After a long trip via Tokyo (with an earth tremor at 2am to focus our attention while trying to sleep on the12th floor of the airport hotel) we arrived in a very warm Switzerland where Ian would spend the week involved in a conference while I enjoyed the sights of Ascona. Ascona is a popular, small resort on Lake Maggiore; in the Italian part of Switzerland.
Luckily the conference organisers had scheduled some time for sightseeing with a mountain hike and a visit to the island of Brisago. Brisago has a unique microclimate, never falling below zero (currently 280 C early April!) and its villa with botanic garden supports many exotic species (even banana trees!). It felt rather weird being in Switzerland, wandering beneath huge gum trees and looking at native Australian plants flowering better than in our garden at home with the remnants of snow capped peaks in the background.
We spent a few days in Athens en route to Lefkas where we would pick up Sea Cloud.
A very enjoyable week was spent with Sea Cloud’s owners, learning about her and how to prepare a boat for the summer season.
After a week of getting the fundamentals up and running, it was exciting to leave Lefkas for Brindisi on a lovely sunny afternoon with Ian at the helm for the first time – even though we had many hurdles yet before we were to transfer ownership. A very pleasant, easy 24 hour passage, but unfortunately we motored rather than sailed as the light (5-10kts) of wind was on the nose and we needed to get moving with the paper work from Italy.
A few last jobs complete, it was time for the previous owners to hand over the beautifully set up and maintained Sea Cloud to us and head back to Switzerland. We were so fortunate to have spent time with these lovely people and hope that we can look after Sea Cloud as well as they did.
The few weeks wait for papers meant that we had have had time to settle in to life on board.
Puglia, the tip of Italy is a great undiscovered area, fascinating towns, wonderful friendly people great food, wine and olive oil – and most appealing to Ian, it is very economical! With the necessary rentacar, we visited Monopoli ( a lovely harbour town on the east coast to the north but too small for Sea Cloud), Alberobello with the characteristic Trulli houses and Ostuni where we stayed in an old Palazzo with superb restaurant – it’s going to be hard to go back to Greek food after this!.
Matera (in the adjacent province of Basilicata) is worth a visit .
The region has been continuously inhabited by cave dwellers for nearly 1,000 years, in the main township up until 1952.The B&Bs and hotels are now springing up in resurrected caves – our very comfortable cave room was about the size of the house previously occupied by family of 8 along with its donkey.
The last stop on this brief tour was Gallipoli (west coast of the very tip of the “heel” of Italy – named by the Greeks who, in tandem with the Turks, occupied this area previously). Our last night away from Sea Cloud was spent enjoying a campari, watching the sun set over a lovely calm sea, just across the road from our B & B – Fawlty Towers meets Portofino!
Back to Brindisi to provision, a few last minute repairs in readiness for our departure to Croatia as soon as registration papers arrive from Australia. Most importantly, we needed to put “Sydney” on the stern and hang our Aussie flag!