And what a week it was
It’s been a blur.
Three weeks ago I was whisked away on my Stag Do, surrounded by close friends doing everything for me.
Two weeks ago I attended my own wedding, surrounded by friends, family and my new wife.
This week I went on our honeymoon, surrounded by a wife and some of the most glorious landscapes I’ve ever seen, all in the Adriatic Sea.
It has been the best time of my life.
It would have to be, to stop this Grindstone from spinning. I’ve not touched the book, an essay, nothing for the entirety of this time. Needless to say, it’s the longest I’ve ever been away from my keyboard.
And that is in no way a negative thing. I’ve spent all my time with loved ones and doing exciting things. Writing can wait its turn for once.
We flew back to the UK yesterday, and have made a quick stop at the In-Laws in the north before we head home in the south, so I have a little time remaining, but once back I need to get that Grindstone spinning again.
I need to hit the keyboard, get my nose dirty. Back to the novel, back to the new WIP, and back to the completion of the large ASOIAF project.
But before we get there, I’d like to share some of the places we visited, and show you just why it was so inspiring in the first place.
Without further adieu, the path of our honeymoon:
I started off very grumpy. Firstly, it was
bloody cloudy. We hadn’t ran from the biggest heatwave in the UK in the last decade for clouds!
Secondly, because of the timing of our flight and the timing of the boat departure, we didn’t actually get to go into Venice itself but just got to drive through it. Still, we saw the sights on the drive and from the ship, so still cool.
Besides, we were pretty amazed and taken with exploring the ship, so no harm done. Because boy…what a ship.
I’ve never been anywhere near a cruise before, so I didn’t know what I was expecting, but I know it wasn’t anything so grand as what we got.
Dubrovnik, Croatia (King’s Landing, the Crownlands)
First up was the biggie of the Game Of Thrones filming locations (Northern Ireland excepted), Dubrovnik, home of King’s Landing and Dragonstone.
We sailed in at midday, still covered in cloud but definitely not lacking for heat. This being our first destination me and the Mrs found a spot at the front of the boat to watch the landscape come closer and closer.
After a short bus ride we arrived right outside the gates, ready to climb the city walls. We didn’t actually realise how big the walls were, or how hot it would be once the sun came out, but we learnt both.
On one side we had Kings Landing, the other, beautiful, sparkling ocean with kayakers, cliff diving and just beautiful colour. It took a good two hours to walk the walls in total, but we weren’t lacking for sights to entertain, from the city to the sea to Dragonstone to the harbour (which I could have sworn was in an Assassin’s Creed game) to its hidden basketball court, confirming my love of the NBA and ASOIAF as the one true faith.
We went from the walls into the narrow streets of Dubrovnik below, finding yet more familiar sights. We finally departed the city walls and walked up to the fortress, though we didn’t actually go inside because we were already completely knackered.
Between each of these excursions was innumerable fun had upon the ship itself, time I will never forget. I’m assuming that is much less interesting to anyone who isn’t me or my wife though, so I’ll stick on target.
We woke to a beautiful, enclosed bay in Montenegro, bordered by mountain hills that looked like something Gandalf might ride down at the break of dawn.
To get ashore this time we had to use the lifeboats to ferry us across, where we went to explore the little fortress town of Kotor.
The place was only just waking, it being about 8.30 A.M local, although the legions upon legions of cats certainly weren’t wasting daylight hours. I’m sure you know how towns and cities are set out in the part of the world. Tiny, twisting alleys and streets hazing off in all directions with seemingly no pattern at all.
Well, Kotor really is the EMPHASIS of this. If it wasn’t so small you’d be lost within minutes, except for the ruddy great wall covering one half of the city from all angles.
If you thought Dubrovnik had walls, try Kotor. These walls, instead of encircling the city (although it did have a smaller version that did that too) rose up and up the mountain, zig-zagging all the way.
They were HUGE. So huge that we went through the town, walked up to the gatehouse that marked the entrance to the walls themselves, and considered just that a job done. We estimated it would have taken four hours or more to do the whole thing, so we went back to the water’s edge instead.
The bay was just amazing. The water was some of the clearest I’d ever seen, and on either side were buildings of pure white, green mountains behind those, and in between both a blue bay full of little two-man boats and kayaks (and our thudding great cruiser, to be fair). We sat on a tiny little pebble beach and dipped our toes in, just watching the boats and swimmers.
Until my wife became incredibly distracted and jealous about a water pool training session happening right there in the bay.
The next day did not start out quite so brilliantly. I’ll just say that Corfu has some pretty aggressive taxi drivers. Luckily, it also has some really nice bus staff that sell you an all-day ticket on any bus line.
So with that we made our way through old town, which I guess was the biggest, most modernized place we’d been so far, before catching a bus over to Ipsos beach, just viewable on the horizon from where we first docked.
Ipsos is a pebble but kind of sandy beach. It’s not large, and the tide didn’t leave more than about three lounger’s length between the pavement and the sea. We found a little spot, chucked some towels down and jumped in the sea.
My wife has been to the Caribbean and other such places before, but I’d never seen anything like the beaches of Corfu. You could go underwater, open your eyes, and SEE THINGS.
Yeah, your eyes would burn with salt but still…I was amazed. And we had an underwater camera with us, so even more fun.
After drying off on the pebbles (the Greek sun took care of that within a couple of minutes.) We repeated a couple of times before catching the bus five minutes back towards the city but stopping off at Dassia beach.
This one was larger and also way more crowded. We found a little collection of our fellow cruisers and took another dip in the sea, but then did what might be the highlight of the trip.
I’m not actually sure what the official name is, but it’s components are:
-A length of rope
-An inflatable in the essential shape of a sofa
-Really high speeds
Of course, we don’t have any pictures of this as we were kind of hanging on for dear life, but needless to say it was incredibly breathtaking and fun.
(And neither of us fell in!)
After all that we took another bus trip back to the city, had a more leisurely stroll around the shops, bought some gifts (a ship carved out of driftwood for my mother; a cheeky fridge magnet for our friend), and also met a charming little shop owner who, upon hearing that we came from the UK replied “oh cool, I have friends in Brooklyn”. He was super nice though.
The winds were picking up by the time we returned to the ship, but we also were treated to the water somehow looking even more amazing, and I was lucky enough to capture it in this picture here:
Split, Croatia (Meereen, Slaver’s Bay)
After a day at sea we reached our final port of call before heading back to Venice. We headed back to Croatia, and another GoT filming location-this time we visited the basis of the filming of Meereen in Split.
Split is one busy place, let me tell you that. The dock is one long, long line of ferries and yaughts, with thousands of travelers and backpackers jumping on and off. Walking through was a true experience of ‘what’s that accent?’
Past the busy waterfront we headed to the main historian attraction of Split, the Diocletian’s Palace, where the GoT crew filmed both Daenerys’ throne room and where the dragons are locked up.
Just down the road from Split is Fort Klis, which is also used heavily for Meereen, and Trogir, which was transformed into Qarth for season 2. Unfortunately, time constraints kept us rooted in Split itself.
Which was no shame at all. The palace held a thousand little tiny streets, all opening out onto some beautiful architecture and hidden little gems.
When we finally emerged from the older buildings we walked through a huge fruit and fish market, where a woman was selling absolutely massive watermelons.
(Sorry guys, no euphemism here. They were genuinely gigantic watermelons)
From there we reached the more modernized part of Split, which was probably the most modernized area we saw all week, though it was still laid out of wide, white streets on smooth stone, with beautiful buildings at each turn.
Because there are very few roads in Split the streets were filled with young guys making deliveries on what were essentially motorised carts, zigging and zagging throughout the crowds with expert control. More than once I thought they were about to clatter someone only for them to manoveur through, drop off their cargo and head off to retrieve some more.
Despite it being just as early, Split was definitely busier as Kotor, and it was definitely hotter. After two or three hours, the wife had overheated and it was time to head back. We went back down the seafront, picked up a little ship for our coffee table to remind us of our Co adventures on the sea, and made our way back to the boat.
Although we both would have liked more time in the city, it turned out to be a pretty good decision. A lot of people were only now disembarking, meaning the ships pool area was the emptiest we had ever seen it.
We took full advantage, jumping in the pool, securing some premium sunloungers and sending four hours reading in the sun.
Although my wife did manage to burn her kneecaps. Still trying to figure that one out.
For some reason Venice weather has had a thing against us. As we sailed back to Italy through the night we were treated to a huge lightning storm, which was admittedly pretty cool to watch, and then clouds appeared in the morning.
Luckily they weren’t half so thick as before, and we were treated to some much better views of the city before we absconded back into the sky, and eventually, home.
I jotted this blog post down not because I think anyone is particularly interested in my continental exploits, and certainly not towards do the week justice (as I have failed miserably on that count), but just because it was fun to sit here, next to the woman I can now call my wife, and relive it all.
It’s a practice I will be doing again, and again, and again.
This trip was the furthest I’ve ever been from home, and it was the most fun I’ve ever had. It was the closest I’ve ever felt with my wife. It was the happiest time we’ve had together.
In short, I can’t really imagine a better starting block for fora marriage.
Now, we go on with the rest
(Which, by there way, we have our decided will include a lot more holidays!)