Monday, 23 November 2015

Earthquake update

Earthquake? No, Greek builders!
If you are travelling to Lefkada next year the journey may take a little longer following the recent earthquake. Seismologists calculate that the island has moved south by 36cm thereby increasing the distance you'll have to travel from Preveza Airport. It is unclear whether local taxi drivers will be increasing fares to compensate for the extra distance run.

But perhaps more worrying for those afloat is the dramatic effect the earthquake is said to have had on the seabed contours, especially off the southern end of the island. Previous 'deep' water may now be quite shallow with some reports saying charted depths of 12 metres are now returning depths of 6 metres on electronic sounders. The advice from the Greek Hydrographic Office is to exercise caution when approaching bays and harbours as depths may be significantly less than shown on charts.


Tuesday, 17 November 2015

17th. November - Earthquake hits Lefkada

Two people died when an earthquake measuring at least 6.1 hit the Ionian island of Lefkada this morning. This is in the heart of our cruising ground and we know it well. Breeze is out of the water and stored in a boatyard just a few miles away. Earthquakes are not new around these parts - even the Lefkas clock tower is designed to be earthquake proof.

Lefkas's earthquake-proof clock tower

Thursday, 12 November 2015

France - allons-y

Off to France for a few days with some old school mates and their wives. By a strange quirk of coincidence we discovered that Trevor shares his birthday with Dave’s wife, Sue. Not only that but we share the same wedding anniversary. John and Linda (sadly Linda was not able to join us as she has a dodgy knee) have birthdays within one day of each other. Apparently you only need to gather 23 people together to find two people with the same birthday. Funny thing statistics.

John, Dave, Sue, Trevor and Jo on the slightly chilly prom at Le Touquet  - pic Dave Knowler
So the shared birthday on November 7th. was the meager excuse we needed to invade northern France. We were all there together in 1957 for a school trip. In those days we wore short trousers, drank a third of a pint of school milk a day and got there on a rusting old tub of a ferry.  Now we wear long trousers, have swapped the milk for wine and crossed the Channel by Eurotunnel. Who would have thought back in 1957 we'd return as grandparents!

Jo and Trevor at Le Touquet   pic Dave Knowler
We had a great three days. We visited La Coupole, the WWII V2 launch site and an amazing museum. We trotted along the prom at Le Touquet, walked the ramparts at Montreuil and had two indulgent meals at two fine restaurants. Not to mention raiding the Wine Society’s cellars and topping up our own supplies.

We resolved to do it again before another 58 years pass!

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

It's a bad week

Friend, colleague and the voice of BBC Radio 4, Peter Donaldson, died this morning.  Peter had cancer – he put on a brave face brushing it aside as ‘annoying’. I heard from him last week and we were due to visit him and take him to the pub for his legendary pint of Adnams in a couple of weeks. Sadly that is not to be and our trip to West Sussex will now be to his funeral not the White Hart. His voice was that of authority and warmth. It is no accident that he was chosen to be the ‘voice of doom’ – the voice you heard if Armageddon arrived and Britain was under nuclear attack. In less dramatic situations it was his voice you heard at sea reading the shipping forecast. Peter could announce a Fore nine but you’d feel all was well if Peter was in front of the mic.

His was the voice of reason and he debunked BBC management when they were clearly on the wrong course. He was an effective thorn in the side of more than one Radio 4 Controller.  We will all miss him enormously.

News too reaches me that two former ‘Today’ programme colleagues have also passed away this week. Martin Cox, a ‘Today’ duty editor and Geoffrey James a senior producer.

It’s a grim week.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

21st. October - Paris

Paris 2015

We love Paris. We used to go several times a year but since having the boat we have hardly visited. This week we put right that serious omission and took a three-day break in our favourite city. What is it about Paris that is so alluring? Is it the architecture, the food, the jazz clubs, the bistros or even the shops? Maybe it’s all of these things plus something that’s impossible to define. The ambience – that elusive mixture of sights, sounds and smells that is uniquely Paris. Well, for three days we filled our boots and enjoyed every minutes…well, almost every minute.

Jo, the Seine and the Eiffel Tower.
Having not been to Paris for a while we did all the predictable things – we walked along the Seine embankment, crossed the Tuileries gardens and almost went into the Louvre deterred only by the vast queue. We crossed the river to the Musée d’Orsay and found even more queues. This was new – the last time we were in Paris we simply pitched up, paid and gained entrance. We did the mandatory stroll down the Champs Élysées and passed the recently refurbished Grand Palais – more queues! This was not going well.

Forum Bar - well, it was!
Oh well, we thought we’d rescue the day and treat ourselves to champagne cocktails at the Forum Bar. Now for us the Forum Bar is as much part of the Paris ‘must do’ list as the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the Arc de Triomphe. This bar was voted one of the top ten cocktail bars in the world so imagine, therefore, our horror to discover the bar is no more. The wrecking balls were making short work of this important Paris landmark. Disaster!

Jo at the Museum of Modern Art for the Warhol exhibition
The next day we headed for the Museum of Modern Art (Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris) where had just opened an important Warhol exhibition, Warhol Unlimited. Would there be queues we wondered? Luckily not. It was impressive and we learnt a lot about this 60’s artist – and saw some iconic works – the Campbell Soups  series, the multi-coloured Monroe prints and the famous Cow wallpaper.

Bovine distraction
That evening, in the absence of the Forum Bar, we took our champagne fix at l’Envue a pleasant bar-restaurant in Boissy d’Anglas  and I’d taken the precaution of booking a table at Bistro Volnay before we left home. This was to be our gastronomic treat – a bistro that had good reviews and was close by. What we didn’t know was that trouble lay ahead. Somehow the restaurant had lost our booking despite repeating it all back to me when I booked. We suspect it had been entered on the wrong day and at some time in the future M. et Mme. Taylor will be ‘no shows’. It was disappointing that apologies were off the menu and we were made to feel it was our fault. The food, however, was very good and the wine list eye-wateringly expensive. It did not help that all the tables were shoe-horned in – diners were elbow-to-elbow. Commercially it makes sense to “pack ‘em in”, especially if the venue is popular, but this was more like refectory eating rather than romantic dining. Not great.

Place du Tertre
For our last day we gave up all pretense of sophistication and headed for Montmartre and the Place du Tertre. Yes, I know it’s about as touristy as it’s possible to get but it offers a great view of the city and has that Parisian ambience in spades. We managed to miss the funicular railway and ended up walking up the hill to Sacré Coeur. The area was packed. The pavement portrait artists who used to inhabit the square now roam the nearby streets. Too busy – so we descended through the tiny streets of Montmartre and passed food shops which, had we been staying, we would have emptied so good was the produce. Quality cheese, fruit, meat, fish and wine. I could live here.

A fishmonger - endangered species in the UK but thriving in Paris
Art - right in the centre of Place de la Concorde - sponsored by a glass manufacturer
But no sooner had we arrived in Paris than it’s time to go home.  We vowed to return in the Spring. 
À bientôt.