Tuesday 17 June 2014

Madrid Day 2 - June 17, 2014

It is finally here... Our last day of our spectacular four country tour.

We were treated to a panoramic historical tour in Madrid. During our tour our local guide described why the city was being cleaned... Madrid is preparing for the coronation of  Spain's new king. We saw sights such as: The Royal Palace, Plaza de Espana, Apollo and the Four Seasons's statue, Neptune's fountains, the Metropolis and lots of greenery.  After the panoramic tour choir members toured the Prado Museum. This museum is one of the best galleries of classical paintings in the world.


The afternoon was spent with free time and we don't have to tell you what most choir members did in their down time. Suffice it to say it wasn't resting in their rooms.

This evening we had our final evening together and said our good-byes. Then  the auctioning began for free space in suitcases and then to our rooms early to pack for our very early departure on our flights home.

Hasta la vista, baby from your HHMAC Bloggers.  

Taken at the End of the World
End of Our Blog
Hope you enjoyed!

On our way to Madrid - June 16, 2014

Early rise in the morning to catch our pumpkin coach to Madrid. We all have been made to feel like princesses since we left home. We had a long drive to Madrid but the drive was broken up by a trip to a local winery of Valdepenas Winery. We were treated to a V.I.P. tour of the winery and then what a delicious meal we had of salad, local dish of of migas, a pork dish and a local dish of panna de galatraba. We had an amazing visit with amazing people. We thanked these wonderful people with "May The Good Lord Bless and Keep You." A magical moment!


Back on the coach for a 3 hour drive to Madrid and to check into our final hotel for this trip.

We arrived at our hotel and checked in long enough to brush our teeth and out of the gates and on to our Flamenco Dance evening at Villa Rosa. We witnessed the pure art of the dance and were mesmerized by the dancers freestyle dance that told a story of sadness, pain and then joy. The dancers moved with such passion it looked like each one of the dancers danced to exhaustion. The dances were not choreographed and were based on what the dancers felt or how they wanted to express the story. When the dance was finished the dancers and audience were breathless.


 Back to the hotel and to bed after a long travel day and a wonderful evening.

Gibraltar - June 17, 2014

Rise and shine and off to another country. Today we headed to Gibraltar, a British territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean Sea. The bus ride to the border was 1 hour, however, a couple minutes walk across a bridge brought us into another country. Three countries and two continents in a couple of days!

The amazing sight of the Rock of Gibraltar was breathtaking as slight wisps of cloud drifted across the top of the Rock. The Rock is the only landmark of the region.

We boarded our two minibuses and were given a tour of the region where we were brought on a panoramic tour of the of the lower part of Gibraltar and stopped for a Kodak moment at the Trinity Lighthouse.

Back on the buses to start our climb to the to nature reserve where we were wowed by the spectacular St. Michael's Cave.  We shared our experience with the approximately 230 Barbury Macques, the only wild monkeys found in Europe. One of our choir members not only shared the sightseeing experience but also her ice cream. A momma monkey insisted that our lady choir member share all her ice cream with her. To get the monkey off her back she graciously complied with the request.
Later on in the day we performed our last concert of our travels in "Casements Square." We opened with O Canada and God Save Queen. It wasn't long before we had the onlookers clapping along with us. Under the hot sun we closed with an emotional Ode to Newfoundland.

We then proceeded to the marina and to a delicious English supper of Fish and Chips. A delight to many travellers as this was reminiscent of meals from home. Back to the hotel and pack for our final stop - Madrid (home of our Tour Guide Manager - Adriana).

Sunday 15 June 2014

Morocco - June 14, 2014

Today we experienced three forms of transportation: by land, by sea and by camel.

In the early morning we boarded our coach and travelled to the port of Tarifa, Spain. We then boarded our high speed ferry to embark on our next adventure to Tangier, Morocco. Hello, Africa!


We met our guide and our bus driver, both called Mohamed. So we had Mohamed squared not Mohamed pie. As you can see, Mohamed is a very common name in Arabic countries. Mohamed our guide was dressed in the traditional garb of a kaftan which is a long robe without a hood.

He explained there were two garbs, the kaftan and the djellaba. The djellaba has a hood. The assistant guide sported a kaftan and the banana slippers known as balgha. Our bus tour began with a short stop where many of our choir members enjoyed a short ride on a high camel ride.

We then did a walking tour to see the old city, Medina, the Kasbah and Zoco Market. The Zoco market was wacko! We retreated to a traditional lunch of flat bread, soup, shish kabob, chicken, couscous, sweets and mint tea. The relaxing lunch was followed by the most craziest shopping spree ever seen. The ladies quickly learned the bartering system and although we were all very smart looking in our green golf shirts and khakis the long trail of men following us was not because of our assemble... It was because of our pocketbooks and the eager look to buy in our eyes. We learned that relentlessness and persistence takes on a whole new meaning.

After a very tiring day of bartering and beating off pursuers we embarked  on our ferry ride back to Spain and to meet our coach driver. We ended our day with a lovely bus stop for a picnic of shared sandwiches, tea, chips, cheese and crackers. We were very tired campers when we got back to our hotel.

Marbella and Malaga - June 13, 2014

We arrived in Marbella, one of the most important tourist cities of the Costa del Sol on Friday the 13th. Sun, sand and water were the order of the day. We checked into our hotel and then the choir members dispersed with some people heading to the beach and others hopping on the coach to explore the city of Malaga.

The Malaga group were taken on a city tour where they viewed sites such as the Malaga Cathedral that is also referred to as the One Armed Lady as one of the upper sections of the cathedral is unfinished.

The group was then treated to having the opportunity to view a Roman theatre that was unearthed at the foot of Alcazaba fortress. This theatre dates back to third century AC.

A very relaxing day that was followed by a wonderful buffet dinner that was enjoyed on the terrace of our hotel.

Friday 13 June 2014

Sevilla Welcomes Us - June 12, 2014

We said good-bye to our Palace in the Algarve and a sad farewell to Portugal and boarded our coach with Jose Antonio expertly navigating the narrow streets. On to our next destination.... Sevilla, Spain.

Farewell to our Palace in the Algarve

After a few hours on the coach we arrived Sevilla, Spain and a whopping 42 degrees Celsius greeted us. Our first order of business was a very "tame" boat trip over the Guadalqauivir River. Sevilla's habour is the only river port in Spain and is approximately 80 kms from the Atlantic Ocean. On board our river boat and after much prompting from our Tour Guide Manager, Adriana, the captain of the boat played The Macarena and we showed Adriana how the dance went. "Praise His Holy Name" it was a private cruise for the choir.
River Boat
Teaching the Macarena

After our boat trip we had some free time where we had lunch and of course we managed to squeeze in "Retail Therapy". We were then treated to a tour of the third largest cathedral in the world (a UNESCO Heritage site), The Cathedral of St. Mary of the See, better known as Seville Cathedral and also known as the largest Gothic cathedral.

Pipe Organ
Stain Glass

Inside this magnificent cathedral we visited the tomb where it is believed Christopher Columbus is buried. In this cathedral we were treated to seeing a spectacular pipe organ that required 40 people to play and operate. The organ was crafted out of mahogany that was shipped from Cuba. Other features of the cathedral were the breathtaking stained glass that are under constant restoration.

Christoper Columbus Tomb

We then checked into our hotel for a one night stay in Sevilla where we were treated to a dip in the roof top pool. A nice way to end our hot day.

Wednesday 11 June 2014

Helloooo Algarve - We Have Arrived

After a 280 km ride on our coach driven by our wonderful Driver Joaquam we arrived in Vila Moura, a touristic village where we enjoyed lunch and shopping. On a full tummy we embarked on our Extreme Adventure "Cruise" in search of dolphins. Choir members and companions were expecting a leisurely ride on the bay... and boy were we surprised! We boarded one of three 11 to 12 passenger zodiacs and the thrill ride started. It was better than any ride at Disney. For most of us it was a thrill of a lifetime!

Our Extreme Boating Adventure

After our extreme boat cruise, we checked into our palace for the next few nights - The Pousada Palacio de Estoi. It was truly a palace that is now an exclusive hotel. We enjoyed a gourmet meal that was prepared for our adventure in the Algarve. We also said a sad farewell to our bus driver, Joaquim and welcomed our new bus driver, Jose Antonio.

At the End of the World
The next day we were treated to a buffet breakfast that was staged to overlook the "Royal Garden". Then we boarded our luxury coach for Sagres, the most western point of the European continent, once called the End of the World. What do women do when they are told they have 15 minutes at the end of the world?  They shop !!! And shop we did!

After our shopping spree we escaped the end of the world and boarded our coach to Lagos. This is a historic centre of the Portuguese age of discovery, frequent home of Henry the Navigator and once the centre of the European slave trade. In the evening we dined on a traditional Portuguese meal of  Cataplana.

On the next day we toured Tavira, often referred to as the Venice of the Algrave. During our tour we had the opportunity to sing "Fare Thee Well" in a local church called Igrejada Misericordia.
and some free time for.... wait for it....... Retail Therapy!

At Faro City Hall
In the evening we performed at the Museu Municipal de Faro with two other choirs, Coral Ossonoba (a youth choir and an adult choir). This venue was a concert under the stars in an restored convent. The choirs and the audience were most welcoming and we thoroughly enjoyed performing in this beautiful place with wonderful people.  This was a highlight sharing our music with the people of the Algarve.