2012 APHC At Sea Amsterdam-Barcelona

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Cruise Journal

August 18th | August 19th | August 20th | August 21st | August 22nd | August 23rd and 24th
August 25th | August 26th | August 27th | August 28th


Day 1 — August 18th, Amsterdam and North Sea

The Ryndam sailed from Amsterdam right on time—the lines were cast off, we made our way slowly out the long canal past miles of reclaimed below-sea-level land and through the skinny locks to the North Sea, as a lively crowd gathered on the aft deck to sing lusty songs for an hour starting with the one about the ship Titanic with a new verse:

And now we start a voyage heading south to Spain
Where you find no snow, only fog and heavy rain
And the ice you'll find is to chill your wine
And I don't think that the good ship will go down.

The crowd did a rousing Star Spangled Banner for the benefit of the little Dutch boats sailing nearby, and—under a pure blue sky—"You Are My Sunshine," "Oh What A Beautiful Morning," "Jamaica Farewell," "My Girl," and Pat Donohue improvised a new "Sweet Caroline" that brought in ship stuff and the need to use Purell hand sanitizer before you reach out, touching someone, and then "One Fine Day," led by the DiGiallonardo Sisters, who finished with "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" and the crowd trooped down to dinner with thoughts of bluebirds and a few hours later we could see the white cliffs of Dover (which there will be bluebirds over), a good omen for a happy cruise.

Photos from August 18th

Video highlights from August 18th


Day 2 — August 19th, Bay of Biscay

Photos from August 19th

Video highlights from August 19th


Day 3 — August 20th, Bay of Biscay

Photos from August 20th

Video highlights from August 20th


Day 4 — August 21st, Vigo

This morning the ship woke to stillness after a two-and-a-half day jaunt on the rolling waves of the Bay of Biscay, a thick fog blanketing what we hoped was Vigo. Being back on solid ground was a disorienting feeling not unlike stepping off a tilt-a-whirl after three or four corndogs, though we were indeed planted on terra incognita with warm salty air and dark-haired, brown-eyed people speaking their smooth Galego Spanish. From the port it was an uphill climb all through narrow cobbled streets where shopkeeps pulling out wicker wares called out buenos dias, and up several flights of winding stairways that led to El Castro at the top of the city where our landlegs were found again despite themselves.

From the ramparts of the citadel, the sun came out and glistened off the tops of the red clay roofs and white sandy playas across the estuary. Then it was back down the sloping Old Town to the Calle de la Pescaderia, with old ladies in white aprons in stalls shucking plates of fresh oysters amid Spaniards on holiday. This is where Vigo really shines. Shellfish is not normally part of the landlocked diet but one decides to be adventurous because you never know if you'll have the opportunity to taste a creature with the texture of knee cartilage fresh off the boat again, and after sliding 3 or 4 doused in lemon juice down your gullet along with a cup of crisp Galician white wine, the sun warming your face, you think you could get used to it.

Photos from August 21st

Video highlights from August 21st


Day 5 — August 22nd, Lisbon

The talk after Lisbon mostly surrounded the diverse modes of getting from the bottom to the top of the seven hills—some tested their calves on the slippery cobblestones and others entrusted cabbies and tuk tuks with their lives while some crowded into an antique yellow Tram 28 cable car on the way to the Castelo de São Jorge and the Tower of Belem and various Moorish or medieval sights. No matter which way you went there was no direct path; everyone came to find maps in Lisbon are merely suggestive. The city's mazelike layout encourages meandering—narrow streets and secret stairways to courtyards with altars, archways leading to secluded cafes where men in overalls were drinking aguardente for lunch, laundry hung between the windows of ornately tiled buildings, vine covered balconies and trees strung up with garlands. Here we could remember what it was like to travel before GPS, when it wasn't so much about the destination but the getting there.

Photos from August 22nd

Video highlights from August 22nd


Day 6 and 7 — August 23rd and 24th, Cadíz

Despite some close calls, we all managed to find our way back to the ship and further south we went, the time shifted ahead again, and now we find ourselves in a lower latitude, a land of flamenco and sherry and olive skinned people as warm as their weather. Lord Byron once called Cadiz "the most delightful town he ever beheld...beautiful and full of the finest women in Spain...Intrigue here is the business of life." Two days should be enough time to find a little intrigue of your own—soak up some color, take a siesta, and be the right amount of restless after the sun goes down.

Photos from August 23rd

Video highlights from August 23rd


Day 8 — August 25th, Tangier

By Jon A. Wiant

No sooner had Franco's Spain seized French Tangier in June 1940, than America began to build its intelligence presence at its Legation. With British encouragement to track Axis shipping through Gibraltar Straits, the U.S. assigned Assistant Naval Attaché William Eddy to the Legation. A little more than a year later the Office of Strategic Services, America's new spy agency, built an operational base under Commander Eddy; he was joined by 10 "oil attachés", all amateurs soon to become intelligence professionals. Some, like Carlton Coon, are remembered for their role in later critical operations. Others, like the improbable Walter Booth, an elderly African-American who had once directed the Perkins Jazz Devils, have receded in history's shadow corridors. Too bad. Booth reportedly built a little jazz shack on a Tangier beach. Here at "Uncle Tom's Cabin" he kept jazz alive and collected gossip for OSS. His career was short lived. He spent his first OSS bonus on a colorful zoot suit. Starchy OSS deputy Otto Doering fired him for being too flashy.

From Tangier, the Allies recruited agents in Vichy French territories and mounted sabotage attacks against the Germans. In the weeks before the November 1942 Operation Torch, Tangier buzzed with secret plotting. From here the submarine Seraph carried Royal Marine Commandos and US General Mark Clark on his secret mission to neutralize the Vichy forces in Morocco and Algeria.

As an "international zone", neutral Tangier remained a spy center for the rest of the war.

Photos from August 25th

Video highlights from August 25th


Day 9 — August 26th, Málaga

Photos from August 26th

Video highlights from August 26th


Day 10 — August 27th, Mediterranean Sea

Photos from August 27th

Video highlights from August 27th


Day 11 — August 28th, Valencia

Photos from August 28th

Video highlights from August 28th

Cruise Bulletin

Visit our journal of daily updates to see the highlights from this year's cruise — including videos, photos and notes — or relive your time aboard the ms Ryndam

A Prairie Home Companion Cruise is produced by Prairie Home Productions and presented by American Public Media. Ship's registry: The Netherlands.
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