The Mediterranean, Mega Smeralda ………. & Me

28/9: Day 10

Pisa to Bastia

The toll of a bell wakes me and the sun’s morning rays peak through the slats of the blinds. Yesterday’s hard slog is telling its story now; I am aching all over. I consider finding a masseuse but am keen to get down to Livorno. I figure if I get down there early enough, some sun and swimming on the beaches of a sleepy seaside village might be exactly what I need! I take time to enjoy breakfast in the quaint hotel restaurant that looks out to the Leaning Tower.

Not a bad start to the day I reckon! The strong coffee was a great kick start to my day and I take a final couple of photos for tourists on my way to where I have been directed to the LAM bus stop.

Thanks to some locals and a couple of tourists this part turns out to be quite easy. I return to the rabbit warren that is Pisa Centrale and start to feel a little panic set in. Here goes! I manage to seat myself in, what I hope is, the correct train after only being redirected twice! Things are looking up, although my aching muscles are already starting to groan.

At the Livorno Centrale station I head West on the platform towards what appears to be the entrance. I find a shop (newsagent) and make my way inside. The helpful lady behind the counter sells me a bus ticket and directs me outside emphasising, “Catch the LAM BLU bus. I don’t know where you need to go exactly, but this will get you into the city so you can ask.” Good start I reckon!! I head out and find the BLU bus quite easily. There is a couple standing beside me who have travelled on the same train from Pisa and I overhear them speaking English. I introduce myself as a Nomadic Aussie and explain where I need to go. They are heading to the Port as well, but to a different section. I find relief in knowing I am at least heading toward the ocean. The bus ride reveals, however, this is no sleepy seaside village. Could have sworn I researched it a little in Hedland before leaving……clearly not!!! This city represents yet another example of preserved architecture and a culture proudly celebrated. It is massive, and again, a destination that is worthy of more time than I have, to explore. I feel rather than ticking items from my bucket list, I am steadily adding to the list daily. While I know my new friends are not heading in the same direction exactly, I disembark when they do as the route map shows the bus will veer in another direction shortly. We get off at Via Grande 3…..it turns out to be a pretty good call. I ask around straight away but have no luck finding someone who speaks English. Just past a Macca’s, I see an information sign and make a beeline for it. Already, in my travels, I have encountered the need to be more assertive, but never as poignantly, as at this very point in time. Standing in, what appeared to be, a queue, I afforded the people in front of me some privacy…..as one would in Australia. I stayed back about a metre and, with my backpack weighing down on my already sore shoulders, I waited. The customer in front of me had no longer finished speaking and a group of ladies jumped out of thin air it would seem, to lean on the counter in front of me. Manners have no place in Europe!!! The man behind the counter, aware (I believe) of my surprise, serves the horde anyway.

A man beside me asks, “Are you waiting?”

“Yes,” I inform him, “I am worried I may miss my ferry, and I have no idea how to get there.”

“Oh,” he says, and jumps in ahead of me as the next counter opens!!! What the…!!!!!!!????? He looked over his shoulder at me and offers a pathetic little smile that vaguely represented some form of an apology! My eyebrows, I’m sure, are still up near my hairline and me head continues to shake of it’s own accord. “Fuck me!!!” is all I can get out…..I think that phrase may be international; seems everybody in there understood my English now! When he had finished he pointed to me and told the man, “This lady needs help!”

“Damn straight I do Buddy!!!!!!”

I drag my increasing weight to the counter and explain where I need to be and when. I ask what bus I need to get or should I get a taxi? He informs me, really happy with himself, “It’s so close, you can walk!”

I can feel another “Fuck me” brewing so I take a deep breath, shift the weight of my backpack slightly and ask…..”how far exactly?” Surely he can see the tears pricking my eyes and the sweat running from my brow? If not, I would have thought the desperation in my voice would give some indication to my mindset. He takes out a map and, to his credit, proceeds to give me the most explicit and precise directions I would get for this entire adventure!

It may have been only a little way ordinarily, but to me it seemed like an epic expedition! I found comfort in his directions, though, and set off, map in hand, on the route he had so thoroughly described. These directions never let me down….they were PERFECT!! It was a little trek still, but knowing I was not going to get lost was enough to keep me forging ahead.

When I finally reached the Cruise Terminal, there was nothing to indicate I was in the right place so I approached the Cruise Terminal Bar. Reluctant to shrug my load off just yet, I approached the ladies behind the counter.

“Parlez-Vous Anglais?” I asked before remembering I was still in bloody Italy! Shit! I hadn’t even thought to learn a couple of useful Italian phrases.

To my relief, the lady behind the counter smiled,”Oui. Yes.” I didn’t know if I wanted to kiss her or cry.

I showed her my boarding pass and asked if I was in the right place and did she know what I needed to do. Still smiling this memorable radiant smile, she said, “You are exactly where you need to be and you need to do nothing! Sit and wait. Your ferry will dock at that Port, when it comes in” indicating to the wharf outside, “and you can make your way over there then. For now, just relax.”

Okay, so now I am fighting back tears of relief, shrugging myself out of my backpack, wanting to kiss this lady, wanting to talk her ear off because she understands me……I want to do so many things all at one time, yet, in true Aussie style, the only thing that escapes my dry mouth is, “Can I please have a beer?”

Backpack off, tears dammed, breath taken, beer in hand, I begin to talk to this lovely lady. She recognises my accent and tells me of her love for Australia. She has spent some time over here….not in Port Hedland exactly, but Australia nonetheless. She gets the attention of her friend and tells her of my solo adventure and together the three of us chat easily. Eleonora shows me her Southern Cross tattoo and Diletta speaks fondly of how she used to tell her son she loves him to Big Ben and back after I tell them of our ‘Love you 40-leven’ tradition. The idea of loving someone to Big Ben and back represents a timelessness and resonates with me….I like it. These ladies, as friendly as they are, have NO IDEA, how much of a breath of fresh air they are to me!!! They have singlehandedly put the zest back into my step and given me a renewed sense of adventure! Their hospitality….together with the beer and the pastry they gave me free of charge, has lifted my spirits tenfold!! If you ever come across this blog ladies….please know how eternally grateful I was for your help that day….your seemingly small gestures meant the world to me!! THANK YOU!!!! For anybody who stops into the Cruise Terminal….call in to the bar and wish these girls a beautiful day!!! They deserve it!

As Eleonora is finishing her shift, she takes the time to bid me farewell and advise me The Mega Smeralda is about to dock. I thank her again. I collect my things, lug the backpack into position and thank Diletta as well, before making my way to check-in at the marquee not far from where the terminal is. To say I am gobsmacked when I see the ‘ferry’, is an understatement. Admittedly I haven’t traveled much, but this is beyond my wildest dreams. I feel I can tick ‘Been on a Cruise’ off my list today as well!! I am aware I am walking with my mouth wide open and know how I must look….I simply don’t care-I am in my element!!!! Definitely not what I had in mind when I booked my ferry!

Boarding pass checked, baggage stowed, I make my way to the top deck. The sun lounges are all taken by this time but I could care less! I prefer to walk around taking 100’s of photos anyway.

You know you’re in Europe when everyone starts peeling their clothes off and nobody bats an eyelid!! Just to straighten that image up for those of you who are a little warped…..not ALL of their clothes, just the restrictive layers. It is a refreshing custom, quite liberating…..not enough so that I partake, but enough that the scene before me makes an impression. People of all ages, colours, genders, sizes….settle back and absorb the sun’s rays while they await departure. I wander and observe. Take in the beauty around me and relax, looking forward to my adventures ahead.

Once we are well off shore I make my way to get the meal I pre-ordered. At this point I will say….pre-ordering when you speak only English is actually NOT a good idea. I was unable to ask what I was entitled to so ended up paying again for my meal. It was not that flash but the beer I washed it down with was cold and well received!

I explore the decks after my meal and finally settle in ‘The Dancing Palace’ Bar. Now this, is where I should have eaten! The atmosphere in here is great and the staff much friendlier. They also speak English which is a godsend. I settle in front of massive windows that give one the sensation of Jack and Rose on The Titanic. I feel like I am riding the waves, leading the voyage. I bask in the sun beating directly onto my shoulders and sip contentedly at my first cocktail…..then subsequently the ones that followed. The sun dances from the tips of the gentle waves and the play of light is hypnotic. I turn and look at the dancefloor, presently laying dormant between myself and the bar, surrounded by the sleepy ambiance that fills the room. I wonder, though, at the stories this room could tell and I imagine it to be the birthplace of many treasured memories.

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As I sit and drink the last of my cocktails, I look across the passage before us. The passage across the Ligurian sea. I sit and I look …..sometimes it’s nice just to ‘be’.

Slowly the land mass ahead of us becomes clearer and  myself and the other passengers race to the top deck to watch as we draw nearer to Corsica. The island rises before us. It beckons us. Inviting us to step ashore and taste her many delicacies. She looms before us growing in size as we get closer. The small glimpse I am afforded, promises to offer everything I wished for and more. I run to the lower deck to collect my backpack, which now feels as light as a feather as I rush to the queue waiting to disembark.

My hotel is only a short walk away so I make my way quickly through the crowds. I know I have to collect the key from one hotel and then make my way to another. I’m over the moon when I find out that the hotel where I collect the key, is the hotel where my room is! Tempted again to kiss this lady!!!

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The hotel for tonight is Hotel Posta Vecchia. I have borrowed an image from Hotels.com site as unfortunately the ones I took were a part of the 100’s of photo’s I lost. The service was great and this Hotel is ideally located!!

 

When I push open the slatted window shutters, the view that hits me is spectacular! I feel like the luckiest person in the world to be experiencing this beauty. I swear if I had a decent voice I’d start singing at the top of my lungs so the world knew how happy I was! A quick shower and I am off to explore, while there is light, and to taste what Bastia has to offer.

I order a pasta dish and a red wine and watch the people meandering about. The setting is picturesque and the atmosphere alive, yet tranquil.

I shake my head as I recall waking in Pisa….only that morning! Feels like a lifetime ago! If nothing else, my emotions are enjoying a holiday rollercoaster!

I allow myself another hour or so after the sun has set before making my way back to my hotel. I pick up my car tomorrow and the real exploring begins. Throw caution to the wind and see what transpires……judging by what I have encountered so far during the ‘planned’ part of my vacation, anything is possible…..or should I say probable??

We’ll see.

Night all….love you 40-leven!!

kiss

 

Pedalling Paris

 

27th: From Paris to Pisa

Seattle got nothing….sleepless in Paris is where it’s at!! I am up before the first glint of sun and scouting around trying to find what might be a good view point for sunrise. I whisper a quick Bonjour to the Eiffel Tower as she continues to light up this magical city.

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I spotted a guy across the river with the whole set-up….tripod, zoom lens and a confidence that said he knew what he was doing.

“Parlez-vous Anglais?”

Bingo! Turns out Grant is an Aussie who now lives in the US and was super helpful. We both ended up heading toward the next bridge as the horizon glowed a soft pink, snapping as we walked.

 

Clouds dotted the sky and as we set ourselves up, I was hopeful that Mother Nature would turn it on for us. I moved further along the bridge from Grant and unfortunately didn’t get the opportunity after to thank him for his help and see how his shots turned out. I was happy with the ones my iPhone produced so I’m sure Grant got some great photos. As the sky changed colour, each moment presented another wow factor.

 

The quaint little clouds that added character to the scene earlier, now thickened and threatened to swallow up the Eiffel Tower. I took the time to take photos for couples and families who were trying to obtain selfies that captured them and the magnificent backdrop. All very grateful.

 

Very conscious of my memory capacity on my phone, I trek up to the Arc De Triomphe. The Eiffel Tower is now engulfed in cloud cover and only her sexy legs poke out at the bottom. I figure my climb will have to wait for another visit ……it’s a long way to climb to get the same view I will get later from the plane….the topside of those white fluffy clouds. I am a little disappointed but don’t have time to dwell on it…..Que sera sera.

 

The Arc De Triomphe was worth the walk. More photos ….for both myself and for others. I then imagine I am a little richer and a hell of a lot classier than I am, and stroll along Avenue des Champs-Élysées…..window shopping I tell myself. I know full well I probably couldn’t even afford to lick these windows, never mind buy any contents from within. The streets absolutely ooze wealth and flamboyance!

 

I’m hungry and decide I probably won’t like the size of any food bills in this area so set my sights on St Germain. Second time lucky hopefully! I check Google maps…..well aware time was fast becoming my enemy, I rent a push bike. Definitely wishing I’d done this earlier! I am getting a little taste of the beauty that is Paris!

 

As I manoeuvre my way across Paris I am simultaneously beaming with pride, at how well I have blended in to the fast flow of traffic, and shitting myself as I encounter one close call after another! Every now and then I walk, with my bike, alongside pedestrians ……just to keep it real (and slow my heart rate). If you like an adrenaline rush, and you’ve never travelled much, are not used to busy cities, don’t normally ride amongst traffic, have only ever known traffic to flow on the opposite side of the road…… grab a pushie and go for a bit of a spin through Paris!!!! Holy shit!!! Just when you think you’ve nailed it and you’re high-fiving yourself in your head, some dipstick parked up, decides to open their door!!! You’re cruising with the traffic, bus right beside you and knob head here flings their door open in front of you!!!! Geezus!!!!! Between navigating my way around obstacles such as this and roadworks detouring traffic, I periodically check Google maps….yep, you got it-LOST!!! I still haven’t eaten, although I have now seen St Germain, I have ridden well past my hotel.

 

It seemed maps on my phone spent more time rerouting than it did doing its job!! Much prefer good old fashion paper street map! I am running out of time and I still have to find a depot to return my bike.

 

I order a taxi once I am at the hotel and I literally through all of my things into my backpack and I’m good to go.

Out of breath and sweating, hungry, tired and thirsty I flop my passport onto the check-in desk.

“Bonjour Madame….your flight has been delayed by an hour.”

WTF!!!!!??????????? This is my dream-ain’t nobody got time for this! I have adventures waiting!!!

Deep breaths…..you got this. I smile, “No problem. Merci.”

Where’s the bar?????

I order a drink and get my diary out. May as well waste some ink as well as some time. So, I wait……I write….. I people watch. I ponder the idea of videoing some people…..make a bit of a video that reflects the excitement of escaping, the thrill of setting off on a vacation. I look around……yeah, na. Very sullen looking crowd, maybe they’re all flying somewhere for work. Not a lot of movement or expressions worth capturing so I can that idea.

Finally I am seated on the plane and as we begin takeoff I look excitedly out the window, like a little kid, hoping to see her one last time. IMG_8467

Clouds, which normally make me feel serene, now cover the skies and fill me with a slight sense of annoyance, well momentarily anyway. Their fluffy white perfection really is beautiful but they promise no chance of seeing anything.

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I close my blind to allow my neighbour to sleep and I order another drink.

Seems like I have only just drained my glass when the message announces we are preparing to land. I open my blind to scan Pisa for any structure that looks like it might topple…… nothing.

 

Getting through the airport in Pisa and finding the train station proved a little testing. With the help of an elderly man with limited English and a young man who spent time living in Australia, who was very fluent, I managed to get the right train. Finding a connecting train at the Centrale Station, however, was a disaster. My backpack now felt like it weighed 2 tonne. I was sweating and aching all over. There were no staff visible to help and all instructions were written in Italian (feasible since we were in Italy-I know). Each person gave me a different set of instructions and I frantically ran down stairs, through tunnels and up a different set of stairs, over and over again. I tried googling. I tried maps. I wanted to cry……..crying at this stage though, I figured, wouldn’t help. I was exhausted, hot and sore. After close to an hour of chasing my tail, I was on the correct train. The maps on my phone showed me the walk to my hotel wasn’t far….thank God. What it didn’t show me, is that some smartarse decided the perfect place for a fence would be between me and my hotel!!!! No problem, I got this! I walk, and walk, and walk. The sun is now beating down on me, my mouth feels like sandpaper and my arms are numb-pretty sure there is no blood circulating to them. I have to make my way through crowded markets, which I would normally thrive on. I am getting knocked from both sides. Vendors, unaware of my state of mind, are thrusting souvenirs in my face hoping for a sale. I manage a semi-smile and shake my head, in turn, to each of them and I continue to plant one foot in front of the other. As I round the corner I get my first look at the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Now, it is phenomenal, it should be breathtaking-but I am already out of breath…. it is everything you imagine it would be……but I look at it and just think, “that’s nice, where’s my hotel?”

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I did get to appreciate the magnificence of it later….. but first impressions have a way of sticking.

The Tower is awesome…..my perception of it, was not. Seeing my hotel for the first time though? Priceless!!!

I shrugged out of my backback and fell onto the bed. I lay for a while before getting up to try to work the air con. Walked downstairs to ask for instructions, walked back up, fiddled with the aircon again until it whirred into action, had a cold shower and did the flop again. For the first time I was questioning my decision to travel alone……surely with someone by your side you could see the funny side of all of this? I wasn’t laughing. There were so many other little ‘hiccups’ that factored into how I was feeling, but way too many to list. Suffice it to say today had been my greatest test thus far on my journey. It scared me to think I had bigger challenges ahead!

Breath caught and freshened up, I headed back downstairs. Too tired to argue with a peddler at the front of the hotel, I accepted his good luck gifts, allowed myself to get ripped off for a necklace I didn’t need (but had someone in mind when I saw it) and I wound my way back through the crowd to take a look at the Tower with a fresh perspective.

 

 

I felt guilty for not initially giving this historical structure the reaction it deserved. It really is magnificent. I walked around the grounds photographing it from every angle. The colours and light surrounding it changing as the sun began to set.

There were people everywhere enthralled by his rigid beauty……yep, this guy gets to be a him because……. well, you know……just because. Let’s leave it at that. Amongst the crowd there was a lady screaming out about religion and an elderly Italian man shouting back at her. I could hear them way before I saw them, but paid little attention to what they were saying until I got close. Not the theatrical performance I originally thought it was, this lady from the US was slandering the Catholic religion! Declaring Catholic people to be the spawn of the devil! She then went on to criticise every other religion I can think of! The Italian gentleman was telling her, and rightly so, “If you don’t like it-LEAVE!” I found her colourful performance, which lasted maybe an hour, extremely disrespectful.

I continued my tourist trail (yes! Including all the cliche poses!), until the hunger screams from my stomach could no longer be ignored.

 

I wandered through an alley that sported many restaurants. I settled for one that had a nice, welcoming feel about it…..I think the red and white checked tablecloths may have also made it feel more Italian. Pizzeria Trattoria, “La Buca”, doesn’t get more Italian than that.

 

The atmosphere, staff, wine and food were wonderful and my spirits lifted a little.

I wandered around the Tower once more before heading to my hotel, but noticed a man had been following me since I left the restaurant. I deviated from my intended route a couple of times but he kept following. I ducked into a souvenir stall, bought a couple of magnets, then snuck through the merchandise out the back and walked in the shadows looking to make sure he was still waiting by the stall.

Glad to be safely in the hotel, I hurried up to my room and collapsed into bed. This day felt like it had lasted a week!! Hard to believe that morning I was merrily chatting to a fellow Aussie while we waited for the sun to rise! Big day!

I am looking forward to sleep!!

Love you 40-leven

kiss

Love at First Sight

Tues 26th: Love at First Sight

We slept until a reasonable hour and for my final day in London we had coffee then strolled around Kens secret garden. I can imagine how much his girls love this place-so many hidey holes! It’s magical! Squirrels are scurrying about absorbed in their own little world, birds are flying about chirping, leaves are gently rustling…… it is so busy, yet so tranquil here!

Reluctantly it is time to make a move and farewell Blackheath.  I am over the moon when we stop for a cuppa and come across a Bobby on our way to the station!! He is very friendly and happily allows me to take a selfie with him….even holds our pose while I wait for the double decker bus to be behind us. 🙂

At the station Ken and I say our goodbyes and I go to wait for the Eurostar……time for the next chapter of my journey. Thanks London and thank you Ken for your hospitality!! I had a blast and ticked off more boxes than I had listed!! You’re a gem!

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Once I board the Eurostar I realise my view will be of where I’ve been, rather that what lies ahead, but that’s ok…..it’s all new to me!

I am only mm away from licking the window I am that close, I am taking in everything. It comes as a bit of a shock when the lady in front of me pulls our blind down!!! What the…??? Clearly she has done this trip before! I sneak it up just a little so I can peak beneath it.

I presumed once everything went black and stayed that way, we were going through the Chunnel-The Channel Tunnel. Daylight, I figured, therefore meant we were in France!!! Bonjour!! I believe the French are partial to a drop? So, when in Rome…… I head to Coach#9-aka The Bar!! There is, understandably, a queue. I line up….a couple back from …..is that a yeti??!!! Nope it’s not, but now I’m feeling underdressed!! Maybe it’s cold in Paris?

I order a wine and a toasted sanga. The bar attendant, Bety, speaks 4 languages!!! Pretty darn impressive!!! I stay in this coach until almost the end of the line. At least the blinds aren’t down here! I chat to an English bloke who is sipping away at the cup of tea he came to get his wife! I, on the other hand…. Aussie through and through, am having another bevvy!

When the call comes to announce we have arrived in Paris, I grab my backpack and wait alongside others to disembark. I have written directions from someone’s blog on how to get to the bus stop to catch number 42 bus. These directions somehow take me further away so, in broken French, I ask for help and find I do not have far to go. For anyone travelling to Paris for the first time, I will give these directions clearly in another post, at a later date.  The bus ride to the hotel is interesting and I find the few French words I know are enough to help. I am a bit of a romantic at heart and have always believed in love at first sight. I am watching people come and go from the bus when we pull up at one stop in particular and cupid’s arrow pierces my heart! I feel goosebumps and quite literally breathless! Tall and foreboding there stands the image of perfection! I am in love!!! My view is slightly obscured, but clear enough to impact me! I am desperate now, to get closer! The other points of interest I have been besotted by, now pale in comparison.

Once I reach my stop I hurry to find my hotel, check-in and hand wash a few essentials before heading out. Another great bit of advice I received before leaving home-dental floss makes a great clothesline! Worked a treat.

Chores done, I race down the stairs….I am a woman possessed! Like lovers in a movie scene when they race into each other’s arms, I feel the magnetic pull and walk briskly until, through the trees, I see, I feel, the Eiffel Tower.

I am mesmerised! I did not expect to feel this way about a building. As I get closer I wonder how tonnes of steel piled so high can look so intricate and delicate. I instantly compare this massive structure to a fine piece of filigree jewellery….it is exquisite.

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I figured I would have plenty of time to admire the Eiffel Tower later and again in the morning, so I begin my trek, as planned, up to see the Arc De Triomphe. I have only gone about 300m before I do a U-turn and opt, instead, to do the river cruise now while there is still light. Shortly after stepping aboard I notice the sun is almost kissing the horizon and I am pleased I changed my mind. The views from the river are spectacular and the history rich and interesting, yet my devotion to my newfound love cannot be denied and my head turns constantly like that of a carnival clown……my mouth, I’m sure, just as wide! While the other passengers ooh and aah over each new attraction, I, like a faithful lover, have eyes only for My Tower! Having said that, there is no denying the beauty and magnificence of this pretty city.

My memory card was, once again, filling fast! As the sun set behind ‘her’, our ferry docked and we were graced with the awesome light show that my daughter had told me about. At this point I feel a need to explain ….. naturally, since I have declared my love for The Eiffel Tower, I should feel inclined to refer to it as ‘him’; I have not jumped the fence ….I just feel she is too beautiful and delicate to be referred to as he…..so ‘she’ it is!

I walk over to where she stands and make my way to the information stand. The lady there, Fanny, is knowledgeable and so so friendly. If feel a little embarrassed that I am consuming all of her time with my broken French (all 6 words) and my endless barrage of questions. Luckily, Fanny’s English is great and she assures me I can take all the time I need, she is there to help-what a sweetheart! It is a delight speaking with her but reluctantly I head off, having decided to leave my Eiffel climb for tomorrow. It is too late now to do the walking part of it and I want to walk up to the second level. I say my good nights to her and promise to wake early to admire her beauty as the first rays of light envelope her at sunrise.

I begin my walk back to the hotel and realise I still haven’t eaten. I head toward Saint Germain where I intended to eat but come to a halt at a pizzeria just past my hotel. It is now after 10pm and, rather than fight the weariness starting to sneak up on me, I enter and order a pizza and a red wine. I chat with the people seated beside me who recognised my accent. The man was very chuffed with himself for getting it right and his wife proceeds to explain he can pick pretty much any accent. Their son, also with them, was born in New Zealand so it was pretty much like stumbling across a long lost neighbour……well close anyway.

I have one more glass….just because….and then head back to my room. I am whacked!

Sweet dreams everyone…..

Luv you 40-leven

kiss

Big Ben and So Much More

Mon 25th:London

The first glimpse of light through the bay window reveals the trees of the secret garden below. It’s not hard to let your inner child’s imagination run wild, with thoughts of adventures galore below.

I thought I may have run out of steam by now but I am up early and we leave after a coffee, as Ken has a meeting. The train ride into London gives me sneak previews of what’s in store. It is during this ride I first see Big Ben and I am not disappointed-he is everything I expected him to be, even from a distance, as are the rows of houses with their quaint little chimneys atop. Santa must be in his element when he visits London!

Ken shows me the way to St Paul’s Cathedral before heading to his office.

I do the tourist thing like everyone else and take selfies out the front before going inside. It is while I am admiring the Cathedral that I get my first cuddle in London….the man beside me speaking excitedly as he squeezes me. I bask in the moment before he realises I am not his wife. His face? Priceless! His wife’s reaction behind us though, even better! She is in hysterics laughing at his innocent mistake. If only I knew what he was saying……probably something saucy!

The history of the castle is astounding ….least of all knowing Diana walked this very path to fulfill a fairy-tale romance and marry her Prince……we won’t dwell on the happy ever after because even that does not taint the magic. Even though our guide, Terry, never chose me to sit on the Queens throne, his demeanour and knowledge held his audience captivated. It was a shame to have to walk out of the tour early, but we wanted to try to catch the changing of the guards.

Time was not our friend today, and although I got to see the guards with their bearskin hats, we missed the actual changing of the guards. We stroll around the Buckingham Palace grounds on our way to catch a double decker bus.

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I snapped happily away regardless of the cool weather and overcast skies. Our guide, Noddy, giving us his special version of London’s past.

I get my chance at seeing Big Ben close up-love it!!! We hop off at Tower of London and tag on to a Beefeater tour before branching out on our own. The history here is phenomenal. London, I now know, deserves so much more than the couple of days I have allowed for it in my itinerary. Definitely coming back to explore further and spend more time here.

After The Tower of London we board the ferry which gives us a different perspective of the London sights. I am ticking boxes like a woman possessed today!

I think for my London experience to be complete I just need a red phone box and a Bobby! On our way to Trafalgar Square to meet Kens mate Greg, I get a photo opportunity with a red phone booth.

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“Quickly, take the bloody photo Ken!!!!!!!”

I am ecstatic! That enthusiasm comes to a screaming halt however, when I open the door and realise it has become an ensuite for the homeless. Not to be deterred I held my breath and begged Ken to take the photo quickly! Rancid! I try to imagine how well the contents would ferment in Hedland in the middle of 48 degree days in Summer! I was dry retching for a while after…..not my finest moment, but so glad I ticked the box -AND survived!!!!!!

We meet up with Greg and head to a pub for a pint…..or a water, whatever! We wander around a little more. Luckily for some young lass, as we strolled I noticed she had her skirt caught up under her belt and was walking around London with her butt bared to all. I raced up to her and let her know and quickly pull her skirt down to cover her bits-she was slightly embarrassed but grateful. Not sure the guys thought I’d necessarily done the right thing but hey….?

Later we watched some street entertainment before agreeing on pizza for dinner. I’m renowned for being unable to make decisions. The question, “tea or coffee?” sends me into a head spin. Hate decision making. It took me a while to decide which drink to have, then the waiter informs me they don’t have it….told him to surprise me. It was a good surprise so I ordered a second. We sang Happy Birthday to a young lady out celebrating with her friends, then decided to head off. The night was still young but I was outnumbered when I suggested music and dancing sounded like fun, so we said our goodbyes to Greg and headed off.

I will probably be grateful in the morning that I am tucked up at a reasonable hour.

Goodnight all

Love you 40-leven

kiss

Loo Paper Anyone???

29/9: Day Eleven

Bastia to St Florent via Cap Corse

I hardly slept….I was so keen to pick up my little car and hit the road! I specifically asked for a ‘petite’ automatic…..figured changing which side of the road I drive on was challenge enough, and I’ve read that some roads over here are notoriously narrow-best to play it safe.

“At this point I would like to point out that 100’s of my photo’s were accidentally deleted!!! A lot of my journey will, therefore, not be supported by any of the billions of images I captured!”

First things first though….breakfast overlooking the water. I ordered crepes with my coffee but the waiter informed me they only had croissants….he had already started my coffee so I settled for croissants and took a seat- the view was splendid. I was a little disappointed when my croissant arrived dry, with no spreads or anything to make him special. It was a minor detail, however, and could not dampen my spirits. I drank my coffee and headed toward Avis to collect my little beast….I was expecting a little Mr Bean special! When I spoke to the lady at Avis after providing all my necessary paperwork, I thought I’d double check, “It is automatic isn’t it?”

“No. Manual”

F*#k!!! I asked if there were any auto’s available and she kindly checked and informed me there weren’t. I told her I would ask around first because I had definitely stipulated that I wanted a small auto.

The other car rental places proved fruitless so I wandered back to Avis.

Tail between my legs back to Avis and the lady there has pulled some strings! An auto has been made available! It has not yet been cleaned but I assure her that is completely fine. I embrace her-maybe a little too emphatically because she is initially a little taken aback! Keys in hand I jump in and start with what was to be my silent chant every time I started the car…..”right hand side, right hand side, right hand side.”

I head back to my hotel, check out, grab my bags and head North. Let’s get this party started!!!!

I have no idea what today has in store except I want to complete the trek to find my “A Sellula” sign and finish up in Saint Florent for the night. My accommodation is booked for tonight as I planned a 4×4 tour which was to include a boat ride, hike and 4×4 trip. I had been really looking forward to it. It has only been in the last few days that this excursion has had to be canned….not happy but not dwelling on it…..just have to come up with a plan B.

It is while I’m driving that I start to consider the pro’s and con’s of choices made during the planning process. The open roads are not too bad, the smaller towns however, have narrow roads and are fraught with potential hazards. I drive through them literally holding my breath waiting for someone to come around a bend and swipe me. Each town is a relief to pass through unscathed and it is then I realise I am missing the beauty of the island I came to see. To drive or not to drive? Pros and cons. Auto or smaller car? Pros and cons. Travelling solo? Pros and cons. This whole trip will be fraught with learning curves I’m sure. Just need to make sure I enjoy the journey and don’t focus on the lessons. The list in my head was endless so I stopped analysing and gave everything up to the Universe.

IMG_9024

When you pull up and someone is balancing on a rock, in a yoga position, overlooking The Mediterranean Sea, you really step back and take it all in. When that same person pulls out a violin and starts gently playing sounds that replicate those of the small birds nearby? Incredible.

 

After this, I stopped at each opportunity to admire the scenery. This place really is pretty. Even in the areas that had recently been ravaged by fire, there was a proud beauty. The sweeping landscape, though charred, still had the ability to hold it’s audience captive. I got out when I came across the distinctive separation between burnt remnants and the colours that held a promise of what was to come.

 

I had read up a lot about driving in Corsica so knew there would be moments that would take me out of my comfort zone. I wasn’t, however prepared to be driving with my heart pounding in my throat.

Time spent this morning sorting out the car meant I was way behind schedule to do what I had originally planned. I decided to cut across Cap Corse rather than follow the road all the way around the top. I was conscious of the need to allow time near Nonza to hike and find my sign.

My first of many wrong turns, came quite early on my detour. There were parts of the road that were barely wide enough for one vehicle let alone two! Regardless of this minor detail, as some kind of warped local humour they have painted lines down the centre of the road to indicate that it was two way traffic!!!!! The locals might have found this funny, but I was not laughing!

At one point I got out and stepped it out…..luckily the part of the road I measured was roughly 3m, a little wider than some parts I had already encountered. It is in this part of the road I met another vehicle-clearly also a tourist because they looked as keen to pass by me as I did them. The benefit they held over me was that the sheer drop down the side of the mountain was on my side! Every now and then the edge of the road widened a little. It quickly became apparent that it is at these points you attempt to pass each other!

My phone had no reception, the GPS in the car was really not of much help and THIS is when I remember I was supposed to buy a roadmap in Bastia. I managed to find myself in some situations that required a 25point turn in order to avoid sliding down the mountain. Wrong turns in this neck of the woods are a nightmare! If I said driving these narrow inland roads made me shit myself, it would be an understatement! My head pounded so heavily I expected to burst a blood vessel. The aircon was on high yet I sweated profusely. I felt physically ill and was constantly on the verge of tears. I knew there was no turning back so I prayed at each bend that the road would widen. Ok, so maybe the next bend? The next? Nope? It has to widen soon surely? I clung to this hope like a lifeline-elusive dreams that kept me forging forward and fighting tears. As a Traffic Controller with experience in road safety and construction, I was a little taken aback, to say the least, when I came across a piece of road that had seemingly ‘fallen’ down the side of the mountain. It’s all good though….there were barriers put in place to protect motorists and notify them of the hazard…….a couple of rocks, strategically placed at the edge of the damaged , or missing, road. Surprisingly I laughed this off, but what I thought may have been my undoing, was coming across a makeshift bridge (where the road had obviously collapsed). The bridge was constructed of steel (scaffolding came to mind) and wooden planks. There are signs at each side written in French with some simple pictures. I am presuming, given the couple of French words I do know and the fact I use pictorial language at work, that this bridge will accommodate only one vehicle at a time! There is a valley below-I don’t even want to guess how many 100’s of metres the drop is. If I thought my heart was racing before, it is now in overdrive! I slowly drive across the bridge and try not to pay attention to the sounds of the planks rattling below me……I’m sure this structure has passed stringent construction and OHS requirements! Once again, I pray. This trip really has been a tale of Eating, Loving and Praying.

Of ALL the photo’s I lost…..a photo of this bridge is one of the ones I miss the most…….It’s one of those ‘Gotta see it to believe it’ kinda moments!

With the small villages dotted along the way, comes a modicum of respite. A chance to slow the heart. The locals are so laid back I often wondered if they were awake. Roadworks being carried out in small towns meant their equipment (usually a wheelbarrow), would need to be parked on the road. An Aussie tourist interrupting their routine was certainly not a priority. I waited on numerous occasions for locals to move either themselves or their tools so I may continue my journey. They were not rude or INDIGNANT, just unperturbed and in no way aware of the sense of urgency that came with the passerby’s. You quickly find yourself smiling and accepting this for what it is. Their way of life simple and it would appear, stress free. It puts a lot of things in perspective when you see people just plodding about their business, not allowing minor inconveniences to become more than what they are…. a minuscule bump in the scheme of life. They could care less that I had a vision of photographing my sign to complete a loop in my head, they could care less that I wasn’t 100% sure of where I was or what lay ahead. They had a job to do-fill the hole in the road….today, or tomorrow, or even next week-it mattered not. So, with a smile and a wave, they would move themselves and their stuff and swig at the contents of whatever drink was contained within the brown paper bag, as they allowed me to pass. It’s impossible not to smile back and offer a “Merci” as you pass by, hoping you didn’t have to perform another 25point turn and pass back through. At some points in the mountains, consideration had been given to tourists and an area was cleared so you could pull off to the side of the ‘road’. I made the most of these and took many photos…..as well as use it as an opportunity to calm my nerves and breathe. The views are incredible. From a height you can see tiny villages scattered along the mountainside as well as the winding road that snaked its way through them. Something to look forward to!

The sun is by now on a downhill slide and considering I am not 100% sure about where my sign is, I am thinking this box may remain unticked. Thanks to Jon Ingall, an amazing photographer and the man who snapped the shot that inspired me to draw, I had a rough idea about where the sign was. The GPS route he sent to me, however, would not open and although I had studied the photos long and hard, I knew there was a chance I could get lost without a GPS or any real idea about what I was doing. Nobody knew where I was or what my plans were (myself included!), so reluctantly I decided against trying to find “A Sellula”. I would either have to try again another trip or paint something else and give myself a whole new mission. Like the roadworkers I had encountered throughout my day…Ke Sera, Sera.

I continued on to Saint Florent and found my hotel relatively easily. I booked in and decided to walk the short distance to town. I wandered around amongst the bustle of people and admired the beautiful simplicity. Everyone caught up in their own little world of eating, laughing and drinking. The weather was beautiful, as was the backdrop. I finally settled at a table and ordered a snack and wine. I joined others to watch locals playing bocce, a regular occurrence it would seem.

Before heading back to the hotel I took a stroll out along the Marina, where there were an abundance of yachts moored. A local pizza in hand, I made my way back up the hill toward the hotel. I ate my pizza, with a beer to wash it down, whilst watching the sunset, overlooking the pool and the town below.

Still no idea what I would do tomorrow, given my plans had been shelved, I made my way up to bed.

Even a visit to the loo brings new queries. I thought I’d read up enough about French customs/routines to get me by, but now I was confused. Do they use toilet paper over here? I searched around again. Definitely none here and no toilet paper holder either. Maybe a bidet of sorts? No sign of anything that you could wash with. There are hand towels on the bathroom bench beside me……surely not!!! I do the drip dry and decide to ask someone at some point. I start to worry then, that I may need to do a number 2 during the night and be faced with the same dilemma. I really do need an answer beforehand. Today of all days…..when I have spent 90% of the day shitting myself, I NEED loo paper to see me through the night!

Worried I might appear critical of their customs I pose the question in my head several times before I approach the receptionist and have a go out loud.

“Um….do you use toilet paper?”

“Pardon?!”yep, not how I planned it in my head. She looks both indignant and confused so I try to explain.

“It’s ok if you don’t, that’s fine, I’m unaware of the way things work over here, I’ve never really travelled much…..” Every time my mouth opened, more shit would roll out and the crease of the lady’s frown deepened. Could do with that paper right now!!!!

“There’s no toilet paper in my room and I’m not sure what to use,”

Finally, a light bulb behind her eyes and a smile….”Oh, sorry. Yes, we definitely use toilet paper but my colleague obviously forget to replace yours. I’ll get you some.”

Awkward much?

Another day filled with challenges. I was stuffed.

Here’s to tomorrow …..

….love you 40-leven!

Deb

kiss

Messages from Strangers

I am well aware that my updates are lagging…..they will filter slowly through….

Messages from Strangers

Sunday 24th September

5 Days since I left Hedland

The breakfast trolley rattling along and the smell of food were what dozing passengers stirred to. I had been awake for hours and was starving.

The call for descent preparations was, I’m sure, welcomed by other passengers……I was in no hurry.

As we were disembarking, the lady in front of me turned and clasped my hand through the gap between the seat and the window. “Thank you,” she said and placed a lovely note into my hand, thanking me for my support during the flight.

I’m gathering a collection of notes from strangers it would seem!!!

Doha was a blur….by the time I made my way through transfer security, the staff were advising me my flight was boarding for London and I was shuffled through and directed to Gate 1A.

I sit back to enjoy my Qatar experience once again, and am reminded, that even their safety messages hold some appeal…pay attention please? Sure will!!!!!

I am sitting back watching the last of my final movie before touch down in London……the screen tells me there is just 1hr and 11minutes before we land.

Can’t wait to see what London has in store.

The passage through customs went smooth and I was through quickly.

A message from Ken showed he was still a few minutes away. The tube, normally a much speedier option, had delays caused by some engineering work. Quick loo stop, a chat with a stranger and Ken had arrived. We quickly grabbed a SIM that I could use while on holidays and we were off and running…..literally. I tagged closely behind Ken but was keenly aware that his long strides were swallowing up the metres, whilst my short little chunky ones were galloping to keep up. Completely aware that we were breaking speed records, Ken constantly glanced over his shoulder to ensure I was not lost in the throng of people scuttling to their destinations. The tube was an experience and I enjoyed partaking in a favourite pastime of mine-people watching (and also enjoyed the chance to catch my breath). It was while I was people watching I noticed a Western Bulldogs logo on a lady’s luggage. I’ve only been in London 5 minutes, surely I don’t need to say anything……oopsy, there’s the ice breaker-apparently staying silent isn’t my strong point. I signal to the lady to turn around more so I can take a photo of the bag. Now, just take a moment to envisage the sign language…..she smiled, God bless her, so I felt comfortable continuing with my quest-I was determined to take a photo for my son, Nathan-a devout Bulldogs fan (for my followers who are not from Australia or follow less impressive football codes, The Western Bulldogs are an AFL team from Australia. They were premiers in 2016 after a bit of a drought). Through those drought years, Nathan, although a West Australian, has been a Doggies fan since he was a young boy-he is now 27 and his passion for his team has never faulted. He has been at the brunt of some fairly colourful slander but has remained loyal. His siblings and I tried desperately last year to get him to the Grand Final, but failed. Oops-sidetracked…….. my sign language seemed to be failing miserably so I approached the lady, Roz. We instantly recognised each other’s accent and I proceeded to relay what I was just saying. I needed to try to justify why I felt it necessary to photograph her luggage!! Her name is Roz Richards, she is Head of the myotherapy Team at Western Bulldogs and she is a credit to the club! What a personable, friendly chick! I felt privileged meeting her and she graciously allowed me to snap away. If I wasn’t such a one-eyed West Coast Eagle fan I would jump on the Doggy bandwagon-just because of Roz!

At one point while racing along Ken commented over his shoulder, “I’m not being rude, but I know how tight time is going to be to get you to your castle.”

“Phew” I thought, I was actually starting to think he might be trying to escape me!!

“This is my pad,” he informs me when we arrive, throw my bags on my bed, grab his car keys and race back out the door.

His Vitara earned her money in that one trip….she was pushed to her limits and as we arrive at Leeds Castle, Ken drops me off to try to haggle while he parks. We have arrived at 4:30pm and I still have to make a dash to try to find the ticket office……last ticket sales are at, yep, you got it-4:30pm. Clearly my good looks and charm is worth its weight in gold because the attendant, once learning I have travelled non stop from Port Douglas, Australia, just to see his castle, prints off 2 tickets. Okay, so maybe it was my good Ol’ Aussie accent that did the job but whatever, we were in.

Ken’s marathon training did the job! So much so I’m reconsidering doing the GR20 once I reach Corsica!!

Now, anyone who knows me well, knows I live in a fantasy world and will know how excited I am about being at a REAL Castle-WITH a moat!!

The gardens are lush and expansive-my Mum would be in her element!

The castle is imposing, more so once we enter the walls. We are stepping where royalty have once trodden and the experience ignites all of my senses….almost all.

I feel the textures of the tangible things but I also feel like those before us, escort us through their home. I see the history, the age, the grandeur. I hear of the history as we walk around but mostly, I can smell the history! YES, ladies of the Welcome Centre! I can SMELL my surroundings (maybe I have selective smell). I refrain from licking the windows so until we exit the castle, my sense of taste is yet to be stirred. I am prone to be a little melodramatic, but I tell Ken as we climb the stairs, “I can feel the weight of my gown dragging as I walk” (come to think of it they probably never bothered sweeping!)

The atmosphere in here transports you to another era and, just for now, I picture myself moving gracefully through the castle, my satin gown brushing the walls, my waist tiny (thanks to the corset)…….and I feel like I’m floating. The ‘taste’ of the experience comes when Ken buys some fudge on our way out….can’t get enough. Perfect. I feel rather euphoric as we make our way out of the castle, along the banks of the moat and back to where we came in. Not sure if my smile is visible, but inside it is a mile wide!

Wildlife scuttle around and I am envious of their lifestyle-hard gig!

A trip to the English countryside would not be complete without dinner at on old English Pub and we find the perfect place in Leeds. We order, of course, Bangers and Mash! Meal and wine are perfect.

If you’re ever in Leeds, pop in and see ‘Debbie and Jason’ (yep, this pub was meant to be a part of my journey!) at The George Inn.

Home now, to Kens penthouse. His pad has that feel about it anyway, very swish. I snuggle in and reflect on my day. Thank you London for your warm welcome!

Chasing The Night

Day 5: Leaving Oz

Today was an earlier start…..packed my bag according to what I would need in Cairns, Melbourne, Doha and finally, London. Figured I have a few hours to kill in Melbourne and I have to collect my bags and recheck them so I can make any last minute changes there.

Our bus driver insisted I behave if I sit in the front……pfft-yeah right!

I commented on how lovely the resort was and he preceded to tell me there was a resident croc in the water at the 12th hole??!!!!! Stuff losing your balls there….could end up losing more than just your balls!! Ah-ha! I knew it! Those Jurassic Lizards are everywhere!

Thank goodness for digital photos, I think

my photo tally thus far is up to about 400……imagine how many rolls of film I’d have rolling around in my backpack by the time I get home!!!!!

Arrive in Cairns 3 hrs before my flight……what to do? Tried to book a Bungy jump but had to give 24hrs notice…..oh well, the Casino is bound to have air-conditioning-I’ll wait it out there!

On check-in the lady tells me I will next see my bag in London! Eeek!

Quick mental check to try to remember what I was going to reshuffle in Melbourne….well whatever it was it’s not happening.

Wow! I AM DOING THIS!!!! These steps I take right here, right now, toward the boarding gate, are going to end with me stepping out in London! It’s going to be a looonnnnggggg day/night, but this really is happening!

Naturally the poor lady from New York sitting beside me heard about it all the way!

The pilot warned us to expect rough weather ahead but when I saw my New York friend cross herself and reach for her rosary beads I knew we were going to be ok 🙏👍🏼

Landed fine and made my way around the Melbourne terminal to await the continuation of this travel day.

I have been awake now for 14 hours and still have 2.5 hrs wait before I board for my 15hr flight. Only a 1hr stopover in Doha before a 7.5hr flight to London……….so, in roughly 27 hours I will disembark in London ready for whatever the day has in store for myself and my old mate, Ken, who is graciously being my tour guide.

I am the first zone called to board and can hardly contain my excitement as I walk through the plane.

I sit and commence a flurry of last minute messages to my girls……. “I’m on board!!!!! 😊😊😊😊😊😊😊😊 I am SO excited!!!!!!!!! I am like a kid in a lolly shop!!!

Little kid to her pop: This is the first time I’ve been in a plane like this!!

Me to the little girl: ME TOO!!!!

Not sure which of us is the most excited!!!!!!!

I just keep saying thank you to the hostess (as if she built the plane and paid for my ticket!! 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣)”

I introduce myself to the lady who sits two seats from me and tell her my life in zero seconds flat!

Just when a sleeping tablet seems like a good idea……..enter…… Mr

Europe! 😳 well, hello YOU!!

This is definitely worth another message to the girls!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introductions uncover that this fine specimen of a gentleman is French! I tell him I am heading for Corsica and he reassures me it is magnificent!!! 😍

Maybe because we are so high that we are close to Heaven, I’m not sure, but whatever the reason, divine intervention enters this story served in a glass of Coke!! Shortly after the seatbelt lights go out, dinner is served. After assisting me with my meal tray, Mr Suave beside me, orders a Coke with his meal.

His tray somehow becomes uneven and his Coke spills into his lap. He is frantically trying to mop this sweet nectar from his groin whilst juggling the remainder of his meal. With doe eyes and the sweetest of smiles I offer, “May I help with that?” He misunderstood what I was offering, thanked me and handed me his tray…….bugger! As he finishes absorbing as much of the soft drink as he can, he takes his tray from me and replaces it onto his meal table. Coincidentally, or again…..a higher intervention, sees the lady in front of Mr Suave recline her seat…….and just when I thought my luck couldn’t get any better….this movement causes his tray to slip again! His jumper is now soaked as well. Again, I fly to the rescue and hold his stuff while he….wait for it….strips off his jumper. The wet drink has made his shirt cling to the fabric of his jumper and inadvertently he peels back all layers covering his six pack. Phew, someone better turn the air conditioning up stat!!! This girl is overheating!! By now he and I are besties! This newfound comfort we have, makes it easier in the night when later I am compelled to offer to share my blanket with him….since his is soaked! …..but that story comes later …. I’m racing ahead of myself, this maiden voyage of mine was not done with twists yet.

I decide to watch ‘I Am Sam’ despite the fact I have seen it heaps of times before. It is half way through this movie that the lady in front of Mr Suave stands and starts gesturing frantically. Even the man beside her is oblivious to what she is trying to say. Something tells me it is panic that has her lost for words so I stand and lean over the seat in front of me to find the passenger slumped and unconscious. I tell the other lady who is now in the aisle to get help and she relays that someone is coming. I wake the man while feeling for a pulse and breathing-she has both and the gentleman helps me lay her into a flat position with her legs elevated. He supports her legs and I, her head. As she regains consciousness he starts asking questions and informs me he is a Doctor. I honestly thought those kind of coincidences only happened in movies!

While she recovered I continued to talk to her and cradle her head so it wasn’t against the hard arm rest. The staff were phenomenal. Calm, efficient and reassuring.

It was a while until I settled back in my seat and realised when I went to attempt sleep, that the lady in front of me, who was still lying across the seats, had my pillow to help protect her head. I ask for another pillow and Mr Suave asks for another blanket as his is dripping wet still. I receive a pillow but they are out of blankets. Mmmm…….I did as any good citizen would and offer to share mine with him!

Grateful and completely oblivious to the twinkle in my eye, we snuggle up under my Qatar blanket. A few hours later I wake with aching hips, dead leg and Mr Suaves head on my shoulder. I decide to suck it up and deal with the pain-life is good. I look out the window smiling like a Cheshire Cat and watch the plane envelope the night. My watch says it would be 8am AEST, yet we continue to chase the night and make the darkness stretch on. Awesome-more time to settle back and snooze……………I love Qatar Airlines-I rate it extremely high already!!!

Goodnight everyone

Luv you 40-leven

xx

Port Douglas

Day Four: FNQ

Good afternoon!

Well, almost, by the time I rolled out of bed!

Today was just a chillax day…..My Mums best friend, Gay, drove in from Mossman and we spent the better part of the day sharing and being entertained by travel stories.

Drove out to Mossman ….. Gays house backs onto a picturesque backdrop and is breathlessly peaceful ….love it!

Had another tiny little flutter at the local bowls club…….just to support the locals!

Was tempted to join the backpackers across the road tonight but opted for a night in…..ONE MORE SLEEP in Australia!!!!

Night all

Luv you 40-leven

kiss

Via Far North Queensland for a 50th

Day 3: Port Douglas Bound

Far North Queensland-croc country, well that’s what I always think of anyway. I actually think crocs are going to be just hiding, waiting to pounce from anywhere there’s water!!!! I’m sure it’s not like that at all but when the life guards were handing out “Swim between the flag” pamphlets on arrival, I was thinking “Only if they have flags in my pool coz I won’t be swimming anywhere else!”

Flying into Cairns reminded me somehow of arriving in Bali. As I made my way through the terminal trying to work out where I needed to be I even thought at one stage, “I might have to try to ask for directions?” then the penny dropped-I’m still in Australia!!! Probably a “How ya going mate, can ya help me out?” would suffice 🤣

<<<<<<
e what kind of message we’re sending to International tourists, but for their convenience they even show how to use the loo!

<<<<<<
ve to Port Douglas was lovely but after arriving at my accommodation I have to ask myself if I’m going to be up for this travel gig!!??? While waiting to check in I realise I have left my shoulder bag on the bus!! No biggie-just has my passport, license and bank cards in it!! 😩😩 oh God give me strength! (Or a brain!!)

All good-sorted!

When I was deciding where to stay in Port Douglas I looked for somewhere close to Steph’s so I could stumble home easily enough. What maps fail to show you, are the bloody big hills you need to climb up!!! At this rate I’m going to be buggered before I even leave Australia !!!

Gotta say, the climb was worth the effort! The view was to die for and the company awesome! Great choice Steph!!!

Port Douglas nightlife did not disappoint! We gave ourselves a taste of the nightlife and I even managed to meet some amazing people. One particular couple invited me to stay with them in London….bloody shame they will be still in Australia!! I will keep there contacts handy though….you never know!!! All danced out, slightly inebriated, doner kebab in hand I finally found my way back to the hotel and vaguely remember floating in the pool looking up to the millions of stars looking down at me, and smiling. Smiling because life is good! Two more sleeps and I will be leaving Aussie soils behind.

Cheers

Happy Birthday Steph xxx

Luv u 40-leven

kiss

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