Back from the Eastern Mediterranean

We sailed out of the harbour at Ashdod in the small hours of the morning bound for Salerno, where we had called on the outward journey. We passed the southwest coast of Crete, south of Greece and through the Strait of Messina that separates Italy from Sicily.

                               A sail training ship in the Strait of Messina

We had expected to be in Salerno at 6.00 pm, but didn’t dock until ten o’clock. It was too late to go ashore but the good news was that on the following day we would have time to go to Pompei about 20 miles away. Next morning early we took a taxi from the dock to the station and a train to Pompei.


       Pompei – 1st century reflectors between flags to guide traffic at night

In 79 AD Vesuvius erupted and buried Pompei, a city of 20,000 inhabitants, under a mound of ash and rock where it remained largely undisturbed for 1,800 years until in 1858 excavation started in earnest. Much was learned about the life of a Roman town from the ruins of shops, homes, public baths, sports fields and brothels. It contains one of the finest amphitheatres of the Roman world. A month would not be enough time to spend to see it all.

                                                         The Forum Pompei

After three or four hours walking in the hot sun, we were exhausted. We left by the gate beside the amphitheatre and found ‘Ristorante Amfiteatro’ nearby. We sat outside under a rustic framework covered with an ancient wisteria. We were the only ones there and we rested our weary feet. We had wonderful garlic and herb spaghetti, the likes of which you can only get in Italy. The cook on board did accommodate us very well as vegetarians. Lunch and dinner on one particular day were: for lunch, spaghetti with oil, picante and tomato, followed by a plate of grilled courgette slices with raw garlic and chilli flakes and a banana. For dinner: soup with lentils, pizza, cheese and strawberries and melon in syrup.

                                                      A Mediterrenean Sunset

The steward, who served meals, was Pasquale. In height and build, and particularly in his accent when he spoke English, he was a dead ringer for Manuel from Barcelona, the waiter in Fawlty Towers. One day we were a little late going to the mess for dinner. There was a knock on our cabin door and there he stood. He smiled, pointed down the alleyway and said ‘Ees ready.’ It could have been Manuel.

                                                      Pasquale and Hilary

At Salerno we replaced two of the most important men on the ship: a new captain and a new cook came on board. The single most common cause of discontent amongst crew at sea making for an unhappy ship, is poor food. We left Salerno bound for Savona on the Ligurian Coast between Genoa and the French border. We passed between Corsica and Elba and realising how close they were, we weren’t surprised that the Little Corporal managed to escape.  If he had been exiled to St. Helena in the South Atlantic in the first place, the ‘hundred days’ would not have been. There would have been no need for the Battle of Waterloo, which would have saved the Duke of Wellington a lot of trouble, the language would have been deprived of one of its well known metaphors about a person coming to grief, and they would have had to find another name for the London railway station.
We docked at the quay at Savona and had plenty of time to walk around the town. Christopher Columbus in his early days farmed land outside the town. Savona claims that he was born there, but this is unsubstantiated. It is more likely that he was born along the coast in Genoa.

                                                  The Harbour, Savona

It was Saturday, market day, with a variety of wonderful stalls that sold fruit, cheese, vegetables, bread, oil and much else. The stalls were on a number of streets and under the colonnade of the main thoroughfare.

                                                    Stalls in the Colonnade

On the way back to our ship we sat and watched fishermen selling fish to people on the quay and repairing their nets. While they worked they were nattering away to each other from boat to boat and gave the impression of not having a care in the world. We could have sat there in the sun for the rest of the day, but had to meet our deadline for leaving Savona for Setubal, Portugal.

                                      Fishermen in the Harbour, Savona.

Again we had good warm sunny weather on this part of the voyage. We sailed offshore, but well to sea and out of sight of the coast of Italy, France and Spain. The chart on the bridge told us that we passed well known places: Monaco, Nice, Cannes, Toulon, Barcelona and then between Majorca and Ibiza and the Spanish coast. We passed Valencia, Alicante and then places familiar to sun and sand holiday makers: Malaga, Torremolinos, Fuengirola and Marbella. Passing along this coast we could see the snow capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada.
Soon we passed the childhood home of Molly Bloom – Gibraltar, and its famous rock.

                                        Rock of Gibraltar – from the east

We passed through the Strait of Gibraltar along the Spanish coast and up the coast of Portugal to Setubal about 25 miles south of Lisbon. It is the third city of Portugal and famous to football fans as the home town of José Mourinho. In this delightful small port town we saw what we had seen for the first time in The Azores, black and white mosaic cobbled streets.

                                      Setubal – a small square with mosaics

One of the main streets was lined with trees in a profusion of pink blossom. We strolled back to the ship and in the evening we set sail for Portbury, the port of Bristol, where we were due to disembark. We passed by the Bay of Biscay without turbulence, close to Land’s End and past Lundy Island into the Bristol Channel and Portbury on the third day out of Setubal after a wonderful four week trip.

                                                   Setubal – Pink Blossom

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