Monday, April 18, 2011

Here we go

This posting has a double meaning. It's getting started, after almost a full month without writing anything and it's the first of several which will describe, at least some of the eating, of our recently concluded 3 week vacation. We boarded the Regent Seven Seas "Mariner", in Ft. Lauderdale FL, on Wednesday March 23 and set sail that evening on a 15 day Atlantic Crossing to Barcelona Spain. We knew no one on board, but that condition was only temporary. The temperature at boarding was 76F and we elected to have our first diner on the "fan tail" the open deck of the less than formal dining area. Of course, we expected in March that the weather, in crossing the Atlantic, would be cool and possibly rainy. What a wrong guess, we were blessed with 19 days of almost perfect weather. To finish the nautical description we where also bless with what can only be described as the smoothest Ocean Crossing within memory of passengers and crew. The food, on the ship was uniformly well prepared, interesting and beautifully presented. With a day or two advanced advice the kitchen tried to offer and special item which a passenger desired. Two nights we took advantage of this. There are 4 venues, two large dining rooms and two specialty restaurants, one a steak house, where I ate Lobster and Dover Sole, the other French, Sea Bass. Another excellent feature was that portions were the correct size to enjoy as many courses as one wanted. I would classify them as slightly larger than a "tasting portion". Our two special request, for dinners, were bone in Brazed Beef Short ribs and Veal Osso Buco. The ribs were sliced "off the bone" but the bone, from the cooking, was present. The Osso Buco came as imagined with plenty of good sauce for dipping. After the first night we only dined alone, by choice as we meet many interesting, pleasent couples and either ate with one or two of them each evening, after drinks in one of ther lounges. Our itinerary took us first to Bermuda and then after 5 days at sea to the island of Madeira. Madeira was especially beautiful with high sea cliffs, mountains and lush vegetation. The local wine and honey cake, both of which we sampled, on our all day tour, were memorable. Next we spent a day in Casablanca ( Rick was no where to be seen) and Rebat. Not sure where the King was but his Palace and red fessed guards were present. In Rebat our buffet lunch was a memorable selection of Moroccan food from Vegetable Cos-Cos, Tangine ( chicken, olives, onions, carrots and spices all stewed in an inviting sauce), roasted peppers and local tubers, fish pieces marinated and fried, cooked and raw fruit and wonderful apricot and even better pineapple up-side-down cake. A terrific meal. In Malaga we boarded buses for the trip to Granada and a three hour tour of the Alhambra, bring your walking shoes. At 2 PM, were now in Spain, we assembled for lunch at the "Alhambra Palace Hotel", adjacent to the grounds. There were 80 to 100 of us, from the tour, and we had a special dining room and set menu. The round tables were set with 10 places, both red and white wine and rolls and butter. Serves brought a lovely large plated salad of greens, beets, tomato's, shredded carrots, artichoke hearts, hard boiled egg, all topped with grilled fish, either Tuna or whole Sardine ( the jury is still out). From the table setting we guessed that this would be followed by dessert. Wrong, when this plate was cleared in came the main course, a tenderloin, medium rare, sliced potato's, broiled tomato and green beans. I ate a slice or two of Marilyn's steak and awaited the ice cream Sundae which ended an overloaded Spanish lunch. Cartagena was our next port of call and Marilyn and I took separate tours. Mine the Bullas Wine Route was the only disappointment, as far as tours were concerned. Our guide knew nothing of the territory and even less about wine. We visited one winery (Bodega) and a museum, long ride with little return. Last stop before Barcelona was the island of Mallorcia. We choose wisely and spent a wonderful day in Valldemosa, an old resort village, for the rich early island inhabitants about 12 miles up in the mountains. Current home owner, Michael Douglas and Tom Cruise. Fredrick Chopin lived there with George Sands. At noon there was a short piano concert of a couple of Chopin etudes. We walked around, had a Gelotto, peach for me, and took the bus back to the ship and on to Barcelona. Next report in a day or two.

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