Monthly Archives: September 2006

Return of The Mack

  Yes folks,  it is I l’eclare returned from my soujourn disguised as a simple greek peasant.
We had a fantastic time, only went for a week unfortunatley, and it absolutely pissed passed.
It started on Saturday at the airport where we checked into the Servisair lounge for a bit of peace and quiet and FREE drinks.(well almost for free, its cost 16 of our english earth pounds ..thats 30$us or 25euros approx per person ).
I think it was the free drinks that did it for me originally, but after having been in there in July, and sampled the benefits, we have decided that this is the way forward.
 
MUCH beer and a lots of Jamesons Irish whisky later, it was on the plane Kos bound. I dont  really remember much about this, surprisingly, but when we got to Kos we transferred ourselves to our apartment in Kefalos via a stop at the local Kebab house for a gyros & a Mythos beer! lovely!
This is becoming a bit of a ritual.
 
Next morning we made a beeline to see mine host Yannis, to say thanks for sorting out the car, and also to pay for the apartment, and for a quick cup of coffee.
One and a half hours later we were on our way to the beach to meet up with our friend Mike, who has umbrellas there.
It was great to see everybody again. They made us feel so welcome that it was as though we hadn’t been away.Then it was off to Kos town to sort out the diving for the next week.
Steve was very interested in my new toy , a fuji f11 camera with an underwater housing, which we discussed over a beer or two in Jazzmins whilst watching the football.
Steve is a West Ham supporter, they were playing Newcastle, and lost.
Steve was pissed off….big style.
Diving sorted for wednesday and friday, we hotfooted it back to Kefalos for some scoff at The Rainbow restaurant, where we have some more very good friends, Chrysoulla and  Yannis, and their 3 rugrats , Irene, Connie and Vassilis. and also  Evienia (pronounced Ev ee en ee a) and another Yannis who work there.
Talk about a welcome when we got there! It  was fantastic, a genuine pleasure to be seeing each other again
A late night followed, catching up from the last 2 months… we were fucked.. both parties, but neither of us wanted to go.
Next day we were so tired we really didn’t do much apart from go to the beach, and eat at night.It sounds piss boring, but I promise you it wasn’t. Its strange… if we had done that over here, I would consider it a day wasted, but there, just talking seeing ,and being with friends..well it just seems right.
 
Next morning we awoke.. fucked!
we decided to go to the village and have a look around, and also to go the the church and have a look at the view from there.
Unfortunatley, because it was pitch black last time we went, we got lost, which is a fucking miracle in itself, and instead of going to the church, we made our way round the back of the village, almost to the coast, up and down roads that were little more than dirt tracks.. in a Hyundai Atos!
Do not knock these joke automobiles.This one took us over hill and dale, up and down shit dirt mountain tracks no probs.
Eventually we arrived, past the wind farm, at the church.All that was there was a shepherd, 2 dogs ,5 goats, and us. It was so peaceful, the view was superb, hot sun, a gentle breeze, with the sounds of the goats bells tinkling in the background.  I think the term is idyllic.
 
After a hard afternoon on the beach chatting and laughing, we went to Sebastians for dinner.There were 2 reasons for this, first Sebastian is Chrysoullas brother, second Mikes best friend Ellias works there. This guy is a diamond, just like mike, its quite easy so see why they get on, same sense of humour.
Next day Wednesday saw us up bright and early to go diving.
This is a sport I have really got into, and happily now so is Mrs. Dog, so we can enjoy this together, plus there are quite a few "easy " dives so we haven’t got to go too deep, Mrs. Dog can only go to 12m at the mo, and plenty of places to try out the new camera!!
The first dive was great, took loads of pics, some good, some not, and the old growler was great, no problems, a good buddy dive with.
So good in fact, that we dived the wreck.
Unfortunately it was a dive too soon for the old dragon, which didn’t start well when she dropped my torch!
luckily I caught it before it went too far down, but it was a bad start for her, and upset her confidence a bit, and to be fair she struggled with her bouyancy a bit,  and was glad when we all surfaced.
A post dive ritual of decompression fluid, was intermixed with a critique of my underwater pics.Its just as well I am not a sensitive sort, but I took on board the advice & critical points for the future.
Back to Sebastians for some nosh that night, we again saw Ellias, who had been having a long chat with Mike about a " man in the boat ".
I should just say , that the day before I had been trying to explain the principle of " the man in the boat " to Mike.
Mike apparently got this principle, and had been parading up & down the beach at Club Med shouting " man in the boat, man in the boat " all day!
Thursday we tried to find a cave called Aspri Petra, which contains stalctites and stalacmites, and is a local hidden treasure.
So bastard hidden, that after 3 hours trying to find the fucking place we gave up.
Oh well maybe next year.
More beach time saw our tans coming on nicely thank you very much, and an early night saw us again in Kos Town the next day for some more sub aqua time.
The night before I had had a really wierd dream, which had involved me, a flooded camera , and no air! told you it was wierd!
I like to put my kit together early, so there is no rush,(it also gives me time to check the old growlers stuff out as well ), but this time I had THREE sucessive O ring failures.
This is a very important bit of equipment as it stops the air leaking out of the tank at the top.
first time was a bit of a fright, second time was worrying, but the third time fair nearly made me shit my pants.Coupled with my dream of the previous night, I was starting to get VERY NERVOUS!!
A quick change of regs and a spot of calming down talk from the lovely Katrin helped a bit.
Putting the old growlers stuff together for her, I thought " if this fails now, fuck the dive, i’m not going in"
This time we were on a photography training dive for a guy called Mick, which suited us fine. Clear waters, lots of fish, and Steve gave Mrs. Dog a camera to play with.
A revelation… concentrating on the camera took her mind away from the bouyancy problems of the previous dive.
The camera also took my mind off the previous o ring failures, and we ended up having a great dive, with both of us taking loads of photos.
2nd dive saw me on a "deep dive " to 22m on the Thor Star, and the old woofer,the potteries with the captain Perikles as her buddy.
Lucky bastard!
This guy can dive, what a great compliment to her that he was happy to dive with her as a buddy, and also a great boost to her confidence.
A great day diving, rounded off with a barbecue on the boat, complimented with plenty of wine and beer, and a late night out till 4.00am!!   
Saturday we were back on the boat, to pay, and say goodbye to the folks on the boat.
This was a bit emotional for a few reasons.
First , it would be another 10 months before we got there again, and secondly it was goodbye properly for some of the guys.
Steve is going to Kefalonia next year to set up his own PADI dive business, and will probably take quite a few of the dive staff with him.
Quite a few of the crew will have left next year,for various reasons, and I think that it will be a bit different, with us getting to know everybody again.
At least Athina & Perikles will be there… hopefully
I hate last days, this one especially. In July when we were saying goodbye, we knew we would be back soon, but this time, as already detailed, it will be another 10 months, and thats if we can afford it health and wealth permitting.
So it was back to Paradise beach to say bye to everybody, though only Mike & Maritsa were there, becuase a relative of Maria and Katerina had died the day before, and was being buried that day.
Talk about quick!
After an emotional goodbye and Mike had gone, we stayed on the beach for as long as possible, milking the last bits of sun and sights , sounds and feelings of a place that one day we hope to make our home.
The Rainbow that night was subdued, with everybody feeling the pressure of "last night blues".
These people are so friendly, knowing that we couldn’t take anything eatable back with us, had bought US a present of a lovely greek vase, which was presented to us in a grand fashion.
 
We really didn’t want to go home, and would have quite happily stayed there, but home is home , and work pays the bills, so it was into the car, and off to the airport for one of the worst flights we have ever been on, not because of the Airline, but of the weather, which was SHIT!
Talk about a rough journey, no sleep, sitting next to a bloke from Nottingham or some where near to that, who insisted on spreading himself out and making himself quite comfortable thank you even though we were being tossed about! Tosser!
That morning it was back to work.. land at 5.30am at work at 9.00am!!
It’s a tough life!  
 
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Off Again!

Cor , it’s allright for some isn’t it!
We’re off again, this time back to Kos, just for a week though, do some diving, meet friends, have a drink or 2 or 3 and generally have a rest before the onslaught of Christmas.
That fat little bastard in the red suit and a joke party beard has got a lot to answer for.
Work has been manic, not enought ime to take a shit let alone use some of that time to blog, so thats why there haven’t been many entries on here.
Rest assured, unfortuneatley for you guys, that after this the hols are over, so not many more holiday tales, and hopefully my life will slow down a bit so that I can actually get on here and do stuff.
The Villa are doing well, a draw against the flying hammers now seen as 2 points dropped, today Watford… should be 3 points…
Scunthorpe in the Cup in Wednesday, positive vibes coming from B6 , its looking good.
COME ON YOU LIONS!!!
See you all soon, when we get back, brown and rested.,. hopefully  

The Palace of Versailles

The next morning saw us awake about 8.30am , and absolutley fucked.
We were so tired, we could both have gone straight back to sleep, but the halls of opulence in the south west of Paris were calling, so it was up and away for the day.
Knowing where we were going this time helped quite a bit, and we caught the same Sncf train as we had caught the night before, arriving in Versailles Rive Droit about 1 hour later.
We were soon strolling up the main drag in Versailles, and our thoughts turned to sustinence, well Mrs. Dogs thoughts turned to nosh, as she pointed out that it was over 12 hours since we had eaten.
Ok fair point, so we trapped off to the nearest takeaway establishment for some authentic french scoff.
This turned out to be donner kebab meat on french bread…well it was partly french… and some water, which we stuffed as we walked up the road.
The night before we had observed some constructionary type activity, which at the time Mrs. dog has surmised to be a market.This hypothesis proved to be correct, and a mini frenzy came upon her, as all thoughts of french palatial architecture went the way of the wind, and a womans mind became filled with her primary purpose in life…shopping!
A short but terse conversation followed, with the acknowledgement that perhaps today was not the day to go marketeering, so pausing only at the bakery stall to purchase a snack for later on ( french bread with olives baked in, and another with chirzo.. for me, but we had half each, ) we continued on our way.
 
                                            
 
This place is absolutely fabulous.
 
From the entrance  of the palace, the grounds, the buildings, it is phenomenal. I think it could truly be described as one of the wonders of the world.
They say preparation is everything , and as previously detailed , I had purchased priority entrance tickets for 26euros each, which gave us entrance..well everywhere.. and a free audio guide for the house as well.
even better … no queues to get in.. result no. 2.
We just walked up to the front, flashed our tickets, and there we were, standing in a line to get the audio guide.
not too bad, very well organised, show your ticket, tell them which language, and you’re off, with the audio guide filling you in on lots..and I mean LOTS of facts, figures, and interesting tales of Versailles.
I’m not going to describe in detail the visit round the house, its just too long to write about in a blog, but the richness and opulence pouring out of every facet of the palace takes your breath away.
At its height, after much improvement  by Loius XIV, it must have been extraordinary, though whilst still fabulous, some areas are starting to be in need of renovation.
The splendour of the palace is still there, and to have actually lived there in its prime, must have been an experience, though some of the court etiquette that had to be observed must have been a pain in the arse.
There were ways to visit, who came first, what they wore, what they did, and in some cases, even what they said.
The King was feted almost as a god, and living in this palace must have made him feel like one.
Check this link out for a better look, and a lot more info, this is well worth looking at:
 
hope you enjoyed that
 
We moved out into the gardens.
Fuck me!!
The palace was good, these grounds are unbelieveable.
The gardens were desingned by a french bloke called Andre le Notre, a man of true vision, and ability to see the grand picture.
 
                                          
 
From the palace, the view was designed to look as though it went on forever, and over the horizon, an illusion created very skillfully, because that exactly what it looks like.
Every where you look, there are fountains, but these days they are only turned on for special occasions, and at the weekend for a few hours, when baroque music is played throughout the grounds in the Grandes Eaux Musicales
There is a huge amount of land here, and even though much walking was done, we didn’t get to see everything, though we did get to the petite Trianon ( a small country house where the queen used to go to get away from all the huslte and bustle of the court, and the  Queens Hamlet, a small village type area, not a small cigar! ).
Later in the afternoon, we hurried back to the gardens for the Grandes Eaux Musicales.
Magical, fabulous fountains, classical music, perfect for the occasion, and the weather held out… even better.
The finale was the turning on of the Fountain of Neptune, which is contained at the Bassin de neptune, where we went to the show the night before.
This is absolutely HUGE, and due to the number of fountains contained in the bassin area , is only turned on for 10mins.
A fiitting end to what can only be described as a royal visit to one of the most fabulous places I have ever been to.
 
 
 if you ever get the chance to go, do, because I really recommend it. It will take your breath away, and the view front the house down to the grand canal just needs to be seen to be believed.
It is something I could just stand and  look at all day and not get bored looking at.
very clever man that La Notre, very clever indeed.
200 years later its still there and still being appreciated.
For the official Versailles web site please click below:
 
Time to go back now… the original plan was to go straight out to St Germain, and partake of some PROPER  french cuisine, but due to the hot weather, we had to go back to the hotel and defumigate ourselves, and also to buy some provisions for later on that night, just in case our new found friendly local french bar was shut.( a prudent decision which later on proved to have been the correct one ! )
 

Les Fete de Nuit de Versailles

Les Fete de Nuit de Versailles is an outdoor show held in the grounds of Versailles, with music, lights, dancing , and fireworks.
We first became aware of this after watching a programme on the BBC all about the palace, its people, and the workings behind this magnificent piece of history and architecture.
Watching this programme made us both want to go and see this place, and as luck would have it , a show was on on the saturday night of our parisian excursion.
As detailed previusly I had already purchased the tickets online ( very clever this internet stuff! ) and we had picked up our tickets earlier, thereby avoiding the queues..so we thought.
As the show started at 21.30 EVERYBODY and their wife/husband etc.. arrived at the same time, including coachloads of tourists.
Tits.
Never mind, through the door we went to find our seat, row 18  tribune f , at the Bassin de Neptune, a very large pool surrounded by fountains, where a temporary seating area had been built.
On our way up, we met the director Marie , who we recognised from the tv, looking a bit stressed out, but who still took time to talk to us, and was very flattered that we had seen her on the tv, and was quite pleased when I told her she was " famous " in England.
The title of this years show is Les Noces De L’Enfant Roi, which means Wedding of the Child King, and is a mix of baroque
 and comtempary music with the story interpreted within the medium of dance ( sounds good doesn’t it.)
This tell the story of the marriage of the young King Louis XV (15th ) to his first cousin Marianne from Spain,

(Louis was only 11 at the time and Marianne 3…… you can get arrested for that sort of thing these days!) and of their meeting,  instruction of court etiquette, and eventual marriage.
All in all , a spectacular show, well worth going to, and lashing out the 53 euros each to go and see it..
 I have put some pics in the Paris & the Fete de Nuit section in the photos section for you to look at.
If you want to find out more about Louis XV and his life and  times then follow the link below
its well worth a look.
After the show , on the way out, we again met a by now, much more relaxed looking director , Marie ,and had a quick chat before we made our way back to the train station.
Unfortunaetly we had missed the train.. just.., but luckily enough, there was one about 1/2 hour later ( the last one! ), so we caught that , and made our way back to the hotel, exhilarated and very tired.
As we strolled down the Rue Amelot at about 12.45AM!! a strrange thirst came upon us , and we just had to finish the day off as we had started it nearly 20 hours ago..yes thats right..lager.
8.40Euros later saw us happily renuited with a pint and a half of Stella Artios ( reasurring expensive..) but not too bad for Paris.This amber nectar went down sweet as a nut, and we were soon esconsed in our beds, happily sleeping off the effects of 21 hours of being awake.
  
 
 
 

Versailles Stories

I did start to write about this, the friday before we went away , in a hard fought 30mins of nose bagging, at work, and was just checking through spelling , grammar , content etc. and feeling smugly proud at my latest attempt at literary magnificence, when I stupidly pressed the button marked " delete "instead of up.
 
Boy was I fucking annoyed!   
 
I was SO pissed off, that I  couldn’t bring myself to rewrite it again, and it wasn’t the same anyway.
I don’t know about you, but when I write this thing, its not planned ( though sometimes I have a vague idea of what I want to say, and how to say it ) , its just written. Comments , thoughts , ideas, pop into my head , and onto the screen. sort of spontaneous,  though sometimes the spelling slows things up a bit.
Now i’ve got that out of my system……
 
Regular readers will by now have probably gathered that,
a. We like to travel
b.We love Kos
c. We love Paris
Sadly we are becoming creatures of habit, but Paris is such a fantastic place, that every time we go its different.
This time was primarily to go to the Palace of Versailles – suprisingly enough in Versailles – about 20 miles out of Paris.
Very easy to get to, and enough to do to spend a couple of days there , which was a bit of a pisser as we really only had one evening, and a full day available.
The weekend was planned out, to the Fete de nuit Saturday night, a stroll round the Palace and gardens on Sunday, and monday… well see what happens.
A seriously early start , 4.00am on Saturday morning – facking hell!!! – saw us at the airport for a 6.30am flight to Paris , Charles de Gaulle airport, courtesy of British Airways. A swift drink in the bar after check in ( you can’t beat lager at 5.30am), and we were on our way. The expected strict security checks, only held us up for about 10mins.
Upon our arrival in CDG, we sullied forth to the the train ticket office for an expected long wait to purchase the Paris Visite ticket for unlimited train/bus travel throughout the Isle de France ( Paris and its suburbs).
Wait a minute..what’s this ..no queues..result.. 10mins later and we were on the RER B train to the Gare du Nord.  
With the weather looking iffy, we decided to go the FNAC shop at Bastille to pick up our superduper entrance tickets to Versailles for the next day, and have a quick look around while we strolled back up the road to find our hotel.. and the road it was on!
However, this time , after the lost experience of May, I had purchased a pocket street map of the said city and its environments, and just to be sure , a pocket compass as well! ….no more getting lost for me and the old growler! 
We were too early to check in at the hotel so we took ourselves off to Montparnasse to re-find a corking shop called Tati..a chain favoured by budget conscious shoppers,and people of a lesser income apparently.. to purchase a denim jacket and stuff we had seen there in may.
Things had moved on a tad since then, coz there were none left.. suprisingly.., so we got back onto the metro and went to Notre Dame to light a candle for me poor old mum and dearly departed gran.
Fatigue crept upon us like a sledgehammer, so we trapped on back to the hotel and checked in.
4* it said, and by billy o gum 4* it was! very plush, Xavier gor our bag for us and up to our room we went.
we stayed in the Le Jardins du Marais a 4* pile that is actually 5 buildings around a covered courtyard.The room was a good size , as was the bed, which was very comfortable. We also had a shower room with bath, a fridge, containing horrendously expensive consumables, and a kitchenette style cooker!!
Yeah like we are really going to use that!!.. though the fridge looked useful.
Anyway, a short snooze and a shower later, we were on our way to the Gare St Lazare to catch the train to Versailles, overland on an SNCF.
This was cool, a great way to see a bit more of the country surrounding Paris.. and for free!
A short stroll from the station took us to the town area of Versailles, where Mrs. Dog put her paw down, and demanded refuelling tout de suite or it was a gnawing for me.
After perusing various nosebag establishments, and looking at our watches , because time was marching on, and we HAD to be sat down by 9.30pm and it was already gone 8 oclock we sat down in a very nice French restaurant just by the Palace and scoffed steak & chips with pepper sauce, and a coffee in about 45 mins from entry to departure!!
Fack me! that was a very quick 35euros, but to be fair, said froggie knew we were in a hurry, and got us sorted chop chop.
Merci beaucoup Mousieur, vous etes un tres bon homme!
And so to the show…………..
 
 
 
 
 

Gone missing

  No I haven’t actually, though it does feel like it!
I have been very busy….where to start?
Well first of all, the new footie season has started, (just for anyone who has been on Mars for the last 2 weeks or had their head stuck in the sand!), The O’neill revolution has started, a draw with the runners up of the champions league last season,Arsenal , at their ground to boot, a good home win against Reading ( expected to truthful ) , then another very good home win against the Geordies.2nd in the league ( for a short time, 3rd now ) and all with the same " honest bunch of ( insert word ) " that masqueraded as footballers last season.
Plus that " no hoper " Juan Pablo Angel , that i have fiercely defended during his time at the Villa, in the view that you dont become a shit player over night, has started knocking them in, and playing like the player he really is.
Which is good news for the Villa and  my fantasty football team!
Seems to me that the O’leary days are well gone, it also seems to me that the motivation skills of the aforementioned " manager " from the emerald isle have been sadly lacking ,and he has probably been taking the piss for the last 3 years.
And a shitload of cash.
No tactical awareness, no ideas , and seemingly no motivational skills either.
Where will he end up next?
Even his mate Mr. Quinn at Sunderland doesn’t want him, and has chosen his own personal nemisis from the 2002 world cup ROY KEANE to go and manage for him"!!?
A man who’s opinion of the aforementioned Niall, is that he is  " a muppet"
 
Our next match is away at West Ham, who have just pulled off  " the coup of the transfer deadline day " by buying 2 argentinians, ( who are actually quite good ) , though I think there is more to this story that meets the eye, as the agents for the 2 south american ball wizards are now apparently in talks to take over the Hammers…..
Now that might be a coincidence, and I might be thinking out of turn, but apparently there is a getout clause in Tevezs contract, that if someone offers £35Million + then he can talk to them.
Hmmm…. " seriously good Argentinians, that could / should have gone to one of the top 4 high profile teams,  ( no disrespect to W.Ham, but the Champions league is a long way off for them ),
but have done "permanent "deals to take them to W.ham , who in turn are rumoured to be being taken over by the same agents that have brokered the deal……..
Sorry to dissapoint you happy hammers who are over the moon at the mo, but somehow I don’t think they will both be at the club come the end of January.
Hopefully , for the Villa sake , they wont be on their mettle and at least a point wil be on the cards.
Plus
Me and the old growler are going away to Kos for a week soon, and some the guys on the dive boat ( well top man steve ) are  west ham supporters , so a few days of MIGHTY piss taking is on the cards for the losers.
Also , we have just come back from a weekend in Paris, – sounds like we are becoming professional holiday makers, – but in truth, it is only because it is all truncated into a few months during the summer.
From September to probably May next year ( when another trip to some glamorous European city might well be in the offing ) I’m afraid it will just  be footie and general living / existing in preparation both financially and mentally for the next binge.
The Paris story is a seperate blog, which I will enter with pics, we went to Versailles, which is a fuck off place.
Catch you all ( if you can be bothered ) very soon
Up The Villa!!!