Finally, on October 16, it was time for our shore excursion in Nice, out of Monte Carlo, Monaco. The weather report didn’t mention rain, so I left my raincoat in my stateroom. That was a mistake. It rained plenty. Most, but not all, of my people were smarter than their fearless leader. Our guide was excellent. She really knew her stuff. Her patter was right on point and we all learned a lot, even the likes of me, who has spent a month in a villa in Villefranche-sur-Mer.
Because we were so near the end of the cruise, I hurried back on board, finished the letter, had it printed, signed it and collated it with the Comments Cards. Then I ran it around the ship, so they all had them by 3:30pm.
I had one more treat for my own clients. I took them to the Yacht Club de Monaco, the snazziest Yacht Club in the World. It’s right across the harbor from our ship, and there’s a Bateau Bus to take you there for 2 euros. I took a little bottle of Elvon’s ashes with me and dropped them discreetly over the stern. I think he’ll like it there with the mega-yachts. Some of them are pretty unreal. Their owners doubtless belong to the YCM.
I presented my credentials, and letter of introduction, we toured the parts that were open, which, alas, included no restaurants, as 5:00pm is between lunch and dinner. The dining room opens at eight. So, we had a couple of drinks in the bar, overlooking the harbor, and saw a good few four figure outfits, on men and women. The most spectacular one must have been between $5,000 and $10,000. And it was in mustard yellow, which is only in style every thirty years or so.
We took the Bateau Bus back again for a 7:30pm dinner in the dining room.
On October 17, 2018, in Livorno, Italy, I met up with the Millers and Zahorkas a little after nine to go to Florence. Life threw us another 5 Euro port shuttle, and that would only get us to a taxi, which would get us to the train station. There were a few eight passenger taxis for hire there, that had permits to enter the port. We started negotiating and ended up back at 55 Euros, but it was door to door, no fuss. We got the deal by taking on a couple of other passengers, overflow from another van. They had relatives in the other van, who wanted to see Pisa, too, and we agreed to a very short stop there.
These two lovely couples wanted me for their travel agent, too, and I had to tell them I simply could not do that. They understood, but they were pretty persistent. Their Agency should be warned that they are very dissatisfied with the service they are getting.
My purpose in going to Florence was to meet up with Edgardo Pinto Guerra, one of Paul Terni’s Victoria School classmates. I knew him from our month near his home town, back in 2008 or so. Meeting up was a serious problem, as he had told me he would be at McDonalds, and there were three of them. Only one was actually in the station, though, so I stayed there. His train was to arrive an hour before mine, but of course, I wasn’t on the train. I arrived before his train was scheduled. I tried to phone him, but the number I had was his home, not his cell, and he hadn’t given me that. So I waited, and waited. His arrival time came and went. I wasn’t having fun, yet. About twenty more minutes passed and, finally, he showed up. He had been waiting where the people stream out of the trains. So why, pray tell, did he tell me McDonalds?
Anyway, it was good to see him, even if I was skeptical about his choice of restaurant. It was Capitale de Chine. A Chinese restaurant in Florence! Edgardo assured me he knew food, and this was the best Chinese food he had ever had. He does know his Italian food, and guided us well when we were there, but he hasn’t lived in Hong Kong. I have. It was pretty grim, and what made it worse was that he kept looking for reassurance from me that it was great. I can hear Roslyn laughing from here. Anyway, it’s meeting old friends that counts, and we were getting plenty of good food on the ship.
I walked back to our meeting point at the Duomo, on the corner of Prada and Gucci. I was a good forty minutes early. In less than ten minutes I was joined by the Millers and Zahorkas. We circled the baptistery and took a few pictures. This is Charles and Rita Miller. Note the FitBit on her wrist. I’ll get to it, soon. It’s part of our story.
Everyone showed up for our taxi, more or less on time, and we were off for Pisa. Rita was sitting in a middle seat and every time we went over a bump, her FitBit lit up, and recorded a bunch of steps. She was at 11,000, when she first noticed it.
I have been to Pisa before, two or three times. I don’t believe people who say they have seen everything in Hong Kong or Singapore or any big city, but, when you have seen Pisa, you have seen Pisa, plus I was getting a blister on my toe, so I couldn’t walk much. When Simon, our driver, announced it would be a one-hour stop, I wasn’t amused. I was back at the van in half an hour, and the Millers and Zahorkas weren’t far behind me. The lateness of the hour was bothering me, too, but Simon assured me we were only fifteen minutes from the ship. But we were leaving at 5:00pm. Simon assured me there was no rush hour traffic. I am never sure there won’t be something or other to cause it.
There was. It was soccer game night and the authorities had closed one of the roads. Simon got us around it and we made 6:30pm All Aboard, with 20 minutes to spare. That meant it had taken an hour and ten minutes of mostly back roads. Rita’s fit bit was well over 14,000 by the time we were near the ship.
October 18, was disembarkation day in Civitavecchia, port for Rome. We five met for breakfast in the Lido, and disembarked about fifteen minutes earlier than our planned 9:00 am. We knew Cabroma would be there, and sure enough, there was our driver with my name on his sign. We piled in and were at The Hilton – Rome Airport, a little after 10:00 am. The rooms weren’t ready, of course, but I got us our boarding passes, and pulled my email.
We had Pizza, Quattro Fromagi, for lunch in the Hilton’s café, and it was very good. Then I went to the gym, and worked on my computer, until it was time for dinner. The Martins and Fairchilds insisted on treating me at Miranda, a concierge recommended seafood restaurant in nearby Fumicino. We still had two bottles left from our second half-price wine package, and I brought them with me. Of course the restaurant had never heard of corkage and wanted to sell us wine. I explained how it worked in our wine country and asked them to name their price. Finally, they just looked at us and said “open your bottle”. Good thing they were screw caps.
Upcoming: 3 nice cruises
For those of you who have been asking where I go next, that’s Buenos Aires to San Antonio, on Celebrity, Eclipse, December 23, with add-ons in BA and the Chilean Wine country.
If you want Asia, I have TWO choices for you:
I’ll be hosting on Celebrity – Millennium – March 30, Shanghai to Tokyo, 14 days
Celebrity Millenium – Shanghai to Tokyo – 2 back-to-back China/Korea and Japanese Explorer
Start with a few days in Shanghai, then”
- Beijing – 2 overnights
- Jeju Island, South Korea
- Kobe, Japan – overnight
- Mt Fuji
End in Tokyo –Stay a few days there. I have good friends to help me script that.
Then, I have four exceptionally nice ladies from L.A. who are going, Shanghai to Singapore, also on Celebrity, in February. I have been working with these gals for a few months, and they are all lovely. They like to travel well, and they don’t quibble. I have some pretty nice stuff lined up for them. Read my own Asia blog from last February, to get the flavor. They’d be happy to have a couple more people along to share private tours, etc.
Email me about any of these, or anything else you want. I’ll be home when you get this.