We went our exploring. We went to the White Tower and looked around some of the cultural areas. Unfortunately most tourist places were closed because it was a public holiday. But, we found a great cafe called "The Bites Store" (see previous Facebook check-in); where we shared a range of Mezza (appetisers like tapas). We had great service from the waiter; we loved the food and it was really enjoyable.
Thessaloniki has a strip of trendy cafe bars along the water front much like most other coastal towns and cities in this region.
Sun, 03rd June 2012, Enroute Split to Dubrovnik, Croatia
Today was our bus transfer from Split to Dubrovnik. We had a 400m walk down to the bus station with all of our bags. We caught the bus to Dubrovnik enjoying the scenery along the way with the normal 30min drive through Bosnia.
This time we stayed just outside of Old Town Dubrovnik in Apartments Mia just outside Pile Gate. Had to lug the bags up a number of steps (didnt count this time) again and was quite disappointment that, for the first time in Croatia, lthe owner did not come to meet us nor did he offer to meet us with our bags. We stayed in a room on the top floor of this house which had a brilliant view looking back on fort and the bay just outside the walls of Old Town. The location was great but the room left a lot to be desired. The owner didnt hesitate to tell us that Oprah Winfrey wanted to buy his property, because of its location.
In the evening we went walking through a different part of Old Town Dubrovnik where we discovered another part of Old Town that we hadnt ventured into before. Little winding alleys, bars and cafes tucked away just inside the southern wall.
Sat, 02nd June 2012, Split, Croatia
After spending our last night on charter yacht "Atreides" in Kastel Gomilica Marina (Near Split), we said our goodbyes to "Atreides" and thanked her for a wonderful week. The Sail Croatia staff (Stanko Prancic) thanked us for looking after the boat so well. We were a bit sad that our wonderful cruising adventure had come to an end, but decided that we would definitely be doing it again ("Atreides" was actually available for the next week!).
We picked up all our luggage and made our way back into Split with a taxi driver that didnt know where he was going; where we discovered to our delight that where we were staying for the night (Matkovic Apartments & Rooms) was right outside the wall of the Diocletian's Palace. This palace which is some 1700 years old covers a huge area right in the middle of Split and we did not realise how close we were on our first visit, and wonderful it was. Inside the walls of the palace is what amounts to a village made up of a myriad of shops, cafes, historic buildings, churches and a lot of people still live within the walls. We had a great time looking around, climbing the many steps to the top of the cathedral bell tower and going through the basement, which provides the foundation for the old palace, and which is still in its original layout.
We were really glad that we discovered the palace.
Fri, 01st June 2012, Kastela Marina, Gomilica, Split Croatia
We had a leisurely start to the day with a walk around Milna town before heading off, knowing that it was only really a short distance back to the home base in Split. But, before that we had to get fuel. Getting fuel on a Friday, which you have to do, is a long wait - we waited about just over an hour in line to get fuel. There is not much else you could do, as you have to get at either Milna on Brac Island or Rogac on Solta Island. There currently is no fuelling station that charter boats can get to at Split.
We sailed for about an hour or so before running out of wind, and then we drifted for a while just hoping for a bit of wind, but it never eventuated. So the last hour we decided to motor back in. We got back to the home base for Sail Croatia and moored that boat and are just chilling now.
Later we will walk along the waterfront and have a look at Castle Gomilica. Then we will come back and have our last dinner aboard (we stay on board tonight) with some celebratory champagne.
This has been a great experience and definitely an experience to do again soon. We have learnt some good things and learnt some not too good things, but overall it has been great.
One thing we noticed about sailing in the waters around the island off Split was the amount of rubbish & much between teh islands; let alone in the ports.
Thu, 31st May 2012, ACI Marina, Milna, Brac Island, Croatia
We arrived in our final stopover, before the home base, in he ACI Marina in Milna on the western end of Brac Island at just before 5pm. About 150 boats here and we did a stern-to the pier with a bit of a sideways breeze pushing us onto the the boat next to us. Within the next 20-30mins about another dozen boats pulled in, and the marina was already pretty full. We sorted the boat out quickly and then took advantage of the marina showers.
We will go to one of the local restaurants for dinner, and I also bought a bottle of sparkling wine (champagne) in Vrboska before we left to celebrate our real last night aboard, even though we stay another night tomorrow in the home base marina.
Tomorrow we only have a short 3hr hop over to the home base marina just out of Split, so we will probably do a bit of sightseeing in the morning of this end of Brac Island before heading off.
Thu, 31st May 2012, SW coast of Brac Island, Croatia
We left Vrboska at about 10am and tried to sail to Bol across the channel on Brac Island but there was no wind so we motored. We stopped at Bol for a bit of lunch onboard the boat and then bay hopped along the SW coast of Brac Island heading W. We found a number of little bays that are definitely re-visits next time and probably stay overnight.
The picture is of an old Naval underground depot for small patrol boats probably. This was the second one we found within 2 bays.
Wed, 30th May 2012
For those that were asking about a picture of our charter boat; it is a Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 36i with two rear sleeping cabins and the bow v-berth sleeping cabin, separate bathroom with shower, galley, navigation station & 6 seater saloon. A great all round cruising boat with everything you would ever want including pressurised hot & cold water.
Wed, 30th May 2012, Vrboska, Hvar Island, Croatia
After a morning walk to see a couple of adjoining bays, resorts & moorings just west of Hvar Town; we headed off mid-morning for the northern side of Hvar Island. This meant we had to go around the western end of the island. From the moment we set off, each new bit of coastline brought in to view yet another spectacular bay; some small and secluded, others large and open. We marvelled at how deep the water was so close to the shore and in some parts of the coast which had sheer cliff faces there were no shallows at all, and there were at times 60-70m of water under the keel within 50m of the land. We could have got closer but our West Australian conditioning made us a bit tentative to do so, even though our depth gauge re-assured us that there was plenty of water.
We sailed around the western end of Hvar Island into a light breeze and sailed on. After we had rounded up to the northern end of the island we came across some dolphins fishing in the distance. But because of the depth of the water here they only came up to breath every so often.
The bays along the northern coast of Hvar Island were even more stunning ( we didnt think that possible until now). We happened upon a sheltered tiny bay enclosed by sheer and heavily wooded slopes with a little narrow pebbled beach at the top end of the bay and a few houses. We nearly sailed on but decided it was to good not to explore further so we dropped the sails and motored in. As we got closer we realised all the windows were boarded up in the houses and there didnt seem to be anyone about, and we decided it would be a perfect place to drop anchor, to have a swim and explore further. We went in tentatively to see how deep it was and to see what sort of bottom it was and whether it would be any good to anchor. The bay could only have been 50m across and maybe 100-150m long. After waiting to make sure the anchor was secure, Vera jumped in and swam ashore to explore along the pebble beach and few buildings that were there. I stayed on board because we were in an NW'ly breeze and I didnt want to risk the anchor slipping. The water wasnt very cold and was beautiful and refreshing. After swimming up to the pebble beach Vera walked around and explored for about 20min's. There was definitely no one there - even though a couple of the houses looked as if there infrequently used. It truly was an idyllic setting with the crystal clear water, forest all around the little bay on a lovely sunny day.
We then got on our way to Vrobska, which was about another 1-2hrs away downwind. Initially we started just under motor as we wanted to make sure we got to the marina in time to get a pier mooring as we wanted to top up on power & water. On the way we caught up to 2 charter boats with people on board from Melbourne.
We arrived at Vrboska and decided to moor at the town moorings a little further up the bay, which were right in the middle of Vrboska town. Here the bay narrows quite considerably and finishes in a narrow river. We tied up stern-to at the town pier next to a smaller boat, who looked a bit nervous as we pulled up next to it. It was then our turn to look nervous as a huge catamaran of some 57ft decided it was going to moor up next to us. It only had two guys on board and a poor emaciated looking dog and we had to help fend it off and Vera felt like she was trying to push off a double-storey house!
We then had a drink and went for a walk along the water and saw the number of small stone bridges that have given this town the name of *little Venicer* - very cute indeed. We had a great dinner and watched the sunset. It was still warm and quite light out at 9pm as we headed back to Atreides and settled down for a nice quiet night on the water, all tucked up between a floating mansion and a modest bungalow. The water is calm with no wind - what a perfect place to pull into for the night.
Over dinner we spoke about our little sailing adventure. We are only four days into our week of cruising the Adriatic but already it seems like so much longer. We continually marvel at all that these islands have to offer and we are surprised, again and again, as each corner brings a new stunning landscape to delight us. We will never cease to be amazed at the intensity of the so many diffferent blues of the waters in these islands and how clear and deep they are. We really counted our blessing tonight and how lucky we are to be able to experience all this!
Tue, 29th May 2012, Hvar Town, Hvar Island, Croatia
Today we decided to make for Hvar Town on Hvar Island. Coming out of Uvala Vinogradisce the wind ended up being right on our nose, so we decided to motor for a bit. We were going to go right around the eastern end of the Pakleni Islands, however after watching some other yachts and looking at the charts we decided to take a short-cut between the islands of SV Klement and Borovac; which had about 5m of water at the shallowest part - plenty for us. We then headed directly into Hvar Town - this only took us about an hour by motor as it wasnt worth putting any sail up. We obviously got into port a little bit early as most of the stern-in mooring was still taken; so we decided to pick up one of the morring balls that enable us to stern-in to the shore - about 10m away. So far we have had 3 nights on the yacht and have moored 3 different ways - great experience.
Once we set ourselves we went for a wander around the port area. We decided against going up the 'x' number of steps to the castle/fort and had a light lunch and a coffee.
Hvar Town is definitely the 'chic' town and apparently Hvar Island has its own weather system with the most days of sunshine of any of the places in teh Split region.
We came back and chilled out for a while, by which time we were pretty much the only boat on these moorings and then suddenly got inundated by other boats, which they all seemed to have a hard time of mooring either side of us.
This evening we are going to go ashore and have some food and drinks on one of the "seen to be" restaurants along the port area.
The photo is of the area on the opposite of the port from where we are and looks upto the castle/fort.
Mon, 28th May 2012, Uvala (Bay) Vinogradisce, Pakleni Islands
Well here we are in our first mooring (by anchor) in an absolutely beautiful bay on the south coast of the main island of the Pakleni Islands group called St. Klement.
We had a great sail across from Vis Town which took about 3hrs to get to Uvala Vinogradisce in about 10kts of breeze and wonderfully calm.
We anchored deep in the bay amongst a number of other yachts. The bottom of the bay is sandy and the anchor seems to hold well. After a drink and a quick swim by Andrew while Vera continued to drink vino, and a good 1hr of chilling on the boat, we went ashore and wandered around. The bay is just over the hill from the main marina for this island which is appropriately very busy. But the bay we are in is peaceful and idyllic.
We came back from our walk and cooked up some pasta for dinner. After dinner and drinks on the boat we decided to go ashore and have dessert and coffee at a quaint old restaurant overlooking the bay call Meneghello's.
Just after we arrived a boat called "Wabo" anchored in front of us - Australians with the boat registered in Fremantle.
Because we are anchored we have used the little tender (rubber dinghy) and outboard for the first time - used the spinnaker halyard to hoist it off the foredeck and into the water. Outboard started first pop.
Two thirds of the way over we were intrigued by something in the water 500m away that was glinting in the sunlight, so we turned the boat and went and had a look. We laughed when we saw it was a foil balloon in the shape of a rainbow covered parrot with multi-coloured ribbons, so we left it to sail on and intrigue other sailors. Maybe we should have pulled it out of the water, but there is enough rubbish in these waters that it wont make much of a difference. For every 30mins you sail here you would probably see at least 6 pieces of rubbish close to your track. However, we have done the correct thing to make sure we dont put any inorganic rubbish over the side.
The photo is a picture of Uvala Vinogradisce - our charter boat "Atreides" is just to the right of centre with the bow slightly down (probably from our luggage) and the stern out of the water and you can see the end (red) of the mainsail which is furled in the mast, and we have the blue bimini and dodger over the cockpit.
Mon, 28th May 2012, Departing Vis Town, Vis enroute to Hvar, Hvar or Pakleni Islands
We left Vis Town at about 1200 midday enroute to either the Pakleni Island (for at least a look or overnight stay) or go on to Hvar, Hvar Island. Hopefully the wind will fill in a bit later (well its forecast at least) - we will see - but it will still only be light.
Sun, 27th May 2012, Vis Town, Vis, Croatia
We got into Vis Town about 1430. Did a proper Meditterranean mooring stern against the sea wall; although it took 2 attempts.
We had a great trip from Stomorska on Solta where we motored until we got to the western end of Solta when the wind picked up. Ended up with a reasonable 10-15kts from the west. Just some small wind wave; maybe 0.5m, and great sailing. We covered 33nm over a space of about 5.5hrs, averaged 5.6kts with a max of 7.7kts. Not bad for a cruising charter boat.
Vera was hanging out to see some sea life; but to not avail. We let the autohelm steer most of the way, but we both still had some good stints on the helm.
Vis Town harbour is pretty damn good, and it was good that we got here early as but later in the afternoon it had pretty much filled up; although there is plenty of buoy moorings still available at 2000 (still daylight by the way).
After getting alongside and doing the standard formalities of registering (400kuna = about AUD$40 - but that's Croatia and thats what you have to pay if you want to enjoy this) there was a scooter renting place just near us, so we hired a scooter for 3hrs for 100kuna and rode around the island; 10km one way and then 20km back the other way. We went to Komiza, which is on the west side of the end and a little bit more exposed; but absolutely beautiful with a modern sea-wall that, byt the time we go there on scooter at about 1630 there were already about 23 boats, and probably room for another 6-8 on the sea-wall, and plenty of mooring buoys. Absolutely stunning town.
We then drove around the south side of the island, and went up a road that led to the military station on Vis; which provided a very panoramic view of the majority of the island that are out from Split. Also, near by was Tito's Cave, where he commanded Yugoslav opererations during WW1, although we had to walk up a number of steps off the winding round to get to it, so decided against it. The road also went through what used to be the British aerodrome on the island until about 20yrs ago. Now it is covered in vineyards. But, believe it or not we also found a little cricket ground, with some people playing in whites on it. And, just now they have come back with their cricket bags and gear and are staying in the hotel just opposite where we have moored. Look English, and given Vis was a British stronghold for a long time it's not surprising there is at least one cricket ground.
We then made our way back to the boat and organised some nibblies for dinner; which is all that will do us for tonight, although we will try to find a somewhere for a coffee later.
Plenty of activity here. There is an Italian Elan 37 yacht that pulled up just after us, and Vis was their first port of call from Italy. Probably took them a couple of days to get here, and sounds as if they come every year.
All of these marina's are a hive of activity and there is plenty going on into the the night.
Happy 1st Birthday to our little niece Megan Rosemary Waldby for tomorrow (party today at Tim & Eve's).
Sun, 27th May 2012, Enroute Vis from Solta, Croatia
Position report enroute Vis Town on the island of Vis from the island of Solta.
Enjoying ourselves land chilling. Letting the autohelm do most of the steering.
Had a light lunch.
Sun, 27th May 2012, Solta, Croatia
We left Stomorska, Solta at 8:45am, and have just taken a look at an inlet just a little West called Necujam and heading west around Solta to then head south to the island of Vis.
Sat, 26th May 2012, Stomorska, Solta
Today we were very excited. We got up early and got a transfer down to Marina Kastela 20mins NW of Split and arrived at about 1030. Sail Croatia were able to get our boat ready early and it was handed over to us 1230. In the meantime we wandered up to the supermarket which was about 5-10mins walk away and bought our initial provisions. We attempted to walk back with the store trolley, but were stopped and we ended up having to lug it all back ourselves - but we made it okay. By the time we got back the boat was ready, and it was handed over to us and we made ourselves familiar with it and stowed our gear. We had asked for some snorkelling gear and in the time it took them to get it we made ourselves ready to go.
Initially there was no wind as we set off out from Split and headed for the islands to the south. Most boats looked as if they were making the way to the island of Brac, but we decided to head towards Solta and picked a little inlet & town called Stomorska. The wind picked up later in the afternoon from the N as we made our way into the inlet. Unfortunately it is not very protected from the N-NW wind, but it is due to reduce later in the evening.
Vera did most of the steering on the way over; getting frustrated at the no wind, as well as me, while I sorted the navigation, etc out downstairs.
I expected us to pull up to the sea wall at Stomorska Meditteranean style; which is stern first. However, there were 2 other boats already moored bow first to the sea wall, so we did the same with the help of the usual village welcoming committee; including the harbour master who subsequently charged us 220Kuna for the night (AUD$40). We then sorted the boat out, and then took a wander through the little town, and ended up sharing a nice Pizza Quatro Fromaggi (4 cheeses). While we were having dinner we decided on the route to take tomorrow, and looking at the forecast we will either go west or east around the island of Solta and head towards the outer island of Vis; which should take us a few hours and hopefully some good sailing.
For those yachties following our blog dont think that the boat sails fast; it just sails comfortably, because at the end of the day it is a cruising charter boat. It obviously has a furling genoa, and it also has an 'in-mast' furling mainsail. The mainsail has all the shape of a tent, but does what it needs to do.
After dinner we retired to the boat for some relaxation time and attempt to get used to the noise of sleeping on a boat again. Hmm - lets see how that goes.
The photo is of our charter yacht at Marina Kastela, which has about 10-12 charter companies working out of, and Saturday (change over day) is very very busy
Fri, 25th May 2012, Dubrovnik & Split, Croatia
Caught the bus from Dubrovnik to Split. We enjoyed the 4.5hr bus ride to Split because we got to see so much spectacular coastline.
We spent half an hour in Bosnia - Hercegovina, because we had to cross a small section of that country that goes to the coast.
What a surprise Split is! It is quite a large place with a very different climate to Dubrovnik, and has a real Meditterean sea resort'ish feel about it. So many cafes and bars along the waterfront, with a live band playing and full of people.
Sat and people watched as we had dinner and drinks on the waterfront.
We wandered down to the local marina; which is absolutely huge, with many, many, may charter boats coming and going. We found a boat (Sun Odyssey 36i) like the one we are chartering tomorrow and are impressed at its size. The boats here are awesome and total a few gazillions of dollars.
Thu, 24th May 2012, Old Town Dubrovnik, Croatia
Started the day with a cable car ride up high above Dubrovnik (Old Town), and Old Town within it's walls look spectacular from here. Then we caught the bus from Old Town Pile gate to the the new port & town of Dubrovnik. The port was bustling, full of cruise and tour boats; so we were in our element. We walked for miles; and came back tired but happy.
We had a lovely final dinner in the main Placa of Old Town and listened to an Jazz band from Washington USA playing in the main square who happened to be here for the wine & jazz festival.
Our last night in Dubrovnik and we have absolutely loved it here. Old Town Dubrovnik is so full of history and 'old world' charm and we are so glad that we stayed here (not withstanding the zillion steps that we have had to climb while we have been here - oh well, its helped to work off all the food we have been eating).
Hope we get to come back!
Thu, 24th May 2012, Old Town Dubrovnik, Croatia
Hi Everybody I am just testing this position report to update the Sailblogs Xplot map and the interaction with Google Earth.
Once we are on the water on the Croatia Charter yacht I will update our position quite regularly (at once per day) so you can see where we are on Google Earth.
Wed, 23rd May 2012, Old Town Dubrovnik, Croatia
This morning we work up late, as we had gotten to bed late updating the blog. But, once we finally got up we headed down into the Old Town Placa (main street plaza) and had a light breakfast. Then we wandered around the Old Town following some suggested walks. This then took as out to the old port; which is absolutely amazingly beautiful. From there we took a 2hr walk along the top of the Old Town walls and looked out from and into Old Town. Some of the views and sight are amazing and definitely worth the time. Most of the way around it was beautifully sunny, and then it started to sprinkle with rain; but was still okay to walk in as it wasnt cold. We then walked outside of Old Town through one of the gates. We then came back inside and had dinner over looking the old port. After dinner we had another walk around Old Town and then just outside the Pile Gates to one of the other forts.
Tue, 22nd May 2012, Paris, France, 2 x Lufthansa flights, Munich International Airport & Dubrovnik
Well today we were up early to catch the shuttle bus to Charles de Gaul International Airport for our flights to Dubrovnik, Croatia via a 2hr stopover at Munich International Airport.
But, before that we got the Charles de Gaul okay and with plenty of time, and then we were overweight on our luggage; which we were concerned about. But, 60Euro later, and leaving the remaining 2 bottle of Burgundy Cremante sparkling wine with the Lufthansa check-in girl we were on our way; although we were concerned about the amount of onboard luggage we had, but all was good.
Lufthansa are very good, and Munich & Dubrovnik airport's are very clean.
After a very scenic approach to Dubrovnik International Airport (make sure you get the left hand side when approaching - very beautiful Dubrovnik coast line), we were picked up by Antonio, the son of Tonka Bura who is the owner of Apartment Peppino where we are staying in Old Town Dubrovnik for the next few days. He turned up in a Renault Twingo to take us and all of our luggage to Dubrovnik - we just got it all in there.
The drive from the airport to Dubrovnik is sensational. Antonio dropped us off at the gates to Old Town, as no vehicles are allowed inside the Old Town walls, and you have to lug your luggage (suitably named) to your accommodations. In this particular case up a tiny street with 80 steps to our apartment. Antonio did an amazing job in assisting us by carrying our over weight suitcase, while we carried the remainder of our things - great job.
Once we got settled into the beautiful apartment which has a great view over the remainder of Old Town (see photo), Vera & I went out and explored just beyond the Old Town walls. We wandered through some old parks over looking cliffs to the ocean - absolutely beautiful & breathtaking.
After a good walk we had dinner at Dubrovka Restaurant which is apparently 180 years old and is just outside the Old Town walls and over looks a tiny inlet with the Old Town fortress on one side and another smaller fort on the other side. Sensationally beautiful and so romantic.
This part of Croatia is so beautiful and we are really looking forward to doing as much exploring as we can over the next few days. This is definitely a part of the world that you have to come back to at least once to bath in the beauty of this country.
Now that we are in Croatia we are starting to get excited about our charter boat sailing cruise that starts on Saturday for a week.
Mon, 21st May 2012, Paris
We spent a wonderful three full days in Paris! Saturday we went for a walk to the Lourvre and then followed the Grand Boulevard all the way into the Champs Elysees. It was busy at the Arc de Triomphe with a queue a mile long so we decided to leave it for another day. We then walked down Haussman and came across the fantastic Galleries Lafayette, the most amazing mega-uber department store with floors and floors of incredible things. I walked and looked & Andrew sat and played with his gadgets :). It was the most amazing building with a beautiful arched roof with beautiful stained glass throughout. Quite an unexpected surprise for an up-market shopping mall. If there was a designer label not at Galleries Lafayette, then it wasn't worth looking for! Wow - quite incredible and a little overwhelming. This is the sort of place you could spend a whole day in - hmmm, maybe next time!
Then we walked on all the way to Saint Germain des Pres and bought food at a boulangerie & patisserie, fromagerie and a fruit shop (which French name escapes me at the moment). We were quite tired so went back and had dinner in our room - fresh baguette with a lovely variety of cheeses and yoghurt and fruit (including cherries).
Next day we hit the road with our two-day Metro rail pass and went to Montmarte and visited Sacre Cour - it was lovely to see Paris from such a high vantage point. At the Tour Eiffel we walked 680 stairs up to the second level which was beautiful. The weather was fantastic at this stage so we had a good view of all round Paris. We did the daggy laser engraving of our photo into a glass block as a memento of our Eiffel Tower experience - it was quite amazing watching the laser do the etching. We decided to go back to the Champs Elysees to wait and go up the Arc de Triomphe later in the day, when hopefully, there would be less people, but also to be there at night to watch the Eiffel Tower go through its laser show. In between all of that we did a Bateaux Boat cruise up and around the main parts of the Siene River near Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, Louvre etc. We had dinner on the Champs at a cafe called George V which was very nice and then we made our way to the Arc while it was still daylight (about 7.30pm), and went up many more steps to get to the top. Andrew stood out in the light rain (Vera sensibly stood under a shelter) on the top deck of the Arc de Triomphe and waited and waited. Eventually the Tower lit up and then after a while started sparkling which was the most beautiful effect. Like Christmas lights twinkling on this huge Tower which looked like stars going on and off for a whole 15 minutes. It was so beautiful and well worth the wait. We then caught the Metro and walked through the rain back to our hotel (NB:it will always rain when you leave your brollie at home. It's called Mutrphy's Law and we know it well). Vera was on a caffeine & sugar low by the time we got back to our hotel, so Andrew made a late-night dash to find us some pastries and coffees, again in the rain. What a man!
Monday rained all day so it was a good choice to spend all day at the Louvre. We visited Mona (with 10 million other people, I'm sure) but the crowd was not bad in the other sections of the museum. We saw some beautiful paintings by the great Masters; Da Vnci, Raphael, Michelangelo to name a few, and some sculptures such as the Winged Victory, Venus de Milo, the Dying Slave, which were equally as captivating. I love that part of the Louvre and could visit it again and again and never tire of it. Our visit was made more interesting because of the Audio Logues that we hired which included interactive visuals supplied on a Nintendo DS 3D. These gave us recorded commentaries on many of the items at the Louvre and explained the architecture and other features of the historic building. The commentaries were very informative and gave additional background on the displays as well as being able to locate you anywhere in the Louvre via an inbuilt GPS. We would recommend hiring these as it makes your visit much more interesting and at only 5 Euros, they were well worth it. We were also both intrigued about the foundations of the ancient fort that the Louvre had been built on which you see on the lower level and the history of the Louvre itself was very interesting. When they were excavating the forecourt of the Louvre to make some improvements and undertake underground construction in 1984, they discovered old structures and deep constructions which had been forgotten about in recent history. The French have seamlessly incorporated the underground remains of the ancient fortress and moat as another display at the Louvre. What they have built underground is amazing - car parks, shops, research laboratories, lecture theatres & lots more. We were astounded at what facilities they incorporated on the lower level of the Louvre. I guess the French had no choice but to go down as there was no addiitional land to expand into. We in Australia just go outwards because we can! We spent most of the day at the Louvre and both agreed that you need at least two full days to fully appreciate what the Louvre has to offer. Next time, we will stay longer in Paris. We stopped off at Notre Dame in the early evening and were lucky enough to be there during a service. We heard lovely singing and the church organ in all its glory and it was lovely and made the Notre Dame come alive. It was great to see the Notre Dame again and I never cease to be amazed by all the stained glass windows in the church, no two of which are alike. The scale of the building and the windows was breathtaking. I lit a candle and said a silent prayer for my family's good health and wellbeing. Andrew and I finished off the day with dinner and a bottle of wine at the Cafe on the corner which was lovely and said a thank you to France for a truly wonderful 8 days. We did so much and covered so much ground! Thank you again Elizabeth & Chris Pye for hosting us at Hotel Cascarot at Le Chatelet in Burgundy. It was an amazing experience which we loved so much and we feel so lucky to have given this wonderful opportunity to share in your piece of paradise in France. You were the most wonderful and kind hosts and we are so grateful to you - thank you so much.
Fri, 18th May 2012, Lechatelet, Burgundy & enroute Paris, France
Today we travelled from Burgundy to Paris. We wanted to get off the motorway to see what else there was to see. So, initially we set the TomTom for Paris via the motorway, but then used the France road atlas to get off the main roads and travel up through some more scenic roads. Using the TomTom and the road atlas made it so much easier and enjoyable. It was fantastic driving through all the little villages and seeing the amazing scenery. We had lunch in a village up in the highlands, where we bought some home made chocolates. Then while we were making our way back to the motorway we continued to take little roads through little villages, and making the TomTom work over time to find our way, in the meanwhile see some very beautiful countryside.
We made our way into Paris at about peak hour on a Friday afternoon, using the TomTom to plan the route for us to the Hotel D'Angleterre in St. Germaine De Pres. We all did a really good job making our way along the north bank of the Siene River, and then switching over to the south bank from the east side of the city. We finally made our way to 44, Rue Jacob where the hotel is, and then had to find parking close by. We found the hotel on the first lap on a small one-way street, but no parking nearby. So, around we went on the next lap with the TomTom guiding our way really well, and then 100m before the hotel on Rue Jacob we found a tiny spot half on a cross walk. So, on went the hazard lights, out we jumped, pulled out as much of the luggage as possible to take to the hotel. I went back for the remainder while Vera checked us in. We got up to the room, and quickly sorted everything out and then went back to the car (all okay).
We werent supposed to take the hire car back until tomorrow, and even though the hotel had some underground parking somewhere close by we decided to take it back straight away. Again we entered the Avis rent a car address in the TomTom (the one we were supposed to take it back to, and later found out not the closest) and found it quite quickly. It was now about 1830, and the streets were surprisingly quiet. Then we walked back to the hotel, using the TomTom to guide us.
We got back to the hotel and decided to pop out to a cafe (Cafe de Flores) for some dinner.
Thu, 17th May 2012, Lechatelet & Nuits-Saint-Georges, Burgundy
Today we were taken to the L'Imaginarium. This is where they show you how sparkling wine (Cremante) is made. Very, very interactive and something that many, many Australian attractions could learn from the way they present the history of a subject.
We tasted a number of Cremante's; and of course bought a few as well.
We learnt the different methods of making, cooking with, serving Cremante.
Later in the afternoon, Vera & I went for a lovely walk around Lechatelet to stretch our legs, as we had spent quite a bit of time in the car over the last few days and it was great to walk around the old town and look at all the different buildings of varying ages.
Later Chris & Liz took us to a lovely little restaurant call Simon. We all shared a great dinner together for our last night. The picture is of the table ornament from Restaurant Simon - rooster (coq) being the French national symbol - although this one looks like something out of the movie "Chicken Run".
Wed, 16th May 2012, Beaune & Dijon Burgundy
Today we headed off to Musee de l'Hotel Dieu, Hospices de Beaune. This is an old hospital that started operation in the 1400's, and progressively developed until it closed as a hospital in the early 1900's. Very interesting in how it was developed; including where the money came from to build it, etc.
We had a quick lunch in Beaune, and then headed up to Dijon and a wander around the city centre. We went into a mustard store and you can virtually get every colour and flavour. We went into a Notre Dame church, and then headed to Chris Pye's favourite restaurant in Dijon.
The central plaza of Beaune near Hotel Dieu was absolutely beautiful, with the old buildings around the outside, and a pretty little central square. While there we also went into a typical French patisserie.
What we noticed was both of the central square's/plaza's had cute little carousel's, and it was great to see so many people of all ages riding around on bicycles.
The photo is of the lovely coloured and patterned roofing tiles of the Hotel Dieu (its not actually a hotel; thats just what they called hospices where patients paid to stay).
Tue, 15th May 2012, Hotel Cascarot, Lechatelet, Burgundy & Suerre, Burgundy
Today we just spent some relaxing time around Lechatelet and Suerre. We went into Suerre to the Metro bulk grocery store to get some provisions. On the way back we stopped into a local restaurant (see photo) for some late lunch. In France like a lot of European countries most businesses close up shop between 1400'ish-1500'ish. We got there at about 1330, and the Maitre De didnt like it; however the kitchen said go ahead. The Maitre De ended up leaving at about 1400, after we had been served, leaving the waitress to deal with us. It was a good lunch, and our first real test of French using menu's, etc. We did okay!
We really spent most of the day just relaxing.
Lechatelet is a beautiful little village - the mornings are a little crisp, but it is quiet and very beautiful - including the region surrounding the village.
Mon, 14th May 2012, London, England, Paris, France & enroute Lechatelet, Burgundy, France
Today was an early start at Hyde Park House to get to St. Pancras International Train station to catch the Eurostar to Paris at 0831. We shared a taxi with Chris & Liz Pye, and suprisingly got all of our luggage and four of us all in the taxi. We got to St. Pancras very quickly and in plenty of time - even before our train check-in opened. But, we finally got to go through customs until they picked up the sailing knives that I bought for the boat in my luggage. I knew there would possibly be a problem on the train as you have access to your luggage while aboard. However, I explained what they were for and showed them my RPYC membership, Yachting Australia membership & Restricited Skippers Ticket; and after the supervisor came down and asked questions and checked everything he let me proceed with the knives in my luggage. It shouldnt be a problem on the Lufthansa flights as they will be in my luggage stowed away below.
So, we boarded the train in Premium Economy, got served breakfast and had a look at the route that we wanted to take in the hire car from Paris to Burgundy.
We arrived in Paris just before lunchtime, and headed downstairs to get the hire car. As the Pye's and another couple are also heading to Burgundy to stay at the Pye's Hotel Cascarot in Lechatelet; and they were catching trains we offered to take the majority of the luggage. So, with all the luggage loaded in the car and Ken (TomTom) giving us good directions we set off. Although, we didnt have any Euro's yet and we also wanted a real map, so we got off the ring road and found somewhere to get some cash and off we set again.
We found our way back onto the motorway and headed south again; however soon realised we were on a tollway so we decided to get off and get intentionally lost to see what we could see. We went via a couple small towns/villages in the rural part of Paris. the photo for this entry is a village called Lechamp and is of our first old French church that we have visited. I think it was built in the 1500's, and has had some significant damage done to it, and it is obvious that there has been some restoration done to it over the years; as well as some happening now. We then decided that to just jump back onto the tollway and head to the Burgundy region and just see what we could see on the way; plus it was starting to get late.
We finally got to the Hotel Cascarot in the village of Lechatelet at about 1915, just before the others. This is where we are basing ourselves until Friday thanks to Liz & Chris Pye who are currently renovating the hotel.
Sun, 13th May 2012, Queen Mary Sailing Club, Queen Mary Reservoir, Ashford, Middlesex, England
Well today is the last day of racing with another early morning. We were hoping that we were going to get 4 races in today with the RPYC team, however with the delays from Day 1 & 2 we only got 2 races in. Although, we were out for the final Round Robin race of the day between Seawanhka & Royal Thames which was absolutely fantastic and lsted 25mins (normally about 15mins) because of the backwards and forwards, and closeness of the teams racing. It was a perfect race to watch from a teams racing training point of view. In the coming week i will get a video of it up on the Swagman Sailing YouTube channel.
The 3 race final was between NYYC & Seawanahka; although it only lasted 2 races, with NYYC taking it in a clean sweep. The racing was very good.
We then went back to the Queen Mary Sailing Clubhouse and had the presentations. Following presentations and with drinks there was the normal swapping of team gear.
We then headed back to Hyde Park House, had a few drinks at the bar, and then got showered & changed and headed out for a final dinner down the road in Knightsbridge. We decided on a curry a a Pakistani Curry House which was decorated very heavily.
After that we had to head back to Hyde Park House and started packing ready for the early start in the morning to get to St. Pancras International Train Station to catch the Eurostar to Paris.
The attached photo is from just up the road from the Pakistani Curry House, and is typical of the sort of vehicles you see in Knightsbridge
Sat, 12th May 2012, Queen Mary Sailing Club, Queen Mary Reservoir, Ashford, Middlesex, England
Well another early start with another day of racing - hopefully with some success - but alas we still didnt come up with any success. Today Andrew (me) did some sailing. I was shared between the two RPYC boats to give some of the others a break. I did mainsheet on both boats. Even thought we didnt a win, we still got very very close and had some good racing against the top teams.
After the days racing we had the regatta dinner back at Hyde Park House. Each team had to do a little skit (typical British entertainment), and was very entertaining. The RPYC team did a ditty about the sailing to the tune (although a bit off key) Advance Australia Fair. We didnt win that either, although tied for runner-up.
Fri, 11th May 2012, Queen Mary Sailing Club, Queen Mary Reservoir, Ashford, Middlesex, England
Up early this morning for the first day of racing in the Cumberland Cup Teams Racing event. Today I (Andrew) am just acting as reserve/support. I was able to get out on one of the supprt rib's for most of the day. This was great! I was able to get some good photo's and some reasonable GoPro video (which I will put up on the Swagman Sailing YouTube channel soon). The team had some good close racing, however weren't able to convert it into any wins.
The RTYC write up of the days events and results are here.
After the sailing we had a free night and we wandered down the road into Knightsbridge to have a dinner at one of the restaurants on Montepelier Road. Vera then went onto the casino across the road from Hyde Park House with a couple of the others.
The photo is of the RPYC team in boats 1 & 2.
Thu, 10th May 2012, Hyde Park House, Royal Thames Yacht Club, Knightsbridge, London, & Queen Mary Sailing Club, Queen Mary Reservoir, Ashford, Middlesex, England
Today was to be the official practice day of the Cumberland Cup. We arrived at Queen Mary Reservior to find the wind blowing very strongly, with some big gusts in it. The event organisers decided to delay any practice, and review at midday; however there was no change and so all practice was cancelled for the day. Lucky that we had organised the pre-training day yesterday - something that we definitely need to undertake in any future teams racing events we attend anyway.
We all returned to Hyde Park House and relaxed and got ready for the official reception at St. James Palace with HRH Prince Andrew (not me!) - The Duke of York. We departed RTYC on an old double decker London bus (our official transport for the whole event), and made our way across the centre of London to St. James Palace where we waited outside until it was time for us to move inside. We were not allowed cameras or mobile phones, so I am afraid there are no pictures. We mingled inside until HRH arrived - he is the honourary Commodore of RTYC. A couple of speeches were made, with HRH apologising for the London weather causing the cancellation of the practice day. Andrew (me) then commented that "The Australians got out yesterday in 20kts plus". Once the speeches were over HRH approached Andrew, probably because of his interjection, and discussed sailing in Australia. Great conversation!
Once finished there we all had to make our own way back to Hyde Park House, and we sat down for a team dinner in the restaurant.
A good night was had by all, and we are ready for the first days racing tomorrow.
Wed, 09th May 2012, Hyde Park House, Royal Thames Yacht Club, Knightsbridge, London, & Queen Mary Sailing Club, Queen Mary Reservoir, Ashford, Middlesex, England
Well today was our first activities for the Royal Perth Yacht Club (RPYC) team for the Cumberland Cup. Due to the high possibility of very little wind at this event, the team decided to get an extra days practice in - just in case. So we booked ourselves a mini-bus and a J80 (the boat we are sailing on for this event) for 3hrs to get a feel of the boat and 'bed-in' how we will work on these boats as they are set-up a little bit different to the BW8's that we trained on at RPYC.
There was some good wind out there; although it looks like the forecast for the event is light winds. But, we got comfortable with the boats and figured out what we needed to do. We tested some spinnaker sets; although in these winds they would not normally use spinnakers for this event - but we needed to train with them anyway. We got some good processes in place and should be right for the regatta. The official training/familiarisation day is tomorrow (Thursday) and the races run Friday-Sunday with the finals on Sunday.
There is a webcam of the venue; although I am not sure it is working, but here is the link just in case - Queen Mary Sailing Club Webcam & Weather link.
I think this is the link to the Royal Thames Yacht Club (RTYC) Cumberland Cup website and hopefully it will show the results - but I will try to upload them each day RTYC Cumberland Cup link.
This is the link to the GoPro video on the Swagman Sailing YouTube channel, of the our pre-training day.
When we got back to RTYC after the training session we did the official registration for the event. We have a 'meet & greet' tonight in the RTYC Quarterdeck Room (Jacket & Tie....grrrr - but you have to do it).
Tue, 08th May 2012, Hyde Park House, Royal Thames Yacht Club, Knightsbridge, London, England
Well today we woke up to a nice and fine day, although it got cold later in the afternoon - but that is probably expected.
Today we decided to take the Underground over to Lords Cricket Ground and on the way take a wander around Sherlock Holmes territory along Baker Street and take a leisurely stroll through Regents Park.
We didn't go into the Sherlock Homes Museum at 221b Baker Street, but went into the gift shop and looked around at the souvenirs. We then wandered over to Regents Park and had a light lunch, and then walked over to Lords.
At Lords we went into the Museum while waiting for our tour. Lots of English cricketing memorabilia and of course the Ashes urn (or old perfume jar which we later found out on the tour). Of course you are not allowed to use Mobile Phones (cameras) or cameras because most of the items are on loan from private collectors. Attempt to take a photo of the Ashes urn during the tour but didnt work.
We went into the Pavillion and the visitors dressing room. They are currently getting ready for the England v West Indies test match on Thursday; so we werent allowed on to the ground, but got close enough. We went through the stands and then up to the UFO shaped media center. Great tour - just under 2hrs - but very informatiive. Interesting the tour guide had a two-way radio and they dont number the for identification - they use famous cricketers names. Our tour guide had Truman (I think?).
Went and bought a few things at the Lords Cricket store.
We then caught the Underground back towards Knightsbridge and got off at Bond Street to do a quick bit of shopping along Oxford Street. Bloody packed with plenty of people spending lots of money; even though everything is very cheaply priced. Saw a security guard pick up a pair of pants somebody had dropped. He said they were old ones that somebody had swapped with new ones and had walked out with the new ones - no security tags on anything.
We came back and then wandered down Brompton Road for a light dinner at a local Tea Room - very nice and very reasonably priced.
Mon, 07th May 2012, Hyde Park House, Royal Thames Yach Club, Knightsbridge, London, England
Monday was a Bank Holiday in the UK; although there was plenty of stuff open. In the morning we hired the public bikes in Hyde Park and had a short ride around before breakfast. We rode over to Kensington Palace which is at the end of Hyde Park, and rode up embassy rode. Vera said that I must have put all the security guards on high alert because I had my black beanie and sunnies on and looked like an international THUG! It is the first time in our lives that we had to watch out for horses as they are everywhere in Hyde Park.
We then came back and headed out to the British Museum in Bloomsbury. On the way we stopped off at the Disney store, which is where the photo is from with me standing with Woody from Toy Story.
We started out walking and then it started raining (funny that); so we head down to the Underground to get the rest of the way. The British Museum has had a real re-vamp over last decade and is very good. We hired the electronic guides and did the Britain & Europe History section, and then because we are going to Athens we decided to do the Parthenon section. This section was very good and very very interactive, and we spent about 2-3hrs in that section alone. The freizes that made up part of the Parthenon we display very well and current interpretation explained very explicitly. Really enjoyed that bit.
In the British & European History section they had some amazing jewellery that had been recovered from English dig sites; as well as Bog Man who is an extremely well preserved specimen over 2000 yrs old, we think!
Sun, 06th May 2012, Hyde Park House, Royal Thames Yach Club, Knightsbridge, London, England
On Sunday we did a Big Bus Tour of the city. It was great; although it took most of the day. It also included a tour boat trip in the main part of the Thames. Around lunch we hopped off the tour down on the Embankment and went to OceanLeisure Chandlery and picked up some sailing gear including my new watch. The Big Bus Tour Company is very good; although at the end of the day we got caught in traffic and we didnt get to see much. After Ocean Leisure we went to The Sherlock Holmes Pub in Embankment. Vera tried the Sherlock Holmes ale - which was warm.
Sat, 05th May 2012, Hyde Park House, Royal Thames Yacht Club, Knightsbridge, London, England
This is a photo of the daily exercising of one of the Queens Regiments.
Sitting having breakfast at Hyde Park House overlooking Hyde Park the view is wonderful. We are here in London from 05/05/2012 until Monday 14/05/2012 to compete in the Cumberland Cup Teams Racing event. This is an invitation only event to all Royal (or equivalent) yacht clubs using two team boats (J80's) and we compete against 7 other teams. We arrived yesterday (midday'ish) from Perth via Dubai on Emirates Airways. Great flight, and flying the A380 was magnificent; such a magnificent aircraft. Walked around Knightsbridge yesterday afternoon. Had to go into Harrods and have a look around, which was great - damn busy with all sorts of people. Had coffee just outside Harrods watching all the luxury cars (with & without chauffeurs) pull up and park outside.
We then wandered down Knightsbridge and did some window shopping, and Vera bought her first item of clothing (leather jacket) for an extremely good price. Vera is very happy with me as she said I was the one that made her decide on buying the jacket; otherwise she would have just left it - good parchase. We and had an early meal and pint at a corner pub just on Knightsbridge.
We then went for a late afternoon walk around Hyde Park - magificent park, and came back and wandered through the eastern end of Knightsbridge looking at all the luxury cars, little terrace houses that have been turned into luxury residences - very, very high priced. One note is that their are a huge amount of Balkan's (Russian, Ukrainian, etc), and a hell of a lot of money.
Today we are going for a Big Bus Tour of London, and make our way to Ocean Leisure Chandlery to pick up a couple of things and have a look at what boating items I would like but probably wont get. We will then probably hire a bike in Hyde Park and have a ride around the area.
When we finish here we will be head over to France via Eurostar for a week; with a few days in the SE of France (Burgundy) at our fellow RPYC club members hotel that is being renovated (Lechatelet), and then back to Paris for a few days. Then we are off to Croatia; Dubrovnik for a couple of days and then off to Split where we pick up a Junneau Sun Odyssey 36i charter boat for a week. Then back to Split and Dubrovnik for a night each before we head off to Greece for a week and a half. We arrive in Thessaloniki, Greece, and then head west over to the Prespes region to see Vera's Mum's village for 2 nights. Then we drive down to the island of Lefkada in the SW for 2 nights, and drive over to Athens for about a week. Then back home via Dubai again.
I will attempt to Blog as often as possible while we are away to keep family and friends updated.
Today was also the annual SS34 Association Commodores Race at Fremantle Sailing Club. Because we are away I had Phil Somerville-Ryan and Murray Gardiner sail the boat down for the race. They should be finished soon, so I will message them shortly to see how they went.
Sat, 31st March 2012, West of Port Bouvard - Western Australia
Tim Browning steering just off Port Bouvard 25kts west wind - down to a smaller jib - apparently Yellowbrick tracker stop working down at Bunker Bay
Sat, 31st March 2012, Off Bunbury
Koombana Bay, Bunbury rounding mark
Sat, 31st March 2012, Bunker Bay heading to Koombana Bay, Western Sustralia
Photo just before rounding the Bunker Bay rounding mark 22hrs 40mins after the start