Friday, 29 March 2013

“Boaty” friends to stay.

We’ve had a great time this week – Stephen and Jayne from nb “Dolce Far Niente” came down to stay with us for a few days.  It was a case of ‘cold hands – warm hearts’ for us all, as it was uncommonly cold for Selsey during their stay.


We ventured out none the less and this is us in nearby Bosham.  Famous for its’ connection with King Canute, and being included on the Bayeux tapestry, Bosham is also known for the tide coming in and covering some of the roads and one of the car parks – resulting in the occasional hapless motorist failing to check the tide times!  On the day we were there the tide was already out so everyone was safe.


After a bracing walk around the village and a visit to the church we called off the outdoor pursuits and enjoyed a hot chocolate in “The Anchor Bleu” Then we returned home for proper warm up (and a few glasses of wine!).


We also braved the elements the next day and went to Portsmouth.  The Solent is a busy bit of water and here, at the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour, there’s always something to see.


James, Stephen and Jayne on “Spice Island”, with the Spinnaker Tower sticking out of Stephens head!  HMS Warrior, with its’ three masts, is on the left.


Still on Spice Island, it’s amazing what can creep up on your blind side when you’re not looking!

After a walk to the Spinnaker Tower and back, we had a very good lunch in the Spice Island Inn before heading home.


On the way back from Portsmouth, James has to go the “Southsea way” to see the Ryde hovercraft.  It never fails to excite him!  (Stephen and Jayne enjoyed it too).


We had a great time with Stephen and Jayne and, sadly, the time went very quickly.  Thanks for your company guys and we look forward to meeting up with you on the cut this year (when we all eventually get cruising on our boats).  We’re straining at the leash right now and eagerly watching for the red boards on the River Thames to come down.  We can then leave our marina on the Kennet and Avon and head up towards Oxford for the start of this years’ boating.  Roll on, roll on!

Monday, 18 March 2013

Our Last day in Malta

We did a bit of relaxing today and spent some time on the beach getting some sun.  But earlier in the week we went to a number of interesting places that we haven’t shown yet.

In our our town of Mellieha there are some World War 2 air raid shelters which are fascinating.  There are hundreds of yards of these tunnels going in all sorts of directions where you are free to wander around.IMG_1513

There are maternity wards if the need should arise!


Some tunnels are quite large and some not so big.  There are even secure areas for the safe keeping of valuables and art treasures from the local museum.


The square in Mellieha is dominated, like so many others, by the local church.


Talking of churches – this one in Mosta (in the middle of the island) is absolutely huge.  James is standing next to the left hand column in the central doorway.  In the last war, a thousand pound bomb came through the roof but failed to explode.


During our wanderings we came upon this rare and strange beast – it’s a Fougasse.  Built by those resourceful people, the Knights of the Order of St. John in 1740 -  it’s a cannon hewn out of solid rock.  It’s 4 feet in diameter and about 8 feet deep.  Filled with gunpowder in the bottom and then filled to the top with rocks, when detonated it sure scared the hell out of the enemy!  There aren’t that many left on the island.

Earlier in the week we went to Marsaxlokk (pronounced Marshashlok!) with Neil and Phillip, before they went back to England.  It’s a very pretty place and the harbour is full of the traditional coloured fishing boats. IMG_1475

Neil, Doug and Phillip.


Not sure whether we’re trying to keep the sun out of eyes of just being stupid!


Another view of the charming harbour at Marsaxlokk.

Well we’re flying home tomorrow and shall be very sad to go.  We’ve had a wonderful and relaxing time here and there’s still much more to see.  So we hope one day we’ll be back for another visit.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Mdina–The Silent City

The Arabs divided the ancient city of Melita into two parts in 870AD.  They built ramparts and a ditch around the best bits and called it Mdina (the city) and the rest they called Rabat (the suburb).


The ramparts and ditch are huge (as usual) and today it’s manicured to an inch of it’s life.


The city is free of all traffic – save a few vehicles with special licences, hence it is now known as “The Silent City”.  It’s fantastic to walk around the beautiful and narrow streets uninterrupted by the usual noise.


The residents keep things really clean and tidy with as much greenery as possible considering there’s not a patch of soil or grass to be seen!


The Cathedral Church – awesome inside but we were unable to take photos.  It’s also one of the only large buildings where a decent picture can be taken due to the narrow streets.  The old cathedral was destroyed in an earthquake in 1693 and this one was completed by 1702 (not bad going!)


The view across the lowlands to the north-east of the Rabat plateau.  From this point you can see about 3/4 of the width of Malta (at its widest!)


For lunch we went into Rabat and found one of ‘our’ little local joints where we got 2 glasses of coffee (not cups) and 2 cheese cakes (like small puff pastry ricotta pasties) for 1.2 euros cooked in the oven in the centre of the picture, the locals were so friendly.


A narrow street in Rabat.


Popping back into Mdina after dark and walking around the, even quieter, streets with the street lamps on was very atmospheric.


Another great day was had!

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Two Visits to Valletta

Earlier this week we drove to Valletta and spent a wonderful day just walking and admiring.  Today, we thought we’d do the same but this time we took the bus!  Much easier! For 2.6 euros each we could have a “go anywhere” day pass and, with the cost of parking the car as well, it was a no brainer. So we had a second wonderful day in this beautiful city.


From the top of the Saluting Battery you get a fantastic view of the Grand Harbour (and Doug) with Fort St Angelo centre (and someone’s blooming big yacht on the left!)


Looking out to sea from the Grand Harbour.


Much of the city is made up of steep, narrow streets – many of them stepped.  Building of the city started in 1566 by the Knights of the Order of St. John and much of it is now showing its’ age.  However, there is a huge amount of (European?) money being spent on some very ambitious renovations.


A view of the west side of Valletta showing the huge bastions built to defend it.  The dome belongs to the massive Carmelite Church and the spire to St. Pauls Pro Anglican Cathedral.


The Maltese love their balconies and nowhere are they better than in Valletta.


Across St. Georges’ Square is the Grand Master’ Palace – known locally as just “the Palace”. 

Today we went off the “tourist trail” for some lunch in a ‘local’ bar.  We found one  in St Pauls’ Street opposite St. Pauls Shipwrecked Church.  Fantastic food at locals’ prices!  These places are exciting to find – they’re usually just a door in a wall and when you go inside it’s full of people eating and drinking!


On our way back to the bus station we walked out through the city gates and we took this shot of just one small piece of the monumental job the Maltese people have of saving this beautiful place.  Valletta really was built as a fortress.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

A day on Gozo

We’ve had some really good weather since we’ve been here in Malta and today started bright and sunny but very windy.  As the forecast for the next few days wasn’t brilliant we decided to take the car on the ferry to the island of Gozo while the weather was good.


After a very choppy half hour trip we arrived at Mgarr harbour.

We travelled the complete length of the island in about 1/2 hour to visit the very picturesque Dwejra Bay.  


James at the “inland sea” at Dwejra Bay.  It’s fed by an 80 meter long tunnel from the sea and, due to the very rough weather (which was increasing all the time!), this normally calm piece of water had it’s own waves.


Out in the bay the waves were tremendous and the wind was making it difficult to stand up.

We made our way back through the island and stopped for a couple of hours in the capital city Victoria where we had some lunch and visited the very impressive “Cittadella”.  Normally it would have been a pleasant walk around the walls and through the narrow streets but the wind was so strong it blew dust into everyone’s eyes and it was another case of trying to remain upright! 


This is Doug high up overlooking Ramla Bay on the north coast. At this point we were in the lee of the island and the wind was not so strong.

By the middle of the afternoon the weather was deteriorating badly so we decided to make for the ferry back home.  We had an exciting voyage to say the least – we travelled back in a force 8 gale (official!).


This was our view as we approached Cirkewwa Harbour on Malta! Yes, the ship was at this angle and yes, they are waves breaking over the ferry terminal!


Home safe and sound! - although it was quite a while before the vehicles were allowed off the ship as the wind was rocking it too much.

We had a great and exciting day and, as you might say: Whoa - what a ride!!!!!

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Sunny Malta!

We are in Malta for 10 days, having arrived last Saturday and getting out of the UK before the bad weather set in!!  The weather has been warm and sunny since we arrived (apart from a brief drop of rain yesterday).


We’re staying in the apartment of our friends, Neil and Phillip, who have a wonderful place in Mellieha which has views across to the smaller island of Gozo and, on a clear day, we can see Scilly and Mount Etna.


After our arrival Saturday midday, Neil and Phillip took us on a small tour around the immediate area so that we could get our bearings.  We happened across “Popeye Village” which was the stage set constructed for the film back in 1980 and which is still used as a tourist attraction.


There are some wonderfully high places to have a cup of coffee and take in the views.  This one is in the oldest part of Mellieha town watching the sun go down.

We arrived amid the general election which has dominated island life to the extreme for the last 3 days. We all knew when the results were established as the car horns started sounding and mortars were being let off like fireworks! It was a landslide victory for the Labour Party we understand!


A couple of pics of the election celebration.  It’s taken very seriously (or not as the case may be!)


On Sunday James went down with a virus which kept him in bed all day while the other three went out and enjoyed themselves! He’s better now, thank goodness.


This is breakfast this morning on the balcony looking towards Sicily.  So much nicer than snow!  We took Neil and Philip to the airport today for their flight back home.  They’ve been here for a few days but sadly need to return to their hectic schedules.  We’ve had a great few days with them and it seem strange being in their home without them.  Thanks N and P for your great company and all the help showing us the ropes!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

“Moore” Excitement in Selsey

On Monday evening Selsey celebrated the 90th birthday (March 4th) of its’ most famous resident – the late Sir Patrick Moore.  The Selsey centre was packed with friends and colleagues, both past and present, in tribute to a most remarkable man and as a fund raising event for one of Patricks’ many projects he supported - St Wilfred’s Hospice in Chichester.


We enjoyed an evening of thoughts and reminiscences from both the world of astronomy and from friends in the village.  Patrick was an accomplished musician and cricketer as well as a great astronomer.  He wrote a hundred or so works for orchestra and xylophone and, to that end, his protégé Christopher Beaumont played a number of Patricks’ compositions for the xylophone.

The evening was made extra special by the presence of Brian May, Sir Tim Rice, John Culshaw and Paul Able (from the Sky at Night program)………


……..who shared with us their thoughts and experiences as close friends and astronomical colleagues of Patrick.


L to R: Paul Able, John Culshaw, Brian May, Tim Rice, Dr John Mason and Iain Nicholson.

The evening ended with a rendition of Happy Birthday and a toast to a brilliant, witty, generous and extra-ordinary man who touched and guided so many lives during his long and distinguished carrier.  We also feel deeply privileged to have known him over the last few years and to have had his company at our own celebrations back in August last year.  Thank you Patrick!


Another, and equally special event has happened this week – we’ve had the pleasure of daughters Vicky and Frances who have both been able to come down to see us!


“Ernie”, Vicky and Frances on a cold but sunny Selsey seafront on Monday.


Vicky had to return home on Monday evening but Frances and Kel have stayed on for a few more days and today we all went to Portsmouth for lunch and bit of retail therapy.  This is Kel, Doug, Frances and “Hixie” on Spice Island with the Spinnaker Tower in the background.


Our visits to Portsmouth aren’t complete without a detour on the way home through Southsea to see the Isle of Wight hovercraft. It never fails to excite James!!