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Cunard Queen Victoria 2022
Mediterranean Cruise - Part 3
After two days at sea, including another passage through the Messina Strait, we reached Cagliari. It is a city on the southern point of Sardinia, and just over 1000 nautical miles from Trieste. We have visited before: in 2005 and 2007 on the QE2 and in 2015 on the Queen Elizabeth. The visit in 2015 is at http://www.pcurtis.com/qe15-p3.htm#cagliari. Again our walk around the city began at the Town Hall and concentrated on the Old Town. It included the Mercato Civico of Santa Chiara, which was quiet on a Saturday morning. The main part was now a large bar. The climb up to the medieval fortified citadel passed the Elephant Tower. Having admired the views and asked at the ticket office, the Elephant tower was only open by timed tickets and the top floor was closed due to refurbishment. The other tower, the St Pancras tower, was closed for restoration. Disappointed we admired the views from the viewpoint before continuing upwards to the main Piazza Palazzo. There were extensive road repairs in progress but it was still possible to access the three main attractions : the Cathedral, the Palazzo Regio and the Palazzo di Cita.
The Palazzo Regio was the seat of the Viceroy from the early 14th century until the last Viceroy in 1848. There were extensive renovations and improvements carried out in the 1700s. The main staircase dates from 1730 and the “embellishment” of the facade to 1769. The building was purchased by the province of Cagliari from the State in 1885. The Council Chamber was added following fire damage and dates from 1896 onwards. The decoration is a dual glorification of the influence of the House of Savoy in Italian unification, and important events in the history of Sardinia. Vittorio Emanuele II was King of Sardinia (1846-1861) and then King of Italy (1861-1878). The collection of mainly dinner services in silver and porcelain date from the 1800s. The other rooms were richly furnished with large Venetian chandeliers hanging from ornate painted ceilings. The overall impression is of a public building which is well cared for and belongs to a city which is substantial and affluent.
The Cathedral was crowded for a wedding, with the bride and groom kneeling at the altar together. There was large applause, we assume they both said “Yes”, so we continued next door, intended to visit the cathedral when the wedding had finished. The Palazzo di Cita, the former Town Hall, is now the Museo Civici Cagliari. Their current exhibition, “Corto Maltese Verso nuove rotte” was advertised with a cartoon sketch of a naval officer. To our disappointment it was not about Malta. Inside it displayed designs and watercolour sketches for stories and comic books about Corto Maltese, a fictional adventurer, written by the graphic artist and cartoonist Hugo Pratt (1927-1995). Pratt was born in Italy and then travelled widely, including Africa, Argentina, France, Canada, Switzerland, Patagonia, Guatemala, Mexico and Easter Island. The banner on the building shows one of his images of Corto Maltese.
By now the wedding had just finished and the 13th century Cathedral of Saint Mary was open for visitors. The bouqets and flower posies at the end of each pew were all that remained from the wedding. The crypt was again a highlight with its stunning decoration and tiling.
Continuing in the Castello District towards the Piazza Arsenale we saw the Tower of St Pancras and the Archaeological Museum, before heading downhill to the Roman Amphitheatre and the Botanical Gardens. There seems little change to either and no incentive to pay entrance for the Roman Amphitheatre, but the Botanical Gardens are always a pleasant spot to sit. The Botanical Garden is part of the University of Cagliari. It was opened in 1866 under the direction of Prof. Patrizio Gennari, whose statue overlooks the ticket office. The waterlilies in the central fountain were in flower. The cactus gardens are as beautiful as before. And we went inside the large cistern, as we had done in 2015.
The path down to the port ended at the Railway station, Bus station and the Town Hall, completing the circular walk. It was a reminder of the monumental buildings which are everywhere in Cagliari.
To our surprise and delight we had been given another large bunch of flowers, as Top Sailors for the second part of the voyage. The Queen Victoria departed at 1630, with plenty of time to get changed before the start of the Wine Pairing Dinner at 1900. We always try and arrive early at the Verandah so we can get our favourite table for 2 by the window. Unfortunately there had been only a small number of bookings and the meal was hosted in a different area, well away from the windows. We refused to be placed at a large table with other people, because of concerns on Covid, and were eventually placed on a smaller table on our own. This meal highlighted wine pairings, so each course was presented with just one paired wine, each bottle typically costing $80 if purchased at table in the restaurants. The advantage of these special meals is that it enables us to try small quantities of wines, each different with each course, instead of purchasing from their more limited selection of wine by the glass, or having several opened bottles left to consume in future days.
The meal began with an aperitif. Here it was Cottonworth Brut Rose from the UK. The cellar has several UK sparkling wines, including the Nyetimber which we were introduced to at a similar event and is now, alongside the Cloudy Bay Pelorous, our favourite sparkling wine. The Amouse Bouch was an embellished scallop, very nice but served with Tio Pepe. We don't like Tio Pepe. The meal then improved with smoked salmon, duck breast and fillet steak bedore ending with apple pie. A chardonnay from the USA was perfect with the smoked salmon, and the pinot noir from New Zealand went well with the duck breast. We had high expectations of the fillet steak because that at the lunch and learn was excellent. Unfortunately this fillet steat was Scotch whereas the other was British and was not as good in spite of being 35 days instead of (only) 28. The wine was Douro from Portugal and seemed pricey ($82 in the restaurants) but was good. Finally, what to have with an apple pie ? French sauternes, of course.
Overall an excellent meal, but such a pity so few people went along.
We had expected to go to Gibraltar today. Our first visit there was on the QE2 in 2005, then the QV in 2010, 2013 and 2014, and the Queen Elizabeth in 2015. A good description of these combined visits is from the Queen Elizabeth in 2015. We have also passed by The Rock on several cruises without docking, as we did earlier. The Rock is seriously very British and patriotic, and because the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II was today, Gibraltar was in mourning and closed. So, instead of an afternoon in Gibraltar we were going to enjoy a full day in Malaga. We have been to Malaga several times on the Queen Victoria in recent years – in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016. The assembled information is from our Visit to Malaga in 2016
Malaga was founded in the 8th century. On the Costa del Sol, it has a combination of golden beaches and an Old Town, which makes it perfect for tourists. Its most famous resident was Pablo Picasso, recognised at his birthplace and a dedicated museum. The Queen Victoria joined two other cruise ships at the port, where there was a compulsory bus to the cruise terminal. From there it was a pleasant walk to the lighthouse and then to the Bullring and into the city, or there was a second shuttle bus service to the Piazza de la Marina on the edge of the shopping area. To climb up to the Castle of Gibralfaro, the quickest route is to walk towards the Bullring and take the zig-zag footpath from the Plaza General Torruos. As the temperatures rose there were vendors selling bottles of cold water and cheap fans at each bend. The Parador de Malaga Gibralfaro is perched on the edge at the top of the hill with superb views down to the harbour and the city. The entrance to the Castle shared its car park. Reduced price entrance for seniors, students etc is only 1.50 euro and there is a joint ticket with the Alcazaba at 2.50 euros. It is very good value.
The first mention of Gibralfaro was in the 12th century. The Interpretation Centre in the former gunpowder magazine has a model of the combined Alcazaba-Gibralfaro complex, and items from different periods. There is no longer a connection between the Castle and the Alcazaba. The Castle wall is intact for walking, in 30 different sections, and is well maintained. There are excellent views from the walls and the eight towers, and the Torre de Hierro and the Torre Blanca can be explored. The bar and cafe in the central gardens was very popular.
Back at sea level near the Alcazaba, the Roman Theatre is closed on Monday but it was easy to admire it over the fence. Good pictures inside are included in our visit in 2016. Monday seemed to be a bad choice to visit because several interesting museums were closed. A small Carrefour Express supermarket was still on the corner of the park of the Mercado de la Merced and we sat next to a lifesize statue on a seat in the park of the famous artist Picasso. The larger locally-owned Maskom supermercado was further, opposite the Museo Casa Natal Picasso, with an excellent snack bar also selling hams and cheeses. We bought a jamon bagette for lunch, and a 3kg Manchego round cheese which had won prizes at International cheese competitions to take home as a centre piece for our party. There would be no need to go to the Atarazanas Market which we had visited on previous trips.
Ambling slowly along the narrow Calle Granada, where the cow symbol of the Ale-Hop shop contrasted with the restrained facade of the Church of Santiago where Picasso was baptised, we reached the historic Plaza de la Constitucion with its marble fountain. The area is full of pavement bars, cafes and heladeria. Turning away from the harbour and towards the colourful Bishop’s Palace and the Cathedral of the Encarnacion it was quieter than expected. It is a superb iconic national landmark with a 16th-century baroque facade, ornate choir stalls and a museum. Like many cathedrals, there is an entrance charge: 7.50 euro for seniors. With only two hours left it was too short to join the queue for tickets but we plan to go there on our next cruise, due in Malaga on a Friday.
At the Plaza de la Marina we had the option of catching the shuttle bus but preferred to stroll along the wide Paseo del Parque passing the monumental buildings of the University of Malaga, the Bank of Spain and the Town Hall.The beautiful Pedro Luis Alonso Gardens, next to the Town Hall, were named after the first post-WWII Mayor of Malaga. In the centre is a statue of a traditional El Biznaguero, a man selling white biznaga flowers. There is a fountain and several mosaic-decorated benches and walls.
Malaga has a long golden beach beyond the Bullring, and in September there were groups lounging on the sands and some people were swimming. It is a popular place for local families and for ships’ crew because it is close to the ship, there is no entrance charge, and most passengers do not go there. Continuing past the modern Malaga Pompidou Centre and along Muelle (Dock) 1 then towards the lighthouse gave the chance for final shopping. The Cerveceria la Surena offered draft beers and we were delighted that a “copa” was only 2 euros. We had several. Refreshed we walked across to admire a vintage sailing ship. It was the Gotheborg, a replica of an 18th century Swedish East Indiaman and is described as the world’s largest ocean-going sailing ship. It is not a cruise ship. People are recruited to learn sailing skills and paid to work during the voyage. She was spending 5 days in Malaga, continuing to Malta in October, and is then wintering in Barcelona before setting off to Asia via the Suez canal in Spring 2023.
After getting thoroughly lost in the cruise terminal, and almost missing the last shuttle bus back to the ship, we were pleased to get onboard. Unfortunately Pauline’s Tilley hat got lost in the transfer, but she has a spare one at home.
Today is a busy Birthday at sea Day for Pauline. Choosing between the luxury of breakfast in the stateroom or the elegance of the restaurant, the restaurant won easily. The gastronomy continued with lunch in the Verandah. After a healthy option of fish as main course, there was plenty of appetite left for the toffee, peanut butter and fudge brownie sundae. After an afternoon recovering from all the gastronomy, we had made a special dinner order of Crepes Suzettes to be cooked at our table by Francis, our Head Waiter. After receiving birthday congratulations, the Grills do not offer individual Birthday cakes and our waiters do not sing, we discovered that the following evening would also have crepes suzette on the menu. It is a tradition for the last gala evening on board.