Let the App be with you

One of the highlights of travelling with an iPad is the use of Google translate with the iPad being passed back and forth so your conversation can be read if they can’t understand your Italian.  This worked remarkably well with the Douane (Customs) in Imperia.

Vittorio Emanuele, Rome

Over the last few days we have downloaded Katie Parla’s Rome, an app about finding food in Rome.  Today we took it for a trial run.  We went to see a store, Spazio Sette, in a part of town we hadn’t been to.  It was quite a walk from the train station as we when we walked out, we typed in coffee and right around the corner was a wonderful traditional Italian coffee shop, Caffe Camerino. In the cool old traditional space, we enjoyed our Lattes.

A Glimpse into a Courtyard

We walked over the Tiber River to Trastevere and passed by a very old house with the name Dante’s house on a plaque.  We strolled on viewing very old working class neighbourhoods. Eventually, we jumped on the tram which took us back to Argentina, near our starting point.   We had typed in Creative and Ecletic for lunch and Parla’s app sent us to Roscioli at the Centro Storico (historic centre) for lunch.  The food was rich and perfectly cooked, Roscioli’s is a deli and wine bar and has tables so you can enjoy the food and wine right there. You might get the impression of  casual dining as it’s in the deli, but the  napkins and tablecloths were linen and the service was professional.

Roscioli's Deli and Restaurant

While we were waiting for our food, a very dapper gentleman came in and had a glass of wine, while he ordered and waited for his prociutto and burata to be packaged up. He watched as the prociutto was expertly and finely sliced.  Norton Street deli sales would go up phenomenally if you could have a glass of sangiovese while you waited.

We proceeded to Villa Farnese, thinking we would be going to a museum with perhaps a garden, so we could escape the heat.  It is now the French embassy, so we sat in the square and watched a lovely girl feed her bread to the pigeons; a very Roman scene.

Even without an App, it is easy to get a great cup of coffee, which you need to keep moving up and down these cobbled stone paved streets, shared with motorcycles that sound like a swarm of mosquitoes and dodging taxis. Just when we thought collapse was emminent, we found a perfect cafe and sat and people watched.  We tried to figure out were we were but we miscalculated, now it would be hard to find it again. Somewhere close to Parliment, we think.


Livorno and road trips to Lucca and Pisa

Ciao Bellas,

After all the beauty of the Cinque Terre, we eventually made our way to our next port, Livorno. After the wonderful berth at Mirabello, Livorno was industrial, rough and mainly rocky and rolly. Every kind of ferry and cruise ship comes into Livorno, aka Leghorn, as well as fishermen and small boat pleasure craft. The marina staff were very nice but this would be a marina to miss, next time.

Livorno wasn’t without its excitement, shortly after we berthed another yacht came in without an engine. The neighboring yachts had crew trying to toss lines across but the exhausted owner was having trouble and it’s hard to give instruction or manage your line when you use your hands to make a point. The words and the hands were working triple time and finally …success and they managed to get the yacht in.  The instant replays began on the dock, thanks were given and bonhomie was enjoyed by all involved.

We were lucky, about 11:30 pm the wash stopped and we were able to sleep until about 5:00am the next day. We left and in a very short time landed at the beautiful fairly new Marina Cala de Medici. In a heartbeat, we secured the yacht and walkied 2 kms to the train station and we were on our way to Lucca.

Lucca Street

Lucca has seen people of the millenia, Etruscans, Romans, Lombards and is very famous for being enclosed in its medival wall.  There are several beautiful  Piazzas, narrow streets, lovely churches and two towers. We walked the up the 207 stairs of the watch tower, in a very narrow confine  on a very hot day.  You can tell who the view junkies are, they are the ones climbing up these hundreds of stairs.  Luckily for us, not only views but incredible breezes over the town made the trip up the pigeon infested bird tower worthwhile.

View from the Tower

Monday we went to the local Coop and provisioned for the next week on Mercier. Then we went back to catch the train into Pisa. The train schedule was different to the one posted online, so we had lunch at Rosignano, a piece of bruschetta each, four euros. Did we mention how cheap food is here?

The trains are mainly airconditioned, mainly on time and very comfortable but trying to work out the schedule seems to be beyond us.   Once in Pisa, we had read about the Red or Rosso bus which will take you to the Tower, Museums, Duomo in Miracolli Piazza. The buildings are beautiful and the area is small and 98.9% of tourists, all taking photos of each other holding the tower up. In groups or with their one finger, but every photo seems to be of the Leaning Tower, oh, except one.  In the Duomo, a lady of a certain age was doing a fully lean on the column tussled hair sexy pose, in the church.

The Icon
Piazza dei Miracoli

Today we are off to Elba – a Tuscan Island, we’ll talk more then.


James and Gaila

Cinque Terre – Aquatic & Terrestial

Thursday we left Santa Margherita and sailed out the harbour to pass several hours and 20 miles to reach some of the most amazing villages we have seen from the water.  Cinque Terre is an Italian National Park and spans through 5 villages: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. The villages were accessible only by boat for many years and so have been protected and have remained unchanged over centuries.

We would slow down as we came to a village and get as close as we could to the rocky shore, take a few photos and then go onto to the next.

At Vernazza, we stopped and had lunch and then a swim in the 26C degree water. Mercier is the best yacht we have been on for having a quick or a leisurely swim off the stern.

Our Lunchtime view at Vernazza

On Thursday night we went to the best restaurant in town where normally bookings  are mandatory, however, the restaurant was almost deserted as Italy was playing Germany in the semi final of the Euro Cup 2012. It was quite obvious who the winners were, with car and ship horns blaring at full time.

On Friday we visited each of the villages by land and each one has a different look and feel, with most of them having gardens and vineyards going up the hills behind them in terraces. Pastel houses on verdant hills against bright blue water and sheer slate grey cliffs.

The Beach at Monterosso

Two of the villages had massive damage on the 25th October 2012, when flood waters from the steep hills behind coursed straight thru buildings and into the sea. Some of the trails are still are closed, but the resilience of the people of the Cinque Terre shines through and many businesses are rebuilding or back to normal.

Mudslide Aftermath

We finished the day’s travels at Porto Venere – another town nearby with lots of history. The town flag is the flag of St George (the English flag).

Porto Venere

Hope you are all well, ciao bella  James and Gaila

PS: Happy Birthday to Matt and Adelaide, whose grandparents might be reading this and pass them our birthday greetings. Also Simon Jenkins and Ivan Wheen, we had a little drink to you on your birthdays. Hope you had great days.


Buongiorno Liguria

Success today, so we are sitting on a rocky shore, inches from the water with a balmy sea breeze and a feeling of relief. Relief that comes from spending the entire morning with lovely Italian customs and having completed all the formalities, & having all the correct paperwork in our hands. We feel like students that have received the coveted gold star. Va bene!

Italian documentation

We departed Menton on Saturday morning and motored twelve miles to Sanremo. It was a picturesque coastline and lovely on the water. We moored amongst the huge motor yachts at Porto Sole.  We went for a walk and thought since it was Saturday afternoon and all the shops were locked up, it would make for a very quiet weekend.  We strolled on looking for the lone gelato shop that might be open and stumbled onto Via Matteotti. We were in the lively quarter of San Remo and far from being a deserted town, we got the last table at Caffe Ducale and sat and watched San Remo go by.The activity was amazing and at least three generations were taking part.

San Remo

Sunday morning, we explored the old part of San Remo called La Pigna with the obligatory hundreds of stairs, but the view from the hill was spectacular. We then set sail for Imperia, had a very pleasant motor sail, again 12 miles.

We arrived at Imperia about 1.30, and decided that as it was Sunday, the port would probably be closed for lunch. We anchored for a swim in the 25 degree water, very refreshing until a jellyfish swam right by, James made a quick exit from the water and waited until all was clear until returning.


We then found a berth in the harbour, and went to the office and were advised that the annual feast of Sant Giovanni was going to take place in the adjoining town of Oneglia with fireworks later. We found ourselves in the square in front of the church where the parade of the Feast was getting prepared, with lots of colour, pomp & ceremony (and lots of statues being carried aloft). There were some firework explosions around 7.30 in the daylight, but we thought that would be it. But we were awoken from our slumbers at 11.30, with a full display.

Monday we accomplished the formalities described above, but arrived back at the boat to find quite a strong wind blowing and that the boat had scraped the dock a little. Someone had come aboard, attached an extra bow line, and put an extra fender on the stern in our absence. (Thank you to our good samaritan)  We were planning to move on to a new port, but the wind was coming from the direction we intended to travel, so once again our plans are modified by Huey.  Our gain, because Trip Advisor told us there was an utterly perfect restaurant – Nero Di Seppia, just over a kilometer away. We are off to dinner. Ciao Bella!

nero di seppia, by the sea


Visiting a boat yard, a courtyard and a castle

For the past few days, each day we have been working on the boat early in the day.  We have taken Mercier over to the Audax boat yard to be slipped for antifouling and on a sea trial to get the AIS working, swung the compass and calibrated the autopilot. The level of professional services has been extremely high here in Palma.  Tony, who is calibrating the navigation services with James in the photo below, was very helpful and exacting in getting all the nav services in good shape. Audax Boatyards were great, not only antifouling the boat but polishing the topsides and finished early, something not usually heard of in Spain.


Each afternoon, we have done some sightseeing, today was Castell de Bellver and the Old Town, yesterday it was to Portal Pi and some other sections of Palma. We are still doing a bit of provisioning for the boat and occasionally we find quite nice Tapas Bars, restaurants and markets.

We thought you might enjoy some of the photos. Hasta Mañana



And Then The Sun Came Out

Monday, we were hopeful of departing for Palma and left Bandol with high expectations.  The wind was about 20 knots and the seas were very choppy coming out of Bandol Harbour.  We thought it will calm down once we are outside, but no.  As we sailed out the winds moved up to 30 knots, then 35 knots as we sailed in the Gulf of Lion, which has a fierce reputation.  We decided its reputation was well deserved and went back to Bandol.  It wasn’t just the wind making the sail uncomfortable but very confused seas and a chill in the air to rival Tasmania’s.  Today was just to be seven hours of practice.

We came to an agreement – we leave on the next sunny day, which gave us two more days in wet and chilly Bandol.  Luckily, Bandol has wonderful restaurants and if the weather was wet and chilly, the wine certainly warmed us up.

Finally on Tuesday afternoon, the sun came out; we agreed that we would brave the Gulf of the Lion once more. We departed early on Wednesday morning.  This time it was manageable, Mercier sailed well in 20-25 knots, but the sea was still confused.  At one time, I could see waves approach the boat from three or four different directions. We were visited during the day and evening by dolphins who would ride the wave bow for awhile.  They didn’t mind the weather at all.

It was still bitterly cold, but Mercier was plowing through the waves on a reach and the Mercalm was managing the confused seas for Gaila.  By about 11pm the winds dropped and so did the sea, the boat was going well under autopilot and James stood watch for most of the night, with a few hours of respite from Gaila. James had a visit from a sea turtle

By the time we sighted Menorca the seas were flat and winds were light. It was great to sight land and it wasn’t too long before we were motor-sailing along the coast of Mallorca.  This was the Med of my dreams, azure blue seas sailing past rugged cliffs and lighthouses, viewing modern villages in the hill side.

We pulled into Porto Colom about 7:30PM and anchored just inside the harbour.  The waterside was active and we could hear dogs barking and see children playing along the harbour beaches.  The houses are a rich white against the blue skies, very picturesque.

We set sail at 7AM, the sea is a pane of glass.  It’s easy to see the 17 metrest to the bottom. We are motor sailing, as there is no wind. We are hoping to be in Palma for lunch.

Starting out

Well we bought a boat – a near new Beneteau Oceanis 41 which is hull number 1 of this series of boat – it has had a fair amount of use as it was used in the brochure, and has been to 4 or 5 boat shows. Getting down to the basics, it is amazing how much is required to start getting a new boat equipped. As this was a demo boat there were a number of things which still needed to be finished before we can set sail. We have spent the last 4 days in a village called La Seyne Sur Mer near Toulon which is a bit industrial, but still lots of boats here. We have to take the boat on a 2 day journey to Palma to have a few final details finished. Even before this we need to add a pallet of safety equipment and then there was the radar which had not been installed. Simon from the Sunbird dealership, is being very supportive, proactive and has helped us move through the list and get some faults corrected.  Watching them put up the radar in some very wild winds was nerve wracking but the team of people putting it together were very professional and also helpful with a few other items like getting the Mp3 to run through the sound system.

We are naming her, Mercier, which was Grandfather Merrington’s first yacht and being a French name, seemed to fit. We considered  Bandol Rose, but we think there may be a few boats with that name and tradition won the day.

Speaking of Bandol Rosee, the local wines are very tasty and light. If we are running errands around lunch time and just have a mineral water, the waiters are terribly despondent and can’t understand how we can have our lunch without the necessary libation.

We are making progress – can’t wait for the sail to Palma.


The Bucket List

When you are planning for a trip like this, there is so much to consider, where to go, what to see and how to get there.  We have a very open plan, inspired and informed by our Bucket list.  In the 80’s, we went through a series of five year plans.  Later we had a list of goals: personal, home and career; we have always had lists, especially shopping lists but now we rely on our Bucket List.

It’s the list of places we would like to visit, experiences of which to partake and adventures waiting in the wings for us.  The Bucket list is as much about the developing the plan as it is about savouring the experience.