Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Last Day

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.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Sunday Recapitulation

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.