Friday, May 29, 2009

Croatia holler!

I have been putting off writing a blog entry about my Croatia holiday for two reasons. Firstly, so much happened that the thought of having to type it all up was daunting. Secondly, I have post Croatia depression. Honestly, it was one of the best holidays I have ever had.

Before I get started on my day-by-day account of what happened, I need to introduce the main characters.
· Moi, your favourite blogger
· Bec, holiday organiser el supremo
· Charlotte, “my French friend”, who added a bit of class to the whole show
· Mark, aka Sparky, partner of Matt and everyone’s partner in crime
· Matt, aka Matty, a source of entertainment (even when he wasn’t there)
· Stuart, aka Stu, Scottish friend of the boys and the gayest man in the village
· Alan, aka The Force (he had a range of shirts bearing the name of emergency services), Matt’s friend from Australia

And then there are the secondary characters
· Tucker’s Daughter, the Australian guy who was travelling by himself because his girlfriend broke up with him, he was everyone’s best mate and tried to be the hero in every situation. Yes, he was “that” guy on the group trip.
· Peachy, who apparently looked like Hugh Grant, though we only ever paid attention to his pert bum
· Matchy Matchy, who wore the same little board shorts as Peachy
· Five Pounder, a kid that Sparky saw at the airport and bet me £5 was going to be on our boat (Sparky, I still owe you)
· Blink 182, an emo looking guy with a lip ring who was strangely good looking
· Josh and his girlfriend Savannah, our favourite people on the boat
· Zof, our faithful bartender on board and Matty’s best friend and Charlotte’s suitor by the end of the trip
· Merv, an American guy on the other boat that had chops like Merv Hughes
· Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, wog twins on one of the other boats that had the ugliest ponytails you have ever seen
· Emanuel, our boat, and Penelope and Labrador, the party boats – our flotilla, our Groove Armada if you like. We travelled together and moored together. The tour rep told us that in August there are 25 boats in the group (thank god we went in May).

With less than an hour sleep under our belts (and some of us with several beers under our belts), we all bundled in to a taxi at 3am to Gatwick airport, and began the Girls and Gays cruise! Most of us slept on the plane, while others took photos of us, but we all pepped up once we landed in Split. After withdrawing some Croatian kunas (henceforth known as hakuna matatas) we hopped on the bus and headed down to the harbour to meet up with our boat, the Emanuel. On the bus trip I was talking to Sparky, and responded to something he said with an attitude-filled “Holler!” in the style of Missy Elliot. This became the catch phrase for the week. We killed a couple of hours walking along the waterfront and purchasing cheesy cowboy hats, before we boarded and enjoyed a mushroom surprise lunch en route to Hvar. Just a side note, when ever I refer to “we” or “the gang” or “hos and mos”, I mean the main cast of seven. So, we conducted our own walking tour around Hvar, traipsing up and down the back streets and taking lots of silly photos. Dinner was a quiet affair on the waterfront as we were all a bit tired, and we enjoyed our first pizza of the trip. Being so close to Italy, there are a lot of Italian restaurants in Croatia. We had an early night while the rest of the boat went out drinking and bonding until the early hours of the morning.

The boat set off early and was all a-gossip at breakfast. Five Pounder had been jumping between boats the previous evening when he landed awkwardly and hurt his ankles. He spent the following two days in his cabin before visiting a doctor in Dubrovnik and finding out that he had fractured one ankle and shattered the other. With no travel insurance, he flew home for surgery. Anyway, mid morning the boat pulled into a calm bay and we all had a swim off the side of the boat. The water was cold, amazingly clear, and fabulously refreshing. After lunch of a strange dry mince and pasta sheets only lasagne, we arrived in Trstenik and had another swim. Sparky and I swam to shore with the aid of some cheap inflatables that we bought in Hvar, and Matty and Stu decided to swim double the distance to some (rather small) sea caves with the aid of an inflatable boxing kangaroo, whilst wearing a Bushtucker Man akubra hat. Needless to say, they got in to trouble. Matty popped the roo on the swim back, so Stu had to swim back to the boat and fetch a kid’s boogie board to rescue him. Afterwards Matt claimed that he had probably lost 2kgs during the adventure, though we pointed out that it was more than likely because he had stopped drinking beers for an hour and his beer gut had subsided. Trstenik was the smallest port we visited, with one restaurant and a shop that closed about 10 minutes after we docked, so dinner was a BBQ on the boat that night and we all retired fairly early.

By Monday we had started to settle in to a routine: get up, have cheese and salami on bread for breakfast, slather on the sunscreen, lounge on the top deck for an hour or so, head downstairs for some shade action, slather on the sunscreen, have a swim, have lunch, have a shower, slather on the sunscreen, arrive in port and sightsee. Dubrovnik was a wonderful little city. The old town is surrounded by walls, which Sparky and Bec and I walked around until we found CafĂ© Buza which sits on the cliff face and looks out to the Adriatic Sea. We met up with the rest of the gang and spent the afternoon cooling down in the shade, drinking, enjoying fabulously appropriate music (retro), watching cliff divers, and reminding each other of how awesome it was to be us at that point in time. After a shower and freshen up on the boat, we had dinner at some back alley restaurant that Matty got us dragged in to, followed by a couple of quiet drinks in an Irish pub (as is tradition when travelling with Sparky and Bec). Well, it was quiet until the rest of the freakin boat turned up and they were all crazy drunk. We stayed for a while and then headed back to the boat for a nightcap, but unfortunately Zof had clocked off. The rest of the boat partied like animals and made an absolute racket when they got back to the boat around 2:30am. The air-conditioning wasn’t working so we had our windows open, which gave me a front row to their antics. I finally managed to drift off to sleep when I was awoken by a screaching girl. Some of the boat had been drinking at the bar where Brit Lapthorn was last seen (first mistake) when they had an altercation with some locals, a glass was thrown, they tried to confront them (second mistake) and the locals pulled knives. The Aussies got in to a cab but the locals followed them, and then kept driving by the boat antagonising them. A couple of the boys decided to get off the boat and go talk to them (third mistake) so their girlfriends turned into banshees (fourth mistake), screaming for them to come back onboard (“I’ve put you in danger too many times Craig!”) and generally stirring everyone up. Fortunately the tour rep came out, told everyone to shut up and go to bed and lock their cabins, and the drama ended. Many stories were told about this over the following days, but I have no doubt that the drama was brought about because of the idiots from our boat.

Not surprisingly, breakfast on Tuesday morning was a quiet affair. But oh how I was falling in love with cheese and salami! We followed our standard morning routine before we pulled in to Mljet (pronounced Mlee-yet), and hired us some scooters. We lied to the man and told him that we had all ridden a scooter, before precariously pulling out on to the street and trying not to run into each other. Our first stop was the National Park, where the group had a swim in a huge salt water lake while Bec and I sat in the shade and took photos and shouted at them to perform poses. We spent the rest of the afternoon riding around the island, through little water side villages, past crumbling buildings, and up and down the mountains. It was fantastic! We picked up some drinks on the way back, had a few drinks and a swim near the boat, and watched the sun set. Then we went to one of the three restaurants and had a great dinner, where Matty entertained us with lots of PFSs (Price Family Stories). Mljet was probably the highlight of the trip; it was just an absolutely wonderful day.

We all woke up excited on Wednesday, because Bec had finished her course of antibiotics and could finally get her drink on! Korcula was the birthplace of Marco Polo, a fact that is commemorated by a museum that was closed and a styrofoam statue by the bay. Interestingly, the town is shaped like a fish, with the straight streets to the bay to channel the cool sea breezes, curved streets to the mountain to avoid the cold winds, and a wide straight street down the middle so that the people could run down to the bay and defend their city. The girls did some jewellery shopping (filigree, coral, and turquoise are the local trinkets) while the gays tagged along and ate ice-creams. We had a swim on the beach, which was surprisingly free of sea urchins (the spiny buggers were everywhere) but unfortunately there were still sea slugs, which Matty picked up and tried to squirt on us. Matt was hilarious, he brought along a pair of goggles and would spend twice as much time in the water as the rest of us, because he would hunt for treasure on the sea bed. All he came up with was some crappy plastic toys and a funny shaped rock, but he was pretty happy. After our swim we showered and dolled ourselves up, and celebrated Bec’s first beer on the top deck of the boat as the sun went down. Then we found ourselves a great table at a waterfront restaurant with a guy playing the guitar and had a really nice candlelit dinner. And got drunk. From there we went to a bar at the top of one of the turrets, where you had to climb a steep ladder to get up, and your cocktails were brought up in a bucket. We socialised with some of the people from the boat, and then split up as they went to Des Locos bar to make the most of happy hour and we went to Gaudi bar to make the most of being able to drink outdoors without wearing a jacket and scarf. Things got a little drunk and silly, and we had a great time, finally retiring to bed around 5am. We thought it was strange that no one from Des Locos had come to Gaudi, considering it stayed open a lot later, until we found out that people from the boat had gotten in to a massive bar brawl with some locals. Apparently chairs were being swung about, guys were doing fly kicks, and the Aussies were outnumbered. Matchy Matchy sustained a concussion and a fractured wrist and spent the rest of the holiday moping.

Makarska was really nice, but my ability to appreciate it was limited by my screaming hangover. The mountains behind the waterfront village looked fake, and Bec claimed that they were actually made of styrofoam like the Marco Polo statue. The tour rep told us that she had been up there a couple of weeks ago and there was still snow at the top. Crazy when you consider that we were enjoying 25 degree sunshine in the port. We slept through breakfast and only woke up once we had gotten into port. Our ragamuffin group managed to get dressed and walk to the beach, where the cold Adriatic Sea revived us. Honestly, there is nothing better for a hangover than a fresh swim. We had an uninspiring lunch on the boat, before some of us went back for a second swim and some of us napped the afternoon away. I of course did the latter. We had dinner at another waterfront restaurant, as we just could not get enough of the gloriously warm weather and being able to be outdoors wearing just a t-shirt. The restful day was capped off with a couple of vodka cranberries on the back deck of the boat.

We made it down for breakfast on Friday (I wasn’t missing out on salami and cheese again), before the boat pulled in to a small port so we could have a swim at Copacabana beach. I have to say, the beach really ruined the song for me. The shore was dirty and sandy, unlike the pebbly beaches we were used to. And the water was waist-deep for 100 metres offshore, and full of sea reeds and little crabs that nibbled on your ankle. On the upside, Friday was activity day! Some people stayed on the boat, while others did a day trip to Bosnia, while the rest of us went on the river rafting trip in Cetina. After rafting in Tully and New Zealand, this was pretty tame, but still really fun. Not to mention that our skipper was hot! We arrived in Split late afternoon, back where we had started from, and already feeling a little sad at the thought of our holiday being over. We wandered the back streets and found a really nice restaurant for our last meal, where we had another hit of pag, a local cheese sort of like parmesan. The night was topped off with some drinks overlooking the bay, and then maybe another couple back on the boat.

The last day of the trip wasn’t the best. We knew the holiday was over, and we had 12 hours to kill in between getting kicked off the boat at 9am and our flight leaving at 9pm. We stored our luggage and then set off on a hike to the swimming beach, during which Bec and I did a lot of heat-induced sighing. Then we set up camp in the shade in the park and had a little rest, while Matt and Alan decided to go on a hike around the foreshore. They walked for 35 minutes before finding a beach front bar, where they gave up on the hike and started drinking, while Sparky, Bec, Charlotte and I had a civilised and sober lunch back at the harbour. We spent the rest of the afternoon doing some souvenir shopping, eating gelato, and drinking in a little bar. With the sun still in the sky but the heat of the day passed (a glorious time of day), we gathered ourselves up and headed to the airport in a collectively sombre and reluctant mood.

I had the best tan, I mean time, in Croatia. It was a wonderful wonderful holiday, and given the opportunity, I would go back in a Split second (ha ha ha, get it, Split!).

"We're going where the sun shines brightly, we're going where the sea is blue, we've seen it in the movies, now let's see if it's true"
Summer Holiday, Cliff Richard

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Just to brag

After a week of regular blogging, I just wanted to let you (mum and Scott and Nathan and Natalii, my devout readers) know that I won't be writing any new entries next week.

Because I am going sailing in Croatia!

No work, no emails, no phone calls, no gym, no London pollution. Instead, my days will be filled with sun, swims, sleeps, sailing and a new adventure in each town we visit. Devine!

Later skaters...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Well travelled

Colleague: Have you been to Switzerland?

Moi: I went to Stockholm a couple of weeks ago remember!

Colleague: No, that's in Sweden Amanda.

Moi: Yeah...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Better. Better get me a bucket

My work colleague Jodie returned from a short sojourn in Australia this week with a bag full of presents for us.

She brought me some of my favourite mascara and a half a dozen pairs of Bonds underwear. You can get underwear fairly cheap over here (five pairs for £12 from La Senza) however it either rides up your butt or gives you Visible Panty Line.

Jodie* also brought back some packets of musk stick lollies to share around the office. These elicited a variety of responses.

Con gagged, as did Gina. Andrew looked like he wanted to spit it out, Bob did spit it out. Justin said they tasted like medicine and menthol. Mary thought it was a perfume stick. Nigel said they weren’t bad, and Sophie liked them. Helen thanked us for the curious and interesting experience, and said she can’t help but feel like she’d swallowed a bottle of perfume that was now wafting around her brain. Neil refuses to try it.

Nadine, a fellow Australian and a musk stick lover, said that there was an active debate going on. Neil said that he wouldn’t call it a debate; it was just that some people had been sick while others hadn’t. Yet.

To be honest, they are pretty darn gross.

* Please note that names have been changed to protect the identities of my colleagues and myself

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It's my party

Thank you to everyone for making the second anniversary of my 25th birthday so fabulous!

I had a fantastic party in the beer garden at Elk Bar on Saturday attended by my eclectic mix of friends. It was a gathering of about five different groups of my friends and I was really chuffed that everyone came along.

Despite being away from my family and not being a fan of birthdays, my actual birthday was wonderful. The phone calls, presents, text messages, photos, emails, more presents, flowers and helium balloons were amazing, and I was truly spoiled.

My birthday was topped off by a fantastic dinner with my closest friends in London, where there was even chocolate cake with a candle and that unavoidable happy birthday song.

A massive thank you to everyone for making it was one of the best birthdays ever. In the words of Jeff Fenech, I love youse all!

Friday, May 8, 2009

An open letter #3

Dear Ben,

Last night when you wished me a happy birthday I replied with “thank you pet”. I know that your name is Ben, “pet” is just an endearing term that I use sometimes. Apologies for any confusion that this caused.


Thursday, May 7, 2009


Okay, so I have been a little slack with my blog lately. I've been doing stuff, it's just I don't think it's that interesting to read about.

The other weekend I went to Cardiff with Alli, Kat, Kasia, Karina and Beavis. There isn't much to see or do in Cardiff to be honest, so we went to the Australian-themed bar and cut up a rug. Honestly, we owned that joint. Apart from that, we walked around the city and bought some souveniers to prove that we were actually there.

The UK is currently in the midst of swine flu fever, and I have been doing a lot of work on this. As Internal Communications Manager at The Government Agency, I am privy to the inside information. My manager has come to my desk several times and asked to see me in private on several occasions, leading me to think that I was in trouble, however it is just so I can get the low down on what's happening. I am not as important as Bec though. She is sitting on the crisis response team at The Local Borough Council, which allocates her the prestigious 'category 2' rank for when/if the UK decided to carry out nation-wide vaccinations, putting her just after emergency service front line staff who are category 1.

Also at work, I had my annual performance appraisal with my manager. He is extremely pleased with the work that I have been doing, so it looks like my job is pretty secure.

I continued with my lucky streak, winning tickets to a play through the London Paper . So far I have won music festival tickets, a trip to Copenhagen, and some lettuce seeds. London Paper, you rock! Dom and I went to see the play on Friday, which was actually pretty good. Much better than the opera that Dom had convinced me that we were going to see. We had a few drinks in Fulham afterwards, though quickly sobered up when we saw a fight in the middle of the street. Some kid smashed another with a bottle, and I saw him fall with a thud to the pavement, his head falling heavy on the cement. Everyone was running around screaming but no one thought to check the guy on the floor. I went over to see if he was okay, but was pushed aside by a heroine screaming "get him in the recovery position!", so I left them to it. Dom and I hailed the first cab we saw and hot footed it out of there. I have never seen such a fight. Honestly, I cannot understand it.

I am having drinks this Saturday to celebrate the second anniversary of my 25th birthday. I don't like not being with my family for birthdays, however I LOVE the Dora the Explorer package of birthday presents that I received from home today. I promise not to open it until my birthday mum!

The highlight of the month would have to be Croatia! On Saturday 16 May we head to Split for a week cruising around glorious Croatia. I. Can. Not. Wait!

And that's it really. A boring, jokeless update. Sorry guys, I promise something more interesting next time.