Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tangier port cancelled and Almeria Spain -- wonderful!

Monday, April 5, 2010 – Tangier
At Sea! We missed our port call due to the weather. We woke up to the Captain and Cruise Director informing us the wind was at 60-75 knots!! And the waves were 18-27 feet high!! Sounds horrible but it did not feel that bad onboard. The Captain said some ships were dragging their anchors. So we received our room service and promptly went back to sleep. I woke up at 12:15 PM so I obviously needed the rest. I went to the fitness center, read my old daily newspapers and then enjoyed the sauna and steam room. Great afternoon and then headed up to formal tea. I met a nice lady from NYC and her nephew works in Newark, DE as the head of a roofing company! Her two nephews also attended the University of DE. Such a small world…

We passed Gibraltar but we missed seeing it! Still cloudy, foggy and misty and the wind strong. The ship gave everyone a complimentary glass of wine with dinner due our missing the port, which we all felt was a great gesture. I have to take a moment to tell you how friendly this crew is to everyone. They are mostly Indonesians and they are always smiling and willing to help, reserved (especially compared to Americans!) and with a great sense of humor. We cannot say enough about the crew and this is only day 13. And I love being called “Mrs. Georgov” or “Miss Luisa” every time I turn around. They remember my name, my cabin number and my likes and dislikes. Whether I see them daily in the internet center, Java Café, or sporadically in the Lido buffet or dining room…they make a point to get to know you. I wish more Americans would get to know them on a personal level also.

Fantastic clarinetist Kennye Martin. Absolutely the best -- Benny Goodman set, blues, ballads on the clarinet, ukulele and saxophone.

What we missed in Tangier, Morocco: open air bazaars, ancient fortifuled walled towns, veil covered women…The port is built on the slopes of a chalky limestone hill and was first known as a Phoenician trading post with various rulers dominating this area wellinto the 16th century. In 923, Tangiers was granted a special status, officially becoming an “international city”. All laws and administration were governed by a commission composed of 8 European countries and the USA and it developed into one of the more stylish resort towns on the Mediterranean attracting bankers and financial investors. This all changed dramatically when it was integrated into Morocco and bureaucratic control took over. Population is 700,000.

One of the many attractions is the Forbes Museum, which used to belong to Malcolm Forbes. As a great collector of lead soldiers he brought together a total of 115,000 models, who figures re-enact the major battles of history, from Waterloo to Dien Bien Phu, realistically re-created with lighting and sound effects.

There are 15th century ramparts around the Medina, the old town. The Kasbah, a palace and administrative quarter since Roman times consists of walled compounds, villas and winding streets of the once elite; it is now a museum of Moroccan art. The city offers the mysticism of the Arab world and the cosmopolitan appeal of a Mediterranean resort.

“The only source of knowledge is experience.” - Albert Einstein

Tuesday, April 6, 2010 – Almeria, Spain
This is Andalucia’s easternmost capital. The inviting shore and luminescent water is evidence of an arid land – the sea is “extra” blue. During the Moorish period, the city ranked among the Cordoba Caliphate’s most important ports, so contemporary Almeria owes much of its most magnificent architecture to the period. The Alcazaba/citadel (built in 995) and the 16th century cathedral are spectacular (begun in 1524 is a combination of Gothic and Renaissance; built as a semi-fortress to withstand attacks by Berber pirates from North Africa) and the historic quarter’s narrow streets are lined with whitewashed homes. Al – mari – yat is Arabic for “watchtower”, a reference to the citadel, the largest Arab-built fortress in Spain. Inside the triple-walled compound, several palaces and mosques still stand.

We escorted a tour for the ship to Cabo de Gata and the small white-washed village of Nijar. Cabo de Gata is a natural (not National) park in the most southeasterly point of Spain. We drove through desert landscapes and small fishing villages with old watchtowers at the water’s edge….nice scenery with their Sierra Nevada mountains in the distance. There were colorful fields of small yellow flowers along the way and thousands of acres of greenhouses! Thousands and thousands. There is a move afoot to possibly move these greenhouses to Morocco but it would be devastating to the economy in this region.

We drove to the small village of Nijar and their church has a colorful wooden altar filled with fresh Easter flowers. There was a beautiful marble plaza in front of the church and windy steep streets lead up to the plaza. We explored a few cafes and shops (nice cotton carpets) and headed back to Almeria.

Took a small toy tourist train around the city, past the Cathedral (which was closed during their luncheon hours) and through narrow one way streets as we explored the Gothic and city centre. Found a wonderful hotel proprietor who let us use their WIFI in the lobby for our short available time of 45 minutes and I was able to connect to home using Skype. For most of you, this is probably easy but it is a challenge for me so I was doubly pleased to get it to work. $0.02 per minute, when it works!!! But you have to be online and that is the issue. Getting online.

Back to the ship – again at 4:10 PM. Dressed for dinner. Beautiful sailaway down the coast and the Captain reported we would again have rough seas tonight. Good dinner of chicken scallopini marsala and Sacher torte. Mr. Pingxin Xu, a dulcimer player from China was superb – we saw him last year on the Queen Victoria.
Ran around delivering shore excursion information for the Ensemble Experience on Thursday and always end up meeting people and chatting along the way. Decided to see the movie “A Prairie Home Companion” – was not in the mood for that one. Compute work and to be bed way too late again….

Young Walt Disney had been born east of Almeria just before his parents emigrated to the US. There are great beaches along the coast and the hinterland has a barren, almost lunar landscape. Many Italian moviemakers decided that landscape would provide the ideal landscape for the spaghetti westerns of the 1960s.

Granada’s Alhambra, one of Moorish Spain’s most familiar monuments is the province’s most familiar monument – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – about 90 miles from our port so you can do it in a long 12-hour day.

“Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.” - Mark Twain