Thursday, January 19, 2017

Cádiz, Costa de la Luz, Spain. . . . . . . . . . . .


The Spanish coastline stretching from the Portuguese border to Gibraltar is known
 as the Costa de la Luz (Coast of Light).  Cádiz is the capital of the province and
 is the oldest inhabited town in the western world with 3,000 years of history.
 It's position is one of the largest ports on the Atlantic coast of Spain, also a
 naval base and a major shipyard, as well as the port of shipment for the brandy
 and sherry from Jerez de la Frontera, and also olives and olive oil from Seville.


We liked it here. After taking the usual Hop On Hop Off bus around the town
 which has 140,000 inhabitants, and the beachfront area, we spent the remainder
 of our time on foot enjoying what was a cool blustery but mostly sunny day with
 no rain for a change.






Although the historic buildings such as the Baroque style cathedral which
 has undergone recent much-needed restoration, the Renaissance style
 Church of Santa Cruz, and the Neo-Classical Museum of Cádiz were attractive,
 we headed to the seafront, enjoying a stroll through the parks and promenades
 where the combination of white houses and blue sea gave an impression of crisp,
 pristine freshness.


We loved the small shopping streets many leading to open plazas and a market.

This was a great find for me - a tiny, narrow, tucked away Merceria which translates
as haberdasher's, draper's or notions shop. It was very old fashioned, with high ceilings
and lined with wooden shelves displaying yarns, ribbons, knitting patterns, embroidery
 items etc. It was also crowded with customers, locals who obviously are keeping alive
 sewing and knitting traditions - I loved that.

There were Christmas decorations in many of the streets, some quite 
lovely, but this was my favorite in the window of the Merceria -
a lovely Nativity scene tucked between the yarns and notions.


As in most of Spain, tapas bars and restaurants were common. 
This sign made me realize there are never enough vegetarian tapas - although
 this one does have one, Pisto!
We found a nice coffee bar and stopped for a warming drink - then walked back
to the ship for dinner.


Our last port of call in Spain was La Coruña - more on that interesting town later, 
plus I still need to post more on the Lisbon, Portugal stop.  Slowly but surely
I'll get around to it - life has been hectic since we returned home!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Málaga and cruising. . . . . . . .



Málaga, capital of the province of the same name on the Costa del Sol,
 it is one of the oldest towns in Spain and in the beautiful region of Andalucia.
 It is surrounded on three sides by relatively high mountains and enjoys the mildest
 climate in Spain.

Early morning arrival - Málaga at daybreak.


Some those mountains are visible here - and the sun was out for a
 short time but then it clouded up and we had showers for much of the day.



No problem finding a juicy Spanish orange on the streets of Málaga.



We enjoyed our usual overview of the city via the Hop On Hop Off bus,
 then spent time wandering through the old city viewing the buildings and
 doing a little shopping, however it was not a beach day, and there are
 some lovely ones here along the Costa del Sol which attract hundreds of
 thousands of tourists in the Summer months.


The star marks our stateroom on this recent cruise.  
We really liked this location of our balcony cabin. 
It was very quiet, but close to the elevators and stairways, and high enough
 above the dining room that we were not bothered by late night cleanup noise
 which we did experience, and found somewhat annoying, on the previous
 cruise when we were in the same area but one deck lower. 
We enjoy longer walks - after all that eating - through the length of the
 ship to reach the entertainment areas - ballroom, theatre, pub, bars, music
 venues, library etc., all of which are usually forward in the bow of these ships.
Regarding choosing accommodation, some of you have asked for tips on
 selecting a comfortable/affordable cabin on a cruise ship.
 This was our second cruise on the Queen Victoria. Other mid-size ships
 we've sailed on have been Cunard's Queen Elizabeth and the Crystal Serenity
Ships of these proportions are really nice, hold no more than 2,000
 passengers, and don't feel at all crowded.
This link below to Cruise Critic's article on ship sizes and their offerings will be of
 great help if you are considering a cruise. For us the mega-ships will never be on
 our list, however the even smaller expedition ships are high on the list as always
 and we'll be cruising on another of those later this year.

Cruising is not for everyone, however it is an opportunity to see a lot of countries 
on one trip, with the comfort of only having to unpack once, and personally
 I really love that part!  
Cost can range from very expensive to a surprising bargain. 
I'm not an expert by any means, however if you are considering a cruise
 and need any further information I will be glad to point you in the direction
 of those who can help. . . . . .or answer any questions you may have regarding
my own personal experiences from exciting shipboard life.




Saturday, January 14, 2017

Wildlife. . . . . . . . .


Yes, I'm responsible - I confess.


I'm often very cute but sometimes really naughty.
Especially when she forgets to refill the suet feeder. 
I try to chew and claw my way through the plastic hoping 
there's another morsel remaining.


Then I give up and swing back on to the heavy duty seed feeder and
 scoff a ton of sunflower seeds, and of course my favorite peanuts, before
the birds arrive.



Pair of Eastern bluebirds who seem to enjoy the suet too.


Also the Pine siskin and the handsome woodpecker.


Mr. Cardinal watching cautiously while awaiting a turn on the nearby feeder.

With the ice and snow gone after two days of 70+ temps. and lots 
of sunshine, the garden remains a playground, and restaurant, for 
our wildlife.



Friday, January 13, 2017

I see the moon. . . . . . . . .


"Hurry, come down to the street, I want to show you something."
Last evening I grabbed my shoes and followed Bob down the driveway, 
turned my eyes slightly left over the rooftops of neighbors' houses lit for the evening,
and there it was. . . . . . . . the most beautiful brilliant full moon.
Back to the house for a camera, many photos taken of course, but this is my 
favorite with the moon hanging from the bare tree branch like a giant ornament.

Full moon 100% - night of January 12, 2017.
 Perfection.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Misty Morning. . . . . . . .


. . . . . . . and I took a quick look around the garden early today. 
Thankfully the ice is melting now and today will be a time to catch up on
 outdoor errands. Perhaps I'll stop for a coffee out rather than here in the
 same old place looking at the same birds - whom I love but need a break from - 
how many bird photos do you really want to see!!!!!!!


Speaking of which (sorry!) I must just share these as many of you admit to loving
 the gentle Mourning Dove, as do I. Yesterday this pair spent a lot of time on the 
front porch once the sun came out. Standing in the frozen fountain didn't 
seem a problem, he was there for a long time definitely keeping an eye
on me at the window. We melted the ice with hot water several times early
 morning, then left the sun to work its magic.


 Those beautiful feathers always deserve a close-up, I think the pattern is amazing.

Bricks and mortar visible again - hopefully the icy streets are clear and driving 
less hazardous today. Anyway, I'm pulling my boots on, grabbing a coat and will be 
on my way out this morning. . . . . . cabin fever is ending today.



Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Mysterious Tangier, Morocco. . . . . . . . . . . .


Tangier, the 'White City', is one of the oldest and most vibrant cities in Morocco, 
and it has quite an air of mystery surrounding it. The lively souks, ancient mosques
 and Grand Sorocco (market place) offer a much different world.  Just a stone's throw
 from Spain's familiar Costas, and a ferry ride across the Straits of Gibraltar, Tangier 
is a northern gateway to the continent of Africa.

We had just a day to explore when our ship docked on a cool damp morning
 and we decided to walk into the city and do our own tour on foot.
Of course we did get lost, more than once, but we did see some interesting 
places and people. 

It was difficult to take photos of anything much when it started raining quite hard.
 Local people were definitely not thrilled when I pulled out the camera from 
under my raincoat and pointed it in their direction. . . . . . . .all except the 
smiling gentleman in the window below. He waved and seemed thrilled to 
have his photo taken, and I thanked him profusely from my vantage point 
in the narrow street below. 

Whereas, once in the crammed market places selling anything and everything 
imaginable, recognizable, or otherwise, the hundreds of people, including 
complete families as it was Sunday and a huge shopping day, and the
 shopkeepers, would wave me away and hide their severe faces. I love to 
photograph people going about their daily lives but here I realized
 that it was both a religious and/or a cultural thing not to permit photos, 
so I only managed a few.

The streets and markets were not a comfortable place to be for me whilst
 dealing with a cold rain requiring an umbrella all whilst negotiating dangerous,
 slippery narrow hills, speeding traffic, and huge throngs of local people.
 I had been warned that stepping out onto the streets of Tangier is a daunting
 experience for the uninitiated. However, putting up with a relentless barrage
 of beggars, so-called 'guides' and souvenir sellers made a lasting impression
 and I was able to absorb a little north African culture in just a few
 hours of sightseeing.



The tagine - one of Morocco's most common dishes.
Cunard's Queen Victoria from the hillsides of Tangier.


Leaving Tangier (click here for more on the colorful history) Morocco on the evening tide. 

We had walked up and down those hills through the medina, the old city, but I
 wouldn't relish doing it again in just a few hours. If there's a next time, which is
 doubtful, it might be fun to have a few days with time to learn one's way around,
 hopefully in sunshine with a parasol rather than an umbrella!


Surprise, had to share this with you.
The laundry lady did look out first, but didn't smile or wave for me like the
 man next door!


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