Places of Interest
Here are a few especially memorable places that we have visited so far both in 2021/22, and more recently during this summer of sailing in 2023. Entries are listed in reverse chronological order.
Corinth Canal - Greece
We originally planned to sail south down the Ionian Sea from Corfu to Crete, Greece. On a spontaneous change-up though, we decided to divert east to the (horrendously expensive) Corinth Canal for the experience of transiting through one of the world's great engineering feats. We weren't disappointed. Here are some interesting facts about the canal that connects the Ionian Sea and Aegean Sea:
The Corinth Canal is 4 miles long and 80 feet wide
The Roman emperor Nero was the first to attempt digging the canal in the year 67 AD. The labor of 6,000 prisoners of war completed only 1/10th of the distance.
After several subsequent failed attempts, the canal was finally completed in 1893 after 11 years of construction
The canal is plagued with frequent closures due to landslides from the soft limestone walls and erosion from heavy tidal currents.
German scorched-earth actions during WWII filled the canal with train locomotives, collapsed bridge material and multiple landslides. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cleared it for a 1948 re-opening.
Portofino - Genoa, Italy
We had all been looking forward to visiting Portofino for a while, and we finally made it! This cute fishing village had the tiniest marina we have ever been in, so we were lucky to get a spot. We spent 2 full days taking in the beautiful architecture, eating gelato (sometimes twice a day), and peeking into the luxurious stores. The village was quite small, so 2 days seemed like the perfect amount of time to stay.
La Sagrada Familia Basilica by Antonio Gaudi (Click on right arrow to scroll a few more stunning interior photos)
(L-R, Top): Casa Batllo - Home designed by Antonio Gaudi, Interior of Casa Batllo, Basillica of Santa Maria del Mar
(L-R, Bottom): La Boqueria market, Interior of Market, Charming balconies lining the streets
Sample of performance at Tablao Flamenco Codobes
We absolutely fell in love with Barcelona. This vibrant city was very pedestrian-friendly and had a very social atmosphere with outdoor cafes lining streets, alley ways and squares every few blocks. The architecture had so much character, especially in the Gothic Quarter. Most notable, the buildings designed by Anotonio Gaudi, were very organic, thoughtfully designed and stunning in nature. La Sagrada Familia Basilica was so awe-inspiring and is not to be missed! Our meals out were splendid - we ate so healthy and well and our dishes were beautifully presented. (See Megan's food blog)
Ronda - Malaga, Spain
After our second Atlantic crossing, Mom met us in Gibraltar. For the first time on this trip, we rented a car and booked a one-night hotel stay in Ronda. A city in the Malaga province, Ronda is known for the deep gorge separating the old town from the new town. In order to get there, we drove through beautiful and expansive terrain, where we often found ourselves navigating some VERY narrow and steep streets. We even happened upon a village (Juzcar) in which all the buildings were blue. This was, apparently, to celebrate the premiere of the popular Sony picture film - The Smurfs.
Saint-Pierre and Mt. Pelée
This post is turning into a volcano gallery! Since most of the islands we go to have multiple volcanos, we are always looking for good hikes to the craters. The town of Saint-Pierre sits right under Mt. Pelée - an active volcano that last erupted in 1902. The whole town was destroyed, killing around 29,000 people. Since then, the town has been rebuilt despite the still-active volcano looming above it. My dad and I hiked up to the crater in about 1.45 hours despite being rained on almost the whole way up. Besides not being able to see much in the thick fog, the wind also got very strong at the top (gale force winds!).
Petit Piton in St. Lucia
We climbed to the top of that steep thing! Although the research we did before the climb described hiking Petit Piton as a "scramble, and not such an easy one at that", it did say that it was possible. This was by far the most technical hike I have ever done. We were required to hire a guide to show us where to climb, as the path was maintained by the local guides. There were at least 40 ropes tied to trees and roots that we used to hoist ourselves up steep rock faces. The view at the end was all worth it though! It took us a little more than 2 hours to hike up, and 2 hours back down.
St. George's, Grenada
We reached St. George’s, Grenada after a long passage across the Atlantic. Sailing into the harbor, we were greeted by double rainbows everywhere. It felt like we had entered paradise! Although unbelievably hot and humid, the island itself was so lush with greenery. During our 1 week stay we did some touring around the island. My favorite place was Seven Sisters Waterfalls. A local even showed a few of us where it was safe to jump from one of the falls. We also snorkeled around an underwater sculpture museum!
Middle of the Atlantic Ocean (Nov 19-Dec 2)
From left to right: Jumping in water with 5000 meters of depth on a windless day// Tracking a squall coming towards us on the last day before arrival in Grenada//Patching up the back of our ripped tradewind sail.
I hung off the back of the boat with my gopro to get this video. We think they were Pseudorca crassidens (fake killer whales).
Going for a swim in the middle of the Atlantic!
Mt. Teide, Tenerife, Canary Islands (Nov. 4-5, 2021)
Although we were currently staying in Gran Canaria, there was no way we were leaving the Canary Islands before we had climbed the highest point in Spain: Mt. Teide. Located on the island of Tenerife, Mt. Teide is actually an active volcano whose highest point is located 12,198 ft above sea level. It is also known for being the 4th highest volcano in the world. Dad and I took an 8pm ferry from Gran Canaria to Tenerife, where we stopped for dinner before getting into a taxi. The trail head didn't start until about 8,000 ft up the mountain, so our taxi slowly drove through a lush and rainy forest before emerging above the clouds. We started out climb at 12:30am, and hiked for about 7 hours up a steep and rocky trail. The stars were so bright that we barely used our headlamps, and both of us counted at least a dozen shooting stars. We reached the summit just in time to see the beautiful sunrise above the clouds. Due to the below freezing temperatures at the summit, we only lingered for a couple minutes before heading back down the volcano. By 10:00am, we were back in a taxi to the ferry terminal.
Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, Spain (Oct. 15-16, 2021)
We twice visited the Maspalomas Dunes, a protected nature reserve on the southern coast of Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands. The first time we rounded a headland and saw the dunes a half-mile off our starboard bow we felt as if we'd taken a wrong turn and were sailing along the Sahara Desert coastline instead. The dunes came right up to the water's edge, with miles of undeveloped beach.
Rumor has it the dunes were formed by sand blowing from the Sahara just a couple hundred miles to the east, but Wikipedia and other sources have a slightly less magical explanation about how they formed from a subdued marine shelf that was laid dry during the last ice age. Regardless, they were beautiful enough to coax me out of bed for a pre-dawn swim to shore and a sunrise run and photos.
Coincidentally and bizarrely, CNN.com ran an article the following week (https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/gran-canaria-tourist-sex-dunes-maspalomas-scn/index.html) explaining how the reserve habitat is being damaged by a sex-on-the-beach trend that has increased recently. I won't go into details, but will assure our readers we did not partake in the trend.
Gibraltar: "The Rock" (September 4-5 and Oct. 1-4, 2021)
We have stopped in Gibraltar twice while sailing into and out of the Mediterranean, and will likely stop at least one more time as we pass back into the Med this spring. It is a fascinating place -- literally a big rock near the southern tip of Spain still owned by the British.
One interesting aspect is the weather. There is frequently a cloud formed over The Rock. The predominant east-to-west winds pick up moisture as they blow over the Mediterranean. That moist air is lifted up into the higher, cooler air when it strikes The Rock, causing the moisture to condense into a cloud.
Another interesting fact: the Gibraltar airport runway is the dividing line between Gibraltar and Spain, which requires all car and pedestrian traffic passing between the two locations to cross the runway. Needless to say, traffic is frequently stopped for flight operations.
The history of Gibraltar is also incredible. The Rock is full of natural caves, as well as miles of tunnels dug by the British during the 4-year Great Siege by Spain and France in the 1780's. The tunnels have dozens of openings high up the cliffs for cannons aimed down on Spain, Urban myth or not, we were told there are more miles of tunnels in The Rock than there are miles of streets in Gibraltar. We definitely recommend a visit.