Docking in Barcelona today seemed to be a bit of a challenge as there are several cruise ships in port! We did not secure clearance until about 9:30 am and then, of course, the tours and disembarking guests took precedence going to shore. Those of us going out on our own had to wait a little while. But since we had no compelling plans, we simply waited and got into town about noon. The day was cold, windy and overcast. Being creatures who like their comfort, we opted to take a cab to the department store, El Corte Inglais, in Placa de Catalunya (which is at the far end of La Rambla) and have lunch in the top floor food court. While there, it seemed quite natural to just do a little shopping! Hey, shopping happens no matter where you are!!!! Afterwards, we taxied back to the ship and called it a day. I’ll show you some photos taken from the taxi of the charming balconies of Barcelona as well as some old photos from visits past; but you might, also, want to check-out ”Archives” for the blog from 2017.
We visited Naples, for the first time, 35 years ago. At that time, we were here for business. Now that we’re retired, we return for pleasure! It is always fun and interesting to explore the joys of Southern Italy as well as the gorgeous islands. You can search the “Archives” for many photos of Italy—we come here often—and I hope you’ll enjoy them! But on this visit, with time limited, we basically did a sweep of an historic café, Gran Café Gambrinus; a famous pizzeria, Brandi; an exquisite shopping mall, Galleria Umberto I; and the eye-candy shopping streets of Via Chiaia and Via Toledo. The photos follow:
Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday April 10, 11, and 12, 2019
The primary reason cruise ships come to Aqaba, Jordan is to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the wondrous Nebatean “Red Rose City” of Petra and the amazing Wadi Rum desert. We have experienced both and you can read about them by checking out “Archives” for April 2017. You will also find a gazillion photos of the Suez Canal!!!!
However, this time, we spent our first day in Aqaba touring the Shoubak Castle. The castle was built in 1115 by Baldwin I of Jerusalem during his expedition to the area. Soon after, in 1116, he captured the port of Aqaba. The castle was strategically important because it dominated the main passage from Egypt to Syria thus allowing taxation of not only traders, but also those who were on pilgrimages to Mecca and Medina. It became part of the Lordship of Oultrejordain in 1142. Eventually, the greedy Raynald of Chatillon used the castle to not only attack rich caravans but to build ships and transport them overland to the Red Sea from which he planned to attack Mecca itself. Obviously, this was intolerable to the Ayyubid Sultan Saladin who preemptively invaded the Kingdom and captured the castle in 1189. The castle is currently being studied by an Italian archaeological team for the University of Florence.
On day 2, we happily shuttled into town, did a little shopping, had a pleasant lunch, and returned to the ship for an afternoon departure to the “anchorage” outside the Suez Canal where we spent the night.
Early the next morning, we led a “conga line” of ships coursing through the Suez Canal.
We are now in the Mediterranean Sea. Our next port is Naples, Italy.
According to the HAL Port Guide, “Its position on the Arabian Sea close to the Straits of Hormuz has made Muscat a pivotal trading and military strategic point going back thousands of years.” Muscat sits on a beautiful cove ringed by volcanic mountains and guarded by two ancient Portuguese forts. Traders settled here; tribes battled for control of the sheltered harbor; Persians invaded; and it was the Portuguese who finally took control and retained their influence for over a century. However, since the 18th century the Al Bu Sa’id dynasty has ruled as a sultanate. The current Sultan, Qaboos bin Said, seized power from his father in 1970 (sending him to the Dorchester Hotel in London!). Since then, the economy has remained stable based on trade, petroleum; port operations and tourism.
The pier is located in a subdivision called Muttrah (the original old town) with a large souq. We rode a port shuttle into town and were dropped off outside the souq. From there, taxis can be hired by the hour for customized private tours or the HOHO departs on a frequent schedule. We have been here often. So perhaps you’d like to check out the post from March 2017.
This visit, we stayed near the souq, shopped for exotic bargains, and had an afternoon libation before returning to the ship.
We awoke on day 3 to the sound of birds in the trees! Looking out the window, we spotted green parakeets in the treetops. Lovely! Then we looked around and noticed more: the haze of a hot, humid morning obscuring the horizon; a beautiful mosque not far away; numerous cell towers; and an overpass slicing through the terrain to carry that high-speed train we rode into Delhi. The beautiful and the ugly, the good and the bad; the rich and the poor; all the contrasts of India visible right outside our window.
After a quick breakfast, we checked-out of the hotel and boarded the buses once again. We are on our way to Humayun’s Tomb and a quick tour of Delhi before catching our plane to Mumbai. We will re-board the MS Amsterdam on her first of 2 days in Mumbai. We had thought we’d have time to do some roaming in Mumbai on day 2, but it turns out we will arrive back at the ship very late. We will be sleeping-in!!! So please, check out Archives for March 2017 for a quick review of the sites of Mumbai.
Meanwhile, let me show you the photos of Humayun’s Tomb and some highlights of Delhi:
We were told, repeatedly, by our guide, Ashok, that India is a nation of comparison, contrasts and contradictions. We were shown mostly the elegant. But I hope the photos have conveyed, somewhat, that sentiment of a dichotomy that is “the normal” in India. It is a complex and interesting country!