Thursday, May 27, 2010

At home ....

Yesterday was a long day with that horrible early start of 0330 UK time and our arrival home at 1500 US Central Time, (6 hour time difference). All went smoothly and our flight was not affected by the British Airways strike. Usually we do not fly BA but might reconsider, it was a good flight with happy (to be working) Flight Attendants.

Stephen and Charlotte called and gave us a WELCOME BACK shoutout (Karen was at her book club meeting). It was wonderful to hear their voices, we will see them on Sunday for a family day.

I now have much laundry to do and finish with the unpacking from the cruise. The cruise will now be like a dream, a memory. Did we really see that, go there?

In two weeks (June 10) I leave for France and Spain. I will walk a portion of Via Tolosana from Toulouse. Then I will work as a volunteer hospitalero at one of four albergues along the Camino Francés.

I have now completed the Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea Blog updates.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A day in London ....

Is that Queen Elizabeth II drawing back the curtain?

We enjoyed a lovely dinner with the Cunnington's last night and remembered all our friends in common. Sophie had a wonderful time playing tricks with Garry and then the man at the table beside us taught her how to hang a spoon from her nose. She became an expert at it quite quickly.

My favorite bridge in London - Tower Bridge

We had a late start for the day and an afternoon sightseeing around London. Later we enjoyed dinner at a nice Italian restaurant near Victoria Station, Bella Italia, the food was excellent. Then we were off to see WICKED. Garry was not happy with the show and I thought it was OK but not the best show I have seen.

This is Little Ben ... cute eh?

Now our possible journey home tomorrow has us up at 0330 and down in the lobby by 0445. We do not like early flights and always opt for flights around midday but this time the cruise company booked our flights so, it is as it is.

Monday, May 24, 2010

London, UK

Trafalgar Square ... a meeting place.

We had a little adventure on our way from Harwich to Kensington. The bus broke down three miles from our destination. It didn't help that the driver drove the bus with a brake alarm screaming for 60 miles. We were passing Victoria Station and the bus brakes seized. Not too worry we are here now. The Cunnington's are on their way into London and we will have dinner together tonight.

Tomorrow the Queen opens Parliament so London will be crowded. We have a London Tour in the afternoon and tickets for Wicked in the evening.

Up early (0500) on Wednesday when we hopefully fly home at 1030.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Last day at sea ....

Today is the final day of the cruise and we are at sea. The on board newsletter mentioned we would be sailing the Bay of Biscay and that it is a notoriously rough crossing. It was like a milk-pond, calm and still with barely a wave and no swell. We are now in pea soup fog as we near the English Channel, with a cold wind we must be near England (joking).

So today it is packing for the possible journey home. The last Trivia Quiz is at five o'clock and other than that there is no excitement in the schedule. The lecturers on the Mediterranean cruise have been pompous and boring. One read poetry with no overheads (and I need my cartoons) so I fell asleep, that was a good sign not to attend another of his lectures. The port lecturer has steered people wrong by not knowing the city we have visited, and the one who lectures well with good overheads talks about submarines, certainly not something I am interested in.

Unfortunately we will be sailing past the white cliffs of Dover during the early hours of tomorrow morning so we will not see them. Also, we will be on the French side of the English Channel so with the fog, if it continues, we have no hope.

That is my day .... I hope you are enjoying your day.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

We are sailing ......

Not much to report today as we are sailing and the view is ocean as far as the eye can see in whichever direction I look.

Last night we were in the tie-breaker of the Trivia Quiz. Garry went up for us as we three other team members just sat there. It should have been Charlie (the sea Captain) but we did not know what the question would be. The question was, on the crew epaulets the color between the gold bars signifies which Department the crew member is from. Therefore which Department is red between the gold? Charlie knew instantly (of course) as did Barbara and me. Garry got beaten to the punch. Oh well, we have two Discovery pens already. Yep, Medical is correct.

Today is a day of rest with the Captain's Formal Dinner tonight. This is just a photo-op for the on board photographer to sell his work. Hence we do not go to the pre-dinner cocktails as when we (or others) request no photo you are told you must have your photo taken. This is on all ships not just M/V Discovery.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Lisboa/Sintra/Casçais, Portugal

Because of an hour clock forward time change I was on the Lido Deck for breakfast as we sailed along the Tagus and this is what I saw, the Belem Tower. It was a beautiful sunny morning with the promise of a hot day (34 degrees Celsius).

Garry and I selected the Sintra/Casçais excursion rather than a city tour of Lisboa because we have both been here a few times.

I knew that I was on a Camino when I saw some Camino flashes and then the signpost for Caminho de Atlântico with a walking pilgrim figure on it. I did not see any pilgrims in the area. Sorry folks, once a pilgrim always a pilgrim as my Blog title say's and we pilgrims are always on the lookout for anything Camino.

Sintra is the start of the initiation route that takes in Santiago de Compostela, Toulouse, Chartes, Orleans, Paris, Amiens, and Rosslyn Chapel. We have visited Sintra twice so I knew where to look to view the pillar that starts this route, the end pillar is in Rosslyn. I sat for an hour contemplating the backwards journey to Rosslyn that I have in my future plans.

From Sintra we visited Cabo do Roch, the most westerly point in Portugal. CdR is windswept and has lovely wildflowers at this time of the year. The lighthouse complex makes for a nice photograph and of course there are souvenir shops with cafe/restaurant to visit.

We finished the tour with a drive south along the Portuguese Riviera to Casçais and on to Lisboa to board the ship for the final journey, to Harwich, UK..

That is it! We now have two days sailing to London on calm seas, hopefully all the way. Upon arrival in London we will meet with Gwen, Dave, Tanya, and Sophie before possibly flying home. British Airways are starting a rolling strike on May 24 going through to June 9. We will not know if we are affected until we get to the airport on the 26th. Yes, we are flying BA. What to do? We will work that out when we know more.

Thank you all for your interest in the journey.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


The view from the top of the rock, it was a cold damp day and windy at the top. The M/V Discovery is the white ship at the dock (center).

It is just a rock, but it has been an important rock over the centuries. A rock two countries have disputed or claimed ownership for centuries. The Spanish are always wanting it back from the British and make it difficult to get into Spain from Gibraltar, they take their own sweet time at Customs/Immigration. We went on an excursion and saw the Batteries, the lighthouse, cathedrals, mosque, and synagogues from the bus.

We then went to St Michael's Cave to see the theater inside, and to the Apes den. The apes are big, fat and certainly well fed and they were rather complacent today. Last time we were here an ape jumped on Cédric's head which made for a nice photograph. We went on the cable car to the top of the rock for hazy views of the harbor, Spain, and Africa. We were unable to see Morocco today.

In all the stops we have enjoyed along this journey ONLY the British tour guide has asked for gratuities (here in Gibralter), and maybe you guessed it, nobody gave him a tip. Gratuities are already added to all American/Canadian accounts by the M/V Discovery company.

Now that we are in the Atlantic the sea is a little rough with whitecaps as far as the eye can see. Charlie (a retired Master/Captain) tells us that we are in a sending sea state, that is when a ship is pushed from behind, like an airplane with a tailwind.

We are now cruising to Lisboa, Portugal a city that I know well. From Lisboa it is two days cruising to Harwich (London), UK.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Almeria, Spain

Now I feel at home. Almeria, Spain has not disappointed me today. The weather has been hot and sunny with no clouds at all, simply beautiful.

We drove to Mojáca which is simply a tourist town but is also one of those picturesque hilltop white villages of Andulacia (los pueblos blancos). I had to have my usual treats when in Spain such as Jamon Iberico, Queso, Cuba Libre, and of course Cafe con leche ... ah, wonderful. Driving to Mojáca we went past Mini Hollywood and other film studios where the old westerns were filmed such as, "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly". The region is dry and the landscape barren.

Back in Almeria we had lunch at an outdoor cafe. The Spanish love water fountains in their cities and Almeria has a beautiful fountain at the port end of a very wide boulevard.

As we prepare to sail this is the view from the ship, Alcazaba de Almeria at sunset.

On to Gibralter ....

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cruising to Almeria, Spain

It has been two days since Rome, Italy. We have experienced rough seas with the ship rocking and rolling - sitting here in the WiFi area I was watching the sea-horizon go up and down then roll to an angle. I have been pleasantly surprised that I have not been sick and I credit Reiki for that (thanks again Kees). Usually I am a doped-out mess on Dramamine, not this time, I have walked around like Dawnie did on the Irish Sea in Gale Force 11 all those years ago. Well, I guess Dawnie that you could say we are only traveling in about force 8.

Ajaccio, Corsica

M/V Discovery at anchor in the harbor. We had to tender today which is a little tricky if the sea is rough.

We visited Tour de la Parata before going on the city tour. This drive gave us an idea of the coastline from Ajaccio and of the vacation homes along the way. These islands would be crowded during European summer, to crowded for me.

Corsica was a pleasant stop but nothing fantastic, although I did have a wonderful capuccino while sitting people watching before going back to the ship. Corsica's claim to fame is that Napoleon was born here but then again was he? Sardinia also claims that Napoleon was born in Sardinia. Genoa claims that Napoleon was born in Genoa. However, this entitles Corsica to build a Napoleon statue and put a plaque on a building for tourists to photograph (me included).

The German ship AIDAvita was at the dock along with the huge Grand Princess. Of course for my friend Aida I had to photograph the AIDAvita. When we were in Ajaccio a group of passengers from the AIDA cycled by, gosh they were all tall and on tall bikes, I smiled. I wonder if they are their own personal bikes or if the ship supplies them.

The big ships like these two (Grand Princess and MSC Magnifica) are known as apartment ships carrying up to 2,500 passengers, HORRIBLE!!!

I will enjoy our cruising day and am off to a casual cocktail party. Invited by the Captain I know it is a chance for him to invite us back on M/V Discovery (at a price of course). This is a very good ship and we are looking at booking the Baltic cruise for next July as I have always wanted to visit St Petersburg and Copenhagen.

Till next time ....

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy

The weather was somewhat better today with only a threat of rain. The ground was damp and it was a little chilly.

Having visited Rome a number of times we opted for the excursion to Tuscany today. Driving through the countryside I was reminded of the beauty along the Camino with the fields ready to plant, the cereal growing in others and the rows of plastic covering the tomato plants (asparagus in Spain). The distant views of villages on the hills make it all the more beautiful. Before we visited Tuscania, an Etruscan walled city, we stopped at an 8th century Basilica, St. Peter's, it was simple and very different to the ornate baroque Basilica's so often found in Italy.

We walked around the picturesque old city of Tuscania and enjoyed a wonderful Italian cappuccino.

Afterward we went to a farm for a wine and olive tasting. They served us olives, brushetta (bread/olive oil) sun-dried tomatoes and selected fruit jams. Dawn loves Olive Oil so I picked her up a jug of oil for the next time I drive to Louisiana. I had to get one for me as well .... otherwise I might not hand over the gift that I bought. Both are safely in my cabin now.

We are back on the ship and will have a lazy afternoon.

Naples, Italy - Yesterday

It was a rainy day in Naples with very heavy rain at times. Hence I did not take many photographs along the Amalfi Coast.

Amalfi Coast

We chose the Amalfi Coast excursion which fortunately meant we were in the bus for most of the day. We stopped at a lookout over Positano where the terraces are beautiful on those very steep slopes. The villages are basically horizontal with each home being further up the steep cliffs. They have lemon orchards, olive groves, and all sorts of vegetables growing in the terraces. The area is rich in vegetation, lush green. It is very steep along the coast and there is not much beach at the bottom of the cliffs, and should the bus go over I am afraid you would be swimming. The bus drivers are amazing as it is also very busy on those narrow roads, crazy even. It seems in Italy they drive whatever side of the road they want, parking places are wherever you want to stop and pedestrian crossing are for decoration. Even our bus driver did not stop at a stop sign. It is a wonderful chaos. The Amalfi Coast was so busy yesterday that I would hate to visit in high season.

We had lunch in Amalfi and then walked around the small town where I bought two bottles of Limoncello. Trying to prtect my camera from the rain I dropped the bag and then noticed I was leaving a trail of Limoncello behind me. Now I have one bottle of Limoncello.

Back on board in the ugly weather meant only one thing, rough seas. We set off and slowly the number of folks visible on ship was dwindling. We sit at a table for eight at dinner, and last night we were four. After dinner Charlie, Barbara, Garry and I went to the Discovery Lounge where we won our second Discovery pen in the Trivia game.

The ship rocked and rolled as it increased speed after dinner time. For the first time on a cruise ship I did not get sick, thanks Kees for the Reiki.

We sail to Ajaccio, Corsica, France tomorrow.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Messina, Sicily, Italy

"Trisceli" the symbol for Sicily

We docked early at an unattractive port so the rest of the day could only get better and it did. Our guide today was Franco with that attractive sing song accent only Italians seem to have. Franco is the only guide folks have wanted to listen to, one gets very tired of the over chatty guide.

We visited Taormina a Sicilian summer vacation spot, a pretty mountain top village. Below is the view from Taormina looking toward the Mediterranean Sea.

Taormina has a Greek Amphitheater which is not the best amphitheater I have visited, the best I have seen is in Libya.

Mount Etna

I did not get up at 0400 to see Mount Etna from the ship. I looked out our window, could not see any glow so went back to sleep.

So, after a delicious Italian lunch (Bruschetta, Pasta, Salad and Scallopini then followed with Almond Ice-cream) we headed up the mountain to get close to the crater.

Along the way we saw some of the many cinder cones (one below) created by the volcano over the centuries. We could also see the 'old' lava flows, Franco gave the date for all flows. There was snow on top of Mt Etna and it was c-cold.

Back on board now we are sailing to Sorrento, Italy, and tomorrow will tour the Amalfi Coast.

Oops, the Captain has just announced that the sea state is rough so we cannot tender in Sorrento, now we are heading to Naples, Italy at least that means we will be at a port.

I am too tired to go back and add more to yesterday .... perhaps I will do that when I am home.

Thank you all for following me along the way ... Love, Luiza

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Valletta, Malta

What a wonderful day on a beautiful island with golden/beige sandstone buildings set around a spectacular harbor. This well fortified city was built by the St John's Hospitallers when they came to Malta after being booted off Rhodes. I have an interest in the Templars and Hospitallers since my first pilgrimage in 2002 when I visited the Templar Castle in Ponferrada. Therefore, Malta was a destination I was excited to visit on this cruise. It was a bright, sunny, hot, and yet simply beautiful day.

I am going to let the photographs show how Malta shines .... this first shot is what we saw at dawn as we sailed into the harbor.

We visit Tarxien Prehistoric Temples which date from 2,800 B.C. and here imagination and diagrams were needed to have an idea where the fallen rocks would have been, what building they came from etc. I have chosen to show you the legs of "Fat Lady" a fertility figure and a restored pottery bowl.

St John This is on the outside of a building (I forget which). We visited the beautiful St John Co-Cathedral with two works by Caravaggio in the Oratory, one is the huge painting The Beheading of St John, the other is St Jerome Writing.

Just a little taste of British in Malta ....

At the end of the day ... M/V Discovery from the cliffs above and the beautiful harbor views.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

At sea ... Crete to Malta

What to do with a day at sea? Sleep late of course. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast in the dining room instead of the Lido Deck (self serve). Take a quick stop in the WiFi area to Blog, Facebook, and check emails. However, the system is overloaded and slow so I might give up and try later - not a quick stop at all.

I have read books one and two of the Millenium Trilogy since I left home. I could not bring book three with me because it was not on sale in the USA until May 10, 2010. However, a passenger on board, Richard a lawyer from South Carolina, has book three of the trilogy, "The Girl who Kicked the Hornets' Nest", and has offered to lend it to me. So, I am a happy sailor today. I can now follow Lisbeth Salander and find out what Stieg Larsson had in store for her. Richard is a character himself, he has been on board the M/V Discovery since it left Barcelona that is about five/six months. When Richard departs ship in Iceland he will have been aboard for nine months ... the person with the longest continuous journey, not the most cruises.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Heraklion, Crete, Greece

What a spectacular day we had. First stop was Knossos Palace which is what made the day spectacular. The ruins are well preserved such that you can picture how it would have looked 7,000-6,000 years ago in the Minoan times. Sometimes there is not sufficient ruins and a lot of imagination is required, not here at Knossos. We were fortunate to be the first tourist in Knossos so I was able to take photographs without pesky people in them. It was wonderful. Three photographs do not do justice to this beautiful site, you really must plan a visit. :)

Then onto Boutari winery for a wine tasting. Since I had not eaten this morning, we had an early start, this was breakfast for me. Wine, bruschetta, olives, cheese, .... a good breakfast eh Dawn?

We had lunch at a Taverna (sign below) in a small village where Zorba the Greek was written. We sat outdoors under the trellised grape vines, it was beautiful, very relaxing, and the Greek food quite tasty, yum!

We then went back down the mountains to Heraklion for a walk around town.

Another cruising day tomorrow, the next stop is Malta.