Friday, 29 January 2010

Live Blogging CELTA DE VIGO vs ATL√ČTICO MADRID

9:00pm Apparently I am obviously drunk! I am not drunk I am just getting in the football spirit.

9:45pm We have found a Mexican stream to watch. Mexican television has interesting male potency pill advertisements during ad breaks.

9:58pm Mexican TV has some interesting advertisements for debt relief. Who knew getting debt relief could be so sexy and beige?

10:00 pm David is fired up. He has been pacing around and he just yelled something in Spanish. I have never heard him yell anything ever.

10:06 Phil and I have started discussing relative air conditioning temperatures in our cabins. David is not amused.

10:08 A very near miss by the team we have waged quite a lot of money on.

10:09 I am not watching much of the game. I am going to try and watch some.

10:11 I have successfully got Phil to eat some prawn crackers. He does not eat shellfish or seafood so it is amusing looking at his face as it contorts.

10:17 Philip is talking about leaving. I am going to shame him into staying by calling him out.

10:20 Celta (the team we have bet on) is playing really well. Our all knowing and wise second engineer predicted this. He also predicted that they would fall away at the end. We all hope he was wrong.

10:23 I am not slapping my knee enough. Slapping ones knee hard is an important supporting tool.

10:25 The wise and all knowing engineer popped his head in to watch the game and the opposing team scored a goal. When I am tired of being a super hero and fade away I will return as a super villain engineer .

10:33 Phil would like to announce for the record I am not intoxicated that I was at 09:00pm. I refute this and blame my temperament on the highly dangerous salted peanuts we are eating.

10:45 It is half time and our live stream is broken. We looked online and the chat screen for the match had a Mexican saying !tequila. Go figure.

10:49 The bow flex is alive and well in Mexico.

10:52 I think we are almost out of peanuts.

10:58 Anyone else find it telling I found a way to be on a computer during my first ever full game of football I sat in front of?

10:59 Our team has 56% ball possession.

11:07 I have unravelled the advertising mystery. With some male potency pills, debt relief and a bow flex I could probably get more excited about football.

11:15 I fall asleep on the couch dangerously far away from my computer. I continue to sleep until the dying minutes of the game when I stumble off to bed dodging barbs and slurs thrown at me by Uncle Phil. Celta lost the game by one goal unfortunately.

Technically I did sit in front of a full game of football. I was just not awake for half of it.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

A Swede, a Spaniard and a Kiwi walk into a bar

I have not seen as much of Malta as I would have liked. It is a petite place but work commitments have stifled any real exploring other than my round of golf and some bar hopping on Saturday night.

Last night under the command of Uncle Phil we set off to play pool. As implied earlier it was just three of us. David our ever capable Spanish liason was roped in. Our first real problem was when Phil informed us he did not know where the pool table was or the Yacht club that contained it. Our second problem was Phil and David freaking out at cars driving on the right hand side of the road.

Europeans and Americans. Our cars are RIGHT hand drive. They can not be construed as being wrong because they are RIGHT hand drive

As the best English speaking person I was chosen to parlay with the locals and get directions to the fabled Yacht club. Maltese people speak very good English, Italian and Maltese. Uncle Phil is surely not a throw back to the Viking era. He wibbled and whined all of the way around the coast as we headed towards the Yacht clubs location.

When we reached the Yacht club we headed in and started sampling some of Malta s local beer, Cisk. Cisk is very tasty.



Hi Philip's MUM!

Sadly there was no pool table but we were not about to let a lack of a pool table get in the way of an imaginary game of pool. There was a football game on TV. I think I have mused on this before but emigrating north infects antipodeans with some of the football fever which has been a plague in these parts for ever. I can now sit unaided and watch some football and make very little in the way of snide remarks. More about football in a bit.

I then had a rather large epiphany. If you had told me 10 years ago I would one day be sitting in a Yacht club drinking a beer I have never heard of with a Swede and a Spaniard in Malta I would have thought you slightly crazy and politely changed the subject. Which is what I am going to do now.

Back to football. It turns out that David's home team is going to be playing a major game tomorrow night. The odds on a win are long. But after three beers anything starts to sound good. So we pledged we would all bet fifty euros on his team winning.

We were eventually asked to leave the Yacht club. We were the only patrons and probably were making it look untidy.

Not a bad night of not playing pool.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Golf (Royal Malta Course) Very Rusty Hacker Review

I was not planning on playing much golf this year. But about halfway into my first navigational watch I made a startling discovery. Our Captain is really a golf fanatic who happens to drive a Super Yacht between courses of interest. He has his clubs stowed in a handy place and usually books course times well in advance.

Yesterday we made the trip to Malta's one and only golf course the Royal Malta Golf Club. Founded in 1888 the golf course sits in a complex with some very English bastions of sporting prowess. Archery, Polo, Horse Racing and Athletics.

Having not played golf regularly since I was a teenager and not having had a full round for at least 8 years I elected on visiting the driving range first. With a bucket of balls I quickly discovered that whilst my short irons were straight anything longer than a four iron was travelling wildly off course. Two competing rugby teams also discovered this and were soon keeping eyes over shoulders whilst I warmed up.

My first hole was good. I scored a par five and was quite happy to call it a day at that. Unfortunately that was the highlight and I spent the rest of the day visiting the wrong fairways and impressing upon the captain my vast vocabulary of swear words in different languages. My Captain had a pedometer on. The point to point distance of the course was five kilometres. He walked eight helping me find golf balls. I think I must have walked 10 kilometres.

I did enjoy myself and I think we will be going back this weekend. We might also be playing some pro courses in Abu Dhabi. I hope they have wider fairways but I fear I will still be doing a lot of walking.



Interesting hole with a hill to hit over and a tunnel to walk through. I hit the green and three putted. I did a lot of putting.



Nice fairway with view back to town.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Macking in Malta

A quick recap with helpful bullet points for the powerpoint generation.

  • Leaving on Italy on Tuesday turned into leaving Italy on Wednesday.
  • We had mental weather.
  • We had 40 knots blowing up our ass from Sicily .
  • Our engine room recorded a 26 degree roll.
  • At one point we did 22 knots down a wave(top speed for RoMa is 17)
  • We spent the second night anchored next to some fish farms because the port entrance looked like the bottom of Niagara falls.
  • Uncle Phil and I may have said "it was nice knowing you" to each other at one point.
  • I got ordered to have a beer last night. I always obey captains orders.
  • IT WAS AWESOME

We are now berthed in the Grand Harbour Marina. We have a few days of serious work ahead of us. I think there might be some serious exploring and not so serious merry making in order as well.



View from my office window for the next week or so.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Ciao Italy!

With a bit of luck we will leave Italy tomorrow for the immediate future. The timing of this exit is impeccable. On Wednesday the Sun moves into Aquarius. On Thursday we will arrive in Malta, next Monday will be my birthday. We will leave Malta after a week or so and head south towards Egypt, pirates and finally Abu Dhabi.

Italy has been very good to us. It is where we both got our first real breaks in yachting. Italians are very passionate people and it has been interesting working and living amongst them. Italy is a vast place and we have only seen the smallest slice of it.

There have been a lot of exasperating things about living and working in Italy. I have touched on a few of them and will save some in reserve for when my vision is not so clouded by gelato. Speaking of which our new chef has stockpiled a lot of gelato and aqua frizzante which is good. I rue the day when we run out of either.

I do not intend on seeing any of this again.



Friday, 15 January 2010

Swedish Lesson #2 and Camera Review

Uncle Phil was filming this morning and had some good results. Firstly my Swedish is coming along very well.


video

Secondly we got some footage of one of the real characters of the yard which has built our boat.

His name is Patalani and he is easily the loudest Italian I have met. Enjoy his review of my video camera. Warning contains profanities in two languages.


video

More to come later. Enjoy.

Facebook hobbits. You will need to read my blog to see the videos. I recommend you read my blog out of facebook. Reading my blog in facebook is soooo 2009.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Sixteen Hours in Verona

Nestled in northern Italy is the charming city of Verona. Quite how we got to Verona was one of those chance interactions which spontaneous travel blogs are made of. We were making a bedraggled retreat from Prague. Heavy traffic was making a mockery of our electronic companions estimated time of arrival for Viareggio and we planned a lay over in Italy somewhere.

Initially we were going to stop in Parma. Parma is the home of Parma ham and the setting for a John Grisham book we have both laboured through. Parma was ditched in the far more exciting and bubbly Verona. Shakespeare will always beat Grisham.

We had some difficulty finding a temporary abode in Verona. I may have started to express some misgivings about this and was becoming consternated with my two lady co-pilots. Thankfully we were able to find somewhere to stay and we ventured out in the morning under the cover of fog to have a look around.

Verona is a popular place to visit. It has an excellent array of historical places which we discovered within a few hours with the help of a tourist map. It was a quiet Saturday morning but we did notice things were beginning to throng just before lunch time.












I would love to write more but things have been going off in Viareggio since we returned. We will moving soon and thar be Pirates on the horizon!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Prague the Magic City

Where were we? We were driving to Prague.

High speeds, snow and salt combine to form a delicious crust on ones windscreen. With our rental cars windscreen wiper water depleted and no visible way of opening the bonnet we stopped in a very quiet German town to find help. It took my legendary (useless at charades) skills to purchase a packet of chewing gum from a petrol station and discover no one spoke English. Luckily I was able to mime a car bonnet opening to a nearby builder and he helped us to open the bonnet and I filled up the aqua receptacle. Did I mention it was bloody cold?

The Czech border was interesting. It looked like it had once been an effective border control area. It was now was a bunch of kiosks where you could buy road user stickers and refuse getting your money exchanged by helpful Czech girls. There was a lot of snow on the ground.

The descent into Prague (you are driving down hill a lot) was unremarkable although I did spot a huge IKEA. I do admit feeling a bit of anxiety about driving into the city as every web page I read about being a tourist in Prague had stern warnings about driving a car into Prague. Some pages suggested leaving your car out of the city and using public transport to get in. Other pages said it would be crazy to take a car in and it would surely be stolen or broken into. Luckily I had not one but two women to listen to. Our GPS was a female. Gentlemen I am sure you will agree that more is always better and if you have two women giving you directions it has to be better than just one.

With our car safely stowed(salty sea dog talk) and our lodgings vetted(wordy writer words) it was time to explore Prague. Prague is an old city which has millions of visitors each year. It's magic is in the way it allows itself to be discovered and its many delightful distractions. Prague is a city which has an interesting pulse. It's pulse is kept pumping by a variety of things. Let me detail some of them.




Prague's development seems to have been managed well. Since the fall of the iron curtain a disproportionate amount of KFC, McDonalds and other pillars of western society have sprung up. However, this is balanced by Prague's substantial historical places which have dodged bombs, invading tourists and the wrecking ball.






Getting around

After you have left your car in Germany or a neighbouring country you have probably caught a train or plane. Prague does have a fully functioning public transport system. There are trams whizzing all over the place. There are suspect cab drivers and there is the underground.

We ventured into the underground one night. We were taken back by the speed of the escalators. I would not like to get on one of the escalators on my way home after a night out. They simply barrel along very efficiently. There was also a lack of a ticketing system. Happy new year?



If you have the time and energy, walking around Prague's cobblestone streets is very enjoyable and dare I say it romantic. Simply refuel with mulled wine in winter or a nice beer in summer when you start to feel tired.

Gastronomy

Inside the old town where people congregate you will find street vendors selling mulled wine, roast pork and exceptional sausages. Mulled wine is an excellent antifreeze as are sausages and pork. Alcohol on the whole is an important city utility. More important that electricity or water; you will find alcohol for sale everywhere. Where else in the world could you clip a coupon for a laundry which promised free shots with every load of washing done ?



Vices

Staple vices are catered for very well in Prague. Not only can you eat well and drink fantastic beer but you can purchase very noxious looking absinthe and fine cigars at every step. There are a wealth of boutique casinos everywhere. I discovered one underneath our hotel the very day we were leaving which we had had no idea about. Prague also has some very relaxed natural pharmacology laws and a huge amount of strip clubs.

With all of this zaniness going down you would think Prague would have its share of problems.........

But it doesn't. At least not in our experience. Everyone is well behaved and very happy. We did see one man who had far too much to drink having difficulties eating a hot dog. We felt safer in Prague than we have anywhere late at night in our travels.

The crescendo of our trip was a night out in Prague. We visited a night club called Karlovy Lazne, It is the largest club in central Europe and is a place with a lot of history. It was very well organised and I look forward to being a jaded old man reminising about the time I went to Prague clubbing.



Some of the earth shattering innovations included.

Each floor had a separate bar and two dance floors
Each floor had a set of toilets.
Each floor had oodles of seating area..
Each floor had a DJ who played the whole night
Each floor had very distinct music.
There were five floors
It had very helpful attentive staff
I had no one to sit down and talk crap with so I danced for 5 hours

It would be very easy to spend months in Prague having the time of your life and still feel unsatisfied. I would like to revisit when it is warmer. I had my first beer post Prague last night and it tasted quite ordinary after the delicious Pilsner which you can find in your local Prague Laundromat.

Tune in next time for a very cursory expose of a little town called Verona.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Regensburg

If you were to take the quickest route from Viareggio to Prague; drive through the Brenner pass and Austria enter Germany and stop after about nine hours with a couple of meal breaks.....

You would be in or very close to Regensburg.

The first real discovery of Regensburg was that my Wife had long dormant German speaking abilities. Quite how her high school saw fit to teach German and her to learn it is quite a puzzle. These skills started to unfurl over our short time in Regensburg and I was soon bedazzled by her counting to ten and reading random words with some authority. Now if I could just get her into some sort of uniform speaking German. Saucy.

Under the cover of snow we ventured out to find our first real German meal. Thai. Obviously we are quite fond of Thailand and its food having spent 6 weeks there and managing to be declared overstaying aliens. Finding Thai food in Germany was a real treat.

The next morning we put on our best disguises and got amongst the locals. Not really expecting anything and not knowing any better Regensburg was pleasantly surprising.

Deer are kind of a big deal in Germany. You can see them everywhere and the people of Germany have specially trained stag models which pose in shop windows.



Hats are also a big deal. We found a shop devoted to all manner of hats. It must have employed about twenty people and it was going off. It had an awesome array of German cowboy hats.

Authors note. Do not call them German cowboy hats to a German. They are German hunting hats. They do not have cowboys.

Regensburg is quite pretty. It was a pretty grey day but we did have fun wandering around. There is a certain romance to being in a place you will probably never visit again.



Big Church



Big river.



Zee burg.

The only real blight on our visit to Regensburg was trying to find a genuinely German meal for lunch. Whilst it is easy to buy a kaffee and weiner for a snack. Trying to find a German pub or restaurant was woefully hard.

The best we could manage was finding a suspiciously German looking Italian restaurant named something Boticelli. Forgetting World War II, German/Italian endeavours can work ok. I am sitting inside a 62 metre German/Italian project. The meal was good and we were soon on the road to magical kingdom of Prague but that is another story.....

Happy New Year

I hope you all had an excellent time where ever you are.

Just a quick note to say we are alive and back in Viareggio. We had a wonderful time in Prague, stopped by Verona on our way home and feel rested and ready for 2010.

I am happy to say in what has been a recurring theme I have already managed to do something quite stupid in 2010. On the long drive home I patiently sat waiting until I could write about where we have been with the aid of photographs.

When we arrived back on board I discovered I had misplaced the camera. I did not get much sympanthy from my long suffering wife. In fact she had what could be best described as a terse outburst.

Thank the blue moon that my camera was found in our rental car in Pisa. Whilst this is not ideal it does mean I will have photographic evidence to support my tales on or around the 4th of January.

Until then. If you are going to lose something important.

Don't.