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Cunard Queen Victoria 2013
Black Sea and Turkish Splendours -  Part 5

Map Embarkation and Southampton Lisbon - Portugal Palma - Mallorca Dardanelles Yalta - Ukraine Odessa - Ukraine Ephesus - Turkey Istanbul and Bosphorus Straits - Turkey Valletta - Malta Piraeus for Athens and Corinth Canal - Greece Vigo - Spain

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Saturday 19 October -  Palma, Majorca

Majorca is the largest of the Balearic islands, and Palma is the capital city. It is one of the 17 autonomous communities of Spain. The Queen Victoria arrived after breakfast and berthed with other ships, including the Holland America Ryndam. There was a long row of shuttle buses at 0930; but steps to climb and a longish walk along the overhead walkway to access them.

The shuttle buses went to the Cathedral area which could be seen in the distance. The estimated time of the journey was 25 minutes but in practice it was nearer to 15 minutes. It was just too far for us and most other people, to walk. The journey along the waterfront is scenic, and eventually we passed the hotels we remember from our previous holidays in Palma – including the Melia Victoria, then the Paleas Athena and finally the Costa Azul.

The Cathedral La Seu, is a significant and beautiful Gothic building. It was founded in 1235 by King James I of Aaragon who vowed to erect the finest Christian church, showing that christianity had replaced Islam in Majorca. Construction began in 1306 and was completed in 1601. It is on a cliff with just the coastal road separating it from the ocean and is clearly seen when arriving by sea. From the dropoff point it was directly ahead. Tourist horse-drawn carriages waited in line by the Almudaina Palace which was nearby and originally the residence of the Moorish rulers.

We had paid to visit the cathedral in 2012 and it is very beautiful inside, especially the stained glass windows and the two large rose windows which bring multi-coloured light into the nave. The window near the main altar is the largest Gothic rose window in the world.

The streets were quiet and the Placa de Cort with the Cort (Town Hall) and the famous old olive tree were almost empty. The main entry of the Parliament building was nearby. This neo-gothic building was designed by Joaquin Pavla in 1882 and was constructed over the old city prison. The next interesting area was near the Placa de Santa Eulalia, with its pretty church. The door was open, but it was closed for visits until 1030.

Continuing the tour along shopping streets we reached the Placa Marquis del Palmer on the edge of the Placa Major. This area was already busy, with street entertainers and market stalls. There is a small useful supermarket here and more market stalls, hidden underground. We bought a box of 4 cheap Cornettos for 1 euro

Next time we hope to catch the train to Soller, so went in search of the train station, passing the Placa d'Olivier. This is the main market, and has a much bigger supermarket upstairs inside. The olivier is after the olive tree in the middle of the square. We like markets and this one was special. All the fruit and vegetables glowed and were very fresh, and very local. There were several stall selling cheese, and we succombed to the temptation, buying buffalo cheese. The supermarket supplied us with cheap ground coffee and vacuum packed local balearic cheese to take home. Our final purchase was the beautiful local hams in the market. A whole ham was too expensive and heavy, but there were handcarved slices of different qualities. We tasted, and chose a beautiful ham. We think from the quality certificate that our pig was fed on acorns. It was very expensive (145 euros per kilo) but that is only the price of a bottle of wine for a plate of memorable slices weighing 100gms.

The train and long distance bus station is near the Placa d'Espana. It was very busy with Red Cross and stalls for the 'Once' event, and the monument to Jaime I El Conquistador was protected by a fence. is a pleasant place to sit, with fountains dancing to music, but it is over an underground car parking so there are green entry huts down both sides which spoils the views. The train station is also underground and we were advised to go to the Internet for train timetables. We asked about buses to Bellver castle, which is high on a hill behind the Hotel Victoria. Although the information office was not responsible for town bus routes, they knew that there was a number 3 bus which went from outside the I-centre to the Placa Gomila from where there was a road, then steps up the hill. The recommended route without walking was to use the HopOn HopOff bus which stops outside - they are called hop because they cost you an arm and a leg (typically 20 euro a day).

We retraced our steps to the Parliament building, the Palau March Museum and the cathedral, where we bumped into Cunard tours coming towards us. A stroll along the promenade, first passing Sa Llotja and the Consolat de Mar, then the Rentadors windmills, developed into a walk all the way back to the ship. There were several nice bars and restaurants alongside the marinas which we will remember for the future.

Tuesday 22 October -  Vigo, Spain

After two days at sea we reached Vigo, a major Spanish seaport and shipbuilding centre with a strong fishing fleet and mussel farms. We have visited Vigo many times before – once by accident when there were strikes at the docks in Lisbon and the QE2 went to Vigo unexpectedly instead, and in 2010 on the Ocean Countess. It is just possible to take a tour to the famous pilgrimage town of Santiago di Compostela when the ship is berthed for a full day, and the bus tours left early. Fortunately we berthed at the cruise terminal, which was very convenient. Maps were pushed into our hands, and there was an offer of a coastal train journey to the nearby town of Pontevedra. We went there in 2012. This year it was windy and raining hard when we docked so we made up a visit based on sunny days and good times in the past. If we hadn't told you you would never know - the wonders of the virtual world of the internet!

We decided to wander around the town and set off to climb up to the El Castro Fortress, passing the Santa Maria cathedral which was open. We just had time go inside before the service started at 1030. The shop opposite was still selling almond shortbread of Santiago - a delicacy which was on our shopping list which is also available in some of the supermarkets (there are two towards the railway station and one in the road to the left as you pass the police staion climbing up to the Fortress). The buildings had pretty iron balconies and we looked around for the shop which sold cane garden furniture but could not find it. We climbed and our first viewpoint was at the little park adjacent to the hospital from which we descended to the Paseo de Granada and then ascended to the Parque do Castro. The park area is large, with terracing and neat gardens, leading to the walls of the fortress. From the Monument a los Galeones de Rande, three large anchors, there was a good view down to the port and the red funnel of the Queen Victoria. We remembered a large building within the fortress walls, but it was now derelict with broken windows and graffiti. More climbing and we reached the entry arch to the fortress. Inside there were pretty gardens, a fountain, and more views down of Vigo.

At the foot of the hill there is a new outdoor museum, where the remains of the Oppidum of Vigo have been excavated and three buildings of the original style have been constructed which portray the site as it would have been in Roman times. To the south a network of channels have been found indicating some type of manufacturing was taking place there, possibly dyeing. Entry is free and there was a board-walk to prevent damage of the ground. Unfortunately it is only open on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and Saturday afternoon.

Continuing downhill in search of the Indoor Fish Market we reached the Ribera de Berbes with the monument to the fishermen, and the Cruceiro cross. It was an open space and we expected to see the Fish Market here, but there was no building and no Mercado sign. Trusting to memory we walked along the Canovas del Castillo and came upon the entrance. We always purchase some local cheese from the market, the rounded pyramid shaped smoked cheeese and the round cheese with the shell symbol of the Camino de Santiago (pilgrims route).

We also bought boxes of the local Galician almond cakes/shortbreads (Tarta de Almendras Especial Camino de Santiago) which have the cross of the pilgrims path, and this meant we had too much heavy shopping. We were tempted by a lunch of the fresh fish and local oysters; the restaurants were full of staff we recognised, but we decided to take everything back to the ship to keep the cheese cold in our fridge. As we passed the Shopping Centre we were serenaded by a group of local musicians.

After a quick lunch in the Lido we were out again, exploring along the waterfront beyond the cruise terminal for boats to the islands, and then to the gardens Jardines de Elduayen. Jose Elduayen e Gorriti (1823-1898) was an engineer and politician. He was Minister of State, Government, Foreign Affairs and Treasury and the monument has four female figures which symbolise these four Ministerial positions. The monument was cast in Barcelona and the anchors and chains in Vigo. One building on the edge of the park caught our eye - it had a colourful and unusual domed roof.

We walked across towards cafes and more trees and were suddenly in a much bigger and more interesting park with fountains and formal gardens. Our map marked it as Praza de Compostela. Our next highlight was El Sireno, the statue on top of two tall granite blocks. The road, Policarpo Sanz Street, was broad with many solid significant and beautiful buildings - including the Theatre, the Arts and Crafts house, and lots of local, national and international banks.

Wednesday 23 October - The Final Day at Sea

Packing, packing and more packing followed by some packing.

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