Location: Mt Etna, Sicily, Italy
Early start today to catch a walking tour of Mt Etna. First up, about an hour's drive through the lava flows before we got to the set of cones we were to walk on. Above 2000m, it gets quite desolate, lots of debris from various eruptions. As Etna is not a "explody" volcano, unlike Vesuvius, you don't get so much pyroclastic debris. So no pumice, more basalt and scoria type rocks and stones.
We walked a string of six cones that had all erupted in 1923. The two guides, Giorgio and Paulo were very knowledgeable and gave us loads of info about volcanos and Etna in particular. Apparently, Ruapehu is a similar volcano to Etna.
The lava flows, or tongues, are quite noticeable, several villages on the slopes have been destroyed by them. But deaths are low as the lava only moves at about 40 meters per hour, so even I could outrun one.
Then we took a walk through a lava tunnel, which was interesting and quite cold. Cold enough that it had been used to store ice over the summer in days gone by.
Lunch was with Don Salo, at his winery. Very filling and we again skipped dinner due to too much lunch.
Then off to see the Alcantara gorge. Ali went for a long walk up an icy river in bare feet with razor shall pebbles, while the sensible one of the pair kept his feet dry and got no cuts from sharp river stones...
Then back to the apartment after what was quite a long, but interesting day.
Location: Taormina, Sicily, Italy
Decided to give Taormina another try. This time we caught the bus, which was a far more relaxing decision. Let the bus driver navigate the switchbacks up the hill.
On arrival we had our delayed gelati, then wandered along the main street. The tourist information pointed us in the direction of an Etna tour that we could book, so we went to the tour company's office to book, and they gave us some lunch recommendations.
Then to Taormina's teatro ruins for a lovely view out over the ruins with the sea and Etna in the background.
A delicious lunch at Osteria Rita (one of the recommendations), then back down the hill in the bus.
We finished off the day with a walk along our beach (practically private, and straight outside the door), and a skimming stone competition. Ali won, much to everyone's surprise. But Jase would keep throwing his stones into the face of the waves. He had the highest number of bounces off a single stone though.
Location: Taormina, Sicily, Italy
We decided to have a nice quiet day today, so we settled down and read books. Around 4.30pm we decided to head into Taormina for a gelato. Choice of bus, cable car, or drive. We chose drive. This was a rookie mistake! Taormina was jam-packed and scouring the narrow streets we couldn't find anywhere to park. Then to get back we had to go back through the terrifyingly narrow one-way system. Very stressful, and we didn't have our gelati :-(
Location: Selinunte to Taormina, Sicily, Italy
We woke up this morning still full from dinner the night before. A massive breakfast was presented to us and we did our best by it.
On the road, we stopped off at the Scala dei Turchi, a white marl (impure limestone) coastal feature which looks like steps coming out of the sea. Legend has it that the Saracens used the steps to climb into Sicily and invade.
Arriving at the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento we failed to buy a map, but we pootled around aimlessly and seemed to end up seeing the main features. As we ascended the hill the temples got grander - only four columns standing at the bottom, but full scale temples as a reward for reaching the top. Jase also rewarded himself for reaching the top by buying himself a lemon granita and promptly giving himself an ice-cream headache.
A bit of a trek across Sicily followed, as we aimed for our final accommodation destination, Taormina. Our flat is again on the 3rd floor, but has a stunning sea view.
Location: Sicily, Italy
Today we took a ride up a cable car to Erice, a small hilltop town outside Trapani. Ali spent the trip up and down trying to see how far she could swing the car from side to side. Very antisocial.
The town was nice, with a respectable castle. We had a good pizza there, before heading off to our overnight stay.
Or we would, if Ali hadn't discovered some Greek ruins at Segesta. So we walked around them, before going to the next set of ruins at Seliunte. Stinking hot, sweaty, etc. Ruins were a bit dilapidated.
Then a nice meal at our overnight stay. Far too much food, nearly died from overeating. I hope breakfast isn't as big a meal.
Location: Trapani, Sicily, Italy
A lovely quiet day today. Read for a bit. Ali managed to get herself trapped on the roof.
We had a walk around the town, along the sea front to the peninsula point at Torre Di Ligny, and then back along the other sea front. We stopped for lunch followed by a gelato before returning to the apartment.
Had another walk in the evening. Trapani is quiet, probably because there is a football match on between Trapani and Catania. We had local speciality arincine (rice balls) for dinner.
Location: Trapani, Italy
Today was a bit of a driving day. We had a nice breakfast at the B&B before getting on the road to Trapani. It was scheduled to take about 4 hours, but as we wanted to do some stop offs at Cefalu to see the sights.
We grabbed some lunch at a nice waterside restaurant in Cefalu, before sampling some of the local gelato. We then planned to visit an archaeological site, but after doing some unscheduled off road driving, we discovered it was closed on Sundays. Oh well.
Stopped off at a supermarket to get some necessities, before heading to Trapani. We arrived there just in time for the Sunday stroll, so traffic was insane. Took about an hour before we finally found somewhere to park.
The apartment is really nice, disturbing glass floors though. Can't say I'm a fan of the concept.
Slept like a log.
Location: Ambrosden to Catania, Sicily, UK
Our very busy fortnight of house sale preparations culminated in us moving ourselves out for a holiday in Sicily, and the cats out for a holiday at the cattery.
Ali was away at her annual work strategy weekend so her final contribution constituted sending a lengthy to-do list to Jase. So Jase cleaned up the cat vomit from Cassie, washed and dried the vomited on bedding, let in the window cleaner, made the beds in the officially authorised way, did a final tidy, dropped the key off at the estate agent and took the cats to the cattery. That was a bit of a drama. Knispel was absolutely furious at this turn of events and was hissing and swiping at everything including poor Pixel. In the end he had to be separated out into his own cage.
Location: St Levan, Cornwall, UK
Continued with our tour of the far end of Cornwall. We drove back through St Just, this time looking for Trembaths at the local cemetery. They were a local mining family, so we know from our tin mine tour yesterday that they must have had hard lives.
Continuing around the coast we stopped at Chapel Porth beach, for a freezing cold walk. Then returned to the car to defrost before continuing to Penzance and parking on the sea front. Stopped at a famous tea shop for a Cornish cream tea. Then a walk to see the lido on the beach, and a street with The Admiral Benbow pub on it.
On the way home we stopped to check out the seven sisters, a stone circle.
Location: St Levan, Cornwall, UK
Today we had unexpected sunshine, so went for a look at some old graveyards (we live the rock and roll lifestyle). No zombies were found, fortunately, but one possible vampire, who was "not dead, just sleeping" according to the grave stone. Sleeping since 1869, so pretty good rest, lazy bugger.
We also uncovered (not literally) another couple of relatives as well, to add to the Stevens's family tree (the Cornwall Clemens is the branch we're researching at the moment). Ali thinks the b&b owner is a distant cousin.
Took a bit of a tour around the area, had a look at an old tin mine at Levant and had a Cornish pasty from the oldest Cornish pasty maker. Not that the maker was old, rather the shop was old. Stop trying to confuse me with your impertinent questions
Dinner at the First and Last pub, an old smugglers inn, once occupied by smugglers, blackguards and ne'er do wells. (Relatives, probably.)
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.