Saturday, August 13, 2016

Day 10 – Barcelona – August 13th

Another fiasco getting off the boat, but we’re learning that this might be a product of the culture.  There’s no sense of urgency in Spain it seems.  This is something we should have known, but did not anticipate.  

We stood in the cue for a taxi for about a half hour watching as 6-8 taxis at a time loaded people and bags, then went on their way.  Then the taxi area would be empty while they radioed for another set of taxis.  It was amusing especially since we did not have to catch a flight.  I can just imagine how frustrating it was for the folks trying to make their flight times.

Soon we were able to board a cab and asked the driver to take us to Sagrada Familia. 

H-O-L-Y C-O-W this place was magnificent.  Ornate, gigantic, magnificent.  Unfortunately we were unable to go in, but we had a great time simply taking in the sight.  We walked around the church and looked at it from all angles and vowed to look up an extensive documentary about it when we got back home.

Then we went across the street to McDonalds because Shawn wanted to eat chicken nuggets in Europe, which made me laugh, so I happily obliged.  

After that we walked to Casa Amatller.  We had planned just to purchase some chocolate to take back home as gifts for everyone, but stayed for a tour of the house.  Super interesting and informative.  If you’re ever in Barcelona, this is a pretty cool stop.  They give you information about architecture, history and design about Barcelona simply by touring this house.  Both of us enjoyed it immensely.

Upon leaving Casa Amatller we were on a mission to find some good paella. Because what are the two things you need to have while in Spain?  Paella and tapas.  Shawn mapped a spot that had good reviews, but on our way there we stumbled upon an outdoor market where we purchased fresh juice.  Shawn had raspberry and I had blackberry banana.  Both were refreshing and amazing.  This seems like a ‘thing’ here – fresh juice.  I can see why, it was delicious.  

Interestingly enough, this outdoor market also had paella, cured meats, tons of cheeses, places to sit and have lunch, fruits and vegetables, among many other things.  Of course we had paella, which we split because it was so big.  On our way out we stopped by an olive stand that had these little travel cups of olives for 1 euro.  I had to stop in honor of my sister.  We share a love for all things briney, especially olives.  They were, by far, some of the best olives I’ve ever had.

A cab picked us up by chance and headed back to the ship.  The boat is now on its way to Cartegena.  I wonder what adventures will find us there?  A relaxing day, hopefully, but we’ll take what comes.  Adventures with Carol continue!!! 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Day 9 – Valencia – August 12th

No plans, no expectations, just being.  The goal of Valencia was to just be and observe, and that’s what we did.  

The boat arrived in Valencia over an hour late because someone on the boat spotted what appeared to be a vessel of some sort floating in the water as we left Gibraltar.  The ship had a responsibility to check it out, and it went quite a bit out of the way to see what it was.  It turned out to be the underside of a dead whale, thankfully.  Well, not thankfully because a beautiful creature had died, but we were thankful it wasn’t a capsized boat.  Because of our expedition, the captain tried to makeup time but because of the headwinds, we were late anyway.  And with the Royal Princess being a gigantic ship, there was just no way to make up the time which put us behind schedule.  

Once we docked everyone it seemed, over 3,000 people got off the boat all at once.  Shawn and I decided to hang back because we didn’t want to get caught in a mess of people trying to exit the boat.  Little did we know we’d get caught in one regardless of our efforts. 

There was one bus that brought people from the dock to the maritime station, and people were itching to get into town.  Regardless of any semblance of a line to get on the bus, the people from the ship did not follow directions and just rushed the bus as soon as it arrived.  We again decided to hang back and just watch, but it seemed like there was no other way.  So we kindly nudged our way onto the bus while trying to protect the older folks getting on.  Making sure we protected people as best we could from others pushing, we boarded the bus.

The maritime station also served as a tourist information spot.  We bought tickets to a hop-on/hop-off bus.  We wanted to hop off, but decided we wouldn’t have enough time to wait for another bus to come as each stop there was a decent wait, so we stayed on just listening to the information given about historical sights and the like.  It was interesting, but sitting for over an hour listening to a recording was a bit challenging.  

No harm, no fowl though.  We had no plans and ended up driving by and seeing some pretty cool stuff.  But I can’t bet the experience in Barcelona will be different. 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Day 8 – Gibraltar – August 11th

We’re going to call this post “Adventures with Carol”.  This is a saying that has come about because I like to fly by the seat of my pants when adventures await, or I create adventures.  It really depends on the situation.  Sometimes I like to just see what kind of trouble finds me, while other times I like to plan things out.  But more often than not, we like to see what finds us especially when we’re on a cruise.  This is what Europe has been for us – adventurous.  Shawn doesn’t seem to like it too much, but he appreciates it when the adventures pan out. 

We got off the boat in Gibraltar with little to no expectation except to climb the gigantic Rock of Gibraltar.  We normally don’t book excursions with the cruise lines because they are so dang expensive, and this was no exception.  We decided to get off the boat to see what kind of trouble found us.  So off we went.

We walked down the pier and through town to a huge shopping area.  We passed quite a few shops as the downtown area is mainly shopping for tourists. 

Our next top was an old cemetery from the 1800’s that cataloged deaths the occurred in battle, among other things called Tarafalgar Cemetery.  It was interesting to Shawn and me, given that we live at the property line of a cemetery from the 1800’s.  We walked around and read some of the headstones.

Noticing how tall the rock was, the decision to avoid the 80 degree heat and 1,000% humidity was an easy one.  We needed transportation.  Outside of the sky-tram station were taxi drivers trying to sell their tour.  Tending to be a bit skeptical, I asked a lot of questions.  How much is it?  What’s included?  How much would it be if we did this independently?  Are all the tickets paid for?  What will we get to see?  Etc……  In the end, the decision was easy – let’s go!

We gathered a random group of 8 people for the van and headed up the insane drive to The Rock.  The driver and tour guide took us up to a high point where we could overlook Spain, Gibraltar and most awesomely, Africa.   Not knowing if we will ever visit Africa, this was a pretty cool experience.  Some pictures were taken, mostly selfies, the view was enjoyed, and we were soon on our way again.  In an air-conditioned van… 1,000% humidity.  I’d say our group got a good deal.

The next stop on our mini-tour was St. Michael’s cave.  From what we gathered they hold productions in the cave when it’s not rainy season.  When it is rainy season, the cave is understandably wet.  Obviously, this is how the stalactites and stalagmites are formed.  They have it designed such that there are lights (which turn different colors), and staircases so that you can get around to see different part of the cave.  This was super interesting given that we’ve visited a number of caves like this in California.  

From there we went to go see the monkeys.  Oh, the monkeys!  The tour was warned many times not to feed them or get too close because, well, they are wild animals.  And boy did they live up to that.  A number of people did not listen and fed the monkeys anyway, which was awful.  But thankfully what they fed them were mainly fruits.  However, one butt-munch decided to feed a monkey packaged cereal.  Yeah, not good for the monkey tummy I’ll bet.

The tour guide moved us from one family of monkeys to the next, which was where these guys were fed.  We hung out at the very top of the rock for a bit and took in the sights, all while monkeys were jumping on the vans, people and even fought with one another a bit.  All in all it was pretty interesting.

Our tour was nearly over with a brief drive by the old Moorish Castle, which was a lookout and defensive space that had cannonball marks from hundreds of years ago.  The walls are 2 meters thick, so the cannonballs did very little damage, but you could see where they hit.  However, the structure was built so well that it withstood many battles.  

Walking back to the boat we decided to stop by a food stand for a shawarma.  Oh – my – goodness this thing was amazing.  I find it a bit amusing that we had to go to Gibraltar for a shawarma, but it was super-duper good.  We also tried banofee pie, which was awesome. 

After leaving port Shawn noticed something pretty cool.  There were a couple of dolphins waiting by the boat just kind of chillin’ there.  The ship started to leave and they swam alongside the boat. Then a few more appeared, then even more came.  Once the boat really started to go and a wake appeared the dolphins began riding the waves of the wake.  It was one of the coolest experiences we’ve had on a cruise ship.  Hundreds of dolphins waited around for the ship to leave, and once it did they were having a blast just playing around.