10 August 2020

Heading Home for Real?

Milly is slumbering while we head to her home port.  For the two weeks she has been on the hard, we have been working in the sweltering heat to prepare her for hibernation.  A list of well over 100 items have been checked off with a great deal of sweat.  She is ready!
We are booked on a flight leaving today, direct from Grenada to Toronto.   After two canceled flights, on July 6 and August 7, we are very excited to take off but at the same time sad to leave Grenada, a safe and welcoming host country and where we have made many dear friends.

Our work has been relieved with several hikes lead by Peter to mountain peaks, waterfalls or sandy beaches with groups of spunky friends who didn't fret with a couple of wrong turns or lost trails in the overgrown tropical rainforest.

Grenada is a stunningly beautiful island with thick, lush growth.  We walked through giant bamboo groves, down rushing streams, under enormous mango trees.  Bananas, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, breadfruit, citrus of all types, among many, many others were everywhere.  The natural world is glorious here.

We have spent the month with the pessimistic attitude that the flight would not actually take place.  We didn't want to get our hopes up and be disappointed at the last minute as we had been for the July 6 flight.  However, there were signs that our hope would not be dashed.  Late in July, the Grenada national newspaper posted a press release from the government stating that the August 10 Air Canada flight would be the first international commercial flight allowed since borders shut down in March.  We took this as a positive sign, although a press release had also said the airport would open to commercial flights on July 1st - a promise broken only a couple of days before.  All this week we have opened our emails with some dread that we would find the flight cancelled. Each time we saw mail from Air Canada, of which there were several, our/my eyes widened and stomach flipped.  Instead, Air Canada has sent directions and tips of how to manage our safety from infection on the flight.  Although disconcerting, we saw the messages as a positive trend.
A trail had been a little neglected.  An impassable bridge meant fording a stream on foot.  Other trails did not even attempt the bridges.  Often the trail was the stream.

Today, our day of departure, we woke up to two messages from Air Canada with a subject saying there were changes to our itinerary - the same subject that changed our August 7 flight to August 10!  Oh, no!  I could hardly believe it.  Opening the first, it announced that instead of leaving Grenada at 1500 today, the flight would leave at 1100.  The second changed the time back to 1500.  Both emails were sent at exactly the same time.   Repeated looks at departure, arrival times at both airports and a call to the Grenada airport reassured us that 1500 was correct.  We watched virtually as the plane took off from Toronto.  As a dear friend said, our plane couldn't leave before it even gets here.
An especially keen group at the top of Mt QuaQua before heading down to Concord Falls, a trail rated "extremely difficult".  Ropes, mud, lost paths, mosquitoes, slippery rocks were challenges that did not stump any of these hikers.

So we are now sitting in our lovely room, waiting.  We will head to the airport in a couple of hours.  Hard to believe!  The plane is fully booked.  I'm sure there will be cheering as we take off.  And maybe even a few tears - leaving friends and our boat homes behind for who knows how long.

Although we plan to return to Milly at the end of October, the uncertainty of being able to do so is huge!  All who are leaving are doing so with trepidation - when will a return be possible, what kind of quarantine will be mandated, where will that quarantine be served, what countries will be open to sail to with/without quarantine?  Like others, our future plans are indeterminable.

But our short term future is almost certain now.  We will spend a few happy months with family and friends while living at the cottage and celebrating Emily and Gid's wedding.  We are very excited!!

3 July 2020

Heading Home from our COVID19 Sanctuary....Almost


Carriacou dive map.  Peter and I have basically walked the entire island, some places a number of times.  We were anchored in Tyrrel Bay with over 100 others.
After 103 days, we were leaving our home during COVID-19 quarantine/lockdown/curfew/restrictions.  Carriacou had proved to be one of the best places to be on the planet.  Zero COVID cases because of strict and pretty well-practiced rules.  The entire island was cut off from all visiting boats, including supply/cargo boats for at least two weeks and then only one ship per week for what seemed like ages.  Supplies were slim but cases of infection were nil.

Every night at sunset, the boats in the anchorage blew a horn of some sort.  We were lucky to have been given an enormous conch shell which Peter made into the quintessential horn from the sea.  At first, the horns were meant to acknowledge and thank the frontline workers on the island but it fast became a way of bonding with others in our community.  Peter started with a sputter but after 103 x2 blows his sound has become loud, confident and sonorous.
Locals took very good care of the cruisers who were not allowed to put even a big toe on land.  Diane and Richard of Lumba Dive, voluntarily picked up groceries, free of charge - we couldn't have managed without them.  When restrictions eased a bit, other entrepreneurs delivered necessities including beer and wine, pizzas, fruit and veggies to boats.  Still later, when we were allowed on shore, locals were kind, helpful and happy to see us, masks and all.

By the time, our day of departure arrived we had been hiking, biking and diving.  Domino matches at restaurants and once on Milly were becoming regular events.  Two organized beach clean-ups made us feel like we were giving back a tiny bit of the hospitality we'd received from the islanders.  A covert beach party or two on a deserted island where many of us gathered for a few days all went without a hiccup - even though against protocol, we had all been isolated for more than three months and were hidden from the population by palm trees, sandbanks and a large expanse of water.  And then there was all the work to ready Milly - cleaning every surface and all things fabric, eating as much of the stored food as possible, readying the engines, fixing smaller items.  All told the list to leave included over 100 items, taking minutes to days and scheduled for days in advance or after hauling out.
Dominos on Milly.  From left to right, crews of Milly, Victoria's Ghost, English Rose and Mehalah.
We had made some very good friends who I hope we will meet again sometime, somewhere.  It was very difficult to leave.  The morning after our farewell party, Peter steered Milly by some of the boats saying, "good-bye" over the hailer as we went.  Many came out on deck to wave and blow kisses.  By the mouth of the bay, I was blubbering.  No surprise!  Thank you, dear friends!
The first of our exotic holidays to Sandy Island, essentially a sandbank.  After a hurricane devastated the island several years ago, the Kayaks - nickname for the locals on Carriacou - replanted palms.  Huge banks of coral thrown up by the waves protect the windward side from erosion.  It is now idyllic.  Wonderful snorkelling on the northern tip.  Peter, like any good Canadian, built several tall, sturdy inukshuks. 

After a rollicking game of Molkii - a Finish lawn bowling type game we learned in Turkey! - with friends, we enjoyed a sunset through the palms.

Another night away to Anse La Roche at the northern tip of Carriacou.  We were the only overnight boat at the beach but there were leatherback turtle trails out of the sea and up the sand to obvious nests so we probably did have nocturnal company unknown to us.  Huge iguanas visited the beach at sunset to dig for something or other.  
Another sunset at Sandy.  It never gets old!
The first stage of our planned trip to Toronto, although delayed from mid-May, was on a scheduled Air Canada flight on July 6th.  The Prime Minister had promised to open the airport to international commercial flights on July 1.  St. Lucia and Antigua had already opened in June.  During the last week in Carriacou, an ex-pat told us that she had been speaking with someone at the Ministry of Tourism who reported that the industry would not be ready with protocol requirements until the end of July.  Even Rufus, the local veggie man, seemed doubtful that the PM would keep his promise.  We were optimistic - surely flights to Canada would take place.
These tortoises are supposed to be endangered but we saw several on every hike.  Sweet little guys.  

Forever hopeful, we left our Carriacou sanctuary on June 28.  By the time we reached Grenada after a glorious sail, several friends had emailed that the PM had made a speech the night before saying the airport would not open on July 1 and opening would be "reassessed" on July 25 at the earliest.  His reasoning was that the bulk of Grenada's tourists were from USA and allowing their holiday-making put the health of the islanders at jeopardy.

We remained positive.  The Air Canada flight to Toronto was sold out and I counted 35 seats sold on the flight from Toronto to Grenada.  This seemed like a positive business event for AC.  Hopefully Canadians were considered to be less risky.  By noon, though we had our disappointing email - the flight was canceled.

The mood was subdued on Milly.  We had looked forward to quarantining at our cottage with our son, Tom, who was also flying on July 6th from Finland where he has been for months.  Our list of projects was long.  Emily was going to stock the cottage with food and drink and jigsaw puzzles.  We would be busy and happy in fun company.  Emily and Gid had already delayed their wedding from the end of July but hoped for some sort of celebration in October with a bigger, brighter party eventually.  We needed/wanted to get home!
And one more, this time from our longterm anchorage in Tyrrel Bay.  Sunsets were rarely clear so only one or two green flashes but the clouds made them particularly colourful.
Social media in Grenada went into high gear.  I, along with many others, wrote to the Canadian High Commissioner office in Barbados who immediately responded saying they had informed "Headquarters" of the problem and were requesting a repatriation flight.  Others were contacting airlines to see how to arrange a charter flight - which was allowed at the Grenada airport.  Still others were planning an exorbitantly expensive private 8-seater charter to Barbados where international commercial flights were promised - again another promise - to begin on July 12.

By June 30, the Canadian government had emailed a form letter saying that there would be no more repatriation flights.  An Air Canada or Sunwing charter looked difficult to arrange and doubtful.  Most people were opting for the Barbados layover.  By today, July 1, Canadians were now thinking Barbados seemed too uncertain.  Back to direct charter flights - even more expensive.  The fee is ridiculous but the opening of the airport is not even promised, let alone with a date.  What to do?

Milly was one of about 130 boats who made Tyrrel Bay their safe harbour during the Covid-19 storm.  It was home!

We are waiting to see what happens...we are practiced at this, as is the rest of the world.  But frustration and disappointment is now part of the equation.  Granted, we will make the most of our time here.  It is a beautiful island with lots to do.  Restrictions are gradually lifting.  We have a few friends here and are sure to meet more.  We're ready to haul Milly and race to the airport if the opportunity arises.  Fingers crossed!  Arrrrgh!

9 May 2020

Four Year Crazy Eight on Milly

Barbados to Barbados, January 12, 2016 to February 8, 2020 - A Crazy Eight

The Atlantic Circle is a classic sailing route often completed by Europeans on their way to and from the Caribbean and home.  It typically includes Gibraltar, The Canary Islands, plus or minus Cabo Verde, The Caribbean Islands, Bermuda, The Azores, Gibraltar.  Variations, extensions, starting points, length of voyage vary.  But necessary is a completed circle.

Upon reaching Port St. Charles, Barbados on February 8, 2020, Peter and I had, without intention, landed in a location we had enjoyed four years before.  Our completed circuit, more an eight than a circle, was a bit bottom heavy with a year long dipsy-doodle north along the windward islands in the Caribbean and a very confused circumnavigation of the Mediterranean.  A crazy eight is a better description.

Departed Barbados:  January 12, 2016
Arrived Barbados: February 8, 2020
Milly visited 39 countries
Land journeys (including 3 trips to Canada): 13

It's been quite a passage!


10 April 2020

Curfew on Carriacou

The 7:00 a.m. garbage run gives Peter a legitimate kayak excursion twice a week.  
The degree of quarantine and curfew are constantly changing bringing a bit of excitement and adaptation to an otherwise quiet existence on Milly.  Life here is, indeed, odd although we both find it quite pleasant.  We are still anchored in a lovely bay in Carriacou, a small island belonging to Grenada.  There are many boats here some of which are empty.  Probably about 50 boats with crew on board.

The main island of Grenada has 12 cases of COVID-19 and Carriacou zero.  This count has stayed stable for more than a week.  Strict government mandates have been made in an attempt to ensure no new cases for at least 14 days.  Carriacou is trying to prevent any cases from coming to the island by stopping ALL people movement onto the island.  It all makes Carriacou a good place to be from the point of view of staying free of the virus.

My last post took you up to March 25th.  Crews were not allowed to go ashore, not even a step.  Uniformed gatekeepers kept watch at many of the docks but, as far as I know, the boaters obeyed the law.  Many feared that scoff-laws would jeopardize the hospitality of the government and yachts and crew could be expelled.  This would be a dire consequence to wanting to stretch your legs - very few islands have an open border to yachties and arriving yachts are turned away.  Hence, we are staying on board while looking at many locals hanging out together without regard for a 6 foot space - may be another reason why cruisers are choosing to stay on board.
Our only guests in the past three weeks were laughing gulls.  They were uninvited but had a great time.

Because some Grenadians were not abiding by the 6-ft rule, on Monday, March 30, the government imposed a 24 hour curfew for one week for all citizens.  The curfew has recently been extended to April 20th.  No one is allowed out of their house except for groceries or emergency medical assistance.  No recreation.  Drones are being used on Grenada to monitor the roads and gathering places.  Over one hundred arrests have been made with fines and prison sentences as the consequences.  There are road blocks at parish boundaries with very limited movement of essential workers only.  On Carriacou, the police do the monitoring - I have seen cars quietly and slowly cruising the road during the night - and arrests have been made.  They are very serious about keeping the population virus-free which, of course, we appreciate but I have always been very privileged to live in places where I am free to wander when I want to and at will.  It is peculiar!

There was no selling of beer, wine or spirits for one week. Apparently, partying or liming is a major reason why the islanders have not been social distancing so with no alcohol there’s less reason to get together - I think that’s the logic.
A spiny lobster treat one night.  The poor beast sat in a bucket with neither of us keen to put him in the pot.  Gallant Peter did the dirty deed.  And then we enjoyed the sweet, tender tail meat of one enormous lobster for two meals.  So tasty that we are now motivated to add free-diving for lobster hunt to our "things to do" list.
On April 6, for the first time in two weeks, the ferry/cargo ship, Amelia, was allowed to make a cargo only trip to Grenada.  The anticipation of fresh produce was mouthwatering!  And even more exciting, was the lifting of the ban from going ashore for boaters, one person per boat and only for groceries during the three half-day per week shopping allowances.  No recreation/walking for pleasure.  We were very low on cash so Peter, decked out in bathing suit, t-shirt, blue and green scarf/mask, safety glasses and hat went to the ATM looking like a colourful hoodlum - wish I'd had the camera.  Many locals were hanging out in the parking lot without masks.  Hmmmm.
This was a special, maybe once a month, shopping experience.  The owner of the store sent 21 photos of inventory.  I scanned, made a list, ordered and she delivered.  Wow!  Even Kettle Chips.

Monday we also had a delivery of beer and wine - somehow the ban was lifted for these entrepreneurial providers - and lovely staples including four packages of tortillas, not found since Canary Islands.  And costing buckets of bucks.

On Wednesday we were allowed to shop, again one person per boat, with mask and glasses.  This time I was the bandit.  First stop, the veggie stand with very limited but ok produce.  Four plantains, two tiny eggplants, two even smaller tomatoes, two cucumbers, two papayas for $55EC or about $27CDN.  We are not spending on anything else at the moment so it's ok for us but I can't imagine how the locals without an income are managing.

Next, the grocery store.  This is new since we were last here four years ago.  A largish, modern store set back from the road with expansive parking lot - my size-related adjectives are very relative to the tiny island and 8,000 population.  I think everyone on the island was anticipating the bounty brought by Amelia.  The line-up was long, winding and exceptionally slow moving, only ten allowed in the store at one time.  I waited two hours in the shadeless parking lot with mask, sunglasses and latex gloves but no hat.  I, naively, had thought I'd be in and out.  It was a hot 2 hours but never dull.  Standing on land was a treat and the people watching and listening was endlessly entertaining.

As I approached the front of the line, I could see some bananas and melons through the windows.  Salivation. When I finally got in, the bananas were gone.  The honey dew melon that I quickly grabbed ended up being about $17CDN - I guess that's why they were still on the shelf.   

So here we bob.  I do 45-60 minutes of yoga, a longish swim across the bay and aquafit.  Peter was paddling every day but we’re not supposed to leave our boats in any extended way, even to kayak.  Occasionally, he sneaks out, the guilt interfering with the pleasure.  We both read, of course.  I am continuing with Spanish Duolingo and at some point will start drawing.  Peter will take up the guitar again.  And then we spend a great deal of time keeping up with friends, family and world news on the internet.  Our SIM card has become our most precious possession.
Sneaking in a paddle in beautiful clear blue water.

We have a radio net here for cruisers on VHF so can stay connected.  I have started coordinating a trivia game twice a week for those interested which is fun  - if you have any questions, send them along - and we all blow various sounding devices at sunset.  After four years, Peter cut the big conch shell another cruiser had given us.  We can make a loud low authentic honk every evening when lips are pursed just right.  Otherwise, it's a sputter.  It's incredible how these small acts of community become so meaningful - our only real connection to the boats around us.

Peter and I are grateful to be on a comfy home/boat with connections to family and friends.  We’re healthy and happy, albeit at tad restless as I'm sure most are in this strange new world.
The Super Pink Moon.  Large pleasures in a simple life.

25 March 2020

COVID-19 Update from Milly

Our view from quarantine.  Can't really complain!
Strange times, even in paradise!

We greeted 2020 with anticipation of an awesome year - our daughter's wedding to a wonderful guy, watching our son compete in the Tokyo Olympics and moving home to our cottage for several months, the first time in five years.  But now, like all of yours, everywhere, our plans are in daily flux.  We are currently quarantined on Milly, grateful to be out of the hurricane box, in Carriacou, Grenada.  We're in wait-and-see mode, rolling with the punches.

Here's an update:

On March 6, we weighed anchor in Barbados after a wonderful month, taking friends with us on an overnight sail to Martinique.  Our plan was to cruise the island for a week and then get some boat work done in the well-stocked and serviced La Marin bay.  We had lots of time to complete the work and island hop south to Grenada for a May 18 haul out and flight home to Canada shortly after.
Barbados had proved to be almost like home.  We took friends out on Milly a day sail.  Life was very pleasantly normal.

Tom and Connie were the perfect guests.  Brought loads of provisions and cooked regularly.  Seemed to have a good time doing it, too.  Oblivion to the news was a good thing.  

Attempts to get a SIM in Martinique and, hence, internet were thwarted upon arrival.  Apart from the occasional restaurant wifi, we were largely disconnected for a week.  We did learn that the NBA cancelled their season and later the NHL delayed theirs.  Mild alarm bells.  As we entered the main Fort de France anchorage, we guessed why a cruise liner was anchored way out in the middle of the huge bay with no sign of the usual beetle-like boats carrying passengers back and forth to the harbour.  The ship was there for several days.  They were quarantined with two positive cases on board.  As our friends left for the airport, so to the ship came to shore to allow passengers to return home - by air.
The quarantined cruise liner.  We could make out people using the waterslide so, although a nightmare, they were still having fun.

We reconnected after a few attempts by topping up our Malta/EU card, Martinique being part of France.  A rude awakening after a week's respite - perhaps the fastest moving news week of the year/decade/century?!  (Most often after long passages without connecting, we are surprised with how little has changed in the world - same problems/corruption/politics perhaps in different locations with different people but basically on repeat).

Spain, where Tom was training, was seeing wildly increased number of cases and threatening lockdown.  He had sent a message two days before with his dilemma over what to do.  With hours to spare, he and his Finnish girlfriend decided to get on one of the last flights out of Spain to Finland where they went into self-quarantine at her family's cottage.  Em and Gid were considering working from home.  They were well-stocked and ready for possible self-quarantine.

Over two days, we did a bit of provisioning in crowded stores.  We attempted social distancing but no one else seemed to be following suit.  We learned that islands and Central American countries were beginning to close borders to yachts from particular destinations.  Martinique already had more than ten cases and one death.  Late one night after scanning FB, local news items and feeling the suck of the panic vortex, I decided it was time to get to Grenada, out of the hurricane zone, while we still could.  The next morning, Peter agreed.  All boat work was delayed.

Our only limiting factor was whether or not we could get a SIM in Grenada.  Our destination was the small island of Carriacou.  We had no idea if businesses would be open and a SIM seemed all-important to our emotional well-being enabling connection to family, friends and news.  We decided to make a last effort to get a card in Martinique, reportedly the only one that covers all windward islands.

In we went to La Marin.  Overnight, with the news of the first COVID-19 death, things had changed. Many people were masked and gloved, there were long lines to get into grocery stores.  The first store where we went to get a SIM was closed.  I picked up the pace.  The second was open and the kind man was gloved and patient.  We left having a working SIM for Grenada!  Relief!

Then to clear out.  There was a line, mainly of people clearing into Martinique.  Officialdom was incredibly organized.  All were gloved.  Only the captain was allowed into the office and the staff completed all paperwork.  Peter didn't have to touch a thing.  Quite remarkable.

Back to Milly by noon where we tested the SIM.  All was well, but I learned that the government of Martinique was making a special announcement at three p.m.  We thought it might announce a lockdown.  We left immediately just hours before borders were closed and all crew quarantined to their boats!

After a beautiful, peaceful sail when it was hard to believe that life around the world was in chaos and jeopardy, we arrived in Carriacou.  We went ashore immediately to clear into the country.  It was March 16.  Again, there was a line up.  Upon hearing we were from Martinique we were asked to wait at a separate table for a health "exam".  The nurse took our temperatures and asked several questions.  We were deemed healthy.  As we were sitting waiting for paperwork, a public announcement was broadcast saying that the borders were closed to all crew arriving from countries including anywhere in Europe at midnight!  Again, we squeaked in!  Clearing in was eventually successful.  We made it!  We were so relieved to be out of hurricane zone where we could stay as long as was necessary.

We spent the following few days walking and exploring.  We discovered that attempting to practice social distancing is not easy when others are oblivious.  With care we got some cash and topped up with provisions but we were essentially self-quarantined.  We had spent several weeks here in 2016, doing our scuba diving course, hiking and making firm and fast friends with other cruisers.  It was very pleasant to be back.  Friends planning to go to Bonaire from Barbados, decided to come to Carriacou when Bonaire closed.  We had some company!

Meanwhile, the borders of islands around us were closing or restrictions were greater.  Those boats arriving from Martinique were put in quarantine.  More and more boats were arriving from the north.

On March 20th at midnight, the government of Carriacou quarantined all boats for an unknown length of time.  Crew are not allowed on shore at all and all social gatherings are prohibited.  One diving business has taken on the responsibility of communicating with boats and coordinating provisioning.  We are not allowed to go to an ATM so cash is very limited.  Using credit card involves phone calls and trust.

For several mornings there was an exodus of boats from the anchorage heading to Grenada where crews are still allowed ashore.  It is a bit unnerving to see so many leave.  We, though, have decided that we prefer staying on Milly in a smaller location.  If allowed to, the temptation to go on shore may be too great (and risky).  Grenada has had hundreds of boats arriving and are having trouble managing the logistics.  We have fewer boats by the day and caring locals assisting crew on yachts.  For us, it seems like the better place...for now, anyway. (The only fly in the ointment is that the single case of COVID-19 in Grenada so far, arrived on a flight on March 16.  On this same flight were numerous guests going to a Carriacou wedding that took place that weekend.  Many locals from our little village attended.  If locals begin to get ill, the community spread will be wide.  We will then leave.)

Passenger ferry traffic between Carriacou and Grenada is prohibited.  Only goods are moved between islands.

The international airport is closed to all commercial traffic.  There are four repatriation flights to Canada with special permission from the airport.  Eleven Canadians in Carriacou have seats on the flights but are unable to get to Grenada to take them.  Again, we have decided that we are at less risk of infection on Milly then on a flight, in two airports, eating mass prepared food, in cabs etc that a repatriation flight entails.  I guess the main concern is that health care in Grenada is limited.  And the length of time we may be staying here.

Grenada ports of entry are closed to all pleasure or live-in craft.  Boats that are arriving are being told to leave.  I can't imagine what this would be like!  It is a great concern as hurricane season, beginning June 1, approaches.  There must be hundreds of boats in the Caribbean that are searching for a safe place to go.

Recreation boats must let officials know of any movement between islands.  This is because boats from other island nations have been arriving without clearing in.  The coast guard is trying to keep track of boats that are here legitimately vs those that aren't.

And as of tonight, the citizens are under a curfew for the next 21 days.  My impression, after listening to the P.M.'s address is that people are continuing to socialize, hence, increased restrictions.

For us, we are quite content on Milly if a tad restless.  We are settling into a vague routine.  Life is similar to those of you quarantined at home except that we are surrounded by beautiful, clear blue water and are constantly bobbing.  We are used to provisioning for an extended period and portioning out what we have.  Apart from fresh fruit and veg, we are well-stocked.

We are so very grateful for the internet and connections to family and friends.  Please stay in contact.

And stay well!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou, Grenada




21 March 2020

Happy Days in Barcelona Pre COVID-19

This 60th birthday celebration took place in vibrant and tourist-packed Barcelona in October, 2019.  It is unbelievable to imagine in March 2020 when I finally post this, that Barcelona's streets are empty and health and life are threatened.  It may seem heartless to write of my wonderful birthday celebration mere months ago, but it is with a gratefulness that we were able to enjoy the tremendous city with those we love and a belief and hope that life will again resume at perhaps a new normal.  Thinking of the people of this vibrant city with hope for a timely recovery!

Just a little happy to have my two children for a visit to celebrate the big 60!
And to explore the city with two dear friends, Anne & Rob!  Here in the Barri Gotic.

It was my 60th birthday!  Friends and children were coming all the way from Toronto to celebrate with me in Barcelona.  What an amazing gift!  I felt very special.  First Anne and Rob came, then Tom,  Em and Gid.  They all overlapped for a day of celebrating - eating at the famed Bodega 1900 where were presented with tapas after tapas at the discretion of the chef after opening with an olive sized ball that exploded in our mouths with oily richness (Strict directions were given that we were not to take a bite of it but pop it right in our mouths).  We tramped around the forever interesting walking city, exploring neighbourhoods, parks, esplanades, architecture punctuated with eating and drinking at restaurants, cafes, bars, bistros and even on Milly.

Mercat de la Boderia, reportedly the best in Spain, was packed mainly with tourists.  There is a certain etiquette to follow when inside.  No touching, no bartering.

You could eat a full meal by going around to the various stalls of eye-candy.  Here were olives galore and kebabs of olive, peppers, anchovy, tomato, etc.  Anne recommended the Gilda - delicious.

The hanging bunches of dried peppers were reminiscent of Turkey.

Just a bit of red meat - ham, actually.  Legs and legs of it.

And some calamari, shrimp, sardines, anchovies in paper cones for snacking.

Urchins and oysters

And eggs of all sizes including ostrich with a reminder not to touch.
Peter's favourite lunch, hence, the photo.  Pinchos, Spanish take on the open face sandwich with every kind of combination of delectables from tortilla and cheese to blood sausage and artichoke.  You pick what you want and they charge you by the number and shape of the toothpicks holding the pieces together.  So simple, so good!

And then there were a few meals on Milly.  Always fun to have additional chefs in the galley.
 It was wonderful!!

From the cable car that goes from the port to Montjuic passing over the marina.  Milly is somewhere in the top left corner. The super yachts were lined up closer to the showers.  We had to walk quite a distance from the cheap - not really - seats.

Milly was happy, too, docked among the super yachts at Port Vell between the foot of the famous, but a bit disappointing and crass, Las Ramblas and the cool beach neighbourhood of La Barceloneta.

Barcelona is a unique city, largely because of the early 20th century artists and architects who made the city their own, the most famous of which is Antoni Gaudi.

Palau Guell, owned by an early patron of Gaudi's, commissioned him to redesign his family home.  Apart from the street level floor it's rather plain from the outside.  The bars on the windows are placed in such a way that the person inside can see out but the plebs on the outside cannot see the elegance within.

And it is amazing complete with an organ, lights, incredible carved wood ceilings, walls and doors.

And then there are the famous and now iconic chimneys.


The front entrance is guarded by a scary looking bird who looks starving enough to peck an intruder's head off!   Among many, many talents, Gaudi was skilled at iron work.

Even the lamp posts in Placa Real in the old city are Gaudi.



Casa Batllo on the Passage de Gracia



Casa Amatller.  Not a Gaudi design but another architect who contributed to the same period.  Amatller made his wealth in chocolate from Cuba.  We opted for a wonderful tour inside instead of joining the hordes in Gaudi's Casa Batllo next door. The tour finished with a bowl of thick hot chocolate with bread chunks to dip.  


Casa Batllo and Casa Amatller



Casa Mila is an apartment block with typical Gaudi droopy, drippy stonework and rounded edges.  The balcony railings were amazing!

More Gaudi at Parc Guell.  Unfinished when Gaudi was killed by a tram, it was designed as a whimsical housing development.  The colourful parts were largely inaccessible for restoration but it still drooped with Gaudi-ness - viaducts, winding staircases, and grottoes.
Gaudi lived in the park before moving to the cathedral.  He chose an austere, deeply religious lifestyle in a beautiful location.

And, of course, the climax of Gaudi style is the still unfinished, one-of-a-kind temple, Sagrada Familia, which tells a story on the inside and out with innumerable statues and gargoyles and - all kinds of stuff.
Gaudi died after being hit by a tram when the cathedral was still largely unfinished.  He had known the building was going to take longer than his lifetime.  Architects are attempting to finish the cathedral in his style and according to his drawings.  It scheduled to be completed in 2026. 

When complete, it's spires will be the tallest structure in Barcelona.  Gaudi stressed that they could not be taller than Montjuic, the city hill - any creation of man should not be taller than God's creation.  

The nativity facade with every conceivable depiction of the main event including what I, the pagan, would call a Christmas tree.

The inside is awe-inspiring.  Light pours through stained glass windows - different colours for different times of the day.  The pillars look like trees - trees of life - reaching for the incredible ceiling and complete with branches.


There is symbolism everywhere.  You could take a full day, week, month, year to study it all.  There is nothing simple about this place but it's fascinating in it's extravagance.

The final event of Christ's life depicted over the other door is somber and austere.  You can feel the difference!

Just happened upon Santa Maria del Mar, a contradiction to the ornate Sagrada Familia, when...

a service was in full swing.  The sounds of a glorious choir filled the incredibly high and spartan nave.  Love serendipity!





Barcelona's Arc de Triomf with a lively, busker-filled park behind.

The art deco "Magic Fountain" at Montjuic.


Two figures.  One beautiful, one....

The Joan Miro museum

A walk through and lunch in the simple and slightly bohemian neighbourhood of Gracia.

In front of the magnificent Palau de la Musica Catalana.  Wish we'd gone inside!  Next time.  
Tom's birthday present to his mum to keep her young and fit.

Takes some lessons and coordination.  He'll have to come back often.

Tom spent an extra day.  We rented city bikes and rode the beach boardwalk.

The W Hotel is a sail on the sea.



It was a very memorable birthday in a great location.  Thanks so much for coming and making my milestone special!!