Constellation Trails: May 2019 Friday, May 31 2019 

Trail to Rock Wall

Trail to Rock Wall

Yesterday we hiked some of the Constellation Trails across from the Phippen Museum in Prescott. A new roundabout features the 14-foot-tall “Cowboy in a Storm” statue by George Phippen.  We hiked clockwise on the Ranch Road Shortcut, then joined the Rock Wall Trail before starting our return on the Ridgeback Trail which connected with the Hole in the Wall Trail. We crisscrossed on the Ham and Cheese Trail before exiting on the North 40 Trail. Several wildflowers were in bloom and we saw an Arizona toad. We only encountered two other couples. The rock formations in the Granite Dells are special. We are fortunate to live in an area with such wonderful trails.

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Phoenix Zoo: May 2019 Saturday, May 25 2019 

Fennic Fox

Fennic Fox

We have been back from our world cruise for two weeks. I have filtered through about twelve feet of mail and now have six months of magazines to read. The Lexus started right up after being tendered. My son-in-law kept the motor home and two other cars operational. When I took the eight-year-old Prius to the dealer in response to a recall notice, I replaced the original tires and their detail work has made it like new. The 2015 smart fortwo received its 20,000-mile tune-up. The Winnebago Via underwent its annual oil change service. We drove the Via with the smart car from its winter home in Phoenix back to Prescott. After being gone for five months, a new to us dental hygienist has returned our smiles. We have started daily walks and I have lost about five of the twelve pounds I gained while consuming gourmet food three times a day. We are adapting to life on land after our wonderful adventures aboard the Viking Sun.

Sunflower

Sunflower

We visited the Phoenix Zoo this morning. The normally nocturnal Fennic fox was awake. The colorful face of a mandrill posed in front of a window. Across the way, a Himadryas baboon rested in the corner of a window while children took turns trying to pet it through the glass. One of the Siberian tigers was pacing back and forth. A Galapagos tortoise was drinking from its pond. A Grand Cayman blue iguana stretched out in the sun. I caught the eye of a greater flamingo. A blue heron, Dalmatian pelican, and ibis poised for pictures. Rabbits could be seen snatching food in several different exhibits. Several varieties of blooming flowers enhanced our experience. Work to expand space for the Asian elephants continues. It was pleasant to return to the Phoenix Zoo.

London, England Sunday, May 12 2019 

University of Greenwich with London Cityscape

University of Greenwich with London Cityscape

We arrived in the Royal Borough of Greenwich on Friday, day 127. We boarded a local Clipper boat from the Viking’s Tender Platform in the middle of the Thames and were taken to the Greenwich Pier for a walking tour of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. We walked by the famous Cutty Sark, the world’s only surviving tea clipper and the fastest sailing ship in the world when it was built in 1869. The St. Alfege Church, where King Henry VIII was baptized, is being remodeled. It is dedicated to the archbishop of Canterbury who was killed on this spot in 1012. From a distance in the Greenwich Park we saw the Royal Observatory from where the world’s clocks are set and where the Prime Meridian Line is located. We passed by the Queen’s House, the first classical building built in England. The National Maritime Museum, housed in a former royal palace, is the world’s largest seafaring museum. University of Greenwich now uses Sir Christopher Wren’s riverside Old Royal Naval College. After the guided walking tour, we used the pedestrian walkway under the Thames to the Isle of Dogs peninsula for a view of the University and the Viking Sun. After lunch on the ship, we returned to Greenwich where we toured the National Maritime Museum. I liked the array of figureheads near the entrance and dispersed throughout the museum. Horatio Nelson’s feats were celebrated in an extensive collection on the 2nd floor. I noted that, while the board of the small peg chess set that he is alleged to have used, was aligned correctly, the kings and queens were reversed. On our return to the pier we passed through the historic Greenwich Market, established in 1737. This covered market has crafts, collectibles, and food stalls.

London Eye Vista

London Eye Vista

Later in the afternoon we took a panoramic boat ride along the Thames to the iconic London Eye. We passed under the beautiful Tower Bridge and admired London’s historic landmarks and stunning new skyscrapers. We received VIP treatment bypassing the regular line at the London Eye to board one of the 32 capsules with a guide and about 20 Viking Sun guests. The London Eye is a cantilevered observation wheel whose structure rises 443 feet in the air on the south bank of the Thames. It was breathtaking to see the layout of the city from the air. The Elizabeth Tower, commonly known by the bell it houses, Big Ben, was mostly covered with scaffolding. This last excursion was a great way to finish our world cruise. After a last dinner at the World Café, we attended the Revelation Avenue destination performance in the Star Theater.

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

We left our Viking Sun stateroom home for the past eighteen weeks by 8 a.m. on Saturday, day 128. Shortly before 9 a.m. we were called to board a tender to take us to the Greenwich Pier where we collected our luggage and boarded a bus for the airport. We drove through London’s city center with little traffic. It was great to cross the Tower Bridge and view many historic buildings. Our 10.5-hour direct flight to Phoenix on a British Airways plane was on time and without incident. It helped that we flew business class. Our world cruise was a life changing adventure. We visited five continents and 20 countries with a remarkable collection of fellow travelers while being cared for by a highly skilled crew. Highly recommended!

Portsmouth, England Thursday, May 9 2019 

Stonehenge Stone Circle

Stonehenge Stone Circle

It was raining and dreary when we arrived in Portsmouth on Wednesday, day 125. We took an hour-and-a-half bus trip through several villages to Wiltshire where Stonehenge, a World Heritage Site, is located. Once we were there, it didn’t rain but there were strong winds. We listened to the audio guide as we slowly walked around the Stone Circle of this 4,500-year-old prehistoric temple with the stones carefully aligned with the movements of the sun. We learned that the Stone Circle is a masterpiece of engineering, and building it would have taken huge effort from hundreds of well-organized people using only simple tools and technologies. About 5,000 years ago the Neolithic earthwork was formed. A henge is a ring-shaped bank and ditch, with the ditch inside the bank. During the late Neolithic period about 2,500 BC, the larger sarsens and smaller bluestones formed the Stone Circle.  Sarsens are 60-million-year-old silicified sandstone blocks up to 30 feet tall and weighing more than 30 tons. 43 bluestones remain and weigh between 2 and 4 tons each. Later, in the Bronze Age, round barrows or burial mounds started appearing nearby. The iconic structure called Stonehenge is a wonder of the world, a spiritual place and a source of inspiration. The Visitor Center offers archaeological objects. We had limited time with the audio-visual presentation. We made a quick tour of the reconstructed Neolithic houses outside the Visitor Center before returning to our bus. On the return trip we passed through New Forest National Park where we saw ponies, donkeys, and cattle. We enjoyed our visit to Stonehenge, an unexpected opportunity on our world cruise.

Spinnaker Tower

Spinnaker Tower

While dining in the Restaurant, we passed the Emirates Spinnaker Tower, Fort Blockhouse, and the Portsmouth Solent Wheel. After dinner we sat in the Explorers’ Lounge while we cruised through the Solent Strait. We passed Yarmouth and saw the Hurst Fortress. Heather Clancey is an extraordinary cruise director. Boy, she’s also a great performer! She headlined our evening entertainment and aced it!

Four chess players fought it out Thursday morning, day 126. I attended Peter Hawthorne’s lecture on “Lord Horatio Nelson,” Britain’s hero at the Battle of Trafalgar. We attended the port talk on Greenwich, our stop tomorrow. A grand farewell for 2019 Viking world cruisers was held in the Star Theater with the return of the first captain and introduction of all crew members. This was followed by a superb performance by the UK vocalist Toni Warne. One of our final dinners was with friends developed on this cruise in Manfredi’s special dining room where we celebrated two birthdays.

Vigo, Spain Tuesday, May 7 2019 

Agudo Mountain Vista

Agudo Mountain Vista

We arrived in Vigo, Spain on Monday, day 123. We took a ferry to Monteagudo, part of the Atlantic Islands of Galicia National Park. This archipelago, composed of three islands, was dubbed by the Romans as “The islands of the Gods.” We followed our guide along the 1.8-mile Alto del Principe Route nature trail that climbs atop Agudo Mountain. We enjoyed seeing the yellow legged gulls and walking past a variety of wildflowers. A hole in a rock along the way that one could peek out of offered an unusual photo opportunity. Our hike’s reward was sitting on the king’s throne admiring the rugged cliffs and beautiful coastline.

Mt. Castro Vista

Mt. Castro Vista

Later in the afternoon, we boarded a motor coach for a scenic tour of Vigo, known as the “Gateway to the Atlantic.” It lies on the western edge of Europe and is home to the continent’s largest fishing fleet. It also manufactures automobiles. We ascended Mt. Castro where we enjoyed panoramic views over the bay. Our stop in Castrelos Park featured seeing an impressive 17th-century estate with French and English gardens.

Six chess players met on Tuesday, day 124. We enjoyed another wonderful brunch on the Viking Sun. Our trivia team tied for 1st with two other teams in the final event but missed the tie breaker (it should be noted that the winning team, we were told, cheated). We finished the world cruise with 8 wins and 14 second place finishes. For each win we received $2 Viking dollars and $1 Viking dollar for every second-place finish. We redeemed 60 Viking dollars for a Viking pack. We attended the port talk on Portsmouth, our destination tomorrow. George Sranko’s lecture on “How One Remarkable Woman Helped Crack Open Planet Earth” introduced us to Marle Tharp. We attended the Viking Vocalists’ final performance on this world cruise and their contracts with “The Beatles Songbook.” Good voices and choreography with wonderful backup by the talented Viking Band. We’re beginning to get serious about preparing our luggage for disembarkation.

Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain Sunday, May 5 2019 

Morton Bay Fig

Morton Bay Fig

The Day of the Cross was being celebrated on Friday, May 3, day 120, when we arrived in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. On our included tour to Puerto de la Cruz, we stopped at an overlook of the city located above the Orotava Valley. We visited the Acclimatization Garden of Orotava, a world-class botanical garden that is home to exotic and subtropical plants.  It was created by a Royal Order issued by King Charles III on August 17, 1788. We appreciated that most of the plants and trees were identified, although in Latin.

Puerto de la Cruz Coast

Puerto de la Cruz Coast

Our final tour stop gave two hours to explore this former fishing village. Now, Puerto de la Cruz’s quaint harbor is surrounded by charming plazas lined with colonial-style cafes and surrounded by narrow streets of cobblestone. Today, fancy resorts dominate this resurgent community. Before we left, the sounds of fireworks filled the air.

After a late lunch back on the ship, we walked around Santa Cruz discovering numerous interesting sites. The Island Council of Tenerife building stands out in part because the top is covered in netting. We later learned that it houses the governing body of the island. The nearby Monument to the Fallen of Santa Cruz in the Spanish Civil War dominates the Spain Plaza. We encountered numerous other sculptures on our walk. The tall bell tower of the Church of the Immaculate Conception attracted our attention. We were disappointed that it was not open. The Circulo de Amistad XII de Enero also attracted our attention with its Second Empire architectural style. The facade is decorated with multiple white sandstone sculptures and small intricate decorations, as well as flags.

Auditorio de Tenerife

Auditorio de Tenerife

We concluded our journey by walking near the iconic Auditorio de Tenerife designed by Santiago Calatrava. Some have said it has the form of a wave, for others, a moon or hull or a huge tongue. We thoroughly enjoyed our stop on Tenerife, the largest of the seven main Canary Islands.

Six chess players came together on Saturday, day 121, for play and instruction. We attended Mark Callaghan’s lecture on the “History of Northwest Africa.” Edward Lynch outlined the deft political maneuvers of “Morocco’s King and the Arab Spring.” Our trivia team finished with 10 points, while one team had 12. George Sranko introduced jellyfish in his lecture “How to Succeed Without a Brain.” R. Hunt Davis examined “The Golden Trade of the Moors & Beyond” in his lecture linking Morocco and West Africa. Our evening entertainment featured four vocalists known as the “Jack Pack.” They are a contemporary swing pop group.

Five chess players met on Sunday, day 122. We attended the port talk for Vigo, our destination tomorrow. Originally, we would have had a stop in Casablanca, but the captain cancelled this stop based on projected weather forecasts. Our trivia team had 10 points, while one team scored 12. Our team had lunch together with Edward, the Assistant Cruise Director who leads trivia, in the Restaurant. Edward Lynch spoke about “King Juan Carlos and Spain’s Returns to Democracy.” According to a ship handout, here are the laundry estimates per day: 2,500 towels, 400 table cloths, 3,200 napkins, 800 bedsheets,750 uniforms of officers & crew. Wow! We have benefited from a hard-working staff.

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