Thursday, June 30, 2005

Log 36 - May-June 2005 - Spain's Balearic Islands and Barcelona

In this log we'll give you a quick run through the islands as well as a spur-of-the-moment side trip to Barcelona before crossing to Sardinia, Italy. 

Tioga's route.
With the infamous Straits of Gibraltar and a great visit to the 'Rock' and Morocco behind us, we decide to give the south coast of Spain a pass and head straight to the Balearic Islands, a set of four main islands out in the Mediterranean.    We don't spend a lot of time in these islands as they are known to be invaded by masses of tourists in the summer, plus we have now been in Spain for 8 months, and we are anxious to head on to Italy!  

Sunday, May 15th - Safely anchored off Isla Formentera

Gerrit, Joel and Chris - Champagne anyone?
With as good of a weather forecast as you can get in the Med, we depart from Ceuta, on a nonstop 350 mile passage, to land us on Isla Formentera, the most westerly of the Balearics.  The passage is fast with one quick, unplanned pit stop in an anchorage for 12 hours to sit out a 50 knot storm.  The wind gusts hit just as we were trying to pull in and drop our anchor.  A bit hair raising but once safely anchored we proceeded to watch our wind speed indicator hit 45 knots in the lee of the land!  By midnight, it had eased so after a night's rest, we are underway the next morning and 36 hours later, we dropped our anchor off Isla Formentera.  This bottle of champagne rattled around in the bottom of our fridge the entire bumpy passage, so we decide to celebrate another safe trip and drink it before it gets broken!  We spend a few nights here but end up moving on to the next island, Eivissa (Ibiza),  as the holding for our anchor here is very poor and we don't feel comfortable leaving Tioga. 

Thursday, May 19th - Cala Llonga, Isla Eivissa

Joel and Gerrit dig holes.
We end up spending almost a week anchored in this beautiful bay, with our anchor firmly set in sand!   The beach is great, the small town very cute and great bus connections to get about the island.  One day, we catch the bus to Ibiza City and spend the day in the old walled town called, D'Alt Vila.  We joke this must mean 'Da oldt village', and with first human settlements in the Balearics dating from 5000BC, it is old!  The port was a regular port of call for ancient Phoenicians traders, there is yet another  Roman fortification on top of a hill to explore, and after a great day, all the boys care about is getting back to the crisp, clear water of our cala. 

Henrik, Joel, Ola and Gerrit on their water toy!
Our Norwegian friends from Seville on s/v Stroller, manage to make our planned rendezvous and we have a great reunion!  The four boys compile their money and rent this awesome paddle slide one afternoon and enjoy the still a bit cool waters.  Then, as always, it is 'see you later' once again, and we raise our anchor to sail the 50 miles east to the next island, Mallorca. 


Tuesday, May 24th - Isla Dragonera Natural Park

Isla Dragonera
Well, we spend a few days in Port d'Andratx on the west coast of Mallorca before heading off for a day trip to this beautiful island declared a natural park in 1995.  No one is allowed to spend a night on the island so we anchor Tioga off  for the day and hike one of the several fabulous trails. 

Birds were swooping all about, the greenery was lush and vivid and the views were amazing.  A few places have stood out over our years for their sheer beauty....this now becomes one of them.  Late in the day, we sail the few miles back to the island of Mallorca to a small bay called San Telmo for the night.   The next day, we begin heading around the north west coast of the island known for the rugged scenery created by the Sierra de Tramuntana mountain range.  The coastline is rocky and largely inaccessible, thus we continue on until the large bay of  Port de Soller presents itself. 

Thursday, May 26th - Soller, Isla Mallorca

Which way should we go now??
We anchor in Port de Soller with its scenic waterfront, lined in cafes and restaurants and souvenir shops.   Much to our dismay, the port if filled with jelly-fish so no one dares attempt the water!  Instead, we take the open-sided old tram ride into the city of Soller, which is a bumpy, fun ride through the country side for about 2 kms.  After mulling about the old streets, we are told of a great hike through the hills back to Port de Soller, which turns out to be quite an undertaking!  Our route takes us past this sign showing the way to the rich and famous city of 'Palma', which we have decided to pass by this time in our lives, and we eventually make it back to Tioga.

Friday, May 27th - Port de Soller Sunset, Isla Mallorca

Sunset from Port de Soller

This evening finds us looking at charts trying to decide our next destination.  We notice Barcelona is a mere 90 miles away and will never be any closer.  Chris quickly checks the weather forecast and favorable winds are being called for if we want to sail back across to the Spanish mainland.  We decide it is now or never and after fully enjoying this beautiful sunset, we begin stowing Tioga for the overnight, offshore passage to Barcelona, leaving tomorrow at noon! 

Sunday, May 29th - Welcome to Barcelona!

Barcelona arrival!
Well, after a great sail we are very excited to arrive in Barcelona.  We get a slip in Marina Port Vell, the old port, which was once such a rundown eyesore that is caused public protests.   It has since been transformed into an attractive, thriving area that works great for us to get about quickly.  Barcelona is the capital of Catalunya, a region within Spain with its own language, character, and turbulent history.  We quickly learn that you can't visit Barcelona and not learn about Antoni Gaudi (gow-dee), just one of the Modernistas, albeit the most spectacular, of a generation of inventive architects who left their mark on Barcelona between 1880 and 1910.  Modernisme is often described as Art Nouveau, with its adventurous flowing lines combined with materials such as tile, glass, brick and iron and steel.   As we enter the port, we begin to see why the city is known for perhaps some of the world's most bizarre architecture...and busy beaches! 

Monday, May 30th - La Rambla

Columbus points out to sea.

We decide our first day will be spent getting oriented and exploring Spain's most famous street, La Rambla.  It is a 1.25 km boulevard running slightly uphill, north from Port Vell, flanked by narrow traffic lanes, with a broad, pedestrian boulevard in the middle.  At the bottom end is a tall Columbus monument of him pointing out to sea, and at the far end is Placa de Catalunya.

Street artist

The streets are busy and crowded with every type of street artist you can imagine.  We enjoy a trip through Mercat de la Boqueria, a bustling covered food market where we buy fresh food for a picnic lunch once at Placa de Catalunya. 

Placa de Catalunya

Joel the pigeon boy!

After hours of rambling up La Rambla, we have lunch in Placa de Catalunya, which apparently marks the boundary between the old centre (Ciutat Vella) and the more recent parts further inland.  The boys really enjoy the literally thousands of friendly pigeons whom perch all over them trying to get their share of the pigeon pellets the boys bought.  Just to the east of La Rambla, is Barcelona's 'Gothic quarter', which is a classic medieval warren of narrow, winding streets and wonderful structures from the city's golden age.  Our afternoon is spent meandering the quaint streets back to Port Vell for some much needed rest time. 

Tuesday, May 31st - Expiatore de la Sagrada Familia (Temple of the Holy Family)

La Sagrada Familia

We've been told if you only have time for one sightseeing outing in Barcelona, La Sagrada Familia should be it!  Construction began in 1882 under Francesc de Villar, who planned a relatively conventional structure.  A fallout from the funders caused Villar's replacement by the 31 year old Antoni Gaudi.  La Sagrada Familia church, was the project to which Antoni Gaudi dedicated the latter part of his life.  His characteristic dislike for straight lines (there were none in nature, he said), gives his towers swelling outlines inspired by the weird peaks of the holy mountain Montserrat, outside Barcelona.

Narrow staircases.

We climb high up inside one of the four towers, through a narrow spiral staircase and have up-close looks at the sculptures and mosaics built so high up, which are said by Gaudi to be for the angels to see.  The amazing part about this church is that it is still only half built after more than 100 years!   Its sheer verticality to date will be more than half as high again at the topmost towers if it is ever finished. 

Gerrit, Tin Man Cowboy and Joel

Street artists of every shape, form and style are alive and well throughout the streets of Barcelona.  Twenty years ago when Chris and Sheila visited Europe, it was mimes, jugglers and fire eaters.  Today, a very common type of street performer consisted of people dressed/painted in every costume/figure possible, whether it be Che Guevere in his guerilla fatigues, skeletons or green lepers.   They would sit or stand, motionless,  in a specific position,  waiting for someone to drop a coin into their money box.  This Tin Man Cowboy came to life for Joel and Gerrit with his fast-draw moves and spinning revolvers before shaking their hands and posing for this photo.  Then as quickly as he was awakened by the tinkle of money, he fell back into his motionless state, to wait for his next call to life.

Parc Guell

Mosaic lizard

Later in the day we head to Park Guell, where in 1900, Count Eusebi Guell bought a little hillside property and hired Gaudi to create a miniature garden city of houses for the wealthy.  Gaudi's chance at landscape gardening  was abandoned in 1914, but not before he had created roads and walkways, steps and plazas with tiled benches curving around them and two gatehouses, one of which is guarded by this mosaic dragon/lizard.  We actually entered the park  by the other entrance, which interestingly enough had a series of escalators to lift us unstrenuously to the top of the hill.. 

Wednesday, June 1st - Museu del Futbol Club Barcelona

Centenial uniform for Team Barca

Today our family, along with the Norwegian family from s/v Stroller who also ended up in Barcelona, decide to visit the museum of the Barcelona Football Club (soccer to us North Americans).  Inside was an assortment of interesting football paraphernalia from the past, like 19th century leather footballs, posters and magazines, old uniforms and a goal video showing the likes of Ronaldinho (their Gretzky) scoring over and over again.  Barcelona's team, Barca, is one of Europe's top football clubs and they have been around for a long time.  This photo shows the official uniform of the team worn in their 100th anniversary year in 1999. 

Camp Nou Stadium

Camp Nou Stadium

Along with the museum entrance, we were able to go into the actual stadium of team Barca.  Camp Nou (literally New Field), built in 1957 and enlarged for the 1982 World Cup, is one of the world's largest stadiums.  It holds 120,000 people and the club has a world record membership of 110,000!  Now that is impressive support.  We could only imagine a sea of that many people cheering as their home team wins yet another game. 

Dock from the various cruising families

We have spent the first part of our week in Barcelona going like mad seeing the major sights.  We choose to spend the rest of the week at a more relaxed pace popping into a museum here and there, but largely enjoying the company of our friends on s/v Stroller, as well as a new family we have met on s/v Keri, also with two boys on board our guys' ages.  

Iconic Candy Shop

Friday, June 3rd - PapaBubble Candy Shop

During Keri's time here over the winter, they have met an Australian who operates the PapaBubble Candy Shop in Barcelona.   

Candy creators.

This day finds all three families off to the candy shop for a tour and show on candy making!  We all find it really quite amazing how this candy is made, cut and packaged.  The free samples the entire time were also very yummy!

Monday, June 6th - Port de Mahon, Isla Menorca

Port de Mahon anchorage.

After a short week in Barcelona, we sail back to the most north and east of the Balearic Islands, Menorca.  The sea conditions are rough so we head to the far east end to the very deep and protected waters of the island's capital Mahon.  Here is a view of Tioga in the foreground of one of the harbour's smaller bays from one of the many forts in the region.  We could tell you about what an important and strategic role this harbour has played in the Med's long history, but how about something even more staggering...  Mahon is where Mayonnaise or Mahonnaise -- as it was first called, after a French victory over the British here -- derives its name from!

Wednesday, June 8th - Schools Out for Summer!!

Joel and Gerrit burning school books!

Well, it's the end of the official school year for our kids and time for the annual burning, from which for some reason our boys always garner much satisfaction.  We present them with certificates of completion, cook some hot dogs, and then the police show up to tell us no fires allowed on the beach!  Regardless, it's a beautiful evening and we are winding down our stay in Spain.  In a day, we will commence our eastbound journeys and sail the 190 nm for Sardinia, Italy's largest island.  Time to learn another language.   Un-o, du-e, tre... 

 Ciao for now!

Ciao..see you in Italy for Log 37