After a short itinerary deviation due to weather, the Goldring Travel 2018 Culinary & Cultural Cruise on the Seabourn Encore was back on track.
We arrived in a rainy Monaco which, since I have been there many times, including for a number of the Monaco Yacht Shows, made for a lazy morning…Well, at least, a uneventful morning as I caught up on some work.
The afternoon was, however, far more enjoyable as I hosted the substituted Ensemble Travel Experience (as the originally planned one in St. Tropez was cancelled when the Seabourn Encore diverted to Corisca to avoid bad weather and, thus, tendering would not be possible). What wound up being only Goldring Travel guests drove up the mountains outside of Nice, taking in the beautiful views, to Chateau de Bellet, a vineyard having undergone a major renovation as it was recently purchased from a family that long owned it.
While the production facilities were all brand new stainless steel, the entry and tasting room are located in what was the family church. Quite unique and beautiful.
Our wine tasting was a rose (90% braquet), a white (Rolle or Vermentino) and a red blend paired with cured meats and a very soft sheep’s cheese. Time to purchase a few bottles for our upcoming events!
From there we had some free time in Nice. Walking along the pedestrian promenade, which was not the crowded masses I have seen every time before due to the lateness of the day, the season and the drizzle, was enjoyable. But I had one mission: Moule-frite (mussels and french fries) with a bottle of rose! Joined by one of my favorite couples it was a quick, but thoroughly enjoyed, experience.
It was then a lovely drive along the mountains on the Middle Corniche, overlooking Villefranche and Beaulieu before returning to the Seabourn Encore.
Upon our return, literally as we were boarding the Seabourn Encore, there was a rather strange surprise: The telephones, internet, television, accounting, restaurant, etc. systems went down and were to stay down for almost three days while Seabourn figured out what happened and how to fix it. Fortunately, I always travel with a hotspot so I had some internet, but I have never experienced such a failure before and it simply should not happen. Not Good!!!
But on the upside, the officers and crew of the Seabourn Encore were incredible. They had to go “Old School” with “all hands on deck”. So from the guest services side, the guests were delivered the same dining experience and other events without a hitch. From taking orders on paper and runners discretely rushing around the ship, the crew made everything happen. It was very impressive and gave me a real sense of pride as quite a few of those making things happen I have seen grow and develop over the years.
I had a reservation in The Grill by Thomas Keller that evening with a long time and very kind and charming guest of mine who offered to share her Chateaunuf-du-pape wines (white and red) that she purchased during our tastings at Chateau Le Nerthe two days prior. Like it was sent from the heavens there was a special that evening: Duck Breast. It was a perfect pairing and quite a lovely evening.
And, not to worry, we also had the chicken!
I awoke the next day to an absolutely beautiful sunrise and view of Portovenere, Italy.
While many took a tour to Cinque Terre, I knew from my prior visit there that it would be far too crowded, frenetic and, thus, disappointing. But for many it is a “must do” so I cannot blame them for starting out with great anticipation. I, however, simply wanted to wander about and, hopefully, find a nice place to eat. Ultimately I succeeded in the former and was disappointed as to the latter.
After disembarking the tender I found a quiet path up a hill, seeing a woman feed a friendly dog through a fence and some cats under her car. There were countless old stone steps that made for a lovely little hike and a wonderful view back to the bay.
However, I wound up coming to a closed gate, so I had to turn around. Well…that quiet path now had a closed and locked gate at the bottom so I was literally trapped; a clear message of displeasure by a local who silently resented a tourist walking in the area. Not deterred, I climbed the fence and then jumped down off the six foot wall. Fifteen minutes in Portovenere and I already in trouble. Geez!
I climbed many steps and took in some beautiful views, but there were still enough groups and individuals to remind me that uncontrolled tourism can transform some incredible places into frustrating places that one just does not want to linger in. Fortunately it being the end of the tourist season I was able to enjoy my time.
As I wandered I did manage to find a nice focaccia shop for a snack, but only disinterested restaurants that smelled of disliking tourists, but wanting their money. So with that my dream of having delicious local tofie with pesto would have to wait for another time (though I did buy some dried trofie to bring home).
It was then time for the Goldring Travel Cocktail Party as we sailed out of Portovenere, in one of my guest’s Penthouse Spa Suites. I decided that since we has spent two days in Ajaccio, Corsica, but nobody had really delved into food, no less the wines, that would be the theme.
While Chef David’s team made a beautiful platter of the Corsican cured meats and cheeses I had purchased in the local market along with some delicious canapes, I was more focused on trying vin de Myrte; a local aperitif made from the berries of the myrtle tree. Honestly I thought it was going to be another one of those terrible tasting (a/k/a “aquired”) tasting things, but it was delicious. It has a rich, almost port-like, flavor with a lighter texture and a bit more acidity. I am now kicking myself for not purchasing a bottle for myself and chances of finding it in the United States obviously are not good.
As we enjoyed the sun setting and the sailaway we tasted two more lovely Corsican white wines and a less inspiring red along with a revisit of the Rolle wine from Nice’s Chateau de Bellet and finishing with a champagne toast to an picture perfect sunset…
Oh and a pod of porpoises feeding nearby! Yes, it was that perfect. Ahhhh.
Next up: Going Culinary!
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