NEWS

September 2016

I have said this a million times before but where does the time go? It’s frightening. It seems to go quicker the older I get. I can’t believe the month I had on Emerald Princess, the month went in a blink of an eye.

As well as being a beautiful ship, the itineraries were excellent. I talked in detail about the first leg last month so I’ll give you a brief catch up.

The second sector is one of the reasons I accepted this booking as it has some of my favourite port stops in the world. Entitle Mediterranean Adventurer our stops included Barcelona, Ajaccio in Corsica, Rome, Florence/Pisa, Genoa, Marseille and Gibraltar. If you have never cruised before this is a perfect taster of some of the best that Europe offers.

By the time we arrived in Barcelona the sun was beaming. The city is one of the world's leading tourist, economic, trade fair and cultural centers, and its influence in commerce, education, entertainment, media, fashion, science, and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the world's major global cities.

Barcelona is one of the most densely populated cities in Europe with around 1.47 million people living within the city limits and I think most of them had gone to Las Ramblas shopping. The street is a tree-lined pedestrian mall stretching for 1.2 kilometers connecting Placa de Catalunya in the centre with the Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Veil

There are dozens of restaurants and shops along the full length of the Barcelona Las Ramblas. However due to its popularity, and sheer volume of visitors, you encounter elevated prices and generally a lower level of service than you would experience in a less touristy area. The Ramblas is famous for street performers including human statues, musicians, street art and artists that will draw your portrait or caricature. I haven’t finished yet, it’s also home to the flower market and pet stalls and if you want to take home a small souvenir there are hundreds of stalls along route.

Even with the onslaught of foot soldiers in the guise of shoppers I love the area, it is lively, bustling and full of soul. En route to the main shopping hub you can pop to the Erotica Museum where you can spot some interesting toys, click away at the Christopher Columbus Monument or stroll through the Modernist Boqueria Market

It's safe to say that if Carrie Bradshaw ever visited Barcelona for a long weekend, she would be in no hurry to get on the plane back to JFK. As millions of shopaholics have already discovered, the city offers a dizzying array of cash-splashing opportunities, and retail therapists of all budgets will discover thousands of tantalising ways to part with their money in the Catalan capital, whether they prefer shopping for designer names like Prada, Armani and Custo (Barcelona's own homegrown cloths guru) or browsing vintage fashion shops, off-the-wall boutiques and second hand stores. If you've come to Barcelona for the sole purpose of spending, then you won't go home disappointed...

Without doubt the Catalan capital is a very fashion conscious city, but the style is very different from that of Milan or Paris. Whilst chic chicas may strut the sidewalk in Versace dresses and 200 Euro sunglasses, you'll also find hordes of counter-culture hipsters in ragged pants and recycled accessories, their skin covered in tattoos, flaunting a rock star attitude.

A day is just not long enough to explore this touristic area but it does give you a taste of what you can expect when you come back a well as the time needed to apply for a large overdraft!!

No doubt about it: Ajaccio is my kind of cruise port -- easily explored on foot; crammed with good restaurants and well-stocked unusual shops and blessed with a harbor so pretty that local artists jostle with each other for a good painting spot from which to capture it.

On a sunny, Mediterranean morning, the harbor sparkles like sapphire-tinted cut glass. Even the poorest history scholar won't take long to work out who Ajaccio's favorite son was: Multiple streets are named after Napoleon Bonaparte, who was born here on August 15, 1769 -- just a few months after the island of Corsica was finally claimed by the French, after being ruled for more than four centuries by the Genovese.

You'll still find Italian influence here in some street names and in the local cuisine; though essentially French, it has a spicy undertone and features pork as a popular ingredient.

In terms of shops and restaurants, Ajaccio feels 100 percent French. Expect pretty patisseries, stylish fashion shops and pharmacy windows, packed with every beauty accessory known to woman -- but at prices so high they would make a Parisian gasp. This is an island, after all; everything has to be imported, and that's reflected in the price tags. So be warned: This is not the place to make major purchases.

The main shopping thoroughfare is the rue du Cardinal Fesch who also has the museum named after him. Next to the museum is the Imperial Chapel but it’s closed for renovation work at the moment. Just opposite is the tiny Ruccellu church, which leads to the place Foch home to the town hall and the statue of Napoleon as first consul standing over the 4-Lion fountain. The centre of Ajaccio is based around the 16th century citadel but it is still occupied by the army and impossible to visit.

After the hustle and bustle of yesterday, this island is the perfect place to wind down, grab a coffee, check your email and people watch. My great friend and tremendous singer Sam Kane was working on Emerald and as I hadn’t seen him in over a year it was great grabbing a coffee and catching up. He introduced me to comedian Gary Thompson who came with us and we spent a wonderful few hours gossiping like three old ladies.

Not only is it 80 degrees but it is smack in the middle of school holidays and the ship was rife with toddlers of all shape and sizes. On a ship that holds some 3100 passengers, a third of who are under eighteen, it is impossible to hide and it is for that reason I decided not to go into Rome when we docked at Civitavecchia the next morning.

The name Civitavecchia means "ancient town", a seaport on the Tyrrhenian Sea, located 50 miles from Rome, across the Mignone River.

The last time I was in this port I headed to Tarquinia, a rather wonderful UNESCO walled town just 12 miles north of the ferry port. Tarquinia is famous for its Etruscan heritage, which is on display at the Museo Etrusco in the town centre and in the Necropoli whose painted underground tombs are among the finest examples of Etruscan art anywhere in Italy.

It’s a lovely stroll around a medieval and Renaissance town centre, bristling with defensive towers. One of the big draws is the Romanesque church of Santa Maria di Castello although I found out once I was there that the interior is only open Friday through Sunday and it was a Wednesday.

Civitavecchia (pronounced chee-vee-ta-VEK-ee-uh) is an excellent option for anyone who wants to enjoy a tranquil day meandering instead of dealing with big-city Rome’s hustle and bustle. Super clean and pleasantly relaxing, it has a well-kept promenade along the sea and is full of shopping opportunities and open-air cafes.

Tuscany's second-largest city, Livorno is a quintessential port town. Its seafood is the best on the Tyrrhenian coast, its shabby historic quarter threaded with Venetian-style canals is übercool, and pebbly beaches stretch south from the town's elegant belle époque seafront. Its central Terrazza Mascagni, a waterside promenade with checkerboard paving, is the city's main gathering place. The bastions of the 16th-century Fortezza Vecchia face the harbor and open onto Livorno's canal-laced Venezia Nuova quarter.

The cruise port is only a few kilometers from the city centre and it’s often the starting point for an excursion to Pisa with its famous Leaning Tower on the Square of Miracles, Florence, the cradle of the Renaissance and birthplace or residence of great artists such as Donatello, Dante Alighieri, Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Galileo Gaileo etc, Lucca, home to churches, piazzas and palazzos, the Cinque Terre bursting with the beauty of nature and small villages or wine tasting in Chianti, you really are spoilt for choice.

For the same reasons for not visiting Rome, the same applied here especially as I’ve been fortunate to visit this area many times over the years. I grabbed the shuttle to take me to the town centre. I love Livorno with its rich historical background, fabulous eateries and fabulous shopping opportunities.

All the regular Italian mid-range and pret-a-porter fashion lines are easy to find in Livorno’s smart shopping areas. Central Piazza Cavour and pedestrianised Via Ricasoli are good places for browsing and as well as Italian fashion there are plenty of international chains such as Foot Locker, home-grown Benetton, Prenatal and Zara although I like to visit Via Magenta for the smaller, quirkier shops.

 

I had two things on my to-do-list. First was to head straight to the magnificent Monday-Saturday morning market off Piazza Cavour, where Livorno’s housewives come to stock up. For foodie nirvana, get lost in Livorno's magnificent late-19th-century Mercato Centrale, a 95m-long neoclassical food market that miraculously survived Allied WWII bombing. There are five entrances leading to the main market area. The grandest of them is on the canal side of the building, with two large columns on each side and large iron shutters in the arch above the doors.

The inside is bright and airy because of the high, decorated ceilings and the natural light from the large arched windows. Iron trusses, finely decorated in a floral motif, line the interior of the main pavilion ceiling. Iron details and intricate cornices accentuate the structural details. Arresting both gastronomically and architecturally, the market is a gargantuan maze housing 4 shops and 230 food stalls bursting with local produce, including the most astonishing fish and seafood.

Adjacent to it, on Via Buontalenti, is the central clothes market, scattered among stalls selling accessories, household goods, Italian coffee, delicacies and just about anything else you can think of.  If all this hasn’t worn you out then one block from there is the outdoor fruit and vegetable market in Piazza Cavallotti. They are open at the same hours as the Mercato Centrale, or until they are sold out.

There is also the American Market that has just reopened in a brand new location inside the port, after nearly sixty years in Piazza XX Settembre. The market became popular after the opening of the US army base Camp Darby in nearby Tombolo (on the way to Pisa) and in the 70s was well-known throughout Italy as the place for army surplus gear and American jeans and food products

Max and Justine are leaving for Florida two days after I get back so I was on the look out for some nice shorts, shirts and trainers for his trip and I didn’t go back to the ship empty-handed!

The second thing on my list was to find this cheesecake shop I found here on my last trip. It is truly the best desert I’ve ever had, tiny individual patisseries, where each bite is a gastronomic experience. Foolishly I lost the business card I’d put in my bum bag and the pictures I took were of the cakes rather than the shop frontage. Despite a search if nearly two hours, I couldn’t find it. I know I must have been so near at one point as landmarks were recognizable but by then I was so tired and laden down with packages that I had to give in. I’ll just have to look again when I’m next here.

Wandering the narrow caruggi alleyways of Genoa is a bit like solving a medieval labyrinth. In the heart of the Italian port city lies Piazza de Ferrari, a main square with a beautiful fountain and a perimeter lined with historic buildings, including the Palace of the Doges the Teatro Carlo Felice, which was destroyed during WWII and subsequently rebuilt.

Genoa's striking cityscape, with pastel buildings piled up steep hillsides above the long curving waterfront, is a sight in itself, and can be admired from a variety of viewpoints, including the roof of Palazzo Rosso and a popular terrace at Castelletto, high above the city centre and reached by a lift dating from 1909 which ascends from Piazza Portello but the Emerald Princess was the perfect observatory for a bird’s eye view of the city.

Genoa is the home of pesto and in every local restaurant you'll find this characteristic pasta sauce, usually served with trofie pasta.  Focaccia is also a specialty, and it comes in many varieties, from nutella-coated to the version filled with cheese from Recco.

Normally that is where you would find me, sitting in one of the outdoor eateries nursing a coca cola and some delicious nibble but if I’m honest I was absolutely knackered. This was the fifth port stop in a row and while docking this morning the heavens had opened and we experienced out first rain shower of the trip. I found a quiet corner in Speakeasy and watch the cartoon offering from Disney ‘The Good Dinosaur and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The weather did improve but wild horses couldn’t drag me away from my comfortable armchair. The town is a mile’s walk and a local taxi charges 15 Euros each way. It was too much money to spend especially as being Sunday most of the shops would be closed.

The capital of the Bouches-du-Rhône department and Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, Marseille, on France's south coast, is the country's second largest city, after Paris.  

The Old Port or Vieux-Port is located at the end of the Canebiere. It has been the natural harbour of Marseille since antiquity and is guarded by two massive forts (Fort Saint-Nicolas and Fort Saint-Jean).  Dozens of restaurants and cafés line the waterfront: the former are mostly along the northern side and the latter along the southern. The Old Port is still a favourite spot for both locals and tourists to stroll, drink, eat, argue, fall in love, buy (or sell) fish, peddle sunglasses and generally hang out and enjoy life.

I’ve never been here before and it was lovely strolling along the mainly pedestrianised area enjoying the sights in the warm sunshine. Small boats line the length of the marina offering you their wares. Every morning, vendors set up shop on the Quai des Belges for the daily fresh fish market. This Marseille institution is part of the life and soul of the Old Port area and here tourists brush shoulders with the locals who have been coming here to purchase fare from the sea all their lives. The fish on sale, which is caught in the Mediterranean Sea in the early hours of the morning, is as fresh as it gets.

I didn’t stay too long as a nasty wind picked up and I find it really hard walking back to the shuttle bus against its force.  Just before our sail away at 5.00pm the Captain announced that we were experiencing a very strong mistral and after consulting with the local pilot the decision was made not to sail. Looking at the weather forecast he was hoping there is a 40 minute window of opportunity to leave about 8.30pm but if not we might have to wait it out until the small hours.

It’s amazing how quickly you can rile a passenger up. People were already moaning we’d not make Gibraltar and that was the only reason they’d booked the cruise blah blah blah. You’d have thought by all the fuss that we’d sprung a leak.

8.30pm came and went but suddenly on the hour it was all systems go. Everyone was tense hoping we’d manage to get away and on leaving he safely of the quay you could feel the ship list sharply. That wind must have been stronger than I thought. It didn’t take that long before we’d left the danger zone and the sea settled somewhat. Having said that I was amazed by how many people said they felt seasick.

With two sea days until our last stop I was back at work. It’s always nice to have time off but by now I was itching to get back on stage. I must say I had some great audiences and I enjoyed every minute. Apart from my shows, a large part of the job is mixing with the guests but as I’d sold out of all of my books on the first leg of the cruise I had a few upset people to contend with. I love meeting fans that have seen dad work and have a story to tell and it isn’t just the passengers that share their stories, quite a lot of musicians an guest acts have worked with dad at one point in their career.

Unlike the British ships, the Emerald has a fabulous lounge for us lepers of society, that rare commodity, an inside smoking room.  One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is that this place is always the most sociable part of any ship.

I think it must be because you see the same people in there all the time and you naturally talk to them all and by the end of the cruise you have made fast friends. I’ve been very fortunate to have made some lasting friendships over the years and some even book their holidays on the ship they know where I’m working which is a great compliment.

On this occasion I met two great couples, William and Lyn Reid who fared from Scotland

and Kevin and Julie Cash who live very near me in Stafford.

Unfortunately William spends most of his day in a wheelchair the result of crumbling vertebrae in his spine but what a character. Retired from the police he had many a tale to tell and all mixed with a great sense of humour. We were verbally abusive to each other every chance we could get and it made for a lot of laughs. Lyn is the not so silent hard done by partner and they argue all day but it is their sense of fun and I must say they had me in stitches many a time.

I met Kevin and Julie at the slot machines each night and as with all losers we commiserated with each other. The machines were directly outside Speakeasy so after we’d lost a few dollars we’d got into the bar for a drink and a moan about how the slots were ‘fixed’.

It is quite funny as you usually bump into the people you know on the shore and you constantly wave and say hello to people s you take in the sights. I don’t think any holiday can bring the same social interaction and I feel very fortunate to have met such a great bunch of people.

Our last stop was Gibraltar and I for one was relieved the mistral didn’t stop our arrival, as I desperately needed to stock up on Antibiotics. I never travel without a course of pills and I was low in stock after my earlier bout with pneumonia this year.


I really can’t be bothered to argue with my GP. I get so cross as if you feel unwell it can take five days before you can get an appointment and by that time whatever you had the start f has taken hold whereas if you’d had the right medication straight away, you could have had a shorter illness.

In fact I had an argument with them as soon as I got home. As with most of my trips I’m only in England a short time so order all my drugs three months at a time. Celebrity Cruises had also requested that I had a PEME (pre-employment medical examination). I found this out just over a month ago and it proved impossible to book. The ship’s doctor isn’t allowed to do it and our stop in Southampton was on a Saturday when the local surgeries are not open. I thought I might have better luck in Gibraltar but no. I rang my own medical practice and they insisted they saw the form first but wouldn’t give me an email address of where to send it. I sent it to the chemist attached to the surgery and he took it in and they told him they’d ring me with an appointment. I rang again and explained I wasn’t at home to receive a call but once again they said no. My neighbour took the form in and she was unable to book the medical for me. As it needed an hour of the doctor’s time I was panicked that I wouldn’t get an appointment in the short time I was at home but they told me not to worry.

As we docked on Saturday I wasn’t able to ring until the Monday to find out that four of the GPs were on holiday leaving only one doctor to hold the fort down. Ridiculous, who lets four go away at the same time? The receptionist said she’d get the doctor to ring me but of course no one rang me that day. Out getting groceries the next morning the mobile rang showing a withheld number. Knowing that as a rule this is a sales call I didn’t pick up. You guessed right, it was the medical practice. Eventually the doctor rang me at 5.50pm. I explained that if I didn’t get this medial it would cost me three months of work so he squeezed me in after asking how long the form was and how long it would take. I was floored that he didn’t have the form despite me sending in twice and he obviously hadn’t done a PEME before if he didn’t know how long it would take.

A medical that should have taken an hour was done in twenty minutes but I didn’t care, at least I was deemed fit for work. I asked for my repeat prescription to be told that Climesse isn’t available anymore. I’ve been on this pill for 24 years and was loath to try something new especially as I’d be at sea when taking it. Armed with the requisite piece of paper I waked to the chemist to be told he had stock of the Climesse. I walked back to the doctor and asked if they would relay the message to the GP and send an amended prescription through to the chemist. The receptionist said it would take five days **%*&. Finally three days later and after three phone calls a receptionist rang with the message that the doctor couldn’t write the script because the pill wasn’t available. One could quite literally spit. The chemist isn’t allowed to sell it to me so it means that I will have to buy supplies when I’m back in Gibraltar on 6 September.

Whilst on board I met a gentleman who used to work for the local paper the Shropshire Star. When he found out I lived in the area he begged that they might do an interview, which I agreed to once I got home. They rang me before I’d even stepped in the front door and they talked me into doing it the following day. A photographer and reporter came as expected but I didn’t think they’d be here two hours but finally it was in the bag as was published in the paper on Saturday 20 August. I have to say it was nearly the whole of page two and was a lovely way of promoting dad and the book.

Talking of the book I emailed the publisher to order another 100 books to take with me on 26th August. I was shocked with their reply. They didn’t have any and the stinger is they won’t be able to get them to me until 17 September. That means I miss out on thee cruises. I just don’t understand people. I said if they didn’t want to publish them anymore then to let me know and I’d go ahead without them but of course they wrote back and said they would continue to print. I have anther 4 years of the contract so there is little I can do.

Now on to Matt Monro news……..
The new highly awaited release has had a name change and it is now called Matt Monro: The George Martin Years. It has finally come out on 5th August and has promptly sold out at Amazon. I’m hoping they restock quickly so if any of you have missed out be patient. Thank you for all your kind emails and great feedback. Don’t forget to leave a review on Amazon for Richard and me. It all helps other people decide whether to invest or not

If you check out “CD of the month”, the track listing is there.

The other news although slightly premature is that the new show “Matt Monro: The Legacy” has been sold to 60 theatres around the country kicking off in February 2017. Matt Jnr will star and but having looked at the dates it is impossible for me to do it as well. It was hugely popular last year and this time round I’ve updated the life story and Matt has added several other hits to the repertoire. Keep an eye out for further news in the coming month.


Having had 19 days at home it was time to head out the door again. I never know how I actually get everything done but it didn’t help that I had a radiator leak the first week back and the whole bathroom was flooded. Thank goodness it didn’t happen while I was away. A friend came to the rescue but the whole system had to be drained and then the pressure in the boiler made it flake out. It started leaking the first month I had it and I’ve had to have a plumber here twice before. With the money I’ve spent I could have bought a brand new radiator!

Max and Justine had a fabulous time in Florida. It’s the first real trip they’ve had in five years so I’m thrilled that II was able to arrange it for them. Max has worked so hard at University over the year and getting a first in his exams makes me so proud, he deserved a decent break.

Part of the reason he went over to Florida was to put the house on the market but after 7 years we decided it was better for him to use the money to buy a small home in England. Knowing the economy over in the States I prepared Max that it might take a year to sell. When we bought it I decorated it out in contemporary fixtures and fittings. When the realtor first came to see it he told me he’d have a hard time renting it, as Floridian tastes were somewhat different. It rented the very next day and every year since. Believe it or not the house sold in three days for the whole asking price. The buyers have already paid a non-refundable deposit and if I understand correctly we close on 28 September. That is how it should be done and by having to pay a deposit it stops people pulling out at the last minute. England is somewhat antiquated. In today’s technical advances a search could be done in a few minutes, not two, three or four weeks. When I bought our house in Harrow it took only 10 days but it was brand new and that’s the deal I made. It can be done quicker if they want to but as such they like to drag the process out and charge more for it.

The other property I went for in Telford last year took one week short of six months, there was delays after delays and in the end the whole thing fell through. It cost me several thousand pounds for the lawyer, searches, a surveyor and a whole heap of nonsense in-between.

Anyways I only saw Max for a couple of hours. He dropped in on his way back from Stanstead Airport primarily to pick DJ up and now it ill be about 11 weeks before I see him again. That is the only negative about my job but at least I’ve taken November and December off. I’m in the middle of writing another book and 18 months in, I want to get it finished so I can take it with me on the ships next year.

I’m leaving the house tomorrow, the 26 August, not reaising when I took the gig that it was a Bank Holiday Weekend. Not the smartest of moves but beggars can’t be choosers. I have to get this to Richard so he can get it loaded in time and I’ll catch up with you as soon as I can

My new dates for 2016/2017 have been confirmed as follows.

Cruise Calendar 2016

26 August – 3 September – Celebrity Eclipse
3 September 17 September – Celebrity Eclipse
17 September -30 September – Celebrity Eclipse
30 September – 3 October – Celebrity Eclipse
3 October – 16 October – Celebrity Eclipse
16 October – 29 October – Celebrity Eclipse

Cruise Dates 2017
5 January – 5 May - Cruise & Maritime Magellan World Cruise
18 June -2 July - Celebrity Eclipse
2 July-16 July - Celebrity Eclipse
16 July -30 July - Celebrity Eclipse
30 July -13 August - Celebrity Eclipse
13 August-26 August - Celebrity Eclipse
26 August-3 September - Celebrity Eclipse
3 September-17 September - Celebrity Eclipse
17 September-21 September - Celebrity Eclipse
28 September -8 October - Celebrity Eclipse
8 October-18 October - Celebrity Eclipse
18 October-28 October - Celebrity Eclipse

 

Don’t forget to check out our Spotlight feature this month, I know so many of you enjoy them. This month we look in on the ever-popular Mary Hopkin.

Check out the ‘Rough Guide to mattmonro.com’, which is available towards the bottom of the Homepage. If you don’t know how to access certain areas of the site or in fact are unaware of new areas, this guide will explain how easy this website is to get around, once you know how.

There is also another information box “How to Use the Forum’. I know a lot of people have been tempted to join in on some of our conversations but are slightly nervous of doing so. For that reason I have printed step-by-step instructions of how to access it. It really does only take a few minutes.

Whatever the coming year holds, suffice to say that I shall be plugging Matt Monro’s music at every opportunity.  That is the wonderful thing about working the ships, it gives me a brand new audience each time and if then, a small percentage go home a fan, then it is worth all the blood, sweat and tears, not to mention the Bay of Biscay!!!!

Until next month

 

Warmest to you and yours
Michele
x

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