On the Rest of the Journey

This post is a synopsis of the rest of our trip. Previous post provided info about the most prominent stops. Not that the remaining stops don’t merit their own post, but I don’t want to drone on about this trip.


Gibraltar (UK)
I thought Gibraltar was a small peninsula with a big rock at it’s point. Wow, was I ever wrong because it’s primarily a rock with 30,000 people living around it’s base. We walked from the dock to the tram (which took us to the top), then we walked down, and back to the ship. Of all our days on this trip, this was our highest count of walking steps – 24,500+.

Gibraltar Whole Rock

Caves, tunnels, views, and monkeys entertained us on the way down. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of the airport with a main road crossing the runways, so see this 1-minute video. The return trip through the strait was at night … and with city lights on each side of the ship, one can tell Africa and Gibraltar are closer than one may think.

We visited Montserrat while in Barcelona. Located about 30 minutes outside the city, it’s a monastery located at the top of the Serrated Mountains. Within the altar is the Black Madonna. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to experience the stunning views because of the lingering fog – but we are glad we went. Because of the fog, here’s a link to a Google Images search to accompany mine.

Cadiz (KA diz) is the closest port to Seville (Sevilla), but getting there is a 2-hour trip in each direction. Given we were only in port 8-5, we first visited Jerez (the next section), then spent the afternoon in the Cadiz’s Old City. To me, Cadiz was the most unexpected surprise of the trip. The Old City was vibrant, and a grand cathedral serves as its hub. Thumbs up!

Jerez de la Frontera (Jerez)
From Cadiz, we took a ship’s tour to Jerez, a 20-minute ride from the port. Walking through it’s main square and past the Alcazar castle of the Moors, the focus of our tour was the Gonzalez Byass Bodegas that produces sherry (wine). We loved both the tour and the sherry samples.

Founded in 227 BC by the Carthaginians, today’s Cartagena is a small city for 200,000+ nestled in a small bay flanked by 5 mountains. The dock is close, so we strolled the streets to the Roman theater, the old bullring, the waterfront, and to the Castillo de la Concepcion for panoramic views of the city.

Palma de Mallorca
Palma de Mallorca, the largest city and capital of the Balearic Islands, was our first stop after leaving Barcelona. It was a Sunday, so many stores were closed and the local free walking tour we wanted wasn’t available. The weather was beautiful, so we made the best of what we could without a map.

Although more posts about this trip may appear over time, the links to past posts from the rest of the cruise are below.

Lisbon Sun Effect

On Malaga

Welcome to Malaga, Spain!
Malaga View Dock

Malaga (MA la ga) is a popular stop for cruise ships. After all, it’s the capital of the Costa del Sol and the port taking travelers inland to Granada and its famed La Alhambra. This city of over 500,000 residents has much to offer because it’s cosmopolitan – thus fusing the new with the old.

Malaga a resort city with nearby resort towns.

Atop a hill, the Alcazaba is a sign for Malaga’s past ties to the Moors …

While being just below a protective fortress (Castle of Gibralfaro), Alcazaba overlooks an older structure from Roman times.

The Old City is right there with the newer parts of the city in the distance and on the other side of the hill.

Predictably, a grand cathedral towers over the Old City.


We loved the other sights as we walked the narrow streets.

Yes – Malaga was a good port on its own – and to think I was going to cover Malaga with a handful of images in the next catch-all post.

On Lisbon

Given that neither of us had ever been to Portugal and we’ve heard many good things about it, we were looking forward to our 2-days in Lisbon. My initial plans was a 2-day exploration of the different neighborhoods and city center, but the one-day in Sintra throw the plan out the window. But our overnight stay on the ship gave us these views of the day ahead.

Our Scottish dinner friends (Alex and Evelyn) took a hop-on hop-off tour of Lisbon. It was a two-day ticket, and they unexpectedly gave it to us. The overview was good, and we still had some time to walk and explore. Here’s your quick tour of our beautiful day in Lisbon.

I’ve always thought Lisbon was on the coast, but it actually sits on the Tegas (Tejo) River, a short distance from the Atlantic Ocean. Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square) is a grand square along the river leading to the gates of the city (Baixa district – BYE shah). On our walk to Rosario Station to get our train to Sintra, we saw a lively city center.

Of the neighborhoods, I was most likely forward to Alfama, on old neighborhood a small hill east of Baixa. Dating back to the 6th century, it remains a bustling neighborhood with narrow streets and alleys. Lisbon still uses a few classic trolleys, and one accesses Alfama. Although we got to Alfama, the time was too short for me.

Belem is a district 3 miles (5 km) west of city center. It served as the send-off point for sailors, many who prayed at Monastery of Jeronimos – a very long structure with a beautiful church that houses the tomb of Vasa da Gama.

Belem anchors one end of a bridge that resembles San Francisco’s Golden Gate – yes – the same architect. The Belem Tower guarded the port and the Monument to the Discoveries (a salute to the early Portuguese explorers) are in a park along the water. The large Praça do Império (Empire Square) with a beautiful fountain sits in front of the monastery.

At 5 pm on the second day, it was time to sail away. Great weather and great views touched the heart. Son long Portugal, and may we meet again.

On an Unplanned Journey

When we started our trip, Sintra (SEEN tra) wasn’t on our radar – not even a thought. While on a free walking tour in Barcelona, a couple from New Zealand highly recommended it for our stop in Lisbon.

The cruise ship had tours to Sintra, which several of our dinner-table mates took, but we love to explore on our own. Fortunately, we had American travel guru Rick Steves’ Lisbon book along, which included Sintra – so we followed his suggestions, thus saw sights our fabulous dinner friends didn’t – so this post is for them. (Can you believe I didn’t tell them on the cruise that I was a blogger? … but I have sent them an email about this post.)

Back in the day, the aristocracy loved to retreat to Sintra. The vegetation, hilltop views, the narrow-valley setting turned the area into a collection of palaces and mansions. Lord Byron described Sintra as “glorious Eden”.

It was a 20-minute walk from the ship to Rosario station, where we caught the train to Sintra (11 Euros round-trip for two). After the nice 40-minute ride to the end of the line, we searched for bus #434 that Rick told us to find (10 Euros for 2 on the entire loop) – so up the mountain we went to the first stop. Again, following Rick’s suggestion, we purchased the combo ticket in order to avoid the lines at the next stop – and it worked!

The Castle of the Moors is a Portuguese national treasure and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Moors constructed the castle in the 8th century, and remained in control until the 12th century.

It’s location atop the Sintra mountain provides wonderful views in multiple directions, including the Atlantic Ocean in the distance. The town of Sintra is directly below (with the National Palace), plus one can see various palaces and mansions.

From this location, we could see our next stop sitting atop a nearby mountain – the Pena National Palace – another UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Pena started as a chapel in the late 15th century, and eventually became a monastery. In the 19th century, Portuguese royalty expanded it into a palace of multiple designs and color.

The inside was predictably opulent.

… and we could easily see the Castle of the Moors.


Before ending this post, here’s a quick tour of town. Sintra quaint with many shops. The National Palace (the coned towers) is from the 15th century , was active for 500 years, and is still used today for ceremonial occasions. That palace is in the center of town (see the views from the castle.) Can you spot the Castle of the Moors in a pic?

On My Wow Moment


La Sagrada Familia, the Expiatory Temple of the Holy Family, is one of the many great landmarks in Barcelona. For me, it was a must see, so before leaving home, we purchased our timed advance tickets during the first full day after our arrival. I left the facility stunned and moved.

I’ve been to St. Peter’s (Vatican), St. Mark’s (Venice), Duomo (Florence), St. Patrick’s (NYC), Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal, stunning churches in St. Petersburg, Russia, and many other wonderful churches – but to me, La Sagrada Familia is the most moving religious place I’ve ever visited.

Famed local architect Antonio Gaudi (Gow DEE) designed the project, and the first stone was laid on in 1882. Gaudi worked on La Sagrada until his death (1926), and he is fittingly buried in a crypt below it. Historical and political events impacted construction, which is ongoing with hopes of completing the project in 2026.

La Sagrada Familia hovers over the city and its surroundings, thus easily seen from most vantage points.The outside is both striking, gaudy, and odd – it even reminds me of the towers one makes at the beach by dripping wet cone as an inverted cone. Close examination displays a detailed story and incredible intricacy with the sun providing an interplay of light and shadows playing an integral role with different direct light and shadows throughout the day.

Inside is a different story, and that provided the moving experience. Gaudi had a deep faith, was a keen observer of nature, and a strong believer in using natural light. Instead of going on and on about the interior, I leave readers with these three quotes by Gaudi to help understand him – then enjoy the pictures.

There are no straight lines or sharp corners in nature. Therefore, buildings must have no straight lines or sharp corners.

Color in certain places has the great value of making the outlines and structural planes seem more energetic.

The amount of light should be just right, not too much, not too little, since having too much or too little light can both cause blindness.

NOTE: Here’s a past post that has two wonderful videos about La Sagrada Familia.

On a Visual Feast

I loved Barcelona … vibrant, charming, eclectic … so much to see … so much to do. We used our time well for the portion of 3 days we had there, yet I am confident we could spend another 3 days and see all new things – and still no museum time.

Barcelona is a continuous visual feast. The eyes never stop moving, thus always finding something that is striking to the eye.

No matter if in the Old City ….

… or in the portion of the city that grew during the late 1800s and early 1900s

… or in the unique forms of the Modernist architects of the early 1900s …

.. even in the more recent designs …

Barcelona is a visual feast. Although I loved the diversity of its architecture, its balconies continually captured my heart.

On a Walktober 2015

Robin (Breezes at Dawn) celebrates October by proclaiming Walktober. Her posts typically feature her wonderful photos of nature, but Walktober invites others to lead a walk. I’ve participated the previous two years featuring a walk in my now-old neighborhood (2013) and a walk in my town (2014). I even turned other photos from my 2013 walk into another post featuring seeds from ornamental grasses.

Robin is a gracious host and a long-time visitor here, so Walktober has been on my mind, especially because I was out of the country during the first half of the month … but while on a tour, the setting for my Walktober became clear.

Welcome to Alhambra, a palace and fortress complex in Granada, Spain (southern Spain in the Andalusia region. Granada is 90-minute drive inland from the port of Malaga.)

The Moors ruled most of Spain for over 700 years, and constructed Alhambra as a small fortress in 889. In the 13th century, a Moorish emir expanded the fortress into a walled town containing a palace. Towers looked over the city of Granada below.

At its peak, over 2000 people lived within the walls. Moorish poets described it as “a pearl set in emeralds”. Although Napoleon’s forced leveled many of the homes, their foundations and passageways remain.

Not only did Alhambra include a palace and homes, gardens filled with fountains brought peace to the complex.


The Moors viewed water as precious, so they constructed various pools of water that was gathered by an elaborate water-collection system and stored in a reservoir.

Overall craftsmanship (especially in the Moors’ palace) is impeccable as numerous designs catch one’s eyes – ornate stucco, scalloped designs, beautiful tiles, various colors, and more.


After the conquest of Granada by the Catholic forces of King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile (1492), Christians rulers used the Alhambra, and eventually built The Palace of Charles V with Alhambra’s walls (1527).

Some consider Alhambra to be the greatest of the Moorish palaces in Europe. Today, Alhambra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of Spain’s major tourist attractions. Its website includes an interactive map, photo gallery, history, and more.

Thanks for walking along – and consider taking other walks.

Robin’s Walktober 2015 with pingbacks to other walks
My 2014 Walk
My 2013 Walk
My 2013 Seeds Walk