Monday, July 31, 2017

Europe 2017

Europe 2017

To summarise the trip: Fly to London arriving Thursday, Fly to Montenegro Sunday, 1 week sailing in a Turkish Gulet, Fly back to London on Sunday, Fly to Oporto on Tuesday, Fly back to London, Saturday, Fly to Italy on Sunday, 12 nights in Italy, Fly back to Sydney.  I may be getting too old to do this.


This trip was organised by Pierre, husband of Vivienne’s sister, Virginia.  Originally we were going on a Jewels of the Adriatic Cruise of a Turkish Gulet, stopping at Dubrovnik and higher up the Croatian coast.  Unfortunately, the mini wars that have plagued the Balkans for the last 600 years continue and Croatia has banned Montenegro based cruising ships sailing to Croatia so instead we had to settle for a Jewels of Montenegro cruise.

When SWMBO had seen the plan of Gulet she demanded I get another room.  It was probably the best move of my life meaning we both had seven blissful nights of sleeps.  One complaint was the smallness of the rooms.

There 16 on the boat.  Three workers: the captain, the chef, and the general hand.  Six couples (5 from the UK + us) and Ricky, a German who was 41 and lived in East Germany until he was 13.  The four of us, (Pierre, Virginia, Vivienne and I) probably doubled the average age.

Each day was similar.  After a good breakfast (with sausages) we would set off at 10 am to a bay somewhere where we would anchor, swim and have a relaxing lunch.  We would then motor for another two hours where would either moor or anchor and then go on shore for dinner.

I think we spent the nights at the following places in the following order:

Kotor (we had our only dinner on the boat – interesting old town)

Perast (pretty village)

Herceg Novi (another pretty village)

Budva (the party town - full of discotheques – if only I was 50 years younger and single)

Bar (massive marina)

Bigova (very small village with a great restaurant.  Relaxing on a beach chair was a stunningly beautiful girl of Chinese descent.  I asked the waiter if she was an actress or singer and he said no she was an escort).

Tivat (very swish marina trying to emulate St. Tropez)

Summing up: Montenegro only formed in 2006 when it left Serbia to follow a more Western route.  Euro is the currency only 600,000 people.  Not inside the Vodaphone European zone for telephones (that wasted a SIM Card).  Reasonable cuisine.  Some very tall men and lot of beautiful women, many who looked like Melania Trump.

I must confess I was introverted on the trip taking the time to catch up on some reading and thinking about the EQ Congress in Oporto.


We arrived at Rome at 2:15 and finally got into our hire car at 4:15 We arrived in Naples and using Google Maps and with help of various people got to Il Convento where were staying.  One who helped us was the waiter/hustler at the La Cantina Della Tofa restaurant around the corner so as a reward we went for dinner there.  It is ranked #2,162 of the 2,450 Restaurants in Naples but was not that bad.

Naples can be summed up in there words: Graffitti, Tattoos and Maradona.  I don’t think I have ever been to a city with so much graffiti and so many with tats.  Milan this is not.  On the other hand all the tourist stalls have tokens of Maradona.  He is a god here, playing for Napoli for 7 years and leading the team to 2 Italian Championships and a UEFA Cup.  It was the first time a southern team had beaten the giants from Milan and Rome.

The first day we needed some exercise.  We walked up the Via Toledo, swung right at Via Tribunali into the Centro Storico and 30 minutes later reached the Pio Monte de Misericordia where hangs the best painting in Naples;  Caravaggio’s 7 Acts of Mercy.  We then moved on to the Capella Sansevero which contains some amazing scuptures including the Veiled Christ.  These are the two must sees in Naples plus our next visit the National Archeological Museum.  This contains some of the most amazing statues ever collected mainly from Pompeii and Heraculeum but also throughout Italy.  Some are huge and spectacular especially the Faranese Bull.  This is well worth a visit; we spent two hours here and should have budgeted for four.

We ate that night at the nearby Antica Capri.  Trip Advisor ranks this #33 of 2,450 Restaurants in Naples.  Eat inside – the scooters running up the street are a pest.           

The next day we decided we wanted to see the Bay of Naples and caught the funicular up to Vomero.  After a 30 minute trek we finally got to the Certosa di San Martino.  We should have taken a taxi there.  However after a cappuccino restored our spirits we took a taxi to the Duomo, the main church of Naples.  The patron saint is St. Gennario, a third century martyr, complete with the usual bones and phials of blood.  In 1800 years this church has collected an amazing amount of wealth.  We then took in two more churches.  The Chiesa e Scavi di San Lorenzo Maggiore contains an impressive 14th century tomb of Catherine of Austria and located opposite the Chiesa di San Paolo Maggiore contains some very impressive Solimena frescoes.  For lunch we followed the nearby recommendation of Lonely Planet and ate at the Trattoria di Carmine (ranked #178 of 2,450 Restaurants in Naples) which was excellent  If you are in the Centro Storico this would be a good choice.

For dinner we went to Zero Zero Grano, ranked #5 of 2,450 Restaurants in Naples.  This is a 100% gluten free restaurant.  My wife being a confirmed coeliac was in ecstasy.  The bread, the tempura vegetables, the ravioli and the coffee cake sent her into raptures.  Sydney needs a restaurant like this.


The next day we set off for Maratea.  On the way we stopped at Paestum.  This site has three very impressive Greek temples in very good nick and with all the columns standing.  I thought it far more impressive than Pompeii.  The final hour’s driving is quite a challenge.  According to Lonely Planet the road is even narrower than the Amalfi Coast.  We stayed at the La Laconda Delle Donna Monarche, which is a former convent and definitely the place to stay.  Big thunderstorm predicted so we ate in.

Maratea is a great place on the Tyrrhenian coast.  We stayed at the Locanda delle Donne Monache, which is a hotel opened in 2000 on the site of a former convent.  It is the only hotel in the Centro Storico with a pool and highly recommended.  I had forewarned the hotel that Vivienne was a coeliac and we had two superb dinners there.  The other night we had dinner at the Taverna Rovita which was not in the same league.  The first day we walked down the hill to the beach taking nearly 2 hours.  We caught a taxi back for 15 euros.  The next day we caught a bus down for 1,1 euros to the Port getting out one stop too early.  The beach is pebbles and black sand. 


On Saturday we drove to Puglia through the Pollino national park to the Gulf of Taranto.  It took some 4.5 hours and we met up with Ann & Anthony Mayer.  We were staying north of Locorotondo in a very well appointed villa.  Six bedrooms for the four of us.  The pool was great and I managed two swims a day.  Typically we have lunch out and dinner in.

Sunday we visited the Centro Storico of Locorotondo which is rated as one of the most beautiful towns in Italy and lives up to its reputation.  We had lunch at the U’Cordunn which is a terrific restaurant.

Monday we went the coast visiting Monopoli and Polignano which is famous for its stunning coastal scenery.  We had another great lunch at the Piazza Palmieri.

Tuesday we went to Alberobello, the city of tulli which are the area's signature beehive shaped houses.  This time we had another great lunch at the Trullo D'Oro.

Wednesday we went to Martina Franca.  It was market day so the town was busy but after we found a parking spot, got to the centro historico and had another great lunch at the Ristorante La Tavolaccia 2.

If there appears to be theme running through these days of long lunches you have got it.

Thursday we drove the seven hours back to Rome and the airport where the temperature was 42 degrees outside and caught the plane back Sydney.

Great trip but to conclude I am not sure I have the energy to do it again.

Chris Golis Australia's expert on practical emotional intelligence website: Linkedin: Email: mobile: +61-418-222219

1 comment:

  1. Love your sense of humour and enjoyed remembering places I've been that I haven't thought about for ages. My dad was born in Kotor but I've never been there, though the pictures I've seen look gorgeous. One of the lastthings he said to me was "Promise me you'll visit Kotor before you die" and I said "Well I'm not going to visit after I die, am I?" If you don't want to make a commitment, always answer with a question, is my motto.