A Sunday Walk in Barcelona

The holiday is almost over – Berti, Cleo and Demi left at 4.30 this morning to fly back to Italy and Fabio has gone on with the Royal Princess to Fort Lauderdale, where it’s relocating to do the Caribbean cruise circuit.

Marg, Vashti, Jez  and the children are heading out to Park Guell and although I love that park,  we decided to walk the streets of Barcelona. The weather is gorgeous so we headed off about 10am and the streets were so quiet. The party obviously didn’t end until the early hours and everyone is sleeping in. And we thought we were late!

We walked up Passeig de Gracia and came to one of my favourite Gaudi houses. Casa Batilo

Other tourists were hitting the streets and a small queue was forming at Casa Batilo’s ticket office.

One thing I have learned this trip is to pre book everything! If you don’t then you won’t get in. The La Sagrada Familia  is fully booked today ( I tried yesterday to book online) so we will only be walking around it’s magnificence today.

We continued along the wide Passeig, Boulevard style road with its trees giving a dappled appearance to the already decorative buildings. Then we came to La Pedrera, Casa Mila. Another famous Gaudi building.

The detail in the iron work is amazing.

From here we strolled along letting our feet take us in the direction of La Sagrada Familia. Sundays are wonderful for strolling in a big city.

There are lots of little parks running down the middle of the wide streets. The locals love them. Living in apartments they must be keen to get outdoors and these parks are like their backyard.

I remember Rob said he often went and sat in the parks , using the free internet (yes there’s lots of free internet in these big cities) and practising his Spanish on the locals.

I loved this statue. It’s seems everyone likes a gelato!

I love these doors –  now an entrance to that underpriced fashion temple!

And then,  suddenly there it was. The most famous building in Barcelona – if not all of Europe.

I love it for its boldness, its bravery, it’s quirkiness. What a vision. But it probably will never be finished because then they’ll have to stop charging people to enter – it will be a working church.

Since my last visit about 7 years ago it’s grown and changed so I wonder what another few years will bring. Some sections look like they could already do with a clean.

Then when you glance across the road the buildings are so plain. That’s the way Gaudi wanted it I believe.

The flags of Catalunya are out in support. There was a huge peaceful demonstration yesterday. It’s proving to be a big issue for the government today. So, every country has its issues.

We continued on and walked back zig-zagging streets until we reached the big old Cathedral. And found a big party. A food festival. Bands played. People danced. And ate and drank wine. The chatting and laughter was infectious.

What a party.

We made our way towards Santa Maria del Mare a large Gothic style church- an area we stayed in years ago with Pete, Clare and Helen. We stopped to rest and have some tapas at Tallers. It has great tapas and we tried a variety of really delicious dishes. With a little Sangria Tinto.

With renewed energy we continued walking near the Picasso museum and discovered it was a day called The Big Draw. I thought it was a raffle but it was areas of tables set up encouraging everyone to draw. It was fantastic to watch.

Parents were there with their kids drawing , in between drinking wine and eating.

The old masters, Miro, Picasso and Dali  looked on.

Miro, Picasso and Dali

Then we made our way back to the hotel, stopping for a gelato on the way.

El Born market place. Now home to creative projects

A street garden in the middle of a street!

Sunday at the local looks fun

Perfect day for a stroll

Perhaps JORDAN needs a flower girl for her wedding?

Cameras around the city hall building waiting for some ‘news’

Feeling thirsty? No need to worry. There’s always a tap available.

And so our Sunday walk ended.

Then we had a rest and on the TV we found the Spanish love to build body towers. It was scary to watch children climb to the top.

You’ve got to love the spirit of the Spanish.

Hotel: http://www.mobile.hotel-lleo.com


Don’t fall!


Barcelona. A favourite 

Today we disembarked at Barcelona – this beautiful city that was home to Rob for 5 seasons of waterpolo.
It’s lovely to be back. The buildings are amazing. The weather fantastic and the food. Yum.

So far we haven’t done too much. The children chased the pidgeons in Placa De Catalunya whilst we waited to get into our hotel.

Then lunch in a nearby tapas bar before a walk to my favourite food markets.

Now we’re at the Hotel Lleo a rather nice modern hotel chosen by Berti. Great wifi! And a pool for the kids.

Tonight a vegetarian tapas bar!

Barcelona I ❤️you. Despite there being warnings to stay away from La Rambla tonight as there is another protest over the proposed Catalan separation.

Tomorrow la Sagrada.

Farewell to Cruising

Our 10 days has flown.

Our time together at sea is ending. But boy what a time we’ve had.

How the children have kept going is amazing – though I think we are all tiring after the ten days of activities and eating and drinking.

We had the usual ‘sail away’ drinks to farewell Toulon.

We hadn’t been to Toulon before and spent a few hours wandering the narrow French streets window shopping. It’s a big port and has the usual yachts clanging providing a water soundtrack for the bars lining the port.

There is a good looking Opera House and some interesting street murals.

The markets were on. Mostly fruit and veg looking so good it makes you want to cook.

And the flowers.

Back on board via the shuttle boat – we were about 20 mins away from the downtown Marina, in time for sail-away drinks.

Then it was pack up,  as bags are deposited outside the room tonight to make it a quick disembarkation tomorrow.

Our last dinner we had on the outside deck right at the back of the ship. Really lovely.

Then a peak at the Voice of the Ocean – complete with turning chairs. A lady from California won sinking “My Way”! An oldie but a goodie.

And so to bed for the last time on the Royal Princess.

Birthday at Sea

Today we celebrated my sister-in-law’s birthday. My lovely nieces Vashti and Berti had prepared a t-shirt to be worn by all – all day.

We started with champagne breakfast (but passed on the champagne!)

Marg’s grandchildren adore her and are always trying to sit next to her!

We went ashore at Ajaccio and had a mini-train ride. It was something like a scene out of a movie. The Runaway Train. He scooted along the seafront and being, in the back carriage, we swayed and rolled about.

I found a Vespa I’d rather have taken!

We celebrated with a lovely dinner all together followed by cake in Berti and Fabio’s stateroom.

Then it was dancing in the Piazza until the 11.15 pm balloon drop. Quite spectacular.

What a day.

Happy Birthday 🎉 to Marg.

Sea Day. 

A day at sea is a change from exploring a port each day. Everyone on board seems more relaxed.
What does at sea look like?
The buffet is well attended at all times of the day but breakfast is popular. People are making new friends and greetings are getting friendlier.

There are two buffets which run next to each other. The first looks more casual and the food is slightly more casual – some lighter options. The second one has darker furniture and has more heartier options.

Both theme a part of their choices to the port we are in. Along with all sorts of food (which change daily) we’ve had Italian, Croatian, Montenegrin and Greek food. We can look forward to Italian and Spanish.

The food is good in the buffets and very good in the 7 or so restaurants on board. There’s hardly ever any waiting in line and it’s fresh and tasty.

Today as I walked around the ship observing my fellow travellers. The ‘walk a mile’ circuit is well used. There’s a fast or slow lane and a woman in a pink Lycra shirt powers her way around every day. The Japanese stroll, the Americans sweat, the Germans charge, the English potter and the Australians – well I walk with purpose and avoid holding any runners up!
There is also a basketball court, a driving range and about 2,000+ deck chairs. There’s always a deck chair when you need one.

Today there’s a huge number of activities. From prayer group to AA meetings, quiz games, bridge, Mahjong, knitting and bingo, silent auctions, concerts, singalong, dancing, outdoor films, ice carving, cooking demos and today a Mr Sexy legs competition (and I’ve left lots out!).

We have an app on our phones where we can message each other, make bookings, build a daily planner, keep track of our spending (we buy alcoholic drinks unless we bought the beverage package!)

This ship has thought of everything and I’m surprised to say I’m enjoying it all. You have to throw yourself in and have fun.

Today I went to the cooking show then a tour of one of the kitchens. It’s amazing. Huge, clean as a whistle and super organised. Then we went to the ice carving demo by the pool. A swan appeared out of a block of ice. Next up the Mr sexy legs. We wanted Kenrick, hands down the best looking bloke on board, to enter but he has his standards and refused!

I spent an hour in the cabin on the sunny verandah just reading and suddenly it was appertivo time!

Also formal night.

We had our cocktails in the Main Piazza and all the kids had a dance and a few adults.

Then it was the time for the Hawley Show. A magic illusion show. It was fantastic. CLEO and Demi had seen it before and kept giving us hints as to what came next! I truly don’t know how they do these tricks!

Then lobster dinner in the dining room for adults. Kids went off to the kids club. Oh what a cruise. Something for everyone.

Tomorrow Corsica and Marg’s birthday.

Good Morning Corfu

We woke up in Corfu today.

It was a super smooth trip. You can barely feel the movement of the ship at all.

Last night we had aperitifs in Berti and Fabios little apartment. Fabio had organised some wonderful nibbles.

Then it was off to the Crooners Bar and the Princess Show

Today we are doing the first and only organised tour. To the Achilleion Palace. Built during the 1880’s by Empress Sissie (or Elizabeth) of Austria as a summer Palace.

It has beautiful gardens with an array of statues and light airy rooms.

Once again I realised why we don’t like group tours!  They move so slowly.

But the drive in the bus out of Corfu town was a  good way to check out the countryside.

Formal Night

Our first full day at sea was long but gave us time to enjoy the boat’s facilities.

I enjoyed a massage, and in the afternoon played bingo with the children.

Every time we pass the ships officers’ photos the kids stop and point to Fabio.

CLEO pointing to her dad with cousin Soraya

The excitement mounted as we prepared for the formal night. We raided Aunty Gwen’s jewellery box.

The formal night is a time to introduce the officers and to christen the cruise with a champagne waterfall. You get the climb the steps and add to the flow.

After dinner another show!

This cruising has its appeal!

This morning we woke in Dubrovnik.

First stop Naples

A quick comfortable overnighter to wake up in Naples.

Many people don’t like Naples (or Napoli as it’s called locally), and there certainly is a seedy side to it – but you have to spend a little time here to really enjoy it.

We were here in about 2003 when Rob played for the Australian under 20’s – and for nearly two weeks. We shared a flat with Peter and Elizabeth McGregor, who at that time were very new waterpolo friends, and who have become great friends over the years. Our apartment was on Corso Vittorio Emmanuel up 96 stairs and it was hot ☀️🌞🔥. We had great fun exploring the city and the areas surrounding it. So my advice is if you want to get to know Naples,  stay away from the tourist areas, certainly away from the railway station, and stay for a week in an apartment. It’s real Italy.

So today when the ship berthed right in the centre of the city, Steve and I headed for an island we hadn’t been to before. Ischia is about 40 mins by fast ferry and is the summer escape for people from Naples and Rome. If you’ve read the book by Elena Ferrante called My Brilliant Friend, you’ll remember her talking about her summers on Ischia.

It’s quieter than usual on the island  now that summer is over. We walked along the port and around to the beach. It’s lined with deck chairs all roped off into private areas belonging to various cafes. I don’t really get this private beach thing that happens over here.

We decided to get a bus around the island to the Giardini la Mortella. This beautiful paradise of a garden was created  by Susana and William Walton. He was one of Britain’s  most important composers of the 20th century (Facade Suite etc.) and Susana his Argentinian wife was a talented gardener.

It’s the most beautiful place with the paths wandering around a large site looking towards the sea with hidden gardens and stone stairs and hideaway areas to sit. There’s a museum and a small concert area where his music is performed in concert from time to time.

Back on the very crowded bus where the ‘ Italian princes’ (rather spotty teenagers) occupied all available seats and left the old and cranky standing.

Our ship stood towering over the harbour and we walked back on to join the family who’d spent the day at Pompei. The kids were tired and hot and spent the next two hours splashing in the pool.

Fabio organised our table for dinner at Concerto restaurant and had someone go ashore to buy fresh mozzarella for the chef prepare an antipasti plate – just for us! We had a lovely night before collecting the children from the evening kids club and heading off for the live musical production starting at 10.15pm! It was great fun.

Some were setting their alarms for 4am when we were due to pass Mt Stromboli in the Aeolian Isalnds. It’s still active and apparently can glow during the night. Not sure I’ll be up!

Next stop Messina. We’ll pass through the Straits of Messina where Steve swam last year so that will bring back some memories.