A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: apostrophewoman

Forebears and a forest

I left Liverpool to return to my home away from home in Knowle. When you're travelling for a long time, it makes such a difference to have a base from which you can come and go. We'd planned a weekend away in the Forest of Dean, which was another new destination for me. Autumn has been beautiful here, albeit a bit chilly at times, and I was looking forward to seeing the forest in all its many-hued splendour. We'd booked 2 small family rooms at the George Hotel and Millingbrook Inn at Lydney. We were all agreed that receiving 1 small and 1 large constitutes an upgrade!
Liz and I had noticed there was a craft village nearby, so we left the boys at the Inn and headed off for a spot of shopping. I've been making the most of the soft British pound and stocking up on Christmas presents, and a few items were added to the haul here. As well as the stores, there were studios where you could see artists at work, and we had a chat with a very talented stonemason. She made the most beautiful carved stone bookends, but I decided it was a bridge too far to fit them into my luggage!
In researching our destination, I'd found a 20 mile driving round-trip through the forest that culminated in the Golden Mile which was reputed to be spectacular in autumn. That sounded good to us, so we set off into the somewhat dreary afternoon. Despite the sat nav and my accompanying directions (or perhaps because of them, although in my defence I was reading a fairly general map!) we took a wrong turn and found ourselves in someone's driveway. I don't think the pedestrians who we managed to splash should have been there anyway, do you Liz? Back on the right track, it's fair to say that despite the gloom, the different shades of orange, russet, and gold shone, and we oohed and aahed our way around the circuit. IMG_5124.jpgIMG_5130.jpgIMG_5132.jpgIMG_5134.jpgIMG_5137.jpg
We had dinner at the local Indian, experiencing a few awkward moments as we had to pool our cash upon finding out they didn't take cards, and retired to our respective rooms replete and happy.
Sunday was forecast to be a better day, and we'd pencilled in a visit to the International Centre for Birds of Prey on our way home. First though, we made a return trip to the Golden Mile to experience it in the morning sunshine. Our oohs and aahs from the day before became OOHS and AAHS! What a glorious spectacle. Amazing, truly beautiful. IMG_2879.jpg90_IMG_2882.jpgIMG_2886.jpg90_IMG_2887.jpg
We arrived at the ICBP to find all manner of birds, from tiny owls to huge vultures. We were treated to flying demonstrations and an impromptu feeding display, and walked around acquainting ourselves with levels of cuteness I'm not sure I've ever witnessed on such a grand scale. "This one's my favourite. No, this one. Changed again, it's definitely this one!"IMG_5200.jpgIMG_5273.jpg90_IMG_2896.jpgIMG_5194.jpgIMG_2919.jpgIMG_2926.jpg Add to that the powerful majesty of the larger birds, and we had the ingredients for another special day. We returned to Knowle and I prepared for my week of ancestry hunting.
On Monday morning I headed to Coventry where I had an appointment with Vincent. He'd offered to take me for a drive to Nuneaton and surrounds to visit some of the sites important to his branch of the family. We visited many places that afternoon, and it was fascinating to hear the stories of where he grew up, and his memories of his parents and brother, who I met many years ago. The next day Cynthia took me to visit Ann, their sister-in-law, who I hadn't seen since that first trip 29 years ago. We had lunch, looked at photos, and discussed strong Welton family resemblances!
Mid-afternoon I headed off to Thetford, my base for a couple of nights. I was on the trail of Weltons and Flacks in Suffolk, and Weltons in Essex. I drove to Badingham, home of my Welton ancestors as far back as at least 1765, and visited the church where so many family milestones had taken place. IMG_5359.jpgIMG_2940.jpgBaptisms, marriages, and burials - so many of life's liminal moments, celebrated within the walls where I found myself. The baptismal font was intricately carved, and the vaulted ceiling showed signs of centuries of wear. 90_IMG_2951.jpg90_IMG_2968.jpgI hesitated as I crossed the threshold, imagining John, or Howard, or Elizabeth walking that path before me. IMG_2976.jpgIMG_2999.jpgThe census records I've read didn't specify any addresses, but gave clues as to the part of the village they may have called home. I spent some time travelling around the lanes and looking over the fields as they might have. IMG_5370.jpgI didn't want to leave, but I had some miles to go in my journey to seek information about the second convict on my mum's side of the family.
John Flack was transported to Australia on the Juliana, arriving in Tasmania in 1821. He stole a watch and a silk handkerchief, and had been originally sentenced to death. I visited Bury St Edmunds, where he was originally jailed. The jail has been converted to flats, but the imposing facade remains, and I was informed that was where the executions took place.IMG_2990.jpg Fortunately for me, John's sentence was commuted to 14 years transportation, and after that time he moved to Melbourne and married my great-great-great-grandmother. His son Phillip married Sarah Carmichael, daughter of good old George the former thief of habit and repute.
When I visited the records office in Bury seeking the parish registers for John's birthplace of Hundon, I was told they'd been all but destroyed in a fire in 1920, so I didn't expect to find anything. Fortunately the Bishop's Transcripts have survived, and I was able to copy the entry for John's baptism. I drove to Hundon and was disappointed to find the church undergoing repairs which meant I couldn't go inside. I also failed to find any Flacks in the churchyard, but suspect that was more to do with the weathering of the gravestones than that they weren't actually there. Everything else in my own episode of Who Do You Think You Are had gone so smoothly, and I could feel the disappointment rising. Get a grip, Alison - the records say they are buried there, and the lack of a legible headstone doesn't take away the fact that this is the country of your forebears! Grip got, I headed back to Thetford in the late afternoon darkness. I am still struggling with the whole twilight at 4:00 pm concept!
I rose early on Thursday morning, having arranged for some Welton records to be ready upon my arrival at the Suffolk Records Office in Ipswich. At least, I'd ordered them online on Tuesday afternoon, but the office was closed on Wednesdays and they hadn't yet fulfilled my order. "Never mind, we'll find them for you and write your name on the whiteboard when they arrive". Now I have seen convoluted and somewhat inefficient systems before, but this was right up there with the best of them. The attendant took the details of the documents I wanted, and I could order four at a time. They arrived one by one, and as promised, my name was written on the board and I dutifully went to whichever end of the desk she was at in order to alert her to that fact. I assume it wasn't her doing the writing, or the whole thing would be ridiculous! Unfortunately on more than one occasion she forgot to rub my name off when I'd picked up a document, which meant a few farcical moments when she'd go searching unsuccessfully for the supposedly delivered document. All inefficiencies were forgotten as I was presented with my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather's will from the 1700s. IMG_3010.jpgYep, the original! We had some chuckles the other night reading through the copy I made, as the inequities between his children were laid out before us. As eldest son, Howard (my direct ancestor) received the lion's share of what appeared to be a pretty sizeable legacy. I haven't confirmed it yet, but it appears one of my earlier ancestors (in the 1500s!) may have set up Welton's Dole, a charity for the poor of the parish. That should make for some interesting research! John's other children received what appeared to be trifling sums in comparison to Howard's haul, unsurprisingly given primogeniture being the order of the day.
Documents copied, I headed to Ingatestone where my great-grandfather Charles Wallace Welton was born. It was a lovely village, and i took some time to wander the main street located on the site of the Roman road. IMG_5378.jpgIMG_5379.jpgEscaping from the cold and rain I took myself into the pub and struck up a conversation with some locals, asking if they knew of the Iron Bridge on the New London Road. One William Welton had been accused of infanticide, and the bridge was his rendezvous point with the baby's mother and the supposed site of his crime. No bridges in Ingatestone, they directed me to nearby Chelmsford. I guess if you're going to murder a child, best not to do it in your own village.
The Essex Record Office in Chelmsford was on my list of locations to visit to see if I could track down the parish registers for Ingatestone. I found Charles's baptismal entry, which confirmed he was born two years prior to the date inscribed as his birthdate on the sign marking his grave at Aston Le Walls. I also spoke to a man who had chained his bike to the railings of the Iron Bridge the day before!
My Who Do You Think You Are experience was over for now, and I felt so much richer for the privilege of tracing some of the strands of life that make up my ancestry. There is yet more to discover, and I know I'll return to continue that process. For now though, it was back to the present and the Christmas lights of London!

Posted by apostrophewoman 01:26 Archived in England Comments (3)

It's a marvellous night for a moondance

As I made my way from Edinburgh to Liverpool the temperature struggled to rise above 3 degrees. I was excited to see snow falling, and decided on a quick detour off the main road and into the hills. Somewhat perturbed to find myself in a military firing range, I beat a hasty retreat! 90_IMG_5036.jpgIMG_2861.jpgIMG_2869.jpg
Liverpool was added to my itinerary when I found that Van Morrison was playing at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall. As a longtime fan, it's difficult for me to imagine not taking the opportunity to see him live, even taking into account his reputation as a curmudgeonly performer.
The Philharmonic Hall website very helpfully pointed me towards the Hope Street Hotel as a convenient place to stay. Convenient? Literally across the road, which was very helpful indeed on a wet and blustery Liverpool night.IMG_5049.jpg First though, we need to deal with the checking in process. I was warmly greeted on arrival, given directions for parking the car, and handed the key to room 503. I spotted the word "penthouse" on my paperwork, but thought it was presumptuous of me to imagine yet another upgrade had come my way. Presume away, I say! I entered at the lower level to the kitchen area and made my way up the stairs to the living room, bathroom and king-sized bedroom with a view over Liverpool. IMG_5076.jpgAmazing! IMG_5048.jpgIMG_5047.jpgOn inspecting the bathroom, I was puzzled by the four nozzles mounted on the wall, but delighted to discover they produced a kind of standing hot tub effect when combined with the impressive shower head. Blissful!IMG_5074.jpg
This visit wasn't about the hotel though, impressive as it was, but rather all about Van. When I booked my ticket and asked to see the best available, I was offered seat 6 in box 12. Having never had the opportunity to sit in a theatre box before (is that where the expression "in the box seat" comes from, I wonder?), how could I refuse? Perusing the merchandise table, I was startled to hear an announcement that Van would be taking the stage - it was 7:50 and the concert was due to start at 8:00. I made my way to the box and was the first to arrive. I was joined shortly afterwards by John and Jill, and Colette and Steve, but we only had time for the briefest of chats before Van took the stage -at 8:00 precisely. Punctuality is such an underrated virtue! At 71, Van's voice remains strong and his saxophone playing masterful. IMG_5061.jpgThere were songs from his new album interspersed with hit after hit. I always go to a concert with a mental list of must-hear songs, and they just kept on coming. Someone like you - tick. Have I told you lately - tick. Brown-eyed girl - tick. Moondance - tick, tick, tick! Van's not a man for onstage patter, and we barely had time to draw breath between tunes. He thanked us for applauding, and went about the business of performance without any extraneous words, leaving time for as many of those wonderful songs as could be shoehorned into his set. Just as well it was dark in there, or my fellow concert-goers may have worried about the weird woman in box 12 with the unrelenting smile.
It was over all too soon, but Liverpool was not yet done with me. My fellow box inhabitants asked if I'd like to join them for a post-concert beverage at a historic pub across the road. It would have been rude to refuse! The Phil, as the Philharmonic Dining Rooms is affectionately known, is a Victorian pub renowned for its architecture.IMG_5069.jpgIMG_5068.jpgIMG_5067.jpgIMG_5066.jpg Of particular note (apparently!) are the pink marble urinals, but I had to source this photo from elsewhere as I wasn't willing to brave the men's toilets. IMG_3030.jpgFancy place for a wee, boys!
2 half pints of cider later, it was time to farewell my newfound friends and take the briefest of walks back to the hotel and my lofty room.
The next day dawned grey and gloomy, with a biting wind and the odd drop of rain. 90_IMG_5092.jpgUndeterred, I headed to Albert Dock and the Museum of Maritime History. My great-great-grandparents John and Elizabeth Graham had sailed from Liverpool to Australia in 1852 and it was fascinating to gain some knowledge about the type of journey they would have taken.IMG_5081.jpg I imagined them taking a last look at the Liverpool dockside, and wondered what emotions they would have felt. IMG_5099.jpgExcitement, almost certainly, but perhaps trepidation at the unknown, and anxiety about the 3 month voyage ahead of them. I suspect there was no upgrade in the offing! In any event, they made it safely, and the rest is (a part of my) history.

Posted by apostrophewoman 07:53 Archived in England Comments (2)

Weltons, Grahams, and a Carmichael

Having returned to Knowle, the first order of the day was a return trip to the Ricoh Arena to see if the Sky Blues could continue their winning/drawing ways. Yep, they'd had quite a run of success since the match I'd gone to! The weather had turned a wee bit chilly since my return from Europe, so I made sure to rug up. Chris brought along an enormous black fluffy blanket, ostensibly for me. Our fellow match-goers snorted with derision as we began to extract it, sausage-like, from its bag. Chris said "It's for Alison". I doubt they believed him, given half of it mysteriously found its way to his lap. A 2-0 win against Chesterfield saw us on our feet and cheering loudly.
The next day I made my way to Birmingham airport to pick up my hire car. Europcar seem to have instructed their staff in the art (?) of the upsell since my last visit. In France we'd been offered the chance to upgrade to a sportier model for a mere €40 extra - per day! This time the young man at the desk enquired how far I'd be driving, and suggested it would be advantageous to upgrade to a diesel, and did I want a sat-nav? That's ok, thanks, I brought my own sat-nav, and I don't want to pay any extra. Imagine my surprise when the petrol-powered Hyundai I'd ordered magically transformed into a diesel, sat-nav wielding Peugeot. Thank you travel gods!
On Friday afternoon I headed to Rugby to catch up with my second cousin Mandy. Her dad Henry and my dad were cousins, and we've visited each other over many years. We fell into our usual easy conversation, as if it hadn't been two years since we saw each other last. We also met up with her sister Tessa and Tessa's children Isobel, Monty, and Harriet, and her mum Pru. I'd stayed with Pru and Henry in 1992, and it was wonderful to spend time with this branch of the family again.
On Saturday Liz and Steven set off for Portsmouth to inspect the university, and Chris and I embarked on the first stage of Operation Who Do You Think You Are. We were in search of our great-grandparents' grave in the village of Aston Le Walls. Inbuilt sat-nav set, we made it to the village and found ourselves at a churchyard. There are two churches in the village, but we seemed to somehow have driven past the first one without even noticing. The second one was lovely, but unfortunately not the one we wanted. Retracing our steps, we wandered in search of Charles and Catherine Welton. Vincent had given us instructions on how to find the grave which meant it didn't take us long once we were in the correct churchyard! IMG_4953.jpgThe grave itself has weathered, particularly on Charles's side. IMG_4950.jpgTheir daughter, my great-aunt Kitty, is buried with them, and there is a plaque with the details of all three which has been erected since her death. Unfortunately the dates included for Charles seem to be incorrect, with his birthdate some two years out.IMG_4951.jpg Nothing like making things difficult for future budding family historians! It may look like I'm praying in this photo, but it's just that it was very, very, cold! IMG_4968.jpg
We also planned a visit to the nearby village of..........Welton! There's something immensely satisfying in seeing your name in such large print! There was of course no chance that we would resist the urge to take copious photos at this important landmark. IMG_4969.jpgIMG_4983.jpg
Sunday saw me headed northwards to Edinburgh, with an appointment the following morning at the National Archives. IMG_4985.jpgRoad trip lollies at the ready, I set off on the 300 mile journey. One of my goals for this trip was to try to discover some information in relation to 2 of my great-great-great-grandfathers on my mum's side. George Carmichael and John Flack were convicts, transported to Australia in the 1820s. George was the first on my list, and I'd managed to track down some court papers from his trial in Ayr. I'd rung the records office to make sure they were available before setting off on my drive to Edinburgh, and was told I'd be able to see a microfilm copy. To say I was excited is an understatement!
IMG_4995.jpgI headed to the archives bright and early, and was shown to a room full of lockers where I could leave my bag and coat. I grabbed my notebook, pencil, and phone, and followed my guide to the Historical Search Room. Issued with my Reader's Ticket, I was ushered to bench number 22 and took a moment to let it all sink in. The sense of history was palpable, and I caught my breath. I was puzzled by the absence of a microfilm reader on my desk, but the reason for that soon became clear. An archivist delivered a plastic bag to me, containing a sheaf of papers. Hang on, could they be the originals? I sat there for a couple of moments, unsure if I was able to take the bundle out of the bag without gloves, but after getting the go-ahead from the archivist, I reached in and began my journey back to 1825.
IMG_5015.jpgThe precognition contained the witness statements for George's trial for housebreaking. He and another boy (George MacFarlane) were convicted of stealing £50. According to the papers they were thirteen and eleven years old respectively, and while George M's statement made reference to his father having deserted him, George C's was notable for the absence of any mention of family. I imagined these boys looking after themselves and trying to do what they could to get by. There was a girl in the picture, Isabel Wemyss, who it seems to me was the brains of the outfit! In any event, each of the statements of the accused blamed the other, and the story of the Georges and the money in the red pocketbook was fascinating.
In all, there were over 100 pages of information, and I decided to return the next day to photograph them. The archivist said she'd see if there were other records available, and I headed off to meet my friend Sylvia for lunch. There was time for a spot of shopping, and I invoked my new rule :when in Edinburgh, buy a hat! 90_IMG_5030.jpg
Apart from the Historical Search Room, the office also holds a room called Scotland's People, where computer records are available for genealogical research. I headed there on Tuesday morning in search of information about my paternal grandmother's ancestry. Unfortunately I'd managed to leave my reading glasses behind, but a very kind man from the records office offered me the use of his for the day! Isabella Graham was from Scottish stock, and I managed to trace it back to the 1700s. It's such a thrill when the pieces of the puzzle start to form a more coherent whole. In between bouts of Graham research I headed back upstairs to find the archivist had located the sentencing papers for the Georges on computer, and she printed a copy for me. I think the sentence of 7 years' transportation was probably relatively lenient, considering the value of £50 in those days! Photographing the trial papers took some time, as I carefully placed weights at each corner to stop them rolling up. IMG_2840.jpgJob done, I sat for a few moments soaking in the history and shedding a silent tear for the 13 year old George and the long and arduous journey ahead of him.

Posted by apostrophewoman 01:29 Archived in Scotland Comments (2)

When a woman is tired of London, she is tired of life!

London was the first overseas city I visited, and I remember the excitement I felt in advance of that visit almost thirty years ago. I've visited a few times since then and the excitement never seems to wane.
Having disembarked the ship in Genoa at 9:30, I spent what seemed an interminable 5 hours at Genoa airport awaiting my Ryanair flight. Ryanair is one of those low-cost carriers renowned for "cheap" flights where seemingly even the opportunity to breathe clean air on the flight comes at an extra cost! Having purchased one or two items in my 4 weeks in Europe, the extra bag had come out of my suitcase and I'd duly paid an extra €26 to check it in on the flight. Fair enough. I knew I had to check in online or face a €45 euro fee for the privilege of having a Ryanair employee do it for me. Hmmm - ok, done. I had three options as far as the boarding pass was concerned: use a mobile one, print it out myself, or pay €15 for presumably the same Ryanair employee to press a couple of buttons and provide me with a copy. Unfortunately on my last night at sea I realised options one and two were not viable! As a non-EU citizen I wasn't eligible to use a mobile boarding pass, and the internet/printing options onboard left just a smidgen to be desired. Resigned to boosting Ryanair's coffers once again, I looked in vain on arrival at the airport for the Ryanair desk where the employee would face the arduous task of providing me with the essential paperwork. Nope, nowhere to be seen. I approached the general ticketing desk to be told there was nowhere available to print it out, as the only options I had were to use a mobile boarding pass or print it out myself! Having spent far too much time focussed on how I was going to solve the great boarding pass dilemma of 2016, I must have looked so woebegone at this point that the lovely man took pity on me and told me if I emailed it to him he'd print it for me. Grazie!
Flight uneventful, we landed at Stansted and I paid my £19 train fare to London Liverpool Street. By the time we pulled into the platform it was 7:30 and I wearily made my way to the taxi rank.
My hotel this time was chosen on the basis of its proximity to the wonderful shopping opportunities afforded by Regent and Oxford Streets, and was located in the heart of Soho. Bit busy on a Saturday night, particularly as for some strange reason the good folk of London decided to celebrate Halloween two days early! After inching along the crowded streets we arrived at the hotel and I handed over £25. Cheap flight? Hmmm!
All extra costs were forgotten as I was welcomed into the bosom of the Nadler Soho. I expressed my gladness at having finally arrived after a long day travelling, to be told by the lovely girls on Reception that I would surely be gladder at the good news that I had been upgraded. I know, right? I was also asked if I would like a tea or coffee while we got check-in sorted. Sure, why not? I was duly escorted to my room and wished a very pleasant stay.
I'd made arrangements to meet my friend Linda when we realised we'd both be in London at the same time. I don't think either of us would have foreseen that when we were fresh-faced Bendigo High girls! I had some time to fill in before our lunch at Bob Bob Ricard, so made my way to Carnaby Street only to find that most of the shops didn't open until 12:00. IMG_4875.jpgThe French translation for window shopping is lèche-vitrine, which literally means to lick the window - very apt for my Sunday morning activity! After opening time, I took the opportunity for a quick visit to the extraordinarily colourful and tempting Irregular Choice.IMG_4868.jpgIMG_4867.jpg I haven't yet ruled out a return visit to make a purchase! I also discovered I was close to the home of the most intricate chocolate creations that is Choccywoccydoodah.
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Linda and I decided we needed to do something special to mark our London rendezvous, and after some serious research I suggested lunch at Bob Bob Ricard. Good choice? Great choice! "Press for champagne" button (yep, another one!) - tick. Dining room modelled on the Orient Express - tick. Pink rhubarb gin and tonic - oh my giddy aunt! Bob Bob Ricard exudes luxury but felt decidedly un-stuffy. The all-booth dining room was reminiscent of a bygone era, but the food was anything but old-fashioned. My wafer-thin beetroot and goats cheese salad was a triumph of colour and taste, and we spent a delightful couple of hours reminiscing and exchanging stories of our most recent adventures. We decided it's a place we will return to again and again! IMG_4885.jpgIMG_4887.jpgIMG_4890.jpgIMG_4882.jpgIMG_4883.jpg
Having said our goodbyes I headed to a place that has held my fascination since that first visit. Liberty will always be on my list of London must-dos. I could wander for hours through the various floors housing exquisite fabrics, homewares, stationery, and so much more. IMG_4893.jpgIMG_4892.jpgThe iconic prints cover everything from egg cups to handbags, and it's hard to decide what might be the purchase of choice for this visit. No rush, there's always tomorrow! For in fact the autumn days are short here, and by 4:30 pm the darkness is looming and the lure of my cosy hotel room is strong.
My train back to the Midlands isn't until 3:45 the next afternoon, so I take the opportunity to leave my ever-increasing luggage at the Nadler and wend my way back to Regent Street. A return visit to Liberty starts with breakfast in the café, followed by another stroll around the haberdashery section. IMG_4910.jpgIMG_4920.jpgIMG_4918.jpgThen it's on to Hamley's toy store for multiple floors of fun and some mighty impressive Lego creations! IMG_4907.jpgIMG_4914.jpgIMG_4912.jpgIMG_4905.jpgShopping completed (for now!), I headed back to the Nadler to collect my luggage and make my way to Marylebone to catch my train. With time to spare I took advantage of the offer of a cup of tea and sat down on the comfy sofa to while away half an hour or so, before climbing in the ordered black cab for the ride to the station. It's time to return to Hospitality Central, where the Weltons' welcome is always warm!

Posted by apostrophewoman 13:32 Archived in England Comments (1)

Where are Julie McCoy and Captain Merrill Stubing?

Let me get it out of the way right off the bat : I am a cruising convert. So much has happened in the last 7 days that enumerating everything would take more time than I have to write, and certainly more than you may be willing to devote to reading it! For that reason I present the edited highlights (in no particular order) of life on board the MSC Preziosa. IMG_4819.jpg

Board a floating hotel with bars and restaurants, unpack for the week, and visit 5 destinations in 4 countries. Visit Rome for the first time, and gasp at your first sight of the Colosseum. Having bought a ticket for the Hop on, Hop off bus, somehow manage to find yourself on a private tour of Rome. Wander the ancient streets of Palermo and find an extraordinary church hidden behind a door in the midst of a fish market.IMG_4718.jpgIMG_4722.jpg Giggle at the Fountain of Shame and its oddly shaped genitalia. IMG_4699.jpg Go to sleep in Italy, wake up in Malta. IMG_4757.jpgMeet for breakfast, wander the ancient streets of Valletta and pretend you're in Kings Landing hiding from the Lannisters. Thank your lucky stars you read about the lift to take you into Valletta after you see how steep the streets are. IMG_4815.jpgGrovel at the feet of those same stars when you see the shuttle bus that will return you up those steep streets after you've walked down them to take a cruise around Valletta. Toss up whether the €1 each for the lift or the shuttle bus was the best €1 you've ever spent. Decide it's a dead heat. Back on the ship for lunch, retire to your suite for a nap, get frocked up for Gala Night, laugh loud and often, pick up a pre-dinner cocktail on your way to the restaurant, smile at the sour-faced woman at the next table in an attempt to get her to reciprocate (success on the final night!). Join in the cheering when the lights dim and the line of white-jacketed waiters promenade through the restaurant, plates held aloft, bearing the tiramisu, or the baked alaska. Hand over your cruise card as payment, safe in the knowledge that you have pre-paid for everything and there will (hopefully!) be no nasty surprises awaiting you on receipt of your bill. Make your way to your bar of choice for post-dinner drinks, feeling smug at having timed your arrival to beat the hordes exiting the Platinum Theatre after the first show. Sit in the theatre for the second performance and try to make sense of the show that sees singers, dancers, jugglers, and acrobats try to weave disparate songs and movements into a comprehensible story. Shake your head when they fail to do so.
Take advantage of having woken early and be the first and only person in the pool. IMG_4793.jpg90_IMG_4744.jpgPick up an espresso on the way back to your cabin, greeted by your steward wishing you a good day. I'll try, Lener, but it will undoubtedly be tough!
Take a guided tour of Valencia that includes your tour guide pointing out the plethora of rude carvings on the church walls: "see this man who is making love to the building"; "this man is making love to a stick"; "I am not going to tell you what that woman is doing"! IMG_4831.jpgMarvel at the incongruity of the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences and be glad there are no rude carvings to be seen.
Be filled with wonder at the benevolence of the travel gods who have bestowed upon you an upgrade to a suite at the very front of the ship, offering almost exactly the same view as that presented by the ship's webcam and beamed into every cabin onboard. Above all else, express your never-ending gratitude to your second cousin, and your second cousin's wife, and your favourite second cousin once removed, who offered to share their holiday and their cruising prowess, ensuring laughter was never very far from the surface. IMG_4737.jpgIMG_4783.jpgIMG_2810.jpgIMG_2811.jpg

Posted by apostrophewoman 13:45 Comments (2)

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