Saturday, June 22, 2013

Cruising the Med

First time aboard a cruise ship and thoroughly enjoyed it. We were aboard the 'Island Escape' and visited Gibraltar, Tangier, Malaga, Cartagena, and Ibiza over 7 days. Great ship which was surprisingly stable with over 12 decks accessible to passengers, heaps of bars, entertainment and food. It was refreshing to be in a place with poor mobile reception and expensive WiFi, meaning everyone left their phones in their cabins.
Super-calm seas of the Mediterranean Sea
Gibraltar = Britan (pretty much) although features 'The Rock', a 400m high ridge overlooking the area, which has a number of artefacts from previous conflicts including WW1 and WW2, and a number of not-so-shy Barbary macaques. The monkeys are super alert for fresh fruits, and will steal them from passers by if they see them - one hopped onto my back to pinch a banana taken out of my bag. Saw another pinch an apple from the basket under a stroller. 

The view from the top
Barbary Macaques at the top of 'The Rock'

Tea House Owner and Our Guide
Tangier is a busy city in Morocco with a lot of new development happening in the port area., Although the local population speaks primarily Arabic and French, we got by with English. We took a guide from the wharf to the top of the old town via taxi and walked back down visiting the markets and clothing factories on the way (with a few small purchases). The food markets were interesting - fresh red meats and chicken hanging out in the open air (unrefrigerated of course!). Ship's Captain did advise us not to eat anything in Tangier... hmm.
[Really] Fresh Meats
Malaga and Cartagena were next, both coastal towns of Spain. Visited the castles here which have the best view of the surrounding area. Malaga had fantastic tiered gardens leading up to the castle, and well kept rose gardens next to the city hall. It was Saturday and the streets were very quiet apart from the main shopping area.
Malaga - View over Town
Cartagena - Roman Amphiteatre

Ibiza was similar, although had a much bigger party vibe. Many opening nights advertised for the islands clubs including DJ's such as Armin Van Buuren, Pendulum, Chase and Status, etc, but as our stop was during the daytime only, I did not get to see the party side of the island... next time.

The 8 days of the cruise seemed to fly by (perhaps due to the all inclusive package - got well used to unlimited food and beverage, beer, wine, spirits, cocktails... phew). Liver will be taking a break for a little while.

So cruise completed we spent the next 3 days in Palma at the Hotel Majorica taking things slow. Rented a car one day and drove up the mountain road to Soller. It was fun learning to drive left hand drive manual on the right hand side of the road with narrow streets. The remaining day was spent lazing by the pool and getting some sun-time (not that we didn't have enough time in the sun already). 

Said farewell to the family today and flew to London to catch up with Anthony and Chip over some beers, and will hopefully see Katrina again, before a few more days in Leicester/Manchester/Devon/Cornwall (if there is time) then back to Sydney. 16 degrees here in London, bit of a change from the 30 degrees in Palma... aww.

I did get a little running in over the cruise and time in Palma. Ran up the rock of Gibraltar, Castle Bellver in Palma, and over some hills in Ibiza past some pretty crazy mansions. No waving from passers by like in central Europe - runners here are too serious heh.

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