Flying to Australia 2Tuesday, 12 October 2010
We’re flying back to Australia with a small group of fellow travellers in a small plane, a Beechcraft 1900D for you plane spotters. The trip will take nearly four weeks and stop at 22 places along the way, some of them for just a brief look around or a refuelling stop. Others for overnight or longer.
▲ The flight crew at the controls of the aircraft
The first flight was a brief one from Biggin Hill, the old RAF Battle of Britain airport south-east of central London, to Jersey the popular British tax avoidance centre. Nice cows too. We departed Biggin Hill late, partly because Maureen and I had left our passports in the hotel safe and had to retrieve them. Which abbreviated our Jersey tour.
▲ Monte Carlo Casino, the centre of town.
Night one was in Juan les Pins (hands up anybody who remembers that 1960s Peter Sartsted rock classic) and the next day we looked around Monaco …
▲ A building in the market area of Nice
… and Nice before flying on to Valletta in Malta.
I’ve never been to Malta before and was amazed how solid and substantial the place looked. Those Knights of Malta clearly did well out of their Crusading and pirating activities. And they certainly spent it on some very fancy buildings.
During WW II a German bomb dropped straight through the dome of the Church of St Mary (the Rotunda) in Mosta. Mass was taking place, but the bomb failed to explode and there were no injuries. The bomb on display is a replica of the 200kg original. The dome is claimed to be the third largest in Europe.
The baroque St John’s Co-Cathedral (the ‘co’ comes in because the Bishop of Malta has a cathedral in Mdina as well as this one in Valletta) is over the top in all sorts of ways, including the colourful mosaic tombstones in the floor. The Caravaggio painting of St John the Baptist being beheaded is the cathedral’s most famous art work.
From Malta we flew due east across the Mediterranean to Iraklios (or Heraklion, take your pick) on the Greek island of Crete. Crete’s main claim to fame is as the home of the mysterious Minoan civilisation which predated ancient Greece. The great palace of Knossos is the island’s main tourist attraction.
This fresco in the museum in Iraklios illustrates the supreme test of Minoan athletic ability, somersaulting over the back of a charging bull.
A fresco of dolphins swimming across the bedroom, or megaron, of a Minoan queen.