Everywhere you turn in Barcelona is another picture

It is great to be able to see these magnificent cities with such long histories dating back centuries.  The internet on the ship is not great and trying to upload pics is not easy and takes forever.  Because of this I have to limit both the number of pictures I put on the blog and I have to go through a very slow process to reduce the file size so they will move across the internet.  Compounding the problem is that the majority of the ship’s passengers are regular world travellers who also love to take pictures and then send them to family and friends.  As we get further into Europe, hopefully our service will improve.

Architectural features dominate many of the buildings in Barcelona.

How about a little chocolate? It is a specialty of the country.

The Main Street in Barcelona is a pedestrian mall with traffic on both sides of the walkway.

Having said this, here are some more pics from Barcelona!  Enjoy…

Antoni Gaudi designed many homes in Barcelona with the distinctive curve.

Barcelona-One beautiful city!

Barcelona in one of the most beautiful cities we have visited on this world cruise.  The city is busier than normal as this is Easter week and many are on holidays and there are five cruise ships in harbour.  Barcelona has one of the busiest cruise terminals in all of Europe and it comes as no surprise when you see the city.

The Cathedral in Barcelona was very busy as we visited during Holy Week.

The city is built around a central square which is the home of the cathedral and the palace.  One of the pictures shows the King’s doorway which leads from the palace directly into the cathedral.  The cathedral is stunning in its design and size and because we were on an official tour we got directly inside bypassing the long lines of tourists and the faithful waiting to get in.

Inside the 13th century Cathedral of the Holy Cross in the central square.

The impact of the Spanish artist/architect Antoni Gaudi can be seen everywhere but his most magnificent design is the Sagrada Familia (Sacred Family) Basilica (started in 1882) that is today, still unfinished.  While he was not the original architect, he took over and worked on it until he died.  Symbolism is everywhere and the attention to detail is hard to believe.  Gaudi had the intention that the church would be entirely funded by donations and that intention continues to this day.  The goal is to complete construction by 2026, 100 years after his death. Whether or not the church will ever be finished is discussed at long length in Barcelona and around the world.

No flash photography was allowed inside the Cathedral so this was the result.

As the site of the 1992 summer Olympics, many of the facilities built for those games still exist on a mountain slope that overlooks the city. It is all very impressive.  However, the beauty of the city lies in the building designs and the small terraces or balconies that everyone seems to have downtown.  The central avenue, lined with apartments and condominiums overlooks a pedestrian walkway that is like no other.  While traffic travels one way on one side of the median and the other way on the opposite side, the median is two to three times as wide as the street and is given over to pedestrians and small shops, restaurants and bars.  Food is dispatched from restaurants on either side of the roads with waiters dodging the traffic to get to the patrons seated in tents on the median.  The central market is like no other and is a spoke off the main thoroughfare.

Snails of every description are sold in the central market. The products are like none you have ever seen and the price is right.

It is impossible to see or experience anything more than a glimpse of this city.  It goes on the list of cities that need to be revisited at a later date.  More pictures of Barcelona on the next post.

 

Naples, Italy with Pizza, Chocolate and Strong Coffee

The most important sign on any tour!

Inside the covered mall off the square.

Coffee is served quickly, is very strong and sipped at the counter.

This is the best coffee and pastry shop in Naples.

A view of the harbour from the King’s palace.

Naples is the home of pizza and coffee bars

After two days at sea following our exit of the Suez Canal we are in Naples, Italy.  The ship is docked in the middle of downtown and within easy walking distance of all the city sights.  Naples is under construction everywhere with no one project completed.  It seems this is the way of the Italian government and the constant elections that follow the defeat of the party and leader currently in power.

 

Naples is the third largest city in Italy after Rome and Milan.  It has the distinction of being the city that had the greatest number of bombs dropped on it in all of Italy during the Second World War.  As land is scarce, a bombed out structure is replaced with a modern building but will be adjacent to a building that escaped damage in the war.  The contrast between the new and old is remarkable.

Major portions of the population live in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius and the memories of the eruption that buried Pompei.  Mt. Vesuvius is the only active volcano in Europe that is on mainland as distinct from an island.  A recent test of the emergency evacuation system for Naples ended in chaos and demonstrated that it would be impossible to evacuate on short notice.  While the volcano is still active, it is heavily monitored to provide an early warning of major activity.

 

Naples has a city square with a huge cathedral that resembles both St. Peter’s in Rome and the Acropolis in Athens.  Adjacent to the square is the world famous opera house, the presidential palace, the centuries old fort protecting the harbour and an amazing collection of old buildings that have been covered over with an atrium and totally renovated into a very high end shopping centre with commercial offices on the second floor.

Coffee bars, pizza restaurants and small shops selling sweets are everywhere.  The island of Capri is within sight of the city dock but will have to wait for another visit.

On to Barcelona passing between Sardinia and Corsica.  The weather has changed dramatically.  We are all into sweaters and jackets as the temperatures have dropped from the high eighties to the low sixties.

The Suez Canal – The Red Sea to the Mediterranean in a day

Portable bridges to span the Canal are strategically located all along the waterway.

Military installations are manned along both sides of the Canal.

Floating docks the width of the canal are ready to be swung into place on a moment’s notice.

For the most part, the traffic is one lane with sand for miles.

There is only one permanent bridge but it is not used for fear of terrorists attacks from above.

A mosque on the the east side of the canal. The east side is populated while the west side is mostly empty.

A drama unfolds on the side of the Amsterdam.

A strong military presence can be seen with this frigate accompanying an aircraft carrier.

Today was a very long day as we travelled the full length of the Suez Canal from the city of Suez in the south to Port Said in the north.  From our anchorage in the Red Sea the day started at 5:00 a.m. with the anchor being raised and a pilot coming on board to guide the convoy of ships northbound, led by the Amsterdam.

The Canal is also known by the nickname “the highway to India”.  It was opened in 1869 to allow water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigation around Africa. It is 120 miles long and with no locks, water flows freely to the north in winter and south during the summer. From its original 26 ft. depth, the canal is now 79 feet deep.

Even with major widening of the canal, ship go north in a convoy.  In our case three cruise ships led the way with 21 freighters behind us.  In an anchorage halfway north, the southbound convoy awaited our passage so they could continue south.  Prior to our anchorage the night before we watched a French aircraft carrier and two frigate escort ships come south followed by the freighters.  It seems there is a priority order of warships first, cruise ships second and freighters third in line for the passage.

For most of the trip the Sinai peninsula stretched as far as we could see on the right or starboard side of the ship and all it was was sand and more sand.  On our left or port side were numerous towns and cities in central Egypt. Signs of the previous wars, as late as 1967 were evident, with multiple air force bases on the now Egyptian bank and multiple guard posts and floating portable bridges that could be rapidly put in place for troops to cross the Canal. New floating bridges that span the entire canal seem to be stationed at strategic iintervals along the Canal as if to say this conflict is not over.  As we had just passed the shared borders of Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, it is not hard to believe that this region will be the scene of more conflict for years to come.

We had our own conflict the night before our transit.  At anchor two small boats arrived and demanded they be hoisted aboard the Amsterdam, one on either side.  As most passengers were at dinner, very few witnessed the action.  The confrontation got very heated and it turned out that the approved guide boats had arrived early. were loaded with souvenirs to sell to the passengers and the crew was expecting food and accommodation overnight.  In the end the boats stayed hanging off the side of the Amsterdam and the crews were dispatched on the pilot boat to come back when we were underway the next day.  Turns out the crew was official but thought they would try and make some additional money under the table………….All very interesting.

At the end of the day we entered the Mediterranean at Port Said and we are now off to Naples, Italy.

More Pics from Aqaba and Petra

A wandering coffee seller on the beach with his coffee pot and cups.

There is so much more to say about Aqaba and Petra but words don’t do justice to the sights and sounds of these two cities. The King of Jordan is revered by everyone we spoke with.  He, his father before him and his son who will become the next king rule quite differently than the Sultan in Oman.  Oman is a absolute monarchy (the King rules supreme) while the King of Jordan is the head of a constitutional monarchy which is somewhere between Great Britain and its Queen and the United States with a President and all the powers that he personally controls outside the constitution.

Interesting to see women on the beach.  They are covered from head to toe and cannot be seen in a bathing suit…except at high end pools in the five star resorts that line the waterfront.  Marriages are not arranged as they are in Oman but living arrangements are still the same.  When one marries an addition is put on to the house and that is where you live with your parents, grandparents and other family members.  In Peru and Chile, the reinforcing rods for pouring concrete are never finished off.  The reason is that you don’t pay tax if you don’t finish the house.  In Oman and Jordan, the reinforcing rods hang out for the building of the next story to the house following a marriage. Four storey homes is the maximum.  You can also have 4 wives!

Women cannot be seen in bathing suits on the beach but still go in the water.

 

 

 

 

Goats are sold in the market with heads on and they wander freely along the highways.

Families travel to the beach for miles as Aqaba is the only port city in Jordan.

Lots of camels provide transportation and great photo opportunities around Jor

Petra, Jordan – The highlight of the trip so far!

Without a doubt, Petra in Jordon is the highlight of the trip.

From Oman and its capital, Muscat we travelled south and then around into the Red Sea.  Once in the Red Sea we headed north to the Gulf of Aqaba and the only port in Jordan, Aqaba.  This is a fascinating city.  From our ship we can see the border with Israel, the border with Egypt and the border with Saudi Arabia.  It is one of the few places in the world where four borders come together.  Visitors from Israel, for example, come across from the adjoining city of Elat in Israel.  At the border they walk across and are picked up after clearance by buses in Aqaba, Jordan.  Surprisingly we have not seen any type of military presence with the exception of armed guards at the entrance to the Jordanian palace on the west side of the city.  Aqaba is the only port city in Jordan making it strategically very important for imports.  Jordan, as we were told many times, does not have any resources, not even fresh water and therefore has been able to stay independent and free from takeover attempts by the surrounding three nations.

A two hour bus ride north on the King’s Highway takes you to the mountain town of Petra and an experience that you will never forget.  Petra is more than two thousand years old and was built by the Nabataeans in the heart of the Shara Mountains.  It prospered until the first centuries BC and AD and was a vital part of the major trading route connecting ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt.  Deserted in the middle of the 7th century, only the local Bedouins in the area knew of its existence.  Rediscovered in 1812, the site of this fascinating and beautiful ancient city is now a UNESCO heritage location and has been designated as one of the new Seven Wonders of the world. The walk into the site takes more than an hour and is very rough terrain but well worth it.  As you approach the site you are walking through a very narrow path with walls of sandstone towering hundreds of feet on both sides of you.  All of a sudden you come around a curve and in the crack in front of you unfolds this forgotten city–all carved out of the rock.

All of a sudden you see through a slit in the rock, the formations of The Treasury.

More details of the Treasury emerge as you get closer along the path.

The Treasury rises hundreds of feet into the air. Excavations below the site continue to this day and are finding more and more structures of the ancient city.

More Pictures from Muscat in Oman

Teak ceilings in the mosque are ornately carved.

The carpet was made by 600 women weaving together. The carpet covers the entire mosque praying area without any seams.

The tiles are on all four sides of the mosque and perfectly arranged.

The entrance to one of six royal palaces of the Sultan.

Omanian hats for sale in the souk (market).

Women must pray in a separate building with no men present. It is, however, just as spectacular.