Best of the Best

The Adventure in Akureyri

The Adventure in Akureyri

During this contract, I was able to do and see some truly incredible things.  Since coming home, I’ve frequently been asked about my favorite places, and I’ve had trouble answering!  There were so many wonderful places, but I liked different ports for different things.  Looking back through my photos, I tried to break down some of the highlights of the past few months.  This is what I came up with…  The Best of the Adventure.

Best Hike

Pulpit Rock

Pulpit Rock

Best Beaches

Paradise

Paradise

Photo doesn't do it justice!

Photo doesn’t do it justice!

Just look at that water

Just look at that water

Best tours

Tuk tuk tour

Tuk tuk tour

Camels at the base

Camels at the base

Magic at the top

Magic at the top

Best Place for Beer

  • Beer Wall in Bruges
    • I made a special category for Bruges, because I had such a great day there!  The beer is fantastic, but the whole city is worth visiting!
Beer Wall

Beer Wall

Favorite Landmarks

Amazing to see

Amazing to see

I could visit every day!

I could visit every day!

Best Museum

  • The Guggenheim Bilbao
    • The architect, Frank Gehry, also designed the Guggenheim Museum that will soon be built in Abu Dhabi.  There was an interesting article in the New York Times about the new museum.
Beautiful Gehry building

Beautiful Gehry building

Favorite City

Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas

Favorite Country

Sunset in Reykjavik

Sunset in Reykjavik

Northern Lights.  Photo by: Daffodaleia Williams

Northern Lights. Photo by: Daffodaleia Williams

I knew the quality of the places I was visiting was pretty astounding, but I just recently added up the quantity!  I’ve now been to 39 countries.  I can’t wait to add more to the list in the New Year!

Casey’s Travel Map

Casey has been to: Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Canada, China, Curacao, Denmark, Fiji, France, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands Antilles, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Singapore, Sint Maarten, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, U.S. Virgin Islands, United Kingdom, United States, Vatican, Vietnam.

Get your own travel map from Matador Network.

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Somwhere in Spain

Cider bottle sculpture

Cider bottle sculpture

I had never been to Gijon, so I asked my Spanish friend to take my family and me somewhere fun. We went to an old bar known for cider. They pour the cider from high up so it gets air and tell you to drink it quickly. It was an interesting experience, but not to my taste. I am normally a fan of cider, but this tasted somewhat bitter and harsh.

Pouring cider

Pouring cider

My friend ordered us local specialties to eat. We had pulpo that was so tender it melted in your mouth. My favorite dish was called fabada. It was a stew with white beans and chunks of bacon and sausage. I’ve never been so satisfied by a stew!

Pulpo

Pulpo

After eating, we broke off from the group and took a walk. We watched some surfers riding the waves on the beach before continuing on. We came to a large, pretty park before heading back to the ship.

Beach

Beach

View from the park

View from the park

The following day was the ship’s first time porting in Bilbao. I had no idea what to expect, but was surprised by how cosmopolitan the city was. Chic women and men in suits roamed the streets, and the shopping looked fantastic.

Docks in Gijon

Docks in Gijon

We went straight to the Guggenheim Museum. I’ve been to the Guggenheim in New York, but wasn’t aware that there were others. In front of the museum was a giant puppy covered with flowers. The building was almost more impressive than the art inside! The architect, Gehri, designed the museum with intersecting curved and slanted walls. Audio tours, included with the ticket price, explained the inspiration behind the design, and also mentioned the challenges of constructing the waving walls of stone.

Outside the Guggenheim

Outside the Guggenheim

My favorite gallery was full of copper structures by Frank Stella. My favorite museum back home, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, has a piece by Stella out front. Seeing more of his work was fun, and reminded me of home.

After quickly exploring some of the other galleries, we hit the road in search of food. We ended up at a small café for tapas and wine. I left the city wishing we ported there again!

Walking Around Vigo

View of the ship in Vigo

View of the ship in Vigo

My last day in Vigo was extra special, because it was the first port I got to enjoy with my mom! She came to cruise for seven days with my aunt. After a rocky day at sea, we were looking forward to taking a walk on dry land.

Mama and me planning

Mama and me planning

We grabbed a map at the terminal and walked to a small park. We stopped at a café overlooking the park for some espresso and took a moment to map out our route for the day.

Walking up to the Castro

Walking up to the Castro

We went into a few shops to look for souvenirs on our way to the Castro, a fortified settlement in the center of the city. The Castro was at the top of a large hill. We were able to look out from all sides as we wove our way up to the top. At a lookout point, we read that there are 25 castros in Vigo. The city is much larger than I had realized!

City views

City views

After enjoying the views, we wandered through the streets in search of the oyster market. Along the way, we came across a large merman statue and a number of plazas. The market was lined with restaurants. You could purchase oysters at one of the many stands and take them to a restaurant with you.

Merman statue

Merman statue

We ordered a seafood platter and intended to also buy oysters, but the platter was too large for us to need any more food! We had various crabs and shrimp, pulpo (octopus) served with potatoes, delicious bread, and some refreshing white wine. The seafood was so fresh! It was my first time to eat proper crab legs. It took me awhile to get used to breaking the shell to get the meat inside, but it was well worth the effort.

Seafood platter

Seafood platter

With full bellies and smiling faces, we returned to the ship, excited for what the next few days would bring.

Streets of Vigo

Streets of Vigo

Old and New

Valencia

Valencia

Before going to Valencia, Spain, I emailed one of my sisters for suggestions on what to do. She spent a summer studying there, so I knew she’d have some good ideas. Based on her suggestions, I knew what I wanted to do. However, my plans weren’t very solid, since I had no idea where the shuttle bus from the ship would drop us off!

Views of the city

Views of the city

I set out once again with my dance captain and her boyfriend. We were dropped near a tourist information shop, so I popped in to ask a few questions and map out our route.

Historic area

Historic area

We walked a few blocks to the historic area of the city. At the Plaza de la Reina, we searched for a paella restaurant recommended by the man at the tourist shop. After searching the entire square without luck, we asked a shop owner for directions. We learned, sadly, that the restaurant had closed.

Cathedral

Cathedral

We wanted to get away from some of the crowds, so we started walking down some alleys in search of a new restaurant to suit our needs. While we were walking, a couple that recognized me from Mystery Theater stopped us. The waiters at their restaurant eagerly put menus in our hands, and we decided to stay for the 10-euro deal of 2 courses and a drink.

Paella Valenciana

Paella Valenciana

The food wasn’t the best I’ve had in Spain, though for 10 euros, I didn’t expect it to be. We were surprised to learn that the couple we’d been speaking to secretly picked up the tab for our meal. Since we didn’t have a way to thank them, Sam suggested we just “pay it forward”.

Alley we ate in

Alley we ate in

Next, we started walking towards the City of Arts and Sciences. The walk took around 40 minutes, and took us through parts of the city that we otherwise wouldn’t have seen. We spent much of the walk on a tree-covered sidewalk in the median of a large road. The final 10 minutes were along a park. Although it was hot, it was beautiful.

First view of the City of Arts and Sciences

First view of the City of Arts and Sciences

Upon reaching the City of Arts and Sciences, we were wowed by the architecture. Most of the city had been quite traditional, but these buildings were very modern. They had curved shapes and mosaicked exteriors. My friend said the “city” looked like the set for a Sci-Fi film.

Amazing architecture

Amazing architecture

Great landscaping

Great landscaping

We were running short on time, so we weren’t able to go inside the museum. We were tempted to rent a kayak on the water, but in the end, decided not to. As we walked farther along, we noticed the crowd growing and noise getting louder. As it turns out, one of the buildings in the back was holding the Valencia Open. There were DJs, stalls selling products, small tennis courts for kids to play in, and bar buses.

Nutella court

Nutella court

My friend was craving ice cream, so we ended up stopping at the Ben and Jerry’s stall for a snack. We sat down to people watch as ticket holders passed by. After that, we had just enough time to find a cab and head back to the ship.

Site of the Valencia Open

Site of the Valencia Open

It was so nice to see the old and new side of Valencia. I’d love to return and explore the city more!

Adios, Valencia!

Adios, Valencia!

Coasting Through the Canaries

Flowers at SIam Park in Tenerife

Flowers at SIam Park in Tenerife

This voyage, we stopped in the Canary Islands for the first time. Our first stop was in Tenerife. I signed up for a crew tour going to Siam Park, a water park that some of my English friends had raved about.

Entrance of the Park

Entrance of the Park

I’ve been to water parks before, but this one was unlike any other. Near the entrance, there was a tank of sea lions swimming about. The entire park was beautifully landscaped, with lush trees, and large, colorful flowers. The beauty of the park was intensified by the perfect weather. There was not a cloud in the sky!

Sea lion

Sea lion

The Beach by the Wave Pool

The Beach by the Wave Pool

I spent most of the day with two skaters and a trumpet player. We started in the Mai Tai River, also known as the Lazy River, hoping to get a good view of the rides throughout the park. We were in two double tubes, and ended up racing through much of the river. At the end of the loop, we went up a ramp and ended up on a slide. The slide let us out in a tunnel beneath a tank of fish and small sharks. It was so cool!

Lazy River

Lazy River

Outside view of the tank.  See the tube inside?

Outside view of the tank. See the tube inside?

Next, we went to find the biggest slide in the park. It was about 3 stories tall, and also ended going through the shark tank. I’m a bit of a daredevil, but I still had butterflies in my stomach before I slid down.

The slide!

The slide!

We made our way through almost all the rides in the park. Some of my favorites were 4 person tube rides. I laughed and screamed on every ride. We spent some time in the wave pool, with bigger waves than I’ve seen at Hurricane Harbor, and then took a break at a restaurant by the “beach”. The food was nothing special, but they had wine, beer, and cider available.

Waves starting

Waves starting

One of the best rides

One of the best rides

Lounging

Lounging

I wish I could’ve stayed for another hour, so I could have gone on the last ride and taken another turn on The Dragon. I hope to someday return and enjoy more time splashing around, having fun in the sun!

The Dragon

The Dragon

Two days later, we were in Gran Canaria. I joined my dance captain and her boyfriend again for lunch and lounging on the beach. Her boyfriend had been to Gran Canaria before, and suggested eating at the mall next to the port. There was an all you can eat Asian buffet and wok for just 12 euros. It seemed like half the crew was there! Once we had sufficiently stuffed our faces, we walked to the beach.

Beach in Gran Canaria

Beach in Gran Canaria

The walk took less than 10 minutes. We found a spot away from the crowd, and laid down for about an hour and a half. I briefly went in the water, but as it was quite cold, I only got wet up to my knees. Once we’d had our fill on the sun, we went to the boardwalk to get some sangria.

Art in the sand

Art in the sand

We sat outside enjoying our drinks for about half an hour before walking back to the ship for rehearsal. It was a simple, but enjoyable day out. I look forward to returning to the Canaries before we cross over to the Caribbean.

Walking around

Walking around

Local Flavors

One of my favorite things about traveling is trying local foods. My last day in Malaga, Spain, I went out with a few members of the art team for lunch. I’d spent time with them in a work setting when I help with registration for art auctions on board, but I hadn’t spent much time with them socially. Although we were a diverse group, consisting of 2 Americans, a Kiwi, a South African, and a Hungarian, we all were in the mood for the same thing… tapas!

Tapas in Malaga

Tapas in Malaga

We walked to a strip of restaurants and shops along a marina about halfway between the cruise terminal and the city center. The restaurants all had outdoor seating shaded by white umbrellas. It was a beautiful area! We stopped at a Spanish restaurant advertising free Wi-Fi. Three of us ordered a pitcher of sangria to share, and took a chance by ordering a tapas sampler. There wasn’t as much variety in the sampler as I would’ve liked, but it was very tasty. I had sardines, tortilla de patata, an octopus salad, tuna salad, and a potato and olive salad.

In Madeira

In Madeira

A week later, in Madeira, Portugal, I was told I had to try steak on a stone. I set out with a large group of friends to find a good restaurant. We chose a restaurant on the water about 10 minutes from the port. They served steak, steak with bacon, chicken, pork, tuna, or prawns on the stone, as well as a full menu.

On the Stone Menu

On the Stone Menu

Our servers, upon learning we worked on the ship, brought us all shot sized samples of their signature cocktail. I’m not actually sure what was in it, but it tasted so good, I ordered a full sized drink. Since “steak on a stone” was what people had been raving about, I ordered just that.

Special cocktail

Special cocktail

Our meal came with baskets of garlic bread, that may be the best bread I’ve ever tasted, and plates of fries, or “chips” as my English friends call them. The highlight of the meal, however, was the steak itself.

I was brought a platter with a hot stone and 3 pieces of raw steak. On the side, there was a sauce of garlic and olive oil, a bacon aioli, and a creamy tomato sauce. The steak was seasoned with raw sea salt. It cooked almost instantly on the hot stone, and melted in my mouth! I ate every bite I was served, because it all tasted so good!

Steak on a stone

Steak on a stone

The restaurant became the crew spot. By the time we left, there were 6 tables of people from the cruise division. We all agreed that although lunch was expensive, we’d be back next time we stop in Madeira!

Great little restaurant

Great little restaurant

I’m looking forward to trying more exciting foods in the remaining month and a half of this contract!

Back to Barcelona

Amazing building

Amazing building

In Barcelona, I joined a group of musicians to go back to La Sagrada Familia. We purchased tickets the night before to go inside, but were too late to get tickets to go up the towers.

The altar

The altar

More stained glass

More stained glass

The five of us were able to fit into a taxi van and go straight to the cathedral. We were a little early, so we walked around the outside before going in. Once inside, I was awed by the stained glass windows. The ceiling was also incredible. The top of the columns branched off into multiple beams that wove their way into the peaks and patterns of the ceiling.

Ceiling

Ceiling

I attempted to go into the prayer room, but was turned away because my dress was exposing too much skin. After walking around the main area for a while, we went below the church to the museum.

Inappropriately dressed

Inappropriately dressed

The boys I was with were not interested in spending much time in a museum, so we quickly walked through. I did learn about a hanging model Gaudi used for another design, and saw a model of La Sagrada Familia in its finished state.

Hanging model

Hanging model

Model of La Sagrada Familia

Model of La Sagrada Familia

Our next stop was a nearby restaurant for pizza and drinks. It wasn’t a very “Spanish” meal, but it was delicious! We stopped in the food market on Las Ramblas before walking to the shuttle stop to go back to the ship.

Gaudi

Gaudi

It was a quick afternoon out, but it was fantastic. I still want to return to La Sagrada Familia, my favorite building, to go up in the columns, but I was very happy to finally see part of the inside!

I'll be back!

I’ll be back!

Exterior details

Exterior details

No Plans, No Problems

I got off the ship in Cartagena with no agenda. I had heard that it was a nice town, but knew no details.

First view off the ship

First view off the ship

Heading into town

Heading into town

We grabbed a map and just started wandering down a main street. On the way, we saw some beautiful old buildings, street performers, and plenty of nice shops. We wove our way over to a small park, and then went searching for food.

Wandering

Wandering

We found a nice tapas restaurant on a side street with each plate only 1.50 euros. The food was great, and the place had fast wifi… A precious thing when you work on ships!

Roman Theater

Roman Theater

After lunch, some of our group was going to the beach. Since I am part vampire and can’t take too much sun, I opted to instead go to the Roman Theater. There was a museum part first, with interesting information about the theater and the city. Next, we went through a tunnel under an old church. The tunnel led to the theater, a huge old proscenium stage with views overlooking the city. Dancer that I am, I had to get on the stage!

Always on stage

Always on stage

Leaving the theater

Leaving the theater

My friend and I were enjoying the warm weather, so we sat under an umbrella with a glass of sangria before getting back on board. It was a short, but fun, outing!

Sunny Spain

Sunny Spain

Blissful in Barcelona

In Barcelona two weeks ago, I set off with one goal… to see La Sagrada Familia.

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia    

When I was about 11 years old, my sister and I went to Europe with our dance company. Being “big girls”, we didn’t want our parents to chaperone. Mom and dad agreed to stay home, but wanted to make sure we had some sort of cultural experience, so we had to write a research paper about something we would see on the trip. My sister and I spent a day at the library, and ended up writing about Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia. When we finally saw the church, we were so excited. Now, 14 years later, I was anxious to see the changes in the building.

So incredible!

So incredible!

When we got off the ship, some of my girlfriends and I got in a cab and went straight to the church. The line to go inside was already wrapped around the block, so we opted to just enjoy the view from outside this time. It is such an amazing structure. I wish I had my photos from my previous visit so I could compare then and now. Next time we’re in Barcelona, I hope to pre-book and inside tour.

Lunch time

Lunch time

Our next stop was for food. With maps in hand, we set off in the direction of Casa Mila. About halfway there, we found a cute restaurant with tables outside. Since it was a beautiful day, we decided that was the perfect place to stop. I had a “small” sangria (AKA a pitcher), and a chicken copa. It was delicious!

Casa Batllo

Casa Batllo

We then continued on to Casa Mila. Unfortunately, it was covered up for repairs, so we were unable to see it. We walked down the street to find Casa Batllo, another one of Gaudi’s creations. The house is incredible. The front is covered in blue and green mosaic tiles, and the windows are full of stained glass. I hope to go back for an inside tour there as well.

Beauty everywhere

Beauty everywhere

We kept walking in the direction of the ship, and along the way stopped in some shops, a square with statues and lovely flowers, and then came to Las Ramblas. Las Ramblas is full of street vendors and tourist shops, and since it was where the shuttle from the ship dropped people off, it was also full of guests and crewmembers. After running into some friends in the ice cast, we followed their recommendation and went into a market. There was so much food! The butcher stands were unlike anything we see in the States. For example, there were heads still on some chickens! There was also some delicious looking candy, and an abundance of juice stands. I tried a mango coconut juice, and enjoyed it so much; I will probably buy it again next time!

Sweets in the market

Sweets in the market

Since the weather was so nice, we opted to walk all the way back to the ship instead of catching the shuttle. On the way, we stopped in a few more shops and ran into some other friends. By the time we reached the ship, I was exhausted, but happy. It was one of the best days I’ve had since joining the Adventure. I love Spain!

Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas