Thursday, September 19, 2019

October 26, 2018 – Sete, France – Partly Cloudy – 65F

Sete, France is the country’s largest Mediterranean fishing port.  Sete has a series of canals that are reminiscent of Venice.  It is our first visit to this port.


It's a chilly day today in the south of France.  The port is very close to the city of Sete and we will check it out later.

We are on tour today – “Camargue and Aigues Morte” – Camargue is a nature preserve with a large population of flamingos and Aigues Morte is a walled city from the 13th Century built by King Louis IX - later to be Saint-Louis.

It is about an half hour to Aigues Mortes from Sete; Although Camargue is on the way to Aigues Morte, our bus must have passed it pretty quickly as I didn't see any town.  I did see the famed flamingos out in the water - there were quite a lot of flamingos but I could not get a decent picture of them from the bus.

Aigues Mortes, which means "dead water' or "stagnant water" is a well preserved Medieval walled city with a current population of about 8300 people.  Our guide gave us some background information on the city before letting us off on our own to shop or check out the restaurants.  The following photos of the city clearly point out the medieval character.  The walls are impressive and the streets are narrow.  You enter the city through a series of gates.

The first sight we visited on arrival was the Tower of Constance.  This structure was built in 1242 on a site of a previous tower built by Charlamagne (about 500 years earlier).  The tower is over 120 feet tall and about 70 feet in diameter.  Trees obstructed the view of the tower but I still got a pretty good shot.

The main square - The Square of Saint-Louis - contains a statue of the king

as well as a nice garden area and restaurants.

We stopped in at El Mio, a restaurant in the square.

The cafe owner spoke very little English but I managed to get my order in.  I brought a baguette for 80 Eurocents and a coffe and creme (3.50 Euros) and dipped the bread into the coffee (heavenly).

We checked out the various shops looking for trinkets (mainly magnets) but were unsuccessful in finding any.  Shopkeepers were all very friendly and helpful.

We got back in time to have lunch in the Oceanview Café and then go back out and see the town of Sete.  Since you can’t walk in the pier area, the port authority provided a free shuttle from the ship to the entrance of the port.  From there, you just have to walk across the street to get to the town.  

The town was not as non-descript as Shorex made it out to be.  Sete reminded me of a less dark and moldy Venice. There are canals but there are also streets.  We had low expectations but were pleasantly surprised by this cute little town. The weather was good and the outdoor cafes were bustling with locals.

On particularly interesting statue called "A La Gloire des Joutes" statue of a boy with a pole and a shield.  It commemorates the sport of water jousting which is jousting carried out on boats - a tradition in Sete.

Showtime tonight was the Production Show, “The Land of Make Believe” – we saw this mashup of Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and other fairy tales six years ago on the Constellation.  Some of the songs have changed but it is both silly and entertaining.  The new singers and dancers performed well (almost all of the cast came on board this cruise).

A pleasant day in the South of France.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

October 25, 2018 – At Sea – Mediterranean Sea – Sunny and pleasant

I ordered room service because I had an early presentation this morning.  I got up at 7:00AM and waited for the knock but none came – I checked the door and the order card was still on the door.  I ordered via phone but I was afraid that the order wouldn’t get here in time so I ran upstairs and quickly scarfed down a waffle with some toppings and some scrambled eggs.

I got ready and made it to the Celebrity Theater on time at about 8:45 AM for the 9:15 AM start of “Forensic Detectives: The Search for Jack the Ripper”.  I booted the computer and attached what I could but there were no AV guys in the theater.  At 9:10 AM, I went to Sam’s Office (she wasn’t there) and paged her.  Ellen took the phone while I went back to the theater to explain to the audience what was going on.  Ellen talked to Will and at about 9:20 AM of so someone did appear in the booth.  I ad libbed with the audience until the projectors booted up – I even joked about a playing card I found on the podium that was probably part of Jaimie’s act.  The turnout for the early morning talk was very good – more than a third of the theater.  I ended a couple of minutes after 10:00 AM which means I must have really gone quickly.  The Captain was on at 10:15 AM and there was enough time for him to get ready.  A crazy morning.

It was a totally beautiful day at sea - a good day to relax and read.


After dinner, we passed on the show and went to see Golden Vibes in the Rendezvous Lounge.  

We got a nice shot of the moon over the Mediterranean to round out the day.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

October 24, 2018 – Gibraltar, UK – Sunny – 70F

A beautiful day in the shadow of the Rock.  The Rock itself was flirting with dark clouds all day – the clouds stayed put just over the Rock – it was very interesting.  I also had a nice view of the port area.

From our stateroom, we could see Algeciras, Spain across the bay.

This time out we took a private shuttle from the port to the old city gates – 3 Euros/pp per ride.  As we drove there, the walk did seem to be a little more than we remembered it.  A good call.  

We walked around the shops in the main square – Casemates Square – 

where I found Crocs on sale for 10 pounds at a Pharmacy – I couldn’t find any nice size 12s so I bought a pair of black 13s.  They seemed to fit and were comfortable.  A very good price.

We walked all the way to nearly the end of Main Street, past the Synagogue, and Aphrodite’s Salon.  

We had tried to get massages here when we were last in Gibraltar but there were no openings.  This time, the Salon was being renovated and was going to reopen next week. 

We continued up the street and came across some interesting sights.  The Corps of Royal Engineers Monument - the monument dates back to 1704

And the War Memorial 

The memorial is also known as the British War Memorial and was dedicated in September 1923.  It commemorates the fallen soldiers in WWI.

In the many shops along the narrow main street, I also spotted a poster for "Dr. Strange" (Leo would like this).  

And a Lego Policeman.

We headed back to the ship and noticed a sign (not easy to find) for massages at “The Home of Your Beauty” at 125/1 Main Street (right side of the street as you climb up). They could take us both in an hour at 1:30PM.  We sat on one of the benches available on Main Street and snacked on items from the ship until it was time.  The massages were 45 GBP for an hour – everyone spoke pretty good English and the treatments were wonderful.

We also decided to take a shuttle back - after some back and forth about what currencies were acceptable (the Gibraltarians are very fond of their own money).

We watched the sail away from the Solarium. 

We departed in a lot of traffic.

Jaimie Allen – iMagician – was the headliner tonight.  He combines magic and high tech to produce his illusions.  He didn’t bring any of his techie stuff with him and did mostly standard coin and card slight of hand.  He did a couple of nifty tricks with his iPad. He has a pleasant personality and is entertaining.  He indicated he had a show at the Harris Theater in Chicago.

October 23, 2018 – Cadiz, Spain – Mostly Cloudy – 76F

A gray, cloudy, but warm day in Cadiz, Spain.

Cadiz in an ancient port city in Southwestern Spain - the city is home to the Spanish Navy.

Cádiz is also known for its watchtowers, which were popular from the 18th to the 20th Century. These towers were used to monitor the ships coming in to Cadiz harbor, not so much for defensive purposes but to signal the arrival of shipments.  Watchtowers of Cádiz are examples of Andalusian architecture, with North African aspects. Near the end of the 18th century, Cadiz had 160 watchtowers; today, 126 are still standing. 

Today, we are going to explore the city on our own.  The city is relatively narrow - you can walk from the harbor to the Atlantic Ocean easily.  

There were a number of very interesting installations right near the port entrance:

A Biplane

A Monolith

And a huge padlock

On our walk, we saw examples of Cadiz architecture 

As well as some of the city fabled Watchtowers 

We found the Cathedral of Cadiz, a Roman Catholic Church built between 1722 and 1838.

We also spent some time in the Plaza de Espana, with its impressive monument commemorating the Constitution of 1812.  There are equestrian figures and a statue of Hercules (representing Cadiz).  

We eventually made it to the Atlantic Ocean and the beaches.  When we were here in the 1990s, there was a statue on the beach and Ellen struck a similar pose.  A painting of that still hangs in our place.  This time, we could not locate the statue.

I did get some nice shots - despite the grayness of the day - of the Atlantic Ocean coastline North and South.

On our way back to the ship, we found a delightful little store selling Cadiz items (we wound up buying a set of plastic cups for the kids) as well as Cadiz versions of famous superheroes (the logos on their costumes were changed to avoid trademark issues).  These paintings and other objects were done by a local artist - we wound up getting a "Superman" magnet.  

Getting back to the ship was relatively easy even though we did log quite a few steps.

We watched the sail away but the dull gray of the day really took the pzazz out of the picture.

We were finally able to get a table for two in the San Marco Dining Room.  But it was really a linear table for six since the three tables were only about four inches apart.

The Headliner tonight was ex West End vocalist, Nick Page.  Nick is a terrific singer but his shows tend to be too loud.  Not so tonight.  He was great and his song choices were perfect.  Very enjoyable. 

We gave the duo - Two on a Boat – a shot in the Café al Baccio.  They had a peculiar singing style and we didn’t have the best seats.  So we migrated to the Rendezvous Lounge to catch the jazz band, Golden Vibes.  I believe they are from Argentina.  The vocals remind me of Astrud Gilberto mellow and they sound much better when the songs are sung in Spanish.  They are easy to listen to and they are at the correct volume for late evening listening.