|Pena Castle, Sintra, Portugal|
In the light of the current political situation, I was afraid we were going to have to apologize for being American. Amazingly, all the folks we met - Americans, Europeans, Africans, Asians, Indonesians, etc. - were friendly, kind, interested and interesting. We were able to learn about the history of the cities and towns we visited, sparking our imagination and memories of what we had learned in school so many years ago. We ate delicious local food, drank beautiful local wines. Visited historic sites. Talked to people.
More after the jump...
There were moments of sheer perfection.
On the island of Mallorca, we visited two wineries, one new - 3rd generation wine making at Mesquida-Mora - and one old - 13 generations at Bodegas Ribas! And still family-owned. Our lunch at Bodegas Ribas on the patio, shaded by huge, old trees, was rustic and tasty. Truly, there is nothing better than sitting at table with diverse folks, drinking great wine, sharing local foods, and getting to know each other.
Our excursion to the ancient town of Bolgheri included a tasting of regional Italian wines, and locally-made olive oils. We stood under a 300-year-old oak tree, overlooking the vineyards of Ornellaia that rolled down to the sea. It felt oddly like California. And yet, not. Beautiful. Timeless. Lunch at Ornellaia was overwhelming, delicious, silly, wonderful. And included a huge, fast-moving thunderstorm, complete with hail.
|JD in Rome|
It was astonishing to see the huge, expensive yachts in the harbors of San Tropez and Monte Carlo. Someone told me these yachts are for rent, costing up to $200,000 per week. Very James Bond.
From Lisbon to Rome, we found ourselves in lively discussions, rarely about politics; mainly about passion, food, wine, art, history. People shared their "origin" stories; how they met their partners, what they cared about, where they had traveled. The staff/crew on the beautiful ship, our floating hotel, were from all over the world, and while the work was hard on board, it provided them a way to see the world and support their families. On the way to Rome, our driver told us he liked the Golden State Warriors, but his son preferred the Cavaliers!
It was gratifying to be addressed as 'sir' and 'madam' as opposed to 'you guys', but the microcosmic world of a cruise ship offers an unsettling class consciousness that is not as obvious as the more usual hospitality industry service. I'm still processing why it felt so weird to me.
Travel opens the mind and heart. People are the same all over the world. We all want the same things. Meeting face to face, sharing experiences, discovering our similarities - and differences. What a privilege it is to be able to travel.
Cruising, as wonderful as it was, is not the way I want to travel. I want to have more than one day in a town. I want to explore without the urgency of having to get back to the ship. I don't want to rush the experience.
Now I'm hungry to travel again. Bon appetit!
|The view at Ornellaia, Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy|