"I am a woman in process. I'm just trying like everybody else. I try to take every conflict, every experience,and learn from it.
Life is never dull." ~ Oprah

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Mi último día en Barcelona

Before you begin thinking that I have aced the Spanish language, I am far from that!  My phrases have been simple ones and when I can't keep up with the conversation, they eventually ask "what language?" and we end up speaking English to each other.  Although, I've been honored to be thought of as Spanish or Italian - we all look the same, really.

This morning I was up and out by 9am.  It's a lazy Sunday morning and nothing was really open anyway.  Markets were just getting set up on La Rambla and in the various squares I encountered.  It was fantastic weather again; in fact, it was warmer than yesterday - I didn't even need a jacket!  I passed a Dali tribute gallery, but it didn't open until 10am...and the famous market,

La Boqueria is apparently closed on Sundays.  BOO HOO!

La Boqueria

The focus of my personal excursion today was Sagrada Familia.  I made it there by way of the Metro, which I must say, is pretty confusing. Because of the way the city is laid out there are numerous lines and a few zones to be aware of.  I even saw the policia dealing with an aggravated man in Catalunya Square.  Once I finally found the station I needed to be in to catch the L2 and bought my T10 ticket (good for 10 rides on the Metro or city bus), I was relieved. 

The Sagrada Familia was well worth my efforts.  It is astounding and I spent quite some time in there taking in the artistic beauty and light.  There was a service happening on the lower level, and the crowd on the main level was light and I was able to enjoy it.  The history of the structure is even amazing, and the work goes on.  This is one place I am glad I didn't miss!

Well...I tried to go back to the juice bar I had been to before, but it was closed.  So I grabbed a muffin and Vanilla Latte at the old standby, Starbucks, then headed across to sit in the newly-renovated park across from the church.  Just two weeks ago it was closed and now I had a chance to enjoy it's beauty and the sounds of a local band.

I sat on a bench for quite some time, just taking it all in and reading from my Kindle.  A Swedish family came and sat by me for a while; it's good to know that people feel comfortable around me in a strange city.  I had the pleasure of watching the joy of being a child, as there were small children everywhere, looking so precious and enjoying the gorgeous weather.


I headed back to La Rambla this afternoon to get a local tasty treat: churros y chocolate.  I'd heard good things about it, so I sat down at some outside tables and watched people go by, read my Kindle, and waited for someone to take my order.  On La Rambla, there is art in action all over the place!  Painters, actors, crafters...Oh my!

short show for tips  :)

When the waiter got to me, he told me they were out for the day.  Too bad! So I made my way through the neighborhood alleys to Juicy Jones for another great meal.  Only 8,50 Euro for three courses!

 I know I've mentioned this area before, but I have to mention it again - it's made up of low-cost housing and everyday people trying to make it day-by-day.  Well, some of those people are "escorts" and they start showing up every day around 3pm.  I've seen a few beautiful ladies (or transvestites) and then there are some very plain women.  I just have to smile at them when I walk by (hoping they'll smile too) and know that they are doing the best they can in the world they live in.  We are ALL doing the best we know how in the moment.
OH - And there is a lot of great art, too!

I'm signing off for the night (it's 9pm here) and preparing for my trip home tomorrow.  See y'all soon!  Lotsa LOVE!!!

See all my pictures HERE if you like  :)
I'm still working on getting them all labeled

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Beautiful Barcelona!

It's been snowing in Austin and I'm here in Barcelona enjoying the clear, sunny, cool weather.  It's absolutely amazing here, in every way!

I made it back to land yesterday morning and really, it feels great to be off that ship! But I'm still getting my equilibrium back  :(

I took a tour of Montserrat as soon as I disembarked.  The drive up the mountain was incredible, but the view from the top - breathtaking!!!  

Pilgrim's shell icon
 I could have spent much longer in this place because of the great energy and peacefulness, not to mention that it has much to do with the book I'm reading, The Pilgrimage.  Interesting synchronicity, as I did not specifically plan it.

After my own pilgrimage from Catalunya Square, I checked in to the hostel and was assigned the same room as before.  YaY!  I got settled in, then ventured out again to find some good food.  I made my way thorough the Muslim section of the city and an area that is a bit more run-down than other areas I've passed, but no big deal - I enjoyed seeing the locals.  While making some effort, I trusted my intuition and found vegan restaurant, Juicy Jones.  I had heard of this place while pre-planning, but was now ecstatic to have found it!  Good, healthy food was what my body needed right now because I wasn't feeling very chipper, those last couple days on the ship was still having it's affect on me.  The food was fabulous and I even had a wheatgrass shot to boost my immune system. 

Despite the fact that I was still feeling under the weather (but much better than last night), I was off this morning about 9am to explore more of the city.   First, I encountered the History Museum of Catalunya.  It was well worth my four euro and two hours. 

Second, I headed to the beach to hear the waves and feel the sunshine...relax in the nature of Espana.  I enjoyed watching sand sculptures, children playing, wake and paddle boarders, couples kissing, and people sleeping in the sun. 

This is La Barceloneta!

Next, following my internal compass, intuition, and the narrow streets or alleys of the Gothic quarter...

I found the Picasso museum - What a treat!  All the "periods" were represented and it was an honor to see his art in person. 

After completing my Picasso adventure, I was hungry...My tummy found it's way back to the Cat Bar for some more vegan yum-yum!  

Today,  I had a vegan burger, English potato chips, and salad.  I sat there on the couch for at least two hours reading my book, watching people pass outside, listening to some great tunes and eventually had cake and decaf coffee.  It's really a chill vibe there - a place I'd enjoy hanging around if I lived here.

This is James Kakande.  I asked the waitress who's music she was playing and this was it.  I really enjoyed the entire album.

When it was time for me to move on, I wandered through more alleys where I happened to find a couple of rock shops.  

 Here, at Don Mineral's I couldn't resist the great prices on a few stones I can't find at home: Variscita and Bauxita (found locally in Barcelona), Pink Tourmaline and Yellow Jasper.

 I had an absolutely wonderful day!  I followed my heart and it knew just what I wanted  :)

 Love - LOVE - Love to YoU!

MORE PICTURES ARE UP - click here to see them

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Malta and beyond

This morning I was restless and got up (out of my stateroom) to watch the sunrise.  Well, the 84% humidity made it hazy and there as no seeing the sun.  You may think to yourself that extreme humidity might be a regular occurrence on the seas...it is in some respects, but since I’ve been out here the lowest I’ve seen it was 55%.  Also, this part of the Mediterranean Sea seems quite rough - wave heights are still in the Moderate category (4 - 7.5 ft) but the winds are high, making the ship rock.  Since we left Malta, we’ve been stepping carefully and still walking like we have no coordination! 

MALTA - February 2nd, 2011
We arrived two hours earlier than the original itinerary.  So after yoga on the ship, I scooted to my stateroom to get dressed for the day.  About 9am I disembarked and headed towards the port town of Valletta. I walked up the hills and into a tunnel that eventually led to a parking garage.  I caught a lift (elevator) to the main part of the city, passed through the driving circle where the city busses converge, then went into the business district to find breakfast.  After walking through the streets in the rain, I happened upon the St. John's Co-Cathedral...I wasn’t in the mood to do a tour, so I popped into the Museum Cafe down the block.  Since everything on the menu had meat, I opted for the apple pie and a cup of cappuccino.  There, I chatted with a retired lawyer from London.  He’d been in Malta for 8 years now and was doing social work.  He informed me that the cafe we were in used to be part of the Palace stables - made sense to me.  I said goodbye to the gentleman, paid my check, and exited the cafe.  I still had two hours until my scheduled tour, so I explored a bit more and found the Underground Castille where an Anne Frank exhibit was taking place.  Since I was “the voice” of Anne Frank in a high school play - I couldn’t pass it up.  Once I finished seeing everything, I felt the need to start back towards the port.  I weaved through the wondrous streets that form sort-of switchbacks down the hills...I could imagine living here with ease!!!

The rain stopped and the sun came out.  I removed a layer and grabbed some water before meeting up with my tour.  There were only 16 people on the “Prehistoric Temples & Views” excursion, so we got a comfortable mini-bus; once again, the tour guide and driver were quite nice. 

A few local facts for you...Malta is an island situated between Sicily, Italy and Africa. The island was a British Naval base since WWI and they eventually left in 1979.  It’s 317 square kilometers and the population is 400,000 on the entire island.  You may have heard of the Maltese falcon or cross or wine...?  The language of Malta is primarily Maltese and English, but many also speak Italian.  Maltese resembles Lebanese and is somatic, which means it’s based in Arabic.  English is spoken by 99.9% of the locals since tourism provides 25% of their economy (GDP).  Up to eight cruise lines may be accommodated at once, although there is rarely more than two.  There is one University, one International Airport, and one microchip factory.  Malta’s government is democratic where the officials are elected every 5 years.  It’s also a welfare state and education, along with medical care is provided for it’s citizens.   The Island is predominately Roman Catholic while there are 370 places of worship scattered across the island, which include one mosque, two Jewish synagogues, and 3 Anglo churches.  It’s 16 degrees Celsius today (perfect), but in July and August it will usually get up to 45.  Rain is actually quite rare with an average of 500 mm per year, primarily acquired in January, February, and March. 

A typical, two bedroom apartment with an ocean view would cost about 200,000 Euro.  And home loans run about 4-6% interest.  Minimum wage is about 150 Euro per week. The Northern side of the island will be more expensive since there are sandy beaches, and hotels.  The island is self-sustaining - they grow everything themselves, the streets seem comfortable to drive on, and the transportation system is about to get a renovation.  The main things they import is purified water to drink and fuel.  But only natural resource on the island is stone.

I felt like I was right at home here because of the limestone and cactus!  =)

My tour consisted of the temple of Tarxien, the Blue Grotto, the temple of Hagar Qim, the underground caves of Ghar Dalam, and a visit to the fishing village of Marsaxlokk.  I loved every stop, but the village had such a comforting, maybe even romantic feel to it.  I guess it could have been that I saw an older couple sitting on the docks holding hands, or the multi-colored painted boats, or the local markets that lines the boardwalk....simply, a lovely place.

The temples I saw were interesting and primitive.  They were discovered by accident in the 1800‘s.  One probably dates back prior to Stonehenge, the other is estimated to have been built around 2800 BC.   Some of the boulders used to built these places weigh 10-15 tons each.  And since there is no lava, obsidian, or flint found naturally on the island to make tools, they must have brought them in to carve and cut.  The temples were 7-10 km high and they had roofs!  Present day, they are covered with a dome/tent to protect them from harsh elements and winds.

The Blue Grotto is gorgeous! All we were able to see was the entrance to the cave that goes in approximately 50 meters inside.  The waters were to choppy to take boat tours in, so many people missed out.  It was a treat for me just to see those crystal blue waters because the stop wasn’t indicated on the tour sheet, so I was happy!  From there, the Island of Filfla can be seen.  It used to be target practice by the British Navy, but now serves as a Bird Sanctuary.

That about sums it up, as much as I can write for now....

Last night, ELEMENTS was incredible and impressive for a cruise ship show.  It reminded me of Las Vegas (without the nudity).  There was acrobatics, magic, fire, dance, etc - great combination that WOW’d everyone. 

Today has been the least enjoyable of my trip, although it was fun to watch the towel-folding demo and seeing all my new friends for the last time.  Unfortunately, I have to pack and vacation time is coming to a close.  It hasn’t been a smooth ride today, and seems to get worse.  The decks are closed because the winds are so strong and my SeaBands are back on.  The crew is even feeling some seasickness, so I’m not “alone.”   

But, I have three more days on land in Barcelona and I’m glad about that, no doubt!

TTFN and I love You!

P.S.  I'll upload the rest of my pictures as soon as I get settled at the hostel tomorrow afternoon.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Pictures & Rainbows

I haven't been an early riser during this vacation because my stateroom is like a cave and it's impossible to tell what time it is (naturally) while I am in there.  Last night was pretty rocky.  The waves were Moderate (4.5-7.5 ft), the same category as before, but the wind changed direction and we were no longer traveling with it.  This created the cradle sensation of being rocked from one side to the other.  Despite that, after my massage session yesterday, I ended up falling asleep quite early...

So here I am, in the empty "Lifestyles Room." 

I was able to catch some of the sunrise and now I'm looking at a rainbow!  The rainbow turned into two and the first one felt so close that I actually felt like I was going to find that infamous pot of gold.  WoW!  That was incredible and truly put a smile on my face. 

We are about to reach Valletta and it seems like I should wear my raincoat today.  It'll be beautiful either way  =)

Anyway, since the reason you came here was to see pictures, I got some uploaded this morning of Athens and Izmir. 
Click HERE and Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Gifts of Life

You know, this cruise has been such a gift!  At this point in my life I am learning how to slow down, relax, and find more balance in my life, so I find myself on a ship, at sea, with nothing to do.  I’m not in a new-to-me place where I can find endless places to see; I’m not at home where I can find endless things to keep me busy; I am here.  Right here on this boat in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea! 

I can’t say that I haven’t gone full force while I’ve been on this cruise, this vacation.  But I have made great effort to give myself time to rest, on my own, in my room, by myself.  I can spend time with myself these days with ease, which is a fairly new concept for me.  My life has been lived in the extremes for as long as I can remember...Go - Go - Go! until all I could do was “veg-out” - a way to escape being with myself, with my feelings and emotions.  Now, so much of my life is being reshaped into the form of myself I knew when I was born onto this earth.  I am able to find more innocence, goodness, beauty in people, and in myself.  I’m finding new ways to let go of mistrust, fear, and loneliness.  My Light shines brighter with each new day, with each new step I take on The Path of my Life, with each choice I make to take care of my body...I AM happy and full of joy.

There is a quote from a movie I watched earlier in the week that I’d like to share:
“Why do we die? ...because death gives more meaning to Life.”

Some of us walk around dead; we stop living; we get caught up in fast-paced lifestyles; we get stuck and lose sight of our dreams.  In the book I’m reading, The Pilgrimage, I found a passage that captures this:
“The good fight is the one we fight because our heart asks it of us.  In the heroic ages - at the time of the knights in armor - this was easy.  There were lands to conquer and much to do.  Today, though, the world has changed a lot, and the good fight has shifted from the battlefields to the fields within ourselves...The good fight is the one that’s fought in the name of our dreams.”

I am an unmarried woman with no children, so it is easier, in a sense, for me to follow some of those dream I had at a young age.  I know many women who struggle with making their dreams come true because they made choice along the way they feel are holding them back - I encourage you ladies, and men, to find new dreams, or different versions of the same dreams, one that might work for you today. 

Here on the ship, I have met numerous kind, compassionate and generous people.  I have also encountered some very negative, obnoxious, closed-minded and rude people who can’t find enough to complain about.  The majority of staff are overworked, but usually have a smile on their faces and greet everyone who walk past them - even if they are in the midst of cleaning hand rails.  It’s not what we do that makes us who we are. It is what we give of ourselves, what smiles and positive energy we can pass on, the attention we give to the beauty around us in everyday life...it’s Love that we find somewhere deep inside of ourselves to give to every being we encounter.  And when we don’t have the capacity to show it outwardly, we give it anyway through compassion.  For those people I don’t wish to be around - I hope they find Joy, Happiness, and Love.  I know that’s all I really want.  To feel whole, to be listened to, and to feel appreciated.  But for me to accomplish any portion of those things, it seems I’ve had to find my own wholeness, not dependent on a husband, child, parent, or friend.  I’ve had to listen to myself - to my heart and not my head.  I’ve had to appreciate my own goodness.

Life isn’t easy, neither is death.  My dreams are becoming reality - are yours?

Today, all I have done is rest and relax.  I spent three hours in the Thermal Suite and dedicated time to everything available...even the Japanese Plunge Pool and IceRain shower.  I made effort to take a moment to feel how all the different temperatures, bubbles, droplets, steam, tiles felt on my body.  I also had the opportunity to watch the beautiful brilliant blue waves rise and fall in the beaming sunshine for long periods of time - quite soothing.
ladies jacuzzi

ladies sunroom

Japanese Plunge Pool


rain shower

This afternoon I had a two hour Spa session.  The first portion was called a seaweed wrap.  I laid on a foil blanket while the seaweed mixture, a pasty green substance, was placed on my back, arms, and legs.  The foil blanket and plastic sheet (somewhat like the bladder of a waterbed) was wrapped around me. I was lowered into the bed of heated water and allowed to rest for 20 minutes.  The seaweed mixture is for detox and deep tissue rejuvenation.  It felt cold and hot at the same time, so good!  I tried to visualize how my cells were recuperating, regenerating and healing.  Jessica, my attendant, helped me out and up so I could shower off the mixture.  Then I got wrapped up again in a foil blanket and lowered back into the bed of water for another 20 minutes.  This felt even better and I thought to myself, we should sleep in these kind of beds!  Out, up and showered again...then to the massage table for an hour full body massage.  Talk about heaven - I was so relaxed I couldn’t help but enjoy every single moment.  I felt like I was in a trance for at least 30 minutes after I left.  Allowing myself to be pampered is difficult for me, but I’m simply allowing it to happen.  It nurtures my body, mind, and spirit - which is perfect way to be good to myself!

Tomorrow morning it’s yoga on the ship, the square in Valletta, Malta for coffee and breakfast, then an excursion at Noon to the island’s Prehistoric Temples that date as far back as 2800 BC.  I’m looking forward to it  :)

Have a great evening!  We’ll talk again soon...