The last day of our 2017 European adventure. What an incredible time, though I will be happy to be home to see family and friends, and have new adventures in Melbourne.
We ended our trip as we started, in Saigon with a little shopping and a little walking.
I am finishing this blog with a summary of memorable impressions of the past 2 months
Morocco, the high Atlas with camel and donkey rides (well Peter rode the donkey).
Spain, museums, architecture, sangrias and tapas. Oh nearly forgot, riding a Segway
Portugal, maritime and Roman history.
The south of France, the Camargue and Midi canal, yachts and the Nice and Monaco yacht clubs.
Italy, back to Florence for art and steak, tracing roman footsteps along the Appian way and through the streets of Pompeii, drinks at the Royal Yacht Club in Naples.
UK, catching up with friends and a visit to the shipyard that builds replica Dutch barges.
Paris, in an apartment, trawling the sales,a Segway tour and drinks in the Rue de Buci with friends.
6 July 2017
Our last day in Paris and our last day of this years European adventure before we start the long trek home to cold Melbourne. After the heat of the past few months Peter is actually looking forward to the cooler weather. The Paris sales have proved enticing, and our small bags have been joined by another full of goodies. There has been plenty of drinking in the street with Julie and Charlotte. We did manage a bit of culture with a visit to the Mussee D'Orsey, a trip to Montmartre and Notre Dame. Even spent a few hours racing around the streets on Segways!!!
Just loved having an apartment in the 6th with the freedom to buy food at the markets and eat in. Even the 3 flights of narrow stairs are not a problem!!!
28 June 2017
Off to London and some cooler weather. In fact it was raining when we arrived, (only our forth day of rain in 2 months).
We hit a different pace in the UK. Peter has business meetings, while I venture out on my own. This year it was back to the British museum for 4 hours and then a walk down Oxford St. We were able to catch up with friends. Jock and Diana for dinner at Royal Thames Yacht Club, where we stayed, then a day out at the British Portrait Gallery, followed by lunch at Covent Garden and then dinner near Leister Square with my friends, Helen. At Covent Garden we enjoyed listening to Seija Knight singing opera.
Our final adventure was a train trip to Stoke on Trent to look at Dutch barges, but that's another story.
24 June 2017
We are staying in an apartment in Rome, just near the corner of the Via del Corso and the Via de Condotti. Great location, and we have walked our feet off. We have visited most of the piazzas and fountains, walked the Forum and Palatine hill, poked around the newly opened Roman ruins under the Piazza Navona, admired the statues in the archeological museum, trekked out to the baths of Caracalla and the Circus Maximus and then to top it off we road bikes along the Appian way.
I have dragged Peter into a number of churches, including the chapel containing the requiem of the head of John the Baptist and Quo Vadis, the church that marks the spot where St. Peter turned back to Rome to be crucified.
The apartment provides a cool retreat from the heat and the crowds.
20 June 2017
Naples was certainly a city of contrasts. The archeological museum must be one of the best in the world and a must see before going to Pompeii. A huge royal palace, that was virtually devoid of visitors and a church on virtually every corner. We went to one of the most unusual and macabre chapels I have ever seen, Museo Cappella Sansevero. It contains the statue of the veiled Christ which is rather beautiful in a strange way and 2 bodies, a man and a woman which shows the circulatory structure of the human body. They looked like skeletons covered in wire.
Of course the highlight of our trip was the day spent wandering the ruins of Pompeii. I could not believe the scope of this town. Like the forbidden city in Beijing it seemed to go on forever.
17 June 2017
It was with a little apprehension that we arrived in Naples. Not only were we warned by a few fellows on the train to Florence to be careful with our possessions and not to wear any watches or jewellery, but the last time Peter was here, he was thrown to the ground, beaten and had his Rolex stolen.
We lashed out and stayed at the Excelsior, with a room overlooking the bay and Mt Vesuvius. The royal yacht club is across the road, so armed with our letter of introduction we were welcomed for both drinks in the bar and dinner on the terrace.
Naples is a panoramic city situated on a bay, with fabulous vistas of Capri and the volcanic mountain, and could rival Rome. BUT and this is a big but, it is shabby, covered with graffiti even on the historical buildings and with piles of rubbish in the streets. And yes you do need your wits about you as there are a number of seedy looking characters.
16 June 2017
One night in Florence on our way to Naples, a bit of a shop and a few great meals.
The secret in returning to Florence each year is to rub the nose of the boar and drop a coin in its mouth. As Florence hosts 13 million tourists a year, the boar is certainly well feed!!!
Yes we made some purchases here, a Bruegel (copy of course, but don't tell anyone), a tile painting of Florence and a medieval style note book, that I can record little witticisms in.
We went to the best sandwich shop in the world for lunch and ate 1 1/2 kg of T-bone steak for dinner.
With a visit to San Lorenzo the oldest church is Florence, that did our trip to Florence for another year. Next year peter has a Caravaggio on his list. Perhaps it is better to go earlier or later in the year to avoid the crowds. We could hardly cross the Ponte a Vecchio though sitting in the square people watching did provide some amusement.
14 June 2017
After a lot of discussion and some advice from the Mallets we decided to stop over in Genova for a few days. Peter finally capitulated when I advised him there was a maritime museum at the docks.
What a wonderful city, resplendent in Renaissance architecture, an old port and devoid of hordes of Chinese tourists.
Via Garibaldi is the street of palaces. We choose to visit the Palazzo Reale, originally built by a wealthy merchant then finally the palace of the king of Naples. The place was empty, I even waltzed around the ballroom! With no guard in every room frowning at us we had free reign. It was a little worn by time, but a great experience.
The old city is a maze of medieval style streets, but you need to be careful where you wander, as the narrower streets are full of prostitutes looking for business, and seedy characters looking for an opportunity. I think I would return to Genova and look through more of the old palaces
11 June 2017
Beautiful, sunny Nice!!!
3 days of 28 degrees plus, and so many people sitting on the rocky beach and swimming in the blue water of the Med. After a few strolls along the Promenade Des Anglais we decided they should plant a few trees for shade. We meet up with a friend of Christians, who kindly invited us to the Nice yacht club for dinner one night and drove us along the coast to Monaco the next day. The highlight of the trip was a visit to the Monaco Yacht Club. The new club house was built in 2014 and the facade resembles a ship. We had a drink in the sports bar and purchased a cap in the club shop. (Only €50!!!). It was a wonderful day, immersed in jaw dropping scenery and marinas full of yachts.We were invited for a sail at the end of the week, but decided to keep to our program and move on.
7 June 2017
A great train trip along the coast bought us to Cannes, luxury boats, luxury cars and designer shops. We had a great hotel overlooking the harbour. Walked the shops (no purchases until the Paris sales!!) and the docks. You would not believe the size of some of the motor yachts. The greatest joy was to find the refitted wooden yacht Cambria moored in the port. In fact you could she her mast from our room.
We found the Cannes Yacht Club for lunch one day and enjoyed freshly shucked oysters another. Although this town is recognised for its film festival, I will remember it for its classy feel and amazing boats.
5 June 2017
A walk through Argens (deserted except for a few cats) and dinner on the boat bought an end our tour of the Canal du Midi. We caught the train early, destination Marseille. Hotel Beauvau with a room overlooking the port and our new luxury yacht pulling into moor in the morning (I wish!!!!).
A beautiful port with lots of yachts and a few wooden ones, no 8 meters unfortunately.
6th June saw a commemorative service on the dock which we could view from our room. Did the tourist thing and walked to the docks, then rode Le Petit train to Notre Dame de la Gare. Even found a museum of the old Roman docks.
We walked along a few streets back from the port where the world changes, I thought I was in Morocco, a dirty market and beggars.
4 June 2017
The nine locks at Beziers were the only locks we had to negotiate over our last days, until the last lock before Argen where we were dropping off the boat. So this meant a quiet meander along the canal, photographing the scenery and soaking up the sun.
We arrived at the village of Le Somali just after lunch. Such a pretty village, with a lovely bridge over the canal, a collection of artistic boutiques, a few hotels(€60 per night) and half a dozen restaurants. Best of all a fantastic bookshop, though unfortunately the majority of the titles were French. This area produces a great sparkling wine, in the method champagnoise, and at €8 a bottle a tasty bargain.
We were in no hurry to leave this village and didn't throw off our lines until early afternoon. The plan was to stop at a few of the villages on the way to Argens, but as all the moorings were occupied we only stopped at Roubia. Nothing worth a mention here, the place was deserted.
3 June 2017
Next town, Beziers. This is where the architect of the Canal du Midi, Paul Riquet was born. We did a tour of the town by the tourist train, admiring the great Art Nouveau architecture intermingled with medieval dwellings and abandoned wine stores.. On the canal opposite where we were moored was a fabulous art nouveau house, that if it had a sign Vendre on the front we would have moved into tomorrow!! Especially as there was a galleries layette in town!!!
Up early in the morning to attempt to go through the 9 stair case locks, before the tourist boats. These boats are given priority and even though we we ready to go at 9am we didn't get through until 10.30am as we had to wait while 3 tourist boats went up. It was hard work, running from to lock to tie up the boat before the water rushed in.
Spent the night at Capestang. Great little village, populated by a lot of British. We ended up having drinks with these imported locals in the town square.
1 June 2017
From Frontignan to Marselline and then into the Midi Canal
We crossed the Etang de Thau without a breath of wind. It took a few hours, passed the oyster beds and into the small town of Marseilline.. The place to visit is Noilly Pratt where a famous spiced vermouth is produced . We tasted and purchased the red wine variety that is only available in France.
Along the canal and passed derelict boats. It is cheap to buy a yacht in France and moor it on the canal for free. We are amazed that some of the yachts that looked abandoned were live aboard dwellings.
Spent the night at Portiragnes, waiting for the lock to open in the morning. Very small town though I did find a Boulangie for bread in the morning.
31 May 2017
Sitting in the town of Agde connected to the wifi, just ordered a coffee and an ice cream. Wow it is hot!!!
We started our canal boat trip at Lattes. We departed the base just before 6.30 and luckily made it in time to catch the lock out. We headed off down the Rhone Sete canal towards Aigues Mort. We were told that we would not make it, but then they didn't realise who they were talking to. Made it just after dark at 10pm and tied up at the last mooring n town.
Aigues Mort is a walled medieval town. I expected to bump into a knight or a damsel in distress, but only saw a lot of tourists. Apparently 1 million of us visit every year. I took the medieval lift up to the top of the tower and walked the ramparts before we went back up the canal to Frontignan. We moored next to a canal boat jousting club and we're treated to a water spectacle. It looked quite fierce, 2 boats facing one another with the combatants standing end of a type of ladder on the stern. The beefy guy was the victor!!!
29 May 2017
A fabulous 5 days in Barcelona. We leave today for a trip along the Carmague on a canal boat. I will be glad to be out of the cities and away from the crowds.
We did the Gaudi monuments, including the Sagranda Famillia and Parc Guell. We even walked pass Casa Vicens, the first house that Gaudi designed. It is being renovated and not opened yet, but that alone is a good reason to come back to Barcelona.
Best of all we did a Segway tour discovering the parks and the beach. We went back to the beach, for a bit of people watching. Lots of women in bikinis, sunning themselves and quite a few that shouldn't be wearing bikinis!
The sand on the beach was originally bought by boat from the Sahara and is topped up every year. No wind but quite a few yachts out, made me homesick for a sail!!
24 May 2017
Great day, firstly a visit to the Casa Ballto. Just amazing architecture. Then we went next door to Casa Amatller. Only 4 people on this tour, but the experience did compare favourably to the Gaudi house. Then down the street to La pedrera. The architecture of Barcelona is to die for. Dinner at the Bouchiera market completed a great day.