Minnesota Stef and the Quest for the Gold Cross


We’ve spent the last three days in various ports in Spain.  Here’s my rundown of how things have been going so far:

Alicante –

I’ll confess that, before we signed on for this cruise, neither one of us had heard of Alicante, Spain.  The people who designed this itinerary must have never heard of Alicante either, because they only gave us like, 4 hours there.  Here’s some of what we did with that four hours.

We took a taxi from the ship to a bullfighting museum, because that sounded pretty interesting.  But since the ship had arrived at the crack of dawn, the bullfighting museum didn’t open for over an hour.  So we had some time to kill.  Nearby, there was an old, ruined castle on a hill, so we headed up.  Now, if you ever look up Alicante on the internet, you’ll see a lot about the famous castle of Santa Barbara on the hill.  That’s NOT the one we went to.  We went to the OTHER castle on a hill, which is not famous, not as tall, and currently covered with cell towers.  It was OK, I guess.  The weather was nice; we could see the ship from there

View from Castle We also learned that in Spain, if your dog poops on the sidewalk, you just leave it there.  Just like in Baker, California.

Poop Del Perro Dos“Jose, Dejar que se!”

Then we headed back down to the bullfighting museum.  There were a lot of those really tight pants that they wear, and a bunch of cut off bull ears.  I don’t know what I expected to see in a bullfighting museum, so I can’t say if it met those expectations or not.  If you go to Alicante with similarly vague expectations, the bullfighting museum may or may not meet them, so check it out.

After the “not-so-famous-other-castle-on-a-hill” and the bullfighting museum, I was famished, so we stopped at some restaurant with an English tagline on their sign.  They didn’t actually speak any English there, just what was on the sign, so we had to completely guess on the menu.  We guessed well.  We got some kind of open faced sandwiches there with various toppings on them.  They reminded me of those Stouffer’s French Bread Pizzas that you could get back in the 1980s.  Except that these were good.  (Can you still get those Stouffer’s French Bread Pizzas?)

 PizzasBetter than Stouffer’s French Bread Pizza from 1986.

After that, we wandered into some big, weird flea market of meat.  It was inside a building that looked like a train station.  And on the inside, it was divided up into little booths that were rented by every butcher in town, and it was basically just meat.  They had fish in the basement, but apparently not enough ice, because the smell was too strong to stay down there for more than a few moments.   The rest of the day was dedicated to Stef and her quest.  More on that later.

Malaga – Another nice Spanish town that you’ve probably never heard of

The next stop was Malaga, and thankfully, the ship stayed here a bit longer than the last stop.  We started off this day just walking around their downtown area which is very pedestrian friendly.  It was rare to see a car on these streets (which were actually paved with marble), so it made for easy strolling.  Then, we headed up to visit Alcatraz, which is an old Moorish fort up on a hill.  It was created sometime in the 1000’s, and has been added on to, renovated, and rebuilt a few times since then, just like Cher.  All in all, it was worth the hike up and the two-eurobucks-a-piece to get in.  Here’s the view from the top.

Alcatraz

Also – see these people?

GermansThese are possibly the only two Germans I’ve ever heard of who break in line.  If they’re behind you in line for the ticket machine at Abracadabra, watch out…

After the hike down from Alacazam, we set out in search of lunch.  Well, lunch, and a billion souvenir shops – but more on that later.  For lunch, I was determined to find some paella that was somewhat authentic, and I think we succeeded on that front.  Here’s our dish.

ScorpionsWhen it arrived, Stef asked me why there were scorpions on our lunch

Finally, we went into the six-eurobuck-a-piece Picasso museum.  Apparently, Picasso was born in Malaga – who knew.  So they’ve created a little museum there.  It was a pleasant couple hours staring at two-faced, three-breasted women, and then back onto the ship to head out of the Mediterranean to our next stop.

And now, a word about the Quest

Before leaving the US, Stef’s mother made a request that has basically turned our time ashore into that hellish nightmare that every guy has about going on vacation with a woman.  You know the one; it’s that nightmare where you get dragged into crap shop after crap shop after crap shop.  You see, Stef’s mother asked Stef to bring back a gold cross.  But apparently, this is not just any cross.

Crap ShopKill me now.  Please.

We looked all around the perimeter of the Vatican – but the crosses were not small enough.  (Technically, this means we circumnavigated an entire country looking for a cross!)  We looked in a hundred different souvenir shops in Rome – the crosses were not plain enough.  We looked in every souvenir shop in Alicante – not gold enough.  The crosses in all the souvenir shops in Malaga were not special enough.  And so we kept searching.

Stefany has become so focused on this that the only words of Spanish or Italian that she’s learned are “oro” and “oro”.  Yes, its’ the same damn word.

I don’t know what kind of mental picture Stef’s mother put in her head.  But I’m beginning to think  that it simply doesn’t exist.  I could have found anything else in the amount of time we’ve spent in crap shops.

For example, I’ve found a Dunkin Donuts.

Dunkin

I’ve found out that Mackenzie’s boyfriend is actually a Spanish Shipping magnate

Mario Lopez

I’ve found a large colony of feral cats.

Feral Cats

A HORSEMEAT BUTCHER – eeeeeeewwwww!

Horsemeat Butcher

I’ve also found anatomically correct tantric sex god statuettes, Roman gladiator helmets and swords, hookahs, and even a replica holy grail – but not this mythical gold cross.  Yes, you read that right I found the Holy Freaking Grail before Stef found this cross!

Cadiz –

But eventually, all annoying, irritating, stupid-crap-that-your-wife-makes-you-do-but-you-really-don’t-want-to-but-you-do-it-anyway-and-pretend-like-you’re-having-a-good-time-but-really,-you-die-a-little-inside-each-time-you-have-to-go-into-another-souvenir-shop experiences must come to an end, and so it did for us in Cadiz, Spain.

I have to admit, I had been hard at work trying to convince Stef that her mother would never know the difference between a gold cross found somewhere in Europe, and a gold cross found conveniently and easily at the Ft. Lauderdale Wal-Mart.  (Turns out, they both come from the same Chinese factory.)  But Stef was undeterred, and The Quest for the Gold Cross continued into this port on the Southerly Atlantic coast of Spain.  Out of sheer desperation, she decided to try the local jeweler who sells Rolex watches.

Jeweler

Now, when I said that Stef had only learned one word of Italian; well that wasn’t entirely correct.  She has also learned the word “Bancomat”, which is Italian for ATM.  And if you’re Stef, it’s also Italian for “husband”.  So when she wanted to go to the Rolex jeweler, and they had to buzz the door open to let us in, Bancomat got a bit nervous.

BancomatWill 300 Euro be enough, your majesty?

It all turned out fine though, and Stef was able to end her quest at Juan Antonio de Samaranch jewelers, or whatever the name of this place was.

And Mrs. Carr… if I ever, EVER see you, and you’re NOT wearing this stupid gold cross, I will hound you for the rest of your life.

But some more about Cadiz.  I mentioned that it’s on the Atlantic side of Spain, which means that we had to go through the Strait of Gibraltar to get to it.  Unfortunately, it was about 11:15pm when we went through.  So yes, we could see Africa and Europe from the deck at the same time, and yes, we could see the Prudential “get a piece of the rock” rock.  But it was very dark, and we were on a moving ship, so all of the pictures came out poorly, but I’ll try to help you out.

Created with Microsoft Fresh Paint

Gibraltar Geography for Dummies

Cadiz itself is also quite old, and it’s a popular stop for cruise ships.  It’s also the gateway port to Seville.  We could have taken a shore excursion into Seville, but all I could think that I wanted to do there was to go to the barber and get a haircut.  The Barber of Seville – get it?  (All my knowledge of classical music comes from Bugs Bunny.)  But the transfers to Seville would have set us back like $150, and in the end I decided it wasn’t that good of a joke.

So instead we walked around Cadiz and got a Smooy.  No, not a smoothie, a Smooy.

Smooy

What we also got at Smooy was free internet access, where Stefany got to obsessively search for pictures of her grandchildren.  There were none.  (Tyler and Anna – send her some damn pictures already.)

After Smooy, we headed out to another old castle on a hill, but this one was on a very short hill in the middle of the water.  When we got there, we realized it was closed.  Someone should tell the Spanish tourism authorities that it would be much more helpful to post this information at the beginning of the mile-long causeway instead of at the end of the mile long causeway.

Causeway

After that, we got lost heading back to the boat. When you’ve lived in Salt Lake City for fifteen years, you get used to navigating by referencing off the mountains.  So it really throws you off when you can’t see them.  We spent far more time wandering around the urban canyons of Cadiz than we wanted to, but it all turned out OK.  We rounded out the evening with a comedy show, and now we’re out at sea, headed to Ponta Delgada in the Azores.  I’m currently watching the back end of the boat pitch up and down by about 15 degrees.  I think it’s like an amusement park ride… Stef is searching for Dramamine.

More from the Atlantic later.



James is a former rocket scientist, a USA Cycling certified coach, and lifelong fitness buff. When he's not driving the RV, or modifying the RV (or - that one time - doing both at once), you can find him racing bicycles, or building furniture, or making music. In his spare time, he works for a large IT company.


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