Embarking from Athens, we headed out to our first port of Gabes Tunisia. A starkly industrial port, Gabes is known for it's appearance in the first Star Wars film from the 70's...it was Luke Skywalker's home of Tattoine. All sand and rocky hills, this barren landscape offered only two excursions - one involved a camel ride, the other a peak into the homes in Matmata which were built directly into the mountains. I chose the Matmata tour and found it, frankly, kind of boring. Another passenger commented it was the most interesting thing the did the whole trip to to each his own. The $74 excursion ended with a stop in a small local Souk or market which featured bulk teas and spices and even pieces of the Sahara desert. If you're in the market for saffron or a similarly expensive spice, this is the place for you. Otherwise, feel free to skip it - there are intense sales pressures from toothless (and harmless) locals.
I understand that Gabes is a relatively new port and the docking location itself is unappealing as, when we were there, large hills of sulfer dotted the area, lending a special aroma to our day. Perhaps it will get better as the experience is refined?
Valletta is gorgeous - take the hop on - hop off (3 hours) or take a personalized tour - of the 13 ports, this was in my top 3 favorites. The people are friendly, the food was delicious, the weather lovely...don't miss the sail in. I would love to go back...I didn't enjoy Gozo nearly as much though it is less touristy and you get a better idea of the real lives the Gozoans live.
Our last stop before the transatlantic journey, this lush island is such a paradise...I was there at the end of November and the sun was shining, many flowers in bloom and everything was just so green. I did the hop on/hop off here too - be sure to get off and wander. This was my favorite port - the sloping mountainside covered in red roofed homes was quite a sight as I made my way up in the cable car...another activity everyone must try. It's all just so picturesque.
I didn't try the Madeira wine - mistake! The food was good - lovely soft local cheese blended with al dente pasta, a small salad, chocolate mousse pie and wine for only 10 Euro. I also bought a bottle of local port and a nice big bag of local sea salt to take home to friends - such a nice touch.
St Tropez was pretty to look at but, wow, you feel the Euro here. A nice sit down dinner - entree only - $30 euro...that's $45 US and doesn't include wine or dessert. Still, fun to walk around, lots of locals with dogs and kids... Gorgeous cashmere stores but, again, expensive. I did enjoy some French pastries - do yourself a favor and buy some St Tropez Cakes - a local specialty - YUM!
Not Seville but Cadiz...a little pretty spot which most use as a stepping stone to the train to Seville. Enjoy the large Catedral Plaza, take a quick walk around the main city which enjoys many gardens and a seascape view. Gorgeous little entryways which are tiled with colorful mosaics that I couldn't stop photographing. The third in my 'top three', I'd visit Spain again without hesitation, especially Cadiz.