Lazy Day in Cartagena, Spain

After the heat and dodging marathon racers in Valencia, I was looking forward to an easier port of call. Cartagena proved to be just that! The Braemar docked right next to a small habour and wide boulevard that gave easy access to the city.

Directly across from the harbour is a monument to fighters last in the battle at Santiago de Cuba, along with several statues leading into the main city.

As you walk into the plaza, the Museo Teatromano de Cartagena provides an entrance to the Roman Theatre. It is a nice museum that includes several different rooms and a series of escalators to bring you to the theatre.

Besides the Roman theatre, Cartagena has a number of archeolgical sites. It also has a number of walls and fortifications that protect its natural harbour. It is easy to walk and there is a hop on, hop off bus as well as a harbour tours boat. Along the harbour, there are cafes, which makes this a very easy and pleasant port to visit.

Here are some of the sights of the city.

Our sail-away was spectacular. This is the only way to see the series of fortresses that guard the harbour. We also had fun with a small boat that had photographers from the ship sailing around the Braemar taking pictures of us– taking pictures of them!

Hot day in Valencia

Valencia probably was not everyone’s first choice on our Braemar “Choose your Cruise”, but we were told there was a marathon scheduled for Palma de Mallora, so Valencia won the vote. Unlike the last two ports we visited, the cruise port is not that close to town. When docking there, either the ship will provide a transfer, or the Port of Valencia will. In our case, the ship provided this, which also meant that it could only drop us near the old town. What we did not know was there would be more detours waiting for us. But, on our way to the old city centre, we passed some of the new, modern buildings that are part of the Ciudad de las Artes Y Ciencias — arts and science museums.

We were dropped off just on the border of the old city, near a park and the library.

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I meandered through the streets, until I got to the main street that runs through the city centre and came to a complete stop.  We escaped one marathon to come to another one!

Fortunately, once I figured out I did not want to try to cross the street where the runners were, I found some charming places in the old city, first walking up a charming street that led to the church and Torre de Santa Catalina.

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It was near the Plaza de la Reina which is in front of the cathedral.

Behind the cathedral was another plaza with cafes, statues and fountains.

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It was an easy walk to the Torres de Serranos.

One of the interesting things about Valencia is the creation of a series of parks that are in a dried riverbed. It was very peaceful to walk in this section of Valencia, after the craziness of the marathon and twisted streets around the cathedral.

In additional to gardens, there are playgrounds and, of course, a soccer field.

I continued my walk through the city centre until the heat got to me and I headed back the ship’s pool. Here are some other sites I enjoyed in Valencia.

 

New adventures in Bacelona

It should come to no surprise that, when we had the choice to go to Barcelona, that is what we chose on the “Choose your Own” cruise on the Braemar. The really cool thing about being on a smaller ship, is that we got to use the dock near the World Trade Centre, not the normal Barcelona Cruise Port. We were docked next to one of the Port Cable Car towers and a quick walk to the Columbus Column at the foot of Las Ramblas!  All I can say is once I left the ship, I felt like I was home.  I love Barcelona!

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I wanted to do something different this time, so I headed to the  main tower of the port cable cars which is in the Barceloneta neighborhood and directly across from the beach and an aqua centre. They start running the cable cars at 11:00 AM, so being a little early, a took a walk along the beach, watching some surfers and drinking an espresso.

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Then, I headed back and was in the first car that went across from the port to Torre de Miramar on Montjuïc mountain. Passengers alight from the cable cars in the Costa i Llobera Gardens. From here, all of Barcelona is at your feet.

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This is how close the Braemar was docked!

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Of course, I wanted to visited some of my old “haunts”, so here are more pictures of things I love in my walking through Barcelona.

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Yes, I love Barcelona!

A day in Malaga

The  next choice made on our “Choose your own cruise” on the Fred. Olsen Braemar was Malaga, Spain. It’s been five years since I was last in Malaga, and I was looking forward to re-visiting some familiar places and seeing what things had changed. We were able to dock very close city centre. It is about at 15-20 minute walk, but part of it is along the new pier promenade. When I was last in Malaga, this area was all under construction. Now, it is a beautiful promenade with lots of open-air cafes and shops. There is also easy access to a very nice beach.

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I headed to the city centre and watched as Malaga slowly woke up — people opening shops or setting up food stands, Others were getting their first cup of coffee. It was nice to just wander around to the Cathedral plaza and find a little park on the side.

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Malaga Cathedral doors

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I made me way to the entrance to the Alcazaba, the walled fortress. I love this fortress. Not only are the view great, but there is just something about it that I find very special. At first, you see all the battlements that were built to protect it.

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But, after walking uphill, you make a couple of turns into the inner courtyards and find beautiful gardens filled with jasmine, hibiscus, roses and oleanders. I forgot how much I miss the smell of jasmine.

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Let’s just saw, I can spend a lot of time here because I find it both beautiful and very peaceful.

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But, other things called, so I headed out and made a quick stop to the Roman Theatre, which is next to the fortress.  Then is was more just wandering through the streets and trying some salted almonds from a street vendor — and they were really good and fresh! Then, I decided to see about getting something to eat and I went to one of the cafes on the pier promenade.

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There were lots of people to watch as I ate tapas and drank wine. It was also getting hot, so I thought I’d head back to the ship and go to the pool. With little shade, the walk was a lot longer than I anticipated.  But, all in all, it was a beautiful day in Malaga.

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Oporto, Portugal

The first choice that won on our “Choose Your Own” cruise on the Braemar, was Leixos — the closest port to Oporto, Portugal. We docked at the closest pier, which was still a 30 minute drive or Metro ride from Oporto — but it was right next to a beach. The local Hop On, Hop Off bus added a stop at the pier — good business for them and easy way to get into the centre of town. And I was able to actually follow a plan for a nice walking tour.

Leixos Beach and port

I started my walking tour at the Torre de Clerigos — one of the tallest landmarks in Oporto and from here, all the streets led down to the river.

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Torre de Clerigos

Next, I headed to the Sao Bento Train Station. It is a beautiful building that has some marvelous azulejos, the blue and white hand-painted tiles that are found all over Portugal. These covered large walls in the station and told the history of Oporto.

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Then, I wandered down some of the streets near the train station, including Rua de Flores. This area has a lot of cafes, shops and second-hand stores.

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I finally got to the Placa de Henri the Navigator. Next to this plaza is the Palacio de Balsa and the Igreja de Sao Francisco.

Henri the Navagator

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I continued making my way towards the Ribera, the area near the Duoro River. It is a really nice walk, lined with cafes and a great place to watch the different types of boats that sail along this stretch of the river. You can also see the Gaia area, which is where many of the port houses are located.

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I headed towards the Ponte de Dom Luis I — a two level bridge that allows for cars and pedestrians on the lower level and the metro and pedestrians on the upper level.  The views from the upper level is amazing, but may not be for people who are not good with heights. There is a funicular that aids in getting you to the upper deck on the Oporto side and an elevator on the Gaia side.

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Once in Gaia, pick your favourite port house — or try them all!  Most of tours and tasting rooms. Or, just sit at one of the outdoor cafes and enjoy good food and port. That’s what I did.I stopped at Taberninha do Manel and had a lovely light lunch of small empanadas (one beef and one seafood), a bowl of a Portuguese traditional cabbage and potato soup and a glass of port (tawny 10 year-old) — all for 10 Euors!

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I decided it was time to head back to the ship, so I hopped back on the bus, and got to see more of Oporto before returning to my home on the sea.

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