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The Best of Away with Words

By HarryMonday 14th September 2015

Martin posing with some of the great antiques for sale at Encants market - Image by Albert Barrut Martin posing with some of the great antiques for sale at Encants market - Image by Albert Barrut

In 2014 we held a competition to find a budding travel writer to explore the Mediterranean and blog about it along the way. We searched high and low to find the perfect person for the job, and that person was Martin Higgins. In June this year, Martin and his girlfriend Emily jumped onboard the Allure of the Seas and set off for a month-long trip around the Med, stopping off at some of Europe’s most beautiful destinations. Here are some of the best bits.

Meeting Allure for the first time

The magnificent Allure of the Seas took Martin’s breath away. The magnificent Allure of the Seas took Martin’s breath away. Martin’s journey began in the bustling city if Barcelona, home to the impressive Museu de Blau, and it’s here that he first set eyes on Allure of the Seas. It is not often a ship is capable of towering over other famous landmarks across the world, but Allure is like a floating skyscraper which transforms the face of every city it partners with – becoming a tourist attraction in its own right. It’s impossible not to be awed by the engineering and design that goes into such a totem of marine transportation, which links the world’s best cities and gives us that mobility we crave as humans, to travel and feed our wanderlust in comfort and style.

Visiting the Convent of Saint Clara

The delicious cookies made by the nuns at the Convent of Saint Clara. The delicious cookies made by the nuns at the Convent of Saint Clara. While docked in Palma De Mallorca, Martin joined one of our shore excursions for a sightseeing tour with a difference. Guests were treated to a bike riding tour that showed them some of the island’s most wonderful sights, from the Cathedral La Seu to the statue of James the Conqueror. One of Martin’s favourite spots was the Convent of Saint Clara. This particular convent is notorious throughout the land for one specific reason. As a holy land for pilgrims with a sweet tooth. On top of their monastic duties, these nuns produce some of the most delectable biscuits and cakes you’ll find anywhere. Inside the entrance hall there is a hatch – and to make an order you simply call across the barrier to the mysterious cashier hidden on the other side, then leave the money on the rotating shelf. This is a custom I have never seen before, and is very particular to this place. It was a privilege to witness.

Relaxing in the 24-hour Jacuzzi

The 24-hour heated Jacuzzi on the upper deck of Allure. The 24-hour heated Jacuzzi on the upper deck of Allure. No matter how long you spend onboard a Royal Caribbean ship, there’s always something new to surprise you just around the corner. In Martin’s case, it was the luxurious upper deck Jacuzzi. “I discovered this 24-hour heated Jacuzzi complete with infinity edge. It is on the upper deck, and is elevated outwards to give you the illusion that you’re sitting in the middle of the ocean, floating under the stars at night. This is my new watery throne.” The tranquil surroundings of the Plaça Sant Felip Ner in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter. The tranquil surroundings of the Plaça Sant Felip Ner in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter.

Touring Barcelona with Albert Barrut

Exploring the beautiful architecture in Barcelona - Image by Albert Barrut Exploring the beautiful architecture in Barcelona - Image by Albert Barrut While in Barcelona, Martin had the pleasure of meeting local photographer Albert Barrut who volunteered to show him around. They met at Encants market to explore the “real, living Barcelona”, before venturing inside the Museo del Disseny to feast their eyes on the magnificent design collection housed there. They also visited the Plaça Sant Felip Neri in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter. “Then Albert led me to my favourite place on the tour, a quiet haven in the crash and clang of a busy metropolitan city, where soft light floods down the renaissance buildings, and the sound of running water can be enjoyed. A hauntingly beautiful space called Plaça Sant Felip Neri, rich with history and perfectly preserved.”

Discovering street art in Pigneto

An impressive mural by Etnik, found in Pigneto. An impressive mural by Etnik, found in Pigneto. When Allure of the Seas docked in Rome, Martin took to the streets of Pigneto to discover the spectacular street art created by local and international artists. Local photo blogger Jessica Stewart gave Martin a tour of the best spots, and told him all about the history of Pigneto and the art that can be seen on nearly every corner. “Next up on this inner-city ramble we took in this mural, by an artist called Etnik, who is very well-known throughout Italy as a pioneer in this controversial art form. He started by painting the trains and railways like most aspiring artists, and then transitioned over into large-scale street art, which is the perfect foil for his geometric style, his abstraction, and the architectural forms he uses.” The wonderful produce at a food market in Florence. The wonderful produce at a food market in Florence.

Indulging at Irene

Hotel Savoy’s restaurant in Florence, Irene. Hotel Savoy’s restaurant in Florence, Irene. The next stop on Martin’s trip around the Med was Florence, and here he spent the day with art historian and blogger Alexander Korey. They climbed the historic Forte Belvedere and saw over 100 sculptures by British artist Antony Gormley, and then made their way to Hotel Savoy’s restaurant, Irene, for a bite to eat. “You can tell when food is cooked with love. And that is a feeling that is intrinsic to this menu and restaurant as a whole. Take the name, Irene – which has been borrowed from the grandmother of the Forte family. And where would Italian cooking be without the mother?” Martin and Alexander Korey enjoying a delicious glass of wine at Irene. Martin and Alexander Korey enjoying a delicious glass of wine at Irene.

You can read more about Martin’s trip on Allure of the Seas in the full Away with Words series.

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