Puerto de Torredembarra to Sant Carles de la Ràpita
23 September 2019 | Sant Carles de la Ràpita
Ros Brice | Stable to Stormy
The skipper said that Trilogy would be departing around midday from Puerto de Torredembarra. This meant we all had time to do our own thing for a few hours. Sue and Peter decided on a walk up the hill to another section of the old town and reported that it seemed to be the heartland of the Catalan Independence Movement, with an obvious display of the red and yellow stripe Catalan flag. There are two different versions of the Estelada flag, which have on the left hand side either a blue triangle with white star or a yellow triangle with red star.
The Catalan Independence Movement is a social and political movement with its roots in Catalan nationalism, which seeks the independence of Catalonia from Spain. It began in 1922 but the modern movement began in 2010 when the Constitutional Court of Spain ruled that some of the articles of the 2006 Statute of Autonomy were unconstitutional. Popular protest arose and quickly turned into demands for independence. The CIM have persisted with demands for independence since then, with almost annual referendums which have demonstrated strong support, however the Pro-independence parties have fallen short of a majority of votes. Although deemed illegal by the Spanish government and the Constitutional Court, a further referendum was held on 1 October 2017. Based on this referendum result, on 27 October 2017, the Parliament of Catalonia approved a resolution creating an independent Republic unilaterally, thus violating the decisions of the Constitutional Court of Spain. There is widespread usage of the Catalan dialect in this region and a strong showing of support with flags often flying from residential balconies.
The rest of us opted for a swim at the beautiful wide golden sand beach at Torredembarra, which even had a gentle surf running. The water was clear and a refreshing temperature, and afterwards we showered off at the excellent open air beach showers before enjoying a coffee at one of the marina cafés. When everyone was back on board and after a farewell chat with our Danish neighbours, we let go of the lines and cleared the marina. The skipper couldn’t resist showing off the capabilities of the ‘dock and go’ to our Beneteau friends, who had bought a very good second hand vessel which did not have this capability.
From south of Barcelona, the stretch of coast to Rio Ebro is known as Costa Dorada. Trilogy motored along this lovely stretch of coast, passing by the Port of Tarragona, which had numerous commercial tankers standing off shore. Tarragona is a very old port with a fascinating history. It has been an important place since the Carthaginians built a fortress called Tarchon in 3rd C BC. The city flourished under Roman rule, only to be occupied by the Goths and later razed by the Moors in 714. It was subsequently rebuilt but damaged again by the French and later by the British, during Sir John Murray’s retreat in the face of the Soult’s advance in 1813.
By 15:15 we were anchored in sand in Cala Vinya. This is a small semi-urban beach in the area of Cap Salou. Small rocky headlands divided the cove’s beaches and we really enjoyed our snorkel around the bay, following the rocky contours. There were lots of fish schools, some of very good size, feeding on the rock platforms. The locals completely filled all the sandy beach sections and there were people peddling those plastic slippery slide contraptions with little awareness of other swimmers, smoking cigarettes and talking incessantly on their phones..all a bit weird really! We all enjoyed the evening, watching the sunset and sharing one of Trilogy’s favourite meal of chicken and capsicum, which has a delicious sauce. We played a few rounds of UNO to teach Don the Trilogy version that has developed this season, and then we all retreated to our cabins for some restful sleep.
With still some distance to travel to our final destination of Puerto Sant Carles de la Ràpita, after a morning swim and lunch on board, we departed for Playa de Roig. This was a motor sail in very light winds from the south, and the biggest hazard was the fish farms and seemingly endless fishing buoys as we came in closer to the coast. We covered 29 NMs and arrived at 17:50, off the small bay with a beach. We anchored in 6 metres and the water was a dark green, not nearly as clear as we have come to expect, however that didn’t stop the keen swimmers from jumping in and enjoying the exercise. There was only a little breeze and we relaxed in the cockpit for our last dinner while at anchor.
The reason for the dark green water in this area is that we were adjacent to the Ebro River Delta. The silt has built up to form a long sliver of land 2 NMs wide and only a few metres above sea level, which then expands to form a larger land mass that has several salt pans. The Bahia des Alfacs is on the southern side of this thin peninsula, and it is on this bay that Sant Carles de la Rápita is located. Apart from two small villages with a road, there is little activity in the area. There are many rice fields however and a few factories that process the salt from the salt pans.
We departed at 08:00 next morning after a late sunrise, as there was a further 4.5 hours of motoring to Sant Carles de la Rápita, and the skipper was keen to get into the marina before the siesta period. The water was almost glassy and again we played ‘dodge’em’ with the fishing buoys, that mark mussel farms along this stretch of the delta. The delta is 6NMs long and it was rich with birdlife. We were startled and delighted to see a large flock of flamingos take flight, do a few laps in formation high above the coastal edge and once more settle on the shore.
Our arrival at Puerto de Sant Carles de la Rápita truly felt like a home coming. We went to the fuel dock first and it was nice to be welcomed by the staff. Once both tanks were full, it was then a matter of waiting to be directed to our berth. There was a fair breeze by the time Trilogy did her final manoeuvring and this always presents an extra challenge, as the bow can swing out of control. With a bit of effort, all lines were tightly secured and we could square away all the cockpit. As this was Don’s last night on board, we all went to the marina restaurant for an evening meal. And to toast the safe arrival of Trilogy. Next morning Don departed on the bus to Barcelona, having really enjoyed his first experience of ocean cruising.
This concludes our 8th season of cruising and all that remains is to put Trilogy to bed for another Winter. We wish to thank all those who have joined us and contributed so richly to the wonderful times we have shared. It is impossible to describe adequately the cruising experience, but at the core of its success is the skill of the skipper to keep both Trilogy and her crew safe at all times. Trilogy generates large forces as she powers her way through the water, and it is crucial that personal safety is paramount. Thanks to Garth’s depth of knowledge and understanding of all things to do with sailing and the sea, we are able to continue this wonderful adventure and keep ‘living the dream’.
Barcelona and beyond
17 September 2019 | Barcelona
Ros Brice | Sunny and windy
We got a good night’s sleep and once more had an early start, departing at 06:00 and catching a very interesting and brilliant sunrise. We hoisted the main to the second reef and furled and unfurled the headsail several times to make the most of wind shifts. The coast line was quite lovely from Palamos to Barcelona, with rocky cliffs interspersed with flatter stretches where the townships were clustered. The sea was still rough and choppy but there was some improvement from the previous 2 days. There was a noticeable amount of debris in the water the closer we got to Barcelona and some very large items, eg a port hand marker, starboard marker, special markers etc were seen floating free, which indicated the toll that the forces of nature had taken on navigational aids.
By 14:00 we entered Puerto de Barcelona. A massive reconstruction of the port of Barcelona was completed in 2010. Trilogy had a berth reserved at Marina Port Vell and this marina is situated about half a NM from the entry. There was a lot of vessels coming and going of all sizes and we heard the large ferry just ahead of Trilogy blast its horn at a tourist catamaran insisting on rounding the bend at the entry with barely room to pass each other. The sea was quite choppy at the entry to the port and several yachts were all bouncing around, waiting for the ferry to take its right of way. Once inside the port we tracked slowly to the marina and slid Trilogy in beside a large shiny black motor cruiser.
Once more Trilogy was in Barcelona! Primarily the visit this season was to welcome on board our friend Don, who had wanted to sail with us for some years. Due to the strong winds and rough seas it was decided to stay 2 nights and hope that the weather improved. I can think of no better place to find yourself having to stay an extra night!! After Don was settled in, we got the shopping and cleaning done in the afternoon and all that remained was to wash the decks down before departing. We had a tapas meal that night, followed by a gelato and we all headed for bed.
Next day there was an opportunity to have a ‘free day’, so Sue and Peter disappeared in one direction to do some shopping, while the rest of us decided on either a hop on-hop off bus tour or a return visit to the fabulous Museo de Picasso. I lunched at an excellent Bodega La Puntual close by the Picasso Gallery and loved the stuffed olives with ‘real’ anchovies, the fresh crunchy bread smeared with olive oil and fresh tomato and the fresh spinach salad with pomegranate and goats cheese. The Spanish know how to serve flavoursome food! I loved it so much that we headed back there for dinner on our way to the Palau de la Música Catalana for an 20:30 performance of Mozart’s La Flauta Màgica. The Palace of Catalan Music is a concert hall designed in the Catalan modernists style, built between 1905-8 for the Orfeó Català, a choral society that was a leading force in the Catalan cultural movement that came to be known as the Renaixença (Catalan Rebirth). It was inaugurated in February 1908 and in 1997 the Palau de la Música was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a wonderful concert hall with excellent acoustics in which symphonic and chamber music, along with jazz and Cançó (Catalan song) are performed regularly.
The design is typical of Catalan modernism, in that curves predominate over straight lines, dynamic shapes are preferred over static forms and rich decoration that emphasises floral motifs is used extensively. The wealthy citizens of Barcelona at the time who were sympathetic to the Renaixença, requested the architect to use building materials and techniques that symbolised the Catalan character. The result was local artisans were given great creative freedom to produce fabulous ornamentation, sculpture and decorative structural elements for which Palau is famous. Don’t miss going to a concert at Palau next time you are in Barcelona!
We departed Port Vell at 10:00 next morning very smoothly and headed for open water. As we cleared the long sea wall to the south of the harbour, we were greeted with short, sharp, choppy and confused seas. This is not what we had planned on, and it was an exhilarating ride. However, the wind had subsided somewhat to 15-20 knots and we were running before the wind. The skipper opted for taking shelter after 15 NMs at Port Ginesta (Puerto de Castelldefels). This is a large modern yacht harbour and we were impressed by the wide range of yacht repair and lift out facilities that were on offer. It also is a marina that is home to Beneteau sea trials. We had planned that we could do a train trip to Sitges, a nearby very attractive seaside township that we have previously visited and liked very much. When we investigated the train timetable and proximity to the railway station, it was apparent that we couldn’t walk to the closest railway station and although we saw many trains rattling past, none of them were stopping. We explored the nearby township of Castelldefels which is considered part of the metropolitan area of Barcelona. The town is famous for its wonderful long beach (more than 5 kms) and the town is also home to the Olympic canal, called Canal Olympic de Catalunya, built in 1992 for the Summer Olympics of Barcelona.
On the following day, the 16 September, after much reviewing of the weather gods forecast, we again set sail in an north easterly of 15-20 knots. We had a much better sail, with a broad reach in a quartering sea and the sea state continued to subside. We all enjoyed our turn at the helm and apart from dodging many fishing marker buoys and fish farms, we had a delightful sail for 15 NMs to the Puerto de Torredembarra, which was another new marina of first class facilities. We had a berth with the bow into the wind which was problematic in strong winds but we found ourselves beside another Beneteau Oceanis 54, built in 2009 and in mint condition. We chatted to the skipper and his wife from Denmark who had sold up their home and were permanently living on board. It was a mutual sharing of stories about the virtues of our beloved Beneteaus.
This time we thought we might be able to visit Tarragona, but as it was 16:30 when we docked and after the skipper had come back from the Capitania, he had been told of an excellent tapas bar that has a strong following by the locals. There was three sections of old town spread across the township and we all enjoyed our walk into the town along another long stretch of wide golden beach. The sand transitioned seamlessly into the pavement in front of the shops and restaurants with modern apartment blocks above. Bar Sport was tucked in the back streets and in the middle of one of the old town areas. Tables we set up outside and in the balmy evening, it felt good to be mixing it with the locals, who kept coming in their droves to this famed tapas bar. We enjoyed a range of sardines, octopus, scallops, potato braves, pedron peppers, croquettes and chicken wings until we could eat no more. The walk back to Trilogy was equally enjoyable and we all headed for bed without hesitation!
Bandol then Costa Brava
13 September 2019 | Costa Brava, Spain
Ros Brice | Strong wind, heavy seas
The wind was picking up and there was quite some distance to be made, in order to get Trilogy to Sant Carles de la Ràpita, 100 kms south of Barcelona by the end of the season. As much as cruising is about 'wandering' wherever you choose, the weather and certain deadlines actually direct decision making more than we would like sometimes.
It was a combination of the two that was starting to impact on the sail planning for the remainder of the season. The following morning Trilogy departed Nikki Beach and motor sailed for 34 NMs with the wind swinging from the east at 10 knots in the morning to the west at 10 knots by the time Trilogy anchored in Anse de Fabre Gas. The following day a further 12 NMs was covered, this time the wind building from the west at 10 knots and the seas were short and sharp. It was hard work getting around the peninsula and quite early on, the tender got hit by a big wave and the sides deflated. The skipper decided to return to Anse de Fabre Gas to pump up the tender and ensure that it was lashed firmly to minimise any swing action on the davits. Trilogy set off again and it was a battle with wind on the nose at 20-25 knots, but finally Trilogy arrived at Port de Bandol. Trilogy was allocated an outer finger marina berth and with the consistent building of the wind strength there was a lot of attention given to adjustment of the mooring lines.
Once snugged away to the skipper's satisfaction, there was time to explore the township of Bandol, a busy town for local, rather than international tourists. Bandol is a gentle seaside resort, cradled by hills and protected from the worst of the Mediterranean wind. Amelia chose La Chipote Restaurant for the evening meal. This was a lovely experience as it was located across a small isthmus on the beautiful Anse de Renécros. Palm trees lined the harbour front, along with the usual string of restaurants and cafes behind which is the old town. In the hinterland around Bandol, there are many vineyards producing some of the best known rosés and reds of the Côtes de Provence.
Colin and Amelia departed early next morning and I had arrived back on board late the night before. There followed a day of shopping and washing and the next morning we departed at 06:00 from the marina, in order to leave in calm conditions, with only 6 knots blowing from the south. The storm sails were set with the third reef and it wasn't long before we were in high wind and heavy seas. We went into one hour watches because the helm work was hard and it was very, very cold. The helming required steering across the back of the wave, turning on the top and sliding down the front before the next wave arrived, to repeat it all again. Fortunately none of us got seasick and we were able to wedge ourselves into the seats or bunks below so that we could remain stable. The heavy weather eased by around 14:00 and we could put up a bit more sail to keep Trilogy powering along. We had a brief visit from some dolphins, but alas, they didn't want to play. We all had dinner in the cockpit (a one bowl version of curried tuna with rice with some greens) and we continued the sail until around midnight, when we dropped the sails and nudged our way into a small bay called Cala Guillola. This was a late change of plans because the 21:00 weather report indicated we were in for a significant weather event, starting in the early hours of the morning. We were now making landfall on the Costa Brava Spanish Coast, at the base of the Pyrenees and known for its very unpredictable wind strengths, that rocket off the mountains in intense gusts. In the dark as we slowly made our way into the Cala we could make out cliffs ahead, an outline of a small box shape building and a mast to one side of the bay. The first attempt at anchoring failed to get a hold on the bottom, which meant it was either weed or a rocky bottom. The second attempt a little further over was successful and we could finally settle for the night, but not before the skipper shouted us all a Baileys!
We slept very well but awoke to an updated weather report that sounded even more concerning. On deck, everything was double tied down and as the morning progressed and the wind strength increased, the skipper asked us all to assist with collapsing the Bimini, before it got shredded. Just as we were getting ready, the skipper noticed we were drifting rapidly down onto a small yacht on a mooring that had joined us in the cala during the morning. There was a flurry of activity, turning instruments on, starting the engine, lifting the anchor, all seemingly simultaneously. The 'anchor watch' app had not gone off, which was mystifying. The anchor was extremely slow to lift as we had 60 metres of chain out and Trilogy had circled many times during the night. The wind was blowing Trilogy sideways but bit by bit the anchor, which was laden with weed, was lifted back on board. The skipper headed Trilogy for open water and the next challenge was to find another spot to shelter.
This was a rough ride! The skipper saw the true wind dial hit 50 knots, the wind was howling and the sea was spuming. The guys were tied on in full foul weather gear and the girls stayed below, pinned to the seats. Trilogy didn't need sails to make 9 knots of speed. Several bays were passed that had looked promising on the chart, but the force of the wind and the state of the sea made it impossible to make an attempt at entry. It was amazing to us that we were unable to find decent protection in the lee of a very large headland. It took 2.5 hours to cover 7 NMs to reach Cala de Canyellas Petites, a bay with high sloping hills on all sides and lots of white houses and apartment complexes stacked around the bay. We only stayed an hour as the skipper was concerned that we did not have good enough protection. The weather forecast was still woeful for the next few days and we needed to anchor securely in sand.
After much consideration, the skipper moved Trilogy a further 2NMs to a much wider open bay called Bahia de Roses and anchored in 7 metres on a sandy bottom. The winds were consistently gusting to 40+knots, but we felt safe and Trilogy had certainly proven herself yet again to be a very sea worthy vessel. In this anchorage Trilogy had plenty of room to swing and the 'anchor watch' app was set to alert us of any movement and we huddled below, while the winds whistled through the rigging!
Bahia de Roses harbour is a very old fishing port and has been in use since the earliest of times, it's origins being connected with Emporion. Greek and Roman records refer to Rhodes, which was probably Roses. In the Middle Ages it was a naval port and the fort built at this time was blown up by Suchet in 1814.
Next morning we got underway early enough to set off in relatively calm conditions. Before we got too far out of the harbour we hoisted a full main and unfurled the headsail. We turned around to see the Pyrenees covered in snow. No wonder we had been feeling cold! The wind and seas picked up as we rounded the headland and again Trilogy had to weather the storm. The winds were from the north east at 25 knots, gusting at times to 30 knots. We motored 25 NMs and would have liked to go further but the skipper was concerned there may be no suitable anchorages between Playa de Palamos and Barcelona. This playa had a long sandy beach and had some rather ugly high-rise apartments in the seaside town that backed the beach. We anchored as close to the beach as the buoys would allow and fortunately had the protection of a long seawall, which stopped the swell from getting to us.
A little bit about the wind conditions we have experienced! It is known as the mistral in France and the tramontana in Spain. It is a strong dry wind and is caused by a secondary depression forming in the Golfe de Lion on the cold front of a major depression that is crossing France. The northwesterly airflow generated is compressed between the Alps and the Pyrenees and flows into the Mediterranean basin. In Spain it chiefly affects the coast to the north of Barcelona, the Islas Baleares, and is strongest at the northern end of the Costa Brava...right where we were! It is said that the tramontana can arrive and reach gale force in as little as fifteen minutes on a calm sunny day with virtually no warning...that was our experience precisely! The weather forecast just suddenly changed dramatically. It normally lasts for at least 3 days but may last for a week or longer. We knew something was seriously up when we could see 6 big fishing trawlers all heading at top speed into port, right behind us!
Thanks to Mediterranean Spain by John Marchand 6th Ed for the wind diagram.
Îles de Lérins and St-Tropez
10 September 2019 | Golfe de St-Tropez
Ros Brice | Hot and sunny
Back on board after our lovely Coastal Walk on Cap d’Antibes, we were soon underway, heading for a place to anchor between the two islands known as Îles de Lerins, situated off the coast of France between Antibes and Cannes. With a westerly wind predicted, we anchored in the passage between the two islands, along with a lot of other yachts.
The smaller island, Île St-Honorat has been occupied since at least the 4th C when a founding father of French monasticism decided to settle on the tiny island for some peace and solitude. His followers soon found him and he decided to establish a monastery, which with time became one of the most powerful and influential in the land. There is a conspicuous fortified tower that was built in 1073 by the Abbot of Lérins as a defence against the increasing raids by the Saracens. The monastery declined through the Middle Ages from attacks by Saracen pirates and Genoese adventurers. After the French Revolution the island was privately owned but in 1859, it was reconsecrated and after another 10 years, it was taken over by the Cistercian order, who are still occupying the monastery, albeit with only 20 monks.
Apart from the fortified tower, most of the original buildings have been absorbed into the 19th C rebuilding undertaken by the Cistercians. We took the tender ashore the following morning and had a wander past the vineyards (10 acres of different grapes under cultivation) to visit the fortified tower. Fortunately the tower now has a flight of steps up to the door, as it had originally been a rope ladder that was then drawn up. It was a beautiful stone building, with archways and inner courtyards and winding staircases that lead up through the various levels and eventually to the top for great views both out to sea and the across to the coast, but also across the top of the island and the large and impressive Abbey. We spent a bit of time in the Abbey shop, that sold a large selection of wines at exaggerated prices produced entirely on the island, using modern methods of production but attested to be organic. There was also monk honey, monk chocolate, monk jewellery, monk soap etc, and we began to be suspicious about how many skills these monks had, in addition to their hefty prayer time. We entered the Abbaye de Lérins after the morning mass and there was signage that this be done in silence. The Abbey was very simply in design and furnishings, with a Christ on the Cross figure above the altar, being the only adornment. It was a place where you couldn’t help but feel the ‘the peace that passes all understanding’.
We further explored the tiny island by walking around the northern tip, passing a few small chapels, boarded up unfortunately. It was at this stage that we learnt that the monks officially pray seven times a day and attend mass twice. At no time did we see a monk, but a meeting was available by prior arrangement. Once part of the the Cistercian order, the monks do not initiate connection with their birth family, but they can have family visitation.
Heading back around the island from the Abbaye de Lérins, in the direction of the tender, we decided to have lunch under the trees and umbrellas at a beautiful relaxed restaurant, called La Tonnelle, that had been recommended. There were Australian eucalypts all around us and with a pretty sea scape to look out on, we felt very much at ease. The meals were fresh French cuisine and a glass or bottle of island wine was on offer, along with champagne, liqueurs, cocktails. We began to wonder if the monks ever manage to wine and dine here!
On the Île Ste-Marguerite, the bigger island of the Lérins, which we did not visit, there is Fort Royal. It’s claim to fame is that not long after it was built in the 17th C, the fort accommodated it’s most famous prisoner the ‘Man in the Iron Mask’. The mask was made not of iron but velvet and there is intriguing mystery surrounding who he was. The identity of this person has never been established for sure, and there are numerous theories, which are too many to mention. The ‘Man in the Iron Mask’ ended his life in the Bastille. This was because the governor of Fort Royal didn’t find life on the island very entertaining and when he managed to get the job as Governor of the Bastille in 1698, his special charge went with him.
At 17:00 we motored back to the mainland and anchored in Pointe de Maubois, on the north side of Cap Roux. This is a ragged rock headland, that runs down from the spectacular peaks of Pic du Cap Rouz inland. We enjoyed a swim here but the skipper was uneasy about the easterly swell that was running into the bay and therefore risking an uncomfortable night. By 20:00 Trilogy was anchored 4 NMs further southwest along the coast in Rade d’Agay, which offered protection from the swell and was a deep, wide bay.
Next stop, St Tropez! We motored 13 NMs to enter Golfe de St-Tropez and tied up at St Tropez Vieux Port. St-Tropez is one of the best known destinations on the Côte d’Azur, with a reputation that the rich and famous can often be seen wandering the streets. We were on ‘star watch’ and the best we could do was Jennifer Lopez with her bronzed hunk, plus minders, in tow! St-Tropez is a compact town, set on wooded bluff that has retained its charm and character, much to our surprise. The harbour is surrounded by old houses, although we learnt that many of these buildings are reconstructions as the Germans blew up the harbour and waterfront before surrendering at the end of WW2!
We ate a salad and fresh baguette lunch on board and then set off to explore the charming town. The Citadel on top of the bluff was closed, but we climbed up the bluff and skirted around to the sea side, to take in the beautiful sight across the gulf. We also visited the Musée de L’Annonciade, a deconsecrated chapel, which had an exceptional collection belonging to the pointillist, nabi and fauvist periods. St-Tropez was one of the most active centres of the avant-garde artists at the beginning of the 20th C. Paul Signac landed in St-Tropez aboard his yacht L’Olympia in 1892 and was so charmed by the beauty of sea, that he settled in St-Tropez and invited many other painters like Henri-Edmond Cross, Henri Matisse, André Derain and Albert Marquette to visit. Today, around the harbour painters display their works for sale, while the rich display their yachts for approval...would Signac approve?? Colin chose La Sardine restaurant for us to have a lovely outdoor dining experience that night before we all retired for the night.
I departed Trilogy very early next morning for a short break to spend time with our daughter In Metz, north-east France. Meanwhile Trilogy departed St-Tropez around midday and anchored 5 NMs away across the other side of the headland at Nikki Beach, the go-to spot for the international jet-set and global celebrities. It was a wide sweeping bay with a feeling of spaciousness between the various beach clubs. No celebs were spotted but that was of no great moment. The pilot suggests that the rich and famous prefer the seclusion of the villas that are scattered behind the famous beach, and only emerge to party in the cover of darkness!
Monaco, Eze, Entrevaux, Cap Antibes
05 September 2019 | Cap Antibes
Ros Brice | Hot and sunny
While we were in ritzy Monaco we made time for a trip to the charming hill top town of Eze, a 9km taxi ride from Monaco, in the direction of Nice. It is a fascinating medieval village, perched like an eagle’s nest on a rocky outcrop, which allows views all along the Côte d’Azur. From the access road there is the inevitable set of stone steps that winds through the narrow streets of centuries old stonework, with beautiful wrought iron street lamps hanging everywhere. There are no cars which adds to the tranquility and if we hadn’t struck a bus load of Chinese tourists, we’d have had it all to ourselves. After a morning coffee at Salon de Thé, we continued all the way to the top, passing through an extensive cactus and succulent garden that was rather spectacular. We soaked in the view and then wandered down along different winding paths, passing some lovely art galleries and shops promoting the products of Provence. At the bottom of the village there is a Fragonard Perfume factory, which we had the pleasure of visiting but unfortunately we did not have time to wait for the next English tour and besides, the Chinese were swarming there too!
Next day we were off to explore the hinterland region of Nice. We took a taxi to Nice to the Gare des Chemins de Fer de Provence, only to find we had just missed a train and that we would have to wait until 13:00 for the next. One of the biggest issues in Monaco is that our ‘all of Europe’ SIM cards did not work and we were reliant on WiFi. We therefore had found it difficult to adequately research how best to use our time in Monaco. It seems that Monaco has their own internet provider and no other providers are allowed.
To take advantage of the few hours before our train ride, we caught a tram down Avenue Médecin and got off close to the beach area. We were less than impressed with the beach itself, as there was no sand, just smooth small rocks. Nonetheless there were a lot of people lying on thin mats or just beach towels. We couldn’t help but think about the Islamic extremism attack that took place on Promenade Des Anglais in July 2016. Satisfied that Nice beach was not very nice, we took ourselves back into the old town for a morning cuppa and then walked through the large market area, which was full of delicious fresh produce.
Once on the Train des Pignes (Pine Cone Train) we settled back to enjoy what was described as one of France’s most picturesque train rides. The train climbs up to 1000 metres and the 151 kms of narrow gauge track journey’s to Digne-les-Bain’s. As we had only a half day available, we decided to get off at Entrevaux, a medieval hill town, about 60 kms from Nice. The track follows a very scenic route, criss-crossing the river Var and following the deep gorges ever higher. In bygone days the train was pulled by steam locomotives but mostly the train now runs with two engines, at either end of the two carriage train. As we got higher we entered pine forested areas and the train many times at the small villages along the way. It was quite a breathtaking journey!
We had a good amount of time to wander Entrevaux, a medieval village that guarded a narrow pass. There is a draw bridge entrance and a walled walkway which zig zags through 20 fortified doorways to a 17 C citadel, perched high above the township. The village streets are dark and narrow between the high buildings. The Gothic Notre-Dame-de-Assumption Church was built in the 17C, and it was built set down and incorporated into the walls. It had a large ornate facade and was very beautiful inside, with the dominant colours being deep blue and maroon, which is quite unusual. The whole village was quite beautiful, with clever restoration work done to restore the former glory. The village underwent many attacks and at various times the fortifications were increased, with guardhouses and watchtowers and well as extra drawbridges and cannons.
Saturday arrived again and it was clean up, washing and shopping day. While the boys worked on Trilogy (very diligently, from some self reporting) the girls task was to conquer yet another supermarché and this time it was a mega Carrefour. The mistake was to go at 09:30 on a Saturday! The French tendency of ‘me first’ was to the fore, and dare I say it, the men were the worst. The trolleys were used as battering rams and their was no mercy when it came to taking your turn with the weighing machines. Did you know in France that all fruit and vegetables are weighed by the purchaser to be priced before getting to the cashier. You can now imagine the flurry at the scales with everyone thinking they are more important and in a greater hurry than the next person! When we were eventually satisfied we had got all that we needed, we were channeled to a register that could arrange delivery to Trilogy. We waited one hour just to get through the cash register, but the guy in charge was very nice and his good humour helped the situation ... just one cashier, a queue of 6 people, each with at least two trolleys. For €15 it was thankfully all delivered to Trilogy a few hours later.
Our British friends Colin and Amelia arrived at 18:00 from Nice airport and it wasn’t long before they were settled in and we were off to dinner at the nearby Italian restaurant. Colin is a motor car journalist and so the meal was punctuated with his descriptions of the classy, ridiculously expensive cars that continued their nightly parading past the restaurants.
Next morning, now 1 September after everyone had satisfied their exercise needs, we departed Porto Fontvieille marina and motored past Nice to Anse de la Garoupe, just beyond the city of Antibes. This is one of several bays around the Cap d’Antibes and the stretch of coast from Nice to St Tropez is known as the East Côte d’Azur. We enjoyed our salad platter lunch with fresh baguette and after a short siesta it was time to hit the refreshing water and swim 500 metres to shore, with some scary moments when a yacht moved through the bay and did not give us any clearance. The girl on bow watch yelled at us to get out of the way, with no attempt to tell the skipper to slow down! The beach was packed with sun lovers, many reposing all day on their private club lounges and drink waiters meeting their every need. There were two concrete jetties that were also packed with more sun lounges and umbrellas, so it was quite a scene. Back on board, we were all ready for showers, GNTs and an evening meal, which was a frittata with fresh salad leaves and sweet, sweet tomatoes.
As it turned out, Colin and Amelia quite recently had visited Cap d’Antibes to catch up with Amelia’s cousin. They knew about a newly developed walk around the Cap d’Antibes headland and we all decided we would like to do it too. The skipper dropped us at the dinghy dock in the corner of the bay and we began the Coastal Walk, also known as the ‘Tire-Poll’ path (literally ‘pull hair’)! The name is said to be the sea wind that always blows on the peninsula, ruffling the hair of those venturing forth. At the start of the 20th C this coastline was partly privatised by wealthy residents living in villas. The French Coastal Protection Agency (as in Corsica) purchased the land in 2015 and its management has been entrusted to Antibes. The walk took over an hour and was quite rough under foot, as the rocks were sharp and angled. The views were special, the sea at times a deep turquoise blue and the few swimming areas looked most inviting. We even walked past ‘millionaires beach’ which was a very pretty cove. Towards the end of the walk we cut across the peninsula, passing many of the neatly hedged villas, that no doubt were and still are owned by the millionaires.
01 September 2019 | Monaco
Ros Brice | Hot and sunny
We swam ashore next morning, all 490 metres one way! The beach was packed with the last of the holidaymakers, all sunning themselves on their designated deck chairs. It was a very long beach and we enjoyed our walk, stopping for a coffee on the return. The street behind the beach had a number of attractive buildings and between the road and the beach there were attractive gardens and lots of children's play equipment areas.
The Italian Riviera Coast has very few anchorages. It seems that to anchor off some lovely beach and spend some enjoyable time is not something that the Italian Maritime Authorities encourage. We therefore motored for 23 NMs, passing the Italy/France Mediterranean border to enter the French Riviera. Here the rules seem to be more inviting for the cruising yachtsmen and our next overnight anchorage was at Plage du Carnoles, just under Cap Martin. This looked like a nice sweep of beach and it offered good protection from the prevailing Westerlies. More swimming was in order, Peter and Sue choosing to swim ashore but finding a rather inhospitable rocky shore line which was somewhat mystifying as they had been swimming over a very sandy bottom all the way from Trilogy. Garth and I chose to swim closer to Trilogy, but clocking up quite some distance around the buoys. We had a good appetite for the tasty Lamb Navarin dinner cooked by Peter and Sue.
Next morning the wind came up earlier than expected and there was a forecast of 30 knot winds around lunchtime. We had our résérvation for 12:00 in Port Fontvieille, the new port for the Principality of Monaco. We only had 3 NMs to motor and with the strong wind predicted, the skipper was keen that we get into the marina as soon as possible. As we came around Cap Martin headland, we were totally amazed to suddenly see the tiny but highly developed semi-autonomous state of Principality of Monaco.
Monaco's total area is just under one square mile in area! It extends from a point immediately east of Cap d'Ail to just before Pte de la Vieille under Cap Martin. There is a wall of high rise apartments that spreads to either end of the borders of Monaco, but the concentration of modern skyscrapers around the harbour at Monte Carlo, makes no mistake of what you are seeing. The most important thing to remember is that it is not France, it is a sovereign state, but has no border controls. It has its own flag (equal bands of horizontal red and white, with red on top), French is the official language and the Euro is the official currency, but Monaco does not belong to the EU. Once you get your head around all that, it is a beguiling place.
We stood off the cliffs on which the famed Oceanographic Museum is set, which clings tenaciously to the rocks almost to sea level, and requested entry to Porto de Fontvieille. We were pleased that they were ready for us and once through the narrow space between the port and starboard markers we were greeted by lofty limestone cliffs, that formed a solid wall to one side of the marina. We were impressed by the efficiency of the marina staff who assisted us and we were very pleased with our berth, among a long line of motor cruisers. We felt that Trilogy would be safe in any blow, no matter how strong.
On top of these limestone cliffs, the old city of Monaco is built, including the Palais du Prince, where the current Prince Albert 11 and his wife Charlene reside.
Peter set off to buy fresh bread for lunch and after what seemed a very long time, he appeared in a state of agitation, but with 2 baguettes and some pastries in his clutches. He hadn't had a very good experience in Carrefour, lining up in the wrong place twice, no credit card accepted and then very careful examination of the cash notes he presented. He really meant it when he said 'I am never going shopping there again....ever!' and we all smiled knowingly. After lunch and the heat of the afternoon had passed, we set off to explore the old city area, which sits loftily on a pistol shaped rock. This strategic location became the stronghold of the Grimaldi dynasty and is where the Monaco Palace is located. We decided not to join the queue for the tour of the Palais du Prince but did enjoy seeing the guard striding up and down at the entrance and then retreating to his guardhouse, like a toy soldier. Next stop was the Cathédrale de Monaco, where we expected to see the graves of Princess Grace and Prince Rainier, but that section of the Cathedral was cordoned off. The interior is very elegant. We then headed just a bit further down the cliff line to the Musée Oceanographique, where we did get to see the wonderful aquarium with excellent displays of fish species from far and wide and live coral. Prince Albert 1 (1848-1922) was a keen oceanographer and promoted preservation of the seas to the world. Prince Rainier 111 and Prince Albert 11 have been/are also actively supporting this important work, including a special focus on saving turtles from extinction. We had a cool drink on top of this beautiful building before walking back through the cliff top gardens and back to Trilogy.
There is a dress code of long pants and shoes for men and slacks or dresses for women to enter the Monaco Casino up until 8pm, after which time it is coat and tie. We just wanted to have a glimpse of the famed James Bond casino but unfortunately we did not realise that passports or driver's licences were required to enter the gaming area. We tried in vain to find something digital for my proof of ID but it had to be original documents in the end! It is a very beautiful building, full of granite floors and marble pillars, chandeliers and statues. We headed to the Hotel de Paris across the square, but having got into the foyer for 5 seconds, we were asked to leave, as we were not guests. Talk about feeling like a mere mortal! There was an endless stream of Bentley's, Roll Royce, Ferrari's, McLaren's and Mercedes to name a few outside in the Casino Square, which had an Anish Kapoor sculpture 'Mirror of the World' centred in the beautiful gardens. We were mesmerised for a while just gazing at the scene before us, nothing like our idea of 'normal', but for some this is the norm!