The end of a journey…..CADIS

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Plaza de San Juan de Dios, Cadis

Early morning and we arrive at Cadis.  It is the last port of call on our Andalusian trip. Cadis has the honour of being the oldest  inhabited City in Europe, some say the western world.  The name Cadis is understood to come from the Phoenician word ‘Gadir‘  which means ‘enclosure’. Founded about 1100bc it rapidly became the gateway to the New World and a bridge between Africa and Europe. It was Phoenicians that established Cadis as a trading post. Cadis has a history influenced by all the many cultures, of which there are many,  that have either invaded, passed thru or indeed settled here making this a relatively small but captivating City, one of the friendliest on the tour.

One treat as we explored Cadis was a Flamenco Singer and Dancer, a display that was just so full of Spanish emotion, power and energy that gave even us a ‘bounce’ to our steps even though the temperature hovered around 30c… and the girls loved him!

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The Local Police seemed rather laid back, in pairs with one always on the phone…which I discovered was a football match they were keeping a close eye on! Then you go round the corner and there is a Bride with her Groom on the way to their Reception…

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Cadis was our last Port….but it was also a Port that Fred Olsen Cruise Lines chose to assemble there small fleet of 4 vessels all together at one time. We were at the end of our cruise, others ships were mid journey and one was just starting its voyage.  So it was celebrations in the Port and at the end of the day all 4 Ships sailed out of Cadis together.  Escorted by Fireboats.

With all 4 Ships pausing ‘bow first’ in a Thank You for a great days hospitality and as salute to Cadis….

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A very fitting end to a memorable trip. Sun and blue sky for the most part, temperature a dry 28 on average and only 5 minutes of rain….not bad 🙂

13th October

(C) David Oakes 2018

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Mediterranean. A Little Bit of GB… that’s hiding in the Mediterranean

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The Rock of Gibraltar from Europa Point

Gibraltar is not very big, only 2.6sq.miles of land, but despite being so far away from the ‘mother country’ Gibraltar is very definitely British in culture and style….though being at the very gateway to the Mediterranean and surround on all landward sides by Spain it has to have a Spanish flavour. Nor is Morocco that far away across the Straights so touches of North Africa add to the unique style of the country.

We were scheduled to pass thru the Straights twice on our Andalusian Trip so a stop on the return leg was on planned.  From the approach from the sea the Rock of Gibraltar looks rather dwarfed by it surroundings but once on land is very much the dominant feature.  Standing at 426m (1398ft) a trip to the top is a must for any visitor, the views are fabulous. Surrounded by sea, with Spain all round and Morocco across the water you realise that Gibraltar is like an island, isolated yet linked  inextricably on all sides to its neighbours.

Getting to the top is easy. Local Taxi firms ply for hire to drive you the steep but short drive to the top…but by far the most exciting way is to take the Cable Car and enjoy a drink, maybe something to eat in the bar and restaurant at the top station.

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Then of course you have the Barbary apes to both entertain and at time annoy you in a mischievous way, defying death with there acrobatics above the long drop below….

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I guess most of us know about the many tunnels, natural and excavated for military purposes, when Gibraltar played a strategic role in conflicts…. but there are also another group of caves that come as a spectacular surprise to tourists.  They are called Saint Michaels Caves.  Now I have been in many show caves but these are enormous and  spectacular.  The caves are so large that there is even a Concert Hall in the main cave (I am told the concert acoustics are fabulous)…. but even that plays second fiddle to the giant stalactites and stalagmites…

 The real mixed character of Gibraltar becomes very aparent as you take a walk from Grand Casemates Square along Main Street. Its busy, full of bustle and mixes all the flavours of the Mediterranean with a touch of Britain.  Its a fun place..

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But talking to the ‘British’ locals it was hard to avoid the question of BREXIT.  They voted to remain in the EU but appear to have to go along with the Government in Westminster.  But the underlying resentment is that in all the talks, the border between Northern and Southern Ireland is being constantly discussed, even described as a red line break point. Yet they the Gibraltarians never hear a word about Gibraltar.  Surrounded on all sides by Spain and totally reliant on Spanish labour that travels daily across the narrow strip of land which is both the border and the Airport runway. quirky but true, the border is the runway and access stopped when planes land!  It is hard to see just what the Brexit outcome will bring.  Gibraltarian’s are fiercely and Independently British but also see themselves as Europeans..

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Another quirk is the Cruise liner that goes nowhere…yep its true overshadowing the Ocean Village Marina is the Sunborn Gibraltar, now a hotel, conference centre, restaurant and bars…..Oh! and what now seems compulsory a Gym.  Novel but quirky..

_DOI0668qqq  It was only a brief visit to this outpost of Britain…but a very enjoyable day.

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12th October

(C) David Oakes 2018

Lisbon….. Portugal’s Ancient Maritime Centre

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Dawn and a new day and a new port of call…this time Lisbon. As the sun rose in the sky the colour and architecture of the town that hugs the coast was revealed in all its colour, layer upon layer of red roofed houses all crowded together above the harbour.

Portugal has a proud history of Maritime Exploration and Discovery of far flung lands around a world they went into the unknown.  Each sea trip was a big adventure. Lisbon was the centre of this activity so it is not surprising is that they have a fantastic Maritime Museum.  It has been created in the old Jeronimos Monastery at Belem. Vasco Da Gama along with many other explorers are celebrated but pride of honour in the display is the map of Portugal’s ‘World of Discovery’…

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The Museum is also home to the colourful collection of Royal Barges.  As you explore you get a true impression of there enormous size, there intricate design and vibrancy…..all powered by man.  There are also a couple of early Seaplanes…

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Close by is the famous  Belem Tower on the banks of the River Tagus..

(sadly due to a Military Parade we couldn’t get nearer)

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Close to Belem is the much newer, dramatic and ornately sculpture monument…

“The Monument of the Discoveries”

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In fading light as evening descended we headed off back up along the Tagus taking a last look at Lisbon’s waterfront and then out under the giant ’25th de Abril’  bridge.

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8th October

(C) David Oakes 2018

Silent Sunday…. So off to Church

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Christ the King, Almada, Portugal

The 28meter high statue of Christ stands on the top of a 82 meter tower. It overlooks the River Tagus and the City of Lisbon.

It was conceived and designed as a dramatic statement. The statement was, I am told, to give Thanks to God for keeping Portugal safe and apart from the destructions of WWII. Construction started in 1952 and completed in 1959. Whilst the statue itself may be artistically attractive the tower itself is simple poured concrete, always unforgiving to the eye.

Within the base of the Tower things are very different.  Here is the Chapel of Our Lady of Peace, bold in colour and modern artistic flair, refreshing and calming, a place for peaceful contemplation..

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Auster on the outside but warm and welcoming inside, quite a contrast and very much a big surprise for visitors and Pilgrims of which there are many.

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7th October

(C) David Oakes 2018

Generalife Palace, Alhambra

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The Gardens of Alhambra probably cover more of the city than the Palaces.  Not surprising as the gardens were developed over many centuries gradually taking over buildings and existing gardens. Not sure how the name Generalife Palace came about, maybe because these gardens became the peaceful retreats for Granada’s Monarchs.

Water and shade play a large part of the gardens architecture as does the mix of plants, plants that would find life difficult outside the walls. We soon got used to Oranges and Lemons on fruit trees, not something we see in the UK, but the biggest surprise were the Pomegranate Trees laden with fruit.  So come on take a stroll in the garden…

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Commanding wide vistas in every direction the gardens will not disappoint.

It is from here on high above the plains that surround that you also get to see the modern Granada laid out below.  Sadly our trip to Alhambra was over and after an early start, a late finish was in store and the knowledge that we would have to plan to come back to Granada of the Moors.

5th October

(C) David Oakes 2018