Our next stop was Cartagena, Spain where we had been to before and really couldn’t find anything else we really wanted to do but just stroll around the city. There is an old Roman fort here along with a Roman theater and other ruins but we had seen them before and elected not to see them again this time. The most amazing thing about this visit was seeing a very unusual boat in the harbor. It looked like a huge steel sail boat. We eventually heard that it was a very unusual yacht built by a Russian billionaire creatively named Sailing Yacht A. It was built a year ago at a cost of 500 million dollars! The ship is 450 feet long and the masts are over 300 feet tall (taller than Big Ben in London!). It is a very strange looking yacht. This billionaire also has a more traditional yacht (also valued at $500 million) but the courts ruled last month that it will go to his wife in a divorce fight they are having. Don’t upset your wife if you want to keep your toys!
We walked around the streets of Cartagena where they have many very nice pedestrian only streets with stores and restaurants. Unfortunately it was a Sunday and many shops were closed. It was a nice relaxing port stop.
The next day was spent in Gibraltar where we once again hiked up to the top of this mountain called the “Rock of Gibraltar”. Whenever people on the ship hear we walked up it, they are always amazed but it is about the same as walking up the stairs of a 140 story building and walking back down. The difference though is you get some amazing views as you walk up and down. Along the way you get to see about fifty “apes” that wander the “rock”. It is actually an enjoyable walk (after you get about a third of the way up). We have been to Gibraltar about four times previously and have never had the clear blue skies we had when we climbed it this time. We had barely been able to see Africa across the Mediterranean previously but this time it was crystal clear. The famous “Prudential” rock cliff was also much better to see than we had ever seen it before. We didn’t go through any of the caverns or tunnels during this trip but we spent plenty of time taking pictures of the monkeys (apes). On our way down the mountain we stopped at “Roys” in the main square for our customary “fish and chips” that we share because the Cod fish is huge. It was just another enjoyable day in Gibraltar. We have fun every time we come here.
Our final stop of this 4th cruise was Barcelona where we had an overnight stay. Since we had plenty of time on the first day we decided to go someplace different and took a train to Montserrat. This is best known for the Monastery that sits at the top of some very unusual mountains. This monastery was built by some hermit monks in 880 and then later rebuilt several other times by different orders of monks. It is located over 2300 feet high in some very steep mountains and you can only get to it is by either taking a cable car or a funicular. We elected to take the cable car. We had another unbelievable day of clear skies and cool weather in the 60’s. We decided to take one of the many hikes they have from the Monastery area. We chose to take one of the easier 1 ½ hour hikes to see some of the area before we considered any of the longer hikes available. Somewhere along the way we got off on another trail which turned out to be the 5 hour hike (the longest hike they had that went up an elevation of 1700 feet above the monastery from where we started). This was even a higher height than the day before when we hiked up the Rock of Gibraltar! Fortunately we were able to hike this in 3 hours and have plenty of time to check out the other Monastery sights before heading back on the train. When we got to the final point in this hike we were on a peak with sheer cliffs going down 2000 feet. We were so high up that Greg almost didn’t go up the last 200 feet (due to fear of heights) but eventually went up since he had walked so far to get there. It was a great view in every direction and worth the walk to get there.
We should mention that these mountains are made up of a very unusual material. It is a sedimentary rock and is made up of a pink conglomerate. It looks like thousands of small rocks that are cemented together by a natural sedimentation caused by the rivers and oceans that had once flowed in this area. These mountains literally look like piles of concrete (4000 foot high concrete!) with rocks thrown in that were poured from high above. We have never seen mountains like this before and there are so many unique shapes formed in these mountains. When we did finish our hike we took some time to go through the Basilica and look around the monastery a little. After our train ride back to Barcelona we took a leisurely walk through the Gothic area and La Rambla before walking back to the ship.
On our second day in Barcelona we just roamed through the city. We walked again down La Rambla and we visited Gaudi’s famous Casa Batllo. This is a very uniquely designed building by one of the world’s most famous architects. We then walked a couple of miles to see Gaudi’s most famous creation – Sagrada La Familia. This is still a work in progress and they hope to complete it by 2026 on the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death. When finished it will be one of the most impressive churches ever built. Every time we go we can see more items completed that weren’t there the last time we had visited. As we walked back to the Gothic area of Barcelona we stopped by the Arc de Triumph there. In the Gothic area we went by the Gothic cathedral and visited several shops in the area. It was a nice pleasant walking day around Barcelona before we headed back to the ship for our fifth and final cruise.
We are now on our final cruise, heading off to France, Italy, Croatia and Montenegro.
Sharon and Greg