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Michael and Jean's World Odyssey

Welcome to our travel page. This will let you know where we are and what we are doing. please feel free to leave a message and we will reply when we can.

Diary Entries

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Location: ATHENS, Greece

Leg weary but happy we have done Athens, we have walked all around the city taking in the many sites and attractions.

Today being the last day of the holiday we took the bus to Sinion, the southern tip of the Attican Peninsula to see the Temple for Posiedon. This temple was the first thing the seafarers saw when they approached Athens, in its day it must have been spectacular.

At lunch we had to put up with a bunch of whinging aussies from Port Douglas who thought that the whole trip had been a disappointment, they were on a cruise, because it was so cold. What did they expect? it is winter here. Admittedly there has been a northern wind straight out of Russia that has kept things a bit cool in Athens but at least it has been dry.

There have been very few tourists which has made life tolerable around the Acropolis, peak season must be hardwork especially if it is hot. It is ceratinly hard work walking around this sites and after a while the statues all look alike. We have skipped the museums as we felt we could not face another one. One of the minor problems of being on the road for so long.

We have really enjoyed the food and have been trying to find the most authentic greek cuisine given that the tourist market is the dominant one. Last night we ate in this outdated restaurant where the walls were yellow, covered in photos of the owner with honoured guests, but full of locals. The meal was excellent if a bit haphazard, we think we may return there tonight.

Well thats about it for this trip, we have to be up at the crack of dawn to catch the flight to London. A week with family and then its back to NZ with a short stopover in Singapore.

We hope we have kept everyone entertained and informed, we have enjoyed putting this blog together, that is what they are called apparently, and hope you have enjoyed reading it.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Location: CRETE, Greece

After Florence, Rimini was a complete let down. It was like Blackpool out of season, everything was shut. The town itself has a roman bridge, roman gate and a fort as its attractions and the shops sell designer shoes and clothes and there are numerous cafes. We were unable to find a restaurant so we ate in the hotel, the meal was not bad considering. The beach area was different from anything I have ever seen, the area adjacent to the road is blocked off by businesses offering food, changing facilities and games areas, beyond these compounds the beach is sectioned off right out to within 20 metres of the high tide mark. These are private beaches, our hotel had one, where you pay to use the beach and pay for the chairs and unbrellas. Postcards of the summer season show row upon row of deck chairs. Where jo public goes , who knows?

The journey from Rimini to Bari was a six hour marathon and we were surprised that the whole Aegean coastline was similar to Rimini. The rail line ran straight down the coast and if it was not apartments, it was holiday camps or beach.

Once in Bari we managed to negoiate the bus service down to the docks where a ship awaited us. Unfortunately it was a cruise liner, our smaller version was tucked around the corner. The ferry crossing is a 16 hour trip with a stop at dawn to let some trucks off. We elected for airline seats rather than a cabin and thank goodness the baot was empty. The seats were in a box with no windows, the lights did not switch off and there were about 50 seats, fortunately there were only 7 people for the trip. Sleep was fitful at best as the seats were a very poor cousin to your average airline seat. There was no entertainment in this section. Fortunately we shared the trip with an australian couple from the Murray River and we enjoyed there company. They are doing europe in 6 weeks by europass and are hell bent on seeing as much as posssible. The rest of the boat was very comfortable and the food and service very good and reasonably priced.

Whilst boarding the ferry we had to walkacross the lorry loading area in the dark, two very suspicious characters were also wandering around in the dark trying to get on the ferry, apparently without tickets! Then while we waited for the bus at Patras, the armed police arrived accompanied by a scuffy indivdual in handcuffs, obviously the illegal trade is flourishing.

Another surprise was the distance from Patras to Athens, 4 hours in either a train or bus. We thought it was about 50 km but its nearly 230km. Once in Athens we had to find the hotel, on the net it was shown as being close to the centre and airport, actually one hour by tram from the city! In all our travels this year this hotel would have to rank close to the worst we have stayed in. As we arrrived there were two drunken yanks in the reception playing some of their favourite music full blast, one apologised and then just carried on! The receptionist then gave us the best room(his words) as honoured guests, the main feature of the room was the washing machine full of dirty clothes, the outlet was stuck down the toilet bowl and the water supply was plumbed into the cistern and this was the best room! When we returned from dinner, which was very good, the yanks were even drunker and music louder and the owner appeared dressed as the local slob. As we were looking for a hotel for later in the week, these occurences did not put this establishment at the top of the list.

We flew to Crete and as we had no idea where the apartment was so caught a taxi. as we drove up this side street, dogs and rubbish everywhere our hopes fell, then we turned past a sports club with two soccer fields to see our apartment. A pristene concrete apartment block surrounded by over grown weeds, unsealed drive and pool seats and umbrellas lying everywhere. The view was quite good though!

We had decided to use local transport on this trip for a chnage, 'Cars for rent' is greek for no public transport! no that is not fair, there is a system and once you have figured it out it works well. Basically there are no signs on the bus stops to indicate which buses run where nor any timetables to be seen. Tickets can be bought from the driver though he is usually grumpy and they cost more, tickets should be bought from little kiosks or book shops dotted all over town and one ticket fits all. On entering the bus the ticket must be validated, ie date stamped to prevent reuse. We forgot on the bus to the airport in Athens and thought we were going to be fined 60 times the price of the tickets, about 420 euros. The inspector made us wait ten minutes before letting us off!

For the three days on Crete we took it reasonably quietly, visited Knossos on day 1, Xania on day 2 and moped around Iraklion on the third day.

Knossos was very interesting, the palace has been partially rebuilt but most of the remains date back to 1900BC and like Pompeii, the best pieces have been removed for safe keeping. The difference here was that where they have carried out restoration they have used different materials or have painted the particular items clearly showing the changes. In Pompeii it was difficult to differentiate between old and new.

Xania is a small town about three hours to the west of Iraklion and we had a very pleasant day there walking around the historical parts and having a decent greek lunch which was not tourist generated.

Our aim on the last day in Iraklion was to see the sites, of which there are few, and to have a long lunch, greek style. We had earlier earmarked a couple of restaurants that were off the beaten track and the only danger was them not being open on a Sunday. Fortunately one was open, full of locals and we had a wonderful lunch of salad, stuffed cabbage leaves, chicken kebabs (can't remember greek name) and local wine. At the end of the meal, the waiter filled our glasses again, and produced the local dessert together with some Raki (local firewater) and then we tottered back to the apartment.

The gravest danger we have been in to date is from the traffic on Crete. The scooters and motorbikes pay no attention to the traffic rules and pedestrians are in mortal danger at all times. These characters ride on the wrong side of the road, the wrong way up one way streets, along the pavements, through red lights etc. We were nearly taken out by one on a crossing after the cars had stopped to let us cross and he overtook the car!. Pedestrian crossings appear to have no meaning in Greece, they are ignored by everyone, even at traffic lights, the rule is stay where you are until all the traffic has stopped even if the little green man is flashing!

Car drivers are only marginally better, when you need to go into a shop etc and there is nowhere to park, put on the hazard lights and leave the car in the middle of the road and go about your business. The funny part of it is the following drivers get really irate and words and gestures are generally exchanged and then the aggrieved driver promptly pulls the same trick further down the road.

We are now back in Athens, the traffic is no different, the place is a mad house but there is lots to see.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Location: FLORENCE, Italy

Well we have done Florence and have nearly finished Italy.

This week we have daytripped around Tuscany to see the sites and finished off we the northern side of Florence today. We took the train to Pisa and the local buses to Sienna and Fiesole.

We enjoyed both Sienna and Fiesole but were not impressed with Pisa. Sienna reminded us of our trip to Umbria a few years ago where the old towns were relatively unscathed by progress as vehicles could not get around the narrow twisting streets. Fiesole is only about 10 miles from Florence and sits up on a hill giving magnificent views across Florence and the surrounding areas.

Pisa on the other hand was tired and apart from the leaning tower there was little else to see.

Today we visited the Museo Del Bargello that houses more of the magnificent sculptures from Michelangelo and others together with numerous other trinkets and treasures. Afterwards we walked across the river to visit the main cemetery and the Palazzo Pitti. The Pallazzo Pitti was the home of the medici family in the 16th century and the house decorations and garden are totally off this planet. This family were rich traders who were trying to become nobles and nothing was spared!

On the walk we passed through the Piazzale Michelangelo where they appeared to be a number of weddings taking place. It turned out that the japanese had organised a job lot and there were five or six couples having there photos taken all over the park. Looking at their clothes they were part of the package!

So far the trip has been relatively straight forward with not a lot to report. Each night we have tried a different restaurant in town and we have tried to keep away from the tourist route. The result has been very pleasant, so far we have not had a bad experience and had particularly good service and meals in two of the five visited so far. The best restaurant was the cheapest and from the outside looked definitely sleezy! anyway as we sat and munched our way through dinner, there was a constant stream of customers being turned away because the establishment was full. To add a bit of colour, anyone who was prepared to wait outside in the cold street, was offered a glass of wine, a nice touch.

In the evening as the shops shut, the street sellers appear on the streets, they are invariably of african origin, carry their wares wrapped in a white sheet which becomes the base of their pitch and they all sell similar gear, handbags and belts. When the police approach the melt away only to return a few minutes later! A good Gucchi bag costs about 25 euro!!

We have thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Florence and tomorrow we head off to the Riviera, to Rimini just for something to do! After a day there we catch the train to Bari and then the ferry across to Patras and finally Athens. All things being equal we should be in Athens by Wednesday night and then off to Crete the next day.

Wednesday, 07 November 2007

fter our disappointment with Naples we took ourselves off to the Amalfi Coast for the day on the local bus. The coast road was very narrow and has been hung off the cliffs. There were numerous occassions where tricky passing manoeuvres were required especially when two buses met!.

The town of Amalfi was small and really did not have a lot going for it. The main industry was originally paper manufacture but this has been surpassed by tourism. The beaches were stoney and small but there were numerous hotels suggesting large populations during the summer.

The cathedral was well worth visiting, the artefacts anhistory were well presented.

On the Tuesday we were off again, this time to Florence. We were a bit apprehensive at first but in the end it was easy, train from Sorrento, pick up Eurorial at Naples and straight through to Florence in three hours. Our hotel is in the middle of the old ditsrict of Florence and was easily found.

Today we have spent roaming around, marvelling at the architecture and the art. It is hard to believe that the masters spent their whole lives producing all this art for the church. Two of the museums we went into were full of statues and paintings from the 12th to the 15th centuries and most have been rescued from churches where they have been stored when styles changed. Where the paintings have been restored, the colours are magnificent. We have covered the northern part of the town and will do the rest another day. We may have to book to see a couple of museums as the queues were very long today.

At dinner we were discussing which countries we had enjoyed most and Italy did not feature! after Rome a few years ago and the couple of turn offs earlier on this trip we nearly got done again today. We sat down to have a coffee and there was no one around so Jean went into the cafe to order, I happened to see a menu and coffee was 5 euro a cup, but in the cafe it was 1.40 euro! and tonight we stopped for a cup and the published rate was 1.4 euro but the menu was 4 euro because we had sat down. Every restaurant has a cover charge which ranges from 1 to 2 euros per person, they then add 10% for service and then expect a tip! we do not understand the mentallity, we all have to eat, we are happy to pay the price so why have all these add ons. We are wondering what the Greeks will have in store.

Tomorrow we are taking the train to Pisa.

Sunday, 04 November 2007

Location: Sorrento, Italy

We have arrived in Italy and for once we have found a good patch of weather with temperatures in the 20's which is very pleasant.

We decided to skip Rome on this trip as we did not enjoy being ripped off last time, but they stil got at us! the hole in the wall at the airport refused our cards so we had no money so we changed some pounds into euros, the rate allowing for cash should be 1.25 but we got 1.00, the excahnge rate was 12 points worse than the published rate and then there was 15% comission and taxes.

We still only had minimal funds so an attempt to buy our tickets to Naples with credit cards failed but we managed to get some money out of the hole in the wall. The next thing was to try and buy some tickets, this nice man came an operated the machine for us and took the change as commission! but we had our tickets.

Arrived in Sorrento in the dark with no idea where the hotel was located, a very short and extremely expensive taxi ride later we were home for the week.

Though we were totally pissed of at this stage we were not surprised at the events but since then everyone has been very helpful and there has been no hint of any other under hand deals.

Using Sorrento as our base we have visited Vesuvious, Ercolanum, Pompeii, Capri and Naples. We have plenty of photos but this internet cafe has no usb ports and the computere is so slow it would take about thre days to upload them, so next time.

This the last week of the season so it has ben interesting organising ourselves as there is no guarantee any service is going to run and the time to leave is variable. We suspect that tomorow night there will be nowhere to eat! The food has been good, in fact we will both being on strict diets when this is all over!

Tomorrow we are to use the local bus to tour the Amalfi Peninsular, the last people to try were left for two hours on the other side!

Our reflections so far are simple, Ercolanum and Pompei were fantastic and today we saw some of the artifacts stored in the museum in Naples and they really sealed of the experience. Capri was nice but totally tourist orientated but apparently it has fantastic weather all year. The shops, like Versace were shuting down for the winter it is bizarre. Naples is a dump, the city officals ask that people visit it as it deserves more credit, well they are wrong, it was like being back in South America again, rubbish everywhere and old unkemp buildings.

Of to Florence on Tuesday.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Location: England

Well after a fairly long break we are about to start the next adventure, a three week flying visit to Italy and Greece.

Our stay in Feckenham was good as it allowed us to sort ourselves out and also get around our relatives that we had not seen for a few years. We have printed off some 1000 photo's (that is not all of them!) and most have been put into albums, the remainder will be done in NZ. We will be available to bore the pants off anyone who wants to see the holiday photos!

Our last weekend was spent in Norwich attending my cousin Anne marie's 50th. It was held in an old barn on the Norfolk Broads, miles from anywhere on the night of the final. No television, no heating but plenty of dancing and food, so a good night was had by all. I have put some photos of the McEntegart clan on the site.

Hopefully as we are staying in touristy places on the trip we will be able to access the internet.

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Recent Messages

From Corkills
Hi, we are still here and enjoying your travels though it is a while, because of compuer problems, since we have caught up on your travels. So very very sorry to learn of Tony's passing - please pass on our belated condolences to your folks, Michael. We will refrain from mentioning the rugger. Thinking of you, Bob and Karen
Response: Thanks for the message, with UK rugby every chance has to be taken usually but I will refrain!! See you soon it does not seem like 11 months.
From Dave
Bloody hell the All Blacks loss is everywhere in the media. Pachendale coverage pales in comparison. All black jokes are all coming out thick and fast.
So England are through to the semis much to your dismay as well. It is feasable that the final will be the same teams as in the first game. Will that ever be a dingdong.
From kevin parker
We are on our way to France on 6th Sept. Golf Course in good shape and hands. Got some more money from a gaming Trust so finances are doing well. Pleased to hear you are fulfilling your goals.
Best Regards,
From Russell
Hi Jean and Mike

Your descriptions of your trip around Ireland could have been taken from margaret's and my diary from 8 years ago, apart from it being in the opposite direction and inflation having got much worse. The great reading continues - keep it up.
Regards Russell Cooney
Response: Congratulations, I see you have qualified for the champs, obviously the advice from others has not affected your game!!
From Malcolm
Your diary is great. I took the family down to Queenstown and Dunedin for a week holiday.waking up to minus 7 C to go skiing took some adjusting.Beaut scenery and blue sky weather.Had agame with Alan McKay on his course, the greens were rock hard from 7 days of heavy frosts,the ponds were iced over allowing the balls to bounce off;just your cup of tea! On arriving back home 9 degrees feels mild... but for how long.Pleased to read you'll be home at end of yr.We're off to Noosa end of August to spend 1 week with Michelle parents, looking forward to thaw out.
Response: No water and hard fast greens would suit your golf!! We are in Eire at the moment, usual problems with access to internet, may have to wait until we return to UK to sort it out. It is not raining at the moment!!
From Jo and Tony
Hi Jean and Michael

You'll probably be back in the UK before you get this. I tried to send you a birthday wish on your birthday, but it's not in the list below, so you obviously didn't get it. So I'm trying again. I'm not really good at this Techo stuff. Sorry and belated birthday wishes from the UK McEntegarts.
Response: It was received, we did a blaket reply on Clair's message as there were also others
From clair
What a cheap skate you are Micheal McEntegart, poor Jean not having a lovely surprise hotel for her birthay. This is a name and shame.
'Happy Birthday' Jean from all of us in wet old England
Response: jean says thanks for all the messages reminding her of her birthday!!!
From Corrie and John
Thanks for your reports.Into winter here.Weather still great for this time of year .Golf course unrecognisable with fairways all resown and the rest in great order .Barbara Gibson and Colin Dickie now onthe Board with Dave and Mel Smith .

Boys off to Nelson for our golf trip in Oct .We're off to the Cook Islands next week for some r n r .

Damien has new son Lachlan all well .

Best wishes and safe travelling.
Response: Have a good break, hope the sun shines for you. Just remember that Cook Island time is the excuse for everything being late!!
From Dave
Extn granted until 31 Mar 08
Response: Thanks for that, we have now moved to Berlin that was a trip!!!
From Joce
You, ...maintaining a car? ...
Yeah right!
Have been busy, busy, and also visiting Westport. All is well here. Will be in touch via email shortly.

Response: Cheeky sod, the car got a wash and a hoover inside the other day though the mould from the bread crumbs is becoming a problem!
From Joce
Offer of a bed for the World Cup is tempting. However, please confirm that we can wear black and chant, (from time to time), "Go Kiwis Go!".
Response: It is unlikely that you will have anything to cheer about, so you may wear what you like!!!
From Jackie
Hi Jean
The McDonalds Fun Run wasn't the same without you!!
Response: Can't say I mised it but I'm sure you did a great job. Did you take the shield? Did you manage to talk anyone into helping? Now in UK where it is freezing and promising to snow today. Love to everyone Jean
From Michelle & Malcolm
Good to know you are having such an interesting time!
You have made a great job of your web site which we have really enjoyed reading-- a nice balance between the informative, funny and totally unbelievable!! It's now on our favourites list!
Take care...
Michelle & Malcolm
PS Are beards back in fashion over there Mike?
Response: The beard has gone!! It was too hot and started to take up too much time. When it disappeared everyone reckoned it knocked 10 years off!!!

Next stop the jungle then europe. It will be good to get back to western society.

Glad we are keeping you amused, remember to hand in those cards under 80-- we are watching!!
regards MIchael and Jean
From John
Looks like your are enjoying yourselves .Played golf with Thomas Park and Morgan on the 1st March and enjoyed dinner with Thomas and partner Mob that night .He's off back to Thailand this week with a badly twisted ankle when 99% pissed one night .He's unemployed most of the time.Hurricanes well beaten by the Stormers last week played hopeless but still 5th on the table.Weather still hot.Clair has completed her purchase and all is well at 11 and 15 Golf Rd.

Cheers John
Response: Thanks for that. Hows interclub going?

We saw the hurricanes result and assumed that the SA had all their Springboks playing.
Off to the jungle tomorrow so that should be fun!

From dave and christine
Fleming played the Poms into the final and then lo and behold the No 1 team appeared. They batted and bowled the ozzies into oblivion. It was bloody good to watch Glad you're having a ball but you'll come back as linguists with all those strange town names you've had to pronounce. Oh Jean Kenakena school half burnt down on 2nd day of school. Suspected arson.
Response: I have to admit I was amazed when I found out that England had managed to roll both the aussies and kiwis, I would have preferred they did it in the WI next month.

Interesting about Kena Kena School, they always say what a good school it is!!!

We have been in the bush for the lst week hence no replies or entries to the site. We are a bit sore after the walk but it was all worthwhile.

Regards Michael
From John
Poms beat the Aussie 2 zip .They will be welcomed home as heros .Who cares about the Ashes.

Summer has at last arrived here ,with the usual water shortages.
Response: I always knew they were good!!!

Arsenal got out of jail again! their luck has to run out.

It is difficult to watch games when the commentary is in spanish.

Did you watch Mickelson play at Pebble Beach?

Cheers Michael
From clair Probert
Hello Hope Jean is feeling better. How is it all going? Parcels have arrived in the UK. XXX
Response: Good, we are still alive and will see you in March

Love Michael
From John and Corrie
Glad to see you are both still alive and coping with the locals.Arsenal keep beating the crap out of Liverpool so nothing changes ,same for United.

We had our first tuesday golf game with Russell as the sub on the 30th.

Checked up with Sue at your house and all seems ok.

All the best .
Response: Maybe, but we beat Chelsea!! Thank god I have not had to watch the cricket
From Dave
Well you will pleased to know that the Poms got snotted by the Black Caps. It was a b.... terrible game. Poms v Aussie today (Aussie Day) Poms out for 111. Aussie batting before tea Gilly run out. It is not good TV. Have fun.
Response: I know!!! I am just pleased I am miles away and do not have to listen to all the crap

From Tony McEntegart
Ok guys have a great journey - Mike have a beer occasionally - might not make you feel better in the morning, but bet it will put a smile on your dial.
See you in March - you have options of where to stay now - Tony & Jo