Tottering-by-Gently abroad: Annie Tempest’s paintings of a cruise around the Mediterranean

Annie Tempest, the brains and hands behind Country Life's beloved Tottering-by-Gently cartoon, shares her pictorial diary of a recent Empires of the Mediterranean cruise, aboard Viking's 'Sky' ship, with us.

No, Tottering-by-Gently hasnt moved to Greece — but Country Life's cartoonist Annie Tempest took a trip there, and produced this gorgeous watercolour record of her travels.

Annie Tempest has been Country Life’s cartoonist for over a quarter of a century, with her much-loved Tottering-by-Gently cartoon on the back page being one of the first things that regular readers turn to.

As well as being a cartoonist Annie is also a painter and sculptor, and while on a recent Mediterranean cruise with Viking she documented her journey with these beautiful paintings.

Piraeus 1.0 

©Annie Tempest

We boarded Viking Sky at Piraeus port in Athens, so were in harbour over night. I began to notice the blueness and the ‘dome-i-ness’ of my surroundings. Acclimatising my eyes to the change in architecture from North Norfolk.

Piraeus 2.0 

©Annie Tempest

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Still painting late into the night watching the the buildings turn into silhouettes and the blue mountains in the distance fade to smudges.

Koper, Slovenia

©Annie Tempest

Tito Square in Koper has a strong Italian influence and even the language spoken here is part Italian and part Slovene. It was a capital city under the Venetian Republic. I couldn’t paint this journey without including a tourist photographing the magnificent architecture.


©Annie Tempest

I had visited Corfu on a sunshine holiday in my 20’s but it was a lovely opportunity to see the old town with it’s bustling warrens of coffee shops and one of Europe’s largest public squares with its promenade that was once reserved exclusively for local aristocracy. I decided not to paint aristocracy or Odysseus (said to have stepped ashore here during his epic voyage), but a couple of old boys chewing the fat in a cafe in the strong sunlight.

Viking Sky

©Annie Tempest

It is hard to imagine how impressive Viking Sky is — it’s like a massive floating five-star hotel that takes you on a magical journey of discovery. That is why I decided to include this painting of this unsung hero making sure that we presented ourselves everywhere we went in spic and span condition. Great attention to detail that a lot of us miss in our rush about the world!


©Annie Tempest

This was the sight that greeted us as we  approached the Greek island of Santorini. Beautiful coloured buildings above what looked like cave entrances. The town sits on the top of what appears to be a giant rock and is reached by cable car, or donkey for the more intrepid.

Rebel pigeons

©Annie Tempest

I saw these two in Santorini. Every effort had been made to stick hostile looking wire everywhere to deter the pigeons and they couldn’t have given a hoot!


©Annie Tempest

Watched over by St. Blaise — it’s protector. Stunning medieval walled city that attracts 3.5 million visitors a year. I’m glad to say that it didn’t feel too busy in March, but there were a lot of cats wandering about. Apparently Richard the Lionheart was shipwrecked near by and rescued by locals. His basilica (third on the site) apparently contains St. Blaise’s relics.

Athens to Venice

©Annie Tempest

 Arriving in Venice at the end of the Empires of the Mediterranean cruise on Viking Sky, I painting a generic memory of everything. A lot of lovely coffees in wonderful new cities. A lot of cats and following guides learning so much. As someone who had never travelled the tourist trail with a guide before, I found it surprisingly wonderful — having a knowledgable local to tell me interesting facts about each place. It also gave me a chance to chat to some of my fellow passengers.

Viking’s Empires of the Mediterranean nine-night/ten-day cruise calls at Athens, Santorini, Olympia, Corfu, Kotor, Dubrovnik, Zadar, Koper and Venice. The price of a Veranda Stateroom starts at £4,290 per person sailing between September 26 – October 5 and includes eight guided tours, return flights from select UK airports, in-destination transfers, all on-board meals (including wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner), an excursion in each port of call, WiFi (connection speed may vary), gratuities, evening entertainment and enrichment talks (0800 319 6660)

Where I work: Annie Tempest, Tottering-by-Gently cartoonist

Annie Tempest, the brainchild behind the Tottering-by-Gently cartoon — one of Country Life's most beloved features — has always worked