Sunday, January 17, 2010

Exploring Barcelona

We walked along the Via Rambla, a busy shopping area. There were many vendors along the street, as well as in shops. KFC and Mickey D's were in evidence. Once again, unfavorable exchange rate and shallow pockets caused me to come away with only pictures, but I find I enjoy them more than I would have appreciated one more thing to introduce into my materially cluttered existence. Loved the cows and happy mannequins.

Listed as a "must see" in a brochure was the market on the Via Rambla. All sorts of things were available for purchase, much of which were foodstuffs. No shortage there aboard ship, but those who wanted wine or alcohol found it much less expensive to purchase while on shore.

It was a crowded, busy place- difficult to keep track of each other. We also had limited time available. Soooo....onward! But first:

"This little piggy went to market...." Evidently it was in Barcelona!
Something I don't see every day...

or ever!

How is it they don't look particularly unhappy?

Hung a right to the Gothic Quarter. No people dressed in black with weird make-up and black fingernail polish--just really old but often ornately decorated buildings.

Probably the best illustration of the penchant for embellishment was a second floor walkway between buildings above the road. No opportunity for decoration was ignored. Following the picture of the entire structure is a series moving top to bottom from the eaves to the underside.

Beautiful! It is this attention to detail and concern for beauty that I find missing in so much of urban building. I understand the financial limitations that make so much prohibitive. I mean, look at my house! No passers-by are stopped by the beauty of the place. I did so appreciate the efforts to make every surface the feast for the eye that I frequently saw on this trip.
We made it back to the ship early, and I caught the Flamenco dancers in the Princess Theater. Not as impressive as the shows at the resort in Playa del Carmen, but I guess they bring out the big guns for the evening shows. Then I ordered pictures from the day's outing and waited for 5:30 to meet Mike and Janet for dinner in one of the dining rooms. Nothing too adventurous for dinner---I came armed with reading glasses to avoid any pitfalls. Later Janet and I went up to deck 15 for the "White Hot Deck Party." Lots of fun, and no need to get up early in the morning!
Tomorrow: at sea.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Ahhh....terra firma!

14th October 2009- Barcelona, Spain

During the early morning hours we transited the remaining distance of the Gulf of Lions and continued to track towards the southwest, shortly before sunrise we turned north and entered the Traffic Separation Scheme for Barcelona; this scheme separates the inbound and outbound traffic to the busy port. With our Pilot onboard, the ship then slowly navigated through the breakwater and turned to starboard and headed towards the cruise terminal. From derarture Livorno to our early morning arrival in Barcelona, Ruby Princess steamed 544 nautical miles.

We hadn't signed up for any excursions, having planned to be a bit tired from the Marseille excursions, which didn't happen. Soooo... we just bought shuttle tickets for a bus into town.

Busy place! Some gorgeous buildings though. Without a guide, it's hard to know the nature of some of the buildings. Puts me in mind of visiting a museum with Dad. He would stand in a doorway, or just inside, and turn his head, scanning the exhibits. I said something to the effect that a person ought to read the material to know what he/she was looking at. "I can see what I'm looking at," came the reply. Well, I could see what I was looking at, architecture-wise, but still felt that I was missing something. I guess if it bothered me I could research...doesn't bother me that much. Anyway, I liked this building with its griffons and the tribute to Christopher Columbus (read the base of the tribute).

I later used the griffon as the subject of a pastel class effort.

So far, my adventures in Europe have taught me that balconies and shutters are everywhere in the older sections of town.

To be continued.....

Friday, January 15, 2010

Marseille? Probably not in this lifetime...

13th October 2009 Marseille, France

Throughout the course of the evening and early morning, Ruby Princess maintained her predominantly westerly courses as we transited the Ligurian waters on the northern part of the Tyrrhenian Sea, leaving Corsica Island on our pot side towards the port of Marseille. Shortly before sunrise we edged our way slowly toward our Pilot boarding area. Our vessel was rolling and pitching moderately and at times heavily to strong gale force winds. After analyzing the situation, the Captain took the decision to abort our call to the port of Marseille at 06:30 due to severe adverse weather conditions and as a matter of safety for our fine ship and everyone onboard.

Well, RATS! Couldn't dock. The seas got rough and windy as we left Livorno...lots of movement. We had gone down to play team trivia in one of the lounges and WON! OK, so Mike knew most of the answers. I contributed some, in addition to writing down the answers as a good scribe should. We turned in early as we all had excursions planned for Marseille. It was to be my big, solo excursion splurge, an all day adventure into La Provence. When the alarm went off, the ship was still moving quite a bit, clearly not docked. We were at breakfast when the announcement was made that obviously the excursions were cancelled, and we would have another day at sea.

We lingered over breakfast with a nice guy named Harley, who had grown up on the main island of Hawaii in the '40's. Interesting guy. He had gone on a number of cruises, including one on the Queen Mary. He said that he and his wife were the youngsters on that one; the average age was in the 80's. Apparently there were double the usual number of coffins onboard that sailing. What??? There's a usual number of coffins? Huh.... hadn't thought about it, but I guess it makes sense. He also talked about the working conditions and compensation for the staff aboard the ship. The ship is registered in Bermuda, so the US federal regulations regarding hours and compensation do not apply. Obviously, the officers are well compensated, followed by the entertainers, then the kitchen and waitstaff in the various dining rooms and lounges, the staff of the cafeteria-type venues, and lastly, the stewards. Ours is named Kittimasak, Kitti for short. He is the sweetest, most pleasant guy. We had noticed that there were no maids, just stewards. They are all Asian or darker complected people. Harley said they are all from third world countries and work long hours for low pay. They are signed for six month contracts and, when at sea, work seven days a week, 16-20 hours a day. Poor Kitti! I know we saw him everyday when we got up and as late as 9 or 10P.M. It was an interesting conversation with Harley.

We watched the waves for a while and then went up to prepare for pastel class. I lost a port, but gained a class!

See all of Janet's lovely colors? I have a small fraction of that number. They just don't mix to make any shade I want like my paints do. Frustration!