Thursday, 5 May 2016

Azores – with an added bonus!


We recently took a break from our regular dining and joined Alan and Kim for a meal in the ship’s Ocean Grill – very nice! 


On Sunday our last call of the cruise was in the charming port of Ponta Delgada in the Azores. As soon as we left the ship we were straight into the spotlessly presented town and, although a little cloudy (par for the course in the Azores!) it was warm and dry.


The added bonus for our day ashore was that there was to be a grand parade to mark the Festival of the Holy Cross and the town was out in force to decorate the streets with flowers.


It was marvellous to watch how quickly the centre of the roads were transformed with flowers and greenery.


It was almost like watching carpet layers – when the wooden formers were taken away the final touches were made by patting and spaying with water to make things perfect.


It was amazing to see so many people working, all knowing exactly what they had to do and no one getting in anyone’s way.


The decoration was to mark the route of the procession later in the day and it was incredible to think that there was nothing there first thing in the morning!


To brighten up some of plane walls the street art can be quite stunning. Together with the intricate tessellated pavement patterns and cobbles streets the whole place is a delight to walk around. 


Many of the balconies and shop fronts are also beautifully decorated.


Where there was no street decoration the stunning architecture could really be appreciated ………


………. and. looking upwards, things just got even better.


As the time went on the open spaces and squares started to buzz with people (including the 2000 or so passengers and crew from “Arcadia”) all anticipating the parade in the afternoon.


Some of the religious and municipal buildings were decorated with lights which must have looked quite spectacular had we been allowed to stay into the evening. 



There’s a chap in a red checked shirt who keeps cropping up in these pics!


Apart from mooching around and enjoying the flowers and the increasingly exciting atmosphere we were also trying to find our favourite café for some food, drink (and Wifi !) – and here it is! Doesn’t look much but inside the young proprietors, the décor and the food are wonderful. It’s a little gem.


Having spent some considerable time in the café we popped across the street to the wonderful cheese and wine shop. Impossible to leave without buying something we bought a whole cheese and a bottle of very tempting Honey Liqueur. 


“Our street” – the one with “our café” in it, was now fully decorated and filling up with people …….


….. and so was the square at the lower end. Interestingly, people were using fold-up cardboard seats (like large supermarket wine carriers) – we thought that was a brilliant new idea but maybe we’re behind the times!


Another marvellous moment was being able to catch up with our friend Joe who is lucky to live in this beautiful part of the world and who came over from Pico Island for the festival and to meet up with us. So, it was quickly back to “our café” for a drink and a chat with Joe before ……….


…… the kilometre long (yes – a kilometre!) procession came our way. By the way, only the banner carrier walked on the flowers!


It was a very long and slow procession and, due to our lovely and lively chat with Joe, we were, if not very careful, going to be late for the 5 o’clock deadline for boarding the ship! Joe’s advice was to go with the procession (and not against it) and try and overtake it where we could!


Of course, we made it back to the ship, took part in the last sale-away party of the cruise and watched the lovely islands of the Azores pass into the distance behind us.


Our entertainments team have worked very hard during this, our longest cruise ever! Here they are – Sarah, Emma, Christopher, Grace, Adam and DJ James. 


In the enormous crowd on the rear deck Doug managed to find Kim who he likes having his photo taken with as she makes him look so tall!


There wasn’t much room on the rear pool deck as we enjoyed the Great British Sail-Away.


During the early evening Tuesday we had a Farewell cocktail party headed by Captain Trevor Lane. A ‘valued member of the ship’s company’ who we’ve had the pleasure of getting to know in the last few weeks is the Bars Manager who goes by the fabulous and memorable name of Ghandi Raj. A great guy who’s always around the ship making sure all his bars are being run correctly (a hard taskmaster in other words!)


Another two lovely people at the party, who Doug insists on standing next to as often as possible, are Kim and Cinny – ‘nuf said!


And, as usual on the penultimate evening, we had the traditional parade of the chefs.

Well, “Arcadia” has travelled a total of 40,878 nautical miles on this 2016 World Cruise and, having spent the last 50 nights aboard, we’ve covered 16,980 of those miles with her. Now leaving the Azores behind us we have three sea days ahead before reaching Southampton and, by the time this blog is published, we’ll probably have arrived home! We’ve circumnavigated the entire planet in one go! Flying to Hong Kong to board “Arcadia” we then went on to visit Beijing (China), Jeju-Do Island and Busan (South Korea), Nagasaki and Osaka (Japan), we crossed the International Dateline on April 2nd, then onto Oahu and Hilo (Honolulu), San Francisco, San Diego, Huatulco (Mexico), transited the Panama Canal, then Oranjestad (Aruba), Philipsburg on the Caribbean island of St Maarten and finally Ponta Delgada in the Azores.  We’ve crossed two oceans and passed through the narrowest transcontinental gap on the planet! Miraculously, we’ve had no rough seas with the waters being almost as calm as a mill pond for most of the time. It’s been a journey which has given us some overwhelming experiences, we’ve made new friends on board and been able to meet up with friends in various countries along the way (what a total joy!).

We now look forward to quickly meeting up with more friends and family on our return to the UK before boarding our own “vessel” for the joy of England’s canals during the summer months ahead.

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