Saint Malo France, 4 June 2019

It was a laid back day, slow start and plans altered.

With the tendering process commencing at 1 pm, everyone of the guests was a priority over us :). The suite guests can disembark whenever they want; the guests signed up for tours with Azamara were next priority. Next priority to the guests who had pre-arranged private tours on land. Last, was our group, flying by the seat of our pants, hoping for a taxi to take us around.

By the time we got out of the tender boat, there were no taxis and no tourist options for us to grab hold of. We opted to walk inside the walled city of St. Malo and I am so pleased we did. Relaxed, one of the most picturesque places I have ever seen on this trip or any other. Beaches, greenery, clean, contained, cobblestone walk ways, steeples, window boxes, shutters, roof-tops and look-outs. Easy walking, no maps required. Several hours of photos, walking, smiling and enjoying the ease of the day. Not hot, not cold, no rain and fluffy white clouds allowing sparkle of sunshine on the water, and streams of sun beams through to the village.

Young school-aged students with matching yellow ball hats so their adult supervisors could keep track, speaking french and climbing over rocks and taking turns at look-out view points. Few tour groups were overheard, speaking french also. Many alleyways we were the only pedestrians and photos reflected the stone archways and architecture of this beautiful walled city.

I was hoping for ease and easy world, on this trip …. today I received and even had time to meditate some in the waiting queue and then in the little tender boat for 15 minutes or more at a time.

I had received a few emails from my work clients and passed on the information to the manager who is tending to my caseload in my absence.

Sending hugs and best wishes to my mom, daughters, husband and friends who are following along. Wish you were here to enjoy this day. I think of you all often ….

Take good care and stay in touch.

Love Pamela

Ps. Tomorrow, Wednesday 5 June 2019 is Cherbourg old town. Fishing port, monestary, 35,000 residents, private yachts. Cool day expected 17 degrees. Shuttle bus every 30 minutes from 9 am or 10 minute walk from pier. We will be in port 8 am to 8 pm. French cuisine for our dining pleasure and 10 pm we will support our friends as they enter Karaoke contest :).

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St Malo, France 4 June 2019

St. Malo France

Tuesday 4 June 2019 we are tendering in to Port of St. Malo off the Brittany peninsula on the north west corner of France. An old walled city, with quiet cobblestone alleys, maze of narrow medieval streets lined with shops, restaurants, spas, churches and gates to the outside of the walls. Tides are important here, reminding folks to pay attention as they are coming and going by sea. As we sail in closer, we see small uninhabited islands, fortress and lighthouse structures. Very exciting as the vistas keep changing and more of this location is revealed.

The landmark of interest is Mont St Michel, the large 17 acre property, legend has it, inspired by Archangel Michael in the 8th century. It took several centuries to build between 11th and 16 centuries, and suffered many collapses. It is a full km out of sea and the tides have a strong variation of 4 to 6 feet, which means that when the tide comes in, some areas can be covered (even parking lot!). Warnings and instructions to respect the timing of the tides are provided to tourists taking in this historic site. Two causeways have now been built for easier access, costing some 200 million dollars to build. The structure is some 300 feet high.

In 1869 the prison (along with dungeons) that was located on the island of Mont St. Michel was shut down, the Abbey still remains on the site. The tapestries and frescoes are gone, the walls bare.

Cathedrals, castle houses and extensive gardens remain and attract tourists. Restaurants serving galettes and crepes, savory and sweet along with seafood offerings (local oysters, fish and mussels) accompanied by cider, popular fares in the Brittany region. Picturesque, this area feels inspiring to artists and visitors alike.

Marcia deSanctis writes about this place in her book 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go. I hope she does not mind me borrowing her words as the description she gives is marvelous and awe-inspiring and I keep re-reading it to myself and aloud ….. “Mont-Saint-Michel inhabits its bay like a monarch occupies its throne. It is arrogant, aloof, arrestingly dignified. All a person can do is supplicate before it. When it comes into view floating in the sun or rising from a great sea of vapor, you can’t help but see it in the context of the interplay between our own human strengths and weaknesses, an effect that sometimes occurs when confronted by works of sublime genius. Strength from the faith and gall to think man could—and did—build an abbey atop a sharp granite outcrop in an angry sea whipped by some of the strongest tides on earth, corralling all the knowledge in Christendom of stonemasonry, mathematics and engineering. As for frailty, where do I start? The briefness of even the most extraordinary lives, and how temporal we are compared to this stone edifice and the rock it stands on, the ocean it rises from, and the God it was built for. The abbey might be just a lovely relic if not for the milky expanse of the bay in which it sits. Each can only be understood in relation to the other—the ocean’s perilous strength against the architectural beauty and vice versa. For centuries, the faithful and the curious had to take caution and wait for low tide to venture across the sand to the Mont. The natural causeway was built in 1879, but even then, people continued to get swallowed by quicksand and swept away in the tides that change, in Victor Hugo’s words, “at the speed of a galloping horse.” Today, there are still dire warnings posted and the occasional rescue of someone with too little fear of the currents.”

“The abbey can look opalescent and pink or swarthy and glowering, and its countenance can alter in minutes”….. “at the turn of the 20th century, someone called it “the most beautiful kilometer in France,” and the moniker stuck. From this vantage point, the Mont looks confident in its realm, a fairy castle that rules the waves.”

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Update, no taxis available to get to this site of Mont Saint Michel, all tours booked up. St Malo was beautiful, photos on facebook!

Tomorrow, Honfleur, with population of about 9,000. This has been an artists community since 1027 and remains an important port city.

Stay tuned!

Pamela

Sea Day. Monday 3 June2019

Wavy day at sea today, between Portugal and France, traveling in excess of 512 kms. Beautiful sunshine, windy and wavy on the sea.

Today we went to brunch. Seas were rough however I was able to spot whales and dolphins aplenty. This is the half-way point of the cruise, we did laundry and enjoyed some decaf coffee, started a jigsaw puzzle of Venice (edge pieces are complete), listened to guest lecturer, dined in the Windows Cafe and very much enjoyed gluten free varieties of Indian cuisine. After dining with our friends Rachel and Monica we all did a couple of kilometers on the walking track on 10th floor. At 945 pm the cruise director put on a great performance, Eric deGray.

In the morning I have an appointment with Azamara Canadian Business Development Manager at 9 am. After perhaps more walking on deck. The plan is to arrive at St. Malo for tender after 11:30 am, depart from ship at 1 pm.

Some Places in France, to go …… June 2019

Quote from 100 Places in France Every Woman Should Go, by Marcia deSanctis … “France is diverse, sprawling, magnificent, flush with architecture, culture, style, royalty and religion, soaked in sauce Béarnaise and Bordeaux reds.” There is much to see and experience that is uniquely French, and I love France-land and culture.

“In Paris, it’s important to allow yourself to be lured—by instinct, a spectacular sound, or by any kind of hunger. You will never regret it.”

Good night to all, hope you are enjoying the cruise as much as I am 🙂

Porto 3 June 2019

Monday 3 June 2019, Sea day

Yesterday, Porto, a delight for the senses, was a lovely experience. We sailed in to the port pier of Leixoes, which displayed the cleanest, most beautiful modern port building and our ship was the only ship docked. Beautiful white, stylish rounded architecture combining white, texture, multi-layers and glass. The bathrooms were plentiful and clean and wifi throughout. Escalators and plenty of space, smooth on and off activities with plenty of helpful security folk.

Azamara offered complimentary shuttle into the town of Porto, about half hour drive. We were dropped at a bus parking area and provided orientation and maps. Off we began, enjoying the colourful buildings, cobblestone sidewalks, beautiful large unique bridges, soaring old bell tower, historic cathedral, railway station, painted tiles as wall murals, port and wine factories, restaurants commonly using the common streets and walkways along the waterfront (when we walked through we felt we were trespassing on private restaurant space). The Duoro River running through it, bound on both sides with high cliffs and terraced vegetation between rows of buildings high up. Cable cars, elevators and funicular rides helping tourists navigate the steep hills and allowing for everyone to enjoy the old town.

It was Sunday, many of the shops were closed but local market tables set up for tourist shopping for items made of cork, ceramic, glass, linen.

We searched for the funicular, determined to enjoy the ride up and walk down. It was closed and door locked when we arrived. We hung around talking about why it did not indicate that it was closed on Sundays …. we noticed arrival of one of the security folk who opened the door for us, we were fortunate to be the first to enter, get our ticket and have a wonderful seat in the front allowing for the best view. Up, up we went, great photos of the rooftops and river.

A young man dressed in a wet suit climbed up on the railing of the tall bridge, walking unassisted and drawing attention to himself with loud whistles. HIs assistant presumably would be collecting money for his dangerous plunge in to the river below. We did not stay around long enough to see the outcome of this risky busking leap of faith.

We walked back and forth along the main bridge along the pedestrian area, getting good glimpse of the river below. The parked river cruise ships, three deep and using the same docking space. Most of the buildings in old town are built along the steep banks, with great views of the red tile roof tops, steep stone staircases, colored doors. Picturesque views, each one exposing greenery, yellow gold walls, tiled greens and blues on the outside walls of about a third of the buildings, and colourful doorways, flowers and vines hanging over stone fences, building dividers and archways. Steep stone stairways, curving, twisting.

Steeples and ornamental roof decorations, on top of steep stone walls revealed churches. We walked into a piazza to see a local wedding taking place, bride and groom, posing outside the door way of the beautiful church, with stunning backdrop of Porto behind them. Photographers capturing the moment, tourists enjoying our luck of timing to get a chance to glimpse true local culture.

After arriving back on the ship, shuttled back from Porto, I wanted to venture to the local beach. I could see the beach from the pier and it was a sunny and warm, sandy beach dotted with umbrellas, outdoor deck chairs, swimming and sun-bathing bodies. I got directions from the security person, grabbed a local shuttle bus out of the shipyard compound. I walked alone over the hot golden sand and into the sea and surf. The coolness of the sea salt water covered my feet up passed my ankles, satisfying my urge to take in a beach whenever I can 🙂

I walked back over the warm sand, along the roadway and decided not to wait for the shuttle. I could see the ship from my vantage point and felt confident I would not get lost. I was home, back on the ship as the shuttle bus arrived with many of the folk who had spend the day in Porto and area.

Stopping to post with wifi and then back on board to enjoy the sail away party. This was a beautiful scenic day, filling all my senses with satisfaction. We departed Portugal and I feel I have seen enough of this country over the past 3 days …. what a grand adventurous experience. Thanks for following. Pictures posted on facebook.

This cruise I have no excursions booked, and did not do a thorough research on various ports of call in advance. Today, Monday, is a sea day, with rolling waves, blue clear sky, and a relaxing feel on the ship. Time change indicated we dropped an hour last night, so they offered a beautiful brunch buffet in the Discoveries Dining area. Ice carvings, plenty of fruit, sweets, vegetables, meats, breads, station for personalized omelets and pasta, prepared as ordered. Sparkling water feels good when seas are a bit rough, skipping sparkling wine at this time.

Today’s activities on board include line-dancing (in preparation for the White Night event coming up in a few days), guest lecturer Thomas who will speak about the island of Mont-Saint-Michel and Honfleur, and other tourist treasures in Normandy region of France. This is all new territory for me and I am looking forward to seeing this part of France up close. Thirty degrees outside, many of the guests enjoying the outside deck to feel the heat of the sun, paddle in the pool and some shopping opportunities.

Tomorrow at the port of St. Malo, France, Mary and I will take a taxi to see majestic Mont-Saint-Michel, a kilometer off the northwest coast. This castle-like fortress church was inspired in 708 AD, built 11- 16th centuries, on this granite isle. The Abbey was formerly a prison and when the tide is in, completely surrounded by water. This village boasts over fifty Romanesque and Gothic buildings, many now host to tourist shops. It is the second most visited landmark in France, after the Eiffel Tower (in Paris).

Later today is ipad class, and Indian dinner buffet, entertainment provided by Azamara Journey’s very talented cruise director, Eric deGray performing show-tunes Vegas production-style. Following that, ABBA featured dancing up stairs in the Living Room, blending into late night dancing with requests to DJ Mike. Movies in the room feature Eat Pray Love and alternating with The Bourne Identity. Lots to do today and tonight.

Stay tuned for more from the sea-cost off France, we are half-way now to our next port of call. Lucky me!

Pamela

Getting ready for Porto

Sunday 2 June 2019, Leixoes Portugal

Good morning,

The fog is lifting and we are safely and securely docked at Leixoes in Portugal. This is the port for the city of Porto. We are here about 8 am local time and the fog so dense we could not see anything out the balcony but wet white air fluff. It is starting to lift, temperatures will likely climb to 24 degrees today, partly cloudy predicted so a much more moderate day ashore.

Porto is located at the mouth of the Rio Douro. I have heard of this special place many times as river cruises traverse on this waterway. Area famous for port and other wine. Is this the cultural capital of Portugal? There is a UNESCO World Heritage site here as well as dozens of cafes, restaurants and bars, all captured within medieval arches and cobblestone streets, beckoning the tourists to explore.

Azamara provides a shuttle into town so we will head out shortly. After we finish our decaf coffee, we will search for some wifi and then see what the destination has for us.

Stay tuned!

Lisbon Portugal,day two, 1 June 2019

1 June 2019, Lisbon Portugal, Day 2

Yesterday Mary arranged for a shared taxi to Sintra (World Heritage Sight) and in and around other sights in Lisbon. We met for breakfast buffet at 730 am, then out to check wifi by 815 am, our tour started at 830 am.

Luis drives a Mercedes Benz van (taxi), air conditioned and spacious. We asked questions, finding out that Lisbon is home to less than 600,000 population, very steep hills (not too many bike riders here :), is known for the ceramic tile work that adorns the outside of many buildings; favorite food is grilled sardines (about 6-8 inches) and codfish (They NEVER eat fish on Mondays!); production of glass, rope; and an extensive fishing industry.

There are 10.5 million people in Portugal, 85% of them are Catholic religion. Chinese and Indian “parts of town” are unique. Portugal has many palm & olive trees and cork is harvested also. Very high quality olive oil, cork made into useful products (shoes, purses, hats) and for tourists, even today. Tourism is the number one industry here. Every day cruise ships stop in, 1 or 2 up to 7 on any given day. We take a drive out of the city and spy Staples, IKEA, Starbucks in the “hipermercado” shopping malls. And a Jeep dealership reminds me of home. LOL.

Luis explains and then shows us the brick and mud foundation that is covered by tiles. Some of the tile work is representing a picture, often in blue and white, and sometimes completely covers a building from top to bottom, in uniform fashion. It is all beautiful. Cobblestone streets, each black or white stone carefully hand-cut and decoratively placed making a handsome symmetrical pattern. Buildings and statues, monuments appear to be made from marble or concrete and we are advised it is limestone we are seeing.

Luis offered many historical facts, on 1 November 1755 the city was destroyed by 9.0 earthquake that lasted ten minutes. It was a religious holiday, candles were lit around the city …. fire engulfed the town, many many died. The survivors from the buildings collapsing and fires, went to the gathering plaza by the sea, and resulting tsunami caused even more death and destruction. Some 35,000 died that day.

Some highlights and viewpoints were seen: Christ the Redeemer, very similar to that in Rio de Janeiro; Madonna of the Hill religious site; 7 Hills of Lisbon (kinda like Rome!);

We asked about the Moors, they came from Morocco and some Arab countries, brought the tile work, and introduced the number system from the Roman numeral to present day number system. Many castles were build by Arab people. For 700 years Portugal was occupied by the Moors. In year 1147 Portugal gained its independence. We must have seen a dozen fortresses and tall stone walls that have withstood time, in defense of Portugal from those wanting to take it by sea.

On our way to Sintra we spy an old aqueduct, 24 kms long that took over 100 years to build. “We don’t drink that water”, he advised, they use it for irrigation and cleaning. The tap water in Lisbon, according to Luis is very good. We hear stories about Edward VII Park. We see the beautiful tiles line even the tunnels that we drive through. A huge Monsanto National Park we drive by, described as the “lungs of Lisbon”. We see the longest bridge in Europe, 17 kms long Vasco de Gamma bridge. We talk about the heat wave, 33 degrees yesterday, a tiny bit cooler today to learn that last summer they experienced 44 degree days, and not enough rain this past winter, which may bring problems this summer to come.

We drive on Liberty Avenue, the most expensive street, not unlike Champs Elysee in Paris, lined with Gucci, Prada and other very high end stores. The trees are beautiful linking the decorative tile work on the sidewalks and roads, as well as plaza areas where people gather. We see the purple blossoms on the groves of trees, sorry, I can’t remember their name. (Maybe Jackaranda) Apparently the bloom does not last long, we are very fortunate to see them everywhere today!

Luis suggests two movies to watch, in reflection of what we have seen today: “The Silence” about the presence of Portuguese Jesuits in Japan; and “The Mission”.

The most significant highlight for me was beach walking and wading in the Atlantic Ocean. Cascais (pronounced Kis-couche) is a very upscale part of this area, beaches for surfing, paddle boarding, beautiful homes for the wealthy and famous. Very well groomed and a summer vacation home for many who live in Europe. Today being the first day of June, the beaches were full!

Tour ended with four satisfied women travelers, promptly at 2 pm, back at the ship, Azamara Journey. We had time to have lunch buffet and glass (or two) of lovely Italian Pinot Grigio wine, and double decaf coffee. Perfect!

Tonight we sail away from Lisbon, under the bridge (looks like Golden Gate Bridge). Tomorrow we venture to Porto, which promises to be beautiful, not as hot, famous also for cork and ceramics, and additionally port and wine. We will see vineyards and enjoy where the Duoro River meets the Atlantic Ocean. Luis offers to drive down and tour that region for us also … 3 hour drive from Lisbon. We decline and are so thankful for the fabulous tour today!

Love Pamela, from Portugal. Until tomorrow!

Lisboa Portugal 31 May 2019

Portugal, Lisbon. Friday 31 May 2019, was a hot day

It’s hot in Lisbon Portugal today, over 33 degrees C. Off to walk around the old part of town, no particular destination, no excursions planned.

Tiles seem to be the item that identifies this area. Many old beautiful buildings adorned in blue and white tiles. Tiles for sale, tiles made into fridge magnets. Tiles on building fronts in desperate need of update and repair. The cobblestones were polished and slippery to walk on, uneven to navigate and sometimes placed decoratively many years ago and not upgraded or updated.

There is a Starbucks here and we found it. Lisbon is on a river, the local advisor states as we ask for a map and directions. No beach, although this would have been a wonderful place to cool off. Not really even a breeze. Fans moving the air in all the shops so we would check some out just for the promise of relief.

The smell on the streets was a little off-putting. Not sure where it originated, it seemed to be wherever we walked. Holding my breath at times, exhaling, inhaling only to breathe in cigarette smoke. Many shop merchants standing out in the doorways, smoking. We stayed to the shady side of the streets and roadways as best we could to stay out of the direct sun.

The only purchase was a postcard for my grandsons, I mailed a few yesterday and today. Thinking of my family, my adult daughters, my mom, Steve, Sarah, friends …..

Time change last night, almost a full night sleep. Mary got up and went for a run on deck, later discovering that her clock had failed to change, so she was up long before other guests, watching the sun come up in the early coolness. I attended my Seminar at Sea training, also showed up an extra hour early. Mary and I discovered the best place on the ship to get a good cup of decaf coffee so we enjoyed an extra hour of conversation with new friends Rachel and Monica.

Returning to the ship before dinner, we were greeted by staff and musicians. Cold water to drink and hand towels wrapped and soaked in cold water – very refreshing. Thank you. Luxury is in the details. I feel cared for, greeted with kindness and I smile widely and sincerely at the efforts made.

Tonight preparing for the Azamazing Evening, and enjoying a bit of buffet prior. Meeting up with Rachel and Monica, mom and daughter who reside in Alaska and travel lots together.

The Azamazing Evening event … we gather … we bus … not far, to The Pateo da Gale in Lisbon. Upon arrival, sparkling wine, port if folks want that … we take our seats. It is a beautiful venue with high archways, acoustics that magnify the sound from the front … made of marble or stone, white plastic chairs in a row. We take a seat third row back, and in the mid range as we anticipate the stage and performance. Lights, and music. Performance by a children’s drumming band was uplifting and very well received. The main event a band and singer…. Portugese musicians playing their heart out. Lura, beautiful singer with ancestry from Cape Verde, born in Lisboa Portugal.

Tomorrow another day in Lisbon. I best get some sleep.

Love Pamela