Friday, May 26, 2017

Gay Paree

Fine dining, high fashion, art, rich cultured history, and old world architecture provides a romance that makes Paris a special place! This is where we made a short 3-day stopover on our way back to Canada for a year-long sabbatical from sailing.

Our AirBNB flat was in close proximity to the most popular sites which made it possible for us to walk to them all. With parks, riverside walkways, sidewalk cafes, and museums, Paris is a walkers' dream. As our stay was short we wanted to cram in as much as possible.

Our first day, we walked down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées which is 1.9 km/1.2 mi long. This most famous and most beautiful avenue in the world is lined with rows of London Plane trees, cafes, theatres, and upscale boutique shops of luxury. It stretches from the Arc de Triomphe to the Jardin des Tuileries and the Louvre that site along the Seine River.

Champs-Élysées from Arc de Triomphe, looking towards Louvre

Of course we visited the Musée du Louvre, the largest (15 acres in size) and arguably the most famous museum in the world. Within its walls, the Museum is filled with more than 380,000 objects including sculptures, drawings, and about 38,000 paintings by famous artists including the famous Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. Did you know that the Mona Lisa is quite small (53x77 cm/21x30 in) and is displayed behind bulletproof glass and a roped off area, keeping you at an untouchable distance for viewing. But many others are whopping big!

Grand art by an old master

Wreck of the Medusa

The magnificence of the Museum's treasures are equalled by the fabulous building that houses them where paintings and frescoes are displayed on a pallet of the most splendid architecture.

A roof canvas

The building has served both as a fortress in 1190 and a palace in the 16th century, undergoing numerous reconstructions, additions, deletions, etc. to the present day. The modern and controversial addition that serves as the entry for the thousands of visitors is the glaring glass pyramid.

Musée du Louvre (photo from web)

During our visit to the Louvre, we inquired about the lack of impressionists' art and were informed that they were to be seen at the Musée d'Orsay. So that became our next art museum venue. There we saw pieces such as Monets, Renoirs, etc. and post-impressionists Cezannes, van Goghs, Gauguins, etc. We were surprised and pleased to see paintings by our hometown famous artist, Emily Carr, as well as other landscape painters of the Group of Seven.

A leisurely stroll from the Louvre along the banks of the Seine brought us to the famous gothic architecture of the Notre Dame Cathedral. Our expectations however were dampened by the dreary interior and the exterior that showed the effects of unchecked erosion.

We didn't see the hunchback!

The Eiffel Tower, in spite of the many tourists and in contrast to Notre Dame, was grander than we expected. At 81 stories tall, we had stomach butterflies as the elevator ascended to the peak. Perfect weather presented us a spectacular view below that stretched over the city for miles. With a thrilling nervousness, we walked the perimeter and peeked into Gustav Eiffel's cozy and romantic private apartment, complete with mannequins of himself and Thomas Edison. (Eiffel never allowed anyone to stay in his apartment, even turning down offers of huge sums of money.)

Needs no description

Best view in Paris

At the western end of the Champs-Élysées stands the iconic Arc de Triomphe. It was ordered constructed by Napoleon as an honour to his soldiers returning from war. We climbed the many interior stairs to the top for the photo op looking down the grand Avenue. At the base also lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with a memorial flame lit everyday at 18:30.

The Arc - hub of splendid avenues

A visit to Paris would be incomplete without strolling the alleys and avenues amongst rich architecture and lounging at the ubiquitous sidewalk cafes sampling the authentic French cuisine while watching the world pass by.

Sidewalk cafes

Large cities are not our favourite places but we can make an exception with Gay Paree (Joyful Paris).

Sunday, May 14, 2017

GREECE - here we come

Once we exited the Suez Canal, our first Med experience was a forest of objects to negotiate. For the first 10 hours, we closely watched our chart screen as a plethora of AIS targets moved about and kept a visual vigilance as we crossed paths with ships, tugs, oil rigs, and various other seafaring traffic.

Rush hour traffic

There was virtually no wind so it was mostly motoring on an uneventful passage northwest to the Greek Island of Rhodes (aka Rhodos, Rodos). To time an early morning arrival to the main port, we lay ahull for 6 hours about 15 nautical miles out.

Marking the entrance to the beautiful historic Mandraki Harbour is the old fortress of St. Nicholas. This harbour is famous because it is believed that the great statue of Colossus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, once stood at the harbour entrance. Now the entrance is 'guarded' by the heraldic symbols of Rhodes - a bronze stag and a doe standing tall on 2 separate pillars on each side of the entry.

St. Nicholas on the point

In the harbour, which is right in front of the City of Rhodes, were many boats Med-moored (stern to the seawall) from ultra luxury yachts to tourist boats. We were greeted by George who directed us to tie up to the seawall instead of attempting a Med-mooring, a tricky manoeuvre that we were not willing to attempt in the breeze and given that Sea Turtle doesn't like to back up in a controlled manner (N36°27.004' E028°13.537'). This was a perfect spot on the City side of the harbour, directly across from a pleasantly busy downtown centre of Rhodes City.

We completed all check-in procedures, except providing the required proof of boat insurance which we still did not have. We had a heck of a time finding coverage. Insurance companies we contacted would either say they didn't insure Canadian boats or they wanted a survey or simply didn't respond to our emails! But we finally got the basic insurance according to the Greek requirements.

The charm of Rhodes founded in 408 BC is the old fortified town behind fortress walls with a rich centuries old medieval history of Knights and trade. Seven gates in the fortified walls provide access to a maze of over 200 narrow streets and alleyways. Much of the old buildings have been restored and now quaint shops, bars, and eateries cater to the tourist crowds. (This is a different fortress than Fort St. Nicholas.)

Two by two

Inside Old Town

The new City outside of the Old Town is also a delight of sidewalk cafes and shops where one can stroll away the day. We have enjoyed many of their infamous Greek salads, delicious calamari, and pastries to die for.

What a difference to be in the clean developed country of Greece with all amenities available. We have found Rhodes to be very beautiful and with friendly and helpful people. One day we rented a scooter and rode halfway around this charming island.

Island hotel

As Sea Turtle desperately needs bottom paint, we moved her to the Nereus Boatyard around in the next harbour on May 5th (N36°26.476' E028°14.174').

Like a fish out of water

And then our plans suddenly changed. We needed to return home to Canada to help with aging parents, attend to some incidental health issues, and make some real estate changes. This would take more than a couple of months and as we don't want to winter in Greece, it would be a year away from Sea Turtle, returning at the start of the best time of year to cruise the Med.

We are now putting Sea Turtle to bed and then on May 23rd we catch our flight home, making a 3-day stopover in Paris!