Sunday, June 25. I'll be leaving this afternoon for a walking trip through Normandy and Brittany so I just purchased a new app for the blogpost stuff provided by Google in the hopes that it'll be easier to use than previous attempts, especially on our last trip on the Ponant where I struggled to upload pictures. In the trip I took last year to the UK I could hardly post a thing, because of the lack of a good wireless connection. That may also be the case on this trip, but who knows? Let's see if I can upload (or is it download) a picture now.
Here's my iPad and Bluetooth connected keyboard.
Stay tuned for future entries, which will be of greater interest than this one.
Today we arrived in Porteferraio on the island of Elba. Able was I ere I saw Elba. We had a lavish lunch on board, and then a walking tour of the town, which was principally a visit to Napoleon's home during the nine months he spent on Alba. Napoleon didn't arrive alone in his exile, but brought with him 60 carriages and horses, 1000 pieces of furniture, and so on and on. Napoleon was dismayed at the custom of heaving chamber pot contents out of the windows into the street, so he set about installing a sewer system. We were able to see his personal toilet. And because his horses and carriages had no roads for him to ride upon, he had good roads built all over the island. All in all, the Elba folks were pretty happy to have him.
His house, where he lived with his sister Pauline, was basically a row of lavishly furnished rooms. Napoleon's bedchamber overlooked a garden and the Mediterranean. I especially enjoyed seeing the bright yellow silk brocades on the sofas and bed linens. Are those available at IKEA?
It was another sunny lovely day (we have been so lucky with the weather). At one overlook, we could see both the mainland of Italy, and Capri in the distance.
We are back on the Ponant heading to Nice, so basically the trip is over. Just one more long dinner to endure as we all make our farewells. We'll arrive in Nice tomorrow, and spend one last day and night at the Negresco before flying home.
We were uncertain if weather conditions would allow us to visit Ponza, but the sea was calm, the day was fair. The Ponant anchored in the harbor, and we rode on the Zodiacs (black motorboats) to shore, not on an organized tour, but just to wander around. Not too many tourists in town, yet. Pretty yellow and pink houses, fishing boats, gelateria, local crafts. I had never heard of Ponza before. Beautiful views, though. I'll attach some pictures. What a contrast to Naples!
We had lunch on the boat, and are now moving through rough seas to reach our next stop, which I believe is the island of Elba. This afternoon is a long and boring one. I've been reading a murder mystery in French, it helps to pass the time. With these seas, I'm not so comfortable moving around the boat and I'm afraid dinner tonight will be another challenge. Fortunately, the motion sickness patches are working well. It's still disorienting, a little like airplane turbulence, but also swaying back and forth. Walking around, there are lots of rails to grasp fortunately.
Yesterday our ship docked in the enormous port of Naples. We disembarked and went off in search of Neopolitan pizza. Success at the Trattoria Medina, where we had, naturally, pizza Medina, with arugula, ham, and multiple cheeses. It was delicious.
Our excursion to Herculaneum began shortly after lunch. A half hour drive through the not so beautiful streets of Naples to the ruins of the ancient city, preserved in volcanic ash over the centuries from the eruption of Vesuvius, AD 79. Mount Vesuvius looms over Naples, and I can't help wondering at the large residential areas built in its shadow. How quickly we forget!
In the Herculaneum, we saw the ruins of houses, shops, wine stores, reception halls, the woman's spa. We also saw ingenious systems for collecting rainwater. We walked across elegant mosaic floors, entered rooms with still colorful frescos, and looked under the arches where all sorts of skeletons were found, preserved just as they died, probably from the immense heat of the lava. Apparently, the local population didn't realize what was happening and went into the cellars where they had sheltered before during the frequent earthquakes. Women and children were separated from the men, for some reason. Much of what we saw was original, some things (like the skeletons) were copies. It's a fascinating place. I can't help thinking that all these thousands of years later, we still are living in more or less the same way. The women's spa could have been in Calistoga, with changing rooms, steam rooms, soaking tubs.
After the tour, Larry and I found a tiny Internet cafe at the port and I was able to post a blog or two.
We spent our Sunday in Arbatax and around, on the island of Sardinia. I have never given Sardinia a moment's thought, although I may have read D.H. Lawrence "Sea and Sardinia" a long time ago. As it has been up to now, we had a morning excursion. In Sardinia it was an archeological area with a Nuraghe (I think I have that spelled correctly. Nuraghes are stone towers, usually on the coast I believe. Sardinia has 7000 of them. What purpose they served in pure speculation. The towers resemble bee hives, with built in niches, staircases leading up to second and third floors (which no longer exist). What these people kept in the niches is also unknown--grain perhaps. They seem kind of small to be sleeping quarters. In the same area, we saw ancient tombs, and menhirs (a kind of standing stone) which date way before the arrival of the folks who built the nuraghes. I tried to pass through the stones, like Claire in Outlander, but nothing happened. I think the passage only works on Halloween.
After our archeology morning, we went to a very pretty little town called Santa Maria Navarese (not sure of spelling). The town is on the sea, and has amazing fine sandy beaches and beautiful views, but cold water. The only guy I saw in the water had on a wet suit. Once again, we are fortunately ahead of the main tourist season here, when it is likely to be crowded. In this little town, we walked around some very ancient olive trees with gnarly multiple trunks. These are wild olive trees, and the olives are not turned into oil. The nice surprise was a stop at an seaside restaurant where we snacked on Sardinian cheese, charcuterie, crispy bread and Sardinian cookies.
Marsh McCall continues to give fine lectures. The question of the day for us is: Are we Epicurians or are we Stoics?
Red rocks in Sardinia
Carol is taking a hike
A gnarly old olive tree
Back on the Ponant, the weather has turned rainy and the sea choppy. Our guides and the captain of the Ponant gave up on Plan A, Trapani in Sicily, and gave up on Plan B, to dock somewhere ELSE in Sicily, and then decided on Plan C, which is to divert the Ponant to Naples, Italy. The captain showed us his weather charts to justify the new plan. I believe we were all convinced. He said the ship could certainly handle the weather, but we passengers would not be very happy.
A new excursion has been planned for us today: Herculaneum near Naples, another ancient city destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. It's a World Heritage site, and according to our guides, is less crowded and better preserved than Pompeii. Our ship will dock in the Naples harbor in about an hour, and we'll begin our excursion.
Today we arrived in Bonafacio on the southernmost tip of Corsica, a more beautiful and prosperous city than Calvi. The Ponant steered into a narrow passageway below the limestone cliffs to arrive in the harbor, where we were met with a little tourist train and our local guide, an English grandmother who has somehow ended up living in Corsica. "How did you come to live in Corsica?" someone asked. She said, "a man, of course."
She also pointed out a small restaurant in town, the Stella d'Oro, where we had a great lunch in the company of two interesting Mill Valley fellow passengers. The lunch was unfortunately a lot better than anything we've had to eat on the Ponant thus far. Not that the Ponant is bad, just not extraordinary. Here's the menu: stuffed mussels, eggplant salad, lasagna and lemon tart, all with Corsican red wine. Yummy.
The town of Bonafacio is, as are most villages in Corsica, on the top of a hill, with a narrow passageway leading into narrow streets, a church at the pinnacle, gift shops, cafes and restaurants, little hotels, views all around of the sea, and a hiking trail leading out along the shore to a lighthouse. Our guide kept telling us that we had come at absolutely the best time of year, before the swarms of tourists arrive for the summer. We (the passengers of the Ponant) did our share of swarming. I didn't buy most of the stuff I wanted to, but helped the economy in a small way, with lunch and a cotton scarf.
Marsh McCall will give his second lecture in about an hour. At the lecture yesterday he posed the question, basically: Do you believe in manifest destiny? Since we're discussing the Romans and the Roman Empire on this trip, we are wondering how Rome came to be so dominant in this area and elsewhere. Even so, they always felt inferior to the Greeks. The motto of our trip is in Latin:
Certo, Toto, siento nos in Kansate non iam adesse
Surely, Toto, I feel that we in Kansas no longer are present
We have just docked in the harbor at Calvi, in Corsica. When I woke up this morning I could see the fortifications of Calvi on top of a hill with the rest of the city spread out below, in warm brown and rose colors, with bright sunshine and blue skies, calm seas.
Our breakfast was outdoors, delicious slices of melon, all kinds of meats, cheeses, breads, eggs. We are living in luxury here. I slept well, as the boat swayed back and forth like a baby's cradle. The Ponant is smaller than I expected, but there is a big sun deck on the top with plenty of places to sit, an indoor lounge with comfortable leather benches, a beautiful dining room and the breakfast and lunch area in the back of the ship. Our cabin has lots of storage, but just a porthole. We'll probably spend most of our time upstairs. There's an electric keyboard, and we have a pianist on board too. Maybe tonight if I'm not too sleepy we can have a drink at the bar and listen to the music. It's an open bar, Joe and Jenny, we are so lucky.
Last night we had a multi-course dinner with Marsh McCall and Susan, the professor and his wife, and a lively conversation on all sorts of topics. We're gradually meeting and speaking with the other passengers. Before the mandatory safety drill, I ordered a martini from the bar and am now known by all as the martini lady. Well, it could be worse.
Nice has its beauties, but to me they're not as accessible as those of Paris. It's crowded and noisy, and hard to get around until you've mastered the public transport. It's packed full of high end shops for the tourists, big hotels everywhere, some shabby, a long shore by the Mediterannean, glittering sunshine and blue water (at least on this visit). The whole crowded place is surrounded by layers of mountains, including some distant snow covered peaks.
The bus to Eze yesterday took us up the Corniche, past some spectacular views and amazing homes (practically castles) perched up on the rocks. We were delighted to spend 3 euros for the ride, a considerable savings on the 50 it might have cost for a taxi. Larry noticed that Uber is operating here, but we didn't try it out. This week the trains are on strike.
Arriving in Nice by plane has been one of the highlights of the trip thus far. The plane heads out into the Mediterannean as if it had accidentally missed the airport, and then seems to float over the water until suddenly making a sharp turn and heading down into the sea with engines roaring to land just on time on a runway rising out of the waves.
Here's a picture of a turtle in one of the big public spaces in Nice.
Stephanie suggested I take up my blog from where I left it off on my last trip, which was to the United Kingdom, hiking parts of the Coast to Coast trail. As I remember it, the wireless connections were so sketchy everywhere we went that it was hard to stay up to date with the blog. I'm not sure that this trip will be any better.
We'll be arriving in Nice on Tuesday evening after a long flight with one change in Frankfurt. We're staying at the Hotel Negresco, a glamorous hotel on the waterfront, filled with exotic, even garish, art and lots of color and spectacle. Larry and I stayed there three years ago for one night. I'm expecting to enjoy it, though. Sometimes I like shameless excess.
We'll have a day on our own before meeting with the Stanford group Wednesday late afternoon. We'll spend a second day at the Negresco, and then board the Ponant to begin our Mediterranean Cruise. I want to make sure I can upload photos on my blog. Let's give it a try.
Here is Larry trying to help me figure out how to publish a blog.
I just returned from the reception, with wine and small bites of salmon and other fishies. Marsh McCall gave a rousing introduction to the theme of the trip, the Mediterannean islands in the Roman Empire, Book 5 of the Iliad, and some Greek stuff when we get to Sicily. There are 48 travelers in all and we met only a small handful of them. Everybody is jet lagged.
Larry and I had a busy day this morning visiting the Old Town of Nice, where we had breakfast in the square by the Palais de Justice, and then took a bus to the town of Eze where we saw the Fragonard perfume factory and walked around the ramparts. Larry was walking very well, and his foot didn't bother him much, but now he is very tired and his back hurts.
Larry resting on a street in the Vieille Ville of Nice
The weather has been lovely, but the sea looks rough. Tomorrow we are scheduled to go on an excursion with the Stanford folks to St. Paul de Vence and an art museum, and board the boat later in the afternoon.
We have had a busy time of it so far, and are just about to begin the group portion of our trip, dressing up and going downstairs to greet the other Stanford Travel Study people at a welcome reception. I am even wearing a skirt for the occasion. Here is a picture of our hotel. I don't know why the picture is so small.
Also it is hard to type anything underneath the picture. Here is a picture of our bed (I know you all wanted to see a bed from the Hotel Negresco).