A Travellerspoint blog

Side trips to Nerja and Gibraltar

overcast 13 °C

In our friend's rental car, we took two day-trips in opposite directions on Tues & Wed.

Nerja is a lovely little town about 90 minutes east. We had a little rain, mostly while driving and it was cooler, but the town was pretty and we walked around and stopped for lunch.
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Back in Torremolinos for churros y chocolate - thick hot chocolate, in which to dip the fried dough. Truth be told, not the best we've had - the chocolate in Sevilla was darker and the churros in Santiago were crispier, but still a good dessert.
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Wednesday was Gibraltar, aka the Rock, a British Overseas Territory, located at the tip of the peninsula and about 90 minutes west of Torremolinos.
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We arrived just before noon at the cable car parking lot (free parking in the white-painted slots only) and immediately stopped to lunch on Momma Maria's very good pizza - thin crust, baked in a big wood fired oven. We shared the spicy and less spicy versions of the pepperoni, meatball and roast chicken pizza.

We had pre-purchased tickets through the cable car company, which included round trip on the cable car to the upper reserve and access to the nature reserve, but during the drive, we learned the cable car was shut down for a week. The taxi drivers, hanging around the cable car lot and wanting to pick up the slack from surprised tourists, said we would receive a full refund upon request and offered a tour of limited sites at the top. Their offer, while reasonably priced, did not include St Michael's cave, which was a key attraction for us, so we walked toward the town centre, thinking we'd ask at the tourist bureau. On the way, we opted instead for a cab driver that would take us to the various attractions AND wait for us to see the cave (at an extra cost). We would then have the option of walking down or staying in the cab.

Pillars of Hercules - great scenic views, which allowed us to see three countries, UK (i.e., Gibraltar), Spain and Morocco.
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St Michael's Cave
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The apes
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A very nice day and we were glad we elected to include the cave. The light show was very impressive. It would have been even better to have attended a concert, but none were scheduled, so we just enjoyed the lights which restarted every 8 minutes.

The cabbie left us at the top of the hill and we walked down, passing the Moorish ruins and through the old city back to the car (about 25-30 min).
The Moorish ruins & view from the top
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I have to admit that I did not expect the driver's assertion that we'd receive a refund (thought it was just a way to garner more business for them), but this morning we received a little more than the full amount we paid - the difference due to the in increase in the exchange rate. So, a happy surprise and lesson to be less cynical :)

Posted by Deb Godley 10:15 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

Torremolinos, Spain

16 °C

First winter of retirement and we are spending it in warmer climes, after paying for snow removal etc. at home. It's not summer weather here, but very sunny and highs ranging from 13-20 degrees Celsius (54-68 F), which is SO much better than the below freezing temps and snow in Ottawa. We are spending 4 weeks each in Spain, Portugal and France.

Here was our first look at Torremolinos from the plane:
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The beach area is lovely and I've been taking long walks on my own and with my friend who's been here at the same time this first week. Our apartment is only 2 blocks from the beach and the promenade goes for miles in each direction. Lovely!
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Everyone has a ferris wheel :)
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And a nice park - Parque de la Bateria
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This building looks like a ship
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Outside of the beach area, we've had some lovely meals, preferring restaurants that don't need to put big pictures of the meals on the menu so the tourists can just point and eat mediocre food, paying for the view.

We have a couple to good grocery stores right below us (in the same building), which is very convenient, but the delivery noises start at 6:30am and there seems to be constant road work all day outside the living room and bedroom windows. That is really our only complaint about the apartment we've rented - it's REALLY noisy from 6:30am with the road/store noise to the neighbours and their loud TV all day, to the karaoke bar pounding base until midnight, a block away. Lesson learned - look for higher floors and lower proximity to noisy businesses. Sleeping pills and ear plugs are giving me a reasonable night's sleep. Steve sleeps through anything :)

Posted by Deb Godley 10:15 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Carnival Radiance - Catalina Island and Ensenada

sunny 26 °C

Embarked on Radiance, our first Carnival ship in over a decade. Same itinerary as the Royal cruise last week. The cruise port is next to the decommissioned - now restaurant - Queen Mary.

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Carnival felt much cheaper than Royal. No tablecloths on the dinner table, fewer servers, no replacement of cutlery from the appy to the main course. Decorations on the ship were repetitive and every stateroom corridor was identical with the same repeated four beach pictures (unlike Royal, on which each deck had art that was unique and themed). The drinks were slightly less expensive than Royal $9 vs $11 for a beer. We were seated at a table for two, when we would have preferred a larger table and people to meet. As it turns out, we’d been on this ship as Victory before it was rechristened as Radiance. The public spaces seemed much different with a smaller theatre and everything seemed louder. Some of this complaint is likely due to me becoming older and more curmudgeony, but we remembered always being able to find a quiet place to relax and read, which wasn’t possible on this ship. After these two cruises, we are starting to question our desire to cruise.

On this stop at Catalina Island, Steve chose to stay on board while I spent the day hiking. Off early on the second tender, since we were all aboard at 3:45 and I wanted lots of hiking time. The trails were undulating, some very steep with slippery scree, but for the most part it was easy hiking on dirt roads and trails that covered the island outside of Avalon.

I stopped first at the Wrigley memorial. The island was once owned by William Wrigley jr, who also owned the Cubs. And the Cubs had spring training on the Island for many years. There’s also a botanical garden included for the $10, but not much to see in November. It’s possible to avoid the fee, but I wanted to see the memorial and start my hike nearby.

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A few pics of Avalon, including the view from the bar at the end of the hike. The beer was cheaper and darker off the ship.
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We decided to take a Carnival excursion in Ensenada - 10 best things in Ensenada, which was scheduled to include a tour of the former casino, la bufadora (natural cave/blow hole), a wine and olive oil tasting and (time permitting) a tequila tasting - the last of which didn’t fit in the time. Darn.
It was an enjoyable day, even without the tequila. And the excursion cost was lower than similar options on Royal.

The casino included murals of 6 of the 7 deadly sins, but it was hard to distinguish which was which.
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On the way home, just waiting for our flight from YVR to leave. Looking forward to my own bed and pillow.

Until next trip…

Posted by Deb Godley 00:42 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Hawaii

28 °C

First time booking with VRBO. The condo was well appointed and exactly as advertised and pictured. We had a one-bedroom unit, clean, lots of kitchen appliances and utensils,etc. No problem cooking up a few meals in the unit. Had to kill a few bugs, but we were in the tropics, so I think to be expected.

View from our balcony
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The weather was nearly perfect; only hit rain on the last day and it was warm; like walking through a fine mist. The condo had a nice balcony where I could sit in the shade and a rooftop pool, bbq and seating area, which we checked out but didn’t use. Lots of walking, including hikes up Diamond Head and to the Punchbowl cemetery. And lots of beach/boardwalk walks.

Loved the 5 days here.
Along the canal
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As Amsterdam has for bikes, Honolulu has for surfboards; parking places everywhere
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Magic Island, which is a lovely enclosed bay
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Views around town
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On the way to Diamond Head. I took the stairs!
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And from the top
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And walking up to Punchbowl, aka the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, in the misty rain
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Staying in Long Beach for couple of nights before embarking on the Carnival cruise tomorrow. The Best a western is comfortable with a good breakfast included, but there’s not a lot in the area. Walked to a couple of parks.
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We tried to have dinner at Denny’s because it’s next door, but couldn’t get service after 20 minutes, so we walked down to Jack-in-the-Box for grilled chicken sandwiches and curly fries. First time at a Jack’s. Not bad.

Posted by Deb Godley 04:03 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Royal Caribbean Navigator round trip from Los Angeles

sunny 18 °C

We had credits to use by the end of 2022 from thwarted travel during the pandemic, so we used our Royal and Carnival cruise credits on 4-day cruises out of LA and a Hawaiian Airlines credit for a round trip to Honolulu from LA, so -
- flight to LA
- one night hotel in Long Beach (Royal Hotel)
- 4-night Royal cruise, stopping in Catalina and Ensenada
- flight to Honolulu & 5-night stay at a VRBO condo in Waikiki
- 2 nights in Long Beach (Best Western)
- 4-night Carnival Cruise (same itinerary as the Royal)

So starting with the Royal cruise...

After a night's stay at the Royal Hotel in Long Beach - very low budget :) and a hassle to get in (they closed) that involved almost going elsewhere, we set sail from the Long Beach cruise port on Navigator of the Seas with stops in Catalina Island (California) and Ensenada, Mexico. We hadn't been on a Royal ship for a number of years and were interested in any changes and the differences between the Royal line and Princess that we had taken to Greenland in August.

The comparison favoured Princess, especially in the area of service (see previous posts re the Medallion app for ordering drinks and such); food was similar, but seemed less varied. We've travelled on Royal several times and have "diamond" status, so we have access to a special lounge that's open from 5pm-8pm. On past cruises, we were allowed 3 drinks outside of the lounge and unlimited drinks within the lounge during that 5-8pm period. That has changed this year. Now we are allowed 4 drinks at any time and that includes any drinks we have in the lounge - so no unlimited drinking period. As a result, the lounge is MUCH less busy, but that also means we aren't meeting people the way we have in the past. The four-drink limit wasn't really an issue, but the change to the lounge was disappointing from the socializing aspect.

I would also say that Royal appears to be short-staffed (like many businesses around the world) and that has impacted the service.

In addition, we had saved a few bucks to allow Royal to pick our stateroom, and I would say Never Again. We were immediately above the Star Lounge, which featured loud pounding music in the evening and also some afternoons. The best night was when they did a "Hush" nightclub, which means everyone wears headphones and otherwise there is no music broadcast - that was fantastic. We had to time our getting to sleep when bands were between sets.

Another difference I noted between Royal and Princess was the push by Royal for feedback on their service. I would wager a guess that staff are paid or receive bonuses/promotions based on the feedback from guests. This results in the service staff pushing for positive feedback. It becomes annoying after a few days.

Having said all that, other than the lack of sleep, we did have a good time. We walked around the ports and I am looking forward to more of those ports - especially Catalina Island on the Carnival cruise next week.

Walking in Long Beach
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Catalina Island, which was home to the Cubs spring training from 1921-1951
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Ensenada - beautiful day. Spent some time at the old Hotel Riviera del Pacifico, which was very popular during US prohibition.
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Steve and his friend in our stateroom :) and the sunset view from the flight as we left LA for Honolulu.
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Posted by Deb Godley 04:12 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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