Monday, September 21, 2009

A Country A Day

At each port on this trip in the Mediterranean, we have chosen guided excursions, although you have the option to go ashore on your own and explore at will.

On Sunday, the ship docked in Livorno, Italy, and we toured a 15th-century villa and winery about 25 minutes outside of the city. The guide, a feisty woman named Lila, took us to this villa, the Varrimista, where a more local guide allowed us into the main room. The home is owned by the family that builds Vespas, and there is a classic model on display in the room. The rest of the house is closed off to the public because the family stays there now and then.

We then toured the small winery including what looked like an ancient wine cellar underneath the house where tiny lizards and giant beetles live. There was mold on all of the walls, and spider webs holding dead spiders in the doorways.

Then we went into a more modern room for a wine tasting. Each table was given a platter of very nice sheep’s milk cheese and local salamis and bread and local olive oil, and we were given three tasting glasses of their wines, all distinct and pleasant. To top it off, we were served biscuits and grappa made on the grounds. Our guide had warned us about grappa, so I was hesitant, but it turns I like it. I like it very much, in fact. You can really only take a small serving at a time, the way you would an aperitif or a port, but it’s just enough to cure all your ills and make life grand.

Sunrise in Monaco. On Monday, we anchored in Monte Carlo, which is so tiny of a place—actually, all of Monaco is tiny—you can see it all from your balcony, and you can walk the width of the country in about an hour. We toured the city and the rock with the help of a French woman named Cecile who has in mind she should marry Prince Albert because they have so much in common.

The rock is where the old fort is and the royal residences and government buildings—Monaco’s equivalent of a congress and the courthouse, etc. As we were walking along an old brick walkway, two wet dogs came up from steps that led to the sea and ran through our group. We stepped aside for them and then discovered they belonged to Princess Caroline who followed behind them with her daughter. They didn’t say a word—not excuse us or sorry for the dogs. When they left, the guide whispered their identity to us, and as we followed behind them on our walk, we had to step around a pile of dog poo left behind by the pooches. The guide called it “royal caca,” and we noted that even royal caca stinks. Nice to know, huh?

The royal casino. Anyway, Monte Carlo is absolutely beautiful, as you would expect given it is home to more millionaires per square mile than any other spot in the world, or so they say. The hotels and the royal casino and the public gardens are all remarkable. After the tour, we went our own way and had lunch at the CafĂ© du Paris right beside the casino. Now, back on the ship, we’ll just sit on our quiet balcony while the hideous tenders are below and relax with books and a little Australian Shiraz.

The tomb of Princess Grace in the cathedral. People still put flowers there every day.

Tomorrow, Barcelona. I’m afraid we are ruined.


Shan said...

What beautiful photos Robyn! This sounds like the trip of a lifetime! Thanks for taking us along. :)

dive said...

Ooooooooooo …
I WANT that house!

And that wine!

AND that sunset!

MmeBenaut said...

Royal caca indeed! Cecile and the Prince sound like a likely pair!
I did love Monaco though and I could live on Port and Sheep's milk cheese.
What a fabulous trip you're having.