Friday, November 23, 2007
Cadiz, Spain

What a fun day. I stayed up until after midnight grading papers and slept in. The sun did not come up until 0800 so I slept in. By 0830 the ship was cleared and I walked down the gangway to Spain. It was a nice and cool, but not cold temperature, and overcast. I walked to the train station by way of a variety of banks and tourist offices. At the train station I confirmed my rental car for tomorrow, and then began to walk through the city. I ran into many students, of course, and translated for several of them. The Castilian accent is very pronounced, but it actually makes it easier to understand. Perhaps it is because I was taught Castilian Spanish in high school. It began to drizzle, but I managed to get directions to a fire station and walked to the Puerta de Tierra, the city gate, where I met bomberos (firemen) and took photos of the apparatus there. Students are also showing and sharing fire engine photos for me from different countries, knowing I am getting them for Kent.

Then back into the city along the strand. I went to a 1st Century BCE Roman Theater. Cadiz claims to be the oldest city in Europe. I went past the magnificent cathedral to the Plaza de Flores to the post office and picked up stamps. I went to a mercado (market) that was under a huge big top and watched the food and fish and sausages and vegetables sell. I bought some great olives I will bring to Christmas to share and a roll of homemade bread. Delicious! I then went to a small museum where they use to prepare and salt fish then seal them into large urns to go across the Mediterranean.

In the drizzle I returned to the Cathedral Plaza and sat with students, then joined two to go into the bell tower of the cathedral. It was 4 Euros and a not very difficult climb. The rain had stopped and the view was stunning. I called to the other students below and we waved at each other. Back down and at a store I bought a neat Espana scarf/muffler with a bull on it. Then, I went to the old trading square where I had some tapas (appetizers) for a late (3:00 p.m.) lunch.

Back to the ship, I planned for my drive tomorrow and graded more papers. At 7:00 p.m. I met with 80 others to go to the Flamenco trip. We piled onto two buses and I sat next to my friend, Kathy, who is fun. We listened to our guide, Carmen tell us the scoop of Cadiz as we drove out of the city to San Fernando, about 45 minutes away. There we went to a small bull ring and watched Cartusian horses and great dancing…by both the horses and ladies. I taped a lot of it. Then they showed a bull fighting training session for a one-year-old youngster bull. We adjourned to the inside area where we had tapas, drinks (water for me) and watched a traditional flamenco dancer with castanets. Then the true Andalucian flamenco dancers took over. Andalucia, where we were, was where the flamenco was born. It was explained that a woman or man sings and the guitar player plays and the dancers dance as the whim grabs them. It was athletic, invigorating, passionate, sassy, and incredible. I only taped a little as I just wanted to watch. Their feet flew, they twirled like tops, and their hands told great stories.

When they were done, most of us hit the dance floor. We had a conga line, a limbo, using my new scarf, mock bull fights, and the Macarena! It was so much fun. We laughed back to the ship. So, off I go, to explore the nature of the province of Andalucia! Buenos noches!

Posted by Nancy @ 03:06 PM pst

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving. I graded the first set of over 100 reports coming in from my three classes. The students are doing a great job on the assignments. It was overcast and rainy, but partly cloudy and sunny just about 3:00 p.m. when we approached the port of Gibraltar. The rock and peninsula loomed up as we got closer, then we went to station keeping, dropped our anchor and prepared to refuel. It was brisk and a bit windy, but I dressed warmly and was out on deck with binoculars and my spotting scope. I barely made out some of the famous monkeys of Gibraltar, and watched Mediterranean Gulls fly all around. The monkeys are nearly tailless and received the improper moniker of Barbary “ape”. It is not an ape, but an old world monkey (macaque).

Then we had another muster drill, on with our PFDs and to our lifeboat (muster) stations. Once that was completed, we had a Thanksgiving dinner of the works. I ate some then had papers to grade. We will start up again soon to head to Cadiz, Spain, where I will visit the city, and go to three national parks. Adios!

Posted by Nancy @ 01:37 PM pst

Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Unscheduled stop, Cartegena

Today one of our passengers became ill. He is the spouse of one of our professors. The ship doubled its speed to 26+ knots to get to a port with adequate medical facilities. He was stabilized in our clinic and this evening transferred to a rescue boat off of the coast of Cartegena, Spain. Our Nurse Practitioner, Diane, her spouse, Marv and the patient and his wife, were all transferred to the boat under fairly rough conditions. There were no mishaps and we hold our positive thoughts to his recovery.

Posted by Nancy @ 01:50 PM pst

Monday, November 19, 2007
Mount Etna

It is pleasant outside so my sliding glass door to my balcony is open and I love to hear the waves crash as our ship moves toward Gibraltar. We watched as we slid by Italy and Sicily last night, seeing 10,000+ foot Mt. Etna with a plume of smoke streak across the sky. The sunset was great. My Park Ranger talk (PowerPoint with video clips) was well attended last night after an encore request. Today while on the elliptical bike, I watched as we pulled past Tunisia. What a great life! Hard to believe we have less than three weeks left!

I again received mail from Kent and Mary Anne and the faithful postcard Sheila sends with Dad’s signed name. Thanks all of you for the effort, it was so incredibly helpful and wonderful…I got mail at every port! Toodles.

Posted by Nancy @ 11:09 PM pst

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Saturday, November 17, 2007
Well, it is winter in Croatia. We have had rain, hail, sleet, snow, thunder and lightning, sun but cold (zima) and it is a beautiful place. We arrived to a very cold Gruz, just next to old city Dubrovnik. I later learned it was the ship building site in the medieval days. We are adjacent to a very modern bridge that contrasts with the limestone hills and old walls of rocks that serve(ed) as sheep pens.

When the ship was cleared I headed out in the rain with my trusty six dollar umbrella made in Hong Kong and purchased in Vietnam. I made it to a bank and did a money exchange then to a visitor information bureau. I could not find an accommodation on Mljet for the day, so bought a phone card and called the Mjlet national park and a wonderful lady, Miss Diana, who spoke English said leave it to her. The only hotel on the island was closed and it is the heart of the off season. So I took the 8 kuna bus (5 kuna to the USD to the Pile gate of the old walled city. It is truly impressive with wonderful medieval walls, buildings and facades. There are some shrapnel marks from the 1991-1995 war, and they leave them as a reminder. I found a room with Klara in a home at least 800 years old for 180 kuna, or about 38 USD. It was Hlidina2 Street. Klara spoke little English but we got along fine and she had a delightful way of saying Bravo! When she was pleased with something. There was no way to close the window, fine with me, and the room was large and very catholic in its furnishings. I went out and had lunch with Bernie and Eileen Strenecky at the Domino. It was like eating in a ratskeller, very cozy. In fact, at one point the electricity went out! We talked about giving the students the best three weeks of teaching that we could and to look past the political nonsense. Then we parted ways and I explored the town.

That evening, I went to a 4-string quartet concert by local Croatian musicians who were marvelous. It was held in a tiny old church and the acoustics were incredible and all the lighting was by candle. What an experience. That night it poured, with thunder and lightning and cold winds down the very narrow streets.

The next morning, the sun was up, but it was still cold. I got a baguette, and went to the city walls and ascended the ramparts for 50 kuna. Well worth it. The city is still totally enclosed and the view stupendous. Then I went to the marginal aquarium, where critters did not match the ID cards and the tanks were a bit old. But there was a loggerhead turtle. Then to the Maritime museum. It was excellent, especially for a site-specific area such as Dubrovnik, which used to be called Ragusa and where the word Argosy comes from.

At noon I said ciao to Karla and headed by bus to the ferry. I took the car ferry to Mljet (pronounced mill-yet). It is one third national park and I made arrangements for a home stay through my contact at the NPS HQ. I arrived after dark and paid 20 kuna for a 45 minute bus ride to the last house in Polace (Pol ach eh – meaning palace and named for the 2nd Century Roman Palace on the seashore). Polace is a little hamlet in a cove on the Adriatic Sea. I stayed with Ane and her family Andrea (12) and Karla (6). The Dad was a ship worker and on 15 and off 15. They were fun and practiced English. I stumbled through my survival Croatian, and luckily, Ane knew enough for us to be okay.

Moleen – please
Hvala – thank you
Dobra dan – good day
Dobra veche – goodnight

The room was nice but freezing. I took a shower and went under the covers and slept great. I now know how Mom felt in Ireland when she wanted a hot water bottle! I awoke with the sunrise in the morning and headed out. I took photos of plants and archaeological sites and watched birds and breathed in the nature. I needed this. After a few miles I arrived at the National Park and Miss Diane was there. She gave me a CD, book, map and suggested hikes and would make arrangements for me to go to the 12th Century Benedictine Monastery on St. Mary’s Island. How neat. So, off I went, back up to the ambulance parking area where the fire trucks for the vatrogasci (firefighters) were. Then up a trail to Montokuc, the highest point in the island to breathtaking views of the Dalmatian Coast mainland, the nearby islands and in a blur, Italy (so I was told that was what it was). Down to Solone road and back to the HQ. Diane made arrangements for me to join the park boat to the island. She would not let me pay and said I was the only tourist they had had in over a week! So, off I went to a marvelous pearl, as they call it, of an island. While the bodies of water in the park look like lakes, they are in fact salt water bays with open access to the ocean. There are coral reefs and incredible life, but it is too cold to SCUBA. On the island, I met an archaeologist working on restoration and his dog, a Dalmatian! Her name was S___, the Croatian word for flower, which I cannot recall. She noodled around with me until it was time to go.

Then back to the main island where I walked many more miles through the park to Pomena and back to Polace. That night I had Croatian pizza with the family and snuggled to bed, only to have a tremendous thunder and lightning storm wake up the dead. It was spectacular and it arrived with rain, then hail, then snow!

The next morning, Ane and the girls drove me to a Blata, a lake near Sobra where my ferry would leave, and I hiked with my binoculars around part of the lake and sat and just looked for a while. It smelled so good. A tan dog with a collar joined me and was my constant companion for the next 7 miles! We walked and I went to Sobra and past it and watched the gulls on the sea and then finally caught my catamaran fast ferry back to Dubrovnik, arriving after dark. It has the bone chilling cold of winter in the air and I stopped at a store for snacks and the cold .25L cokes they have here. Then to the ship, dinner with Doris Wilsdorf and her adopted grandson, Ted, and then shower and catch up. Tomorrow afternoon, Osojnik.

Sunday, November 18, 2007
I graded papers all this morning after a nice sleep. The computer was down so I got a lot done. It is a delightful crisp day. At 1330 I met in the Union with about 20 others. Katie was the trip leader, one of our 2 counselors…Marylynn Glatfelter is the other. Brendan and Joanna, frequent travelers on my trips, were there also with Holly, nice, mature students. Katrina was our guide and we crossed the bridge in our bus for a 30 minute ride into the mountains to a village. The vegetation was sparse and the few trees in their fall colors. It really made Mljet National Park look lush! There are more rocks than Ireland, which is saying a lot, and many walls. The recent war, 1991-1995 has taken its toll and the economy and people and repairs are still recovering. We came to a memorial and a bombed out house, then a rebuilt church (St. George) that had been leveled. Then we walked a short distance to a farm. We saw chickens, goats and donkeys. The home was in three stages, 19th century, 50 years ago and 30 years ago. Two couples were in traditional costume and those who wanted were served shots of liquor and I had juice. Figs were offered and then a musical instrument and traditional dance. Then we all danced with them. It was fun. Then with bay leaf sticks, we skewered bacon, roasted it over an open fire, and had it on bread with cheese and potatoes. It was good. Then we meandered around, I with Katie, Brendan and a nice young man named Francisco. It was pleasant and not rushed and rural. Finally we returned at dusk to our waiting home and the penultimate leg of our journey, Spain!

Posted by Nancy @ 10:45 AM pst