27 February 2015

to be completed ....

This is a diary of our 17 day cruise to and around the western Mediterranean.  
We're starting in the middle as unfortunately the computer's locked me out of the beginning few days.  This is rather strange as the password used for the first few days worked and then suddenly one day it didn't.  
We may never be able to recapture those first days!

sun peeking through strained glass window
Thursday 12 February; Barcelona tour. Went first to the Cathedral of Barcelona (above: http://www.catedralbcn.org/) with many golden statues and reliefs, each dedicated to a saint or important person, with votive candles by the gates in front of each one. 
In contrast we then saw the outside of the Del Gradia (http://www.sagradafamilia.cat/sf-eng/docs_serveis/informacio.php); will it ever be finished?   It is only being built using donations so a bit is done at a time.  At present there are 140 people working on the structure. (http://www.travelinginspain.com/barcelona/barcelona4.htm
Buildings nearby are to be knocked down eventually, giving large plaza at front of the cathedral.  To be honest I didn't like the spires too much as they're rather heavy but the parts which we don't tend to see in photos were fabulous, see pic.

Olympic village, 1929 exposition village showing buildings from all parts of  Spain of various eras. Comprehensive information from our tour guide..  

Friday 13 Feb: Marseille, started sunny, warm and clouded over. Shuttle bus from port to town, about a mile or so. Roman, even Greek remains of buildings.  Various castle-type buildings, perhaps Roman or dating from Crusades time.  Had a wander through the old part of the city, it looked like a scene from Les Mis or perhaps the time of the Revolution in late 18th century.  Beware of dog poo! Faded shop fronts, signs of lots of regeneration in the old quarter and also down along the dockside and sea front.  In old Greek harbour now large marina. Another area we explored was more N African peoples, so interesting food shops, also lots of clothes and shoe shops and jewellery shops. 

Saturday 14 Feb: Livorno - a rose in our room: Florence, warm, slightly sunny, then cloudy and finally when we were on the bus, rainy.  Saw many sights from outside and took masses of photos.  the part we looked at was petty compact so was able to see lots, although didn't go in anywhere.  that huge marble church would have been impossible as such a long queue to get in. Fab architecture everywhere - and sooo many people.
Sunday 15  Feb: Civitavecchia for Rome:  lots of ruins, limited vision on coach as were in middle at the back.  Were allowed out to photo the Colloseum, must return to have better look at that large square with 'wedding cake' cathedral and other interesting buildings.  Too large a place to just wander round and see everything, it would need a few days to soak up the atmosphere.  And also would like to go inside the Vatican - only became a separate country in 1929.  On our return to the ship I took the shuttle bus to Civitaveccia, someone said there was 'nothing there', and so there wasn't, on the main street.  But further upwards were some interesting buildings and apparently down by the water it was nice too.

Monday 16: on the move, much rolling swell. Felt rather pregnant, cookery dem steak, prawn cocktail, tart tartin. Small paella type lunch settled stomach somewhat.  Called into to painting class, very few there, craft group, then classical duo concert James and magic, highbrow, good. Dinner in Penin Restaurant.

Tuesday 17: quiet morning reading. Classical clarinet and piano in afternoon, popped into craft group.  Dinner in the Marco Pierre White fancy restaurant where the service was wonderful, food not so good.  Potentially very good but somehow missed.  

very moor-ish architecture

Wednesday 18: Up and out to see Gibraltar. Rock Hotel former gardens rather like the Eden project with its African area, Med area etc.  Prob even nicer in summer when more flowers are out. New park ex car park, better than the other way round, would like to see it when the trees have grown bigger.  Many people with ash crosses on their foreheads, as Ash Wednesday, so no chance to visit the Church as services in place.  Also lots of shops, take-aways all over the place, not the sort  of aromas to enjoy first thing in the morning.  English but with flavour of Spain and also of N Africa.  Gym park for adults good idea, would love to have one near us, apparently they have lots of them in Spain and other hot places. Would have had wonderful views from top of the Rock but showery and overcast.  Very windy, force 7 so not leaving tonight. excllent dave allen type comedian.
Thursday 19: Now force 8 so not leaving yet.  eventually left at 6pm,  when weather had started to calm a little. classical concert, afternoon chocolate tea, choc fountain and many small portions of chocolate-type cakes on offer.
Friday last classical concert, talk in morning on ancient egypt, knitting group, art exhib must bring paints next time - and perhaps practice a little beforehand. comedian again. ha ha.
Saturday 21: Up not too early and out wandering around La Coruna, slightly windy, overcast, later on some sunny spells and showers.  Found a beautiful bay with turquoise sea (shallow) with intrepid surfers and long esplanade to walk along.  Cut through back streets and found a lovely square - town hall?  then cut through again and found the museum/art gallery where there was an exhibition (free as we were English) on Picasso's early life. He moved to La C when about 8 and stayed 'til 13, his father moved the family there when he took up the job of Art Teacher.  It was interesting to see how Picasso's work developed over that time and to see other works of that time and that area, and to see documentation such as Picasso's school report (some of it good, most of it not good). Sunny when we left the area and undulating waves.  good charity concert  by members of the crew, various singers such as Elvis, Elton John and ... and humour.

every evening meal in the Penninsular Dining Room we sit with different people, whoever arrives at the same time to eat.  it's interesting and, as well as having nice chats with people from various places - we always find common ground, whether bowling, having visited each other's towns, having children of similar age - we've also learned more about cruising itself.  For instance one thing we learned that the tip automatically put onto our bill is not mandatory.  We can fill out a form, giving out reasons, and then tip whomsoever we like.  we've taken the middle road and left one of our tips on the bill, to be shared equally between the staff and the other amount we're going to give to those who've directly helped us.  We're discovered the advantages of booking early or booking at the last minute for cruise holidays.  Also that the more you cruise you gain ten points for each night and after a certain amount you're eligible for a discount on items such as trips and on-board drinks, when even higher up the scheme there are even exclusive parties!  That if our meal comes with one set of vegetables, for instance, we can request others, so long as they're on the menu somewhere.  That the shuttle bus can be far more expensive than the local bus, although the former can be more convenient.

Iris & Friends by John Bayley (authors recommended by him include Margaret Irwin, Hope Munz, Marjorie Bowen and Barbara Pym); 
John & George by John Dolan; 
This Sceptred Isle by Christopher Lee; Maxwell's Chain by MJ trow; 
Gardens of Britain and Ireland by Patrick Taylor (pub DK); 

Acts we enjoyed on the boat: 
James and Maciej classical and other music , 
Oli Nez, 
that Cuban, 
Steve Hewlett the ventriloquist, 
Adrian Walsh the comedian

Films shown - and we didn't get to the cinema in all our days away:
Image result for calvary film
7/2: Calvary: Father James is a good priest who is faced with siunister and troubling circumstances brought about by a mysterious member of his parish.
8/2: Gone Girl: On the occasion of his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick reporrts that his wife has gone missing.  Under pressure from the police and growing media frenzy, his portrait of a blissful union begins to crumble.
9/2 The Riot Club: Based on Laura Wade's critically acclaimed play 'Posh', in which tow first-year Oxford university students join the institution's infamous 'dining club' - where money and privilege reign and rules are made to be broken.
10/2 The Song: Inspired by the beautiful daughter of a vineyard owner, a struggling singer-songwriter finds fortune and fame by penning a hit song in her honour.
11/2 Hector and the Search for Happiness: Hector is a quirky psychiatrist who has become increasingly tired of his Humdrum life.  As he tells his girlfriend, he feels like a fraud: he hasn't really tasted life, and yet he's offering advice to patients who are just not getting any happiness.  So he decides to break out of his deluded and routine-driven life.
Image result for my old lady film
12/2: My Old Lady: A down and out New Yorker inherits an apartment in Paris from his estranged father and is stunned to find a refined old lady living there with her protective daughter.
13/2: Philomena: based on the 2009 investigative book by BBC correspondent Martin Sixsmith, te film focuses on the efforts of Philomena Lee, mother to a boy conceived out of wedlock and given away for adoption.
Image result for before i go to sleep film14/2: Before I go to  Sleep: the story of a woman who wakes up every day with no memory as the result of a traumatic accident in her past.  Nichole Kidman and Colin Firth.
15/2: Saving Mr Banks: A doting father, Walt Disney, promises his adoring daughters that he will bring their favourite fictional nanny Mary Poppins to the big screen.  Little does he realise that surley author PL Travers has no intention of seeing her most famous creation ruined.
16/2: What if: Medical school dropout Wallace has been repeatedly burned by bad relationships.  So while everyone around him seems to be finding the perfect partner, he decides to put his love life on hold.
17: One Chance: an amateur opera singer, Paul Potts, who went from meek shop clerk to international star after his stunning performance in Britain's Got Talent.
18/2: Foxcatcher: Based on the true story of Mark Schultz, an Olympic wrestler.

20/2: Cuban Fury: Salsa film.

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