Monday, October 24, 2016

Leaving Europe

We are on our way to the Canary Islands. Our brief European adventure is over, I am unhappy that we were unable to see the countries I had hoped that we would when we crossed the Atlantic such as Italy, Greece and Turkey. Barry's health comes first though and the steroids seemed to have worked very well and he was feeling really good until the day before we left Spain.  We had used some fuel going from Morocco across the Strait of Gibraltar to a town on the Spanish side of the Strait, so we headed off from the boat to try and buy some.  We were at a marina but they did not sell fuel there, we had to go way around the harbour, about a 2 kilometre walk to get the fuel.  On the way we stopped and bought some groceries which included a 5 litre bottle of distilled water and 3 pounds of potatoes.  I carried some stuff in my backpack and Barry balanced the rest of the stuff on our cart. I guess it was lopsided and the two fuel cans were awkward so Barry was holding  up one side of the cart.   The fuel station was closed so we walked the two kilometres back to the boat.  Well the next day, which is the day we left Barry's ribs were killing him, it hurt for him to breathe and when he coughed he was in agony.  Hard to believe that he would strain his muscle from trying to balance those groceries.  It is two days later now and he is feeling better.   

I was looking back at our pictures and there were lots of good ones with stories that go with them that I did not share in previous blogs.

We spent almost six weeks at the marina in Almerimar.  It was where Barry first went to see a doctor and  stayed as she was instrumental in setting up Barry's appointment with the specialist. I didn't much care for the place, it was a series of condo or apartment developments. There was no town attached to it, the marina was there and there were golf courses and the beaches, a resort town that had expanded beyond it's capacity.  The building behind us was unoccupied, it was three stories high and could have held 300 residents. There were restaurants and bars as well as lots of little stores, but no single dwellings or a Main Street. You couldn't wander along the alleys or down little side streets, just along main drags past big hulking apartment complexes. 


The area around Almerimar is referred to as the California of Spain.  It is hot and dry there, I mean really hot in the summer, over 40 degrees Celsius, so in order to grow food successfully they cover the ground with white plastic green houses. What you are looking at are acres and acres of gardens covered in plastic houses. Tomatoes are a major crop and are shipped from here all over Northern Europe. While California uses migrant Mexican workers to pick their fruit and vegetable crops it seemed like Arabs from Northern Africa are employed in Spain to do the market gardening work. Our guide on our trip to Granada told us that this area of white plastic is visible from space. 

One day I tried the Stand Up Paddle of SUP.  I did not find it very difficult although the balance was a bit tricky to start with, I made sure I tried on a very calm day. I did not have any trouble manoeuvring with the paddle but I guess anyone who has grown up canoeing around the wilds of Canada, should be able to handle a bit of paddling. 

There was a marshy area about 5 kilometres from the marina and I was told that flamingoes wintered there. The first time I tried to find them I must have walked 10 kilometres about four of it in the wrong direction, but I eventually found them.  Unfortunately the light was never great for taking pictures and the birds refused to come to the edge of the salt marshes so I could get a better picture.  

Here are a couple of pictures from the house that Antonio Gaudi built in Barcelona. When I saw the place I realized that we had visited a spot in Cuba that was inspired by Gaudi's work. It is interesting that we visited the place in the New World where imitators had built something before we saw the original in Spain. 

Now that is a big pot.


On our way home on the road trip we stopped off at a beach and I went for my one and only swim in the Mediterranean. After I was finished I was famished so we stopped at the next town and looked for something to eat.  We ran into a festival, there were picnic tables lining the streets filled with families eating, kids were lighting off fire crackers, a band was playing and there was a big long lineup. The people in the lineup were holding paper plates and some had pieces of cardboard in their hands.  They were waiting for the food to be ready. There was a section where people were cooking yummy looking dishes in these big round flat pans over open fires. In our limited Spanish we asked what was going on and it was a Saints Day and I think the people cooking were going to give the food away. We were unsure of how. Much longer we would have to wait until the food was ready and there was a big long line so we left and went to a different town to eat. 

Our last stop on our road trip was Valencia, Spain. We loved the city, unfortunately we did not have much time there. We did try the freshly squeezed Valencia orange juice and it was wonderful, so sweet and tasty. We went downtown and saw the former spice trading building.  It was spectacular with these huge marble columns that swirled as they went upwards. 

The outside had some wonderful gargoyles.  

We stopped in at the train station.  Barry used to work for Canadian National Railway when we were first married and the main station in Winnipeg is a beautiful building, since then we have had an affinity for train stations. This one in Valencia was magnificent. The interior was decorated with murals that were made with tiles. Check out the design on the ceiling as well. On our way back to the hotel we wandered down to the port. We discovered we had chanced on the home of the America's Cup sailboat race. This is the fourth venue we have been at, San Francisco, the Huaraki Gulf in New Zealand, Bermuda and Valencia. 

I have figured out a way around this app problem, I just type my prose in another program and copy and paste it into the blogger app. That is why you are getting such a long convoluted blog. I am really glad we sailed over to Europe, one sailor was bemoaning the lack of wide open spaces anywhere in Europe but I figure we did not come here to see wide open spaces, we came to experience the culture and see the beautiful buildings that are everywhere. We had a chance to visit southern Portugal, go up the Guadiana River, we visited Seville, Cadiz, Gibraltar, Granada, Almeria, Barcelona, Marseilles, Toulon, Valencia and finish off in Morocco.  We learned so much and met some wonderful people, life is good. 

We are into our fourth day of the voyage to the Canaries and all is well.  It is supposed to be a big long downwind sail from Europe and of course we have run into headwinds.  We are currently doing 5 knots but only making 2.8 in the right direction. We are in no hurry though so will continue to sail rather than motor in a straight line. We have seen at least 7 sailboats since we left which is very unusual for us.  It is the time of year to head this way if you are going to cross the Atlantic or just looking for somewhere warm to spend the winter. 

In Canada kids play hockey, in Europe they play football or soccer. At the end of one busy sightseeing Day in Barcelona we happened on an open football stadium and we visited a grocery store. Then we went and sat in the stands and watched first a Junior A team practise and then the younger crowd took over. We ate our baguette and brie cheese and drank some sangria enjoying the sunshine and the enthusiasm that was evident on the faces of the 6 - 10 year old faces, an everyday experience in Spain.

We have arrived safe and sound in the Canary Islands.  Our passage took an extra day because of light then head winds.  It is good to be here. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Tetuoan and the Market

Yesterday we went to visit Tetuoan an old walled Arabic city and today we went to see a market that just takes place once every two weeks. 
There were very narrow winding passages in the old city, the houses were generally three stories high, some places were more narrow than others. 
We were very glad we had our guide with us , it would have been very easy to get lost. It was all about the doors into the dwellings. 
Some were very ornate such as this one, others had beautiful ceramic tiles around the door jamb, here is a couple trying to decide which door they want.
There were sections to the souk or marketplace, there was the fruit and vegetable part, the dry goods area, the tailors, with there sewing machines in tiny little shops, the furniture making spot where these doors were as well as some lovely cabinets. Then we headed to the tannery, the weather was not hot because otherwise the smell would have been overwhelming. I would have liked a better explanation of what was going on but it was fairly self explanatory and an eye opener. 

As near as I can figure they were soaking the skins, scraping the skins and dyeing he skins, although the scraping looked like a back breaking job, I think I would have disliked being up to my knees in that muck when the guy was dyeing the skins. 
Not my idea of a good time. 

We went for a long ride down the coast today to see a traditional market that only takes place once every two weeks. It was a lovely ride along the coast and well worth the trip to see the local colour when we arrived. I am still having lots of trouble with this app so will just add lots of pictures so you can  have a sample of our experiences. 

The men negotiating the price for their livestock. 
The Berber women with their colourful red striped tied on skirts and semi conical straw hats. 
You could buy anything here, we replenished our supply of dates and olives and brought some lovely tasting grapes. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016


Do you think the boat owner used this conveyance to get down to the port?
We are in Smir, Morocco about 20 miles south of Gibraltar. We had a 36 hour crossing from Almerimar, Spain.  We were only able to sail for about 6 hours during the trip so it was not our favourite way to move around. We will wait here for a good window to go out the Straits of Gibraltar, it looks like Sunday should be a good day. It also looks like we will have to wait at the end of Strait for a weather window to the Canaries.
We went to the closest town today, Midic, and visited the market. We came away with fruits, veggies, yogurt, as well as dates and olives. We declined to the buy the really fresh chicken, one who was under some guys arm, Barry says it was either supper or his pet chicken. 

Sunday, October 09, 2016

This is the Old Port of Marseilles which we really enjoyed. We spent most of the day wandering around the area and visiting the old town with the narrow twisting streets. This very steep sidewalk was featured in the movie the French Connection and had some gorgeous views from the top of the street looking back down the hill. 
This led to a very artsy part of town with studios and ateliers all over the place.  I loved what this artist had done with his corner of the building. 
Close to the end of the harbour this big cathedral was being restored, what a mammoth undertaking.
We took a city bus up a hill to a lookout and got a great view of the city.  Here is an example of a totally different type of architecture. 
The next day we headed further east to Toulon driving along the twisting road along the Côte d Azur . We stopped in several small places enjoying the harbours, the colours made the scene come alive. I thought it would make a fantastic puzzle. 
Due to a recent update this app has become very hard to deal with so I am stopping now. We are back at the boat and have been waiting for a good sailing window to go to the Canaries but the weather does not want to co operate. We are heading to Morocco tomorrow , it is a days journey and we will most likely have to motor. 
The steroid treatment seems to have done wonders for Barry, we are so releaved. He does not have to use his crutch any more when walking around, so we have decided to make tracks towards home while his is feeling good. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Road Trip

Barry is feeling better after his steroid treatment and we rented a car and set off on a road trip. We visited England in 1987 with all the kids and Barry and I had planned on a getaway trip to Paris, but there were fish wars around St. Pierre and Miquelon and we would have had to apply for a visa and wait 6 weeks to visit so we couldn't.  I really didn't want to leave Europe again this time without a chance to visit France when we were so close. I had a hard time getting Barry to agree to come but he finally relented.
This picture is of Capo Gato a large cape about 40 miles east of where we are staying. The first day on the car we drove to Barcelona. I would not recommend driving that distance in one day but we had only booked the car for one week so we had to boogie. 
Our visit to Barcelona was not an unqualified success. It is a huge city and since we only wanted to stay for one day it was difficult to judge what we wanted to visit.  I wanted to choose attractions no tha did not involve too much walking so that is t would not stress Barry's body too much.  We chose to visit Casa Battlo, designed by Antonio Gaudi, unfortunately all the pictures are on the camera and I did not bring the attachment to transfer them to the IPAD. It was unbelievable with ornate modern designs and lots of tiling.  I will post pictures later. 
Next we headed up a funicular and got a great view of the city and visited the Mont Juic fortress at the top of the mountain. 
The fortress was used as early as the tenth century to warn to approaching ships and then in the eighteenth century the people in power ordered the city of Barcelona to be bombarded from their own fortress. The bourgeoisie were revolting to protest the poverty and lack of freedom and lack of services they were receiving from the aristocracy.  The fortress was used again later in the century to put done another revolt, it seemed to used more against the local populace than against invaders?!?
We had to dive through the Pyrenees to get to France and there was some beautiful countryside. We stayed on some secondary roads and wound our way through fields covered with vineyards. We stopped for lunch in a French town and had a lovely lunch, our first truly French food.  We are in Marseille at the moment but I will save that for another blog, but will leave you with this picture of the old port with the fort guarding the entrance. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good - they sell sangria in a plastic pop can bottle for less than €2 a bottle.  I quite like it although it is a bit sweet, only 4% alcohol so a light sundowner on a hot day. 

The Bad - the doctor said that Barry has three areas of his spine where there is significant arthritis and a herniated disc and there is no surgical solution. After thought and discussion we have decided that since there is not chance of Barry having a miraculous recovery it is time to head home.  We are going to sail to the Canaries in early Oct. and cross the Atlantic, probably after Christmas.  We really would like to complete our circumnavigation and the sooner we do that the better. I am glad that we have figured out what is wrong with Barry and that we have made a decision that is best for us. He has been given a week's steroid treatment and at the end of 5 days is feeling much better. 

The Ugly - just to put things into perspective, there are horrible cockroaches in the woman's shower.  There are at least 2 inches long and I truly dislike going to the shower late at night. One night there were three of the suckers, EEYOUWHEEEEE, gross. One has to learn to deal with all sorts of things in this life but I find cockroaches one of the most difficult.  

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Hopeful for a diagnosis

We saw the specialist today.  He thinks it is a problem with Barry's sciatic nerve.  He had X-rays of his right hip shortly after his appointment and he is waiting for an MRI on his lumbar vertebrae which is scheduled for tonight. We have another appointment with the specialist next Wed. to find out what exactly his diagnosis is and what can be done.  
Barry's appointment was at 10:30 A.M. We took a cab to get to the bus stop and started at 7:20 A.M. His MRI appointment is at 9:00 P.M. so we had a decision to make.  The bus does not run at that time of night, we could not get back to the boat by bus. We had three options, option 1, take a cab all the way back, very expensive, option 2, rent a car and drive back after dark, option 3, rent a hotel room, relax for the afternoon and early evening in the hotel instead of hanging about in the hospital and stay the night and take the bus back tomorrow.  We choose option 3, Barry did not want to drive back after dark and we found a decent price on a hotel. It actually turned out to be about the same price as a rental car.  This is a treat as well and we are chilling out and watching the Para-Olympics.  
Barry got some heavier pain killers for this next week and he has had two hot baths this afternoon.  He has possession of the remote control so is busy surfing through mostly Spanish, a couple French, a couple Geman and three English stations. Strangely enough we were watching the Para Olympics in Spanish and now he is channel hopping.  
I am going to head out and do some sight seeing and get some fruit to keep us going until after his appointment and then we will have a fashionably late dinner in Spain, about 10:00 or 10:30!!