Tag Archives: Europe

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.


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.


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.


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!


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!

“Choosing” a new adventure

I’m heading out on my next adventure — and this time, I really do not know where I am going.  Ok, I have a clue about where I am going, but the actual stops — that will be up to myself and my fellow passengers to decide.  You see, I signed up for the Fred.Olsen “Choose your Own” Cruise.  Here are the things I know.  I will be on board the Braemar, which is docking on October 10th in Southampton. Then, we are heading to the Iberian Peninsula. After that, the passengers choose where we go!

Here is a list of our choices:

I think this is going to be a fun adventure, so stay tuned for stories about my next trip!

Day 1 Saga of European Capitols Tour

Day 1: My saga of European capitols tour

So, finally my journey for 2013 begins. I’ve been planning this for over a year – and anyone who knows me can get a small inkling of how obsessive my planning can be. For Amsterdam I changed my hotel plans so I would be more “in the heart” of things and not sitting alone on a houseboat.  Both are aspects of myself – the centre of a crowd or the hermit – but this past year I’ve spent too much of my time as a hermit.  It was time to venture out and meet the world.So, what am I doing on my first night? I’m alone in my hotel room writing about my first day. Don’t get too down on me – I’m jet-lagged and feeling a bit like a drowned rat after an afternoon of pretending that I that the rain is not making me cold. Besides, I’m on vacation and I have several more days and nights to explore Amsterdam.

First impressions

KLM:  I’ve never flown on this KLM before and I really enjoyed it. Granted, my flights last year were 8 to 12 hours, so a short 6 hour flight “flew by”. But there was more to like than a short(er) flight. KLM has a handy app for smartphones that allows you to check-in and receive a boarding pass through your phone. Check-in was a breeze – I just showed the pass on my phone. I was also able to get an “economy comfort” seat for a little more – and it was worth it. There were only 2 seats on my aisle and we each had access to an aisle, so neither of us had to disturb the other.

Schipol Airport, Amsterdam: Easiest entry into a country ever (actually I should say easiest WITH a passport check because when I flew to Athens, the immigration people were on some sort of a break, so there was no checking at all). Once you get your bags, there is a train station right there – or follow the signs to the busses, which is what I did. There is a bus (197) that goes to Leidseplein where my hotel is. The cost was 4 Euros. Of course, once I got there, finding the right street was a bit of a challenge. I found one sign to point me in a direction — just not the way I thought it would be. So, my reading of the sign was a bit “off.” I finally asked someone (see Sue, I can learn) and soon found the right street and the right hotel.

Leidseplein: I could tell that a European football game had been played recently – the square had a lot of Brits drinking beer and one guy was dressed in a pink & black corset with fishnet hose. Too bad I was in “find my hotel” mode and not “take a picture of everything” mode. He was a brawny guy with reddish hair and a mustache – I’m sure you can fill in the rest of the details. Anyway, while it may be touristy, it looks to be a place where I could hang-out and people watch. There are lots of bars, restaurants and music venues. I also went searching for the Tango school that is in this area. Didn’t find the school, but found a street that has a number of South American-style restaurants (most Argentinian) so I’m on the right track. The milonga is on Sunday night, so I have time to find it.

Hotel La Boheme: This is exactly how I pictured it — great staff and nice, clean room. I have a single room and there are a total of 3 single rooms, all in the basement with shared washroom facilities. All the basement rooms can access a private terrace, so there is light and a way to get fresh air. I haven’t met Mimi, the cat yet, but I’m sure I will soon.

Hotel La Boheme
Hotel La Boheme
Hotel La Boheme Single Room
My Amsterdam home away from home

Food (people watching & bikes): I’m always hungry after a flight. I tried to ignore it today, but finally I needed to take shelter from the rain, so I ducked into the Grand Café Heineken Hoek and got a table overlooking a side street on Leidseplein. First off, do not EVER order nachos in a Northern European country. I learned this lesson in Munich where my hotel had a “Mexican” food buffet. Salami or bratwurst does NOT belong on an order of nachos. Fortunately, I knew this from past experiences and did not order the nachos with salami. What did I get? Fresh mint tea – made with real sprigs of fresh mint, a mushroom salad with asparagus, greens and bacon with Roquefort dressing, and frittes, severed with mayo, of course. It was very good and I got to learn about the rules of engagement with bicycles. Basically, bicycles rule everything – all other forms of transit wait for bikes. I wish more cities understood this – especially Toronto where they cut bike lanes instead of increase them. I would ride a bike in Toronto, if I felt safe but too many people get hit and it just feels too dangerous. There need to be protection and special bike lanes – real ones. In Amsterdam, bike lanes rule, no one wears a helmet, and you see all types of people riding (they ride talking on a cell phone, smoking a cigarette, carrying a passenger on the back fender, carrying a baby on the front handlebars…).

Transit & canal cruising: I got a transit pass for the time I am here – so this is easy. Lines 1, 2 and 5 go to and from the Centraal Station to Leidseplein. Tap the card when you enter a tram or bus, tap the card when you exit. I took the tram to Centraal Station to try to orient myself a bit (it helped) and to take a 1 hour canal cruise. The boats are covered, so it is something I could do in the rain – and I hoped I could get a better feel for the lay of the land (or in this case the water – it did not help, but the ride was enjoyable and I took some interesting pictures). 

Centraal Station, Amsterdam
Centraal Station, Amsterdam
Bridge over canal
Bridge over canal
Bridge over canal
Bridge over canal
Canal in Amsterdam
Canal in Amsterdam

Food part 2: By now, it was getting late – especially since I was running on the sleep I had during my flight – and I was hungry again. So, I decided to stay “close to home” and go to the Italian Trattoria next door. I had heard it was good and I was not disappointed, although the penne with “angry sauce” was the spiciest version of that sauce I’ve ever had! I was glad they served a nice bread to help balance the sauce.  During my meal, I saw something walk under one of the tables. Seems they have a ginger cat who casually walks through the restaurant, then sits at the door. Our health inspectors would not be too pleased, but it made me almost feel like home – at least he did not beg for food!

And that was my first day.