Montevideo, Uruguay is a small port that allows you to simply walk off the ship and into the center of this capital city. My plan was to just walk around the city, however that changed when I talked to a tour operator and soon a group of eight of us were driving along the coastline. The driver was very happy to share information about his city and its sites. and it was nice to see things that I would not have seen, had I stayed in the city central. We concluded our tour at the Capitol Building and were given the choice of going back to the ship, or staying in the city. I opted to stay, so I could walk through the market and back to the ship. It was a nice walk, with many small shops and restaurants along the way.
Y más or “and more …” is my review of my top favorite places to visit — as least at of today! Here is my countdown…
Number Five: Cadiz, Spain! I was so surprised at the beauty and walk-ability of Cadiz. At to that a Fortress named after my patron saint that is constructed in a star shape, beautiful beaches and great seafood — what more could I want!
Number Four: Lisbon has beautiful architecture, twisting streets, great museums, amazing music and, of course, good food and wine!
Gate to downtown Lisbon
View of the opera house and Plaza from the Santa Justa Elevator
View of the castle from the Santa Justa Elevator
View from the Castelo de Sao Jorge
Number Three: Buenos Aires with it different neighborhoods, tango all night, and friendly people — I think I lost part of my heart there!
Me at the Piazolla New Year’s Eve show
Number Two: Cuba! I am still dreaming about Cuba and all it has to offer. I love Cuba and her people. Viva Cuba!
And number one should not be a shock to anyone who has read my blog … BARCELONA! If I could, this is where I would like to live. Architecture, people, beaches, food, night life, museums, concerts — it has everything I love (and did I mention football and Camp Nou?).
Learning how to photograph different things while I travel is part of the challenge and is becoming a passion. When I took a cruise around the tip of South America, not only sis I see cities and expansive landscapes, but I become challenged by taking photographs of wildlife. Here are some of my favorite photos of wildlife.
First group: sea lions in Argentina.
Hitching a ride!
This group a seals found a floating dock to use as a place to catch some rays — and to play in the surf.
Birds have been more difficult for me. Here are some of my first attempts at taking photos of birds. These were taking new Cape Horn.
Off the coast of Ushuaia, Argentina, there are groups of islands that are homes to various seals, sea lions, and water birds.
And of course, there are penguins!
So, I started looking for other opportunities. In the Canadian Maritimes, I was able to get a fox on a beach at sunset, I got “photo-bombed” by a seal near Cheticamp, and watched an eagle fish on Bras d’Or.
And finally, from near where I live, is Niagara Falls. If you look closely, you can see at least twobirds in this picture.
Uruguay is a nice place to visit, especially after the spending time in Buenos Aries. It has beautiful beaches, friendly people and a great, laid back energy. One of the best beaches is at Punta del Estes, with soft, white sand and clear water.
The capital of Uruguay, Montevideo, has beaches, stunning artwork and palatial buildings.
I barely got tp experience this wonderful country and I want to go back very soon!
Cemeteries can be interesting places to find some fascinating artwork as well as quiet places to walk in otherwise busy cities. Here are some of my favourite ones.
Père Lachaise Cemetery is Paris is well-known and has some very interesting statuary and “residents”.
La Recoleta Cemetery is the large cemetery in Buenos Aries with many famous Argentinians buried there, including Eva Perón.
I stumbled upon a massive cemetery in Sao Paolo, Brazil. I thought it had interesting art, then I came to the edge of the cemetery and saw there was so much more. This is the largest cemetery I’ve every seen.
I could write about how beautiful Ushuaia, Argentina is. Or, I could write about the wildlife or the beauty of Tierra del Fuego. But I already wrote about my experiences here. So I am going to just share the pictures again and remember the time I was at the end of the world. I hope you enjoy my memories of Ushuaia as much as I enjoyed making them.
Just like cities, there seems to be one palace that many are compared to — Versailles. It may be the sheer size of the palace, or the ornate gardens. Whatever it is, all palaces seem to be compared to Versailles for one reason or another. By why should palaces be compared to another – each one has some that makes it unique and and reflects the locale. Here are some of my favourite palaces.
I wish this post could move to April 15th, as that marks my ten-year anniversary as a landed immigrant to Canada! This is as close as I can get to celebrating my Canadian status as an immigrant and use this as an “I” word in the #atozchallenge. I do have other immigration stories to share from my travels, so I hope you enjoy them!.
Some immigration experiences are the same, no matter how you enter a country and, if you have come off a long flight, you are tired, hungry, etc. and this makes the experience very boring indeed. I’m sure we could find a more pleasant way to enter a country besides long lines to face someone sitting in a booth who stares at you and then stamps your passport. The immigration officers have to hear the same stories ad nauseum because they have to ask the same questions over and over again. They are probably bored, tired and hungry too!
Here are some of my more memorable immigration experiences.
Frankfurt, Germany airport When you plan flights and connections, do not book a connecting flight within an hour of your previous flight if you are going through this airport. Chances are very good you will not make the connection. To anyone who has done this and made the connection, BRAVO! If you are coming from North America to Frankfurt, chances are good that you are landing early in the morning – and that you have had a “marvelous” transatlantic flight with screaming children and snoring companions. When you land, they park large planes away from the terminal and load you into buses. But, instead of loading a bus and heading to the terminal, ALL passengers from one plane have to be loaded into multiple buses and then all the buses travel together to the main terminal. This has been my experience on two occasions. Once in the terminal, you “follow” multiple and confusing signs until you come to a dreaded line – everyone has to go through a security check & then immigration, even if you are connecting to another flight! You never leave a “secure” area, however you have to be scanned and checked again (and no liquids – so drink any water you have!). I now try hard to plan alternate routes that do not take me through the Frankfurt airport.
The Santiago, Chile airport is easy by comparison. When you arrive, there are two lines – one for people staying in Santiago and one for people with connecting flights. The connecting flights line includes a scan of your carry-on baggage and a check of your ticket and passport. The difference between this and the Frankfurt airport is the whole process is much smoother and faster. Then, once you arrive at your new gate – there are bars to get a pisco sour. Perfect!
Most places I arrived by ship are easy. Cruise passengers usually use their shipboard card or SeaPass as a “passport” to get in and out of the country (and very important to get on and off the ship) – and can leave your passport on the ship. I usually carry a copy of my passport and other photo id with me with me, in case there is a need. I had a panic moment in Venice while I was on the train that goes back to the cruise terminal — and I could not find my SeaPass. But, I did find it and all was good.
There are some ports that make do not allow usage of the ship’s card. In Tunisia, we had to take our passports and each person had to show the passport, but they did not stamp it unless you asked for it! In Alexandria, Egypt, I used my SeaPass card, but my passport was stamped on board the ship – it’s a cool stamp, too.
St. Petersburg, Russia was the most interesting. We had to fill out an immigration form and have a copy of either a visa or a information from the tour operator contact. If you book a tour, either with the ship or a private company like SPb Tours, your visa is taken care of. Without a vise, you cannot enter. Once off the ship, you go to a building and wait in one of several lines as one person at a time goes to stand between two sliding doors while the immigration officer (usually a woman) checks your papers and stamps your passport – without a word or a smile. Challenge – try making one of them smile. I think a got a little “smirk” but it was gone quickly!
My easiest experience was the Athens airport – there was no one to check any documents. I’m hoping it was because we had been doubly checked in Frankford, Germany. I will say it made me a bit nervous – that is until I got to me hotel and there was a little bottle of ozo waiting for me!
So, next time you are standing in one of the long immigration lines at the airport of sea port – take a book, keep your headphones on and bring a lot of patience. Maybe you can even get the immigration officer to smile!
One of the choices you have when taking is cruise is about whether or not to take an excursion when in port. The ship offers a number of excursions for passengers to take – and mostly you will be crowded into buses with 40+ people from the ship, a tour guide / mother hen and a driver. If you plan ahead of time, you can also arrange for private excursions with other passengers. These tend to be smaller – 8 to 16 people — and you have the ability to adjust the tour to your needs. One of the best ways to arrange a private excursion is to sign up on a ship’s roll call in the forums on www.cruisecritic.com! You can also “go it on your own” and see what happens when you get to a port. This includes following your own plan, or grabbing a private tour looking for people, or the “hop on, hop off bus” that tends to be close to where many cruise ships dock. I have done all of the above – and there are reasons to experience each one. It just depends on what your needs are and how you like to travel. For this post, I am focusing on my best ship-organized excursion experiences.
Ship-organized excursions have a guarantee that you will make it to the ship on time. If you need this type of security, than this is a good option. In most places, the tour guide is licensed. The guide also gives you a running commentary on all things about the country, culture and places visited (this can get a little annoying if you just want to watch the world go by). For my first cruise, I used most of the ship’s excursions because I was nervous about making it back to the ship on time and I was not sure about “doing things on my own.”
Taking the excursion from Alexandria to Cairo was very important because there was an accident on the only road between the two cities and the all the buses were late getting back to the ship. We also had an armed guard with us on the bus. He realized I was alone in the group, and took a few pictures of me – and helped me out when a scammer almost stole my camera at Giza!
In Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, I took a historic tour of the city that included visiting the Senor do Bonfim church that is important to the Candoble religion in Brazil. Our group was small – about 20 German and English speakers – so it was as close to a private tour as we could get on a ship’s excursion. He was extremely knowledgeable of all the different traditions and religions in Brazil, and even talked about the different meanings of the Candoble ribbons and blessings you can receive.
One last experience is courtesy of a traveling companion. On a tour to Olympus, she discovered her camera was missing as we were heading back to the bus after a long day. We both panicked as we listed our options (forget the camera, look for the camera, miss the bus, take a taxi back to the ship …). We found the tour guide and told him our dilemma. He called one of the museums we had visited and the camera was there. We thought we would just take a taxi back, when the entire busload of people voted to wait for her as she ran back to the museum to get her camera – and they all applauded when she returned, camera in hand.
On our return to the ship, she went to the shore Excursion desk to fill out a comment card. They are so used to getting complaints that our comment card filled with thanks and compliments really touched them. The next day, they delivered a bottle of red wine to our cabin. Bonus!
For the second half of my travelling adventure, I decided to include a transatlantic cruise that would also include crossing the equator.
Sao Paulo: I started the adventure in Sao Paulo. Nothing prepared me for the number of people, the traffic, or the language barriers! But, that is what makes travelling n adventure — learning to face new challenges and opportunities. In Sao Paulo, I stayed at the LimeTime Hostel, which was very close to the Metro and Ave. Paulista. Of course, my first day out, I turned the wrong way and got lost looking for the Metro and Ave. Paulista, but I finally started learning my way around — and using the Metro was a great help! Want to do something different? If you are up early on a Sunday — which can be difficult because there are so many cool bars in Sao Paulo — head to the Benedictine Monastery for 10 AM mass. It is crowded, so unless you get there a little early, you may have to stand, but the singing is beautiful!
Santos: There is a bus that takes you from Sao Paulo to the beaches of Santos. It takes about 90 minutes and will stop right on the beach. I took the bus to the cruise terminal to join my ship, RCI’s Vision of the Seas. There were a few of us on the bus — and we all got a little nervous, not knowing the exact route the driver was taking through Santos. But we made it safely and got a mini-tour of Santos in the bargain. The beaches are beautiful!
Rio: It was really nice sailing into Rio — I sat ion my balcony and took pictures from a view many people in the city would never see! I was also very fortunate to hook up with a small group of people to “see the sites” and had an amazing lunch at a Brazilian BBQ place. I also had a moment of panic when I thought my group had left without me. I would love to spend more time here — preferably with someone and not on my own.
Crossing the Atlantic: I can say that I have not only sailed across the Atlantic, but I also sailed across the equator! This was 6 days of pure relaxation (when I wasn’t sick form a nasty cold).
Tenerife, Spain: Our first port after 6 days — and I needed to get back into nature. What a great place to experience the beauty of a volcano and this unique landscape. I want to go back and see more!
Funchal, Portugal: I had such a lovely day in Madeira — this is another place I want to return to and spend more time (and one of the reasons I cruise — get a “taste” of different places to decide where to return to!).
Lisbon, Portugal: I love Lisbon — great food,wine, entertainment and beautiful architecture — so much to take pictures of! I stayed at the Living Lounge Hostel — a wonderful spot in the heart of the city. I never seem to have enough time in Portugal!