Saturday, 23 April 2016

Valencia (Terry)

There's a lot to say about Valencia, one of the most liveable cities we've encountered in our 5 years of travelling.  Big enough to be exciting and small enough to be accessible to the citizens. I've included a link to a superb Valencia blog by a Valencia resident -
It is well worth reading. 

It is a remarkable city for many reasons, few of which are about excitement and spectacle and most of which are about a city which promotes modern living with great recreation opportunities.

It is also a favourite of mine because it was once ruled by El Campeador, Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (c. 1043 – 1099), also known as El Cid, or simply Rodrigo, one of my childhood heroes..


The Marina was built for the Americas’ Cup and is named for King Juan Carlos.  It is modern and well laid out, with a substantial breakwater which gives a great deal of protection.  We were tied up at the end of a pontoon with the Spanish training vessel Cervantes opposite us.  Being on the end gave us a view of the comings and goings on the waterway and as luck would have it we were only a short distance from the city's Youth Water Activities club (not sure of the translation)


Kids water club - The Optimists 

This looks like chaos but the kids are very skilled and rarely bump.  They race up and down the marina, as they do in numerous other European cities.  Often after a race down to the marina entrance they will tie one Optimist to another and sit in the first one to talk on the way back. (as I sit here in Cartagena on a Saturday morning in late April, the Optimists and dinghies are beginning to head out for a few hours racing)

They do know what they are doing

The kayak races are conducted on the far side of the waterway and are full of spray and shouting.  At the end, all the kayaks tie bow to stern and they get a ride back upstream with the minder boat pulling them.  Easy way to finish the day.


To the east of the marina is a sandy beach which stretches for some miles.  While we were there, I was treated to a rare spectacle in the Med – surf!  Admittedly there was not a lot of power in it but nevertheless, it was rideable, shoulder-high, peeling, long and breaking over sand.  The swell lasted about 3 days, although it petered out completely on day three.  Lots of Valencians took advantage of it, and a huge number gathered on the breakwater to watch, as the walkway on the breakwater is well suited to walking and watching.


The beach itself attracts many locals and tourists, with a run of hotels immediately on the beachfront. The restaurant prices are a tad over the top for Spain so we avoided them completely.  Better value in the suburbs.  It is also the venue for some quite amazing sandcastle art.  The sand sculptors are similar to buskers, in that a stop and study and photo is meant to generate a donation. 


The view from the belltower.  The green belt of the parkways is in the middle of the city in the distance.

Water Court

The water court has been sitting in Valencia for a thousand years and was probably a Moorish institution.  It is the oldest continually sitting democratic institution in Europe.   Proceedings are conducted in Valencian and decisions are final.


This was to me one of Valencia’s main attractions.  Formed from the old river course, it is an extensive run of cycleways, running tracks, walkways, exercise stations and relaxation areas.  One would guess that the opportunity afforded by many kilometres of inner-city land would have been given over to developers and big money anywhere else in the world but Valencia chose to make the city more amenable instead.  Francoist bureaucrats wanted to make the riverbed a motorway but local opposition stopped them.

City of Arts and Science

If Valencia has a spectacle, this is surely it.  The buildings are remarkable.  We visited the aquarium and also the Omni theatre.

I think he should have waited until the guy finished inflating it!


The city markets

The markets are in a spectacular building but in themselves are not particularly exciting.  Cartagena's are bigger, and Palermo's are much more extensive.  I think it is because Valencia does not depend on one location only and the choices are more widely spread.  There is only one place to eat, standing, alongside a bar and it is extremely crowded with city workers having lunch.  Once a bar stool is taken, it's out of circulation for about an hour as Valencians use all their available relaxation time to socialise and enjoy their lunchtime beer and wine.

The Booze Bit

You probably can't see this without a) a magnifying glass or b) an explanation.
This is a stack of beer cartons in Carrefours.  It is made in Germany for Carrefours.  It is 0.17c a can..  That's about AUD 0.23c a can.  Seriously, $0.23c a can.

Bad Idea!  You think you are getting a double treat, Tequila and Beer in one bottle, so you buy a bucket.  Not good.  What you get is sugar and beer.  Bad.  Undrinkable.  Well, almost undrinkable.  I forced it down but I must say I wasn't pleased.

The end of a hard day's touring in Valencia, one of Spain's most enjoyable cities.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Burriana (Terry)

Along the coast of Spain are several marinas that were built to capitalize on the Valencia America’s Cup.  Timing, they say, is everything, and these were built just before “El Crise” and there is now substantial free space in them.  As a consequence, prices are way down on, say, the coast of Italy or the south coast of France.  Good for some.  Us, for sure.

We called in to one of these called Burriana in order to get our electronics checked and fixed after our lightning whack.  September is not high season but even so, €20 a night is cheap anywhere, in a very nicely laid out marina with good secure facilities.  The only problem is that Burriana the big town is about 3km from Burriana beachside.

Our electronics were in the capable hands of Eddie Mauricio Achoy Hernandez.  Ah yes you say, you detect the Achoy in there.   Indeed, Eddie is widely known as Achoy.  A Guatemalan by birth, of Chinese descent, living in Spain for many years, Eddie is happy-go-lucky, curious and very pleasant company.  Of course, chasing down electrical faults is a bit of a no-win career.  You don’t find it until you find it and it seems to take forever to isolate the issue.  As it turned out, it took several days to fix the VHF and the GPS/Chartplotter but the eventual cost was offset by the fact that we had Eddie’s company for several days.
Eddie Mauricio Achoy Hernandez

Eddie's LightSabre - lights up like a LightSabre, sounds exactly like a LightSabre and looks exactly like a LightSabre.  From the genuine LucasArts factory, too.

The waterfront of Burriana boasts a magnificent Escola devoted to sailing instruction.  Students come from all over Europe (EU, as it is partly EU funded) to attend the college and learn high-end racing stuff.  

Around the corner from that is a superb bar.  To cater for the possibility that they might run short of beer at any time, the management has wisely installed two massive beer tuns.

These, in turn, feed into a beer delivery pipe of industrial proportions, keeping drinkers’ minds off the possibility that there could ever be a shortage of supply.

To cap it all off, they wisely set the daily control in the capable hands of two delightful young ladies from Eastern Europe.  When they discovered my interest in a Spanish telecast of an NFL game on TV in the main bar, they set Carol and I up on the restaurant bar with our own large TV to watch the game. The two Spanish commentators were quite knowledgeable and ran a great side discussion throughout.

Thank goodness for foresighted management I say

We did go into Burriana-the-town on two days.  It’s a fair hike but on day one, we asked a lady exiting a parking spot on the beachfront where the bus stop was.  She insisted we get in and she then drove us into town, depositing us outside the shops in the main street.

If you go to Burriana on Google Earth, you can see how underutilised the marina is.

While in town, we wandered around the famous church but found it locked up.  As I was checking the opening hours, and my watch, one of the retired guys who sit around town squares and set the world to rights came over and said he’d open the church for us.  He was one of the lay assistants there.  He insisted we follow him and took us around to the priest’s office and asked the priest to open up for us, which he duly did.  We had a private tour and were most impressed.

Burriana also boasts The Orange Museum, celebrating the area's links to the citrus industry.  However, we couldn't find it and the population of Burriana was evenly divided between "it's over in that street" and "it closed down 2 years ago".  We still don't know who is right and we didn't find it.

A hard day's fishing, Burriana-style

One irritation we did come across was that when we tried to go back to the boat on the second day, we waited at the bus stop for ages until a lady who worked at the supermarket alongsdide told us that the next bus was not for 3 hours!  She helped us ring a taxi but we then found out that ALL the taxis were on siesta and would not be back for another 2 hours!!  We had never come across this before but it left us with no choice but to hoof it 3kms back to the marina.  With a stop in the bar.

There were several UK cruisers in the marina planning to winter over.  Made good sense for them as they already had cars with them and getting back to England on the RyanAir-type flights was cheap and easy.  Marina fees were very low and the marina is very sheltered.

A pleasant stop on our way down the Spanish coast.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Barcelona and Beyond

Gaudi's Sagrada Familia - almost finished!

Private house by Gaudi

Next stop for Common Sense was one of several marinas along the coast near Barcelona - Premia Marina - close to the home of our friends Laura and Olivier. Again we had the delight of meeting up with cruising friends when Laura appeared on the dock with baby Mae - and a basket of Spanish treats to welcome us: three kinds of jamon, tomatoes, fresh bread and local sherry. Yum! Mae seemed to know her way around a boat and instinctively took the wheel while Terry (thoroughly smitten) explained the instruments to her.

We spent the next day in Barcelona itself, taking the obligatory Big Red Bus orientation tour and checking out the wonderful architecture, and taking a stroll up Las Ramblas to find Olivier's restaurant - another happy reunion, though he was a lot thinner and paler than he was as skipper of Hephaistos! Las Ramblas is the place to be in Barcelona with its varied restaurants and cafes, markets, innovative shops and thousands of people from everywhere in the world.

Las Ramblas
We had a day at the local beach where baby Mae courageously took her first ocean swim despite the choppy conditions - she is clearly destined for a life at sea. Next day the wonderful hospitality continued, with Laura driving us up to the Catalan national park of Montserrat, with its Benedictine monastery nestled in beneath the saw-toothed mountain peaks. It has a funicular railway up to the top for spectacular views, and the abandoned cells of the more reclusive monks are still visible in the mountainsides. The monastery itself is austerely beautiful and there is even a nice little gallery, complete with Caravaggio for my collection!


The last day with our friends was spent shopping and visiting a local brewery to sample its wares, then a sad goodbye to Olivier, Laura and Mae. Thanks for a wonderful time and we hope to see you again at home, at sea or perhaps even as our guests in Western Australia where we promise you won't get bitten by a shark, snake or spider!

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Heading for Spain

Leaving the Bay of Toulon

Early morning saw us making our way out of the Bay of Toulon, dipping our ensign as we gave way to a French destroyer and received a blast of acknowledgement in return.
It was very tempting to stop along the French coast at this time of year (September) with the weather still warm and the crowds thinning out, but we were on a mission so we had to be content with views of the lovely coastline.

Well it was a 27 hour journey to Palamos, our first port in Spain, and of course the winds were stronger than expected, but at least they were from the north and we got to SAIL most of the way.
The sheltered marina was a very welcome sight, and the Spanish voices over the VHF were a welcome sound - we were last in Spain in October, 2012.

Palamos Marina

Palamos is a pleasant coastal town, and we made the most of the dramatic drop in the cost of food and drinks.                                                                                                                                  
Well-stocked wine store in Palamos
Fully recovered, we set off on the forty nautical mile run to Barcelona, or more accurately,  the Premia de Mar Marina, a much more affordable option a few kilometres north of the city. Our second reason for putting in at Premia was an even more important one - a reunion with some more of our cruising family from Monastir - the lovely Laura, the equally lovely Olivier, and their totally adorable new baby, Mae.

Weird twisty clouds, but the weather stayed fine

Laura, Olivier and Mae

Baby Mae takes the helm
 See you for the next blog in the amazing city of Barcelona!