Location: Venice, Italy
A few things on the agenda today starting with Ali buying a Venetian mask as a souvenir. She spent an hour trying to select one from the do across from the apartment and came away with three. Then we checked out of the apartment and dropped off our cases. We headed first to see and climb a snail staircase (Scala Contarini del Bovolo) which was very well hidden away, then to St. Mark's Square to see the Doge's Palace (Venetian rulers).
The palace is vast, but particular highlights were crossing the Bridge of Sighs from the inside, the enormous great hall, and a temporary exhibition of maharajas jewellery. After the palace we failed to get into Murano glass blowing (closed, no explanation) and went for lunch.
Running out of sights to see, we headed to Cannaregio, where we took in the Jewish Ghetto, a moorish square with turbaned statues, the gold house (Ca' d'Oro) and the Venice Casino. We then headed to the airport by water ferry for our flight, which was running 45 minutes late.
Luckily for us, despite being a Monarch flight, the plane was scheduled. The lounge was fairly full so we followed signs to an overflow lounge which was completely empty. Nice. Landed back in Birmingham at 12.30am, a mere 2 and 1/2 hours before Monarch went into administration. Sad to see them go, the plane's crew showed exemplary professionism. You wouldn't have known they were all about to lose their jobs.
Today I once again cheated death at the hands of my beloved wife.
She took me to a high point on St Mark's Cathedral, and had me pose by a crumbling rail (I felt it was like the scene on Hot Fuzz where the murderer pushed part of the tower into the journalist) whilst she took a photo. Her comment to me in the restaurant later that night was "Don't be ridiculous, it was only about a storey high, you'd probably not even have broken a bone".
We then escaped the madding crowd and headed across the academic bridge to the tip of a peninsula that looks across the frontage of Venice. No railings, but I'm on to her and this time I stood well away from the edge. Ha!
We took a long wander along the side of the lagoon when we ran into two very tearful Serbian girls. Literally, both of them were very distressed as they had got separated from their school trip. They were trying to get to St Mark's, which when we told them was about 20 minutes away got them even more distressed. So, we offered to escort them back. They were extremely happy when we got them there. Ali got photos and hugs. I got a firm handshake.
Lunch, then a bit of a pootle around looking at venetian masks. We also got a great explanation as to why everyone hates tourists. First, the family (probably English) having a picnic on a crowded bridge right beside the sign stating "No picnics". Next, the gurning idiot and his moronic bride taking a selfie in the cathedral right beside a sign stating "No photos". I do hate people sometimes.
Ali then decided she wanted to see the hospital which has been repurposed from its original purpose. On the way we came across the church of Santo Giovanni e Paolo, which was Gothic and absolutely massive! It houses monuments to 25 of the doges and is extraordinarily rich. Also the foot of St Catherine of Siena, all twisted and skeletal. Those Catholics!
Discovered the hospital was next door, and it is phenomenal. I don't think we will ever see another hospital where the reception is a former palace. Also, boats as ambulances - of course!
After dinner we wandered around Venice at night including St Marks Square, which was much improved without all the tourists.
Location: Venice, Italy
Ali finished work at 15 minutes past "Oh my god we have to get up in three hours" o'clock.
Got up at a time of the morning that no reasonable human being should ever have to see, drove to Birmingham, then nearly missed the flight as Ali's bag was selected for inspection and the people before her didn't seem to understand the simple concept of "put all your liquids in a bag, maximum one litre" so she was stuck there for nearly 40 minutes.
In other news, Ali has forgotten her hair brush. The photographic evidence of this holiday could be interesting, unless we are able to find a useful shop in amongst the souvenir shops.
<nervous glance over shoulder>
Ok, I think she will be bored by the first piece and will not read this. I think she is trying to kill me. First, she stuck me on a kamikaze water ride from the airport to Venice. Then when we got to the apartment, she tried to poison me by replacing the sugar in my tea with salt. Granted, not the most efficient way of poisoning me, but an overdose of salt can result in kidney damage and then death. Finally, whilst on the walking tour she had me stand with my back to the canal for a photo, then asked me to take three steps backwards.
It's all part of a developing pattern of behaviour that is starting to make me a little paranoid. Then again, it's not paranoia if they really are trying to get you.
Location: Sipan, Croatia
Our last full day today. Following breakfast, we met up with Luka in the harbour before taking a walk to the second highest peak on Sipan. At the top is another small church, with outstanding views out across the Adriatic.
We spent a while just chilling out there, before walking back down to Sudarat to catch lunch at one of the restaurants on the harbour. We said our goodbyes to Luka, before we then caught a bus over to Sipan Luka (the other port) to top up our money reserves as the restaurant we were to eat at for dinner didn't accept cards.
Dinner at Three Sisters again (it was that good, we had to go back). Almost had a bit of booboo when I did a quick money count to make sure we had enough cash on hand. FYI, HRK20 notes and HRK200 notes look similar.
Fortunately we had enough to be able to pay for meal and tip, so a bit of a win there in my books. Ali was not amused with my counting, so after this holiday I am now no longer allowed to: (1) work out when we should leave to go to an airport and (2) keep track of how much cash we have.
Following dinner, a slow, slightly painful walk back (injuries still healing slowly) before getting some sleep before our early start to catch the flight back home.
Location: Sipan island, Croatia
Had an absolutely lovely day today. Luka and the two of us caught the bus over to Sipanskaluka, and went on a walk around the horseshoe-shaped harbour, first to the left where there was a beach bar, and then to the right via a bush walk. On the second part of our walk we passed ugly Russian beach houses, fishermen, a hopeful cat, a pine forest, trees dipping into the water, a lady trying to sunbathe in the nude, and finally reached Adria's kayaks from where they had been left by a large Norwegian group which had got that far the previous week but then the weather forced then to abandon their paddle.
Back to Restaurant Luka for a nice relaxed lunch. After that Ali had the choice of swimming or kayaking in the harbour, and she chose kayaking. She kayaked around for about an hour, while Jase sat and watched and tried to avoid man-eating ants/mossies, and Luka went to help Ivan with the other kayaks. They tied them all to a speedboat, which took about an hour, then the speedboat took them all back across the harbour in a long line, like a mother duck and her ducklings.
The bus didn't go at 4.30, as we had thought, so we had an hour to use. We went and bought beer and ice cream, sat in the shade and showed each other interesting photos and videos that we had on our phones.
Back to base by bus, then a little rest before we (Ali, Jase, Dua, Frances, John) all went to Three Sisters for dinner. We were joined by all the guides (Luka, Jelena, Ivan, Jelena's sister and her partner Philip). Food delicious, and company excellent.
Location: Lopud island, mainland, Sipan , Croatia
Today we packed up our luggage for transfer to Sudjuradj, Sipan, a village on another island. We both got up early to shower and change our dressings, then down to breakfast. Breakfasts have been served under a magnificent and well established grapevine, laden with bunches of green grapes which I suspect are also the ones in the fruit bowl.
We then tried to buy safety pins (unsuccessfully) so that Jase can pin his shorts up higher than the wounds on his knees. He ended up folding and pinning them up in a way that rather resembled British men at the sea side in 1950. Great look!
We caught the speedboat to the mainland and walked uphill to the arboretum. After passing the two oldest trees in Croatia (huge), we went down to the Arboretum which was lovely and green, and features a villa terrace that we remembered had appeared in Game of Thrones a few times, as the area doubled for King's Landing.
Lunch and a natter with Luka about our little incident and what we can all learn from it (instigated by us but there were learning points for all). It seemed more sensible to chat that through rather than put it on TripAdvisor or something.
Back down the hill and Luka gave us a bit of a tour of the coast of Sipan in the speedboat, showing us a cave, arch and the green cave (underwater) before we landed on the island. We checked in and were given home made wine (eminently quaffable) by the owner before we settled in. Read for an hour or two. Then we had a little excitement as we were trying to go out for dinner, when a little bat (obviously wanting to meet Jase, hero to all bats in his alter ego) somehow managed to fly though the shutters and then refused to fly back out again but instead just flew round and round the room.
Currently writing this looking out on to the harbour from the deck of Konoba Orica restaurant. Very relaxed.
Location: Kolocep and Lopud islands, Croatia
Today we caught a ferry to Kolocep. If we hadn't injured ourselves yesterday, this would have been by kayak, but we weren't in fit condition to do that.
After getting there, we had a bit of a creaky 20 minute walk to a restaurant on a bay on the other side of the island. Nice, warm day in contrast to the previous.
The restaurant cooked up on a rather old charcoal bbq, that the chef used a hair dryer as a blower to fan the flames. Don't knock it, it worked and Ali reported that the fish was delicious.
After chilling out in a cafe for a while, it was a ferry back, quick dressing change, then we caught a taxi (described by Ali as 15 minutes of more fun than it should be) to a farmhouse for a traditional Croatian dinner. Five courses, the first being homemade brandy. 18 homemade fruit/herb brandies to be precise. All pain temporarily left, especially after the wormwort brandy (wormwort is banned in the UK for its hallucinogenic properties).
Next course was a meat and cheese platter followed by vegetable soup, then meat cooked under a bell, like a metal hangi in many respects. Goat and veal, the goat was amazing, tasted like lamb and very tender. Desert was a nutty chocolate type thing. Wasn't my favourite course.
Taxi back with two extra slightly cold/inebriated guests, and bed as we were both feeling a bit sore.
Location: Lopud island, Croatia
Interesting day today.
Went for our first kayak today. Easy one around the island to a nice sandy beach. For the happy ending version, we made it, nothing eventful and it is lovely.
Stop reading here if you are sensitive (i.e. both mothers).
The sea was a bit rough, nothing we couldn't handle, but still not calm. We had a small issue with water leaking into the kayak, making it roll more, but we pumped that out.
As we approached the headland, the sea got rougher. We were having real problems, including losing a hatch cover. The free water was making the roll worse.
We endeavoured to turn the boat to head back. Unfortunately, we breached and then capsized. Both of us got out safely, but we were in trouble. The headland was very rocky, with big waves crashing against it. About this time, our guide Luka also capsized.
We tried to head to the rocks to get to dry land. I'll let Ali tell her story, this one is mine and it's scary.
I managed to make my way to the rocks. I got close enough to cling on, then got blasted back into the sea. Three more times I tried this, with the same result. Some times I went under and then got caught and held down by the next wave.
Luka and I made it on to some rocks together, seconds before a huge wave threw us both off and into the cliff. I went in head first and had enough presence of mind to use my hands to protect my head. Luka landed on top of me, before being washed off. I was under for three more waves before I broke the surface. I was pretty much spent at this point. It would have been about 10 to 15 minutes, but felt like a lifetime.
I knew I had one more attempt left in the tank, so Luka and I together made it to a small bay on the rocks which Ali had already found, which was a little sheltered. I've not been so exhausted in my life. Fear only came in to it later.
Ali's story: I set out for another kayak and clung on, but then the guide asked her to go and raft up with the beginner in the group who was on her own. A good decision, but left me rejoining Jase and Luka who were not having a good time. They abandoned the water filled kayak and we all set out for the rocks. We kinda knew that rocks and waves were less than ideal, but we were tiring and the open sea was rough.
I tried a few times to get up on to rocks but my hands were being cut to pieces trying to cling on without being dragged off and then dashed against them again. Fortunately I noticed a rock with a sheltered side so I headed for that one. Made it, then had to watch the horror show that was the two boys.
Luka finally got Jase to the same spot but didn't stay - he went to get his mobile and call for help. He then went back to his kayak to look after the other two.
They were joined by another guide and his group, just in time as our beginner chose that time to capsize. They spent about 20 mins getting her kayak clear of water and getting her back in.
The other group decided to paddle back (having rescued our dry bags thankfully, which had our money inside). Eventually the boat came. We all abandoned our kayaks and took the boat back. Jase, Luca and Ali were taken straight to the local medical facility to have our abrasions treated. We then went back to the guest house for dry clothes, tea, soup and further medical treatment.
Further analysis of Jase left us concluding that he needed a stitch on one of his cuts so he was packed off for the mainland while Ali was left trying to sort out the medical delights of the EHIC cards (free treatment in the EC ... bloody Brexit, we won't have this in a couple of years).
Back to Jase for his next part of the story ..
So, after a ferry ride back to Dubrovnik, I pretty much went straight into the hospital as no-one was waiting. Doc proceeded to blast me with hydrogen peroxide (ouch) then cleaned the wounds and decided I didn't need stitches. Next the iodine (ouch) and then dressed them.
Picked up some supplies so dressings can be changed, now I'm waiting at a restaurant to have dinner before catching the last ferry.
What a day.
Location: Lopud island, Croatia
After a good breakfast, we set of for a walk to the summit of the island, where there is a ruined fort. It should have been the first of our kayaking days but unfortunately the weather wasn't playing ball - the sea was just too rough today.
There were some good views to be had from the top, and we made it back to the village for lunch, just as it started raining.
No kayaking in the afternoon either as the weather had set in, so we just read, surfed the net and slept till dinner.
Location: Dubrovnik, Croatia
We started the day with the Walls & Wars tour, a nice scenic tour which walked the 2km perimeter wall whilst learning about the military history of Dubrovnik. Marco our guide, was really interesting and very funny. Lots of history and death metal (his two passions).
Pizza/pasta for lunch,, them we went to the Gornji Tower (under Fort Minceta) which is the archeological site of an old foundry that was destroyed by an earthquake in 1667. The museum is little known and we practically had a personal tour.
After that we climbed the hill to see St Laurence tower where there was some youth having his photo taken for some reason (model, pop star, who knows). Let's just say that with the wind that was blowing my hair didn't assist my own modelling aspirations.
Pootled around a bit after that, stopping first in some gardens for a sit down and drink, then to a secret spot outside the walls where you can sit on the rocks and watch the waves (we were shown it on yesterday's tour).
Spaghettia for dinner, where the order of the day was Jase's deep fried rivotta ravioli in panko breadcrumbs. It was amazing!
After picking up our luggage from the apartment we got a taxi to the ferry, where we met with the rest of our kayaking group (all from England) and crossed to Lopud island.