Slow Sailing

26 September 2016 | Valencia, Spain
18 September 2016 | Toulon, France
01 September 2016 | Corsica, France
24 August 2016 | Porto Turistico Di Roma
09 August 2016 | Underway to Rome
29 July 2016 | Thomas Bay, Malta
16 July 2016 | Siracusa, Sicily
08 July 2016 | Anti Paxos, Ionian
30 June 2016 | Paxi, Ionian Islands
16 June 2016 | Syros, Cyclades
05 June 2016 | Poros Island, Greece
05 April 2016 | Aegina Island, Greece
31 March 2016 | Aegina Island, Greece
11 March 2016 | Lavrio, Greece
28 February 2016 | Lavrion, Greece
06 February 2016 | Ao Po Grand Marina, Phuket
28 January 2016 | Rebak Marina, Langkawi
11 January 2016 | Butang Group, Thailand
26 December 2015 | Phuket, Thailand
24 December 2015 | Yacht Haven Marina, Phuket

Goodbye France

26 September 2016 | Valencia, Spain
Well here we are on passage again so its a good time to catch up on the blog. Whenever we're in port now it feels very busy because there's so much to do. We were delayed leaving Toulon, France by 5 days waiting for calm weather to cross the Gulf of Lyon which has a reputation for big winds & seas. I guess weather systems create winds that scream down the Rhone River valley and then fan out over this Gulf. And it has been blowing a gale out here every day until today, when it is calm. But beautiful days ashore did make us wonder if it really was happening but you could tell it was true from the swell. We have 308 miles left to go to get to Valencia, Spain where we hope to stop for a few days to see something of the area. Valencia is the home of paella. And some Spanish wine would go well with it. Then about another 400 miles to Gibraltar. While we were away touring around in a car, the season seems to have switched here and it feels a little cooler & fall-like. Given that we've been in a near perpetual summer for years now, it feels a little scary. Everything gets harder in the cold and when we're underway we basically live in the cockpit so it isn't as fun. The beaches have thinned out & there aren't as many boats out on the water which is just another reminder that we need to move on.
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We managed to get quite a bit done during our weather window waiting time that has alleviated some of the pressure we felt to get the boat ready to be at sea. I guess the biggest thing is we got all the chainplates pulled, inspected and resealed & some corrosion of paint on the mast fixed. We're hoping that the rig stays up on the Atlantic crossing, you know, thinking of the simple things! It seems like every time we take something out like even a pair of sunglasses we had kicking around, the rubbers & adhesives have deteriorated so much that whatever it was, you don't really have it anymore. Anyway, the ditch bag is all repacked too and the old dry bag that was one of the things that came unglued, is replaced. We also got to do some more things in Toulon such as a great bike ride, a hike up Mt Faron for some views and just milling around the town doing a couple of their many free museums and doing some stocking up on food. There was a massive grocery store right across the street from the marina so you could actually wheel the grocery cart to your berth which is exactly what we did. When we first pulled in, we kind of got the last berth because the "America's Cup" was just about to start and everything was packed for the celebrations. We found out later that it isn't the actual event, but rather some sort of promotional thing although we did see some really cool hydofoil racing cats as we arrived from Corsica that were the fastest race boats we'd ever seen. Now Valencia has held the America's Cup twice in the past.
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When we left mainland Italy we stopped for a couple of days in Sardinia, Italy. It is a rather large island, I think second only to Sicily and it has several smaller islands adjacent, set aside as park. We pulled in to one after our overnight trip and picked up a park mooring like you're supposed to do for a day of snorkeling and beachy stuff. Shortly afterward, the park staff arrived to collect their fee which amounted to more than $60 a night for that mooring. Good grief! We saw an interesting pipefish, a lot of cuttlefish in the Posidina grass and an eel. At sea nearby, we saw 2 large dolphin, ocean sunfish, a couple of whales and some jumping mantas so there is life here, you just have to look. This was the first place we'd been to where the park sets aside a beach for you to just look at. Not because it is a breeding ground or anything, just because. So you can walk on trails near the beach, but the actual sand & water is roped off for viewing. The picture above was from a beach you could go on and it is just an example of how loved the beaches are- all the colors of the umbrellas are pretty too.Then there is the new to us phenomenon of doing your business on the trail and then leaving a pile of TP next to it. I am not joking or exaggerating when I say we have seen this now throughout the parts of Italy and France that we have visited. Mostly on trails or at rest area picnic grounds but also on staircases in town, wherever you might get that urge to evacuate. I keep telling Jon there must be something more to it but he doesn't believe me. And we haven't caught anyone in the act, we just see the product. A certain someone told me to enjoy the dog doo in Italy and I didn't realize at the time that people presents was going to be more intrusive. And I still don't get it. We visited a couple more anchorages on Sardinia but felt we had to move on due to time and nothing was knocking our socks off. Its better to keep your socks & shoes on anyway...
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It was less than 10 miles from Sardinia to Corsica, France because the islands are stacked right atop one another. We sailed into our first "calanque"- a naturally carved out limestone harbor deep in the cliffs. At the head of it is a town called Bonaficio but we couldn't manage to get tied up with the wind blowing so had to head back out and around the corner to an anchorage instead. We were so bummed because it was such an ideal place to be on a boat. We took the bus in the next day to see the town. It had a high, walled , historic town & citadel that you could tour and a great, glittering waterfront full of yachts. Crazy scenery because of the limestone cliffs and there was even a long stairway carved in from the top to the waters edge. I learned a lot of history that day but can't recall it now while the boat is tossing about. We did see our first hummingbird moth though. Didn't even know they existed. It is more a hummingbird than a moth.
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We wanted to rent a car and do some hiking on Corsica (there is a famous long distance hiking trail there) but we couldn't figure out where to leave the boat to do it that was safe & affordable.There are very few marinas that are protected enough to just be absent and even less for anchorages. Then we planned to just work our way up the coast instead exploring but we lost interest in that when the weather forecasted some strong winds so we just bolted & headed for mainland France. It was the best thing we could've done because we ended up getting to the mainland faster to rent a car. It was an easy overnight to some park islands just off the coast of southern France called the Porquerolles. We stopped there for a night to explore. They had extensive fortifications used in WWII, not sure if these were built by the Germans or the French- we couldn't really figure it out but there were underground tunnels that went way in with small gauge railroad tracks running in to carry the ammunition for huge guns that recessed into the tunnel and when they lifted upward to use them, they were all camouflaged on the outside to look like rocks. All of this is just sitting there and you can wander through. This was the first we'd seen of this type of thing. The camo-ing looked like a school science project but I'm sure it was effective. The water at the Porquerolles was beautiful too.
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Once settled into the marina in Toulon, we picked up a rental car and set off for the French Alps. We wanted to hike around the Mont Blanc area. It turns out that Air BnB is very well established in France and we stayed in some lovely places this trip, the one in Mt Blanc was an especially good one. It was a very authentic, fully furnished mountain chalet with a wonderful view. The guy who owned it had just finished fitting out a camper to travel Europe & had also dome a lot of foreign travel and we enjoyed talking with him & seeing his refit. His parents had lived there and his mother was an artist so the place was filled with little paintings. So cute. We did two days of hiking in the Alps, based in the town of Chamonix. We had great weather, saw lots of glaciers and got our alpine fix. We even saw someone go blasting by downhill using one of those wingsuits. Every kind of extreme mountain sport seems popular in Chamonix and this one is wild. That night we watched clips of them on Youtube. You just put on a suit, jump out of a helicopter and then fly downhill like a bird, but fast! If we'd have had more time, it would've been fun to hop over the border to Switzerland since it was only a few km's away. That was hard not to do! So we headed toward Paris via some lovely French countryside and ended up in a tiny mountain farming town surrounded by wooded parkland. All the houses had been converted from very old barns and had lots of character. This place was another great find and made the whole experience so fun. It seems to burn the place into my brain more than any hotel room ever could. We were greeted by our hosts with fresh lemonade, tried our best to communicate that night using her tablet to translate and then enjoyed a nice breakfast of her homemade jams.
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Our Paris place wasn't nearly as exciting but it was very inexpensive and had secure parking for the car and we didn't spend much time there since we were touring around all day each day. But it did have a city bike depot right across the street so each day we could bike in & out of the center of the city, not to mention between attractions in the city if we wanted and it was all for $2/day! The first day we did it was Sunday morning and as usual with the Mediterranean schedule, the whole city was still asleep so we had the streets to ourselves which was great! We did a bunch of the usual must see stops there and loved climbing up the Notre Dame bell tower & seeing the L'ouvre. Things were much quieter than they were in Rome which was good. We were up in the adjacent belltower when the Sunday bells were clanging away which added to the feel. What a beautiful church. There was a lot of competition between restaurants in the old Latin Quarter so we had a nice 3 course dinner one night that included the famous fish soup and profiteroles for dessert. We've now bought some of that fish soup in the grocery store to have on night watches when we first leave the Med because I think it's going to be cold! This is like having meat pies each night at midnight when leaving New Zealand...
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One thing we hadn't really realized about Paris was how much of a multi-cultural city it is! I think we saw pretty much every country represented there including a lot of people from Africa who are struggling to make a place for themselves. There was for us, a lot of pockets of homelessness which was disturbing. But there were also so many beautiful things to see. We really liked it and France in general. And we hope there is enough support for the less fortunate immigrants that have come to Paris.
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After doing Paris, we spent a day at Versailles because we had never seen a palace that elaborate or such extensive gardens. Jon had wanted to see it since he was a kid and me, well I'd never heard of the place until fairly recently! Although I still think that Hamilton Gardens in NZ were the best gardens we've ever been to. When you're standing there looking at Versailles, it doesn't really look like what I picture a palace would be from the outside but the over the top furnishings & fixtures inside do make it real. We were there on a "fountains day" in the gardens but the fountains weren't actually operating, save one. So it wasn't as impressive I don't think.
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And from there we started working our way back through more countryside in the Burgundy region. We walked around a lake that was completely filled with blackberry bushes the whole way, explored some little towns, got pastries, that sort of thing. Then stopped at a Chateux village for the night and had this awesome apartment steps away from the castle & its walls. Another rich lord or whomever had all this built and now it still stands looking like something out of a fairy tale. I just love the way people can be living a modern life in these ancient towns with all the history & beautiful buildings & they aren't being made anymore. That look & feel is something we certainly haven't experienced elsewhere, until Europe.

The last night we rolled in late to a place outside of Lyon that was quite forgettable but it didn't matter because the next morning we had to get going early to be back to Toulon to return our wheels once again. Its a funny thing, we weren't even sure at first if we would come to mainland France but are so glad we did. Lonely Planet describes France as "snooty, sexy, superior, chic, infuriating, arrogant, officious and inspired in equal measures", whatever that means. For us, you can take out all the negatives and just leave the positive and add environmentally conscious, progressive and clean (well, except for the piles left around on trails & such but from a trash perspective!) and that would be our opinion. Filled with friendly, helpful people and great resources, it is definitely a place we want to come back to.

And now, Spain. The last time we had to call upon our Spanish was the Galapagos which feels like a very long time ago. Just when we were feeling more brushed up on our French pleasantries, it all changes again. We can't wait to get there and start exploring with what time we have left.
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Tour De France

18 September 2016 | Toulon, France
We've just gotten back from doing our own little tour de France. We saw the French Alps, Paris, and the regions of Provence & Burgundy. We had a great time, saw a lot of beautiful scenery, learned a lot and now we're back at the boat getting ready to move onward. It seems like the season changed while we were gone... While waiting for some higher winds to pass, we are pulling the chainplates to inspect them and doing other preparations for the offshore work ahead of us. I think I'll save the writing till we're on passage but here are a few pics. Click on any one other than the top one and it should take you to the album.
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Land Tour in Italy

01 September 2016 | Corsica, France
We are underway to Sardinia doing an overnight because it is 135 miles from the coast of Rome. We're kind of sad to leave mainland Italy because there was so much more we could explore but the season is marching on and we actually have a little over a month before we need to be in Gibraltar. We both had so much anticipation for this past couple of weeks and it was so much fun once we got rolling it was hard to return our rented wheels.
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When we first pulled into the marina at Porto Turistico di Roma, they gave us a spacious slip that was easy to get into because it was breezy and they helped push our bow with their inflatable in lieu of a bow thruster which was nice. We tied the boat as tightly as we could and headed straight to Rome for the rest of the day since it is a little over an hour by train to the Colosseum. The actual Colosseum wasn't as imposing as we'd expected it to be since its nestled in among many other buildings including the subway stop but the area around it was full of the old ruins of the forum and beautiful buildings and statues. We walked all over that day doing the things that don't require tickets or pre-planning. Trevi fountain was the highlight for me, the most beautiful fountain I've ever seen. And actually, while on the subject of water, one of the most notable things about Italy in general has been the abundance of interesting, old, drinking fountains everywhere and good water. They just gush out water all the time. I don't know where they get the water at marinas though because it is comparatively bad tasting and leaves big white residue blotches all over the boat. When we returned to the boat that evening the wind had picked up and changed direction so that we were being pushed way back in our berth and the windvane paddle was rubbing on the cement quay. It is dented now but OK. It was hard to tighten the lines with all the wind so we turned the motor on and used the prop to create the slack needed to get the lines even tighter. As a precaution, Jon put the gear in reverse hard to see if we would definitely be held off in anything stronger and it was enough to suck up the aptly called "slime line" that you have to hand over hand up the side of the boat when you are med mooring so you can retrieve the mooring line at the bow that you will tie to. I don't know why anyone would tolerate this system. Anywhoo... that stopped the engine in a hurry because it wound all up in the prop so the next day Jon spent over an hour underwater cutting the line and pulling out the tiny frays that somehow got pulled up into the cutlass bearing. There were 5 previous breaks in the line which tells us that this happens on a relatively frequent basis. He got most of it out and the prop & engine seem OK. We hope.

We then busied ourselves doing a few chores & got ready to leave for a few days in Rome but also took the afternoon to visit Ostia Antica, which is an extensive riverside ancient Roman city ruin from 4th century BC. It was once Rome's major seaport with about 100,000 people living there and a road leading to Rome. It was deserted in the 5th century because of barbarian invasions. Then the river flooded and changed course, filling the area with silt that actually preserved it until what it is today. Our favorite part of this ruin site were the old trees. They provided welcome shade and atmosphere to the old brick building foundations and stone walkways. We both agreed that in comparison, the Greek ruins are prettier to us because the white & cream colored marble is so striking compared to the bricks which don't look that different than today's bricks. A lot of the marble that was on the bricks in Roman ruins was taken once Rome fell.
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We took the train back in to Rome and did all the usual tourist things over 3 days. I got a chuckle out of a cat that was standing at the ticket counter at the station like he was supposed to be there. The highlight of Rome for us was the day we did the Vatican- St Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Museum despite the fact that the museum was mobbed. We got to the church at 7am and it was lovely & quiet. We both marveled at the sheer size & intricacy of the carvings in the Basilica. All the different colors of marble used made them so pretty and added to their detail. Climbing to the top of the dome was awesome. In the final stages, in the tight staircases with the slanted walls that form the shape of the dome, it was dizzy-ing but all went away when we reached the openness of the outside. You could then see how huge the Vatican museum was. I think if you were going to "get religion" this would be a good place to be inspired. It seemed like every corner of the Basilica had a small, private mass going and there were priests everywhere. Nuns too, looking somber. It was all heavily guarded. We thought the interior was very classy, spacious and impressive. The exterior that faced St Peter's Square I thought was kind of plain. And the outside grounds were beautiful but you couldn't walk in the gardens unless you were on a private tour. I didn't know about the special Vatican guards that dress in the colorful uniforms. We contemplated going back to the square the next day to be blessed by Pope Francis but decided it would be too crowded and we saw a lot of him in calendars at the tourist tat stands. I like this Pope.

In the late morning, we headed over to the Vatican Museum. Oh brother, we were with the masses then! After briefly thinking we would wait in line, we smartened up and got online tickets instead for a timed entry a little later. We thought the museum was amazing. Not only is it huge, it houses the most impressive frescoes we've ever seen, gorgeous statues and just full on color and beauty culminating in the Sistine Chapel. The Map Room was my favorite. It felt like eating a banana split- the works! The only disappointment was that it was so crowded with everyone appreciating the same thing. We got ushered out at closing time well before we were ready. And because the next day was Sunday, the museum was closed and so there would not be another chance for this trip.
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On our last day, we did a four-pack of museums, more piazzas, and just soaked up the scene- you know, when in Rome!.... By the end of the day, we were not only wiped, but we were hanging on each other moaning that we couldn't look at another statue. We had "done Rome", except we could do the Basilica and the Vatican all over again. It was fun getting pictures of "Roman" cats & pigeons and we both felt that part of what makes Rome so interesting is the overwhelming amount of detail in everything you look at. It is amazing to contemplate all the time that must have went in to carving or painting every little thing. It definitely wasn't built in a day!

We got back to the boat with everything intact and the next morning got busy wet sanding most of the teak for yet another coat or varnish. It feels like we just did this- oh that's because we did! We did a lot of planning and made an outline of where we wanted to go. The next day I put every bit of varnish I had on and despite the fact that we looked several places to get more, there is actually no varnish for sale anywhere around. The marine supplies in Italy so far have been quite unavailable which is surprising. So much for my replacement cockpit chair.. Plus, I don't know how anything gets done around here because it seems like most of the day, everything is closed! If you look on Google Street view all you see is closed roll down doors on the stores because when they passed through with the video camera, everything is like it usually is- closed! Jon figured out that the problem with the fridge turning on & off was due to a faulty fuse block that was creating low voltage for the fridge but when he looked around to get a replacement there is nothing to buy so he had to scavenge the one off our old heater, which we hope we never need again anyway. So, with the varnish done, we picked up a rental car for a week long road trip to Venice, the Dolomites & Florence. One thing about Europe so far is the car rentals are the cheapest we've ever had, even in peak season. The gas & tolls are not, so just like everything, it seems to wash out.

We drove to Venice the first day, stopping in Bologna for a few hours since it was on the way. In truth, we left before our parking meter was up because the town had a forlorn look and we couldn't see through all the graffiti. There is also an issue with littering in Italy. Jon sat in gum even. Yum! It would have been nice to tour the Ferrari, the Lamborghini or the Maserati factories that are based there but there wasn't time, you had to pay a whole lot for the tour and they weren't giving any free samples!

We checked in to a lovely Air BnB place just outside Venice in a quiet town of farm fields and running paths. The couple had a cute little dog that whimpered to be patted. I wish we could have stayed much longer as it felt like a bit of the real Italy and I really loved the scenery. The husband had quite an affection for the Dolomiti (Dolomite mountains) and said that while he was intrigued with the sailing life, he could never give up hiking in the Dolomiti. We told him we could imagine how he felt.

When traveling like this, we generally like to find places that have a kitchen so that at the end of the day, we can stop at a store and get whatever we're in the mood for and then put our feet up for the night because we've usually had a full day and have some homework to do as far as planning goes. Checking in with all of our disorganized bags, we laugh at what we must look like and Jon always says "this is how we roll..." and it cracks me up. Over the years, we've gotten pretty good at basically living in a car.
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It was fun to see Venice, finally. We could have sailed there (more like motored) but it would've taken us forever to get up the Adriatic Sea and meanwhile, we got there in part of a day by car. We spent the whole day walking all over the city, across numerous bridges looking up & down the canals just watching all the goings on. The lines for the museums were long so we didn't even try to go into them. It was enough just to be outside in all the plazas and little parks. They really do a great job with pizza and gelato and even after you're not hungry anymore you still walk around salivating because it all looks so good. We watched some films on Venice the night before going and so already knew that it was "sinking" so to speak. After seeing all the leaning towers and buildings, we felt less like we had to go to see the leaning tower of Pisa! The water level has risen enough so that the waves wash above the marble layer and are eroding the bricks above, which cannot tolerate salt. A lot of thinking went in to building this city and this marble layer was intentional. Some ground floors are already awash because the wood pilings that were used to build Venice so many years ago have sunk further into the mud. I found it interesting that the original start of Venice in the 5th & 6th centuries was from refugees that were fleeing the mainland from barbarian invasions. Over time, Venice & the Venetians developed into a great merchant power and they actually became quite violent themselves. The traditional gondolas are still being made right there but they are mainly for tourists and outboard motors have understandably taken their place for the locals and the wakes from those are reaching the bricks as well. Because we come from a boat and are pretty familiar with how it all works, we didn't feel compelled to ride around in a gondola but it was fun to see them piled up like bumper cars moving through the canals that are actually a bit smelly, as you can imagine. With the summertime swell of tourists like ourselves (Lonely Planet says 20 million/year) and a direct overboard discharge for most of the effluent, the old saying of "the solution to pollution is dilution" doesn't work as well but it is remarkable how much the sea can actually handle and how effective the tidal flow which Venice is so dependent on does move a lot of water to someplace else!

The following day we drove up to the Dolomite mountains which we couldn't wait to see. Another UNESCO site- practically everywhere we go is one and deservingly so in this part of the world. We started out in a cute little town called Cimolais which has a lovely park with some spectacular mountains and alpine scenery. The park road itself was crazy beautiful. Much of the wood that was used to build Venice and its ships came from the Dolomites area. We hiked that afternoon and then the whole next day. The hillsides were full of wildflowers and huge mountain views and very few people around. Then we left there and had a rainy drive further north up toward the Austrian border to get to the Tre Cime area. Even though we were still in Italy, the tidy towns all have German architecture and they speak German too because this whole area was once Austria. We did some shorter walks that day between and ultimately in raindrops, enjoyed strolling around two of the villages and had some strudel to make our visit complete. By evening it was really raining and we had a lot of wet gear. We were worried that our planned early hike of the Tre Cime area to avoid the crowds the following day would be a wash out. But we got up before light and saw the moon!
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We did a long figure 8 hike at the Tre Cime area to take in as much scenery as we could for the time we had and getting there early meant we scored one of the few parking spots right at the trailhead. It was amazingly beautiful and the first place we've ever hiked that rivals the kind of scenery that we love so much in the US western parks. There are three impressive rock formations that form the Tre Cime but the whole area is vast & just falls away before you. I had wanted to see marmots and we saw several, the views were something we'll never forget and we were both very pleased to be there & moving. I think when all is said & done, this kind of thing gives us the biggest buzz. There were old WWI handmade bunkers carved into the rocks of the mountains and the trail went right by some of them. I'm used to seeing the ugly WWII bunkers but these were much smaller and discreet. We boogied back to the car and drove 5 hours to Florence that evening. By that time our car had, as our friend Mark says, "that certain je ne sais quoi" smell since nothing really dried from the night before and we were also now in the car too after a long & brisk hike. Oh well, I can tell you that we didn't get reprimanded by the car rental place for more than "daily dirt" like we did in Australia. That was funny!
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That night in Florence, we once again put our feet up over happy hour to watch some segments about Florence, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. There is so much history here! And then a full day roaming around seeing it. It has a quieter feel than Rome and I liked the way the Arno River flows through it especially since the place we stayed was right near the river and there was a bike path all the way to town. We were supposed to have bikes available at the place we stayed but we couldn't find the air pump so walked in instead. People say that Rome and these inland cities are hot but we haven't had really hot weather and so have been very comfortable. The hottest we've been is when traveling in un-ventilated, but very reasonably priced buses in Italy so the walk was welcome. If we were going to open a gelato shop we would do so in Florence since it is for some reason a premium price there. We got advance tickets to the Uffizi Museum which houses the impressive collection of Renaissance art of the once ruling Medici family that was bequeathed to the city in 1743. We weren't so advanced that we got an early time however since our slot wasn't till 415pm. But the museum was worth it and we got through all the exhibits. Now that we've been here for a while, we can definitely say that we have seen quite a few versions of the Madonna with child and other typical art subjects of the time and it is funny how different they can be. We've seen many with all different colors of hair. The crucifix is the same way. We joked at how many women had somehow lost a sleeve so that one boob was out or why it was always totally naked men and never totally naked women.

And then the last day had come and it was time to drive back to the boat, get a load of groceries and return the car. That morning in Florence, we slept through an earthquake that happened closer to Rome and were saddened at the losses. It seems like wherever you live, there is some natural disaster that can occur and Italy has had its share of earthquakes and volcano eruptions. But even so, it has a rich history that has withstood the test of time and it is wonderful to see it.

9/1 We have now traveled to Sardinia & Corsica. Headed for mainland France tomorrow. Maybe the internet service will be better there....

Vessel Name: EVERGREEN
Vessel Make/Model: Tashiba 40 Hull #158
Hailing Port: E. Thetford Vermont
Crew: Heather and Jon Turgeon
Over the years, we've explored much of the Caribbean Sea & Atlantic East coast. In January 2012, we left the USA and headed for the Pacific. We visited the Galapagos, French Polynesia, Samoa, Cook Islands & Tonga before heading to New Zealand. We've enjoyed thousands of miles of beautiful sailing, [...]
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EVERGREEN 's Photos -