Monthly Archives: November 2016

Last Day in Venice

As the breakfast had been thrown away uneaten we decided to find the pastry shop Tibbo and Sally had visited on their first early morning stroll.  Having found it, being Sunday it was shut.

IMG_3642

But we found a cafe full of Venetians having a Sunday morning coffee and sat at the outside tables watching the locals taking their dogs for a walk and having a neighbours and dogs meet and greet, plus seeing all the street pigeons.  Tibbo’s grandfather is well known in ‘Pigeon Racing’ circles so Tibbo could advise us as to whether our breakfast was about to be raided by a Blue Chequer or  White Flighted Somethingorother

IMG_3634

Sally’s thumb was throbbing and she kept managing to knock it on things which certainly didn’t help any.

IMG_3642

As we hadn’t really seen very much of Venice’s famous art I was quite keen to see at least some and not to far away was a famous collection of Tintorettos  – so armed with a map and Tibbo in charge we set off.

IMG_3703

Needless to say we needed a few breaks along the way for beers, and for me to rest my knees, but in the end we found a delightful church with lovely custodians.

IMG_3717 IMG_3725

It was only when we exited via the main door (having entered by the side door) that we realised that the display of Tintorettos we had intended to visit were in the building opposite.

IMG_3744

IMG_3740IMG_3748

Even the Ladies’ Loos in Venice have an ancient charm.

IMG_3751

So with those duly visited there was still time to see an interactive museum on the life and works of Leonardo da Vinci, and what a wonderful person he must have been.  And his work…….!!!
IMG_3729
One of my favourite paintings IMG_3738 IMG_3739
M
ock up of a ‘Tank’

Then back to the apartment to collect our luggage, which thankfully only needed to be taken yards to the Water Bus stop before we embarked for our recommended journey round ‘The Fish’ .

IMG_3775

After a while we managed to get seats, and steadily moved up to the front of the ’Bus’ as other passengers disembarked.  It really is a good way for those who are not good at walking to see Venice, especially when encumbered by luggage.

IMG_3768 IMG_3769 IMG_3771 IMG_3789 IMG_3793

After passing many wonderful, ancient waterside palaces and beautiful hotels we passed by the massive cruise ships moored up.

IMG_3797

As well as stunning private yachts.

IMG_3803

In the event we only got part of the way round ‘The Fish’ before food and wine were needed, and we disembarked for few hours at lovely looking spot to enjoy our final meal at a lovely waterside restaurant with far reaching views where we could watch the boats plying the waters.

IMG_3807

And late in the afternoon two of the massive cruise ships being towed out by their tugs.

IMG_3827 IMG_3862

Then we cut across the city back to our hotel with Tibbo and Sally taking charge of the luggage, whilst I once more trailed behind to encouragement from Tibbo –  ‘Chop Chop – come on Aunty Sue’

Then a final wait for our Water Taxi – booked to collect us at 9pm to take us back to the airport.

IMG_3870

Next day it seemed little more than a hazy dream!

 

But here is a video collection of images of our stay

 

Who ate Sally’s Finger

We stayed on into the evening drinking more and more Bellinis, then wended our way (slightly swaying) to our restaurant, where we enjoyed a lovely Venetian meal at the atmospheric  place recommended by our friendly cocktail bartender.  Then it really did seem quite a long walk back to our apartment, with Sally and Tibbo striking out, and me lagging behind to encouragement from Tibbo of ‘Chop, Chop – come on Aunty Sue’  as we crossed the dozens of bridges, crossing the various canals on out way back home.  I was too tired (and probably as the saying goes ‘Tired and Emotional’) to take any other photos on our way back, but apparently the many small bridges in Venice were individually funded and built by the adjoining properties who wished to shorten their daily journeys, so every one is unique.  But equally tiring on arthritic knees.

On the way home we passed a chemist with its sign lit up and open for late evening medicines.  Sally immediately went in and decided she would buy some waxing strips, miming her requirements to the sales lady and making Tibbo show his hairy chest and stomach for explanation purposes.  The lady looked quite sorry for him and suggested he needed a least a trim before the final hair removal operation – but Tibbo was putting a brave face on it all – probably the Beer, Bellinis and Red Wine fortifications.

When we made it back it transpired the wax strips were for Sally, but I think she made a bit of a hash of it all, though with the amount we had all had to drink at least she said she felt no pain!

Next morning we needed to be out of the apartment by eleven o’clock as it was our last day.  Our homebound flight did not leave until midnight so our friendly landlord was allowing us to leave our bags until 3pm when the concierge left, but before then they needed to do the final check that we hadn’t wrecked the apartment so I could re-claim the deposit.

I left Sally and Tibbo to sleep as long as I dared then woke them with a coffee – the Venetian tea not really being to British tastes.  Once up Sally decided to use the remains of our purchased supplies to produce some breakfast, and started slicing some very hard cheese, using a very sharp knife.  Apparently she cut herself once as she held the cheese in her hand to slice it.  Cut her hand again in a different place, both cuts being quite slight and not drawing blood, then not content with two warnings cut the end off her thumb.

As the knife was so very sharp she didn’t realise quite how bad it was and just wrapped a few thickness of kitchen roll round it, before looking down and seeing the blood still streaming through.

The apartment, being newly renovated, and the owners obviously new to being landlords, had no first aid kit, and none of us had thought to bring any first aid items with us.  So Tibbo was dispatched to buy plasters, and I carried on with making the breakfast – me thinking Sally had just cut her finger, and Sally not wanting to look at it that closely or panic anyone too much.

Sally went off for a lie down and meanwhile her finger was still pouring blood.

A breathless Tibbo returned, having run about a mile or more trying to find a chemist (bless him), and finally remembering the one we had visited the previous evening.  Having got there it was shut, but he found a nearby general stores where he had to mime needing a box of plasters, and after a few false starts, where amongst other things he was offered a pizza cutting wheel, hr finally got the message across and purchased some plasters.   We took the kitchen paper off Sally’s thumb and finally all got a good look.  Yes – it was now flat at the top.

I went to look to see if we could find the bit, but it was nowhere to be seen, and Sally seemed to be convinced that I had eaten it !!!!  If so it went down a treat.

We got her thumb plastered over, the place tidied up, and our bags out into the hallway just in time for the final checkout, though I did suggest that a First Aid Kit and some helpful directions and phone numbers for chemists and hospitals would be a useful addition to the apartments.

Gondolas, Gondoliers and Bellinis

Our Water Bus had taken us just one stop up and to the other side where we waited to change to a different bus going further up towards St. Marks Square, but today Sally and I had Gondola Trips on our minds.

IMG_3416

As I have mentioned Tibbo said he was terrified of water in general and riding in gondolas in particular.  First we convinced him that the canals were shallow enough to stand up in -which, amazingly, he seemed to believe, but still demurred about the trip.   So we decided liquid encouragement was the only way forward.

Walking down from the exclusive little boutique where Tibbo purchased his wildly expensive Armani belt toward the Grande Canal gave us wonderful views of St. Marks, especially in the bright clear autumn sunshine.

IMG_3415

But Tibbo needed BEER and plenty of it before taking to the water.  As it was lunchtime most of the outdoor cafes were saving their tables for those eating lunch.  We tried a couple places, gradually drifting down towards the water where there appeared to be a nice hotel.  Well – nice might be a bit of an understatement – googling afterwards it looks to be THE most expensive hotel in Venice, which is saying something.  I have to say it did have a wonderful view of St. Marks and a lovely place to sit overlooking the Grande Canal and watch the boats and gondolas passing.

You can imagine the prices of the drinks in there, and Tibbo needed at least six before he would even consider being persuaded.   It didn’t help that the gondolas tied up next to us were moored across the current rather than facing into it, so they were bobbing about fiercely – making Tibbo even less likely to want to board one.

Sally and I were on Champagne Cocktails and keeping pace with him quite nicely – you can imagine what our bar bill was like!

Finally he was convinced that we wanted to ride in a gondola, and that we weren’t prepared to go without him so agreed to come with us.  Sally went off to make arrangements for a singer to accompany us on our trip and we followed her out into the sunshine.

The weather made such a difference to the whole proceedings.  The sky was blue and the sun reflected from the ripples of the water, which was exactly the aquamarine colour I had expected from the many of Canaletto’s paintings of Venice.

We were handed into our gondola followed by our accordionist and singer, who serenaded us with various Venetian tunes – including of course – ‘O Sole Mio’ and ‘Funiculì, Funiculà’

i throughly enjoyed our trip on the sparkling water, and even saw Tibbo trailing his fingers in the canal at one point, so I hoped he was relaxing into the ride a bit.

14731231_10210298709006203_1812964939988179684_n

Then back to dry land and we struck out back toward the apartment as it looked pretty close from the map.  But we didn’t seem to do much distance before it was felt another rest and drink might be needed, and I think then we must have then selected the second most expensive hotel in Venice – yet another exclusive five star establishment the Baglioni Hotel Luna

IMG_3616IMG_3614

In through the splendid foyer and through to the bar where the bartender with his Master of Wine buttons in his lapels suggested Bellinis for all three of us, and I have to say they were most enjoyable.  And they were ‘they’ as, once again, we seemed to be there for the duration and consumed quite a few before leaving.  I could certainly develop a taste for Bellinis!

I popped in to use the ladies’ and was most impressed to find each cubicle complete with bidet in the fancy marble lined loo.

IMG_3609

Meanwhile Tibbo and Sally had gone outside for a cigarette break, and as well as a cigarette had a little cuddle.  Sally was mortified when the very upright lady receptionist came out to shoo them away, saying it was a private dock owned by the hotel and they couldn’t do that sort of thing there – then looking somewhat confused as they followed her back inside the hotel for more Bellinis.  We could only assume as they are both quite tall, both had very short hair and were wearing striped jumpers, plus standing next to the Gondola Station that she must have thought they were two young gondoliers having a canoodle on the hotel’s private dock.

IMG_3594

The bartender – who was looking slightly bored in the very quiet afternoon bar – had a chat with us, not only suggesting a nice restaurant for us to eat at that evening, but telephoning our reservation through.

14720380_10210302140611991_164776970443672032_n

He also said that a good way to see Venice was to take the Water Bus which travelled anti- clockwise round what they call ‘The Fish’ which allows one to see a huge amount of Venice, with NO walking.  Just right for me then.

A Long Hot Shower

After spreading out our booty and managing to find a corkscrew to open the wine (Tibbo had headed off to find some Budweiser, and a nearby bar had supplied him with ten to carry out at one euro a piece, so he came back happier but somewhat lighter in the pocket) we tucked in, and after such a long day decided a shower and bed were in order.

Sally headed off to their room at the bottom of the corridor and put on the shower to warm up, though in fact it only took about thirty seconds to get to full temperature.  I did the same in my shower room, but got straight in for a long, luxurious, power shower, feeling drenched, relaxed and refreshed as the water streamed out through the dinner-plate sized shower head.

I padded off to my bed, getting myself comfy and settling down for the night.  Then remembering I needed a glass of water headed to the kitchen where Tibbo had been finishing the washing up.  He had gone and as the shower at their end was still in full action I guessed he was now taking a shower.

After a while I felt my room was quite warm, and as I prefer being cool at nights, turned the central heating thermostat as low as it would go and opened the windows, hearing the shower still streaming away at the other end of the apartment.

I drifted off to sleep, with the shower still going, and half wondered if now, both Sally and Tibbo were in the shower together.  But when I woke at 2.30am and the shower was still in full flow I decided that however enamoured of each other they might be they couldn’t possibly be still in there, and crept down to their room.  The door was open and they were both lying on the bed – fully clothed – Tibbo with a plate in one hand and tea towel in the other.   I gently closed their door and switched off the shower, in the now tropically heated bathroom, where, through the steam, I could just make out the condensation streaming down the marble walls, and felt somewhat sorry for our young holiday landlord who probably hadn’t factored in folk taking five hour showers!

As it had been such a wet and miserable day I feel asleep to some positive thinking about the sunny day we would be having tomorrow, and when I woke next morning the sun was streaming in through the windows.

The apartment was deserted and apparently Sally and Tibbo had finally woken at around 7am feeling thoroughly refreshed, discovered the still sodden bathroom, and feeling guilty had set off to find breakfast provisions.  They enjoyed their morning walk along the early morning lanes and squares, still littered with duck-boards from the flooding the night before, and watching the early morning boat traffic on the canals.

14690944_10210295463845076_2044546224387622729_nEarly Morning Boats delivery Fresh Laundry for the Hotels

Refreshed after ham and cheese toasties with poached eggs, fruit juice and coffees all round we set off to explore again, this time taking the water bus, which stopped on our Palace square.  Never having visited Venice I found the bus-stops themselves quite interesting.  For a start they are free floating in the canal, and simply moored to poles in the water.

IMG_3334Our Local Water Bus Stop

As the bus approaches with no means of properly braking, it slowly crashes into the moored bus-stop, giving the queuing passengers a good shaking.  After you step aboard the arm barrier is replaced and off you chug to the next stop.

IMG_3397
Tibbo feeling a bit braver and leaning out over the Water Bus rail

With gondolas and water taxis, plus private speed boats plying the canals and wanting to turn both right and left from the main thoroughfare the traffic weaves a complicated knot, especially  when someone has suddenly realised they need to turn across all the traffic to a minor canal, and just go for it, causing the Water Bus driver to deliver a torrent of Italian – I assume not entirely complimentary.

Sally’s and my plan for the day – as it had turned out so sunny – was to go for a gondola ride.  After all one can hardly visit Venice and not go on a gondola.  But this did not figure in Tibbo’s plans for the day, though I suspect he had a horrid premonition as to how the day might go.

I think the stress of it all was making him lose weight, or it might have been the new jeans Sally had presented him with, but whichever it was his trousers kept falling down, and he had no belt with him.  So a bit of shopping was called for.

Now Venice is not known for its cheap and cheerful clothing, or anything else for that matter, but we spotted a small boutique which at least sold belts and went in for a look.  It transpired they had a selection of Gucci and Armani belts on offer at commensurate prices, and as one fit and did the required job of keeping Tibbo decent it was purchased and off we went in search of liquid encouragement for the forthcoming canal trip.

IMG_3430

St. Mark’s Square and The Doge’s Palace

With Tibbo and Sally alternately in charge of the map and directions we trooped off.  Sally and Tibbo generally ahead, and me following up at the rear.  I have to say I think we got pretty lost, and my knees were beginning to protest.  Sally had been reconnoitring and had dispatched Tibbo back to round me up, and in fact had discovered we were just at the back of St. Mark’s Square, so having come this far it seemed silly not to take the advantage of the walk and at least do a little exploring, but first I really needed to sit down and catch my breath.

And guess what.  We were right outside the Hard Rock Cafe – which would be another first for me.  So the decision was made –  we would go inside for a sit down and have a rest and some cocktails.  We made our selection.  I bagged a table so we had some seats, and Sally went off to do a bit of clothes shopping whilst Tibbo ordered the drinks.

After a while Sally returned – sans shopping – St Mark’s Square – even at the back, is not the cheapest place to shop!  Similarly when Tibbo returned with our three huge cocktails he came with a sorry tale of the prices.  Apparently – not really understanding the bartender – he had been talked into buying the glasses that each of the drinks came in – for an extra ten euros a piece!!!  Sally and I were not about to stand for that, so a supervisor was summoned and after a bit of ‘discussion’ the extra was taken off the bill, and they got to keep the glasses.

IMG_3133
Tibbo with ‘The Bill’

Rested and refreshed we tried a little more exploring.  Even in the rain St. Mark’s Square is impressive, and probably the poor weather meant less tourists, which allowed us a better view of its splendours.  Personally I would much rather visit a tourist attraction out of season – even if one has to  chance the weather, rather than when it is so crowded one can hardly see it for all the other tourists.  And so it was today.

IMG_3154  IMG_3158 IMG_3167 IMG_3186

We explored the Doge’s Palace, though only after we had removed our overshoes to mount the ‘Golden Staircase’ leading to the superlative upper apartments with their ornately carved and gilded, plaster ceiling surrounding the magnificent old paintings.

IMG_3215
Ceilings of ‘The Golden Staircase’

I have to say after the walk through the rain, then climbing the seemingly endless ‘Golden Staircase’, to walk through room after splendiferous room of the Doge’s Palace, my knees felt they had done quite enough.

IMG_3260 IMG_3263 IMG_3271 IMG_3287 IMG_3297

But we needed something to eat for the evening so headed off once again to find the elusive supermarket.  Time was going on – would it even be open when we got there?  A small – atmospheric and exceedingly expensive delicatessen was open.  It sold pate, cheese, smoked meats and wines.  There was no hesitation, we were in and having purchased a suitable selection headed back to our rooms, but by now I was positively shattered so we went by water taxi, passing the famous Rialto Bridge on the way.

IMG_3303

Watery Venice

When we left England the weather had been fine for quite a few days, and I had been checking weather temperatures for Venice, so was expecting sunshine and something in the highish sixties up to seventy (sorry that’s Fahrenheit), and packed accordingly.  Sally and I had gone on a quick shopping spree for her late one evening, returning with four summer dresses and a light cardigan,

The flight had started quite clear, but as we flew across Europe the cloud thickened until we could not see the land beneath the cloud cover.  As we were dropping in to land at Venice our pilots had announced that there were light showers Venice, clearing to give sunshine later in the day – NOT!

We had travelled down the speed boat ‘motorway’ in the pouring rain, disembarked by the Palace in the pouring rain, and now we set off to explore – and it was still throwing it down.

We all felt decidedly in need of an umbrella, and Sally investigated every shop we passed to see if umbrellas were on sale.  I had on blue stretchy turban affair on my head, but Sally, who’s hair was still very short from the ‘Brave the Shave’ had elected to wear a very fetching short blond wig, and the rainwater was running down her neck as it was shed from the wig.

Every shop we passed had huge umbrella stands just inside each of their doors, and though very few had umbrellas for sale all were filled with sodden umbrellas, which should have told us something about the weather in Venice, but all three of us were Venice virgins.

Spotting a shop with a couple of dry umbrellas mixed in with the dripping ones Sally marched in.  There was a choice of two – red or blue.  The blue one was already broken in that its handle had fallen off, and the red one looked as though its handle might shortly follow suit.  They were 20 euros each, which at the current exchange rate equated to just over £20, but when Sally wants something money is certainly no object and she settled for the currently intact red umbrella.

I felt at that price I would continue to get wet, and leaving them inside prowled on up the narrow street checking each shop for potential umbrella emporiums.  After a few yards the street opened up into a large airy, though very wet square –

IMG_3099

And just at the entrance was a vendor’s stall.  Amongst the usual tourist tat was a selection of umbrellas at six euros each, and what’s more, bigger stronger and all complete with fully attached handles.  Having made my selection I headed back down towards Sally and Tibbo, and Tibbo was soon the proud possessor of a similar umbrella and we all set off in search of something to eat.

14721536_10210287578527948_6030515782929541756_n
Tibbo and me in full wet weather kit outside the restuarant

Our friendly Venetian landlord had recommended a restaurant in this very square, and though our original intention had been to find a supermarket we gratefully headed inside to the warm and dry to order some food and wine.  Sally hanging her wig on the back of the chair to drip-dry, much to the surprise of the waiters!

The weather showed no signs of improvement so we lingered over our meal and drinks.  Watching the passing population we saw that many had waterproof over-boots, and our umbrella stall apparently sold them.  So Tibbo was dispatched to purchase three sets, and found out, that the rain was set to continue for the weekend, with only a small possibility of a slight improvement late on Sunday – this wasn’t what I expected when I booked.  Furthermore, that evening an exceptionally high tide had been predicted, and many of the streets and squares of the city would be underwater.  But that was not until eleven that evening and it was still late afternoon.  So we decided to visit the recommended supermarket, fill up on stores and then retreat to the apartment for the evening.

Our Venetian Apartment

Our driver scooted us at high speed across the lagoon, but once the canal system began he had to slow as there is a speed limit, plus lots of police boats with blue lights to enforce it.  Although the day was rainy it was still atmospheric ‘driving’ through the canals and admiring the interesting old buildings right on the water’s edge in every direction.

The water taxi delivered us right to our apartment at Ca Grande, and the delightful Venetian guy who owned the apartments met us at the canal side and escorted across the small square.  As I said, we were staying in an ancient, and from the outside, crumbling Palace, built sometime in the fifteenth century.  The heavy black double doors opened onto a dimly lit stone hall, with a massive stone staircase leading upwards.  Tibbo was not looking convinced!

IMG_3379

He said later that he feared we were booked into some sort of a slum – but I, of course, had the advantage of having seen the photos of the interior, otherwise I might have been feeling similarly nervous about what we were letting ourselves in for.

On the first floor an inner door opened onto a tastefully decorated hallway, discretely lit and carpeted, and then our own private doorway to our weekend apartment.

It had only been finished a couple of months before, and I have to say should I have the opportunity to visit Venice again I would be tempted to book the same place, as I was enchanted as soon as we stepped in.  The interior decorations were a mix of ultra-modern minimalist polished terrazzo floors, and over-the-top Venetian carved gilded wood, glass, mirrors.

14731348_10210287583888082_744108386146808113_n
Me relaxing after the journey

The Palace was situated in the district of St. Marks, so though all walks are tiring for me it was not overlong to St Mark’s Square, the central and very well known heart of Venice with its beautiful cathedral, famous bronze lions and extraordinary Doge’s Palace.  The water ‘Bus Stop’ giving access to every part of the city is within yards of the Palace door, and water taxis can be ordered and will collect from the Palace square

Our host showed us round inside, and gave us hints and tips as to where the best places might be to eat, and local supermarkets etc, and then left us to unpack and settle in to our temporary home for the next few days.

I had decided when I  booked the apartment which room might suit me and it was the delightful gilt and mirrored room.

Ca-Granda-50

It was the smallest but still had a double bed and lovely view through the full length Venetian window overlooking the Grande Canal to a charming Venetian brick building, now functioning as a hotel.

IMG_3070

Although Tibbo and Sally demurred at first they finally unpacked into the rather grand main bedroom with dual aspect Venetian windows looking out on the canal, and a splendid and very ornate gilded, and massive super-king size bed.

14717214_10210287583008060_1939235691479365877_n
Tibbo’s Seal of Approval

14702357_10210287581808030_1777451775216256654_n

Both rooms had wonderful shower rooms, but more of that later.

Birmingham to Venice Airport

Before long it was time for our weekend in Venice.

We were packed and ready and set off in the Renault to arrive at Birmingham airport in the early hours of Friday morning.

As usual Sally had managed to get very little sleep in before our journey and was tired before we even began.  We parked near to the main entrance and Sally and Tibbo took me and our three cases to the disabled bay where sadly the intercom had signs saying ‘Out of Order’, so whilst the others went off to park up for the weekend I phoned through to reception to organise a wheelchair for me – the walk along the corridors being far too long for me to countenance

It took them far longer than any of us imagined, and before they returned the wheelchair assistant had arrived and was hassling me to get to the book in desk before it was too late. I phoned Sally and Tibbo who raced back and once again Sally pushed me pell-mell up the endless corridors to the boarding lounge for the planes.  But we made it in time, and then I went on alone with an official pusher, to not only arrive in time, but to be the first to board the plane

IMG_3008

Sally and Tibbo  joined me in our row, and Sally was hardly settled in her seat before she was fast asleep on Tibbo’s shoulder.

IMG_3013

Tibbo turned out to be a slightly nervous flier, but before long we were airborne and once relaxed he had fallen asleep as well.  Seeing them both happily cuddled up together and sleeping I thought I would try and get a bit of shut eye, but before I was even comfortable the stewardesses had woken Tibbo and Sally to ask if they wanted to order breakfast.  I know it was only a short flight, but I felt it a bit unkind on the sleepers.  Anyway –  I decided on a bacon panini and glass of Prosecco – well I was on holiday and there was no champagne to be had!

In no time at all we were over Venice and coming into land.

I hadn’t realised before booking what I imagined would be a treat for them both, that not only was Tibbo a somewhat nervous flyer, but he was afraid of water …….. and we were about to spend the weekend in Venice ?!!!!!

Having survived the plane landing Tibbo announced that there was no way he intended to get into a boat of any description.

Now, I might have seen lots of photos of Venice and I am aware it is a series of low lying islands with lots of canals, but somehow I had imagined there were some areas with vehicles.  Those of you who have visited Venice with be aware of my mistake and will know that the airport is next to the railway station from the mainland, and road bridge from the mainland.  At this point everything to do with land travel other than pedestrians comes to a stop, and everyone has to change to water transport.

So I suggested to Tibbo that unless he was intending to spend his entire weekend at the airport he simply HAD to get into a boat of some description.

The water buses, which travel the canals of Venice also come over to collect incoming visitors, but you can take a private water taxi.

As we were not really sure exactly where we were headed, plus the trip using water taxi was noticeably faster we decided to go for this option.  Now I have to admit to thoroughly enjoying this part of the trip, but I fear that Tibbo was not of the same opinion. As I had booked for assisted travel we were ferried from the airport lounge to the water taxi stand so there was not much walking for me to do before we were at the water’s edge.

The water taxi drivers – like taxi drivers the world over – are determined to make the most of their day.  So, on a fixed price trip our’s was not going to hang around.

His small speed-boat type affair was bobbing around on the water, but I was carefully handed on and settled myself in a seat.  Tibbo, rather nervously got aboard and the taxi driver insisted on us all sitting so the boat was balanced and with a roar we set off.  We had landed at Venice airport in the pouring rain, and to a grey and very watery day, but through the rain-flecked windows I could see that there was a channel marked out with thick poles at regular intervals, making what was, in effect, a water motorway.

Being on the continent all the traffic hugged the right, unless overtaking, and there was lots of traffic heading in the opposite direction, mostly travelling at similar speeds and producing plenty of waves in their wake, which we had to ‘ride’ when we passed.  As I say, something I found quite exhilarating, though probably not a good introduction to Venice for Tibbo !!!!

 

Getting Sally’s Passport

Sally’s passport had now expired, and she couldn’t be sure that if she applied online it would arrive back to her in time to travel to Venice, so there was nothing for it but a personal visit to one of the passport offices, the nearest of which was in Newport.

A date and time for the appointment was booked online and on the day Sally and I travelled down together.  Having left me to mind the car Sally went inside – only the person applying for the passport is actually allowed to go into the office.

Having had her interview there was then a four hour wait before she could collect the new passport, so there was enough time to visit a lovely young friend of her’s who was in hospital.

Jordanna had been in hospital for quite a few months, though no one was really sure what was wrong with her.  After a trip abroad she suffered what was at first, thought to have been a stroke, but then a later tentative diagnosis was made of a virus which had caused brain inflammation – though to this day they still haven’t made a firm decision as to what it is afflicting her.

She had been critical for quite a while, and when she finally came round her memory was almost gone, and poor Jordanna needed to be retaught everything from how to hold a cup, and knife and fork for eating, to who all her friends and relations were.  How terribly distressing for her nearest and dearest, but what a lovely sunny personality Jordanna was, and how well she was progressing

Sally took in a gift of a pretty dressing gown and cuddly toy which turned into a pillow for nights, and not only was she delighted with her gifts she was even more delighted to see Sally who she recognised immediately with joyful smiles greetings the instant she spotted her.

IMG_2960

But it was distressing seeing such a lovely young girl having to spend so much time in such a small  cramped space, and for so many weeks and months when she should have been out enjoying her young eighteen year old life.

On our return to the Passport Office we passed  The Newport Transporter Bridge, which is apparently very rare, with only eight out of a total of 20 built, remaining in use worldwide – it was something I had meant to visit, but having seen it from the roadside, probably think that is quite sufficient.

IMG_2968

When we arrived back and Sally went into collect her passport she handed it straight back, insisting it was not the right one, as she didn’t instantly recognise her photo with shorn locks – the poor girl will now have to spend the next ten years with a shaven-headed photo in her passport!

A Weekend in Venice

I was getting more used to how the chemo-therapy interacted with my body and thought that we might be able to squeeze in a weekend trip away before my next treatment.

Venice was always a place I had thought of visiting, but even if I started to travel in Thebus again it might not be the easiest of places to get to, so the thought of flying in for a weekend seemed like a good idea, and I just needed to keep my fingers crossed that I would be well enough at the right time

I have to say booking holidays and airplane flights is not something with which I have had much practice, and commenting on this, Jack, the office apprentice offered to help as he said he was ace with holiday bookings .

He started googling – firstly for the flights, and came up with some reasonably priced flights on the right weekend, and even better we would arrive in the morning of the Friday and fly back home at midnight on the Sunday, meaning we would have three full days to explore this wonderful city.

Then he went onto look for places to stay, and came up with one after another but non of them quite hit the mark for me.

On the principle that Venice is famed for its ‘olde-worlde’ crumbling charm I didn’t feel I really wanted to stay in an ultra modern, soul-less hotel, no matter how luxurious it claimed to be.  Also I wanted us to have rooms overlooking the Grand Canal, as I thought it would be interesting to have a view – as you might have guessed from previous blog entries – if I am going to stay somewhere I really do like to have a ‘Room with a View’

Every time he found somewhere to stay on the right date I was a dismissive, even when he proudly announced it had ‘a view of a canal’ – It had to be The Grande Canal or not at all.  Then something on his computer screen looked a bit more interesting.  It was an apartment in an ancient  palace where Casanova had been a regular visitor, and even better it was right on the Grande Canal.

IMG_3065View from the apartment 

IMG_3058
Main Bedroom with dual aspect full length Venetian windows looking out over Grande Canal

Ca-Granda-50Second Bedroom with balcony view out over the Grande Canal

IMG_3050
K
itchen and the comfortable Lounge area with balcony view out over Grande Canal

One look at the pictures had me decided, and Jack, armed with my credit card pressed all the right buttons and we were booked for the weekend!

Having paid for that I wanted the flights booked asap, as I didn’t want to find we could not fly out on the correct dates.  So I urged him to press all the buttons and book Sally, Tibbo and I on flights to Venice.

Then we hit a bit of a hitch, though it wasn’t to come to light until later.

When googling different options for flights the airline websites tend to reset to default each time, and noticing that he was about to book for two seats instead of three Jack had re-set once again, but this time did not select the correct weekend.  Foolishly I didn’t re-check it and we just paid.  The printer was set to print out the confirmation, but for some reason decided not to work just at that preset moment.

It was only later when Sally returned and wanted to print out something else that they printed out, and guess what?  Between the two of us we had bought flights for one weekend and booked the apartment for the following weekend.

OH NO !!!!

Panic stricken I phoned the help-desk for Monarch Airlines and I have to say they were very helpful indeed.  No problem he said.  As I had phoned on the same day as the booking he would change everything free of charge, as long as the flights were the same price, and in the event they were only an extra five pound for each of the return journeys so – thank goodness – everything was fine 🙂

But before then we had to sort out Sally’s passport, which had expired just after we returned from France last time.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

As one of our theatre trips Sally’s Mum had booked a party of us in to see a production of ‘Ghost’ at the Birmingham Alexandra – when we got back Tibbo asked whether we had been bored, as the one and only time he had been to the theatre he had found it very boring.  It transpired that his previous theatre visit was to a Pantomime when he was in Primary School !  So I made it my mission to find something we could see where he wouldn’t be bored.

After some googling it turned out that there was to be a showing of ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ at the Birmingham Alexandra, so I booked three tickets for the front row in the middle.

Next I set about finding suitable attire for the evening, and came up with Dr. Frank N. Furter, the mad scientist who is a the self-proclaimed ‘sweet transvestite from transexual Transavania’ for Tibbo, ‘Magenta’ the sexy maid for Sally, and, rather appropriately, the balding butler ‘Riff Raff’ for me.

Tibbo had great fun trying on his outfit which consisted of a laced up basque, suspenders, fish net stockings, a massive curly wig and pearl necklace, though found the size ten, peep-toe stilletoes with four inch heels a bit too much of a challenge to walk in.   But he still enthusiastically strutted his stuff round the office after hours.

IMG_2941

 

Sally’s ‘sexy French maid’s’ outfit really suited her, and she even had a feather duster to go with it.

On the actual day Tibbo was somewhat less enthusiastic and would have arrived back too late to go had he not been nagged all day by Sally.  Plus, when he finally did get back, he wouldn’t get out of his truck insisting he felt ill and couldn’t go out that night.  But with a suitable amount of cajoling we got him out and dressed in his Frank en Furter outfit.  As he wouldn’t wear the high heeled shoes Sally found a pair of her boots and, though two sizes too small, she managed to force them onto his feet.  In fact on the way there the soles to the boots detached themselves and had to be held on with rubber bands.

IMG_2977

14642089_10210259066295160_3818275380748926957_n

It turned out to be a much colder night than we had expected (the tickets having been booked some weeks earlier when we were still in summer)  So Pat, who had offered to drive us there, was given an emergency phone call and asked to bring along two fur coats which she had inherited from her mother,  and all suitably attired and complete with the appropriate make up we set off.

14590406_10210259068135206_351378461409920070_n

Tibbo was getting more and more apprehensive by the minute, as he was convinced we would be the only ones in fancy dress and would be the laughing stock of the theatre.  But he needn’t have worried.  When we arrived we were greeted by the theatre staff all dressed as different characters from the play, and lots of the audience had made an effort as well.

IMG_2997

IMG_2998

Unsurprisingly we had arrived late so were escorted to the front of the theatre, though we chose not to take our seats at the time as the pretty well the whole of the front couple of rows were up and dancing to ‘Sweet Transvestite’

IMG_2996 IMG_2989 IMG_2988 IMG_2986 IMG_2985 IMG_2983

In the interval we went for drinks down in the foyer and Tibbo got lots of compliments on his bravery  – and his lovely legs – all of which made him feel much better about the whole thing.

IMG_3005

Pat came back to collect us after the show, and we all went to TGI Fridays a large cocktail bar along one of the nightclub littered roads into Birmingham city centre.  The staff seemed just a little surprised at our entrance, but were happy to sell us all some delicious cocktails, then off for a drive through MacDonald’s and back to Stourport.

And I hope after that Tibbo doesn’t regard the theatre as always likely to be ‘boring’ !

Braving The Shave

When they knew I had cancer and would be losing my hair when going through chemo my two beautiful young friends Tanya and Sally both said they would shave their heads in support of me.  I have to admit I was very tearful at this and begged them both not to shave off their lovely locks  – but they were adamant, and a date was fixed.  There would be a coffee morning at Sally’s farm in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support where Sally and Tanya would ‘Brave the Shave’, and afterwards there would be an auction of donated gifts and promises.

This lovely hat was donated by Oldfield’s of Ombersley

14292310_10210014124371765_4539056805994534561_n

By the date of the auction I had received a second dose of chemotherapy, and my hair – which had survived the first dose – suddenly began falling out in handfuls.  In fact one night as I stood in the dark with my back to a strong outside light and rubbed my head my hair was falling out in the breeze like that of a long haired dog in full moult.  But I was determined to retain at least some, so we could all three have our heads shaved together – though of course I was not being sponsored for it.

Three local hairdressers very kindly donated their time, and as we three sat in front of the gathered audience, we were looking and feeling somewhat apprehensive.  It didn’t really matter to me as my hair was pretty well gone anyway, but even so having ones head shaved sitting in front of the gathered throng was somewhat daunting.

14470437_1530182667007209_1699016176036745030_n

Sally and Tanya both had a lot to lose with full heads of strong, beautiful hair – a woman’s crowning glory.  And of course one is never sure exactly what shape one’s head is, and the worry is there as to how you will look.  I think they were both very, very brave, and I can’t ever thank them enough for this selfless act of support for me.

At one point as Tanya’s beautiful locks of hair were lying in her lap and I just felt she was feeling a little fragile.  I was holding Sally’s hand on my right and Tanya’s on my left, so I asked Sally to help me send some reiki through to Tanya, and the camera picked up this.  I love the way the random sunbeams shine down on Sally’s head, then my shoulder before showing as a heart shape over my heart, and stretching on down to my hand on Tanya’s where it glows the brightest.

14500617_10210189514276403_6946348242156957970_o

This is Tina Button (who owns the salon where we go for a hot tub) and myself just after the last of my hair was shaved off

14468520_10210185980588063_5215219356963601274_o

 

Here we are all three finished

14481831_10210178489880800_167659843653722977_o

Sally and Tanya both donated their hair to The Little Princess Trust which produces real hair wigs for children affected by cancer, and between both of them they raised nearly  £1500 in sponsorship.  Not only that, but those attending gave donations for their coffee and cakes, then after the head shave Sally was a most professional auctioneer at the auction of various promises and gifts donated by local businesses and people.  In fact the whole event produced a grand total of about £4000 for a very worthwhile cause.

In anticipation of the three of us having no hair I had ordered lots and lots of wigs of all different styles, colours and lengths, plus head scarves, turbans and bandanas.  And everyone – not just us three – had lots of fun trying them on.

14492481_10210118332056892_6814377531191166237_n

IMG_3901

IMG_2942

14702238_10210257402453565_5227306470700343736_nIMG_2946

IMG_294414449734_10210118333336924_8472248258186013252_n

 

Mistletoe and Yew

I needed to travel to Bristol again to meet with the homeopathic doctor there, and Sally once again insisted on driving us there, though luckily we could fit it in with something else she needed to do in the city.  This time we went in our new little sports car, and the day was nice enough to have the hood down even on the motorway as we sped along with our ‘Thelma and Louise’ scarves.

Having done Sally’s chore we still had time in hand and decided to visit the renovated docks area in Bristol, and though we didn’t really have time for a ‘sit down’ meal we stopped for some sandwiches, parking by the blocks of students accommodation there.  Sally was standing on the pavement next to the car having a cigarette when I thought there had been an explosion, but in fact someone from the tall building had thrown a bottle out which had ‘exploded’ very loudly and very frighteningly within inches of Sally !!!!!!

She leapt back into the car and we moved somewhere safer!

Down along the riverside we had a mooch about and perhaps our lucky recent escape was confirmed when a noisy seagull gave us even more luck – on both me and Sally.  With this in mind and remembering the old saying about bird poop Sally insisted on our buying some lottery tickets and scratch cards, and even though (sad to say) the lottery tickets proved worthless the scratch cards repaid our investment with a £60 dividend.

13239966_10209040673556103_7150101202525618757_n

13240066_10209040675156143_9156911744296229380_n

13244699_10209040676316172_1186495659880264692_n

Then off to the appointment with the homoeopathic doctor, who was pleased to see an improvement in my appearance since the last time she last saw me – which was shortly after my two bad haemorrhages when I was looking very pale and wan.  Plus she was pleased to hear that I had now agreed to have chemotherapy.

I was prescribed Iscador extract – which though not homoeopathic – is fermented from mistletoe  found growing on oak trees.  (Think druids and the mistletoe cut from sacred oaks with golden sickles)

Mistletoe preparations are used to stimulate the immune system, to kill cancer cells, and to help reduce tumor size. It may also help improve the quality of life and survival of some cancer patients, especially those using chemo and radiation, and may help reduce pain and side effects of these treatments. In addition, a German study done by Dr. Ronald Grossarth-Maticek of the Institute for Preventive Medicine in Heidelberg shows that, when used as adjunctive treatment in patients with a variety of cancers, it can increase survival time by as much as 40%.

In animal studies mistletoe preparations have helped fight some forms of cancer.  The best results with Iscador are claimed for its use with solid tutors before and after surgery and radiation.  Given 10 to 14 days before surgery it is thought to help prevent metastatic spread due to surgery and to promote recovery, and it is also used for advanced stage, inoperable solid tutors, especially caners of the bladder, stomach, intesting, genital organs, and skin.  It is also claimed that bone metastases are retarded in some cases.  Results apple less promising for inoperable cancers of the breast, lungs and oesophagus.  It is thought that tumour growth slows or stops, and then gradual regression being.  Furthermore, that tumour cells are transformed first to a semi-malignant form, then to chronic inflammation and finally to normal tissue.

Mistletoe contains a cytotoxic lectin, viscumin.  It also contains a number of cytotoxic proteins and polypeptides viscotoxins.  Various lectins are both cytotoxic and immunostimulatory.  It induces tumour necrosis, increases natural killer cell activity, increases production of interleukins 1 and 6; activates macrophages; induces programmed cell death (apoptosis) and protects DNA in normal cells during chemotherapy

So with mistletoe from that doctor, and massive doses of the poison from yew trees in my chemotherapy I assumed something would definitely be happening in my body.

A ‘Reiki’ Weekend

As Sally works so hard and her job is so stressful I decided that once I recovered from my first treatment I wanted to take her away for a relaxing weekend so arranged for us to attend a course teaching reiki – sometimes known as Hands On Healing,  which uses the natural energies of the body to send healing to others.  This can be done by the placing of hands or simply holding the hands near someone, or even ‘sending’ healing energies through the ether.

If anyone is interested then just google it, or perhaps even better arrange a treatment as there are now practitioners pretty well everywhere round the country, and even round the world.

It was to be not too far away in the Cotswolds, a beautiful part of the country, and less than a couple of hours travel, so we didn’t need to start out too early on the Saturday.  We duly arrived and met with Nara, the lovely lady who was to open Sally’s ‘Chakras’ – I had previously taken a course in Reiki some years ago.  Anyway it was a lovely, stimulating, and most interesting weekend for us both.

We did finish a bit late on the first day as we were so busy chatting, but rushed over to the nice hotel we were booked into just in time for our eight course tasting meal, with flight of accompanying wines, and still had time for a pre-dinner drink of champagne.

The meal was excellent, and the wines a delicious pairing.  Then up to our suite where we still had time to finish the complimentary half bottle of champagne before Sally had a hot bath watching the TV, and I had a wonderful hot ‘power’ shower.

IMG_2843 IMG_2845 IMG_2846 IMG_2850Sally looking somewhat the worse for wear after the eighth glass of wine, but still with the final champagne to go.

IMG_2835

IMG_2855

Next morning I let Sally sleep in late, whilst I got up, made myself some tea then explored the hotel with its beautiful gardens and the surrounding lanes of charming old Cotswold stone Burford, before an excellent ‘full English’.

IMG_2863 IMG_2873 IMG_2899 IMG_2903 IMG_2909

Then back to Nara’s for our second day and a final reiki treatment for each of us, with still plenty of time for the drive home before the day finished.

Chemo

My first appointment for chemo was fixed for Wed. 7th September, but before that I had to visit the doctor’s and hospital to have various blood tests, be weighed and measured, and have the pre-chemo talks and advice, coming away with a thick folder of information on all sorts of things to do with cancer – which I decided was probably all too depressing to read so put it away in a drawer.

Sally was adamant that she was coming to all of my appointments as I think she didn’t trust me to make the ‘right decisions’ or even to ask the ‘right questions’ and I have to say it was a comfort to have someone there with me as it is often difficult to remember everything that is said at those sort of appointments.

She even insisted on coming with me and spending the entire day at the hospital whilst I had the chemo.  And it was an entire day – we were in at eleven and did not leave until about half past six in the evening.

The ward itself was quite light with reclining seats for the patients and another seat for anyone accompanying them, plus a little table, and although there is not a lot of room there is sufficient.  Also the Chemo Ward has its own waiting room and loo, and I have to say everything seemed to be kept to a good standard of cleanliness, even though for some reason the department has not moved to the splendid new building finished some months ago.

Blood pressures and temperatures taken, one is first given several lots of chemicals intravenously (I am not sure if these should be termed infusions or transfusions, though I would guess infusions)

Anyway the first few lots of ‘stuff’ are meant to alleviate the side effects of the drugs used in the chemotherapy.  Of course I had to be contrary and reacted badly to one of these, coming out in a cold sweat and nearly fainting.  As this was my first time I didn’t know what to expect, so when I felt unwell I just assumed that was how it was and said nothing until I was about to pass out.  The nurses came over and stopped the ‘infusion’ for a while, then reintroduced it slowly and I had no more real problems.  But lovely Sally had rushed out once I was back on track (probably as much for a stress-induced cigarette as anything) and returned with sandwiches, drinks and a very pretty silver bracelet and amethyst pendant.  Thank you –  Angel !

Whilst you are having chemo light refreshments such as hot or cold drinks, soup and sandwiches, or cheese and biscuits are brought round at appropriate times and offered to both the patients and the friend or relation they have bought with them, which all helps to make the day pass, though I have to say it seems a long one.

The vein in the back of my hand was used, and by the end of the day it seemed quite sore and bruised, in fact taking more than three weeks to return to normal.

I was sent home with various packets of tablets which were apparently anti-sickness pills to be taken as prescribed and which would help me to eat normally afterwards.  So back we went, with me, once again, unsure of what would now happen.

Next day I took all the tablets and felt pretty good, though by Friday I was beginning to flag.  Saturday and Sunday I spent quite a bit of time in bed, but Monday was the day that VOSA were coming to inspect Sally’s business to see if she would be granted her extra trucks and trailers, so it was all hands to the pumps and I was up and in action, even though as soon as they left I headed back to my bed.

14333019_10210000779278146_1924030383578778968_n
S
ally Celebrating her licence for 5 extra trucks and 10 more trailers

Then all of a sudden on Monday evening I felt better.  The cramps and muscle pains in my legs seemed to be easing and I got up and dressed again. Later that week I found I came out in a really bad skin rash, quite literally all over, but bit by bit I got better.

But what was really the best thing of all was that after a week or two I found that I no longer needed the painkillers I had been taking for months now.  So that was really heartening.

Our New Car

Just before her bank holiday farm open days, Sally’s car decided for some reason, not to start.  It must have been fate as shortly afterwards, and again for no real reason, it decided to start and has not given any trouble since.  On the same day my Renault decided to bag out as well (more of that later)  But it meant neither of us had any means of transport for the entire Bank Holiday weekend – so something needed to be done.

She phoned a local hire firm but they wanted nearly £800 just to hire it for a few days.  Someone had mentioned there was  Mercedes sports car for sale just up the road, and I have to say I was interested.  When I had sold up all possessions before leaving my home some three years ago and left, one the the things I was surprised to find I was sorry to part with was the Silver XK8 Jaguar I had given myself as a fiftieth birthday present, so when I saw the Mercedes I was pretty certain we would be going home with us.

But first we played it cool, unfortunately we didn’t realise the guy selling it was outside just as we pulled up and I said how much I liked the colour.  So we hummed and hah’ed and metaphorically kicked the tyres until Peter, who was selling it, asked if we might like to take it for a test drive.  Yes – actually we would 🙂

We had borrowed Sally’s brother – Karl’s car to firstly view the car, then go onto Sally’s farm with lots of signs and flyers for her next Bank Holiday Open Days.  So Sally ran back and forth transferring everything and bringing her phones and handbag etc.  Then she went back to fetch some music DVDs and putting on some music nice and loud, and pressing the button to fold down the top we roared off.  Sally shouting back over her shoulder – ‘Nice to have met you’

We took a quick run up to Worcester on an errand for Sally, then back to the farm, then back to the yard as there were things Sally needed to do, where I picked up two ‘Thelma and Louise’ headscarves, as the wind was playing havoc with our hair-styles.

14089022_10210345546021807_9086539314392553582_nA very flattering photo of me driving the Mercedes – I think I may have all my photos taken in black and white in future

Some two hours later we returned – I would imagine much to Peter’s relief, and after some negotiations it was ours.  And we roared back to the yard in our newly acquired V6 Mercedes Avant-Garde Convertible.

14117868_1447685265258548_6988541098818560362_n

Still I was enjoying all the different experiences flung at me and embraced them all.