A Travellerspoint blog

Last few Days

  • LAST FEW DAYS*

Always a sad occasion when see those words, but all good things must come to an end.

Since our departure from Cartagena an overnight steam took us to going through the Straits of Gibraltar at 7.30 the next morning. On the 25th a day at sea with weather and sea condition all in our favour, we rounded Cape St Vincent and took a northerly coarse up the coast of Portugal, with a light southerly wind on our stern it made for very favourable conditions on deck with the sun out as well, not hot but very nice.

26th , much the same really, very nice conditions, sea state flat light SE`ly winds we made our entrance into the Bay of Biscay, with no demons in sight, sat out on deck late afternoon, sun coming down, what more could we ask for. That evening the sea was like a mirror.

27th last full day, Packing day!!! “How are we going to fit it all in” but we make it! Sea and weather all good again, sea is like a mirror again as we round Ushant point off of the north of France, now into the English channel. Apart for the first couple of days out of Southampton where we had overcast days the weather has been good, it was nice to see the sun and
feel the heat on your back, so we can feel satisfied, just what you would hope for if you were at home.

Well we will signed off now, and say Goodbye to you all. (Again)

Posted by pzack 08:05 Comments (0)

Cartagena

  • CARTAGENA

Date: *24th May 2016

  • Weather:* Warm and sunny, with some cloud, no wind 23c
  • Latitude: *37 degs 35.7 mins N* Longitude:* 000 degs 59.0 mins W

Cartagena, with a population of 200,000 it has a port and naval base on the Costa Calida ( Warm Coast) of the Mediterranean Sea in south eastern Spain. It has a magnificent harbour and a very long history. Mountains surround the city and is part of the province and autonomous community of Murcia which is one of the driest parts of Spain. Alicante is 68 miles to the north and Almeria is 150 miles to the southwest. I mentioned history just now, all the major ancient Mediterranean civilizations have made their claim here at some time or other, and as the town name suggest the Carthaginians were here, and Hannibal, he of the elephants crossing the Alps fame, made his base here before setting off on his journey to Rome .

This port is just the tonic you need after the big cities, for us it was latish breakfast, then it was out on the top deck to re-acquaint ourselves with the layout of the port, as we`ve been here before. Everything we can see is modern, our berth, the quayside with its palms, two marinas and a promenade , but there is an old fort on a near hillside.

One great thing about this port is the comfort of walking about, all of the towns pedestrianized streets are paved with either granite, marble or slate, I don`t which but are excellent and so clean. Up passed the marinas and the palms you first come to a small park with palms and a monument , then some magnificent buildings I think it`s their town hall. Near bye there are the remains of a Roman theatre which has been excavated, along with other Roman ruins. The pedestrian streets are full of the café culture making for a good atmosphere. The towns shops seemed to be mostly independent outlets with some national chain stores, and speaking to some of our fellow passengers, and from what we noticed ourselves that the prices are cheap compare to the other places we`ve been on this trip.

As you walk along, you have look up and see the top parts of the buildings. You`ll notice the apartments along the street some painted different colours, and lots with small wrought iron balconies, all very Spanish, as we`ve seen the likes of them in Cadiz and La Corunna. In the middle of the main street is a fine building with ornate stonework, street level it is a bank, but there markings on it that it was or still is an hotel.

So having reached the end of the pedestrian area we about turned and it was a slow amble back through the cafes looking for either a place to have a drink or an ice-cream and do some people watching, we settled for the second option an ice-cream.

So it was back to the ship, some late lunch, and a relax on-board before we watched sail- away out into the Mediterranean. Always a sad point when you`ve no more ports to visit, but we still had days at sea before we reach our home port of Southampton.

So I`ll say goodbye for now, and hope you`ve enjoyed following us on our little journey.

Goodbye

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Posted by pzack 01:05 Comments (0)

Civitavecchia

  • CIVITAVECCHIA

Date:* 22nd May 2016

  • Weather: *Clear blue skies all day, very light winds 23c ( 30c Rome )
  • Latitude: * 42 degs 6.1 N* Longitude: *11 degs 46.2 E

For our day in Civitavecchia we had an excursion to Rome, and it was the same sort of trip as our day yesterday where we are taken to Rome in this case, by coach and given a map and a pickup point, our pickup time was 4.30pm , so it gave us 5 ¾ hr to do what you like. As fate would have it, some friends of ours from home were on holiday in Italy and were in Rome that day, so we had arranged to meet each other, and see the sights. Our meeting point with them was at the Spanish steps, and everything went to plan, as we made contact.

The Spanish steps were not at their best, as the bottom 2/3rds were fenced off for restoration work, but this doesn`t seem to stop people enjoying themselves, it was as busy as ever. It`s always disappointing when the site you`ve come to see is not at its best, but these national treasures have to be looked after. Our next port of call was the Trevi fountain, and I must say when we walked into the small square where it`s situated it looked really magnificent, I believe it to had not long had its restoration done. The surrounding steps and seats were packed with people, but with a clear blue sky and the water in the fountain so blue, the actual marble figures were so white, they really stood out. It is sights like this that make you want to come to Rome again and again!!! And of course the coins were flying into the water.

We got our baring’s looking for the correct street for our exit onto the Pantheon. We passed many street cafes and street artist along the way. On arrival at the Pantheon there was a big crowd waiting to visit, as it was a Sunday a service had just finished inside, so the wait was not too long. This building dates back to AD 125 when it was rebuilt after a fire by Emperor Hadrian, and was converted into a church in the 7th century. When looking at it today it`s hard to believe that it was used in Roman times. It`s dome is 141 feet in diameter, and equal in its height and is larger than the one at St Peters Basilica. Inside the coloured marbles are a sight to see, with a large hole in the centre of the dome a shaft of sunlight makes a dramatic effect on the stone work.

Next we moved on to the Piazza Navona, but before exploring the Piazza we headed down a side street to find a restaurant. After studying the menu our choice was made, Pasta, Pizza and salad were the order of the day, along with some cold drinks. So after our rest and being refuelled it was back into the Piazza Navona, three groups of fountains and statues dominate this long rectangle of a Piazza, with some fine buildings along its sides.

We were now making our way to St Peters square where that morning some big religious service had taken place, we did this by crossing the river Tiber on the bridge “ Umberto”, as we crossed you have a magnificent building in front you, which today is Palazzo of Justice, following the river Tiber, you next come across the “ Castel Sant Angelo” again built by Emperor Hadrian in AD 130 as a part of the cities defences, today it`s a museum. You now have a good view of St Peters Basilica, the road leading to it is like an avenue with tall pillars either side, ( these pillars are modern). Nearing the entrance to St Peters square we were passed by a religious parade, the music was Very sombre and every one in it were dressed in black( I think it was something to do with being a special day) Taking in the view of the whole square it`s a very impressive sight, we did not visit the Basilica as we`ve done this before and our friends were visiting on another day. This was as far as we were going today and we started our return journey by walking around the covered pillars of the square then back to river Tiber where we walked under the shaded treelined path along the river banks. With less spring in our step now, as the heat and distance had taken its toll, we found an Ice-cream parlour it was like an oasis in the desert, we chose our flavours and rested for a good while.

We were very near the point of our pickup, we passed by and through the grounds of the “Teatro di Marcello” begun by Augustus and the architectural model for the Colosseum, as you see these sites it`s hard to believe they`re 2000 years old!

Well we had a long and tiring day, but had seen a lot of what Rome has to offer, and this is where we said our goodbyes to our friend Mike & Tasha as they made their way back to their hotel. Just one more cold drink in a café, more for the shade really with our pickup point in view. Everyone was on time, and we had a quiet journey back to our ship in Civitavecchia.

We were now heading for our last port of call Cartagena is Spain, so hope you`ll join us there.

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Posted by pzack 08:05 Comments (0)

Livorno

  • LIVORNO

Date: * 21st May 2016

  • Weather: *Clear blue skies all day 24c
  • Latitude: * 43 degs 33.5 mins N* Longitude: * 10 degs 17.8 mins E

Livorno as a port is situated in the region of Tuscany and is used mainly as means to get to Florence and Pisa. But it is a large industrial port as well, other fine places which can be visited from this port, are the cities of Sienna, Luca ( the birth place of Puccini ) and of course the beautiful Tuscan countryside. For us it was a visit to Florence, and we did an excursion from the ship “ Florence on your own” where you are taken to Florence by coach with a guide, supplied with maps and advice, taken to a drop off point, given a return time, then you do your own thing.

Our journey time was approximately 1 ½ hours, and soon after leaving the port with the clear visibility we could see the southern edge of the Italian alps. And it was pointed out to us that the white patches on some of these mountains was not snow but white marble which is quarried there. I`d always associated Tuscany with big rolling hills with scattered villages and poplar trees on the sky line, but the first part of our journey it was largely flat plains. It wasn`t until we got further on that the rolling hills and wooded hillside came into view.

We were taken to the Piazza Santa Croce which was our dropping off point and also our pickup point later, this square has a fine marble fronted church with many historical links to some of the famous Florentines such as Michelangelo, Galileo, Dante and Machiavelli. We hadn`t gone far, and in a shaded street when we had an ice-cream, it was just the thing as temperatures were on the rise. It was soon apparent that Florence was the home of leather craft, with a massive choice in every colour of coats, belts, purses and of course handbags but they were all *very* expensive.

You cannot go very far wrong with Florence, the choice of sights to see were endless, provided you have a good street map and you have plenty of stamina to keep walking, as it`s all flat. Our planned route took us first to the main square, the Piazza Della Signora, this is one of the busiest places in Florence, historically, and today, it is the political heart of the city. Situated in it there are some very fine statues, one of which is the copy of Michelangelo`s David, the original is in the Accademia gallery. Also off the Piazza is the Uffizi gallery which houses some of the world`s most famous works of art. We then moved on to the Duomo , this place dominates the skyline of Florence with its massive dome but the outside of the cathedral is a pleasure to see with all the different colour marbles, it all looks so clean and fresh. You can go inside and it is possible to climb the dome to view the city, this cathedral has a capacity of 20,000 people! Opposite the Duomo lies the baptistery a 12th century building believed to be the oldest in Florence it is famed for its 3 sets of Bronze gilded doors one of which is “ The Gates of Paradise”, inside are some beautiful mosaics .

With all this history, and more to see we moved on into the “Piazza della Repubblica” where there is a massive arch, and the associated buildings with it take up one side of this big square, but still a fine sight.

With the heat of the day taking its toll, we decided to look for a shaded restaurant for lunch, and that we did. We had some pasta, salad and pizza all washed down with a cold drink, we went for the Italian method of time, long and slow.

The last time we were here we did an organised excursion, and you don`t get to see everything in your time here, so we never got to visit the Ponte Vecchio bridge, only saw it from a distance. So that was our next port of call, we were both surprised with its layout we knew about the jewellery shops being on it but we expected a bit more rise to centre of the bridge, it just seemed like a flat road, but it did not disappoint us! While we were across the bridge we continued along until we came to Palazzo Pitti, a giant of a building, apparently built by Luca Pitti a Florentine merchant as a symbol of his wealth, to try and outdo one of his rivals the Medici family. Returning along our route we stopped for a break on one of the pavement cafes, after which we walked along the banks of the river Arno, crossing at another bridge making our way slowly back to our pickup point.

We came on holiday to see these places and to get some sun, but in cities such as Florence they are very tiring, so we were glad to get back to the pickup point, where we waited for our guide in the shade, and with no one missing from our group we had a restful journey in the coach back to our ship in Livorno, so a good day was had.

We have a short overnight trip to our next port Civitavecchia for our trip to Rome.

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Posted by pzack 23:25 Comments (0)

Cannes

  • CANNES

Date: *20th May 2016

  • Latitude: * 43 degs. 32.0 mins N *Longitude: *07 degs 1.3 E
  • Weather: *Clear blue skies all day, light sea breeze 23c

For this port we had to be tendered ashore, by the ships life boats. It`s all very well organized, you collect a ticket from one of the ships lounges and when your number is called you go to the tender platform and then go ashore.

We were in no particular hurry to go ashore, so it was a latish breakfast, we checked our surroundings from the top deck, and took a few photos, the view we had was magnificent, the sea was so blue and the sun shining on all of the buildings, it looked great. The bay we were in was full of luxury yachts all different sizes, plus another cruise ship the “Norwegian Epic” and a couple of smaller cruise ships. You might ask why all this shipping, well our visit to Cannes coincided with the Cannes film festival.

Our landing point ashore was very near the “Old town”. We were soon passing one of the marinas with lovely yachts everywhere. Heading for the famous “ Promenade de la Croisette” we were passing the temporary tented village for the film festival, I suppose this was where all the Beautiful people would be seen!! Up next is the main festival hall and a lot of activity here, one side of the dual carriage way was closed outside the hall and used as a pedestrian walkway, here there were camera crew and the like some people parading around hoping to be spotted by a film director, it was really entertaining! The security people all around the “Red carpet” was unbelievable. But still it`s something you don`t see every day, now onto the Promenade proper beautiful tall trees which give shade, small
manicured flower beds and a lovely footpath, on the sea side there were beach restaurants with sun loungers and beach umbrellas, a lot of the beach restaurants belong to hotels which are directly opposite. There are several public beaches within the town so everyone can have a bit of the good life.
We continued along the promenade until we were opposite the famous Carlton hotel, it`s a very fine building, but as with all the hotels along the front there were temporary advertisements on parts of their façade because of the film festival. We then swapped sides of the road, away from the beach side promenade and walked back toward the main town along the pavement in front of the hotels where there are many of the top designer brand shops, each with its own security guards on the door.

We decided to stay ashore for some lunch, and we were looking for Cannes old town, it was not difficult to find. Down one of the side streets we found a busy but shaded restaurant, we ended up with a pizza each and nice cool drink, we had plenty of time so we just soaked up the atmosphere of it all. After lunch we strolled along the busy and narrow streets of the old town, one thing to mention here, it`s very difficult to not stop and gaze, but also be tempted by all the fine pastries.

Nearly back to where we had started, we passed by the many pavement cafes by the marina, just a final look at the sea before we boarded our tender to get back to our ship. It was a bit on the lumpy side, as the breeze had got up, it was not a big swell it just happened to be in the wrong direction.

All in all we had a great day in Cannes, so it`s onto our next port of Livorno in Italy.

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Posted by pzack 14:55 Comments (0)

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