Menorca

We were planning on being in Majorca later in June, there is yacht racing, so decided to head off to Menorca for a while.  We set off from Soller at a much more acceptable time of 9.00am on a beautiful sunny day again motoring.  Anchored just outside the bay at Soller was this yacht “Fountainhead” or perhaps we should call it a ship it was that big.  I guess we will have to get used to seeing large yachts in the Balearics. It was just the last couple of hours when the wind started to pick up that we got to sail.  We also saw a sea plane come in and pick up water and then fly off again.  Ten and a half hours later we anchored in Cala Fontanelles, which is a small cala on the north coast of Menorca.

We stayed just the one night and made our way to Cala Arenal d’en Castel, which is a horseshoe shape cala.  We bumped into friends from Cartagena, Cath and Ray who had visitors.  So we had a few sun downers with them onboard Cuffysark.  The following morning we moved onto an anchorage at Illa d’en Colom where more friends from Cartagena were Destination Anywhere, or at least Malcolm was, Nikki had to go off and do some work.  We left in a thunderstorm, we do have bad weather too.  That’s two thunderstorms in one week.  On arrival was another super yacht anchored up, a beautiful classic yacht called Nahlin which is owned by James Dyson, how did we manage without Google.  The history of the boat is really interesting.

You will notice the red Ensign flying on the stern, nothing unusual about that for British registered boats.  The tender to the yacht left to go ashore also flying a red Ensign.  A short while later and back it came but this time with a white Ensign flying and we then noticed the yacht itself was flying the white Ensign which means only one thing the owner is on board.  Members of the Royal Yacht Squadron may display the white Ensign when they are on board.  Sure enough when Mr Dyson left a few days later the red Ensign was back.

Our tender is a Walker Bay, which Ian took months to find.  The reason for this is that it also has sails, so for the second time, first time since we left last year, everything came out barring the gib and off he went for a sail around the bay.  Definitely multi-purpose, with the wheels on the back.  We spent five nights anchored in Illa d’en Collom.  There was a small village just a short dinghy ride away, all very unspoilt.

Nikki and Malcolm had hired a car so we joined them for a trip around some of the Island.  Menorca reminds me of the English countryside but warmer.  We took a trip down to the old capital Ciutadella which ceased to be the capital when the British arrived in 1708 and moved it to Mahon.

Naveta des Tudons

The Naveta is a tomb that is only found on Menorca and was discovered in the 1960’s. Inside there were over a hundred skeletons scattered around, male and female, many of which dated back to the 9th century.

Personal items that had been buried with the corpses were still close by: bronze bracelets, bone buttons and some bronze weapons. Also found were small pots, pottery vases and a carved bone stopper, which was part of a container holding the human hair of some of the dead, a common burial ritual in this period.

The shape of the naveta is similar to an upturned boat (“nave” in Spanish), hence the name given to this type of monument. It was in the middle of a farmers’ field where the cows were alongside us which I found a bit worrying.  Nikki and Malcolm thought this amusing as it was quite normal to walk through farmers’ fields in Scotland, us townies are not so familiar with nature.

Sheltering from the Mistral

The forecast was that there was a mistral coming through, it wasn’t the winds so much but the 3m swell so off we went to Port de Addaya.  This was a long channel and so very sheltered.  It was very busy when we arrived so we went further down the channel away from the majority of the boats.  By early evening it was like a millpond and you could easily have thought you were sitting on an English river in the countryside.  It was beautiful.

Addaya was a small town which was largely villas and apartments with just a few bars/restaurants and a supermarket.  We had a walk around up to the entrance of the channel to see the swell.

 

L. Cala Galdana, Menorca 16.6.18.After a few lovely nights here we moved onto Gala Galdena which is a nice bay and popular with the tourists.  There was quite a swell here where we anchored even though there was no wind which didn’t make getting into the dinghy very easy.  We arrived on the night Spain were playing Portugal in the World Cup so there were a few bars with lots of Spanish watching, so it was quite lively.

We had to start making tracks back to Majorca if we (or least Ian) wants to get down to Palma in time for the Super Yacht Racing.  So Sunday 18th June and we head off.

 

 

June 2018

 

 

 

 

Balearics Islands – June 2018

We arrived back in Spain after a lovely trip home to the UK.  We now spend a couple of days preparing to leave the Spanish mainland and head for the Balearics.  We are not anticipating going into a marina now until possibly October.  Marinas are exorbitant in the Balearics and they get more and more expensive the further into the summer you go.  Most of our cruising friends will be in the same boat, excuse the pun!  As a general rule it is much nicer to sit on anchor although saying that it is nice to step off the boat onto land on occasions but not this summer.  Prices for one night range from €85 to possibly €250 depending on which month of the summer it is.  Now you can understand why we will be on anchor!

A1. Soller on anchor 2.6.18..png

There are a number of issues that landlubbers take for granted and we were the same, constant water on tap, hot and cold, electric, gas, food shopping, all the more a task when on anchor and having to get in a dinghy.  We won’t use our bikes while on anchor as although they will fit in the dinghy it’s a lot of faffing about so we’ve got to lug all future shopping.  We decided to try out online shopping which was ok as it did have an English version but no photos.  We had stocked up on some stuff whilst in Cartagena when we had a car but six weeks on and we’d made a dent in some of this. Ian, for those of you who him well, know he drinks tea like it’s going out of fashion and so carting the amount of milk we get through each week was a good reason for stocking up on heavy items like this.  We waited for our delivery in our two hour slot which came and went.  Fifteen minutes after we can hear “Lorraine, Lorraine” and walking down the pontoon was our delivery driver.  He brought all our stuff down to the back and the boat and all we had to do was lift it on.  Worth the delivery charge.

We filled up with water, not knowing when the next time we will be able to as not everywhere has water available and we do not have the luxury of a water maker, well not yet anyway!  We should be able to last between three and four weeks.  It makes you very conscious of what you use.

There was a fuel pump on the marina but a friend in Cartagena got diesel bug in his tanks from a marina and this has made Ian a bit paranoid so off he went with his beloved trolley attached to the back of his bike, (a reminder below) he had to make three trips, to get fuel from a local petrol station as they have a constant turnover of fuel.  He got quite a few funny looks.

E6. Ian off to get diesel, Nov 17

Ian off to get diesel Nov 2017

So we are finding our solar panels have been able to keep up with our energy consumption and keep our batteries charged.  We are managing to generate enough hot water each day which is our biggest challenge and we’ve only used the generator once since leaving Barcelona.  We also have our water solar bags which produce enough hot water for laundry.  If it’s not quite up to temperature then there’s always the kettle to top it up with.

Heading off to Majorca

I can’t say we left bright and early but I can say we left dark and early, on Saturday 2nd June at 4.00am. Once out of the marina, ropes and fenders away Ian sent me back to bed and I surfaced again at 8.30.  I did miss the most beautiful sunrise.

Sunset 12 miles off Barcelona

We had very light winds and a current against us for about four hours and so had to motor a lot of the way.  After 18 hours we arrived at Soller, a beautiful sheltered bay on the West coast of Majorca just as it had got dark.

Our first day in Soller wasn’t so great as we had a thunderstorm where it rained for most of the day.  However normal service was resumed the following day so we decided to take a walk into the town of Soller itself which was about 40 minutes each way.  As always there is a church, Iglesia de Sant Bartomeu, which we took a stroll around.

After all this walking we were ready for lunch and we found a wonderful little place off the main square which had a beautiful courtyard where we had Menu of the Day.  We had no idea what we were getting but it was lovely and things we wouldn’t normally have chosen.

We only spent a few days in Majorca before heading off to Menorca as we are coming back here later in the month as we are back to see the Super Yacht racing in Palma towards the end of June.

 

June 2018

Mar Menor to Barcelona

18th April to 18th May 2018

Our first stop after leaving Cartagena was the Mar Menor, which is a salt lagoon just 30 miles up the coast.  We wanted to stop here so that we could beach the boat and give the hulls a scrub as green weed clings to it.  It wasn’t a particularly warm day so on went the dry suit and in Ian went.  Didn’t take long and as the weed came off much easier when the hulls were in the water.

Jessica made a short visit.    Unfortunately the weather wasn’t as good as back in the UK, where you were having a heatwave.  It was quite windy.  We ventured from the Mar Menor and anchored in the harbour at Torreveija.  We had to stay here for a few days as the winds were quite strong we had 40 knots the night that Jessica left.

We eventually left on Thursday 26th April in the rain and overcast skies.  We anchored just past Alicante at Punta Cala for one night.  From here we went up to Javea.  Coming around the headland into the bay we had big gusts so we were glad to get into the bay.  Although overnight there was no wind and the sea was flat, there was a constant swell so not very comfortable which meant not a good night’s sleep.

Next stop was Valencia, we had a good sail and the weather was lovely and sunny for a change.  Weather here has been rather mixed since we left Cartagena.  We spent five days in the Americas Cup Marina (28th April until 3rd May) so we could do some sightseeing.  We visited the City of Arts and Science and the Oceanographic which was jam packed as it was the day before a bank holiday which was a Tuesday, they don’t do Mondays.

The Oceanographic

The giant pendulum that demonstrates the earth’s rotation.

The first night we were here we found a restaurant off the beaten track where the locals go.  We had various menus to choose from.  We decided on the set menu, thinking we should make a choice from each course, “No No” was the waiters’ response.  We realised soon enough that we got everything on the menu.  We were rather full at the end of it.

We next headed for the Ebre Delta with a stopover on the way at Oropresa.  We were going to anchor in the bay but the swell was such that we relented and went into the marina for the night.  From here we headed for the Ebre Delta where we anchored at Sant Carlos de la Rapita.  We’ve never seen so many boats coming into harbour at one time, it was like a charge.  We were here over the May Bank Holiday and while you were enjoying glorious weather in the UK we had some lovely rain and clouds.  It’s not all sun and sea!

We were making our way up to Mataro, which is about 15miles north of Barcelona where Gary and Shelley were meeting us and spending the week with us as well as going to the F1 Grand Prix.  This was our first overnight trip for a while, my favourite NOT!  The forecast was for cloudy skies but we were lucky as it was clear although we had no moon until about 4 in the morning and then it was only half a moon.  Ian took the first watch, “off you go Lo go and get your head down” so kind of him but it was only 10 o’clock and a bit early to go to sleep but off I went like a good crew does when the skipper gives an order.  After a little sleep I’m up again at 1am and it was dark, very dark.  It’s surprising how quickly a watch goes when you are keeping an eye out for ships etc.  I did get a bit concerned when a cargo ship was coming up behind us on the same course, so I did consult the skipper who told me “it will be alright stay as you are he will change course” and so he did about 15 minutes before.  I let him sleep a bit longer as I’d disturbed his sleep.  So after 20 hours and 108 nm we arrived Port de Mataro where we were staying for a month.

We were going to see the F1 Grand Prix a first for me.  I don’t understand the fascination for watching cars go round and round but I was pleasantly surprised and can actually say that I did enjoy it.  Not that I want Ian getting any ideas I didn’t say I wanted to go again but pleased I’ve been!

We took a short sail up the coast to Blanes, a beautiful sunny day and light winds.  The bay here is lovely and we anchored for the night before coming back to Mataro the following day.

Obviously we can’t be this close to Barcelona without having a day there, even though we’ve all been there a few times.  The train station is just in front of the marina so it’s all very easy to get into the city which is about 40 minutes on the train.

The week had flown by and we’d had a great time.  We were all flying back to the UK together.  Jessica and her friend Shelly thought they would take advantage of the boat being here so they arrived a couple of hours before we left for our flight.

May 2018 

 

Cheerio Cartagena

Cartagena has been a fabulous place to stay for the winter season.  We didn’t know what to expect for our first winter but it has exceeded our expectations.  We’ve had a lot of fun, met some amazing people, some of whom I know we will meet again either on our travels over the summer or in Sicily for the winter.  The community here has been great with lots of social activity, regular Sunday BBQ, Tapas nights, sun downer drink nights, darts (yeah I know but a real laugh) trips out, dinners, lunches, sports sessions (watching the Six Nations, well what did you expect?) and yoga!

Of all the things we’ve seen and visited during our time in Cartagena the two things I would recommend is the Carnival and Holy Week (more info in earlier blogs).  Both celebrations are a must see.  They are both amazing in different ways.  The amount of time and effort that has gone into these events is incredible.

The city is steeped in over 2,500 years of history so there was plenty to see and do.

There are various Roman remains around the city however the Roman Theatre was only discovered more recently in 1988.  Houses and part of the Old Cathedral sat on top of the Theatre.

There is also a Bullring which was built on the ruins of a Roman Amphitheatre.

B1. Bullring at Cartagena, 29.3.18.

Cartagena is one of Spain’s main naval bases, so of course there would be a Naval Museum which Ian insisted we visit.

The Underwater Archaeology National Museum.

Castillo de la Concepcion has great views of the city and harbour and also has its own peacocks.

E1. Castle of La Concepcion, Cartagena April

There are various monuments and churches too and the sight out of the back of the boat of the cruise ships, who arrived up until mid November and after mid March on a regular basis.  Sailing Yacht A also spent the winter here which is a bit like Marmite you either love it or hate it.  It’s enormous, there is a three storey building to the side of it.

 

Views of Cartagena

We had a good crowd of people come along to see us, Jessica, John and Irene, Julia and James, Lorna and Dave, Mel and Lee, John and Primrose, Brian and Ann and Stick and Lisa.  I didn’t get mug shots of everyone unfortunately.

Put all this together and it’s been AMAZING.  But all good things come to an end and we said our goodbyes to our immediate neighbours Caroline, Howard, Jessica and Olivia.  Although we were told by our young neighbour Jessica its not goodbye it’s “See you Later”.  We let the lines go and off we went.  Feeling a little sad but excited too for the next season of our adventure.

We passed the Spanish Navy coming into port as we were leaving and as is the norm the band was playing, maybe not for us but we can pretend as it was nice to be played out to!

April 2018

Semana Santa – Holy Week in Cartagena

Easter week is filled with processions and Cartagena is the first to get under way in Spain.  Ian’s Mum and Dad, John and Irene, arrived on 22nd so they were able to experience it along with us.

The processions are staged by the “Brotherhoods” of which there are four in Cartagena.  The first procession, Viernes de Dolores, began on Friday 23rd March at 3.30am.  Yes you have read that correctly, well as you have guessed we didn’t make that one.  As well as being the start of Holy Week it is also the Feast Day of the Patron Saint of Cartagena.  The first procession we watched was the “Floral Offering”.  Mainly women and children dressed in traditional regional costume who make floral offerings to the patron of Cartagena.  The flowers are placed outside the Iglesia de la Caridad.  Again what strikes you most, as with the carnivals, that it is very much a family affair from babes in arms to elderly people.

There were two further processions this evening.  The first was the “Processional Via Crucis”.

The main procession the “Procession Santisimo Cristo de la Misericordia” which began at 9 o’clock.  Nothing starts very early in Spain.  This lasted for just under three hours.  This was our first sighting of the brotherhoods, some of whom wear pointed hoods that cover their heads and faces, so all you can see is their eyes.  It is a bit unnerving.  They all wear the same colours which consists of a robe, sash around the waist, a cloak, hood and sandals.  The reason for the hoods is that those wearing them are repenting their sins in public but want to remain anonymous.

The Brotherhoods are divided into smaller groups who are in charge of one of the tronos (floats).  The order is three members of the group who walk side by side, followed by two lines of members who march in time to the beat of the drums.

Following behind each of the groups is a music band and the drummers and finally the trono.  Some are carried and others are pushed along from inside.  You know from a distance if a trono is being carried or pushed along as if it’s being carried you can see it swaying from side to side.  They have to manoeuvre these enormous floats around some very small winding streets.  When you hear a bell ring the “portapasos” (float carriers) stop, a second bell sounds and they gently put the trono down.  And in reverse when the bell goes they stand ready in place, second bell, they lift the trono and off they go again.  When you see the size of these things you can understand why they have to stop every few minutes to rest. The tronos are carried by groups of men and women.

The processions are unique to Cartagena as they are quite regimented, an influence of Cartagena’s military and naval background.  So in amongst the brotherhoods are groups of military.

Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday)

The Roman Soldiers march around the city in the morning.  The Romans ruled over  Cartagena following the Battle of Cartagena in 209BC.

As it was Palm Sunday of course nearly everyone carried a palm.

E12a. Psalm Sunday procession, Cartagena 25.3.18._collage

 

Watching the procession, one of many.

F. Ian, John and Irene, Cartagena 25.3.18.

The churches are not always open however walking along Calle Mayor on Sabado Santa (Easter Saturday) the Virgin Mary had been brought out on display for all to see.

G. Virgin Mary, Cartagena 26.3.18.

We walked past the Basilica de le Caridad on many occasions but we only came across its doors open on Easter Saturday evening.  So of course we took the opportunity to go in and have a look.

The processions are mesmerising.  The photos are just a small selection to give you a flavour as the processions went on for quite a few hours.  We feel very fortunate to be in Spain during this time as it was AMAZING experience.

 

Spain – March 2018

 

Carnivals, Cuisine and Guns of Mazarron

CARNIVALS

February seems to be the time for carnivals in Spain.  About an hour’s drive from Cartagena is the seaside resort of Aguilas.  It is the most famous carnival in the Murcia region.  It’s known for its flamboyant costumes, synchronised dance groups, glitz and feathers.  So we went along to get tickets for eight of us who had decided to go.  It was a small office which was open each evening from 5pm until 7pm.  We are in Spain so 5pm doesn’t necessarily mean 5pm and yes you guessed it, no it didn’t.  The guys arrived at 5.30pm but we got our tickets in one of the tiered stands.  Our friends John and Prim were coming out to see us so they came along and it was AMAZING.  Yes I know that’s in caps but I just had to emphasise how AMAZING it was.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  The costumes dazzled and some of them included pulling a heavily decorated frame along, which formed part of their outfit.  The thing about the costumes etc is they are only used for one year.  The photos are just a few as there were so many to choose from.

 

We arrived mid afternoon so we could have some lunch and get a parking space, which we did right on the sea front.  Great, however, we realised that there was no way we could get out of Aguilas until the parade was finished.  The parade lasted just over five hours so we couldn’t have left earlier if we’d wanted to.

 

We hadn’t realised that Cartagena was holding their carnival procession a few days before so after watching a couple of games of rugby, the Six Nations, where us sailors took over most of the bar, we walked along to find a place to watch the carnival.  There were people of all ages, very young children to the elderly taking part.  The costumes again were AMAZING.  The one thing that was different to the Aguilas carnival is that all the music was the same across the whole length of the procession.  There were big speakers set up along the route so you didn’t get that mix of different music in your ear.

 

CUISINE

We also visited the local catering college who offer set meals three times a week at lunchtime.  So 24 of us went along for them to practice their newly learned skills.  The theme was sea weed.  The food was lovely and they did very well looking after so many of us.

 

GUNS OF MAZARRON

Another outing with some of the Sailing Crew was to the Battlements and Gun Emplacements at Castillitos and El Jorel, Cabo Tinoso (the Guns).  We had to travel down the hillside across the plain and then up the other side, much of the road was single track.

There are two battery emplacements built between 1926 and 1933.  44 elements cover every angle of attack and the batteries were built in a ring which encircled Cartagena and out along the coast as part of the Plan de Defensa of 1926.

Cabo Tinoso sits 218 metres above sea level on a rocky cliff top.  The Vickers guns, made in the UK, give a 35km firing range and measure 17 meters in length and can fire ammunition weighing up to a ton..

 

After walking from one cliff top to the other we had built up enough of an appetite so we visited the port of Mazzaron for a spot of lunch.  Four courses, with half a bottle of wine and a shot of something similar to Baileys all for €10.

February 2018

Madrid – 6-9 February 2018

We decided to take a trip to Madrid as you can’t spend time in Spain without going to the capital.  I’d been here twice before, for work, so hadn’t seen much of the city.  We had planned to drive but after further consideration decided on the train as parking is expensive.  So we let the train take the strain.  It was quite a long journey but that was mainly because the train didn’t go very fast for the first part of the journey.  We had left behind weather in Cartagena of about 15 degrees which is not to be sniffed at in February.  Madrid was another story.  We went through snow on the way and it was bitterly cold in Madrid.  I’m not after any sympathy, I know I’m not going to get any, with the cold weather you’ve had in the UK.

We had managed to find an apartment right in the centre of Madrid, just off from the Puerta del Sol so the sights were all easily accessible.  The square contains the famous clock whose bells mark the traditional eating of the “Twelve Grapes” and the beginning of a new year, not the easiest thing to do, we tried it when we were in Barcelona one new year.

Paseo del Arte is the art district in Madrid which consists of a number of museums, the one I think most people go to is the Prada Museum, so we decided on the  Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.  We spent a lovely warm day wandering around the museum which has paintings from Dürer, Rafael, Titian, Rubens, Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Manet, Renoir, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Kandinsky, Picasso, Hopper, Rothko. These are just some of the impressive list of names that make up the collection.  Once a private collection it now belongs to the people of Spain since the Spanish Government bought it.

We always think a good way to get an overview of a city is to hop on a sightseeing bus.  We had no choice but to sit up top in the open air as downstairs was rammed as it was so cold.  It was freezing.  We hopped off the bus at the Royal Palace to find that it was closed due to an official function.  So we only got to see the outside which was a shame.

C2. Royal Palace - Madrid 7.2.18.

We also paid a visit to the Museo Cerralbo which is a 19th century mansion house which preserves its original décor, giving an insight into Spanish high society.

One thing that was very noticeable was the large police presence around Madrid although there wasn’t a policeman in sight when someone slipped my purse out of my bag, thankfully I felt someone touch the back of me so I caught them with it in their hand making out I’d dropped it, amazingly (not) my money had all disappeared but at least I got my purse back with my cards.  The other thing that is odd is that even when it’s cold, just a few degrees above freezing, people still sat outside restaurants having a coffee and eating.  Mad or what!!  If I’m sitting outside I want warmth.

Madrid is definitely worth a visit but I’d suggest you go when it’s warmer.  It was lovely getting off the train in Cartagena to warm sunshine.

 

February 2018