It’s time for port days and our first was Alicante. I had booked the ‘Alicante & Elche’ tour. The sun was shining, I’d been given a packed lunch to take with me and it was time to head ashore. Emilio was our guide, and he was excellent! I wish every tour guide could be like him. We visited a public garden, which was stunning, but the jewel in the crown was El Huerto del Cura (the Priest’s Garden). It’s probably the most impressive private garden I’ve ever seen, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the space in which I was standing. The Mediterranean and tropical plants are arranged to create an atmosphere of tranquillity, and they did just that. If I lived near the gardens, I’d probably visit every other day in the summer months. Everything felt so still and relaxed, well, they did until the peacock made itself known and started screaming from the top of its beak! But there were ducks, turtles, other little animals and then just this fascinating mix of plants and flowers. It was fabulous.
As the sun broke on May 27th, we found ourselves in Barcelona. I’ve visited here many times and it’s not one of my favourite places. If you’re visiting for the first time or even the second, I’d highly recommend you book a tour. I’ve been there and done that, so I took myself off on foot along Las Ramblas. Although Barcelona itself isn’t on my top 20 list, it’s Mercado de la Boqueria is! I can’t visit this city without stopping off at the market. I rarely buy anything, I just like to look around and see all the fresh fruits and vegetables, the sometimes very peculiar seafood offerings and to smell the fresh coffee. It’s always busy, but the atmosphere is just electric. It’s been open since 1836 and there are over 200 vendors. It’s just off Las Ramblas on the left side of the street. I would say you can’t miss it, but in fact, you probably could – so keep your eyes wide open.
Happy Birthday to me! Yes, our call to Cannes on May 28th marked me being another year older (21 again!). At first, I had full intentions of going ashore and then I thought, no. I’m going to have the day at leisure for myself and take advantage of a quiet ship before my evening meal in Vasco.
I started with a late riser eggs benedict breakfast at the Poolside, and then I found a sun lounger and enjoyed sitting in the sun for about an hour or so. I used to love sitting in the sun, but now I just get restless, so off I went for another ship-based adventure. I came across a room on Deck 7 that’s not on the deck plans and obviously isn’t open for public use, but it was a fair size! I couldn’t see in the windows, but I did have a sneaky look through the squares in the door, but I’m still no further forward. The crew were doing a lot of work on Deck 9 during my cruise, so I wonder if in time we’ll be greeted with additional spaces or features. It’s quite exciting. In fact, Fred. Olsen just released some images a few days ago of the new art space on Bolette, so maybe I am seeing into the future! 😉
In the afternoon I had a hair date with Alberto. During lockdown, I cut my ponytail off twice and still I hadn’t seen a hairdresser. I love having my hair cut onboard, so Alberto worked his magic. It might sound silly, but I’ve never had such a good blow dry and straighten in all my life! That man really is the business, and he ensured my hair was smooth and silky, ready for my Goan cuisine delight. The salon also offers some wonderful views, thanks to its floor to ceiling windows.
In Vasco, you are first served a selection of warm Indian breads and sauces, this is a sign of where your meal is going – in a taste bud explosion direction. Even this is so tasty to the point where I this time couldn’t stop eating it! Next you get your starters, yes, plural – they serve you the entire selection unless you state otherwise. You choose one main course and again, unless you mention it, they also serve all the side dishes. For my main course I went with the xacuti, which was Goan chicken curry, spices, poppy seeds, sliced coconut, and red chilli – it was divine! The side dishes offered are steamed rice, spicy potatoes, dhal, Palak paneer and vegetable pilau. I’m hungry just thinking about it all. Again, it’s only a £15 per person cover charge and it’s worth every penny!
Our next port was one I’d really been looking forward too, Villefranche! I first visited here in 2008 and until this cruise, I hadn’t been back. It was exactly as I remembered it being. It’s such a beautiful place and not very big, so if you want to have a short explore and then sit and have some local food while watching the world go by, this place is ideal. I was very happy to be back and so pleased the weather held out, as it had been forecast for rain! It’s easy to get to other places from here, such as Monaco, Nice and Cannes, as the local train network is quite efficient. A few people did in fact get the train to Monaco.
Port day numero cinco and we arrived in Bandol. Honestly, I’d never even heard of the place until I looked at this cruise and after doing some quick research online, I decided to book a tour. Titled ‘Cassis & It’s Calanques’ this trip would take us through the Mediterranean countryside, past numerous vineyards and finally, to the fishing town of Cassis. Again, another stunning little harbour area that reminded me a little of Villefranche, only there was a bit more going on there.
We boarded an Ecological Hybrid Boat and made our way out towards the Calanques National Park. To begin with, it was quite cool and cloudy, but as we reached the first bay, the sun came out and the water suddenly became this intense colour of green. We sailed down numerous canyon-like inlets, one of which had the most beautiful white beach at the end of it! I was so desperate to just jump in and swim, but that wasn’t allowed. Our last spot on the tour was at the bottom of another limestone cliff and the skipper joked that the other Captain likes to think he can get the boat through the crack between the cliffs. We all laughed and then suddenly he was sailing us right in between them – you could have reached out and touched the cliffs, it was a nice end to what had been a visually impressive tour. Before re-joining the little train, we had some free time in the town to explore and grab a quick bite to eat, so that’s exactly what I did. If you visit Bandol, PLEASE do this tour! It really was brilliant!
Back home, it was time to unwind with a day at sea before we arrived in Gibraltar.
Cruising The Olsen Way Part 4 soon…
#PressTrip – I was a guest of Fred. Olsen on this sailing