Thursday, May 26, 2011

Portofino

 Arriving in this [pictureque town in Italy was amazing.  From the time we woke up, there was a sense of relaxation in the air, not that we were not relaxed, but the truth be told we had walked far more than we had planned and were determined not to walk too much this time around.  The town was quite small with less than 1000 inhabitants scattered all around 2000 sq/km's.  Debbie and I were always the first ones off the yacht, our enthusiasm to see new things was evident as the seasoned travellers slept late.  Our first stop had to be an ice-cream shop. My cousin Shahaada advised me about the quality of ice-cream and there we wer at 9am in the morning eating ice-cream, the very thing we tell our kids not to do.

Landing on the shore of Portofino







The town square


The town square was just waking up and was quite empty so we decided  to take a walk up the mountain, the walk to the end of town should take 10 minutes up the mountain, but I had the shopping queen with me. Her propensity for diving into any shop with an open door astounded me.  Standing around at this point became a pastime so I took to watching people.  We eventually saw a path and foolowed it.  Ity was a lot of stairs and it indicated that we could walk to a town not far away. Apparently in italy 25 minute walk is an estimate, we walked for 90 minutes and were not even halfway.  After a "healthy" debate we turned back, thank heavens.  The return journey only took 30 minutes as it was all downbhill.. We returned to a town full of italian schoolchildren and felt rather clautrophobic.  We stopped at a local coffee shop of which there were 8 on the square.  I enquired about the cost of coffee to which the waitress said 2 euro.  If you look at the pic in the photo below you will notice that the cups were not from South Africa, but made by pygmies as it took 2 sips and it was all over. I savoured the taste as damn that was a pricey cup of java.  Some patrons at another coffee shop were charged 2 euro just to sit down.

Having espresso coffee
We retreated back to the yacht for lunch and had a swim and paddleski in the Med.  It was cold but had to say I swam in the Med Sea.  Debs is a real trojan and was the first one in.  I was more worried about the fact that my legs were dangling ni an ocean 200ft deep and possible food for some unsuspecting vermin.  Once the photo opportunity was done,  I made a dive for the stairs and once I was on the base of the yacht, I was a happy camper.


Later the afternoon we took a walk to the lighthouse which was about 30 minutes through the old village.  It was filled with history and I wondered how people got their groceries to heir homes as there were no roads.  There was a castle dating back to 1300AD and a church  to the same age.  The area in effect was at a cul-de-sac along the coast and definitely one of the highlights of the trip for me.


On the walk to the lighthouse Debs noticed the beautiful houses and amazing bricks only to discover thaqt they were actually painted if you took a close look.  It takes these guys up to a month ot paint a house.



 At the end of the day we had a braai/barbecue on deck as we sailed out of port at about 8pm.  The captain took us on a cruise back past the old village agin just to see the historic building nestled in the rocks.  An amazing spectacle. indeed.

The view below out of our porthole shows how low down we were on the yacht.  The level of the water was just below our window.

The lighthouse which also had a galeteria (ice cream shop) with undoubtedly the best views ever.

An artist in the 80's hung this rhino in a park  and a few more strange pieces of art has followed since



Thursday, May 19, 2011

Barcelona

We arrived in Barcelona at about 9am and were taken to the yacht, but could only board at 1pm.
I think this is Christopher Columbus.
So we decided to take a walk on La Rambla which is a 1,2km walk through the city lined by trees and a some fantastic architecture dating way back to the early 1900. It was so amazing to hear all the different languages being spoken within earshot.  i was in heaven.  At the start of the walk, the flea market shops were quite expensive but just 500 metres later, you saved yourself some serious money.  The imposing statue on the left was rather large and apparently you could go up to the top of this thing in a lift.
We were on a tight budget, or should I say I was on a tight budget, my wife shopped like she had all the bucks in the world.  She never stopped smiling and you could hear her oohs and aahs from across the street, with frequent shouts of "ANDRE, COME LOOK HERE", my wallet even trembled.  Debs needed me and my wallet close at hand and I dare not stray or go away.  By this time I had been awake for a total of 19 hours and my judgement was severley impaired with frequent bouts of handing over money taking preference over saying no.  We were warned about pickpockets which made me rather paranoid, unecessarily so.  I felt a bit like I ws in a flea market in SA as there was a lot of Indian and Chinese traders on the outskirts.  The shops were narrow and long with a lot of the same stuff found as you walked around.  The ice Cream was divine and breads fresh.  The people were smiling and I was so taken aback at the fact that there were no black people in sight.
Shopping heaven for my wife.
And she shopped and shopped........
The trek up La Rambla was a slow process, but it gave me a chance to look at the awesome architecture on display.  I took lots of pictures and felt like the camera was attached to my face.  I was in awe of everything.
The top of La Rambla
Narrow shops, but very long 
By the time we got to the top of La Rambla my legs were a gonner and the thought of wqalking back was a daunting one.  We took a slightly different route to speed up the process somewhat.  Sidewalk cafe's were everywhere, it felt like I was in another country, alas I was.  The yacht was majestic indeed, the rooms were big and the staff on board were amazingly friendly.  A few Seffricans worked the casino on board, the Phillipino's serves drinks and coffees and the Indonesians the food.  We befriended them all with the waiters rushing to serve us.  There were four restaurants on board with the one serving cakes, croissants, muffins and sweett hings all day with an endless supply of coffee.on tap.  I was quickly made aware of the cost of drinks, Coke was $3, Dacqeries were $5 and cocktails $7.  I drank a lot of coffee, water and iced tea.  All of which was free.
Leaving barcelona
Leaving Barcelona was cool and out adventure on the high seas began. A little rough as there was a lot of movement on the first day, but we survivied, they played music loud as we left port.

The sails were hoisted and off we went. We unpacked our stuff and settled in as we belonged there.  Palma de Mallorca, here we come.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My first trip 'overseas'

Cape Town Airport, Jhb here we come

I have never been so excited and nervous at the same time ever in my life. I had never visited any other countries and the furthest that I had been 'overseas' was Robben Island.  As the picture above shows I still looked quite relaxed with no idea what was about to happen once we hit Johannesburg.  The smile that was on my face was soon wiped out as we checked through Jhb airport on our way to Zurich.  At passport control, both Debbie and my passport were carefully scrutinised.  Now I must tell you that i had given my details to a local policeman to check before leaving so that I don't pick up any problems when leaving or entering our country and he found nothing as he could only search locally.  The passport control officer took a long time checking my passport and after joking with him he said that here was a problem. He called the police who took about 10 minutes to get there.  It was the longest 10 minutes ever.  He proceeded to escort me to the police station situated some distance into the airport.  I felt a bit like a criminal as people in the duty free section were looking at us following this cop who had my passport and ticket in full view of everyone. Debbie was cursing me at this point as she wanted to do some duty-free shopping but now had to follow me.

When we eventually arrived at the SAP station copies of my passport and visa was already on the desk.  Apparently I was to appear at a court case in , wait for it, 1995 and never pitched. They kept asking me if I remembered. I said that I could not remember what I had for lunch the previous day, how was I to remember 1995.  After about half an hour they let us go saying that they will probably apprehend me on our return. That was not a good way to leave on a 11 hour flight as all I thought about was getting arrested when I got back.

The flight was the worst ever as with my long legs and non-accommodating stewardesses, I ended up standing for 3/4 of the flight, sitting down only to eat or to try and watch a movie.  Sleeping was out of the question and I had never been more relieved when landing in Zurich.  We were rushed from one flight to another before flying on to Barcelona. We did manage however to get to look at some duty-free shops.
Duty Free shop in Zurich Airport
Flying over the Swiss Alps

On the underground in Zurich, going from one side of the airport to another.

The top photo shows Debs in the duty free shop, the middle one is us flying over the Swiss alps and the last, in the shuttle train going from one side of Zurich airport to the other.

The flight from Zurich to Barcelona was 2 hours long and much better than the first flight. Better leg room, better food and lots of Swiss chocolate.  An array of Swiss cheese was presented and despite not sleeping since the previous morning, I was upbeat.  Flying into Barcelona was tricky. The pilot was trying to get through thick mist and had to circle the entire town first before finding a gap in the clouds and dropping down.  Landing was fantastic and being at one of the finest airports in the world was exhilarating. A truly stunning piece of work.

Barcelona Airport, a bit blurred, but you get the picture
Anyway we were whisked by bus to the Port of Barcelona where I caught the first view of our yacht, a very large yacht which we were not allowed to board for at least another 4 hours. A most frustrating time but very well spent indeed.
The Windsurf
The Windsurf only accommodates 312 passengers in total with 150 staff on board. The beauty of it is you just relax, are always served well with 4 restaurants on board.  The service was fantastic and the rooms spacious with flat screen tv's and ipod docking stations in the rooms.  If you didn't have an ipod, you could gt one on e yacht for free. They also had approx., 300 DVD's which you could take to your room at no cost.  I was in heaven.  But first we had to get through 4 hours without sleep and walk the city of Barcelona. I needed energy and motivation and fast.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Politics and gemors

Way back in 1976, when I was in Standard 6, (yes in those days they were called standards so get over it and move on), I had my first ever brush with the law.

But let me take you back a few months prior.  You see, as a child I suffered from severe asthma and at one stage was in a coma for nearly 3 weeks, with machines basically breathing for me, well thats what my mother told me, because |I don't remember a damn thing.  My entire life was spent either at doctors rooms, hospitals or with my mom sitting at my side listening to my breathing. Goodness, talk about being sidetracked.

After coming out of hospital at the tender age of 13, I went back to school to catch up on lost work.  It was September 11, 1976 (why is that date so familiar), we arrived at school only to find it flooded. Some fool had blocked off the doors and left all the taps running resulting in flooding of the downstairs building. While the senior guys were busy cleaning, we continued studying and playing cricket. Being quite naive we did not notice that police vans were arriving outside the school.  There was some really stupid South African rule which stated that "where 3 or more people were gathered, it constituted towards overthrowing the government".  Now we had a very small school (St. Thomas High in Port Elizabeth) with only about 350 students at the time, creating a very easy target for our local policemen.  They brought out their loudhailers and promptly started shouting at us over the fence.  The older students started shouting back and then all hell broke loose. My good friend (Eddie Davids) and I ran for cover when the cops came running into the school, brandishing R1 rifles and batons.  All I could thnik of at the time was they were going to take my school books, remembering that it was exam time.  We hid in the one classroom but wanted to get our school books so crept out of the classroom.  We gently peeped through the door to see what was going on. Most of the students were on rounded up by the police and ushered to the centre of the tarmac where police were surrounding them with guns. We realised then that there was no way that we were going to get to our books so decided to gt back to our hiding spot.  Just as I turned around there was a policeman with a rifle pointed at my left eye. My shattered nerves, I think I wet my pants.  

We were duly ushered onto the same tarmac as the rest of the students and marched towards the bright yellow vans, which we called taxi's.  I think that they shoved 50 of us in each taxi and took us to the Algoa Park police station. It seemed like hours that we were in that hot van outside the police station. The Priest and nuns, I was at a Catholic school forgive me, were trying desperately to get us released but to no avail. We were ushered into a huge quad where we were fed oranges and dry brown bread. It was a long day with the greatest challenge being to get to the toilet. The other criminal prisoners found this whole exercise quite interesting and it must have been like watching fish in a fishtank, there was no television at the time okay.  Firstly the criminals got annoyed because we were in the space during the time that they were allowed out for their one hour break. Then they could'nt get to the toilets because we had to go.  Because it was a males only prison the prisoners had to go in and clean the toilets for the girls which pissed them off somewhat.

My asthma started playing up and later that evening my dad got a call to come and fetch me and had to pay an admission of guilt fine of R30. My dad was very proud of me for standing up for my rights, but gosh, I had no idea at that time what the hell had happened.  It was only when going back to school the next week that I sat listening to the senior guys talking about the situation that I started thinking politics.Suddenly Nelson Mandela, Allan Boesak, Govan Mbeki had become my heroes.  I listened with keen interest as to what was was being said, formulating my own thoughts and getting more and more politicised. My life was beginning to change and every document that I could lay my hands on that was banned was in my house.  I needed to know what was happening and what had to be done.  My high school career was then filled with boycotts and conversations about overthrowing the National Party government.

Being a shy and introverted young person helped keep me in the background and out of harms way when the cops came looking for instigators.  But when I got home I was angry. I wanted to make a difference in the fight and was determined to do so. I never read books, only political documents and was soon filled with information that most 13 year olds could only dream of.

After reading all of this stuff I just typed I realised that I have not yet made my point, but will get to the next instalment soon. Dont blink, I will be back later in the week to continue the saga.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Oh what a night

As you all know, my daughter rceived a full scholarship work R300000 over the next 3 yers with an option to study further to do her Masters and Honours towards being a CA.  We took the guy who made it all possible to supper last night at the Cape Sun hotel and had a glorious 20 course meal.  Okay it was a buffet, give me some poetic licence here. The evening was amazing and we feel truly blessed to have this awesome gift from God.

We got home home around 21h30 and was about to go to bed at about 11pm when Debs got a call from work requesting her presence there as the manager on duty did not pitch up. The clown has a drinking problem so Debs and I left the boys sleeping and drove into town (about 15 monutes on a clear day).  I watched Arsenal come from behind and beat barcelona, whilst my wife slaved away doing work things.  We eventually got home at about 12h45 this morning. The wind howled so badly last night that I think that I only had 2 hours sleep before having to get up again. So as I sit here, I am MOEG (tired, sorry afrikaans expresses it so well).

Gosh the wind was so bad in town that I wondered whether the U2 structure for the concert tomorrow night was still going to be standing this morning. My car would not go faster than 80km per hour into a headwind.

I'm still on leave and I think that I will go see another movie today. What to see.  The Tourist sounds good or maybe......

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Birthday blues

My daughter Ashleigh turned 18 this past weekend and it was just one long party. Breakfast at Commonground with her bestie Shriya then later drinks at La Med, onto Stones and eventually collected the birthday girl at around 2am on Saturday morning.I would much rather fetch and carry my kids so that I know where they are. Whle I am still able to, its important for me to know where they are and who they are with. Ashleigh is very responsible and has never had a drink before, however on Friday evening had 3 different cocktails and had that glazed donut look in her eyes whilst we were still at La Med. She never had anything else to drink after that, THANK YOU LORD. Driving home that evening or morning she mentioned the magic words. CLUBBING IS NO FOR ME. Music to my ears.  The fact that drinking is also expensive also accounts for much of the decision. I pesonally would like to believe that she went out purely because as an 18 year old she is now allowed to do that, its not her though and does not suit her character.

The rest of the weekend was one party after the other, between her, Jesse and Debbie I had covered over 300km woth of driving on Saturday alone. Dads taxi was well and truly operating.

I am on leave, YES plesae

I have so been enjoying being on leave. On day one I went and sat in the movies,with just my car keys as company. On top of that I went to watch a chick flick. I don't know whats wrong with me, but I cry in movies now thank heavens its dark in the movies.  I went to watch the movie LOVE & OTHER DRUGS with te gorgeous drop dead Anne hathaway and Jake Gylenhal. The movie was very touching and despite a few naked butts here and there the story line eventually came about and was insanely powerful. We take so much for granted as human beings.  A slight headache and we want to lie down and cut ourselves off from the rest of the world. Go see it with an open mind and take some tissues and calming pills because men can be real moegoes.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Time to relax

Today is dy ! of two weeks of rest and relaxation. I ask myself what do I want to do today, the answer, NOTHING!!! How cool is that. I can't take my mind off work though as there ws so much unfinished business to attend to. Well I have to let go and trust the rest of the guys to get on with the job and make money.

I have had to take some leave because truly I have become forgetful and often find myself staring into space even when I am driving. Maybe that was why I had the accident. The maid however comes today so I am forced out of my hole. Maybe I will just relax and go see a movie. Yeah, good idea.

Chat later.