Reflections on our Europe Trip

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Why didn’t we go years ago?  Can we go back next year?  That pretty much sums up how much we loved our trip.  Traveling by train our route included Paris, Cannes, and Nice in France with a side trip to Monaco.  Then on to Italy where we stopped in Milan and Lake Como.  We finished the trip in Switzerland stopping in Lucern and Zurich with day trips to Interlaken and Engleberg.     

Paris in springtime was everything we imagined and more.  Cafe’s, the food, and the people.   We walked everywhere typically logging 10 miles a day.  Why go underground on the metro when there is so much to see on the streets.  Fast food here is baguettes made simply with ham and cheese or stuffed with other goodies like grilled eggplant, buffalo mozzarella and delicate lettuce piled high in the windows for you to grab on the go or sit at one of their outdoor tables.   Coffee is an art meant to linger over.  Lunch is around 2:00 and dinner doesn’t start until 7:30.  I’m still dreaming of scrambled eggs the French way.  We really didn’t have many large meals but simply grazed from one place to the next.   Good wine is served everywhere and very reasonably priced.  

Our first night. A little jet lagged but that didn’t stop us from finding some tapas at this little place across from our hotel. That yellow mound in the background is butter with sea salt for the baguettes. You can serve yourself.  Heaven!

The Seine

We had a list of foods to try and a crepe was definitely on there.

Traveling by train is so much more civilized than by air and it is so easy.  Our six hour ride from Paris to the South of France allowed us to see much of the French countryside with the Alps in the distance.  Both Cannes and Nice were very much resort towns and really different from Paris.  We took a day trip to Monaco visiting the Prince’s palace for the changing of the guards and a stroll inside the Monte Carlo casino.

View of Cannes and the marina with the mega yachts.

Outdoor market in the South of France. Torture!

Monaco

Casino Monte Carlo

Milan is not so much of a tourist destination as other parts of Italy, but it gave us a taste of the country for a future trip.  Museums, shopping, and of course the food.  Pasta cooked to perfection tossed in amazing sauces.  Mounds of fresh Italian buffalo milk cheese made from mozzarella and cream known as burrata.  Pizza topped traditionally or with only one item like thin slices of zucchini or peppers.   We wish we could have tried every one but the free food at happy hours filled us up.  Highlights include the Duomo de Milan where you actually walk up on the roof of this magnificent cathedral.  We also toured the Renaissance Castle Castello Sforzesco where we saw Rondanini Pieta the last sculpture Michelangelo was working on when he died and Leonardo da Vinci’s famous piece, Madonna Lia.

Duomo de Milan.  From the roof we could peer down at the plaza.

On our way up to the roof. We opted for the stairs instead of the elevator. What were we thinking?

The roof. It slants down. A bit scary!

The inside of the cathedral. It was massive.

Rondanini Pieta is a marble sculpture that Michelangelo worked on from 1552 until the last days of his life in 1564.

We next headed up to the Lake Como area where we hoped to spend time using the ferry to hop from town to town for a day.  But our good luck with the weather ran out and we had a rainy time there.  We did see Varenna and Bellagio before heading to the town of Como for our train ride through the Swiss Alps to Switzerland.

Varenna was a quaint town on the shores of Lake Como.

Bellagio along the shores of Lake Como. Lots of shopping and great restaurants.  We never let a little rain deter us and truthfully cobblestone is prettier when wet.

One of the cafes in Bellagio

Waiting for the ferry from Varenna to the town of Como

Switzerland is absolutely beautiful.  If you are a fan of the Sound of Music, it is hard not to hum the theme song as you are traveling through.  I know, wrong country!  We chose to stay in Lucern and take day trips to the mountains.  We were also in search of fondue and we found that in Interlaken with a nice cold bottle of wine.  Our train trip up to Engleberg and then via cable car to the top of Mount Titlas at a little over 10,000 feet was amazing.  We reached the top on a clear day with views for miles and a balmy 42 degrees.

Lucern

Lucern

Our view from the train up to Interlaken, Switzerland.

Interlaken, Switzerland

Fondue with a cold glass of wine in the Swiss Alps. I was in heaven.

Our train ride to Engleberg, Switzerland.

On our way via cable car to the top of Mount Titlas. That is not the top you see but rather where we transferred to a cable car that rotated 360 degrees.

Now we are at the top.

Gary on the suspension bridge over the glacier.

Engleberg, Switzerland

We spent our last few days in Zurich before flying home.  Reflecting on the trip we both felt we had really planned well.  Twenty six days, 3 countries (4 if you count Monaco), 8 cities, 13 train rides, 5 hotels and 4 AirBnB’s carrying only a backpack each and one shared day pack.  

Springtime in Paris

Harry’s New York Bar in Paris drinking a Manhattan and a French 75.

Fair winds,

Cindy 

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Charleston, South Carolina

Once hurricane Irma and Maria passed us, we had a few days between storms where we could slip away and visit Charleston.  On our way, we stopped overnight in Beaufort SC.  Nice town but we were surprised how built up and populated the town and outer islands were.  Somehow we had the impression Beaufort would be a sleepy little town. NOT!

Beaufort South Carolina a few sailboats in the distance

I guess you could say the French Quarter in Charleston is the sophisticated sister of the French Quarter in New Orleans.  Lots of expensive old homes and high end shops along King Street.  We stayed right in the heart of the French Quarter at the Mills House, which opened in 1853.  A bit pricey but we had one free night from hotels.com to use so splurge we did.

 

Charleston firehouse

Husk is a popular restaurant here.  We had dinner on the second floor porch.

Our drinks at the Cane Rhum Bar in Charleston

Famous Pineapple fountain in Charleston

For the history buffs there is a lot of civil war history in this area.  Fort Sumter where the first shots of the Civil War were fired is out in the harbor.  We didn’t take a plantation tour but there are several in the area.

While we enjoyed Charleston, Nola is still tops on our list.

Fair winds,

Cindy

New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA)

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You either hate it or love it.  We love NOLA.  While Gary and I had previously been to NOLA a few times, Austin only heard the stories (or some of them anyway).  So when he asked us if we wanted to meet up with him and Nicki there, the answer was heck ya!

Our first stop was Acme Oyster House and a first for us was trying the charbroiled oysters.  Up until then we’ve only enjoyed them raw.  I know, some of you are going eeew.

Acme Oyster House

What happens in NOLA stays in NOLA so this post will be mostly pictures 🙂

Austin and Nicki with Gary strolling to his own beat down Canal Street.

The horse and carriage ride is a bit on the expensive side, but well worth it.

This is the St. Charles street car, which takes you down through the Garden District.  Definitely worth a trip to see the beautiful homes and visit a few of the breweries in the area.

They roll their own in this cigar shop.

Louis Armstrong Park is right on the edge of the French Quarter and has several statues in his honor.

The Roosevelt Hotel first opened in 1893 and is home to the Sazerac Bar.

Roosevelt Hotel

On our road trip from Georgia to NOLA we stayed in the Pensacola Grand Hotel for a night.  The lobby is part of the restored Louisville and Nashville passenger depot that was constructed in 1912.

Pensacola is home to the Old Hickory Whiskey Bar where we met one of the better bartenders we’ve ever had.  The bar is named after President Andrew Jackson nicknamed ‘Old Hickory’ who was also the first Territorial Governor of Florida.

So if you are wondering if Austin liked NOLA as much as we do.  Well let’s just say the apple does not fall far from the tree.

Fair winds,

Cindy

The Finger Lakes in New York State

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Gary’s parents had a popup trailer and they weren’t afraid to use it.  They spent a lot of time camping in New York state especially around the Finger Lakes.  My family didn’t venture out of New Jersey.  So looking to get out of the heat in Georgia and see what Gary has been talking about all these years, we rented a car and drove to Watkins Glen at the south tip of Seneca Lake one of the finger lakes.  While we arrived in rain, the next two days were clear blue skies.  The trailhead for Watkins Glen State Park begins right in town.  Be prepared for stairs and to get wet but the hike up to the highest falls is well worth it.

Watkins Glen State Park

Watkins Glen State Park

Gary getting wet

Me standing a little further away. But we had to pass behind in order to keep going up

We always seem to be close to the water. This one was right outside our hotel. We didn’t pay extra for the water view LOL.

Wanting to see more we headed over to Hammondsport on another finger lake called Keuka Lake.  Aviation buffs will know that as the home of Glenn H. Curtiss.  Curtiss developed engines and motorcycles and then went on to develop ‘flying machines’ at the same time as the Wright brothers.   There is a great museum by his name that not only displays his early motorcycles and planes but boats from that era as well as the precursor for the RV.

Glenn Curtiss Museum

Glenn Curtis Museum

Our third stop was Corning where we visited the Corning Museum.  If you like glass sculptures, this is the place.  We were able to squeeze in their glass blowing demonstration, which was awesome to watch.  Somehow they make it look so easy.

Somehow we only took this one picture in the Corning Museum. I guess we were in awe and forgot to snap any. That is a lynx made out of glass.

We learned a lot of things this trip including that we like Riesling wine.  The guy at Pompous  Ass Wine Company turned us on to it.

Photo courtesy of Ted Beck Jr.

Thank you Barb and Ted for your hospitality!

The Dad’s on Father’s Day enjoying one of the best Bloody Mary’s I’ve had in a long time

My sister Barb and brother-in-law Ted.

Enjoying Czig Meister Brewery in NJ. Thats our handsome nephew Andrew.

Fair winds,

Cindy

Key West, Miami and Passage to Georgia

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We liked Key West during our visits in the 90’s and yes it is touristy, but we still like it.  Good food, great bar scene and lots of people watching.   A bit pricey for cruisers, but while we were up north we put Sereno over at Stock Island Marina on neighboring Stock Island where it was a little more reasonably priced.  Good marina with shuttle service every hour to the heart of Key West.  After having limited places to eat for so long, we roamed Key West hitting the spots we remembered and a few new ones.  A favorite was Half Shell Raw Bar where we got a dozen oysters for $9.00 during happy hour along with our first Stone Brewery IPA in a long time.   We had so much fun and so little time there we forgot to take pictures!

After racing back to Key West from the wedding, we found the nice weather window to Georgia was going to be interrupted mid way by some serious looking squalls coming off the east coast.  Faced with staying in Key West for what was predicted as three weeks of strong easterly trade winds, we quickly got ready in a few hours and headed out for an overnight passage to South Beach Miami to wait for the squalls to pass over us.  Not a bad place to spend Mother’s Day.

By Monday the bad weather passed so we continued our passage to Georgia.  Unfortunately the seas were a bit rough both nights which made sleeping on our off shifts a bit tough.  But the days were beautiful and in the early morning of the third day we sailed between Jekyll and St Simons islands, under the Sidney Lanier Bridge and into Brunswick Landing Marina our home for this hurricane season.   The US Navy used this area as their hurricane hole so we are fairly confident Sereno is in a good place.

Fair winds,

Cindy

 

 

Road trip to New Jersey by Way of Savannah

We dug out our ‘fancy’ clothes, packed our bags and headed out in our rental car for our nieces wedding in Pennsylvania.  After an eleven hour drive our first day we stopped in Savannah, Georgia for the night.  With limited time and not wanting to get back in that car, we splurged and stayed right downtown where we could walk along the river front (as if we don’t see enough water!) and had a great selection of bars and restaurants.  The three bartenders at the Pink Lady recommended a casual place called the Treylor Park for dinner.  Great unique food with movies playing while you eat.  We will be about an hour from Savannah during the summer and I can’t wait to go back when we have more time.  I almost forgot to mention we had our first Hollywood shower in a long long time.

Here are some pictures from Savannah.

Gary enjoying a pint at Treylor Park

Two days later we arrived at my sister’s house.  We don’t see Barb and her husband Ted very often so when we get together, lets just say we make the most of it.  Add in their kids, Brina (the bride) and Andrew, then our son Austin and his girlfriend Nicki who arrived the day before the wedding and we had ourselves some great family time.  Oh I shouldn’t forget the groom, Andrew and yes you read that right.  Barb and Ted have a son Andrew and a new son-in-law named Andrew.  And if that isn’t confusing enough, Brina’s new mother-in-law’s name is Barbara.  I confirmed that there are no Ted’s lurking in the new extended family!

Brina and Andrew planned a lovely wedding and reception.  The music they picked for the DJ kept everyone on their feet dancing and we had a great time.  We were still talking about the music days later.

The beautiful bride and her handsome dad

My beautiful sister and her handsome son

Here is proof that when we walked in and sat down in the Catholic Church, the church did not come crumbling down.

Here we are with Ted’s sister Sharon and her husband Bubby Still.

Austin and Nicki

My handsome guys

Andrew, Brina and Austin

Ted, Andrew, Barb, Brina, Austin, Cindy and Gary

The family crammed into the photo booth at the reception for a family picture. Two friends photo bombed us through the curtain lol

We planned to stay with Barb and Ted for a bit however, a weather window opened for us to get the boat from Key West to Georgia.  So while we had to cut our trip short and head back to Sereno, we will be back this summer and plan to catch up with those we promised to see.  And of course, more fun times with Barb and Ted.  We convinced Barb to channel her inner Irish and she now loves Guinness on tap.  Maybe Jamison shots this summer?

Fair winds,

Cindy

 

 

Passage to Key West

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Third time is the charm.  Our first two attempts at leaving the Cayman Islands was squashed due to weather.  Finally we got a long enough weather window to make the four day passage from Grand Cayman to Key West.  Based on a recommendation from the marina, we hired a pilot boat to lead us out of North Sound.  The appointed time of 6:00 am on Sunday rolled around and the pilot is a no show.  No surprise there.  Always up for a challenge and having no desire to go back to customs and immigration where we were now on a first name basis, we threw off the dock lines and headed out.  Staying exactly and I mean exactly on our track and right at high tide, we made it over the reef with no problems.  Ahhh finally out of the Caymans and heading back out on the water!

We had hoped to use the easterly trade winds to help get us to the west coast of Cuba, but as luck would have it the winds were dead calm with the exception of Sunday night when for 12 hours they were right on our nose.  The calm conditions returned Monday morning right when we needed them the most for the Yucatan Channel and heading east in the Florida Strait.   We enjoyed a good sail into Key West riding the Gulf Stream.  In fact, if Gary hadn’t realized just how much the gulf stream was pushing us east when we wanted to go north east, we would have overshot Key West and ended up in Miami instead 🙂

Not long after leaving Grand Cayman this little guy joined us in the cockpit for a much needed rest.  Look at those calm seas.

Our passenger for a while

Sereno will be staying here for a few weeks while we drive up to Pennsylvania for our nieces wedding.  Once back, we will continue our trek up the east coast of Florida to our summer stop in Brunswick, Georgia.  Later than planned, but we’ll get there.

Fair winds,

Cindy

Grand Cayman

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Beautiful water, restaurants, bars, and a jaw dropping grocery store sums up the British territory of Grand Cayman.  Most people would associate jaw dropping with the beautiful water but after grocery shopping in Central America for the last few years, the store here was something to get excited about.  Gary and I ran around like two kids in a candy shop.  People must have thought we were nuts at our excitement at finding fresh berries, greens, cheese, basically all the things we have been craving but could not get in Central America.

We rented a car for four days because there isn’t much in the way of mass transportation here.  Definitely a tourist destination with the four or five cruise ships that arrive daily, but friendly people and English speaking.  Driving on the left is always a challenge and for the first time we had the steering wheel on the right side with many roundabouts to maneuver through.  By the third day I was no longer turning on the windshield wipers instead of the blinker but I still hated the roundabouts.  Give me traffic lights and stop signs any day!

The beach at Rum Point on the north side of Grand Cayman

The beach at Rum Point on the north side of Grand Cayman

Seven Mile Beach Grand Cayman.  The surf was up the day we visited.

Seven Mile Beach Grand Cayman. The surf was up the day we visited.

The town of Hell on Grand Cayman

The town of Hell on Grand Cayman

Hell's post office

Hell’s post office

The US dollar is weak against the Cayman dollar so it is a bit pricey here, however, that has not stopped us from enjoying the many bars and restaurants.  So many choices but I think we are choosing well as all our meals have been great.  Our friend Ace from Red Frog has been here a few weeks and along with his crew Ryan and Eric they’ve given us some good suggestions.

We are currently waiting for a weather window for our four day passage to Key West.  Unfortunately Mother Nature is not yet cooperating.  We may have to take a detour two days away to Isla Mujeres, Mexico so we can keep moving north and find cheaper digs.  There are no protected anchorages here and while the marina is nice it is a bit pricey.

The view off our stern at Barcadere Marina

The view off our stern at Barcadere Marina

The waters off of George Town.  No color was adjusted.

The waters off of George Town. No color was adjusted.

Fair winds,

Cindy

 

San Andrés and Our Passage to Grand Cayman

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We spent a little over three weeks at anchor in San Andrés waiting for calm seas before moving further north to the Caymans.  We enjoyed the town after being in remote Dead oops Red Frog marina for seven months.  This was definitely a vacation destination for mainland Colombia as gringos made up about one percent of the population but we enjoyed it.

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Taxi drivers playing dominoes while waiting for their next fare.

Taxi drivers playing dominoes while waiting for their next fare.

Our first pizza in months!

Our first pizza in months!

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San Andrés is about 120 miles offshore and the winds certainly kick up here.  We were anchored off three wrecks, which made for some stressful times when the wind was up.

We were anchored next to these wrecks

We were anchored next to these wrecks

We had a squall with 40 knot winds come through at night and we dragged our anchor.   With the engine running we held her steady until the squall passed.  We raised the anchor and at the time Gary noticed a bit of steel hanging from it.  He didn’t think it was any big deal so we lowered and reset the anchor and went back to bed.  The next morning we discovered we were too close to some mooring balls so we had to move.  We raised the anchor and Gary discovered we had a hunk of channel steel the length of the boat hooked to our anchor.  How the windlass pulled it up we have no idea.  Using the boat hook, Gary was able to get the steel off the anchor but now it was stuck to the boat hook.  Not able to pull it up any higher and with no way to get the boat hook off, Gary let go.  A few minutes later, the boat hook popped up to the surface but after several attempts we were not able to retrieve it.

Most boats just travel through San Andrés but we met Bill and Mary from Napa who have their 100 year old 51 foot steel hull sailboat at Nene’s marina.  Bills attraction to San Andrés is he considers this the best place for kite surfing.  Well we can’t agree more after experiencing the winds in this area for weeks!

A great weather window opened up for us to sail directly to the Caymans without needing to stop in Providencia.  We had several concerns with this passage.  The most important was incidences of piracy against sailboats along the Nicaragua coast and our second concern was the shallow banks.  With some advice from weather guru Chris Parker, we planned our route to stay 120 nm off Nicaragua and I’m happy to say all went well.  While we would have preferred a little more wind for sailing, with the exception of the first day the seas were calm and we were able to enjoy a cockpit shower somewhere in the middle of the central caribbean.

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For us the clearance into the Caymans was a breeze.  We didn’t fit the profile for a search of the boat.  After clearing in we headed around the west coast of Grand Cayman and entered the shallow North Sound to Barcadere Marina.  Even following their waypoints it took us forever to get there because we went at a snails pace to make sure we would not ground out.  I’m so glad I remembered to record our track so we can take the exact same course out of here going faster.

Sunrise on our way to Grand Cayman.

Sunrise on our way to Grand Cayman.

Enjoying a nice Italian dinner

Enjoying a nice Italian dinner

I did learn one thing on this passage.  If I spend three weeks in a windy and sometimes rolly anchorage right before departing, I will not get sea sick!

Fair winds,

Cindy

 

Passage to San Andrés, Colombia

After months of waiting we got a weather window to make the overnight passage from Bocas Del Toro, Panama to the island of San Andrés. While this island is off the mainland of Nicaragua, San Andrés as well as Providencia to the north are part of Colombia. In fact, San Andrés is to Colombia what Hawaii is to the US.

What promised to be calm seas for the entire passage were anything but. Our first day out we had washing machine conditions which had me tossing my cookies by noon. By late afternoon the seas calmed down but then we started to see fields of household debris. Lamp shades, shoes and the like. A very large gnarly tree limb about 10 inches in diameter and 40 feet long floated close by the boat. With it getting dark, Gary decided to slow the boat down thinking if a tree hit us it would do less damage if we were going slower. We had a sliver of a moon so our chances of seeing anything coming up were pretty slim.

The slow down plus going east a bit to offset the current set our arrival time back two hours after dark. With no desire to enter a shallow windy channel after dark, our plan was to go in a little ways and pick a spot to anchor off it until morning. About 10 miles from the channel Harbor Control for San Andrés spotted us on AIS. They hailed us wanting to know our intention. He was very nice even welcomed us to the country but thought we were crazy for staying outside the anchorage. He told us to stay in the middle of the channel, at the end head 020 degrees, and drop our anchor at the coordinates he gave us. Sounded easy. We were most worried about the anchorage because we knew it was littered with wrecks, shallow spots and fishing boats. But our real challenge turned out to be following the channel that zig zagged back and forth around the numerous shoals. The blinking green and red channel markers were hard to see with the town lights behind them. At approximately 2.25 nm it took us at least 30 minutes to reach the anchorage we were going so slow. This was our first encounter with channel markers showing up on our chart plotter as AIS spots. Very cool but sometimes they would disappear!

We dropped the anchor at the location provided and as we suspected drifted back way too close to another boat. So raise the anchor, move over and repeat. The next morning we woke up to find this off our stern.  We went right by it the night before and never saw it.  Luckily we are far enough away. 
Checking in was a breeze. You must higher an agent, but what a friendly guy. We have a good size town to walk around a bit touristy but a nice change from sleepy Red Frog. Now if we could just find a good pizza place……..

Fair winds,

Cindy