Sunday, 31 January 2016

Sardinia and the non-Panoramic Tour

Cagliari in the early morning sun

An island that has long been on my bucket list is Sardinia, the second largest island in the Mediterranean. I once knew someone from there and he was always singing its praises.

Unfortunately the 'panoramic' tour I went on was something of a let down. I expected to see far more of the countryside than simply driving from the port in Cagliari to a vineyard. At first the scenery looked promising with meadows and woods in shades of green from jade through to bottle green, but then we stopped at the winery. Why is it that when 'wine tasting' is included in a tour I forget about the obligatory lecture where we all stand around being bored? Bearing in mind that none of us were young, some had walkers and some of us were using walking sticks, you would have thought the lecture would be cut short, wouldn't you? Or at least some seats provided. Eventually we came to the wine tasting - very nice and made nicer by the company at the table. Oh yes, then it was time to go to the shop where I got a bargain - a half bottle of rose for E2. No good buying a bottle as I only drink one glass a day - occasionally. (Oh dear, when I opened it on Christmas Day I discovered that it was not the same as the one at the wine tasting, despite having the same label. Or perhaps I just got unlucky and purchased a bad batch. Vinegar down the drain).
Panoramic Cagliari

We then settled down in the coach for our panoramic drive. Of Cagliari. To the top of one hill for the views of the City and its surroundings, then up another hill for more views. We all took photos of the flamingos on the lake below but they really just look like pale pink blobs. The salt lakes had been pointed out to us with the comment that only one is operational but the guide omitted to point out the salt hills. The other lake is now more of a bird sanctuary which is where we saw the flamingos.

I'm not sure about the sights which we passed in the City but I do know we went to see the Basilica di Bonaria (Good Air) which is now the Marine Museum, and the City Hall.

For our free time we were deposited halfway up the steep Largo Carlo street. Remember the walkers and walking sticks? Two of us refused to get off the coach but the rest braved it (I think some just hung around near where the coach was parked). The guide did say that we could go down the hill to catch the shuttle bus back to the ship but she didn't know where we could catch it. Helpful.

The Salt Pans

I doubt if I will return to Sardinia which is a pity as I am sure that it is a very pretty island but it needs to be toured when one is young and healthy.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Valencia, the Ever Evolving City

City of Arts and Sciences
Valencia, the third largest city in Spain has many layers going back into pre-history. Probably its most well-known historical figure is Rodrigo Diago de Vivar, better known as El Cid. During Hollywood's era of epic historical movies he was one of the characters immortalised in film. Played by Charlton Heston with Sophia Loren as his leading lady.

Bridge of the part (Opera House to left)
Twentieth century history includes, of course, the Spanish Civil War when much of the City was destroyed. For about twenty years after the war ended rebuilding took place. Then the River Turia flooded somewhat disastrously in 1957. More changes to the city.

The river was diverted away to the south and the dry river bed has been converted into a 4 1/2 mile long series of parks. A wonderful and popular green space in the centre of Valencia.

In the late twentieth century the City Fathers did away with the defunct industrial area, had the land de-contaminated and the fantastic City of Arts and Sciences constructed. All very modern with the use of glass and white mosaic tiles. They include the Science Museum (of course), an IMAX, Europe's largest aquarium and the Opera House.

From here we drove to the old City, leaving the coach at one of the old Gates to the city, from where we strolled to the Plaza de la Virgen to be set free and explore. Where to start first? The 13th century Cathedral, the Gothic bell tower (for super views over the city after climbing 270 steps!), stroll around the market, sit down for a coffee and watch the world go by? Me? I strolled through the square, turned right up a narrow street with small shops, then did my favourite trick of turning left, turning left, turning left - back to where I had started. As usual I found something absolutely delightful. A 'circus' (as in Piccadilly) surrounded by handicrafts shops which made me wish I had a list of items that I need. In front of one of the shops was a table where half-a-dozen ladies were working on various projects. To one side there was even an iron and padded surface where they could press seams.

I just wish I had had the time and energy to discover more interesting corners and admire the historical buildings such as La Loncha de la Seda. This was the silk exchange which was built in the 15th/16th centuries and is fabulous Gothic architecture with equally fabulous interiors.

Sports enthusiasts will remember the America's Cup of 2007 and, of course, the European Grand Prix which was held here for the first time in 2008. Now, alas, the City cannot afford to host the Grand Prix but you can see the road markings on the streets around the port so maybe they are hoping to host it again in the future.

Maybe one day I will return to this exciting city when on another PandO cruise!