Welcome to our blog. We look forward to spending some time with you!
Welcome to our blog. We look forward to spending some time with you!
Crossing the Atlantic
Every evening, before retiring for the night, we find a schedule of the next days’ activities in our mail slot. There is something (often many things) to do every hour of every day! Tai Chi, yoga, exercise & fitness in the gym or in the pool, sports, arts & crafts, bridge games and tournaments, board games, puzzles, lectures, passenger talent shows, choral, casino gambling, movies, book club, spa treatments, salon services, cooking demos, celebrity chef cooking classes & luncheons, mixology lectures & wine tastings, afternoon tea, dance lessons, ballroom dancing, evening DJ dancing, floral arranging classes, jewelry-making classes, computer classes, photography classes, reading, shopping, ship’s tours, eating and drinking and being merry! It should not be possible to get bored. But, you know, we often do! You feel confined on sea days. Even though you can go out and walk laps around the deck, you KNOW you’re stuck in this finite space. Sometimes, we just sit in the barco, watch the world go by, and take a nap!
Wednesday, we arrive in Ft. Lauderdale. Thank you for following this journey with us. We’ve enjoyed your company! Let’s do it again, soon!
Preparing to Transit the Atlantic Ocean
I apologize! I’m really, tardy in posting the last ports-of-call. The hold-up with Cadiz is simply due to the fact we’ve been here so many times that we tend to treat each return like being home. So, this time, we simply took a cab to the department store, El Corte Inglais, and started with a cappuccino at the café. After doing some normal shopping, we went back downtown and grabbed lunch at a local fast food restaurant. We were there the day before Easter and the downtown area was preparing for a celebratory procession. All the cafes were full with anticipatory revelers. The squares were filling up with kiosks and hawkers pushing their wares. It was all festive and fun. We simply enjoyed the pleasure of being there! And that was pretty much “IT” for Cadiz. As we returned to the ship, we could see all the provisions lined up and waiting to be stowed for the upcoming Transatlantic crossing. I’ve taken the liberty of including some old photos we have of Cadiz just to show you how beautiful it is. There are Roman ruins, museums, cathedrals, parks, beaches, and so much more. This is one of our favorite ports!
On the other hand, Casablanca not so much! We started coming to Morocco about 30 years ago, and have watched changes take place. It’s not all good. On this visit, we didn’t even leave the ship. But we certainly could have visited the Souk with its marvelous leather vendors selling beautiful jackets, wallets, bags, etc. that were once produced in Morocco for fashion houses such as Cartier and Chanel. The quality is still evident. And the prices are outstanding! The spice and olive markets are my favorites! Side trips to Fez, Rabat or Marrakech are exciting and exotic. The old Mdinas are mysterious and confusing. Carpets are still hand-made, but it’s getting harder to find them as machine-made is ubiquitous! However, the ceremony surrounding a carpet purchase remains the same. Copious amounts of tea are consumed and hours of pleasant conversation are spent before the deal is sealed and the carpet is folded into an amazingly compact “package” that is easy to carry and transport. Of course, a visit to Rick’s Café is always nice. And it is very close to the port. Rick’s was never anything more than a set on a Hollywood move lot until an enterprising American member of the diplomatic corps had the idea to replicate the Café in Casablanca. A faithful reproduction ensued. Rick’s Café is now a pleasant stop for lunch or a drink or to simply sit for a while and watch the movie, Casablanca, play on a continuous loop.
Funchal, on the island of Madeira is almost always a cruise ship’s last port before transiting the Atlantic. Madeira was discovered in the 15th century by two Portuguese sea captains blown off-course. Joao Goncalves Zarco and Tristao Vaz Teixeira were sent by Prince Henry the Navigator to explore the west coast of Africa. When they approached the large, forested island they named it Madeira (which means wood in Portuguese) and claimed it for Portugal. Prince Henry immediately sent colonists to the island (most of them coming from the Algarve region of Portugal. Today, the climate and beauty of the island attracts more than a million visitors annually. And we are two of the happy visitors who love coming to this beautiful island! The following photos will tell the rest of the story.
Now, we are “at sea” transiting the Atlantic on our way back to the United States. The journey comes to an end.
The first aerial attack on La Barceloneta occurred on March 16, 1937. On October 1, 1937, Italian planes, flying low, approached Barcelona, dropped their bombs on Barceloneta and then strafed the local population killing 55 and wounding 87. Eighteen buildings were destroyed including a school. Barceloneta was attacked again on January 7, 1938. And, again, on September 16, 1938. The Mercato Barceloneta was hit, killing 34 and wounding 124. There is a memorial at the entrance to the market today. Most attacks were conducted by the Italians (113 missions in all) but the Germans also participated (with 80 missions of their own.) La Barceloneta was a strategic target because of its location on the coast near the port, the railway, and the gas plant. This is also notable because it is the first time a major city was hit with systematic bombings against all manner of targets—including the civilian population! The bombing of September 16, 1938 took place while Chamberlain and Hitler resolved negotiations regarding the Sudetenland. This attack nearly started WWII since a British ship was hit in the Barcelona port; but these attacks had nothing to do with WWII. They were conducted on behalf of Franco. Both Germany and Italy supported him in hopes of gaining his support later. But he kept Spain neutral. That was surely a major disappointment to both Mussolini and Hitler!
On our second day in Barcelona we visited Mercato Barceloneta. It is a bustling and lively market. Foodstuffs are inside and clothing, housewares, etc. circle the outer perimeter. We had coffee at El Guindilla and watched the pedestrians on the huge market square. We were told the square is full of revelers on summer evenings! We walked through Barceloneta and wound up at Maian’s Restaurant at the marina for a wonderful paella lunch! At the end of the marina, we found an outdoor market and the Emperado Restaurant where we enjoyed tea and a unique ice cream called Blueberry with Cheese. Quite tasty! And quite an interesting day!
Barcelona is a huge city with a village feel! There are neighborhoods, each with its own flavor and rhythm. Every time we visit Barcelona, we try to explore something new or different. But, of course, going back to favorite places is an irresistible draw—one we cannot always overcome! I’m including photos of Montjuic, Las Rambla, Mercato Boqueria, Casa Batllo by Gaudi, and Parc Guell because they are iconic places to visit in Barcelona. But we have enjoyed so many, many more wonderful things to see and do! I’d have to publish a book to tell you about them all!
On this visit, day 1, we started out with the idea of seeing Casa Fuster. Casa Fuster was designed, in 1908, by Louis Domenech i Montaner, a Catalan architect known for his Modernist work. The Casa Fuster was a gift from Senor Mariano Fuster to his wife, Consuelo Fabra i Puig. At the time, it was considered the most expensive house in the city. Only the highest quality materials (such as white marble) were used in the construction. The house was designed with 3 facades and stood on a corner lot. The center section is a rounded projection. The building was purchased by the Hoteles Center chain in 2000. By 2004, the renovated structure opened its doors as a testament to the art of Montaner and a welcome hotel to grace the Eixample neighborhood of Barcelona. You can imagine the disappointment when we discovered that, once again, Casa Fuster is swathed in scaffolding! It is under renovation! Woe was me! At least, the interior was intact and the Café Vienes is open and operating as a Jazz Club.
Casa Fuster is located on Passeig de Gracia, a lovely area filled with great architecture, ubiquitous cafes and charming boutiques. We walked along the Passeig and made our way to Rambla de Catalunya (another pedestrian avenue above the Plaza Catalunya where the Las Rambla ends.) We stopped frequently to eat and drink along the way! It was a most pleasant day.
I’ll close this with a really, funny photo of a “tricked-out” smart car!
The first thing you see when sailing into Palma de Mallorca is the 14th century Castillo de Bellver. Built upon the ruins of a muslim site, it now houses an archeological museum. Next, the Catedral de Mallorca, La Seu, comes into view. This was built atop a mosque and is a spectacular site dominating the coastline! We cabbed it to a spot above the cathedral where we could have coffee in a lovely al fresco café with a bit of a view of the cathedral. Later, after watching a protest march go by, we continued our exploration. We walked over to La Rambla de Palma with its horse-drawn carriages and then to Passeig des Born. Both are pleasant areas filled with charming cafes and boutiques. We decided to have lunch in the Plaza Mayor where we could enjoy the festive market. As we then headed back to the ship, we passed some interesting art work that grabbed our attention! Soon, crossing the Sa Riera, we noticed the La Palma windmills, quite similar to those in Mykonos, and realized it truly is a small world!
Valletta, Malta is a beautiful Medieval City. The sail-in, itself, is impressive—the coast lined with large and stately buildings. We love visiting Valletta with its fabulous museums, great restaurants, and superb shopping in both department stores and charming boutiques. However, this time, we took a cab the 7 miles to Rabat in the middle of the island. The walled city of Mdina that Rabat grew from was our destination. Believed to have been first colonized by the Phoenicians around 800 BC, tradition says the apostle, St. Paul lived here in 60AD after being shipwrecked on the island. Maltese history is rife with battles and occupations, but Mdina has been widely known as home to noble families. Impressive palaces line the narrow streets. The architecture is a mix of Medieval and Baroque. Over the centuries, religious orders have flourished here. The spacious convents and monasteries are still in evidence.
Two years ago, we had been scheduled to visit Iraklion on the Greek island of Crete. A dock strike canceled that port-of-call and we instead discovered the charming port of Agios Nikolaos on the east side of the island. But we regretted not seeing Iraklion. So, it was gratifying to finally get here! As this is a large city, we limited ourselves to exploring the Venetian-walled old town. Built in the 16th century, the wall still encloses and defines the core of the city. There are seven jutting bastions and the southernmost of these now contains the grave of Nikos Kazantzakis, the author of “Zorba the Greek.” The Venetians also erected the Koules Fortress at the harbor. This massive structure successfully repulsed many attacks in the 17th century. The center of old town is dominated by the Morosini Fountain, commonly called Liontaria, built in 1628 to deliver water from the foothills into the city. Today, many restaurants are pleasantly located around the fountain. Just south of the fountain, is the Odos 1866 street market where all things wonderful can be purchased! I couldn’t resist the sponges!
Mykonos is said to be known for sun, sand and nightlife. We wouldn’t know about the nightlife since we’ve never been her overnight, but the sun, sand and shopping are delightful. And the eating and drinking are superb! We spent the day walking the narrow streets and browsing the charming boutiques. Although cars are too large to negotiate the narrow streets, motorcycles and scooters with attached carts do ply the lanes. Traffic is bustling, noisy, and exciting. By noon, we needed to stop at Niko’s Restaurant for salad and mussels. There, we wound up playing with Petros II, the pelican, a well-cared for and cherished town mascot. Walking back to the water taxi for our return to the ship, we stopped to photograph the windmills. The windmills date from the early 16th century when the island was a great producer of wheat and bread. They may be the most recognized landmarks of Mykonos.