DIARY OF A RETIRED RUGBY LEAGUE WRITER
WEEK 26, 2017
MONDAY, JUNE 26
Day six of our cruise on Silversea’s newest ship, Silver Muse. We are moored off Taormina, Sicily, but do not bother with a shore excursion, given we had stayed in Taormina earlier in the month. At the pool bar, three little girls take over. I chat the bar staff about it being against licensing laws. They agree, but do little about it. We were hoping this would be a kid free trip. Dinner at Indochine with our English friends, Alan and Beryl Olive (from Lymm in Cheshire), and hotel director, Paolo Percival, who says he has heard good things about us. Finish the night in the jazz lounge.
TUESDAY, JUNE 27
Corfu today, and we take part in beach break excursion. Chat to a couple from Arizona in the United States, and it turns out he (Todd Graham) is coach of the Arizona State Football team. He has nine assistant coaches. She works in social technology. They have six kids, one of whom (a male) has made a back-packing trip to Australia. Arizona have recruited a punt kicker from Aussie rules. Todd certainly told me a lot about his team and American football. Asked about one question of me, re my sports journalism career.
Greek ‘Fix’ draft beer at the beach is insipid. This evening, spend time viewing the rugged Albanian Coastline.
Learn of the passing of former Australian Rugby League skipper, Wally O’Connell, who coached Queensland in 1973. Future ‘super coach’, Wayne Bennett played for Queensland at the time, and the Maroons lost all three inter-state matches.
Bennett said O’Connell had some ‘different’ ideas.
“He had us building pyramids at Lang Park to block kicks for goal”, Bennett told me.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 28
Up early for the spectacular fiord entry to Kotor, in Montenegro. I found Kotor old town underwhelming. Something about ‘the vibe’.
Dinner at Silver Note is excellent – Maine lobster. The ship’s casino is closed today because of maritime regulations.
THURSDAY, JUNE 29
Dubrovnik old town is almost closed by the city elders, because of congestion from tourists, many from ships like ours. Our ship is not able to get into the old port, so there is a coach trip from our wharf to the fortified area. There is a heatwave and air con does not work on the coach. Found a back street bar, away from the tourist hordes, and enjoy a Zagreb beer. Our barmaid is from Bosnia. At dinner in Silver Note Restaurant, sit with retired doctor, Les and his wife, from Melbourne, both of Hungarian origin. They bought a house at Broken Head near Byron Bay in northern New South Wales, and are not great fans of Byron Shire Council. He is a fit 75 (a skin diver, who explores caves).
Photo 1: Dubrovnik
FRIDAY, JUNE 30
Excursion to amazing waterfalls of KRKA National Park in Croatia, with our ship berthed at Sibenik.
Dinner at Atlantide, with Allen and Beryl Olive. This is the ship’s signature restaurant. We find it a bit pretentious. Our waitress says Limousin steak is from France. Thanks scoop.
SATURDAY, JULY 1
Big driving day – from our port, Koper to Lake Bled in Slovenia. Marie and I had been to Slovenia, in 2002, but had not seen this iconic lake. Traditional meal at a restaurant in the capital, Ljubljana – turkey, mash potato, plus mushroom soup, with Alsatian wine. Our guide is thorough – too thorough, telling us about every speed bump, hospital and government business on the way. At one stage, when it looks as if she will finally shut up, she asks if there are any questions, and several Yanks find something to ask her, about the health system, of all things. Just shoot me.
Photo 2: Lake Bled
SUNDAY, JULY 2
Spectacular sunrise coming into Venice. We are the first cruise ship in for the day. At breakfast I tell one of the crew he looks like Brisbane television personality, Bill McDonald. I show him a photo of Bill. “I have a whole gallery of comparisons,” our crew member tells me. We walk to St Mark’s Square, where the tourist hordes have started to arrive. We hit the back lanes, and find our way back to the ship for a buffet lunch. At 5 p.m., we are back on land to check out the bar scene. One drink at Laguna, where Marie is worried about a rough looking Australian chap, while I am more concerned with a mean looking local, with a bottle of beer. Find a table at a bar beside a narrow canal, where I chat to a Brisbane born GP (who lives in London) and his Anglican cleric mate. The GP’s family had a house at Clayfield in Brisbane, where St Rita’s College now stands. St Rita’s is the school where our daughter, Melanie did her secondary education. He is stunned when I use the word ‘skyte’ to describe someone who boasts a lot. Great Australian expression, he hadn’t heard for some time.
Back on board, Marie and I have a final drink at the Library Bar, overlooking the beautiful Venice vista. I return book, ‘A Hero in France’.
Photo 3: St Mark’s Square, Venice
Photo 4: Venice back ‘streets’