We are in Toulon France today

Just started the second half of our 19 day cruise and are in Toulon France today. It is a sleepy little Mediterranean port that is a yacht repair and ship yard. We went ashore and visited their cathedral and came back to the ship. I am sitting in the port area and using a free internet area to catch up.

The photos above are of a lovely Spanish dancer that we saw in Cadiz.  She truly danced with passion and beauty.Spainish dancer 2 5x7  Hopefully, I will be able to post again soon.  Thanks for following the blog, we appreciate all of you.

We are in Cadiz Spain

This is a short post because we don’t have Internet on the cruise ship. We have been on a Mediterranean cruise for 7 days now and will be going back to Barcelona on Sunday. When we get to Barcelona I will try to post again. We have been having a great time on this cruise and we are going to continue for another 12 days on the same ship, the Eurodam. This time we will be doing in the Eastern Mediterranean. So look forward to lots of pictures from the cruise and and the trips on for when we get to Padua on May 6th.

Easy tricks to make a travel journal

When we are traveling I take lots of photos but they are on my computer and I do not have time to print them.  So one trick that I do is to cut out explanations and photographs of places that  we have visited from the free tourist brochures that you get at the tourist information center.  Travel tip:  You should always try to go to the tourist center in the beginning of the time you are in a new place.  They often have tips and ways to save money that would not occur to you.  They also have lots of free brochures about the major things to do in the town.

So here are two examples of how I used the brochures to make my travel journal of Girona, Spain.

The first picture shows a fold out explanation of some dates when places we saw in Girona were made.  The second photo is of the Arab baths which I think I will remember but probably not.  You can see that I pasted the explanation under the photo from the brochure.

I even got time to make some art for my journal.  It was fun to use my watercolored pencils. art journal houseWe will be going to Barcelona tomorrow to get on a cruise ship.  It is for a 19 day Mediterranean cruise.  So there will not be much coming from me on this blog because internet time on a cruise is really expensive.  I might get to post some photos with instagram when we are on shore.

We took the bus today around Girona

Travel tip to save money:  this is something that we often do when we are in a new city.  David studies the bus routes and purchases a 10 trip ticket.  Here in Girona it was 10.70 euros. Then we jump on a local bus and ride it around town.  It is a great way to get an overview of the different parts of the town in comfort and economy.  We know where we would like to go back to walk around.  We also get to see how and where people live in the city. It’s also a great idea for a rainy day.

Here in Girona most people seem to live in apartments that are grouped around a central green area that has playground equipment for children.  We also saw parts of the university of Girona which are scattered throughout the city.  Our bus stopped there and we waited for the next one.  This one took us to the old town and up to the top of a hill to see the St. Daniel Monastery.  Here is a photograph of the door to the monastery.  It looks like the monks needed protection. We could not go in as it is only for retreats but it was fun to walk down the hill in the early evening.Girona St Daniel monastery door.jpg We found the Bishop’s fountain in a dark corner by the remains of the Gilligants river.  You take the cork out of the spigot and the water comes out.  I almost drank some of the water before David read that there was E. coli in the water.  Oh no!  I guess the bishop was a lucky man.Girona Bishops fountainWe walked down the remains of the Galligants river.  Girona galliganes riverWhen we got home there was a couple sitting at the restaurant that is in front of our apartment door.  They had a lovely dog called Willy who looks like our Mac.  I played with him for a little bit.  I miss Mackie so much.  Here is a photo of Willy.

Here is a photo of our Mac;maclo1.jpg

Here in Girona everyone takes their dogs with them all the time.  When you walk though a square with tables outside there are always a dog or two sitting by their owner.  Here is a dog leash holder that I found outside a sidewalk bar.Girona dog leash holder I love this!

See the Jewish quarter and food of Girona

Two important topics today in our blog, the moving Jewish museum and an acknowledgement of some wonderful food.

Today we visited the Jewish museum in Girona.  ( Travel savings hint;  go to the tourist information center in a city and ask if they have discount cards for museums. We got 2 discount cards for free for Girona and are saving 1/2 off each ticket we purchase).  It was a moving experience since there was a large Jewish population in Girona for about 300 years.  This section of the old town was where the synagogues, the butcher shops that sold kosher meats, and the mikveh baths Girona Mikveh bath entrancewere located, not far from the Catholic cathedral.  There are narrow streets that go up the hills in this section of the old town with many steps.  It is like going back in time.

girona Jewish quarter street

It is a beautiful museum that has  explanations of the history of the Jewish people of Girona, and most are in Catalan, Spanish, English and French.  It was a thriving place until  1492 when the Spanish monarchs decided that all Jewish people in Spain had 6 months to convert to Christianity or leave.  Many left their homes and businesses and went into exile, rather than face the cruel Inquisition. Girona Jewish museum.jpg Moving on to a more fun topic, food.  This city is known for its gastronomical experiences but we have to give La Tortilla and chef Norlan a big thank you!  It has been a month since I have had real Mexican food and it was a happy night when we discovered this excellent restaurant. Chef Norlan, a very friendly person who was born in California and grew up in Oregon, came out and took our orders.  I asked for a carne asada burrito the way I would make it at home and he made it for me.  girona burritoIt was delicious  and the best meal I have eaten in Spain.  David had carnitas tacos that were great.  We left with very happy stomachs and will be eating there one more time before we leave Girona.  Thank you Norland!  If you are in Girona and want wonderful Mexican food stop by and say hello.Norlan la tortilla

And I cannot forget to mention gelato.  We have a wonderful gelato store at the end of our block called La Lletera.  I go there almost every evening for the dark chocolate gelato and we have gotten to know the people who work there.  Here is a photo of two of my favorite people in Girona!lletera gelato.jpg

How to take train to Girona Spain

So yesterday we left overcrowded Barcelona and took a train to quiet and quaint Girona  (north east of Barcelona).  The train was very nice and clean and people were very helpful when we had trouble finding the correct track.   ###Travel tip:  even if you do not speak the language learn the name of where you want to go and point to the train departure signs and you will get help, my way of getting around the language problems lol.girona train When we arrived we took a taxi to our lovely AirBnB apartment and met our gracious host, Oscar. ### Travel tip : This time we had read the reviews ( all great) and looked at many photos that Oscar provided in his listing.girona oscarHe is planning on going to California in August so we had a lively discussion of places to visit there.  He helped up carry our two heavy suitcases up the 44 stairs.  The apartment is large and clean and comfortable.  Here are some photos of it.  girona davegirona kitchenI plan to cook in this kitchen.   ###Travel tip:  you save lots of money when you buy fresh food and cook it yourself.girona bathgirona bedgirona balcony We are happy here and look forward to 11 days of exploring this old city with enough time to get to know what living here is like. ###Travel tip:  when you stay in one place for a longer time you have a different and more satisfying experience.  You can go back to something that interested you and look at it again.

We took the hop on hop off bus

On Tuesday April 5, it rained all day in Barcelona.  We were camped out in our hotel room, so we decided to take the  hop on/ hop off bus and see what we had missed in Barcelona.  It was a good way to spend a damp, windy day. Surprisingly, the buses were not all that busy.

You’ve seen these buses in many cities. Usually double-decker with an open or convertible top floor, they’re great for getting an overview of the city and deciding where you might like to visit. There are two routes in Barcelona, each requiring about 2.5 hours to make the loop. A recorded message in 14 languages is available to describe what you are passing.

We took the red route first, exploring the western and higher part of the city. Then we transferred to the green line, moving eastward. We got out at Sagrada Familia and walked around the site.  This amazing church was started in 1882 and will not be completed until 2026.  It was designed by Spain’s famous architect, Gaudi.  His innovative designs  incorporate natural images into stone.bar sacred family small bar sacred family 1 smallbar sacred family nativity smallbar sacred family sanctus smallThis is a photograph of a home’s window that was designed by Gaudi.  bar gaudi window smallFortunately, the rain and wind had subsided by then, late in the afternoon. At some point, they turned on the heat in the bus and we struggled to stay awake.  We spend 5 hours on the bus which worked out well.

For some reason, the idea of Irish comfort food occurred to both of us .. and there are quite a few Irish pubs in Barcelona. We asked Google for the nearest, and got four within a short walk of our hotel. The first featured only nachos and tapas for food; and the second had a wider variety, but was blaring music so loud we couldn’t see eating there. So we went back to La Cava Universal, a medium-size neighborhood restaurant we had eaten at before. We had a bite, walked back to the hotel, and for some reason we were exhausted and went to bed.

We had decided to go to a smaller city outside of Barcelona called Girona the next day.  The tale will continue.


Well, that was no fun

When we last posted, we had just arrived in Barcelona and had gotten ourselves off the Norwegian Epic. The day before had begun with just a little cough in the back of my (Dave) throat, and a hope that some new European pollen was the culprit. Monday I still felt fine but the cough was still there and getting a little more arrogant.

After some communication difficulties, we met our AirBnB host and got into our apartment. It was not good. There was mold on the walls and paint peeling from the ceiling. apt cracked wall  moldy ceiling  apt moldy ceilingIt was the sort of place where, if you were 22 and planning to stay for three days, you’d just make the best of it.  Being geezers, one of whom was clearly getting sick, it wasn’t going to work.  I fired off a complaint to AirBnb to get that process started, and looked for an alternative.  Somehow, on the Marriott site, I found a listing for AC Hotel Som, about 3 miles west of where we were, and definitely outside the tourist zone. But they had a nice-looking room for €60 — and €51 with senior discount!! We piled ourselves, three bags, two backpacks, and pear tree into a taxi and scooted out there.

I can’t say enough about the people at this place. It’s a new part of town, with lots of apartments and 6 or 8 office towers, yet strangely there seem to be only a few people on the street. Even more luckily, there is a huge mall across the street, containing about the biggest supermarket (Carrefours) I’ve ever seen. All that was good, because I hit the phase of the illness where I stay in bed for two days, just as Linda entered the earlier, bronchial spasm phase.

Over the next few days, we dragged ourselves out to buy food and visit the Farmacia down the street. I had brought samples of DayQuil which they duplicated at first (€7.50 for two days supply); then we got the Spanish variety of Mucinex (about the same price). They worked OK. (There is no dual-400-pack of any kind of medicine here.)  We spent an entire week in that hotel room.

Today, alas, they said we had to leave as they were fully booked. We had found an AirBnB with possibility and booked it for two days. We went there, and while it was clean and well equipped, it was one floor above a noisy narrow street and the bed was like wallboard. We left immediately  ( our second bad choice with AirBnB) . But it had great Internet, which we used to find a room back at the same hotel we had stayed in before the cruise, and at another sub-60-euro price for two days!

Tomorrow it’s supposed to rain, so we may take the hop-on hop-off bus around the city. These are sorta pricey, like around €28 for one day, although there’s a senior discount, which in Palma was 50% — but here just €4 off. Then we’ll either add a day, find another room, or pick another city to visit. I’d like to see Girona, but probably not for 11 days. And we need to plan a return to Barcelona for the Eurodam departure on Sunday the 17th. There are six cruise ships in port that day, and possible hotel rooms are already over $300 for the night before the cruise.

Later , I’ll go into more detail about AirBnb and its frustrations.