Cruise Photos Part 2 (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

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Best Street Art

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Bicycles Everywhere [caption id="attachment_5490" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Smallest cars ever..."][/caption]

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Barges of every shape and size...

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Other Photos [caption id="attachment_5498" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="A Little Cheese?"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5499" align="alignnone" width="375" caption="Rembrant's Studio"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5500" align="alignnone" width="375" caption="Rembrant's paint stand"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5501" align="alignnone" width="375" caption="A parting slice of pie before we head home to Nova Scotia"][/caption]

Hope you enjoy this short photo tour. -L

A Few Cruise Photos

[caption id="attachment_5442" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Rotterdam at dock"][/caption][caption id="attachment_5443" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="At sea with our wrap around balcony"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5444" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Writing the Waves Group (Cynthia Whitcomb, our leader in red boa)"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5445" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Pamela in Cork, Ireland"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5447" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Dublin, Ireland street scene"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5448" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Dublin guitarist with home-made electric guitar and amp"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5449" align="alignnone" width="334" caption="Found a pub in Dublin, wonder how?"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5450" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="London and Big Ben"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5451" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Traffic jam on the Thames River in London"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5452" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Found a theatre bookstore and another pub."][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5454" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Bayeux, France"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5455" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Bayeux, France museum"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5456" align="alignnone" width="375" caption="Bayeux, France Cathedral"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5457" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Brugge, Belguim, out favorite medieval town"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5458" align="alignnone" width="375" caption="The famous Brugge canals"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5459" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Market Day in Brugge"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5460" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Spires everywhere"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5461" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Canal repose, Brugge."][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5462" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Brugge is a historic swan sanctuary."][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5464" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="The painted houses of Brugge reminded me of home in Lunenburg."][/caption]

Rotterdam, The Netherlands [caption id="attachment_5466" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Rotterdam a city of diminishing canals"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5467" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Our patio H2otel room beside the canal"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5468" align="alignnone" width="375" caption="Boats seem to outnumber cars in Rotterdam"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5469" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Rotterdam, a modern city rebuilt after WWII"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5470" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Modern suspension bridge in Rotterdam"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5471" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Canal side cafes in old town Rotterdam"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5472" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="Captain Pamela at the wheel in Rotterdam"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_5473" align="alignnone" width="500" caption="A few of the classic sail boats and barges"][/caption]

Rome Finale

April 28, 2010 Our last night was the PERFECT FINALE to our vacation in Rome. I wouldn't have changed a thing, well, maybe just one little thing; I'll tell you later.

Our dear friend, Dennis Cigler, artist, art educator, cook extraordinaire, and so much more, joined us for our last meal in Piazza Navona. We absolutely delighted in catching up with him and learning of his latest escapades. Dennis always has exciting anecdoates, travels, and other details to share.

We were glad Dennis chose the restaurant because it was the best, by far, of any eatery we tried in the piazza and, even better, Dennis is familiar with the owner and staff, which helped turn an already fabulous dinner date, on account of the dear company, cold drinks and delectable eats (in Rome!), into an enchanting evening. We were heartily welcomed and tended.

Below, Dennis translates the fascinating fables told by Tucci Ristorante-Pizzeria's owner. Sadly, we forget his name. He was a kind, generous man, and vibrant, dashing and debonaire. I'm going to call him Mr. Tucci until Dennis corrects me.

The conversation and food came in rounds. We talked and talked and yet it's difficult to recall, though the emotions and full-heart feeling comes quickly. What we did, what we didn't, what we want for next time, what we want for us... It 's all such a wonderful whirl, even then!

And I don't remember ordering a thing. The appetizer appeared unprompted and featured a bread and olive oil that could only come from Italy. I think Mr. Tucci chose the wine. In fact, I don't think we ordered a thing aside from the first couple/three rounds of Italianized margaritas. Refreshing and deceptive those margs.

Between courses Mr. Tucci's stories and copious charm endeared us to him. And we gotta love the language and the expressive Italian gestures that always enhance or embelishment a story.

Here is my one regret: I was so stuffed with bread and drink, mostly drink, that I hardly touched the tastiest--the best--pasta dish of my life, prepared especially for me. And dessert! I could only take in one mouthful. And then things get fuzzy from there.

You see, Mr. Tucci gifted us with a dark liquor digestif he freed from the cellar, a very special bottle from his dwindling Kambusa Amaricante reserves. It's a difficult flavour to describe, but I'll try: sweet yet bitter, aromatic, full, flowery, strooong (sneaks up on you me), ... pleasing.

And this is what it looked like later, notice how close the spelling is to "Ambush". ;)

Not only did Mr. Tucci share the drink with us, he sent us away with a new bottle too!

I wish we could repeat the night, over and over! But we passed along the Kambusa to Dennis so guess we'll have to wait until the next time

We will always cherish the experience.

Dennis, thank you for a delicious and heartwarming evening we will never forget, and even for the Kambusa Amaricante-laden parts I do forget.  xox...

-P

Typical Rome

April 26, 2010 Typical as in "representative" and "symbolic", not as in "ordinary".

A typical lunch at Ristorante Ill Cardello 1920 di Angelo e Lidia, a typical hole-in-the-wall stashed at an intersection of back alleys. So yummy... still makes my mouth water.

A typical microcar in Italy. Tiny names too: Eke (love that!), Aygo, etc.

The most famous and the largest Baroque fountain in Rome, Trevi Fountain stands 85' high and 65' wide in Trevi Square. Among the sculptures, Neptune, god of the sea, rides a shell-shaped chariot pulled by two sea horses. Triton guides the sea horses. On one side of Neptune a statue represents Abundance, on the other a statue representing Salubrity.

A typical alleyway courtyard and colour scheme.

A typical and delectable Italian pizza, perhaps a-typical as we were told it was the best pizza in Rome. I know I wrote it down somewhere... I will look. Anyway, the thin crust pizza comes out of the oven in looong slabs. The cook holds up a huge knive and hacks off the end of the pizza according to your instruction.

Ornate chimneys and sat dishes side by side.

Our one regret is that we missed Galleria Borghese. Reservations are required, several days in advance. However, we observed a typical and amusing scene on the short bus en route the the Borghese grounds: Italian friends, all talking at the same time to each other yet to no one in particular. It's a wonder how they understand each other. Entertaining to us foreigners to say the least!

-P

Rome: The Colosseum

April 26, 2010 From the crest of The Forum: poppies and the Colosseum.

The construction was completed under the direction of Roman Emperor Titus in AD 80. The opening games lasted 100 days.

Today we see little beyond the framework of the original arena. Three fifths of the exterior wall is missing and most of it is pocked from the excavation of the lead and nails for reuse elsewhere when the Colosseum fell out of use.

Imagine a whitewashed oval 188 metres long and 156 metres wide, 80 arched entrances, seating for 45,000-70,000 spectators (free admittance, but seating according to rank of course).

Inside, nowadays, the Colosseum corridors house exhibits depicting the games of the times, mostly gladiator games.

There were all manner of "great" fights, shows and the hunting of animals. Here, where the wooden floor and trap doors used to be, we see the cavea exposed, the subterranean walls that temporarily confined the wild animals and men about to battle.

Sometimes the crowd implored the emperor to set a most revered gladiator free. If the emperor agreed, the gladiator was handed a wooden sword and freed.

Historians speculate that canals may have been used to flood the stadium in order to perform mock battles at sea.

The Colosseum served as Rome's main stage for 4 centuries.

-P

Rome: A Sunny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum

April 25 , 2010 Yes. Sun.

It is believed that the Etruscans (height of civilization 500 BC, "subdued" by the Romans by the end of 3 BC) built the stadium for games and entertainment. Apparently, Caesar expanded the arena (50 BC) to form Circus Maximus, a chariot racing stadium that held about 250,000 spectators and up to twelve chariots at a time.

The site is now a public park for walkers, joggers, dogs and the occasional concert or sports game.

The Forum was the commercial, political, religious and social centre in 700 BC until the fall of the Empire in 5 AD. The Forum flooded and eroded for 18 centuries.  20th-century archaeologists excavated the remains through 3 to 4 metres of earth and exhumed the very heart of ancient Roman Empire.

Founded 306 BC, Basilica of Constantine, formerly known as Basilica of Maxentius, the largest single structure standing, the last non-Christian building built in the Forum, served as a court and meeting hall.

Antoninus Pius commissioned the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina in 141 AD in honour of his late wife Faustina. The columns are 17m tall. The building is the best preserved in the Forum.

Below: House and courtyard of the Vestel Virgins. The Virgins were priestesses of the goddess Vesta, goddess of the hearth and household. They were responsible for maintaining the sacred fire in the Temple of Vesta. A girl was selected between the ages of 3 and 10, from a distinguished patrician family, and served 30 years. If she broke her 30-year vow of chastity she was buried alive, the best way to kill without shedding vestal blood. The corrupting lover? Flogged to death.

Marble mosaic floor, but not even "floor", entire arcades and squares and thoroughfares were bedecked with all colours of marble. Swaths of ornate marble tiles still adorn many walkways throughout Rome's "ruins".

Massive columns, vast domes and monumental buildings and statues are obviously impressive, but I was just as fascinated by the more intricate carvings. Sometimes carved marble looks just like the plant it mimics or as deceptively soft as the flowing satin its meant to depict on countless sculptures.

Arch of Septimius Severus is a triumphal arch that commemorated the Parthian victories of Emporor Severus and his sons Caracalla and Geta.

Most prominent structures (left to right): Senate House, Arch of Severus, Temple of Vespasian and Titus, and Temple of Saturn.

Temple of Saturn, on the left: a monument to agricultural deity Saturn. Built 501 BC. Waaay in the back: three pillars are all that is left of the Temple of Castor and Pollux beyond the nubs of what was Basilica Julia (dedicated to Caesar in 46 BC).

Just one more look:

More Rome on the way.

-P

Rome: Day 1

April 24, 2010 I admittedly put off blogging when I've taken hundreds of photos for one destination. That, in part, explains the delay in posting. I'm grateful you're checking this out as that is the best incentive to keep posting! Thanks for following along.

We dropped off our luggage at Arco del Lauro B&B in Trastevere and traipsed just a few hundred feet to Piazza in Piscinula for lunch. Rome awaits. What to do? Take a 4-hour nap. Not planned, but thoroughly enjoyed.

We woke late afternoon and set out to catch just a few glimpses of Rome before dark. I'm sharing them with you.

Old marries new:

The area is apparently known as the Jewish Ghetto of Rome, but "ghetto" in Rome is... it just doesn't fit!

A sneak peek at the Coliseum:

Just one of many sweeping views in the capital of Italy:

Mmmm (need I say more?):

Tiber Island, the only island in the Tiber River, is linked to Rome by two bridges:

Fountain of Neptune in Piazza Navona:

Unfortunately the more famous fountain, The Fountain of Four Rivers by Bernini, was under construction.

People-watching rules in Piazza Navona.

We took a Rick Steve's Rome Top 10 guide recommendation and dined at Trattoria da Lucia, a dark little restaurant run by three generations of one family. We skipped the stingray soup with broccoli and went with the antipasto della casa, gnocchi (very sticky!) and a "mezzo litro" of red wine followed by a selection of local cheeses with honey.

All of that in just a couple/three hours. Rome is a walking town that offers more to see than we could see in months so we'll share highlights and leave the rest for next time.

-P

Florence Resumed

April 23, 2010 Storage is scarce so laundry and bicycles (?) hang off balconies:

That photo was snapped from Muse Casa di Dante. The museum is a disappointment: scant exhibits feebly related to the scribe of the Divine Comedy and the rest a mix mash of poor reproductions of costumes and such, though we did enjoy the reproduction copies by Giotto, Ghirlandaio, Raphael, Michelangelo, etc.

Dante doesn't look impressed either:

The infamous David (on the left), albeit a copy:

That must be Hercules and Cacus on the right.

You won't see what we saw a lot of unless you really look at this photo. Obviously the novelty has worn off for the vendor.

The BEST way to end a day in Florence? Savour espressos and tiramisu at Croce Caffe in Piazza Santa Croce.

Croce Square and another wee three-wheeler:

Well, that's a taste of Florence.

-P

Florence, or "Firenze"

Hi all! We're so far behind. Please forgive the brief posts. Photos will say more than I will.

April 23, 2010

A miserable weather day, but it hardly matters when you're wandering the capital of Tuscany.

We docked in Livorno and instead of touring Pisa we took a 90-minute tour bus ride (with the exception of a grand house on a hillock and a couple vineyards the scenery is rather plain) into Florence for a half-guided, half-independent walking tour. We quickly abandoned our group and struck out on our own in search of a dry, authentic, off the beaten path Italian restaurant and some genuine minestrone.

We found the perfect place in a back alleyway: Ristorante Il Paiolo, where the chef and proprietor shelled fava beans together on the back table.

I think we had a Chianti--when in Florence... I did have the minestrone. I suspect it's more of a whatever's in the garden/kitchen soup in Italy as it varies greatly. I had minestrone a few times and it was usually a clearer broth with just a few vegetables like yellow squash and zucchini--quite plain, but satisfying.

The reward of a socked in day in Florence is the contrast between the umbrellas and the sculptures and buildings. Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is the second largest cathedral in the world. It can hold up to 3,000 people.

The octagonal Baptistry's bronze door, "Gates of Paradise" by Ghiberti:

Europeans love their gelato, even on a cold, blustery rain day.

Leather markets pop up under tarps in squares and alleyways:

We thought the wee green, three-wheeled "trucks" were cute. Check out the police uniforms:

One of the most famous sights in Florence: bridges and the Arno River lined by bright apartment buildings:

Perseus and Medusa outside Uffizi Gallery:

Fountain of Neptune:

More to come.

-P

Nice Sights

April 22, 2010 We walked and walked. (Sorry, my photos look duller and less colourful on the blog than in iPhoto; I don't know why that is.)

The beach on Baie des Anges:

Some restaurants sit beachside along the Quai des Etats-Unis, but it was too cool and windy for most I suppose.

Locals line up and lunch or read the newspaper in silence:

Many residences look like this, steep stone drives, bright hues, shutter windows, laundry strewn over wee balconies, a flower box here and there...

Skinny buildings like this are more common than you might think.

On to the eats! I almost gave Papayou a post of its own. It was that good.

The secret to a great green salad in Europe, it seems, is a mix of fresh greens (sometimes herbs too) and a high quality olive oil. Our salad had a boost by way of grilled goat cheese, olive tapénade, cherry tomatoes and chives.

We chanced upon Papayou Restaurant during our search for a quiet spot away from tourists and filled to capacity squares. Papayou is on Rue de la Prefecture across the alley from a distillery.

Wild Mushroom Risotto with parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar reduction. Our server chose the wine and Columbard Ugni Blanc became a new favourite by the second sip.

A sweet finale: delectable creme brulee.

Yeah, I think we'll leave this post with the sweet stuff.

-P

Nice For Sale

April 22, 2010 We meandered through Old Nice, a shopper's mecca and an almost labyrinth.

Sometimes the shopping is crammed into wee boutiques that stretch the length of a narrow alleyway.

Sometimes it splays across a square.

Marzipan pigs anyone?

We sampled dried and candied fruit from various vendors and especially liked the ginger, passion fruit and limes.

The only non-edible we bought still has something to do with food. We couldn't resist the hugging salt and pepper shakers. We couldn't decide on colours so ended up with one black one white:

Aside from clothing, soaps, spices and lavender are the most common products.

More Nice to come.

-P

Eze

April 22, 2010 Lloyd had to help the taxi driver navigate the narrow zigzag streets from Villefranche up to Eze Village. Fortunately, the taxi had electronic fold-in mirrors to instantly shave off a foot of width. A harrowing five minutes later we stood at the base of Eze's medieval stone steps.

Of the drive, George Sand said, in 1868, " ... it is a most breathtaking road landscape, the most accomplished, a state of the art achievement." Breathtaking indeed.

Perched over the Mediterranean, Eze spirals up from modern streets to castle ruins.

Hitchcock featured the landscape in "To Catch a Thief".

We weaved through the maze of alleys and found photo opps at every turn.

Cobblestone walkways, tiny courtyards, old glorious (to me) doors, ...

... carved gutters, creeping vines, contemporary sculptures, intricate lamps, wee windows, mysterious holes in stone walls, pay toilettes and souvenir shops crammed into cubby holes.

Ground floors used to be cellars for wine and olive oil or stables for goats, sheep and mules. Houses were built of limestone.

We climbed all the way to the top to the castle ruins and ...

... Jardin Exotique (exotic garden).

Despite the cool grey haze we had a wonderful panorma of Villefranche and Eze's terracotta tile roofs.

Descending, we took a side path to the cemetery which is stuffed full of family crypts worn by weather but modernized by new nameplates, plastic flowers, photographs and the deceased memorialized as recent as '07.

After so many steps we felt we earned our brunch at Creperie Le Cactus pour le petite dejeuner: une Crepe Gourmand et cafe expresso.

The crepe arrived smothered in nutella, sliced bananas and whipped cream. Decadent.

Back at the base of the village we were greeted by sunshine and the perfume of luxury soaps and bins of spice.

After Eze we caught the public bus for 1 euro to Nice. The bus, with its windowed sides, gave us a great view of the beautiful seaside and got us to Nice in about ten minutes.

-P

Barcelona Odds & End

April 21, 2010 We strolled along Las Ramblas which is lined with trees, cafes, curiosities and narrow streets. A typical view across the street: balconies, pedestrians and lines of mopeds and motorbikes sometimes up to 50 in a row.

A local man in an obvious wig shouts and holds up a postcard of an obese nude woman for all passersby to see. The locals know better than to mind him, I guess.

Other local men stride along in dark clothes bursting out in ... beautiful birdsong. Seriously. Makes me wonder if has something to do with the typical male bird's motivation for birdsong: territorial purposes. Is it the Catelonian equivalent for the wolf whistle? Or just an amusing pastime? I don't know.

Buskers on the other hand are the silent type. They don't talk. They disguise themselves in elaborate costumes or ... edibles ... and stand stock-still. You pay to take photos.

How does he do that? ;)

We also saw a couple "headless" buskers in suits, a grown man baby in a carriage, cowboys that were silver head to toe, etc.

Just another extraordinary detail:

Extraordinary details are everywhere in Barcelona: ornate fountains, street lamps, balconies, arches, old and massive doors, cobblestone streets, and a lot of graffiti.

The End of our Barcelona experience looked just like this:

Nice, hm?

-P

Barcelona Markets

April 21, 2010 We happened upon a small market and cafe in a sunny courtyard so rested our feet and refueled with espressos at an outdoor table where a Spanish singer guitarist serenaded ...

... and an old woman shelled fava beans while locals inspected the produce.

I had marked the Bouqueria Market as a must see and it is a definite highlight of Barcelona. We planned to wander and snack our way through the market, but had our fill at the first stop: Organic Market.

We ordered sangria (when in Spain!) and three dishes: falafel, a queso fresco crepe and another crepe, not realizing that each would come with curry grain salad, a wedge of baked potato, couscous, pasta salad, green salad, hummus, and roasted jalapenos. DELICIOUS!

We found a seat at Kit Kat Cafe across the alley where we ordered more espresso and our server quickly warned Lloyd to remove his camera from the table top lest it be stolen. As luck had it, Kit Kat is next to a store that sells bellydance outfits. I bought a harem pant and top set and a coin belt for 11 euros! That's cheap, cheap, cheap.

Back in Bouqueria Market: a stall just for eggs, ...

... one of several spice kiosks, ...

... an olive vendor, ...

... chilies and nuts galore, ...

... and fruit in solids and liquids.

Of course there are other items typical to European markets: hooves, cow stomachs, whole piglets and the like. My pics are just a sampling of the huge market.

-P

Barcelona: Old and New

April 21, 2010 We chose an audio guide tour for Barcelona, which meant we could wander on our own, yet still have a "guide" of sorts.

Barcelona, population of 3 million, is the second largest city in Spain. The people are lively and proud of their culture and and city. Barcelona is clean (sweepers are a common sight) and its many historic buildings and monuments are well preserved.

Greeks and Phoenicians settled here in 4th century B.C. Romans came, conquered and occupied until 5th century A.D. In 711 Moors from Africa brought Muslim religion and influence. 9th century: independence and Catalonia developed; built fleets of ships, buildings, art then a decline "brought about by the discovery of the New World". The Suez Canal opened in 1869. "... only since Franco's death in 1975, and the crowning of King Juan Carlos I, that the Catalonian language and culture has again been allowed to flourish and regional autonomy granted".

An old drinking fountain:

We didn't have enough time to visit the Picasso Gallery, which houses over 2,000 of Picasso's earlier works. Picasso came to Barcelona at 14 to study art. Guadi's works, however, can be seen throughout the city: curved construction stones, twisted iron sculptures, colourful tile mosaics.

A church, one of many 13th century buildings in the Gothic Quarter.

Most of the old buildings were built from stone. Soldiers sharpened weapons on this stone wall many years ago:

Even in the narrowest of alleys we found shrines or memorials set back in alcoves carved into stone walls.

For five centuries a gaggle of geese has lived in the Barcelona Cathedral cloister. It is thought that they originally served as a security measure, bahonking someone's arrival I suppose. Anyway, they're a popular attraction.

However, I preferred this happy gaggle:

School kids at play in colourful smocks.

Inside the cathedral something from this century: coin operated LED "candles".

Hopefully Lloyd will post more photos, and better photos.

-P

Tenerife, Canary Islands: Part 2

April 18, 2010 Las Canadas National Park.

A caldera, the 2nd largest in the world behind Yellowstone, makes up much of the park.

"Star Wars" and "Clash of the Titans" scenes were filmed here.

Back in the cloud we drove through a stretch of forest damaged by a recent windstorm

Out of the cloud we steeply descend into La Villa de La Orotava, a wealthy cultural city with narrow streets lined by many a church and bright buildings with balconies, shuttered windows and terracotta tile roofs.

As steep as San Francisco...

A rich finish of ornately carved wood balconies and window frames:

Our last stop: La Casa de los Balcones built in 1632 now houses souvenir shops and caged canaries. We bought local pistachios which are smaller, less salty and have a smokier flavour than those we buy elsewhere.

Back on the boat we watched the fueling boat top up the ship. Then the pilot boat trailed, sidled up and the pilot lept off. Passengers applauded from their balconies and he waved like a celebrity until he was out of sight.

We left the dark clouds behind for two more "at sea" days.

-P

Tenerife, Canary Islands: Part 1

April 18, 2010 Our first shore excursion took us 180 miles off the coast of Africa to the volcanic island of Tenerife, a Spanish island, the largest of the seven Canary Islands at 790 square miles and a population of 700,000.

85% of the island's income comes from tourism. Bananas count for a fraction of the remainder, as well as wine including "Malmsey", a very sweet wine made from the grapes of low bush vines planted in the volcanic soil. Shakespeare refered to malmsey as "an absolutely penetrating wine" and Henry IV. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote "a little good canary will comfort me the heart of it.”

Close-set buildings stretch out of small steep valleys. Architecturally, it looks like Lego.

At 12,198 feet, Mount Teide is the highest mountain in Spain.

The only source of water on the island is mined water. It's mined by boring holes into mountains in search of springs. Otherwise a desalination plant processes sea water. Hmmm. I didn't see a rainwater collection system, but they must have them since they measure annual rainfall in metres...

The different lava flows left their mark:

Our "4x4 Adventure" took us on steep, snaky roads through La Experanza Forest, thick with fragrant eucalyptus trees and umbrella pines, and through the clouds.

Everyone speeds here. If the posted speed for a curve is 18kms, our guide "Frankie" (Jose Francisco) takes it at 43kms.

We had a brief stop at Restorante El Petrillo, a bikers hangout, for the best hot chocolate we have ever had. Basically, it's melted chocolate with a little bit of cream to keep it semi-liquid; it has the consistency of hot pudding. It even comes with a spoon to scoop the last thick drops.

We continued ...

... passed the formation locals refer to as "The Lady's Bum" ...

to Roques Garcia. A new to me plant, ...

... another view of Mt. Teide and rock formations.

The smooth formations are layers of old ash and the rougher formations are lava-based.

Part 2 on the way...

-P

Navigator of the Seas

April 10, 2010 A 14-night, Transatlantic cruise to Europe, a working cruise with plenty of play time, an experience of a lifetime that we hope to repeat next year... We want to share our experience with you and hope you enjoy the posts.

We left a grey day at Ports of Miami ...

... for the big open blue. Here's the view from stateroom 7274:

Nine "at sea" days. If you think that might be boring ... the ocean is vast and ever-changing. It amazes me. It's hard to realize how big it really is until it's all you see for seven straight days and again for two days more. Amazing...

We had a calm sea the entire time and just enough beam sea to gently rock us to sleep at night.

Inside stateroom 7274:

And outside. My half of the balcony. ;) I loooved the balcony.

Sixteen writers spent most waking hours in the Boardroom on Level 2, just above the waterline.

Every "at sea" day went like this:

9am-Noon - Writing workshop with Cynthia Whitcomb

Lunch

1:00-5:00    -  Write on own (no talking), technically 2-5pm, but we needed every spare minute

5:05-5:20    -  Scramble to get ready for dinner

5:30-7:30    -  Lovely, amusing, inspiring dinners with our group and a little shop talk

7:30-8:00    -  Dress down, cram, grab a tea

8:00-10:00  - Writing salon: readings, critiques, problem solving

10:00-           -  Cocktails at the Champagne Bar, sometimes a brainstorm/problem solving session

?                      -  Fall into bed and lose another hour to the time zone monster

Repeat.

We made it to the gym the first five mornings, but after losing an hour at night, seven (AGH!) times, we cared less about gaining elsewhere. Our room attendant, Al, a giant in size and energy who was always, "As cool as a piña colada," or "As cool as the ocean breeze," said, "You're going to need a vacation after your vacation."

Pictured (L to R): Lloyd, Beryl, Richard, Joan, Joanie, Penny, and Jackie.

***NEWSFLASH*** I met Lloyd seven years ago and this was the first time I saw him wear a necktie. Doesn't he look dapper in his tie? I better send a pic to our Moms ...

One of three formal nights at Swan Lake Dining Room:

Pictured (L to R): Billy, Lorraine, Maryka, Molly, Chris, Cynthia, Jessie, Bernadette and Lloyd #2.

We were on our own for lunches and enjoyed the gourmet salad bar at Nutcracker restaurant, otherwise we preferred the speed of Windjammer, a huge buffet open for every meal. I especially enjoyed the ethnic dishes. Overall, the food was very good, the desserts were good enough to double up on after dinner, and the coffee was strong enough to fuel a Prevost.

We had little time to explore the ship, but here are a couple views:

The casino:

We have a lot more to share with you. Stay tuned!

Love,

-P

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