ED’S 82 DAY GRAND ASIA & PACIFIC SAILING WITH HOLLAND AMERICA – PART 3

October 11, 2018 – Petropavlovsk, Kamchatka, Russia

1.jpg

Petropavlovsk is a fairly architecturally uninteresting place with streets lined with grim, Soviet inspired apartment blocks.  However, it does have a magnificent setting on Avacha bay and is overlooked by two giant volcanoes and surrounded by a long line of snow-capped mountains.

A visa is required by Russia for Canadians visiting the country.  The easiest way for us to accomplish this was by booking one of the ship’s tours which then included the visa.  Frankly, I was not expecting much from this remote Russian town that can only be accessed by plane or by ship.  Being quite isolated, I expected that we would see a bunch of worn out, rusty old Lada automobiles driving around gravel streets.  On the contrary, there are a lot of Hondas, Toyotas and Nissans.  The reason we were told, was that they were a lot more reliable and easier to get than Russian made autos.  The funny thing was that while they drive on the right side of the road, the majority of vehicles also have the steering wheel on the right side of the cars.

Our first stop was Trinity Cathedral, Petropavlovsk’s largest and most impressive church. Despite looking ancient, the church was built in the early 21st century.  From here there are great views of the bay.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

From the church we proceeded to the Crimean War Memorial.  This memorial and small chapel commemorates the lives lost in the Battle of Petropavlovsk, a little-remembered clash between the British, French and Russian forces during the Crimean War.

The drive up to Mishennaya Hill was an easy ascent and provided excellent views of town and Avacha Bay.

On to the Museum of the USSR.  We had been warned not to expect much from this museum where most everything has been donated by the local population.  As such, we were not disappointed.  Lot’s of old stuff but still interesting to see things we grew up with, but Russian made or dare I say, copied.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our final stop was at their town market.  Was I ever surprised!  Again, I expected an outdoor market with a few things but this was a very modern indoor market with many shops selling every kind of ware.  Since Petropavlovsk is essentially a fishing town (although the Russians have a nuclear submarine base there which we were not privy to see), I was interested to see the fish market.  An unbelievable assortment of fish but a huge amount of salmon, their main catch.  There were containers and containers of salmon roe (caviar) from several salmon species.  The picture below was only a very, very small sampling of the local caviar offerings.

17

Back on the ship, I just had to take a picture of the Customs Officers checking everyone’s documentation leaving and returning to the ship.

18

That’s it for this blog…next stop Japan after a couple more days at sea.  Thanks for reading along.

Colleen’s Strolling Through Spain – Part 8

So our tour of Spain has come to an end and we have had an incredible trip. Spain is quite inexpensive compared to other European countries. Where else can you get a beer for 1.60EUR and Sangria for 3.20EUR. Our suppers were running around 20-25EUR depending on the menu and tipping one or two euros was met with smiles and gracias.

Here are a few tips for your trip to Spain:

  • In the larger cities, always take the Metro. It is inexpensive and a quick and way to cover a lot of ground. If you are not sure how to use the Metro just stop by the office and I can give you a quick lesson.
  • Always buy your tours in advance. The lineup for tickets to the Royal Palace was 1 hour long in 37 degree heat so having your tickets and skipping that line is a no brainer.
  • Arrive in your destination the day before your first tour so you can get the lay of the land and find your tour office or pickup location before the tour.
  • Learn a few words in Spanish as they really appreciate the effort and English is not Blog 8 - travel essentialscommon in the smaller towns.
  • Use the local transportation. In Spain the bus is very efficient and very affordable. We took a bus ride from Lugo to Sarria which is 30 minutes for 2.10EUR. Trains and busses will get you where you want to go and take you to the heart of the city.
  • In the smaller communities credit card is not always accepted so you will need cash. ATMs can be found in the smallest of cities.
  • Stop and spend time at the many outdoor cafes. They are happy to have you even if you are only having drinks
  • last but not least; our two best purchases were a small shampoo bar from the Lush store which was easy to carry and no worries it will spill and a charger for the phones for Spain. We stopped in at the Ale-Hop which is like a Knick knack store and bought on for 5.00EUR so we could charge 2 phones at one time. No converter needed.

If Spain is not on your bucket list it should be. The history along with so many different regions make this destination a must to visit. City to sea it is all there waiting for you in Spain.

Get Social With us @UniglobeCarefree on Facebook and @uniglobeYXE on Instagram and Twitter

 

Colleen’s Strolling Through Spain – Part 7

Madrid CathedralWe left Santiago de Compostela by high speed train and arrived in Madrid 5 hours later. We are staying in an apartment by the Atocha train station and what is known as museum row. It is really hot. We arrived at 1:00 and it was already 32 degrees and went to 37 that day. It is much too hot to walk so we have to take the Metro most places to limit our time in the sun. A 3 day metro pass is 18.00EUR and we have put it to good use. Madrid is a beautiful city made up of some of the world’s best art museums, beautiful buildings, 400 fountains and home of Real Madrid for all the soccer fans. If you have time a tour of the stadium is really something even if soccer is not your thing. It is massive and seats 85,000 people with area for standing room fans. We also did a tour of the Royal palace which is really great. In most of the big cities we have visited we’ve ran into a walking tour that is free and you just tip what you think the tour is worth. It’s a great value for a 3 hour tour.   If you have time, a trip to one of the cities rooftop terraces will give you a great view of the city complete with drinks and water misters to help combat the heat.  A couple of nights we headed out after dark to see Madrid at night. All of the buildings and fountains are lit up giving you a different view of the city.  This is a city that we would gladly visit again.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Colleen’s Strolling Through Spain – Part 6

Well today was our last day on the Camino Monument 2 - Blog 6and we walked about 5 hours to get to Santiago. The trail became very crowded and there were a lot of groups all heading into the city.  The mood became festive with singing and cheering. Everyone seemed eager to get to the end.  And then suddenly you could see the city and we stopped at the pilgrim monument just before the city to take it all in. We arrived at the square in front of the church and it was great to watch the people.  Some had walked 800km and were on the trail for over 30 days.  As for me, I am glad to finish our 113km but also a little sad to say goodbye to the people in our group. We are a group of 13 people that have bonded over the journey. You get the opportunity to walk and talk with everyone. We were usually out about 8 hours a day so there was plenty of time to get to know everyone. We took our pictures and then head back to the hotel for a shower.  Now we will do what all pilgrims do. We will get our Compostela (ours will be written in Latin), go to the pilgrims mass at the cathedral (this mass is all in Spanish), hug the statue of St James, buy our Camino trinkets have one last supper with the gang and then off to bed.  One more thing on our bucket list has been accomplished!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If you are interested in experiencing the Camino de Santiago for yourself I would strongly recommend working with G Adventures.  Our agents would love to help you with all of your travel arrangements.

Uniglobe Basebar

Colleen’s Strolling Through Spain – Part 5

So we have been on Camino for a couple of days now and it is quite the experience. Training for the walk in Saskatoon is great for the mileage but you need to train for a lot of hills which in Saskatoon can be a challenge. The trail has just as many hills as flats and the hills are steep.  The good news is there always seems to be a small restaurant right before a climb so you can stop for treats and sweets for energy. Every restaurant has fresh baking so Jorgen, my husband, is very happy. Along the way there have been some great small churches that are really old. It’s great to just visit them and soak in the centuries of history and imagine all the pilgrims that have come before you. They smell of incense and candles.  We take a few moments at each to get our passports stamped and then we move on to the next stop. Since we are only walking the last 100km I can only comment on Galicia; but it is a beautiful walk through forests of eucalyptus trees and tunnels of green. The beauty around us helps to take your mind off the walking.  So far I have no blisters so my luck is holding! Our last two days have been shorter walks but the mileage will increase as we head for Santiago.

Here are some of the churches and restaurants we visited along the way.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Colleen’s Strolling Through Spain – Part 4

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our first day on the Camino was a bit of a learning curve but with a guide everything is taken care of.   Our guide, Mercedes, made sure we kept on the right trail and reminded us to pace ourselves. The thing about Camino is not to worry about getting to your next destination but to enjoy the journey.   There are small restaurants along the way, every 30 minutes or so, so you can always get something to drink and use the bathrooms.  I thought that the Camino would be so much busier but there are times when we are walking alone. We stopped at a beautiful restaurant for over an hour just enjoying the food and our new friends. That’s another great thing about traveling in a group!  You meet people from all over the world. We have people from South Africa, Ireland, London, Melbourne and Canada on our tour.  After 8 hours we arrive at our first destination the riverside city of Portomarin.  That’s 23km down and 90 more kilometres to go. Now it’s time for a cold beer.

Portomarín Church

Church in Portomarin

Colleen’s Strolling Through Spain – Part 3

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our next adventure in Spain is to walk the Camino. The Camino de Santiago is an 800km walk that starts in France and ends up in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. We were interested in walking the Camino but not the full 800km. We opted to go with G Adventures and hike the last 100km. It starts in Sarria and ends in Santiago. Some of the advantages of travelling with G Adventures are that you do not have to carry a backpack; your luggage is moved between hotels for you. You stay in small hotels instead of dormitory style accommodations and you have a guide that takes care of everything.  Your only job is to just get up every day and walk.   At the beginning of the walk, you get a Credencial Del Peregeino that is like a passport and you have to get at least 2 Stamps a day to prove that you have walked the 100km.  You can get them stamped at churches or at one of the many small restaurants along the way. Most people get far more than 2 by the end of the day.  We leave tomorrow for our first 24km hike. Now we are off to see Sarria.