Santa Cruz de La Palma

The Queen Elizabeth arrived in La Palma at 8.0oam.  This is the only port of call that we hadn’t been to previously, so we were looking forward to exploring this island.  La Palma is the fifth largest of the seven Canary Islands.  We had booked an excursion this afternoon to see some volcanoes and also (more!) wine sampling.  🙂

La Palma is known as la isla bonita, which means pretty island.  It was the subject of a song by Madonna in 1987:

Tropical the island breeze
All of nature wild and free
This is where I long to be
La isla bonita.

La Palma is very rugged as it was formed from volcanic eruptions in the Atlantic ocean millions of years ago.  We spent the morning walking around and looking in the little narrow streets and boutique shops; I bought myself a pretty scarf/wrap which was velvet with a hand-painted pattern on it in plums and purples.  It will go nicely with some of my evening wear.  We then had a cup of coffee at a pavement café and wandered back to the ship.

After lunch, we boarded our excursion coach and went off on our trip; the first stop was to (yet another!) bodega.  We sampled red, white and rosé wine, but they didn’t give us very generous measures; just a couple of mouthfuls really.  So it meant lots of trips back to the table for more samples 🙂  We then went off to see, and learn about, the volcanoes.

The coach wended its way up the zigzagging, narrow mountain roads, higher and higher, which afforded us impressive views of the island and the Atlantic ocean beyond.  It was a lovely clear day so we could see for miles.  The bus parked at the visitor centre and we went inside, where we watched a docu-film explaining how volcanoes are formed and what happens when they erupt.  We were then able to walk along the path to view the now-dormant crater of Teneguía, the best-known volcano in La Palma.

Teneguía is the source of the last volcanic eruption on Spanish soil – from October 26 to November 28, 1971.  Several earthquakes preceded the eruption.  An elderly fisherman was killed, who had come too close to the lava and asphyxiated.   The eruption also caused some property damage and destroyed a beach, though a new one was later formed by natural means. Luckily, most populated areas were unaffected.  The crater, and the mountain paths that lead to it, are popular with hikers, and indeed we saw quite a few as we walked along to the crater for the great views.

We got back to the ship around 4.00pm, sat out on the balcony for a while and then got ready and went down for dinner. As ever, it was far too easy to eat and drink too much, and I finished the meal absolutely fit to burst.  In fact, I could have done with being trocarised to relieve some of the bloat.  Really uncomfortable, but self-inflicted. 😦

So I decided I wasn’t going to eat or drink anything more tonight.  No going to the show, no going to the Golden Lion.  I just went back to our stateroom and read my really good book and watched some TV.  Actually, it was quite nice to have an early night, as most nights we had stayed up well after midnight, and sometimes even 1.00am.

Wine Sampling in Tenerife

This morning we woke up in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the largest of the seven main Canary Islands.  We had been here last two years ago, on the Black Prince.  Interestingly, whilst most British people pronounce it ‘ten-er-reef’ its actual pronunciation is four syllables long, i.e. ‘ten-er-reef-ay’.

We spent the morning just doing our own thing, before setting off after lunch on the “Tenerife Wine and Tapas Experience”.  It certainly sounded interesting! 🙂  The coach drove along the coastal road en route to the first winery then along some of the winding mountain roads.  We could see Mount Teide, an extinct volcano and Tenerife’s highest mountain, rearing up into the clouds in the background.

We arrived at the winery (its name escapes me so it must have been good ;-)) and watched a brief docu-film showing how the grapes are grown and harvested and how the wine is made, often by the traditional method whereby the grapes and are actually trodden by foot instead of by machine.  Then we were shown around the bodega to observe each stage of the winemaking process.  We then walked into a sunny and pleasant courtyard where we were able to sample the different wines, and try some delicious home-made bread and goat’s cheese.  There was red, white and rosé wine to try and we went back to have our glass refilled more than once 😉

A friendly black and white cat was sunning itself in the courtyard and was getting plenty of attention from our party.  It was a female and looked pretty fat; we were sure it must be pregnant.  But when the cheese and bread was brought out, the cat went and sat under the table and certainly made the most of the titbits of cheese it was offered.  The lady serving out the wine said the cat wasn’t pregnant, just fat!  😀  No wonder if the tourists feed it every day.

We left the pleasant courtyard and boarded the coach to go our next bodega.  This one was more how I remember Spanish bodegas to be; a cool, dim, slightly musty-smelling cellar stacked with barrels.  As we walked into the bodega there were wooden tables and chairs down the middle of the room, and we were shown where the wine glasses were and told “help yourselves!” 🙂

There were six different types of wine to try; a fruity red, a medium rosé, a white, a moscatel and a brut cava and a demi-sec cava.  As always, the cava (which I love) was my favourite and I wasn’t keen on the moscatel, which was a very sweet dessert wine.  At 15% it was almost like a sherry, and Trevor liked it, drinking several (large!) glasses.

In addition to the copious quantities of wine, there were also lots of different types of traditional tapas to try, including delicious jamon serrano and salami.  The taste of the cured meats really brought out the flavours of the wine.

All too soon it was time to go back on the bus; we bought one bottle of each of the Cavas to take back with us to drink on the ship.  In fact, while we drank our own wine in the privacy of our stateroom, a lot of people brought theirs into the dining room to consume with their evening meal, preferring to pay corkage as it was still cheaper than paying the ship’s inflated wine list prices.  Everyone was fairly quiet on the bus journey back – I think most people had fallen asleep after all that wine! 🙂

I must admit when we got back on board that I didn’t feel like going up to dinner after all that drinking and eating tapas, so I took my time getting ready and only went into the dining room at the coffee stage.

The entertainment in the Royal Court Theatre that night was an Irish comedian called Adrian Walsh, from Belfast.  We had seen him earlier this year on the QM2 and he is really funny.  He seemed to appeal to audiences from both sides of the Atlantic and I really enjoyed his show.

Then it was off to the Golden Lion again for the usual, before going to bed around 1.00am.

En Route to the Canaries

Today was another long, leisurely day at sea.  Once we leave the cold British shores for warmer climes, we tend to leave our balcony door propped open overnight, as I hate the artificial air-conditioning – it’s so drying for the skin.

So it’s lovely to wake up in the morning to the “ssssshhhhhhhh” sounds of the sea swishing past the ship, as she glides through the Atlantic waters.

We spent the morning pottering around the ship before making our way, in good time, to the Royal Court Theatre for a lecture by none other than Sir David Frost, who had boarded the vessel yesterday in Cadiz.  Even though we got to the theatre around 10.20am and he wasn’t due on until 11.00am, the theatre was almost full.  His talk was entitled “Interviews I Shall Never Forget” and proved to be very interesting, as Sir David is such a veteran of TV.

Sir David took to the stage and, although a chair and a podium were provided for him, he spoke for 45 minutes without any prompt notes and remained standing – well impressive for a 71 year old bloke!  He told some great little anecdotes, of which he must have hundreds, of broadcasting bloopers and unintentional double entendres.  He also spoke about the famous interviews he had with former US president Richard Nixon, which were made into a film called Frost/Nixon in which the inimitable Michael Sheen plays Frost.  The talk was really interesting and Sir David was well-deserving of the standing ovation at the end of it.

We left the Royal Court Theatre in time for lunch and decided to go to the Golden Lion for lunch and a beer.  I like the atmosphere in there; it’s just like a typical English pub.  The chiken tikka masala I had went down a treat and afterwards we walked a few laps around the promenade deck to get some fresh sea air and exercise.

That evening, I didn’t go up to dinner.  I put on my dark blue sequinned evening dress (bought off E-Bay for a tenner!) and decided it was getting a wee bit tight. 😦  Instead, I went along to the midships bar, had a glass of Veuve Clicquot, then went to the Britannia Dining Room in time for the coffee and liqueurs.  It was nice to go into the show lounge not feeling like a stuffed pig for once.  Whoever it was who said you joined a cruise ship as a passenger and left it as cargo certainly wasn’t kidding!