Europe 2018 Begins

September 14-15, 2018

As hinted in some of the earlier posts, we are taking off to Europe for another lengthy trip, finally returning to Melbourne on 31 October! But before we get into the standard aspects of this Blog, Julie in fact left around two weeks earlier. Her destinations were Estonia and Rotterdam before joining us in Copenhagen on 15 September.

Estonia

The main purpose was to meet the family of her daughter’s latest beau – Sim. So here is the family shot:

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Julie looks like a little shrimp here but she is not, standing 5’6″ which is nothing compared to Sim, 6’7″ and the rest of the family.

Sim also organised meetings with the people in Estonia who are quite advanced in automated vehicle technology and development. He also took her out to dinner:

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Estonian Bread

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Elk and parsnip puree and the berry sauce

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Chicken schnitzel flattened so much it looks like a pizza

Rotterdam

Julie also spent a week in Rotterdam doing a Doctorate level course study. A few snaps.

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BBQ – looks like Julie’s kind of fare

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A BBQ bible

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From a food truck. Initially had lots of seafood but for later versions there were hardly any

Flight to Europe

I was flying to Europe with Singapore Airlines, first to Singapore and then onto Copenhagen. I am joined by Julie’s Son, Ryan, and his partner Tanika, who are along primarily to help us move around the heavy suitcases.

I was in a bad mood since Julie had recommended buying a special electric toothbrush, which she had done 2 weeks earlier, but 6 different shops denied there was any kind in the entire airport. As a result I started hitting the Bloody Marys once I got to the lounge and then on the plane. Along with a meal and watching two movies and several wines I managed to make it to Singapore without sleeping.

Ryan and Nika were on a later flight than me and there was some risk of them missing the connection in Singapore. So after some time in the lounge I went to the departure gate for the next flight that we were sharing together and waited. And waited. Finally they showed up as just about the last to get to the plane, I was the last person to board from Business Class.

The flight was targeted to be 12 hours over night. In spite of it being late, I had a wonton noodle soup with some more red wine, but not a lot. I then watched a really dumb movie, Deadpool 2, decided to go to sleep and did really well getting somewhere between 4-6 hours of sleep – amazing really. There was only about 2 hours before we landed when I got up.

No photos of the food on the plane, I was out of practice at this Blog thing. Suffice to say that all that I had, and that was a lot, was Asian and quite reasonable.

Day 1 in Copenhagen

We landed at 6:15. There was a fair wait until the bags came off the airplane. Ryan and Nika eventually reached the carousel just as the bags started coming out. Nika pulled mine off for me, it was nearly the first on the carousel. Their bags came out in reasonable time, a relief after the delays in Singapore for them. We decided to take a taxi to the area where we were staying. We arrived there about 7:30.

Now this was a real problem since check-in time was 3:00 PM. However, our host, Palle Loran, said we could check-in early and organised for us to contact Cetina who would handle check-in for us. We decided to go into the local coffee shop which strangely did not open until 7:45. After a flat white and a phone call to Cetina we were into the apartment by 8:30 AM. Pretty good really.

Cetina was a delight showing all the details of the apartment, primarily to Ryan. It was also a true BNB situation with lots of fruit, cereals, juices and even some beers. Great stuff.

I don’t remember much about the day – I think I was in shock / jetlag from the flight. Julie showed up at around 1:30 and I think we had a nap until later. She decided we should go to the Tivoli food court for dinner which was a bit of a walk away.

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Impressive snacks

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Ditto

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Smoked Salmon for Julie

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Fried chicken sandwich for Ryan

I had frikadelle – supposedly light veal patties, but they were as light as a lead balloon. So Julie decided I needed more food.

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Sliders with lots of vegies, all of those went to Julie

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A Duck slider and a spicy pulled pork slider

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The Grand Central station on the way back

Well, that was that, the start of the great journey.

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Lunch with the Duckers

Thursday, 16 August, 2018

 We all gathered for lunch at William Angliss for a farewell for at least Julie. Peter and Lois had recently returned from a long stay over seas. Dawn and Chas and Jan and Dave also joined Julie and I.

The celebrity chef leading the students on this say was John McClean of Red Spice Road. I will have to say that in my view this was the best Angliss we have had. I didn’t take many photos, just a few of the food.

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Duck with Trufflised Curry Sauce and Scallops, magnificent

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Salmon Fillet with Watercress and Smoked Salmon Roe

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Chocolate Ball with soft boiled egg inside

The wines were from Chateau Tahbilk and the wine salesman who represented them said that he did not think the dessert was very sweet. The vote from our table was quite the opposite.
Incidentally, the first wine which was a red, was quite harsh when we first started drinking it, but smoothed out as it breathed. The sales guy thought that might have been caused by excess gas when being bottled. Something worth paying attention to re breathing in the future.

We had been going to carry on afterwards but one by one the others dropped out, after saying goodbye to Julie. So I had little choice but to take Trams home.

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Visiting the Old Dart

While these other posts are going on, friends Neil and Toula Bishop are tripping around the Old Dart. So, all of the stuff below is from Neil as our Host Guest. No censoring allowed. The following is the notification we received from Neil before they departed.

Just to let you know that Toula and I are having a month or so’s break, looking for slightly warmer weather , some relaxation and shared new experiences. My last day in the office will be Friday, 20th July and I return to hard work again on Monday, 27th August .

Our itinerary is broadly as follows:-

Fly to Dublin on the 22nd and after a couple of settling in days we will tour the southern areas , including Kilkenny, Kinsale , Dingle before heading up the west coast to Doolin, Clifden and Galway before returning the VW to Dublin on 9th August and add a couple of days there , but in a different location.

We will then take a train or bus to Belfast, learn about The Trouble s and make a fullish one day tour of the Antrim Coast to view the geologic wonder of the Giant’s Causeway, the cliff-edge ruins of Dunluce Castle, etc.

Neither of us has been to Ireland before. We will not be hurrying and be looking to absorb the culture , history, literature, engaging with people, listening to the brogues of south and north, enjoying the pubs and the music. Then there is the physical side, the green hills, narrow roads, sheer cliffs, craggy islands, crashing waves (and golf courses!).

On 12th August we take the short flight from Belfast to Edinburgh for four nights where it will be busy at festival time. Whilst we’ve each been before we thought we thought another taste of Scotland would be worthwhile and as simply as we can make it. We’ve booked an evening at the Tattoo, because it is on at the time.

Then on the 16th we go to London by train for the last leg of the journey, staying for six nights in Bloomsbury. We’ve not made definite plans yet and will simply will do what comes naturally at the time .

We leave for home on Wednesday 22nd, arriving on the 24th and some jet lag out of the way before my return to work on the Monday, 27th August.

Greetings from Kinsale

Day 5 of our trip, after 2 nights each in Dublin and Kilkenny.
Just arrived in our fairly plush resort in seaside Kinsale, where there was a wedding reception underway from well- heeled families, given the outfitting and presentation.
I think I may have mentioned that friends from Melbourne are staying here at the same time. We have just made contact and drinks are on soon, followed by dinner. They are generally on the same itinerary as us and we will meet again in Galway, all co-incidental.
Had a great day in Kilkenny yesterday. Toula likes markets so we went there first after the usual big Irish breakfast. Then a worthwhile visit to Kilkenny Castle, I think about 700 years old with a great history. There were quality shops nearby and Toula found herself with a nice new jacket. Then we took the car on a hike through nearby villages, aided by our smartphone as a GPS, without which we certainly would be still finding our way out from the narrow, winding roads. There was one village, Inistioge, that had an historic bridge worth photographing. Back on the motorway we reached Waterford Crystal, but nothing acquired. On returning to Kilkenny needed refreshing and went to a pub called The Hole in the Wall. It was built in 1592 and only about 12 people can fit in. It was so crowded that you just have to engage with the other customers which was really interesting as it was a mixture of locals and tourists, coming and going. Very eccentric, very entertaining and we got good info for our forward travels. Polished off the day with an excellent Italian dinner. The black Dover sole, topped with a few prawns was completely to my liking.

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Countryside approaching Dingle

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Same pub, cast of Jack Irish ??

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Enjoying a quiet one in the hardware shop

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Irish musicians plying their trade

Continue reading

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A Visit to Castle Mange

Monday, 13 August, 2018

Today the Irregulators decided to have their technical meeting, not in China Town, as usual, but instead in Castlemaine. We caught the 10:20 from Southern Cross station that I nearly missed because it left from a different platform than I had expected but Lucky saved the day for me by sending me a timely note of the correct platform.

It was a train ride of just over two hours with a few stops along the way. One of these was in Woodend where Hooley joined us. Once we arrived in Castle Mange we walked around town for about an hour. It is a sleepy town in general with a little sign of advanced progress along one restaurant street.

The highlights were visit to arts / hardware / scrap / crap shops in historic old buildings. One was absolutely massive with a huge range of stuff. We then headed to the Cumberland Hotel where we had lunch booked in the Bistro for 12:30. From the sublime to the ridiculous, after the full deal with the previous Post to this one where I took no photos at all. All I have to offer is the menu for the Bistro.

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Most of the group ordered the Fish and Chips. Lucky ordered the chicken schnitzel. I ordered the Chicken Atlantis which was chicken breast with Smoked Salmon, Asparagus, Dill and White Wine Cream Sauce. It reminded me a lot of the old Veal Oscar. See:

Wiki link for Veal Oscar

The guys all had a boutique beer and we went through a couple of bottles of Red. Not too bad really. Two of the group caught an early train. The rest of us crossed under the railway line to go to the Railway Hotel.

Website for the Railway Hotel

We had a couple of rounds with the guys ordering a local craft beer and me a ??? red wine of course. We caught the 3:47 from Bendigo and sat in the second cabin where we were repeatedly told we should not sit unless we had a reservation but they did not kick us out. There was a canteen directly in front of us but it did not serve grog, which was a pity. This train stopped at different stations than the one on the way up but did stop at Woodend where we said goodbye to Hooley.

We got into Southern Cross and Lucky and I decided to take metro trains straight home where as I  believe that the (fit) Ghost was going to walk home. I had a small wait for the tram up Glenferrie Road and then walked the last bit and was home just after 6:00 PM.

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Leaving on a Jet Plane

Sunday, 18 August, 2018

Hey, we are back again after nearly a year’s absence. The title gives a hint as to what is going on. Yes, we are off to Europe again this year – Julie for two months and I for two weeks less than that. But more than that, several of our friends and colleagues are also heading overseas. So this post is about farewells to those who are also departing as well as the soldiers that are keeping the home base safe.

I was having trouble coming up with a title for this first of the new posts. I was thinking of Learning to Fly, after the late, great Tom Petty – but most of us do not need any more “learning”. I also thought of Bossa Nova (Fly me to the Moon) but we don’t have plans for the Moon to be a destination, yet. So, the one I settled on seems to be the best bet by a long shot. In the learn-something-new-every-day category, I always new the Peter, Paul and Mary version of the song but did not know that it was written by John Denver. (Does any one remember who did the parody of Annie’s Song “You Cum on my Pillow”?). Both of the lead singers of this song have mournful voices but this is a celebration Post and not mournful at all. Any way, I digress.

I have a new phone with dual front cameras and lots of swish features that I don’t know how to use. Plus I am out of practice, had a bit of a fall and in general somewhat slack. Thus in the various sub-topics of this post, I go from a complete scenario, as in the first sub-post, to no photos at all and somewhere in between.

August 10 – David and Kate Rosner at the Flower Drum

While we are away, the Rosners will be having two overseas jaunts, (1) to South America and (2) to Isreal. We decided to celebrate their’s and our’s departures at our favourite place the Flower Drum.

The Flower Drum in Market Lane, Chinatown

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The Flower Drum is upstairs in Market Lane

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The Famous Red Door

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The Winter Special Lunch Menu – it really is a bargain giving you the option to select multiple courses which are very good

Julie and Kate selected two courses, David and I selected three.

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David and Kate

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The happy group as taken by the young waiter

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Julie looking her best

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Rice paper roll with a variety of sea food in rich seafood sauce

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Serving the Peking Duck

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The yummy Peking Duck serve

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Crispy Skin Chicken for David

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Barramundi “Noodles”

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Served with FD’s superb fried rice and vegies plus Landhaus The Saint, as usual

Well, that was it for the Lunch at the Flower Drum. The food was magnificent as usual, and the time raced by. Bon Voyage Rosners!

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Take the Long Way Home

Monday-Wednesday, 21-23 August, 2017 – weather: Grey, drizzling but slowly improved

Yes, so this is the end of our epic journey. However, although our boat tour is over and we fly out tonight all the way back to Melbourne, Julie still manages to crowd more in. She sets an early alarm and then goes out to the spa hotel we had stayed in last year for a booking for a spa and a massage. She walks past the 8 bridges, probably around 10 km each direction. Here are some of her photos along the way.

Not my favourite kind of shop

That’s more like it

Like the chilies

A freedom statue first for the Soviets removing the Nazis then the Soviets themselves being removed

In the mean time, I was awakened earlier than I would have liked but probably a good thing as we needed to vacate the rooms early so they could be cleaned for the next set of passengers. After breakfast, the first thing I had to do was my packing.

My pile of dirty clothes

Any way, I packed up and vacated the room to the lounge area. At first it was very crowded as most of the passengers on our cruise were waiting for their pickups at various times. Then as they started drifting out, including some of our good friends we had me on the cruise, the room emptied out. Then as the new passengers started arriving, it began to fill up again. One could tell the difference between the old and new passengers by their excitement or absence thereof. Julie eventually came back around 1:00 pm.

Our pickup time wasn’t until 2:40 which meant we were stuck in the lounge there for over 6 hours. Yes, it was the same as we had been doing for the last week, I had my “office” and could work on the blog, the bar was open for whatever drinks, there was a lunch, same turkey dish as when we had boarded two weeks ago, the staff were still there and very nice – but when it is an enforced stay and one just wants to get on the road, it becomes a real drag. Eventually our time comes and we are the penultimate group to go, quite a large group.

Good friends Joe and Brenda were the absolute last group to leave

We get to the airport and things don’t really improve that much. We have a four hour wait until our first plane flight in a lounge that is not my favourite. We meet Judy from the boat there for a while which is nice but the time drags on. Julie goes walkabout and comes back and virtually drags me out the door because the TV is saying final call – an old airline trick that essentially means that boarding has started. We wait on the bus for ages and finally go out to the plane. It is a smaller plane run by Helvetic Airlines, a subsidiary of Swiss. This deepens my mood even more – if you can’t say anything nice don’t day anything at all – DEAD SILENCE!!

We arrive in Zurich, which is 100% the wrong way (hence the Super Tramp headline of this Post). We don’t have a lot of time and end up in the satellite lounge where we have been several times before. It is a nice lounge and close to the gates but the food catering is a bit lacking. We get on the plane and it is a basic business class albeit in a newish plane with lots of toilets, very important for a 12 hour flight.

Friends from the boat two rows back. The relatively closed in Business class seating

The stewardess asks for our order, comes back after our takeoff and asks for the order again and then when the food is served, initially brings the wrong food.

Julie’s Smoked Salmon starter – OK

My cold beef starter – just OK

My chicken main course – OK but not special

Twelve hours is a long flight in anyone’s book. I might have slept 3 hours or so but it was mostly nine hours of doldrums, my fault of course. They eventually bring us breakfast.

The char siu noodles were a highlight of the flight

Julie liked her fruit, yoghurt and croissant

Finally, finally the flight ended. We landed in Terminal 2 at SIN and it was a LONG walk to the shuttle to Terminal 4. Eventually we get there and find the SIN lounge. Now, that is a real lounge! Large, modern, good work areas and:

lots of interesting foods

Funny story, one of those silver food containers was filled with nice looking Singapore noodles. The guy in front of me emptied it out loading them high on his plate.

An Australian Shiraz favourite was another highlight

When we boarded the plane and settled in, there was another highlight.

That is a real Business class seat

Lots of space and storage

We had pre-booked our meals through the Net, another great feature we had used on the way over.

Cod I think

Scallops for a starter

My Malaysian Chicken curry – just what I needed

Nice Fruit

I was so comfortable on that flight that I watched a movie – Guardians of the Galaxy II, not my favourite. Two or 3 hours sleep and we land in Melbourne a 6:00 AM, a bit early. Although there are several other planes ahead of us, we proceed through fairly quickly and out the door. Our friend Gary picks us up in my black beauty and we are home and in the door by 7:30, not bad for an estimated 6:30 landing. Even so, it was roughly 38 hours from when I left the room on the boat until we arrived at home, which is a very long time. BTW: the weather is drizzling and grey and eventually rains really hard later in the day. Nothing new there.

So that is it the end of the long journey, 70 days all up. I have come home with severe jetlag and an ordinary cold. It has taken me 10 days to get to this last Post of the trip. I would like to discuss some of the high and low lights of the trip here.

Colin’s Gusto Tour – very good as usual. A highlight was the Paul Bocuse dinner but there were several others e.g. La Stupenda.

Barge cruise of the Thames – very good and relaxing. A special nod to Graham and Wendy.

Shows in London – Midnight Oil and then The Book of Mormon.

The Scenic Cruise – after my initial bad start it was very, very good. Loved the staff, there were lots of activities, food and drink.

The Weather – the only real lowlight on the tour. After the first 15 days, when we left Italy (and there was a bit of ordinary weather there too), the common theme was grey and drizzling with an alternative of rain. I estimate that of the remaining 55 days only about 5 were considered nice. This is during the middle of the European Summer mind you.

The Hills – OK, this was a bit of a problem for me too. All through Tuscany we had to brave a lot of hills that I was not really ready for. I think the worse was in Edinburgh where it seemed like everything was uphill and dragging the suitcases up them with cobblestones and broken footpaths was a battle.

All in all it was a very good trip albeit perhaps too long. I hope that there are some new followers, especially those on the Scenic Cruise that were advised of the Blog address. I hope to hear from you!

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St. Stephen’s Day

Sunday, 20 August, 2017 – weather: Grey, drizzling but slowly improved

Q: What is St Stephen’s Day? The following has been extracted from the Net.

August 20th is the greatest national holiday for Hungarians, celebrated with day-long festivities followed by spectacular fireworks throughout the country. August 20th commemorates the foundation of the Hungarian state, it’s like Hungary’s 4th of July. Also called as St. Stephen’s Day, remembering Stephen I, the first king of Hungary and founder of the Kingdom of Hungary, who was canonized on August 20th, 1083 by Pope Gregory VII.

Festivities start in the morning with the raising of the Hungarian flag and continue on all day long, culminating in a spectacular fireworks display over the Danube.

So, this is the second unexpected public holiday we have encountered in the last week. This one did not cause us many troubles, just some street closings that affected our bus travel around the city.

We had travelled down the Danube from Vienna over night and are just arriving at Budapest in the morning.

Budapest ahead

The first of 8 Bridges over the Danube

We were told a funny story about the naming of this bridge. It seems that there was an Internet contest to name the bridge. Before too long, and for no good reason, the popular choice was Chuck Norris! USA late night TV host, Steven Colbert, would did not like that so asked his viewers to vote for his name instead. It “won” in a landslide. So the Hungarian authorities did not want that name but told him that name of the bridge name could be his on two conditions:

(1) He spoke fluent Hungarian and
(2) He was dead

Naturally, Steven Colbert pulled out of the race and they named it something blah instead.

Arriving into Budapest

When we dock, we find that we are docked stacked to three other boats so we are the fourth in line. The weather is not very good at all as it is drizzling and grey, you might see some of the clouds in the previous picture.

This is also the last day of the Scenic boat tour. So after the usual breakfast we hop onto a bus for our morning activity. We have to walk through all three of the docked boats nearer the shore to get out. There were three choices for tours:

(1) In depth Budapest City tour
(2) Hospital in the Rock
(3) Spa and Bath Szechenyi

Since we had spent several days in Budapest last year, our selection is the last one – hopefully a relaxing spa will be a big help for the trip home. Scenic decides to take the bus up to the peak on the Buda side on the way to our ultimate destination. Again we had been up there last year so only a couple of photos here.

A fort in back of the peak which was built by the Hapsburgs and which blocks the view in that direction

Overlooking primarily the Pest side

We drive back down the hill and cross into the Pest side. We run into some problems with closed roads which cause detours but eventually we arrive at the old building where the multiple spas are.

Entering the spas

Milos, the boat’s head Butler, was there to give us our entry tickets which turned out to be an wrist band with electronic ID. We go in and find a locker which cleverly locks by pressing the wrist band to the locker. As I left my phone in the locker, I did not take any photos during my time in the water. The following is after I had gotten out and got dressed.

The main spa pool in which I had spent most of my time

The water temperature in that pool was 37-38 degrees, delightful. The sprays in the middle gave a massage type sensation. Julie joined me in the pool but after a while she headed off to see if she could get a massage.

To the left of that pool was a major sized lap pool. In the building in the back were a number of smaller in door spa pools. I had a look at them but did not go into any of them, I was content with the main pool. After I got dressed, I took that photo and settled into a seat for a while. The weather was improving but still not great. I could imagine that it would be a delight to spend an afternoon here in warm weather. Any way, after a while and on time, the bus arrives to take us back to the boat. All in all the spa experience was not as good as the Hotel Spa on the island last year, more about this later, but definitely worthwhile and definitely better than one of the other two walking tours.

Back at the boat, Julie spends most of the afternoon packing her suitcase. The ability to unpack everything, put them into cupboards and drawers, slide the suitcase under the bed and not even see the suitcase for 2 weeks was one of the best aspects of being on the cruise. Me, I decide I would wait until tomorrow morning to do my packing to extend the pleasure one more day. I move into my “office” in the bar to do more work on the Blog.

I had been given this bottle of “smoked beer” earlier in the journey so decided to try it now

Apparently the normal reaction the first time that one tries the smoked beer is that they do not like it but by the third or fourth glass one loves it. I though it was OK although perhaps not my favourite of all time. I gave the second half of the bottle to friend Joe and I don’t think that he liked it. Then at 6:00 we were treated to a Hungarian Folklore Show.

The show consisted of a 3 piece band and 4 dancers

The dancers, especially the guys, were extremely lively.

Just the girls dancing

The girls danced with some of the audience

The band played a solo piece.

Which enabled the dancers tohave a change of costume (note Julie and Larry in the foreground)

Very energetic and entertaining. We are then given a detailed explanation of the departure from the boat tomorrow. Once again extremely well organised albeit we are going to have to be out of our rooms quite early in the morning. Then it is time for the Last Supper.

Fresh water crayfish (Yabbies to Australians)

Soup

Broth

Vegetarian dish

Goulash, after all we are in Hungary

Fancy dessert

Another kind of dessert for Mary

Fruit

The boat crew decide to move down closer to where the fireworks are to be at 9:00. Sadly, we could not go past the main bridge as there were too many boats parked in the river there so there was no room for our big barge to fit. As a result, none of the photos worked out but it was a nice try any way. Back to the original docking place.

There was music and dancing upstairs

But we have an early start and a long day tomorrow so it is off to bed.

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