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On Board Le Bellot, Wild and Authentic Corsica, 12-19 September


jpalbny
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We boarded Le Bellot yesterday in Nice and we are having a great time so far!

 

Saturday, September 11 we drove from Albany to JFK and flew on Delta direct to Nice. Landed early at 9:15 and were out of customs around 9:45. They didn't check our vaccine cards upon arrival even though France is now closed to unvaccinated Americans. 

 

Since France still hasn't processed our vaccine cards for the passe sanitaire, we tested at the pharmacy in the airport to get a temporary pass. Took about 45 minutes as there was a bit of a line. But now we have the coveted QR code.

 

After leaving the airport on Sunday morning we picked up a rental car and drove to Eze for the views. Simply gorgeous and the weather was perfect. 

 

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We stopped for a late lunch, and they checked our passes sanitaires at the restaurant, so we wouldn't have been able to eat without them.

 

We rrturned to Nice and dropped off the car at the train station which was easy. Then we took a taxi to the port (€25). We arrived at 4PM which was when boarding was supposed to start but we were given number 71 so I guess everyone else was early!

 

It took about 45 minutes to get to our number. Then a quick document check of our vaccine cards, and we walked to the pier and were on board!

 

A quick shower and change of clothes, then back on deck for a beautiful sail away. With Champagne, of course! 

 

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There was a briefing which was in French but we got Vox Boxes which had a live translation in English. There seem to be very few of us Anglophones on board. Then the safety drill with life jackets and mustering. By the time we finished it was a little after 8PM and we were hungry so we made a beeline for dinner.

 

The restaurant is self-seating and we grabbed a table for two. Dinner was paced quickly and food was very good. Carrot soup, then appetizers were salmon rillette for Chris, escargot for me. Mains were Halibut for me which was tender and flavorful. Chris had a delicious and rare entrecote with fries. I helped her with that! 

 

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There was a white Bordeaux and a red Cotes du Rhône to accompany. There is a wine list where other wines are available for purchase but saving that for later.

 

After dinner we were too tired for anything other than sleep. On Monday, we visit the north of Corsica for zodiac rides along the coast, and a tour of Saint-Florent.

 

Happy to answer any questions about the ship or this itinerary. So happy to be here after a long hiatus from travel!

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Back from a very fun and full day in Saint-Florent. Getting ready for a recap and briefing.

 

Here's a few room shots from yesterday. We're in the smallest category on deck 4.

 

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And the toiletries are nice too!

 

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Pleased with the room so far. Compact but very functional, and there are tons of plugs so it's easy to charge stuff. More later.

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Monday morning, September 13th.

 

We woke up at 7:15 and had a light breakfast. 

 

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The view of Saint-Florent from the bow was pretty.

 

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And the mountains with the morning mist looked magical.

 

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In the morning we did a zodiac cruise in the Gulf of Saint-Florent. Chris and I had a zodiac with just one other couple. 

 

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Dramatic coastline. And perfect weather!

 

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A Genoese Tower (Mortella Tower) which inspired Nelson to build many more. In Corsica they say that he spelled it wrong, as  Martello. Not arguing. 

 

This one was bombed and looks like a ruin from one side,

 

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But it's fairly intact from the other.

 

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After some more coastline, secret beaches, and the dry landscape of the Desert des Agriate, we headed back to the boat.

 

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A relaxing rest of the morning before lunch. Afterwards, it's time for a hike in town! 

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34 minutes ago, jpalbny said:

Monday morning, September 13th.

 

We woke up at 7:15 and had a light breakfast. 

 

20210913_074245.thumb.jpg.5c15e7f9c8dae916499da104eb9cfaf1.jpg

 

The view of Saint-Florent from the bow was pretty.

 

20210913_080532.thumb.jpg.217e3e7008f97f79b650dad6a521bcc8.jpg

 

And the mountains with the morning mist looked magical.

 

20210913_081101.thumb.jpg.397846835873ea6998a4128db9aca612.jpg

 

In the morning we did a zodiac cruise in the Gulf of Saint-Florent. Chris and I had a zodiac with just one other couple. 

 

20210913_091419.thumb.jpg.923e0632bfdbfeec91c41fc4bf090ffa.jpg

 

Dramatic coastline. And perfect weather!

 

20210913_091548.thumb.jpg.b6e7d3188acc7e468758cb28e39d341b.jpg

 

A Genoese Tower (Mortella Tower) which inspired Nelson to build many more. In Corsica they say that he spelled it wrong, as  Martello. Not arguing. 

 

This one was bombed and looks like a ruin from one side,

 

20210913_093110.thumb.jpg.4baf089b25a24ce3a7a721203e10324e.jpg

 

But it's fairly intact from the other.

 

20210913_093618.thumb.jpg.6776703f0a96c20ce0f033f1942bd78c.jpg

 

After some more coastline, secret beaches, and the dry landscape of the Desert des Agriate, we headed back to the boat.

 

20210913_095406.thumb.jpg.699710502ad06b67e8dfea2dc9b29712.jpg

 

A relaxing rest of the morning before lunch. Afterwards, it's time for a hike in town! 

I am enjoying your review. I do remember at lunch on Ponant that the wine glass is never empty 😉 

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Monday September 13th, Saint-Florent. Afternoon.

 

Lunch on board, an outdoor table on the back desk with a nice breeze. The Mussels Provençal were delicious. 

 

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We tendered ashore to a pier in town for a guided walk. Just a bit uphill from the coast is this main square (Pl. Doria) where there is a water fountain with bronze frogs along the edge.

 

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On the other side of the square, this restaurant had a gorgeous view of the coastline.

 

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We walked towards the Citadel. An imposing structure. First built as part of the town's defense system, now used for indoor sports according to our guide.

 

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Nice coastal views as we climbed.

 

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Further along, time for a selfie before we get too hot and sweaty.

 

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Atop the Citadel, an old pouderie which is in disrepair. Still, a nice vantage point. 

 

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We then left the coast and went further inland. Grapevines in the rocky soil. Still close enough for an ocean breeze.

 

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Thirsty tourists! All those grapes and not a drop of wine to drink! 

 

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Eventually we got to the Cathedral of Saint-Florent. 

 

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A quick peek inside at the relics then a downhill stroll to the pier. We had 10 minutes before the tender left.

 

So I had found an épicerie on Google that I thought would have local wines for sale and it was a minute away. We made a beeline there and were confronted by a large wall full of many different local wines. What to choose?

 

We let the proprietor guide us and bought three bottles. White, rosé, and red. Back in time for the tender, much to the amazement of our guide!

 

We had our briefing at 6 (a small English-speaking group) then it was the captain's welcome night. More on that later.

 

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Monday, September 13th. Evening off Cap Corse. 

 

We had our English briefing, then an overview lecture on the floral and fauna of Corsica. Barbara from Innsbruck is going to be handling most of our briefings. 

 

This is the flora that interests us! Lots of regions to explore.

 

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As the lecture finished, the captain announced that we were passing by Cap Corse. 

 

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A nice view from the front of the ship, of the Ile de Graglia.

 

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And far in the distance we could just see the Italian island of Capraia.

 

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We had a meet and greet, photo opportunity with the Captain and then the welcome reception. The usual stuff and then time for dinner.

 

Tonight was a fixed menu gala dinner.

 

Amuse-bouche was foie gras with mango coriander coulis. Cold appetizer was lobster with citrus, Timut pepper, and caviar. Hot appetizer was Norwegian cod in a seafood foam. The main was veal tenderloin over spinach and morels. 

 

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Dessert was "Chocolate Ponant Sails" 

 

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Which was followed by mignardises. We were ready to burst. The included wines were tasty as well. A while Sancerre and a red Bordeaux. 

 

Since we were too stuffed to sleep we went to the underwater lounge on deck zero. You have to take the forward elevator down to 1 then descend a flight of stairs. It's a cool lounge but not much to see, just some jellyfish whizzing by the eye-shaped window. 

 

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We went to the main bar for a bit to dance and have a nightcap. Then finally off to bed. We will be climbing the cliffs in Bonifacio tomorrow but we don't leave until 9:30. So it should be a relaxing morning. 

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22 hours ago, jpalbny said:

Tonight was a fixed menu gala dinner.

 

Amuse-bouche was foie gras with mango coriander coulis. Cold appetizer was lobster with citrus, Timut pepper, and caviar. Hot appetizer was Norwegian cod in a seafood foam. The main was veal tenderloin over spinach and morels. 

 

 

Thanks for these recaps!

 

Were there any alternatives to the meal offerings (e.g., for vegetarians)?

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17 minutes ago, TouchstoneFeste said:

Were there any alternatives to the meal offerings (e.g., for vegetarians)?

 

Yes there are. Here is the gala menu, for example. There is a complete vegetarian menu and they asked you to order one or the other. 

 

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They also have a selection of always available items.

Edited by jpalbny
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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. 

 

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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.

 

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Halfway? It's a good climb. Glad that we ate well last night. Look at those yachts!

 

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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. 

 

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The citadel. With tourists or without. I suspect we will be visiting there later.

 

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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.

 

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These limestone columns have resisted erosion so far but how long will they last? It reminds me of the twelve apostles formation. 

 

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So much boat traffic! But the views were amazing. Our ship is visible at center. She looks tiny from here. 

 

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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. 

 

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Eventually we circled our way back to the decision point, and left the tour to go to the Citadel on our own.

Edited by jpalbny
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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.

 

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Again, with or without tourists in the way.

 

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The inner harbor. Now I understand why Bonifacio was only defeated once. It's a naturally impenetrable fortress.

 

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From the Citadel, the Genoese Gate. This is where we entered. You can get an idea of how steep the road is.

 

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Of course, the sea cliffs looked amazing from this perspective as well.

 

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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.

 

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We got back to the dock 20 minutes early but our tender arrived 10 minutes before our scheduled 13:00 departure.

 

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A gorgeous ride out of the harbor. Beautiful rock formations. 

 

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And the lighthouse. 

 

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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,

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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Hi jp, if you get a minute, could you check and see if non-alcoholic beer is available?  I did do a search because I didn't want to bother you with such a trivial question, but couldn't find anything.  Thanks very much!

Am enjoying your reports very much.

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@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!

 

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Thanks, jp, don't go out of your way and if you don't find out about the n/A beer it's ok!  We are looking at Ponant for a possible future cruise; we like the small-ship size.  The ship looks lovely.

Thanks for posting about your journey!

(Btw,  I'm a SUNY Albany grad; didn't have to think about non-alcoholic beer back in those days!)😄

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2 hours ago, Sheltieluv said:

Hi jp, if you get a minute, could you check and see if non-alcoholic beer is available?  I did do a search because I didn't want to bother you with such a trivial question, but couldn't find anything.  Thanks very much!

Am enjoying your reports very much.


The drinks list over the summer said there was a non-alcoholic beer, but I don’t know the brand. 

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Thanks for the tip about the Centurion Lounge speakeasy bar, but we were able to get a 2top on the window right at the food and bar on the main floor.  Dangerous with a tray of cookies calling out to me!

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