San Francisco, CA

We arrived into SFO on-time at 9:10 pm last night. We’d already cleared customs in Philadelphia so we just had to walk downstairs and wait for our bags. 15 minutes later we were outside in the cool, moist San Francisco air waiting for the 9:43 pm (really, that’s the next one’s time?) Fairfield Inn shuttle.  10 minutes later we had passed by Terminals 2, 3 and International and were going the 10 minutes to the Fairfield Inn. A quick check-in, and we moved the bags into the room, a quick glass of bootlegged cheap red wine from the Mariner drank in doubled-up hotel room plastic cups and next thing you know, I was outside in the cool air once again going for a walk to pick up some Thai food from a restaurant across the street. Seems that Margaret’s appetite has returned, even at 10:30 pm after being up for 24 hours straight.

Our choices were a Taco Bell next door (not going to happen with our Paleo diet), or Chinese, Korean or Thai places that were all within a block.  Soon, we were having a very nice mild chicken curry dish over steamed white rice (better for you than brown believe it or not) and watching Fox News.  I must say that I have had my fill of Fox News after watching it almost constantly when on the ship along with the great selection of movies on the Mariner.

In the morning, I walked a couple blocks to Peet’s Coffee to pick up a couple latte’s and a wheat-free (but probably not Paleo) Morning glory muffin.  One thing I’m going to miss are those fantastic espressos and cappuccinos that you get everywhere in France and Italy.  Just not the same back in the states.  I’m looking forward to having my normal breakfast of Margarets Morning glory muffins (click here for the recipe) with some coconut oil, virgin olive oil and blueberries or strawberries heated in the microwave for a minute along with a cappuccino made with our Saeco coffee maker.

After taking showers and re-packing we loaded our stuff in our car and, after stopping to pick up Margaret another tall double shot latte we were heading down I280 toward Santa Cruz and on to Carmel. Our plans were to wait for Gigi to drop off Spencer at 1:00 and then head to our favorite lunch haunt, Casanova for a nice relaxing lunch.

Our 15 day French and Italian vacation had come to an end and while it was a whirlwind, we (well mostly me) saw a lot and got a good taste of the flavor of the French and Italian Riviera regions! If anyone actually managed to wade through all these posts email me and I’ll give you some type of reward. You deserve it! That being said, for some reason this blog took me a LOT of time. Maybe it’s because I’m approaching my 61st birthday this next weekend and I’m just not as fast as I used to be? Or, maybe I just write (and talk) way too much. I can’t blame the computer anymore because I’m using my shiny new 5K iMac and it is blazing fast. There I go again, blabbing on and on about less than interesting subjects.  So, Ciao for now!

To make it easy to look at this trip I’ve put together a table of all the blog posts.  Just click on the city name and it will open up a new window in your browser.  When you close that window it will return to this table.

Date Port Arrive Depart
MAY 23 SAT Spain, France and Italy Here we Come! PreBoard
MAY 24 SUN Repositioning to SFO PreBoard
MAY 25 MON Flying to Barcelona PreBoard
MAY 26 TUE Barcelona, Spain PreBoard
MAY 27 WED Barcelona, Spain 6:00 PM
MAY 28 THU Provence (Marseille), France Morning 8:00 AM 7:00 PM
MAY 28 THU Provence (Aix), France Afternoon 8:00 AM 7:00 PM
MAY 29 FRI Saint Tropez, France Morning 8:00 AM 11:59 PM
MAY 29 FRI Saint Tropez, France Afternoon 8:00 AM 11:59 PM
MAY 30 SAT Antibes Morning, France 8:00 AM 6:00 PM
MAY 30 SAT Antibes Afternoon, France 8:00 AM 6:00 PM
MAY 31 SUN Livorno (Pisa), Italy – Morning 8:00 AM 8:00 PM
MAY 31 SUN Livorno, Italy – Afternoon 8:00 AM 8:00 PM
JUN 1 MON Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy 8:00 AM 8:00 PM
JUN 2 TUE Portofino (Genoa), Italy Morning 9:00 AM 7:00 PM
JUN 2 TUE Portofino (Genoa Artwork), Italy Morning 9:00 AM 7:00 PM
JUN 2 TUE Portofino, Italy Afternoon 9:00 AM 7:00 PM
JUN 3 WED Cannes, France 8:00 AM 11:00 PM
JUN 4 THU Monte Carlo, Monaco – Morning 7:00 AM 11:59 PM
JUN 4 THU Monte Carlo, Monaco – Afternoon 7:00 AM 11:59 PM
JUN 5 FRI Cannes, France 8:00 AM 10:00 PM
JUN 6 SAT Saint-Tropez, France 8:00 AM 6:00 PM
JUN 7 SUN Toulon, France 8:30 AM 6:30 PM
JUN 8 MON Ajaccio (Corsica), France 8:00 AM 6:00 PM
JUN 9 TUE Portofino, Italy 8:00 AM 6:00 PM
JUN 10 WED La Spezia (Cinque Terra), Italy 8:00 AM 6:00 PM
JUN 10 THU Rome (Civitavecchia), Italy 7:00 AM
JUN 11 FRI San Francisco-Carmel



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Today we disembark from Civitavecchia, Italy, the port of Rome. The good news is that we arrived to the port on time. We had packed everything the day before and all but my roll-aboards, Margaret’s computer bag and my little shoulder pack. Our 2 large bags were already down on the dock as they take the large bags the night before.

We woke up at 6:00 am and, strangely, Margaret was all rarin’ to go. She even opened the drapes and let in the VERY bright light…which would normally be a huge no-no for me, even a little crack. But, it was nice that she was motivated to get off the ship even if it was to battle to the airport. I told her that I wish I had one wish and that it would be that we were home in our nice comfy bed in Carmel. Not going to happen.

We had ordered a car service from a website that supposedly was part of the port and seemed very professional. They had sent a confirming email complete with a customer service number. The driver would be waiting with a sign with our name in front of the ship at precisely 8:30 am. That would give us plenty of time to make the 1 hour transfer to the Rome airport so that we would have the much needed 2 hours recommended for international flights.

We had a leisurely breakfast in Compass Rose and then made our way downstairs and got in the long line of people getting off the ship. 15 minutes later we were on the street with all of our bags optimistically thinking that we’d see a good looking Italian driver in his nice dark suit holding up the a sign with our name on it. There were about 15 drivers standing around but none with our name. Be patient we thought, it’s only 8:15. Then, 8:20. 8:29. 8:35. Now it was getting somewhat serious. I walked around the parking lot thinking that maybe we missed him. Nothing.

I had called the customer help number but it went to a full message box message. Three times. Margaret called it and actually got a guy named Mauro who said that our driver would be there shortly. But there was still no driver. Mauro insisted on texts that he was there. But we insisted that, no, he wasn’t. And, it was now 9:00.

As I walked back from another trip around the entire lot (and it was getting hot) I saw a driver I had seen earlier holding a sign with LI NO on it but it now had a quickly handwritten sign with our name. I said “hey, that’s us, let’s get going”. Yet, he didn’t make any indication that he was going to help us. I said, “hey, we need some help with our bags”. He said, “I’m not your driver”. “Then, why are you holding a sign with our name on it?” Irritated for some reason, he told us to meet him at his car, pointing to a Mercedes 50 feet away.

We loaded our bags in the car, clueless as to where this “not our driver” guy was taking us. He said something like “I am taking you to your driver”. Exiting the dock area through security, he went another 50 feet and stopped next to a gold Mercedes wagon. He dumped our bags on the street, said something clearly not complimentary in Italian (meaning, he was yelling) to the driver of the wagon, jumped back in his car and quickly took off back to the ship area. Apparently, our driver had been waiting about ½ mile outside the dock area holding up our name with no one around. Really? What’s up with that? Regardless, he loaded our bags in the car and we were off to the airport, going way too fast on really narrow streets lined with cars. We tried to ignore it as we were late to catch our plane at this point!

That was before he hit the freeway and he was going 100 mph (160 kph), tailgating, while texting and talking on his phone…no fun at all. During the drive, Mauro texted Margaret and said that the driver was where he was supposed to be. She texted back, “No he wasn’t….outside the port was definitely not just below the Mariner”. Several texts later he eventually apologized and said that he would give us the ride for free as their reputation was flawless. We said, “No, we’ll pay you 100 Euro”. He said, “No, it will be free”. We arrived at the airport and our driver took the bags out of the car and said (in Italian), 130 Euros please. We said, “Mauro said it was going to be free but we’ll pay you 100 Euros”. He said, “No, that’s not correct”. Apparently, Mauro had not told him about the revised rates and left it up to us to break the news to the driver who didn’t speak English. Really?

We handed our nameless driver 100 Euro and walked away. Only to discover that he had dropped us off at Terminal 3 instead of Terminal 5. I went back out to tell our driver what had happened but a guy had some form and was filling it out on the hood of the wagon. Our driver looked a combination of confused and pissed off and said something about finances. My guess? He wasn’t an authorized cab in the airport (or the port for that matter) and was getting fined for operating an illegal cab. Lesson? Don’t get in a cab in Italy that isn’t black or white, certainly not gold.

I figured out that we had to take our bags a couple blocks down the sidewalk and catch a shuttle bus to Terminal 5. It came about 10 minutes later, we loaded our bags and, after the bus was completely crammed full with people it drove about 10 minutes and dropped us off. We went into a pretty plain looking terminal and found the US Air Business Class desk. They inspected our passports and boarding passes and told us to go to Check In. “Wasn’t that check in?”. She said, “No”. Rounding the corner there was a massive line. Now we were in trouble. But, after some investigation we found out that this was for a Delta flight. We went around the line to the American/USAir area that had exactly one other person in line. Margaret started working the automated Check In terminal but found out that her passport, that she had just given the other lady, was missing! Panic set in. I ran back to the other lady and told her that her passport was missing. The lady said she had given it to another lady who had gone looking for her. I found that lady and took her to Margaret but she gave her passport to a tall man in a suit who then took Margaret way down the line of agents. I managed to take all the bags down to her and found that this was, in fact, the Business check in for US Air. Score! We checked our bags and headed for security.

This line was very long. Ugh! And, a nice black lady that was in line in front of us discovered the SHE had lost her passport too. Jeez. This is crazy. Fortunately, she quickly found it and the line started moving much faster. But, this wasn’t security, it was passport control! The passport line turned out to be quick and we got through it in about 10 minutes. The security line after that was manageable and we got through it in another 10 minutes. By that point we had discovered that our flight was delayed 45 minutes so we had enough time. After all, we just had to walk to our gate. NOT! We had to wait 10 minutes to cram on another of those shuttles which took us over to the G gates. Finally, we arrived at a nice terminal and walked to a shared “Admirals” club of sorts. Free drinks, food and wifi! We were good again.

We made it to the gate, Margaret tried, unsuccessfully, to spend her remaining Euros and we waited another 40 minutes for our flight to board. We were on the right side of the plane, the two seat side, and we quickly settled in for our 10 hour flight. Once again they had a nice selection of movies and TV shows and we watched a couple of them together while I read Sharyll Atkinson’s book “Stonewalled”. Pretty amazing stuff about how the government is blocking access to public information and manipulating the press into following their lead. It was coincidental that, while reading this book, I stumbled on the HBO series “Newsroom” that, while I had seen it before, had never connected with it. But, I watched three episodes on the plane and totally got into it as it was completely in sync with Atkinson’s book. Shocking really and really well produced with a very emotional connection

We landed on time in Philadelphia and de-planed to find a new automated customs procedure. They have a bunch of kiosks that read your passport, take your picture and then print out a receipt that you bring to the regular customs folks. We got through all of that, and while we were speaking with the customs office a cute little beagle came by and started wagging his tail. Unfortunately he was an agriculture agent and the nice lady who had him on lease told us that the dog was indicating that we have some type of agriculture on us that is illegal to bring into the U.S. Yikes!

What we actually had was a pack that had contained an apple and banana that we ate on the plane. But that sharp-nosed little guy didn’t care that there wasn’t currently a banana in the bag, his nose picked up that there used to be a banana in the bag! We were informed we would have to go through further scrutiny at the Agriculture inspection station. So we collected the rest of our bags and got into another line about 12 people deep.   We had 2 hour connection time in Philly so we figured we were OK…that is always the way it seems!

Fifteen minutes later we explained our banana story, put our bags on an x-ray machine and were off to take our bags to the connection line. Normally, you drop off your bags and make your way directly to the connection gate. But, that’s not how it works in Philadelphia. Soon, we found ourselves looking at another long security line as it turned out we had to go outside of security and now we have to go back through. I told the agent that this must be a mistake that we were supposed to skip this stuff. She said, “No way, in Philadelphia you have to do the whole mess one more time”. Normally, I get the Pre-Check approval and Margaret doesn’t. But, this time, for some reason, she got it and I didn’t. Trying to get us both in that line was fruitless.   She said that our flight would leave from Terminal 2 which probably had a shorter line. So, we went outside in the 90 degree heat, walked about 2 long blocks in a messy construction situation, went back in and upstairs only to see a line just as long as the other one. Another attempt to get us both into the Pre-Check line, which was had no line at all, but failed again. No amount of my complaining worked so we got in the line in the very hot terminal and waited it out.   At this point, we had about 45 minutes before our flight left. What started out as a relaxing 2 hour layover had evaporated into no layover at all and we had to find something to eat on our 5+ hour flight.

Margaret had her mind set on getting a burger so we found the first food place that had burgers, ordered a couple with bacon and avocado, picked them up and hustled off to Gate 15, which, of course, was pretty much the last one in the terminal. Even though we thought we had Exit row seats, we tried to switch seats so Margaret wouldn’t have a center seat. After fumbling around on the computer for 10 minutes they had already boarded First and priority customers so we just grabbed our bags and got on the plane. Our exit row turned out to be a bulkhead with seat backs that didn’t go back. Ugh! We put the best face on it and settled down for the 5 ½ hour flight, gobbling up our burgers before the door had even closed.

The flight was smooth, Margaret played 3’s on her iPad, I read another 30% of the Atkinson book and we got a couple hours of sleep before a nice landing at SFO with lights twinkling around the bay.

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La Spezia, Italy

Our scheduled tour today was called “A Cruise to Cinque Terra”. The idea was to meet in the theater at 7:30 am, take the tender to shore and get on a boat that would cruise to one of the 5 seaside villages while viewing all the others. It was a beautiful day although there was the typical morning light haze. Margaret had decided that she wouldn’t go on this tour yesterday when they changed the departure time from 8:00 to 7:30 am. A quick breakfast at La Veranda and I was on my way.

Following write-up is my updates and corrections of Wikipedia’s article on this area:

The Cinque Terre is a rugged portion of coast on the Italian Riviera. It is in the Liguria region of Italy, to the west of the city of La Spezia. The area, literally translated, “The Five Lands”, comprises five villages  in order from the farthest away to closest: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The coastline, the five villages, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The first historical documents on the Cinque Terre date back to the 11th century. Monterosso and Vernazza sprang up first, while the other villages grew later, under military and political supremacy of the Republic of Genoa. In the 16th century, to oppose the attacks by the Turks, the inhabitants reinforced the old forts and built new defense towers. From the year 1600, the Cinque Terre experienced a decline which reversed only in the 19th century thanks to the construction of the Military Arsenal of La Spezia and to the building of the railway line between Genoa and La Spezia. The railway allowed the inhabitants to escape their isolation, but also brought about abandonment of traditional activities. The consequence was an increase in poverty which pushed many to emigrate abroad, at least up to the 1970s, when the development of tourism brought back wealth.  A good example of unforeseen consequences of technology.

The variation of house colors is due to the fact that while fishermen were doing their jobs just offshore, they wanted to be able to see their house easily. This way, they could make sure their wives were still home doing their wifely duties. Most of the families in the five villages made money by catching fish and selling them in the small port villages. Fish was also their main source of food.

Over the centuries, people have carefully built terraces on the rugged, steep landscape right up to the cliffs that overlook the sea. Part of its charm is the lack of visible corporate development. Incredible hiking paths, unbelievably trains and boats connect the villages.  A passenger ferry runs between the five villages, except Corniglia. The ferry enters Cinque Terre from Genoa’s Old Harbour and La Spezia, Lerici, or Porto Venere.

There are few roads into the Cinque Terre towns that are accessible by car. The one into Vernazza was opened in June 2012, but very narrow at many spots. It leads to a parking area half a mile from town. It is best to plan not to travel by car at all, but to park at La Spezia, for instance, and take the trains. Local trains from La Spezia to Genoa and the rest of the region’s network connect the Cinque Terre. Intercity trains also connect the Cinque Terre to Milan, Rome, Turin and Tuscany. The Cinque Terre tracks run most of the distance in tunnels between Riomaggiore and Monterosso. The Cinque Terre trains connect the La Spezia train station to all five towns. Unlimited day passes are available for tourists, and the trip from one village to another is five minutes or less. It only takes about 7 minutes to get to the closest village from La Spezia and something like 20 to get to the last.

The Cinque Terre area is a very popular tourist destination and we found out why. Our boat passed through a channel between the mainland and an interesting island as we rounded the peninsula and headed north towards the villages. The coastline was very steep and rugged, made of gray marble with cliffs going hundreds of feet straight from the water and grottos with beautiful blue water. Just as we turned around the point there was a good-sized and still active medieval village that was pretty incredible. A bonus on this tour.

We passed by the first three villages, none of which appeared to have the ability for a boat the size of ours to dock. One was only able to have very small boats stop. All were rather spectacular. But, what really impressed me was the way they had terraced the very steep slopes so they could grow olive trees and grapes. Pretty crazy really.

A famous walking trail, known as Sentiero Azzurro (“Azure Trail”), connects the five villages. The trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola is called the Via dell’Amore (“Love Walk”) and is wheelchair-friendly. The stretch from Manarola to Corniglia  is the easiest to hike, although the main trail into Corniglia finishes with a climb of 368 steps. There are small manned toll booths that collect tolls to walk the paths…I found it was 5 Euros for the last path. I walked up the very steep steps from the main drag to join up with the walking path that connects each of the villages. It was absolutely amazing as it was made of locally quarried stones and frequently had very steep steps. This trail goes for something like 10 miles! A huge project. You could see, up close, how the locals tend their gardens, grapes and olive trees on these steep slopes.

Given its location on the Mediterranean, seafood is plentiful in the local cuisine. Anchovies of Monterosso are a local specialty designated with a Protected Designation of Origin status from the European Union. The mountainsides of the Cinque Terre are heavily terraced and are used to cultivate grapes and olives. This area, and the region of Liguria, as a whole, is known for pesto, a sauce made from basil leaves, garlic, salt, olive oil, pine nuts and pecorino cheese. Focaccia is a particularly common locally baked bread product. Farinata, a typical snack found in bakeries and pizzerias, is a savory and crunchy pancake made from a base of chick pea flour. The town of Corniglia is particularly popular for miele di Corniglia, gelato made from local honey.

The grapes of the Cinque Terre are used to produce two locally made wines. The eponymous Cinque Terre and the Sciachetrà are both made using Bosco, Albarola, and Vermentino grapes. Both wines are produced by the Cooperative Agricoltura di Cinque Terre, located between Manarola and Volastra. Other DOC producers are Forlini-Capellini, Walter de Batté, Buranco, Arrigoni. In addition to wines, other popular local drinks include grappa, a brandy made with the pomace left from winemaking, and limoncello, a sweet liqueur flavored with lemons.

The villages of the Cinque Terre were severely affected by torrential rains which caused floods and mudslides on October 25, 2011. Nine people were confirmed killed by the floods, and damage to the villages, particularly Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare, was extensive.  We heard stories of heroic people who saved tourists from the flood only to be swept away afterwards.  One man saved 5 German tourists but his body was found 10 days later up the coast in Nice.  The damage was incredible but they have rebuilt everything and you’d never know it happened.

We finally reached Vernazza, our only stop on this cruise.  It was clear why we stopped here because it has a large concrete dock. There is a beautiful church, colorful buildings, small boat harbor and many café’s gelato stores and all sorts of shops. Very cool restaurants built into the cliffs that could only be reached by heading up very steep stone steps.

There were also lots of steep steps heading up from the main drag through town with apartments off both sides of those steps. Seemed that many could be rented. Apparently, you can’t book them ahead of time but just show up and there are plenty to choose from and it seemed that it would be something fun to do.  After our tour stopped I sat down at the outdoor seating area of a café and had two cappuccinos and a walnut cake that was a specialty for this area. Not Paleo but very yummy. Then, I went to a gelato café that our tour guide said we must try and had some of the local honey-based stuff. Yum, yum.

After an hour and half of exploring we got back on the boat and headed out, stopped at some of the grottos with the brilliant blue water for up-close investigation and also taking in some nice views of the now-defunct stone quarries. This is quite close to the famous white Carrera marble quarries and the product here is similar. Margaret was to meet me at Compass Rose for lunch at 1:15 but I didn’t arrive back until 2:00. I had told her to just have a nice lunch by herself and, when I arrived at 2:15 she had done just that. I had a quick lunch at La Veranda before meeting up with her for a relaxing afternoon of packing in the room.

Mihaela was working late tonight so we were disappointed to not have her Pink Flowers and also to not be able to say good bye. We did get to say goodbye to the great piano player from Italy, Ross, who we had made friends with. He already contacted me by email and we hope to see him again someday. I met some nice ladies walking back to Compass Rose while Margaret went to reserve a window seat and we sat and talked with them in the downstairs bar area while they set our table. They want to visit us in Carmel. One even has two standard and one miniature poodles! The dinner was fine, with a bottle of Chappallet Napa cab. With that, our cruise was coming to a close and we both slept well on our last night on the ship.


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Portofino, Italy:

This morning we arrived in Portofino, Italy. Again.  We were supposed to take a boat ride to San Fruttuoso which is just around the corner to the right for approximately 30 minutes, take 30 minutes to visit there, then another boatride to Carnogli for 30 minutes, then a 1 hour walking tour and then have local wine and Genoese bread during the 30 minute cruise back to Portofino.

Margaret had breakfast in the room and I went to La Veranda, which has become our typical routine. She was feeling better so, after reading our books in the room and a nice relaxing lunch in Compass Rose we got our number 16 tour passes and took the completely packed tender to shore.   After that hot ride and viewing the boats that we would take on the “Italian Riviera Cruise” Margaret said, “No way am I going to do that” and I turned in the tickets to the tour guide and we headed down the docks to the quaint Portofino waterfront. Seeing a church up the hill a bit we decided to check it out and it was beautiful. Lots of fresco paintings, beautiful dioramas and stained glass and only two other people in the cathedral. Exiting we remembered that Matt and Amy had told us to go to the Hotel Splendido which was on the top of the hill at the harbor entrance.

And, a walk up the hill it was. There were incredibly gorgeous views of the harbor entrance and classic stone walks and stairs. The hotel was stunningly beautiful, had been in business for 120 years as a hotel and who knows how long as a private residence and it was a very elegant building. We found a nice table at the railing with an unobstructed view of the harbor and enjoyed a nice bottle of Italian Rose, and the waiter brought us bowls and bowls of Italian olives, huge almonds, hazelnuts and fresh potato chips. It was a beautiful setting with an amazing view…I have to say, much better than a crowded ferry boat and standing in lines…you get the idea.  That being said, several people later told me that they had a good time on the tour.  But, they weren’t at the Splendido with us…

After we finished the wine and much of the chips (mostly me), almonds and olives we ordered some raspberry sorbet and some yummy lattes! The sorbet came with some strawberries and was fantastic!  After helping a nice couple from New York take a picture and them reciprocating, we walked back down the hill to catch the tender.  It wasn’t very crowded and we got a nice spot right next to the open door. Score!

Tonight we are having dinner in the steakhouse, Prime 7. This is the first time we have a reservation since we’ve been on the ship, which is pretty unbelievable but I have to admit that we haven’t really tried that hard.  The dinner was great and we ordered some nice reserve wine.  A great day for us to spend together at one of the most beautiful places we’d ever been.

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Ajaccio, Corsica:

This morning Margaret had breakfast in the room, and it was La Veranda for me. We read books in the room in the morning.  Margaret finished her book Lost Lake which was a quick read.  I had started reading a book called “All the Light We Cannot See” yesterday.  I had made some progress and was really enjoying it but realized that I wouldn’t be able to finish it on the ship.  When I went to get a coffee later in the morning I found a book called the Pope and Mussolini.   It is a historical recounting of the relationship between Pope Pius XI and Mussolini during his rise to power and WWII.  It seemed to be very interesting stuff.  I decided to start that book and finish the other excellent book when I could spend more time on it.

We had lunch in Compass Rose and then decided that Margaret would go on the tour but we would spend an hour walking around old-town Ajaccio before the tour. After we walked through town, including seeing the family home of Napoleon which is now a museum but was closed today, we returned to the ship to pick up our tour numbers. Halfway back to the ship Margaret said that she wasn’t going to go on a 2 ½ bus ride when it was going to rain. Turns out she was right! Napoleon was born here and returned here often. In order to make the afternoon tour more interesting I had to think that, when he was the equivalent of a French Boy Scout he must have gone camping where we are going today.  And the idea of that was what made the trip interesting for me.

But, you know me; I was going to go no matter what to see more of Corsica and that I did.  The tour took us up to the mountains which are pretty much pure stone, although there were lots of oak trees (including cork oaks) and maritime pines at first and then another type of trees later that were more traditional very tall pines that made good lumber.

It rained a bit and got much cooler. The highest mountain peak was over 2,400 meters and was dramatic. The plan was to turn on a small road that went down to a restaurant and rail station that was located in a valley. But, the turn was too sharp for the bus so we had to head down a few miles further to turn around on a dirt area designed specifically for that.

On Corsica there are wild boars running around (wild of course, after all they are “wild” boars) on most of the island. There are lots of chestnut trees and the boars love to eat the ones that fall on the ground. Turns out this makes for very tasty boar meet which, when turned into salami is an expensive delicacy around the world. At the stop we were offered some spec and wild boar salami (but not the pricey stuff), some cheese and boxed wine. Not really much to write about that. But, I’ll probably figure out a way to anyway, here goes.  I walked around to take some pictures of the old decayed hotel which had once made this location a famous mountain resort. The shortest writing I’ve ever done after a warning!

Unfortunately, that hotel is really incredibly decayed and now the area around it is near a spot where you can pay 5 Euro to put up your tent overnight as a stop-over on a hiking trail. The bus took off about 4:30 so we could get back to the harbor by 5:30 which was when everyone was supposed to be aboard for a 6:00 pm departure. Our tour guide, Alex, asked if we still wanted to go by the hillside village on the way down. It was supposed to be our first stop but, because it was raining, she delayed it. Everyone said “No, let’s just return to the port”. Yet, when the turnoff came the bus went to the left anyway. The hillside village was pretty typical stuff in these parts so when she asked if we wanted to stop and look around for a while everyone said “No”. This time, fortunately, she listened and the bus continued on.

Everything was going well until we got close to town at which point the traffic turned into stop and go, mostly stop, for about 5 miles. Time clicked away and at 5:30 we were still about 2-3 miles from the Mariner.   We didn’t get back until just before 6:00 pm and the Mariner’s departure was delayed because of us. Oops!  The tour lady probably took some major heat (to put it mildly) from her boss.  I still gave her a 5 Euro tip because she really did try to show us more stuff and, after all, this is her world.

The announcement by the captain upon departure said that because we left late we would be delayed on our arrival into Portofino in the morning. Double oops!

We went up to the Observation Lounge for some Pink Flowers with our favorite bartender, Mihaela. We spent some time talking with the piano player and having some conversations with the other waiters and some fellow cruisers. Good times!

After we had dinner at the Compass Rose which went well enough until Margaret’s dinner came. Very salty, not what she expected and she barely touched it. Fortunately, this was the first time this has happened in 12 nights.  Hopefully, tomorrow things will be better.

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