Europe update

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September 14th 2019
Published: September 14th 2019
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My apologies to all my friends who think I have “un-friended” them due to non-receipt of my travel blog. Unfortunately for you (but fortunately for me) I have been too busy on holiday to actually sit down and write a witty blurb. That and the severe lack of affordable Wi-Fi on the cruise are to blame. Finally I can update you on our travels…

So the normal check in fiasco happened in the security screening area of Sydney Airport. I checked the limit of fluids for check in baggage and thought common sense would prevail. But alas, no, the very stern man in a uniform wagged his finger at me and showed me my brand new $12 Sensodine toothpaste and said “over the limit!” Wait, what? By 10 mls. Can you believe it? 10 lousy mls. I wanted say “can I just go brush my teeth and then it won’t be 10 mls over?” (Is toothpaste even a fluid? More like a paste I believe???) So now I’m annoyed already and I haven’t even got into the boarding gate.

Next drama occurred on the plane while Noel is frigging around trying to put our two backpacks in nice and neatly in the overhead compartment so that other people could have more room to put their bags. You guessed it. One of our bags falls right on to the head of the grumpy lady who has to sit next to us for the next 15 hours. Noel did catch it before it clonked her good and hard but, no, she had a big song and dance about it, as if he dropped it on her on purpose, and proceeded to ask for bags of ice for the next two hours. At one point the stewardess asked if she needed to have her call for a doctor on board. So five hours after take off the next incident happens. Everything is quiet. The sun is going down over the west coast of Australia and all of a sudden there is this almighty commotion and screaming going on 2 rows behind us. The man next to the window had decided to have an “episode” and was apparently drooling and was non responsive. The hostesses are running around madly with oxygen tanks for the husband and glasses of water for the wife. Repeated calls were being made for doctors or nurses. A young lady went up to help (obviously a first aider) but was shunned when she told them she was not a nurse or doctor so I decided to stay quiet. I told Noel that if the guy stopped breathing then the young girl and I could step in to help do CPR. Luckily a doctor finally decided to show up after the 3rd call for assistance (he obviously didn’t want to be bothered while on his holiday or going to his medical conference). The man eventually recovered with some oxygen and loud shouting in his ear and they were moved to a different part of the plane. In my expert opinion I think the man might have had low blood sugars but we’ll never know. There was no ambulance waiting for him at Abu Dhabi so I’m guessing he was alright after he got moved.

So the good thing to come out of this emergency is that grumpy lady wanted to chat about it and then she became quite friendly as Noel was asking her lots of questions about her and her life. Always helps to make people feel important. So we were firm friends at the end of this flight. Smooth change over in Abu Dhabi and on to Frankfurt. As we were changing airlines here we did not have any boarding passes issued in Sydney. We get off the plane and try to figure out where to get boarding passes. Luckily our bags had been marked to go straight through so we only had to lug our backpacks, personal item and jackets through the airport. There was no Transit Lounge to speak of and no Information kiosk so we walk up and down, up and down. A worker tells us we need to “enter Europe and then check in with Lufthansa.” So we are trying to find a way out of the airport so we can then front up at a check in desk in the Departure area. After an hour of to-ing and fro-ing we finally arrive at the gate that our next flight leaves from and lo and behold the lady at the gate can print us our boarding passes. I wish the Etihad check in lady at Sydney had told us that we could go straight to the gate in Frankfurt to get on the next flight. It would have saved a lot of running around.

Now I don’t know about everyone else but I can tell you that I can NOT lift a 23 kilo bag on or off a bus/tram/train. What the hell do people put in a bag that weights 30 kilos???? Cement? Gold bullion? So poor Noel is lifting his heavy bag on and off everything, I wait with it while he then loads the other 23 kilo bag. He would be REALLY fit after this trip if we weren’t eating the weight of a small child each day on this cruise. Either that, or he will bust a boiler and I’ll have to take him home in a box.

Our first 3 nights were in Prague. Lovely city, beautiful old buildings, magnificent palace, excellent transport system running 24 hours a day. We did all the usual tourist attractions and went on a free 3 hour walking tour which would have been excellent if the tour leader was not so politically inclined and had a desire to part with what she thought/felt/wanted. It is really mind blowing looking at a tomb in the palace basilica and seeing that the person inside died in 1060 AD. Just a “wow” moment. Our apartment in Prague was in a fabulous location just 5 mins by tram to the city centre. It was beautiful in a lovely historic building. Our only complaint was the teeny tiny European style shower. No way was I going to be shaving my legs in there, I can tell you.

Next stop after a 4 and a half hour train ride was to surprise my lovely Hannah and her twin sister Maggie for their 20th birthday. Unfortunately, I had not told their mum that we were coming (because you can’t keep a secret… right Petra?) and she had arranged a weekend away with the girl’s father. I surprised the girls and their brother with messages saying “don’t make dinner plans because Noel and I are taking you out”. Luckily for us they had all declined the offer of a weekend away with their Austrian mum and dad so they had to spend the weekend with the Aussie mum and dad instead. They said they were all surprised and pleased so that made me super happy. We had dinner together Friday night, an hour or so together on the Saturday, so Noel could see where they live and the lovely little village they are in, and then breakfast together on Sunday morning, which was the girls actual birthday. After the Klingfurth visit on Saturday, Noel and I decided to go visit Graz, which I had been to last year when I visited. We were just about to head on to the expressway when I realised that we did not get a vignette, a toll sticker for the car to utilise motorways. It was a rainy day so we either went back to bother the girls some more, stay in our pokey hotel room or sit in the rain at the Wiener Neustadt festival that was happening last weekend. We decided to drive to Graz anyway. Rained the whole way there and back. Three hours each way instead of just over one each way via the motorway. Luckily the gods were smiling on us again and the rain stopped for the entire time we were wandering around Graz. We stopped at a couple of places to eat dinner but the service was not slow…. there was no service, so we kept moving on only to arrive back at the carpark having not eaten. I said “don’t worry, we’ll grab something at a Heurigen or restaurant along the way back”. Let me tell you folks, Austria is DEAD on a Saturday night unless you are in the know and can find something open. We drove past many towns and villages with nothing open for business. We got all the way back at ten pm and ate Hungry Jacks as we couldn’t find any better place to eat.

The next morning we said our good-bye’s to Hannah, Maggie, Johannes and Pamela before boarding our 7 hour train ride to Venice. The trip was great until we got into Italy. Then we hit the brakes. After sitting in one place for over an hour I googled the trains to discover that there were many train lines around Italy undergoing track work last weekend. We limped into Mestre station 2 hours late and had to transfer for the last 5 minute ride to St Lucia station. When we exited the station we could see our hotel just across the canal but to get to it we had to drag our bags in a 400 metre semi-circle over one of the largest bridges in Venice. A bridge with many, many steps. Remember what I said about lifting the heavy bags??? POOR Noel L. He nearly had a heart attack on this part of the journey. Now I did choose the Hotel Canal and Walter for its proximity to a) the train station and b) the port. Now some people would say it “has character and old world charm”. Let’s be honest…it was a daggy, falling apart dump. Luckily we were only staying one night. I was worried about getting Legionnaires disease from the old air con, dying in a fire due to the rabbit warren corridors (all made out of combustible wood) and with our smoke detector taped up and the marble slab of a bed with a pancake flat pillow did a great job on my dickie hip. What the hotel lacked, the city of Venice made up for the next morning, with brilliant sunshine and wonderful photo opportunities. We met a couple of ladies from the Gold Coast over breakfast and found out that they were going to be on our cruise too. I told them that even with 2,500 cruisers we would probably bump into them again at some stage on the trip. Four hours later there they were right in front of us in the security scanning line. They called out to us “these people here are from Sydney too” to which about ten other couples all started singing out “Sydney” “Sydney” “Sydney”. I reckon out of 2,500 passengers, half of them are Australian. There are people from Rockhampton, Perth, Melbourne, Coffs Harbour and many from Sydney, as well as the Gold Coast ladies and they are only the ones we’ve met in 3 days!!!

So my blog is already huge so I will condense the last three days. Magnificent ship, great crew, wonderful ports so far. First stop was Dubrovnik Croatia where we did a little private boat ride with the Gold Coast girls who have now become firm friends. Dubrovnik is where they filmed scenes for Game of Thrones. It is super famous now. We walked the Old Town and had our first Mediterranean swim here, overlooking the Old Town fortress. A magic moment.

Yesterday we were in Kotor Montenegro where we got accosted by a number of hawkers trying to get us to go on their tours. I don’t travel too well in the back of a van going up mountains for spectacular views so the “Fab Four” as I am now calling Noel, Deb, Jacquie and myself, jumped into a high speed boat with 4 other people and went all the way back out the channel to the ocean (took over an hour) to go swimming in a blue cave/grotto. That was pretty special too. The water is so clear you can see all the way to the bottom five to six metres down. We headed back to Our Lady of the Rock church which was built over many, many centuries on a man-made island, stone by stone from the sea floor up to the church tower. Next stop was the inside of a post World War Two submarine tunnel carved into a mountain so they could hide the subs from any approaching enemy navy. Upon return we walked the Old Town which was super lovely with heaps of narrow lanes and wonderful plazas. Lots of lovely restaurants here. It was like Venice but without the water and bridges. And it was full of cats!! We were told that Kotor had a terrible rat plague years ago so they introduced “community cats” to control the vermin population. No one actually owns any of the cats but the whole town feeds and waters them. They are not feral and quite happily let hundreds of tourists pet them.

Today we stopped in Corfu. It’s lovely and warm and sunny with dead flat seas. We decided to ditch the Hop On Hop Off bus tour (good thing from what we’ve heard from others who did do it) and the Fab Four took a taxi to the Old Town (everywhere has an Old Town in Europe!!). The taxi driver told us that he could take us to the nice beaches on the other side of the island for $120 Euros return. Thanks but no thanks, as we didn’t have many hours here plus we are all cheap and didn’t want to spend 30 Euro each to go for a swim. So we did a bit of exploring the Old Town by foot and leaned over a wall to find the BEST little pebble beach with crystal clear water right next to the fortress. No waves. No pollution. After a wonderful coffee/wine/ bread and oil/ tzatziki and fruit morning tea we went for our third swim in three days.

We are back on the ship now and we have had a few beverages (if you know what I mean) as we listened to the band playing music for us while hundreds of people sunbathed by the pools. The scenery is fantastic as we sail past the Ionian Islands on our way to Santorini. Let’s hope the weather is as good and the seas just as flat, next year when Noel and I, our gang of kids, their partners and Ashleigh’s lovely mum, Lesley, come to the Greek Islands to party together.

Noel is happily snoring while I finish writing this blog. Later I’m going to make him learn swing dancing followed by the Newly Wed/Not So Newlywed gameshow.

It is the 12th of September today but I probably won’t get to post this blog until we can find somewhere that has free Wi-Fi. Never fear, I will blog again as soon as I have some more news and time to actually write.

Love to everyone and thank you for reading my holiday journal. Hope you like the pictures.

Marg xx

Additional photos below
Photos: 35, Displayed: 32


15th September 2019

Thank God you didn't block me!!!!
For a moment there I was worried!!! :) So happy you and Noel are having an amazing time (with the requisite glitches of course!!). Please keep posting- I adore your hilarious commentary. We miss you at school. Vanessa XXX
16th September 2019

hi .....Sounds like you guys are having a great time... enjoy enjoy xxx
18th September 2019

Hi Noel and Margaret Loved reading about your adventures. You need to see me for packing guidance. Peter and I leave with a bag each with under 15 kilos each for up to 6.5 weeks our favourite leaving weight is 12 kilos and we often return with 14-15.5 kilos max. I don’t know how you are managing with those 23 kilo bags you are awesome Noel 😃😃😃😃
21st September 2019

i'm with Catherine..... 23kgs???
Yeah.... i don't understand why you have so much luggage to start with...... When i went to Europe 10yrs ago.... we did a 9 night, 3 island "hop"..... Departing from Athens, we had to "load our own bags" on the ship.... this meant lugging it up some stairs before finding the storage place. I remember an American lady, travelling with her daughter, complaining about dragging her luggage up the stairs..... and all i thought was .... "if you can't carry it, then don't pack it"....... 15kgs sounds like a nice number to be dragging around. Mind you..... on one of the island stays.... i could smell the hotel laundry dryers..... and i thought..... fresh clothes would be nice.... and i didn't care what it cost, but i put it in to the hotel laundry for washing..... when it returned i just sat there for awhile smelling it.... nothing like the smell of fresh washed clothes..... much like the feeling of sleeping on fresh sheets.... :) Bring on more blogs!!!!

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