Planned and Past

Las Palmas

Click to enlargeWe arrived at Las Palmas on Gran Canaria Island  at 8am the next morning  Las Palmas is the capital of the Canary Islands (alternating with Santa Cruz.)

We had an early breakfast as we were scheduled for a “Panoramic Tour” of the island starting at 8:30.  That tour took us on  some of the narrowest, steepest and most twisty roads I have ever seen.  Click to enlargeThe bus took us up to a point overlooking the “Crater of Bandam”, a volcanic caldera that was left from an eruption 5000 years ago.

Then we visited a town called Teror – the guide had to tell us how the people living there were known as Click to enlarge“Terorists.”   It was Sunday so they were performing mass in Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pino. Because of that we only saw it from the outside.  At the same time there was the weekly market going on in the streets around the Basilica.  We wandered around there seeing everything for sale from cotton candy and roast chestnuts  to Click to enlargeclothing and jewelry. We also sampled a local product – Honey Rum.  Quite good though  very sweet – a small amount was enough.

Next we went on to Arucas which is in an area of banana farms and famous for Click to enlargeThe Church of San Juan Bautista.  An impressive structure built from local stone with many intricate carvings.  Construction was begun in 1909 and only finished recently.  Again, mass was being conducted so we did not go inside.

Finally we returned to Las Palmas but before going to the ship we stopped by the marina to see the start of a huge yacht race.  This race starts in Las Palmas and ends up at St. Lucia in Click to enlargethe Caribbean.  We were told that there were 250 boats starting out that day (11/22) and that they would cover the 2700 nautical miles in about 3 weeks.

We returned to the ship just in time for a late lunch and spent the remainder of the day lounging by the pool and getting to know more of our fellow passengers.  We sailed for Lanzarote at 7pm and once again, because of weather conditions, they did not raise the sails. 🙁

USA to Spain

Jan and I are just back from a cruise to the Canary Islands, Morocco and Portugal.  This is the first of a number of posts about our trip.

From home (Iowa) we first flew to Chicago, pleasantly at a sane time of day.  No problems and enough layover  at O’Hare to allow us to have lunch.  Our flight to Madrid  left on time and there were no problems there either.  At Madrid, going through customs was a snap.  I wish things were that easy in the US.  The only difficulty was a long wait before our next flight to Tenerife.  Luckily we were able to spend the time in the comfortable Air Iberia VIP lounge.

The flight to Tenerife was a little late and the situation was complicated because the gate attendant only made announcements in Spanish.  Eventually we got on board and took off.  We had a nice lunch/dinner and the flight was just a couple of hours long.  While waiting for our luggage at the Tenerife airport we met some others who were going on the same cruise.

We were met by a cheerful cab driver who took us to the hotel and we settled in HotelBotanicorather quickly.  Had a great meal in the Thai restaurant right in the hotel.  We were not leaving for the ship until around noon the next day so we could sleep late and partially make up for our jet-lag.  The hotel was the Botanica, very nice with fabulous BotanicoGroundsgrounds including a small golf course, ponds with koi,  statues, fountains and beautiful flowers.

The process of boarding the ship was much improved over our previous cruises with WindStar.  Less paperwork and better organized.  It also helped that the ship was only half full Cabin(84 passengers of the maximum 148).  We settled into our cabin without a lot of trouble and went up Click for larger imagepool-side where they had buffet lunch set out for those on board while we waited to sail at 11pm.

We had dinner that evening with a couple of other passengers, two women from the UK.  They were traveling together, leaving Riggingtheir husbands behind to fend for themselves for the week.  After that we went up on deck and waited for the sailing.  When they raise the sails they always play the theme from “Chariots of Fire” by Vangelis.  At night it is particularly moving as they have the sails lighted and the ship really stands out in the dark.  Unfortunately the  weather did not cooperate and they did not raise the sails that evening.

Quick Travel Update

>mebeli sofianally have a chance to post a quick note about out latest travels.  After visiting Glacier National Park we entered Canada, visited Waterton National Park, and spent two days in Calgary. We are now are staying at Canmore, near Banff.

We’ll be spending another week wandering around the Canadian Rockies before heading home.

I’ll try to get some photos up soon but internet connections are a bit spotty.

On our final day in Tucson we went to the Pima Air & Space Museum. This is a wonderful place to visit if you are an aviation fan. There are hundreds of aircraft on display plus you can take an optional trip to the famous 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG)Boneyard

SR-71 BlackbirdOne of the first aircraft we saw was the impressive SR-71A Blackbird. It’s hard to imagine anything that can fly at 2200+ MPH but, standing next to it, you have to know this plane is Fast!

Fighter RowNext we went outside to see the exhibits there before it got too hot. Here is a picture of the area where fighter aircraft are on display. There were also areas for bombers, transports, tankers, seaplanes and other sorts of aircraft.

B-52Here is a B-52 Stratofortress Bomber first introduced in 1955 and still in active service today. Without actually being there, it is hard to imagine how big one of these is.

Not all of the aircraft are from the US military. Here is a North Korean Mig-15 (built in Poland) used extensively by the enemy in the Korean war.

JFK's Airforce 1Here is the incarnation of Air Force One that was used by president Kennedy, a VC-118A Liftmaster (Douglas DC-6). This was the only plane where visitors were allowed to tour the interior.

As it got hotter outside, we went back into the hangars where some beautifully restored WW-II era aircraft were on display. Among them a B-29 and this B24 Liberator.

Also inside was one of the strangest looking aircraft I had ever seen. It’s the Bumble Bee, the worlds smallest piloted aircraft. It has a wingspan of 5′ 6″ and and overall length of 8′ 10″.

We really enjoyed our visit here and would even consider going back again in the future as there were many displays that we didn’t have time to see nor were we able to take the optional trip to the “Boneyard.”

Tucson – Part 2

On our second day in Tucson, Jan, Steev, and I went to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum . It is a 21 acre museum and zoo housing 300 species of animals and 1200 kinds of plants. Here are a few of the things we saw there.

Desert HawkI’m sorry that I don’t remember the species of this bird. It was interesting to be able to see it close up.

Gila MonsterHere is a Gila Monster resting in the shade. It was behind glass as I would not otherwise have gotten this close.

OtterThis otter was Steev’s favorite and seemed very playful and active. It was also possible to watch him swimming from below the water level. Here he was watching Steev take his picture from above.

I had never seen a Coati before. This one was quite hard to spot at first but once I figured out where he was I was able to get a good picture.

DragonfliesThere were many different kinds of dragonflies on different plants and around the water. Most of them didn’t pose but this pair had their tiny minds ocupied with other business.

Butterfly GardenI’ve seen butterfly gardens in many different places but this was the first I had seen that was not in an enclosed building. Apparently they are able to select the proper plants that attract the adult butterflies and also provide food for the larva. In this picture there are at least three butterflies easily visible but there were probably a dozen more that were better concealed.

This was a great place to visit, easier than the previous day’s hike and had water available all around. They even had a nice little restaurant and two gift shops. If you are ever in Tucson, it’s worth a visit.

Tucson – Part 1

Last week Jan and I flew to Arizona to visit my son, Steev and his fiancee in Tucson. While we were there we did a lot of things so I will be posting about it in several parts.

Steev and GretaOn our first full day we went to hike in Sabino and Bear canyons In the Santa Catalina mountains which were conveniently located N.E. of Tucson. We got there fairly early but it was already getting hot by the time we were on the trail. Here is Steev and Greta as we started out.

The terrain is fairly rugged, dominated by cactus and other desert flora. Since it was just after the annual monsoon, the plants were quite green and many were in bloom.

There was also quite a bit of wildlife around, mostly birds and lizards such as this little guy who posed very patiently for us.

SaguaroHere is a shot of the ubiquitous Saguaro Cactus. Some of them are huge – I’d guess 30 feet tall or more.

Sabino CreekNot all of the canyon is sand and cactus. We came across this idyllic spot along Sabino Creek.

Next part – Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Cruise Photos

I just put photos from our cruise up on my static web site. There are seven pages with 5 pictures each plus descriptions. Comments are welcome here.

Wind StarThis is a picture that my good friend Mike Apsey captured from the web-cam at the Panama Canal Miraflores locks while the Wind Star was passing through.

Thanks Mike!

At Sea – 4

The trip is winding down.  Two more days at sea, sailing up to Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica.  We will dock there on 12/15 and go to San Juan by bus.  We fly out from there on the 16th.

This has been a great vacation, more relaxing than previous cruises we have been on.  The small size of the ship has made it easier to get to know people on board and I have enjoyed the days at sea where there isn’t anything to plan and no early rising to go on a shore excursion.  I’m not sure that Jan is keen on the idea, but I think I would like one of the 14 day trans-Atlantic crossings.

This may be the last blog post until we get home.  We are down to our last 40 minutes of internet time which should be enough for tonight and tomorrow.  I can’t see buying more though I am glad I bought what I did.  It’s been fun being able to post from the ship and keep in touch with my friends.  If I have a couple minutes left tomorrow I’ll post a final report but don’t worry if I don’t.

I will try to add more pictures, probably as a separate web page, once we get home.

Panama Canal

We got up very early this morning as we were to arrive at the Gatun Locks on the east end of the canal at 6:30am.  It was extremely humid and hard to keep lenses and glasses from fogging up.  It seemed that every passenger on the ship was up to watch us enter the first locks.  This was the main reason for the trip for nearly everyone, including me.

The canal was impressive, and to think it was built around 100 years ago!  There have been improvements and modifications but the basic infrastructure has not changed all that much. All that work without modern earth-moving equipment must have been backbreaking.

We got through the Gatun Locks in less than an hour and then we were out on Gatun Lake for several hours.  Got to the locks on the Pacific side just after lunch.  We had been told it would be later than that but later I learned the average passage time is around 7 hours.  Unfortunately, the tall masts on The Wind Star mean we can only go under the Bridge of America in Balboa at low tide.  Hence we are docked until around 11PM before we can continue into the Pacific.

The weather was hot and sunny all day until we passed through the last lock and then we had a cloubburst with rain so hard the decks had 1/2 inch of water running on them.  Now (3:45pm) it’s overcast and still raining.  Another on-deck barbecue was planned for tonight.  Don’t know if it will happen but I’m sure all will be fine.

Two more days until we reach Costa Rica.


Spent today at the San Blas Islands, Panama.  A group of over 360 islands, only about 60 inhabited, all by indegenous people.  We went ashore at one island which was all thatched huts with narrow paths between.  Quite a difference from the previous ports of call.  Lots of native crafts for sale and many interesting sights.

We will be going through the Panama Canal tomorrow (12/12)  I’m really looking forward to the passage.  I’ve learned that there are web cams that allow you to watch ships in the locks.  I can’t give exact times but I think we will be going through the eastern locks around 6:30 am (EST) and the western locks around 6 or 7 pm.  The url is here  Look for a large white sailing vessel with 4 masts named Wind Star.

Anyone who can capture an image – I’d appreciate getting a copy.