A Week on the Queen Mary 2

Sandra and Pat

Sandra and Pat

Highest level of the three tiered dining room

Highest level of the three tiered dining room

After the rough walking of the Camino and the week of touring Portugal in our rental car, the QM2 was quite a shock. We had taken a flight from Spain to England, then  the train to Southampton where we met Claire and George. The following day it poured. We stocked up on wine and crackers and headed, on foot, for the ship, the final destination of our nearly two month trip.

The Queen Mary 2 is an impressive ship, sort of like checking into 10 747s, over 2000 passengers. Embarking was pretty efficient, they mainly wanted our credit cards on file. We opted to carry our backpacks ourselves. When we reached our stateroom, our stewart greeted us and suggested that he would see we got the rest of our baggage as soon as it arrived… We had to inform him that we were carrying everything.

Our stateroom with an inclosed balcony was wonderful, the service everywhere was impeccable, but I only had two dresses, one short and one long that had been squished into the bottom of a backpack for many weeks. Thank goodness each deck had a laundromat. The ship is like a city with shops, restaurants, a casino, pools, Canyon Ranch Spa, workout rooms, theater, planetarium, among others. I took courses in Photoshop, Tom played poker, we tried to walk 3 miles on the deck every other day, three laps equals 1.1 miles. The ship’s library was impressive and a great place to sit and read while watching the sea. The seas were fairly rough, a dance show had to be cancelled. Tom wore his patch and I took the medicine.

At dinner we were seated with a great couple from Scotland, Sandy and Pat. I had gluten free everything. The food was excellent. There were shows, speakers, balls every day. We attended a couple of events. The on board actors performed The Merchant of Venice. I got my picture taken with one of the officers at a ball. We won a trivia game one night.

Tom’s wonderful brother, Jack, ┬ámet us at the dock, he was the second car in line, and drove us home to Northampton. I wish the house would stop rocking, I haven’t found my land legs yet.


Last Day in North of Spain

As we were leaving the lovely country house in Soutullo, our host suggested we visit one of the last working monasteries, the Monastery Oseira, the place of the bears. We didn’t know what to expect as the Capucian monastery was a ruin in the mountains above Sintra, Portugal.

Following signs for miles it seemed through tiny village after tiny village, we finally turned a sharp corner for an amazing sight, an enormous, fortress like structure surrounded by gardens and fountains. We managed to make the 11:00 tour with three ladies from Toronto who were walking the Camino from Seville and two couples from Spain.

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Last Days before England

(I wrote a version of this but it disappeared…second try)

Today we took to the grand empty highways again to head north. Many mountains are strung together with enormous bridges, again the highways are empty, except for the occasional idiots who pass us in Mercedes or BMWs doing 110 mph!

I search the hills for castles. Found one called Monterrey, after the family who settled in California. Fantastic from below, we tried to climb with the car, narrow cobbled streets that ended with a rutted stone path. We left the car and struggled up to the top. The castle is being repaired. There are a few cannon and a very nice paved road all the way up with parking lots which we never found from below.

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Traveling North

This morning we reluctantly bid goodbye to our boutique hotel in Sintra and started north toward Spain again. We wanted to explore some more of the north of Portugal and decided a small town high in the mountains might be interesting. Four hours and several empty highways later we began up the hills, into some serious mountains. As we rose higher an electronic sign on the road warned of snow the next three kilometers. No snow appeared but rain and cold winds of forty degrees. Cold after southern Portugal. The views were spectacular but there was no place to stop the car for a picture.

We found the “town,” a city really, of Vila Real near the top and stopped at a hotel in the center of the city with a parking garage. They offered a special price for this weekend. The town’s chestnut festival was in full swing but rather rained out, only a few participants remained. The view from our room was the best.

Day Trip to Lisbon

Today we took the local train into Lisbon, 45 minutes away, it was so easy. The station is a half block away, the tickets were 6 Eros and took us right to the historic district, a city on the river rebuilt after the 1700 earthquake by a forward thinking ruler who devised grand wide plazas and avenues running in quadrants. We walked to the castle/fortress high about the city, half by using an eight story elevator in a supermarket. The view from the ramparts was stunning. I’m hoping Tom can send photos to the girls to include in this blog. He found his first canons, lots of them.

After we walked the narrow cobbled streets to the cathedral and from there to a huge plaza right on the river. There we ate cheese and bread and watched the hucksters, jugglers, human statues, a zorro on horseback, couples kissing, men playing jazz, all manner of humanity.

The capital was great but it was nice to get back to the quiet of our hotel.




Sintra, Portugal

A lovely historic city with narrow hilly streets and no parking anywhere. We found a great boutique hotel and they found us free parking by the railroad station for tonight and tomorrow. We have decided to see Lisbon by train, only 45 minute trip.
Today we toured a Compucian Convent, unused since 1843 but still intact. The cells were tiny, all trimmed with cork, a commonly used product of this area, the gardens delightful. I had photos for you but my machine is still acting up. I will keep trying.
The we went to see Palacios de Pena where a Portugese king in 1800s used as a summer house. Quite fantastic and beautiful on the mountain side but it was raining steadily so I couldn’t get any photos. Will try again tomorrow as well.
Portugal is surprisingly lovely with lots of reasonably big cities and towns, all very new looking. Travel is easy. Must run to dinner.





Fatima, Nazare, Obidos in Portugal

Not owning a travel guide for Portugal, we have been relying on the kindness of hotel clerks to send us to important spots we should see. The first girl wrote a list that got us to major Roman sites like Ponte do Lima. So Wednesday we followed the list, adding Fatima so Tom could light candles for his family.
While Fatima is not my thing, it was a modern religious site well laid out and almost empty of tourists. A couple of people were making their 400 foot journeys on their knees to the sanctuary where the three shepherds saw the virgin. Beeswax candles of all sizes are laid out in crates, you pick what you want and drop coins in a slot, very reasonable prices. Then Tom took five or six to the offertory wall and lit them.
After that we drove back to the sea to visit Nazare, a town re known for its seafood and the largest surf able waves in the world. Turns out Tom has always wanted to see that as well. A surfer named McNamara made it famous, we ate in his favorite restaurant. The beach was beautiful but the sea pounded the shore.
Back on the highway we drove a short distance to the walled 5th century town of Obidos. The highways here almost empty, very well kept and not too expensive. But people with expensive cars drive over 100 miles an hour! We go at a sedate 85.
Obidos is marvelous so we decided to spent the night. An entire town within the walls of an ancient castle. Lots of flowers still blooming and no tourists. THursday we plan to finish walking the walls and go on to the next place.