Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Many Sadnesses

Cyn asked me if I had taken any closeup pictures of the tile designs in the Alhambra. Yes, I took dozens of them and even had one in particular that looked similar to a Celtic knot that I thought would be a wonderful Christmas ornament stitched in a red/green variation thread. I was going to post a picture of the design, but when I went to find the picture of that design, instead I found out that none of the pictures I took in Morocco, Gibraltar or the Alhambra (more than 70 there alone) had transferred successfully to my computer. I always transfer my digital pictures from the camera card to my hard disk as soon as possible and then delete the pictures on the card so that I can take more pictures. It has never failed me in the past, but it did this time.

This, along with my general surfeit of travel, has lead us to decide to come back a few days early. Instead of spending a few days in Lisbon, we will come back on Saturday. I would have left on Friday, but I couldn't make the flight arrangements. I probably will not have computer access again until we return, so I will post again in November.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Day at Rest

After several intensive days of touristing, I decided to stay on the boat today, even though we are docked in Cadiz, Spain. My husband walked around the town and loved it, but I was happy enough to sit in the Observation Lounge and stitch. And I got a lot of stitching done. Here is the last picture of Bothy's Cut-Thru Rocket. I have now backstitched most of the nosecone and stitched most of the cross stitch in the second stage. If I stitch about a third of the third stage I will have one page of nine completely stitched. That is actually more than a ninth of the pattern as there isn't a lot to stitch on pages one and three. There was actually a lovely English lady also stitching in the lounge. She was working on a large Dimensions kitchen alphabet. She said it would take her four more cruises to finish it.

The last three days were tours in Morocco, Gibraltar and Granada (while docked in Málaga). It was cloudy in Casablanca and rainy in Rabat. Either there isn't much to see there or we had a really awful tour. No museums, the outsides of some uninteresting buildings and a long, long bus ride. Gibraltar was wonderful. We took a tour of the World War II tunnels and had an exciting mini-bus ride through the narrow streets. I loved Gibraltar and would definitely go back. We didn't see much of Málaga, as we got on a bus for another, longer ride to Granada to see Alhambra, a Moorish citadel. It was really fabulous, even though we were walking for three hours. This picture shows some of the wonders; stucco work, tile, and carved wood. Every wall is different. There is also a Spanish part of the citadel where Queen Isabel lived and Washington Irving wrote. It deserves to be the most visited place in Spain.

Now we have our last formal dinner, so I need to help James into his tux and I have to get buttoned into my formal gown. I hope everyone is having a great week.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Stormy Finish

I should have finished this Monday afternoon, after we got back from walking around Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, but I spent a lot more time reading than stitching. Yesterday on our last full sailing day, I did get it out and finished it in about an hour. I even got out Cut-Thru Rocket and put two strands into that project, too. But by then our smooth cruising had finally found some weather. The ship ran into a 30 knots per hour headwind and 8 - 10 foot seas. Since the observation lounge is at the very front of the ship, the motion was pretty pronounced. I retreated to our midships cabin, but even there most activities were limited. I finally joined my husband in an early bedtime. We have a long, long tour to Casablanca and Rabat today.

On Monday as we were walking around Las Palmas, I looked up at a sign -- DMC! And so it was. This was a tiny, tiny store stocked to the rafters with buttons, trim, yarn, and every kind of DMC thread they make. There were a few kits and needlepoint tapestries, so I just had to buy a P & B kit made in Spain of some cheese, olives, and wine. It includes Aida cloth, so I will find some linen to stitch it on when I get back home. I have been looking for some Spanish cross stitch magazines, but I haven't seen any in the limited magazine stalls that I have run across. On one of his walks, my husband did get me a needlepoint magazine. They are fairly simple designs, but one of them may get stitched.

Our stop yesterday was Lanzarote, another Canary Island. It so dry that it is remarkable that it has any population at all. When I get back to a faster download speed, I'll upload some remarkable cactus pictures from a cactus garden with over 800 species. We also had some rather nice wine from a local vineyard where they grow the grapes on the black sand ground in shallow holes to protect them from the drying wind. I've never seen grapes grown except on trellises. Today we dock in Casablanca and take a tour to Rabat. This should a much different photography experience that what we have had so far in Spain in Portugal.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sail Away, Sail Away!

Yes, I have been enjoying stitching in the light filled observation lounge. I might even finish up this sheep today as it is a sailing day between Madeira and the Canary Islands. Then I should really do a bit more on my Cut-Thru Rocket, though I do have to admit that starting Three Chimneys is really, really tempting.

Here is a picture of our ship, the Seabourn Pride. We have been on three previous cruises with Seabourn, but all on the Spirit. Since the three Seabourn ships are identical, it really seems to be the same boat except some of the names of the common areas are changed. There are currently 195 passengers and 165 staff. That does mean that staff is around everywhere you look. They are constantly trying to feed you, but I am managing to resist eating most things, except for the extraordinary Black Forest Cake. Mmmmmm.

There was a Seaborn bus from the hotel in Lisbon to the boat. Checking in is accompanied by champagne, but doesn't take too long. They even produce a picture ID to get you on and off the ship (and sign up for the mucho expensive internet access). The first day of travel is just sailing, so I could relax. Yesterday we landed in Madeira. I was not interested in the general tours, but I did sign up for the helicopter tour. I love helicopters and small planes. I took twenty minutes of video over the incredibly steep hillsides covered in houses and trees. When I get back I will post some of it on Flickr. We also bought (surprise, surprise) some Madeira wine. It is a fortified wine similar to a vintage port. Good for after dinner sipping. Today is another sailing day to the Canary Islands. I plan to stitch (and to avoid the four meals a day they provide). I have been trying to keep up reading everyone's blogs, but I haven't been able to do much commenting because of the slow access speeds (and the 30 cents a minute access costs). I'll try to keep posting and comment more when I get back to dry land. Have a good week everyone.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

More Midnight Stitching

Here's what a little more after midnight stitching will bring you. About a quarter of the sheep's body is done now. I might even finish him this weekend, if I don't bring out something else to stitch tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow is one of our three cruising days on the boat. There are no landfalls and no tours and no getting up at certain times. Just stitching and reading when I want to. Now that is a vacation.

But we have spent some of our time in Barcelona touristing (instead of sleeping). This is the interior nave of Sagrada Familia, the masterpiece cathedral designed by Gaudí. The structure and decorations are filled with organic, natural forms. Notice how the columns split at the top like tree branches. At some point all the windows will be filled with abstract stained glass, but for now most of the windows are empty.

The most striking features so far are the tall, tall towers. You can take an elevator up in one of them and walk around narrow spiraling steps to see more of them through deep window niches. The building is a marvel wherever you look. I am glad to have seen it as the rest of Barcelona did not capture my imagination as Paris and London have. I really want to go back to Paris the next time we are in Europe. We might come back next year for the Venice Bienniale (contemporary art exhbition) that we very much enjoyed in 2005.

But right now we are in Lisbon at a gorgeous hotel, Lapa Palace. In about two hours we will get on a bus to the cruise ship and start our seagoing adventure. I always like sailing into or out of a harbor in the evening. The lights are usually fantastic. I don't know if I will be able to post again until we leave the boat in two weeks. I know when we sailed last, there were dedicated computers that you could use, but they might not let me upload pictures (or even use them for more than five or ten minutes). If I don't speak to you again until then, I hope everyone is having a great October.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

One Advantage to Jet Lag

One advantage to jet lag is that when you are up very late at night you can always stitch. This is another Bent Creek Sheep kit called Freedom. I didn't stitch this on the plane from San Francisco to Frankfurt because it was an overnight flight, so the cabin lights were off. It was DARK. But I did start it in the Frankfurt airport in the United First Class Lounge waiting for our flight to Barcelona. Then I kept going after we crashed Thursday afternoon and woke up at o'dark o'clock on Friday morning. There have been a few more stitches done every night that I have been up in the middle of the night. I should have this finished by the time we finish the cruise.

Overall I have been fighting such bad jet lag that I haven't done as much sightseeing as I usually do. The best thing in Barcelona has been the two and half hour Gourmet walking tour we took Saturday morning. There were eleven of us on the English language tour; some English, Australians, and New Zealanders. The guide was Catalonian, but spoke excellent English. He had a braodcasting microphone and we all had iPod like receivers. This was great as you didn't have to be standing right next to him to hear what he had to say. We started off at a Granja (farm). No, not a real farm, but a cafe/store that used to have real cows and sold fresh milk and fresh milk products. Now they sell bottled milk, curd, and cheese. But it is best known as the place that grandparents take their grandkids and treat them with chocolate milk. We also visited a patisserie. Although Spanish food is olive oiled based, Barcelona's butter based breakfast pastries and desserts are French. The northern parts of Spain do not have the strong Arabic influences of the southern part of Spain. This picture is from the famous Barcelona Boqueria (market). Although not as large as Les Halles in Paris, it still has an impressive array of fruits, vegetables, meats (especially cured hams) and seafood. We also visited a Torron (nougat candy maker), a cafe that predominately serves a rich, thick chocolate drink, and ended up with at a wine bar, including a nice glass of white wine and a salami tapas. That was a lot of walking for me, but I kept up.

We just came back from Sagrada Familia, the unfinished cathedral started by Gaudí. It is quite impressive, but like most of the tourist sites in Barcelona is was packed with people. If it is this crowded on a weekday in October, I am glad we were not here in the summer. Tomorrow morning we leave Barcelona for Lisbon. We will just be there one night before we board the Seabourn Pride on Thursday afternoon. Since we will have a few days in Lisbon after the cruise, I don't plan to try and see anything in Lisbon this week. An evening reading and stitching sounds just fine to me.

Once again this is written on Tuesday afternoon at 3:15 PM and not six in the morning. I suppose I could get Blogger to recognize that I am in a different time zone, but I think I won't fight it. I hope everyone is having a lovely week.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Arrived at Last!

Now I can show you the stitched piece I sent to Sari for the Stitching Blogger's Birthday Club along with the threads and charts. Check her blog to see it all. This was the first flatfold I have tried and it came out pretty well. I'd like to do better on the corners next time.

We arrived safely (but totally jet lagged) in Barcelona last Thursday. We have seen some things (Picasso Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art), but not as much as I had planned. We are sleeping during the day and up all night (like right now). We will do a bit more sightseeing tomorrow and head off to Lisbon on Wednesday. Thursday we start our cruise! Now that I am really looking forward to. Another post later with some new stitching news.

Mmmm. I tried to post this as 10/14/08, 1:48 AM (the time in Barcelona), but Blogger thinks I want to post it tomorrow. So I will just let this post on Pacific Time and let you imagine me typing away in a semi-dark hotel room with my husband snoring in the comfy bed. I'll join him there shortly.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Not Much

That is a pitiful lot of backstitching in one week, if you ask me. I may not have been stitching, but I have been organizing and kitting things up for the Really Long Trip. I have decided not to take these ornaments with me. There are a lot of fiddly bits that might get lost on a long trip. But really, while I have been stitching this I have been jonesing for a new start. So I have kitted up another Bent Creek sheep (Freedom) for the plane. Stitching on 25 count is just the ticket for the variable lighting you find on airplanes. Then I do need to work on some goal stitching, so Cut-Thru Rocket and Flower Fairy will come with me. I also have a tiny Trilogy Autumn Alphabet on 32 count that should be quick to finish and Summer Sheep (on 28 count white) that I can stitch on the plane trip back. Last, but not least, I am taking Cross Eyed Cricket's Three Gables (30 count) with me. It's been kitted up for years and I really want to work on it. The ship we will be on for two weeks (Seabourn Pride) has a lovely observation lounge that is filled with sunlight. On previous trips I spent a lot of time up there reading or working on jigsaw puzzles. This time I will stitch. The boat does stop at a lot of different ports, but there are two or three days of pure sailing that will be a real luxury, especially in the afternoons when they serve really scrumptious English tea and sandwiches.

We fly to San Francisco tomorrow (no, I am NOT packed yet as I had planned to be). I get my hair done, finally sleep, and we fly to Frankfurt (Wednesday to Thursday morning) and Barcelona (Thursday afternoon). I used to be able to fly to Australia and conduct seven days of classes (in seven different cities), but not any more. I know I will be horribly jet lagged, so plan to take it easy in Barcelona. We fly to Lisbon on the following Wednesday for the night and get on the boat the following Thursday. Since these are all civilized countries (unlike say, Cambodia), I should have some internet access, so I plan to publish some stitching progress along the way.

I have been very depressed about my Stitching Blogger's Birthday Club package. I sent it Express Mail last Monday. They said it would take three days to get there. The recipient's birthday was on Saturday. I kept checking the USPS website, but it just said that it left Los Angeles on Tuesday. I was about to call them this morning, but one final check of the USPS site said that the package had been delivered this morning. RELIEF! Next time I'll use DHL or FedEx.

So back I go to packing and organizing. I have more than 24 hours worth of projects, but only 20 hours until the taxi picks us up tomorrow morning. I hope everyone has a great week.