We arrived back home yesterday after an enjoyable cruise that took us to Morocco and Portugal. As I’ve said before, one of the great things about writing travel crime is that before even thinking about the plot, I need to research the setting and the itinerary which means going on the holiday!
Our first port was Funchal in Madeira. We went on an excellent ship’s tour to the Palheiro Gardens in the grounds of one of the large country estates to be found on the island. Even in January, there was lots of colour and plenty to see. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and able to answer questions from even the most dedicated and well-informed gardeners in our group. Our second stop was to a much smaller garden in the grounds of a hotel where we were treated to an orchid workshop by and expert. Such was the enthusiasm Pedro engendered in us that we all came away determined to copy his method of potting an orchid on a piece of tree bark the moment we got home.
Our next three ports took us to Morocco – Agadir, Casablanca and Tangier. Once again, I was lucky enough to pick three great ship’s tours which included a Berber show where we saw acrobats, dancers, musicians, snake charmers and horse races; the highlights of Casablanca and a walk in Tangier’s old medina. The architecture was stunning everywhere we went.
Lisbon is one of my favourite cities and one we’ve explored many times, so we went on a trip to Sintra for a walking tour of the little town up in the mountains. We were given some free time and decided to take a look in the summer palace of Portugal’s kings. It was a lot larger than it looked from the outside and we had to run through the upper floors so as to be back at the coach on time.
Our last port was Leixoes for Porto and town we’ve visited several times so we opted for a tour of the pretty little town of Aviero where we began with a cruise of the canals on an old gondola type barge that had once transported salt and seaweed. The town is famous for its Arco Deco houses which we had a chance to admire in our free time.
We had a great trip – the weather was wonderful, not a drop of rain for the whole 14 days. The other five speakers were a great bunch and we all got on very well. I wish I could say I’ve come back with a plot already churning away in the back of my mind. I was too busy practising my talks on the history and architecture of Morocco and al-Andalus, and trying to catch my fellow speakers presentations, there was no free time on board to even think about the book, but we shall see. Once I start looking through the hundreds of photos that my husband took as well as my own poorer efforts, I’m sure ideas will begin to germinate.