Celebrating Milestones on the Mediterranean
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All my working life I have travelled; first while working in the hotel industry and more recently as a travel writer. I am lucky to have been able, over the years, to include my children in my travels and each of them has joined me individually, some more than once. In more recent years now that the children are all grown, I manage an annual trip with my wife but she hasn't travelled with the children individually. This year both she and our only daughter passed milestone birthdays and decided that it was time they took a vacation together on their own.

We started planning the Thirty/Sixty trip earlier this year. First, they had to decide what kind of vacation they would enjoy most. Both enjoy historical sites, reading, the sea and a more intimate setting. With those things in mind, we settled on a voyage that both my wife and I had enjoyed several years ago on one of the tall ships of the Star Clipper fleet. Following is their experience in their own words by Katherine Card.
We arrived in Rome in the early morning, having taken the overnight flight from Toronto. Anyone who has been to Rome before knows it is impossible to see in a day. So we settled on a nice coffee and a tomato and mozzarella baguette at a local shop, which was good enough for the both of us. Later in the day we boarded a coach and were heading to the coast to board the ship. My mother had been on the Royal Clipper a few years before and had absolutely loved the experience. I, on the other hand, had never been on a cruise, much less a tall ship in the Mediterranean. When we pulled up to the port the first thing that surprised me was the size of the ship. It looked much smaller than I had envisioned, although I soon realized there is a lot of space hidden on this magnificent ship. We boarded, found our room and spent the evening exploring the ship.
Built in 1992 and refurbished in 2011, the ship is intimate, with room for just 170 passengers. Although seemingly small, the spacious accommodations and expansive teak decks provide ample space for relaxation or recreation. There is an indoor-outdoor Tropical Bar and Piano Bar and an Edwardian-style library, offering books in a multitude of languages on a number of different topics. Antique prints and paintings of famous sailing ships line the walls, while teak and gleaming mahogany rails make you feel like you are truly sailing. All cabins have marble-lined bathrooms with showers and include double or twin beds that can be converted to queen-size beds. On our first evening we
decided to head up to the deck for the sail away. I was amazed by the beauty of the sails. Having travelled for the better part of two days, we were ready for bed and called it an early night so that we could enjoy our first port, Portoferraio.
Portoferraio, the largest city on the island of Elba, France, is a small island boasting 145
kilometres of Mediterranean coastline. For those travelling on foot, the waterfront with its elegant shops and the town square with its old churches and terraced streets are a great way to spend the day. The most popular excursions visit Napoleon's country home in San Martino, the port town of Porto Azzurro, the fishing
village at Marciana Marina and the pebble beaches. We opted to wander through the town and take in the sights. Portoferraio is all that you would imagine a quintessential French town to be, and was a wonderful first stop on our Thirty/Sixty trip.
Once we were back on board we got ready for dinner and headed into the dining room. We had experienced dinner the night before, but were far too weary from travelling to fully appreciate all that the Star Clipper had to
offer. Dinner on the Star Clipper is an
adventure in itself. The elegant dining room presents the chef's finest culinary creations, designed to please the eye and the palate, and complemented by a selection of equally fine wines. Dinner is a seven-course masterpiece that never gets boring because it is constantly changing. The dining experience is made that much better by the company. Each night you can choose to dine with guests who you have inevitably already met, or you can choose to be daring and meet new people. Either way, the conversation always flows and the laughs never stop.
The next morning we were up early and ready to go. Next stop, Porto Vecchio on the island of Corsica, France. According to local history, the ancient Greeks named Corsica ‘The Island of Beauty' because of its rugged coastline of jagged peaks and scented vegetation of
eucalyptus, honeysuckle, lavender and wild mint. The island has retained its rugged beauty of centuries ago. Porto Vecchio, the walled southeastern town, is lined with medieval streets. Visitors to French Corsica enjoy the beautiful beaches, and the Golfe de Porto
Vecchio is no exception. It's warm, sandy shores rest before the island's only cork forest.
 When planning this trip, there were two ports that I was most excited to experience. The first was Monte Carlo, Monaco and the second was St. Tropez, France. As is often the way in life, neither destination was what I had expected. Monte Carlo is an amazing city. Money and glamour seem to seep from every surface. As a favorite destination for the rich and famous, it's a great place for people-watching, and the streets are lined with elegant boutiques and cafes. The best tours visit the casino, the posh Hotel de Paris, the Oceanographic Museum and the cathedral where Princess Grace and Prince Rainier are entombed. We opted for a hop-on/hop-off bus that allows tourists to see the city in one day and choose where they want to stop. We visited the gardens, had a coffee and photo opportunity at the casino and Café de Paris, and took a walk and shopping stop in the old town. All in all, Monte Carlo was a nice surprise.
St. Tropez, on the other hand, was a little bit of a disappointment. Touted as a sunny, peaceful town, ideal for unwinding, St. Tropez is overpriced and overvalued. If you are looking to do some high-end shopping or spend days at the beach, St. Tropez is the place for you. If not, you will probably enjoy the idea of going there more than the destination itself. With that said, we did have some fantastic mussels for lunch, so the day was not a complete loss. 
Each morning we would enjoy a delicious breakfast before heading ashore to explore. Breakfast is a buffet with a full selection of hot dishes, including eggs, potatoes and crispy bacon, as well as a full selection of cold items, including cereals, Parisian croissants, sweet Danish pastries, fresh tropical fruits, cheeses and yogurts. The ship also offers lunch each day, for those guests who either stay aboard or who wish to come back to the ship to eat. The lunch menu changes daily but is always a buffet of hot and cold dishes.
Our next port was the city of Calvi, on the island of Corsica in France. Calvi sits on the northwestern tip of the island of Corsica. Above the town's marina is the Citadelle, and below the Citadelle extends the elegant Quai Landry, lined with restaurants and cafes. Having seen a few small port towns, we decided to take a tour of some neighbouring citadels instead of remaining in Calvi. Well worth the ride, the countryside of Corsica is lined with olive trees, cork and small villages.
Corsica has a fascinating history, with continual occupations in 1729 the Corsican Revolution for independence began. After 26 years of struggle against the Republic of Genoa, the independent Corsican Republic was formed in 1755 and remained sovereign until 1769 when it was conquered by France. The first Corsican Constitution was written in Italian (the language of culture in Corsica until the end of the 19th century).
While travelling, both my mother and I prefer to purchase local goods, specifically kitchen or household items and foods. Corsica is a dream for anyone looking to bring home local olive oil, honey, salt, wine or cork. After a day on the island, our bags were full of treasures.
Nearing the end of our trip, the second last stop was Palamos, Spain. Palamos is located at the foot of the coastal mountains in the heart of Spain's Costa Brava region. The area's seven beaches have shorelines that range from rocky to smooth and sandy. Interesting archaeological sites include the Iberian settlement at Castell beach, the Iberian archaeological ruins dating to 6 B.C. and the medieval castle of Saint Esteve at La Fosca beach. The 16th-century church of Santa Eugenia Villarroma is located in the town centre. I had been desperate to swim in the Mediterranean and since our trip was coming to an end it was looking like Palamos would be my last chance. Lucky for me the port is located directly adjacent to a beautiful stretch of beach. The water was a little cold, but we both braved it and took the plunge. Afterward we rewarded ourselves by sampling some of the regions famous prawns. We were not disappointed.
Our final stop was Barcelona, Spain. Unfortunately we weren't able to spend any time in Barcelona since our flight was leaving at noon. Others on the ship, who were continuing on to other ports, explored the streets of Spain's cultural centre which are lined with tapas bars and cafes, and filled with musicians. City tours will also take visitors to Gaudi's eccentric Church of the Holy Family, the 14th-century Gothic Quarter, the Picasso Museum and the Spanish Village.
Our Thirty/Sixty trip was a fantastic way to spend a milestone mother-daughter year. For anyone who enjoys being on the sea, reading, fine dining and exploring foreign cultures, the Star Clipper cruises are for you. Not only do they offer an exciting and ever-changing itinerary of ports, but the crew is amazing and truly makes you feel right at home. Each night there is entertainment put on by the cruise director and piano music with a live-in musician. The only question I was left with at the end was how can we top this for our Thirty-Five/Sixty-Five trip?


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