10 October; let the journey begin!!

We love to travel a little out of season, end of May early June, end of September, early October, for less crowds and weather that isn’t too hot, and we’re enjoying just that; 17 – 24 degree days, and in all the villages there is room to move and to speak with the locals.

First Stop: Corsica

The scented island of Corsica, birthplace of Napoleon. was controlled for centuries by Genoa and did not become a region of France until 1768 – the Rugged island is a haven for boaties – it has inviting beaches, but quieter than the French riviera. Bonifacio is a commune at the southern tip of the island of Corsica, in the Corse-du-Sud department of France. Its inhabitants are called Bonifaciens, feminine Bonifaciennes. The commune in this case is identical to the canton and is the largest commune of Corsica. Bonifacio is perched at the top of towering white cliffs, a striking sight from the sea. There is a 15th century staircase carved into the cliff face which runs down to the harbour.

Le Lavandou

Le Lavandou is a commune in the Var department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in southeastern France. It derives its name either from the flower lavender that is prevalent in the area, or more prosaically from the local form of the Occitan name for lavoir; lavandor. Named for lavender that adorns the nearby fields, Le Lavandou is a favourite with visiting yachtsmen. Nearby is Bormes-les-Mimosas, one of France’s loveliest towns. This is an authentic medieval town of Provence and probably the most flower filled. Artists, painters, sculptors and craftspeople flock to the region and village – narrow bougainvillea bedecked streets – charming.

At the foot of the mountains on Spain’s rugged Costa Brava, Palamos boasts seven superb beaches, Iberian archeological remains from year 6BC, and the church of Sant Esteve on the beach. The town centre has a 16th century cathedral, but it’s off to Salvador Dali’s castle (Murray’s favourite artist!) in Pubol.


Three stories and built in the 14th century – the gardens are restored and decorated with his works, sculptures, busts, paintings. Home via Mas de Torrent, a Relais & Chateau property for some of the local Catalan wine, a magnificent property to be drawn back to for some R & R.,



Known as Cette until 1928, is a commune in the Hérault department in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in southern France. Its inhabitants are called Sétois. Known as the Venice of Languedoc and the singular island, it is a port and a seaside resort on the Mediterranean with its own very strong cultural identity, traditions, cuisine and dialect. It is also the hometown of artists like Paul Valéry, Jean Vilar, Georges Brassens, Gregory Del Piero, Hervé Di Rosa, Manitas de Plata, and Robert Combas.


The port of Sete hugs the tiny Mont St Clair and is caught between the Med and the Bassin de Thau, a salt lake directly behind it. 18th and 19th century architecture comes alive and the life of the village is found in the town squares, Place Market, Place Aristide, Place de la Republique, historic from the North African trade route, the old harbour dates to the time of Louis XIV.


Is a UNESCO example of medieval fortified town from 6th century BC. Carcassonne is a fortified French town in the Aude department, of which it is the prefecture, in the Region of Languedoc-Roussillon.


Occupied since the Neolithic, Carcassonne is located in the Aude plain between two great axes of circulation linking the Atlantic to the Mediterranean sea and the Massif Central to the Pyrénées. Its strategic importance was quickly recognized by the Romans who occupied its hilltop until the demise of the Western Roman Empire and was later taken over by the Visigoths in the fifth century who founded the city.


Also thriving as a trading post due to its location, it saw many rulers who successively built up its fortifications up until its military significance was greatly reduced by the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659.

15 Oct – en route to Antibes for Cannes


Antibes is a Mediterranean resort in the Alpes-Maritimes department of southeastern France, on the Côte d’Azur between Cannes and Nice. The town of Juan-les-Pins is in the commune of Antibes and the Sophia Antipolis technology park is northwest of it.


Antibes has been a prestigious address for a millennia. On a coast renowned for ravishing vistas, none more striking than the Cap d’Antibes from sea to Provencal hills and today we struck it lucky as we strolled around the beautiful harbour with it being Thursday and their many local markets being held, everything from clothing to home wares, the sun was out and the weather a comfortable 21 degrees – picture perfect and a town with friendly French ……..need I say more!


Porto Venere

Porto Venere is a town and comune located on the Ligurian coast of Italy in the province of La Spezia. It comprises the three villages of Fezzano, Le Grazie and Porto Venere, and the three islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto. In 1997 Porto Venere and the villages of Cinque Terre were designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

The Gulf of La Spezia

The Gulf of La Spezia has been so frequent a subject for poets over the years from Dante to Petrarch to Byron and Shelley, its common name of the area, Golfo dei Poeti. The elongated yellow and orange houses line the harbour stretch up the slope of the ancient battlements, but we are off to hold up the leaning tower of Pisa; the bell tower to the cathedral, which they reckon it’s now 16 feet out of plumb!


Galileo used the tower for his experiments, his gravity experiments!! We’ve been before but never together so maybe two hands will make light work of it. A drive of 1.5hrs thru the Tuscan countryside which of late has had so much rain it’s lush and green ready already for their winter.


Monte Carlo

And it’s Saturday and a transit day in MonteCarlo, a magnificent sail in with shimmering lights – Monte Carlo officially refers to an administrative area of the Principality of Monaco, specifically the ward of Monte Carlo/Spélugues, where the Monte Carlo Casino is located.

Informally the name also refers to a larger district, the Monte Carlo Quarter, which besides Monte Carlo/Spélugues also includes the wards of La Rousse/Saint Roman, Larvotto/Bas Moulins, and Saint Michel.

The permanent population of the ward of Monte Carlo is about 3,500, while that of the quarter is about 15,000. Monaco has four traditional quarters. From west to east they are: Fontvieille, Monaco-Ville, La Condamine, and Monte Carlo.

The principality is the epitome of Rivierra chic; a tiny enclave just 370 acres is around a sheltered harbour that draws yachts from around the world for amazing scenery, mild weather and elegant casinos. Ruled by Prince Albert II the castle is high overlooking the entire harbour.

Santa Margherita Ligure

Set on the Gulf of Tigullio between Rapallo and Portofino, the resort fishing town of Santa Margherita centres around a lovely harbour where boating and sunbathing go hand in hand. The 17th century Basilica di Santa Margherita is the star of the town.

We have been many times, so today it’s a little different; from the pier we embark on another vessel, local transport to the Bay of San Fruttuoso, famous for its 10th century abbey – the ancient residence of the Doria family which has amazing natural surroundings with a small beach – a lovely luncheon spot on a summers day – with two restaurants to choose from.

A little time in Portofino, we’ve been many times but always good to wander around, it’s touristic and it’s expensive but great for amazing pesto and olive oil!


We continue up the coast to yet another new village for us, Camogli; a small, typically fishing village once the site of bustling shipyards that helped build the Genoese merchant fleets. It’s an original medieval setting with a local parish church that was ringing the bells as it’s Sunday – this is truly local cut off by most touristic trappings – scenic, quiet a sense of calm around simple village life.


Then it was back to Santa Margherita, where traditional lunch awaits; a small family run restaurant – not much on the outside but food amazingly fresh @ La Panazza. Grilled fish in lemon sauce (to die for) and Fritto Misto which has amazingly fresh sardines, whitebait, calamari, prawns and more washed down by a local Chianti, oh life is good!


Making New Friends


Travelling is also about the people you meet, and travelling with us this time is an Octogenarian by the name of Sondra James; a Yiddish, French American who is an actress who has lived her life in Manhattan and features in a series of BMW advert!


Named dirty Old Grandma – she is hilarious in real life, we laughed ‘till we ached just meeting her – she is quick witted, clever and sassy. See youtube and you will see what we mean.


And so for the start of a new week it’s Livorno, Tuscany; gateway to the city of Florence, home to amazing leather, so it’s a shopping day today – Livorno is 1.5hrs by road to the city but a beautiful drive thru the Tuscan countryside.



Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 382,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1,520,000 in the metropolitan area.


We Love Florence!  Doesn’t matter how often you’ve been, the stroll between S. Croce Basilica along the river front to Ponte Vecchio up into town via dei Calzaiuoli to the Duomo, the world’s 4th largest Church and magnificent from both inside and outside – with lots of little laneways and nooks and cranny’s to explore along the way – Florence is more ordered and organised than Rome and we were struck by its cleanliness this visit.


The weather was amazing as well; 20 degrees, sunny and really comfortable to be walking, shopping, eating, drinking the local Chianti and taking in some of the cultural sights.


The half way mark of our Yachtsman Paradise itinerary sees us back to Corsica, (put aside the grazie and bring out the Merci) – this time Calvi, a commune in the Haute-Corse department of France on the island of Corsica.


It is the seat of the Canton of Calvi, which contains Calvi and one other commune; Lumio. Calvi is also the capital of the Arrondissement of Calvi, which contains, besides the Canton of Calvi, three other cantons: L’Île-Rousse, Belgodère, and Calenzana. 


Settled by the Romans, but it’s now French, precipitous cliffs and fine white sandy beaches, groves of orange and olive trees, the roads are windy and curvy. By visiting Calvi we’ve ticked off all the major ports of Corsica.


Calenzana overlooks the Gulf of Calvi but we are on our way to the 9th century village of San Antonino where orange buildings hang to the granite hilltops like birds nests.


This is supposedly the only village of Corsica that has always been inhabited since the 9th century; the road up by coach was amazing, the view from the top breathtaking and then on the way back to the Calvi port we passed through other villages; Corbara and Aregno. A great day out checking out their local Rose, their charcuterie, French bread and more.


Wednesday 21st October


Ahhhh…time to relax with a day at sea; time to be pampered. But our Captain has informed us that they have had to make some adjustments to our itinerary to make it more comfortable during the day and night as we were heading to Malta (Mgarr, Gozo) and then Valletta; however the seas down that way are too rough so we will swap around the days and instead tomorrow will be in Sicily at Syracusa.


Shore Excursions


This of course reminds me of the many times I get asked about shore excursions and how they can appear to be costly – the two key factors of booking with the shipping company is:


  1. If you’re ashore and something goes wrong, the ship waits.
  2. Haven’t made the port? The cruise line sorts it out and swaps them around.


Our off-ship touring has averaged USD99 pp per 4.5 hours touring, all of which have been quality with groups no more than 20 persons.


Right now the Guest Services are run off their feet trying to find phone or email details for people who have ‘booked their own’ touring, like anything if you want that freedom travel with all the possible contacts – phone, email and indeed a fax because when you need to change something you need to be able to communicate so you don’t lose money.


At sea at this moment there is no phone access so an email would work!