A Travellerspoint blog

Koper

  • KOPER **

Date: *26th May

  • Lat: *45 deg. 33.0 min. N *Long: *13 deg. 48.3 min. W
  • Weather: *High cloud at first then bright and sunny 21c

This was our first visit to Koper and Slovenia, were berthed in Slovenia`s only commercial port right next to the old part of the town. Again seeing it was our first time there we decided to just go ashore and explore. We arrived at 8 o`clock but we took a latish breakfast at 9.30 and then got our things together for our visit ashore.

There was no big terminal building but a modern walk through one with all the necessary things for the security when coming back onto the ship. The tourist people on the quayside seemed well organised and very friendly supplying us with the maps.

We took the water front route towards the town, during our walk in we passed 2 groups of young kindergarten children in a walking train, it was amusing just to watch them. Passing a busy marina and lido area we were onto a harbour side promenade, the sea was absolutely flat not a ripple on the water. Although we had not long been ashore it was a good impression that we were getting for the place, all walk ways were good and flat, gardens were well-kept and streets very clean.

We passed some more gardens plenty of pavement cafes then it was their open air market with all the local produce and freshly caught fish. With the sun shining it was time for an ice-cream stop, again it was very nice and a good price, two good size cones for 2.8 euros.

Up now into the older part of town and Koper has a lot of history especially connected to the Romans and the Venetians. You are soon in and out of small narrow streets one of these brought us into Tito square ( named after the former Yugoslav president), on one side the Praetorian Palace, once the seat of Venetian power. Right opposite the “Loggia” which was used as a debating house for the townsmen, and in between the cathedral with its square bell tower and highly visible throughout the area. Now exiting through an arch into a narrow street which is today full of small shops but in previous times was where local craftsmen worked, as we continued down it opened up into “Preseren square” where can see the “Da Ponte Fountain” and the only remaining city gate the “ Muda gate” from the 16th century.

Going through the Muda gate you bring yourself onto one of the main roads of Koper, and we both remarked there seemed to be a bit wealth in the area with many nice cars and the surrounding hills full of modern housing and also the local people very well dressed.

We now made our way back to the ship, and we can really say that we`ve enjoyed our visit to Koper and would certainly like to come back again.

With a boarding time of no later than 3.30pm as we had a long way to go for our next port, Dubrovnik in Croatia we sailed out into a flat calm sea, what a good stop!!

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Posted by pzack 06:15 Comments (0)

Venice

  • VENICE

Date: *Monday 25th May

  • Lat:* 45 deg. 26.2 min. N *Long: *12 deg. 18.7 min. W
  • Weather: *Some high cloud on arrival, sunny the rest of day 21c
  • Position: *Latitude 45deg. 26.2 min. N Longitude 12 deg. 18.7 min. E

We were up early to see ourselves arrive into one of the most beautiful cities in the world from a cruising point of view, this is one of the most spectacular arrivals you could imagine. It was an early start 7.30 am, we were not ready for the whole day yet, just a quick dash out of bed and out onto Promenade deck so as not to miss a thing. We had just passed the new flood defences which will protect the city from future flooding, it will work on the same principle as the Thames barrier, when a high tide is predicted the barrier is then closed. (These flood defences are not complete yet, but well under way). The weather was pleasant with some high cloud, and everything seemed quite still, in the distance the sun was catching the top of some snow- capped mountains. Being low tide, some parts of the lagoon were quite shallow, and on one of the mud banks some local fishermen were up to their knees in the water, and we found out later, they were after Clams.

With the assistance of a pilot our sail in is a quiet slow affair, with the occasional motor taxi or vaporetto (they are their water buses) going by. We then passed a park, with occasional joggers on the tow path. The sky line of the city with its many bell towers now in full view, we started to see much more boat traffic all scurrying around. As we neared St Mark’s square the waterfront properties with their different colours were all looking resplendent, another thing that catches your eye is the little side canals leading off into the back waters of the city, all with their low arched bridges.

We`re now level with the bottom of the grand canal with the sights of the “Doges Palace”, “Bridge of Sighs”, “ St Mark`s square” the bell tower of the “Campanile di San Marco” all in full view, and your inner excitement thinking you`ll be in amongst all these fabulous places soon.

Our berth was at what they call their Maritime Harbour, there are enough spaces for four large cruise ships, when we arrived we were the second ship, a Thompson was already berthed, and later a German ship came in. To get into our berth the ship needs to turn at right angles to the passing canal, to complete this operation we were assisted by two tugs.

With breakfast over, and our bags packed for the day`s events, we made our way ashore. Again it’s a thing we like doing on our own and finding out what the city has to offer. From the cruise terminal we made our way to the overhead Mono-rail, which is a fully automated service running between the Tronchetto car park and Piazzale Roma with the cruise terminal in between. We like using the Vaporetto water buses, and we brought a 24 hour ticket, (on a previous visits a 12 hour ticket was available) so we could go anywhere in Venice or the surrounding islands where these Vaporettos run. But one of the first routes on a “No 1 vaporetto” we take is down the Grand Canal to either the Rialto bridge, the Accademia bridge or St Mark`s square, but you can be sure all of these places will be visited at some time during the day. But for this visit we wanted to see what is known as the “Arsenale”.It was the greatest shipyard in the world, for 700 years before Napoleon the republics galleys and galleons were being built here, and they were the first to use a conveyor belt system or mass production as we know it. These 16,000 masters and builders were highly respected citizens in there day. But sadly, all that is left is these days is the façade of the entrance to the dockyard and an open water space. There was a naval museum near- by, so it was a photo shoot and back to the waterfront where we hopped onto the next vaporetto to the Accademia bridge, for the purpose of stopping for some lunch. As we`ve been to Venice a few times we always use the same restaurant because of its proximity to the bridge . This bridge is a wooden one and well used, because a lot of the popular sights are within easy reach of it. Also on this trip we have noticed on some the waterfront bridges that they have wheelchair access ramps on them, giving the disabled some limited access to the city.

Our lunch was a pizza each with a side salad and a soft drink, this was eaten at a leisurely pace. And we were able to use some the free WIFI as well. Off on our travels again taking the walking route to St Marks square. Every major sight is very well sign posted even in the smallest of alleyways so it`s impossible to get lost. There were masses of people, but it all adds to the atmosphere. We never cease to be amazed by all the wonderful buildings everywhere. To get out of the heat we used the covered walkway which surrounds St Marks square, milling with every nation under the sun. We were now following the signs to take us back to the Rialto bridge, again we were on one of the most popular routes between two major sights. The Rialto bridge along with part of the Basilica in St. Marks square is partly covered with scaffold, this seems to happen a lot these days, but these fine buildings must be persevered.

We were now making our way back to our ship, we picked up the vaporetto for the Piazzale Roma from the Rialto bridge, and the water buses were still as busy as they were when arrived in the morning, but still it all added to the fabulous day we had just experienced. So for us it was the reverse route from the morning run, the mono-rail then the walk to the ship. Our stay in Venice was an extended one because we did not have to be back on board until 10.30pm, some passengers took the opportunity to have an evening ashore but we declined.

Always a little sad to be leaving such a beautiful place, but with the impressions of what we had seen that day very fresh in our minds, you can only feel good inside. *Thank you Venice for a great day!!*

Now to our next port of “Koper” in Slovenia which is only a short distance away so we had leisurely overnight sail.

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Posted by pzack 06:05 Comments (0)

Malta

  • MALTA**

DATE: *23/05/15

  • Lat:* 35 deg. 53.4 min. N *Longitude:* 14 deg. 30.6 min. W
  • Weather: * Sunny all day with a few white clouds 19 c

For anyone who sails into Valletta you can see immediately why it was so important to the defence of the island of Malta. With a fort on one side of its narrow entrance and the high walled ramparts either side makes it ideal to defend. The whole place looks a sand or beige colour, as all of the walls and buildings are made of their local sandstone. The harbour is quite long and relatively narrow with a couple of side estuaries, one of which is the industrial docks, and the other quite a large marina. There is a good mixture of usage with pleasure and commercial craft, I have seen as many as 5 cruise ships in at one time. Our berth is the Valletta side of the harbour, and you are faced with a steep climb to get up to the town. But luckily for us visitors there are many forms of transport to take you to the top (or beyond!), a bus service, horse and carriages and taxis. The cruise terminal area has recently been developed with apartments with marina facilities, also pavement cafés and bars making a very pleasant environment. Another recent addition to aid the tourist is a lift which is 58 meters high which takes you from the water front level to the upper Barranca Gardens, which is at the main Valletta town level. (Incidentally the view from Barranca Gardens is terrific one, you get excellent panoramic view of the whole harbour).

We`ve have been to Malta several times but never really explored Valletta, so that was our main object for this trip. We decided to walk the route into town which was all up hill, and quite steep, but with a pleasant temperature and the sun shining we took our time. During the walk up the hill you get some fantastic views. As you near the “City Gate” and “Freedom Square” end of the town there are a lot of major restoration and refurbishment going on, and this is where some of their Roman ruins are. (The island has a 4,000 year history with many different cultures and societies). The whole town is laid out on a grid system, and the central main street is Republic street, it runs from the top to the bottom of the whole town. As you look down its length it had a dip in the middle so on our day visit being a Saturday when you looked down the street it seemed very busy with people, but with a good atmosphere!

Malta has long been connected to the Knights which were involved the crusades and as you walk down Republic street you will see many buildings connected to this time, St John`s Cathedral, Auberge de Castile, (former palaces of the Knights) and the Grand Master`s Palace, so there are a lot of fine buildings with history attached to them to be seen.

As you pass the many side streets to the northern side you catch a sight of the sea which is part of the harbour at Sliema another of Maltas towns, a place where most of the islands ferries work from. A sign outside one of the many cafes was a local delicacy of “Rabbit Stew” something you don`t see a lot of these days!! We did not stop for a drink at the many cafes but we did stop at an Italian ice-cream parlour and we were not disappointed,
for this particular parlour makes your ice-cream look like a flower with the petals of the flower being of the different flavour ice-creams ( very artistic but also Delicious!!)

After seeing what we wanted to see we made our way back to the ship at a slow pace. We took a late lunch on-board and retired to the promenade deck for a quite sit down but we were still able to take in some of islands views. At 6 o`clock we went out onto the ships handrail to see ourselves leave the harbour, this was well worth while as it`s a great harbour to enter of leave.

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Posted by pzack 05:45 Comments (0)

Cadiz

  • CADIZ*

*Date:* 20/ 05/15

LAT: 36 deg. 32.0 min N LONG: 06 deg. 17.5 W

  • Weather: *Some cloud at first, Sunny later 20c

The city itself is almost an island as it`s completely surrounded by the sea. Cadiz is situated on the Atlantic side of the Straights of Gibraltar and the Mediterranean Sea. And has a very long history which stretches back some 3,000 years and it is thought to be the oldest inhabited city in Europe. As a port it had much to do with Spain`s conquests of the Americas and over the years many rich merchants were based there, and the city today has many fine buildings which were those merchants homes along with civic buildings which accompanied such wealth.

We arrived at our correct time of 9 o`clock with another cruise ship, the Boudica already berthed. For this port we had no excursion booked, and we find the city of Cadiz such a pleasant place to visit, it`s all very walkable with some gentle inclines here and there. The cruise berths and terminal are right alongside the city itself, so for us passengers it makes it so easy. There is always a good supply of tourist information available, and the famous open topped “City tour Buses” just outside the dock gates. So for this visit it was a stroll around, but I wanted to see an old fortress wall which was a part of the cities defences in past times. I must say things are made simple for us tourists because the fortress wall is part of a recommended walk, so all we had to do was follow a painted line through the streets until we got there. On the sea side of the wall there is a fantastic promenade and it stretches for a few miles connecting the city to the land mass. Along this promenade are many fine beaches.

We headed back towards the city passing some old Roman ruins, and back into the high narrow streets and the character of Cadiz. After a short while we found ourselves by the magnificent Baroque Cathedral, a real busy place, so we stopped in the square at a pavement café for a cool drink and watched the world go by, street musicians, a flamenco dancer were all there.

From that square we followed a well-trodden route which was used to celebrate the setting up of the cities constitution “La Papa” back in 1812, when there was much political unrest in Spain. Following that route we soon came into a small triangular space which is their flower market, then in one corner of this space it leads you into their main open market where all types of local produce can be found, again a very colourful place.

During the walk you always have to keep looking up for there you see many splendid buildings with their street level entrances tiled with the local traditional tiles. Onward now into the Plaza San Antonio, this square was the civic and religious centre of Cadiz, and even today you can find many of the cities university buildings in the nearby area. Now heading towards the sea, and the Bay of Cadiz you pass through a lovely shaded square of the Plaza de Wina a great place to sit and cool down, through a narrow road passing some local bars it opens up to meet again the sea side promenade, and a great view of the whole bay. On the headlands of the promenade you will find some of the old fortifications which guarded the city from the sea, also on this part of the promenade the ornate street lamps are something to see. We are now getting back to the main harbour and our cruise ship but before we do you come across the Plaza de Espana, and the magnificent “Monument to the Cadiz Parliament, Constitution and Siege”. This was well worth seeing.

So our walking tour around Cadiz which had given us much pleasure was at an end, so we say thank you Cadiz, now it was back to our ship and a late lunch.

Well I will say goodbye for now, as we sail to our next port of Valetta on the island of Malta.

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Posted by pzack 00:35 Comments (1)

Here we go

  • Here we go!*

We drove to Southampton on the morning of our departure, we had good driving conditions, and being a Sunday there weren`t many cars on the road especially the early part as we left home at 6.30am. Our drive took 5 hours. And we were on board for lunch, after completing all our boarding checks.

At the moment we`re sailing down the coast of Portugal on this our second day, heading for our first port of call, the port of Cadiz in southern Spain.

We had a good sail away from our home port Southampton. We left at 5.30pm, with a bright sunny evening to sail down the Solent, we had a slight delay, because we had to wait for the Cunard ship the Queen Mary to move out from her berth, and we then followed her, we don`t know where her cruise was going.

Our first morning we passed the Ushant point in northern France and entered the Bay of Biscay, the crossing of which was good, the sea state was quite flat just a few white horses, but no big swells. It was mainly overcast but it did brighten later in the day to give some sunshine. And now our second day the weather is still overcast, so hopefully we`ll see some sun later in the day.

On our evening dining table there are six of us and we seemed to be getting on well, also we have met some familiar faces, some were passengers and some were crew, and we have done a lot of catching up. This is only the second time being on the Aurora, so we spent some the day yesterday making ourselves familiar where everything is.

Well I think that`s about all our news for now, but just say I shall be doing all my updates from ashore this trip, so there could be breaks of a few days in between each blog.

Bye!

Posted by pzack 06:05 Comments (0)

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