Castles and Cathedrals: A Day in Mallorca

Location: Palma de Mallorca, Spain

Just before we left Valencia last night, the cruise director announced that we would be sailing straight into a gale and that we should be prepared for some rough going en route to Palma. Lovely. I had my Gravol handy just in case, and the ship did rock ‘n’ roll a bit overnight, but I was fine, and the wind had died by the time we were ready to tour around today. It’s still cool, grey and pissy, but hey, you can’t have everything.

Those who know me well know that I’m a monarchy junkie and can’t get enough of palaces and castles. So when I found out Palma had one of each, I was really looking forward to this port. We started off by touring Bellver Castle, a circular stone structure perched atop a hill overlooking the city. It was the original residence of the kings of Mallorca (back when there actually WERE kings of Mallorca) and offers amazing views of the island from its battlements. Then we explored the bullring, which is modelled on the Colosseum in Rome and looks really ancient, but only dates from the 1930s. Next was a guided tour of the cathedral (we’ve seen so many cathedrals on this trip that I was beyond caring about this one) and then we saw the Almudaina Palace, an old Arab fortress that now houses visiting heads of state. The current king of Spain uses the palace for official receptions when the Spanish royal family comes to Mallorca in the summer. Very, very cool.

Having other people along on the cruise adds a whole other dimension to the experience. Yesterday, for instance, Dave went for a nap, I went to blog and Chris and Tanya played Scrabble. If it was just Chris and me, and one of us wanted to nap or whatever, the other one would kind of be stuck. Plus if it was just Chris and me, we would be far less likely to sit in the bar and have a drink, cause we can do that at home — but with Dave and Tanya along we have people to socialize with, so it’s all good.

It’s become a running joke among our group that Chris is constantly focused on food. While we were all sitting around yesterday playing board games, I happened to look at my watch. Here’s a verbatim account of what was said:
ME: Oh, wow, it’s four o’clock.
CHRIS: So we should go hit the buffet?
ME: Do you ever think about anything but food?
CHRIS: (accusingly) You brought it up!
ME: All I said was, it’s four o’clock.
I’m hoping he still fits into his tuxedo for the next formal night coming up in a couple days, but there are no guarantees.

Tonight we say adios to Spain and start the long trek across the Mediterranean to Tunisia in North Africa. It’s a long way, so tomorrow is a full day at sea. It’ll be nice not to have to rush out the door for a tour. On we go…

Going Underground

Location: Valencia, Spain

I could’ve sworn it was 32 degrees in Valencia every time I checked before leaving home, but unfortunately it was eight degrees and raining when we actually got here. No matter, though: the tour we took didn’t really depend on the weather. We had a brief city tour of this, Spain’s third largest city. The first half hour was so boring that Chris was literally falling asleep on the bus, but then we came to the historic centre of the city, which was stunning. We saw the bullring; the town hall; the Silk Exchange building and the cathedral that contains what some experts believe is the original Holy Grail. Pretty cool stuff.

Then it was off to the San Jose Caves, where we boarded a small boat and floated through an underground river. The caves are 15,000 years old and had some amazing rock formations; in many places the roof of the cave was so low that everyone in the boat had to duck to fit through. It was awesome, and probably would’ve been even better if there had been a guide or a sign or anything to tell us about what we were seeing. The guy driving the boat would occasionally warn us to watch our heads (in Spanish — Tanya was able to translate) but otherwise didn’t say a word. I guess I’ll have to look up some more info online when we get home.

Tomorrow we’re off to Palma de Mallorca — here’s hoping the sun comes out!

Hola, Amigos!

Location: Barcelona, Spain

You might ask why, since I have motion sickness issues, I chose to take a cruise. The answer is that large ships generally don’t bother me, although I still have to be careful to get a cabin on the lower decks in the middle of the ship. So when Chris woke up in the middle of the night and noticed the ship’s rocking was causing the coat hangers in the closet to bang together, he jumped up to move them, afraid that the noise would wake me up and then I’d get sick. Fortunately, I slept like the dead and only know about the rough going cause he told me about it this morning. I’d say I’m over the jet lag.

So today we discovered Barcelona. The four of us had audio guides (iPods) and maps and spent over two hours wandering around the historic centre of the city, which is jam-packed with medieval-era buildings and churches. We have four cameras among our group but I’m the only one who likes to have people in the pictures, so I focused more on that and let the others photograph the sights. I didn’t know much about Barcelona when we got here, but it was an interesting tour of the old city — I wouldn’t rush back here, but it was still neat to see.

We’re still liking our time on the ship. The staff is amazing at remembering everyone’s names and preferences, we get chocolates on our pillow every night and we just generally feel like we’re being taken care of. Our first formal night went well: Chris actually seemed to enjoy wearing his tux and I managed to corral everybody for a formal group portrait. After dinner we went to the theatre for the Broadway-style show and were handed free glasses of champagne on the way in, so that’s not too shabby. We’ve been away from home for close to a week and neither Chris or I really misses the kids — we’re just having too much fun. Awesome.