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.