Our last two ports of call before crossing the Atlantic are in the Canary Islands; Tenerife and Arrecife.
Just two years after Columbus landed in the Americas, the Spanish Castilian, led by conquistador Alonso Fernandez de Lugo, landed on the shores of what is known as Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
Today there are 207,000 residents making it Spain’s most populated island. It is known as the “Island of Eternal Spring,” because of its subtropical and semi-arid climate which is year round.
As the Royal Princess docked I opened the balcony door and was greeted with a warm gentle breeze. I noticed most of the city was at sea level but then it rose gradually because of the surrounding volcanic hills.
We had no tours but there was a Hop-On Hop-Off bus so that is what we elected to do. After breakfast we returned to the room and grabbed our stuff (camera, water, id, money) and headed to the gangway. What we will end up remembering about Tenerife is the 3 mile roundtrip walk to get out of the port and later back to the ship. We did find out (too late) that there was a shuttle bus but never saw it until we were all the way on foot.
We bought our tickets for the bus and settled down to see some of the modern and beautiful city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. We decided to get off at Stop #11, the main market, Plaza de la Candelaria. The many shops were selling flowers, vegetables, souvenirs, fish, baked goods, wine, liquor, even parakeets. I’ll post the photos after I get home.
We got back on the next bus and rode it back to the port where we once again hiked the mile and half back to the ship. Both of us were worn out but Mary Alice was pleased that she got her 10,000 Fit-bit steps that day for sure. In fact she’s had three days of 10,000 steps during this first week of the cruise.
We had a late supper and called it a day. I set my alarm for 1:00am so I could watch the Dodgers-Astros game #3 on the ship’s satellite TV. I got up at 12:59 in time to watch the opening ceremony and the first three innings. The satellite reception went to zero and I had to log on the computer to find out the final score. Way to go Astros, win 2 more!
The next stop on Saturday was in Lanzarote on the island of Arrcife, also of the Canary Islands. We had a birding excursion booked with a private guide all arranged by Mary Alice. She even found another birding couple to join us.
Saturday: The ship docked in Lanzarote at 7:00 AM. The weather was sunshiny and warm. After breakfast we gathered our things and made our way down the gangplank. Our birding friends, Mitch and Pat were already off the ship waiting on us. Mitch is a long time birder from Ohio and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him without his binos around his neck. We had to walk to the port entrance to meet our guide but it was just a half mile this time.
Our guide was waiting and introduced himself as Adolpho. He was driving a late model Toyota Land Cruiser, four wheel drive! Our biggest fear was getting far away from the ship and breaking down being out of cell phone range. He assured us that we would get back to the ship by 3pm. Our next port isn’t for seven days (Ft Lauderdale) so we had to make it back on time. The ship does not wait for stragglers who book independent tours.
We piled into the Land Cruiser and Adolpho maneuvered the streets and headed in a northerly direction toward the “El Jable” Desert. The Island of Lanzarote was formed from multiple Volcanoes. There is no vegetation other that desert scrub brush. The landscape is dotted with small black pumice rocks which evidently came from the many volcanoes surrounding the desert.
As soon as the town faded into the distance, Adolpho turned the Land Cruiser off the main highway and onto volcanic dirt & sand roads. Some of it looked loose and I was glad we had a four wheel drive.
We began seeing birds almost immediately. Adolpho had his honey holes (favorite spots) and knew what birds would be in what fields. We had more fun locating the birds with the binoculars than in actually finding them. After going up and down and through the desert and finding numerous birds, some which are migrants from the European continent, Adolpho, took us to the small town of Soo, that’s right Soo, and he parked in from of the local community center.
He warned us about a local guy who is not “all together” and said “don’t mind him, he’s harmless.” The guy was a giant, 6-5 about 300lbs and he wanted to shake everyone’s hand and hug them. I’m not into hugging strangers and I ducked out of the way.
We had some refreshments at the local store/cafe, goat cheese, bread sticks, fried chicken croquettes, tomato wedges and a coke or coffee. Soon enough we were back on the road and continued looking for more birds. Adolpho took us all the way across the island to the northern shore and turned around and headed back. He had one more stop at a goat farm where we saw a very unusual bird called a Hoopoe.
We drove back across the desert and into town and to the ship. After paying Adolpho and taking the necessary photos we made our way up the gangplank and to our room. Both of were worn out from the bouncing and holding on to the four wheel drive SUV. But going forward we will not get off the ship until it docks in Ft Lauderdale, a week from tomorrow.
This is the last posting for this cruise because the next seven days are “sea days.” There’s not much to say other than it is a relaxing week of doing whatever you want to do….on the ship that is. Besides the internet is totally unreliable at sea.
Here is a bird list from the day’s outing:
1. Stone Curlew 2. Berthelots Pipit 3. Great Grey Shrike
4. Raven 5. Houbara Bustard 6. Kestrel 7. Cattle Egret
8. Cream Colored Courser 9. White Wagtail
10. Barbary Partridge 11. Northern Wheatear
12. Yellow Wagtail 13. Hoopoe 14. Common Lennate
All in all another great day for this trip!
Yesterday the Royal Princess docked in the British colony of Gibraltar. You know it as the “Rock of…”. We arrived just before dawn and the Rock was obscured by a huge dark cloud which would hang over it the entire day. The weather was chilly, windy and with a sprinkle of rain. We decided that we would not go ashore plus this was our second visit here.
One of Gibraltar’s main tourist attractions is the Barbary Apes, monkeys at the top of the mountain. There are also tunnel mazes dating from WWII but they are not for the claustrophobic!
The highlight of the day was the Flamenco dancers show at the Princess Theater last night after dinner. The ship departed Gibraltar around 7PM and headed to Cadiz, Spain.
I got up a 2AM and watched Game 1 of the World Series. The ship gets a satellite feed for big games and broadcasts them live on the cabin TV. I saw that the Astros with the same problem they had with the Yankees, “termites of the bats” causing holes which causes strikeouts. I hope they do better in Game 2.
We docked at dawn in the beautiful port city of Cadiz, Spain. It is one of Spain’s oldest cities perched on picturesque cobbled streets. We had the option to take a tour bus to Seville (four hours roundtrip in a bus). I did that last time so we decided instead to stay in Cadiz and do one of our favorites, the Hop-On Hop-Off bus tours. We find it is an economical way to get around a European city plus you can get off when you want to and then get back on the next bus that comes around.
The bus makes a circuitous route and the fare was only 30 Euros for two. We hopped off at the Cadiz Cathedral and Central Market stop. They charged 5 Euros (4 for seniors) too get in but it was well worth it to see this huge cathedral with all the individual altars, mostly dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Afterward we headed down a crowded street toward the central market. You can’t get lost doing that, just follow the folks rolling along with their empty grocery carts.
The indoor central market had numerous “seafood” stalls loaded with every kind of fish you can imagine. One butcher offered MA an eyeball. She declined. The vendors were standing behind large butcher blocks with a large filet knives and slicing and dicing to order. There were a few vegetable and fruit stands to add a little color to the interior.
We took it all in and walked outside for some fresh air. The bus was waiting so we hopped on, made the rest of the circuit around Cadiz. If you love beaches and blue oceans this is the place. Miles of pristine beaches, volleyball courts, other sports venues, but very few beachgoers; it’s not the “season”.
We hopped off back at the ship, went to lunch. (Remember we never miss a meal on these trips!) Tomorrow is a sea day and on Friday we dock in the first of the two Canary Islands we will visit, this one being Tenerife. Tenerife was the site of a horrific Pan AM-KLM collision years ago. I think that’s on MA’s mind at the moment.
It is Sunday night aboard the Royal Princess off the Spanish Mediterranean coast. We are halfway between Valencia and Cartagena. I thought I would bring you up to date on our travels since we left Houston on Friday morning.
We normally drive to IAH, park in the Parking Spot and leave the car there for the length of the voyage. MA found a less expensive option, a limo service for longer trips that will pick us up at home, drive us to the Terminal and be waiting for us upon our return.
We arrived at Terminal D, checked in with KLM, got through security no problem and found the KLM Crown Lounge. We had a 2-hour wait but it passed quickly and we boarded the big Boeing 747. Soon enough we watched Houston disappear on the horizon. By the way, we were impressed with KLM!
I can never sleep on one of these overseas flights and this was no exception. I just sat there with my eyes closed for the longest time, finally opened my I-Pad and looked over some books I had downloaded.
I started with one of my WW3 books about a fictional Warsaw Pact invasion of Europe and the NATO response. To my surprise I read most of it on the flight.
We landed in Amsterdam, deplaned, and went through the European immigration. Amsterdam is one big airport with thousands of people all over the place!
After a two hour wait we boarded another KLM flight which took us to Barcelona. I had wanted to make a trip to Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia church but we did not have time to go. The ship was scheduled to depart at 4:30pm.
Princess Cruises was waiting at the airport with bus transportation for their passengers who had pre-arranged this. By now I was really dragging and just wanted to close my eyes for a while.
We got aboard the ship and found our cabin, A315 on the 12th floor deck. We were both hungry so we grabbed some lunch and went back to close our eyes while we waited for our luggage to be delivered. We quickly unpacked and I took another short nap. That’s how it goes with me and jet lag.
Our stateroom TV has a channel with live US sports. The Astros VS Yankees, game 7 was scheduled to be broadcast at 2:00AM, ship’s time. I was determined to watch the game no matter what.
But first we met our dinner table mates, Jim & Carol who had moved to Florida from New Hampshire. I’ve heard that from many a North Eastern American before! Jim had also served in the Air Force so we had plenty to talk about. It’s nice to find people at the dinner table who are fun and easy to talk to.
MA and I got back to the cabin and both of us were done for the day. I was asleep in 3 minutes but I woke up at 1:00AM with an hour to kill before the game. So I read the rest of my novel and then the Astros and Yankees game began.
Oh my! It was back and forth and finally the Astros broke the tie and started scoring. Morton was pitching fantastic and McCullers came in and saved it for him. I was so happy for these young Astros. They really deserved to win the American League pennant this year. Now it’s on to LA.
After the game I was so ecstatic I couldn’t get back to sleep. I got dressed and went down to the International Cafe which is open 24hrs. I had some coffee and read the news from my I-pad. The Royal Princess docked in Valencia, Spain around 7:00am.
We met for breakfast with another couple, Mitch and Pat from Ohio who MA had met the ship roll call online. Passengers on a given trip can log on to roll call and get acquainted before ever leaving home. MA found a couple who are bird watchers and they are going bird watching with us with a private guide later in when we get to the Canary Islands.
After breakfast the four of us took the shuttle bus into Valencia, Spain’s third largest city. We drove through the center of the city where the older section is still standing. Valencia is so old it was actually a Roman town at one time.
In the middle of Old Town we found a large square with a stage and Spanish dancers of all ages performing traditional Spanish dances with castanets and beautiful costumes (see photos). Calling it a day, we took the shuttle bus back to the ship, had lunch, a nap, enjoyed a wonderful Russian string quarter concert, then dinner and called it a night! I
We are off on another adventure, a cruise from Spain to Ft. Lauderdale. We depart for the airport in about 2 hours. We love cruising. We are scheduled to take off around 3pm aboard KLM bound for Barcelona.
Once in Barcelona, I had planned to go to the Sagrada Familia church that’s been under construction since 1870 but there is civil unrest in Barcelona so we will pass this time. I’ll attach a photo of the church designed by architect Antoni Gaudi that I took on a previous stay in Barcelona. Another of our favorite places is the Las Ramblas, the pedestrian mall where so many people were mowed down by a goof ball terrorist. We passed on that also. We will stay on the ship until our first port. Bon Voyage all…..wish you were with us.
Friday, the last day of our Viking River cruise was very good and unique. MA had signed us up for a shopping tour with head chef, Cesar Mata, as he goes to select vegetables, meats, fruits and cheeses for the Viking Foresti. The ship was still docked in Pauillac but everyone who had a tour boarded a bus after breakfast. Our tour took us to Bordeaux’s Marche des Capucins, the central market. While we were shopping the crew moved the ship down river to Bordeaux and it would be waiting for us after the tour. It was a short 50 minute ride by bus to the center of Bordeaux. Our Irish guide, Sarah, provided plenty of commentary about French food as we traveled to Bordeaux.
At the outdoor fish booth: lobster or shrimp or how to tell a fresh fish from a stinker.
As we got off the bus the chef took over as guide and took us to one of the outside vendors, a fish seller. He not only had all kinds of fish, but lobster, crabs, even squid. Chef Cesar showed us how to recognize fresh fish from not so fresh fish; look at the gills, they should be bright red and it should still have a clear sheen.
We went inside the large market filled with vegetables, fruits, meats, cheeses, wines, and pate. We stopped at a large cheese booth, fromage in French. The owner provided samples for everyone of four different kinds of cheeses; even goat cheese was included. I did not care for the goat cheese.
You have probably heard of goose liver pate or foie gras. I’m not sure how they make it, but I passed on the sample.
One of the recurring sights I’ve seen in markets across France is the little old lady pulling her two wheeled cart through the aisles. I was not disappointed this day.
We topped off the tour with a sit down snack at the small cafe in the market. They had everything from cheese, sausage, ham, bread, and white wine. We were given some free time before heading to the ship so I wandered around taking photographs.
We boarded our bus which took us through central Bordeaux and the river where the Viking Foresti was now docked. We began the job of packing for our departure on Saturday morning. We enjoyed a very nice dinner “departure dinner” with our new friends Bill & Jordy and Robin and Peter. We hope to see them again on another Viking River cruise.
We are spending the next three nights in Bordeaux.