Postcard from Provence

Bandol, Thursday 20 September 2018

Hello dear ones,

We are back in France. Well I guess Corsica is technically France — we were there yesterday — but it didn’t seem that way, more like a Italian/French hybrid. And don’t call the Corsicans French whatever you do.

We blew it in Corsica. Instead of visiting the Bonifacio bastion which was right there in port we bought an excursion to Porto Vecchio, which despite the name is a modern tourist trap. We did find a good boulangerie and spent the morning there instead of shopping which is clearly what we were supposed to be doing. We didn’t take many pictures, and none worth putting on a postcard.

Today is much nicer. We’re in Provence and went wine and olive oil tasting, then visited a lovely medieval castle town called Castellet. Imagine an artists’ colony like Carmel but high above the sea. It would be a wonderful place to spend more time.

The picture on the reverse is of Lisa entering through the main gate into the walled village. The town was festooned with flowers, like many of the small French towns we have visited.

Tomorrow we’re in Palamos Spain for our last day. Then it’s home on Saturday.

Lots of love to you all!

Postcard from the Past

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Valletta, 17 September 2018

We are so glad we got two full days bere. If you love history, Malta is an immovable feast. We visited:

  1. The Hypogeum – A 5000 year old underground crypt carved by Neolithic priests with stone and antler out of the native limestone. Even the red ochre spiral paintings have survived the millennia. Mostly because the crypt lay undiscovered until 1902.

  2. The Ħaġar Qim – one of the most ancient religious sites in the world. A stone temple predating Stonehenge by 1000 years.

  3. The Archaeological Museum where we saw the beautiful lady on the reverse. She may be thousands of years old, but she doesn’t look a day over 30. Truly a masterpiece from the pre-historic world.

  4. We watched the evening cannon firing from the ramparts just as the Brits did it in the colonial period. (See the fellow in the pith helmet on the stamp? I say!)

We also got roped into a Pokémon raid by three locals who wanted help defeating a Zapados lodged in St. Johns’ Cathedral. We failed but what a great way to meet the natives!

Tomorrow’s a sea day as we sail to Corsica. We’ll be perfecting our tans, polishing up our crossword puzzle skills, and Lisa will continue to whomp Léo at rummy.

It’s hard to believe we’ll be back home in just a few days. But we can’t wait to see you all. Hugs and kisses!

Postcard from a Parade

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Valletta, 16 September 2018

Hello from Malta.

Sometimes it’s best to have no plans. Our original itinerary called for a morning visit to the island of Gozo and a trip to the Blue Grotto, but for “operational reasons,” whatever those are, the captain brought us straight to Valletta where we’ll be until late tomorrow.

Thus without a planned excursion, we ventured off the boat and into a horse-drawn carriage that let us off in the town center just in time for thunderous fireworks and a music-filled religious parade featuring the massive statue you see on the reverse side heaved up and down Valletta’s hills by 10 grimacing acolytes.

We were so exhausted by the sight that we immediately repaired back to the ship for a lunch and a nap. Upon awakening at 3:30p we leapt onto a Hop On-Hop Off bus for what the guide told us would be a three-hour tour. Hunkered down in the open air top deck we noted with dismay that the bus seemed to be taking us far out of town into the sun blasted countryside at 100km/hour — too fast even to hunt Pokémon — but then arising out of the dust we saw a vision, the Mdina, Malta’s 17th century walled capital. It’s called the silent city, populated by 300 live souls, and thousands of dead ones in the Roman catacombs below the cathedral. We hopped off, never to see our bus again, and ventured into the most amazing city. Disney could have built the Mdina if he’d only had a little more imagination. Lisa and I have lots of pictures. Just ask.

Tonight we go to a classical music concert in a nearby chapel. We’ve had an amazing day thanks to a little luck and the spirit of adventure.

Love to you all!

Postcard from the Sunset

Amalfi Coast, 14 September 2018

Hello dear ones,

What a day! We hired a guide with the hopes that we could see Amalfi, Positano, and Pompeii all in one stroke but it was not to be. An unprecedented three cruise ships had arrived all at once and roads were closed for inspection due to the bridge collapse in Genoa, so traffic was impossible.

We decided to save Pompeii for another time and spent the morning walking in Amalfi. After an amazing sfogliatella and coffee we got in the car for the 45 minute drive to Positano. As Simona our guide said, mama mia! Giant tourist buses clogged roads built for donkey carts and the drive became a comic opera filled with Italian curses and gestures. When we finally arrived in Positano we walked down to the beach for a typical seafood lunch and a glass of sweet wine then hopped a boat back to Amalfi and our ship.

Unfortunately the Amalfi coast in high season is so choked with tourists you can hardly move. Nevertheless there’s no denying these hillside towns’ photogenic charms. We will come back in the off season.

There are so many beautiful pictures from our day in Amalfi and Positano that I can’t pick just one. So I’ll leave you with the quintessential postcard shot of the sun setting over the island of Capri as we bid farewell to one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. Tomorrow, Sicily!

Love to you all.

Postcard from Exile

Italy, 14 September 2018

Here’s Lisa chatting with a local from Poggio, a tiny town high atop Mt. Cappenne on the island of Elba.

Napoleon was exiled here for nine months but it seems he got around even more than George Washington. Even the pizza places have signs saying “Napoleon ate here.”

Poggio is famous for chestnuts and charcoal. Chestnut trees cover the mountain and the charcoal was used to purify the iron found nearby. The hills used to be infested with Tuscan wild pigs, but they were all turned into salami some time ago.

We hiked a trail built in the 8th century by the Lombards to an ancient chapel in the sky. Which oddly also featured a Pokestop. Then back down for a typical lunch featuring boar stew and polenta. We were on the last tender back to the boat and as soon as we boarded the Captwin hauled anchor and set sail for the Amalfi coast.

We’ve been blessed by calm seas and smooth sailing but we miss you all. And fast Internet. And Niners games.

Postcard from the Principality

Wednesday 12 September 2018

Bonjour from Monaco! So ends the first half of our cruise.

We tried very hard not to gloat as most of the ship’s cohort headed home today heaving heavy sighs. We debarked with them for a day of sightseeing in Monte Carlo, happy knowing that we’d soon be back on board for another 11 blissful days. This is the longest either of us has ever been away from home, but so far we’re handling it gracefully.

We were in Monaco for several days last year so we chose the lazy tour and rode the top deck of the Hop On Hop Off bus around town hunting Pokémon and shooting pictures.

Now we’re back aboard sipping drinks poolside and waiting for another gorgeous sail-away sunset. We don’t even care that we’ll be missing an Apple event in a few hours.

Lisa’s picture of the port of Monte Carlo featuring our ship is on the flip side. The Mediterranean really is that blue.

Tomorrow we head to Italy; Elba, Amalfi, Positano, and Pompeii await.

Love to you all – wish you could be sailing with us!

Postcard from the Ship

Monday 10 September 2018

Hi from somewhere in the Mediterranean!

Today’s a sea day as we make the 500 mile run from Ibiza to La Lavandou in the south of France.

There’s nothing lazier than a sea day. Breakfast in the café – a triple mocha and an almond croissant for me, a cappuccino and fruit for Lisa. Then upstairs to our cabana on deck 12 to listen to books, play cards and do crosswords until lunch. It was rainy in the morning so we had the hot tub all to ourselves. By afternoon the sun was out and we enjoyed sunset on the deck while playing cribbage.

The crew on the Encore is universally jolly: our cabin stewardess, Sarah from Ireland, the sommelier, Nataly from Ukraine, our waiter, Miguel from Portugal, hotel manager Lynn from Belgium, and Jennifer our Maitre d’ from the UK. They’re all so friendly and helpful. We want to take them home with us.

Today’s picture is from our aerie looking down on the pool deck. It truly is a sight.

Love to you all!

Postcard from The Rock

Sunday 9 September 2018

Hi from the party island Ibiza!

Lisa is standing in front of the “mystic” rock that inspired Stephen Spielberg’s rock from Close Encounters. At least that’s the story the locals tell.

Today we 4x4d off-road to get away from the discos and see the nature and beaches on the west side of the island. Let’s just put it this way, we’re glad to have survived the ride. But we got a good look at wild Ibiza.

That’s our last stop in Spain.Tomorrow’s a sea day so we’re going to take it easy. Then we’re headed for France.

Love to you all!

Postcard from the Whale

Valencia, Spain

Sunday 2 September 2018

Hi, all!

Just a quick note because the ship is about to sail and we’ll be out of cellular range until Tuesday.

Valencia is amazing – an undiscovered gem on the Mediterranean. This is where paella was invented but they make it with chicken not seafood.

Also home to an amazing group of buildings by Santiago Calatrava, the designer of the whale next to the 9-11 Memorial in New York. On the flip side is one the group. It looks like a giant eye in the sun.

We’re having a blast. Just had caviar service before dinner at the Thomas Keller restaurant on board. Next stop Cadiz!

Postcard from the Ham

Barcelona, 31 August 2018

Hi, family!

We spent the day wandering the Gothic Quarter and the old market, La Bouqueria, with our guide, Lidia, ate lots of jamon Iberico, and ended with a visit to the Picasso Museum. Picasso gave the museum hundreds of paintings from his workshop and it was fascinating to see his development from a precocious 15-year-old to the genius we know today.

We ate dinner at a cafe on Plaza Reial just off La Rambla – more ham, late summer tomatoes, and Spanish cheese topped off with a perfect apple tart and coffee. Then we hunted Pokémon all the way back to our hotel in the old Jewish Quarter.

Tomorrow we board our ship and sail for Valencia, Spain.

Love,