Punt Delgado, Azores (Portugal)

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Punta Delgado, Azores (Portugal)

Sailing from Barcelona, we arrived in Punta Delgado in the Azores in three days. Mary Alice and I have been to these beautiful islands on two prior cruises, so we passed on the ship’s tours.  We elected to walk off the ship and explore the capital city, Punta Delgado, on foot.  The weather was mild and there was plenty of sunshine.

We walked the pedestrian sidewalk around the moored boats to the end and turned around and started back.  We were propositioned by a carriage driver for a ride in his horse drawn “buggy”.  The price was 10 Euros so we said yes.  After adding four more passengers we were off on the ride around Punta Delgado.  The driver took us through narrow streets, by a park and returned to his parking spot. I handed the driver a 10 Euro bill and he said “ten each.” I felt like we just got flim-famed but both of us enjoyed the ride and I took some photos I would not have taken.

We walked back to the ship, got aboard and I watched and photographed some wind surfers on the starboard side of the Royal Princess.  We sailed away about 5pm after all the passengers boarded.punta_delgado_azores_wind_surfer_d75_0473_resize

We set sail for Fort Lauderdale and will arrive next Saturday after crossing the Atlantic.

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Hola from Sitges, Spain

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Sitges, Spain………..from Barcelona

We arrived in Barcelona early this morning. We both slept really well. I guess this touring and dining can be very tiring.  Our room service coffee arrived followed later with breakfast in the dining room.  Then we got our act together and met our tour group in the Princess Theater.

The brochure said that Sitges was an old fishing village.  Wrong.  There was nothing old about it except the church and half the people on our bus!  But we still had a great time walking along the seawall, watching the many surfers and sizing up the many apartments and hotels for future reference, that is until we found out a small studio went for $450,000 Euros, and up!

When we got to the old church we came across a lively group of Spanish teenagers on a school outing.  They posed for my camera after I told them I might be a National Geographic photographer! Then they applauded us as we made our way up the many steps to the church.

We walked around and found a sidewalk café where we both enjoyed coffees and grilled cheese sandwiches.  While we were there, I noticed a windsurfer, grabbed my camera and mounted my 70-210 lens and headed to the rock pier.  It was a lesson in action photography.  You tell me how I did.

 

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Catholic Church in Stiges

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MA and a skinny street

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Skinny Hotel in Stiges

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Narrow street in Stiges

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Old Boat

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Hotel & Cafes along the Beach

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Spanish teenagers on the church steps

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Old medival seal of Spain

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This is a masoleum near the port in Barcelona.  Expensive cryps face the ocean.  The others are on the othe side of the mountain.

 

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Bonjour…we’re in Toulon, France

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We’re in Toulon, France today and we were up and at it by 6:30 am to be ready for our tour to the French Village of Le Castellet.  The ticket says “extensive walking over uneven cobblestones, not for guests with limited mobility.”  I think we’ll be ok.  After all, yesterday MA and I racked up over 12,000 steps each on her Fitbit watch.

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We ordered breakfast from room service again and it arrived right on time.  We gathered our stuff and were off to the Symphony Dining room to get checked in and meet our group to board the bus by 8:30 am.  Our French guide today is Sylvia and the bus driver is Sebastian.  Sylvia spoke at length about the French history of the region but after a while I realized I had dozed off.

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After about an hour we arrived in the perched village of Le Castellet.  It is very typical of other perched villages in Provence with a wall surrounding the entire compound. There are usually only one or two entrances into the village and these were protected by massive doors.  The doors were gone and the gates only allow one vehicle to pass through at a time.  Like other perched villages the Catholic Church is in the middle of town.  You will usually find an exposed church bell in a wrought iron frame. We wandered around town with me taking some photos of the village and MA doing a little shopping.

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Why did the French (Italians & Spanish) build their villages like fortifications?  Muslims of the 11th, 12th and 13th Centuries raided Europe looting towns and taking slaves back to northern Africa and Turkey with them. Seems Muslims are once again a European problem.  This time it’s invasion and domination.

We hooked back up with our group at 11:15 and left for a working Provence winery-olive oil farm named Domanie Souviou in the Bandol region.  Most of the grapes had been harvested, however, the olive trees were full of olives. What we learned from our guide is that the olive trees in the oldest part of the farm are 800-1000 years old.  The picture of the olive tree you see is called “The King” because it produced 800 kilos of olives last year. It takes 30 kilos of olives for just one bottle of olive oil! “The King” was full this year again and may ever break its own record.

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The return to the ship was uneventful other than taking longer than I thought it should. On arrival there was only one guy to screen all the returning passengers until one of the guides went inside and complained and the line sped up with more help. We got back on board the Royal Princess, ready for another evening at sea.

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Arrived Rome…on to Florence

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Cool looking bicycle with Watermelon Wheels.

Arrival in Rome and Sail Away and 1st Port: Livorno (for Florence)

Rome Airport

Exhausted from the flight from Houston-Charlotte-Rome, Mary Alice and I arrived in Italy aboard American Airlines on Saturday morning. I got about 2 hours sleep on the flight and Mary Alice about 4.  We were kind of tired!

Like most arriving international flights we were routed through Passport Control. From there we were directed to baggage claim via a short rail tram ride.  As we arrived in Baggage Claim we saw the Princess people holding signs and directing cruise passengers where to go.  Thankfully, both of our bags arrived and we rolled everything out to the waiting bus.

The bus to the ship filled quickly and we were off for a 90 minute ride to Civitavecchia (Port for Rome). I dozed off and on all the way.  We quickly went through port security and got our cruise cards and boarded the Royal Princess.

This is the newest and largest of the Princess ships and it is a big one.  Our room is on the Caribe deck, 10th floor.  We decided to have a late lunch at the Horizon Court/Bistro cafeteria style restaurant.  We unpacked and arranged our cabin, went up later for a light supper and called it a “very long” day.

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Royal Princess waiting for WW and MA to arrive!

Florence and Lunch at a Tuscan Castle on Sunday:

Room service for breakfast arrived right on time this morning at 6:30am.  It was a light meal of rolls, yogurt, sliced oranges and coffee.  We made our way to the staging area for all of the Florence tours.  Our group, A10, was called and we were guided to a waiting bus where we met Lilly, our Italian guide.

Florence is about an hour and half bus ride from Livorno.  We arrived at the Lungarno Della Zecca Square around 10:00 am.  From there we walked and walked until finally getting to the Piazzi di Santa Croce. From there we were on our own until 12:15. This means we had two hours to see the things of Florence that would take most people a couple of weeks to see.

All of the churches were having services so I did not go into any of the cathedrals.  Instead Mary Alice and I walked to the Palazzo Vecchio where I photographed some cool statues and a marching band.  We walked on to the beautiful Cathedral known as the Duomo, took some photos, walked back to the Santa Croce and found a neat coffee café for cappuccinos and gelato while we waited for everyone else.

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Florence on the Arno River

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The Duomo of Florence………its trademark

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One of the street muscians in Florence

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MA shopping

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Very nice honey!

Earlier I noticed Mary Alice was somewhat interested in a ring the guide was wearing and it just so happened the store that sells them was across the square.  So we walked to the Gold Corner “just to look” and lo and behold we found MA a beautiful 18k gold ring.

Our next stop was lunch at the Tuscan castle known as Castello Vicchiomaggio. This was a wonderful Tuscan lunch with an antipasto of salamis, bread and olive oil, followed by two different pastas and biscotti.  From there we went to a small Tuscan village for a winery tour with samples.  It was a long day (check-in 7:30 am and arriving back at 5:30 pm.) Great dinner this evening (surf and turf) and now it’s time to call it a night.

Toulon, France tomorrow!

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A sign of the times in Europe…………looking for terrorists

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Flight to Charlotte, NC and 3 hr Layover

 

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Our journey began at 0700 this morning as we departed Bridgeland and wound our way to SH99, the Grand Parkway.  What would normally take us over an hour now takes 40 minutes to get to IAH. We arrived in IAH, parked in The Parking Spot, and caught the bus to American Airlines.  After getting through secuirty, we’re both Pre-flight, we stopped at the Continental Club for a cup of coffee and toast for breakfast.  Our AA flight to Charlotte was fantastic because of a wonderful flight attendant, Sara Pizatola.  She always had a smile on her face and made sure we had anything we wanted.  She even took the picture of us after lunch.  We landed in Charlotte ahead of schedule.  The weather was rainy caused by the big hurricane, Matthew, south of us in Florida.  Our flight to Rome leaves at 3:30pm so we had a about three hours to wait.  We had passes to the Admiral’s Club and that’s where I am typing this short blog.  Ya’ll stay tuned.  I’ll write something in a couple of days.

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Sara, our flight attendant.

 

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Rome to Ft Lauderdale or 14 Days on the Royal Princess

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Mary Alice and I are off once again on a Trans-Atlantic cruise.  This time it’s aboard the Royal Princess. We leave Friday morning from IAH and fly to Charlotte, NC where we board and Iberian flight to Rome. Princess will meet us at the airport and transport us to the ship which is docked at Civitavecchia.  Yea, Rome is easier to say. We sail that Sat and arrive in Livorno for Florence.  Other stops include Toulon, Barcelona and the Azores.  We arrive in Ft Lauderdale on the 22nd and we fly home.  Stay tuned.  I’ll be sending some pictures of our travels.MA&WW_DSC00104_resize

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