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|Cunard Queen Victoria 2012
A Magical Mystery Tour of the Ancient Wonders of the World - Part 5
We had expected to be late into Malaga because of bad weather leaving Katakolon, but overnight the seas had been calm and the QV had made good speed. We were in harbour before our scheduled time of 0800. The shuttle bus into town dropped us eventually at the Plaza de la Marina. The cathedral was within sight and we went directly, passing rows of horse drawn carriages.
First we stopped in front of the Zea Salvatierra house. Built in the 18th century for Dona Maria Salvatierra, widow of captain Blas de Zea Merino, the house displays his crest on the facade. It is now privately owned but in recent years was the Post Office, and before that had been used as the Town Hall.
The entrance to the cathedral was opposite. The site was originally an old mosque, and building of the cathedral began in 1538 and it was partially consecrated in 1588. There was an earthquake in 1688 which destroyed part of it and building recommenced in 1718. It is in Spanish Renaissance style. The cathedral was open. Mass had started at 0915 and there were few tourists inside, so our timing was perfect. As the Mass finished we were handed a leaflet about Dios Jose Pio Gurruchaga Castuariense, who had been nominated for canonisation. We left at 1000 as the shop opened and noted there were tickets for sale. We presumed that there was normally an entry charge for tourists but that we had been able to enter at no charge because of the Mass.
Although we knew it was closed on Monday, we followed the signs through the old quarter along the Calle San Augustin, passing the Echegaray theatre, and to the Picassso Museum. It holds a permanent collection of works by Picasso. Nearby the Church of Santiago el Mayor was where he had been baptised – we went in and it has some spectacular side chapels where all the statues were dressed in rich costumes. It reminded us of the statues in the churches in Malta and in the Canary Islands. We had now reached the Plaza de la Merced, with the house where Picasso was born on the corner at number 15. The Market Hall was in the same corner of the square, but on a Monday most of the stalls were closed and there were just a few butchers and fruit and veg stalls open. Sadly we did not find any flower shops. The Market Hall includes a small supermarket so we were able to buy more coffee.
Our map did not show the entrance to the Alcazaba and the Roman Theatre, so we made a guess and walked towards the hill and through a tunnel. This was a good idea to join the footpath to reach the Castle of Gibralfaro and the Parador, but was not useful to get to the Alcazaba. We must have walked three sides of a square, and downhill too. The Alcazaba is an impressive group of buildings, mostly dating from the 11th century, and formed by the palace-fortress of the Moslem rulers. The fortifications at the entrance are integral with the city walls, and angled to increase its defensive value. The structure is built on tiers – the first walled precinct is reached through the Torre del Cristo, and there is a path along the edge of the old walls to a fine viewpoint over the modern city, looking down on the Town Hall and across gardens towards the Bull Ring.
The second walled precinct is defended to the west by the Puerta de los Cuartos de Granada. The Palace is inside this part, built in the 11th, 13th and 14th centuries. There are three courtyards – the Patio de los Surtidores, leading to the Torre de la Armadurea Mudejar with its 16th century carved wooden ceiling and the Torre de Maldonado. The Nazari Palace is reached through a restored pavilion and contains the Patio de los Naranjos and the Patio de la Alberca. There are displays of pottery, a small kiln, and explanations of the manufacturing process. The adjacent Roman Theatre was closed on Monday but there was a good view over the fence from the Calle Alcazabilla.
We were glad we had not walked up to the Castle of Gibralfaro because we would have been short of time. The visit to Malaga was only for a morning, and the last shuttle bus returned to the ship at 1315. At 1200 there were long, long queues waiting for the bus to go back for lunch so we decided to walk back through the park and along the marina, then past the lighthouse and along the breakwater to the cruise terminal. It was a pleasant 25 minutes stroll and gave views which we had missed on the bus.
The QV departed on time and just after 1700 we passed the Rock of Gibraltar, in daylight with the top of the Rock gleaming in the sunshine. There was just time to grab a camera and rush onto the deck before we had to get ready to go to Todd English for dinner - it had been a spur of the moment decision in the morning when we saw there was nothing very special on the the Britannea Restaurant Menu. We were not very original and had mainly the dishes we had tried before so there is no need for a full set of photographs although Pete had the Paella which we have failed to get a good picture of in the past - this time the best we could do was to get a picture of what was left for second and third helpings in addition to the Lobster tail and other components which had already been put out. We swopped round starters carvings in addition to a mouthwatering selection of cakes . Pauline started withe the Todd English Love Letters which are much more filling and tasty than they look and Pete had the Scallops and followed up with the Rack of Lamb in Pauline's case whilst Pete had the Paella, probably the best Paella he had ever had it even included a large lobster tail. We hardly managed sweets and shared the Brulee as Pete had not tried it.
Normally the last days at sea tend to be a bit of an anticlimax with packing and the like taking top priority but this time there was plenty to do, much associated with food. The 11th was a special day as it was the 5th Birthday for the Queen Victoria and a number of special functions had been prepared. The day started as usual for Pete in the Gym and we spent much of the morning writing up and had a small lunch after the big meal the night before. During the day Christmas trees and decorations had been appearing throughout the day - there were two girls from 'Holiday Decorators' hard at work who said they had 22 trees to put up and decorate before the end of the cruise. The afternoon started with the choir who had been practicing for much of the journey performing on the stairs in the Grand Lobby, ending their performance with an enthusiastic singing of 'Happy Birthday Queen Victoria'. It then came to decision time as there was a Viennese Tea scheduled for the Queens room which has all the superb set pieces and ice carvings which take so long to prepare. We did not need to eat anything but Pete did get in early and took lots of pictures and had a chance to talk to and congratulate some of the chefs who had spent so long preparing the feast. The Viennese teas seem to be the replacement to the Midnight Gala Buffet as a chance for the staff to show off and this one on the 5th Birthday was even more special.
The evening meal was again the best that the Queen Victoria could offer with a special presentation menu for guests to take away. All the favourites were there - Fois Gras pate and Escargot were our choices for starters and Pete followed up with a Cold Melon and maple ginger soup to clear the garlic butter from the Escargot before the Beef Wellington which melted in the mouth. The other favourite choice was Lobster - we would normally have had a small portion as a starter but we had eaten too well in Todd English the previous night. The classic gala sweet is always the baked alaska but we chose the Mascapone creme brulee with an extra ice-ceam alongside. This was followed by the parade of chefs through the restaurant before they gathered on the stairs to be introduced.
We just managed to slip out in time to get to our box for the production of Victoriana - we had booked our favourite box as soon as we got on board but had not realised it was the premier of a new production of it on the 5th birthday. The production was first class and we enjoyed the champagne cocktails and stand of specialty canapees including the little ice-creams on sticks - this time there was only one each and totally melted so people had to be warned to eat them whole - but so what. There was the usual half bottle of Veuve Cliquot champagne waiting in the box and the little box of truffles so we were not going to starve!
The following morning we continued writing up this account of the journey and finally got the first version, all 20,000 words and 180 pictures uploaded so it was time to start on the Christmas newsletter. But first was the Galley Tour - we have been before and writen about it but wanted to see the Gingerbread houses under construction but they all seemed to be finished and awaiting the creation of the village opposite the Queens Room - it was very interesting anyway and one always learns more and we filled in a few gaps in our pictures.
We had barely finished the tour when it was time to go to Todd English for the lunch we had booked some time ago - the evening meal had been an unplanned extra. We both tried the Bricked Chicken, cooked in a brick oven in special herbs and spices and very good indeed. It is a much greater achievement to turn a normal food into something completely special and leave you wondering how they did it. We briefly watched the chart auction for charity - they have usually raised large sums but for a while it looked as if it would only raise a few hundred dollars instead of the thousands we have sometimes seen - in the end it raised $500. Overall they have raised hundreds of thousands for the Princes Trust in these auctions. Then more packing and planning for the next cruises.
We walked round after dinner and placing suitcases outside the room for collection and found the Gingerbread Village had been set up so we took the chance to take a few pictures of it and the other Christmas decorations.
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