Monday, 31 August 2015

Travelling in style. Life lessons.

Cruise boats come and cruise boats go. Many's the time I have looked out from our balcony to see one of them arriving at the harbour. They dock behind the elegant old Estación Marítima with its suggested history of adventurers going off to find a new life in the new world. Like small floating towns, they loom over the city, almost as tall as the ugly hotel down by the harbour and big enough to fill the alameda at least twice over if you lifted them from the water. Impressive? Certainly! But hardly a thing of beauty. 

Yesterday, however, I looked put and saw an elegant five-master, clearly a sailing ship. Too big to be a personal luxury yacht, there it was, all clean smooth lines, almost oozing money. We guessed it was probably an exclusive cruise boat of some kind. Later in the day, wanting a walk, we decided to go and take a closer look at the boat since it was still there. A fair number of other people had the same idea, all of us gawping at how the rich folk found ways to spend their money. 

The Wind Surf was its name. You could see people sitting at nicely set tables on the upper deck. 

As we stopped at the Maracaibo cafe on our way home, I decided to make use of their wifi to investigate it. It belongs to a company called Windstar and is the biggest of the ships in their fleet. I suppose you talk about such a company having a fleet. Even so, unlike the huge cruise liners which carry thousands of passengers, this has space for just 310 "pampered guests", as their blurb refers to them. Accommodation comes in the shape of 31 ocean-view suites, 122 deluxe ocean-view staterooms and 2 deluxe ocean view bridge suites. Presumably prices go up as your stateroom becomes more exclusive. And all staterooms have bowls of flowers and fresh fruit waiting for their guests. All is contrived to provide an "oasis of relaxing indulgence". 

How the other half live! 

When we sallied forth to look at the Wind Surf, the sun was shining brightly, the temperatures were in the mid to upper twenties and we needed sun hats and sunglasses. Even as we tried to find a good angle for a photo, we could see the mist coming in off the Atlantic. By the time we reached the Maracaibo, it was growing distinctly gloomy and we opted to sit inside instead of out on the terraza. 

This rolling evening mist is a common feature on the rías. It's as if someone took a roll of cottonwool and unfurled it over the water. Very heavy clouds they have around here. Frequently it's still there in the morning, barely allowing little bits of familiar landmarks to show above the surface, waiting for the sun to burn it off again. 

While we were in the Maracaibo, I was told off by a little old lady. The would-be elegant loos in that emporium have an outer door opening onto the wash basins and mirror section. The loo itself is in a little cubicle at the back. I have commented before on the lack of lock on said cubicle and the filthy graffiti on the inside of the door. I am reliably informed that there is no lock on the cubicle door in the gents' loo either. 

Anyway, yesterday I went into the ladies' and gently tried the closed door of the cubicle. There was resistance so I waited for someone to come out. I waited some time and began to wonder if the door was simply stiff as there was no sound. But I did not give in to the temptation to try again. Eventually a little old lady emerged, prim and proper-looking, with the kind of crimped grey hair that looks as though the waves have been set using a patent setting lotion and firm pressure from fingers that are used to being obeyed. She looked me up and down, sniffed and told me in grating tones that when the door is closed one knocks (demonstrating knocking) and asks, "¿Está occupado?" The naughty schoolgirl in me resisted the temptation to pull my tongue out at her. 

With another sniff she went on her way but she continued to look daggers at me from time to time as she sat with her cronies at a table on the other side of the cafe from us!

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