Bordeaux, France, Day 2

June 17, 2019

It was another beautiful day in Bordeaux.  We went out for an early walk and stopped in at another church.  We were the only people there! Again, it was beautiful inside.  Most of the churches here seem to have similar architecture and were built or renovated in the same era.


This quote is by St. Francis de Sales and means “all for love, nothing by force.”

We saw this unique book shelf outside of a home!


And some other sights.



We couldn’t figure out what was going on with the column here, it seemed to be covered with bark or rust.

We spent a lot of time in the botanical garden. It is so serene and beautiful.  Chris, these pictures are especially for you. And Deb, the duck and goose pictures are for you!


I had a work related call to do in the afternoon, so we had lunch along the river and headed back to the ship. 


After the call, I went out to do a bit more sightseeing and shopping.

They have a tramway here that operates on ground level power supply and is so quiet that you have to really pay attention or you could be on the tracks at the wrong time.IMG_4185IMG_4184

As we left for the day, I got some good pictures of the bridge that raises in the middle for us to pass under.  It stays open for an hour for ships to pass, and it is only the smaller ones like ours that can even come to the center of Bordeaux. Here is what it looks like closed and open, and also as we passed under it.



I took the one just above from inside the ship, how about that yacht with the helicopter on the back of it!

I also got a pretty good picture of the wine museum (La Cite bdu Vin).  Very unusual design.

What a wonderful 2 days in Bordeaux.  We can’t wait to come back.  And, yes, my high school French still helps!

We have a sea day tomorrow on the way to Southampton, UK, where the people who were on for the segment will disembark and we will begin our last (gulp) segment of this glorious around the world adventure.

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Bordeaux, France

June 16, 2019

Last night there was a birthday party for our Around the World ambassador, Steve.  It was a lot of fun and yes, there was a monkey cake.  A bit risqué too. Or perhaps just a misplaced banana.


It was a beautiful sail in to Bordeaux this morning.  The city is on the Garonne River and our ship is small enough to go all the way on the river to the city itself.  The only other boats there were three riverboats, no cruise ships.


This is our third time in Bordeaux and we love it.

We were docked right outside the Place de la Bourse, the stock Exchange Square.


Today we walked all through the historic area, visited two churches and lots of flea markets and regular markets.

Here are the market pictures I love to take.


These  cream puff type doughnuts were wonderful.  We had a sample and then only bought one to share.  The woman who was selling them encouraged us to buy two.  When we came back later to tell her how good it was, she said “why didn’t you buy two?”  Norm said we are on a ship and there is too much good food.  She said “that’s not my problem.  I need to make a living!!”


The first church was the Basilique Saint- Michel. This church was built between the 14th and 15th centuries. I lit a candle for Nora again here.



We also visited Cathedrale Saint-Andre.  It is comparable in size to the Notre Dame in Paris.  Most of the structure was built between the 13th and 15th century.  Mass was still going on when we arrived, so we waited to be able to go in and take some pictures. 


Both of these churches are UNESCO World Heritage Churches.

We strolled through some of the old squares and past the mostly closed shops – since today is Sunday, many of them don’t open at all. Lots of beautiful sights and adorable kids.


Along the river there was a market set up which apparently is there every Sunday. We had a stroll through that, too.


We had dinner last time we were here at a restaurant in the Grand Theatre, the opera house here in Bordeaux.  Lovely memory of time with Beverly and Alan.


Tonight there is a special event in French Wine Country for the Around the World guests.  It is at the Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte.

It was a great night starting with the drive there through the countryside.  We had wine and tapas outside under tents, toured the wine cellars and then had dinner inside the winery.


It stays light here until about 10 PM.  But on the way home we had a wonderful full moon.

Great day with one more to come.

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Bilbao, Spain

June 15, 2019

It was our first time to visit Bilbao which is in the north of Spain in the autonomous community of the Basque Country. 

We arrived just before 10 AM and the harbor and the view of the countryside were beautiful.


Our plan for the day was to visit the world famous Guggenheim Museum and Bilbao.

Our guide was Igor.  He told us that the Bilbao area has 1 million people and 2 million visitors!  They speak Basque and are very proud of their heritage.  Basque is the oldest spoken language in Europe and is totally unlike any other language. 


We had a bright sunny day which was lucky because they get 220 days of rain a year here.

It was a short ride to the museum and Igor told us the history of the area.  In August of 1983, Bilbao suffered extreme flooding due to heavy rains.  The water rose more than 15 feet and destroyed buildings and bridges in the city. Before this, the city was highly industrialized and many of those industries were devastated.  In the 1990’s the city began a transition to a service economy.  The Guggenheim Museum was a huge part of this transition. The area used to be lucrative with the shipyards using the iron extracted from the quarries – which was once the city’s main source of income – but were now decrepit. Igor said that it was a highly controversial project at the time, the cost to the city was 84 million Euros.  It has turned out to be such a prime tourist attraction that it is the landmark of the city.

The museum was designed by famed architect Frank Gehry and is clad in shimmering titanium. There are nearly 257,000 square feet of exhibition space and it feels cavernous inside.

The building and architecture are impressive on their own.  You weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the museum exhibits.  They were mostly very modern art, some I liked and some I think I might have done myself as a child!!

Here are some views of the outside of the museum and inside the lobby.


There is a permanent Jenny Holzer exhibit and also a temporary exhibit.  The permanent one is a cascade of words in English, Spanish and Basque.  Her work is all in words and can be quite provocative.  We couldn’t take pictures of the ones inside the galleries but the permanent one is in the lobby of the museum.


There are sculptures outside the museum and it is right along the river.  It is meant to look like a ship on the water.

Here are some of the outside sculptures as well as the “guard puppy” which is completely made of flowers.  There is also a steam feature near the river.


The courtyard area outside of the museum is full of activities.  There is a dancing fountain and many activities that delighted kids and adults alike.  Bubbles, music and more.


We enjoyed the visit and also liked just watching the river activities!


After the museum visit, we had a tour of the city and ended at the Old Town (or Las Siete Calles – the 7 streets) where we had a walking tour and free time to explore the medieval neighborhood with its hundreds of shops, churches, restaurants and taverns.

Here are some of the sights from our tour around town and then the Old Town.


The picture above is the Tentro Arriaga – the theater that is modeled after the Paris Opera House.  It was inaugurated in 1890.


The church below is the Catedral de Santiago, known in English as the St. James Cathedral.  It was built in the 14th century and is the oldest in the city.


The path of the Camino de Santiago passes here.


Lots of archways, painted ceilings and beautiful architecture adorn the old city. Many bars and restaurants are under the archways. 


Yes, there was a Five Guys. We didn’t go.  But we did find gelato. It’s a good lunch, no?


Our last stop was at the top of the Artxanda Mountain which features a beautiful park and wonderful views of Bilbao.


Here are some pictures of the beautiful homes we passed on our way back to the ship.


We got back to the ship past the time we were supposed to be on board, but it was an Oceania tour, so they did wait for us. And we had just a short time until the scheduled Around the World event – tapas and magic.

As usual, chef Mario and his team did a wonderful job.  Sangria and lots of wonderful food.


Yum…  Last day in Spain and we will miss it for sure.  On to Bordeaux tomorrow.

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La Coruna, Spain

June 14, 2019

Here are a couple of pictures of the new cruise terminal from yesterday in Porto. And last night at the Oceania Club party, our captain, Maroje Brajcic got his 15 year recognition and Ray Carr got his 5 year recognition.


We went to the Red Ginger night in Terrace Café.  Delicious food as usual.  We loved the Red Ginger restaurant on Sirena, wish they had it here.  But this was second best.


Today we were in La Coruna. 

Here is the harbor as we arrived.


It was the third visit for us, so I thought I might find a nail salon for a pedicure.  We found three, but no appointments were available until later in the afternoon, so we visited the gardens and some of the new city.


And of course, we had to go to the fish market.


Then we decided to do a city tour with Hercules Tours.  It turned out that we got to see parts of the city that we had never explored and turned out to be a great idea.

Our tour guide was Don.


The tour featured 10 highlights of the city with extended stops at 4 of them.

As we drove past the pier, Don mentioned the Galleries houses with the windows that reflect sunlight and whose facades were built by fishermen out of wood and glass. La Coruna is often called the City of Glass.  The population is 250,000.


We had a stop at the San Anton Castle which was built between the 16th and 17th centuries and played a vital role in defending the city from attacks by sea.  It now houses the Archeological and Historical Museum.


As you can see, it was a beautiful day! We drove on to the Torre de Hercules, an ancient Roman lighthouse and one of the city’s most prominent symbols.  It was built in the 2nd century by the order of the Emperor Trajan. It is the best preserved Greco-Roman structure of its kind and is the oldest lighthouse still in operation.  It can be seen from 32 miles away. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

On the way up to the lighthouse you see this sculpture.  Don says that the sculptor’s father was a fat man and this is his likeness!



The beaches here are beautiful!  And so are the views from almost everywhere.


There is a famous tiled statue of an octopus and we had to have some pictures here!


There is now a panoramic elevator that takes you to San Pedro Mount that is the newest attraction in the city.  It is under repair right now. No problem, our bus took us there.


From here you have more beautiful views of the city. And some nice flowers too.


We passed other statues, fountains and interesting buildings as well as parts of the old city walls.


These two statues are right outside the port terminal building.


The copper domed building is in Maria Pita Square, the city’s greatest public plaza, named for the heroine who rallied the townspeople against English invaders in 1589.  It is the Palacio Municipal, the ornate town hall and council building.


Tomorrow is our last port in Spain, Bilbao.

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Porto, Portugal

June 13, 2019

The English word is Oporto, but it is still pronounced Porto.  We see it written both ways. It is the country’s second largest city.  It has a population of 220,000 in the city and 1.7 million if you include the surrounding area. It is the birthplace of port wine and in fact, if the wine is from anywhere else, it can’t be called port.

First of all, here is last night’s sunset as we left Lisbon.  Beautiful days and evenings here.


This morning we sailed into Porto.


It is our third trip to this city and today we opted for a tour to Guimaraes. Our guide was Nunu, and he said it is his real name, not a nickname!


The port building where we docked is quite new and it has 1 million of these white tiles that are placed at angles.
Very interesting.


As we left the port, we saw a sculpture that Nunu says was placed to honor the 152 fishermen who died in a boating tragedy in 1947.  It depicts the women wailing as they wait for the return.


The trip to Guimaraes was a  pretty drive through the countryside.  Nunu told us a lot about the country and one thing he mentioned as a problem is the low birthrate – with not enough births to keep the population growing.  He hopes the government will make it easier to provide for families.

It is said that Guimaraes was the first capital of Portugal, but Nunu said that is not true, that it was the capital of a region of Portugal, not the whole country. But it is considered the birthplace of the country. In any case, the city has preserved many of its medieval structures and its historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Some of the buildings we saw as we entered the town.


We first walked to the castle which is high above the city.


Next to the castle stands a small Romanesque chapel where the first king of Portugal was baptized.


The 15th century Palace of the Dukes of Braganza is notable for its unusual chimneys.


There are many small squares in the city center and we had the time to explore them.  Here are some of the buildings, shops and other sights.


The symbol above is on the sidewalk and it marks the Portuguese “Way of St. James” (13 days, 260 km).


Very fun shops and art.


This pastry is called Tortas de Guimaraes and it is only found here.  Only 2 families have the recipe.  It resembles a croissant, but inside there is a kind of sweetened spaghetti squash. Delicious.


The old city walls have been incorporated into the buildings.  Most of them can’t be seen, but the one below is an example of one you can see.


This is the Church of St. Mary of the Olives.  The clock is the mechanism from the bell tower.  There was a man playing the magnificent organ.



More fun art!


Lots of bars, cafes and restaurants.



There were lots of young people doing drawings of the building.  Nunu said that they are architecture students, and he feels sorry for them because there are no jobs available.


When we got back to the port, we joined Ray, Steve, Tricia, Sukey and Randall at a great restaurant (O Valentim) for lunch. They grill the fish right on the sidewalk outside the restaurant.  Good wine (vinho verde), food and company.


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Lisbon, Portugal, Day 2

June 12, 2019

Today we made plans to have lunch with friends Meg and Mark.  They chose a Lebanese restaurant called Sumaya in the Principe Real neighborhood which is where we walked through to get to the botanical garden yesterday! There is also a great chocolate shop there called Bettina & Nicola.

We decided to take the shuttle bus to the shopping area and went into an unbelievable shoe shop called Seaside.  If you couldn’t find a shoe here, it probably doesn’t exist.  We didn’t buy anything though.  We had both already bought Pikolinos shoes in another shop. Love them.

We again walked up to the upper town and by now recognized the streets, shops and restaurants. This is a building in the shopping area.


We went into an old church, Igreja de Sao Domingos,  which was badly damaged in earthquakes in 1531 and 1755 and in a fire in 1959.  The columns and walls are badly scorched but there is still a kind of beauty here.  I again lit a candle for Nora and hope she is improving after her 2 surgeries.


Here are a few more city pictures.


We had a wonderful leisurely lunch with Meg and Mark and really enjoyed sitting outside in the patio area on another gorgeous day. I didn’t take pictures of the meze plates but just got the desserts before we inhaled them too!


Tomorrow we head to Oporto, Portugal, then 2 more ports in Spain.

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Lisbon, Portugal

June 11, 2019

What can I say about Lisbon??  It is one of our favorite cities in the world.  In fact, we could easily live here.  While Portuguese is the official language, most people speak English and they are very gracious people.

The city is spread over seven hills north of the Tagus River estuary and in many ways it reminds you of San Francisco. Even the bridge.


Here are some pictures of our arrival.  We arrived at 1 PM on Tuesday and will be in until 5 PM Wednesday – plenty of time to enjoy this beautiful city.


Many of the buildings are covered with beautiful tiles, this is typical of many Portuguese homes.

We were planning to have lunch with Ray and the entertainment team so set out to walk to the Time Out which is a market in which more than half has been made into a kind of gourmet food court.  Beautiful weather and lots of sights to see along the way – we walked along the water.


Time Out is a very unique concept and one that is coming to other cities around the world including Boston and New York.  High end chefs have booths that have smaller versions of the meals they offer in their restaurants.


I guess we thought it was good!

Time Out is in what is called the Baixa (Lower Town) and we decided to head to the Bairro Alto (Upper Town).  There is a big elevator which we used last time, but this time we climbed the stairs.  By the end of the day our fitness trackers said we had climbed 36 flights!


There are also trolleys that operate in the city and two that can take you up and down between upper and lower towns.


Our destination was the botanical garden.  This turned out to be quite a serene place with mostly different kinds of trees including some giant redwoods.  There were some beautiful hydrangeas too. Some very bizarre sculptures which looked like they were just made of junk were found throughout the gardens.


We found delicious ice cream at this place.


Here are some of the other sights including the tiled buildings.


Not sure I am signing up for the Blood wine.  But I guess they like the fried chicken! Me taking the picture!

There is a festival going on and we walked through the music and the booths on our way back to the ship.


Lots of sangria and grilled sardines.

Speaking of sardines, there was a whole store featuring sardines in cans depicting years.  Not the year they caught and canned the sardines, but perhaps your birth year or other significant year in your life.  This is not how I would choose to memorialize my birth year.  First of all, I don’t like sardines, but it really seemed kind of weird.  Wonder how much of a market there is for these?  Fun shop though.


Back to the ship in time for a late dinner.  More Lisbon fun tomorrow.

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Cadiz, Spain

June 10, 2019

Last night we had dinner in Toscana and I wanted to have the crab appetizer that the guest chef Michel Personnaz prepared in the cooking demonstration.  With a blink of the eye, Sasa, the maître ‘d had it in front of me. That’s Oceania service.


While in the restaurant, we passed between the rock of Gibraltar and Morocco.  Here are the pictures.


Today we are in the port of Cadiz, Spain.  Last time we were here we went on a tour outside the city, so this time we explored the city.

The Oceania Riviera was also in port today, it is one of the two bigger ships in the fleet.  Nice for many crew members to see their friends. And here’s the view as we sailed in.


Not sure what this lock represents but I thought it was cool.


The city is very walkable and we took advantage of wandering through beautiful narrow streets.  First we went to the City Hall and noticed the beautiful building and the interior statues and paintings.  We wondered about security – well it turns out we weren’t supposed to be upstairs and someone came and told us to go out!  I did get some nice pictures though.


Maybe you have noticed that Norm is very intrigued by the knockers!

Here are some pictures of the city.


The tree above is said to be one of the giant trees brought to Spain from the New World by Columbus!


The picture below is of a spice shop. I love how they display their merchandise.


This is the front and back view of the sea gates to the city.


We visited three churches.  Here are pictures of two of them.  I will save the third for a more full description.


The second one:


And now for the most amazing one, the Cathedral on the Sea also known as the Holy Cross Cathedral over the sea or Catedral Nueva.


It was built in the 18th century in Baroque style and Neoclassical style was added later. It took 116 years to complete. It is huge and is decorated all in stone.  The yellow dome adds a Moorish feel to the building.

There is a 6 Euro entry fee for this church and it is well worth it.  There are many chapels all around the huge interior. I took photos of just a few of them.  The choir section has many built in seats and the organ is quite impressive.


I tried to take a panoramic photo but it doesn’t accurately portray the size and beauty.

The visit includes the crypt where there are tombs of many of the notable people of the time.


The crypt is actually below sea level!

We then climbed up to the tower and what a view from there!


The market here is a beautiful old building, but not too many stalls were open.


We did some shopping, Norm bought a pair of shoes and I got a couple of tops.  I wanted white jeans which I said I would get when I got home.  Well, the next shop we passed had some that I saw from the window.  And they were perfect!! Viva Spain!

We had lunch at a lovely sidewalk café off of one of the beautiful plazas or squares of the city.  It is always better to find an out of the way place – less crowded and less expensive.  This one was wonderful and the food was delicious.


It was a great day – we love Spain and each city is special.

Tomorrow and Wednesday we will be in Lisbon, Portugal.

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Valencia, Spain

June 8, 2019

Valencia is the third largest city in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona. About 800,000 people live in the center. The port is the 5th busiest container port in Europe and the busiest on the Mediterranean.

In 2012, Boston’s Berklee College of Music opened a satellite campus at the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, its first and only international campus outside the US.

When Ray gave the weather this morning, he said Valencia, California, so we weren’t sure what the temperature would be!  He said 90, but we don’t think it even got up to 80. 
Beautiful day.

It was our first time to this port. We love Spain in general and were sure we would love it here. We didn’t book an organized tour and wanted to just wander around and explore the city.

There were two other ships in port today.  The Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas and this small French Ponant ship, le Bougainville.


We took the shuttle bus into the old town. On the way we saw some beautiful buildings and statues. You can tell these pictures are from the bus because of the blue – this is the effect of the window shaded glass!


You enter the old city from the Torres de Serranos, the Gothic gates that are the largest in Europe and date back to 1394. These city gates were used as a prison for nobility for almost three centuries.


We had two specific places we wanted to see, one was the cathedral and the other was the market.  We also wanted to have a relaxed lunch.  So, we did check these off one by one.

Here is an example of some of the stunning architecture here.


We visited the Inglesia de los Santo Juanes, a beautiful church dating to the 14th century which has this huge dome decorated with amazing frescos. There are several smaller chapels inside the church.


Here are a few sights from the winding streets and lovely plazas.


We went into two other churches, each different but each beautiful.


I lit a candle for my sister’s mother-in-law, Nora.


Norm asked these policemen for directions to the market.  They were carrying big guns!


I would say that this market was one of the largest, and certainly the cleanest, of any market we have seen.  The building itself is a masterpiece of modern style and is decorated with intricate ceramics and mosaics.  It was designed by Francisco Guardia in 1914 and inaugurated by King Alfonso XIII in 1928 and is one of the oldest European markets in continuous operation.  It features more than 1000 stores and market stalls!

Here’s a sampling of the sights. Everything from wine and beer tasting to seafood (including live eels), fruits and vegetables and confections of all types.  They are known for their ham (jamon) and you see all types everywhere, including with bags to take a whole ham home!


We love markets and we spent hours here!

Lunch was delightful, nice shady spot off of the Plaza del Mercado that had very fast Wi-Fi as a bonus!  We backed up both of our phones and iPad while we enjoyed a leisurely lunch.  The croquettes are a local delicacy here.


Last stop by the fountain.


There used to be a very wide river here but it is dried up now and there is a park beneath the bridges.


There was a Spanish themed dinner in the Terrace Café last evening, but we had dinner reservations in Toscana.  I went in to take pictures anyway.

Lots of paella and other Spanish goodies. Valencia claims to be the first place that paella was made.  And they are also known for oranges.


We only have 2 sea days on this segment, one is tomorrow, and everyone is ready for the rest.

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Barcelona, Spain

June 7, 2019

This is our 4th time visiting Barcelona and we still haven’t even scratched the surface of this beautiful city.

Last night Ray told us there would be 9 cruise ships in port today.. Wow.  As it turned out, I believe there were 7, but the good news is that since our ship is small,we get the prime spot!

Here is the sail in picture.


Today we wanted to see more of the Gaudi influence in Barcelona.  We have already visited the Sagrada Familia twice before, once when it was really unfinished (no roof, etc.) and then two years ago when it was amazing to see. It was begun in  1882 and is still unfinished!  So this time our sights were on La Pedrera and Parc Guell. Here are some pictures of the outside of the Sagrada Familia though, the first from a distance as it towers over the city and is its most distinctive landmark.


We opted to take the hop on hop off bus to get the birds eye view of much of the city and then get off to explore these two places. 


First of all, here are some of the sights of the city.


They have a very efficient tram service here.


And this little car is a GPS guided tour vehicle!


We took the orange line to La Pedrera which was commissioned by Gaudi as a family residence and also had apartments for rent.  It is made up of two blocks of residences and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.

The building resembles an open stone quarry flowing with shapes taken from nature.


We opted for the fast pass which allowed us to bypass the long line to get in.  The courtyards are the first thing you see and the colors and design remind you of a tropical forest.


You then climb the stairs to the roof terrace which is quite spectacular and unlike anything else designed at that time (1906-1912).

Some of the shapes have been finished with mosaics using broken tiles, stones, marble and glass. There are many skylights, stairwells, ventilation towers and chimneys and you could spend hours wandering around this space.


The attic was next.  Here is where laundry used to be washed and dried.  It consists of 273 flat brick arches arranged to resemble the interior of the Biblical whale.  This area also contains a display of his work.  Here is a model of the design of the building – which he designed upside down.  You can see it right side up in the mirror below it.


On the fourth floor, the apartment shows how a family lived in the early 20th century.


Amazing place and visit, and a new appreciation of how Gaudi revered nature and how it inspired his creations.

We also went past another building, often considered one of his masterpieces, the Casa Batllo, but didn’t go inside.


We changed to the green route on the bus and passed the 1992 Olympic site and the beaches. The white spire was the site of the Olympic flame. The information on the bus described that the beaches had become run down and not visited but when the Olympics were to come to Barcelona, they were all renovated and now are just lovely.



Unfortunately when we went to the Parc Guell, it was sold out for the day (only 800 visitors per hour are allowed).  And it was a long uphill walk from the bus.  But I did get these pictures from the outside.  As seasoned travelers, we probably should have known to buy tickets ahead of time.  Oh well, next visit!


After a long morning and most of the afternoon, we walked down the La Rambla,  one of the most famous promenades in Europe. It is lined with shops, restaurants and at the port, the famous statue of Columbus.


We stopped for a very late lunch (4 PM) and then passed a food and wine festival on the way back to the ship.

Well, you can buy almost anything on La Rambla.  Who knew there were seeds for these varieties??


Great day, you do need many days to fully appreciate this wonderful city. And we look forward to our next visit.

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