I was sitting in our charter boat, sipping a glass of champagne and trying to see if I could bottle up the memory of this one perfect day so that I could take it out once in a while and relive it when I needed to. Being able to do that takes really being in the moment – and a great still and video camera doesn’t hurt!
So, how did we get there that day? It was last July and we were visiting our son in the south of France (we’ve often said that the main purpose of having children is for their entertainment value – and we have that in spades with our son who is a dancer with Les Ballets do Monte Carlo – yes, that Monte Carlo, Monaco).
We had seen along that part of the Riviera from Roquebrune just bordering Monaco to the east, as far as Cannes in the west as we visited from time to time on foot and by car. Now, we wanted to see it all from the water. So, as any discerning travelers would do, we started our research online. We usually find that asking our friends is a recipe for disaster – many of them, as well-heeled as they might be – are unwilling to pay a bit more to get a bit more. We are not.
To say that there are a lot of boat charter companies operating on the French Riviera would be a considerable understatement. We narrowed the search down and emailed several. The most personalized service, with the most interesting possibilities for planning our perfect day came from Boatbookings.com. They were efficient and knew exactly how to provide us with what we were looking for (and they all speak English which made it so much easier!). We settled on a 35-foot cruiser with a captain and catered lunch for an eight-hour cruise.
The young captain picked us up at the pier in Cap d’Ail where we always stay, and off we went for the day. We stopped to anchor twice during the day – once for swimming off the boat, and once for our picnic lunch on board. Of course, part of the perfection of the day was a result of the stellar weather – it could not have been nicer – or more luxurious.
In our continuing search for those luxurious experiences, this is one that will go down in our books as worth every penny (and euro) we spent. It’s an experience that we’ll remember forever.
It had always been on Art’s list of places to see before you die. It was on mine as well, I’ll admit, but it wasn’t as high up on the priority list. Always the opportunist, though, when I noticed that it was possible to take a side trip to Stonehenge on the way from London to board the Queen Mary 2 in Southampton, I decided that it was now or never. And so we made the pilgrimage to Stonehenge.
As we drove through the countryside from London, our driver waxed rapturously about the “feeling” of standing there near the stones of unknown origin (make no mistake, despite what you’ve read, no one really knows why they were placed there. Indeed, the Druid connection has actually been disproven, information that came as a surprise to me and that alien theory – the scholars don’t believe it!). The fact that the stones were brought somehow from far afield is, however, impressive. The driver called it eerie, unusual and unique; so we were ready to be wowed.
We parked in the designated parking lot across the road from the stone circle which is widely enclosed by a chain-link fence. We then walked to the entrance which led to an underground pedestrian walkway (actually under the road) so that no cars came close to the site. After picking up our audio-self-tour headsets (a necessity if you really want to learn anything at all), we made our way to the first stop on the audio-tour. It was early in the day (highly recommended) so that there were few others around. This is the best way to experience these places in my opinion. By the time we were leaving about an hour later, the place was really filling up (that was 11 am).
So we did the tour around the circle. And we waited for the “feeling.” I’m sorry to say that the tour was very interesting, but to tell you the truth, we were all (wife, husband, 22-year-old son) underwhelmed by the experience. We never really did feel the mysticism and we were very surprised at how small the stones really are. I’m not sure what we expected, but this wasn’t it. That said, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss the experience.
Discerning travelers that we are, we booked this private tour/transfer through the online service London Tool-Kit which I used twice on this trip. It’s an aggregator for a wide variety of service providers. Paid for in advance, the private tour began at our hotel in London and took the detour to Stonehenge on the Salisbury plain on the way to Southampton. The drive to Stonehenge (almost 90 miles west of London) takes just under 2 hours. The drive from Stonehenge to the cruise terminal in Southampton was an hour.