Tuesday, 15 April 2014

A relaxed day in the Bay of Biscay

Today we had a sea day and after all the new impressions we got during the last days everybody enjoyed it,to have time to relax. The Bay of Biscay is well known for strong winds and waves, but we have been the lucky ones, the sea was calm like a lake and the sun was shining out of a clear blue sky. 

It was just the right weather to relax in a sun chair on the open decks.

But of course we could not only relax. We had the possibility to visit the bridge, where our Captain Rune Andreassen explained us the most important instruments.

Our lecture team had prepared lots of lectures with different topics for us again. So the day turned out as a mixture out of relaxing and learning.

In the evening we had an amazing sunset. It was still warm enough to stay outside, enjoy the fresh sea air and dream a bit.

Monday, 14 April 2014

On a pilgrim’s path

The early morning started a little bit misty as the water temperature was higher than the air temperature. But during the morning the sun became strong enough to heat the air and very soon the color of the sky changed from grey to a wonderful deep blue. As the weather became better and better many passengers stand with their cameras outside on the open decks. 

The first we could see from A Coruna was the “Tower of Hercules”, a lighthouse from the Roman times, recently named an UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the oldest lighthouse of the world and it is still in use.

Around 10:45 the pilot boat went alongside MV FRAM and the Pilot jumped on board. So we have been ready to sail into the harbor of A Coruna, even companied by the Guardia civil.

Passengers without any booked excursion left the ship as soon as possible to learn the city of A Coruna. Some even used the sunny weather to walk to the famous “Tower of Hercules”.

Just after an early lunch the buses started with our excursions. Some passengers joined the guided bus tour to Santiago de Compostela, the place where, according to the legend, the remains of the apostle Saint James were found. 

Santiago de Compostela continues to be a magnificent place and one of the best examples of medieval town building.

The other excursion stayed just in A Coruna. With the bus and by foot the passengers explored the city, that’s also known as the “City of Glass”. Especially in the Marina Avenue you can see the magnificent glass galleries.

The glass structures from the 19th century have been built to let as much as possible light into the houses. The excursion ended in a Tapas bar, were the guests had the possibility to test the typical local tapas, mad out of fresh seafood and ham. Of course the tapas came with the best wines in Galicia, Albarino or Ribeiro.

As MV FRAM left the harbor first just after 23:00 many passengers took the opportunity to enjoy A Coruna by “night”.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

A Port Wine Day

Our morning started with the first lectures of our cruise. The expedition team did not want to send us on land without good facts about the region. It is amazing how much you see more when you got at least first information about everything you can expect to see.

Around 11:00 we reached Leixoes, one of Portugal’s major seaports. The harbor is located 4km north of the mouth of the Douro River, very near to the city Porto, and you can describe Leixoes as the harbor of Porto. Porto itself is Portugal’s the second largest city. The inhabitants are still proud that Portugal is called after their city.

Most passengers left the ship to visit Porto. Shuttle busses and the excursion busses were waiting for us. Experienced local guides guided us during the afternoon. We learned the city of Porto with all the historical important buildings, like the famous station, that belongs to the “top ten stations” of the world or the Cathedral out of the 12th century.

Window in the Cathedral
The famous station
The famous station
And of course we all visited a Port wine cellar.Here we learned about the Douro valley, with its special micro climate, which is so perfect for the wine. Only wine from wine yards in the Douro valley can be used for the Port wine. As this valley with its climate and the traditional vine yards is so important for Portugal and very unique it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Even the vine is called Port vine we recognized, that the vine cellars lay not in Porto. Porto was built at the sun exposed side of the Douro River. That’s nice for the inhabitants of the town, but not good for the vine. The vine likes it cooler and so all vine cellars lay on the other side of the Douro, and that is already the city of Gaia.

After our “Port wine lesson” we had the opportunity to sail on a typical historical “Rabelo” boat. These boats were especially built for the Port wine barrel transport on the Douro.  During the boat trip we had also the best possibility to photograph the famous bridges which connect Porto and Gaia. One of them was built by Gustave Eiffel.

 Back on board the “Chef” presented us a wonderful dinner. That was just the right thing after such a wonderful day.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

A sunny end and sunny start in Lisbon

FRAM reached the harbor of Lisbon around lunchtime. The sunny weather made it not a bit easier for the passengers of the last cruise to say “good bye” FRAM. After a nice voyage it is always hard to go, and so it is no wonder that some guests made the decision to stay for another cruise, our trip “Southern Europe – The Great Easter Voyage”.

Most of the new coming guests arrived in the afternoon. The check in was done very fast and everybody had time enough to get a first impression of our lovely lady MV FRAM.

Before we could leave Lisbon everybody had to participate in an emergency drill. Around 20:00 FRAM set sail in the direction of Leixoes (Porto), where we expect to be tomorrow in the late morning.

It was already a bit dark during we were sailing along the silhouette of the spectacular town of Lisbon.

A wonderful sunset colored the sky golden, orange and dark red later on. It was still not cold on the open decks and so we could enjoy our first evening even outside.

At 21:30 our Captain Rune Andreassen welcomed us in the Observation lounge and introduced us to his officers. The Hotel Manager Else Kristine Tjessem gave us some important information for the trip. After our Expedition leader Karin Strand had introduced us to her team we had at least seen nearly everybody, who would be important for our holidays on board FRAM.

Tired from the long travel and all the new impressions we went to bed. 


No more islands on this trip. Sad thing...
BUT: What a new compilation of memories we have piled up in these 12 days! How many exotic places in very remote spots on the Atlantic map we have visited, how many plants and birds and rocks and craters we have seen, through how many picturesque villages we ambled, in how many churches we fell silent, how many miles we spent out on deck, breathing wonderful ocean air!
A little reluctant is the keyboard to capture the sea days now, as there is less to narrate, no friendly, wrinkled faces to describe, no beautiful landscape to portrait.
However, these days are busy days, too, in their own cozier pace. A whole new round of lectures and presentations is given, waffles lure everyone into the panorama lounge with their magnifi-scent (sorry, pun...), the bridge invited to a comprehensive visit, pianist Bjørn organized a really funny singing competition, and even the skies gave us a last adieu with an intense rainbow.
So, Captain's Farewell speech is spoken, passports are picked up. It is time to say good-bye to newly found friends, pack the suitcases and get ready for tomorrow.
Also I, your humble narrator for the last four weeks, will leave the ship today - vacation time. So I thank you all for following the story of our ship around the world. Those who traveled with us and heave a sigh reading it: You have those memories now, nobody can take them from you. Ever. That is a good thing, wouldn't you agree...?
And as things go, FRAM continues tonight, so - the Blog goes on!