Monday, May 2, 2011
Motril and Mayhem and Mixed Blessings
Neither of us slept well last night. MA said she never does the night before we have an excursion planned and D just couldn’t get to sleep. The ship was rocking and rolling and making sounds like it was in pain. She groaned all night. Around 5:30 [maybe earlier?], the Prinsendam started bouncing as if it were on a washboard road. This was not a good sign.
The room service tray came at 6:30, right on schedule, and we staggered awake to discover that we were not yet in port but were still pitching port-to-starboard and back. The waves were high, whitecaps were plentiful and rain was pounding the ship. We settled in to await the captain’s announcement that we would not be stopping in Motril. He made his announcement at 8:15, apologizing for skipping the port but emphasizing the safety aspects of his decision. This is now the third port we have missed because of high winds.
Motril itself offered us nothing, but it would have served as a jumping off point for Granada and the Moorish palace known as the Alhambra. We have never seen it and were anxious for this, our last planned field trip. D had even gone so far as to purchase entry tickets online in order to avoid crowds once we got there.[You may remember that he was able to retrieve them from an ATM in Cartagena a lifetime ago] At least we did not have to shlep through the rain to see it, not that that’s much consolation.
While we waited for the cancelation announcement, we turned on the television to see the view from the bridge. We knew what it looked like from our window, but we hoped it looked better straight ahead. It didn’t. The TV was tuned to CNN and the first thing we heard was that Osama bin Laden had been killed in an assault by US troops. Cut to pictures of jubilant civilians in pro-Western cities.
Once the cancellation announcement was made, MA climbed back into bed for a little more rest and D went to post the past five days of the journal. He also printed out the CC e-mail list for distribution at next week’s [last] meeting. The Front Desk ran off 40 copies for him, so that chore was done.
And then it became just a gloomy sea day. The weather improved dramatically as we chugged eastward in the Mediterranean. The winds and whitecaps subsided and the rain stopped. Eventually we even saw the sun. The captain decided to make for Cadiz with all possible haste and arrived just after 7:00 p.m., twelve hours early. We watched the final maneuvers from the Ocean Bar before dinner.
Since it was now a sea day, Trivia was held in the morning. We were close but not close enough. Again. When we finished kibitzing after Trivia, we went to lunch in the MDR where we were able to get a table by the window on the starboard side. We watched Gibraltar as it loomed through the low clouds. MA’s back was to the promontory as we approached but she could see it clearly once we were abreast of it. It was interesting to see even from the distance because the “rock” was covered in rain clouds but the lower town area was in bright sunlight. When we passed here in 2001, we were eating breakfast in the Lido and felt close enough to touch it; Also Sprach Zarathustra, the theme to 2001: a Space Odyssey, was playing in the background.
The rest of the day passed quietly with reading, crosswords and a nap. After dinner [wonderful meatloaf for both], we went to the show which had short performances by three previous entertainers. Then it was time to catch up on our sleep. Really.
Tomorrow -- Cadiz, Spain
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
When we were in Cadiz two years ago, we took the HOHO around the city and then return [still on the HOHO to El Corte Ingles, Spain’s leading department store in search of a lemon meringue pie [It’s a long story]. This year, we walked through part of the old city and had lunch.
The Cadiz tourist bureau sent representatives to the ship this morning. They were loaded with maps, advice and smiles. One of the brochures outlined four different walking tours which were easily accessible from the ship. When D told the young lady that we wanted to get lunch along the way, she recommended the purple tour which would take us through the Plaza de las Flores where there were a number of flower stalls as well as cafes.
The purple route was neither hard to find nor hard to follow. Just as Boston has a red line running through it marking the Freedom Trail, Cadiz has all four of its walking tours marked on the pavement throughout the city. We walked parallel to or crossed the green, orange and blue lines at one point or another.
As we wandered through Cadiz, we “lost the trail” once in a while but always found it again. We enjoyed seeing the people and the town and did not bother with actually entering any of the landmarks on the tour. We did not visit the Arts Center or the Cathedral but were content to note them on the map so we could place ourselves. We found the Plaza de las Flores without difficulty and left the trail purposely to visit the city market [Mercado Central] which was adjacent to but not part of the purple path.
At the Mercado, we found vegetables stalls, butcher shops, fish merchants and even olive stores. There were fish we had never seen and organ meats we were happy not to recognize. The olive seller had great big jars of different kinds of olives and was packaging them as requested by his customers. Some were placed on the counter so customers could sample them. When D snapped a photo of the display, he took advantage of the opportunity and tried a sample which was delicious. We also saw people selling live snails by the bag; the snails were obviously still alive because they kept slithering into and out of their shells. It was fascinating.
We returned to the Plaza and found an outdoor café for lunch. There were four different menus – pasta, paella, pizza and house specialties. We were hoping for empanadas but settled for vegetable paella and chicken paella, both of which were so good that we almost licked the skillets in which they were served. Accompanied by Cokes, it was perfect lunch to have while watching the people parade by.
We followed the purple line for a few blocks after lunch and then took a chance and attempted to find a shortcut to the harbor. Of course, only the cross-streets had their names at the corners so we weren’t sure for a while if we were where we hoped to be. We knew we were heading downhill, always a good sign when you are looking for the harbor. Sure enough, we had guessed right and were going in the right direction on the right street.
When we were practically across from the ship, we spotted a sign for helados, ice cream, and went into a little restaurant which had half-dozen or so flavors of ice cream in a display case by the front door. MA chose coffee with Irish cream and D picked chocolate brownie and we sat inside and enjoyed our dessert.
We were back on board in time for afternoon Trivia and were the only members of the team to show up. We had told Ed and Roxanne that we didn’t know if we would be back in time and they echoed the sentiments. Well, we were and they weren’t. Linda and her husband Dave went to the beach; and Sandra wasn’t feeling good, so we were a team of two today.
Most of the Trivials were on tour since Cadiz is a gateway to Seville. One team had everyone there, but it was a small crowd with teams combining so they would have more players and a better chance at getting the answers correct. We chose to play as a team of two and ended up beating everyone today! We had a score of 13/17 and there was no waffling on the ones we missed – we were just plain wrong.
The rest of the day went so quickly that we didn’t even take a nap. Suddenly it was time for drinks and dinner. The Ocean Bar was almost empty because there was a paella festival by Lido pool which we skipped; we have had the Prinsendam paella before which explains why we had it ashore for lunch. We skipped the flamenco show and returned to the room to read before lights out.
Tomorrow – a day at sea
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Sunshine and Sea Breezes
We are heading for our last port, Madeira, a rock in the middle of the Atlantic. Skies are clear and there is almost no wind. It is a beautiful day of reading, resting and Trivia. And so it goes.
Tomorrow -- Funchal, Madeira
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Cinco de Madeira
The MDR is festooned with multicolored banners and tonight’s menu is pseudo-Mexican in honor of Cinco de Mayo. Of course, we are nowhere near Mexico but that is of no consequence to the staff of the Prinsendam.
Madeira is another volcanic island off the coast of Portugal. It is, in fact, part of Portugal. The Portuguese language is close to Spanish but just enough different that we were glad that we did not have to try to communicate in anything other than English. We know how spoiled we are. [The other day in Cadiz we bought more cough drops using sign language as much as anything with a pharmacist’s assistant who spoke no English]
The highest point on the island is El Monte, simply The Mountain. It is 2000 feet above sea level and can be reached by a cable car which starts by the water in Funchal, the major port city. We did not ride the cable car. Tourists can ride in wicker sleighs down the steep hills of Funchal. We didn’t do that either.
What we did do was take the shuttle bus to the downtown area. The bus went through a series of tunnels and around several roundabouts. At one point it made what amounted to a two-block-long U-turn as it maneuvered through the one-way streets and traffic circles. Once we alighted from the bus, we started to walk toward the Central Market near the old city of Funchal. Our route took us along the waterfront from which we were able to see the Prinsendam sitting majestically across the harbor. She looks big when there are no other ships parked near her.
We re-visited the Central Market which we had seen ten years ago. It is a hollow square two stories tall with a basement area in the back. The outer areas are filled with flower, fruit and vegetable sellers with some tchotchkes shops in the mix as well as vendors of wicker products and the local wine called, obviously, Madeira. There was also a tiny café where we shared a Coke. The center of the first floor had “flea market” tables with an assortment of junk for sale. The real market day, we were told, is Friday.
In the basement area we found fish sellers. The fish market was bright and airy because the market is built into a hill and this part is open to the outside. There were not as many species on display as we seen in Cadiz or elsewhere, but there were enough. The major food fish seems to be the tuna; each vendor had a large tuna on his table where the fish were being butchered. As one of the fruit vendors told us later, there is nothing like really fresh tuna. Surprisingly, there were no shrimp for sale. There were some fish we could not identify including one with a mouth full of dangerous-looking teeth.
We went upstairs to see more vegetable and fruit vendors. Both sides of the concourse were filled with merchants and the aisle was packed with customers [and HAL tour #8]. Several of the vendors offered us samples of local fruits in an effort to entice us to bring them back to the ship. The fruits were like nothing we had ever seen or eaten, but we resisted the temptation even though they were delicious.
MA wanted to look at the local embroidery although she had no specific items in mind. Rather than try to find the store we bought from in 2001, we went next door to the market where there was a “factory store.” There was not too much on display but the trip was not a total waste because MA did find a box to add to the collection.
Using a different route, we walked slowly back to the shuttle bus pick-up point, stopping along the way to look at flowers which were being set out in a park a la the Rose Bowl – patterns of flowers in mostly geometric designs – for a festival tomorrow. We passed flower sellers, too, not far away. The walk was not as long as we thought and soon enough we were waiting with the HAL crowd. The ride back was much shorter than the ride to town because we didn’t have to negotiate the tunnels or roundabouts.
Lunch by the pool on the Lido deck was followed almost immediately by Trivia. Ed and Roxanne rushed in just moments before the game began and we crushed the meager competition today with 13/17; the next highest score was 10/17. Afterwards, Ed acknowledged that we would have won without them [especially because they missed the science question].
We sat and talked with Roxanne while MA worked on the NYT crossword. When Roxanne left, MA and D worked on the puzzle before D started to update the journal. By then it was almost 4 p.m., time for the siesta. It’s interesting to note that we begin our siesta at the same time most people end theirs. Hmmm…
With no plans for the evening, D finished the entry early so he could post the last four days.
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow -- A week of sea days