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Everything posted by jpalbny

  1. Saturday September 18th. Afternoon in Ajaccio, not Calvi. Lunch on board. Chris had an orzo risotto appetizer with asparagus which was delicious. I had Salade Niçoise. Mains were a roasted pork loin which was tender and very juicy, and I had a "Mediterranean aioli" which was a bunch of seafood and vegetables... Served with a nice jar of aioli to dip everything into. So tasty! Chris and I decided for about 15 seconds that we should try to make aioli at home. Then we thought better of it. We can't eat like this every day. White Côtes du Rhône, and red from Pays d'Oc, were familiar and went well. After lunch, we headed back to town one last time to see what else was open. We started with a short walk in the Citadel but not much to see. No buildings were open. And no good panoramic views. Then we went to the Fresch Museum and got glassy-eyed from looking at tons of art. Finally we went back to the ship after 20000 steps, to rest our tired feet. There is a German cruise ship in port with us today. The comparison is striking. Le Bellot is a very pretty ship. We had a disembarkation talk at 16:15 then it was time for sailaway, one last time. Ajaccio was a very pleasant stop this time, but we wondered what we'd missed in Calvi. At least we can try their wines! One last look at the Sanguinaires Islands, and then Corsica faded from view. We have really enjoyed this trip. We did most of our packing then got into our fancy clothes for the captain's gala farewell. In the main theater, he gave the usual accolades for the crew who had done a great job taking care of us. Well-deserved for sure. Gala dinner was served tonight. We sat outside with a nice sunset view and great food. An amuse bouche of crab and avocado with salmon roe, then a cold salmon appetizer with different radish slices and grilled potatoes. The hot appetizer was seared scallops with a veal demi-glace over pureed celery root. The main was a filet topped with a huge slab of foie gras. It was outstanding and cooked perfectly between rare and medium rare. More potatoes, and delicious slow-cooked onions made it even better. The usual two desserts. A chocolate and caramel concoction which we couldn't finish, then mignardises. A Pouilly-Fuissé for the white, and a Lalande Pomerol for the red, went well with the meal. A most enjoyable repast. It was a beautiful night. The moon was two days short of full, and then Jupiter and Saturn appeared. Jupiter is obvious and close to the moon, at 1 o'clock. Saturn is at the top center, more faint. Off to the blue eye one last time for a glass of Champagne, but as we were moving fast it looked a bit like a front-loading washing machine. We danced a little in the bar but called it a night just after 22:00. Finished packing, and put our bags out. They kick us off the ship tomorrow at 9:00.
  2. Saturday September 18th. More unexpected time in Ajaccio, not Calvi. The ship had briefly left the pier at 3:00 but returned by 7:00. We were up early and ready to go. Breakfast at the bar as usual. We are creatures of habit. Too large creatures so we limit ourselves to two huge meals per day which are still too many... Then we collected our passports from the front desk so that we could try to get tested in town. They were very surprised that we were going to try this and tried to convince us to use the ship's infirmary. I hope that's not an omen. We hustled into town and arrived near the first pharmacy with time to spare. So I found an ATM and restocked my supply of Euros. Nice to actually need them again! The first pharmacy was not open until 9:00 and had a big sign that said they weren't doing the antigen tests. Oh well. I guess that's strike one. The second also wasn't open until 9. Bugger. Two strikes! But the streets were nicely decorated for the days of patrimony. So we walked another 10 minutes to the 3rd pharmacy and surprise, it was open since 8:30!. I took a deep breath and walked in. Bonjour, est-ce que vous pouvez faire les tests antigenique? Oui?! Et sont-ils les tests rapides? Oui! C'est fantastique, deux s'il vous plaît! So they were happy to do the test for €25 each. By 9:10 we were all set. QR codes obtained by email and backup paper certificates were in hand! Now we can visit anywhere we want for the next two days without worrying about it! And we are all set with our test needed to re-enter the US. Such a relief. We felt so good that we stopped by the market and found a wine shop. I asked the keeper for some recommended wines from Calvi (which I'd planned to buy there) amd we got our last three bottles. Now we have an even dozen bottles of Corsican wine to try. Back to the ship to return our passports. Then since we had time, we left to walk to the third Napoleon memorial before visiting Casa Bonaparte. Another stop in this square of course. Morning light is better. Halfway there we passed a really nice looking place called Longwood House. As we passed by the gatekeepers asked if we wanted to come in. We wouldn't have time to get to the Napoleon memorial and back to Casa Bonaparte by 10:50 if we made other stops but they assured us that they were open until 19:00. We really love these days of national patrimony. So many things are only open then. So, on to the third memorial. Andrea hadn't told us that it was a big uphill climb but we managed. Looks like they have something special going on here. Look, Chrystina, more stairs to climb, to the top of the memorial! Our legs were tired but FOMO won out. At the top. A nice view down Grand Val and you can just see the beautiful water. Back to Casa Bonaparte, where the process was seamless. The online reservation we'd made was in their system and the QR code from this morning's tests worked perfectly. Napoleon's baptism record. And a representation of his younger days. Apparently he learned his battle skills at a young age, by organizing his peers during snowball fights. In the basement, an olive oil press. The tour was quick but interesting. There was a huge line at the entrance when we finished. People without reservations were out of luck. Since we were done before 11:30 we decided to go back to the Longwood House. The garden was small but inside the house, there were some surprises. Apparently this house is now used by the national legislature of Corsica. Who knew? And we were just in time for a visit to the legislative chamber! And, a big sideshow with a 25-minute commentary, in rapid-fire French from a lady wearing a face mask. I had zero chance so we enjoyed the photos, many old and historic. Still a fun time and I bet not many others have visited here. On the way out we passed by a presentation about some type of uniforms. Bonus points if you can find us in this picture. I liked the stealth selfie here. Chris actually appears twice! Now back to the ship for lunch. It's after noon and all this running around has made us hungry!
  3. Lois, I was being tongue in cheek. No worries. @AussieBoyTX, thanks for all of the information, both now and before our cruise. There is not so much information about Ponant here on CC and I'm hoping to fill a bit of that void. I agree with your earlier thoughts that they fill a unique niche. Where else could you simultaneously visit Antarctica and feel like you're in France?
  4. Lois, the one caveat is that the francophone/ Anglophone mix may be different in more normal times and for non-French itineraries. When I first investigated Ponant for a different itinerary I was told 30-40% spoke English. I was not worried about this Corsica itinerary because I can get by speaking. Comprehending is still my weak spot but I did better at some times during this week. We met two German women traveling solo who hung out together and on occasion they were on our English speaking tours. Probably some French solos but we didn't meet any. A couple of multigenerational groups too. Sorry I scared you off but the more you know the better your chances of finding a good match.
  5. Notamermaid, have you been to Nördlingen? It's another town with a great intact city wall and a church tower to climb. And no crowds at all. Our guidebook said that it was just as pretty as Rothenberg but very empty. I don't completely agree that they are equal in beauty (Rothenberg is more decorated and maybe more kept up) but Nördlingen is definitely a nice place for a half day visit.
  6. OK Terry, hi from halfway between Nice and NYC. Some thoughts about your good questions. 1. Can't fully answer because I can speak enough French to get by. We met two other couples from the US and a few Flemish Belgians who spoke English as another language, and two German speakers who also spoke English. The Francophones were reserved but not unfriendly. And there were some we chatted with on a casual basis with Franglais. But if you only speak English on this particular itinerary you will be in a very small minority. I hear that there are more Anglophones on other itineraries. I expected few here and was not surprised. That said the staff all spoke varying degrees of English. Wait and bar staff very fluent. Naturalists ranged from very fluent to heavily accented but many of then speak 3 or more languages so I'm still in awe of them as I struggle with two. We did not lack for attention and certainly felt well looked after. There were three naturalists who were on a lot of the tours with us, Anaëlle, Christophe, and Barbara, who went out of their way to make sure we knew what was being explained in French, if the local guides didn't speak English well enough. I strongly suspect that someone expecting an American food menu is going to be very disappointed. The cooking simply isn't American and there are only 4 choices for starters and 4 mains. You could eat entrecote de boeuf or a burger and fries every night I suppose. Chris only ordered one lunch dish off the always available menu all week and I never did. But we like to try new things. It will be much better if you enjoy this as well. I took pictures of most of the menus and may be able to clean those up and post them later. So, it's a French cruise line that lets Anglophones aboard. You will understand everything but you may find the food outside your comfort zone. 2. Little. The longest conversations with people in town were at two wine shops. So we talked a lot about wine. No politics came up. We didn't encounter unfriendly situations. The ladies at the pharmacy in Ajaccio were very pleasant but there we were talking about covid tests. We felt perfectly fine wandering around on our own everywhere we wanted or needed to. 3. Biggest surprise? Bonifacio is amazing. The natural beauty of its harbor, and the old town perched up on the cliffs is like nothing I've ever seen before. Maybe Valletta comes close? Also, Corsica is not a big marine or seafaring culture. The cuisine reflects the inland mountain regions more than the sea. The guides say that this is because Corsicans traditionally feared and avoided the sea. Only two things came from the sea and they were both bad: pirates/invaders/etc, or malaria from the marshy lowlands. Very surprising for an island. 4. It's nice but it's not quite Silversea. And that's not a slam at all. We really enjoyed the cruise and would happily do another. But. Our wine glasses would occasionally get completely empty during meals. And at the bar there is no table service. You order at the bar and sometimes they bring it to you or sometimes you wait and carry it to the table. One bartender was clearly overwhelmed at the bar because of multiple orders. SS has more staff available it seems. And the choices are more limited, though certainly we didn't think they were inadequate. There is also a ship photographer and his assistant. They do strongly promote purchasing the movie and pictures. Silversea started including this a while ago. Ponant had excellent naturalist staff, who we thought were comparable to those we've met on Silversea. Ponant handles zodiac launching better. The onshore hikes are more strenuous than what SS typically offers and they don't putter around at a slow pace. The ships are new and they look really slick and modern. The drive system is electric and it's incredibly smooth. Most of the time it was hard to tell that we were moving. Ponant has the Blue Eye underwater bar which is really a cool place but it should be open more often. But two weird things about the electric motor. The top speed is somewhere around 11 knots. And the electricity is produced by diesel generators. Seems counterproductive to use diesel if you're trying to be clean. That said we never smelled diesel exhaust so they must be controlling it well. Their new Polar ship will generate its electricity from liquefied natural gas so will be even cleaner. Hope this helps you get a feel for Ponant. We really enjoyed the ship, food, service, and excursions and we'd love to sail Ponant again.
  7. Friday September 17th, afternoon. Ajaccio part two. We walked along a high promenade overlooking the beach, then crossed into town and doubled back towards the Cathedral. Beauiful view of the water and the mountains on the other side of the Bay of Ajaccio! And here are the statues of Napoleon, along with his brothers. At this point Christophe spoke to us and said that Napoleon was famous and all, but in his opinion, one of his brothers was more important because he was an ornithologist. We all got a chuckle out of that. On to the Cathedral, And more contemporary artwork. We passed through narrow streets in the old town, leading to Napoleon's birthplace. The signs say that it's free during the patrimony days but (1) you need a reservation which must be made online, and (2) a passe sanitaire. One might be possible but both? I took a picture of the bulletin so that I could try. On to another monument at one end of the Grand Val. Tough lighting at this time of day. Andrea says there's another one at the other end, 15 minutes away. Finally at 17:30, our tour ended at the Fesch Museum. This whole weekend it's the days of national patrimony so all of the museums are free. We were in France three years ago for this and it's a really great deal. But you need the passe sanitaire to enter now. The museum is pretty on the outside. A peaceful courtyard away from the crowds. Since our tour ran so long, we had to move it back to get ready for briefing at 18:00. No time to look for a covid test now. The group of Anglophones at our briefing has dwindled to only three of us so we'd better be there. Briefing was short - we'd leave the pier for a few hours overnight and be back at the dock by 7:00. We sail at 17:00. There is a hike out of town for views but it doesn't sound as appealing so we'll probably stay in town if we can. Just in case, I visited the website to make an appointment for the casa Bonaparte, if spots were available. I found a slot at 10:50 and booked it. Unfortunately France still hasn't converted our US vaccine cards to a passe sanitaire (2 weeks and counting)... And now it's the weekend. Dinner outside. Tomato-basil soup or consumée. Cool appetizers tonight but not very photogenic. A soft-boiled egg swimming in chestnut and mushroom pruee. Or miniature shrimp over avocado. The evening was beautiful too. Mains were pan-seared sea bream which had amazing crispy skin. And one of the best, most tender, and perfectly cooked racks of lamb that I've ever had. There was time for a little more dancing in the bar with tired legs. We asked the music duo if they could play a tango but no luck. They did play some other nice danceable music though. Not too late to bed. Now to get serious and try to figure out covid testing tomorrow, and see if it's possible to do it onshore. I went to the French covid information website and found three pharmacies in town that supposedly offer antigen tests, and supposedly they all open at 8:30. All are reasonably close to the ship. With fingers crossed, and locations safely stored on my Google maps app, let's try to get some sleep!
  8. Friday September 17th, afternoon. Ajaccio part one. Back for lunch. Plenty of time, as estimated docking time is 14:45. Had eggplant cake and pork terrine for starters, sauteed veal and squid carbonara for mains. Plenty of rosé. The squid dish was incredibly rich. We cruised slowly and approached the harbor in Ajaccio around 14:00. Looks pretty at a distance. We saw the pilot boat in the distance, chasing away some other small boats. Not sure what to expect. We were here 15 years ago on Oceania and I really don't remember much. Hope our almost two days here are more memorable this time. I wasn't disappointed to skip Ajaccio on our original itinerary but we'll roll with the changes. Ponant has done a nice job at all of the stops so far. It took two tries to back into our berth but we made it, finally. View from the pool deck as we approach. The lobby was crowded by 15:00 as we all prepared to disembark en masse for our Ajaccio tour. The second try had made us later than expected. Our local guide Andrea seemed to be very good. We started at the harbor, with Le Bellot in the distance. Andrea switched effortlessly between French and English. Even more remarkable, neither is her first language (that's Romanian). So jealous of these multilingual people! The fishing harbor. The waterfront is lined with open-air restaurants serving seafood. We moved on to some history about Pascal Paoli, an important figure during Corsican independence in the mid 1700s. The sun was hot so we looked for shade when we could. Next we passed by the Citadel, which isn't too photogenic. Parts were modified by Napoleon. And it was until recently a military facility. But Andrea said that you may be able to tour during the patrimony days as it's now open to the public. On the edge of the Citadel there is a popular beach, full of sunbathers. This guy wanted us to join him at the beach. Instead, we took in a view of the Cathedral. Chris says that she remembers it from last time. I must have forgotten about it. I'm sure she's right. I remember the statues of Napoleon. They must be here somewhere. Onward!
  9. Which thread? I may need some light reading on the way home. Boarding soon...
  10. Friday September 17th, morning. Parata Peninsula et les Îles Sanguinaires. We were slugs this morning, and slept late, so we had breakfast around 9:00. No need to move earlier because our zodiac is in the late group. So we took our time. The Anglophone zodiac was for only 5 of us, piloted by Christophe who we really enjoy. He is pictured in the previous post, waiting for us to board. The Parata Peninsula is obviously attached to the mainland though some parts are low-lying. You can hike here from Ajaccio if you have many hours to kill. At the tip of the peninsula there is another Genoese Tower. This is in better condition than the one we saw at Saint-Florent. We saw people climbing the hill to the tower. Looks like a decent climb! We cruised out towards the islands. Some were empty and rocky. Cool rock formations, a mixture of rock types. Granite predominates as you get further from the coast. This looked more like a lion than yesterday's rocks! Must have been a challenge to get the building materials out here for this lighthouse! Here and there, vegetation. The rocks are more pink than red. This building is part of a quarantine complex used in the time of the plague. Incoming sailors had to stay there until cleared. In French it's called a lazaret. And this odd square tower. It's from the 1700s but not much is known (to Christophe) about who built it or why. Beautiful rock formations and a pleasant sea breeze despite the sun. The water is so clear! But wow, those rocks look like they would do serious damage to a ship. We were also hunting for birds (Christophe is an ornithologist) but not much variety. Plenty of gulls but no osprey, so he was disappointed. We did like the views though. Here is the square tower, and the lazaret. Back for lunch. Our ship awaits us. Another view of the zodiac dock. And an overview of the Islands. Nobody knew for sure why they are called "bloody" but several theories were proposed. Red granite, or red vegetation were two of the tame possibilities. Before lunch, we checked with the ship about covid testing which was readily available. But they did not offer the results with a scannable QR code, so we could not use them to enter restaurants or museums ashore. That's not terribly useful... Since we are in Ajaccio this afternoon and tomorrow, maybe we can get a test ashore?
  11. Killing time in the Nice airport lounge. Fast Wi-Fi and not crowded at all. Here are a few pix of the zodiac dock used for loading and unloading. You check in and out under the little pavilion by touching your cruise card to a reader. The whole assembly folds into the stern of the ship when not in use. Walk down the stairs to a dock. The zodiacs are at a nice height to step in. And you're off. Effortless. Very nice setup. Silver Explorer is a fair amount more difficult as you'remostly on a ladder. Silver Cloud isn't bad but neither is as easy or as nice as this setup.
  12. All is well, thanks Silver. We got tests and the health passes easily (details later). Our plane arrives in Nice in 2h and we depart in 4h. Enjoying the view from our hotel balcony at the moment but will start for the airport in about 15 minutes. @TLCOhio, I will answer your questions later. Maybe I'll post from the plane if upload speed isn't too slow. Short version, we enjoyed it very much and we think that Ponant offers a quality experience.
  13. @frantic36 our thoughts are with you. Certainly a hard decision as we all know too well. Will be thinking of you tomorrow.
  14. That is an option that we explored. For reasons I'll go into later, it wasn't the best option so it was our backup plan.
  15. Thursday September 16th, Roccapina Headlands, Corsica A section of rocky headlands in southern Corsica, a bit west of Bonifacio. I was again up at 5:00 as usual, but dozed a bit before getting up for good at 7:15. We had a zodiac ride at 8:30 so we got breakfast first then headed out. A few clouds this morning. There were 7 in our English speaking group this morning. Two from New Jersey and one from Boston, and three from Belgium who spoke Flemish and many other languages, including English. Languages were flying this morning! A view of our home as we pulled away in our zodiac. We cruised along the coast looking at the strange rock formations. One of these was supposed to look like a lion. It took a lot of imagination! So Barbara handed out glasses and poured Champagne! Very nice. We went to the other side of the promontory to see if the lion looked better from another angle. That helped but we decided that the lion (the formation on the right) looked more like a turtle. That wouldn't fit the legend though! The legend of the Lion of Roccapina is something like this. A mighty young man with wild hair like a lion's mane was so handsome that every girl wanted him. While out hunting he saw a beautiful girl but she rejected his advances. Heartbroken, he asked death to take him now rather than live with his sorrow. So death immortalized him as a lion in the rock. I still think it looks like a turtle... Back to the boat for a rest before lunch. Tasty appetizers, a potato salad and a cassolet of seafood (not cassoulet mind you). Mains were Mediterranean brandade (an interesting fish dish) and roasted guinea fowl. White Moscato and a red Côtes du Rhône were served but we went easy because we have a long hike later. Dessert was a lemon tart and a Ponant Brest which was a rich filled pastry, and very tasty. Now I needed an espresso to counteract the sugar coma. During lunch we repositioned a little to the north to a different beach where we got a zodiac for our 14:00 hike. We got there just in time and the group set a fast pace. Neat rock formations! The granite has been shaped by wind and water. We took too many pictures, and eventually got stuck behind some slower folks. Such a cool landscape though. No need to rush. We all got so far behind that we lost the main group entirely. Never good to lose sight of the peloton! The slow group was afraid to go on and waited.. But we kept on, exploring on our own, and eventually found the main group at the "beach" where the hike ended. A beach full of boulders but a nice serene spot. It reminded me of The Baths in Virgin Gorda. Back home at a fast pace again, so the 3-hour hike had only taken 2 hours. Wonder why? We barely had time for any pictures on the way back. When wind or water carve rocks this way it's called "tafoni" and it's really pretty. Once we got on the zodiac, Anaëlle said that she would try to beat the rain. So maybe the hike was rushed to avoid bad weather? Not sure. We relaxed before briefing at 18:00 but as we were ready to start, they announced that the English speaking group should join everyone else in the theater. Hm. We have taken enough cruises to know that it's never good when the captain is standing in front of a weather chart and addressing the group. So there is a strong storm approaching the northwest of Corsica Friday night into Saturday, and we will not be able to use the zodiacs in Calvi because of the anticipated swells. So we will be in Ajaccio instead, near tomorrow's stop. Dinner was very good again. Sweet potato soup, then starters were Seabream tartar with Parma ham and a Corsican bruschetta. Mains were Aziminu (Corsican bouillabaisse) and an Iberian pork pluma. Very good. Dessert was passionfruit cream and sesame seed ice cream, or sablé Breton. Wines were a white Bordeaux or a red from Pays d'Oc. The evening show was moved earlier to 21:15 so we decided to go. The two dancers and one singer took turns performing for about 30 minutes, then the music duo played lots of energetic dance music. We were going until 23:00. No problem since we have a late zodiac tomorrow at 10:00. So we can sleep in! As if that ever happens. Tomorrow we have to start thinking about how to get a covid test before coming home. That should keep us awake... The French health ministry still has not acted on our application to convert the vaccine card to a French health pass. It's been sitting there, untouched, for two weeks. So we will need to time that test to hopefully serve both purposes.
  16. Wednesday September 15th, Sant'Amarza. This is a bay off the beaten path near Bonifacio. We arrived overnight after leaving Bonifacio after 22:00 or so. We are supposed to land in two separate parts of the beach today. I was awake at 5:30 for a while but fell asleep until after 8:00. That's a sure sign that I'm fairly adjusted to the time difference. Lazy morning today, with coffee and pastries as usual. We got a zodiac ashore a 9:15 for our hike. A long and fairly empty beach awaits us. There are two hikes offered today and you couldn't do both as the times overlapped. Just one group and we were the only Anglophones so one of the guides tried to translate for us when possible. We walked along the entire length of the beach then crossed through a channel of running water to the shore of a brackish lake. Here is the end of the beach, from the lake. We walked through scrub vegetation and were grateful for our long pants even though they had made the water crossing a challenge. A number of people didn't, and got some gouges on their legs. The lake was pretty but not much wildlife. The vegetation included sea daffodils and Mediterranean juniper. Back at the landing site with 40 minutes to spare before last zodiac. We asked the expedition leader if we could do the second hike on our own and got directions. Basically, find the path and climb a hill for 5 minutes. Easy enough? One wrong turn but we made the summit quickly and enjoyed a great view. Le Bellot is still there so that's reassuring! This overview shows our route. We landed at the bottom right. We walked to the end of the beach and turned left, walking along the far side of the lake. Two happy climbers! Rocking the wind-blown hair look. So we did both hikes and left at 11:45. It was a wet ride back as the wind had picked up. Chris got soaked from the spray. I was fortunately on the other side of the boat. So an early shower then lunch. Chilled cauliflower soup and fusilli pasta salad for starters. Haddock in a verbena butter sauce or Corsican beef stew for mains. Here's the fish dish which was nicely presented. White wine from Pays d'Hérault and red Côtes du Rhône which went well with the stew. Dessert was Tropézienne tarte or Lemon Pastia (pictured). During lunch the captain announced that he was canceling the afternoon landings because the wind was stronger, so we'd pick up early and head to our next stop. We had been debating not going anyway so no big loss. So a lazy afternoon was again in order. Some napping and balcony sitting, then out on deck to watch the Roccapina Headlands approach. Looks pretty in the mist and rain. Love the reflection in the windows of the observation lounge on deck 6. Briefing at 18:00. A morning zodiac ride then an afternoon hike. Finally a quick presentation from Benoit about the Corsican flag and the origin of the severed head. Gruesome legend... We had dinner outside with a storm in the distance. We saw lightning and the rain passed over, but were well protected under the ship. Vichysoisse to start, then foie gras which was delicious. Then a perfectly rare duck breast. Strawberries in sabayon, and an apricot blanc manger. Wines similar to lunch, both white and red from Pays d'Hérault. We went to the bar but there was only some mellow guitar music. When the Blue Eye opened at 22:00 we went there again for a glass of wine. A cool space and we wish it was open more often. The white boards lining the room make me think of a whale skeleton. When we came back the music in the bar was more amenable to dancing so we danced a bit before bed.
  17. It's around 180 and honestly the ship is probably near full.
  18. I posted a few food pix on FB for you. Enjoy! We are eating very well and having a great time. Full comparison after the cruise.
  19. @Sheltieluv will endeavor to find out. Not something on my radar but will check. Just had a nice dinner at an outdoor table with foie gras and duck breast cooked deliciously rare. The food has been very nice so far. Relaxing in the bar with a G&T (the included gin is Beefeater and the tonic is Schweppes Indian). They have Tanqueray #10 and Hendricks for an upcharge. And a third I can't remember, may be Bombay Sapphire? I'm slowly taking some pix of the ship but that's always been my weak spot. Here are a few pix of the bar-lounge on deck 3 aft. It's a nice space and with clever use of mirrors on the ceiling, it looks very open and bright. We have breakfast here every morning. Coffee and pastries. There is a music duo here in the evening. Some dancing has been reported as well... The floor is now open!
  20. That bear is adorable! Too bad Mom wouldn't let me pet him. Lois, hope the follow-up visits go well. That's the problem with doctors. Once they get you, they never let go. And why I avoid them!
  21. Tuesday, September 14th. Bonifacio, Corsica part 2. So we had just left our tour to go to the Citadel. That required a decent climb up a very steep cobbled street. I will post a picture later that illustrates the steepness. There was a line to enter so we wandered the upper town first, and found the wine shop that I'd scoped out. Three more bottles for our growing Corsican wine collection. The town itself is a few narrow streets, some with buttresses connecting the buildings on opposite sides. Quite atmospheric. Then we made it to the Citadel, for the views. We had to show our health passes in order to enter. The view of the harbor entrance is amazing from here. Again, with or without tourists in the way. The inner harbor. Now I understand why Bonifacio was only defeated once. It's a naturally impenetrable fortress. From the Citadel, the Genoese Gate. This is where we entered. You can get an idea of how steep the road is. Of course, the sea cliffs looked amazing from this perspective as well. From here we walked back down to the harbor area and found the second wine shop. This had a wider selection of French wines but a few shelves devoted to Corsica. Now I'm up to 6 bottles today! The Citadel towers over us from our viewpoint by the pier. We got back to the dock 20 minutes early but our tender arrived 10 minutes before our scheduled 13:00 departure. A gorgeous ride out of the harbor. Beautiful rock formations. And the lighthouse. We were back on board the ship at 13:15. Time to scramble for lunch. We made it before they closed at 13:30! Beetroot soup and assortment of local Corsican charcuterie for starters, Then a local eggplant dish for the main. Delicious, the flesh was chopped and cooked in the shell with lots of garlic and breadcrumbs, and cheese for good measure. It tasted substantial. We drank a dry Moscato with lunch but the main course could have held its own with a red. Lazy afternoon in the cabin. We skipped the lecture and rested. Later there was a duo who did Corsican polyphonic singing at 17:00, which we enjoyed more than expected, and stayed for the whole show. They played until 18:00 which left time for a quick shower before briefing at 18:30. Barely made it! Only 3 of us were there so glad we weren't too late! Tomorrow will be a beach day at a nearby bay. There are two short hikes which we will do. Dinner at the grill tonight which was mostly self-service. You sign up at reception and they put your number on your assigned table. When you're ready, you go to the counter and pick up plates with appetizers and salad (single servings are pre-plated). While at the counter you order mains, which they bring to your table. Then you get your own dessert. Very nice and a beautiful evening for dining outside. There was supposed to be a music show in the lounge after dinner but it was very mellow and not what was advertised. So early to bed.
  22. Tuesday, September 14th. Bonifacio, Corsica. We slept less soundly but finally got up at 8:00. There were beautiful views from the deck. I didn't realize that Bonifacio had such unique geography! The city has a very protected harbor situated in a fissure, behind a promontory of limestone cliffs. The city itself is high up on the promontory. Our usual light breakfast at the bar again. We had a late tour this morning at 9:30. Tender ride in, what a beautiful harbor! Pictures later. We landed and started out with a steep climb up to the plateau atop the promontory. We may be 25% up the hill at this point. We can see our tender at the pier. Halfway? It's a good climb. Glad that we ate well last night. Look at those yachts! Approaching the top of the promontory you have two choices. Go to the Citadel (upper city), or head in the other direction to walk through the undeveloped part of the promontory, called Passaggiata a Picco Sul Mare. Of course we were doing the latter. So a stop at a scenic viewpoint. The citadel. With tourists or without. I suspect we will be visiting there later. From here we hiked away from the upper town, through a wilderness area of scrub vegetation. There were some amazing views of the sea cliffs and Sardinia. These limestone columns have resisted erosion so far but how long will they last? It reminds me of the twelve apostles formation. So much boat traffic! But the views were amazing. Our ship is visible at center. She looks tiny from here. The limestone looks so fragile in places. One wonders about the longevity of the city built on this plateau. Our guide assured us that the geology is supposed to be stable for many more years. Eventually we circled our way back to the decision point, and left the tour to go to the Citadel on our own.
  23. We are currently aboard a Ponant ship, 7 days round trip from Nice, around Corsica. Having a great time. More details here if anyone wants to follow. It was a bit stressful to travel at this time but so far all is well. This is our first time out of the US since January 2020. Very happy for the opportunity.
  24. All was perfectly well upon arrival and we are having a great time, thank you. I'm posting about my trip on the Ponant board. Will put a link on the Water Cooler if anyone is interested.
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