BMW R1200GSA vs Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX

Friday, 28 September 2012

Today we board ship for our first cruise.


Another early start saw the six of us in our transfer vehicle with our crazy Italian driver and making tracks to the port of Civitavecchia. Our driver sported the most amazing grey handlebar moustache you've ever seen, and he continued to twitch it all the time. At one point he got Lilly to touch it, then he screamed when she did. It gave her a hell of a fright, but we all had a good chuckle. In between cursing other drivers we were treated to our driver singing Arrivederci Roma quite a few times on the trip through the insane Rome traffic.

We arrived at the port to see the Noordam looking pretty impressive.

A quick look around on the way to the cabin found some pretty out there d├ęcor on the ship.

Suzanne's favourite chairs on the ship.

The mid ship pool, complete with retractable roof.

Suzanne's favourite feature on the whole ship, the doors on the internal lifts. The outdoor lifts were glass and travelled ten decks up the outside of the ship.

My favourite place, the Vista Dining Room. Great food and wine.

This was our first cruise and Suzanne used to get incredibly sea sick up until a few years ago. I was a bit concerned about getting bored being stuck on a ship with nothing to do but lie around the pool. So we boarded with a little apprehension. When we booked we took the cheapest option and booked an inside cabin. No problem there as it had plenty of room and was very comfortable. It didn't take long to realise that when you turned off the lights you had no idea if it was day or night outside. Also, when we visited Lilly's cabin, complete with balcony, we realised that we probably should have spent the extra. Oh well, lesson learned. We're only going to sleep in it anyway.

Suzanne checks out the comfy bed in our cabin.

We checked out the day's on board activity sheet and I realised I wouldn't have time to get bored, there was so much to do. In fact I was going to miss out on some things as there were conflicts in timing of some activities.

It was time to explore the ship. Wow! This thing is huge and has so many great places to hide. I think it's going to be a fun trip. There were restaurants and bars everywhere, a movie theater  enormous library, showroom with a huge stage, computer training rooms, health spa, gym. the list just kept going. My only concern was that Suzanne and I dropped the average age of the passengers by about ten years when we boarded. 

There are about 2,000 passengers and 1,000 crew on board. Most of the service crew are Filipino and do their job so well. They are always genuinely happy people and were always there to look after your every need, immediately. They obviously undergo a very intensive sales and service school before they are allowed on board.

I booked us both in for a pub crawl on the ship on the night of day five. That should be interesting. We visit five bars and have a beer in each one. I claim it's educational but I don't think anyone else in our party believed me. The pub crawl finishes at the disco, so I can bust some of my moves on the dance floor, like falling over like a dork or the unco shuffle. I'm brilliant at that one.

Later in the afternoon there was a tour of the ship arranged with the cruise director, so I jumped in for that. What better way to find out what is actually on board, and where the hell it is. Then it was off to the health spa for a raffle draw where Suzanne won an art print so she was pretty happy.

This will go nicely with an original oil we have by Suzanne's mum.
(It's nowhere near as good as yours though Marie)

We magaed to find a bar which became our favourite for the cruise. The Crow's Nest. Deck ten, right at the front of the ship with large windows all down the sides and across the front. We settled in for a music trivia game with our crew and very quickly showed how little we all know, but it was all in fun. There's a trivia quiz on every day at six, which coincides with Happy Hour in this bar. I can see there will be a pattern emerging.

To finish off what was a very busy day we hit the dining room and had a fantastic meal. As you may have guessed, I like my food, and the lunch and dinner I had today made me very happy. The huge choice made it hard, but the food was superb. 

Our new discovery today was "Wasabi mashed potato". Mashed potato with a bit of wasabi mixed in. It is sooooo nice. Try it, just go easy on the wasabi til you get the ratio right.

Tomorrow we dock in Livorno, which is pretty close to Florence and very near Pisa. So far this cruising thing is proving to be a good gig.

Bristol, then we fly to Rome.


First up, I hate this programme. I've just spent two hours re-entering this blog because the whole lot disappeared into cyber space. Yes, I'm grumpy. Now that that is out of the way...

It's been a while since I've updated the blog. Sorry. We've been at sea on our cruise and the satellite web access was very pricey. Uploading the blog was prohibitively expensive. I'll play catch up ad post as many blogs as quickly as I can over the next few weeks.

So, bringing you up to speed. We have just finished a twenty day cruise of the Mediterranean on the Noordam. More on that later. We are now in Kiev, Ukraine and will be conducting a bit of family history research if we can.

Last time we spoke Suzanne and I were in Bristol where some low life stole our tent from our bike while it was parked outside our hotel. HBF travel insurance (underwritten by CGU Insurance) refuse to pay for our tent so we're abut $800 out of pocket as a result. Apparently our luggage isn't covered while it's on the bike (there's a surprise). Imaging buying travel insurance to travel around Europe on a motorcycle and thinking that your gear was covered while it was on the bike. How stupid are we? I will be contacting HBF and asking them to explain how I should carry all my gear when I visit the toilet along the road somewhere. We have three large aluminium cases full of stuff, along with three large bags full of camping gear, our tank bag, and our riding gear, all weighing about 100 kilograms. I obviously can't leave it on the bike as it's not covered by their crap insurance. OK, rant over.


Our wonderful friend Claire picked up our cases from the hotel in Bristol, and picked up Suzanne as well. Our plan was to drop off our bike and gear at Claire's house, spend the night, and fly out to Rome the next moring to meet our cruise. It was really nice to catch up with Claire, Chris, Fergus, and Oscar, as well as Reggie and Fern the two Border Terriers again. We are so lucky to have a family like this as friends. Thanks guys. We had a lovely dinner then hit the hay as we had an early start the next morning.


After Suzanne put Claire's washing machine through a marathon of washing we had a full set of clean clothes, and our riding gear was clean as well. This is the first wash our riding gear has had this trip and we were just a little smelly. In fact homeless people were avoiding us as we walked down the street. We smelt good again. The bike was safely tucked away in Chris's garage with instructions that Chris was welcome to use it if he wanted to. Suzanne had enough clothes to wear on our cruise. All was ready for our departure.

Suzanne's clothes shopping in Bristol.

Can you guess which shop was her favourite?

Claire came to the fore again and drove us to the airport in the morning. It was strange sitting in a car after so long on the bike. It was also strange driving down near deserted country lanes to get to a very busy Bristol Airport. After a quick drink it was on the plane and off to Rome.

Before we knew it we were standing in the arrival lounge at in Rome. We needed to get into the city centre. A taxi was thirty eight euro, the bus was four euro each. We're getting better at saving money now, so onto the bus we went. After a very nice, one hour coach trip into Rome we were dropped at the main railway station. From there it was a ten minute walk to our hotel.

After settling into our pleasant room we headed out for a look around. First impression? Rome is dirty. Well, dirty doesn't cover it. As far as I'm concerned, stepping over human excrement as you cross the road in a capital city isn't something I want to do, and we had to do it many times. OK, there are some nice buildings there, and the history is fantastic, but I'd rather sit at home and read a book thanks. I'm looking forward to visiting little county villages on the bike and giving Italy a chance to redeem itself.

We found a nice little restaurant with footpath dining and had a very expensive dinner. On our walk around after dinner we discovered a real gem.

Every wall in the shop was like this. Then there were shelves and cabinets in the middle areas as well. Heaven.

This is the best bottle shop (off license for my UK friends) in the world. It was run by a crazy old guy who was a bundle of laughs. I spent ages in there just checking out the floor to ceiling shelves full of all sorts of drinks. If he didn't have it, you didn't want it.

The shop opened in 1880 and has been in the family for generations. The owner showed us photos of his grandfather outside the shop. Unfortunately his kids aren't interested in taking over the shop so it will probably disappear in the not to distant future. Very sad. We bought two bottles of wine and a bottle of Limoncello to take back to the hotel. The old guy was very switched on and asked if we were going to drink them tonight. When we said yes, he pulled the corks, trimmed them with a very sharp knife and pushed them half way back in. That way we could pull the corks in our hotel room. He finished off by giving us two plastic wine glasses. A great salesman, and switched on as well. I really enjoyed being there.


Today was our final shopping day. I needed a couple of shirts and ties for the formal nights on the ship so off we went. I didn't want to spend a fortune as I'll probably give them away after the cruise as I won't need them again, and I can't carry the on the bike anyway. After a few hours we found a little shop manned by a gay Filipino guy. He was great, or should I say "fabulous"? He picked my shirt size straight away, then produced a huge range of ties to choose from. Easy, job done, back to the hotel.

Dinner time arrived and we had a good feed at the hotel for about half the price of the previous night. I felt a bit like I was ten years old again as we waited to meet up with my sister at the hotel. I used to get very excited when I was a kid and she came to visit, and I felt exactly the same tonight. It's only been a few months since I've seen her, but I was excited just the same.

Lilly and Ron arrived around nine and had another couple of friends with them who were also going on the cruise. I was a little concerned because spending three weeks with someone you don't know on a ship could be a harrowing experience. Luckily Bob and Nina were fantastic people. I really enjoyed our time with them, but I don't know if they felt the same way. More about that in a later blog : )

So our team was complete and ready to hit the high seas the next day. Yo, ho, ho...

Friday, 14 September 2012

We're all at sea!


Sorry about the lack of updates boys and girls. We're currently on an ship cruising the Mediterranean and will be for another ten days or so. Internet access is 75c per minute, so uploading blog reports is outrageously expensive. 

After the cruise we head off to Ukraine for about eight days. I have no idea what internet access will be like there, but I'm guessing it won't be fantastic. I hope I'm wrong.

I promise I'll upload a heap of updates when we are back on our normal travels in a few weeks.


Simon and Suzanne.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Some thieving mongrel stole our tent.


I've been parking my bike outside the front door of the hotel, about four metres from the reception desk. You can't get safer than that can you?

We went down stairs for breakfast this morning and I noticed the fuel can I bought yesterday was sitting on the seat of the bike. That's a bit unusual. When I looked closer I realised that someone had taken one of our soft bags off the bike. They had also undone the other one, but were probably disturbed and left with out it. The bag contained our brilliant MSR Mutha Hubba tent, along with a few other bits and pieces.

All up the financial loss is about $800. It also meant we couldn't attend Triumph Live at Mallory park as we had no house (tent) to live in, and we had to pay for another couple of nights in the motel.

We spent the rest of the day in the hotel room on the phone to the Police and the insurance company (of course we are not covered for the theft of luggage from a motor vehicle, or further expenses caused by the theft. No wonder everyone hates insurance companies. They are thieving bastards).

To top it off we found out our dog Milo has pancreatitis and needs medicating, and she has a couple of bad teeth that may need removing.

All in all a pretty crap day.

We're flying to Rome on Monday to meet up with my sister to start our cruise. I'll shake off my grumpiness tomorrow.

7/9/12 - We are currently on board our cruise ship and having a great time. Internet access in only by satellite so updates my be a bit sparse until we finish our cruise on the 25th.

Where is Rex's Buff?

At least we still have Rexy's Buff.
Here it's modeled by Floyd.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Dress shopping, and picking up some passports with Ukrainian visas.


A quick ride into Bristol today and we're now in the Ibis City Centre. 

Time to go shopping. We grabbed a taxi into the shopping area and Suzanne was off. She did well for me finding me half a dozen shirts in very short time. We ran out of time so there's more to follow tomorrow.


Today's plan was simple. Leave early and ride three hours into London to pick up our passports from the Ukrainian Embassy. Then pop over to a shopping centre to pick up a dress that Suzanne fell in love with when we were shopping a few days ago. They didn't have her size in the Cardiff or Bristol stores, but a few shops near London had ONE left. Like I said, simple. If I leave at seven, I should be back by about one pm.

I rode out into peak hour traffic at about 8.30. After a bit of stop start the traffic opened up on the motorway and I covered some ground. Riding solo is so much fun, I really wanted to take the back roads and avoid the motorway, but the old enemy time put paid to that.

I was parked outside the embassy at eleven and took my place in the queue. I must admit I did have a bit of a chuckle when an Aussie guy in front of me told the embassy guy behind the glass that he wanted a visa for "The" Ukraine (It's Ukraine people. Like Australia. It's no more THE Ukraine than it is THE Australia) and he was flying there tomorrow night. No paperwork, no photos, no travel insurance. It took us three weeks to get our visas, and we had all the correct paperwork. Good luck mate, I hope I see you there.

Back on the bike by twelve I was already falling behind my self imposed schedule. OK sat nav, take me to the Westfield Shopping Centre in Shepherd's Bush. No problem and about twenty minutes later, after a few dead end streets, to sat nav directed me right to the back door of the loading docks. I had a bit of a ride around but couldn't find a way to the car park anywhere. I did see a huge pedestrian area full of hundreds of people between me and the road though. That'll do. Back on the road and into the car park. Easy.

I walked through a door way and into a lift, heading toward the shop I was looking for. I must admit that I did think it was a pretty grotty lift for a major shopping centre in London. When the doors opened I found myself in a maze of passageways that backed onto the shops. D'oh. I'd gone up in the goods lift. I couldn't find a way into the shopping area so back down I went and found the correct entrance. Bare in mind I'm wearing my full riding outfit with all the liners in place. It was like walking in my own little sauna.

I found the shop. Yahoo! I made a bee line for ladies wear and found a very helpful assistant. I had the item number and the line number off their system so it was easy for her to track down the dress. No problem, off she went. "I'm sorry sir. There is a problem with that dress. It's damaged." OK. Plan B. There's another shop in Guildford, about an hour away and they have one as well.

I'm getting low on fuel, but from experience I know that I can ride for about twenty miles even after the computer says zero mile range left. I'll pick up the dress then head to the petrol station about a mile the other side of the shop. (You know what's coming don't you?) I stopped in the main street of Guildford to look for the shop and the bike cut out. It's never done that before. I still had three miles range so it wasn't a problem, was it?

Bone dry! I parked the bike and walked to the shop (this is the fourth shop now) and found another lovely assistant. I went through the same process and she disappeared into the stock room only to come back empty handed. She smiled sweetly and apologised saying she'd be back in a minute. About ten minutes later she came back with "The Dress". She checked it over very careful to make sure it wasn't damaged. I was on a winner. Right dress, right colour, right size, and it was in perfect condition. Then she told me the price. It was marked down from 120 pounds to thirty nine pounds. At last my luck was changing.

I walked back down the main street of Guildford with my bright pink bag in hand feeling pretty damn pleased with myself.

I carefully packed my prize dress in the pannier and tried starting the bike just to see if it would magically go. No luck. I grabbed my camp stove fuel bottle and headed off around the corner to the petrol station the sat nav had shown me. No petrol station. Well, there was, but it had been converted into a shop. I started walking and tried to hitch a ride. After about fifteen minutes a young guy picked me up and drove me to a petrol station miles down the road. He even offered to drive me back to the bike but I told him I'd get a taxi.

I was at the pump ready to fill my bottle when a voice came over the PA telling me it wasn't an approved container so I couldn't fill it. OK, how much do I have to pay you for an approved container? About twenty quid later I was walking back down the road with four litres of fuel.

A bloke in a Transit van picked me up and was kind enough to drop me off right where my bike was. He had a cool Jack Russell named Buddy. Buddy was very funny and very friendly. I laughingly suggested that Buddy was his guard dog. He smiled and said "Wait until you get out of the van." It was so funny. When the van stopped Buddy went off. Barking like crazy at me. He wasn't angry, he was just barking. I guess that would make Buddy barking mad.

Around ten minutes later I was back on the Motorway and heading for Bristol. The only fun part of the Motorway ride was I found a friend to play with. He was on a VFR800 and we chased each other down the road at enjoyable speeds, taking turns in front. He pulled off at the Bristol exit with me, then took the next turn off. He gave me a big smile and a wave as he left. I'd made a friend with out even meeting him.

I walked into the hotel at about six o'clock. I'd spent about seven hours on the bike, one hour chasing petrol, and another hour in shops. I was shagged, but at least I had the dress.

Guess what? The dress doesn't fit!

All in all an ordinary day. But things were going to get worse...

Where's Rex's buff?

I don't think Vix was taking this very seriously at all.
Good one Vix  : )
We visit Wye River, but his time in the Northern Hemisphere.


We had a couple of small suitcases to drop off at our hotel in Bristol. The plan is to spend a few days there so we can do a bit of shopping in preparation for he cruise. So we strapped the cases to the side of the bike and off we went. Along the way we rode across a pretty impressive bridge. It measured about four miles long! Then we rode back over a slightly smaller one.

The little bridge on our return from Bristol.

A shot of the biggun.

With that out of the way we pointed the bikes back toward Wales and the Wye River. Suzanne's parents used to have a holiday house in Wye River, Victoria so it was a must see for her.

We followed the Wye up to Tintern Abby,

Bit of a tidy up and you could move right in.

Then we wound our way along the beautiful roads before stopping for a drink at a pub on the banks of the river.

More perfect roads with Leigh leading the way.

 Wye River.

"Wye Pride" One of the tour boats that operate here.

On the way home we passed a sign that said "Abergavenny". I couldn't get that bloody song out of my head for days. Now it's back in there again.

Abergavenny. I'd heard of it in the song but never knew where it was. I do now though.

We rolled into Leigh's driveway around six o'clock. We'd had a really good day and covered around two hundred miles I guess. Leigh then outdid himself and cooked up a feed that was enjoyed by all. 

Tomorrow we head to Bristol. We'll miss Leigh and Annmarie, they are a couple of the nicest people on the planet. We'll also miss Floyd and Leo, Floyd is one of he coolest dogs I've ever met. Sniff, sniff.

Where's Rex's Buff?

Biggie the Bear was a favourite with everyone.
Cardiff. Home of Torchwood, a rift in time, Dr Who, and cocktails.


We jumped on the train into Cardiff to go and visit the home of Torchwood.

The Torchwood team's headquarters are here.
It's also known as the Wales Millennium Centre.

Then it was on to the Dr Who Experience. This is an interactive exhibition created by the BBC just for Dr Who geeks. Up until last week Suzanne had absolutely no interest in Dr Who, then our friend Carla converted her by making her watch about ten episodes in a row. Suzanne is now a fan.

The first thirty minutes was an interactive walk through starting with the Tardis. We travelled to other worlds and encountered some of The Doctors foes along the way. It was very well done with lots of action, noise, and special effects. Unfortunately no photos are allowed in this part of the tour.

Then we entered a two story display of props and costumes from the show. The whole thing was extremely well done and we spent about an hour and a half there while Leigh and Annmarie waited for us in a pub down the road.

The photos aren't that good as there was no flash photography allowed. You'll find better images and more info here;

My favourite Doctor, Tom Baker.

The original bad guys.

There had to be a dog in the blog right?
Remember K9?

Suzanne's favourite. Captain Jack.

We then braved the shops so Suzanne could buy some clothes for the cruise. After a couple of hours without a result we called it quits. There was one dress that Suzanne really liked, but they didn't have it in her size. The shop assistant said she'd check the other stores and give us a call back. We'll see.

It was feeding time for the animals so we found a very nice bar for pre dinner drinks.

Nice bar for dinner.

Oh, look! Two for one cocktails. Two cocktails for six and a half quid. We gave them a big nudge the decided to stay and have dinner. Burgers were on offer for two for ten quid. What a bargain. A big plate of starters and a good burger saw us all with full bellies.

I'm sure the cocktails weren't very strong as we were all OK on the way home. Suzanne insisted that the railway station was part of Torchwood and that she saw some aliens, but that is normal and has nothing to do with the alcohol consumed.

Strange Alien being seen at Cardiff railway station.

Where's Rex's Buff?

Jo is a nut case. We love her.