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The past week has been filled with extremes for me.  First, I have been experiencing quite a bit of pain.  At times, the pain has been rather extreme.  Having said that, it has been a wonderful week.  “Hmmm” you are probably thinking.  “How can he have a week of pain that has been wonderful?”  A fair question, and the answer is inter-related.

For the past week, I have been onboard the Seabourn Legend cruising the Mediterranean (which was the wonderful part).  The pain has been a result of the fact that whilst onboard, I partook in some Yoga and Pilates classes.  Actually, the first day I signed up for an onboard Yoga class (the only Yoga virgin in the group); which was followed the second day by a Pilates class (again, being the only Pilates virgin in the room).  By day three, I had signed up to have the Yoga/Pilates teacher give me one-on-one instruction for the rest of the trip.  But enough of the painful part of the trip; you might be more interested in the ‘wonderful’ aspects of the cruise.

Addy, Gilly, Gillian and I decided that a little holiday break might be a good thing, so we all met in Villefranche-sur-Mer (France) and after two days, took a car to Monte Carlo to begin the little holiday.  For all of us, it was admittedly a ‘neighbourhood cruise,’ as the itinerary was Monte Carlo to St. Tropez to Antibes to St. Raphael to Mahon (Menorca) to Palma de Mallorca to Valencia to Barcelona.

Thursday-Saturday: Villefranche-sur-Mer is one of my favourite places, not only in France, but probably anywhere on this little planet we all inhabit.  Having a hotel right on the harbour made the stay there even more enjoyable.  The opening scenes of the movie “Jewel of the Nile’’ were filmed in Villefranche, and from our rooms, the views of the harbour were spectacular.  After two days, it was time to get to Monte Carlo to begin the cruise so we all piled into a taxi and drove the 6 kilometres along the coast road to the principality.  After checking in on the Legend, we all settled in and at about 1800, we set sail.

Outside of the itinerary – neither Addy nor I were too keen on having to travel any great distance to have a holiday – the main reason that we had chosen the Legend was that it is a very small cruise ship.  The typical cruise liners that are plying the seas these days have two to three thousand passengers, and the Legend only holds 220 guests (on this cruise, there were only 208 of us). 

Sunday: The planned itinerary was for day one to sail to the Poquerolles (a small group of islands off the Cote-de-Azure) but due to some foul weather, the Captain announced that we would instead sail to St. Tropez.  No, we didn’t see Brigitte Bardot, but St. Tropez is a pretty buzzing place, and well worth the visit.  Lots of trendy little shops, and a fab harbour. 

Monday:  We arrived at Antibes shortly before 0800 and we went to shore.  One of the joys of the Legend is the fact that, due to its size, we were able to anchor quite close to shore.

Tuesday:  If you look on a map, you will see that St. Raphael really isn’t that far from Antibes, but the Captain managed to sail the 53 kilometres in only 9 hours (note the sarcasm here as if there was a walk-path, you could have arrived in the same time on foot). 

Wednesday:  Even though Menorca is a short hop from Mallorca (the largest of the Balearics), I had never been there before, so this was going to be a treat.  After winding our way deep through the harbour (one of the most secluded natural harbours in the world) we tied up at one of the cruise-ship quays.

Thursday:  This stop was pretty anti-climatic for me.  Have no doubt, Palma de Mallorca is a very special place, but shoot, I live here.  Clearly (at least in my mind), there was no reason to get off the ship and explore the city.  I had, however, received a phone message from the Marina where I first kept Angelina when I moved to Mallorca.  The message was a bit intriguing – ‘James, we have received a letter in the post that was sent to you here.’  As I haven’t lived there in six or seven years, this was incredibly intriguing, so we walked to the Marina, only to find that the letter was in reality a Christmas card that had been postmarked 22 December 2008.  So much for the postal service.  So back to the Legend for another day in the sun sipping cranberry and orange juice (mixed together, of course).

Friday: Valencia is the home of the European Formula 1 Grand Prix, and the Legend tied up next to a section of the racetrack that winds through city streets along the harbour.  When I say ‘next to,’ I mean next to.  As the actual race was this weekend, all the teams were there practising, and the howl of Formula 1 cars screaming past the ship was fabulous.  After watching the cars go whizzing past for a couple of hours, we dis-embarked long enough to walk to turn 8 of the track and stood about six meters from the corner.  (I am sure my hearing will return in several weeks)  If you like Formula 1 racing, it was a pretty special thing to be a part of.

Saturday:  The Legend eased into Barcelona just before 0800 and after breakfast, it was time to pack up and leave the ship.  Returning to Barcelona was pretty special as I had spent several years living there onboard Angelina, but there was no reason to spend any time there.  I knew that in a few hours, I would once again be in Mallorca and on Amélie very soon.  For the first time, having a voyage finish wasn’t a bad thing.

Overall, this little holiday was fabulous.  Great weather (after we left France), an incredible environment onboard (the staff ratio to passengers was almost 1:1), good friends…a very good holiday. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the food onboard.  I had cruised the Caribbean quite a bit in an earlier lifetime, but those cruises were all on monster-sized boats.  Because of that, the food, whilst pretty great, was produced in such quantity that it rarely gave you the sense that it was prepared for you.  The Legend was quite a bit different.  With several dining areas (a large restaurant, a stern veranda restaurant, and even dinner on the main deck), the choices and menus were quite spectacular. The only disappointment was one night when we chose to eat in the main restaurant.  This evening’s menu was billed as the specialities of the Head Chef, but his ‘specialities’ clearly missed the mark with everyone we spoke to afterwards.  Having said that, the breakfasts and lunches were un-matched each day.

I think that one of the reasons I liked the Seabourn Legend, outside of the brilliant ambiance and service, was that there were so many comparisons to Amélie. My boat holds a little over 1,000 litres of diesel fuel; the Legend holds 1.34 million litres. A good thing when it is time to fill the fuel tanks I guess. Legend has a crew of 197 people; Amélie has…well, me.  Not a good thing when it is time to scrub the decks I think.  Legend, when full, generates about 900,000 USD per week of income for the owners.  Amélie…well, let’s just skip the comparisons, okay?  Having said that, just being onboard sent my mind reeling backwards a few years to the voyage I took with a group of grad and post-grad students from Lisbon to Panama.  If you haven't done anything like this, it is pretty hard to explain, but the lure of the sea is so very special.  Just being on a ship (or boat of almost any size) must run through my DNA somehow. 

Perhaps it would be better to write a bit more about the pain part of the cruise.  I have known for some time that I could probably be in better shape, and have been desperately working each day to stretch enough so my body doesn’t creak too much.  So when I found out about the Yoga and Pliates options on the ship, I thought I should give it a go.  After the first two days of actual classes, I was becoming addicted to it all, so I signed up for the personal coaching offer.  The onboard guru-ette was pretty incredible.  It didn’t take her long to put together a regime of Pilates actions-moves-postures-stuff (pick anyone that you think is accurate) that she said would be very helpful for me.  And even though Jacqui’s talents were on a par with Dr. Mengele for inducing pain, every day I became more and more addicted to the programme.  Of course, my challenge now will be to continue to practise what I was taught, which I plan on doing (as soon as I can remember how to keep my center strong whilst at the same time, not breaking anything....and get to the chemists to buy more Ibuprofen).

 

this chapter's somewhat irrelevant  Sol y Mar photo

Villefranche-sur-Mer

the Seabourn Legend

the planned itinerary of the Seabourn Legend

a very tempting patisserie in St. Tropez

an evening at sea

an on-deck dinner evening

a vista from the harbour in Mahon

Addy and I solving the world's problems

 

the front courtyard of Sol y Mar upon my return home

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copyright 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, James B. Rieley

jbrieley@rieley.com