Tuesday October, 2012

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“Time’s fun when you’re having flies …” (as the old saying goes). And our sojourn in Greece came to an all-too-sudden end yesterday when we boarded our cruise ship and sailed for parts unknown. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

Yesterday began with another 5:30am wake-up call … another yummy non-Weight-Watchers breakfast … and another loading of the coach with bodies and bags. We waved goodbye to Meteora and its unforgettable mountain monasteries, and drove south (that’s right, south – or southeast-ish, if you want to be precise) towards the rising sun. The temperature outside rose steadily (we’ve had 39 degrees, and maybe more, here in Greece) – but we Kiwis weren’t bothered. In air-conditioned comfort we snored with our mouths open, told laugh-yourself-silly jokes, and sang a few choice numbers from the Midlife Madness Ye Olde Songbook … stopping every hour or two to top-up on food and drink at Greek autobahns.

Our destination was the ‘biggie’ of Greek religious shrines: the 2400-year-old Oracle of Delphi – considered by ancients to be the physical and spiritual centre of the earth. This place has everything: a long and glorious history, spectacular ancient remains, a new museum, and a breathtakingly beautiful location on the craggy slopes of Mount Parnassus. There’s not a lot left standing, to be honest – with the ruined Temple of Apollo being the main draw-card, and the smaller Sanctuary of Athena with its mysterious ‘tholos’ (circular temple) being Delphi’s most photographed attraction.

But we Kiwis lost no time puffing, panting, sweating and clambering all over the site.

Then, in the afternoon, we motored eastward to the port of Piraeus (Athens) where our floating hotel, the ms Prinsendam, was waiting to welcome us aboard.

The Prinsendam is the baby of Holland America Line’s proud fleet – carrying only 800 passengers, weighing 38,000 tons (for those of you who like to weigh your ships), with four giant diesel engines giving her a maximum speed of 21.5 knots. We sailed all night, leaving Greece and its untold islands behind, and have continued sailing all day.

I won’t go on about it now, because you’ll just get jealous. But let me drop a very broad hint: the 5-star-luxury part of this Mad Midlife adventure has begun in earnest. And, even as I write these words, your loved ones and friends are being disgustingly pampered.

I know you feel sorry for them, and I will pass on your sympathies and commiserations tonight when we sit down together for another four-course gourmet dinner.

CORRECTION: Several of you dear readers spotted a misteak in the previous blog-entry – where I stated that Kalambaka was “rebuilt after being almost entirely destroyed by the Nazis in WW1.” Surely I meant WW2? Well, yes and no. The town was, in fact, nearly almost destroyed in WW1 by the Nazis – who were a virtually-unknown group at that stage. However, when it was pointed out that they should have waited until the next war, they apologised and stopped their almost-destruction, returning to properly almost destroy it in WW2. (And if you believe that, you’ll believe anything …)


Two more Mad Midlife Kiwis have each walked away with a cute little yellow Quacky Duck (or they will tomorrow morning when I’ll make the thrilling announcements):

  • As we embarked the Prinsendam yesterday we each received a plastic ID card (much like a credit-card) which (i) gets us on and off the ship, (ii) gets us into our cabins (doubling as a key) and (iii) allows us to purchase luxury goods and services on the ship (where cashlessness rules). Martin, who managed to lose his card almost as soon as he got it, had to go to the front office for a replacement – and shortly thereafter he found the original, tucked inside the little nametag-pouch which was hanging around his neck. For this and other misdemeanours, Martin wins our ‘He’d Lose His Head If It Wasn’t Screwed On Award’. (You had to be there …)
  • Pam gets the ‘Upside Down & Inside Out Award’ for reading the security code on her Visa card upside down – and spending 30 panicky moments wondering why her online Visa transaction was being declined.


With our heads still spinning from all we learned in Greece, we get face-to-face with another ancient culture in Alexandria – Egypt’s second largest city, founded in 331 BC by Alexander the Great. (Bet you wish you were with us – right?)

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

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