I am Linda and along with my husband Richard and our dog Muffin we enjoy our summers on the UK's canal system

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Western Mediterranean Cruise - Day 9 - On board and Day 10 - Corsica

Day 9

We were supposed to be going to Rome today but changed our minds because a) it is Sunday and b) it is so hot.  We have all been before and would like to go again but for a few days not just a few hours.

We chose not to even get off the ship as from previous research there is very little to see in Civitavecchia, however I suspect that someone is now going to tell me that we should have gone to see "so and so"!!

Day 10 - Ajaccio

We were due to anchor in Ajaccio and were in position for dropping the anchor before Richard and I got up and walked out onto the balcony.  The noise the chain made when it was deployed was a deep rumble!

This was the only excursion we had booked through Celebrity which worked out well as we had to tender ashore didn't have to queue for a tender on our way ashore.  Our tour was due to start at 9.15am and we were told to meet in the theatre at 9.00am and from there we made our way to a tender and went ashore.

Our tour guide was Corsican and very proud of her country.  The island formed a single department until it was split in 1975 into two departments: Haute-Corse (Upper Corsica) and Corse-du-Sud (Southern Corsica)  Each region had it's own capital - Ajaccio and Bastia.  The two departments merged again into a single department earlier this year.  No-one yet knows where the capital will be.

The rest of this blog post is a number of interesting (well I think they are) facts about Corsica which are interspersed by photos - mainly mine but two are from the internet - I think they will be obvious!

Everyone thinks of Napoleon when they think of Corsica but in fact he was born there but left when he was 2!  The Corsicans do not look upon him as a local hero.

Our excursion was called Prunelli Gorges and this is the gorge!
The French conquest of Corsica took place during 1768 and 1769 when the Corsican Republic was occupied by French forces/   France received control of the island of Corsica in 1768  as a pledge from the Genoese Republic via the Treaty of Versailles.

Corsica is one of only three places in the world where red coral fishing is allowed.

In the Middle Ages malaria was rampant on the coast of Corsica and the local people took to the mountains.

There are many cork oak plantations in Corsica, particularly in the south of the island. The tree needs heat, moisture and light. Every 8 to 12 years a practised "démasclage" takes place which involves extracting the thick layer of cork. The tree then becomes a beautiful wooden red brown and gradually recovering its bark.

Another thing that grows in Corsica is the Corsican Citron.  This slow-growing tree reaches a height of about 3 to 4 meters.  The fruit has a crisp, solid flesh which lacks juice but has a sweet flavour which is not acidic. This giant citron can measure up to 25 cm in length and weigh up to 4 kg.

22,500 plant species are present on the island, 140 of which are endemic to Corsica and 80 of which are endemic to Corsica and Sardinia.

Cheese in Corsica is either made from goat's or sheep's milk - yuk!

Corsica’s religious beliefs coexist with traditional rituals, superstitions and magic. One unusual example is the belief that the first eggs laid on Ascension Day are magic. They are kept for the year and many say they never rot. Throughout the year they will be used to cure the ill, keep away lightening and the wives of sailors put them in the window during storms to protect their husbands.

Lac de Tolla is a man-made lake which is 1,810 feet above sea level. The Barrage de Tolla  dam built between 1958 and 1960 created this artificial lake which is fed by the River Prunelli at Lake Vitalaca.  The dam is 87 metres high and 120 metres long at the top.

Monday, 24 September 2018

Western Mediterranean Cruise - Day 8 Livorno

We woke up in Livorno in not the most salubrious surroundings of the commercial port and as, it is rather a long walk to the entrance, shuttle buses had been laid on to take us into town.

Penny had gone to Florence and Pisa so the three of us took the shuttle bus and then a boat on the canal network.

Livorno’s history is long - it was founded in 1017 as a coastal fortress to defend Pisa which, at that time, was one of the four Maritime Republics in Italy. During the Middle Ages, Livorno belonged to Genoa and then they sold it to Florence in 1421 for the sum of 100,000 florins.

Along the 15th Century, 5 kilometres of canals are an array of wonderful mansions which were built for rich merchants in the 17th Century.

Livorno suffered extensive damage during the World War II. Many historic sites and buildings were destroyed by bombs of the Allies preceding their invasion, including the cathedral and the synagogue.

The Church of Saint Caterina is Baroque - its dome is 207 feet high making it higher than the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  The church was built from 1720 to 1753 and was opened to public in 1753 even though it wasn’t quite finished. 

The Central Market - Il Mercato Centrale or Mercato delle Vettovaglie as it is traditionally known - is one of the highlights of the city. The huge building, one of the oldest markets in Europe, dates from the late 19th century. The market is open every morning from Monday to Saturday.  There are 34 shops and 230 stalls which sell meat, eggs, poultry, ham, cheese, bread, wine, and a whole variety of intriguing foodstuffs.

The lighthouse is called Fanale dei Pisani, as it was built by the Pisans in 1303.  It was built on a rock surrounded by the sea at the south entrance of the harbour.  On June 20th 1944 German troops, when they saw the Allies approaching, blew up it. It was rebuilt in June 1954 to the original specifications with material recovered from the ruins and from a cave.  It was inaugurated on September 16th 1956.

Livorno has two fortresses, the old and the new.  Fortezza Vecchia (old fortress) was built between 1519 and 1534 on the site of an even older fortress built by the Pisans in 1377.  On 19th March 1606, Ferdinando I proclaimed Livorno a "city" in a ceremony which took place inside the fortress. The population of the city at the time was 3,000 inhabitants.  The old fortress sustained extensive damage in World War II but was subsequently repaired.

Decades after the construction of the old fort, around 1589, Livorno's fortifications were further enhanced by building a new fortress. The new fortress was named Fortezza Nuova. A canal system was built to connect the two forts.  

This is the Four Moors statue which was built between 1623 and 1626 by Pietro Tacca, it is a monument that show four bronze Moors in chains at the base of a pedestal, where a marble statue of the Grand Duke Ferdinand I stands. The statue is a symbol of victory over the pirates in the Tuscan seas.

This is the Palazza Hotel which was built in 1884.  However in 1889, following a bankruptcy, it was closed.  A new reopening took place in 1904 but since then, due to growing tourist competition the hotel suffered a slow decline. In fact, after the damage suffered during the WWII it was no longer able to reach the glories of the past.  In 1997, following a further bankruptcy, the hotel was closed and substantially abandoned. After some changes of ownership in 2004 the entrepreneur Andrea Bulgarella started massive restoration work aimed at bringing the structure back to its original condition. The works were completed in the summer of 2008.

In the afternoon we took the hop on hop off bus and stopped at the Funicular that goes up to Montenegro (Black Mountain).  It would appear that the Funicular is unmanned.  The bus driver gave us each a ticket which we put into a machine, got onto the “train”, the doors shut and off we went (no photos I’m afraid). At the top we didn’t see anyone either.  It was inaugurated on 19th August 1908 and was the first electric railway of its kind in Italy. Until 1963, it represented the main means of transport for Montenero.  There are two trains running up and down the 656m track, each one capable of carrying 40 passengers. They can transport up to 580 people per hour.  One of the most interesting and innovative aspects of Montenero's funicular railway is that it runs on solar power, the panels having been installed in 2000.  The view from the top is wonderful.

We found a bar and had a rather strange flat bread filled with ham and cheese - it was rather tough but washed down by a beer it was fine.  We were amazed by the amount of fire brigade vehicles there were in the little village - I counted 12.  We could hear a lot of laughter coming from the top room at the bar then suddenly the village was overrun by men and women, some in uniform and some in civvies.  We assumed it was some sort of presentation as there were some very well dressed gentlemen amongst the crowd.

We had gone up the mountain to see the Montero Santuary but all we found was a square with lots of chairs in it.  The complex, elevated to the rank of Basilica and maintained by Vallumbrosan monks, is devoted to Our Lady of Grace of Montenero, patron saint of Tuscany. 

Back at the ship we watched the sail away from our balconies and saw the pilot boat coming alongside to pick up the pilot.

Western Mediterranean Cruise - Dinner on Day 5 and Day 6 - Sea Day

Day 5 - Dinner

I said yesterday that I would tell you about our dinner last night.  Silhouette has a restaurant called the Lawn Club Grill and we got talked into going to dinner there and we are very glad we were!  When we went in we were the only people but by the time we left it was pretty full.  The staff made us so welcome and were really friendly.  

The menu is not extensive and everything is cooked on the grill.  The starter is a large flatbread topped with whatever is your choice and there is a salad bar too.  For our mains we all chose steaks, Richard, Jim and I had 12oz rib eyes and Penny had a filet minion.  I reckon my steak was probably one if the best I have ever had.

The restaurant itself is on the top deck and one of Silhouette’s features is it’s lawn on this deck.  Here are a few photos I took of the Lawn Club.

You may have noticed in these photos the back drop of Gibraltar and that’s what made our evening extra special as we were able to eat and watch a terrific sail-away.  P & O’s Ventura left just before we did so she is in some of the next photos of us leaving Gibraltar.

All in all it was a pretty amazing evening.

Day 6

Richard likes to put the TV on in the morning to see where we are but this morning there was nothing just a computer type of message saying that we couldn’t find a gps signal - he was convinced we were being hijacked!!

We went to breakfast on our own as Penny and Jim weren’t up!  We then spent the morning on our balcony - Richard reading and me catching up on the blog.  We both love watching water and are quite happy to sit and watch the waves.  At one point while I was resting from writing (!) I saw two dolphins swimming alongside the ship and leaping into the air - sadly Richard couldn’t find them - it is difficult to find small things in the water as we are travelling at about 20 knots.

We took a break from doing practically nothing and went for lunch - tough eh??!! We returned to our balcony and saw lots of dolphins - they seen to try and race the ship but we always win!

Would you believe that during the afternoon we had another medivac?  We could see the helicopter hovering but the hump of the ship was in the way to get a proper photo.  We couldn’t really believe that we have had two medivacs and it’s only Day 6.

Penny and I had both bought two bottles of sparkling wine with us - oh sorry Penny’s was champagne so we opened it and sat on our balconies and drank it.  We have had the glass partition between the balconies opened up and it’s much more friendly!

We ate in the main dining room and then went up to the Sky Lounge for our bedtime Baileys and to listen to the music.