Seville, Lisbon, at Sea and Madeira

Tuesday, May 02, 2017
Funchal, Madeira Islands, Portugal
Day 117. Cadiz ( Seville) Spain. 60-78, clear, sunny, cloudless sky.
How thoughtful of the Spaniards to have a national holiday on May 1st . Like so many other places we have been on a holiday, good news is no traffic; bad news is no shopping. Cadiz is the port gateway to Seville, which is 77 miles away. Seville is known for its magnificent Cathedral in the city center. So we decided definitely not go there, and go instead to the White Villages of Andalusia. We departed pretty early, almost at sunrise, so it was quite cool. We first did a brief panoramic tour of Cadiz, before heading into the beautiful southern Spanish countryside. We drove about 45 min., and to an elevation of 1000', to the village of Medina Sidonia. We were probably 30 miles inland, but from the vantage point of the top of the village, we had a 360 degree vista, and could see as far as the Atlantic. We wove our way on foot, through the upper village and arrived in the town square, where we were to have 30 min. free time. Not so great, at 9:15 am on a holiday, with nothing open. Well, one cafe opened, providing a potty break and a cappuccino for some. We then ambled further down through this very charming, white washed village to rejoin our coach . Next we drove 45 min. to Arcos de La Fronta. This white-washed village is home to some 30,000, so not so much a village as a fair sized town. Here, the streets were too narrow for the bus to take us to the top, so we got off at a mid-village square and rode a tourist train about 10 min. to the top. One couple insisted on walking, instead of taking the train, which totally screwed up all of our tour logistics. The 280 degree view from the top was magnificent, of farmland and rivers below. We toured one of three cathedrals (I thought we picked this tour to avoid cathedrals!) in this town, then returned to the plaza at the top of town for a drink and snacks at the Parador, on a patio with that 280 degree view. UBack to the issue with the walkers...after our beer/snack, as we gathered outside, one woman noticed her husband had been missing for at least an hour. So..we waited, waited, with who knows what searching going on. Finally after 45 min. of standing around the plaza, word came he was found, back at the bottom, so we descended back to the bus, missing 45 mins . of further exploration of this village. Actually, it would have been touring another cathedral, so we didn't really care all that much. All in all, it was a charming, relaxing tour, giving us a really nice experience of the South Spanish countryside. Back at the ship, I was greeted to a Regent Birthday Welcome in our suite. We celebrated poolside with Maggie, before, getting ready for dinner. We attended a cocktail lecture, by our astrophysicist lecturer. He is one of the few physicists who is totally entertaining and understandable (Steve Davis of course, excepted), and he knows it, which was quite amusing to us. After the lecture,Wyndham and Nancy joined us in Prime 7 for the Birthday dinner, complete with birthday cake!

Day 118. Lisbon, Portugal. 55-75. Cloudless blue sky.
One last Cathedral, one last castle! We arrived mid-morning, so got to sleep in. It was a beautiful day and beautiful sail up the Tagus River to our dock. Unfortunately, we were not docked at the normal cruise ship dock, which is walking distance to the town center, but were docked sort of by the shipping docks, on the outskirts of town . Anyway, our tour was "Unforgettable Old Lisbon", and once again we lucked out with a very knowledgeable and passionate guide. Lisbon, a very charming and unique city, had many similarities with San Francisco. It has a sister bridge to the Golden Gate, built by the same engineering firm and it has Cable Cars running throughout the city, actually used Cable Cars, bought from San Francisco. We first drove through the city to Alfama (where the other three mega cruise ships were docked) and had a guided walk through the old Quarter. We had head sets, so it was easy to walk these narrow, cobblestones alleys and hear our guides explanations. Many of the buildings have beautiful tiled facades. This is sort of a Lisbon trademark. At the top of the hill, we reached the main Lisbon Cathedral, which is one of the few surviving structures in Lisbon, after the 1755 earthquake and tsunami. Most of the town was rebuilt between 1755 and 1800, making it a planned and well built city. The Cathedral was kind of plain compared to others we have seen, but still quite lovely . From there we continued our panoramic tour of the city ending at the Adjuda Palace. Not really a Castle, this unfinished structure was built in the 1800's by the king and queen, as their royal home. It was filled with the original tapestries, artwork, photographs, furniture, and tablewares. Again, our passionate guide made it all very interesting. After our tour here, we continued past several other landmarks, before returning to the ship. If we had been closer to town, we would have roamed around and had lunch out, but cafes and shopping was a shuttle ride away, so at 2:30 when we got back, logistically, it was not worth going. Anyway, we needed time to get ready for the Grand BBQ on the pool deck, this one 50'-60's themed as "Jimbo's Truck Stop Diner". It was a hoot. The BBQ included meatloaf, mac 'n cheese, fried chicken, etc., with grand ma's apple pie, lemon meringue pie, and other truck stop favorites. Of course the Exec. Chef couldn't help himself and had to add a few other items, like whole roast pig, lobster tails, crime brûlée ....We danced to 50-60's jukebox music. It was a beautiful night and one of the most fun evenings on board. This party wrapped up in time for the 9:30 show, another nonstop performance by the Virtuoso pianist. We did have to do a quick change out of our jeans to attend this, but it was worth it.

Day 119. At Sea. 62-75, cloudless sky, seas 4-5'.
We left Portugal at 10:00 pm last night and are embarking on our crossing of the Atlantic, so we are headed home, and still loving it on board, but smelling the barn. This morning we had breakfast on the fantail, as it was in the sun and out of the wind. We saw whales while there. After, D. walked a mile, while G. continued whale watching. Back to the At Sea routine; two lectures in the morning, one by the astrophysicist and very funny to us, on the Demotion of Pluto from Planet, to Dwarf Planet, which is NOT a planet. Then, Jamie's noontime game and lunch poolside. The afternoon lecture was on the Atlantic Ocean, as was the other morning lecture . We dabbled in the Penny Slots a bit, then on to dinner. We think they made a mistake on our May 1st reservation, so we had an unexpected additional invitation to Prime 7 tonight, so ate there again with Wyndham and Nancy. We passed on the show.

Day 120. Funchal, Madeira, Portugal. 65-75, sunny.
We just loved this beautiful, charming place. The approach to the harbor is said to be one of the two most spectacular in the world; Rio de Janeiro being the other. We arrived at daybreak, followed into the harbor by the Queen Elizabeth, which docked beside us and, laughably, totally dwarfed us. Our tour today was just plain fun! We drove a mile to town, where we did a quick walk through quaint alleys with cafes and shops (all closed as it was 8:30 am) with brightly and amusingly painted doors. We then walked to the cable car station where we boarded 6 person cable cars for a spectacular 30 min. ride up 1500' to the top of the mountain. The spectacular scenery of the town was of white washed houses, all with red tiled roofs, covering the mountainside . From here, we did one last Church tour before getting onto these unusual 2 person wicker "toboggans" steered and controlled by two guys, for a wild 10 min., 1 1/2 mile ride down the mountain. It was totally a fantastic thrill/kick! We laughed the whole way down. Our tour next took us to a very pretty botanical garden, located about half way up the mountain. After that we went to an embroidery factory/store. This was walking distance to town, so we just bailed and walked to the very vibrant town center, filled with outdoor cafes and shops. There is a Flower Festival here this week, so the promenade center was filled with flower stands. The cafes on the promenade were pretty busy, so we ventured into an alley where we found several cafes favored by the locals, and we settled on one of them for a few beers and a cheese/pepperoni platter. We stopped at another cafe, for another beer as we made our way back to the ship. We had, what may be our last sail-away cocktail on our balcony. We are now at Sea for 5 days. Our captain just announced that he had changed the course across the Atlantic, because there is a big low pressure system....we should expect 15' swells, maybe more, on this new course, which is avoiding the really bad seas! Kind of reminiscent of our Pacific crossing! We ran to Reception to stock up on Dramamine before they run out.
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