Sunday, 31 July 2011

Balearics

Hi from Clare,                                                  Saturday 30th July


GETTING TO KNOW YOU  
When last I wrote we were in Mahon on the island of Menorca. You may recall we had been invited on a French yacht for drinks. The young French couple had two children and although they claimed to speak little English, once they got started and with the help of gesticulation, we found that language wasn’t a problem. The guy (Laurent) is a journalist with a regional newspaper in the south of France, his wife (Laurence) works in advertising for the same newspaper. They are holidaying with their children Lucile and Luca for one month. Laurent is very envious of our early retirement and sailing lifestyle. He said that to get the government pension in France you need to be in the workforce for forty years. He didn’t start full time work until he was twenty nine and so he will retire when he is sixty nine. At present being in his late thirties this seems incomprehensible to him.  We spent a most enjoyable evening with them. The following morning Laurent came to our boat and gave us his email and home address encouraging us to keep in contact.  Who knows, one day we might meet again – I do hope so.


THE MOST CONSTANT THING IS CHANGE  
The past week has been a real mixture. We have had cycles of lovely sunny days, sparkling aqua seas followed by grey sky, grey sea, persistent rain and thunder storms. It’s hot when the sun is out, chilly when it rains - really quite weird.


We had a good sail in sunny conditions from Menorca to Porto Colom on the east coast of Mallorca. On arrival we knew quite a few yachts in the anchorage and so planned a social few days.  That night we dined out with Tony and Jacqui from the Aussie catamaran ‘Tactical Directions’


The next morning started out sunny so we washed Eye Candy with fresh water and polished her to a sparkling shine. Shortly after we finished the rain started (didn’t we look stupid) and we spent the next few days sheltering from torrential rain. Our American friends Sam and Bill on ‘Blue Banana’ went ashore that morning (in sunny weather) for a Doctor’s appointment as they both have heavy colds. However down came the rain causing the streets to run like rivers. Sam and Bill got soaked to the skin and dripped pools of water in the pharmacy while waiting for their prescriptions. They returned to their boat shivering and looking like drowned rats.

 
                Blue Banana in Port Colom                                  Jacqui, Clare and Sam


SAIL OF THE CENTURY  
So after the gloom in Porto Colom the sun came out and we had one of our best sails ever. ‘Eye Candy’, ‘Blue Banana’ and ‘Tactical Directions’ sailed 35 miles to the capital city of Palma in perfect conditions. We enjoyed 15-20 knots of wind behind us and on the beam on a flat sea.  Eye Candy averaged 6.6 knots with a maximum speed of 9.1 knots. The conditions were so perfect that there was hardly any movement on the boat. I was staggered to learn that we had achieved 9.1 knots.


It wasn’t a race but I know some of you will be asking so ‘Tactical’ came first, then the ‘Candies’ followed by the ‘Bananas’ – What a sail.


WHERE IT ALL BEGAN  
We spent a day in Palma which is where we picked the boat up n 2005.  We revisited the Club De Mar Marina and Andrew called in and spoke to the dealer who commissioned our boat and we also spotted the chap who installed out electronics and had a short chat. As you would expect they did not remember us personally but they did remember commissioning an Aussie yacht. We then walked along the waterfront calling in at the very well stocked ship chandlers.  I bought a new dinner set for the boat and “wait for it” - - - Andrew couldn’t find anything he needed; this is definitely a first.


We revisited the Mallorca Cathedral which dates back to the early 1300. From 1904 to 1914 Antoni Gaudi restored the interior. After seeing Gaudi’s Cathedral Sagrada  Familia in Barcelona I wondered if I would recognize his work in the Mallorca Cathedral. Well not to worry, it was instantly recognizable.

 

                       Palma Cathedral                                                    Gaudi interior


NOBODY ESCAPES   
The Bananas have generator problems and so are now in a marina in Palma for a week.  ‘Tactical’ and ‘Eye Candy are anchored out in a large bay which is a short bus ride from Palma. Tony (Tactical Directions) had a failed electric pump in one of his toilets and so Andrew helped him replace that yesterday. We were the only one without a failure until last night when Andrew discovered a water leak in the hot water tank. We have repaired this tank three or four times before and as it has now failed in yet another spot we think it would be prudent to replace the unit.  


Early this morning I wiped the boat dry after last night’s rain and Andrew set off for Palma to purchase a new hot water tank.  His famous last words were “keep adjusting the solar panels” so we could take full charging advantage of the sunshine. But as I said earlier “the past week has been a real mixture”; shortly after Andrew left the sun disappeared and we had heavy rain and another thunder storm – oh well more wiping required.

 
        Changeable weather in Sant Ponza                                      Andrew and Bill


SO WHAT’ S NEXT?   
We will stay here in Santa Ponza (near Palma) for a few days and then head for Ibiza. At the moment it is lovely and sunny, I just wish it would stay that way.



Love Candy xx

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Barcelona to Balearics

 

Hi from Clare,                                                  Tuesday 19th July 2011

ONE OF MY FAVOURITES  
Barcelona is a wonderfully vibrant city with much to see. The underground train system has stations close to all major tourist attractions, making it very easy to get around.  On Sunday Andrew walked to the Maritime Museum and I took the train across the city to the National Museum. A great plan except the Maritime Museum was largely closed due to renovation and the National Museum closes early on Sunday.

We regrouped and ventured on to the Olympic Stadium where the European Rugby Sevens were playing their Championships. The stadium was built in 1926 and is very grand. It was fully refurbished for the Olympic Games in 1992. It is situated high on a hill behind the National Museum and although there are hundred of steps to get to the Museum and Stadium, thankfully there are also a number of outdoor escalators that carry you up the hill – what a great idea!

 


                       Barcelona Olympic Stadium                                       Magic Fountain

WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE  
We had dinner at the foot of the National Museum and watched the Magic Fountain put on a spectacular display of water, light and colour choreographed to stirring music. As well as the Magic Fountain which has three circles of water jets that constantly change making different shapes, the fountains in front of the National Museum cascade down the hillside putting on a marvelous display, the whole area seems to be gushing water – definitely not the place to be with a full bladder.

 
                                    The National Museum by night and by day



A DEFINITE HIGHLIGHT   
The following day we went on a guided tour of the Palau de la Musica Catalana which was built between1905-1908 and is Barcelona’s music venue par excellence hosting hundreds of concerts a year. It is a truly beautiful building lavishly decorated with sparkling chandeliers and walls of stained glass. The solid walls and columns are covered with ceramics flowers and decorative detail. There are statues of composers and on the back wall of the stage colourful carvings of musicians from around the world playing traditional instruments. The centre piece of the auditorium is a beautiful stained glass skylight.  The venue boasts excellent acoustics and has a huge organ. As part of the tour we heard a piece by Bach played on the organ which vibrated through us. – Fantastic.

 
                                                     Inside the Palau de la Musica


BACK ON THE STREETS  
After this we strolled through the Gothic quarter which is the oldest area of town. It has a haphazard layout and bears traces of the last 2000 years back to Roman times. We went into the Barcelona Gothic Cathedral which took 600 years to build between1300-1900 and is still a maze of scaffolding. After seeing Gaudi’s Temple de la Sagrada Familia a few days ago the Barcelona Cathedral didn’t do much for me.

Tuesday morning I caught the train and went back to the National Museum to spend a few very enjoyable hours. The museum brings together the most important collections of Catalan art and showcases 1000 years of local creativity. There are some really beautiful portraits and life scenes and then there is the religious art showing people being beheaded, burnt at the stake, skun alive – just disgusting.

RETRACING OUR STEPS   
Late Tuesday afternoon (12th July) Andrew’s son Matthew flew in from London for a few days. We were leaving for Menorca the following morning as 24 hours after that, strong head winds were forecast for a number of days.  We meet Matthew at the rail station and took him on a whistle stop tour of Barcelona taking in as much as possible in the time allotted. He got to see Sagrada Familia (inside and out) the Olympic Stadium, the National Museum, the Magic Fountain, Gaudi’s Casa Batllo and we strolled home via the tourist area of La Rambla. Not a bad effort and Mathew was very pleased when consulting his guide book on ‘what to see in one day in Barcelona’ he had pretty well covered it.

TIME TO GO  
The 100 mile sail from Barcelona to Mallorca was fast averaging 6 knots. The sea was lumpy, but now nearly a week later, we realize that we definitely picked the best day for the trip. We sailed into Pollenca Mallorca onThursday around in 28knots of wind and rain.  After a hearty breakfast we slept till and then had a restful day. The water temperature is 26.5 degrees and Matthew has been training for a 1.5 km   swim which is part of a triathlon he is doing later this month in London (the swim leg in a wet suit).

SOME AUSSIE COMPANY 
The following day we went into town and then out to dinner that night with our Aussie friend Tony and his English girlfriend Jacqui from ‘Tactical Directions’. We last saw Tony in Sardinia about twelve months ago and Matthew was holidaying with us then also. We had a good night out with pre dinner drinks at a restaurant on the waterfront and then dinner at a recommended Chinese Restaurant where the food was very tasty and reasonably priced.

Tony, Matthew, Clare and Andrew

MALLORCA TO MENORCA   Saturday we sailed 60 miles to Mahon Menorca. This was also a fast sail but fortunately the sea was a lot flatter, the sun was shining and we arrived in time for drinks at sunset; a much more civilized way to travel.



CAPTAIN ANDREW TO THE RESCUE  
Since arriving we have had little opportunities to go in to the town of Menorca.  The weather is very changeable with strong winds and the anchorage is crowded. Pandemonium broke out late Sunday when the wind changed direction. A yacht trying to re anchor had a gear box failure a few meters from our bow and started drifting towards us.  Andrew jumped into our dinghy and tied along side the disabled yacht and with our outboard pushed the yacht away from us and the other anchored boats in danger.


 
                                                             Mahon Harbour-front
 
Matthew left Monday morning to fly back to London.  We managed to get into town late Monday afternoon to have a brief look around.  Since then we have basically stayed on the boat making sure we are safe. We have encountered strong changeable winds and rain squalls.  We have befriended a young French family anchored next to us. They have invited us over for a glass of wine tonight.  They speak little English and we speak very less French so it should be an interesting encounter.

Love Candy xx
  
                                     

Sunday, 10 July 2011

France to Spain


Hi from Clare,                                             Saturday  9th July 2011


When last I wrote we were heading to Saint Tropez. It was recommended by other cruisers to anchor in a quiet bay about 1.5 kilometers away and walk into town via a track around the rocky cliff face.  


A TOP TOURIST DESTINATION
In blissful ignorance, we decided to anchor as close to town as possible. We were hoping to catch up with our Aussie friend Bronwyn who was also due into Saint Tropez on the large power boat Lammouche.  What a busy spot, there was an endless procession of power boats returning for the evening. I managed to get the dinner but our boat was being tossed around by the wake. The dinner plates were sliding across the table, drinks were out of the question. After a few hours we abandoned the idea and retreated to the recommended quiet anchorage missing Bronwyn and Lammouche's arrival around .

Saint Tropez


The following morning, Sunday, we walked into Saint Tropez (Lammouche was gone). The town is small, the shops are expensive and the waterfront is just one restaurant after the other.  The internet cafĂ© was not open until Monday and the Tourist Information Office charged two Euros for a map of the town; we have never been charged for a town map anywhere else. There were too many tourists and too many power boats; we were glad to leave.


A MUCH SLOWER PACE
After that we made our way along the south coast of France calling into a number of little towns. Some are old, some are quaint others are fishing villages or small country towns, but the one thing they have in common is pride in their community. The streets are clean, the towns are tidy the bins don't smell. The locals are friendly and most shop people speak English and are helpful; it was a pleasure to be there. This was in stark contrast to the tourist Mecca of Saint Tropez.


TAKING A CHANCE
Sunday we set off for a 115 mile dash across the Gulf de Lyon. This is a notorious piece of water with strong and unpredictable wind.  Gales in the Gulf of Lions are common and one of our cruising friends refers to it as "that mean old gulf". We consider ourselves lucky; we encountered pitch black (no moon) rain and fog but apart from that it was a good trip arriving into Cadaques Spain mid morning on Monday.

 
                   Cadaques Foreshore                                                   Cadaques Villiage


BUOYS EVERYWHERE
The bay at Cadaques has many anchor buoys which take up all the shallow water.  We were pretty tired and the wind was blowing 20 knots and as we didn't want to go on any further so we paid forty euros for a buoy. We think this is a bit much considering we have a reservation in the marina at Barcelona for thirty eighty euros a day with water and power included, but what can you do?  We notice that just about every bay near a township has a field of mooring buoys. I guess this enables them to fit more boats in the bay. But the average cruiser would rather anchor out and not incur the added cost. As I said earlier "too many tourist, too many boats"


Tuesday morning we started making our way towards Barcelona. We found a quiet spot to anchor for the night and then had a fabulous 55 mile sail to Barcelona on Wednesday. The wind was about 15 knots and at a 90 degree angle. We averaged 6 knots on flat seas and apart from heavy fog at times we had a great ride. We are in the marina in Port Vell in the centre of Barcelona with only a short stroll to trains, trams and busses.


Clare on "La Rambla"



DISNEYLAND FOR ARCHITECTS
This was our first impression of Barcelona. Some of the architecture is very futuristic, some is centuries old and then there is a significant amount designed by the world renown architect Gaudi. We firstly visited Gaudi's Temple de la Sagrada Familia. This building was started in 1882 and has 8 exterior tapering towers 100 metres high. These will be dwarfed by the dome which will stand at 170 metres when completed in 2025. The inside is spectacular on a grand scale; Andrew and I sat there for a long time just trying to take it all in.


Temple de la Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia interior
  




We then went to the garden-city of Park Guell which has some fine examples of Gaudi's fantastic imagination. I was fascinated by the quaint little houses with the ceramic work on the rooves. They look like gingerbread houses or something out of a child's story book.

 


The park is high above the city and thankfully we could take an escalator up the hill. From the park we had a terrific view of Barcelona and Gaudi's Temple de la Sagrada Familia and its impact on the city skyline.


Street escalator



Casa Battlo

Late this afternoon we went to the 1901 residence Casa Batllo. This too is a Gaudi design and another amazing example of his unique work. As you can see in the photo the outside of the residence is covered by ceramic tiles. The theme of the house is the sea and so all the interior walls are curved like waves. Gaudi has also made the most of airflow, light, colour and space making it is hard to believe that the house is over 100 years old; it is still beautiful and remarkably functional.     
 


WHERE TO NEXT?
We will be here till Thursday exploring the city. We will then head for Majorca and relax and swim.  By then I reckon we will need a rest.    


Love Candy xx