Thursday, November 5, 2015

Day Eight on My Great Viking Adventure Part 2: Florence, David and the Selfie Stick

David, 500 year old hunk
         Initially, I’d signed up for a tour that took its participants into the countryside where we’d tour a winery and make ‘afternoon snacks’ called ‘marende’.  Now I lived in Italy and have gone there several times afterwards and I have never had nor heard of marende.  Could  this be some Italian cultural shift?  Were the Italians now following America’s lead, and its enormous weight gain, by snacking away between meals?  Should I take this tour if only to discover this lamentable development?  Hell no, I thought. Not when the alternative was an all-day trip to the Renaissance Capital of Culture, Art, Sculpture, Architecture and beauty, the jewel of Tuscany, Firenze. So I cancelled my afternoon snack tour and signed up for Viking’s Art and Architecture itinerary.  

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Day Seven of My Great Viking Adventure Part 2: Putting the Monte in Monte Carlo

The smallest yachts in Monte Carlo.  The larger ones would fill the frame.
         There’s something magical about just saying “I’m spending the day in Monte Carlo".  This postage stamp Principality, which is actually the size of Central Park, simply reeks of money. Towering apartments shoot upwards.  And everywhere you look there are yachts the size small cruise ships. Even now, with the “Season” at its end, the harbor is still packed with mega boats, some of the largest I have ever seen. Many of them would never even fit into the harbor at Gustavia in St. Barth which is where I generally see enormous boats tied up along the quai.  There are the Rolls and the Bentleys, the stores that close when preferred customers show up and the prices of absolutely everything are guaranteed to make a mere millionaire blush.  A walk through the market features flowers costing twice what they did in Toulon just yesterday. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Day Six of My Great Viking Adventure Part 2: Provence...and not the one of Québec

Sanary-Sur-Mer,  Picture Postcard Perfect 
         Today we visited the town of Toulon, the headquarters of the French Navy, the departure port for ferries to Corsica and Sardinia and a perfect jumping off spot to the magical places of southern Provence.  Every Viking cruise, whether on rivers or sea, offers a tour that’s included in your fare.  Then to satisfy the special interests of its passengers there are any number of optional excursions.  Today you could go as far as Aix en Provence, or tour Marseilles on your own.  Because I am taking this trip to create articles for The Daily Meal, all of the excursions I’ve chosen are food and wine oriented.  Today’s was no exception.  Off I went with about 25 other passengers to two stops:  the fishing village of Sanary-Sur-Mer and the tiny town of La Castellet, in the heart of the wine country of Bandol.  Viking guides are always locals, people who know every idiosyncrasy of their home towns and the region surrounding them.  Today, a very pretty Frenchwoman named Audré was ours. To me, her wonderful French-accented English added so much to the charm of her commentary.  But some Americans, who make up about 90 oercent of the ship’s passengers, seem to feel that now that English is the lingua franca of the world, everyone speaking it should sound like they just graduated from Harvard.   Despite the frequency of “What she say?”s,  which only made it harder to hear Audré, she forged ahead sprinkling her talk with information about everything….from history to botany to fables, myths and mysteries of this incredibly scenic part of France. 

Day Five of My Great Viking Adventure Part 2: Cabin Fever

         One of the differences between Viking and virtually all other cruise lines is that each voyage allows its passengers to board the ship and stay in port that day and the next.  This allows its passengers time to explore the ship thoroughly and settle into their staterooms before she even sails.   And oh what staterooms!