What a week we’ve had! Those who follow us on social media will have seen snippets of our adventures across the Western Med- on our Biscuit Cruise with Thomson Holidays! Our goal: to seek out the best local teatime treats from across 6 (count ’em!) destinations in the space of one week- using the grand Thomson Dream as our rather swanky mode of transport.
This post is part 1 of 2- so this time around I’ll share more about our journey through our first three ports of call: Palma (Mallorca), Olbia (Sardinia) & Sorrento (Italy). So without further ado- let’s get started!
Day 1 – Palma (Mallorca)
Our flight arrived in Palma around midday, where we were whisked off to the cruise ship via a direct transfer coach. Neither of us (Mr Biscuit and I) had ever been on a cruise before- so it was super exciting to take in the experience for the very first time! At the port we had to check-in to the ship – there was a wee bit of queuing but we were well-entertained by a spanish-style guitar trio who serenaded us with fun cover tunes.
The Thomson Dream was ENORMOUS. Our cabin itself was super spacious- if it weren’t for the big window looking out into the ocean- it felt just like being in a hotel. We resisted the urge to explore the ship right away and headed out to explore Palma!
We caught a taxi towards Palma’s old town and jumped out at the Cathedral of Santa Maria. I love a bit of gothic architecture against a sunny blue sky so I was in my element snapping photos here before we head off for our teatime treat for the day: Ensaimadas!
I’ve had a supermarket version of these before, but Mallorcan Ensaimadas are in a league all of their own. They are made of the lightest, softest pastry and dusted with icing sugar before being served up with a hot coffee. We ordered a small one but they sold giant ones too- they were about a foot across!
For our Ensaimada pilgrimage, we visited Palma’s Forn de Teatre, the oldest bakery in town. For somewhere that was a bit of a local landmark- the pastries weren’t expensive and there were a mixture of spanish folks as well as cake-loving tourists. We sat outside and ate ours- which was such a treat!
With some time left before heading back to port, we got our art fix at Es Baluard Museu– a contemporary gallery built within a 16th century fort. It was only a couple of Euros each, and well worth a visit whilst in Palma.
We spent the first night on the ship exploring its 12 decks. There were lots of bars & lounges, a choice of restaurants, a “street” of shops, a spa, gym (with a sauna!), library and a full sized theatre- which I’d say was a little bigger than Glasgow’s Citizens. The fact that all of this was floating around the Mediterranean was just incredible.
Day 2 – At Sea!
Our first full day was an “at sea” day- to travel to our first stop in Italy. Luckily for us we were able to get our biscuit fix on board- when afternoon tea was served!
Both of the buffet style restaurants onboard used these dreamy lemon trays- so I loaded up mine with treats for our afternoon tea. Everything was tasty- but as a biscuit lover- my heart belonged to the fresh macadamia nut cookies (top left) washed down with a mug of Earl Grey.
Day 3 – Olbia (Sardinia)
After being at sea for the day- waking up to the sun rising over a new port was incredible! We had a half day to explore Olbia, a little town on the Italian island of Sardinia, so we got up early and hit the road. In the port- a neighbouring ship had been painted with 50 ft high Warner Brothers characters- which made an ace background for some early morning jump photos!
The town of Olbia was small but full of colour & charm. The ice-cream inspired street art seemed to be hinting that we should try some of the local gelato- so we picked a lovely bright gelateria just off the main street and tucked in!
We continued along the bright colour theme and went for a colour pop pink donut and some bubblegum gelato with rainbow sprinkles. Both Mr Biscuit and I are tea jennies- and almost always opt for tea over coffee- but we gave some fresh Italian coffee a whirl (an Espresso & a Cappuccino) and we were not disappointed.
Day 4 – Naples/Sorrento/Amalfi
The ship’s original itinerary was for us to dock near Sorrento on day four- with a “tender to shore” (a smaller boat taking us from the cruise ship into Sorrento’s little port) however the windy conditions dictated that this wouldn’t be possible. All was not lost though- as our course was swiftly changed to take us to Naples instead (Italy’s coffee heart-land!).
We’d booked one of Thomson’s organised tours, The Amalfi Drive, on the recommendation of my parents who’d done the same trip last year. The coach took us past Mount Vesuvius and along winding mountain roads towards Amalfi. If you’re not a fan of heights then this trip might not be for you- but the views over the valley towns below are definitely worth the hint of vertigo!
The focal point of Amalfi’s square, Piazza del Duomo is its picture perfect monochrome cathedral. We popped in for a visit before heading to the next stop on our teatime hit-list: Pansa Andrea. Another historic pasticceria, Pansa Andrea serves fresh bakes and coffee of the finest degree. We chose this pretty pastel chocolate bun and Limoncello flavoured Cannoli to sample with our coffees, and ended up saving the little chocolate hazelnut waffle biscuit for the bus ride home. The chocolate bun was light and rich- similar to the texture of a muffin- but packed full of real cacao. The Limoncello Cannoli was possibly the best thing i’ve EVER eaten- and it’s just as well for my waistline that these aren’t readily available in the UK!
If we weren’t full enough after our stop at Pansa Andrea, we grabbed a paper cone of fresh fish & chips from a street food booth- all skewered together with zucchini dumplings and a slice of lemon. The italian portions were much smaller than what we’re used to in the UK- but after all of the coffee and cake we certainly weren’t complaining! There were a couple of booths selling hot Arrancini (breadcrumbed balls of Risotto) too- but we decided to leave sampling these for another day.
Full of good food & coffee we climbed to the top of Amalfi’s main street, Via Lorenzo D’Amalfi, where we happened upon a the Museo della Carta (the Paper Museum!) Both being creatives and mega stationery geeks- we hopped on the next tour of the old mill, where we were shown how Amalfi’s waterfalls powered the factory throughout the ages. We even got to make our own little piece of hand-pressed paper!
Once we were back in Naples- we walked through the bustle to seek out Gran Caffe Gambrinus– the city’s most talked about coffee shop. It was a little pricier for our coffee in here- but the interior is pretty fancy and we enjoyed our deliciously rich drinks there before making a bee line back to the ship for the evening.
I don’t often get time to draw for pleasure- so it was a real treat to have the opportunity to doodle some highlights from our adventure during our evenings sailing between ports! I’ll post the finished piece in my next post- but in the mean time- here’s a wee teaser:
Next time: our #biscuitcruise adventures in Rome, Ajaccio (Corsica) & Palamos (Spain).
Happy Dunking, pals!
Mr & Mrs Biscuit