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A Mooch in Antigua

Honeymoon - Antigua

sunny 28 °C
View Honeymoon on kmmk17's travel map.

As the Caribbean can be quite samey, we had made a conscious effort to explore different things in each place. However with a run of busy days and with none of the possible excursions really tickling our fancy, we decided to have a more chilled day today.

After having got up in our own time and had breakfast ("Two Apple juices?" said the waiter who by now knows what I want each day), we made our way down to the port to have an exploration.

P&O were quite good at having hand sanitizer stations everywhere, however their ID card printers are such poor quality that the hand sanitizer wipes away all the ink and leaves them unreadable. Instead of investing in good quality machines, or giving everyone plastic lanyards to keep their cards in (they charge £5 for these in the shop), the solution is to get the passengers to request a new card.

Having already had to ask for a new ID card just a few days into the cruise (as the one I was given initially was already half wiped off before I even picked it up), by now, day 10 on board, my card was getting pretty bad again. Still possible to read, but not ideal.

Getting down to the disembarkation area the lady looks at my card and says "you need a new card". Yes, I know - because your printers are awful, I think to myself. Then she just carries on looking at me. "What... now?" I ask. "Yes, now" she snaps back at me. Despite the fact the card is still readable, I now need to traipse all the way back up 3 decks to the reception and then wait around whilst yet another new card is printed. Thank God we didn't have an excursion booked or we would have missed it.

It was not impossible to speak to customers nicely, but clearly they've just employed anyone they can find even if they are rude to the passengers. Eventually after now having my third card in the space of a week I could traipse all the way back down and finally get off the ship.

Whilst most of the ports had not required any kind of Covid checks, Antigua was a bit tighter, and required us to do temperature checks on the jetty before we made it into the cruise terminal. Nevertheless, we had so far managed to dodge Covid and even the hot temperatures still gave us a normal reading, so we were allowed into St. John's.

Cruise Terminal

Cruise Terminal

The terminal was full of the usual shops and cafés, and we had a little look around before then heading out into St. John's proper and to the eponymously named cathedral that overlooks the town.

St. John's Cathedral

St. John's Cathedral

From the outside it looked a bit of a state - but inside it was completely unexpected - being completely panelled in wood.

Inside the Cathedral

Inside the Cathedral

Although it was undergoing some renovation, it was still lovely to see. We then headed south through the back streets of the town to the VC Bird Monument - dedicated to the first Antiguan President, but bizarrely painted like no monument should be.

VC Bird Monument

VC Bird Monument

Ironically, Antigua sells itself as the island of 365 beaches, and yet not one of them is a walkable distance from the port, and so after just under an hour or so, we were already back at the port. We had another wander around the terminal before re-boarding the ship.

We spent the afternoon once again lazing around the pool, before enjoying a sail away through Deepwater Harbour and past Fort James.

Fort James

Fort James

At tonight's dinner we once again picked up lots of the small plates of different foods and had our fill, before having a chilled evening watching some of the on demand entertainment.

Dinner

Dinner

Although when we had travelled northwards there had been a sea day between the Windwards and the Leeward Islands, on the return journey southwards we would have continuous port days. We therefore travelled on a relatively direct route, and this meant before bedtime we were passing very close to the island of Montserrat.

Montserrat

Montserrat

As we didn't have a balcony, I went out on deck to take a look - being able to see a silhouette of the volcanic island as we passed. After taking in the views, I then went for a quick wander around parts of the ship I'd not yet seen, before finally heading back to the cabin for the night.

Pool by Night

Pool by Night

Posted by kmmk17 17:18 Archived in Antigua and Barbuda Tagged food city island cathedral caribbean Comments (0)

Sun, Sea and Salou

Catalonia - Salou & Tarragona

sunny 23 °C
View Catalonia on kmmk17's travel map.


After a summer of weekend city breaks, and several years of adventures this holiday was going to be different. A week by the beach in Spain! The plan was to visit Salou, in Catalonia in northern Spain, where there was plenty of entertainment and a great hotel that I had stayed in over a decade ago.

After taking an early flight out of Luton on Saturday morning, we flew in to Barcelona Airport arriving around lunchtime. Although Reus was much nearer, there were no flights from Luton and this also meant we could have a weekend in the Catalan capital on our return. Annoyingly however, to get from the airport to the hotel, a series of unfortunate delays and irregular journeys meant the journey took four hours.

When I had booked the holiday, staying in this hotel was a no brainer, however when I came to book it, it had been removed from booking.com. Hurriedly checking the hotel's own website I found there was nothing wrong, and that it was in fact cheaper booking direct. A blessing in disguise!

In fact, when I was about to confirm the booking, it asked me if I was a member of the hotel's club. I wasn't but I was told that if I became one, I could access the 10% discount! Checking that there was no cost associated with this, just a simple registration and the receiving of newsletters, I joined and then entered my membership number into the system. On the next page it re-totalled and had given me a 15% discount! Even better, so I booked then and there before the price changed!

When we arrived at the hotel they asked me if I was a member of their club. I replied yes, and she smiled and told me that as I was, we would find something special in the room. Having been here three times previously I knew the rough layout of the hotel, and when we went towards the room I found it was already an upgrade, as it was pool side rather than road side, despite not paying £40 extra for the privilege. When we got into the room, there were two water bottles, what a nice bonus!

Pool view from the balcony

Pool view from the balcony

Next thing, a knock at the door, the maid was there with a gift in hand. I looked blankly and she double checked we were the right room. "Yes, it's for you" she confirmed. I took the gift and went back inside the room to examine. A small box of chocolates and a voucher for a free cocktail at the bar each! Not bad when I'd only signed up for a 10% discount in the first place!

Our special gift

Our special gift

By now it was 5pm, with dinner in just an hour and a half. We had wanted to make use of some of the facilities, but as we had arrived much later we didn't have time. So instead, we popped out to the supermarket to stock up on wine and snacks. After a short rest and a look around the hotel facilities, it was then dinner time. We had been excited about the big buffet dinners and they did not disappoint. A massive selection of food on offer, from chips and pastas to rice and noodles. Soups, salads, different types of meat, pizzas, breads and to finish off - cakes, fruits, ice cream, sweets, and tonight, a chocolate fountain.

Some of the desserts on offer

Some of the desserts on offer

Taking little bits of everything on offer we filled up until we ate too much. Popping back to the room we enjoyed a quick drink of wine before heading out for an evening walk.

When we arrived at Port Aventura train station, the closest one to the hotel, we found there was no machine to buy our ticket on return. Therefore we decided to walk to Salou station, only five minutes further walk to check if we could buy a ticket there.

After walking down a small back street we eventually got to the station. With a ticket machine, we decided to buy our ticket for our return to Barcelona on Friday now, as with just a few trains per day we didn't want to miss the correct train or have to walk further than necessary with all our bags.

Water fountain show

Water fountain show

After sorting this out, we then made our way on a short walk to the promenade, where as it was Saturday night, there were numerous water fountain light shows taking place by the beach. After watching these we had a stroll before making our way back to the hotel.

The following morning we went down for breakfast to find yet another big buffet of food. With bacon, eggs, sausages, breads, omelettes, pancakes, fruits and yoghurt and even champagne, there was plenty on offer. After filling up for the day we went back to the room to change into our swimwear for our first day of relaxation. We started by going to the roof terrace for a bit of sun lounging as well as sitting in the Jacuzzi with views of the nearby area, including the rides of the PortAventura theme park where we would visit tomorrow.

Theme park view from the jacuzzi

Theme park view from the jacuzzi

After sitting in the slightly chilly water for a while, we dried off and headed downstairs to lay by the pool. After sunbathing for a while we then attempted to swim in the outside pool, which again was a little too cold to be enjoyed.

After heading back to the room we had a few snacks for lunch before heading back out and heading towards the beach for some sunbathing and swimming. The sea was warmer than the outdoor pools, but today it was a little bit rough so after a fair amount of bobbing, we dried off and went back to the hotel via some of the shops.

With a few hours before dinner we decided to spend a little bit of time in the indoor pool, which was a lot lot warmer. Spending a bit of time swimming, we then had a rest in the warm Jacuzzi before enjoying the sauna and steam room.

After spending most of the day in the water, we then went back for a shower in time for dinner. Again, a full buffet, this time with fajitas instead of burgers at the live cooking.

Cocktails and flamenco

Cocktails and flamenco

Tonight the hotel entertainment was a Celtic-Flamenco fusion, and so we decided tonight would be the night we would enjoy our free cocktails, whilst sitting by the pool watching the show. Although it involved far more Celtic than it did Flamenco, it was still an enjoyable piece of culture.

After what felt like a busy day of relaxation, the following day we got up nice and early to make it to the theme park in time for opening, hoping to avoid the queues. Having bought the tickets in advance, we exchanged them for the real tickets before entering the park and going on the first ride - Furius Baco, a launched roller coaster. Although I enjoy thrill rides, Chris wasn't so keen, but nevertheless we both went on this first ride which ultimately neither of us enjoyed as much as we thought.

Shambhala's Himalayan theme

Shambhala's Himalayan theme

We then hurriedly made our way to the back of the park, in the China section to ride the two big roller coasters overlooking the entire area. Chris didn't fancy them, and so I made my way into the queue for the first one - Shambhala, expecting to be gone ages. But with a single rider system in place, I pretty much jumped the queue and in no time was already riding the coaster. Waving down to Chris and my bag, next thing I was enjoying views of the whole coastline at over 80mph. Coming back down to the ground, we reunited, as I then joined the queue for the next ride, Dragon Khan, which although busier was still relatively quick to queue for.

We then began our walk around the theme park, doing a loop and stopping at interesting rides en route - including a mine train and a hall of mirrors. We then got to a spinner ride, which seemed much more gentile than expected, and after riding another spinner ride not long after we needed a bit more time to recover. Despite the theme park now having been open for several hours it was still relatively quiet with many shops not (yet) open.

Tutuki Splash

Tutuki Splash

It was now time for the water rides, enjoying the log flume, rapids and log boat ride getting reasonably wet, but refreshing as the sun had now come out. Finishing the circuit, we walked towards the back of the park again, heading for Angkor, a water shoot boat ride, where neighbouring boats battle to soak each other with guns.

Angkor

Angkor

By now we had done a big loop of the park and after seeing the queue for Shambhala had increased substantially we decided to end our day at the theme park here, and head back to the hotel - we were coming back the following day anyway. After getting back we rested before going up to the roof top Jacuzzi again, now finding that over the course of the day the water had heated right up making it far more enjoyable to sit it.

After having a rest we then went to dinner. Having our fill once again, we quickly made our way down to the beach before it got too dark to have an evening stroll. After walking 14 miles today our feet were aching, and so we eventually made our way back to the hotel to sleep.

Jaume I statue on the promenade

Jaume I statue on the promenade

The following day we headed back to the theme park. Getting up a bit later we still arrived at the theme park less than an hour after opening, but with the weather being much nicer today we found it was substantially busier. Again we headed for the back of the park, and I rode Shambhala again, before we looped the park once more going on rides we found enjoyable, as well as watching a few of the shows and finishing off by taking the train around the park.

Staying much later in the park today we made it back with less free time before dinner. After a very busy few days, we had a much more relaxing evening, just enjoying dinner and then resting at the hotel.

On the Wednesday we decided to head over to Tarragona, the larger town up the coast. Heading up on the train from Salou station, we began by walking from the station in Tarragona along the coast and uphill towards the Roman amphitheatre. With nice views from the road itself we decided not to pay to go inside and instead carried on walking towards the main street, before exploring some of the old Roman town. We then headed down to the main roundabout in the town centre, and after missing the initial bus we wanted, made the following one not long after.

Roman Amphitheatre

Roman Amphitheatre

We took this bus just outside of the town to the Ferreres Aqueduct, a huge Roman Aqueduct built around 2000 years ago used to supply water to the Roman town of Tarraco. After walking along the top of the aqueduct we then made our way towards the next bus stop heading south. Although there was a bus stop right outside the complex, this was only on one side of the road. In order to take the bus back, we had to walk a mile to the next housing area for the next bus stop heading south.

Les Ferreres Aqueduct

Les Ferreres Aqueduct

Once we had taken the bus back into the town, we swapped to a long distance bus at the main coach station, and headed back to Salou. Stopping to get some more refreshments at the supermarket, we headed back to the hotel, before we changed and headed back to the beach for some swimming. Today the sea was much calmer, and after an hour or so we headed back to the hotel to chill before dinner.

20170921_120739.jpg

After another evening of chilling, the following day, Thursday, was our last full day at the hotel. Like Sunday this would be spent relaxing around in the hotel or by the beach. With the water outside getting vastly warmer in the afternoon, we spent the morning having a wander around the promenade and getting souvenirs. After walking along the beach, we then headed back to the hotel and headed to the outside pool before swapping to the indoor pool. After a little while we then headed towards the roof top Jacuzzi once more, where we met a Welsh lady who told us all about her life in the Valleys.

By the pool

By the pool

I then headed back down to the indoor pool, to make use of the sauna once more, before we changed for our last dinner at the hotel. Our last evening by the sea was spent walking along the promenade and watching one of the water fountains lit up.

Fountain

Fountain

After almost a week, the first part of our holiday was almost over. On Friday morning we made the most of our last breakfast, lashing our pancakes with chocolate sauce and having a glass of champagne, before going back to the room to repack our suitcase and backpacks.

Up until now it had felt quite sad, however after checking out of the hotel and walking towards the train station, it now felt quite exciting again. We were about to go on a weekend's holiday to Barcelona!

Tips

Posted by kmmk17 09:59 Archived in Spain Tagged sea food beach hotel train catalonia swimming pool roman ancient flamenco aqueduct rollercoaster themepark Comments (0)

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