Portugal and the Algarve, Spain’s Costa del Sol and Gibraltar are favorites of mine. I’ve visited Portugal and Spain many times.
The allure of a voyage sponsored by colleges and a Chicago travel agent to sail coastal Iberia on the five-star Tere Moana made me sign up for last year’s expedition, in October 2013.
Alas, the day we were supposed to have left, I ended up in the hospital with a nosebleed that wouldn’t seem to stop. So we canceled the trip, but my insurance barely covered the expenses, and we lost what felt like a ton of money.
Undaunted, I signed up for the 2014 edition and paid particular attention to the insurance this time and ended up with the maximum amount. This time, it was two days before we were supposed to leave and I had a nosebleed gusher that was cauterized.
One of my medicines is Xarelto, a new blood thinner that requires a $9-per-pill copayment. Not wanting to risk a nosebleed 40,000 feet over the Atlantic, I canceled the trip again. Digging into the insurance claim was like revisiting IRS tax forms. Lots of detailed questions, including previous doctor visits.
For many nights before the trip, I lay awake trying to solve some of the logistics issues, such as getting from London’s Heathrow to Gatwick, about a two-hour bus ride. This uncertainty began to make me fearful as the travel date neared. Of course, I now use wheelchairs at the airports, which doesn’t make it any easier.
It’s not as if we haven’t been to the Iberian Coast. We visited with a classmate who lives in Portugal’s Algarve and my expeditions to the Costa del Sol, where a team of Americans play an Irish team over St. Patty’s day week. I played on the U.S. team for five years.
What we’ll miss is the cruise around the quiet Mediterranean on the Tere Moana, which takes only 90 passengers — gratuities and drinks included, with one crew member for every 1.5 guests. And we’ll miss the stop at Gibraltar, which I had seen on one of my golf trips. This 1,400-foot-high limestone promontory guards the Strait of Gibraltar that separates Europe from Africa and was ceded by Spain to Great Britain.
I wanted my wife to see the Barbary apes, the only colony of wild primates in Europe. They are quite tame and end up perching on your shoulder before you know it.
We’re familiar with the Algarve, which was the starting point for many Portuguese mariners on their voyages to global ports of call.
Two sites of interest worth seeing again were Granada, where the magnificent Alhambra is, and Seville, home of the legendary Alcázar. Alhambra is a palace and fortress complex originally constructed as a small fortress in 889 and then largely ignored until its ruins were renovated and rebuilt in the mid-11th century.
It was converted into a royal palace in 1333. It is now one of Spain’s major tourist attractions, exhibiting the country’s most significant and well-known Islamic architecture. Alhambra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the inspiration for many songs and stories.
The Alcázar is a royal palace in originally a Moorish fort. The palace is renowned as one of the most beautiful in Spain and is the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe. It was registered in 1987 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
We’ll miss all those things. Alas.