CRUISING AT LAST! AND IN EUROPE NO LESS!!
Last winter, chilly and stormy, dragged on interminably for a lot of land people, but for us, unaccustomed to living on a boat, in a marina, in winter, it seemed especially long. (“Whatever happened to global warming?” asked Gary, another interminable event.)
Open waters, blue skies and colorful sunsets were dim memories. It felt like we’d never get out there again but finally we’re out here cruising! It’s so momentous I’ve used exclamation points, which I mostly consider cheating.
Leaving tapas and Catalan food was a breeze for Gary. I was more attached to Barcelona and its potpourri of fanciful Gaudi popping up beside serious 13th century stone architecture…and bizarre street performers on grand boulevards, all reached by an easily accessed metro. Plus Damien—who gave me the best haircuts of my life…and crunchy peasant bread just steps off the boat…and those railroad-station-sized, oh-so-European food markets.
But after my purse was stolen outside one of them, I too was happy to go.
The real skinny, and I’m talking truth not pounds here, is that Gary is not happy here. Unlike most cruising couples, he indulged me by taking on this lifestyle in the first place, and the same was true of bringing LULU to the Mediterranean in general and Spain to start.
His shorthand is “The old churches are interesting, but, how many times can you get excited about a tortured, bleeding Christ (he’s taken to calling them Christ-sicles) and a crying Mary.”
But what he means is, “I miss riding around
in my dinghy, I miss beach parties, I miss Lady J’s ribs. I don’t speak in
foreign languages and I don’t understand them.” While it’s not quite, “I want
my Mommy,” it’s clear he’s tolerating this for me. I know he checks the fall
transport schedules to Ft Lauderdale frequently. Fair is fair and I’ve promised
him if he doesn’t like the cruising this summer it’s back to the US. Europe's on trial and the plan is that
if we like it, we leave the boat
in Sicily for the winter and cruise Croatia next summer. If not, well, I
prefer not to think about that just yet.
BADALONA May 9, 2011
Still, boating being what it is, even after six months in a marina, LULU isn’t quite ready. We first have to mount one final sortie in the ongoing Battle of the Bowthruster. There remains an infuriating hydraulic leak that Gary has tried and failed to stanch in three many-hundred-dollar Florida haulouts, a leak caused by the unfailingly inattentive, entirely indifferent French factory sending the wrong $6000 fittings.
Thus, on May 9, we motor from Marina Port Vell just 3 miles up the coast to Badalona, to a big marina and shipyard, full of empty boats in storage for the winter—waiting for their owners to show up for the summer. Hmm…exactly like the dock we just left. Only a much more desolate town. We don’t see a soul except a couple of boatyard workers.
Gary readies his parts for the repair. We walk to “Restaurant Row,” where we find the only “good” recommended restaurant, St. Anastasi, open every day but Monday (and this is Tuesday) not only closed but looking positively funereal.
Maybe the Saint gave up the ghost.
Everything else on the strip is dismal tapas fare—and shut down anyway.
Except for “Frankfurts by Maria.” Now Frankfurts by Brunhilde maybe, but by MARIA? Seems an unfortunate cross-pollination.
With no choice (the Lulu kitchen rigidly follows a similar closing schedule) we share a knackwurst, a bratwurst, a weisswurst and something unpronounceable deserving the name wurstwurst. We also drink the local Badalonan wine which is, as advertised, BAD-alonan.
Well, Badalona is just a suburb of BARFalona,, Gary’s not so affectionate nickname for Barcelona. He is nauseated by some aroma of Catalan cooking he detects that I don’t; by the dry texture and deep purple of the famous Iberian hams; by the unshelled beady-eyed shrimps. And pissed off by weenie lamb chops and anemic burgers and the complete absence of juicy marbled Porterhouse steak slabs.
So anyway, next day we get hauled. Gary sticks in the parts he’d invented. tested them, and pronounces eet feexed. Victory America!
We get put back in the water in plenty of time for dinner. . (I even sneak back into the city for one last haircut with Damien…)
Dinner time. We walk back to The Saint. Apparently he’s risen. We have a very, very good dinner. At least I think so.
On May 11 we leave Badalona bound for the Balearics, Spain’s playground islands, about 100 miles south. Mallorca, Ibiza, Formentera and Menorca. These four islands, a westernmost gateway to the Mediterranean, lie so near the coast of rich, powerful Spain that they’ve been attacked, invaded and plundered by all the leading historical cast of characters: Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Moors and Turks. These days the invaders are millionaires and megayachts, nude sunbathers and cruiseships; summertime hordes of sailboaters, druggies and disco-till-dawners.
We sail for the nearest and largest, Mallorca, a passage we can make without an overnight: 5AM to 5PM. Feisty and Matilda. leave from Barcelona a few hours earlier and we travel in radio contact. En route Paul catches a 10-pound tuna and we’re on for sushi and tuna steaks. Not quite Porterhouse but far from Barfalona. Our first cruising since June in Key West, we motor the whole way, no wind, no waves, calm, glassy, Zamboni seas.
SOLLER, MALLORCA May 12, 2011
We drop anchor in Puerto de Soller (pronounced Soyair). A postcard. Couldn’t have designed a better first Med destination. A marina of small speedboats and snub-nosed Mallorquin fishing boats along the town quay—concrete walls are suddenly romantic quays in Europe. A string of shops and shady umbrella-ed cafes fronting a necklace of beach; skinny uphill streets; vacation homes nestled into forested mountains, all this against an even taller backdrop of rugged cliffs. An antique train, painted orange chugs along the beach and goes to the main town of Soller, which, the guidebook says, was built two miles inland to protect the populace from ship-borne pirates (who apparently couldn’t make it into town on their peg-legs?)
We think we know nobody in Europe but the first boat we see is a big Nordhavn trawler, which must be the friends of our Caribbean friends Tut & Eddie. In no time we’re all invited for a potluck. Yes, we’re cruising again!
We take the little train to Soller, a charming cobbled town with a Romanesque church from the 15th or 16th century, its towers reworked at some point by one of Gaudi’s students. What a kick to cruising in real civilization—places steeped in history and dripping with culture. The walls of the damn Soller train station in are draped with Miro tapestries and upstairs are not one but two small museums, one exhibiting Miro, the other Picasso ceramics.
The Paul-Caught-A-Tuna dinner is a big success and the potluck aboard the trawler Egret lots of fun. Then after two days of calm, the anchorage is suddenly roiling like a pot of boiling spaghetti water, the boats rolling like mad—seasick in a harbor is brand new. We hear it’s like this every six days in the spring in this area…and maybe in Italy in the fall.
Weather here changes quickly and zero to 60 knots in minutes is not uncommon, we’re told. We will be out at anchor because we don’t intend to be in expensive marinas this summer—we’ve heard up to and over 700 euros a night and you can’t get in anyway because they’re booked up months in advance. In the Caribbean we were blessed by Chris Parker the Weather Guru. So figuring out the weather has us more scared than we’ve ever been in 12 years of cruising…
But once it calms down, the weather is excellent, sunny, mid 70s, heading up to the 80s. We rent a car and tour Mallorca’s northern coast, not unlike the Amalfi Drive, except not Italy. But the food is getting better. Extraordinary cute villages and stunning, dramatic seascapes.
EL DIA DEL CORDERO May 20, 2011
Mike and Laura, old Caribbean cruising friends, are living on the island. They take us on a Secret Lamb Excursion. Secret because we are not allowed to breathe the name or exact location of this place; they are afraid it will be discovered and overrun by tourists and foodies. Now that we have been there I understand why the concern. For them it’s crowds, for me it would be the road…
The drive starts out at sea level in Soller and then winds on up the mountain until it becomes a precipitous one-lane road up to the foot of a barren cliff. Or maybe we start up the cliff. Seems that way.
A road so narrow that even bikers (and why there would be bikers there is beyond me) a road so narrow bikers are forbidden (the Spanish is “no en parallel”) to ride side by side.
Thus two cars can simply not manage this road going in both directions. This I worry about all the way up. (That and how or if we’ll get down in our 29.95 euro-a-day rental car.) So since I introduce the thought, I create the reality. What happens when two cars try to use this road in two directions is one car has to back up (or down) all the way to wherever there’s a place wide enough to pull in out of the way. And there aren’t many along about 10 kilometers of this stretch of ridiculousness. Well, in our case we are THREE cars descending and whoever is ascending knows he can’t take us in a fight. If it’s one-on-one, things could get very ugly,
The Luncheon Meats we are to dine on much are more suited to the terrain than our Fiat. And they show up as we get nearer the ranch, their bells and baahs announcing (mercifully) that we are almost there. (They also provide a small olfactory greeting at the gate.)
The unnamable “restaurant” is a sheep/pig/goat ranch/farm where your dinner is butchered, then marinated for days in beer and lemon juice and finally roasted in a big wood burning pit till the meat just about falls off the bone. You eat in the ranch house around this crackling fire, with bowls of Mallorquin olives, pouring bottles of the local olive oil onto your placemat (which is your plate) and drinking the Mallorquin red wine. All in all, a gorgeous outing, which apparently is even more literally breathtaking in winter, when people actually traverse this same road in the snow and ice. Even for a meal I would not! Honest.
The place has been open since 1944, but the owners say the building’s been there longer than anyone can remember. It’s your basic movie-set hacienda ranch house with a great vaulted log-beamed ceiling and the walls crawling with sheep’s heads and baskets and bridles and shovels and farms tools and all manner of bucolic paraphernalia.
And the owners themselves: El señor is a small, twinkly, white-haired gent in a red wool crew neck who chats up everyone and is mostly everywhere but near the kitchen. He especially likes the bar and cash register. La señora is even tinier; she scurries around with tongs and trays and roasting pans. She’s got mouse-gray hair, but you have to work really hard to see her face because she’s always got her hands in the oven or the fireplace. They’re quite a team.
PORTALS May 30,
King Juan Carlos regularly drops in for dinner at Tristan’s, where the tapas tasting menu goes for 157 euros, no-one bats an eye at a 30 dollar hamburger at the most popular restaurant—and why not? Ritzi. The boutiques featured Hermes and Prada handbags starting at 1000 euros and I almost sliced a finger off on a pair of $500 sandals encrusted with jewels (no doubt semi-precious) plus assorted sequins and mirrored bits. A package of sliced bologna (here labeled mortadella) cost 7.50 euros at the sole “supermercado,” which wouldn’t even qualify as a bodega in Harlem. We gawk at the fancy people, eat two expensive but very good dinners before beating it to Ibiza, the Party Balearic.
We motor to San Antonio, an astonishingly honky town, almost 100% discos and bars, where rumor has it that around 5AM trucks come around to wash the vomit from the streets. We can’t confirm as we weren’t awake.
After 12 years of unbeatable Caribbean sunsets one of us is still naïve enough to insist we not miss the world-famous sunset at the Vista del Mar bar. Tough luck, it’s cloudy and we get no sunset at all. A caipirinha sets us back 11 euros, a Diet Coke 5 (the lowest priced item on the menu.)
But we do get to see tons of “hotties” in the shortest skirts ever worn over the highest heels ever. If these girls get bikini waxes they get them on their upper lips... and I’m talking facial lips here. A cross-dresser at the next table comes wearing a pinafore straight out of the Wizard of Oz. The people parade tops just about any sunset we can imagine. (Sorry, all the pictures are blurry, I am laughing too hard or too embarrassed to take them at all.)
We taxi out of town to the only decent restaurant we can find, in a 600-year-old church.
Next day we rent a car. Ibiza Town is old, hilly and charming with gorgeous views of the harbor,
But much of the island is on fire and closed to touring.
We can’t wait to beat it back to Mallorca, where we continue to be blown away, not by the winds because there are none…in 500 miles we sail not once. But the scenery is vivid and continuous. Bursts of intense fuschia and violet bougainvillea against the harsh stony mountain terrain. A curvy rocky coastline hugging long beaches, millionaire hillside villas and deep fjord inlets. All the ports and villages set smack up against that wonderful backdrop of green mountains and dramatic cliffs.
Improbably shaped rocks, the most stunning Sa Foradada, with a yawning 30-foot hole straight through near the top.
Highland villages and towns, in both mint-used condition and spit-polish restored. (Spain is almost militarily clean, trash receptacles and huge recycling garbage bins everywhere; what a pleasure to prance unconcerned into a public ladies room and never find a spattered peed-upon seat.)
Camilla and Adam, our Swedish friends who we met back in Barcelona, sail in on ISOLA. They’ve been looking at property in a nearby mountain town called Fornalutx (prounounced Fornalooch), winner of many Most Charming Spanish Village prizes. We rent a car to go see. We understand why…
MENORCA June 15, 2011
We move on to the main town, Mahon, where we fill up with fuel…at a cost of $2500! That’s $8 gallon…This Europe place is not cheap. Then we experience:
OUR LAST DAY IN SPAIN June 21, 2011
We’re ashore in Mahon, Menorca provisioning for the huge 24-hour trip ‘to Sardinia (just in case we can't find something decent to eat in Italy...) While we’re out having fun, some older couple (probably our age, no spring chickens) in a power boat arrives in the wide-open anchorage, drops their anchor, backs up slowly (fortunately, we guess) and, according to witnesses, crunches into our stainless pulpit, bending it worse than before we spent $3000 last year with Larry the Stainless Jeweler in Ft Lauderdale to fix it. This couple still had enough wits (and lacked sufficient scruples) to run, pronto.
The witness Menorcans tell us about the last foreign boat that got rammed by a local boat and complained. The Mafia-ridden harbor police made the VICTIMS go into a marina, and pay a fine while the case got scammed up. Anchored in the wrong place, wrong lights, defective paperwork etc. They eventually had to PAY about $6000 in fines and fees. And still had a damaged boat. Lightning calculations tell us don’t go that route.
So, someplace in bonny Italy we’ll just zip into some Ferretti or Riva or Perini-Navi or Azimut yard and have them whip up a new stainless pulpit. After last week’s $2500 diesel fill-up this is no problema. Or, as (we think) they say in Italy, senza problema. After all we did not buy the lobster bouillabaisse in Puerto Fornells, Menorca for $170. Or that157 EURO tasting menu at Tristan’s in Puerto Portals, Mallorca.
Apparently here in Spain 100-percent good days aren't allowed, says Gary.
Apparently this is typical behavior here in the Med, says Jackie. Fenders are a must and now we need a mattress on our bow sprit.
We leave for Sardinia with our pretzel pulpit, ready for Spaghetti con Vongole, honest-to-god tomato sauces, crispy-crust pizzas at last and whatever raviolis come our way. Hopefully a single lobster comes in at somewhat less than 65 euros.
Still no wind. Seas are 3 to 4 inches. Wind howls at 4 knots, though on the nose as usual.
ARRIVAL SARDINIA June 23, 2011
An uneventful easy passage, no wind, motoring 24 hours again, to Alghero, on Sardinia’s Eastern coast.
We can’t get Lulu docked on the totally free town wall because before get we near it someone comes out in a dinghy and, just like some Caribbean boat boy, practically grabs us by the scruff of the neck (not the bow pulpit, fortunately) and has us in a marina before we can say Arrividerci—as in “Get lost.”
Gary backs the boat in beautifully. The only hitch comes when I immediately got involved in a conversation with our boat neighbors and completely forget to take the lines from the dock person, tie them back on the deck cleats so the boat begins drifting back into the bay. This may sound familiar to some of you.
Anyway we’re better off in a marina because a big bad storm is supposed to come in this weekend.
Alghero is a small city, so not too exhausting. Pretty, with twisty cobblestone byways. Lots of shops.and restaurants. Ramparts and bastions. A long white beach. Fisherpeople and pizza makers. The first thing we see is a big banner announcing a Gaudi exhibition. We feel right at home.
A black Madonna stands on the city wall just above Lulu in the marina . We’re hoping we can get the bow pulpit repaired here. Hoping she’ll intercede. Haven’t lit a candle.
As for that bow pulpit, this lovely young roughing-it-at-sea couple** we met in Menorca who spent seven months here told us to contact their friend Franco, an engine mechanic, who would recommend (or thoroughly dis) stainless steel craftspeople for us.
We call him around 1:30 PM. He shows up promptly at 4. He’s on the case. Speaks beautiful English. He may have Pieroluigi coming over tomorrow. But Pieroluigi may be too busy…Pieroluigi may or may not speak English. Franco will drop by his shop now and explain the problem. Franco is great.
Within 10 minutes he has Tonino the Electrician over, who’s already fixed some engine problem (a fuse) we’re having and will be back tomorrow morning to fix some generator problem we’re also having. Tonino doesn’t speak English but is good at sign language.
We can see Franco is a treasure, even if we have no work for him. Maybe we can break something. Though its’ a boat…chances are it will break itself.
Whoosh, Whoosh…Life as usual…
** lovely young roughing-it-at-sea couple: from St Augustine, Florida, got this 35-foot antique Dutch sailboat—completely free because it had a propane fire/explosion and they would fix it up.*** Well they did and sailed across the Atlantic in 42 days eating nothing but canned rice and beans, with a pail for a toilet, ultimately got as far as Sardinia and are on their way back across the Atlantic to the Caribbean, through the Bahamas and back to St Augustine to get jobs and continue their lives. Totally amazing. I’d be scared sail that boat in Budd Lake with two life vests, much less cross the Atlantic. Ah, the innocence of youth. They are very adorable. We’ve traded internet modems.
***they would fix it up: Pete was a woodworker, age approximately 45, with an 8-year-old daughter. Kourtney was a 20-year-old, blonde with fuzzy blonde dreadlocks who’d taken her $4000 college money, bought a 25-foot boat and dinghy though she didn’t even know how to ROW but was living aboard. They sold her boat to buy radar. She’s now competent in offshore sailing, learning celestial navigation, is writing a book called The Accidental Sailor. Her dad is talking to her again.
MY FIRST MEAL IN ITALY or SARDINIA WITHOUT SARDINES….a word or two from Gary
Boy, have I been waiting for this…..I-food at last after all that bull-shit Catalonian crap. We pull into the marina at about 10AM, after being up all night traveling here. Another few hours to get set up, tie up, wash the boat, connect all the electric and water lines, put out the passarelle (ramp to get off the boat.)
By then we are totally exhausted and un-showered and lunch-hungry.
So, what’s my first meal in Italy? My first meal in Italy turns out to be a Hebrew National kosher salami sandwich on Bimbo white (like Silvercup) with Hebrew National mustard. Actually pretty good, just like home. Well, actually it was from home. Tonight we get I-food. We are surrounded by Italian restaurants.
We’ll pick one, pig out, and then go to sleep. There remains a crisis of sorts—we are left with 10 bottles of Spanish wine, which we are drinking now.
But not tomorrow.
Life is good…
OUR FOURTH MEAL IN ITALY June 24, 2011
Our first meal in Italy is a kosher salami sandwich, the second is a we’re-sleepy, very-expensive, just-okay thingy, third is a pretty-good pizza lunch.
(Believe me, it looks better than it tasted…and besides, guess what? They do not cut your pizza for you…you have to beg. While it gets cold. Another story.)
But the fourth is really-Italian special.
Our boat neighbors, Margret and Sandro on Salty Dog, take us to a secret charming place on a back street in the old town for fish. In a tunnel inside the fort walls, by the sea. Price-fixed and-menu fixed. Fish only or lobster only. Well, more or less as it turns out.
When we arrive at 8:15 we’re the only ones there but each table is set up with five plates of appetizers: mussels and calamari in red sauce; sardines in olive oil; skate in a thick red sauce, shrimp in a thinner red sauce and the famous Sardinian swordfish in arugula and olive oil. Fresh bread. Each dish excellent.
Endless wine. Good Italian wine. Two colors.
Then three types of pasta, red fish sauce #1, red crab sauce #2 and white sauce with fresh ricotta #3, each different and wonderful.
More endless wine.
Then a whole broiled fish, more calamari, more shrimp and a lobster dish, marinated with cherry tomatoes, more red sauce.
More endless wine.
Then Crème Brulee and a fruit tart. More wine.
A very special event.
By the time we eventually finish, the restaurant is full and folks are waiting outside.
The restaurant’s name is Mabrouk. It means Congratulations in Arabic. It used to be an Arabic restaurant but the Italian signora thought it bad luck to change the name.
The sign outside says “Credit-card out of order.” Our new friends say it’s always out of order. A pretty crafty signora, huh? But deserving all kudos she can get.
A meal worth every single lira…oops, Euro.
Then walking home we meet two guys, father from Milano and son from Brussels, the Salty Dogs had met in a different restaurant the night before. Lots of talking later and we all end up on Salty Dog for more drinking and laughing. Wonderful. We love it here. Did I say wonderful?
We are all doing it again tomorrow—someplace else wonderful, they promise. Wonderful. Extraordinary. Life is good.
It’s now 1 am. Time to sleep.
Arrivederci from Alghero, Sardinia, Italy. Did I mention that we are in Italy? On our boat? WOW!
P.S. Don’t ask about the fifth meal, lunch today, stinkeroo. You gotta kiss a lotta frogs, I say, but the real truth is, Lulu had (no surprise) done her research. She finds a tiny white grotto (says she, dark depressing empty cave, says I) on a back street, but I vote for the tourista trap in the sun and on the water. I win the toss—an unusual event in itself—and the result is the stinkeroo lunch…
ROAD TRIPS June 27, June 28, 2011
Pieroluigi has taken on our bow pulpit and since we are now “stuck” here in Alghero awaiting the results we rent a car. Well not exactly a car but a SMART car. We drive south along the hilly Sardinian coast. First stop is a recommended restaurant sitting on a beach. A crowded beach, in truth most of the topless females are under four years old, but not all. We sit on the terrace overlooking the fun and frolic in the sand and surf and sun.
We both have spaghetti, one with vongole in a white sauce, one with a thick red pomodoro sauce. Both best ever. And just a bit of local lunch wine. My reaction to this afternoon is….do not pinch me…if this is all a dream, I do not wish to wake up.
And, just two words about the SMART car. Small and stupid.
The rest of the afternoon is consumed with hill towns, castles, forts, churches, steep S-curves and gasping at vistas.
Then Margret and Sandro come over for a sundowner on LULU. They want to taste our extensive collection of Caribbean rums. And we want to taste their collection of Italian Proseccos. Well, we do that till about midnight. I think the sun is totally down by then.
We’re now just about adjusted to these near-midnight sunsets—the Alaskan timetable gives us much more time to play. And more superior food is easy to take…Gary even seems willing to temporarily suspend the perpetual burger quest for great pastas, good pizzas and better-than-Spanish Sardinian wines (with Chiantis and Montepulcianos just around the corner on the mainland) when he suffers a brand new foreign incursion into his culinary comfort zone--No Iced Coffee. Seems Starbucks has no presence here in Sardinia. Maybe Rome, maybe Naples, but not Sardinia. They must have figured out a foray into the ingrained Standup Italian Espresso Bar tradition was doomed to failure here. In any event this is what you get instead of the Venti Iced Coffee you want…an inch of coffee and mere pebbles of ice melting in the heat….and it costs even more than your Starbucks Venti.
Next day we’re off for more sightseeing.
Scattered about Sardinia are fantastic archeological remnants called nuraghi—once villages or religious sites or burial grounds or defensive structures of a 3- to 5000-year-old Bronze Age culture. Huge boulders these people somehow fit together and piled on top of each other and assembled into tall towers that are still standing—built without cranes and Caterpillars and John Deere’s—now that’s SMART!. There are maybe 8000 of these structures in varying stages of decay scattered about Sardinia.
Next through country farm towns, over honey-colored fields to Monteleone Rocca Doria, an improbably vast discus of a citadel perched over fertile valleys which defended its Dorian citizens against a three-year siege by the combined forces of four neighboring city states; Sassari, Alghero, Bosa and Aragon.
We cross a series of steep mountain passes—passing through two roadblocks and ignoring the “Road Closed Due to Falling Boulders signs”—to see the Rocca dell’Elefante. Hard to believe Walt Disney or George Lucas—or, or as my ex-husband, Barry commented—Lego weren’t involved,
It’s clear Sardinia didn’t get the TLC an island like Mallorca did, Mallorca is Manhattan to Sardinia’s South Bronx. Throughout most of its history Sardinia was subject to the feudal system, was plundered by absentee management, largely the Spanish nobility and local landlords who lined their own pockets at the expense of the peasant farmers. Its fertile plains and mountains were deforested and its infrastructure subsequently ignored. While the coastal tourist Meccas have recently been spruced up, the unheralded interior villages look tired and sooty, like relics of the Second World War. No green vines or violet bougainvillea cover the peeling stucco and cracked concrete that reveal cinderblock and centuries. Thinly populated, the old men cluster on benches in the squares and central-casting nonnas in black, lean arm-in-arm up the hilly streets. These villages need some young Paolos and Pasquales to patch and paint and pour concrete.
Meanwhile LULU is in pretty good shape and so during this time, with almost no boat projects we do little except soak up the scenery, grin non-stop because we’re in Italy and carouse with the Salty Dogs. Well, there is one grim boat drama we call “Scarafaggi in Sardinia,” not yet widely broadcast. (Check your Google Translators for further elucidation because you will probably not hear more about this.)
After 11 days in Alghero finally Pieroluigi delivers the bow pulpit. It’s perfect and we’re free to cruise again.
We’ve got a plan. First night, we’ll anchor in a nearby Sardinian national park area—no known restaurants. Is that literally cold turkey?
Second night: Bonifacio, Corsica, France. First on the agenda: try to find French phone and internet service. Second: French bread. Next, mussels: no one does them better than the French. We’ll even put up with the French themselves for those mussels in butter and wine and garlic. There’s also that French butter. One of us doesn’t care about the frog’s legs and escargots. (That would be the burger lover.) The other does.
The French are also notorious for anchoring right up your butt. Since the Spaniards have just butted us up our nose we’re justifiably nervous, but not nervous enough to skip the bread and mussels. When we’ve had our fill, then on to mainland Italy…
Life is excellent! Or as they say in Italy, va bene!
BONJOUR BONIFACIO July 4, 2011
Bonifacio is the most dramatic harbor we have ever entered. It’s like some mythical giant swiped at a massive scarred limestone cliff and gouged a jagged opening clear down to the water. As soon as people came along they figured out these towering heights were exactly what was needed to shoot at the enemies they always seem to have. So over the centuries assorted Saracens, Genovese, Aragonese, Turks and French constructed enormous, impenetrable city walls and a monster fort that towers over the entrance.
We arrive at this deep chasm of a harbor on our first cloudy day in a month. You can’t help feeling tiny against the vastness and under the enormous weight of history, but the grayness of the day against all the somber gray rocks underscore the immensity of it all. We are awed…silent…dumbstruck really.
Then comes the craziness. We’re just into the beginning of the height of the season and Bonifacio is the most popular Corsican marina. Yesterday when we called the mademoiselle said “Of course come ahead,” so we didn’t think much of it. Today she says ,“Who are you, get lost…we’re fully booked.” In French and English!
It’s looking ugly indeed. The next port is three hours away. Then, somehow, we get lucky. A cute little French Port de Bonifacio guy running about in a big official dinghy and looking for a big tip finds us the perfect spot at the end of the perfect dock. We’re in the thick of the action. And we do mean ACTION.
Both the harbor and the marina itself are as narrow as the entrance. The place is jam-packed, 400 boats. No room at all to turn around. And a lineup of boats coming in. Mostly Germans in charter boats. We thought Germans were into Luftwaffe and U-boats—when did they get into sailing? And why? Because they’re going at it like little boys playing bumper cars. Except they’re in big ol’ boats. Worse, they’re not even going forward, they’re BACKING UP. Instead of taking it nice and slow, they’re revving up their engines and spinning on in to their slots. Sometimes the wind takes them right into another boat instead of a slot. Or several boats. Between 2 and 4, check-in time, you leave your boat at its peril. No one naps. Not even Gary.
Now, today the wind wasn’t bad but we hear yesterday it gusted to Force 6 or 7. That’s up to 33 knots…that’s 38 miles an hour… in a narrow chute of a harbor.
It’s the most dramatic harbor we’ve ever been in, but it’s also the scawwiest.
So we won’t be staying long. We couldn’t anyway. When Lucky Us went to check in we discovered we’re paying $250 a night…not including breakfast or maid service. How much is a decent croissant and a bowl of moules really worth, after all?
Didn’t take long to score a St Emilion, a saucisson, a bit of fromage and one of those croissants for LULU’s cocktail hour. Oh, and we also found Wifi
Later...Or as they say in France, à bientôt...
LULU attacks Fort, Bonifacio surrenders tourist maps and free WIFI
July 8, 2011 PORTO VECCHIO, CORSICA Proving again that mankind does not live by bread alone, even French bread and especially in this digital age…Yet another rant from Gary.
I LIKE ABOUT THE FRENCH
In Spain and Italy we were able to get a local SIM card for Lulu’s iPhone so she could get internet and email and phone service, also a phone modem for the laptop so we could get internet and email. Piece of cake.
Upon arriving in Bonifacio, France, we attempted the same. Well, Bonifacio has no phone stores. OK, so we’ll wait till Porto Vecchio. They have two different phone company stores. We went to the biggest international phone company store, Orange. Think AT&T. Surely they could do it.
So we bought the SIM for Lulu’s phone, and $15 air time. The internet did not work at all and in spite of that all the internet time got used up in one afternoon (while it wasn’t being used, go figure.) So we went back.
They said. “Oh, iPhones do that, didn’t you know? “ (No actually we didn’t.)
“Oh, well, you bought the wrong service.” So we now bought the right service, with no credit for wrong service. But,
“Oh sorry, we can’t activate it now, so come back tomorrow and we’ll activate it.”
Ok, so it’s tomorrow and guess what? It’s activated but not quite. Now we have to wait another 24 to 48 hours for it to be REALLY activated…as in working. WHAT, we’re only in France for 10 days--half that time is already gone.
By the way, do not think any of these people speak Eeenglish…not that this is their problem, only to say that transactions are slightly more deeficult than the wreeten word makes it.
More—we wanted the USB internet modem that they advertise. Great, but it’s out of stock. But it would have worked splendidly.
We went to their competitor, think Verizon. They have a wonderful modem for half the price, great. In stock. But they can’t sell it today because the special activating computer is on siesta. Come back tomorrow. OK, it’s tomorrow, still sleeping, no sale.
Is this a third world country or what?
Besides it’s hard to like a country that has no black and white cookies. Or rainbow cookies, or chocolate chip…
And then I put gasoline in the diesel rent-a-car today, not good. So now that’s on siesta too.
Just now life is not so good…technically speaking only. All else is magical.
STALKING SCARAFAGGI An ongoing drama
Growing up in Brooklyn in the 1950s it was unmentionable. Like you were dirty…didn’t keep a clean house. The reason you got them. Shhhh.,,Cockroaches. Pronounced cock-a-roaches.
Other people you talked about. You tried not to call in Mr. Olsen the super to fix something because he’d see one and tell his wife, Lena, and she’d blab it to the whole building. The only worse fate than cockroaches would be losing your rent-controlled apartment. Though I used think if you lost your rent-controlled apartment , maybe you’d move to a new apartment and you’d wouldn’t have any…and even if you did maybe the neighbors wouldn’t find out. At least for a while.
Meanwhile, we didn’t even have cock-a-roaches. Or if we did my mother didn’t tell me for fear I’d blab it around the building.
But I did absorb the fear of talking about it.
Dealing with them today on my own boat I’ve discovered you experience Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s classic steps of Dealing with Grief.
First is Denial. Can’t be…it must be a mosquito...a large fly. The fact that it doesn’t fly, no matter how hard you try to make it, is a small wrinkle in the theory.
The distinctive orange-brown color makes it also hard to maintain it’s an ant.
I didn’t even tell Gary. When I finally showed him one, of course he did the same thing. When I ran my “Maybe it’s a fly, a mosquito, an ant nonsense by him, he came up with, “No, it’s not a roach, it’s a centipede.”
Yeah right. Is this what they call co-dependence?
Next stage is Anger. Fury. How could they do this to us. We’re good people. And what can we do back? We buy the Raid. The Baygon. The traps. The pellets. No good.
Overcoming my fear and antipathy I go on Killing Sorties every night…at least I now have an excuse for my insomnia.
One night in the galley I find a big one lying on a killing pellet, like a lounge chair, like he’s come out for a midnight snack and a nap.
Plus a bunch of his kids crawling up the backsplash like they’re on a playground climbing wall.
At least when Gary fixes a boat something it’s a lot of effort but it’s fixed…
They‘re smaller than we are but a much bigger enemy. More of them. And implacable.
We’re in Alghero. Of course I want to tell nobody. But at least it’s not English, it’s a foreign language. I look up the word. Scarafaggi. Sounds much cuter than cockroach. Or even cock-a-roach.
I certainly don’t want to tell the Salty Dogs; they’ll think we’re dirty. I go to the marina office. Whisper. They send a sterminatore. Emanuele.
Basically a schmucky-looking guy. His price is 300 euros.
What??? Plus we have to stay at least three more days at 90 euros a day. One to wait for his services, a second for the job. Day Three to clean up from it.
But our anger is boundless. They’re coming on stronger. We see the biggies and more babies. Now, big ones will die but babies will grow up to be big ones and make more babies. The way of the world.
Emanuele comes. All he does is pop the lids off 10 little cans of not-very-expensive-looking stuff and leaves. Meanwhile we have torn the boat apart, emptying drawers, cabinets, lockers—whatever empties—opening up floorboards, sofa cushions—whatever opens. Then we have to leave the boat for six hours, so we have to tell the Salty Dogs, so we can stay on their boat. They don’t seem to think ill of us.
We return. Find 4 or 5 dead ones only. And within 8 hours we are visited by both big and little scarafaggi.
More anger. We leave Alghero.
In France they’re called Blattes. A nastier name I think. You can really belt it out. Still without having to say cock-a-roach.
(Now much as I don’t want to perpetuate stereotypes or infer that anyone is dirty, especially in this context, we spent 11 years in the Caribbean without seeing so much as one scarafaggio or blatte and here we are infested in Europe. There, I said it.)
One week later, at a cost of 44 euros, we buy our own little can bombs, empty the same drawers, cabinets, lockers, floorboards, sofa cushions, plus take down ceiling panels this time…we set them off ourselves. These bombs appear much more potent. As we race off in the dinghy the boat smells vile and toxic and is smoking from all ports—like it’s fuming too. We’re smug—we’re sure it’s worked.
We come back and find not a single casualty. In 4 hours we’ve got the usual complement. Maybe even more teeny bubalas.
I take to the Internet. We walk to the supermarché. We buy Boric Acid and Sally Homemaker makes Cockroach Cookies. Easy and they require no baking.
Here’s the recipe just in case. No one needs to report back to me. I’ll understand. And here’s a picture of the disgusting things. Teenagers I think.
1 cup Boric Acid
½ cup flour
1/8 cup sugar
¼ cup milk
½ medium onion, grated
Mix to cookie dough consistency, form into quarter–size discs. (Wear gloves or they burn your hands…I know.) Set out near sinks, drains, toilets, in dark, moist, food-storage places.
Tough luck for us…by morning I’ve killed about 4 babies and I see one mama. One baby was eating a cookie and actually moved off nonchalantly. Did I sense even triumph in his walk?
I didn’t wait around to see if he convulsed; I didn’t have enough self-control, I schpritzed him.
They do seem to be lessening as a result of all this but still, they can reproduce.
I’m thinking garlic in the next batch… anyone have a better recipe?
We’re not quite in Brooklyn Brownsville tenement mode here. Yet. They confine themselves to the galley. (I think.) Just killed a little-un as I’m writing. These ones don’t apparently know enough and come out in daylight. I’m hoping there’s no Scarafaggi Child Protection Agency and if they make it home they get big spankings.
I’m now sort of at Stage Three: Bargaining…Now basically we’re good people. Don’t commit too many sins and don’t have many chips.
We do recycle (mostly.) We don’t steal and we pay our taxes (hardly ever fudging.) I didn’t support Bush or the Iraq War or any sort of torture. (I can’t speak for Gary, but many of you agree with him anyway.) Other than speeding tickets, I stay on the right side of the police. I don’t drive all that safely, it’s true.
Although I’m not a believer I find myself cheating and making deals with some higher power just in case—take them away and I’ll give more to your favorite charity. Just let me know what it is —and would You hold it against me if I get airline points on VISA?
I’ve been pretty much wallowing in Stage Four, Depression, since this all began and I don’t think I can possibly get to Number Five, which is Acceptance. What would it look like anyway?
I can’t knit for them. I don’t have needles that small. And there are so many of them, it’s a daunting job, worse than hunting them at night. Maybe more relaxing than living with all this anger, though…
I can’t see getting little leashes for them and taking them for walks—people would see that.
Having favorites, rooting for them in their little races? I can’t yet tell them apart. And then grieving if one of them dies? Not killing one on sight? I can’t imagine that…at least not yet. After all. I’m still really not out of Stages 3 and 4.
I could shop and cook for them. They do seem to like my leftovers.
No, my best idea so far is tricking them into thinking we love them, then leading them into the dinghy on the pretense of an evening outing… I can almost imagine the long, orange-brown, leggy parade through the boat now.
And then drowning them.