Thursday, 16 February 2017

Thursday 9th February - Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel, The Azores.

It's been six days since we left Barbados.  It wouldn't have mattered where we landed, as long as we landed.  As it happens, we docked into Ponta Delgada at about 7 am this morning, and everyone on board ship is very happy about it.  It feels good to walk on ground that doesn't suddenly lurch up to meet you. 
Peter and I were determined to take advantage of the sensation and went ashore straight after breakfast.

Ponta Delgada - A city that the Toon Army would be proud of - it's all symmetry and black and white patterns.  I'm told that seeing patterns everywhere gives us humans the illusion of being in control.

Whatever the reason, it is very pretty.The roads and pavements are made of small black and white stone blocks in a vast array of mosaics. They seem to be very hard wearing and patterns are quite lovely.  These are the City Gates or "Portas de Cidade".

But we've taken a bus ride on this stuff (see Cape Verde).  It's not the smoothest of surfaces to drive on and I bet mechanics are making a fortune fixing vehicle suspension problems.  And I reckon there's a good chance that doctors have to do the same for people after they've rattled around in said vehicles for a few years.
And this tree is amazing. It's a metrosídero, also known as a Pōhutukawa, or a New Zealand Christmas tree, or an iron tree. It's evergreen and the was given to the island by Australia in 1870. In the summer it blooms with beautiful bright red pompom flowers. The branches are being held up with metal scaffolding type poles, and the air roots make it look like the tree has a beard. Maybe they should be grey? I mean, it's 140 years old.

I dunno what the locals do to their trees, or how the trees survive it, but the stubby tree on the left is quite normal here and in Madeira.  I tried to get an arty shot with the sun and the blue sky, but failed, so I've posted this one instead, it's outside the Forte de Sao Bras.

A Micro Library>>>
How cool is that!

And last but not least a couple of examples of graffiti.  Awesome!

After exploring all morning, we were out again after lunch to take advantage of the local wi-fi and escape the confines of the ship for as long as possible.  All too soon it was time to leave and start the last leg of our cruise.  We've got three sea days until we reach home, and the weather forecast is not good.  Fingers crossed it's not too bad either.  

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Wednesday 8th February - 6 Sea Days later

Six days at sea is a long time.  Every effort is made by the entertainment to keep the passengers occupied - but we are all confined to the space of the ship - and everyone is well and truly ready to get off.

The first of the six days started out a little rough. A 3-4 metre high swell had the ship pitching forward and back, and the passengers not quite sure whether they felt ill or not, me included.  Not a nice day.  Peter resumed his classes and his trainee artists were all coming out of the class with smiles on their faces.

On the second sea day, the Captain's voice came over the tannoy system.  (Uh Oh!)  He announced that the bad weather and current were slowing the ship down, and he didn't think it was going to improve any.  As a result he and the powers that be had decided to cut Horta, and we'd have an extra sea day before getting to Ponta Delgada.  Groans all around.  I'm just thinking that I don't like the rough sea, and and extra day on it does not sound appealing.  As it happened the sea started to smooth out.  Not so bad after all.

The next four days were more or less smooth sailing and good weather.  Robin the Whale Man spotted a few sperm whales and dolphins leaped around our bows occasionally. Quizzes and Bingo, exercise and dance classes, demonstrations and lectures, bean bag bowls and shuffleboard have filled the days for many. Peter ran his art classes in the morning and worked on paintings and online students in the afternoon. I've managed to sort out loads old photographs, deleting hundreds, spent time on deck and we've both done a lot of reading.  And as always, I've been listening to gossip and conversations going on around the ship.

There have been loads of theories as to why we are not going to Horta.  Naturally, not one of them matches the Captain's explaination of bad weather and sea currents.  Peter and I have been pointing out the chart that is printed out daily and pinned up in the reception area.  It's been showing that the ship is following some really nasty sea conditions, which have been moving ahead of us for the last four days. I'm glad that the Captain hasn't caught up with it, and if that means missing out Horta, then I'm very happy to do so.

One of the passengers complained because Nureyev (the statue on the back deck) is naked. Another passenger complained that the Cruise Directors trousers were too tight.... to the Cruise Director.  I heard a passenger complaining that all the lecturers were rubbish, apart from the photography lecturer, and then someone else complained that the photography lecturer was rubbish and the only good one was the Whale Man.  Yesterday, a gentleman on the table next to me complained that all the other passengers were boring and that he was very disappointed that he'd not met someone he wanted to chat to a second time! I suppose it wouln't have been too bad if it wasn't for the fact that he was saying it to a woman he'd not spoken to before.

There's been a cold going around, which fortunately, neither Peter or I have caught. People have almost been in competition with each other over who has the worst symptons. Then there was the guy in the Bistro who was full of it, runny nose, hoarse voice, the lot.  He was complaining loudly about passengers who brought coughs and colds on board with them.  He said that everyone should have their temperature taken as they boarded, and anyone that appeared to be ill should be refused entry.  As he sat at the table bemoaning his lot to anyone who would listen, I was tempted to suggest that people who catch these things should stay in their cabins until they were well again. Unfortunately it could reflect on Peter, so I stayed shtum.

Reading that, you might think everyone on this ship moaned. But that's not true, most people are well mannered and good natured.  The only thing they complain about is people complaining.

But the long stretch of sea days is now done, and tomorrow we'll be in Ponta Delgada.  The captain has promised us bad weather after that and that chart in reception agrees with him. I'm keeping me fingers crossed that the good luck fairy that's been sitting on me shoulder since we started this cruise doesn't let me down, and that the weather will be fine.  But first, terra firma tomorrow.  Yesssssssss.

Thursday 2nd February - Bridgetown, Barbados

We had one plan today.  No tours and we were going to the beach we'd visited when we came out this way in April last year. Barbara, one of the other craft lecturers joined us, and we headed for "The Boatyard".

The Boatyard is a bar on the beach just outside the town centre.  It's walkable from the cruise terminal and takes about 20-30 minutes.  Once there, there's a charge which includes a taxi back to the ship, your first drink, and use of the sunbeds, parasols, showers and loos etc.  We got there in the afternoon last year, and I think the charge was about $10 each, which we thought was acceptable. Today we arrived at about 10am and they wanted $20 each.  We'd said we didn't want a taxi back, but that didn't change anything so we turned around and left, and made our way to a beach entrance we'd seen earlier.

The Pirate Cove charged us $8 each.  Admittedly, there was no free drink or taxi, but then, we didn't want them. We just wanted a lazy, lazy day on the beach and I need the parasol. That is exactly what we got. No photo's today, but I can tell you that the sand was white and the sea was blue and clear.  We spent our day swimming, snorkelling and drying off on the loungers between swimming and snorkelling.  We enjoyed a buffet style caribbean lunch of brown rice, beans, breadfruit and beef stew. The mashed breadfruit tasted like mashed potato, it was really nice. And we finished it all off with icecream.  Idyllic. When it reached the time for us to go back, both Peter and I had turned a little pink, but not enough to be painful.

So now were nice and relaxed ready for the 5 sea days ahead before we get to the Azores.  Keep your fingers crossed that the weather is going to be good for us.