Monday, September 5, 2016

Shore Excursions by Margot Justes

This is a 14 night cruise, and we spend 3 days at sea, the rest of the time will be spent visiting ports.

The first stop on this cruise from Rome, is Salerno, Italy on the Amalfi Coast.  I’m heading to Sorrento, a coastal town that faces the Bay of Naples. The tour includes a stop in Amalfi, and lunch in town. It is a full day tour that will allow a bit of time on my own, to walk the narrow streets, and alleys lined with gift shops, restaurants, and coffee shops, both in Sorrento and Amalfi.

Last time I was in Naples, I took a boat to Amalfi and was able to see the coast, all the houses are perched on rocks, and the view from the sea is truly breathtaking. This time it will be a bus ride, and most likely a breathtaking ride for an altogether different reason, the roads are very steep and very narrow, but we’ll have Mount Vesuvius in the background. The tour promises a wood carving demonstration in Sorrento, always love to see the local artisans at work.

The second stop is Messina, Sicily, Italy. Along with a coastal tour, I’m taking an excursion that will take me to Taormina, an Italian resort town filled with history that includes a palazzo, and a Greek Theater, where the acoustics are said to be ‘dazzling’, and a view of Mount Aetna. Of course the town has-you guessed it-charming shops, restaurants, anything a tourist might desire.  Again, I’ll have a bit of time to explore on my own.

Third stop is Palma de Mallorca, Spain. I selected this tour because it offered Flamenco dancing-which I absolutely love. Many, many-I might as well stop here-years ago I saw Lucero Tena dance in Madrid, a truly memorable event. I even heard her perform on the castanets with the Madrid Chamber Orchestra. We’ll visit the Palace of Almundaina, La Lonja and the Cathedral, and visit the Bellvar Castle, 403 feet above sea level, with bay views,  we visit Son Amar, a 16th-century Mallorca manor house and UNESCO World Heritage site. There will be a marketplace, and the usual tourist accoutrements, restaurants, and gift shops. The tour ends with the Flamenco performance, and Sangria.

Fourth stop is Cartagena, Spain. A beautiful place as yet not fully discovered by tourists, but making quick inroads. I  was there in 2014, and the ship docked within walking distance of the center of town. I did not book a tour this time, but will go off on my own. There are some glorious Roman ruins that date back to 1st Century BC, and that is building up the tourist trade. One delightful souvenir shop that sells local wines and pottery, and of course lovely coffee shops, restaurants, and friendly locals.  There is a grand avenue perfect for a paseo-a stroll in the early evening, or any time.

Fifth stop is Gibraltar, UK. I booked the tour that would provide the most site seeing, and that will include the Strait of Gibraltar, and the tip of North Africa. It is primarily a walking tour of the city center, and I’m really looking forward to a bit of Moorish revival architecture in Cathedral Square. The tour promises I’ll learn a lot about the history, and I’ll have time on my own before returning to the ship. According to this tour, transportation back to the ship is not provided, I can only assume that the ship docked within walking distance, on the other hand I shouldn’t assume anything.   

Sixth stop is Lisbon, Portugal. I’ve booked a tour that will take me to Lisbon, Sintra, and Cascais. Supposedly 3 beautiful towns. This tour includes a 450 foot high view of Cape Roca in Cascais, with the rugged Atlantic Ocean below. We’re stopping for lunch in Sintra, and that usually means local specialties. The tour ends in Lisbon with a visit to the 16th Century Gothic Monastery Church, and Belém Tower.

Seventh stop is Cadiz, Spain This promises to be a tour of the Andalusian countryside. A walking tour in Cadiz, then a short bus ride to Vejer de la Frontera, a seaside town  with cobbled streets, shops, restaurants and beaches. Then a ride along the coast to Trafalgar Cape to visit a historic lighthouse, and on to Conil de la Frontera, another Andalusian resort town, with pine forests and overlooking the Mediterranean.

Eight is Ibiza, Spain-I accidently canceled my tour, and when I went back to rebook it, it was no longer available on line. It was to be a walking tour, and I’ll keep watch and see if it becomes available, otherwise I have to wait until I board the ship and hope there is a big enough waiting lis, for them to add another one. In the meantime I keep checking to see if something else appeals-so far not having much luck.

Ninth is Barcelona, Spain. I love this vibrant and lively city, and I’m happy to be going back. My next hotel book is set there, and more research is always a good thing. This is a walking tour, and I’ll visit a few of Gaudi’s masterpieces, among them La Sagrada Família, the magnificent architectural marvel, and visits to La Pedrera and Casa Batiló on the Paseo de Gràcia. I spent many hours visiting those places, and am looking forward to more. The tour also includes a visit to Barcelona's Medieval Gothic Quarter.

The last stop is in Provence, France (Toulon, is the port city) I booked a tour to Marseille, once we arrive, it is a walking tour, and will include a visit to Notre Dame de la Garde Basilica, seaside villas, and a visit to the old harbor.

To say I’m looking forward to this trip is an understatement. Hope you enjoy reading the brief descriptions of what the shore excursions offer at each stop.

Next back-to-back cruise will take me to Turkey, Greece, and Israel. I’ll post a list of those excursions next week.

Margot  Justes
Blood Art
A Fire Within
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath
A Hotel in Venice

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