Playing Catch-up: Barcelona

Hi gang! I’m playing a game of blog catch-up right now, since the schedule has been a little crazy lately. With my recent creativeLIVE event, I haven’t been able to post the last batch of photos from my recent trip. I had one port to go: Barcelona. We were lucky to be able to spend two days in Barcelona, as we were docked there overnight. This was great because there is just so much to see there. Even though we spent all of our time exploring, we still want to return to see more. I think you really need a week in that city to truly take everything in. Barcelona has loads of buildings by the famous architect, Gaudi, who has a crazy and somewhat whimsical style that really stands out from you’re used to seeing. We spent a lot of time visiting his buildings, including the gigantic Sagrada Familia church, which is STILL under construction. We also visited the Poble Espanol museum, which is essentially a traditional Spanish village with restaurants, museums, craftsmen, etc.

Below are a bunch of images from our days in Barcelona. What’s funny is that I’m posting these images as I sit in an internet cafe in Australia. It was only a few weeks after our Spain/Portugal/Morocco cruise that we set off on another adventure, this one starting in Sydney. Over the course of the next two months, we’ll visit 10 countries and 24 ports of call, so stay tuned! The blog schedule will continue to be sporadic due to the equally sporadic internet situation.

For now though, I give you Barcelona:

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Port #9: Valencia

Valencia was our second stop in Spain, and what an interesting mix of old and new! In one day, we saw the Holy Grail AND some of the most modern, space-age looking buildings we’ve ever seen. The first half of the day was spent walking around the more historic part of the city, shooting the Basilica dels Desamparats, the large cathedral (home of the Holy Grail) and the local market. Valencia is where the famous Spanish dish, paella, originated, and we were happy to find some delicious paella while we were there.

The second half of the day was spent at the City of Arts and Sciences, and what a contrast that was to the old churches and such! The City of Arts and Sciences is a huge, futuristic, educational complex designed by the famous architect, Santiago Calatrava. It looks like something you’d see in a space-age movie and we spent hours photographing the many buildings there. The rest of the story, I’ll tell in photos. Enjoy!

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2013_12_07_033551_Valencia Spain_0402The Holy Grail, found in Valencia’s cathedral.

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BenPaellaValencia is where paella originated, so we had to get some while we were there!

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Port # 7: Cádiz

After spending two days exploring Morocco, we sailed through the Strait of Gibralter toward our first Spanish port: Cádiz. Cádiz is the oldest inhabited city in the Western World, so we were excited to explore some old buildings and historic Spanish squares. Instead of doing a cruise excursion here, we went off exploring on our own, which was easy since the ship docked right in town. (It was so close to town that it literally looked like it was nestled in with the rest of the buildings!)

We started off in a big, beautiful square that was mostly occupied by the Cádiz Cathedral, which was huge. We took photos inside and out and then wandered around the surrounding cobblestone streets, which were lined with loads of old buildings and full of local vendors in some areas.  Walking through the local market, it was incredible to see how different and new-looking it seemed compared to the one we had visited two days earlier in Casablanca.

Most of the historic part of Cádiz is surrounded by water, and one of the places we visited was an old fortress that jutted out into the water and overlooked part of town. Right by the fortress, on the water, was a nice little tapas restaurant and that’s where we stopped for lunch, using their wifi to connect to the rest of the world for a while. A tapas lunch in Spain overlooking the water… not bad, right?!

As with many of the rest of these posts, I’ll tell the rest of the story in pictures. After Cádiz, we would sail to Valencia and explore another Spanish town. More to come…

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Ports #5 & 6: Morocco

We went from the Canary Islands to Morocco, and what a difference that short distance makes! We visited Agadir and Casablanca and both were worlds apart from the vacationer retreats we saw in the islands. I admit that one has to have a bit larger of a comfort zone to feel at ease walking around in these ports, but if you ARE comfortable then the photo ops are great! We visited Agadir first and then Casablanca, the latter of these being the one where we spent the most time exploring. We spent a lot of time at an internet cafe in Agadir getting some mandatory work and holiday shopping (thank you, Amazon!) done before exploring there. Once we got out and about, we walked to two mosques (mosques usually have unique architecture) and then a traditional Moroccan souk (market) that was full of vibrant clothing, spices, jewelry, etc. You just have to get used to the fact that persistent vendors will literally follow you around trying to sell you their wares.

We spent one night sailing from Agadir to Casablanca and after dinner, the movie, “Casablanca,” was played in the ship’s theater. Karen and I like to watch movies set in the locations we visit so this was perfect. We docked in Casablanca the following day and spent the entire day exploring, starting off with a long walk through the local outdoor market. The market was essentially several city streets completely lined with vendors selling all kinds of foods (including some that we couldn’t identify) and other wares. We definitely stuck out here in that it was not at all a tourist location and we were walking around with huge cameras and clothing that didn’t fit in at all. We did know ahead of time that, because of the local religion, we were not to wear shorts or anything that exposed the shoulders (for Karen at least). We both got loads of photos at the market. With the colorful foods and expressive faces, it was a photographic haven… if you were ok with the odd stares and the fact that you stood out like a sore thumb. I did gesture to many of the folks with my camera to make sure that they were ok with photos. Some were and others weren’t.

We then walked to the Grand Mosque, which is the second largest mosque in the world. Unlike the market, the mosque was filled with tourists. This was also a great shooting location, especially if you use the unique arches to create a frame for your subject. All of the colors and tiles were beautiful as well. Eventually we did the very touristy thing to do when visiting Casablanca, which is eat at Rick’s Cafe, which is the setting for the movie that made this city famous. Now we know that it’s not the actual cafe from the film, but that’s ok. It was close enough. We actually got some yummy Moroccan food there… and we can now say that we’ve eaten at Rick’s Cafe.

By the time we were finished with lunch, it was time to head back to the Crystal Serenity. That evening, we would be setting sail toward Cádiz, Spain with one full sea day before we arrived there. More on Spain later. For now, here is a photo journey through Morocco!


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Ports # 3 & 4: The Canary Islands

After departing from Madeira and saying goodbye to Portugal, we continued onward to visit two of Spain’s Canary Islands. The first stop was Lanzarote, which is unlike its neighboring islands in that it’s very dry, with a lunar-like terrain. This is because of all the volcanic activity this island has seen over the centuries. We did a shore excursion in Lanzarote that  had three stops and gave us a good feel for the island. Our first stop was an agriculture museum called El Patio, was really a series of historic buildings that somehow dealt with the agriculture of the island. There was a farm house, a barn, a winery, a windmill, etc. The place was very photogenic so we spent a lot of time shooting there before we all ended up in the winery to taste some of the island’s vino and have some tapas.  Our second stop was a gigantic cactus garden that featured over 1,400 species of cacti! When shooting a place like that, I do a complete walk-through with one lens, then switch lenses and walk through again in an attempt to see things in a different way. Out last stop on Lanzarote was the César Manrique Foundation, which is an artist’s home-turned-museum that is literally build into the lava rock, with the natural terrain serving as the walls and ceilings. The place had a very organic and  artsy feel to it, and I shot what few photos I could in our limited amount of time there.

Before I move on to the next Canary Island, here are some of my images and Karen’s video from Lanzarote:















Our second Canary Island was Tenerife, which was just a one-night sail from Lanzarote. On this stop, we did not do a shore excursion. Instead, we went about exploring town on our own. (We would eventually return to Tenerife a week or so later and do a tour at that point.) The Crystal Serenity docked at the port in Santa Cruz, which is the business capital of the island. It was quite bustling compared to our previous island stops, with busy pedestrian streets full of stores and people doing their Christmas shopping. We did find some historic buildings as well as a farmers market to shoot in town, but the most interesting thing we shot that day was the overly unique concert hall (You can see it in the photos below). It’s a very modern, space-age looking structure that was juxtaposed in an interesting way to the historic part of the town. On our second stop to Tenerife, we traveled to a more quaint and colorful town, but we’ll save that for another post. Next stop: Morocco!

More to come…