The time has come to leave our ship and return to our home. All things, good and bad, must come to an end eventually. It’s the curse and blessing of life.
This trip was one of the good things.
We’ve had so much fun, made new friends, and learned about our ourselves and our world. We are terribly sad to be leaving the Encore and her crew, the Mediterranean: Spain, Portugal, France, Morocco, Italy, Monaco, and Malta. This is a wonderful part of the world.
But we’re also glad to be coming back to Petaluma. We miss you all and the comforts of home. And we’re coming home with each other and our memories.
Thanks for putting up with these postcards. If for some reason you want even more pictures and stories check Lisa’s blog: LifeOfLisa.com or Leo’s blog, Leolaporte.com. We’ve got lots of great pictures to post, but give us some time to unpack and decompress
The last day of the cruise and we had to make it the most challenging: a 13 mile bike ride up to the medieval Spanish town of Pals. Yes another medieval town, but quite a lovely one.
The last time we went on a bike excursion on a cruise was five years ago in Greece. The guide kept asking Léo if he was ok because he was panting so hard. This time was a lot easier because they were electric bikes, and whenever we came to a big hill the electric engine helped us zip up with without any heavy breathing. (Lisa didn’t even break a sweat but she wasn’t so happy about the “snazzy” helmet she had to wear.) Great fun! Léo has already ordered one for home! A bike not the helmet.
Tonight we’ll eat our last supper in the Thomas Keller Grill with our favorite wait staff: Miguel, Natalia, Christiana, and Jennifer. We don’t have a reservation but they like us so much they’re insisting we come anyway. Truthfully we like the staff on the ship more than the passengers. They’re from all over the world and have a lively spirit. They work really hard but seem to also be having a great time.
Last night our waiter, Troy from Trinidad, said to watch for dolphins out the window next to our table. He said he’d called them and they should be here any minute. When they didn’t show, he said they’d called and were delayed by bad traffic. I guess you had to be there. We had fun anyway.
Tomorrow it’s back to the real world, but meanwhile the caviar is here one last time…
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.
Hello dear ones! Today we are in Sicily, but our picture is looking back to yesterday in Positano on the Amalfi coast.
I woke up at four this morning to watch the ship sail through the Strait of Messina – the two mile wide channel between the toe of Italy’s boot and the triangular soccer ball that is Sicily. We docked a few hours later at Giardini Naxos under a blaring hot Mediterranean sun.
1800 feet above the port is Taormina, a city beloved by Goethe, Nietzsche, Oscar Wilde, and Ronald Dahl. Another thousand feet more and we alighted in Castelmola, a tiny town built on a hillside under the shadow of Mt. Etna (which last erupted only a few weeks ago).
We ate marzipan cookies covered in pistachio nuts and drank excellent cappuccinos in Caffè San Giorgio where Churchill and Rockefeller did the same years ago. I believe we also used the same WC as these eminents, but I could be mistaken. After a stroll through the town we returned to Taormina which is nearly as crowded as Positano. We did try some delicious authentic Sicilian pizza and the local beer before heading home.
Back aboard the Encore we are resting. To tell the truth all this sightseeing is a little wearing. We’re going for a soak in the hot tub and an early bedtime. Tomorrow is Valletta, Malta and we are blissfully excursion free.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
Yesterday Bruce Dale, Peter Krogh, Winston Hendrickson, and I took the morning ferry to Bruny Island, a secluded vacation retreat off the southern coast of Hobart – population 600.
Bruce drove, because he’d driven on the left before – in fact, he’d driven all the way from England to India following the gypsies for a book some years ago. After hearing some of his harrowing stories from that trip we feel pretty lucky to have returned in one piece. We stopped many times along the way and spent the entire day there.
Our goal was the Bruny Lighthouse, but our best pictures were from Cloudy Bay lagoon. That’s my poor attempt to capture its beauty below, but Bruce took a panorama that should be amazing – we waited an hour for the light to be just so.
All of these pictures were taken with my Canon 5D. Most with the 24-105 zoom except for the Farmers’ Market pictures which were taken with the 50mm f1.2. All of them were adjusted in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.0 and most of the Bruny Island pictures were re-touched in Photoshop to remove a dust blotch that was on my sensor.
I’ve uploaded around three dozen shots from our first three days in Hobart to my SmugMug page (try the slideshow). Let me know what you think. I’m learning so much from these amazing photographers, and enjoying my first visit to Australia even more than I expected.
I’m taking today (Saturday in Australia) off to go through the thousands of pictures and hours of video I’ve shot. I also have to rest up because I’m doing the radio show tomorrow morning at 4 local time. After the show I hope we’ll get a chance to go up to the Tahune Forest AirWalk. After the radio show Monday morning we take off for Basecamp 2 at the Diamond Island Resort in Bicheno on the east coast of Tasmania.
As you may have noticed, I’ve added a Photos section to Leoville. I’m hoping I can get pictures uploaded while I’m in Egypt, and if I do this is where they’ll appear. I’m using Smugmug to power the gallery. It’s much more powerful than anything I could do myself with, say, Coppermine and I think Smugmug beats Flickr hands down for features. I guess I could put the Flickr gallery in a frame, but Smugmug integrates into the site better.
I wish Smugmug were better known. I like the MacCaskill’s, father and son, who founded it and I think they have loaded it with so many superior features. Alas, Flickr still has much the larger community. I’ve been through the features vs community wars before (remember Jaiku vs Twitter?) and I should know better, but I just can’t help backing the underdog, especially when it works better.
The fact that I can upload my videos there, as well, seals the deal. The big negative: it’s not free. Smugmug is $40/year, $60 for gallery embedding, video and other features. Pro photographers can watermark and sell their photos and upload hi-def video for $150/year. Unlike Flickr there is no free basic account, but frankly I like the idea that Smugmug’s got a long term business model.
There are still a couple of little things I’d like to tweak. I can’t seem to get my custom background to appear on the photo pages and the dropdown menus sometimes fall behind elements. But it’s pretty close to seamless integration. I’ve uploaded pictures from Christmas just to test it out. We leave for Egypt tomorrow!