White Lies Bigger Than Us

I have been ‘in a relationship’ with music for a meaningful amount of time. It gets me and I get it. Or at least I think I do.

I’m the kind of person that gets immersed in a band / a song / a lyric and often feels like I’ve found a song that speaks my very soul.

Recently I have fallen prey to White Lies. Being a fan of Ritual at the best of time, this latest offering takes on new levels of invaluable at times of turmoil and strife. Peppered with the right combo of happy, sad, forlorn, baleful, determined and bravado.

It’s a very chick thing to fall in love with the depth and meaningfulness of the lyrics, but am starting to realise that it’s a little naïve to think that the ‘signs’ were always there, but disguised as mere lyrics until you needed them; like the song undergoes some sort of emotional metamorphosis to get you at just the right time.

Clearly, sometimes the ‘advice’ is perhaps best evaluated in the cold hard light of day – especially when you’re looking to White Lies for the answers to complex questions. Is “gonna write your girl a letter / it’ll make everything better” really the answer or will that just stir up a whole new hornet’s nest, giving his misguided girl leverage to bleat about? Somehow “You find some best friends / we’ll hold each other / and I’ll turn the bells” leads me to believe that you’re going to be left with just you and the bells, honey. And while you’re so busy turning those bells, hopefully this isn’t ringing others: “If I’m guilty of anything / it’s loving you too much / honey, sometimes love / means getting a little rough / this is not bad love”.

Besides the ambiguities that are thrown out for the sake of romantic clichés, to keep you guessing, make things applicable to a broader audience or just plain thrown in for poetic licence because they rhyme, there are the malleable homonyms, where you read into it exactly what you want to. Like is “past tense” meaning it’s history? Or like uber-tense, just really angry? Are the “headlights on the hillside” a welcome wagon or heading to gun you down?

But I still make space for the White Lies. Because they’re wrong when they say “There’s nothing stranger than to love someone”; it is stranger to love the messages you know are so obviously off-base. But I do love them. And I do enjoy them. Especially where it’s intimate and personal, like alone in my car when I can’t do anything but drive. Because it feels like “It feels like coming home to stay”. And I sing the same songs telling tales of betrayal and deceit, of loves found, lost and thrown away. Yelling out how “I’ve got a sense of urgency / I’ve got to make this happen”, when all I experience is the opposite. And anyone who claims they don’t do the same (with their own ‘inner voice’ band) would be the delusional to whom i would say “You’d be the one to turn your back and cast the first stone”.

But it’s a one-way street and White Lies doesn’t hear me. Doesn’t hear my silly songs that aren’t lyrical manipulative merde, and probably that make me look more like a country song than an anthem. And so, because this is indeed Bigger Than Us, “I pray for tomorrow / and wait listening out for a reply”.

(… which i would probably get sooner if Harry McVeigh was still my friend on Facebook. Shame, the poor dear probably didn’t understand social networking when he set up his personal profile and unwittingly accepted my friend request. Sadly, now has deleted me, but if he hadn’t I’d expect that his comment on this blog would be something like:

“The only thing I’ve ever found / that’s greater than it always sounds / is this blog” )

I think i’m overdue for making a mix tape!  😉

Every blog has its day

They say we write about what we know about. Although recent evidence seems to point that way, I have to refute it as applicable to me from my current personal point of view. You can’t judge this book by her cover. This whole blogging adventure has been with the intention of self-discovery in complicated and confusing times. Chucking things down on paper to get the mind muddle out, swirl it all around, maybe make a lucid story and tick one more thing off the Top Of Mind list. Embracing that the (virtual) pen is mightier than the (s)word – and that sometimes (s)words are for fixing, not for fighting!

I’d like to think that that’s a redeeming feature of being the new dog on the blog. At least I’m trying to figure things out. Not that old dog that’s just rehashing the same old tricks. Challenging myself for new content to create something worthy to reward my good and loyal ‘owners’ with.

Granted, there’s something to be said for working what you’re good and experienced at; predictable rewards for getting the other dogs to jump through your same old dog hoops. But that’s not what this exercise is about. It’s not jumping through hoops, it’s breaking new ground. Doggedly digging and delving in my own mental garden to try and come up with something exceptional. Something special and meaningful. Something clean and clear. Something definitive. Something that makes people choose to read me.

All that said (by me), they also say that every dog has its day, so let’s hope that this new dog on the blog gets the business end of that old platitude sometime soon! … and if not and i’m just a good old garden-variety bitch, then you now know why!  😀

Blogarithms

There seems to be a lot of home-making activity on the go at the moment. People moving, extending, altering, renovating and trying to buy.

While changes are always hard, I’m most empathetic to the people trying to get kick-started (again). The bond situation seems to be getting better, but is still quite dire. Futures balancing in the say-so of bankers who seem to be making decisions based on rules rather than context or logic. The principles are nonsensical when applied in reality: they’ll grant 80% of R1m, so they’ll happily give you R800k… unless you ask them for the R800k in which case they’ll only give you 80% of that! … and who has those kinds of deposits hanging around gathering dust?!

‘Spose the bottomline life lesson is that seeing as you likely can’t change the banker’s decision tree and you’re having to find the extra 20% to contribute anyway, you might as well stretch yourself and get what you really want. Give more to get exponentially more. Be the (exponent) power in the logarithm that makes the fixed base number bigger and better. Give it your all and invest in your future happiness, keeping in perspective that the bonding still accounts for the lion’s share 80%.

And maybe, in an optimistic and improving world, seeing your word as your bond and your enthusiasm as your commitment will be the gateway to being met at least halfway.

 

Getting blogged down in the details

Having made myself an informal mental commitment to blogging Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings (capturing in the car on my Blackberry during the hour-long drive and uploading when I get to the office) it was quite jarring this morning when by the time I got into the car, I still had no clue of what to talk about. In Week 2. Out of ideas. Already?!

Sure, I could run through colourful anecdotal accounts of the adventures and misadventures of the weekend, but I’m not sure that would be compelling enough reading… And might soon result in a dwindling number of accomplices!

So I resigned myself to putting the blog on hold and reviewing my contribution to the Monday Management Meeting instead. We have recently changed the format from a feedback session to a forward-focused planning session. Each person notes on the whiteboard the list of things they need to achieve in the week, allocating activities to each project, with an associated amount of time it will take and/or time lapses before it can take place. Then interdependencies are noted by drawing lines between activities showing who they affect… and there we have it: the weekly ‘mess’. Activities are then slotted into a single combined schedule, divided into daily blocks of mornings and afternoons and presto! Everyone has a plan for themselves for the week and knows what everyone else is doing, expecting and where they have gaps to accommodate ad hocs. The plan is pinned to the board in the open plan and any changes are then just a quick discussion between those involved and scribbling the alteration into an open slot.

So simple. So clear. And we’ve cut the length of the meeting in half and added team context and goal relevance for the full week ahead.

Would be awesome to do something similar for one’s personal life ‘mess’. Putting a bit of thought into what’s on your personal agenda, consciously jotting down your plans and intentions and communicating your needs so that choices are considered and considerate. Reviewing the last week to see what still needs to be carried over and what can be considered ‘done’ and put to rest for good. Slotting things into the me/you/us compartments, deciding who else fits where in the mess and bedding down a combined course of action. Full disclosure and honestly ranked priorities so that the mapped path is realistic. The unknowns cause confusion, the confusion causes tension and tension creates a world of complication, where molehill details become mountains.

A dude I used to work with had the saying “feedback is the breakfast of champions”, but I (now) reckon that feedback is too late. Can’t change what’s already happened. It should be the 20 in life’s 80/20. Proactivity’s the real winner. Offer information openly. Make plans and stick to them. Build a reliable track record and exceptions will be better received. More of the KISS’ing and less of the complication.

If dogs had blogs

Imagine the secrets they would tell!

There’d be a fair share of ‘Rags To Riches’ storylines, like “From Alexandra Dog to Top Dog at Cain Castle – The Lola Cain Story” or “I Used To Have A Little, Now I Have A Blog, I’m Just Billy From The Blog” and perhaps Lucky Gill’s life-story written under his nom de plume (which, having not been taught French at the SPCA, he’ll assume to be translated as his ‘other side of the nametag’), as Richard 082(something) and some more self-indulgent one-dog blogs (Kahlua’s Gill’s “Do(g)minating Lapland”, “There’s only one eye in Mickey… and it’s usually closed” etc)

But on the whole, once the Eliza Doglittle tales are told, there’s surely not a whole lot for them to say about themselves.

“Woke up. Well, more accurately, Human woke me up and ousted me from lovely warm bed to have breakfast. Chunks and mince. Again. Went through the ritual farewells (“Be a good girl and stay”? Like, where else am I going to go?!) and used the new dogdoor flap – that was pretty cool – to get outside to nap in the sun. And stayed there all day til Human came back”. Same everyday.

They rely on their humans for threads of colour in their lives… and there’d surely be a fair amount of ‘tell all’ blogs from the more highly-strung emo dogs.

“Dear Dogblog, It’s me, Malory. The Humans brought that big blonde dog here. Again. I really don’t know what they see in her – she’s all legs and ears! The new one’s not so bad, but that shade of orange?! Didn’t know we came in that shade… And all that messy saliva in the car?! Soooo embarrassing. That SPCA place they came from must be a special needs school since they’ve clearly never been taught that we’re only ‘sposed to drool for food, when Pavlova rings a bell. I think it’s time I take matters into my own paws and remind the Home Owners Ass(ociation) that this is a 2 Dog Per House complex! Am off to shout at the gate, Toodles!”

Of course, it’s all fantasy. Dogs are much simpler. They sleep when nothing’s happening, they’re quite uncategorical that their human is the centre of their world and they’re not afraid to demonstrate their unconditional love given the slightest of opportunities. They fiercely protect their territory and have every faith that they will be looked after, rewarded and loved in return. They’re not controlled communicators. They don’t have to gather thoughts and articulate eloquently. They sense threats and invasion of territory and shout about it right then and there. Get it out, do something about it, try and make a change right! …and hope the Human hears, understands and takes desired action.

On the converse though, sometimes to bark is worse than to write. Imagine if Malory was Malory-Anne Frankfurter and she was in the wartime attic. Then maybe not so great to be all shouty and “Mom! Mom! The Germans are coming! Mom! Mom! Mom!” (with Mickey in tow shouting “What? What? WHAT?!” as usual). 😀

Neighbourhood blogwatch

So I started yesterday off well. Moving from Monday mourning to Tuesday morning with a skip in my step and bright and sunny disposition to match the promise of a warm day (enough so to warrant skipping the ‘reach for the sky’ jersey exercise with the dogs, which always leaves Mally so sheepish in her garish orange harlequin number and Moose so comical in his red Sponge Bob ensemble) and ready to head off to earn the daily bread (no striking for me – no collective to do the “give US this day OUR daily bread” thing with!).

… And so, with an “I owe, I owe, it’s off to work I…” went.

A good day, making solid progress on a project that am working on with a great friend and intermittent colleague.

Headed for home to rest my weary as(s)hes. Only to have my house alarm set off on my re-entry to Blue House. Starting a whole new mission.

The procedure is supposed to be: activation –> ADT call centre calls –> give password to deactivate; wrong or no password and they send patrol to you. I hadn’t been using the alarm until recently because I wasn’t living at the house and there were repeated false alarms (now believed to be a spider making a nest of one of the passive sensors eeeuuw), and I had never been allocated a password so every false alarm was a palava. So much so that the Home Owners Ass(ociation) of the complex are trying to pass a resolution that all personal house alarms must be with silent sirens. Fat chance of that! The alarm is there to protect my person over my possessions and I place no importance in having The Baddies arrested for GBH (or worse) over them scarpering and spreading the Open Sesame to the other 40 thieves about not trying The Noisy House. (You’d think the same HOA who is budgeting Half A Million Rand for security in the next financial year would get this!)

So, the alarm goes off… And nothing…

No call. No complex guard. No ADT patroller.

This irks me. I have just had the system upgraded to secure the extensions and alterations, spent a great deal of time describing my needs, comings and goings and entry, exit and at home requirements to the technician setting the keypad. Now I can’t come in via the garage interleading door – likely the 99% of the time primary access – without having the alarm scream at me?! I think not.

Incensed at the call centre not calling me (when I had a shiny new password all ready to show off), I called them.

I hung up after FIVE MINUTES.

What if it was an intruder?

Tried again, same story.

Have now posted a ‘please call me on their website’. And still nothing.

This from a company that vigorously communicates at me, sending me smses at 7 on a Saturday morning urging me to call them and test my alarm… Monday to Thursday 9 – 3 preferably (and they send it crack o’ dawn Saturday?!), sending me helpful notices that there is a suspicious car in the neighbourhood (‘A white golf with a driver of dark complexion’) and the a regular bland ‘ADT claims victory in Northriding’ self-promotion message.

I get the feeling that somewhere, sometime at ADT Head Office there was a meeting where they decided they needed a CRM programme. “Let’s make our customers feel safe!”… with smses and newsletters. I don’t want a blogwatch! I want a good old fashioned blockwatch! With branding emblazoned on the wall advising baddies that I’m secured (haven’t managed to get these despite several requests – clearly ‘branding’ was their strategy until they discovered ‘communications’), a presence of patrol cars so that the ‘suspicious’ resident knows better than to lurk on my road… and yes, call when you’re supposed to and answer when I call.

The gloves are off – literally, as am ranting this on BB in the daily grind(ing halt) – and am ready to (g)rumble. Woe betide, they’d better call me today or me and my reference number are going to buck the system and call at 3.05 and see how they like that!

PS: the bright side in all of this is that same interleading door houses a dog flap for The Sausages, which they use with great aplomb, under the radar of the pet sensors and blissfully unaware of the ADT debacle. Perhaps, seeing as I did get the obscenely large one to accommodate all creatures great and small, I should side-step the complications of attempting to sort this out with the humans and rather try the tricks of the old dogs?

Who let the blogs out?

Today is the first day of forever. ‘Forever’ because I am never moving again! Was finally able to leave The Sausages at Blue House because there are no builders, tilers, painters or plumbers coming. First. Day. Ever.

They say that moving is one of the most stressful things you can do. Building even more so. Then there’s what I did: building back-to-back. 4 months to build the house, 6 weeks to get the amenities and another 5 months of extensions. That’s the better part of a year – and close to 7 for the hounds! Clearly ‘a change is as good as a holiday’ is a human thing. ‘Spose that makes sense, seeing as a (human) holiday generally means kennels or desertion for the 4-leggeds.

My lot have always been spoilt with imported Aunty This or Uncle That to look after them in the comfort of their own home, so this has been particularly stressful for them and they’re seemingly done with the romantic notion of playgroups and slumber parties. I can understand that, now being very tired of living out of a togbag with fleeting visits to the future. Letting the dogs in; letting the blogs out.

I am not a prospector. I am a prospect. No more blue. Just Blue House.

House projects are like boys: check you know what you’re getting into, share your plans and know that alterations are always hard… But if you get it right then it’s the warmest safest place that you’ll always want to come back to.

Take the blog out your own eye

I find myself doing something I always swore I wouldn’t. Writing a blog.

Aren’t blogs just self-indulgent ramblings by people about themselves that they foolishly think other people are interested enough to read? Or is that another case where blogging might be exactly that… Except when I do it. Then it’s passionately articulated insights into the human psyche as told from the viewpoint of a shape-shifting oracle. Or something.

Although undecided, I’m going to embrace that double standards are the human condition and I’m going to give this whole thing a whirl anyway, sans content plan, in the hope that somewhere along the way my mind-muddle becomes something worth reading. Incidental expressions of opinion that have no bearing on anything of any gravity.

I don’t intend to overshare nor ‘name and shame’; it’s more a case of mini-purge than holistic catharsis. After all, I am a social creature and my real thrills and therapy will always come from people rather than paper. I am just hoping that this blogging lark creates something of value, with character and charm. Like I hope to be when I grow up…

(PS: Please bear with my clumsy debut. I am painfully aware that I have launched with what I’m sure many many newbies do: the equivalent of tautological letter-writer’s ‘I’m writing to you to tell you that…’. I have always suffered from ‘flashing cursor syndrome’, taking just about as long to write the first sentence as I do to the remainder of the final product. Hopefully, both content and creation will improve over time!)

Travelogue EE 6: Venice

20 August 2010

 

The bus trip from Split to Venice turned out to be not so bad after all. Would have been better without the waft of the French stinky cheese feet from next to us (worsened by them having the seats after the middle-exit so they had their legs draped over the railing in front of them and their Pieds de Fromage at our nose level), but still not so bad.

Pulled into Trieste around 7am and were delighted to find out trains run to Venice less than an hour apart. Booked seats on the 08h18 one and busied ourselves with polishing off the picnic pack and playing some cards. Would have liked an hour or 2 to explore Trieste as it seems really quaint (and wouldn’t have taken much time to cover the 5 or 6 worthy sites).

Timing worked out perfectly. Alighted at Venice train station just after 10h30, discovered that the bus station was indeed literally across the road (those ‘just around the corner’ descriptions rarely tend to be literal – especially when there’s heavy luggage involved) and were happily reunioning with Faye, Alex and Robbie 20 minutes later.

Being only 11h00 with check-in at 13h00 (which apparently took quite some negotiation to move forward from 14h00 so was not negotiable), we set to finding somewhere to kill the time. Popping heads in here and there, scanning menus and exchanging snippets with the odd host, Faye and I visualised the perfect spot… And it appeared. Well, there was no fountain and the beer wasn’t free, but it was an awesome little spot down a side street, so was shady and away from the madding crowds on the main drag.

We caught (who turned out to be) Julio as he had just opened the door and was turning the first bar stools off their overnight-on-the-table-upside-down positions. His eyes were bright and his smile welcoming. He had no idea what he was getting himself into.

We managed to avoid economy completely and take up most of the pavement section of the cafe/bar (staunchly to be called “Julio’s” by us, despite considerable branding claiming the place to be called Taverna Ciardi www.tavernaciardi.it – and apparently on facebook so we were told repeatedly) with ourselves, our luggage and our animated conversations and lively hand gestures (no mean feat since the Londoners had been up since 4 and we’d onlysortofslept on the bus).

Before we knew it, it was 13h00 and we were off to our apartment to meet Fabio, our landlord. High 5 to Lixi for her – as always – internet research magic, our place was awesome!!

Double-storey and very modern (like VERY modern with electric shutters and stuff) and light and bright (sky lights, a lovely little terrace) and… Air-conditioned! Even the artwork on the walls was too holiday to take seriously – a series of 3D pieces by Marin Claire with random items (like VERY random things like pepper, paint brushes and flower pots) popping from oil-painted canvases.

After opening and closing the shutters several times (small things amuse tired small minds even more), basking in the air-con, leisurely cool showers and clean clothes, we were ready to hit the streets (and canals) of Venice.

First up, feeding the machines. We found a taverna serving a bargain 2 course plus accompaniment set menu for €11.50. Had a great lasagne (very relieved, Italy was under pressure to deliver me this lifelong favorite) for starter and seafood plate with calamari, shrimps and squidheads with chips for main.

Lix had constructed the world’s best map so we were able to (relatively) easily get our bearings to see where to get to for the touristy stuff. Venice is not an easy city for that. Lots of winding and narrow alleyways, piazzas that look the same, too many churches for them to serve as landmarks anymore, buildings that look like an endless Monte Casino and bridgesbridgesbridges. Still, we managed to find the highlights, get the right pics of the right things (Rialto Bridge, St Mark’s Square, some buildings and monuments and some things that hordes of other people were posing around so must be important surely), including settling in next to Tina Turner’s leather skirt and Madonna’s black sequinned hotpants for sundowners at Hard Rock Cafe.

Had a stab at the local supermarket (Billa) en route home. Very different to home. Even the simplest things take the longest time as their are new and exciting choices to evaluate in almost every category, new procedures to muddle through and all sorts of absolute essentials that ‘these people surely can’t not have?!’

A few nightcaps at our happy home and, all exhausted, we conceded to Friday being an early night.

What a great night’s sleep! The electric rolldown shutters are masterful and the room is dark as night, even when day comes!

Saturday morning brought all new good humour. A beautiful sunny day in Venice and we were ready to enjoy it!

Lix whipped up some French toast with a tomato/bacon/onion/garlic salsa side (mmmm), which we tucked into at a lovely breakfast on our terrace that was all very civilised… until RoRo got the party started with healthy doses of vodka (Chris and I had been delighted to find a bottle store on Trogir Island the day before and had splashed on 2l of vodka and a litre of each of our four favorite Croat draughts) in our morning orange juice. This, combined with our obligation to wait for the ice to set so we could empty and refill the trays to make another batch while we were out, led to things heading decidedly in the direction of messy.

We ended up ‘waiting for ice’ until about 3 o’clock, when we headed for the local Irish pub to watch the rugby (SA vs NZ, so I’m told). Several shooters (enough that I had Jager splashes on the back of my t-shirt), a bleated national anthem (us, ours, on the bar counter) and many spurts of photos later, we’d lost Faye and Lix. Completely.

Never ones to fret, me and the boys went next door to McD’s to have a Mighty Bite bacon and cheese burger meal and discuss strategy.

That was the plan. What ended up happening was Robbie engrossing himself in our neighbouring table, while Christian ate his AND all but 2 bites of Robbie’s burger and then replacing the remnants in Robbie’s container – and Robbie not realising that most of his burger was missing!

Somehow we managed to get separated in our exit and I ended up manning the bridge to the right of us while Chris went to see if Robbie had gone left. No sign of him anywhere!

I’m super-glad it wasn’t me. With my sense of direction and that labyrinth (and no map nor any idea of our address) I’d still be looking for home!

However, Christian navigated with ease – and who should we bump into at Julio’s…? Faye and Alex having very civilised drinkies. The details are a bit blurry (to all) but we were home shortly after, safe and sound… For midnight snacks (chips and verysloppysortof spaghetti pomodoro) and nightcaps.

Robbie came tumbling in an hour or so later – very short on details on where he’s been, but safe, sound, in one piece and very merry.

Luckily there was a tres bizarre tv game show to keep us entertained (Italian terrestrial tv only seems to be infomercials dotted with cartoons and weirdy gameshows) and we had a very low brain-power, high-relaxation end to an eventful day of mishaps and misadventures.

Then it was Sunday…

Bizarrely, our wonder apartment didn’t have a toaster. But we did have the Alex 2011 with us, so were able to regain signs of human life with fried sandwiches of the best cheese, ham, salami and sliced beef Italy (well, Billa and then our fridge) had to offer. Enough butter to clog an artery… Or in this case jumpstart the zombies on the couch (we were now quite into the infomercials and there was quite pacey discussions about the Stanner Stairlift, the Relax and Tone, Water Smile filters).

Fortunately a channel hop during breakfast left us on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (in Italian, which is weirdly fitting with their Italian painter names and penchant for pizza) and was the perfect impetus for discussing plans for the day’s sight-seeing, which centred around a visit to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum and a trip to Giorgio Island to get pananoramic views of the Venice coast- and skyline.

The walk to the Guggenheim was enough to require a refuel, so we stopped in at a little bar/cafe for a quick snack. They have a brilliant snack strategy – a glass counter displaying a wide selection of wraps, tramezzinis, sandwiches rolls, all cheesed, meated and garnished and ready for a quick whirl in the flatbed toaster before a delicious steaming hot and fresh baked item is served to you moments later. Genius!

Having gotten all the culture behind them (we left the others to go to Guggenheim while we window-shopped and got hopelesslessly lost on our way back), we bought vaporetto tickets to see the city from the waterways, get over to Giorgio and take the long way home around the only unexplored side of the island. Bloody marvellous to just sit and let the view come to us for a change 🙂

Made our own Spag Bol for dinner and did a worthy job of it too! A very lovely and cultured dinner at the table and everything – even with champagne for an early celebration of Lix’s impending birthday.

Did the right thing and popped in at Julio’s for a last fond farewell. Having been sane, sober and present at our communal meeting place of choice, he was able to provide some interesting insights into our comings and goings the night before that cleared things up a bit. And opened up all new questions too! All good though and he said we were all fun in our muddle, so no real harm done. :o)

The Londoners headed off at an ungodly hour to catch their flight, while we enjoyed our last lie in with the heavenly electric blinds (would make a great name for a band). Scoffed down a real patchwork breakfast with eggs and cheese scrambled with spaghetti and top with a spoonful of bolognaise mince, and half glasses of this and that to finish them off (thankfully not the vodka or beers, which Alex, Faye and I had had the good sense to finish off the night before).

Headed to Marco Polo airport via vaporetto (without incident despite having not bought a ticket – €13!! – and standing next to not one but two conductors most of the way, and an incident where our driver managed to play dodgems with another vaporetto and a private speedboat causing much armwaving and heated Italian from the shore, causing the vaporetto to reverse to assess the damage, but seemingly only for curiosity’s sake as no details were perceptibly exchanged, bar a few middle fingers which I’m relatively sure weren’t insurance-related) and stuck bags in the lockers (after runaround from the Lufthansa call centre who said we could check in at midday, the check-in desk who said we couldn’t and the luggage check-in guy who had to wait for the security guy to return – newspaper under his arm, clearly having gone off to do his official ‘business’ – to xray our bags) and caught the local bus for a few stops to get off and amble through the greater Venice countryside, popping in here and there for a drink and to play some cards to soak in the aircon.

Got back to the airport and checked in uneventfully. Grabbed a slice of sausage pizza (big enough to be a half pizza at home) and a Peroni and we were off again.

Headed for Frankfurt, we’ve been diverted because of a big storm and are currently delayed in a divert to Nurnberg.

Travelogue EE 5: Split

18 August 2010

 

To our great delight our accommodation in Split turned out to be in the Diocletian Palace, a 1700 year old city built by the Romans for their Emperor, Diocletia.

Not that our digs are *that* swanky mind… Our landlord is an oddball to say the least. He wasn’t there when we arrived (we were tipped off by the note on the door that said ‘Gone out. Back soon’) but the old lady upstairs heard me knocking (I’d gone up the 2 flights alone, leaving Christian on the ground floor with the luggage in an attempt to out-karma a repeat of the Zagreb 6 floor mega-haul) and conferring with some English tourists making their way up the stairwell and went into the unlocked ‘reception’ (the entrance hall of an apartment) and called the landlord who said he’d be there in 2 minutes.

He was super-quick, rushing in all flushed and heavy-breathingy, in what looked like a jogging outfit, but surely can’t have been in the searing midday heat..? He’s a strange looking man, tall and reed-thin, with a shock of mousy (greying hair), skinny discoloured teeth and blue eyes that are pale so should be cool and tranquil but that somehow always seem shocked and panicked. Oh yes, and he has purple legs. Apparently circulation problems from falling victim to ‘some shrapnels’ in the war. Hectic.

He started off our first engagement with ‘so, I need you to do me a favour’. Not a great start (well, restart if you count the wait), and we feared the worst, having already discussed our lucking out with palace accommodation as too good to be true.

Turns out all he wanted was time to clean the apartment as he’s been very busy with all 5 of his apartments and tending to a sick girlfriend (who he periodically shouted to through the – presumably – bedroom door from the ‘reception’ we were all crowded into. No response from her didn’t seem to faze him, so we’re assuming she’s either imaginary or been dead a while). We were planning on heading out to explore anyway so we agreed that he’d keep our bags and we’d return at 7pm.

First on the agenda – food. We walked the length of the Riva (promenade) to get our bearings and suss our options, having decided that sea-view trumped the search for local delicacies (which nobody seems really interested in educating us on, leading to the inevitable answer: Fish? Pasta? Pizza? *groan*)

Found an excellent spot right at the end, next to the famous (apparently) St Francis Church and at the base of Marjan Hill, which offers the best views of the Split panorama. We shared a chicken and mushroom penne (as closest possible homage to the pie that should have been) and a shrimp and scampi creamy tomato spaghetti. With Coca-Cola and lots of iced water, nowhere near brave enough to dabble in the world of beer quite yet!

Walked off lunch with a trek up Marjan. Got to the look-out point and ooo’ed and aaah’ed at the views and ditched the idea of climbing to the top – no energy for missioning to see more churches and old buildings (and feet tender from the sharp rocks in the sea at Lokrum the day before).

On our descent, we pinpointed what would become our sundowner spot for the day (constitutions permitting). Teraca Bamba – a modest, spirited outdoor terrace with amazing sea views… And 12 kuna beer (R15 500ml draughts).

The mission for the remainder of the afternoon was to scope out the local beaches as we’d dedicated Wednesday to be ‘do nothing’ day (except for marking territory on loungers with our towels, out-licking the sun on ice-cream cones and floundering in the turquoise ocean). Plan seemed a little more challenging when we got to Bacvice Beach and discovered their beaches are concrete with ladders into the water like the ones at public pools. And the concrete is quite narrow, so it’s PACKED!

Snap decision – we’re hitting the islands! Popped into the tourist office for advice. There are loads of info/tourist offices and they are all stocked with helpful A3 double-sided maps of tourist sites and transport options that they doodle and circle to show you where you are and where and how you are going to get to where you want to be, and with free info brochures that sometimes are glossy and comprehensive enough to outdo their Lonely Planet type counterparts). Our local office happens to be right on our doorstep (in our Palace) in what looks like a converted (teeny tiny) church on the main square, which was just outside the Emperor’s Apartments and was where all the important stuff went down in its heyday hundreds and thousands of years ago.

Based on their recommendations we decided we were going to try a hop to the nearest island, Brac, the next day to spend it languishing on the ‘most famous beach in all of Croatia’, called Zlatni Rat. With a full ferry-bus-bus-ferry plan for the next day, we retired (satisfied) to our sundowner spot of choice.

It wasn’t to disappoint, nice vibe with all but one table occupied when we got there. Perused the menu and settled on sampling another local brew, Karlovac, to celebrate new town, sea views, returned good humour and the impending beach day.

Marvelled over the new move to measuring everything precisely and metrically, eg the sandwich options of cheese (50g), ham (50g) or ham and cheese (100g). Doesn’t do much to stimulate a clear image in the imagination and is quite off-putting when going weight of main courses seems to be around 300g (of pasta, curry etc steaks seem to be between 100g and 200g) when we’re used to much bigger servings. Always seems to be enough though so perhaps portion control might be a half birthday resolution worth considering.

Anyway, the beers were consistently cold and 500ml and we’d probably still be there if it wasn’t for ordering what turned out to be the world’s worst beer – Tomislav. Thick and dark and tastes like treacle with a hint of coffee.

Headed for home and managed the opening credits of an ancient episode of CSI (subtitled) while applauding the inventor of the air-conditioner, then was comacomacoma.

Up in good time for our ferry to Supetar, so popped into the supermarket to grab our usual picnic pack to nibble on board.

We were lucky enough to be the last 2 people to fit on the bus to Bol (where the beach is, on the other side of Brac, 33km away) even though we had to stand in the aisle most of the way. Still, the people left behind would have had to entertain themselves at the ferry port while we were already lazing sea-side!

Brac is a really pretty island. Even the middle bits which are all olive groves and stone quarries (the marble mined there is so good it was used for many of the surrounding palaces and was used in the US’s White House).

20 minutes later we were dropped off at bus station, which is at the one end of the Riva (promenade) and walked the length of the coast on the wide white stone paved walkway, mercifully shaded by overhanging, to Zlatni Rat.

Gorgeous coastline, famous for its peninsula, which is like a triangle with its pointy bit in the sea, with pine trees forming a smaller triangle within it (providing shade and a natural calming aroma) and with water that is crystal clear at shoreline and goes through the turquoises and azures to a rich navy blue where there is coral and flora on the sea bed.

Heaven.

Except it’s a pebble beach.

Really not funny on the (office) feet. We placed our towels almost at the water’s edge – which is quite static and predictable since the sea is calm and waveless (to the point that people were lurking around on lilos) – and still struggled with hobbling the metre or so up to the water and the next metre or so into the sea so we could swim.

Still, it was an excellent day of fun in the sun and a good time was had by all (especially when we snuck into the pool area of the swanky hotel to revel in the smoothness of the floor of the pool, languish on the (free) loungers and prepare for the return journey with a lovely warm outdoor shower.

We returned to the same restaurant as the previous day (the promenade was heaving and we didn’t want to queue) for a delighful dinner of (me) veal medallions with mushroom sauce and croquettes (of course called muschroom sauce and crochets – lots of Engrish here, like the ‘salty cocked’ potatoes and ‘ball cheese’ as a pizza topping) and (Christian) salmon, chips and a potato and spinach mix.

This morning I finally got my Cevapi for breakfast. It’s a tough, round ciabatta-like roll, as big as a pita, filled with meat fingers (beef mince chipolata), a red spicy relish and a choice of the usual schwarma-style garnishes and fillings. Very yum. And pleased to have managed a local dish. Disappointed to have not managed to find the other local dish that appealed – pasticada, which is apparently a meat stew to die for. Might have to look it up on the internet for a Slow Cooker Monday.

Had a bit of a drama when we tried to book our connecting train for tonight (Zagreb to Venice) only to be told it’s full. Panicked investigations resulted in ditching our existing Split to Zagreb plane tickets and booking an overnight coach to Trieste and we’ll take the last leg as it comes (assured that Trieste to Venice is a regular and frequent route).

Spent our last day in Croatia in Split’s neighbouring town, Trogir, which has the notable feature of closest island to the coast – a 50 metre bridge joins it to the mainland. The town spans the mainland and the island houses it’s original Old City (the usual castle, churches and old buildings) and is allegedly nicknamed Little Venice (not sure why, maybe can tell you when we get there).

Had a relaxing afternoon at Kaleta Kanoba (tavern). Spaghetti Genovese, pizza with Dalmatian ham (called prsut, more or less proscuitto) and more beers.

Soon enough we were on the bus, headed for Trieste and hoping for the half sleeping tablet to make the 10.5 hour trip mercifully fly by!

on the move