The Psychology of Quality and More
Summer on the Mediterranean
At the end of August 2010 we went on a cruise of the Western Mediterranean, on board the Thompson Destiny.
Saturday 21 August 2010
Daughter kindly ferried us over to Gatwick to catch the Thompson flight to Palma. Not much leg room but a quick and easy flight so not really worried. Met by reps, and bussed to the ship ok. Having read varying reviews I was expecting a rather tired old boat but it's just fine. We'd initially booked a cheapo on deck 2 but review comments about engine noise prompted us to move up to deck 6 plus window, which turned out to be rather nice.
First night was book stuff, including table. Got pressed into buying a 'wine package'. Turned out to be a good decision. Splendid variety of wine with meal every night. Yum.
Watched the poolside entertainment for a while, which was surprisingly entertaining. We were a bit cautious of 'Thompson Reps' doing their thing but they were actually rather good (which from a bookish old bloke like me is high praise).
Sunday 22 August: At sea
Did pretty much nothing all day. Sat in sun. Read book. Ate. Wandered around decks. Felt guilty about not doing more.
Table at dinner is with same people each night. We were on a nice quiet one in the corner with a jolly bunch of older folks (like us) including a couple of teachers (like us). Good conversation and very reasonable food. The food had been dissed in reviews, but it was just fine. Perhaps not five star but we've had no complaints.
Different movies on TV every night, with many recent ones. We watched Iron Man 2, then nodded off.
Monday 23 August: Trapani, Sicily
Active day, to say the least. There was a trip to mountain-top village Erice for 30 euros. We asked at the desk and it seemed walkable to the gondola station and set off. But directions were to the train station. Uh oh. Got further instructions there of 'just walk to the end of that road'. Correct, but the road was veeery long. An hour later in Sicilian heat and we got there. Erice was delightful although predictably touristified. We went one street off the main square and found an empty (and excellent) coffee shop.
Then walked back to the centre of Trapani. Shops close until 4pm for long siesta but enough meandering led to interesting back streets, beaches and more. Got baffled by church dome in distance and not finding church. Eventually bumped into it as it opened at 4pm. More wandering decks at night.
Tuesday 24 August: Naples, Pompeii and Vesuvius
Whistled out of Naples on all-day hot trip with the loquatious Vincento as our guide. Wound up Vesuvius along narrow roads in big bus to 1000m and then walked the rest up pumice track. Doable but wearying in Neapolitan temperatures. Wonderful views across Naples and down the coast. Big hole at top of mountain. It last erupted in 1944 and is apparently entirely unpredictable as to when it'll next blow. The locals seem unconcerned as there are houses much of the way up its slopes.
Then on to Pompeii which is huge. We walked around what I thought must be most of it but turned out to be just a corner. Well it was a city of 25000 people. Weird feeling, wandering through gymnasium, theatre, forum and more. Interesting paintings in the brothel. Outside Pompeii is quite commercialised. Inside is big enough to swallow a lot of folks.
Then back to ship for dinner, entertainment, movies and well-earned sleep.
Wednesday 25 August: Ajaccio, Corsica (France)
After the exertions of the previous two days we had a relatively quiet day in this delightful town, just pottering around. Ajaccio is where Napoleon was born and brought up, and it's clear from the statues all over the place. We went to his house but didn't go in. The cathedral nearby is small and pleasant. Half a day was just about right to have a couple of coffees around meandering the town centre.
Evening aboard ship was more splendid food and wine and stroll around the darkening decks, photographing the fading sunset before meandering between entertainment lounges then off to bed.
Thursday 26 August: Cannes, France
The boats in the harbour here immediately tell you that you're in the playground of the rich. Strolling past them on the way in was an education. Ah well, when I make my first ten million (one is nowhere near enough). Then up to the castle for the views and wandering down to the main town via backstreet coffee shop.
We concluded that Rue D'Antibes was like a rather long New Bond Street in London, with designer shops and designer people. Rather marvellously, we found the 'Boutique des Chiens' where you can buy every luxury for your pampered pet. Not that the pet is likely to be pleased with being dressed in a little jumper or with a diamante collar, but there you go. We saw a few of them. Always small dogs on dainty leads, typically the chihuahua 'rat on a stick' as some darkly witty soul once said.
Then queue in the 35 degree heat for the launch back to the ship (fortunately only about 15 mins -- others queued much longer) for tea and cream scones and watching the passing traffic as we chugged back out to sea.
Friday 27 August: Barcelona, Spain
After an initial scrum to get off the ship and onto bus into town we bought day tickets on the metro (6 euros each) and headed up to the Gaudi cathedral. With queues around the corner and down the road (and 12 euro entry fee) we ended up having coffee over the road and admiring the outside. Then back to the 'golden quarter' to admire the assorted art nouveau buildings and soak up the sights. Again, Gaudi dominates, as much from his outlandish extravagance as anything. The Gaudi house had shorter queues but with 17.80 entry fee we gave that a pass too.
Then down to the old town with its classic narrow back streets and great edifices. Watched the police nobble street sellers (just as we were about to buy something). It was Barcelona's hottest day at 40 degrees plus so took things slow. Had regular ice cream, beer and coffee. Then down the Ramble back to the ship.
Saturday 28 August: Palma, Majorca
Time to explore before the late afternoon flight out, so we took the bus to the old town for early coffee before the old cathedral opened at 10. Wonderful light through large rose window. Nice little cloister with photogenic pots and stuff.
Then through familiar narrow Mediterranean back streets, past more delightful arches, buildings and squares.
About an hour's walk back along front to ship, past endless yachts and toys for rich boys. We looked in a boat-seller's window. Second hand boats seemed to go upwards (and upwards) from 500K.
Then back through airport queues to thankful pick-up by daughter and home to delighted pooches.
And the big