Friday, April 29, 2016

Friday April 29

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.

Sent from my iPad

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


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.

The Day Before

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.

Wednesday evening, continued

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.

Wednesday Evening

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).

Now this time I was more successful.