A Travellerspoint blog

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)

La Coruna

  • LA CORUNA**

Date: * 4th November 2014

  • Weather: * Mostly Showery with some sunny periods, Hails, Thunder & Lightning

Our visit into the port of La Coruna was a most welcomed break, because of the weather and sea conditions the previous afternoon and night, for the seas had been really rough and our ship had been moving around a lot. But for the time of year, we`ve had some fabulous winter sunshine.

This was our first visit to La Coruna (or as it`s known locally “A Coruna”), it is situated in the north west corner of Spain in the region of Galicia and is also that regions capital. Our berth is right in the centre of the city. And we had no particular plans for our visit, just to go ashore and explore to see what was there. After breakfast there was some doubt whether we would go ashore or not, because the weather had been quite showery with thunder and lightning not very far away, and that persisted for most of the day.

Finding a break in the weather we stepped ashore and were a bit surprised on what saw, a palm lined square come park, it was more sophisticated and well laid out, more like an inland city than a coastal one. La Coruna is also known as the “Crystal City” because of the glass-enclosed balconies which adorn the tall apartment buildings facing the harbour, and I must say they do look impressive. We followed the harbour road around and then under an arch into the Plaza de Maria Reta this was a fine open space with on one side a fine looking town hall the other sides of the plaza were substantial granite buildings. Out through some corresponding arches on another side of the Plaza and into what looked like the main shopping street, it was nice to see independent retailers rather than the multi-national chain shops. All along this shopping street there were many street sellers of umbrellas and that is not surprising as this area of Spain is renowned for its rainfall.

We now found ourselves back the commercial part of the city, with many fine bank buildings, but with threatening black sky overhead we decided to make our way back to the ship. Our observations of the weather were well founded because as we arrived at the terminal building we had a thunder storm coupled with some hails.

This was just a fleeting glance of La Coruna but some of its nearby attractions are, the still used Roman Lighthouse, Cape Finisterre and its proximity to Santiago de Compostela with its fine cathedral and the final destination for the pilgrims on the walk of St. James.

So of out into the Bay of Biscay and onward to our home port of Southampton, I known it was only a short trip, and hope you have enjoyed following us on our days ashore.

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Posted by pzack 07:35 Comments (0)

Seville

  • CADIZ / SEVILLE**

Date: *2nd November 2014

  • Weather: *Little early cloud, but cleared to give long sunny periods 26c

We like it when we visit Cadiz, but this time we made the decision to visit Seville before we`d left home. We`d tried to go to Seville before but it
was the height if their summer, when the air temperatures are very high,
and not comfortable for sight-seeing.

Our excursion “ Seville on your Own”, is where you are taken there, you are given a meeting point, a city map and a time to be at that meeting point,
and the rest of the time is your own. The drive from Cadiz is 1 ½ hours ,
and the roads are good. With this type of excursion it pays to do some home-work prior to your journey on what you would like to see. And for a
city such as Seville there are some difficult decisions to be made, ours
was also complicated by the fact it was a Sunday, I say that because one of the major sightseeing highlights is the inside of the Cathedral, but
because of the Sunday mass services no sightseeing visitors could go in the until 2.30pm, and that was far too late for us this time. The Majority of
what Seville has to offer is in a fairly compact area, say about a mile square, so everything is very walkable, and the city is also flat.

Our first place to visit was to the “ Plaza da Espana” a magnificent huge semi-circular building, with beautiful Spanish tiles everywhere, within
the half circle of the building is a plaza, with a central fountain and the plaza is surrounded by a moat. The day we visited Seville was the middle
day of a bank-holiday weekend, and on that plaza was a car rally for the
”Seat 600 ”. We then walked through the Parque Maria Luisa a lovely shaded park with wide carriage paths being used by the horse drawn taxis which are for hire all over the place. We then came to the river Alfonso, which we followed its bank, to the “ Torre-del-Oro”, this building was where the old merchant ships had to pay their taxes on such cargos as gold from the new world.

Now we went into the heart of the city, always using the bell tower of the “Giralda” as a reference point to stop us losing our way. You have keep looking in all directions and looking up as there many fine things to see.
At this point we stopped for a break, at a pavement café right alongside
the cathedral. After lunch we followed the Constitution avenue where some
good street entertainment was to be found, one of which was some Flamenco dancing, which we both enjoyed. Next up was the beautiful town hall a real ornate building, also within the same square are many other fine buildings, you are really spoilt for choice.

We now head for the Santa Cruz district, this is the old Jewish quarter
where you can get lost quite easily, little tiny streets and alleyways
which then finally open up into lovely squares, all these streets have
their Tapas bars, it`s a very colourful place to spend some time and
getting lost.

Another thing I would like to say is whilst moving around the city we were aware of a very modern looking tram service, we did not use it, but it
passed many of the sights we were at, so you could save some time walking,
and away from the heat which is infamous here.

Time for us was going all too quick as we passed the entrance to the
“Alcazar” the Royal Palace, along with its gardens, it`s another of the * must see* in Seville, but you need to spend a few hours there to do it justice.
But sadly not for us on this visit, as we had to get back to our party and
our pick-up point. Our group seemed to be a good one as everyone was there
at the correct time, so with everyone accounted for we walked to our coach
and then made the return trip to Cadiz, with a few tired people taking the chance of a sleep along the way. So on reflection we would say that Seville
is a beautiful city with plenty to offer, we shall certainly return if
we`re lucky enough to be back in this area again.

So from Cadiz we sail up the coast of Portugal to our last stop of La
Coruna in the North West part of Spain.

Posted by pzack 08:15 Comments (0)

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