Monday, April 23, 2018

Turn Around

In Barcelona our guide actually took us to some very popular attractions. Attractions that would be busy on a normal spring day but on a day with 5 cruise ships in port, it  made visiting Barri Gothic Park Guell and La Sagrada Familia a unbelievable crowded mass of humans that will stand forever as a stellar example of human overpopulation.
Gaudi’s Mosaic Dragon

Never having heard of Gaudi I really didn’t know what to expect from this park. I took away that his designs are quite eccentric and have held up well over the years.

The La Sagrada Familia church is over the top,  gothic moors meet the Flintstones, and according to our guide has just about every symbolistic symbol of Christianity represented somewhere.

 I especially liked the parachuting jesus.
Jesus Invents Sky Diving
 
he building has been under construction longer than the Alcan highway, but they say it should be completed around, well around when the Alcan is paved.
The Exterior of La Sagrada Familia

Maybe a library or a university would be a better use of Barcelona’s time and resources, but then what do I know.

 
On our second day in Barcelona we were handed the coveted Passenger In Transit cards. In transit is the highest status that can be achieved on a ship. It means that you are not leaving and most of your ship mates are. 800 of us had this status, and we had to say good by to lots of people that we got to know crossing the Atlantic, and visiting the first few ports we stopped in. Also, lots of the crew rotated out and who knew that on the second morning I would have to confront another soda jerk masquerading as a barista. Honestly if you don’t know the language of espresso in the Mediterranean you shouldn’t even washing coffee cups.
 
 
 
 
Our excursion on the second day was to Sitges. Our guide a young man who spoke 5 languages and was the first guide ever to give his phone number in case anyone got lost, was also the first to ever make us fasten seat belts for our journey on the motor way. Who knew busses even had seat belts, but this was a top-notch operation, unlike some of the other buses we would board that had broken seats…
Narrow Streets Of Sitges
 
Sitges is delightful, right on the sea, with narrow passageways that more than once we were surprised to find that we were sharing these lanes with vehicles. We roamed, found excellent coffee, but lunch was the best with roasted sardines, even better than in Monterey.

On the beach is Sitges, and how they summon Bat Man
 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Spain


Cartagena, Palma

Having once been to Cartagena Columbia, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the one in Spain, but after a day in port I can say with confidence that the one in Columbia is an imposter and the Cartagena in Spain is the real deal, clean and very continental.
Cartagena’s Main Town Square

In Cartagena we boarded a tour bus for a short ride to a quite cove for some Kayaking on the Mediterranean. It was a quite pleasant activity. The kayaks had no back rests and the wind did kick up a bit on the way back, but the ocean only crested the bow a few times, and the life jackets we were given did float, we think. Back at the jumping off point a little stand on the beach sold beverages, and I skillfully purchased ice cold plastic bottles of water. The transaction was all in Spanish and I paid in Euro’s.

Back at the ship the real action was in the towns main square. A marathon race had taken off here in the morning as we came into port, so there was a lot of activity from that, and from the ship.  There was a lot to take in, and the square was a great place to just wander and explore around.

Just a short overnight run to Palma, and another great town, in Spain with a prominent gothic cathedral.
Just Another Ornate Gothic Cathedral

In Palma we boarded a bus for a long ride out of town to the Caves of Drack. Our guide, a sweet older gentleman who spoke several languages and had a soothing voice that went on and on like a NPR program that you could not turn off. His favorite saying was “More of Less” miso mano, and he injected this saying as often as possible, but he could not compete with our guide in Barcelona whose favorite saying was “actually” and he must have actually said actually several thousand times during our tour.

The caves had all the usually stalagmites, and stalactites  that you would expect in a cave, but in the middle is a huge amphitheater, and a lake, that after several bus loads of us were seated, the lights were dimmed, and three row boats came around the bend, one of the boats with a violinist, a cellist, and a organ. They only preformed a few classical songs, but the concert was very stunning, and way more entertaining than looking at the formations in the cave.

We also got back to the ship in plenty of time to go into town, that happens to be right along the dock and explore the sites. There was Even enough time to have a drink and use the restaurants powerful wi-fi, that makes the ships seem more pathetic.
One Of The Now Derelict Wind Mills Along The Motor Way

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Rock


 
In a few weeks when we head back home to amerika we will be sailing out of Southhampton Great Briton, and today because of its location on the Strait of Gibraltar we got to visit Gibraltar a colony of Briton.
 

It was not sunny and warm for our first day on the Mediterranean in fact it was windy and rainy, but that wasn’t going to stop us from getting to the top on the rock.

I suited up for the weather with long trousers and a good rain jacket, and went down stairs to meet our tour, that was scheduled to take a tram to the top. We shuffled off the ship, boarded the bus and took off through morning traffic for the bottom of the tram.
 
I was quite surprised when our bus pulled out onto the road and our driver steered to the right side of the road, along with all the other vehicles, but then this is Briton not Great Briton. Our driver skillfully got us to the tram station, and before opening the door announced that the tram had closed due to the weather, and that he would return us all to the ship or drop us in town but not both. Quite a lot of grumbling occurred from our fellow passengers, and sensing that these people were only making matters worse, we got off the bus to explore the town and to find another way to the top of the rock and the turd chucking monkeys that live there.

It wasn’t raining to hard as we strolled towards the center of town, our rain coats were working as planned. I spotted an espresso shop and we decided that koffee would be in order. This shop also had extremely strong wi-fi. Quite a bonus.

After koffee we spotted a empty cab and asked to be taken to the rock. He told us that he couldn’t go there as it was out of his zone, but if we were to stand in the now downpour that another cab might come by and be able to take us to the top.

We should have had that driver take us back to the ship, but we didn’t and instead tested our rain gear by walking back to the ship. My coat worked perfectly and kept my top dry. However, all the water ran off soaking my trousers and so by the time we got back to the ship my trousers must have weighed 50 lbs. or so.

It didn’t take long to warm back up, especially using the steam room but most of the day was now shot so getting to the top was out of the question, but its just as well as I don’t like monkeys all that much anyway.
 

 
 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Funchal


If one was to travel about 3000 nautical   miles due east or so, of Fort Lauderdale you would run right in to Funchal Portugal, and that is just what we did.
Arriving Funchal

 
After being at sea for 8 days it was a welcome sight to see the lights of Funchal. From the ship the lights of town went on for as far as I could see, up and down the steep coast line. One of the activities we had booked would involve sledding down one of those steep snowless hills.

Of course, every town build on the steep cliffs of a volcanic island in the Atlantic if they do not have a paddle wheel boat, then they should have a tram, and our guide took us to the tram after a short motor coach ride. I never saw a paddle wheel boat but there could be one.
Our Ride To The Top
 
Trying to coax a internet signal out of this ship, is the hardest task on board, but then to arrive at the tram station and discover real wi-fi, and complimentary as it should be. Well that would have been enough of a adventure, but I boarded the tram car with my traveling compadre, and three other people two from the ship and one not. The two from the ship were worried that they would use up their camera before getting the perfect shot of Madera, and they only moved carefully around the car pointing their camera at different things and not taking a photo. The other person never said a word the entire ride.

We oood and awed took pictures of everything including someone laundry and a cow.
From The Tram
 
The tram dropped us off high on the mountain, at a little church, with a commanding view of the town, and the beginning of the sled ride, the sled ride with out snow.
Church Piro Technics
 
Now this sled ride was started years ago when someone needed to bring produce down the mountain to the town, and then someone thought it would be a great tourist attraction.  The modern sleds are wicker with wooden runners. You get in and two men dressed in white, with special shoes for breaking, push and steer you down the steepest road in town. I say steer, but careening would be a better word. The journey is totally survivable, and quite fun, but did reassure me that I should only do things with breaks.  
Going Down