When I retired, we decided to travel overseas each second year, so now we have been to the UK & Europe in 2010, 2013 and 2015 - this will be our 4th big holiday. We have made many friends and been able to visit relatives that live so far away.
  • Day45

    SAS - goes well in Europe

    September 6, 2017 in Denmark ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    After the trouble getting to Venice - where it took 17 hours from Dublin - I wasn't confident heading to the airport. We checked out of our hotel, and paid the city taxes [this is a rip off - like showing a price without GST!] and carried our bags down to the St Mark's ferry terminal - no problem €16 each to go to the airport in comfort - albeit a little slow stopping at all points on the way.

    Sorry to mention this - but a male passenger needed to go to the toilet the way to the airport - nothing on board. The ferry captain told him to go between the boat and the gangway and straight into the canal - YUK! - no wonder the water is polluted. I asked him if the water was cold - he got the joke ...

    I like travelling with SAS. I think its because they don't call you until they are ready to go. You check through, board the plane, pinch someone else's space in the overhead for your 4 lots of hand luggage, sit down, close the doors and you are off. Nice. The trip to Stockholm was via Copenhagen - virtually directly north of Venice - it was cloudy so we didn't see much out the window.

    At Copenhagen we saw the funniest of things - guess they are everywhere but I haven't seen them before. It was two sealed glass rooms on the concourse, about 2 metres square set up for smokers. What a desperate habit.

    We arrived on time in Stockholm and walked to our hotel - well it's a hostel really - but very nice and roomy.

    Now I know the people with a disability have challenges with everyday living and I understand that - but this is our second time we have a room that has a bathroom for people with a disability, and I love it. Big room, shower curtain with heaps of elbow room, large toilet, the list goes on - I'm loving it.

    Did I mention before that the beds in Scandinavia are the best we have had - should get a good nights sleep tonight.

    Tomorrow we explore Stockholm with Grace.

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  • Day42

    Peter & Mary in the Venice Regatta

    September 3, 2017 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    Last night Mary washed my shirt, she has done an almightily job with the washing, only been to the launderette once, and washed twice at friends places - and yet I have always had a full supply of clean clothes. The problem with last nights washing was - I had left my valid water ferry ticket in the pocket.

    Today I was very keen to take the ferry up the Grand Canal. We went to the ticket office but the lady could not give me a replacement because all the writing and been washed off. For a laugh, she tried the card on the magnetic reader and surprise - it still worked. Without hesitation I boarded the next ferry. Seeing Venice from the water via all the canals is important because this is the way the city is meant to be seen - you get to see the front of the buildings. It was a bright sunny day and we thoroughly enjoyed the boat ride - especially under the Rialto bridge. And by the way, four James Bond movies have included scenes from the canal.

    When we got off the ferry we went for a walk in the market in the Castello area, having already explored the San Marco and Rialto areas. We stopped for a drink and Mary had another Aperol. The annual Venice Historical Regatta was on today, the crowds were big, VIP's were in town, there was to be a parade of VIP's include the Doge's boat, historical craft and boat races.

    The Regatta was due to start at around 2pm so we had time for a walk through the San Paolo area. It was nice to see tall trees in some parts - most of Venice is pavement or water. We got back to the Rialto Bridge but nothing was happening. I stood in the sun and took some photos while Mary stayed in the shade - it was getting a bit boring especially as we couldn't understand what was being said in the public address. We decided to have our Gondola ride - €80 for 25 minutes in the Grand Canal and up some side canals.

    The Gondolier pulled out into the middle of the canal, between police and media boats. The crowds were 10 deep and lined the shores and every vantage point - we waved, they waved back, one pretty young girl even made a heart symbol in her hands for us. We took photos of the crowd and they took photos of us - think I was humming the final lines of "the little white bull"!

    We then turned down a side canal - it was so quiet. Gondola rides are a must have in Venice, even if you have been on one before. We went past Marco Polo's house - he apparently went to China for 25 years? We passed the oldest palace in Venice, still used as a family home.

    Now it was time to return to the moorning - but the Grand Parade had started. We pulled out in front of the Doge's boat which had 19 rowers, priests and drummers and old trumpet horns players, we swerved and missed them - but more were coming, VIP boats, boats with royalty [dress ups I think] and more. They were coming up the Canal ... and we were going down. The crowds were cheering - not at us I expect. Our Gondolier kept looking for a place to cross through the parade - he tried to claim right of way against a dragon boat of women in pink - no chance, they screamed at him and pointed at us - I expect that they were saying he was putting the lives of his passengers at risk! Eventually a school boy crew was coming up the canal and our man just bullied his way through - safely to our moorning - what an adventure - and the best seat in the house to see the Grand Parade. A trip of a life time.

    The camera was full so we came back to the hotel to load photos onto the computer and to unravel what we had just been through.

    Being a good Boy Scout, I then went to the ferry terminal to check on times for our ferry to the airport tomorrow - no problems ferries at 20 mins past and 50 mins past the hour.

    Dinner was at a local pizza shop then home to get ready from tomorrow.

    Tomorrow we fly to Stockholm via Copenhagen.

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  • Day42

    Burano, you little beauty

    September 3, 2017 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    It's Saturday and there are lots of tourists in Venice, although not as packed as I thought it would be - same as Salamanca on a Saturday - people everywhere but you can still get served in shops.

    We decided that today we would go to Burano, a small island about 1 hour 20 minutes by boat. First we had to get tickets for the ferry - the public transport service. I must say that the level of English language support is low, so it can be a test of your perseverance. We bought a 24 hour unlimited travel voucher for €20 each - a good deal. Couldn't find the ferry terminal but a tourist guide for Murano Island helped us get to the right spot.

    The ferry ride alone was worth it, although thunder storms were forecast, we had clear blue skies and plenty of activity to see on the water. As soon as we arrived we knew this place would be special. Mary was aware that Burano was famous for its lace, but we didn't know how attractive the painted houses would be.

    Everywhere you look on the small island there are houses painted in striking colours, reds, greens, blue anything you could imagine - an all in brilliant contrast. The houses are so close to the paths that they but "shower curtains" across the front door so they can leave the doors open for the breeze but not have tourists looking in - nice idea.

    There are plenty of lace shops, cafes and gift shops. Mary has a head cold, but that didn't stop her from shopping - she's a champion. We had lunch - the pasta was great, I had spaghetti Bolognese and Mary had Lasagne - both brilliant. The ferry ride home was crowded - perhaps because the storm was coming - I had to stand all the way home.

    It had been a great day and we checked our photos - too many to decide which six I could use on my blog - meanwhile the storm was brewing outside - we decided to go for dinner at 7pm before the rain starts. The hotel suggested a pizza place down a back alley - it turned out to be a good choice. Great service, healthy food and lots of it. I couldn't believe how many people they served so quickly without fuss.

    It was a high tide and so water was coming up through the drains in St Marks Square. I asked a shop assistant if her shop would flood, she said yes - always with the high tide. The lightning started and we filled our camera's and phones with movies of the show - it was very dramatic, almost mesmerising so you couldn't stop watching it. Mary's Fitbit was on 9km so we did a couple of laps of the square - jumping puddles to get up to 10km.

    Expect it will rain over night - tomorrow is the regatta in the Grand Canal - that should be fun.

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  • Day41

    Venice is made for Italians

    September 2, 2017 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    Yesterday we explored the San Marco area of Venice, closest to our Hotel - we still got lost deliberately and saw plenty of interesting sights.

    Today we headed towards the Rialto Bridge. If you haven't been to Venice, you must.

    There's no traffic in the streets apart form the occasional porter with a trolley load of suitcases. The street/lanes are generally wide enough for about 5 people to walk side by side, but on many occasions only 3 people can pass. There is shop after shop after shop. And get this, no "doof doof" music in the shops. The lanes are paved in well trodden stones - not many rough cobble stones - it is warm and friendly. The Italians always greet you with great happiness and love a laugh.

    Its not far to the Rialto Bridge, you could walk it in about 15 minutes I reckon - but rushing is not the way to do it, you must take your time, look around you and above, watch the Gondolas navigate tricky bends in the canals and enjoy yourself.

    Yes there are tourists everywhere - its packed - but that's okay, as I said, no need to rush, just go at your own pace. Having said that, I didn't enjoy the big crowds in St Marks square - too much bumping into people and trying to avoid being part of their 'selfies'.

    The Rialto bridge has 3 sets of stairs, one on each side and one up the middle. Between the stairs are two rows of apartments. Covering the bridge are hundreds of people trying to take photos of themselves and their glamorous partners.

    We bought more gifts to take home, sat and had a drink - Mary had a Aperol Spritz. It was very nice, refreshing and not too sweet.

    For the evening meal we wandered down some back streets to a family restaurant. A huge rain downpour started and lasted for about 30 minutes - it was fun watching people getting soaked in the rain. For the hell of it we tried the set menu - 4 courses. First we had a cold meat platter, then a pasta dish [nice] and then ... a deep fried processed meat of some sort in bread crumbs and chips (disgusting) and then we finished with dessert, I had apple cake and Mary had Tiramisu (saving the day). The waiter said we ordered the deep fried thing - I don't think we did. Won't go back there.

    Back to our room I have bought a little bottle of Grappa - thank goodness I didn't buy a big one - not my style of drink.

    Tomorrow, although thunder storms are forecast for the afternoon [they don't last long] we will head to the island of Burano.

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  • Day40

    A day in Venice

    September 1, 2017 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    After yesterdays events, it was a slow start today [again]. This apartment is in the heart of Venice, a few yards from St Marks square. It's not the regent queen's style, more of a blokes apartment with heaps of space, 4 rooms, good size bathroom with a usable bath, good air conditioning, the list goes on - very happy. We had a view of the canal and gondolas from our lounge window.

    We started the day with a healthy hotel breakfast and we were off. The hotel asked if we could leave the key at reception, as we did they offered us a free trip to Murano Island and a free demonstration of glass blowing - we said thanks. I guess they thought we were wealthy because we were given our own guide and shown around the 11 show rooms of Murano Glass, each piece well over €1000 - I would say average of €3000 - they did offer free postage on items over €1000! After the guided tour we were offered a look at items in the gift shop ... phew, things we could afford.

    We had a walk around Murano Island, stopped for a beer and wine, then took the free boat home - one of those Italian speed boats - I felt like James Bond or someone from the Italian Job.

    Later in the afternoon we went for a walk - just walk in any direction and see where you end up- is great. It was so hot that I had to buy a hat. Had some gelato - fantastic. We ended up in the Hard Rock cafe - staff were very friendly and so that was most enjoyable.

    Venice is perfect for just wandering around - there is a surprise around every corner - so many shops and while they look a little messy on the outside, inside these shops are like a wonderland. Venice is living up to my expectations.

    Rain is forecast for tomorrow - but that should not affect the shopping.

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  • Day39

    Don't go via Amsterdam - ever

    August 31, 2017 in the Netherlands ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    The plan for today was easy. Our travel agent had organised two flights, leave Dublin at 11am, arrive in Amsterdam at 1:35pm, then leave Amsterdam at 2:25pm to arrive in Venice at 4:05pm.

    Of course it didn't happen that way. Stay with me dear reader its a lesson in overseas travel.

    I had arranged to return the hire car at 9:30am so I set a challenge for Mary to be ready by 8:30am and she was. Reception said it was easier to go left out of the hotel and then right at the next turn - a 10 minute drive. Following those directions we found the airport okay, but where were the hire car yards? Not hard I thought, just drive around a couple of times and I will see them.

    Now, I would have thought that airport people would had just 5 signs for travellers, arrivals, departures, short term parking, long term parking and hire cars. Apparently hire cars, although a huge parking lot, are not important to the Dublin Airport people and the money spent on branding hire cars is wasted - couldn't see a coloured sign anywhere - but we were close according to Mary's iPhone, (the SatNav) is packed in my suitcase. I stopped at a petrol station and asked for directions - left, then first exit from the big roundabout. I saw a Europcar subtle bus and followed that - thank goodness, after the roundabout it was left, lefth and left again and when we got there a sign in green about the size of a beer carton - not good enough! Dropped the car off and got the okay then bullied ourselves onto the next shuttle bus.

    We checked in okay 22.8kg each on a 23kg allowance phew, and went to the departure lounge in good time. Time passed and no announcement until at 11:30 we were advised that rain in Amsterdam had delayed our flight by an hour but we should be boarding soon. At 12:00 we boarded, think we would still have time for our connection - I was reassured by the hostess that if we were delayed so too might be our connection.

    We sat on the plane for a further 2 hours.The pilot finally gave us a message and said that we did have an opportunity to leave after the first hour on the plane, but an airport staff shortage meant that we had no-one to drive the truck to push us back! So we left 3 hours late.

    Arriving in Amsterdam we went looking for an information desk. No chance, just a row of electronic terminals for self help. I couldn't understand exactly what to do and so asked for help - staff were stressed [mainly older female in poorly fitting uniforms at KLM] and I was told to have another go. Mary and I were rescheduled on and 8:30pm flight but had seats miles apart - I managed to get seats 7H and 8H.

    Of course the 8:30pm flight was not going to be on time - kept on getting further delayed. I tried to get seats together again but couldn't. We finally boarded at 9:30pm with the person at departures getting us together in row 5 with more leg room - thanks!

    Arriving in Venice at 11:30pm we looked at options to get to our hotel. The private boat was €120 or $180 - no, so we opted for the public boat - all stops for €16 each. The trip takes about 1 hour 20 minutes so we caught the midnight boat and arrived at our hotel at 1:30am. We had to walk up through St Marks Square - no-one there, our shoes and suitcase noise echoed around the walls. Finally we walked down a small lane where a man smoking in the shadows said "Mr Peter Dane" - he had been waiting for us - thank goodness Mary phoned ahead.

    Lesson learnt - try to get direct flights, hang the expense ...

    Anyway the apartment is first class and the location is excellent -time for bed ....

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  • Day37

    Leaving Ireland

    August 29, 2017 in Ireland ⋅ ⛅ 12 °C

    Today we are heading to the airport hotel - to make an early getaway tomorrow. First I have to front the B&B owners with the news that I have broken one of their fine bone china cups - they took it well. Woke up with a sore throat - don't want to be sick for the rest of my holidays...

    Our first stop was Westport. I had wanted to stay here but all the rooms were booked or too expensive. We called into the famous Wyatt Hotel, Mary had a local G&T and I had a red breast - had to have one before we left Ireland. Mary suggested we should have one last cup of tea, so we called into a tiny Tea Room. The owner, Andrew Irvine was very interesting - apart from serving tea, he developed smart phone apps. His most famous is the Drive Safe app, which automatically turns the ringer off on your devices when you are driving - it is used world wide and he provides it for free!! Unfortunately not available for iphones, Nevertheless a very keen young man.

    Andrew suggested we take the scenic route to Galway - what a good idea. The roads were great for driving at the start, but then became a little skinny - Mary had her foot through the firewall and a firm grip on her seat all the way - and all muscles tight! After a while we where in mountain and lake country - a most unbelievable part of the world. it reminded us a lot of Scotland.

    When we get home we will have to do some research on the areas of Connemara, Joyces Country and Lar Connaght.

    Traffic was hopeless through Galway - took about 1.5 hours, so we arrived at our hotel at nearly 8pm - a long day.

    Tomorrow up early and on the plane to Venice via Amsterdam.

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  • Day37

    The wonderful Achill Island

    August 29, 2017 in Ireland ⋅ ☀️ 12 °C

    Our full day exploring Achill Island started in the mist. Our B&B owner said that the day would clear - he was right. We decided to circumnavigate the island in a clockwise direction. Our first stop was the castle of Grace O'Malley - the pirate queen of Ireland. I found this story amusing -

    "In 1593, when her sons and her half-brother, were taken captive by the English, Grace sailed to England to petition Elizabeth I for their release. Elizabeth I famously sent Grace a list of questions, which she answered and returned to Elizabeth. Grace met with Elizabeth at Greenwich Palace, wearing a fine gown, the two of them surrounded by guards and the members of Elizabeth's royal Court.

    She refused to bow before Elizabeth because she did not recognise her as the Queen of Ireland. Apparently Grace sneezed and was given a lace-edged handkerchief from a noblewoman.

    She apparently blew her nose into the handkerchief and then threw the piece of cloth into a nearby fireplace, much to the shock of the court. Grace informed Elizabeth and her court that, in Ireland, a used handkerchief was considered dirty and was destroyed. Their discussion was carried out in Latin, as Grace spoke no English and Elizabeth spoke no Irish."

    Achill Island is popular for cycling and road running events, there were drinks stops placed all along the roads. The scenery is incredible - huge hills, perfectly neat Irish Country homes, rugged sea cliffs and challenging country roads, oh and sheep ... sheep everywhere - but they are good with cars, they just ignore you.

    There a handful of villages - just what you would expect in Ireland - but a little more focused on holiday makers - and water sports - even surfing. We went the the furthermost place west - Keen Bay where they used to net Basking Sharks for their oil, the basking shark are the largest fish in the North Atlantic, and they once swam off Achill in abundance - almost 10,000 were caught between the 1950s and 1980s. The sharks had a liver that was 25% of their body weight - so they could get 400kg of oil from each shark - they used the oil for street lamps - makes you think ?

    We went to the Deserted Village at Slievemore which consists of some 80 – 100 stone cottages located along a mile long stretch of road on the southern slopes of Slievemore mountain. While some of these dwellings were occupied as summer ‘booley’ homes within living memory, the area itself is rich in archaeological artifacts including megalithic tombs dating from the Neolithic period some 5,000 years ago. Its hard to find out why the village was abandoned, it seems to have happened before the famine, who knows why?

    A fun day on Achill Island was completed by me having a fish platter - eight different types of shell and scale fish - all cold - a real treat.

    Tomorrow we head back to Dublin to get ready for our flight to Venice.

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  • Day36

    Ireland's largest island

    August 28, 2017 in Ireland ⋅ ☀️ 15 °C

    I didn't book a taxi, didn't know what time we would be ready. So eventually we walked to the corner and hailed a cab - no problems. A happy driver - but he didn't know where the airport hire car pickup was - I don't blame him, its confusing. He dropped us at the wrong place so we had to walk and walk. It was so busy - I have never seen such a slow process to collect a hire car. Neither of us were happy - I don't like Hyundais and Mary wanted air conditioning. Anyway, off we went.

    We were travelling on the Motorway and so needed money for Tolls. Stopped at a place called Killcock in a tea room called The Timeless Cafe. What a delight. Modern food with brilliant flavours.Its mainly a sandwich place. Mary had ciabatta roll with salmon and crunchy noodles while I had a white pudding, bacon and potato hash - it came in a large bowl and was brilliant.

    Driving on the motorway was easy and in no time we were heading for the west coast. The road became tighter, but it was still fun driving. We stopped at a ruined church and an old cemetery - Mary loves these. The countryside reminded us of the west coast of Scotland.

    Achill Island is not clearly an island, there is just a ribbon of water running north-south that cuts it off from the mainland. A small, Burnie Emu River like bridge takes us to the island.

    The B&B I booked is just on the Island and so was easy to find. It has a secret garden and the room is down by the water, in fact all the floors are tiled and furniture is up on blocks because it sometimes floods. They have the Atlantic Ocean on three sides and water running down the hill from behind and so there is no escaping the water on occasions. A lovely big room with a huge library - most books written in Dutch unfortunately.

    Off for a pub meal tonight, tomorrow we explore Achill Island.

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  • Day36

    Having fun in Temple Bar

    August 28, 2017 in Ireland ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    Saturday, and a full day in Dublin is ahead of us, but first we need to get this phone organised. We were up late and hit the road at about 11am. Not hard to find a Vodafone shop- but when we did, the shop assistant had no idea - just wanted to hand the phone back to me “I don't know about iPhones?” she said. We went to an apple store - they looked up Vodafone’s details on the web, put them into Mary’s phone and we were away.

    I had looked for Aussie pubs in Dublin and the Woolshed Baa was mentioned. We went there on the off chance that we could see the Geelong game - good news, it was on and we watched the last quarter - a great win over GWS by Geelong, things are turning out okay.

    It was nearly 2pm and so we went looking for a half day tour. Decided to go around the northern coast of Dublin on a double decker bus with tour guide for Malahide Castle and Howth. The guide was excellent. There was a Tasmanian link as the last descendent of the Tabots could not afford to inherit the castle and sold it to the government and moved to a sheep farm in Tasmania. It was great looking through the Castle as it was not overly restored and so you could see how they lived in it.

    The northern heads of Dublin bay are where many of the wealthy live - grand houses and brilliant views of the coast. We stopped for fish and chips and a walk around the market.

    At night we were picked up by long time friend Floyd Jackson thinking we were going to a restaurant with him and wife Mary. We ended up at his home with a huge spread of food and the whole family joining us. They sang happy birthday to Mary and gave her a lovely Waterford Crystal Vase. What an enjoyable night.

    We expected another noisy night back at the hotel - perhaps we are getting used to the music and shouting, anyway it wasn't as bad as Friday night, oh and the guy on the reverse bike out front was still pulling in heaps of money …

    Tomorrow we head for Achill Island and Ireland’s rugged West Coast.

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