Category Archives: 2012 Grand Mediterranean and Black Sea Cruise

2012 March 22-24 – Days 11-13 – At Sea to Cadiz, Spain

We were woken in the morning by a ship-wide announcement that the Captain had diverted the ship’s course and was now involved in a rescue operation.  Apparently a Madeiran fishing boat with eight men aboard had a leak in the engine room so they had gathered their possessions and abandoned ship in the lifeboat.  Four ships responded to their distress call.  A freighter arrived first which, by the ‘rules of the sea’ makes them the rescue ship.  However, the Prinsendam is a cruise ship and has lower deck access.  We were asked to bring them aboard until they could be airlifted via a helicopter from Madeira. Now times have changed drastically in the past few years. At one time the captain would have moved close to the lifeboat, cut the engines and had the fishermen paddle over to the ship where they would be assisted aboard.

This does not happen in our world today.  The captain cut the engines, yes, but the lifeboat was not allowed near the ship and no crew members from our ship went to their boat.  When the army helicopter from Madeira was directly over the ship, the lifeboat was brought alongside and the fishermen were assisted aboard by security crew.  All of the upper decks were evacuated of crew and passengers.  The fishermen were to be hauled up on a winch line from the open pool deck into the helicopter.  The ship’s firemen were standing by with charged hoses in case of any accidents that may happen.  John, of course, had to check out the preparations by the fire crew and was able to do an adjustment to this fellow’s twisted air hose line.   The fishermen were take directly to the lower deck elevator, brought up to the pool deck without stopping and assisted one by one into the harness for the dangling ride up to the helicopter.  When all the men were aboard their belongings were sent up after them.  As we sailed from the area the fishing boat was still afloat, but much lower in the water and listing to one side.  The captain announced later that the men had arrived home and all were safe and sound.  A boat would be sent from Madeira to collect the lifeboat and check on the fishing boat.  Never a dull moment at sea!

We were scheduled to dock in Portimao, on the Algarve coast of Portugal the next day.  However the Captain warned us that predicted high winds may prevent our going up the dredged river channel to the village.  His concern was realized when the port pilot came on board the next morning and advised against trying to navigate the narrow channel due to gale-force winds.  Portimao is considered a ‘fair weather’ port and the Prinsendam would have been the largest ship to anchor there.  Since the passengers would be tendered to shore the strong winds would also have made getting into and out of the boats dangerous.  So…our second port-of-call was cancelled and we continued along the Iberian south coast to our next port, Cadiz, Spain.

We had been scheduled to arrive in Cadiz (pronounced Kaa deez) at 8 am on March 24 but docked instead at 5 pm March 23.  The port is right ‘downtown’ in Old Cadiz so you just had to walk across the street and look around.  By the time we finished dinner though it was too dark to be wandering unfamiliar streets in a foreign country.  One of the crew told us the next morning that he had gone out, walked a few streets and gotten totally lost.  Took him several hours to find his way back to the ship.

                                       One of the creative flower arrangements on the ship.Our towel creation on the bed that night was a peacock, complete with colourful feathers.  Very cute.

The early arrival meant the ship spent three nights  instead of the scheduled two docked at Cadiz.  Cadiz is the gateway port to Seville which is about an hour and a half’s drive inland. We had tours booked each of the next two days, the first was a four hour tour in the countryside where we visited Los Alburejos Farm. They raise Andalusian horses and bulls for the fights.  The day after that we did an all-day tour into Seville to see “The Palaces of Seville.”

2012 May 6-12 – Days 56-62 – Horta, Faial, Azores to Ft. Lauderdale, FL

This was the last port of call on our 62-day Grand Mediterranean Voyage.  Once we left Horta we spent six days at sea before returning to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida where we caught our flight home.

All of the islands of the Azores, except one, have natural harbours.  Faial is northwest of São Miguel and considerably smaller.  Faial is mountainous, rising to 914 meters (3,000 feet) above sea level.  It is 23 kilometers (14 miles) long and 16 kilometers (10 miles) wide and is one of the favourite islands of the archipelago to visit.

Horta, the chief town and seaport, also has one of the main airports in the Azores.  Ferries run regularly between Faial and the nearby islands of São Jorge and Pico (shown below)We have been on several whale and dolphin watching trips.  Mostly you see a few fins or a distant tail going into the water, but we like to see if we can see critters when the opportunity presents itself.  We only saw two Sei Whales (third largest whale in the world) after our guides were told about them from spotters on whale tours out of Pico.

We chanced upon a large pod of dolphins on the way back to Horta at the end of the tour.  But, the best part of the entire day was the three hours we spent in the zodiac with six other people from the ship.  There were heavy, heaving seas and we were riding a roller-coaster the entire time. We estimate we went about 15 miles out to see looking for the whales and we slid into deep troughs and climbed out again, catching some ‘air time’ on the crest.  It was so much fun!  Fortunately we do not get sea sick so we could enjoy the bouncing, plunging waves.  For some other people the trip was not very much fun at all.  The lady sitting in front of me in the zodiak would not sit still. She kept leaning this way and that, grabbing the rope, letting it go, adjusting her hat, turn left, turn right, shift forward, shift back.  Drove me batty.  The worst part was that when we caught sight of the two whales she stuck her whole arm straight out and held it there pointing in the direction of the whales, which meant I could get no photos of them because her arm was always filling my viewfinder.  I asked her not to do it, and she tried to point with a bent arm, but it never lasted.  I did get some photos of the dolphins though. After we returned to Horta we walked around the town for an hour or so before going back on board in time for the Interdenominational Worship Service and our dinner. The sunset that evening as we sailed west was shades of gold.Our second night at sea was Pirate Night.  The islands off the coast of Portugal and western Africa were long used as pirate havens and re-stocking ports.  Since we were sailing in former ‘pirate waters’ the ship’s staff decorated the dining room and other public rooms with skulls and crossbones, treasure chests, and bootie.  We knew what the special theme nights were to be before we began the trip so we had packed some appropriate outfits and my tacky, curly, red wig got another wearing.

After breakfast, on the fifth day at sea on the way back to Florida, the Captain came on the ship’s intercom and said, “Here we go again.”  They had spotted the abandoned sailboat that we had stopped to investigate on the way across the Atlantic at the beginning of the cruise.  And here it was, 142 nautical miles from where we saw it before.  Maritime Law states that all vessels that do not respond to radio hails must be investigated.  So, we did a short course adjustment and the bridge confirmed it was the same abandoned boat and we were able to sail on.  The captain said it was probably a $100,000-$200,000 boat and he wouldn’t mind at all having it tied up at his place in Norway.  He reported it, again, to Bermuda Coast Guard and told them someone should go bring it in as it is a hazard to shipping vessels. Our last night on board was May 12 and we were blessed with a nice sunset to close the book on another fabulous holiday.  Thanks for sailing with us.  I hope you enjoyed the journey.

2012 May 5 – Days 55 – Ponta Delgada, São Miguel, Azores

After a day at sea the ship docked at the port of Ponta Delgada on the island of São Miguel in the Portuguese Azores.  The Azores are 900 nautical miles from Mainland Portugal and are volcanic.  The islands are stongly linked to the legendary lost city of Atlantis.  Despite it being a cloudy day the scenery was still beautiful; very lush pastureland and Japanese Cedar forests.    I am curious about what the graffiti artist was depicting here.

São Miguel is the largest and most populated island in the Azores Archipelago (there are 8 smaller islands).  More than half of Azoreans live on the island (133,000 out of 250,000).  The Azores are a major producer of milk and dairy products and the climate is so mild the cows live outside; they don’t have barns at all.  Even the milking is done out in the open.  The farm trucks have stainless steel sanitized tanks on the back and they drive out into the fields twice a day to do the milking.  The cows know the routine and wander over and line up to get milked (in the same order twice a day).

The bus took us up the steep hillsides to the peak of the caldera.There are two connecting lakes in the caldera; the larger one is – usually – bright blue (on a sunny day, which we didn’t have) because it is open to the reflection of the sky.  The other, smaller one, is green because it is almost surrounded by a steep forested cliff wall. After our photo stop of the lakes (appropriately called Blue Lake and Green Lake) we drove into the town of Sete Cidades (Seven Cities), which is just a small village (population 811), where we had time to wander around. The roads are narrow, steep and winding.  John wished he had his motorcycle.                                                             Santiago Lake.

                       A very Harry Potter-ish looking area.All the shades of green and plentiful plants and grass reminded of a blend of Ireland and the Hawai’ian Island of Kuaui.  The Japanese Cedar trees can be harvested every 35 years.  We saw lumber air-drying in a couple of towns as we were driven around the island.  They stand the timber up so it looks like tents.

The driver took us back to Ponta Delgada by a different route with a wine and cheese tasting stop along the way.  Once we were back we had a quick lunch on the ship and then spent some time exploring the town.       I am not sure what John was expecting to find in this cannon. Many of the buildings were decorated with lights and lighted objects in preparation for the Festival of the Holy Ghost which would be held the next week.

                                                      San Sebastion Church It started to rain so we went back on board and got my laptop and found an internet cafe where, for €3 you could spend however long you wanted uploading photos and sending emails.  John read his book while I took advantage of the cheap internet.  (Internet on the ship is outrageously expensive so if I ever have some free time and can find some free or inexpensive internet service I take advantage of it.)

It was Cinco de Mayo night in the dining room.  May the 5th is the day Mexico commemorates its unexpected victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Pueblo on that day in 1862.  It is a day of food, music, and folklore displays.   Rudi was at the dining room entrance every evening to give you some dates or mints as you left after dinner.  He was a sweetheart; so very cheerful and friendly.  “Dates for you tonight, Mister John?”  “Some mints for you Mrs. John?”  He never missed.

The next day we anchored off Horta, Fiala Island of the Azores which was our last port of call of the cruise.

2012 May 2 & 3 – Days 52 & 53 – Lisbon, Portugal

We were berthed in Lisbon for two nights.  However, our first day shore excursion – a river cruise on the Tagus was cancelled due to heavy rain.  The ship’s Shore Excursion desk had been told we would be using covered boats but found out that morning that we would all be in open boats and so they cancelled it.  Consequently we spent the day relaxing on the ship. Several times during the day the rain quit and we considered going into town to walk around but then the rain would begin again.  Laziness won out over getting wet and we enjoyed a quiet day on board. It wasn’t raining during the sail-in on the morning of May 2 and we spent some time on deck as the ship made its way to the port.  The 25 of April Bridge connects Lisbon to the municipality of Almada on the left bank of the Tagus.  The bridge was inauguated on August 6, 1966 and is often compared to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco due it similar appearance. (It was built by the same company.)  The bridge was originally called the Salazar Bridge but soon after the Carnation Revolution in 1974, the bridge was renamed the 25 de Abril Bridge, commemorating the day the revolution occurred.  There are now six car lanes on the mail level and two train tracks on the lower level. Lisbon is built on seven low hills on the north side of the Tagus River.  It is considered one of the most enjoyable cities in Europe due to is cultural diversity, laid-back feel and old-time architecture.  There are tree-lined streets and Art Nouveau buildings, mosaic pavements and street cafes.  Many of the cities attractions are within walking distance of each other in the central city area.The second day in Lisbon we enjoyed a look at some of Lisbon’s beautiful Baroque-style architecture and decorative tiles.  Baroque flourished all over Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, during a time that Portugal enjoyed tremendous wealth from the discovery and exploitation of mines in Brazil.  Some say Baroqe is the art of embellihsment, other say it is the art of extravagance.

We drove past several buildings that were decorated with lovely tiles.  Portugal has used tiles extensively for centuries, both on exteriors and interiors of buildings.  Paint flakes and fades, and adobe drys and cracks in the intense heat of summer and the constant winds off the water, but the tiles endure; staying bright and clear for hundreds of years. We visited the Basilica da Estrela, which has marble of various colours on the walls and floors.  The church was not nearly as ornate as many of the Roman Catholic Churches we have seen on this cruise.  It was built in the late 1700’s.  The priest was not happy to have our group arrive.  He quickly put a rope across the front of the church to cordon off the altar area and he hovered nearby all the while we were there; making sure no one went anywhere he felt they shouldn’t.

The patterns in red, grey, and white marble made for lovely floors and domes.

We had left the ship at 8:15, driven more or less directly to the church, and by the time we left there the tile museum, which was our next stop was still not open.  To kill some time the bus driver took us on a panoramic tour of Lisbon.  This worked out well for us since we had stayed on the ship all day the day before.  The National Tile Museum is housed in a former convent, Madre de Deus (Mother of God Convent), so the building was as nice to tour as the tiles.  The museum displays tiles from the 11th century to modern day.

One hallway was a gallery of more modern-day tiles and other artwork.                            In this area the tiles are cleaned, sorted, and catalogued.There was a small church in the museum – formerly used by the nuns of the convent – that was extremely ornate with gilt-framed artworks edge to edge on every surface – including the ceiling. The pièce de resisténce of the collection was the 73 foot-long multi-tile panel portraying the skyline of Lisbon from the riverbank.  Made in the 1700’s, the panel became of major historical significance after three quarters of the city was destroyed in 1755 in an earthquake and tsunami (one half of the population died in the tragedy).  In this tile panel there is a permanent record of what the city looked like at the time. The sun was shining for our sail-away at 1 pm, but by evening the ship was once more  rock n’ rolling on the ocean waves The Monument to the Discoveries, built in 1958.  It represents a somewhat romanticized idealism of Portuguese  expansion and exploration.  The original was displayed at the Portuguese World Exposition in 1940 and later demolished.  This, larger cement and rose-tinted stone one was built on the northern bank of the Tagus River. We enjoyed a day at sea before we reached Ponta Delgada on the island of São Miguel in the Azores.  We only had two ports of call remaining before we headed back across the Atlantic to Ft. Lauderdale, FL and the end of our Mediterranean and Black Sea adventure.

2012 May 1 – Day 51 – Tangier, Morocco

I was looking forward to our stop in Tangier.  The tour we had chosen was “Cap Spartel and Fantasia Horse Show.”  I love horses and really like seeing good horsemanship and there is none better than Arabs and Arabians.  But, sadly, this turned out to be our least favourite day of the whole cruise.              The sun was coming up as we sailed into port. The show area was in large, colourful tent and we were given mint tea and some cookies while a we watched a brother/sister acrobat act, a very sad magician, a belly dancer, and a couple of other acts.  They were not bad, really, just not very good.  At the end of the performance we went outside to seats overlooking the horse arena.  As we made our way to our seats, all the male performers and the young siblings stood by the steps with their hands out for tips.                                                  Beautiful horses.

You could pay and have your photo taken with the camel and her young one – this is a very common enticement for tourists.  And, baby camels are very cute.

The ‘Horse Show” was merely two charges down a quarter-mile field.  At the conclusion of the show all the men brought their horses up to the fence in front of the seats and put their hand out for tips.  Not that I mind giving people a tip for a good performance or good service but I don’t just fling money around for every little thing I see.


After the show concluded we boarded the bus and were driven to Hercules Cave, where legend says that the super-strong hero died after separating Gibraltar from Africa.  The cave was used as a quarry so it was considerably larger than originally, and now it contains lots of tables for vendors. There was an opening to the sea at the far end. The Cap Spartel area (the northern-most point of the African continent) has a lovely view point where the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea meet. Another opportunity to have your photo taken with a camel, and, if you like, sit on one while it is led around for a few minutes.                                                    A very pretty area. We were taken back to town for a walk through the Medina (Old Town) to the kasbah (fort).                A large community oven and a water access basin.                                            Great doors and beautiful lanterns.

The tour ended with the requisite shopping experience and carpet demonstration.  90% of our group went upstairs, found it was a carpet demo and came back down again.  The quality of goods wasn’t very high and even many of the regular shoppers just gathered near the bus and waited until it was time to head back to the ship.

As we left the bus at the port our guide counted every tip as he was given them.  Subtlety is not an established societal skill in Tangiers.  Despite finding much of tour to be quite cheesy we enjoyed our walk through the Medina and, all in all, we had a good day in Tangiers.

2012 April 30 – Day 50 – Málaga, Spain

We had a day at sea between Castelleón and Málaga and we were happy to rest up before the final few ports.  Obviously I had many photos to sort through.

Málaga was settled in 830 BC and has a current population of 650,000.  Like the rest of Spain, Málaga is heavily Catholic but we traveled over two hours to the city of Granada to see a Muslim-Hispano complex – the 14th-century Alhambra (meaning Red Castle).  Olive groves stretch for miles. There are over 400 million olive trees in Spain. 7,600 people per day visit the site and tours are split into smaller groups (no more than 30) and you have an assigned entrance time; with a half hour leeway.  We had some slower people in our group and consequently we just made our deadline.  The complex includes the Royal Palace of the Arabic Kings and the Granadan Alcazaba (9th-century ‘fortress’ tower).  The last of the Moors were ousted from Spain in 1492 when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella re-conquered Spain.  The Mosque was turned into a Catholic Church and the palace became the site of the Royal Court.  Once we were inside we had plenty of time to walk through two palaces and a fabulous garden.  Our guide kept everyone moving, not too fast, but steady, through the palace but we could stroll much more leisurely in the gardens.             The composition of the stone pillars was beautiful.                          There is lots of very intricate carving!

    This is the ceiling on the alcove in the right hand photo above.Both ends of a lovely reflection pond. The Moors were Arabs from the desert so they loved their water features and made sure they had lots of them.
   The Moors decorate every surface, with either tiles or carvings.  I really like this picture of arches behind arches, behind arches.  Another photographer’s paradise: with different textures, shapes and colours everywhere you look.

This courtyard is called Patio de los Leones (Lion Court) because of the  fountain.  The feline figures are oddities, since the Qu’ran forbids decorative representations of animals and human beings.  The fountain had just been replaced after an extensive restoration.  It was not yet out of its packing box and working. Looking out the windows you see a very pretty, secluded, central garden. Author Washington Irving traveled to Granada in 1828 and was granted access to the palace.  He was inspired to write “Tales of Alhambra,” a series of essays and stories.  Irving filled notebooks and journals with descriptions and observations though he did not believe his writing would ever do it justice.  He wrote, “How unworthy is my scribbling of the place.”

This cute animal figure was on a window that overlooked the town of Granada.

These beautiful cobblestone patios are made up of thousands of small stones.          The reflecting pools make the gardens so serene.Alhambra is a gorgeous example of Muslim architecture.  Inside the complex there are palaces, military buildings, a fortress and an administrative center.  There are detailed mosaics, prism-style cupolas and stone-cast latticework.  Even though we only were able to see a few of the rooms,  it was really lovely and a great place to visit.It was a short walk from Alhambra to Generalife gardens.  The gardens surround what was once the summer residence of the Moorish kings.  Little is left of the buildings but the gardens are fabulous.                                         What gorgeous hedges! It takes a lot of work and a lot of time to keep all the hedges looking so clean and crisp.  Notice the two measuring sticks laid on the top. The wisteria was so pretty.  It was still quite early in the spring but many of the trees and flowers were beginning to bloom.  A buffet lunch was served at a restaurant just outside the grounds and then it was back on the bus for the drive back through Granada, into the countryside and then on to Málaga and the ship.  What a great day.  We had been warned to be prepared to do a lot of walking and they hadn’t lied.  We arrived at 5:15 with weary feet and just enough time to change for dinner.

After dinner we went into the terminal to see if we could find some wi-fi, but the shop was closed so we went to our cabin and were happy to go to bed early and get some rest before we arrived in Tangier at 6:30 the next morning.

2012 April 28 – Day 48 – Castellón de la Plana, Spain. (Part 2)

Morella is a two-hour bus ride from the port at Castellon de la Plana.  It is one of the best-preserved and most picturesque medieval towns in Spain and is literally built around and atop a steep hill.  There are very few streets accessible to cars as the city was built in 1025, and no buses can get through the city gates so we were let off outside and walked in.                                                                                 The entrance gate to the town.  It must take a bit of searching to find a branch that can be made into such a good pitchfork.  All the baskets were hand-made as well.                        More of the huge people puppets.

 Every ‘street’ is a cobblestone stairway.  You definitely get your exercise moving around Morella.

Inside the city we were taken to the Gothic-style Church of St. Mary.  If there is one thing that we are shown on virtually every tour, it is the local Catholic church.  I have never seen so many gilded, ornate, art-filled churches in my life.  They are beautiful, but my pragmatic soul always thinks of the many things that could be done to alleviate hunger, lack of education, and health care around the world if it was all sold and used for the care of people rather than adornment of a building; even if it is dedicated to God. After we toured the church our guide took us down another street to a restaurant where the group was to have lunch.  We had coffee and pastries at Sant Mateu on the drive to Morella, and that wasn’t too long after we had breakfast on the ship so I wasn’t hungry.  And I certainly did not want to spend a bunch of time eating when there was an interesting, ancient city to explore.  I asked our guide what time and where I should meet the group after they finished lunch (the city gate at 2 pm) and went of to see what I could see.

Past the church I chanced upon the entrance to the castle, paid my  €3 fee and started to climb.  The castle wound around the highest part of the mountain top and there were 360° views of the valley below. The castle is built right into the rock of the mountain. 

The photo above clearly shows the compressed town inside the immense walls. At 1:30 I wasn’t quite to the top of the castle but I figured it would take me a half hour, if I hurried, to get back to the main gate to meet the group at 2 so I reluctantly turned around and made my way down. I made it to the main gate on time, but I waited over 45 minutes before John came hurrying to tell me they were all  just finishing lunch and would be along soon.  I had been getting concerned with the long wait, thinking I had misunderstood and was waiting in the wrong place, yet did not want to leave as I had said that is where I would be.  I was not very pleased to know I had rushed down from the castle only to learn I could easily have made it to the top in the time I had now wasted waiting at the main gate.  However, I was equally glad I had not spent all of my time in such an interesting place sitting in a restaurant rather than seeing some of the town.  All the rest of the people only saw the main gate, one street, a church and a restaurant.  I saw all of that plus several more streets and almost all of the castle.  Good day for me.

The tour group eventually arrived (another 15-20 minutes later) and we got back on the bus for the two hour drive back to Castellón.  Due to the long lunch we were behind schedule and our driver flew down that mountain and all the way back to the port to get us there by the 4:30 all aboard.     Morella is an impressive sight sitting on top of the mountain.
The ship was due to sail at 5 and local dancers put on a great show for us as the ship was readied to leave the harbour. The next day we spent at sea before docking in Málaga, further west on the Spanish south coast.

2012 April 28 – Day 48 – Castellón de la Plana, Spain. (Part 1)

Our ship was the first of the Holland America Line fleet to stop at Castellón de la Plana, Spain.  Castellón is the capital city of the province of Castellón, in the east of the Iberian Peninsula by the Mediterranean Sea.  Very few cruise ships stop here as the port is primarily used by container ships and is protected by a large breakwater with a narrow opening.  The MS Prinsendam is a small cruise ship so the captain was able to navigate the passage to the port. The city was very happy to have us arrive and treated all the passengers to orange juice, a small bottle of red or white wine, and complimentary maps and tourist information.  There were four blue-carpeted tents, a 24-person band playing and a large welcoming committee.  Local politicians, travel agents and tour guides were given tours of the ship while the passengers were off exploring.Once again, as is our wont, we left the city and climbed into the mountain region to see the fortified medieval town of Morella; which means, from Roman times, “a mountain in the center of a valley”.  During our two-hour drive  we stopped at the quaint little town of Sant Mateu (St. Matthew)

.   We entered through an old Roman wall and up the street to the town square.

Sant Mateu has a population of about 1,500 and there were very few people around.  At a cafe on the square we were give pastries and coffee.After our snacks we visited the church which has really cool ancient hammered doors.

Most of the buildings and artwork of the town were destroyed by the retreating French army during the Napoleanic Wars.         These ceiling beams are charred from a fire years ago.These huge figures are ‘people’ puppets that are worn during feast day parades through the town.  After we toured the church we walked down the street to an old Roman bath before exiting the town through another gate.

The drive continued into the countryside and up a narrow switchback road (we seem to have fondness for these types of tours) to Morella. To be continued….

2012 April 27 – Day 47 – Barcelona, Spain (Day 3) (Part 2)

After we completed our morning tour to the monastery at Montserrat we had some lunch on the ship and then  took the shuttle into Barcelona.   The Columbus Monument is in the center of a traffic circle at the end of Las Ramblas, the huge pedestrian market street that cuts through the center of the main city. It is absolutely jammed with people.  We were warned also that is a place to keep your hands on your wallet as pickpockets are active in the area.

We turned down Calle de Ferran and to the Palau de la Generalitat.  Built between the 15th and early 17th centuries, the Palau de la Generalitat is the seat of the Catalan Government, which was established in 1283 and is called “the first parliament in Europe.”

 This is City Hall which sits on the other side of Placa de Sant Jaume (St. James’ Square), from the Palau de la Generalitat.  The square is considered the administrative heart of the city for obvious reasons.  From St James’ Square we turned onto Via Laietana and went to see the surviving sections of ancient Roman walls, which date from the 3rd and 4th Centuries.   At one time there were 75 or so defense towers on the city walls.

The Cathedral Santa Eulalia (Cathedral of the Holy Cross and St. Eulalia), also known as Barcelona Cathedral.  This more modern building was built right into, and incorporated the ancient Roman wall.

 We have a fondness for ‘Street Statues” and this lovely golden angel was very good at keeping her pose.

After two hours we made our way back to the the square where we had been dropped off and caught a shuttle back to the ship.  We had fun during our days in Barcelona.

2012 April 27 – Day 47 – Barcelona, Spain (Day 3) (Part 1)

The Benedictine Monastery of Montserrat (Sacred Mountain) was founded in the 11th Century and currently has 80 monks in residence dedicated to a life of prayer, work and welcoming pilgrims and visitors.  Montserrat is also home to the Escolans – the oldest boys’ choir in Europe.  (Those on our tour that attended the Mass were thrilled that the choir was performing that day.)

It took about an hour to reach the monastery; which is located on a 6-mile long, 3-mile wide, 4,050-foot high ridge.  On a natural platform 2,380 feet above sea level, after many tight switchback turns on a narrow mountain road, you reach the complex. Montserrat is a very holy place in the Roman Catholic faith and 3,000,000 million people come annually to see the Black Madonna – the Patron Virgin of Catalonia – which is housed behind glass in a small room looking down on the altar in the basilica.