Thursday, October 27, 2011

Able was I...

Oops. Didn’t post yesterday as I’d been promised an internet cafe today. This did not materialize. (While I will happily blame the crew for the fiasco that has been my internet usage this past week – long story there – I’m not entirely certain the fact the internet cafe was closed today can be blamed on them. This was our first day in Italy, and I’ve just come face to face with the Italian practice of closing stores at noon, only to reopen at 4 … or whenever they feel like it. Dudes, I’m not trying to tell you how to run your businesses, but when your port is teeming with tourists ready to dump Euros in your laps, maybe you’ll want to be open when they’re there. Just saying.)

ANYWAY, we were at sea yesterday – hauling ass from France all the way around Corsica to the (Italian) island of Elba. It was a largely fun day – the sun was shining, so it was a great day to sit out on the deck; there was something resembling wind, so we were able to turn off the engine and sail for a few hours (which I greatly enjoy, even though it makes some of my fellow passengers run for the barf bags); I took the engine room tour with the very entertaining Chief Engineer; I had a lovely dinner out on the deck; and was up past midnight hanging out with some fun folks in the lounge. All good.

Today (as previously mentioned), we arrived at Elba. About all I knew about Elba is that Napoleon was exiled here, and it shows up in a famous palindrome. Took a shore excursion in which I saw Napoleon’s country home (not palatial by any means, but, y’know, if I was in exile, I could probably get by there) and learned that Napoleon was here for only ten months. You’d think it was longer, given all the Napoleon stuff that pretty much covers the island. I would have thought making this place Napoleon Central was something of a calculated ploy to increase the tourist trade, but, apparently, the population of Elba genuinely liked the guy. Seems that, although he was only here for ten months, he did tons of stuff for the people of Elba – like increase industry and open schools. So they’re pretty cool with the association. (Also, learned this fun fact: You know the Rosetta Stone? Was discovered on a Napoleonic campaign in Egypt. Did not know this; would have thought it was discovered substantially earlier.)

(I can accept the fact that every souvenir stand is going to be plastered in Napoleon-related items. Am still trying to figure out the rationale behind the Mussolini apron.)

So, yes, country home; Napoleon souvenirs everywhere … (I used to play this game with a friend where we’d buy each other the tackiest souvenirs we could find. But it couldn’t just be a useless piece of kitsch – it had to be something that purported to have some sort of utilitarian purpose. Today I saw a Napoleon shoehorn. That’s the stuff.) … internet cafe closed; nice view of Monte Cristo (yay!); shops closed; back on ship. Somewhere in there, I managed a quick half hour of shopping. (Er... some earrings for me. Elba is also all about mining, so the shops were full of local hematite, pyrite, and various other -ites.) I am most proud of myself for not yet succombing to the gelato. I am certain, however, that it is only a matter of time.

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