Gibraltar & Cadiz

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.


Cartagena Tomorrow

Cartagena Tomorrow
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 


Spanish Passage….that’s what Princess calls our cruise!



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.


I found this pond across the street from the church on my last trip.

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.


Perspective of the interior


Interior Ceiling



Saint Michel Basilica in Bordeaux: I’m not a tourist, I’m a photographer on tour.


Porte Caihou



About a block from the church, these two bodegas were open. It’s hard for me not to photograph all of the vegetables and fruits on display.


This is the bell tower next to the church.


There was a market & cafe in the square in front of the Basilica.


Remember that song,”Green Door.”


MA is sitting on the last row of chairs, you can see how small she is compared to the columns.



The organist was practicing, it’s loud.



Two of the many stained glass windows.


Mother helping her children light a candle for someone.


A Photo Walk Around Bordeaux


Outside our hotel is this wonderful pastry shop.


We are on the 5th floor of this old hotel, 3 person elevator!


As were were walking this old car came by us….I don’t know what it is.


Our hotel, Continental, is on the right at that small red sign.


Susan L. this photo is for you…….a Westie!


We havn’t tried the tram yet, tomorrow.


The Opera House……..a Beau-Arts design


One of three destinations this afternoon, monument to the Girondes revolutionaries


A old convent……..cloister



Notice how the direction of the sun light changes the color of the columns.


L’Intendant:  A super duper wine store.  We stopped in her so MA could look for a particular wine for son Jim.


The larger cities in France all have these wonderful carousels. 


Our next destination:  Cathedral of Saint Andre





That’s a big organ.




Walking back to our hotel we noticed all of the National Police vans with cops parked along the street….wondering if they were waiting for something to happen?


Finally, I found a use for the Chronicle, dress material.

I hope you enjoyed the little walk around our hotel and the photos.  Let me know, by leaving a comment, thanks Wayne.


Bordeaux: Shopping with the Chef


Entrance to the Bordeaux Central Market:  Marche des Capucins

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.  Market_750_2966-goose_liver_resize

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.



Chef Cesar treated everyone to strawberries & chocolate

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.IMG_0986

We are spending the next three nights in Bordeaux.


Bordeaux’s Opera House



Bordeaux Wines: It’s all about the grapes!



Thursday afternoon we docked in town of Pauillac located in the estuary on the left bank of the broad marshy Gironde River.  The Medoc wine region is located here and it contains some of the most legendary chateaus for producing wine: Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Kirwan, Chateau Palmer and Chateau Pichon Baron, the later two being favorites of MA’s son Jim.  When all our groups from the the Viking Foresti boarded one of four Merceds Binz luxury motor coaches, we set off on our tour of this area.


Chateau Pichon Baron


Outside the small town of Pauillac the geography changed to vineyard after vineyard, rows after rows, acres and acres of grape vines growing.  Some of the vineyards employed a small tractor that travels between three rows of vines and plows the dirt. Some vineyards use horses and some had workers hand manicuring the planted vines.


Cutaway of the 6-9 feet of the Bordeaux region gravel soil

We stopped for a visit to the Chateau Giscours where we were shown the grounds and storage buildings,  and given a fairly detailed talk about the wine making process including about how and why Bordeaux wine is the best.  Something I did not know is that the best soil is made up of mostly gravel.  We looked at an example of what a 9-foot deep hole looks like that the vines have to grow down to. From the first foot down to the clay it’s all gravel.  The vine has to grow down that far to reach clay and water.  It’s the minerals in the soil that feed the vines.  None of them  are fertilized chemically. After the technical stuff we were offered a tasting of three of their wines.



Chateau Giscours


Our dinner at the chateau

Our next and last stop of the evening was at the Chateau Kirwan where we were hosted by Viking for a chateau dinner in a beautiful room with wonderful wood beams all across the ceiling.

Dinner was a four course meal supervised by the ship’s chef and served by the ship’s wait staff.  MA has wanted to buy her son, Jim, a bottle of 1999 Bordeaux wine.  He and his wife Sue were married in 1999 and that makes these 1999 vintages special for them.

One of the waiters we had made friends with, Girondl, found a 1999 bottle at the chateau for her.  She bought it on the spot which made her very happy.  Our meal was four courses: Onion & garlic soup with a pastry top, a salad with duck on the side, veal filet mignon with asparagus, carrots and potato gratin and topped off with a chocolate Viennetta.  Do I have to say it was delicious!  We then boarded our bus which took us back to Pauillac and our ship. We were ‘done for the day’ to say the least.


2016 has a year to go before being bottled

Tomorrow we visit the main market in Bordeaux.