September 2009 Letter

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We're all settled in our winter berth at Turistico di Roma Marina in Ostia Lido, Italy.  It takes about an hour or so by bus and train to get into the city of Rome.  The bus to the train station is free, and the train to Rome costs 1 euro.

We were so happy to find Anton and Natalia here when we arrived.  We only had 3 days together, as they are not wintering in the Med and had to leave for the islands.  But what fun we had!  Toured Rome, dined together and hung out in luxury on Anton's new 50-foot Lagoon catamaran.  (We miss you two!)  Anton is sailing her back to the Caribbean by himself.  Natalia's not ready to do an ocean crossing, so she flew back to the States to await Anton's return.

We rented a car for 2 weeks to take a road trip through Italy, Austria and Germany.  It was so much fun.  We have always loved driving across the countryside and used to take road trips when we lived in the US.  This trip was everything we hoped for and more.  We couldn't get over how incredibly beautiful it is!  Check out the pictures of the different places we visited.

We started by driving up the Italian coast to Santa Margherita Ligure (near Portofino) on the Italian Riviera to meet our friends Mark and Darlene who were vacationing with another couple, Rick and Liz.  The six of us spent a couple of days touring the attractive little resort town and the region.  We took the train to Cinque Terre (Five Lands) which is a series of villages wedged between sheer cliffs along a stunning coastline.  It is the principle scenic highlight of the whole Riviera and holds Unesco World Heritage status.  We walked along the Via dell'Amore (Lovers' Path) and cemented our love forever by kissing under the gate at the entrance.  We enjoyed an abundance of good food and lots of laughs with our friends.  Mark (who is in the music business) took us out to an exclusive club on our final evening together where we feasted on seafood, then mingled with European jet setters on the dance floor.  (OK, I admit Mike and I just watched.)  But it was fun!  We love that Mark and Darlene have met us each year since we've been sailing.  They came to Ensenada, Cabo San Lucas, Ft. Lauderdale, Ibiza, and now Italy.  (Love you guys!)

We drove to Venice and spent a couple of days walking (and riding in water taxis) around the city.  Toured the Basilica de San Marco and the Palazzo Ducale.  Ate romantic dinners at outdoor restaurants on the canal, and of course ate gelato at every opportunity.  It was fascinating to see how some of the plazas and streets flood at high tide.  Elevated boardwalks have been constructed in some of the high traffic areas to walk across if you want to keep your feet dry.

Next we drove to Vienna, Austria, where we spent 3 days.  Wow.  Austria is beautiful and Vienna is so pristine.  It has all the history and all the beautiful old buildings, but at the same time, it feels so clean and new with wide streets and sidewalks.  There were many people here, but it didn't feel crowded.  Mike loved it so much, he wants to come back, rent an apartment and spend several months here.  He reconsidered after I explained to him that I would then have to buy a whole new wardrobe of real clothes, real shoes, get professional haircuts, hair color, manicures and all the other personal expenses that come with living in a metropolitan city.  As a sailor, I'm pretty low maintenance.

Next on our journey was Germany.  We headed for Munich and the Octoberfest!  The rooms in Munich were way over-priced, so we found a darling little inn in Bad Worishofen, about an hour's drive from Munich.  What a stroke of luck!  It was so darned cute.  Bad Worishofen is the queen of health resorts and holistic health spas.  Which is kind of funny, since we came here to abuse our livers at the Octoberfest.  We took the train to Munich to attend the Octoberfest since parking would have been impossible.  It was one big party, with many people dressed in the traditional lederhosen and dirndls.  It had a carnival atmosphere with amusement park rides, game booths, lots of fast food (German-style), and of course the huge beer tents and pubs.  We don't speak any German, and the restaurant menus were meaningless to us.  So for lunch, we just ordered the daily special.  After we finished our meal, we found an English-speaking waitress and asked her what it was that we ate.  We shouldn't have asked.  It was cow's heart and lungs!  I thought that meat looked dark!  It was thin, breaded and had a sauce, so it was well disguised.  And it tasted pretty good.  But, yuk!  So if you see Mittagsgericht on your menu, be warned!

Mike has always wanted to tour a German castle, and we were very close to the most fantastic Fairytale Castle of all time.  We have heard that the Neuschwanstein Castle was the inspiration for Walt Disney's Fantasyland Castle.  King Ludwig II of Bavaria didn't sound like he had a total grasp on reality.  He was shy and a recluse and built his castle to create a world where everything was noble and beautiful.  And that it is.  This is the first time that we've felt compelled to buy the book after the tour, so our kids can see the pictures of the inside and read the history.

Our driving loop back toward Italy, took us through the Austrian Alps.  We spent the next night in a lovely inn near Innsbruck, Austria.  The innkeeper upgraded us at no cost to a big beautiful room with a balcony and a fabulous view of the mountains.  We had drinks on the patio and watched the sunset.  We're so mellow now, we feel like we're floating.  It just doesn't get any better.

Another day of incredible scenery driving through mountains, over bridges with rushing water, through green valleys, farms with grazing cattle, villages with steeples and cottages with window boxes overflowing with colorful flowers.  It just takes my breath.  We arrived in Florence, Italy for our final evening.  We found a hotel right in the heart of the city with a balcony over the street.  Perfect!  We could walk to see the sights and find a scoop of gelato.  We plan to return to Florence in the spring to spend several days exploring this charming city.  We found a local trattoria and had a yummy Italian dinner with good red wine.  Yes!  We're back in Italy!  Our favorite food.

So, now we're back on board and have started our October project.  Varnishing.  Big job.  It's going well.  We sand in the morning, then apply a coat of varnish.  We're usually done by early afternoon.  Then we go out for a walk along the beach and a gelato while the boat airs.  Mike has also started running again.  He finds time to get out each day to run a couple of miles.  Trying to build up his endurance gradually.  He listens to Navy Seals and Airborne Rangers cadence tracks on his iPod to keep him going.  So far, so good!

I'm sure we'll do a few fun things this month, and I'll post an update next month.  Until then, Ciao!


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