We have several hours to drive to get to our next stop in Lleida, Spain so why not find something interesting along the way? We settled on seeing the town of Vic, Spain which has a medieval art museum.
The drive is pleasant. We stop for fuel and a cup of espresso along the way. We notice that a play yard next to the gas station/eatery has a Roomba type machine running in the area. I see another one in someone’s yard as we enter Vic. From what I can glean from the internet, it is a robotic lawn mower. Wish I had taken a picture. Here’s a picture I did take.
When we arrive in Vic there is some sort of festival going on and the streets are blocked off which makes the GPS very unhappy. We duck into an underground parking garage and emerge in the middle of the festival. We know we are getting close to the medieval museum when we pass the Roman temple from the 1st century.
Finally we find the museum and it is chock-a-block full of the stuff we love. Plus they have an app you can download to your phone which tells you about the art using the WiFi in the museum. This is great. Now I have a bunch of pictures of the things we saw which I am putting in a gallery in case no one wants to look at the pictures but us. Click on one for enlarging.
After a very enjoyable visit to the museum we head out in search of lunch. Up the street not too far from the museum is a place called El Bixto Italiana. We like Spanish Italian food so in we go.
Then we are off for the final leg to Lleida. We are staying at the Finca Prats resort. We chose this because it is kind of equidistant from Zaragoza, Huesca, and Barcelona where we must catch the plane on Wednesday. When we check in we are told that we are being upgraded to a suite. The suite is nice and large and it has its own little outdoor area with a personal hot tub which we will probably not use.
The restaurant at the hotel does not open until 8:30PM which is typical for Spain. We had a big lunch so we ask if we can just get something small. They say sure. It turns out that the restaurant is very gourmet full of wonderful things to eat. The olive oil is superb. It turns out that Lleida is the premium center for arbequina olive oil production. We could make a whole meal of this wonderful olive oil.
I am turning lurid shades of purple today. I am thinking, no short sleeves today!
Thoroughly covered up we make our way out of Beziers with a stop to see the “Vieux Pont” or old bridge. The bridge was first built in the 12th century and improved in the 1500’s. It is still in use today.
After this we spend quite a bit of time trying to find Les 9 ecluses du Fonserannes on the Canal du Midi. The ecluses are nine elliptical locks on the Aub River. They were an important section of the Canal du Midi which was crucial in linking the Atlantic Ocean at Bordeaux to the Mediterranean Sea near Beziers. It was engineered by Pierre Paul Richet of Beziers who had no formal training but came up with an idea which he got his bishop to present to the king of France. It was begun in 1667 and completed in 1681. Unfortunately Richet died before its completion. The canal meant that France could ship and receive goods without the time, expense or risk of going around the Iberian peninsula.
This UNESCO World Heritage site right outside of Beziers is beautifully maintained with a boardwalk through the marshy area and lovely flowers along the walk to the canal.
On the way to Beziers I see a sign which reads “Oppidum D’enserune.” Oppidum had a distinctive Latin ring to it. (And by Latin, I mean dead language Latin.) So I google up oppidum and find that it refers to an encampment or town of Celtic origin occupied between 6 B.C. and 1 A.D. Wow, and there is one of these just a few mikes from a Beziers? We must go take a look!
It seems that there many of these oppida in Europe. Ultimately they became Romanized as trade increased. They had in their towns a sewer system, wine manufacture, and iron works. I love walking in the footsteps of ancient peoples!
There is also a museum with many artifacts from the oppidum site including amphora, large vases, and personal items.
Next we hop in the car for the hour or so trip to Carcassonne. We are not here to revisit the castle complex. We are here to find an excellent restaurant that we had lunch in during our trip to this area in 2010.
As can be seen on their awning now they are an Italian pizza place. Although they still have cassoulet as a side line, the whole lunch is a disaster and we end up feeling bad that we have come all this way for an expensive crummy lunch.
On the way back with stop at a grocery store and pick up a bottle of wine, a hunk of cheese, and some bread. We know we won’t be hungry enough for a proper dinner. At the store I see a Trader Joe’s product. Joe certainly gets around!
Since I am very sore today we are planning on taking it somewhat easy and spend the day looking around Beziers. These are pictures from our day.
Going out again in the afternoon is a mistake as I am really tired and very sore. Oh, and also very grumpy so we head back to the room so I can take a nap and adjust my attitude. For dinner we decide we just want a hamburger which turns out to be harder to find than expected. After attempts at closed restaurants, fully-booked place, awful kebab place, we settle on a sports bar with sub-optimal burgers and greasy, horrible fries. We are done for today.
We get up early because it is time to disembark. It is a much more leisurely proposition when you have your own plans rather than Viking’s. So we have room service breakfast and depart around 8 AM for the airport to pick up our rental car.
Everything goes smoothly at the car rental and we get some sort of Peugeot SUV. It is only about two hours to our planned stop in Perpignan, France.
What starts out as a lovely morning in Spain turns into a really chilly and windy day in France. The wind is so strong it is hard to open the car doors when we have a pit stop just over the French border. It must be the cold Mistral wind that we have experienced in southern France before. Brrr.
We reach Perpignan and find a parking space and make our way into the old city to try to find the cathedral. We end up finding the Church of St. James instead but, hey, it is a church so we go in to take a look.
We look around. The church-minder is nice enough to turn the lights on for us. The church is pretty gloomy and macabre looking even with the lights on. There is an interesting wood-carved and painted altarpiece and a statue of St. James, the traveler, with his scallop shell hat.
We depart the church and make our way to the cathedral through a very sketchy part of town. The buildings and the people are in sad shape and the litter is blowing around in the strong wind. I feel quite uncomfortable walking down the mostly deserted streets.
Of course I am just being paranoid and we reach the cathedral square without incident. The cathedral is also a mishmash of styles with different elements from various centuries. The cathedral was begun in 1326 in the Catalan Gothic style, because this area was part of the Kingdom of Majorca. The cathedral’s western façade was never finished and was restored in the 19th and 20th centuries and it has a portico and bell tower from the 18th century.
And now why this is an ill-fated day. In my haste to get an overall shot of the nave I neglect to step over a wooden spanner that connects the chair-like pews to the kneeler in front of them. Now even though I have been so thrilled by my miracle left knee which has performed beautifully over the course of the vacation, it is no match when I start to fall. So I trip with my right foot, my left knee crumples with the force of my falling and I end up on the floor between the pew and the kneeler. On the way down, which in my mind has taken on a slow motion quality, I smash my left hip and hand against the pew (all the time trying to keep my iPhone out of harm’s way) then ricochet off the pew with my right upper arm hitting the kneeler while the bulk of me is landing on the floor. I actually thought, ow, I think my right shoulder is dislocated. This causes quite a commotion in the echo-y Church. John and two British couples come running over. I am face down on the floor between the pews with my legs sticking out in the aisle. Please everyone go away and just let me lie here for a bit while I do a mental check of what has been damaged! But of course I say, don’t worry. I am fine. But the Brits want to help me up. So they start pulling at my shoulders which is really painful and I am trying to get on my knees which are banged up. After a few false starts I tell them to just let me do this on my own. This is tricky though because I cannot use my right arm to push up with because I have injured my shoulder. Finally I am upright still telling everyone that I am fine and they should continue on with their sightseeing. John has wisely not tried to get me up since he knows that what I really want to do is continue lying on the floor.
So ultimately my damage is a sore left knee and a giant bruise on my hip and a right arm that cannot reach out or up but I can use it from my elbow as long as my shoulder is not involved. I am pretty sturdy and have not broken anything.
We finish up at the cathedral with John taking pictures since I cannot hold the camera up and make our way into the square in search of some lunch.
I can eat with my right hand by keeping my upper arm pinned to my chest and leaning forward from the waist but I cannot reach for my wine glass. Horrors! I have to drink left-handed. Tricky but doable.
We return to the car and finish our trip to Beziers where we will spend three nights looking at Beziers and surrounding towns and taking a day trip up to Carcassonne. After only two passes we find our hotel which is on a pretty plaza or “place” in French. I just want to take some ibuprofen and lie down.
We go out for dinner at a nearby brasserie, Le Crystal. It is kind of like a French diner. We order something that has calamari in it. It turns out that it is all fried but okay we have to adjust to only knowing some of the French menu item words. The salad is good. Then it is back to the hotel to see if there is any comfortable way to sleep.
I found Valencia to be a beautiful and astoundingly clean city. In my pictures there is not a single piece of trash. It’s architecture is a blend of Art Deco and modern. These photos were taken from a bus and walking tour of Valencia.
Later we have our last dinner on the boat at Chef’s Table. It is new to their menu and needs some work. The lamb chops, however, are delicious.
Just what we need, another day at sea! You really have to be into looking at water or the inside of a boat to enjoy this many days at sea.
We played our last round of trivia today and did not win. Just as well because the prize was a Viking book. We really do not need anything heavier in our suitcase. We have enjoyed playing trivia on all the sea days
Since I am writing this several days after the fact, I imagine in the afternoon we did some hand laundry, watched some TV, looked out the windows, read books, and took a nap.
For dinner we ate at The Restaurant and our main was sole meunière. Too many bones for me.
Today we are in Cadiz. The optional tours are for Seville and Jerez. We visited Seville and Jerez before when we had arranged a tour in Seville and had tickets to the Andalusian equestrian center so we opt for a walking tour of Cadiz. Plus it is free.
Our boat pulls into Cadiz and soon we are on our way. The city is clean and inviting with gardens and streets with overhanging terraces. Here is some of what we saw.
We go down to dinner at the Chef’s Table tonight where the theme is ‘Las Route des Indes.” Here are a few highlights.
We are hoping to see the Straits of Gibraltar before it gets too dark but it seems that we are not going to make it. However we do see the lights of Morocco on one side and the Rock of Gibraltar on the other. We wave and shout, Hi Africa! Seeing Africa was one of our agenda items to complete.
Just when you think that you might have dry land for a while there is another day at sea going from Madeira to Cadiz, Spain. So not much happening today.
We start the day by having room service knock on the door at what seems like an hour earlier than we expect. John is still sleeping so I stumble out of the bedroom looking, I imagine, rather disheveled to answer the door. I say I thought I asked for breakfast at 8:45 AM. He says it is 8:45. Did you remember to turn clocks ahead an hour last night. Abashedly I had not. So kind of an embarrassing start to the day
We go down to play Trivia before lunch and resume our old position of second. We assign areas of expertise to study up on before the final Trivia on Tuesday. John is looking into world capitals and I am still the NASCAR expert.
We have lunch. I am so sick of luncheon boat food. John tries the porchetta since he tried making one at Christmas with so-so results. The one onboard is much prettier and John says it tastes good too. I am still not feeling particularily like eating due to my stomach distress of yesterday.
We take a nap and go down for the Port Talk late in the afternoon. Our next stop is Cadiz tomorrow morning. There are excursions to Seville and Jerez but we have been to those places before and have had excellent times there so we opt for a walk around Cadiz.
Dinner is at Manfredi’s and works out pretty well. We abandon our beloved octopus carpaccio for antipasti for two followed by a first course of tortelli with truffles for me and a risotto for John. We split a Fiorentina (giant steak from Florence) and still cannot eat it all. No dessert.
After a reasonable night’s sleep we are ready to explore the beautiful island of Madeira, Portugal. What a change from St. Martin. Our ship pulls in at about noon and we are scheduled to take a tour at 1:15PM. I am feeling much better today and we are so happy to get on land.
After a delightful ride through the city of Funchal and the countryside with its terraced farming gardens we arrive at the Cabo Girão Skywalk. The skywalk is partially a see-through section down the cliff and spectacular views of the island abound.
Later we travel down to the fishing village of Camara de Lobos where we are treated to the local drink, poncha, a combination of rum, lemon juice, and honey. We have a brief time to walk around as well.
Finally we end up in their biggest city, Funchal. It is clean and lovely. There are flowering trees and shrubs everywhere. We had hoped to see their early 16th century cathedral but it was closed by the time we get there. Unfortunately we get to this last site late and only had 20 minutes to explore. Otherwise this is one of the better included tours we have been on from the Viking Ocean trips.
Later we have dinner at The Restaurant. The food is seeming repetitive at this point. Everything comes with a garnish of watercress. They must be out of everything else.