Monday, 27 June 2011

French Riviera

Hi from Clare,                                                     Friday 24th June 2011

We arrived at Saint Jean Cap Ferrat in France on Friday afternoon 17th June. We had a good 27 mile sail from San Remo and with Heather at the helm, we tacked along the coast close to shore giving us a good view of Monaco as we passed.

                 Saint Jean - Cap Ferrat                                        Niven and Rothchild mansions

Andrew and Chris have a distant cousin (Andrea and her husband Graham) who live in Saint Jean Cap Ferrat.  What a spectacular part of the world. Lovely homes (many of them very large and expensive) with beautiful gardens and fabulous views of the bays dotted with sparkling power boats. The picturesque village of Saint Jean Cap Ferrat is like a well kept secret. It is so quiet and peaceful; it is hard to imagine that a throbbing Monaco is only five miles away.

       Villefranche Harbourfront                                      Graham & Andrea Facey with the Paynes

From where we anchored in the bay at Saint Jean Cap Ferrat we could see the house that Charlie Chaplin and later David Niven owned. It is one of the oldest mansions in the area; in the attached photo it is the pink place on the water's edge. Above it, you can also see the large Rothchild mansion on top of the hill. This is now public estate and open to visitors and has magnificent gardens and spectacular views on both sides of the headland of Saint Jean Cap Ferrat and Villefranche.

SECOND TIME AROUND   Andrew and I visited Andrea and Graham in 2005 when we came this way during our first year of in the Med. It was only fitting that we should meet up again on this our last year in the Med. They invited us for Saturday morning coffee, cake and a good long chat. In the evening Graham ferried us by car to the hilltop overlooking Villefranche. We then strolled down to the town where we had dinner at one of the waterfront restaurants.  Sunday was Graham's 60th Birthday and we celebrated with champagne and nibbles on Eye Candy in the evening.

Unfortunately Chris and Heather had to leave us on Monday morning to begin their trek back to Melbourne. By this time I think they had had enough of the movement on the water and decided to have two nights on Terra Firma in Rome before jetting off home. We enjoyed having them stay with us. In the past three weeks we explored together Le Grazie, La Spezia, Cinque Terre, Pisa, Santa Margherita, Portofino, San Remo and Saint Jean Cap Ferrat. We had drinks with and met many other new and interesting people. However, what I will remember the most about the holiday will be our "fight to the death" games of Gin Rummy in the evenings – it was good fun!

                      Monte Carlo Casino                                               Grimaldi Palace

Andrew and I caught the train to Monaco.  We visited here in 2005 and I was totally agog. The obvious wealth is probably the thing that hits you first. We saw beautiful buildings, gorgeous gardens, miles of paving, posh hotels, the Grand Prix route, Grimaldi Palace and Monte Carlo casino. In the attached photo check out the super yachts in the marinas, I think I will have the one with the swimming pool on the top deck!


                       Marina at Monaco                                                  Monaco Harbour

I wanted to tour Grimaldi Palace but it was closed to the public in preparation for Prince's Albert's wedding in July.  I then understood why there were so many South African flags in the area. I also would have enjoyed a look in the Casino but that is closed to the public in the day. Andrea said that at night you can enter the front door for ten euros, but men have to wear a tie and woman must be suitably dresses – so that ruled us out - what's a tie?  

On Tuesday night with Andrea's help we planned where to stop along the French Riviera. She and Graham have cruised the area in their yacht and so knew all the good spots.


             Antibes, old town                                                    They don't come much bigger

So Wednesday morning we headed to Antibes, which we believe is the centre of boating here. It probably is – the local ship chandler wanted twenty six euro fifty ($36.80) for 3 kilograms of camping gas (that is about seven times the price in Australia).  Fortunately we have three bottles, so we will hold on until we get to Spain where hopefully sanity will prevail.  We went to the port and saw many expensive power boats being polished and fussed over by numerous young people with their squeegee and chamois in hand. They were detailing every area and I couldn't help but wonder if they expected this when signing up.

We also watched a huge, and I mean "huge" power boat leaving the dock. It had three bow thrusters which churned mud up from the seabed.  It took about fifteen minutes to slowly maneuver its way out. I could only imagine it would be worth hundreds of millions – but it's OK I'm happy with Eye Candy.

We are now a few miles off Cannes. The coastline from Antibes to Cannes is packed with high rise accommodation and as we came along the coast passenger jets were flying out off Nice airport and roaring over the top of the boat. There are noticeably more boats on the water and the area is quite busy.


              Saint Honorat Monastry                                          Anchorage in the passage

A few miles off the coast are the two small islands of Sainte-Marguerite and Saint-Honorat. We
are anchored between the two islands in aqua clear water of 24 degrees.  Yesterday we went to the smaller island of Saint-Honorat which has a lovely walking track circumnavigating the island. The track takes about an hour to walk and there are many picnic areas set up under shady trees. The island is open to the public but it is also home to a Monastery. The monks pray and work the land making wine and honey for sale. Mass is celebrated three times a day and the monks, in long cream robes, come down the aisle welcoming the public by clasping both your hands.  There are many sign boards around the island asking that you respect the silence and it is wonderful to hear birds, cicadas, church bells and the sound of wind in the trees.  It is almost unbelievable to find such peace only a few miles off the busy coast.

We will probably move on tomorrow to Saint Tropez. This will give me a chance to find a Wifi café to send photos so you can enjoy some of the sights on our adventure.

Love CANDY xx 

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Ligurian Coast

Hi from Clare,                                                                           Sunday 19th June 2001

When last I wrote we were heading into Santa Margherita to meet up with Bronwyn Adamson who was driving down from Cannes in France to see us.

                   Andrew, Bronwyn & Clare                                 Ornately painted city buildings

We last saw Bronwyn 3 years ago and so there was a lot to catch up on. We had lunch in town and chatted for a few hours. After lunch she spent some time on Eye Candy talking boats and Engineering stuff with Andrew. Chris and Heather went for a walk and left us to it. They found a free concert for that night so after Bronwyn left we enjoyed listening to a father and son playing classical guitar. They played very well and spoke intimately to the audience in Italian – we were lost.
The town of Santa Margherita is at the base of hill and the houses overlooking the town are nestled in a leafy green hillside with many lovely trees and flowering shrubs. It is truly amazing the number of stairs and walkways that have been built over the years to connect all these houses to the towns situated at the waters edge. Even with a map in hand we managed to take the wrong track or climb the wrong set of stairs. We eventually found our way over the hillside to the next bay and the town of Rapallo for lunch. Feeling quite virtuous after our hike, we returned to Santa Margherita via the coast which is flat and much quicker.

The town of Santa Margherita has the spectacular “Basilica di Santa Margherita” at the centre of the town. Built in 1658 it is lavishly decorated inside and has many valuable paintings. It is one of the most beautiful churches we have seen in the Med. The town is neat and clean but probably the feature that makes it stand out from other Italian towns is the highly colored and ornately painted city buildings. Some of the brick work is painted in 3D and it is so realistic that you can’t help but touch the building to confirm that it is indeed only paint.


               High above Santa Margherita                              Coastal walk to Portofino

The following day we enjoyed walking 5 kilometers to Portofino. The first three kilometers were along the coast and the last two were over the hill via the state forest. This was a lovely shady walk and took us around the back of Portofino giving us a terrific view of all the expensive houses and a spectacular panoramic view of the bay. Potofino is quite small and very expensive. The prices of clothes are in the hundreds (instead of tens) and a humble Cappuccino is 7 Euros. This came as a bit of a shock as we had been paying as little as 1 Euro in the surrounding towns. We decided a beer at 5 Euro was a better proposition – good thinking!

                       Portofino housing                                                     Portofino Harbour

We had  a 70 miles trip to San Remo and decided to leave at midnight to take advantage of a window of opportunity before the wind would change and be on our nose. We had the motor on firstly and then a light wind kicked in. Heather being very eager “made” us put the spinnaker up but that only lasted half an hour before the engine was back on and we motored sailed the rest of the way arriving mid afternoon.

                     Modern San Remo                                                High above San Remo

San Remo is a very interesting place. Some parts of the city are very modern with fashionable shops and restaurants.  It also has had a huge undercover fresh food market with local delicacies – I just had to buy some.  The traffic is thick with cars and scooters that stop at pedestrian crossings only after you make a leap of faith and step out in front of them.
Conversely the old part of the city high on the hill and is nearly deserted. There are endless narrow steep streets and it seems even steeper stairways. We walked to the top of the hill and visited the church “Madonna della Costa” of San Remo built in 1651.  It never ceases to amaze me how much money has been lavished on the local place of worship.  There was an old lady sitting at the back of the church who accosted everyone as they came through the door to ensure they were dressed appropriately and didn’t use a flash camera.  After a genuflection a few signs of the cross Heather and I were allowed in – the boys opted to stay outside.

             San Remo Old Town (steps)                                      Coffee break after our climb

SO WHAT NEXT We are now at Saint Jean Cap Ferrat in France but more on that in our next newsletter. Chris and Heather are due to leave tomorrow and head to Rome for a flight back to Australia.  We will probably stay here for a few more days before heading west along the French Riviera.

Love CANDY xx.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Cinque Terre and Pisa

Hi from Clare                                         Sunday 12th June 2011                                                                     

Chris (Andrew’s brother) and his wife Heather arrived Saturday 4th and we have had a very busy week.

   View of Le Grazie from Joan's Verandah                  Andrew, Heather and Chris

Firstly throughout our time anchored in the magnificent bay at Le Grazie we have enjoyed social gatherings with our friends from cruising yachts “Godspeed” and “Quest”.  We also had afternoon coffee with Joan and her husband Mario at their hillside villa overlooking the bay. I met Joan the previous day at the supermarket.
She is a psychologist, a photographer and author of a book about the Caribbean Island of Virgin Gorda where they also have a house. We hope to meet up with Joan and Mario when we cross to the Caribbean – so maybe it is a case of “from little things, big things grow”

                      Portoverene                                                             Portoverene Town

Eager to get some exercise we walked up over the hill and down to Portovenere. We climbed up to the castle on the hilltop and then wandered through the old city admiring the winding cobblestone streets and the narrow fronted 12th Century stone houses all joined together. Brightly coloured pot plants, pretty hanging baskets and fresh washing hanging out the windows brought the streets to life.   We purchased some locally made pasta and basil pesto for dinner that night on Eye Candy; it was delicious. We found an elevated cool veranda and rested for lunch and a well earned cool drink before our return trip up over the hill.

             Pisa Cathedral and Tower                                          Clare and Heather at Pisa

On Tuesday we set off for Pisa. We caught the bus to La Spezia and then made the hour trip by train into Pisa. I was pleasantly surprised at how beautiful the Cathedral, the Tower and other buildings were within the 12th century fortification. They are lavishly decorated and have been well maintained as befits a World Heritage Site. We then walked down to the river and through the city of Pisa with tourist map in hand checking out all the mentioned places of interest.  We made stops for lunch, ice creams and coffee but we certainly covered enough ground to work off the calories.

     Boat park in mainstreet of Riomaggiore                     Clare & Heather at Cinque Terre

Thursday we went by bus and train to the five towns of Cinque Terre. All the towns are dramatically beautiful hanging from the cliff face and perched high above the sea. I warned Chris and Heather that the walking we had done so far was only a warm up for Cinque Terre. We purchased an all day ticket on the train which is a get on get off system. However there is also a walking track between towns. We walked the one hour track between towns 1-2 but due to land slides the tracks between towns 2-3 and 3-4 were closed. By the time we climbed all over the first four towns we didn’t have the energy to walk the 2hr track between towns 4-5.  As you can guess hillside towns include lots of hills and many stairs. The third town Corniglia is situated on top of the hill from the railway station. The stairs zig zagged up the hill like a goat track and we climbed for about twenty minutes before reaching the township. However it was well worth the effort as the town was really pretty with great views of the coast and the steep hillside farming.  Each town is different; some have a lot of tourist accommodation, others are small villages. Some have boats parked in the main street and most have washing hanging out the windows. There isn’t much sand or beach front and so people lie on the rocks or the large launching ramps for the many small boats. It is certainly different from anything we have ever seen and it will leave a lasting impression.

                       Manarola                                                          Farming near Corniglia 

On Saturday we left La Grazie and sailed thirty miles to Santa Margherita Ligure which is only 1.5 miles from Portofino. The sea was a bit lumpy because between our sight-seeing trip last week the weather was very stormy.  We arrived around and put out two anchors (the second one at the rear of the boat) to keep us pointing into the swell.  The boat is rocking up and down a bit but we are off sight-seeing in the day and it doesn’t stop us from playing Rummy till and sleeping well at night. I guess sleep is assisted by plenty of exercise and a few red wines as a night cap.

Santa Marghertia and Portofino are just gorgeous but more on that in the next newsletter.

One of our long standing Aussie friends Bronwyn Adamson (who we have sailed with on Col’s boat in Sydney for many years) is coming to visit us today. She now lives in France and works as the Engineer on a large luxury power boat.  She has just sent an SMS to say she is close, so we are off to shore to find her. 

We will stay here for the next few days before moving further west to San Remo.

Love CANDY xx

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Col and Denise's visit

Hi from Clare,                                                                          Friday 3rd June 2011

When last I wrote we were waiting for our Aussie friends Colin and Denise to join us on the Italian island of Ponza. We were wearing winter woolies and sheltering from strong wind. Col and Denise however had enjoyed six weeks of sunny weather in London (of all places). They arrived on Wednesday 18th May and for the next two weeks we had sun; it rained the day they left – what’s their secret?

                Dinner in Ponza                                                                 Azzurro Harbour

We spent a few relaxing days at Ponza before doing an eighty mile overnight sail to Elba. We had a near full moon all night and the breeze was warm. Sailing conditions were good with 10 knots of wind on our bow. We read our Kindles, played Solitaire and with four of us to share the sailing, we managed to get some sleep.

Over the next few days we visited the three major towns on the island of Elba. We visited Marina di Campo (a tourist town) on the south side of the island, Porto Azzurro on the east side and Portoferraio (a major ferry port) on the north side. The weather was sunny and perfect for strolling around town in the day and eating out along the foreshore at night.

Andrew has been running the Drag Net so far this season. This is a HF radio sked where cruisers check in each morning to keep in touch, share information and give their location. We had been talking to Robert and Christina on “Quest” and Bob and Cindy on “God Speed” for a few weeks. They met up with “Eye Candy” in Portoferraio and the eight of us had a terrific time exchanging stories and enjoying drinks and nibbles on “Quest” until late into the evening.


The following morning we reluctantly left our new friends at Portoferraio and sailed eighty miles to Le Grazie on the mainland of Italy. The wind was behind us and until mid afternoon we had a pleasant sail. It was only when Col decided to have a shower underway that the wind picked up to around thirty knots and the sea was rather choppy. He came staggering out of the head and realizing we were busy trimming the sails called out to Andrew “I’ll be up in a minute I just have to comb my hair”   We all looked at each other with hair blowing  across our faces and  Denise called back “DON’T BOTHER” We arrived into La Spezia around midnight. Denise and I had spent the last few hours below leaving the guys to it. Andrew had put a reef in the main much to Col’s dismay, but it didn’t stop the ‘racing sailors‘ enjoying the gusts to 39 knots and an ‘Eye Candy’ record of  “11.3 knots of boat speed – Woo Hoo”.   All the slime growing on the bottom has now gone.

                              Portovenere                                                                    Erice

Over the next few days we visited the towns of La Spezia, Portovenere, and Lerici.  We also took the train to the Cinque Terre district.  A day pass train ticket takes you to the five towns with an easy walk into the villages. What an amazing place, but more about that in our next newsletter.

         Monterosso al Mare                       Vernazza                                     Manarola

Col and Denise left Wednesday morning 1st June to return to London. We had dinner out on the last night (Col’s treat) in a lovely restaurant at the Hotel Baia in La Grazie.  Our choice of venue was perfect, typically Italian, Cinque Terre wine, but more importantly - it was the only place in town that was open.

So now we are alone again and anchored in the fabulous bay at La Grazie. It is large, well protected with excellent holding. “Quest” and “Godspeed” arrived yesterday and we are all due on “Godspeed” tonight for drinks. We heard that “Quest” was fined in Portoferraio just after we left. He was charged 100 Euro for not having his dinghy outboard listed on his insurance policy. First time we have ever heard of such a thing - we don’t have our outboard listed either – it is so unfair. Andrew has sent our details to our insurer so we can get an updated Notice of Cover.  No doubt we will hear more tonight.

Andrew’s brother Chris and his wife Heather are arriving tomorrow for a three week stay. This is the first time they have been on the boat so we are looking forward to sharing time together.

Love CANDY xx