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Stunning St. Lucia

Honeymoon - St. Lucia

all seasons in one day 29 °C
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After a relaxed day in Antigua, today was going to be much busier. We had arrived in St. Lucia, and were going on a full day tour. After having breakfast we headed down to the dock.

St. Lucia was another of the Covid concerned islands, with temperature checks and wristbands to wear. We queued up for our tour, and looked at the ominous clouds above us. Next thing we were led to the side of a building just in time to take cover from the downpour about to hit us. It only lasted around 5 minutes, but being tropical it soaked anything caught in it.

We then boarded our bus and as we took a quick drive through the city's streets, got an introduction to the island from our guide. We then headed out of the city and up the mountain side, for views over the harbour.

Overlooking the harbour

Overlooking the harbour

The route south passed many hills and valleys, as well as passing by other aspects that make up the heritage and life on the island - seeing banana crops, fuel storage and alcohol distilleries.

Banana Plantations

Banana Plantations

We then arrived at Soufriere, the main area for our tour today, and which is dominated by the majestic Pitons - two twin peaks that are icons of the island, and stylised on the flag.

The Pitons

The Pitons

Our first major sight here was the Diamond Botanical Garden, a former plantation converted into a park with many beautiful ornamental plants.

Plants

Plants

There was also a walk down a gorge towards a waterfall, which being geothermal and mineral rich had stained the rock beneath.

The Waterfall

The Waterfall

After this, we headed back to the coach and travelled around the other side of town to the world's only drive in volcano.

The Volcano

The Volcano

Of course the sulphur escaping into the air meant it absolutely stank around here, but it did mean we got to see the bubbling mud pools and steam vents. Sadly we didn't get to stay here for long enough to bathe in the mud baths.

Mud Baths

Mud Baths

By now it was lunch time and we headed down the road to Morne Coubaril Estate for a Caribbean lunch where we got chatting to some of our other travelling companions.

Morne Coubaril

Morne Coubaril

It was now time to head back towards the capital, but rather than drive back the way we came, this would be via a boat trip. We boarded a catamaran at the small port at Soufriere as once more a huge black cloud came our way. Again this didn't last long, and was over by the time we set sail.

Uh Oh...

Uh Oh...

There were beautiful views of the Pitons once more, as we enjoyed Rum Punch.

The Pitons

The Pitons

We sailed to the secluded Anse Conchon Beach, where like in St. Vincent the boat's ladder was lowered and those who wanted to could get out and go for a swim or walk on the beach.

Anse Conchon Beach

Anse Conchon Beach

We decided to stay aboard as we'd done plenty of swimming until now, and after being surrounded by locals selling knickknacks, we headed north back towards Castries. En route, there was one last sight, the beautiful Marigot Bay, where lots of expensive small boats are docked.

Marigot Bay

Marigot Bay

For the last bit of the sail, the music was ramped up and there as a real carnival atmosphere with tipsy passengers and crew enjoying the music and dancing.

Party Boat

Party Boat

After arriving back at port, we went for a quick wander around the capital, seeing the cathedral and main square.

The Cathedral

The Cathedral

We then headed back towards the ferry terminal where the scale of the ship's size dominating over the town was clear.

Hiding Ship

Hiding Ship

We were now coming towards the end of the cruise - with just one new island still to see, and only three more days. Once we got back to the cabin we found our flight tickets had been delivered. Then the mood turned. We had been allocated seats in separate rows - despite the fact the flight out had been 1/3 empty, and the flights contained the same people.

Chris went own to reception to ask why we had been separated, and if we could be moved. But when he came back, told me that a very rude lady on reception had stated that they probably couldn't do anything, if we had wanted to sit together we should have paid £35 each to select our seats (even though when I had looked at this option before we had left home this was not actually possible), and if they were able to find seats together we would have to pay £70 for it. We would need to go back down at 8pm to see if they had been able to do it.

I was livid. We weren't asking for a particular seat on the plane, just two seats together for a couple on their honeymoon who had paid a fortune for this cruise, and on a plane with tonnes of spare seats.

Being slightly tipsy from the Rum Punch meant I marched down to reception at full speed, where I spoke to someone else who fobbed me off saying that only the Flight Coordinator could get involved and there was nothing they could do. What a way to kill the mood of what had until just now been a really good day....

After emailing P&O to complain about this problem and the appalling customer service, we headed for dinner and tried to enjoy the rest of the evening as best we could.

When 8pm came round we headed back down to reception to find a new set of people who knew nothing about our flight tickets. Speaking to a young guy called Calvin, we told him what had happened, and I ranted about the appalling customer service, this being yet another irritation on our holiday and the fact that not one person had yet had the decency to even say "I'm sorry, let me see what I can do". To which he said "I'm sorry". Whether it was genuine I don't know, but at least he had said it...

He told us he'd see what he could do and would give us a call later to let us know. In the meantime I had received an email back from P&O to say that as we were already on board, only the Flight Coordinator could do anything. Unsurprisingly, not even a 'sorry' in sight...

Expecting not to actually hear anything, and adjusting to the reality of probably having to spend the overnight flight back home separated we got into bed to head off to sleep. Then suddenly, the phone rang. It was Calvin, telling us he'd sorted out tickets and to come down to reception.

We got dressed and headed straight down, where he told us he'd sorted it and put us in seats together. He gave us the new tickets and we didn't need to pay. At least there was one nice person on board - but the question is, if this was so simple, why had it been such aggro to sort, why had we had to kick up such a fuss, and why had this not been done initially!?

By now it had been a very long day, and with another early tour tomorrow morning, we headed to bed.

Posted by kmmk17 17:25 Archived in Saint Lucia Tagged mountains rain boat beach volcano cathedral waterfall caribbean geology botanicalgarden Comments (0)

Kept Out Of Kingstown

Honeymoon - St. Vincent

sunny 28 °C
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As many of us have found - travelling during a pandemic is difficult. Even two years on, in parts of the world things are still far from normal. As mentioned in the last chapter, some ports were not letting independent wandering outside of the port. This was the case in St. Vincent, where the only way to see anything was to go on an excursion.

We had already booked some for tours we definitely wanted to go on in other ports, but for St. Vincent we weren't quite sure what we wanted to do. After having another look through the list of options once on board, the night before we got to Kingstown we decided we'd go on the Catamaran tour of the west coast.

Having sailed away from Barbados last night, by the time we woke this morning we had already arrived and docked in Kingstown, St. Vincent. And with the port being located at the far end of the bay we had a nice vantage over the town of just 12,000. The port also felt much different from that of Bridgetown - which had been very industrial. Kingstown meanwhile had a small jetty and then a collection of shops.

Kingstown

Kingstown

Having had breakfast and about to embark on our first cruise excursion we checked out of the ship, before being guided to join the relevant queue. Not long later, we were led to board the catamaran, from inside the port terminal.

Once everyone was on board we then headed out of the harbour. There were beautiful views as we sailed up the western coast, and we headed as far as Richmond, where there were views of La Soufrière, the highest peak on the island.

La Soufrière

La Soufrière

In April 2021 this dormant volcano had exploded and half the island was severely affected. Thankfully over by the time we arrived, the damage caused by the pyroclastic flows was evident. As we returned towards Kingstown the excursion's guide showed us a video he had taken during the peak of the volcanic activity, where plumes of smoke were shown rising almost endlessly, seemingly close to his home - and this was just from the Green zone!

Damage from the Pyroclastic Flows

Damage from the Pyroclastic Flows

Not long later we passed by Walliabou Bay, which had doubled for Port Royal in the Pirates of the Caribbean films. In fact much of this stretch of coastline had been used as a filming location in the franchise, and as we passed these locations they were pointed out to us.

Walliabou Bay

Walliabou Bay

Although we weren't allowed to stop at these places (to prevent us mixing with locals in light of the Covid situation), we were able to stop at Mt. Wynne Beach, as it was more isolated. We were taken almost to the shore, where the catamaran descended it's ladder and we were able to walk quite easily (if timed with the waves) to get onto the beach.

Getting off the Catamaran

Getting off the Catamaran

As the island is volcanic, the sand here was black, and we stayed here for around half an hour. The sea wasn't freezing but wasn't super warm, so I didn't do anything more than dip my feet in. However as it was pretty rough, it was probably wise. In front of us were some older ladies, and one of them misjudged the tide and quickly became submerged, spinning around like she was inside a washing machine!

At first it looked hilarious, but quickly the situation became quite serious. She didn't get pulled in, but as she couldn't swim (I know!) it was a close call. She made it out all shaken, but her sunglasses had not been so fortunate, lost forever more.

On the Beach

On the Beach

After a nice bit of time on dry land, we reboarded the boat and were served some rum punch - the local cocktail. And unlike in much of the western world they weren't afraid to make sure the rum was noticeable. After thoroughly cleaning out any lingering bacteria from my throat, it then went straight to my head - and it wasn't even lunchtime yet!

On the Catamaran

On the Catamaran

We enjoyed some beautiful views of St. Vincent in the glorious sunshine before we arrived back at the port. We weren't allowed into Kingstown which was a shame, but we could at least see it from the harbour. We bought ourselves some postcards before reboarding the ship and gabbing some lunch.

That evening before dinner, we managed to catch the sailaway as we left port, and grab some final views of a town we'd never seen!

Sail Away

Sail Away

The following day was our first Sea Day. We wouldn't be seeing anywhere new, instead spending the day on the ship as it sailed the Caribbean Sea. However as it doesn't actually take two days to get to the Leeward Islands, instead of hugging the Lesser Antilles, we did an unnecessary diversion well into the Caribbean Sea to waste time!

As everyone was on board instead of in port, extra entertainment and activities had been laid on today - beginning with a mid morning quiz which would accumulate points on every port day - let's hope Covid won't knock us out from some points on the other days!

Quiz Time

Quiz Time

After this we headed over to another of the pools, where the SeaScreen was located - a huge cinema screen that showed films four times daily, where this morning the film Encanto was being shown. However like in resort hotels, if you don't get your towels out early you miss the good spots! We managed to find two loungers right at the top of the ship, but being a bright sunny day, and sheltered from the wind it was baking. There are no parasols, so even after some ice cold cocktails we were still baking! We managed to stay until the end of the film, before heading to find some shade.

SeaScreen

SeaScreen

We had some lunch and a wander around the ship before heading back to the first pool for musical bingo and a guess the tune quiz.

Unlike many other parts of the travel industry, cruise ships still keep up many of the old fashioned traditions, and tonight was going to be one of those - it had been declared a Black Tie Night, where we would dress up very smartly in our suits. Feeling fancy, we decided to go to the formal dining room for our evening meal where we were treated to a five course meal.

The couples on the neighbouring tables were clearly different people to us however, complaining about the quality of the wine they had been given, and where on earth the Sommelier was, whilst the lady on the other side (who appeared to have plucked a whole family of blackbirds for her dress) seemed to have an endless list of complaints about her cabin, not receiving her Amuse-Bouche, and the fact that the captain had not awoken everyone at 6am to congratulate the Queen (who I note was not on board) on her Platinum Jubilee the previous day.

Black Tie Night

Black Tie Night

After a quick go on the roulette in the Casino, that night we went to enjoy our complimentary glass of champagne whilst watching the onboard comedian. He was ok, but trying to match the demographics of the room meant I didn't find a lot of the jokes that funny. Nevertheless it was a nice evening.

Posted by kmmk17 18:00 Archived in St Vincent/The Grenadines Tagged sea boat beach volcano scenery caribbean entertainment covid Comments (0)

Beyond Britain

Cornwall - Salisbury, Shaftesbury, Camborne, Penzance & Isles of Scilly

semi-overcast 19 °C
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Just ten days after getting back from Lithuania, our next holiday was upon us. We were going to take a road trip down to Cornwall, similar to the one we took back in 2016 to the Bristol area, although this time it would be longer.

Avoiding the upcoming school holidays, which would add even more travel time to this already long enough journey, we travelled down on Thursday morning after rush hour with plans to stop off and break up the journey en route. After around 2 hours we reached the first stopping point - Salisbury.

Salisbury is an old traditional city in Wiltshire, and has a couple of sights. The first we planned to stop at was Old Sarum - the old hilltop where the city was previously located. However when we arrived we changed our minds about entering - it seemed very overpriced and we weren't going to stop for long, so instead we got back in the car and headed to the centre of the city.

We then stopped at Salisbury Cathedral, one of the most impressive cathedrals in the UK, and also took a look at one of the surviving copies of the Magna Carta which is on display here.

Salisbury Cathedral

Salisbury Cathedral

Dodging any traces of Novichok after walking past the Zizzi's restaurant, we had a look around the city centre before heading back to the car to drive across Cranborne Chase, to our next stop in Shaftesbury.

Shaftesbury is a very small town in north Dorset, which we stopped at due to the beautiful Gold Hill, a steep cobbled street made famous by the Hovis bread advert.

Gold Hill

Gold Hill

After a short stop viewing the hill, we then carried on with our long drive, stopping off at the odd service station before finally entering Cornwall. Not long later we made it to Bodmin Moor, where we stopped off at the Jamaica Inn, a traditional coaching inn with a history of smuggling.

Jamaica Inn

Jamaica Inn

Eventually after spending all day driving down to Cornwall we arrived in Camborne, where we would be staying for the next four nights. However we still needed to grab dinner and food for the weekend, so we quickly headed back out to grab a quick meal. Whilst there we stopped by a local tin mine that had been converted into an attraction, before stopping by the local supermarket to buy supplies and fill up with petrol.

Mine

Mine

The time driving between home and Exeter and that of Exeter and western Cornwall was almost the same, despite the latter being a much shorter distance. Although the roads in Cornwall were not as bad as I had been expecting, they were certainly substandard with many bottlenecks, even on the major arterial roads. By the time we had arrived I had already taken the view that we should see everything now so we didn't need to come back and visit for another 25 years!

Having been a long day today, and with an early start the following morning, we took an early night. Annoyingly though I couldn't sleep, and in the end I must have got less than two hours all night - not ideal!

Nevertheless as the morning progressed I didn't feel quite so bad, so we continued with our plan to visit the Isles of Scilly - there would still be time to turn back, but ultimately this was unnecessary, even though I did start to develop gum/toothache.

Penzance Harbour

Penzance Harbour

We had arrived nice and early ready to board the boat for our 2hr45m journey from Penzance into the Atlantic. Having napped during the boat trip, eventually arriving at midday we had four hours to wander around Hugh Town, the largest town on St. Mary's - the largest island in the archipelago.

Hugh Town

Hugh Town

The sea around the islands is a luscious blue, and there are an array of more tropical plants growing naturally than can be seen on Great Britain. It had a mix of a Mediterranean feel, mixed with traditional English buildings. We started by taking a walk up the hill to the west of the town, before walking around the town itself.

Beach

Beach

After having lunch at a local restaurant we headed towards the west end of the town, sitting by the beach as well as waking up the hill.

Views over Hugh Town

Views over Hugh Town

By now it was almost time to head home, we boarded the boat and found it much busier than the outward bound trip this morning. Being a Friday afternoon there were lots of returning school children headed back to the mainland. Unfortunately we got stuck amongst them, and one group (with their ringleader 'Ella') proceed on shouting "Merry Christmas" to every passing peer. After three hours this became quite tiresome, especially as she was dressed like a slut parading around with tiny shorts and a massive hoodie.

Finally we arrived back in Penzance, and after squeezing past all the parents waiting for their annoying children, we made it back to the car and headed back to the hotel, where hopefully I could get some sleep tonight!

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 03:38 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged islands boat beach summer cathedral cornwall Comments (0)

On the Amalfi Coast

Limoncello Adventures - Capri & Positano

semi-overcast 19 °C
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During the planning for this trip, the Amalfi coast was originally overlooked, however after seeing how beautiful it was, we decided we simply had to make room for it amongst the trip.

After our first evening in Sorrento, we arose early for breakfast, before heading down to catch the ferry over to Capri, which was now running on a winter schedule.

Capri Harbour

Capri Harbour

Just 40 minutes later we had arrived on the small touristy island, and quickly bought our tickets for the island tour that was leaving shortly after, and then boarded the small boat. Like a duck we had spent little time on land so far!

Cliffs around Capri

Cliffs around Capri

Moving around and settling on back row seats, we then headed out of the harbour clockwise, past the cliffs and grottos before we made it to the Faraglioni - sea stacks just off the coast, through which we sailed.

Faraglioni

Faraglioni

We then headed around the south of the island, taking in the November sun, and with views of the south side of Capri town and the hills of Anacapri.

South side of Capri town

South side of Capri town

We then headed in to the Grotto Verde, which had beautiful blue water, before heading around the lighthouse towards the northern side with views of the Bay of Naples and Vesuvius.

Grotto Verde

Grotto Verde

After heading past the Blue Grotto, which was closed due to the high tide and rough seas, we then landed back in Capri harbour and explored the town.

Capri Town

Capri Town

Walking up the hill, being thankful we didn't visit in July, we eventually arrived in the town square, which was full of people. After walking around and viewing the beautiful views of the island from the vantage point around the corner, we then walked back down the hill before catching the ferry back to Sorrento.

Sorrento from the ferry

Sorrento from the ferry

As we had headed out early, we had enough time to spend the afternoon on the Amalfi coast. We therefore headed quickly through the town to the station to catch the bus to Positano, which we boarded not long later.

The bus headed up through the winding hills with beautiful views over the Bay of Naples, before long we were over the top of the hills and heading back down the hillside with views over the Amalfi Coast. The roads were once again windy, and along the coastline they were particularly spectacular, also being perched up on the cliff side.

Cliffside roads

Cliffside roads

After a beautiful drive we soon arrived on the edge of Positano, where we left the bus with views over the beautiful town's gorge, which we then started to head down. Numerous staircases later we entered the heart of the town, where even in November it was full of tourists. Being on the south coast it had glorious sunshine, where there were no mountains to hide the winter sun.

Steep staircases of Positano

Steep staircases of Positano


Positano beach

Positano beach

We took a walk down to the beach, where the scale of the mountains becomes evident, before walking back through the town and on to the bus stop for our return to Sorrento. The buses were pretty busy, and as we arrived at the point where the winter schedule skips a bus, by the time it showed up it was full! Luckily we got a space, but it meant standing room only all the way back to Sorrento.

After almost an hour, the lack of room and constant turns started to give us both travel sickness, but in the nick of time we arrived back in Sorrento and into the fresh air. With today being a busy day we decided to grab pizza from a pizzeria so that we could then chill for the rest of the day. However as it wasn't yet 6pm, there was almost nowhere open!

After walking all around the town, we eventually found a take away close to our hotel, but they wouldn't be ready to serve for another half hour. Therefore we headed back to our hotel for a rest and to drop our bits off, before collecting the pizza later. Eventually grabbing dinner, we then spent the rest of the evening chilling before more excitement tomorrow.

Posted by kmmk17 10:15 Archived in Italy Tagged hills boat coast beach island limoncello Comments (0)

Finally Meeting the Penguins

In Search of the Penguins

all seasons in one day 5 °C
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After a pretty rough crossing yesterday, today we finally made it to the 7th continent - Antarctica.

Waking, the difference in the water was already clear, a little bit of bobbing still, but nothing compared to the the previous day. After breakfast I went for a wander, visiting the bridge, which on this ship had an open door policy, before attending the mandatory briefing on rules in the continent.

Bridge

Bridge

After collecting boots and having items vacuumed for biosecurity, we began to see our first icebergs in the distance, as well as birds and whales. It wasn't long then before lunch and a talk on penguins followed.

Penguin Island

Penguin Island

Having raced out of Ushuaia to avoid the storm, we were ahead of schedule and therefore able to enjoy our first landing already! This would be at Penguin Island in the South Shetland Islands - an active volcano that although snow free had a wide range of wildlife.

Ready to go!

Ready to go!

The process for getting out on land wasn't quick. Being called in groups we arrived in the mudroom already in thermals and our parka coats, put our boots and lifejackets on and then swiped out before walking down the steps to get on a Zodiac dinghy to sail to shore.

Boarding the Zodiacs

Boarding the Zodiacs


Seals

Seals

Once at the beach we got off and walked around past Seals and Chinstrap Penguins and up to the hill for a hike to the top. Although around 5˚C outside, in the thick clothes hiking up quickly became hot and sweaty. The brief snowfall was therefore a welcome relief to cool us down before it cleared up for views around the area.

Chinstraps

Chinstraps

Walking back down to spend a bit of time with the penguins before heading back to ship was a welcome treat and gave us a taste of what to expect in the next five days.

Back at the ship I left my dirty and wet items in the mudroom before heading back to the room to change out of my thermals where I found an envelope with my name on it. Opening it up I found a letter from Jim & Christine, with whom I had travelled with in Central Asia in the autumn. Coincidentally they were travelling on the tour immediately before mine and so had left me a little note for me on board - a really beautiful gesture!

As we had now reached Antarctica, we had a welcome drink in the lounge to celebrate with the captain before dinner. This was followed by an evening documentary as we sailed through the Bransfield Strait at sunset en route to the mainland of Antarctica itself tomorrow.

Posted by kmmk17 17:00 Archived in Antarctica Tagged boat mountain penguins seals penguinhunt antarcticcruise Comments (0)

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