Our friends in and out of the sailing community are often surprised to find that we typically don’t stay in one place more than one night. “Why the rush?!” they ask. It’s a question we debate regularly, and I’ll admit our fast pace can make the cruising life a bit stressful at times. I’m sure this fast pace leads our European neighbors to box us right into the American stereotype of working one’s self to the bone., but there is so much to see. They don’t call the Great Lakes “great” for no reason. And the Mediterranean, well, let’s just say that it’s a massive body of water, steeped in history that puts our American history timeline to shame. Our original plan was to cruise the Med for two seasons – the first would be in the western portion, and the second in the eastern. With half of our first summer already in the bag, there was plenty more to see before we checked the box in the West.
But whoa … hold on American cowboy! Are we done with the island adventures of Sardinia and Corsica? Not yet! It was time for a second helping of island exploring.
I came into this sailing adventure knowing very little about Corsica, and even less about Sardinia. There are a few things that a Southern California upbringing lack, and an appreciation of history is one of them, especially when it involves land masses halfway around the globe. So, you’ll need to excuse me if I gloat over these substantial Mediterranean islands. Even as adults, we didn’t know what to expect when we sailed across from the French mainland. It wasn’t for lack of intel. We had so many cruising and travel guides of this area, I was afraid Sea Rose might list over and capsize. Though my appetite for history has grown leaps and bounds since grade school, travel books don’t always do a place justice, or captivate you enough in the evening after a long day on the water. You have to get right up close for an immersive, sensual experience to really get drawn in. This certainly describes our experience when we made our Corsica landfall at Galeria. And that was quickly followed by the sights, sounds and scents that are Sardinia. We just needed to rescue a few travel mates from the airport first!
Before we left the U.S. to start our summer adventure onboard Sea Rose, we had several friends express an interest in joining us. Karen and I were of course thrilled about the strong interest, but we had to chuckle a bit. Just a year prior, while we were cruising through the Great Lakes of the U.S., we got very few takers. Apparently, a transatlantic flight, foreign language, and jet lag was not enough to dissuade people from an opportunity to sail in the Mediterranean. That said, if you have the chance to navigate the Erie Canal or sail the Great Lakes, you should really accept the offer. It is a fabulous and under-appreciated sailing destination. Check out our YouTube series “Sailing into the American Heartland” for more details.
Our longtime friend Emmy was quick to sign on as a guest, booking her ticket to France months ahead, showing us she was not leaving anything to chance! We had mapped out a rough itinerary for the summer and there were various legs that were either coastal hopping or offshore crossings. To our surprise, Emmy was intrigued by the idea of an offshore crossing, especially if it involved an overnight experience. As we settled into our new boat and finished cruising the Balearics, it became clear that we would be doing a longer passage from the French mainland over to the northwest coast of Corsica. This is roughly a 100 nm trip. We had done several similar length crossings – namely to cross over from Spain to Mallorca and return back from Menorca – and for both of those trips we left before sunrise and arrived before dusk to try to avoid a complete overnight trip.
Unlike the isolation and jagged cliff landscape of Mallorca’s north coast, the eastern side of the island is peppered with small calas and a sprinkling of little villages providing beautiful beach access to island visitors. There are steep cliffs here – Mother Nature’s forceful hand toiled on this island as it did on so many others in the area – but these cliffs are in the 100 foot high range, not thousands of feet like the north coast. We were needing a little village scene, after being the only boat anchored out in the northerly harbors. With this goal, we headed around Mallorca’s northern tip, Cabo de Formentor, and found a vigorous breeze on our beam, sending us down the eastern side with determination.
When people think of the French Riviera, I can bet they don’t think of a place like Canet-en-Roussillon. This little coastal hamlet is tucked away in the very southern extreme of France’s Mediterranean coastline, practically on the door step of Spain. Indeed, for awhile it was part of the Catalan region. Canet has its expansive beaches, but it’s devoid of the glitz and glam, the flashy big super yachts, and the well heeled sophisticate of the French Riviera. It’s the summer vacation choice of the everyday French family, and its port facility is where you come to roll up your sleeves and get work done.
With our circumnavigation of France halfway completed, we headed east from the coastal Normandy region to check out the eastern portion of the country. On the way, one passes nearby the countryside village of Giverny, most famous as the residence of Claude Monet. Giverny is where Monet spent the last 40 years of his life. He built out a substantial studio at his residence, and planted expansive flower gardens, followed later by an Oriental style floating garden across the street. These grounds become the subject matter of many of his most famous Impressionist paintings. Today, you can tour his home and studio, and stroll through the flower gardens and past the flowing streams and ponds, all of which lead to a visual sensory overload. For sure it is an SD-card busting experience. Continue reading “Around and Round We Go, Round Two, Ep. 95”
If you rent a car to explore France, like we did, you’ll need to get up close and personal with roundabouts. The French, and I suspect a lot of other Europeans, love these quintessential urban infrastructure anachronisms. On the one hand, they are highly efficient traffic cops, shepherding cars to their next exit without delay. On the other hand, they are technology-free, minimalist designs that could easily have existing hundred of years ago, and in fact they did, making your driving experience a true journey back through the centuries.
For some reason, Karen and I had never, collectively or on our own, ever visited France. Maybe it was my high school language choice of German (which didn’t get me too far in Germany!), or our leaning towards warm, tropical get aways. I must admit that after hearing several friends come home from France and report that the French were tough on those that didn’t know the language made this foreign language neophyte especially hesitant!
We are inching closer to the launch of our new boat, Sea Rose, with every day filled with to do lists – the kind that shrink one moment, and grow the next! Our boat is a couple weeks off schedule on it’s delivery and commissioning in Canet-en-Roussillon, but that’s a blessing in disguise, as we try to get all of our ducks in a row before the big splash. It took us over ten years of tweaks here and there to get Thalia to where we needed her for long-distance cruising, and while we are bringing that school-of-hard-knocks experience to bear with the commissioning of Sea Rose, it still feels like cramming many years of boat improvements into one Spring launch.
Spring is coming tomorrow, and we all know what follows Spring. So, in the anticipation of warm, Summer days filled with boats and barbecues and beaches, I thought I’d share the recipe for my feel-good Kale shake. Check it out on YouTube. Also, you could consider it a belated St Patrick’s Day beverage (or tonic?).
Do you have a special Kale shake, or other favorite nutritious drink? Add your comments here on our blog or directly on the YouTube video. Go Green!