Mediterranean 2001: Star Clipper

Yesterday | Tomorrow


11 September, Tuesday: Ventimiglia and Sorrow

After breakfast, we had a little time to walk along the corniche to see more of the white limestone cliffs of Marseille's eastern flank. Finally, we were off to the railway station for our journey to Italy. We changed trains in Nice and then traveled a route we had taken several times before during our stays in Cap Ferrat and Villefranche. As the train passed Monte Carlo we could see the Star Clipper anchored off shore.


Ventimiglia War Memorial Ventimiglia War Memorial
La Reserva di Castel d'Appio
Entrance to La Reserva
di Castel d'Appio
View of the Alps from La Reserva di Castel d'Appio View of the Alps from La Reserva di Castel d'Appio
At Ventimiglia, we took a taxi up a long winding road to our hotel, La Reserva di Castel d'Appio. The hotel stands on a peak high above the town, with spectacular views of the Mediterranean on one side and the Italian Alps on the other. Our room looked toward the Alps.

We arrived amid chaos. The hotel personnel were all watching Italian TV and when they saw us they cried "You are Americans! They are bombing you! They are attacking your country! Look! Look!" It was about 3:45 PM, just an hour after the first plane hit the World Trade Center. We checked in quickly and watched CNN for about three hours.

As we saw the towers fall and the Pentagon in flames, I suppose my feelings were the same as everyone watching at home: disbelief, helplessness, horror, anger. It was the JFK assassination all over again. I wanted to walk out into the hills and just scream. But I didn't; I just sat there watching numbly. It was so incomprehensible. In those first hours, there was so much uncertainty. Another plane crashed. Would more be hijacked before all were grounded? Where was the president? Who was responsible.?

[During our four weeks in Europe, we had access to English-speaking television on only four nights. Fortunately, these were the four days immediately following the attacks and we could learn almost as much about the murders as could the folks back home. But we were not as immersed in the tragedy as they were. Because we got out of the hotel room and continued with our vacation, we were spared the non-stop replays of the planes hitting the towers and their collapse, and all the rumors, accusations and uncertainties that followed on U.S. television for four days. We ran into a group of American women at a train station a couple days later and one asked me if I didn't feel guilty about enjoying myself at this time. I said I was sorry not to be sharing the national angst, but I welcomed the diversion that our vacation provided. In the weeks following our return, I realized that the enormity of the loss would have hit me much harder and more emotionally had I been home in those several days after the murders. The stories in newspapers and on TV of the individual loss by the victims' families would have been heart-wrenching and much harder to absorb.]

After a few hours of watching TV, we turned the set off, opened a bottle of wine and sat on our balcony, looking at the Alps and listening to classical music Al had burned onto his laptop. Then a quiet dinner at the hotel restaurant and more CNN before turning in.


12 September, Wednesday: Ventimiglia, Italy

Old Town on the Right Bank of the Roia Old Town on the Right Bank of the Roia
Sidewalk Cafes
Sidewalk Cafes
The Market Market
After breakfast, we caught up on the latest news (early Tuesday evening in New York) and then walked down the hill to Ventimiglia. There are two roads between the town and La Reserva. The taxi had brought us up the 5 kilometer route, but we walked down the 2 km road. Both are narrow and winding with sharp turns, and cars have to honk as they approach every turn. All day you hear beep, beep, beep as cars go up and down the hill. Ventimiglia, with a population of about 25,000, is very near the French border and it has easy access to either the French Riviera or the Italian Riviera dei Fiori (Riviera of Flowers) by car or train.

The Roia River divides the city into an old town and a new town. Our walk down took us into the narrow, steep streets of the medieval town, still enclosed by the old defensive walls.

The newer town was nice enough, with shops and restaurants, even the weekly farmers' market, but not all that interesting to me today. I suppose my mind was more on America. Besides, everything closed up. Whereas in France, shops close at noon for two hours, those in Italy shut their doors for about 3-1/2 hours, but stay open later.

Wandering around a small Italian town in the early afternoon can be boring.

We took a taxi back to the hotel, watched the news, and then went down to dinner. The view from restaurant is magnificent. Off to the west the lights of Monaco and Cap Ferrat are clearly visible.


The Old Italian Riviera The New Italian Riviera
The Old Riviera. All photographs copyright © 2001 by Alvis Hendley. The New Riviera. All photographs copyright © 2001 by Alvis Hendley.
Hillside Farms Hillside Truck Garden
Hillside Farms. All photographs copyright © 2001 by Alvis Hendley. Hillside Truck Garden. All photographs copyright © 2001 by Alvis Hendley.
Castel d'Appio Ruin The Old Town
Castel Ruin. All photographs copyright © 2001 by Alvis Hendley. The Old Town. All photographs copyright © 2001 by Alvis Hendley.
Typical Old Town Passage Passage Wall
Typical Old Town Passage. All photographs copyright © 2001 by Alvis Hendley. Passage Wall. All photographs copyright © 2001 by Alvis Hendley.
Yesterday | Tomorrow