Doing it Like Our Forefathers...but with amenities
Trip Start Jan 31, 1996
301Trip End Ongoing
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These big boats travel across the ocean twice a year, spending summers in the Mediterranean and winters in the Caribbean. Our final destination is Spain. Most boat-vacationers seem to prefer to do the Mediterranean, or the Caribbean as it affords them the opportunity to travel the seas by night, then pound the pavements of port towns by day. Ellen and I have sat in parks and town squares of port towns and made fun of these people and their reluctant attitudes. They mostly look miserable as their pack-leaders guide them along. They give the impression that they’d be more content watching a flat-screen from the confines of their own living-rooms.
I was a little bit apprehensive the day I showed Ellen the Solstice on the Internet. I remember the look when she saw the photo of this mega-boat. The way her face went into a dozen different contortions; the unpleasant words that came from her mouth. It was the day that I learned the true meaning of the phrase 'a picture is worth a thousand words.’
Most boat-vacationers don’t want the endless sea that traveling across the ocean brings. Hence, Ft. Lauderdale to Barcelona becomes a cut-rate bargain. That was the hook for us. Ellen likes a bargain. But it still wasn’t an easy sell. It took two weeks before I was able to convince her that this boat could work. That the Solstice would be ours.
It had been one hell of a job for me. A week before we were about to return home from the Philippines I came down with jungle-fever. It was one of those 16 – 18 hours-a-day in bed sicknesses that lasted the better part of a month. As departure day got closer, I started to worry. I had to dig deep for the easiest of words:
"Six days at sea with nothing around us but water," I’d explained, while wearing a woolen sweater that couldn't contain my shakes and shivers.
Where Ellen initially saw boredom, I dug deep and conjured romance. “Remember the Trans-Mongolian, the endless landscape of birch,” I’d reminded her in between sips of hot lemon tea, honey and ginger.
“We’d planned on reading, but never opened a book,” she’d said after a lengthy pause. “I’m not even sure why. But you’re right, it was fascinating. Especially the birch forests. Are you going to be all right?”
I’d finished the spicy, sweet brew and was chewing a piece of stringy ginger. “If you think white trees are good, wait ‘til you see my sea. Come with me. I will take you to somewhere that you have never been, my dear.” These two sentences are always a winner with Ellen. They’re the cerebral aphrodisiac of my verbal repertoire. I always use my best Eastern European accent when reciting them. And Ellen always looks back at me with a smile. I envision her thinking of me as her Slavic Master, but she could just as well have the word fool teetering on the tip of her tongue. It's best not to try guessing what is real and what is not.
As launch day approaches, I’ve been seeing more-and-more smiles and the occasional twinkle in her eye, as Ellen learns of the Solstice and our ports-of-call. The journey across the Atlantic will be fourteen days in total. The first six will be our birch forest. A wonderful, watery nothingness until we reach São Miguel in the Azores. After a volcano hunt, or perhaps a pub crawl we’ll strike off for Lisbon. Volcano-less Lisbon should make the day-trip choices simpler. From there we’ll sail through the Strait of Gibraltar making similar pit-stops at Cadiz and Malaga, before heading onwards up the Mediterranean coast to Barcelona. When we’re led through parks and town squares, I’ll be on the look-out for people who are on the look-out for boat-vacationers. When I see them I’ll wink to let them know that I’m not one of the people I’m surrounded by.
Ellen and I are traveling with our very dear amigos, Jim and Mary from Scarborough, Ontario. I’ve given instructions that we all should strap knives, forks and spoons to our wrists. We’re goin’ on a 14 day eat-a-thon and I’ll be disappointed if between the four of us we’re not 60 kilos heavier. That’s like nothing; barely one kilogram per day.
When we disembark in Barcelona, I’ll begin shedding my weight, roaming the city in search of all things that are Lionel Messi, Barcelona’s – heck, the world’s - all-star soccer player. I don't know what the other three will do, but I heard Ellen speak of drinking sangria with some guy named Gaudi.
After Barcelona, we’ll be taking what might seem like a bizarre journey through Europe. There is method though, for what might first appear to be madness.
The Solstice folks charge something like $65.00 an hour for Internet. Just imagine what they’ll want for a martini. Cocktails and correspondence will cease until we hit dry land.