Peter's Pages Peter's Pages
Sunday, 27th May 2012
We travelled down on Sunday afternoon and stayed overnight at a Holiday Inn by Southampton. This worked well, avoiding any panics travelling down on the day that the ship left itself. Dined at a nearby Pizza Hut and was revolted to see a bloated Brit woman licking the serving spoons for the dressings at the salad bar. Civilisation is skin deep here.

On the Monday we went to Mottisfont where socialite / art lover Maud Russell used to live. The name Mottisfont may be derived from 'Moot' and 'Font' (or spring which is still going strong.) The house contains a number of illusions like a bookcase which is really a door, a flat wall which seems to bend, paint pots which are part of the painting. We all play games, different games.
The cruise was on the P&O ship Oriana. We ate mostly in the Peninsular Restaurant, shared an evening table with pleasant people. The unhurried meals, meeting new people, is a big draw of cruising for me. One evening Virginia and I dined in the Marco Pierre White directed Ocean Grill which was an artistic experience.

On the first night during our starters the alarm went off, the tannoy said there was a fire in the engine room, and the crew all vanished. There were one or two other hiccups, a thruster failed leaving Ponta Delgada, the ship lost power during a show. There was enthusiastic entertainment, but I spent a lot of time reading. The cruise had a dancing theme to it, and I lasted half an hour learning the social waltz before Virginia took pity on me.

Internet access was poor to unusable a lot of the time. It was crowded at times - a lot of people standing for the muster drill, in the shows, and even in the cinema. Our dining table was a little cramped.

In the end we tipped using envelopes of cash rather than having it added to our bill. Heard a story of someone cutting up the note on tipping, and putting that into an envelope. One man's mother swore abusively at a poor pianist just because he didn't let her son play instead.

We left the ship carrying our own luggage and this meant we got back home three hours earlier than otherwise. Definitely worth doing.
Our first ports of call were in the Azores, at Ponta Delgada and Horta on the following day. A cloudy day meant that we saw mist and fog rather than spectacular lakes in volcanic craters in Ponta Delgada. But we did see a pineapple farm where they grew the stuff in greenhouses, smoking the poor things to make them all ripen at the same time.

On Horta we did a whale-watching boat ride which saw no whales. The small boat headed out into the wild sea as there were no whales close to land, and a lot of us on board were sea-sick. Oh what fun, I came close to being sick.
The sun was shining as we walked independently around Funchal in Madeira. Solar power really helps with taking pictures. Truly a garden city, nature blooming. We went as far as Reids Hotel but didn't stop for a coffee there.
In Las Palmas rain and fog almost obscured the view of another caldera. A lone brave farmer had his farm in the volcano crater, not where I would live!

We were shown Dragon Trees (Dracaena draco) which are not real trees but part of the asparagus family. Their red sap can be used to stain violins. Couldn't get into Teror Basilica so instead went into a Gaudi inspired Church in Ribo Grande.

Sunshine eventually made its presence felt when we went to a banana plantation hacienda. Really beautiful with the purple jacaranda trees. To help the bananas ripen they wrap the bunches in blue plastic.
Our final stops were Lisbon then Vigo on the following day. From a foggy boat trip we did at least see some monuments and edifices, then had a coach trip to admire how Lisbon was improved after a disastrous fire. Perhaps cities need disasters now and then as part of their life cycle, to avoid being ossified? Like nations benefit from being defeated every now and then to get rid of deadwood?

We walked into Vigo but didn't understand what they were demonstrating about as we don't speak Spanish. Almost came a cropper as I slipped over at one point in the rain. We got some biscuits for gifts at one shop which seemed to be a combination butchers / wine shop / grocers / sweet shop. Only to find the prices on the boat of souvenir biscuits had been cut in half! Vigo does have some neat statues which I should have taken pictures of.