NEWS

September 2015

Another month bites the dust and at least things are finally moving forward. The problems with British Gas have been sorted out and I have finally received a cheque from Loosemores regarding the garden wall. Even my front door has been replaced although it took nine months until the file could be deemed closed.

I had my ‘yard sale’ over the weekend and hurray the container has now left its resting place in the front garden. You never know I might even get some plants put in before next summer.

I have just left Telford to join the Celebrity Eclipse and I’m hoping the trip will be just as good as the last one when I flew to Venice to catch up with Celebrity Constellation, affectionately known as "Connie" by its fans. The 2,034-­passenger liner debuted in 2002 as the fourth and final ship in Celebrity Cruises' Millennium Class and I have to say she is gorgeous.

The Celebrity line as a whole, attract older experienced savvy cruisers looking for an experience that offers value and a bit of luxury In both price, quality of food and service. Connie strives to balance the intimacy offered by smaller ships and the leisure, entertainment and dining perks offered by bigger ships. Passengers have access to nine bars and lounges; French, Italian and bistro alternative restaurants; a large casino and nightly Vegas-styled entertainment not forgetting the ice-frosted martini bar.

The staff are friendly and helpful, and senior officers, including the captain, are very visible and accessible. To be honest I thought the Captain looked so young but I suppose that is when you realise you are getting older. All go out of their way to chat with passengers on their frequent walks through the ship and at shipboard events unlike some other cruise lines I could mention.

The itinerary took in some of my favourite ports from Santorini, Mykonos and Kusadasi and none of them disappointed. I was very lucky as the weather was amazing throughout the two weeks and there wasn’t a ripple on the ocean. As I’d been to Santorini before I opted to go on a tour to Perivolas, one of the island’s black-sanded beaches set in a unique volcanic landscape. The beach was amazing with row upon row of thatched umbrellas guarding the two sun beds beneath. The whole place was empty apart from our group and how nice not to have dozens of screaming kids running about. The beach is across the road from Atlantis Island Beach villas and we had full use of the facilities there including the pool and that all-important free Wi-Fi although to be honest the reception was so slow I gave up in frustration.

As with all good things the time went too quickly unlike the Internet speed! The journey to the island’s capital Fira only took 20 minutes. It is perched on the edge of an impressive cliff 260 meters high and offers a wonderful panorama over the submerged volcano. The town is full of white painted houses, stepped streets with blue-domed churches and sunbathed verandas and dozen upon dozens of shops, cafes and restaurants. Our tour was officially over once in Fira and the rest of the day was mine to do as I pleased.

I love nothing better than strolling along a plethora of shops and I spent the next hour mooching, listening to the street music and sipping a cold drink perched atop the peak of the cliff. It was glorious but because the port is by tender I left earlier than I might have normally to escape the inevitable crowds. You only have three options of getting down to the tenders. One is walking down 520 steps (I kid you not), which even the tour guide states is strenuous and takes 30 minutes. Not with my legs Sherlock! I’d still be there. The other option is by donkey and I didn’t think my body could survive that so I opted for the cable car, which connects the tender landing area of Skala to the island’s capitol. The journey only takes two minutes but can be quite scary as the descent is steep and fast. By chance I was the last passenger to board the already full tender and as soon as I’d boarded it left for its journey back to the ship. Let’s put it this way, by the time I got back, passed all my belongings through security and got back to my cabin, the chocolate I’d bought hadn’t even had a chance to melt.

We sailed at 5.00pm and because the distance to turkey was 384 nautical miles we weren’t due in until 2.00pm the following day. Technically that meant a half sea day so Celebrity placed one of my shows at midday, which wasn’t ideal. I know from years travelling as a passenger that people are only interested in being the first off the ship and because of the timing they would want a free lunch before going anywhere. It meant my audience numbers fell which was a shame but then again, those that came seemed to enjoy it.

One of the members of the audience was David Verducci who came with his regular partner Sebastian. Let me expand. Sebastian is a product created by David about 20 years ago and billed as ‘the most travelled bear in the world’. Sebastian started life out in a children’s book and since then the product has expanded to include postcards and greeting cards.

www.travelswithsebastian.com

I couldn’t believe that this sweet cuddly creature sat on David’s knee throughout my show and then stood in line so there could be a photographic opportunity.

Glen Rock Superintendent of Schools Dr. David Verducci surprised students at Central and Hamilton schools on "Read Across America Day" with a new book about a precocious teddy bear named Sebastian who travels the world.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. David Verducci recently created his first children's book and shared it with students at Central School and Hamilton School on March 2 in celebration of "Read Across America Day." "You are the very first people to read this book with me," he told the students in Andrew Matteo's second-grade class at Central School.

Verducci saved the biggest surprise for the end, however, when he revealed that he is the author of the new book, his first for children.

The seed for "Travels with Sebastian: The Most Traveled Bear in the World," was planted in 1997 when Verducci received a teddy bear from his mother.

"I had just started traveling extensively and, to make my mom feel good, I took the bear with me on my next trip," he said.

As a gag, Verducci snapped a few pictures of the cuddly bear posing in various tourist spots and sent the photos to his mother with postcard-style notes describing the bear’s adventures.

"My mom loved it and I got hooked on taking Sebastian with me on all my trips," he said.

Verducci’s mother passed away in 2000. By that time, his family and friends had taken it upon themselves to create or purchase tiny, appropriate outfits for Sebastian to wear on his domestic and international trips. For instance, outside Buckingham Palace in London, England, Sebastian was photographed wearing a red Beefeater uniform. In Mexico, beside a long stretch of beach, he sported a wide, black sombrero and held a diminutive guitar.

"Travels with Sebastian" is both a photo travelogue of Verducci’s treks around the globe and a funny, poignant narrative penned in first person from Sebastian’s point of view.

Verducci estimates that, over the past 15 years, he has traveled to more than two dozen countries on six continents. Sebastian has accompanied him on every trip.

"I’ve walked on the Great Wall of China, been on safari in Africa, and even sledded five miles of the Iditarod Trail with a musher in Alaska," Verducci chuckled. "I am living my childhood dream of seeing the world."

This summer, he said, he plans to return to the Arctic Circle to visit Iceland and Greenland.

"When I was a kid, people didn’t like to study geography," Verducci told the students in Andrew Matteo’s second grade class at Central School. "But I always liked to look at maps and draw maps and think about where I wanted to go and what I wanted to see."

As a child, when traveling abroad was still a distant dream, Verducci read books about all the places he wanted to see.

"It was a way for me to travel without actually leaving home," he said.

Verducci hopes his new book, which he created on Snapfish, a Web-based photo sharing and printing service, inspires children to read and travel. He is currently looking for a publisher for his book.

"Besides being a nice way to honor my mom," he said, "I wrote this book in the hope that it might ignite a desire in some child, somewhere, to explore and appreciate this great big wonderful world the way that I have been lucky enough to do."

Istanbul is Turkey’s largest city, its busiest port and the country’s centre for business, banking, commerce, culture and the arts. Even though Ankara is Turkey’s modern capital, Istanbul holds its heart. Here in the old city you can tramp the streets where crusaders and famissaries once marched, admire mosques, which are the most sublime architectural expressions of Islamic piety, peer into the Sultan’s harem and hunt for souvenirs and bargains in the 4,000 shops f the Grand Bazaar.

The Big Bus Stop was quite literally outside the port gates so I grabbed a set of headphones, tuned into the British channel and spent the next two hours experiencing all the wonders of the city, the only city tour in the world that can boast it spans two continents. The bus passes everything from the majesty of Hagio Sophia, the atmosphere of the old town and the Egyptian Spice Market to the splendour of the Blue Mosque. One of the highlights was crossing from Europe into Asia as we sped over the Bosphorus ridge high above the water with amazing views in all directions. The nice thing about taking the Big Bus Tour is that you can get off at any of the stops, visit the Blue Mosque and catch another bus later but I have been to this bustling city before and decided to rest up before the tour I’d booked for the evening. The Bosphorus night cruise was fabulous, gliding down Istanbul’s famous waterway dividing Europe and Asia. We cruised along the shoreline of this narrow waterway, which joins the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara passing small picturesque villages, beautiful mosques, lavish palaces and decadent villas. Everything was lit up like a Christmas tree but the highlight for me was the fact that the colours of the lights attached to the bridges changed every few minutes. It was a photographer’s dream.

Unusually Celebrity stayed berthed in the city overnight and I opted to stay on board the next day. The city was heaving and even a short taxi ride of 10 minutes took nearly an hour and I couldn’t muster up the enthusiasm to battle the crowds again. Istanbul is full of architecture and culture but it isn’t a holiday destination for me. I like ambling along cobbled streets and finding unexplored back lanes or alleys where you can find a quiet café and take a load off something that is impossible to do in this city.

The ports were all very good but Mykonos is again one of my favourites. Like Santorini it is a tender and it is a shame that both island’s haven’t invested in a pier as offloading nearly 2000 people is quite a task and time consuming. You literally waste two hours trying to get across to explore this fabulous island. In the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean lies one of the most inviting places in all of Greece. This island is part of the Cyclanades, lying between Tinos, Siros, Paros and Nexos. Its countless bays and beaches and its quaint cobblestone streets welcome all visitors, offering beautiful landscapes, picturesque white painted villages, hundreds of little churches, windmills and some of the most extraordinary golden sandy beaches in the Cyclades.

The best tour to take is a visit to the ancient Delos, the fabled birthplace of Apollo, god of the sun, light, harmony and beauty but I didn’t feel like visiting anything older than myself that day. I love losing the crowds of the passengers and ambling along the quiet tiny cobbled streets and losing myself in the atmosphere. I quite literally just took whichever path looked more inviting stopping en-route for a cold drink. I’ve been told that when you want to find the water or sea you always head downhill and several hours later I escaped the island’s labyrinth only to find myself several miles away from the port. I don’t quite know how I managed that as it only looks o be a small area but it is deceptive and once you enter the lanes you lose your bearings. It doesn’t hurt that every street is awash with shops offering everything you could wish for, a real shopper’s haven and they stay open until 2.00am. The island is seasonal so the shopkeepers are prepared to work 16 hours days during the 7-month tourist season.

Another shopper’s delight is Kusadasi in Turkey, our next port of call. Kusadasi, a name which means Bird Island, is one of the most attractive cities on the Aegean Sea. Situated on Turkey’s west coast it is one of the country’s main holiday destinations. This resort town has grown from a small fishing village into a large community dedicated to serving tourists who are in the area to visit the beautiful beaches and of course, the Ephesus ruins, the showplace of the Aegean archaeology.

When I was last here we walked straight over to the waterfront and the Grand Bazaar was quite literally in your face. Since then the port has been given a whole new face. The departure gate leads you to the new Scala Noova shopping centre, a large complex of open-air shops, cafes and restaurants. There were contraptions that looked like a rickshaw, powered by a guy on a bike, and I gladly paid the two Euros for him to take me to the top of the main shopping street. Although the shops are full of fake designer bags I noticed that the choice of designers has been reduced and a lot of the shops stocked the same items but the biggest laugh for me was that the shops were displaying banners advertising ‘genuine fakes’: you can’t be more honest than that. The other sign displayed throughout is ‘No Hassle’ but that isn’t accurate as the vendor’s zone in on you before you have even got alongside their store. Mind you it still isn’t as bad as Egypt.

I don’t want to plod on and bore you with my countless travels through Split and Dubrovnik in Croatia or Athens and Rhodes in Greece but to my mind they are all worthy of visiting. There isn’t one port I wouldn’t want to go back to and of course the disembarkation port was Venice and I was able to grab another day I this enchanting city.

My brother’s tour, ‘The Matt Monro Story’, is round the corner and the ship gave me the solitude to continue writing the script. Being the 30th anniversary year I would have loved to have done the tour with my brother, something we’ve never done before, but my health is just not up to that sort of gruelling schedule. I would be remiss to take something on knowing that I might have to pull out midway so I’m content with the script as my creative input. With close to 40 dates now on the agenda we hope it is visiting a town or city near to you as Matt would love to say hello after the show. He always makes a habit of coming out to the foyer to meet the fans and have photographs taken.

Click on pictures for full size PDF's

Richard and I have now taken over dad’s Facebook page so I’m sure you will start seeing averts for the show soon as the full impact of the PR campaign takes hold.
https://www.facebook.com/mattmonro

I had a call just before leaving from my old friend Eric Hall, formally of Radio Essex asking if I’d do his show on 23 August and I want to thank everyone who phoned in. I’m just sorry there wasn’t the time to take all your calls but I’m sure I will be on again in the very near future.

Shiver (the factual arm of ITV Studios) has been commissioned to make a documentary special celebrating the most popular songs from one of the longest-running and most iconic franchises in movie history. Transmitting over 90 minutes at peak time on ITV later this year, The Nation’s Favourite Bond Song will pay tribute to the greatest tracks that have featured in the hugely successful 007 film series.

Using extensive archive and interviews with the key players, the show will tell the fascinating stories behind twenty 007 classics, which have been chosen in close collaboration with Bond producers Eon and our programme consultant, Bond composer David Arnold. It will also feature the results of our exclusive ITV poll, revealing which Bond song the British public consider their favourite of all time.

The Nation’s Favourite Bond Song follows on from the success of previous award-winning Nation’s Favourites, applauding the work of musical greats such as Queen, the Motown label and Elvis Presley (the latter of which was seen by over 7 million viewers).

I’m thrilled to report that From Russia with Love is one of the songs that the documentary will be featuring, and they have asked if I would give a short interview on camera and share my memories of dad and his much-loved Bond song. They are filing segments over the next 2 - 3 months and all being equal I will be able to fit the filming in when I am next home in the early throes of October.

 

Cruise Calendar 2015/2016

30 August – 13 September – Celebrity Eclipse
13 September – 27 September – Celebrity Eclipse
10 October– 21 October – Celebrity Eclipse
21 October – 1 November – Celebrity Eclipse
5 January – 16 February – Cruise & Maritime Magellan

Don’t forget to check out our Spotlight feature this month, I know so many of you enjoy them. This time round we look in on Slim Whitman.

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

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