Wine, Vigo, and Cambados Makes for a Lovely Day

Our last port before we shifted back to reality was Vigo.  The area is known as the Wales of Spain as it is so lush and full of green hills.  Our expectations weren’t high for this stop as we didn’t know much about it and all we could see was that Vigo was a small place.  We decided for this stop we’d do a shore excursion that took us wine tasting.  I am really glad we did as the scenery was beautiful and the wine was wonderful.  Plus it turns out two of our new friends had also signed up for the wine tasting so we had a blast with them.  They even brought crisps and chocolates for us so we didn’t go hungry.  Not sure if it is a good or bad thing they had figured out in a very short time we get cranky without snacks!  In either case it was cheers for them bringing the goods.  🙂

We had the best bus driver.  He drove that thing like it was a sports car.  The bus kept up with him as well.  The toll booths had arms that would fly up once the computer sensed the bus going through.  He had it timed just right and would fly through.  The first time we all gasped as we thought he was going to bust through the arm.  Then we burst out laughing.  He just grinned.  On the way back he actually accelerated towards it.  By this time we were all for this and were very disappointed when we got stuck behind a small delivery truck.  Coming into the port we saw another arm and were egging him on but he had to stop because it was a manual arm.  A lot of sighs and nuts to that!  Guess we’re all kids at heart.

On the way to the first winery we passed large squares in the water.  We saw them as we glided into port but couldn’t figure out what they were.  They were raised just above the water so they didn’t look like fish farms but what else could they be?  Turns out we weren’t far off.  They were mussel farms.  They would attach baby mussels to ropes that hung underneath and they would harvest them 18 months later.

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The winery we went to is Granbazan Winery and the grapes they grow are Albarino grapes which makes a white wine.  They have a winery outside of Valencia that makes red and we got to taste one red.  But this place focuses on the white.

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It was a lovely place.  The way they grow the grapes is horizontally up off the ground so it makes a canopy and allows the air to circulation round the grapes.  Notice at the bottom right of the photo there is a red car.  They parked their cars under the grapes!

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Nearly every home we drove by, no matter the size of their yard, had some sort of crops growing.  Those that grew grapes would sell some to this winery and keep some to make their own wine.  Even in the villages we would come across what looked like mini churches.  These held the grains for the winter.  They are built up off the ground to keep the critters out.

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After a tour of the winery and how they make the wine it was time for the tasting.  My favourite part.  I’ve moved away from white wines and prefer red but I really enjoyed their whites.  Crisp and not too sweet which is the way I like it.

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A select amount of the wine would be oak aged but most of their whites weren’t oak aged.

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After the tasting we retraced our steps to Cambados for a sort of second wine tasting.  They took us to a hotel there where they had basic tapas and wine was out for us to have.  A bit of a disappointment as I thought we were going to two wineries and I’ve been spoilt by the tapas thus far.  The four of us then wandered the village a bit and found a pastry shop that sold meringue for a Euro.  These things were massive so we split one between the four of us.  Oh so delicious and one hell of a sugar rush.  It was a neat little village so it’s on our list of where to return.  Quiet streets with cafes and old world buildings.

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We enjoyed our visit there and the whole cruise.  It was bittersweet as we got to the end.  We missed the kids like mad but we enjoyed ourselves very much experiencing new things and making new friends.

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Almost Didn’t See You Cartagena

As we glided into the port of Cartagena we were still in dreamland and were gradually brought to the surface by the fog horns.  My husband peeked out the curtains and saw nothing.  Literally nothing.  The fog was thick as can be, we couldn’t even see the water below.  As I mentioned in the post about the ship the port had been closed but the captain convinced the port to reopen for the ship.  Occasionally there were pockets of cleared air and we got glimpses of the port.  At one point a Navy ship headed out with the crew lined up and it was blasting rock music.  Because of the thick fog no one rushed off the ship.

To give you an idea of the skill needed to dock the ship in zero visibility here is a picture of the ship in bright sun.  Notice how small the port opening is and that you kind of have to do an S shape line before turning round and sidling into the dock.

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Needless to say, once we finally saw the full port we were impressed.  When we got off the ship it was still very foggy so we decided to kill some time at the underwater archaeology museum right on the water.  Archaeology fascinates me and to be able to do it underwater is something else.  So many more variables!  So I found this very interesting looking at the tools, finds, etc.

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Once the sun came out completely we started wandering around the old city which fortunately was right at the port.  We decided to stop and get a snack at one of the cafes.  It was here that I started to realise that Cartagena is a city of big food.  I asked for the calamari as a small snack and a large sandwich came out!  Maybe it would be a one off.  Not really.  First on our list to see was the Roman Theatre.  It was discovered about 120 years ago but wasn’t excavated until the late 80’s.  There was a church and several buildings on top of the theatre.  All that had to be removed or partially removed in order for that to go forward.  The museum was great as it had examples of the various occupiers and their building techniques.

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We wandered up to the castle to take in the views.  It was getting quite warm so it was nice to be up high enough to catch a breeze.  We also saw this guy wandering around the grounds.

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Then it was time for more tapas!  We found a place on a square that had great people watching.  One street performer would pretend to do the running of the bulls.  He had tiny bulls on the ground then he would take off with a great yelp and run round the square.  Some people would race with him.  I was waiting for someone in a mobility scooter to run over the bulls.  We ordered several dishes as tapas is small.  Not in Cartagena!  The toast plate was enough for 4 people!  It was very tasty though.

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After that we decided to wander back to the ship as there wasn’t a lot of time in Cartagena.  We had a lovely day just puttering about.

Best in the Country, Best in Europe, No! It’s the Best in the World! – Valencia

Valencia was an interesting city.  In part because of our tour guide.  We decided to do a tour at this port as the ship was, seemingly, miles from the city, nevermind, the old city.  I think it would have taken us over an hour just to get anywhere and then we’d have all the walking to sight see.  Our tour guide was very nice and reminded me of a young Liberace, without the furs and jewels.  He seemed very knowledgeable but I believe he thinks Valencia is the centre of the universe.

As we began our tour and were driving through the port he was describing how the port throughout history was the most important port on the Mediterranean.  And then we drove by the warehouses and he described how they were the nicest warehouses in Europe.  I was beginning to see a pattern.  They were good looking buildings and all but it seemed a bit much! And he was only getting started.  🙂  The blue in front of the buildings outlines the pit stops for the F1 race.

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Valencia is a city that is not afraid to keep improving and be creative with their architecture.  The river that ran through the centre of the city kept flooding so they redirected it but kept the river bed.  They then built large gardens, museums, and the opera house.  They still have the bridges going over the river bed as well.  It really is quite well done.  He stopped short of saying the opera house was the best in the world.  Instead he said the opera house was second only to the Sydney Opera House.  It looked to me like a war helmet.

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I did find the new science museum very interesting, reminded me of fossils but with a lot of light.

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We worked our way through the city and arrived at the indoor market.  Again the best in Europe.  I was wondering how they could beat the La Boqueria and was prepared to be amazed.  It was a neat, clean market.  No vibrancy and everything was sealed in cling film or containers.  I’m sure the FDA would approve.  In fact I was able to get one picture of food free from any clutches.

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I did find the roof of the building to be very pretty.

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Next was the silk market.  Now this was on my list of things we had to visit.  I love silk, the vibrant colours, the feel.  I was ready to shop.  So imagine my disappointment to find there is no longer a silk market, just the building!  I do not like shopping so for me to be ready to shop is a big thing.  However, the history of the building was fascinating.  Valencia was the end of the silk road and there was a lot of trading that went on.  Fortunes made and lost.  They painted the spiraling columns green and they painted the ceiling bright blue with the medallions yellow to imitate the sky.  That must have been something.

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On the way to the cathedral we came across this funny doorway.  Never underestimate humans doing their best to stick it to the big man.  Apparently there was a rule that you were taxed based on the width of the front of the building.  So this gentleman created building with a front only 105 cm wide then it opened wide towards the back like a triangle.  So it’s a full sized building.  Have to hand it to him!

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The cathedral took about 500 years to make as they kept having trouble with funds so it shows many different styles.  What took the cake though is the guide said the frescos were the best in Europe!  Ahem, Sistine Chapel anyone?  Credibility was completely lost at this point.  Ah well, we were having fun.

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The city used to be surrounded by a massive city wall with great big gates.  Because the city likes to continually improve they knocked down all of the walls except two gates.  Not sure how much that is an improvement as I like the history of those sort of things but thank goodness they kept some gates.  These date I believe back to the 1300’s.  They are massive!

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After the tour was over they brought us back to the ship but as we had several hours to kill we headed back in on the shuttle bus.  Back in the square where the cathedral was we found a shady spot to have tapas.  Again it was delicious.  I really miss the food!

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I’d like to explore Valencia a bit more.  There were interesting areas of history.  And I’d like to explore all the gardens in the old riverbed.

 

Sometimes First Impressions Are Wrong – Malaga

Our first port of call was Malaga.  I went to Malaga about 20 odd years ago and what I saw wasn’t inspiring.  The bus station was bleak and we drove past, on the way to Nerja, run down neighbourhoods.  I thought why on earth would people visit here?  Well it just goes to show what I know!  In researching what to see when we docked I found that I was probably seriously mistaken in my opinion so I was looking forward to the visit.  I was also looking forward to getting off the ship.  I get seasick on swings so it may seem strange to find me on a cruise.  I bought the wrist bands, a roll on thing for behind the ears, ginger candy and seasick meds.  And they had peppermint tea on the ship.  After a rough first full day I found my sea legs.  Turns out getting a hot rocks massage is not a good thing if you get seasick easily.  I found out the hard way!

We started the day at 6.20 because we were told we would pass through the strait of Gibraltar between 6.30 and 7am.  This would be before dawn but I figured the rock would have lights round it.  So off went the alarm, threw our clothes on, and dashed upstairs to find we passed it a half hour ago.  But we could see the lights of Africa which was something else.  Since we were up we decided to watch the sun come up.  It started to get light about 7.45 and it was beautiful.

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When we docked it was a beautiful day, little on the toasty side, but still lovely.  We walked to the old town and to get there we had to go through loads of gardens.  I’m a bit envious of all the blooms they were having as the garden at home was finished.

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Our first stop was the cathedral and low and behold it wasn’t raining or in scaffolding!  This has never happened to me before.   It’s either or both.  I thought that things were looking up.  🙂  It was an interesting place and I enjoyed walking round it before lunch.

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After all the walking it was time to find a place to have our lunch.  We wandered a bit looking at menus and found a small cafe just off the road.  It just had a few tables.  We each ordered a panini with Iberian ham and manchego cheese.  Simple but very delicious.  I knew we’d eat well off the boat.  It was one of the things I was looking most forward to.

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After lunch we headed over to the Alcazaba fortress.  This place was a maze of amazing gardens, rooms, pottery, and history.  It is centuries old with the Moorish influence.  The Moors built beautiful buildings so we found this quite fascinating.  And it was truly a maze of rooms and courtyards.  It took us a long time to walk round it.  We didn’t have a map so we just explored wherever we could.  I think we saw most of it.

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To end the day we saw the most amazing sunset.  There are times I am in awe of how beautiful nature can be.  I only had my iphone at this time of day so I wasn’t able to take good pictures of the 50 or 60 dolphins leaping about.  But boy were they having a grand old time.

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Malaga is one of the stops that we would go back to.  It was a great start to our exploring Spain.

Vigo

Today was our last stop. The port is Vigo but we took a tour to Cambados for wine. It’s a lovely area and the weather is behaving!

We tried a few whites and a delicious Syrah then had a wander about. Next up is getting through the Bay of Biscay. The water has proven to be a bit choppy since yesterday!

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Cartegena

We woke this morning to pea soup. The fog was that thick, couldn’t even see the water! Finally it cleared and we could see the city.

I liked it as it was a very short walk to the sites. It’s a small port that is shared with the Navy. One boat left this morning with the sailors lined up looking serious blasting rock music!

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Valencia

Anything in Valencia is the best in Europe or the world. At least that’s what our guide said of everything. It got to be quite funny after awhile.

It’s a beautiful city and we had another lovely day. The cathedral was interesting as it took 500 years to build so there are many styles in the construction. They managed to make it work though.

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Palma de Mallorca

We’re tired today. We took a bus from the ship that was supposed to drop us near the cathedral but because of the marathon we were dropped far enough away that we weren’t on the map we were given. So we bumbled about for awhile.

We did find it and it’s beautiful. There was a mass inside so no photos but one. When we went in the second time in hopes the mass was over so I could get photos the choir was singing. Their voices soared. So beautiful.

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Malaga

We are thoroughly enjoying ourselves. Got my sea legs, first day at sea was a bit wobbly for me. But that has passed. I’ll be doing quick posts on my trip and proper ones when I get back.

We’re in Malaga today. The weather couldn’t be more perfect was we wonder round. And an amazingly clean city. It looks freshly swept!

I am enjoying sangria as I write. All very civilised. 😊

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