22 Aug 2018

Maspalomis, Grand Canaria, Canery Islands 2018

We needed a break from our vacation. Mission accomplished. We flew down to Maspalomis, a resort town in south Grand Canaria Island in The Canary Islands. We chilled for four days. It is a long ways away, but worth it. We shall return. Notwithanding the location it is definitely Spanish in all respects. They have been in control for over 500 years.
The Seaside Grand Hotel Residencia is considered by many to be the best in The Canary Islands and we were not disappointed. The room, service, ambiance and food all were excellent.
Whether you look up the beach or down, people were always coming or going. We managed to score a couple quiet lounges and umbrellas. The beach is over two miles long with gigantic sand dunes.
Of note is that the sand is the hottest I ever have experienced; way hotter than Hawaii. It required wearing flip flops to the water's edge.
One day we took a tour across and around the island. Being volcanic, it rises 6,000 feet and was quite windy, but with open beauty. There is lots of hiking, 4 wheeling, and cycling.
This particular cactus is known for its laxative powers.
They even have camel rides available.
Las Palmas, the main city, is across the island. We had lunch there overlooking the beach.
Last night we walked to town and loved that we ventured out.
We have had many great meals around the world and Las Rias adds to that list. Even more striking was that neither of us could get over the beauty of the restaurant and the A+ ambiance looking over the water. The only thing close for me for ambiance is probably Michel's in Honolulu.
Spain is such a breath of fresh air for us versus France. It so much less hectic, the people usually are nicer and the prices are dirt cheap by comparison. Having said that France still has a certain something going for it.

18 Aug 2018

Madrid, Spain 2018

As long as we were changing planes in Madrid anyway, we decided to stay for a couple days mainly to take in The Prado, one on the world's great art museums.

We hired an outstanding private guide company whom I recommend -  Madrid Museum Tours. Mr. Hernan A. Satt, the owner guided us personally. I only wish we had more time.

We saw several of the world famous paintings including one of my favorites The Garden of Earthly Delights Triptych (1490 - 1500) by Hieronymus Bosch. It is about heaven, hell, creation, sin and so many other things. Our guide could have spent all day explaining it and it is the third time I have seen it. Very busy painting. 

Allyn wanted to check out The Three Graces (1630 - 1635) by Reubens. He has never done much for me, but I had a whole new appreciation of his art, and him, after I heard the story of the painting. It is supposed to be about virgins living with Greek gods, frolicking and having a good time. We learned about painting in primary colors, blue tints blah blah blah.

Then I found out that the artist would not sell it, even to the King, his benefactor. It turns out the lady on the right is his first wife and the lady on the left his second, and then current wife. He said the middle lady was just the model, but apparently was his mistress. Anyway he loved the painting, it was very personal, and I can see why he wouldn't sell it. Then as soon as he dies the wife wants to get rid of it because she couldn't stand seeing his mistress, even from behind. 400 years ago and nothing has changed.

Also she particularly likes Las Meninas (1656) by Diego Velazquez. The painter is in the painting along with royalty; a definite no no. Since he and the King are actual buddies in real life, it was not a royal issue. It shows the view from the eyes of the King even though it was supposed to be about him. To see it properly you need to turn around and look at it with a mirror. For example the painter was left handed.

Speaking of Velazquez, I loved his Portrait of Queen Mariana of Austria (1652,53). It is a great story with the fun being about (not so) secret Jewishness. In order not to get in trouble, he painted it for his friend the King, but for his eyes only. The artist's family was among those Jewish families who converted to Christianity, and secretly remained Jewish,  or they would have been expelled from Spain.

Some items to note in the painting. Both hands have fingers showing Hebrew letters. She is wearing an upside down Hannakia on her head complemented by 8 bars on her dress. If you look close at her white hankie, it is the face of Moses.

Then we enjoyed a relaxing hop on hop off tour viewing vast tree lined boulevards and checking out the architecture parks, and squares. 
The dinner choice was superb. We ate at TenconTen, a restaurant with all the attributes we like: good food, service, ambiance, in, trendy, different levels of music depending where you dine and lovely all around. Plus it was an easy walk for a few blocks.
Since we ate at 9, the bar was hopping and the dining room almost empty but for us few early bird Americans. Every seat was taken when we left at 11.
 The gin and tonic tasted as good as it looked.

16 Aug 2018

Cannes, France 2018

This is the daytime view from our hotel room. 

Cannes has many similarities to Saint-Tropez. They both are on the French Riviera, are all about sun, beaches, shopping, eating and fancy people and are too crowded in July and August. Cannes is bigger but Saint-Tropez is equally as crowded.

Right on the Pier at the Marina is Gaston Gastonette, a famous, casual, good fish restaurant that I have patronized for years.

Nothing says great Cannes seafood like Astoux & Brun. They are right there opening up oysters on the corner. The place is jammed every night by 7 o'clock and they don't take reservations. The food is terrific; the place is fun, and the prices are reasonable. We seem to always strike up fun conversations at these outdoor places.
Six times during the summer there is a huge sophisticated fireworks (with music) contest enjoyed by 200,000 people each time. Hours before people line the beach in anticipation.
We watch them from our hotel room window. Never have I seen such pyrotechnics as here. They get better every year.

13 Aug 2018

Saint-Tropez, France 2018

Let there be no misunderstanding. After spending a week in Iceland, nobody would confuse it with Saint-Tropez. Iceland is such magnificent raw beauty. The only beauty in San Tropez is the hotel, restaurants, beaches, stores, night clubs, and the people. Oh, and the weather. 
We were thrilled to be back at La Reserve. This is the only hotel in the world that we have stayed at several times and always have been thrilled all the way down the line with things. 
Dinner the first evening was in Ramatuelle at La Forge, a beautiful hillside restaurant that we ate at last trip also. 
Day time is beach time in Saint Tropez. I used my shirt as a hat, just like when I was a Hells Angel.
 As usual, Allyn was the most elegant lady on the beach. 
It is alway fun walking around town and checking out the yachts.  
Le Girelier is an elegant spot right across the walk from the yachts.If you can believe it, those beige things on the side salad are truffles. They are apparently so much cheaper here than in the states.
Au Caprice des Deux is one of those casual side street restaurants with great food at reasonable prices (by ridiculous Saint-Tropez standards) 
Next stop is Cannes. We took a helicopter to combine the beautiful view of the French Riviera with saving several hours of drive time.

09 Aug 2018

Reykjavik, Iceland 2018

 We toured around Reykjavik on a Hop On Hop Off bus. That's always fun.
 We got off at Harpa, their convention center and conference hall. Notice the flags in the photo. Those are Gay Pride flags. Saturday is the annual Gay Pride Parade. They expect 100,000 from around the world.
 Then we just walked around. Allyn did a little posing at The Sun Voyager Sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason. It seems that the artist intended it to convey the promise of undiscovered territory, a dream of hope, progress and freedom.
 Höfdi House - We stayed at a very nice boutique hotel, Tower Suites, that occupies just the top floor of a 20 story office building. From our window we overlooked a cute little house. It turns out that Höfdi House was where the 1986 world famous meeting took place between presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, that effectively marked the end of the Cold War. That is legit historical significance.
Also today I learned how to make the ö.
There goes our ship, off to another voyage.