Back on the boat, after our side trip to Florence, we headed 60 miles up the coast to Genoa, first leg of our return our Barcelona. This port city was very different than Florence as it was not dominated by a single family but many competing trading families who built magnificent palazzos. Clearly a city of great wealth.
While the waterfront was heavily damaged during the war, via Garibaldi was essentially untouched and it is beautiful. A visit to the aquarium was a treat with some new species we had never seen before.
On to Imperia, one of the newer mega yacht ports on the coast, then to Monaco where we spent a few days wandering around while Monaco prepared for their annual boat show. The aquarium in Monaco is one of the best in the world, what a treat. Great private auto collection, even visited the zoo. A tour of the famous Casino at Monte Carlo and a great lunch at Cafe de Paris.
Beaulieu was next and served as our base for a couple of road trips. One trip took us to some of the ‘hanging towns’ like Castallar. While there we asked why would this town have been established in the first place. “Well, the Saracens where raiding the coast, so everyone moved to the other side of mountain so they could not be seen. When the raiding stopped, they moved down here as there was no fresh water on the coast.” OK, but why build hanging on this mountainside? Who knows, but its really beautiful.
The gardens at Hanbury and Eze are magnificent, so often these great gardens are built by people who will never have the chance to see then mature. Back on the road, we headed to Cannes and Antibes. Lunch at Eden Rock cost more that a week of food in Spain, but the setting is pretttttty nice. On to pick up some of the wines of Provence before heading back to the boat. From Beaulieu we were within walking distance to the beautiful Cap Ferrat and took advantage of the pathway around the cape.
Next stop on the boat was Beautieu sur Mar next to Saint Tropez, a short bus ride away. On to Toulon that served as our base for a few days as the winds howled. Renting another car, our first stop was Marseillie to pick up Luke Yuan, Dan’s ‘grandson’ who would join us for five days. After a hike to the Basilique Notre Dame, we headed up to Aix-en-Provence with a few stops for wine tasting along the way. The next day we went the other direction and drove back to Saint Tropez.
Continuing east on the boat we next stopped at Port Saint Louis at the mouth of the Rhone River. Next summer our plan is to head up the Rhone to the interior of France to explore the rivers and canals. This gave us a chance to do a little exploring of the Rhone and the Petit Rhone passing thru a lock and looking at docking. While we planned to dock at Arles and get Luke on a train from there, the dockage there was non existent. Back down the Rhone, and on to Carnon that gave us access to the Montpellier train station. After dropping Luke at the train in another rental car, we headed on to Nimes, Arles and Avignon. This area really takes you back in time while standing in a Roman ampitheatre. We look forward to returning to Avignon in the spring. Back on the boat to Sete where we will enter the French river and canal system in the spring taking the Sete Canal to the Petit Rhone to the Rhone.
From Marseille to almost the Spanish border, the coast is a very flat delta and not at all interesting. However, this delta area has some of the largest marinas we have ever seen. Our stop at Gruissan was in a 1,600 boat marina others in the area were up to 3,000 boats. Our Florida marina at Dinner Key has 580 boats and is one of the largest on the east coast.
Back into Spain, our first stop was the town of Roses along the Costa Brava trail. The Costa Brava coastal trail is a series of paths, built by fishermen and the police force who patrolled the coast on the lookout for smugglers, that extend over 200 kilometers. We saw neither smuggler or Corsais but lots of hikers. While in Roses we did not visit the Castillo de la Trinidad but will try to so of that in the spring. Our last stop before Barcelona was Blanes, home of the Jardi Botanic Marimurtra. This was breathtaking beautiful along the lines of the Hanbury Garden. Definitely a stop in the spring.
Finally, back to Barcelona after 3,000 nautical miles and 48 ports of call. Here the boat will get its winter serving while docked at the Club Real Nautica de Barcelona. We did arrive the day before the independence vote in Catalonia and had a front row seat in the demonstrations.