Tuesday 1 March 2016

A walk in the park

Oh dear lord what was that.

The Marko Polo had clearly decided to go over something of a roller coaster though we now suspect it might have been as we transitioned from the Adriatic to the more sheltered waters around the Croatian islands of, actually I won’t say what of as I’m not sure I can type them never mind pronounce them. My impromptu lesson last night had clearly not exactly worked. In fact I’d been laying there in the lower bunk trying to learn a few words that I’ve almost entirely forgotten. Except for ne. Ne I can remember. Huzzah.

The roller coaster woke missy, I asked tentatively if she fancied a walk on deck, I didn’t fancy waiting for the 6am alarm, the one I’d set for 5:50. Unsurprisingly she squeaked excitedly yes so we dressed quickly and scampered like two giggling loons up on the deck to watch the first blink of dawn being thrown in to shadow by the mountains. More mountains. After a bit of the freshness we wandered back to our cabin, dressed properly - a process that involved creating a quagmire in the little en suite - and headed off to the restaurant.

Now you all know I like tea. Indeed since I’ve been on HRT I struggle with coffee, but when presented by three urns labelled coffee, milk and tea you go for coffee with milk. Tea and urns. *shudders*. There wasn’t a lot of time to muck around as it turned out that whilst we’d left 30 minutes late we’d arrived bang on time so it was back to the cabin to get our bags.

But of course we couldn’t get there as almost the entire passenger compliment was blocking the entrance to our berths. We pushed through. There have to be some advantages to being my size! Of course it turned out that people were using the lift because they couldn’t be arsed to use the stairs. There may have been two lifts. Tiny ones. And a lot of people. Some saw sense and followed us down.

You might recall in the last blog that we’d left the Contrary Clio opposite a door. Hmm. We had the wrong door, the exit we had was one next to the lorries, so we headed forward, found a hatch through a safety wall and climbed through, jumped through another joining arch and finally found the car sniggering at our ability to find it. Anyway, we got there, moved the chocks, loaded our bags, lost our coats and waited…

…finally, we were off! Clearly the chap indicating we should move was Italian as the safe distance I left was too much for him to cope with so he was waving that I should move. Riiiggghhtt, in my own good time deary. Within minutes we were at the queue for passport control and… we waited. And waited. And waited. And waited. And waited.

We were about four cars from passport control.

Oh dear. We decided that as Croatia was, like us, not part of Schengen we were dealing with an old fashioned border control. After an age, and I mean an age not a impatient old biddy age, we moved forward one car. Another age, then another. To be fair the foot passengers had given up and were taking pictures. The nuns were taking pictures of each other, which made a nice change from seeing someone praying in Ancona whilst Clare was repacking her bag, slightly worrying that. Family groups were grouping and saying Cheese, which amused me as they were either Croatian or Italian, I had hoped they’d have an appropriate equivalent. If you know what it is please answer in the comment box below!

It also gave time for me to decide that it would be dull to have no dataz so as we sat I took out a £5 Euro Internet Pass for the day, not as cool as Three At Home but meant I wouldn’t be worrying about switching off swathes of data sucking activities.

Anyway, where was I. Oh yes, queueing. So all of these Italian and Croatian cars were taking forever to go through, I dreaded to think what we would be like. Finally, we pulled forward and stopped where the nice policewoman took our passports, passed them in the little window. I slipped the car our of gear and relaxed for a ten minute weight. My foot had barely left the clutch when she handed the passports back and sent us on our way.


I have no idea what happened. All I can think is that most people were using identity cards of some kind which created some kind of problem but with a passport… Speedy! Fabulous.

We travelled fifty yards and stopped again. This time we didn’t mind as we were meeting Ivana, the owner of Clare’s home for the next three months. You feel bad enough about making someone wait, even if it’s not your fault, but worse when it is raining heavily. We made hasty greetings though as it turned out we could have waited for ages at the exit as after a brief burst of speed with us the drip feed had resumed. Hmm, maybe they were trying to get rid of us. Perhaps Monty The Bear glaring through the windscreen jollied them in to action! Anyway, we made even hastier agreements to meet her back at the apartment as with all the luggage there was no way she could show us the way.

So we’ve arrived in a new country in a town I don’t know. At rush hour. In the pouring rain. With no points of reference whatsoever it was a case of blindly trusting Tom who seemed to be taking us on a wild goose chase though, as it turned out we were merely being taken around the old town to one of the streets that it had been suggested we could park on. I must now apologise to all of the people inconvenienced as I was inevitably in the wrong lane as I had no idea what was coming up and no clue where we were off to, but as with the Italians I suspect they are used to the occasional fuckwit or old-dear-on-tour-with-no-clue and gave space graciously. Things weren’t helped by the heavy rain obscuring the road markings. Stress level: 12.7/10

Finally we reached the street and found a space. The local parking method appears to be a) find any space and b) park high on the pavement. Both make sense as space is at a premium. We pulled on coats and hats and scooted off in to the rain with Clare in skipper mode navigating us in. I was even more blind now as I didn’t even have an address so it was a case of simply trailing along. It wasn’t for long though and we were soon standing in the near the wrong place but not far from the little green door that lead to Ivana’s yard. She’d obviously been listening out for us as her head poked through the opened door with a welcoming smile.

Quick tour done it was time to fetch the bags in the first of what would be three trips. Fortunately the rain was beginning to ease though no less a struggle as, well, let’s just say Split is built on a hill… Or at least the bit we were in was. With the first load done Clare could sort out her bag and head off to her first day at University and I could continue marching up and down the hill hauling bags.

After I’d dragged in the last bag, the heavy one with books, I saw I had a message. Clare was finished for the day. Already. Goodness. It was a case of slight misunderstanding and slightly misreading the number 2 as a 1. Easy done, they look exactly the same, especially if your think of them in roman numerals and your eyes have gone funny. I didn’t laugh at all, not me, it would have been quite wrong.

Okay maybe a little.

As there was now time we wandered off in to town, all of about 150yards away to have a mooch around. It’s a pretty little place though the front seems a bit confused about its identity. And there’s a lot of marble which makes things interesting underfoot when it’s raining… But it also gives incredibly flattering light, even I look okay! We vaguely looked at stalls, wandered though the market, passed comment on how poorly a gate appeared to have been constructed in Diocletian’s Palace and finally I got the tea I’d been promised. Or would have done if I’d not been sensible and asked for coffee instead.

We nattered for a bit, Clare made like the local she now is and after a while wandered back to her home in search of lunch and maybe a nap. Of course what actually happened was lunch and writing followed by a walk to a bar where WiFi was on offer as things were proving tricky here.

But first I should mention the supermarket, en route we stopped for milk and a few pieces of fruit. Seems straightforward enough. It wasn’t clear whether we needed to weigh and label the produce and if so where, local being something that can only be acquired through awkward moments. This one was where a local policeman who was chatting to the women behind the deli counter intervened, took Clare’s fruit - not a euphemism - and passed it to be labeled before returning it to her. All very amusing at the time and lead to comments about what had happened. Which I would relay *if* I understood a single word but I definitely got the gist. Clare had arrived.

Cafe Bar Vidilica was placed at the top of steps from the old town on the edge of Park Šuma Marjan. Remember what I said about being on a hill? Yes, lots of steps. Hundreds. Finally arriving gasping at the top there was a moment of dismay that the place looked closed, fortunately it wasn’t, but first a little explore of the park to find a suitable running route for the fit one.

The park rises to around 500feet ASL (above sea level not age, sex, location) and gives a stunning view down to the town and across to the islands, on the northern side of the park we could see the suburbs of split nestled around another bay with the main road to Zagreb slashing through the landscape in the distance. I imagine climbing this hill would be exhausting in the summer, but this time of year it was really rather lovely especially as the earlier rain had not only gone but the ground had dried.

Finally, we reached the bar, sparkling water and fizzy pop was ordered for the healthy one whilst I had winez on the grounds that I needed it. WiFi was acquired and I could finally finish adding pictures to my blog and post it. And then start this one. Some time later we ordered more wine, this time for both of us, though it took a while as the man behind the bar kept appearing and disappearing and in the appeared moments never looked our way. I couldn’t say ask as I am completely dim and can’t speak a word and I didn’t like to use English as that felt like failure. My head really is cruel like this. Finally Clare caught his eye and wine appeared. And then another was asked for as he’d only brought the one glass.

After an amiable time writing time was called when the iBastard hit 1% power and it was time for more wine… Or would have been if it hadn’t turned out that he closed at 5pm this time of year and it was now 6. Oops.

The walk down the steps was easier than up and soon we were back in town and picking up a few more things to make some pasta with, no incidents this time, before returning so the chef could rustle something up whilst I would look in to ferry options for the return to Italy.

After a brief message exchange with my return trip partner and a review of maps it was decided that we would go via Slovenia after all though where the first stop will be won’t get decided until Clarissa arrives on Thursday. Still it provided some entertainment to look at options and ponder revised routes through Italy and France.

Finally as she’d finished writing missy sensibly went up to bed whilst I arranged the duvet on the sofa. I must admit this hasn’t been the most comfortable experience so I think I will revise my plan for the next few nights and book in to a cheap hotel otherwise I’ll be exhausted for the trip back across Europe.

And that would never do.

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