Sunday, October 4, 2015

Mediterranean Cruise - Days 1 & 2

Today, we woke at 5 am to leave the Renaissance Paris Vendome by 6am.  We used the metro to transfer over to RER trains to go to the airport.  We did great on the Paris metro, learning that "sortie" means exit in French.  Today, however, we boarded a train going to wrong way.  We mildly panicked, but got off the train only 1 stop down the wrong-way line, turned around, and got on the right train.  ,:) Whew!

Even with our wrong turn, we still made it to the airport at right around 7 am.  We worked our way through security and to our gate.  This flight left at 10am, and landed in Barcelona, Spain shortly after 11am.  We had ABSOLUTELY no wiggle room in the schedule, as the ship sails from port at 4pm and the last airport to ship transfer left the airport at 2pm.  With a few showers in the Charles de Gaulle area, we prayed for no delays.

The flight went off without incident, even with a 10 minute holding pattern we were put in over Barcelona due to air traffic.  We made it in plenty of time.  We picked up our checked bags, then easily found our transfer just outside of baggage claim.  We rode a motor coach to the Port de Barcelona, and were dropped off right at the Holland America Cruise terminal.  It was unfortunate we didn't get to see any of Barcelona, will have to save that for another trip...

We boarded without incident, learning that the ship was fully booked and on schedule.  We had booked an interior stateroom, and though we hoped for a magical upgrade, none was to be had.  Oh well, don't plan on spending that much time in the room anyway!

We dropped our bags off in our staterooms and explored the ship, picking up a late lunch at the 9th floor Lido buffet.  The Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam is a 5 year old ship with a capacity of 2100 guests.  It has 11 floors.  Our stateroom was on the 7th floor, near the middle/back of the ship, room 7096.

We had the mandatory safety boat gathering, and then we sat on deck and watched Barcelona fade away into the distance.

Adios, Barcelona!  We saw many other cruise ships at port, including the HUGE Allure of the Seas (Royal Caribbean), which to compare - has a capacity of 6300 passengers!

Relaxing at last!!!  AAAHHH. 

I'm pretty sure he was trying to nap when I wanted a photo.

After Barcelona faded out of sight, we unpacked a bit, decided to sign up for unlimited laundry so we could relax and not be washing clothes in the sink (I agreed to forfeit alcoholic drinks, it was that important to me!), and then we ate a nice dinner in the main restaurant.  At this meal, I aspirated on a roasted cherry tomato.  Consequences forthcoming.

Our first sunset.  A serene setting.

The next morning, we were still sailing toward our first port of call, St. Tropez, France.  Chris had meetings in the morning, so I got up and ate breakfast early at the buffet and read a book.  I was beginning to not feel so well, so I went back to the stateroom to sleep a little longer.  I woke up before lunch, and met Chris in the Lido for a quick lunch before our first excursion: Tastes of Provence.

The large ship couldn't pull into the small port at St. Tropez, so we dropped anchor in the harbor and "tendered" people to shore using 3 lifeboats.  A small dock folded out of the hold of the ship, and we walked out a door and stepped onto the lifeboats, which would hold 85-100 people each. 

A loaded tender headed for shore.
After making it to shore, we got on a motor coach and drove around quaint St. Tropez, which is small, about 6,000 permanent residents.  We drove by huge olive trees; our guide told us that the trees trunks grow 1 cm a year, so many of the trees we saw were centuries old.

The climate surprised me, was more rocky and dry soil than I expected for the famed Provence area.  We drove up to a tiny hilltop village called Gassin.  It was very old and picture perfect.

Here, we learned a bit about the products of the region: wine, olives, and lavender.  I bought a sachet and soap from a nearby vendor.  

They grew like weeds here.  Sometimes it looked like people planted grapes on trellises above their patios just for shade.

The views from this hilltop village were amazing.

Really like this photo!

The tree in the foreground is an olive.  They were easy to distinguish from their greyish green leaves.

Next, we drove to a nearby winery, Bertaud Belieu, where we saw how the process works and were allowed to taste three wines that they produced there: white, rose and red.  The rose wines are distinctive for the area, and it was our favorite.

Tasting.  A fun day.
We bought a sparkling wine to take back to the ship, corkerage free.  We re-boarded (using the tenders again), and ate dinner in the main restaurant.  We rested in the room for a while and then decided to go to the evening comedy show, which was just alright.  By then, I was beginning to feel pretty bad, so I just went to sleep, hoping I would feel better in the morning.

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