Barcelona, Corsica, Spain, Tunisia, Sicily
Man-O-War, 29 Apr 2012
I plan to fly into Barcelona to meet Edmund aboard Panope.  Panope is a Crealock 34, very similar to Breakaway.  We're planning to make an overnight passage to Minorca, then on to Corsica.  Then I'll probably take the ferry to Pisa and return via train to Barcelona.
The plan:
Barcelona to Corsica - 3 weeks aboard Panope, Edmund's Crealock 34.  This is Leg 3 and part of Leg 4 of his plan.
Spain - Return to Barcelona, spend some time looking around northeastern Spain.
Girona, 28 May 2012
Tunis to Sicily - Fly from Barcelona to Tunis, then aboard Panope to Sicily, spend some time in Sicily, then return to Barcelona and back to the Bahamas.
Places where I stayed on this trip
Arrival in Barcelona
Barcelona, Spain, 6 May 2012
I arrived in Barcelona and stayed the first night in a hostal (Equity Point - Barcelona) near Plaza Catalunya.  It is hard to beat the hostal's location and price.  I spent the next few nights aboard Martin's 56' sailboat, Nanou.  The deal is nights aboard his boat in exchange for technical assistance.  They are starting on a project requiring a dedicated controller and I advise them on the hardware for their prototype.
Meanwhile, Edmund and crew (Amal and David) have arrived from Valencia aboard Panope and are berthed in the same marina, Port Vell.  Here is a photo of the marina.  Panope is located just to the right of the big crane in the upper left.  The marina is in a great spot - next to Barceloneta and the old city.  In this photo, you can see Segrada Família at the top (click on image to enlarge).  
Port Vell, Barcelona
Miró museum and Segrada Família
Barcelona, 16 May 2012
Amal, David, Edmund and I go to the Miró museum.  The exhibit was very nice as was the museum's architecture.  Miró was a master.
The next day, we visit the Segrada Família, Gaudí's masterpiece.  The exterior is well.. OK.  But the interior is I think, spectacular.  I'm having trouble putting together some photos to do it any kind of justice.  Here are a couple, although not really finished yet.  [Note: the jaggy edges in these photos are from joining together several photos - I should have brought my wide-angle lens :-( ]
Segrada Família
Segrada Família
Do you see the person in front of the altar at the bottom?
On the boardwalk near Olympic Marina
Casa Mila (aka La Pedrera)
Casa Batlló
We're thinking of waiting a couple more days before leaving Barcelona.  From there appears to be favorable wind starting on Sunday.  Then we'll probably make for Corsica directly.  We fill the time visiting the city and working on projects on the boat.  A 3rd crew member, John, arrives from Cyprus.
Magic Fountain, Barcelona
Arrival in Corsica
Ajaccio, Corsica, 23 May 2012
We arrived in Ajaccio, Corsica yesterday.  The passage was a little rough - 35+ knot winds and 15' seas on the second day as we passed in front of a developing mistral.  The worst of it was during the night.  We were running under storm sails only.  Panope handled it well, as expected.  The wind and waves were from the port quarter to beam.  She would rise to the crest of a wave and the wind would howl in my ears.. she would roll a bit as the wave passed creating a big frothy foam on the lee side.. the howling would subside as we rode down into the trough of the wave.  Then the next wave would come.
Here is a plot of roughly our position on a map of the weather predictions (these predictions were from the report just prior to departing Barcelona).  The wind speed is shown in "wind barbs" as well as color coding (the key is at the bottom).
Our position is the little yellow ball moving across the middle from Barcelona to Corsica.  The goal was to avoid getting hit by the red stuff (40-45+ knot winds)
We got hit by the first mistral early on Monday morning.  But got ahead of the second one (with all the red) that we were a little afraid of.  It had looked even worse in the earlier predictions.

Tunis, 10 June 2012
I was wondering about the consistency (well, the accuracy but that would be harder to get a handle on) of the predictions.  Here is a comparison of the predictions at various points in time.  Our "weather window" was the part of the table marked in gray (and red in a critical section).

Here is Panope (on the right) tied up to the dock in the marina in Ajaccio.  IMO, the best spot in town.  There happens to be a regatta going on this weekend.  There  are some classy looking sailing ships from
England, Monaco, Italy, etc docked Med-moor style to the city
seawall behind Panope.  It's fun to watch them come in and moor themselves at the wall.  New crew, Len and Elaine, arrive.  We have a pleasant dinner together. 
Return to Spain
Girona, Spain, 25 May 2012
I took the overnight ferry from Ajaccio to Toulon.  Then 71€, 2 transfers and about 9 hours on the train to arrive at Girona, Spain.
In Girona, I stayed in another hostal (Equity Point - Girona).  It is also well located, on one end of the walking streets leading up to the cathedral and old center.  There were quite a few middle aged travelers there - along with the usual young backpackers.  Girona is a very pleasant city.  I went to a nice Steve McCurry exhibit in the museum just around the corner from the hostal.
I make plans to meet Panope in Tunis next week and then sail with them to
Sicily.  The flight from Barcelona to Tunis is short and not too expensive (101€) and a flight back from Palerno to Barcelona is $129.  PLUS.. I figure to get a couple more stamps in my passport :-).

On the coast
Caldes d'Estrac, Spain, 29 May 2012
I used Airbnb again to find a room on the coast toward Barcelona.  Here is the listing.  The owner, Alfonso, met me at the train station - about a 5 minute walk from his place.  He then gave me a nice walking tour of the beach (which includes a nice, large and crowded "zona nudista"), old town, and surrounding area.  This was followed by tapas and wine on his small balcony.  This is much more than I expected.  
Caldes d'Estrac
Back to Girona
Girona, 31 May 2012
<gripe> I wanted to get a place for a couple nights north of Barcelona and tried using Airbnb.  Airbnb, which has steered me well previously, let me down :-(.  I sent a message to one interesting-looking host and a reservation request to another and never got a reply from either.  I think Airbnb should allow a guest to make a number of simultaneous reservation requests and the first host who accepts "wins" the reservation. </gripe>
Anyway..  I returned to Girona (only 9€ and 1½ hrs on the train from Barcelona) to stay a couple nights and visit the Salvador Dalí museum in Figures.   
  Girona is very pleasant and I'm kind of getting used to it.  Large enough but not too many tourists. 
  I'm settling into a routine of taking tapas (small snacks) with wine, beer, or Cava (Spanish sparkling wine) around 5 or 6 at my favorite tapa bar on the plaza, then a small dinner at 8 or 9.  I could enjoy staying in Spain for a while.
I made a reservation for a hotel in Tunis for next week.  I asked the hotel how much the taxi should cost from the airport to the hotel.  Their reply:
The normal taxi fare from airport to tunis center is 5/6 DT but the taxi driver at airport are not honest and will ask much more if you could stop the price at 10 DT you made a good deal.
The gauntlet has been thrown :-).
Salvador Dalí Museum and Barcelona
Barcelona, 2 June 2012
I went to the Salvador Dalí museum in Figures.  Pretty wild stuff and well worth the visit.  Very crowded though.
Then back to Barcelona for the flight to Tunisia.  There I found a Tunisia Lonely Planet in a GREAT bookstore called Llibreria Altaïr located at Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes 616, just west of Rambla de Catalunya.  It appears to be mostly/all travel books - guides, maps and different areas' background info in Spanish, English, French, etc.  It's a huge place, 2 floors, well organized, very busy.
The Lonely Planet section on Taxi Cons at the Tunis
Salvador Dalí museum, Figures
Drivers can be aggressive, grabbing your luggage and refusing to give it back once you decline their overpriced offer.  The best way to avoid the drama is to walk past the taxi rank and hail a passing taxi from the nearby road.

Barcelona, 2 June 2012
I spent a couple hours today at the Palau Güell.  It is one of Gaudí's early works.  You can see traces of what will become a more organic style in his later work.
The chimney tops
on Palau Güell
Detail from the front
Lots of inverted catenary arches in this building
The 10€ entry fee included an audio tour in your language.  When the audio device got to the room with the slide show (off the "blue room") it automatically synced up with the slide show.  Nice touch.

Tunis, 3 June 2012
I arrived in Tunis today.  The taxi drivers in the airport were persistent.  I'm afraid I took the easy way out and followed Lonely Planet's suggestion to walk out to the road and flag down a taxi.  The driver started at 20 dinars and dropped to 10 without too much fuss.  With a little more effort, I got it down to 5.  BTW, if you are planning to play hardball like this, I'd suggest not putting your luggage in their trunk (I didn't BTW).  I could see them not giving it back until you paid more once you arrived.  Lonely Planet's advice is if something like that happens is to take down their cab number and threaten to go to the police.  Anyway, I'm not sure why I was so testy about the cab fare.  Just the idea, I guess.
I'm finding Tunisians to be pretty contentious - the 2 taxi drivers at the airport vieing for my fare who had a little shouting match, the 2 workers here in the hotel who had a little shouting match - I'm not sure over what, the owner of the kabob shop where I just ate was sort of in my face with I suspect a general hostility towards Westerners.  On the other hand, the waiter in the coffee shop this afternoon was equally outspoken but in a nice way.  The coffee was very good BTW.  They have one of those tall standup Turkish-style waterpipes with the long hose you puff on.  The waiter asked if I smoke.  I need to learn some French.  I plan to make it my regular coffee break.
This afternoon I walked through the huge (takes up a city block), old food market near Place Barcelone.  ("A" on this map)  A couple acres of fish, seafood, meats, vegetables, fruit.  What a jolt to the senses :-).  This part of Tunis reminds me a lot of Latin American cities I've been to - very earthy.  
View Larger Map
Tunis, 4 June 2012
I took the train to Sidi Bou Saïd to make a reservation for Panope.  The marina looks pretty crowded but the reservation lady in the marina assures me there is room and that Panope now has a
Marina Sidi Bou Saïd
365 steps down.. 365 steps back up
I also changed from the hotel I was in (Hotel Salammbô) to Grand Hôtel de France*.  It is a much, much nicer hotel and a little cheaper for the class of room I'm in (shared WC & shower) - 25 dinars for the room + 2 dinars for the shower -- about $17 per night.  Breakfast is included.
My balcony onto the court yard
Room #28
*Grand Hôtel de France..  WiFi is free but only available in the reception/courtyard area [actually, I see I can get the WiFi from my balcony.. kewl].  If you're coming here, try to get a room on the courtyard side.  The courtyard is also nice for just sitting and having some coffee or checking email.  It is surprisingly quiet after being out in the city for a while.  At dusk in the courtyard, there is some serious chatter from the dozens of birds nesting in the trees :-).  The hotel has a nice dining room where breakfast is served and they sell coffee and croisants during the day.  Spotless tile floors, high ceilings, an electrical outlet near the bed for powering the laptop.  And the staff has been very nice.  Finally, it is located just a couple blocks from medina and a stone's throw from the large food market (Marché Central de Tunis).  Both are must-sees in a visit to Tunis.  A great place to stay IMO.
Bardo Museum
Tunis, 6 June 2012
I went to the Bardo museum today.  It houses a bunch of amazing mosaics from Roman times.  Along with some statues and other artifacts from various eras.
At least half of the museum was still under renovation, but the guards will take you aside (kind of a "psst, hey kid" thing) and show you the new unopened rooms (then ask for a tip -
Byzantine era baptistery (6th century AD)
from Demma (Cap Bon)
reasonable, IMO).  When completed, the museum should be even more fabulous.  These photos are from the museum..
"And it was
thiiis big"
Ulysses with Sirens, from Thugga (4th century)

Tunis, 8 June 2012
Edmund with crew, Steve and Andy, arrived from Sardinia.  We went to Byrsa Hill and the ruins of Carthage yesterday.  There weren't a whole lot of ruins to see - apparently most of the building materials were taken by subsequent conquerors to be used in their buildings.  Tunisia, probably largely due to it's location, has had a bunch of conquerors - Phoenecians, Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Egyptians, Normans, Turks, French, Germans.  
An artist's depiction of the military port at Carthage. The ships could be dry-docked into their own little garages.
These are from the acropolis at Byrsa Hill and the museum there

Tunis, 9 June 2012
Yesterday, we walked around medina (the old part of Tunis) and then we all went to the Bardo.  Medina is a maze of little (mostly souvenir) shops with a couple big mosques thrown in. 
A couple ceilings in the Bardo museum

Mazara del Vello, Sicily, 12 June 2012
We arrived in Italy yesterday.  The passage from Tunisia was smooth.  There was light wind for the first 6 hours, during which we motored.  Then the wind picked up to 10-15 knots from a favorable direction and we sailed the rest of the way.  116 NM in 25 hours, arriving at 9am.  The marina is near the old town section of Mazara del Vallo.  The marina  
and town are both very nice.
Mazara del Vallo, Sicily, Italy

Erice, 15 June 2012
New crew is starting to arrive so time for me to move on.  I took the train to Trapani, then the bus* to Erice.  I'll stay a couple nights in the Hotel San Giovanni**.
Erice is an old medieval city located on the top of a little mountain overlooking Trapani.  It's kind of cool to walk around, very quiet, and I could see it being a nice romantic spot to stay a while.
View from the room
(Click on the image to enlarge)
Chiesa Madre
Castello di Venere
Same view at night
Sun going down behind the church
Looking south from Erice toward Trapani, with salt pans on the left
Torre di Federico
Chiesa Madre
(aka Chiesa Matrice)
Chiesa San Martin
Tombstones in Chiesa San Martin
* Getting to Erice..  The AST bus station is right next to the train station so it's easy to get from the train to the bus to Erice.  The downside is that there was a 1½ hour wait for the next bus.  The funicular run continuously between Trapani and Erice and drop off at the same spot in Erice as the bus - at the car parking lot.  If you're just on a daytrip, you can easily start the tour at the tower near the parking lot.  But the funicular terminal on the Trapani side is about a 45 minute walk from the train station, so you'll need to find a taxi (which seem to be sparse) or take the #21 city bus which drops off right at the funicular terminal.  You should make sure the funicular is running before giving up on the bus.  I guess I just like saying (well, writing anyway) "funicular" :-).
** Hotel San Giovanni..  The rooms are small but immaculate.  I took the "Full Board" option, mainly to see what it was like.  The meals are very good and generously proportioned.  And although not fancy, tasty all the same.  IMO, a really good deal for the additional 22€.
Trapani, 17 June 2012
The Hotel San Giovanni was great (and a great value) but maybe a little
*too* "above it all".  I returned to Trapani for 3 nights in Hotel Albergo Messina*.  The hotel is ideally located on one of the main walking streets in Trapani, Via Vittorio Emanuele.  It has very much a 50's look and feel (as my Lonely Planet suggests).
Chiesa di S. Agostino
With only a couple days left in Italy, I need to sample all the standard fare - cannoli, (Sicilian style :-) pizza, calzone, more flavors of granita (crushed ice), gelato, arancino .. what did I miss?**  BTW, the cannoli was just unbelievable, my favorite granita flavor was lemon, and the pistachio gelato was great.
* Hotel Albergo Messina..  The room was 20€/night for a single with shared bathroom.  There are 3 shared bathrooms conveniently located, one with a shower.  There is WiFi in the common area.  My room (#2) had a small fridge, a sink and a balcony onto the street (there's not too much traffic so not noisy and nice to listen to the other street sounds after the maybe-too-quiet Erice).  There is a small grocery store about 4 blocks away (on Via San Pietro, I think very close to this mark) so you can put the fridge to good use.  Finally, I assume the hotel got the graphics currently shown at the top of it's website from some stock website builder.  As far as I can tell, it has absolutely no resemblance to the hotel.  The photo of the entrance with the arch is accurate.  I'm not knocking the hotel for the apparent inaccuracy though.  It is actually a bit more fun in it's 50's style, IMO.
Palermo, 19 June 2012
I went to take the train from Trapani to Palermo but the train was broken.  Trenitialia provided a bus instead.  I stayed the night at Palazzo Savona*.  Had pizza about a block over at Ristorante Bellini on Piazza Bellini.  Many of the old buildings in this area around Quattro Canti are being restored.  Tomorrow, I take the plane to Barcelona, then back to the states.  I don't believe my time here is almost over.
The menu said..

Which translates to..
Cherry tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, Rucola,
cream of porcini mushroom, parmigiano, +anchoves
* Palazzo Savona..  Good location - near the train station with busses to the airport, and a block over from some of the old piazzas.  The WiFi worked well in the room and the A/C was nice.  Good value at 25€.  3€ for continental breakfast.
One last stop in Barcelona
Barcelona, 20 June 2012
OK.  Last stop in Barcelona.  Back to the states tomorrow :-(.      
Passeig de Gràcia
Here is their card
(Click to enlarge)
Sushi buffet in Barceloneta..  I had dinner at a Sushi buffet down by the port.  It is called Kaitensushi Buffet Giratori and is located at Passeig Colom, 4.  It is all you can eat and has really good food.  The food, on small plates, comes around on a conveyer belt next to the tables and you grab one you like as it passes by.  To get there from Passeig de Gràcia, you can take the yellow L4 Metro to the Barceloneta stop.  Then walk west a couple blocks on Passeig Colom.  It is on the north side of that avenue, across from the walkway to the Imax and mall.  It was 13€.  Drinks are extra.

  1.   The greatest enemy of art is the absence of limitations. -- Orson Welles

2. Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. -- Albert Einstein

3. Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm. -- Winston Churchill

4. I should have brought a small point&shoot camera.  Never enough.. always too much :-).

5. It would have been nice to have brought my wide-angle lens for the DSLR.  Or skipped bringing the DSLR and just relied on the wide-angle lens of the point&shoot camera.  The DSLR's image quality has been nice though.

To save space, I just brought one lens - the Canon 50mm f/1.4.  The sharpness, contrast and speed of this lens is outstanding.  The sharpness is confirmed by the test results on and sumarized in my Sweet Spot Analysis Tool (Click on "Just L" in the "Filter" section, then click on the Canon "twisty" and "Canon 50mm f/1.4". Only the "85mm f/1.2L" is sharper in the wider apertures but then again, that is a $2000 lens compared with $360.) 

The 50mm f/1.4 is probably the best value in Canon's stable - as demonstrated by the plot of "Max LW/PH vs Price" plot, excerpted here --->
The Canon 50mm f/1.4 is the upper left green dot - so high (max) sharpness at a low price.  The green dots are for the fixed lenses, the red dots for zoom lenses.  Note that the other colored dots here are all "L" class lenses.  On the tool, mousing over a dot shows what lens it corresponds to.  Clicking on a gray dot adds it to the plots or if the dot is colored, removes it.
[25 Feb 2013] I have ordered one of the Canon 40mm f/2.8 Pancake lenses.  It appears to be every bit as sharp as the 50mm f/1.4 and much smaller (so lower profile for travel/street use).  It's also cheaper and reportedly well made.  Only down side appears to be that it's 2 stops slower.  I'll probably also put my 50mm f/1.4 in my luggage for times when I think I'd like the speed (and also with that, the narrower DOF).

6. Pickpocketting in Barcelona..  Barcelona has a reputation for pickpocketting, especially on the subway ("Metro") and busier streets.  In our stay there, we had one attempted theft on the subway.  I think the usual precautions apply - carry your money, debit card, and ID in a zippered inside pocket.  I use a money belt - currently this one which seems to be holding up OK so far.  Don't wear flashy, loose jewelry.  Keep your cell phone and camera close to you, alert to anyone nearby with their hands seemingly covered up by something - a blanket, pillow, cardboard, etc.  Especially if they are pressing up against you.  A couple examples:
- We heard of one incident where three old ladies got into an elevator with a couple travelers.  One of the old ladies, pressing up against one of the travelers, had a pillow in her hands which she used to conceal her hands slipping into the traveler's bag. 
- We heard a waitress describe having her iPhone stolen the day before by somebody coming into her restaurant with a cardboard sign and using it to conceal swiping the phone from the counter while they were talking to the waitress.  So it's not just tourists who are targetted - locals are also taken in.
- The incident that happened to us on the subway went as follows...
. We get on the subway car.  Somebody is standing with one of us between him and the door.
. He is slow to exit the car, but a little before the doors close, he goes to leave.
. Our party steps to one side to let him through.  The bad guy steps sideways, seemingly by mistake, so that our party is again blocking his exit.  This happens several more times - looking like a legitimate, sort of comical, misqueue between two people.
. Just before the door closes, the bad guy exits the subway.
. I could tell that something was amiss there.  As did a local near us.  Our party checks his pockets and finds that the pocket (which had a zipper) with his wallet had the zipper pulled down but the wallet was still inside.
- We heard that another common ploy is for the bad guy to pretend to be making a playful soccer block on you.  It is enough distraction to allow them to pick your pocket.

If you are carrying a backpack, don't have it on your back in a crowded area.  Either swing it around to your front with your arm draped over the zippers or carried in one hand, low.  Don't carry more loose money in side pockets than you're willing to lose.

We heard several times that the reason there is so much petty theft is because, up to a certain amount, it is not considered to be a crime.  I think the amount was fairly large, all the same.  A local said that occassionally you see an article in the paper about somebody having been caught for the 400th (for example) time having committed one of these below-the-limit thefts - with never an actual penalty.