Barcelona is the type of place I could see myself living in. It's a huge city right on the Mediterranean with beautiful beaches (man made!) and tons of history. Chris and I did yet another Fat Tire Bike tour of Barcelona that we received a discount on since this was our 4th tour. Seriously cannot recommend this company enough!
Also a must-see in Barcelona is La Sagrada Familia, which has been under construction since 1882 by Antoni Gaudi, and still isn't close to being completed! It is the biggest, most grand basilica I've ever seen.
We found a great place across from the beach to eat some Paella, which is a rice dish from Spain mixed with anything from seafood, to chicken, to veggies. Everything is cooked in a huge flat pan/skillet over an open fire. Saffron gives the dish a great color and flavor, and the rice on the bottom of the pan forms an awesome crunchy crust. Soo delish!
Chris and I took a train from Seville, Spain to Malaga, which is a city on the beach in the south of Spain. In the morning we caught a bus which passed through the Costa del Sol. Really cute southern Spain beach towns along the coast, which led to La Linea, Spain. From there you can walk about 1 mile to Gibraltar. Gibraltar is a British colony on the very southern tip of Spain. You can see Africa from the rock on top! SO fascinating and lots of war history. It was once known as the end of the earth - until Christopher Columbus sailed past it and discovered America. And the rock was formed by the moving of tectonic plates. And so on.
One of the coolest parts of Gibraltar that makes it even more exotic is the population of Barbary macaque apes. These apes live on the rock in the wild and are fed daily by the people of Gibraltar.
Since Chris and I were only in Seville for a day, we decided to take an organized walking tour of the city through the hostel we stayed in. Great call - the tour guide was a Seville native and knew everything about the city, including where to eat. After the tour he took us to an amazing tapas restaurant off the beaten path where I had one of the best meals of my life.
Lagos is such a beautiful, little old beach city with pretty colors on the buildings and amazing beaches carved into enormous cliffs. Chris and I took a small boat tour along the coast and into all the rock formations and caves. SO cool. I guess you could almost compare it to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
I highly recommend the hiking trail along the coast of Lagos. Reasonably easy hike with stunning views and plenty of beaches to stop at!
Lisbon reminds me of San Francisco with all the hills. At the top of the biggest hill there is a castle called Castillo St. Jorge which has awesome views of the entire city. We totally stumbled upon it, but so glad we did! We were able to watch the sun set over the city of Lisbon. The best part is that you can walk all over the castle up the huge stone steps and along the barrier walls (kind of dangerous).
At dinner I asked the waiter for something traditional Portuguese. He served me this sausage that is stuffed with chicken and bread crumbs and deep fried! Yum. Packing on a pound or 2 on this trip.
The following day we went to the Lisbon aquarium which is the biggest in Europe. Next stop: the Algarve!
I can't believe this is our last day of the cruise! Yesterday we crossed the Arctic Circle and there was a ceremony on the deck for first time crossers. Everyone had to drink cod liver oil off of a fish spoon. If you drank the oil you got to keep the spoon. No thanks! They used this nice alternative to the old way, which they used to pour ice water or ice cubes down your back. I'd rather the ice.
At night we had a special captain's dinner with steaks. A nice little break from all the seafood. For our last meal our dessert was strawberry rhubarb soup - really good! Served cold like gazpacho. I must remember to recreate this in my Vitamix when I get home!
We booked our flights on Norwegian air from Oslo to Lisbon tomorrow morning ($70 flight!) I can't believe we waited until the last second to decide where to go next!
Last night Chris and I took a 3 hour bus tour of the Lofoten islands. There are 7 large islands and many smaller ones. The islands are full of little fishing towns and their biggest money maker is called stockfish (north Atlantic cod). The fish are caught and hang-dried on these huge wooden racks for 4 months starting the beginning of April through the summer. They are so expensive that Italian mobsters have stolen the trucks that carry the fish, so now they have satellite surveillance on the trucks! Umm, personally I'd stick to theft of leather goods or handbags.
Last night we also had a "little sea storm" aka 20ft swells that felt like a roller coaster. I almost lost it. The ship was rocking and creaking like crazy. Then this morning one of the crew members told us that it wasn't even a storm and that tonight would be way worse. Greeeeeat. This cruise is well worth the money in scenery but I think it's definitely once in a lifetime - I'm good on boats and open water for the rest of my life.
Today was pretty special. We cruised through Trollfjord, one of the most beautiful fjords in Norway.
It is remarkable that such a huge ship fits down this tiny space. Props to the captain of this ship for swinging a 360 at the end of this fjord like he does it in his sleep.
We also passed through a 20KM long man-made channel. The passage is extremely shallow (2M deep) on each side. There were a few bridges we went under that we weren't sure how the boat would fit. The captain and crew are expert drivers to the point that we can't believe how they get the boat into any of these places. It's pretty fun to watch.
Last night we cruised through the "Paris of the north," which is this beautiful little city called Tromso. The great thing about being north of the Arctic Circle during the summer is that it's the "land of the midnight sun." It's really cool to watch the sun dip barely below the horizon and then pop back up. The pic below was taken at midnight!
Today Chris and I visited the Hurtigruten museum where they have a lot of cool history about how the steamers started and a lot of fascinating WWII history of the ships & towns.