Monday 29 February 2016

Are we nearly there yet?

Clare substitute
We really do know how to tiddle around. At the end of my last blog I’d gone in search of tea. As the bells had just tolled to tell everyone it was 8am I expected missy to arrive any moment soon so a full pan was ready.

Sure enough she arrived.

And then skipped upstairs to have a look out of the window. Normally I would post a picture of her looking out of the window as it’s become a bit of a thing but, err, I won’t this time. So we sat and nattered and - rather unexpectedly given her retirement - she sat and wrote her current awareness though unlike the approach she’s taken for the last 20 years she added her interpretation and comments. It’s hilarious, you need to read it!

It was just like, well, the last four years, us sitting writing over a cup of tea in nighties and cackling. Different location, same insanity. Comforting really. We had more tea. As there is no kettle we have to put a pan on which does rather remind you that things are slightly different. That and the decor, religious icons and stone floor. Obviously I couldn’t do *anything* until I’d finished my tea so it was a while before we eventually decamped to our respective boudoirs to shower, dress and pack bags ready for the journey to Ancona, the last leg of the Contrary road trip. Crikey.

Of course breakfast would happen before journey.

Ah. Breakfast. Now that was an interesting and delicious mix. We still had things left over from our Lidl run yesterday, just not quite the range, so we split the remaining focaccia, sliced hard boiled eggs and tomatoes, layered dirty cheese on to the bread, added with wild boar sausage, cheese and anything else to hand before devouring the must disgusting sandwiches we could manage. Perfect.

Considering how heavy the rain had poured in the night it was a surprise that we were able to eat on the roof terrace, but oh with that view it was quite wonderful. It wasn’t long before we finished so it was back downstairs to clear away the breakfast things, pack bags and prepare to head East to Ancona.

Obviously it took me longer to tiddle around as I’d decided to re-organise my bag. Before we knew it we had reached the point where it was time to wave goodbye to out home of the last 48 hours. Clare left the bible outside our suite on the song of songs, though I can’t help but wonder whether revelations might have been equally as apt.

Needless to say the owner looked happy that we’d stayed an extra night and as Clare finished chatting with him I headed off to fetch the Contrary Clio so we didn’t have to carry bags.

She wasn’t very happy. The Clio that is.

You know when an engine is quite hesitant and feels like it’s going to die? Yup, the torrential rain had really upset the plucky little car. At least I hoped that’s what it was. Fortunately with coaxing we managed to climb back in to the old town and once more parked on the narrow streets we carefully reloaded the bags in their correct places, bid our farewells and with a little growl we rolled out through the town gate and on to Ancona.

Well, except that we had to stop to take some last pictures of the lake as the light was amazing and also enter the complete address of the ferry terminal in to Tom. We were off! The journey started off uneventfully enough. The rain confirmed our decision to skip Perugia as being a good one. All was well. Okay we still laughed at how abysmal the Italian road surfaces are and how they improved or worsened according to which region you were in, right in the border. We even realised that whilst Italian drivers have a certain reputation there are very few accidents as most people expect most people to be utter lunatics and hence drive very defensively. Once we were on the autostrada we rolled along happily until, unexpectedly, the road ran out. Oh. It turned out they were still slowly building the road and we were decamped on to the original roads. Most people would think this bad, but not us as this meant a) we could let the Contrary Clio have fun on the twists and b) we would get to see a road being built. And tunnels. And bridges. It’s really quite something to see and gave us a huge appreciation of the Italian way as well as understanding just why they feel the need to hack through the countryside. Yes it’s a shame that people miss out on the really interesting roads and scenery but - and this reflects a theme in Clare’s blog earlier - people have the choice, they can choose speed over interest. Plus the more people on the autostrada the more off the interesting twisty roads.

I became aware that our fuel was getting a little low and said we’d stop at a suitable garage. This lead to a discussion about the cost of fuel in Croatia versus Italy, i.e. was it worth waiting? I had enough range to get me to the ferry and about 50-60 miles out of it, plenty really, but where best to refuel.

And then I found a filling station so I peeled of deciding that I’d leave the question of cost to another day… Hmm, except a problem. I got out. I put the fuel nozzle in the tank. I waited. Nothing. I pressed various buttons. Nothing. I looked at the station office. Nothing. Oh. Where was the attendant? After a few minutes I gave up and was ready to push on. As I got back in the car we realised that there was a little machine fifteen feet away which *might* have taken cards and *might* have been the payment mechanism but we had no idea and didn’t really want to translate each and every sign.

Oh well.

We also had a bit of an incident. About twenty miles from Ancona I was at a safe distance behind a lorry at 90KPH, the speed limit. Another lorry went to overtake, then realised we were entering a tunnel where lorries overtaking is forbidden so he started rolling back in. To where we were. Cue heavy breaking as he had decided he had priority. I wasn’t best pleased. As we left the tunnel I wanted to put distance between me and the lunatic. As I passed I realised the driver was looking down, clearly irritated that I had the audacity to be (legally) where he wanted to be as he was speeding and performing and illegal manoeuvre. I know, bitch. This bugged me so I might have accidentally given him the bird as I whizzed by. The blast of his horn confirmed what I believed, he was looking.

Anyway. Not much further on I realised that not only had he *not* overtaken the lorry I’d been behind and he was presumably trying to overtake but he’d actually dropped back a long way. This made little sense and all I can put it down to is that either the lorry in front or the van behind had used their CB radios to explain what a silly chap he’d been and maybe he should drive in a more considered manner.

Perhaps slightly more colourfully put.

At exactly 1500 miles Clare said “Are we nearly there yet” for the second time. Perfect timing. It’s astonishing, the original plan showed about 2000 miles of driving, but then we deleted an entire day in France, took a full day off in Italy and pared down the number of places we would try to visit. The reality is that the time we took to drive from Grasse to Acqui Terme could easily have been used to cover 500 miles but that wasn’t the point, we took the route because it looked fantastic. And it was. Definitely a driving highlight of the adventure.

As we approached Ancona the rain started again. Which with the string sunshine made for some epic rainbows, hopefully Clare has caught them! By coincidence we are both getting tired and I said that I had got as far as rainbows… As has she! So I have fifteen minutes left to finish this before we head off for a good night’s sleep. Anyway…

I still needed fuel but I passed several stations as they were exorbitantly expensive and whilst I would be more comfortable with a full tank I did have range to play with. We did agree we needed to pick up water for the night and as if by magic a Lidl sign appeared. Ooh! The Lidl in Ancona is right by the seafront and must have one of the best views of a Lidl anywhere. We also decided that as we were here we’d get wine for the evening, unfortunately we don’t have a corkscrew so it had to be one with a screw top. In Italy. Hmm. We had the choice of either a milk carton full of wine or 1 1.5L bottle of red that cost a massive €2.79. It’s surprisingly drinkable!

As we still had three hours or so until the ferry check-in time we told Tom to shut up and headed in to the old town to have a mooch around. And find a loo. Ah yes, so we found a covered car-park, parked, followed the signs to the ladies, passed the exit, kept following the signs to the ladies and… Ended up back at the Contrary Clio. Seriously Italy SORT OUT YOUR BLOODY SIGNS. They are worse than your road surfaces and that’s saying something.

We gave up and headed in search of a bar to have a coffee and a loo break. But it was that stupid time of the day and it was Monday so that place was almost totally closed. Except, fortunately, for one bar. The one with the lunatic customer that was living on the edge of reason. Oh dear. Still, the loos were clean and after the coffee and a rapid fanning to cool myself down as I was having a mammoth hot flush we were ready to push on to the cathedral.

Along the way the town redeemed itself, the unpleasant, featureless outer town was replaced with dirty character and interesting buildings. It was no Siena but the town was growing on me. I imagine my earlier discomfort did have a negative effect on my perception.

What did we see? Well our ship, yet another Roman amphitheatre, a really interesting cathedral that was a wonderful contrast to the previous three we’d seen, incredibly plain and simple. What else? Oh yes, two security services types in what looked like army camouflage looking the level of hot that gives Clare a desperate flush. And they knew it. Bastards.

We wandered back to town and discussed the perception of time, namely it took just a few minutes to get to the car but it had taken us *ages* to get to the bar we had coffee in. We decided that it must have been the pee factor, you’re desperate to find a loo and time perception slows to a crawl to make sure everything seems to take forever. Science at play.

Finally we were back at the carpark and were pleased to see a beggar that had hassled us earlier had gone. Good. We told Tom to take us to the destination the ferry company had given us and… There were barriers across the road. Hmm. Clare pointed out a man in uniform and we decided he must know what he’s doing. Mind you, she always points out men in uniform so not exactly guaranteed to be successful. Fortunately he got the gist and explained that we needed to follow the yellow signs to the ticket office. We can do that! *hopeful face*.

It was all going too well, we went in, we were given boarding cards, even the plucky one had one. Back we went to quay 11, we got was far as barriers and… were told to come back at 6pm. Oh well. This did at least give a chance for the rearranging of bags and packing the “picnic”, read wine and crisps and Clare looked for sailors, just in case we needed one. Or something.

Finally it was time, we went, we handed over our bits of paper and we were let through! Hurrah! Trundling round to Quay 11 the plucky little car hit a range of 64 miles, slightly unnerving but ooh, I think we can make it. We had one more stop as we went through passport control, we obviously didn’t look too dodgy as they let us leave, the question is whether we’ll be allowed back.

Within just a few minutes we were rolling in to the ship and the little car was directed to it’s spot snuggled up by the corner of the hull. And the best thing? We were right next to an entry hatch so relatively easy to find! By this point Clare is bouncing with excitement so out we jumped, scurried in to the passenger area, collected the key for our cabin, dumped bags and went squealing on to the deck to squeal lots more.

It was at this point as we looked towards where we’d been walking earlier that I realised I never did get fuel, looks like I’ll be filling up in Croatia after all!

Not that this matters a jot, we were do busy being silly, running up and down and singing “why are we waiting”. As you do. Finally we ended standing near the bridge so the skipper could observe the clearly good looking navigator as he plotted his course. I’m not sure I believed her. At exactly 19:45… We were still there. Hmm. This was going well. We saw various straggling lorries roll in and at exactly 20:00 the radar started rotating and… We were still there. More stragglers. This was getting annoying fast, my feet were cold, my hair was everywhere and we were going nowhere fast. And then, at 20:15 the bow thrusters burst into life and the ship moved perceptibly away from the quay. Hurrah, we were off!

We watched the open sea advance towards us, we passed the end of breakwater navigation lights, and as we looked back we saw the lighthouse doing it’s thing as Ancona faded away. Goodbye Italy, it was fun. Looking above we could see stars appearing in the sky as the light pollution of town faded to the blackness of the sea. It was magical.

So we went to find something to eat.

The restaurant was fairly quiet, mind you I imagine it being February the ferry was no way near capacity however the menu looked extensive, the atmosphere jovial, the waiters possibly on something and the food when it came was perfectly okay. I decided on the wiener schnitzel as I’ve not had it in a while, with a side of french beans, Clare went for the squid and a side of peas so we could share the two sides. Or could do if they didn’t eventually deliver two bowls of peas. Okay… Not that it stopped me eating and eventually they got it right. As the evening progressed we did notice they kept apologising for holding us up and we kept pointing out we were going nowhere. Well except for the obvious. It was over dinner that Clare attempted to teach me some Croatian as I felt I really needed to know *something*. Shame I can’t remember any of it.

Dinner done it was back to the cabin to collect pooters, two plastic skifs and a bottle of the finest plonk before we headed up to the bar area to sit in a quiet corner by a window and amiably write. Around us there was a mix of very loud groups chatting animatedly in Italian or Croatian with further bodies laying or slumped as they prepared for a night sleeping on the banquette seating. Mad fools, we did agree that it would have been too much to spend 12 hours on a ship sleeping on a chair.

As we wrote we occasionally nattered about the way that thoughts had been moulded by the previous week or so. Would they lead to changes in my life? Goodness knows. It was also becoming apparent that we were becoming tired, the last week had rather worn us out and even though yesterday was a day of rest it was also a very physically active. In other words we’d reached the point that I mentioned earlier. It was time for bed. Bunk beds. With ladders. Oh dear…

I’ll be in *Croatia and will have found WiFi by the time you read this, but as I write we’re currently somewhere in the Adriatic…

*specifically we are in a bar, as there is WiFi. And Wine. And cheesy muzik. Doviđenja

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