Elizabeth Spencer Winery
2018 Mediterranean Cruise
Ports of Call
Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia as well as Spain’s second largest city. Dominated by Montjuic, Vallvidrera and the Tibidabo Hills, sophisticated Barcelona is rich in ancient and modern architectural and artistic treasures. Many talented artists, sculptors and architects lived here, including Picasso, Miró, Mares and Barcelona’s best-known architect, Antonio Gaudí.
Barcelona’s beginnings as a major port can be found already in Roman times. However, the most significant period was during the Middle Ages when the city's wealth equaled that of the whole Catalunya province. Splendid buildings from the Middle Ages and a unique ambiance still make Barcelona one of the most attractive cities in Europe, drawing scores of visitors to see and enjoy the sights. In addition to its medieval setting and narrow streets of the Gothic Quarter, there are magnificent avenues through the modern part of the city, which are particularly noted for their landmark buildings of Gaudí’s.
Spain’s third-largest city is a mixture of old and new with a magical old quarter, a futuristic City of Arts and Sciences and wide sandy beaches. With dynamic museums, a flourishing restaurant scene, lively nightlife, great shops and miles of beach, Valencia is bursting with Mediterranean exuberance. Influences now range from Moorish to modern, yet some things in Valencia, like a perfect pan of paella,remain thankfully unchanged.
If you want a taste of all Valencia has to offer - the fresh seafood, mountain herbs, field-grown grains - you've got to try the local paella. Although there are many varieties of this rice dish, the Valencian paella is usually made with only the freshest ingredients in a cast-iron pan over a wood fire. Satisfy your thirst with a taste of horchata, a popular tiger nut drink found at any of the local bars surrounding the cathedrals. Rice dishes are a sought after main course at the Malvarrosa Beach restaurants, particularly La Rosa.
Palma de Mallorca, Spain
Palma de Mallorca, a major port city on the island of Mallorca and the capital of Spain's Balearic Islands, is a delightful cross between the Arabian Nights and the Renaissance, reflecting its checkered past of African and European control. It is the largest city on Mallorca, home to about 300,000 people -- a big, bustling place, with most of the tourist action in the old part of town around the Cathedral. The architecture of this ancient Mediterranean port blends Gothic, Moorish and Renaissance styles. Palma's winding streets make way to grand churches, yacht harbors, beaches, fountains and old castles. Because there is so much history, so close together, it's a perfect port to explore on foot. The snaky, narrow streets hold many surprises -- including the occasional dead end (beware of the passages around the Cathedral … you truly cannot get from here to there!).
This sun-kissed port is also an outdoors city in-season, with much pedestrian traffic and the opportunity to eat or relax outside in a myriad of settings -- some free (parks and boulevards), and some in conjunction with visits to museums and historical sites (always look for interior courtyards, extra features of older buildings). For sun worshippers, the beaches are close by and the water is wonderfully clear.
Ajaccio, Corsica, France
Considered Corsica's primary commercial and cultural hub, the largest city and regional capital of Ajaccio is situated on the west coast of the island, approximately 400 miles southeast of Marseille, France. Founded in 1492, vestiges of ancient Corsica in this ville impériale revolve around the city's most famous son, Napoléon Bonaparte, whose family home—now the national museum Maison Bonaparte—pays tribute to the emperor's historical influence. Indeed, Napoléon takes center stage in this lively city of approximately 64,000 inhabitants, from the exceptional Palais Fesch/ Musée des Beaux Arts to eponymous street names and statues sprinkled around the town's accessible squares, gardens, and courtyards.
Remnants from what was originally a 12th-century Genoese colony are still visible around the Old Town near the imposing citadel and watchtower. Perfect for exploring, the luminous seaside city surrounded by snowcapped mountains and pretty beaches offers numerous sites, eateries, side streets, and a popular harbor, where sailboats and fishing vessels moor in the picturesque Tino Rossi port lined with well-established restaurants and cafés serving fresh local fare.
Florence / Pisa / Tuscany, Italy
Livorno is Italy’s second largest port after Genoa. It also serves as a gateway to the Tuscany region and the great cultural centers of Florence, Lucca, Pisa and Siena. Tuscany delights visitors with its picturesque small towns and classic landscapes. The gently rounded hills, accented by clumps of slender cypresses, have been immortalized in numerous paintings. Lush vineyards are the source of the famous dry, dark-red Chianti wines.
From this part of Italy the national language evolved with Dante and other great Tuscan writers of his period. Even more important is the impact this area had on the culture of the rest of Italy and Europe, adding immense wealth to the architectural and artistic heritage. The Italian Renaissance, with its most active center in Florence, lasted from the 1400s to the 1700s. Its greatest support came from the all-powerful Medici family who commissioned Italy’s most talented painters, sculptors and architects to create some of the most outstanding works of art. Names such as Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Giotto, Vasari, Botticelli, da Vinci and Donatello come to mind, all of whom worked and lived in Florence at some time in their lives.
In a tiny cove, out of sight and almost inaccessible, is hidden an ancient fishing village, that has become an internationally renowned symbol. Until the 19th century, Portofino was a fishing village, the bay was a well-known safe haven for ships, and the promontory served as an outpost for coastal sightings. At the end of the 19th century, all over Europe, the middle classes and aristocracy began to choose this beautiful place to build their summer residences, attracting the likes of Humphrey Bogart, Sophia Loren, Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and Princess Grace. Now, since the 1950s, Portofino has welcomed big Hollywood names, great artists, and entrepreneurs, making it famous all over the world.
Monte Carlo, Monaco
The independent principality of Monaco is famous as the playground of the Côte d’Azur. With nice beaches, elegant hotels and a vibrant nightlife, this tiny domain is a favorite haunt of the jet set. In the possession of the Grimaldi family for more than 700 years, a treaty with France guarantees Monaco’s independence as long as the principality is governed by the Grimaldis.
The fashionable enclave numbers only about 32,000 inhabitants and is smaller than New York’s Central Park, but it boasts some of the most expensive real estate in the world. In addition to its luxury hotels and beautiful beaches, Monaco is noted for its mild climate and magnificent scenery. Once an exclusive wintering stop for Europe’s aristocracy, today there are more than five million visitors annually. Of the principality’s four sections - La Condamine, Fontvieille, Monaco-Ville and Monte Carlo, the latter two rank highest on every visitor’s must-see list.