18 April 2010

Galveston, Texas

Chad dropped us off at the ship terminal and we entered the first of about 4 lines one must clear before boarding the ship. We somehow passed all scrutiny and found our cabin. Since we each had only 1 backpack, we were able to carry our bags aboard and get settled in before sailing. The boat is pretty big, and we walked over 2 miles exploring before we left the dock. We missed dinner in the dining room, but the food in the Windjammer cafeteria is great and you can go there just about any time you like. A lot of dolphins escorted us as we set sail. Saw Julie & Julia in the movie theater. We recommend this movie.

Daily miles: 5.1 Expenses: $1,100 (cruise)

First view of ship

on the bridge

Janene on helicopter deck

waiting to cast off

Joe on helicopter deck

Janene buffet dining

Joe buffet dining

19 April

Transatlantic Cruise

After breakfast in the Windjammer, we played a round of golf, Wii tennis, shuffleboard, and attended a few on-board activities. Mostly hung out and chilled.

Daily miles: 4.74 Expenses: none recorded

Joe by pool

Joe at bow

Janene at bow

on helicopter deck

20 April

Transatlantic Cruise

Slept late. Joe found a piano to tinker with. Went to Spanish class and a lecture about Nassau.

Daily miles: 5.47 Expenses: none recorded

Joe at piano

Ship's wake

'Voyager of the Seas' mall

21 April

Nassau, capital of the Bahamas

Walked around Nassau. Toured a couple of forts and helped some locals catch fish with a throw net. Went to the zoo and botanical gardens, and pirate museum. Not a bad day, but a very dirty place. No need to ever return. We both started coming down with colds.

Daily miles: 14.56 Expenses: $41 (belt for Janene)

At the fort in Nassau

Fort Fincastle

Nassau car

tree roots

big tree

statue of Columbus

Nassau Harbour lighthouse

abandoned aquarium

buried fire hydrant

cruise ships at port

22-26 April

Our colds worsened, then gradually improved as our robust immune systems did their jobs. Italian and Portuguese lessons, plus daily lectures about this and that, shuffleboard, cards, visiting with a 9 yr-old future Van Cliburn and his family, golf, eating as little as possible (hard to do!) ... See Photos

Daily miles:
  April 22 - 5.58
  April 23 - 5.11
  April 24 - 4.54
  April 25 - 2.9
  April 26 - 3.16
Expenses: none recorded

27 April

We had a nice day strolling about Ponta Delgada in the Azores. It's a very pretty, clean town - much better than Nassau - the people were very friendly, and our lack of Portuguese fluency was a source of more amusement than problems. We visited the local cemetery and bought pastries at a bakery we found along a little side street. The streets are mostly cobblestone and very narrow. No 1-ton dooley trucks here! It rained hard for a bit, and one lady told us we were wise to bring our "water jackets."... Read More

Daily miles: 10.63 Expenses: 6.22€ (pastries)

28 April

Transatlantic Cruise

Wedding anniversary #37 today. We attended the lecture on Málaga, Spain, had brunch, and saw a screening of a strange cartoon, Destina, which was a collaboration between Walt Disney and Salvador Dali. Janene attended an ice carving demonstration and we both went to Spanish class. We also did 3 lessons on our Spanish software program. We went to the early show in the theater, had supper, and played cards this evening.

Daily miles: 3.65 Expenses: none recorded

Making paella for lunch

Ice Carving Video
(34s, 10.3MB)

ice carving demonstration

ice carving demonstration

theater show

29 April

Transatlantic Cruise

Today's lecture was about Cartagena, Spain. We continue our crash course in Spanish. The seas became a little rougher and the wind is quite brisk, so probably no shuffleboard today. Joe went to the gym and sat on the bow for awhile. Janene did a digital scavenger hunt. Joe stayed out on the bow with some other fools till 0230, hoping to see Gibraltar lit up. He finally gave up. The others reported no luck when we saw them the next day. We did get to see Spain on the left & Morocco on the right, which was cool.

Daily miles: 4.08 Expenses: none recorded

carved fruit

Scavenger Hunt photo

looking for Gibraltar

30 April

We took a shuttle bus from the ship to town, then – after a false start – found the Hop-a-bus for touristas and bought day passes. We rode one complete cycle to get our bearings, then struck out on foot to the cathedral, Picasso museum, a fort, and a castle. The cathedral was pretty, the fort and castle were way cool, and 99% of the stuff in the Picasso museum was just weird. If he'd been waiting for us to buy his stuff, he would have been thinner than Gandhi. The castle is on top of a big hill, so we rode the bus up and walked back down. Málaga is a really pretty city, very clean. Nice folks. We even habla'd a little Castellano with mixed results. They seemed to appreciate the effort. We left port about 2000 hrs, bound for Cartagena. ... See Photos

Daily miles: 12.86 Expenses: 49.60€
(hop-a-bus, fort & castle, Picasso museum, etc)

1 May 2010

After breakfast, we strolled into Cartagena. We mostly just wandered around, but we did look at the local castle and a Roman theater. We also inadvertently attended a labor day rally. We didn't stay long, since we weren't sure about the local politics and didn't want to get swept along if tear gas and paddy wagons became part of the festivities. We had lunch on the boat at sailing time and started packing for tomorrow's permanent shore leave. ... See Photos

Daily miles: 8.12 Expenses: 6.10€ (castle, coke)

2 May, Sunday

Barcelona, Spain

We arrived in Barcelona about 0630. Since we carry our own bags, we were able to sleep in, eat breakfast on the ship, and go ashore at relative leisure. We said goodbye to Li Awai, our ultra-cute Chinese room steward, and went ashore around 0930. It was a lot farther from the boat to town than it looked on the map, so we found a bus to take us from the pier, then bought hop-a-bus tickets. We thought the tourist busses would take us within a few blocks of our hostel, but we ended up about 5 miles short, so we saddled up shank's mare (walked) and headed out. It was pretty warm, and after a few miles we decided to hop on a handy tram line that we stumbled upon. That's when we discovered that our Visa card needed a pin to work in the ticket vending machines. So, on we trudged, making it to our lodgings bent but not broken. We tried to buy Metro passes and ran into the same problem. Called Capital One, assigned a pin to the account, tried to buy passes. No go. Called Capital One again – got cut off. Called again, got transferred and then cut off. Found another phone, learned they entered the pin wrong, changed it to the right number, tried to buy pass – no go. Called again, got supervisor who said he could change the pin, back to Metro station and finally bought 3-day passes. Did a happy dance! Fortunately, the Metro station is only about 100 yds from our hostel. We then rode the subway back into Barcelona and used our hop-a-bus tickets to make the rounds of the tourist hotspots and get our bearings. When the tourist bus quit running for the day, we rode the Metro back to our hostel.

Daily miles: 10.72 Expenses:
  $42 (Li Awai tip)
  ?? € (hop-a-bus tickets, Metro passes)

Fountain at S end of
Rambla de Catalunya

La Pedrera-Casa Milà

Illa de la Discòrdia

La Sagrada Familia

Torres La Caixa

Güell Pavilions

Torres Venecianes

Onades (Waves)

on the Metro

3 May

Barcelona, Spain

We awoke to rain, and it rained all day. Most of the things we wanted to see and do were outside, so we just plowed ahead in the rain. We actually had a pretty good day, although we had trouble getting money out of the ATMs and we were down to about 5 Euros. We finally figured out how to operate the machine and replenished our cash. We're learning the system, however slowly. We were about frozen when we got back to the hostel, so we fixed soup for supper. Slept very soundly.

Daily miles: 9.7 Expenses: none recorded

Parc Güell

looking SE

looking NE

Laundry Room Portico

Are we there yet?

La Sagrada Familia basilica

La Sagrada from Güell

southwest entrance


northeast entrance


modelmaking workshop

4 May

Barcelona, Spain

We rode into town on the Metro and went on a walking tour of the Gothic section of Barcelona with a Brit named Chris. The tour lasted about 3 hours, counting beer and lunch afterwards. He did a good job and told us way more stuff than we will ever hope to remember. (Saw a wall in a small courtyard where Franco had his firing squad do all of the executions. The wall was pitted with holes from the bullets – Spooky.) After the tour, we continued walking around till time to head back and fix supper.

Daily miles: 10.38 Expenses: none recorded

firing squad wall

Joe at Franco's wall

Casa de l'Ardiaca

tour guide Chris

Palau de la Musica Catalana
(Catalan Music Palace)

casa de correos
(post office)

Port Vell

Parc de la Ciutadella

Joe & Júlia in the parc

Arco de Triunfo

fountain in the parc

fountain from behind

duck family

5 May

Barcelona to Granada

We packed up and checked out of the hostel, rode the Metro to the main train station, made reservations for the sleeper train to Granada, stashed our big packs in a locker, and spent the day window shopping and wandering around Barcelona in the area of the station and the football stadium. We're now on the way to Granada. The train departed Barcelona at 2130 hrs, and we arrive in Granada about 0830 tomorrow. Hoping to sleep most of the way, but so far it's pretty bouncy.

Daily miles: 11.54 Expenses:
  327.28€ (food, walking tour, groceries, sleeper train)
  33€ (on sleeper train from Barcelona to Granada)

snakey subway video
(26s, 2.8MB)

Arenas de Barcelona
(shopping mall)

Plaça d'Espanya

"Euro Tree" store?

Camp Nu fútbol stadium

6 May

Because of our cheapness, we opted for the 4-person, gender-segregated sleeping compartments on the train. The compartments were very small, making our economy class room on the ship look like a hotel suite from an old Sinatra movie. Janene was in with 3 Spaniards who spoke zero English, while I had my compartment all to myself. Had we only known that nobody else would board along the way, she could have moved over. Oh well.... Read More

Daily miles: 10.36 Expenses: 26€ (Alhambra tickets for 5/7)

7 May

This afternoon, we had tickets to tour the Alhambra, the historic fort/palace of the Moorish sultans. It's sort of the "must see" attraction of the area. I went to the bus stop area downtown to scout out the correct bus to the Alhambra. I had practiced asking directions in Spanish, but when I got there, everybody was a tourist and nobody spoke Spanish! I did determine the correct bus route to take and we did the Alhambra tour. It met expectations and more. The Moors were so far ahead of everybody else in architecture and engineering that it's not funny. ... See Photos

Daily miles: 9.75 Expenses: 206.82€ (room + food & 5/6 tours?)

8 May

Granada to Gibraltar

We ended week 3 of our trip today. We checked out of the Oasis Hostel after breakfast and took a city bus to the train station where we learned of a 1350 hrs train to Algeciras, which is close to Gibraltar. We wandered about the area of town near the station for a while, did a computer Spanish lesson in the park, ate lunch at a sidewalk café, and boarded our train without any fuss. We could tell we were definitely NOT on the main line, as there were only 3 self-propelled cars, no food or drink service, non-reclining seats, and a generally run-down look. But it got us where we wanted to go and we got to see some pretty country. We chatted with a twenty-something couple on the train. She's a local girl; he's from Zimbabwe. They both go to university in Leeds, England. She was bringing him home to meet the family. Joe wished him luck and advised him to smile and nod. They told us to be sure to go to Ronda. We hit everything just right in Algeciras. The city bus station was right outside the train station, and we walked right onto the bus to La Linea, the closest town in Spain to Gibraltar. We then stumbled (with help from the staff at Burger King) onto a hostel where we got a pretty nice double room with private bath for 36 Euros. We paid nearly that much to sleep in a dorm in Granada.

Daily miles: 3.67 Expenses: 36€ (Hostal Carlos in La Linea)

Train to Algeciras

Train to Algeciras

Train to Algeciras

Train to Algeciras - olives

Rock of Gibraltar

Hostal Carlos room

9 May, Sunday

It was raining when we got up and walked to Gibraltar. Virtually everything to do indoors was closed on Sunday, so we decided to do "the rock" anyway. We took the cable car up and walked miles of paths. Two different monkeys tried to mug Janene, but were unsuccessful in getting into her backpack. The WW2 tunnels were closed, but we probably won't go back for them. The weather cleared up a little while we were on top, so we got a sense of the view. We were disappointed in the trashiness of the place, especially the Nature Reserve. ... See Photos

Daily miles: 14.79 Expenses:
  18€ (Gibraltar cable cars)
  12.30€ (Gibraltar fish & chips)
  36€ (Hostal Carlos in La Linea)

10 May

O-M-G, what a day!!! We took the bus to Algeciras and a ferry to Tangier, Morocco. We kind of got hustled while buying tickets at the port in Algeciras, but not too badly. Passing through customs was interesting. First they would look at our passports and tickets, then stamp and shuffle a lot of papers, skewer some of them on a spindle, file some in cubbies, and put the rest in a stack. This occurred on both ends of the voyage, each direction. It certainly seemed very official, if not very efficient.... Read More

Daily miles: 14.21 Expenses:
  91.08€ (Gibraltar & Tangier)
  62€ (ferry to Morocco)
  77€ (ferry from Morocco)
  36€ (Hostal Carlos in La Linea)

11 May

Ronda, Spain

We packed up, left our hostel in La Linea, caught the bus back to Algeciras, which was second nature to us by now, and then walked to the train station. Joe made a foray into the neighborhood and found a local market where he bought fresh bread and fruit. We caught the train to Ronda, where we planned to spend the night. Upon arrival, we walked around town till we found the local tourist info center. They gave us a list of local lodgings. We actually stayed in an old hotel we stumbled upon. After checking in, we did a walk-about around town. Ronda is probably the prettiest and cleanest place we've been. Lots of old buildings and walls dating back to the Romans, the usual assortment of ancient churches, a stunning gorge and cliffs, and rolling hills and fields that make you expect to see knights (or hobbits) riding about. Janene seemed to be coming down with another cold, so we returned to quarters well before dark. Our first room was much bigger than we've become accustomed to, but we couldn't make the heater work, and neither could the innkeeper, so we moved to another, slightly smaller room with a working heater. At least it worked for about 30 minutes, then it just blew air. There were lots of blankets, and it was only in the low 60s, so we just lived with it. We had rinsed out a bunch of clothes, but hanging them on the so-called heater got them dry by morning, even without heat.

Daily miles: 6.35 Expenses: none recorded

hotel room

Iglesia de Santa María
la Mayor

gorge at Puenta Viejo

west end of gorge

gorge at Puente Viejo

panoramic view east from

Murallas Del Carmen

12 May

Joe left Janene sleeping and went out to do the day's marketing, just like a real European. He left the touristy area and found the part of town where the locals reside. There, he bought fruit at the fruteria, bread at the paneria, some juice at a grocery, and vitamin C & cold medication at the farmacia. The fruteria was very crowded, with a line of ladies, each with an assortment of fruits and veggies that the clerk weighed and tallied with military precision.... Read More

Daily miles: 6.99 Expenses:
  43.56€ (room, Janene rx, food)
  48.60€ (train from Seville to Madrid)
  101.40€ (hotel train from Madrid to Lisbon)

13 May

Seville, Spain

We slept late this morning before taking a 2-hour, roundabout route to the nearest hop-a-bus tourist bus stop. We rode the bus for 1.5 hrs, then walked around for a while. We found a Medieval Fair festival setting up in a park where we picnic lunched. At 7 pm, we took a walking tour for about an hour. Thanks to having learned the layout of the city, we walked back to our hotel in about 15 minutes instead of wandering aimlessly like we did this morning. We ate a too-large dinner at a real restaurant for a change, returned to quarters, rinsed out socks, and caught up on this masterpiece of reporting. Janene's cold seems better. Her pedometer officially crossed the 200 mile mark today.

Daily miles: 12.47 Expenses: 63.45€ (bus, food, dinner out)

hotel room

hotel room

Medieval Fair

Medieval Fair barbecue

Plaza de España

Plaza de España

Plaza de España

rubber tree in nearby park

swivel-go-round video
(15s, 5.4MB)

bridge graffiti

Basílica de la Macarena

Plaza de Toros

of Seville, The

Torre del Oro

Capilla Virgen del Carmen

14 May

The landlady let us leave our packs in a storeroom so we could spend our last day in Seville relatively unfettered. Janene counted the stairs to our room: 62 steps plus a couple of hallways and an outside roof patio. We walked back to the river, this time without all the zigs and zags, and explored the old part of Seville on our own before taking a guided walking tour after lunch. Thanks to our guide, we decided to visit the Alcazar, the historic (and present, actually) royal palace. This is the place where Columbus sold Ferdinand & Isabella on the "route to India" idea.... Read More

Daily miles: 10.95 Expenses: 110€ (2 nights at Seville Dona Pepa pension)

15 May

Lisbon is a letdown. Admittedly, we didn't go up into the business district, staying in the more touristy parts, but it just looks tired. We walked by their version of the Pentagon, and it looked more like an old factory or warehouse in one of our NE cities. There was lots of trash everywhere. We just expected better, I guess, after finding Spain so much nicer than anticipated.... Read More

Daily miles: 10.95 Expenses: 110€ (2 nights at Seville Dona Pepa pension)

16 May, Sunday

Tomar, Portugal

On the advice of a young fellow in the tourist info office, we took the regional train to Tomar. We arrived about noon and found a really nice hotel just a few hundred feet from the train station for 45 Euros, breakfast included. So far, if we have to move to Europe, this is where we are coming. Nice parks, river, national forest right at the edge of town, clean streets, and not a huge city. Bigger than a village, to be sure, but walkable if you don't want to ride the bus. We wandered around the old downtown and hiked about 4 miles round-trip to an aqueduct that was built in the 1500s. Very impressive. We had a great dinner at a sidewalk café.

Daily miles: 11.27 Expenses:
  45€ (Hotel Trovador in Tomar)
  106.47 (reservation for hotel train for 5/17)

Lisbon street

Tomar castle & Convent of Christ

Parque do Mouchão

bridge to Parque

flower beds W of river

sign for aqueduct

Joe on aqueduct

Janene on aqueduct

Janene by aqueduct

Rua Serpa Pinto

sidewalk café

Tomar hotel room

culled items (see 5/17)

17 May

We culled through our stuff and came up with about 5 lbs of not-needed items (we hope) that we shipped home. Communicating with the Portuguese postal clerk was a bit of a challenge, but we think we accomplished our mission. After another language struggle, we were able to donate some clothes we didn't want to pay to ship home to a local church. They don't seem to have Salvation Army or St Vincent's in this part of the world. Whatever, we are no longer carrying several pounds of excess baggage.... Read More

Daily miles: 10.87 Expenses: none recorded

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About us

Joe & Janene at Eiffel Tower

In 2010, Joe & Janene, parents of Cary (Zzickle), went on a 5-month-long backpacking trip around Europe.


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cruise Azores cruise Spain

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