We have some time on our hands to compose our first blog of 2019. Here we are sitting in the boat on the hard in the ASCAR yard in Cartagena, waiting to have new antifouling paint applied. Update:  The anitfouling was completed and we managed to polish the hull before re-launching the boat a week ago today and returning to our slip in the YPC marina in Cartagena.  Now we are in the UK for a brief visit.  Unfortunately, it appears we chose the wrong week for this work as it is the first time since early January that it has rained here. We are also back to wearing jeans again, rather than shorts, as it has cooled down substantially, ‘poor us’. We still hope, weather permitting, that we will be back in the water, at YPC, later this week.

Choosing Cartagena as a place to overwinter was definitely the right move. Apart from the weather, never below about 5C and mostly sunny (around 21C recently), which has been superb it is a very interesting city to explore (more about Cartagena in a separate blog).  We commiserate with those folks in the UK and US who appear to have experienced more than usual inclement winter weather.

In January we drove west to explore the delights of Grenada, Seville, Ronda, Córdoba, Baeza, and Ubeda. In Grenada we stayed at a pleasant hotel in the old town, which gave us time to view the sites, especially the Al Hambra; definitely worth a visit. If you do drive in the old town take only a small car as some of the streets are exceedingly narrow, with buildings either side.

Al Hambra, Grenada
Some of the intricate detail in the Al Hambra, Grenada

Plaza de Espana in Seville was spectacular, and Seville in general is a well worth a visit.

Plaza de Espana, Seville
Giralda tower, Seville cathedral

Ronda was similarly most interesting, amazing views but not a place to stay for those with vertigo, unless you stay away from the cliff edge.

The famous bridge over the gorge in Ronda

Of the places we have visited in Spain Córdoba probably tops the list. The mosque, with parts converted into a cathedral, is just awesome, because of its original Muslim architecture and scale.

Inside the Mesquita, Cordoba
The original Mesquita was altered after the reconquista to add this cathedral part, which we couldn’t find initially!

Baeza and Ubeda are in prime olive growing area with square miles of groves covering the hillsides.  We now understand why Spain is the no. 1 producer of olive oil! Ubeda is a pleasant town with its obligatory churches, good restaurants and fabulous views.

View over just a few of the olive groves that surround Ubeda

In February we travelled north to Valencia, Montserrat, and Barcelona. Valencia has some spectacular modern architecture (science museum, concert hall, and aquarium) and an interesting port area.

The performing arts center in Valencia
Nightime view from the performing arts center towards the science center, Valencia

Monserrat, with its abbey in the mountains, offered cardiac exercise along with views of the snow-capped Pyrenees.

Montserrat monastry
Howard on our hike up from the Montserrat monastry. Great views!

From our perspective the Gaudi-designed buildings makes Barcelona. It is a busy city with an old town, worth perusing, and a modern metro system (leave your car at the hotel).

Gaudi’s unfinished cathedral, the Sagrada Familial, Barcelona
Gaudi’s Casa Batillo, Barcelona

We also stopped in various towns with marinas en route, including Badalona, Sant Carlos de la Rapita, Denia, and Torrevieja. SCR, at the mouth of the Ebro river delta, a rice growing area, was amazingly flat; a large nature reserve, and vast long narrow beaches. The marina, however, experienced 70kt winds and hail stones earlier this year so I don’t think it would make the best overwintering spot.

Our time has also been adsorbed by several visitors, Ash and Sue our BVI sailing buddies from Kent in October; Howard’s sister and husband for much of January, including the trip to Grenada and Seville; and most recently Hope’s sister and husband, who enjoyed the local restaurants and scenery. We were in the U.K. in September for a short visit to catch up on several relatives we haven’t seen for many years. Most of November and some of December we were in the US and Canada visiting family and friends, voting, and addressing medical needs. The freezing cold in Canada reinforced our decision to winter in warmer climes!

Car hire in Cartagena, from Murcia airport, has been amazingly cheap (€5-15/day, although one has to be careful about insurance scams). Overall we have thoroughly enjoyed our interlude in Spain; definitely to be recommended.

We will be in the U.K. again later next week to attend a wedding celebration of Howard’s niece and to visit family and friends. We will be back in Cartagena April 3 and hope to start our trek east around April 10. The boat will be stored in Sicily during July, while go sailing with Hope’s brother and wife on their boat in the Baltic. In the interim we should have explored some of the Balearics, Corsica, Sardinia, and Sicily. August should see us heading east to Greece and Turkey.

We should be more active bloggers over the next six or so months, keep tuned.