Mediterranean trip

Day 1 — Barcelona. We boarded our ship, the Marina, at Barcelona’s port and had lunch on board. It isn’t a huge cruise liner — it’s pretty small compared to most, with fewer passengers. Decks 12, part of 13 and 14 were open-air with beds and deckchairs for relaxing on. Service staff were diverse in origin, with every country in the world represented.

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After dropping our bags, we walked through the Barcelona city center for a couple of hours before all aboard at around 5PM.

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My first impression of Barcelona was that it was very overbuilt. The old city at least is completely paved and walled in stone, with not a stitch of grass and only a few trees. It didn’t have any of the grandeur of Paris or Vienna, and something about the place kinda reminded me of San Francisco (possibly the palm trees) and a bit of Italy (but not Rome). In the evening, I watched the stunning sunset from our verandah and had dinner at Jacques, the onboard French specialty resto.

Day 2 — Valencia. The architecture in Valencia was pretty similar to that of Barcelona, except that we went on a tour and got to see and understand a lot more of the city’s sights (including the City of Arts and Science, which was clean-cut and futuristic, with eye-shaped buildings and glass domes, stark white arch-shaped structures and exceedingly manicured gardens). We assembled for tours in the Marina Lounge, where they had a really efficient system of organizing passengers into bus groups and staggering our departures to minimize discomfort.

IMG_2750Marina Lounge

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IMG_2834I didn’t manage to capture good shots of the City of Arts and Sciences because I was in the bus mostly, but there are good shots here.

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IMG_2925In the afternoon we visited the Valencia Cathedral, or the Chapel of the Holy Grail. I was pretty amazed by the sheer ancient-ness of that cup — it’s about 2 millenia old. That’s crazy. (My sister would not stop singing “Holy Grail” by Jay Z after that)

Day 3 — Palma de Mallorca. We went along with my uncle’s family on this trip, so we didn’t always pick the same tours (for Valencia we did, but not for Palma and most of the other locations). They picked some Flamenco cultural tour while we picked Soller vintage train ride. Soller is a small town in the mountains, so in the morning we set off for the mountains. It was not the last time we went to mountains this trip — in fact we went to the mountains almost every day. Both Soller and Palma were picturesque, I took loads of photos.IMG_2929IMG_2943

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IMG_3018Day 4 — Cruising. As the rain from the morning subsided, I saw 2 full rainbows, complete semicircle arches, on the water. It was an amazing sight — I’ve never seen a full arch.  Spent most of the day up in the boardroom playing Trivial Pursuit and occasionally Uno. After our usual lunch in the Terrace Cafe (casual dining buffet joint) my siblings and I spent some time lying out on deck reading / relaxing since the weather was good and not too cold.

IMG_3028I was unable to capture the full arch from my verandah. I actually spent a good hour just sitting out on the verandah looking towards the horizon. It was a liberating, even humbling experience. The ocean is incredibly vast and wild, and there are whole worlds living underneath it. It made me think back to PJO, and how immense a power control over the sea would be. Seated there, I could momentarily forget all my petty concerns and anxieties — for how could I think of such insignificant constraints when surrounded by something so free?IMG_3055 Afternoon tea at Horizons, the onboard lounge with a live band.

Day 5 — Trapani, Sicily. In the morning, we set off on our pilgrimage up the mountains, this time by cable car. Our destination: Erice, a hilltop village. It had a completely different feel from Soller, which was bright and quaint. Erice was misty, more ancient, “darker”. The altitude was high enough such that we were standing in a cloud. As I walked through the village, “Smoky Mountain Memories” was constantly resounding in my head.

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IMG_3103In the afternoon we descended back into Trapani and strolled through the (empty) streets. Most people were siesta-ing.

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IMG_3163Day 6 — Palermo, Sicily. I was unimpressed by the city. It’s the capital of Sicily, but was nowhere near as charming as Trapani. Contrary, it was sprawling, unkempt, and just unpleasant. We opted for a Panoramic tour which began on the mountains in a grotto.

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Day 7 — Rome. We docked at Civitavecchia, and took a 1.5h coach ride into the eternal city. Thanks mostly to Heroes of Olympus, I was really enthusiastic for this stop. We didn’t take up any tours, opting to roam on our own (lol, I just realized that the tour package, as in cost of coach, was called ‘Rome on your own’). We went from some square (I really can’t keep up with the names) to the Spanish steps, through the central shopping district, to the Trevi fountain, then some white war monument, and then lunch at a Jewish restaurant and the Colosseum. Rome is beautiful and grand (probably comparable to Vienna), and even seeing the “Senatus Populusque Romanus” sewer covers was exciting. Everything is just so steeped in history and so ancient, remnants of what was once the heart of the Roman empire. At the Trevi fountain, my siblings and I did the customary throwing-money-from-your-right-hand-over-your-left-shoulder-into-the-fountain thing, which apparently means that you’ll return to Rome one day. My parents told me that when I was seven I did the same thing when we visited the Trevi fountain.

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IMG_3341At the Jewish restaurant we had whole artichokes. We also chanced upon the ruins of Rome’s old opera house (which really kind of looked like the Colosseum).

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Screen shot 2013-12-12 at PM 10.43.25Peddlers were selling wares all around the streets, and some of their oil paintings were really well done. We did consider buying one, but only got round to doing so by the time we reached Camden Market on the last day of the trip.

That wraps up half the trip, the rest (Siena & San Gimignano, Mallorca & Cassis, Barcelona, and London) will be continued whenever I get round to posting, and hopefully that’ll be soon.

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