Travel Blogues

Before Istanbul became Constantinople, it was known as Byzantium. The town established  in 657 BC by Greek colonists from Megara, was named for Byzas, legendary king of Megara. Megara was an ancient Greek city state on the Northern shore of the Isthmus of Corinth. Legend has it that Byzas founded the town at the entrance to the Black Sea on the western (European) shore of the Bosphorus. In 330 AD it was renamed Constantinople for Roman Emperor Constantine, and in 1923 when the modern state of Turkey was founded, the city became known as Istanbul.

 I first heard the name of the ancient city of Byzantium on reading Sailing to Byzantium when I studied the poetry of Yeats, one of my three favorite poets along with the Romantic poets, Keats and Shelley. Written when Yeats was in his early sixties, the journey to Byzantium serves as a metaphor for a spiritual journey to reconcile soul within the ageing body. Yeats' poem is shown in the box- read it aloud. For me it is like listening to a beautiful melody. The word Byzantium has a resonance that evokes images of  “hammered gold and gold enamelling” (Yeats), exquisite mosaics, and colorful jewels.

Madeira is a lush green island, the largest in the Madeiran Archipelago west of Morocco and about 280 nautical miles north of Gran Canaria. Ilha da Madeira translates from Portuguese as Island of timber. 

Madeira holds a special sentimental value for me as I noted in a previous post (Cape town to Southampton: cruise days 12 to 16).

We docked in Funchal, the capital city, on the southern coast of the island. The name derives from funcho,  Portuguese for fennel, a plant that grew abundantly in the area.

While the last post was weighted in favour of dining - no pun intended- in this one I will post more formal pictures. 

Monday 21st, 2013 Las Palmas at Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria is an island approximately 150 kilometers west of the north-western coast of Africa, at the border between Morocco and Western Sahara.It is the second most populated island of the Spanish archipelago, the Canary Islands. Tenerife has the highest population. Gran Canaria has so many different micro-climates that it is sometimes called a Miniature continent." The QM2 docked in Las Palmas, the capital and port city of the island. The weather was great, 28 C and sunny and I think most people chose to visit the beaches.

Vigo, Spain. Last port before Southampton

The fourth and last port stop on this 16 day cruise between Cape Town and Southampton was Vigo, in Galicia- the north-west region of Spain. I again picked a short excursion, around 4 hours, that would give me an overview of this port city but not mean hours sitting in a bus.

Our guide began the tour narration with some interesting insights into the cooking and cuisine of this area.

While many people prefer port-intensive cruise itineraries, I absolutely love the days at sea.  This itinerary from Cape Town to Southampton has many days at sea. In fact 10 of the 16 days are sea days.  There is so much to do on board that it is impossible to get to do everything I would like. Another difference for me from the majority of my previous dance cruises, is the fact that I can take advantage of different dining experiences on board, without feeling anti-social because I am not dining with the group.

10 April 2013 Cape Town, South Africa

We embark on the Queen Mary 2 and overnight on ship in Cape Town, before sailing out the next evening.

The Peninsula  Hotel  in Sea  Point runs a complimentary shuttle, and six of us booked transfers to the Queen Mary 2 on the shuttle.  Because the ship is so big it has to dock in the container port and there are currently no facilities for the check-in and embarkation procedures. So after an abortive attempt to enter the dock area, our shuttle driver finally landed us at the Good Hope Centre, where the embarking passengers were checked-in. Shuttle buses then drove us through the dock area where we could board the ship.

During our week-long journey on the waters of the Peruvian Amazon on the river boat, La Turmalina, our group was treated each evening, to musical entertainment by crew members. They sang and played a variety of instruments, wind, string and percussion. And also played quite a range of music.

Among the instruments that they played were a  guitar and a smaller stringed instrument, charango, a traditional instrument of Peru, that is a member of the lute family. As well as drums they also used a box drum and maracas, and a pan flute or zampona. The three main members of the group were our cabin stewards Oscar and Blumer, and the dining room steward, Edgar. But other crew members also joined in from time to time. 


 It’s 23:40 according to my glow-in –the dark, battery operated alarm clock. I have been sleeping fitfully since around 10 PM, tossing and turning under a thin sheet on the narrow camp bed in my tent in the Kapok Camp. The tent is square, approximately 12-x 12 ft., and is covered with a thatched roof.

In the cabin to which I was assigned there are two camp beds against each side with a low wooden table made out of segments of tree trunk separating them at the head of the bed. At the foot of each bed is a wooden block the width of the bed, so there is somewhere to put your things. The entrance to the tent is an inverted T zipper system. I have it tightly closed to prevent any creepy crawlies paying me a visit in the night.

In the afternoon of the third day of our Amazon adventure, we made our first actual foray on foot into the jungle. Rather than viewing the vegetation and the birds and critters from the boats, we were actually going to hike to the Kapok Camp where we going to spend the night.

From the time we arrived at the airport in Iquitos and were taken to our coach for the ride to Nauta, we were in the capable and highly organized hands of the naturalist team who were leading our Amazon explorations. In my professional career I have encountered many people who were experts in their field, but Juan-Carlos Palomino and Robinson Rodriguez have made an indelible impression on me that I will never forget. How they could spot a tiny black dot high in a tree as we were speeding down river in our motorized skiff, and instantly identify the type of bird, simply blew my mind. Specially when our skiff driver, Darwin, would stop the boat so we could see the bird. Even through my very powerful binoculars I could often barely make out the shape of the black dot- which now just looked like a big bird-like blob to me. But they could point in the bird guide to the exact type of bird. And then when I zeroed in on the image captured (usually by Robinson, for me) on my camera, and zoomed in on the image - there it was. No longer a black blob.

Before supper each night, we were entertained on the upper deck by the ship’s band of whom the mainstays were brothers, Oscar and Edgar Rachi, and Blumer Arica, all of whom sang as well as playing multiple musical instruments. We danced lots of salsa and merengue with the occasional rumba for variation. It was quite a surreal experience to  be dancing on a river boat in the Amazon jungle!


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