Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Situated off the east coast of Spain and north of Algeria, the Balearic Islands stand alone in the western Mediterranean. The port of Mahon, today’s stop, is on Menorca, the second largest of the five islands. The largest of the islands is Mallorca. [Think “minor” and “major”]. We visited Palma de Majorca on Mallorca in 2001.
Mahon is a picturesque town built mostly atop a steep bluff. Leaving the ship, passengers were faced with a series of stairways leading to the top and sights. The street running down the hill curved back and forth and looked like Lombardy Street in San Francisco. The steps were wide and may have been marble. There were enough of them that MA chose not to attempt them because her back has been bothering her.
Across from the ship, there were several stalls set up to attract euros and dollars. We looked at them without buying anything – or even being tempted – before MA returned to the cabin and D ventured up the stairs. Fortunately, there were periodic areas without steps as the path crossed the roadway, so he wasn’t too tired when he finally emerged at the top.
Mahon is not really a tourist town. Rather, it is a working town which happens to attract the occasional cruise ship or visitors from the Continent. The crew, of course, had no trouble finding the Burger King where they nursed coffee for hours so they could take advantage of the free wi-fi. D was not interested in the wi-fi since he had checked e-mail on his Kindle when we reached the port. With no real goal in mind, he started wandering.
The first thing he noticed was the smell of fish in the air. He was able to follow his nose, literally, to the local fish market. Not all of the stalls were open, leading him to believe that the proprietors had not returned from their morning at sea. Or, of course, they could have been out of business. Those that were open were doing a steady trade in fresh fish, squid, octopus and bivalves. The fish ranged from monkfish – the ugliest fish in the world – to flounder and what one worker said was hake. The hake had teeth which would have made a barracuda proud.
Right up the hill was one of the local churches. It was dark but not dismal inside. Just as he had done at the fish market, D took pictures in the church so he could share with MA. The church was old and little threadbare but was obviously a “working” church, not a tourist site. Indeed, there were signs in several languages at the door to warn visitors that they were not welcome during services, the hours of which were posted. Although D arrived about five minutes after the alleged end of services, the church was deserted.
He left by a side door and started to wander the narrow, tree-lined streets. It didn’t take long to lose all sense of direction, but there were only so many places to go and eventually he would either find the path home or the edge of the cliff. He wandered into a tobacco store which sold, primarily, cigarettes and tobacco products including Zippo lighters. For what it’s worth, a pack of Marlboros was about 5.50 euros, about $8.00. Ouch! Others were as low as 4.50 euros which is still about $7.00.
There was a drug store, too. The drug stores in much of Europe have signed that have green neon crosses with red crosses inside them; many of them flash as well. There is no missing the pharmacies in Europe. The interior was small and limited to, of all things, medications and pharmaceuticals. Unlike in the US, the pharmacies of Europe are not mini-Wal-Marts.
Finally, D found the Holy Grail of the day, a tiny bakery. Since he had bought almond cookies for the Trivia team in Cartagena, he looked over the tantalizing goodies before being guided by the shop girl to what she said was the local favorite. It was a large flaky pastry with a lump in the middle; the lump turned out to be a lemon-flavored meringue. Mission accomplished, he tried to find his way home.
More meandering brought him to the Central Market. On the ground level, there were stalls selling fresh produce, meat, nuts and flowers as well as clothing and shoes. On the bottom level, below street level, there was a full service supermarket. He walked through both taking more pictures and then exited from the end of the Center opposite the one he had entered and discovered he was back at the church. Sometimes it is better to be lucky than smart.
He walked some more before heading down the hill and back to the ship where MA was waiting. Soon it was time for lunch in the Lido and then Trivia. We were in a 4-way tie for first and were second in the tie-breaker, so we garnered another Grand Dollar each. Hippie-Ray!
-- What fruit can be used to whiten teeth? -- “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” What is the fear of fear called? -- Who was recruited by Edward R. Murrow to cover the political conventions? -- What was author Charles Dodson’s pen name? -- Where would you find the Southern Cross?
After Trivia, we had a yuppie coffee and D’s local cookies with the rest of the team. We read and napped before dinner; checked Facebook and e-mail after dinner; and finally went to the show for another performance by comedian Marty Brill. D transferred photos from the camera’s card to the netbook and a USB thumb drive and MA read before going to sleep.
Tomorrow – Another sea day
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Seas the Day
The seas have been so smooth today [how smooth are they?] that they seem motionless. There is not even the occasional whitecap to be seen. If we were a sailing vessel, we would probably be dead in the water because there is so little breeze. On the other hand, we were able to see the white wake of dolphins as we ate lunch in the MDR.
The lunch was a disappointing pretend-Indonesian buffet. It was promoted as an Indonesian buffet but we know what real Indonesian food tastes like and this was a watered-down version suitable for the senior American palate. Even D complained that the nasi goring was bland. The best part of the meal was a dessert, fried bananas. We keep hoping the wait staff will bring us something from the crew kitchen but that’s not really going to happen. To add insult to injury, our waiter Bahtiar keeps telling us how he fixes things when he is home.
Trivia was a bust this morning. We had only 9 correct answers out of 17; the winners tied with 13.
-- What is the only word which begins with S, ends in SS, has 4 Es and is 10 letters long? -- What color is a green card? -- What were the last names of Bonnie & Clyde? -- Other than Japan, what country begins with J? -- What country has the longest coast line?
Other than Trivia and the buffet, there wasn’t much going on for us which is what we like about sea days.
Tomorrow – La Spezia, Italy