Xian, food, warriors and Guilin.

Ah the beauty of having a guide!  It was very late when we arrived in Xian and lovely to be met by Sharon who picked us up and brought us to the hotel.
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The Terracotta Warriors did not disappoint.  Pictures fail to show the full majesty of it all and I’m not sure what is more impressive, the building of the warriors initially or the work involved getting them back to their full state.

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  Each warrior has a totally different expression, age, facial features etc and one of them you could swear is wearing Nike shoes.
Outside there’s a bit of a market and sure enough there was a stall where they were selling scorpion, live in the cage and then deep dried.  Fortunately an Australian girl came by and obliged to eat one so we got our photos.  She said it was quite nice.fullsizeoutput_b10
The only thing I noted was that Sharon was also horrified at the sight of them.  It got me thinking.  Could he just be setting this up to see if he could fool the tourists into eating anything.    I’ve heard from both Sharon and Ian that they will eat anything that flies except an airplane and anything with four legs except a table.
Speaking of food it has been a bit of a trial ordering dinner.  On our the last night in Xian I’m pretty sure (from my nursing experience ) that we had small intestine and lung with meat balls,
Thank god for the enormous breakfasts.  Ian has been helping us order in Guilin.  We met a couple from Sheffield and the wife said ‘I don’t ever want to eat a Chinese meal again in my life).  The GOOD meals are very good but today when I had bamboo rice,  (This is rice cooked in Bamboo with bacon and corn).  I thought Oh gawd. I hope there are no wee maggots or insects in this.  Nevertheless it was tasty.
While we were still in Xian we browsed around a park with terrific statues of local Chinese and of course areas where people were dancing. Totally uninhibited. And exercising and singing in a choir together.  Still being asked for photos.  The women taking a photo with Pat was so warm when she hugged both Pat and I.  Not so sure that I’m keen on him stealing my thunder.
We took a bicycle ride around the City Wall of Xian.  Pat won’t tell me how long its been since he’s been on a bike… but I think its a while.  He was walking funny for a while after and referring to the different padding he and I have.
Terrific Fountain display and then up the Big Goose Pagoda with incense burning and people praying.  We then went on to the Moslem Mosque and wandered down the market.
The food market sellers smoking as they’re cooking and scooters shooting along with husband wife and baby on board.  It was a real cacophony.
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  The man in the monkey suit was idly chatting to the woman and gave me a big wave when he saw the camera.
Next stop Guilin

The Chinese people

 

I think that the Chinese people are amongst the most friendly I’ve ever met.  We’ve been asked a few times to have our photograph taken.  They say its because Pat is so handsome and I am so beautiful. I’ve also read to expect this as that they haven’t seen many tall white people before.. but I’m sure  got to be the because of our beauty.    They are also very happy to have their photos taken as well as you can see.

 

The Forbidden City is truly amazing.  Vibrant colors and still so well kept.  The Emperors had three thousand concubines and if you didn’t give him a child within three years you were sent back home and he would get another.  Pat is busy calculating the odds and I think he’s pretty impressed however one or two stories lead me to believe that there may have been more than five on any one night.  And when an Emperor dies sixteen concubines are killed to accompany him on his way.  Not much fun being a concubine. Although I suppose you get to wear nice clothes like the silk kimono o a hundred children in the picture.

We didn’t make it to the market because it was closed for some reason however when we went to the restaurant there were fifty pages.  Some of the things on the menu were turtle, cows intestines, beef balls (I’m not sure whether that was the same as our meat balls or really beef balls so I declined to try them,) turtle, shark fin and various other dubious offerings.  What we did get was delicious though.

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We had a rickshaw ride and lunch in a private style house.  The ride was terrifying, I think he thought he was in the Formula One race.  The traffic in China is a little crazy. The cars and bikes are electric and silent and they don’t use lights at night or helmets.

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Before we got to the Great Wall of China we visited the Ming Tomb.  Very impressive.  He had traps put in to avoid anyone getting into it like the ball hanging out of the Dragons mouth would drop down on anyone who passed a trigger.

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The Great Wall is not for the weak hearted.  We were exhausted but managed to climb to the top of the picture shown.  (five stations) met brides on the way and men carrying their partners and crazy men running it without their shirts on and parents with children who had difficult gaits but the parent s were encouraging them to walk on.  It was quite inspiring at times.

We loved the park of the Heavenly Palace where the retired all go to dance, play kick ball or cards and there’s an area for blind dating parents applying for their children. We weren’t allowed to take photos of the dating area but all these parents had laid out in front of them the details of the child they wanted married and they would discuss if interested.

I hope the videos of the dancing and our guide who was a soldier marching can play on this site.  It was quite funny as there was a soldier just out of sight of the camera watching us march.

Pat an I are now experts in silk, Jade and tea drinking and Feng Shui. by the way and thanks to coaching from Duke I’m almost fluent in Chinese. As I write this we are on the speed train to Xi’an to see the Terracotta Army.

China and Tibet

Had a good nights sleep following being awake for 24 hours and our guide picked us up at 11. BTW I couldn’t recommend using a travel agent more. David Biltek from The Art of Travel did all the organizing for this and he is wonderful.  We went to Tienanmen Square last night but there s a ‘state of the union type of thing going around and there are thousands of people in parliament so Tienanmen Sq was blocked off. We tied joining a queue for something and I asked aloud if anyone spoke English but later I figured that queue was for an underground station.

 

The pics of the baby Lemurs were because we saw two girls in street just playing with them. and they were more than happy to share them with us. I thought they were expecting money for that but they weren’t. Of course my lemur happened to pee on my jacket!

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We then went for some dinner. ordering Beer for Pat and a delicious watermelon drink for me was easy but there were some sinanagans trying to get knife and fork for pat and the shrimp meal we got was WAY too spicy.

We spent the day wandering around the North District of Beijing which is a decommissioned military factory and now the arty area.
Since 2002 the Chairman. (I lose track of the various chairmen) raised the awareness of Feng Shui to be a science and taught in the university.  Everything is in pairs because blessings come in two.  As we travel along the city all the towers are pairs.  and the five elements are
Water, fire, wood earth and gold. Our guide (Duke ) was explaining the philosophy and I told him about my bathroom was in the North east of the house and he quickly agreed with Fiona (my sister ) who told me that that would just flush all my money away … It still does.

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I’m trying to learn phrases but when I said thank you to someone (Xie Xie pronounced see see). he replied ‘See you’. so I think my prounanciation is a bit off. I’ve also decided that when Duke says Ya Ya Ya it means I haven’t a clue what you said. A bt like when Pat says Uh Huh.. that means I’m not listening to a word you’re saying .

I’ve put in the menu that we had to decide from. It was a small cheap restaurant so very little English but more fun involved acting things out!
Picture of the eggs this morning. Eggs for brekkie.

 

but in fact hotel is Novotel which has all sorts of food.

Pat has a bit of the skits so not standing down wind of him at the moment.

 

Tonight we’re off to the food market.  there are things like live scorpions to eat. Bob says that I should be bringing a slug slicer with me as they sometimes don’t filet the slugs properly!
Tomorrow off to the forbidden city have Peking duck and watch real kung FU (Maybe catch a Bruce Lee look alike )
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San Francisco

My first day in San Francisco was more than I expected.   I decided to stroll down to the pier via the famous Lombardi street.  The hills here are incredible and I could feel the effects of all the climbing on my legs

Of course first stop was the Garibaldi Square to suss out the chocolate shop but got way laid by the most beautiful. charity vintage shop.  The lady with the glasses charmed me immediately and I had to buy whacky sun glasses.  Since meeting her I saw a post in Facebook regarding what to wear when you’re over 30. and it says ‘What ever you want to ‘   So true

As I strolled along looking at the ‘oxygen bars’ and dry water massagers I came out of the shop to see a host of naked cyclists.  I nearly had to go back into the bar for a swig of oxygen.  Further on the lollipop man had a delightful pink bra on his head.   I didn’t enquire why.   The weather fluctuates between cold and windy to very hot and it costs an arm and a leg for anything but so far so good.   Pat arrives tonight so the serious touristy things will start then.  I will leave you with photos of some of the ridiculous looking tourists.  I always remember one holiday diving with Dervla and she looked out and said “Tourists really are unattractive and then we turned to look at each other with our salty sunburned faces and floppy hats.  Hmmm

 

Cinque Terre and Venice…

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Well the lads and lady returned from the winery quite the experts. You can imagine what the next meal was like ordering and tasting the wine. We strolled over to Signoria square which is like an amazing open air sculpture museum with David, The Rape of the Sabine women, Perseus holding Medusa’s head and a modern sculpture which blew us all away “Man riding Turtle”. the Medici Motto was ‘Hurry slowly’ and the turtle was one of their emblems. There was an unexpected free open air concert and the lady singing was marvelous, (not as good as me but in a different style).

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The following day we took a tour of Cinque Terre. Five towns on cliff edges. Very beautiful and the roads are so steep and housed so tightly packed that cars cannot go there. It was a delight but very very hot. It was a big tour and I was getting a bit irritated with another group as they were always late. I thougth rather sanctimoniously there is always one! Until our last stop some of our group didnt get off! There were panicked texts asking where we were and where they were and we had to wait for them to return though I was impressed there were no complainers on the bus. We were fairly knackered after that as it was a 5 am start to that day. Of course before the evening ends ther is always gelatto (soft ice cream) tasting time. Its the only time Pat eats faster and more than me.

For our trip to Venice we had a lie in until 9.30 I was a bit tentative about this trip as the day before it had been so hot and I had heard about the smell of Venice. In fact I was delightfully surprised. I can’t describe the beauty of the place adequately. We had a sumptuous lunch. Interestingly enough Pat had talked the day before about how there seemed to be some female waitresses in Florence and that that hadn’t been the case the last time he went. In Venice it was all male waiters and they looked and acted like just out of a film. Superior yet respectively courteous with a dry sense of humor. One of the waiters we met learned his English in Cork (can you imagine?) It’s always good to ask other tourist for reommendations when you  go anywhere and one girl we spoke to told us about this delightful place you could have a drink and watch the gondoliers come in and out. It was a real treat.RSCN1708 One of the gondoliers sang as he went past, another parked beside and talked a bit about how it cost 5000 a year maintainence and how it was his pride and joy. Paula and I were in seventh heaven… Those tight tops and muscular arms. Pat went looking for a tee shirt but couldnt find one!

When we got back I was trying to find out where we could get rid of our rubbish. The man in the local shop couldn’t speak English and I realized he thought that I wanted to buy rubbish bags. So I asked the customer if he could speak English, he couldn’t but he introduced me to his girlfriend who could. I spent some time explaining my dilemma and she asked what I wanted her to do because she had no idea either. I asked her to translate and ask the shopkeeper because he would know.  “Oh, no” she replied I can’t speak Italian I only speak Russian and English!

on to Florence

3 am rise to fly and we are now in Florence.

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WOW! is the only thing I can say.

There was a bit of a mix up when we arrived, tired and a bit grumpy it might be added. We couldn’t check our luggage into the apartment because the other tenants were still there. Fortunately the manager at the coffee shop beside us took our luggage into the back for us. I’ve fallen a bit in love with him …so Italian..Somebody wanted to know how I had persuaded him … oh if only!

Anyway back to the tour. We are right beside the Duomo and I’m afraid the pictures do not do it justice at all. Our first guided tour was Galleria Academie where David is. I have seen so many photos of David and really was unimpressed by the number of people who have seen him live and ranted and raved about him. They were right! The photos do not describe the tension of the body and those staring eyes are really looks of sheer concentration. Guys.

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You’ve got to go there some time!

There is also a little music museum where there is the first upright piano. DSCN0243 (2)

We then had an arranged lunch and the food here is terrific. We checked into our apartment then in the afternoon. It is an original building from the Medici times and the baroness lives in the apartment upstairs (we rode down the wee wee elevator with her). The ceiling is painted in medieval times. Stefano, who greeted us gave us the ‘out of the way ‘ restaurants to go to and the best gelato shops. There are about ten and only five days, Whey hey!

 

Later that afternoon we went on the remaining part of the tour Uffizi (pronounced youfeetsy). I realized we were a bit art brain exhausted when after we ooohed and ahhed at Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and I watched some guy do a selfie against it. We shot through the Leonardo Da Vinci room and raced along Raphael’s Madonna and Caravaggio’s Medussa. those art historians amongst you would be horrified. Especially when today I made Pat take a photo of me photobombing against Michael Angelo’s Pieta.DSCN0287

Strolling around there are so many scenes, music on the street, bands playing in the square.

Today Paula, Tom and Brian went on the Tuscan wine tour while Pat and I remained in Florence. We took our time getting up and in the coffee shop beside us, after I stopped gazing at the manager we started talking to an American couple, who told us the best places to go today. DSCN0294

The beauty of it was that some of the churches and art museums are free on a Sunday and today the other paying ones are empty. We went to see the Museumof the Duomo, which has been recently installed. Fantastic medieval sculpture of the Mary Magdalene looking like it was a current day one

We were quite underimpressed with the Ponte Vecchio bridge where there are all the jewelry shops. Far too expensive and too many tourists.

 

2nd Week Still sailing in Sardinia

We have had some beautiful anchors where we pop in for a swim and then off to some small beach restaurant.  Surprisingly enough the meals haven’t been too expensive .. well, with exception to the night where we stayed in port of Cava Gavatta which we had to shelter from the mistral winds.  We met up with a group of Australian swimmers who had a tin

whistle and there was some Irish dancing which developed into square dancing and then a bit of Russian and table dancing and I knew we were in trouble when the Poetry started being recited.  This was after the Italian match and the waiters were already in good form! That was an expensive and fun night.   I think we were also a bit high from having sailed in 40 knot winds.

We had a two hour stop in Porto Servo which is the Rodeo Drive of Sardinia.  See photo of Brian’s Iced coffee in Champagne glass and some of the shops as an example. Gelatto was as far as we could go. From then onto the other extreme we anchored in a litle bay where there was a food truck ( with beer of course as well) and then through a path to a local pizzeria.   Delightful sunset and atmosphere.
The goats are the so called Golden goats who have golden teeth because of the grass they eat and the pic of Pat and the cliff  I you look really closely you can see the statue of the Virgin Mary,  One if high up in the cave and the other on another impossibly inaccessible cliff edge.  There was also a little Grotto half way up the cliff.
I’m going to add in picture of:  the super yacht which is one month old and the largest yacht by volume to date.  owned by a Russian, Italian flag, German made and registered in London   See pic. The sleek we adored, the sailing race of about 12 J class yachtts and finally Moby Dick.   All neighbors.  Sardinia caters for all !
Next stop Florence.brian wistful

Sardinia and Corsica.

Our fist swim off the boat and of course  the Floridians hesitated and strangely enough didn’t believe me that the water was warm. As you can see from the photo Brian’s stress level quickly adapted to Island time.
On our second anchorage, Porto Palma, on the Southern tip of Sardinia we cooked fish with Lemon butter sauce with a hint of garlic,  asparagus roasted and lightly coated with parmesan cheese and basmatic rice.   I took credit for all the cooking with Pat as Sous Chef but those who know me will know the truth!   As expected the guitar was taken out and we had a lovely night singing and watching the night sky fill up with stars. I couldn’t  find the seven sisters constellation to show everyone to look through with binoculars.
There have been a few head injuries as the crew gets accustomed to the heights of various ledges.   On some of these anchors there are beautiful restaurants on the beaches  HOWEVER  I would however recommend that anyone checks the price of the weighed fish meals   Fortunately we did and smartly avoided paying  Euro 180 for Langouste.  (More money for a hat)  and the temptation to have the full Italian meal with all its courses and aperitifs is playing havoc with our waistlines.

Generally most of the crew love the luxury and comfort of the Catamaran however Pat and I would far prefer the Mono Hull for a variety of reasons to dull to write here.
We had our first nightmare mooring in Bonface.  They were unable to send anyone to assist us as they were dealing with a super yacht at the time.  The mooring chain got caught around the prop and I had to dive below  to unfoul it.  I think we stopped the engine just in time as there were six twists and wrapped quite tightly but no damage to the prop. .
Boniface is an incredibly stylish island.  The houses are teetering on the cliff edge.  A great place to people watch.  The shops are incredibly expensive that Initially when you see the prices you gasp and then a few shops down you see a tee shit reduced to $55.00 and its a bargain and yes someone bought one!
It was good craic watching Ireland play Italy But Lads what a shame in the French match.
The wind has not been very high in the past few days however Tom’s wind is creating a venturi effect.  No need to say more than that!
Just as I wrote this  yesterday we got some very high winds from the Mistral with gust up to 42.  We are not in a marina in La Maddalena.  Beautiful  Watch all those stylish Italians and of course you can spot the British and Americans.  The boys from the boat beside us are German Doctors  And yes they look like children.  One of them had to leave early this morning because his wife had gone into labor!!!!   Orthopedic of course
Its great fun trying out my French however while some of the waiters are tolerant and just occasionally will correct my pronunciation, one guy just looked baffled in in appalling English asked that I PLEASE just speak English.   Humph

Leaving Rome for Sardinia…

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Reinhard and Leslie have now arrived and for our last day we did a three hour guided tour of the Vatican. I would highly recommend a private tour.  It saves time in lines as well as being informative.  Needless to say it was incredible with all the art work and history, although it has to be said that the Sistine chapel was packed.ceiling

The next time I want them to empty the chapel of all those tourists, for me.  The holy door is only opened every 25 yrs and this year was one of them.  We have all been absolved of all our sins because we passed through it and furthermore blessed by touching St Peter’s feet. (That’s the statue I’m referring to not the real person obviously)  Pat was taking pictures of us but the guide wsalked past his camera line just as I was going and all he got was my butt. hmmph   It was pretty weird to see the waxed body of St John Paul.   When they exumed his body to replace him because he was being cannonised there was no evidence of any decomposition.St John Paul

This really tickled Paula but then again the highlight of Rome in her view was the Capuchin Crypt where the friars have rearranged the skeletons of the monks of 17th Century to look like flowers, chandeliers, clocks etc. Mmm Paula’s pretty weird to I guess.
We dandered home after that and had a very cultured afternoon watching Italy play Sweden in the football in local bar.  Pat thought he had died and gone to heaven as he ate a delicious Panacotta.


We have now arrived in Sardinia and started out on the Catamaran.  The weather was terrible on the first day ( I think its better weather on mono hulls ) it rained and we motored all the way however our first stop was a lovely harbour Porto Rotondo unfortuately the first marina showers very pretty whiffy and no toilet seat to speak of just a place to put your feet and squat.  This was the fancy marina!   I guess all the boats that were docked are using their own showers and toilets and getting the crew to dump the waste when they go !
Weather today is beautiful and that’s why the blog is short …

Well we’re off on our travels again and this time it’s to Italy first stop Rome.

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With the exception of Leslie and Reinhard who are arriving later in the week, we all met at the airport and of course did the obligatory selfie.    The apartment is big and beautiful and right beside the Coliseum.    We spent the first day strolling around and with the exception off losing Tom and Paula for a couple of hours  (they went back to the apartment while we searched around the Victor Emmanuel Monument, otherwise known as the wedding cake for rather obvious reasons) it was fairly uneventful start.  Tom is busy photobombing every time he sees a camera.  I never thought I’d meet someone more upstaging than me.

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We stopped by the Pantheon and joined a tour there .  I would highly recommend that .  Its the largest Dome in the World.  Built 27  BC but when I remarked on how amazing it was that they had all that engineering and the ability to transfer those enormous columns of stone from Egypt to Rome the guide rather dismissively said ‘they were just copying from the Greeks and the Egyptians before them’  The guide was not Italian.

We strolled up the Castel Sant Angelo and up to St Peter’s square ‘smelling the Rose’s’ as Pat puts it meaning just looking around.  Down by Spanish steps and Trevi fountain to be revisited at night time as well.   There is a very heavy police and army presence. Although not  invasive, it is noticeable…. Sad but necessary.

 

Yesterday we covered the Roman forum, Palatine hill and the Coliseum.  An exhausting tour.  Shouldn’t be missed but sore feet and backs at the end off it.

Last night we found a beautiful local restaurant off the beaten path and finished off with a seeing the Trevi fountain by night .  Very beautiful.

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