Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Somewhere in the middle of the Mediterranean

I’m sorry, forgive my indulgence, but I think this is so cool….. (If you’re under 30, you’ll probably not be too impressed by this……) I’m on the ferry to Tunisia, and it has wifi. I guess it’s not THAT amazing, but it’s still pretty cool. It costs a bit, about $15 for two hours, but worth every penny. (Mind you, these pix were taken around noon on Wed. Aug. 20, so they’re “fresh!”)

A quick update: I only had about half a day in Genoa, which gave me just about enough time to cruise through the old part of the city, which dates back to the 11th century mind you. It’s that typical mix of styles, with Baroque on top of Medieval. It’s also the usual mix of ancient shops next door to H&M and Zara, with the odd McDonald’s thrown in as well. Gulp.
What do we love most about Genoa? The fact that it was once the home to both Marco Polo AND Christopher Columbus. It’s the home of great departures…
I was a putz and bagged on the Aquarium. Even though it’s one of the biggest in the world, the lines were also some of the longest in the world….. and I didn’t really want to spend 1.5 hours waiting, when I only had 5 hours total. I did, however, grab some fresh calamari and shrimp from a little shop near the waterfront, in honor of the sea!
Normally I don’t push it this hard, but I had a ferry to catch! They told us to arrive by 5 pm, and our departure on the GNV Splendid was supposed to be 8 pm. That’s about when the return ferry pulled in from Tunis, and then it took literally 2.5 hours to unload the 1,000 or so cars and trucks. We finally pulled away from the docks at around 11:20 pm. Oh well.
I paid about $265, which was the cheapest ticket available. For a 20 hour trip, that works out to be, what, $13 per hour?? (Oh, and the waiting lounges had squat toilets! A bit unexpected, since I haven’t seen them in a few years… since Brasil?)
For $265, you get a fairly comfortable Pullman seat in a room on the 9th level (the Sky deck…) that holds about 50 people. We were maybe half full, which means that many people took four seats and stretched out to sleep immediately. I didn’t want to appear American-hoggish, so I only took two seats, for that curled up slumber.
The Splendid is a mini-cruise ship. It has a pool (which isn’t open), a casino (ditto), a piano bar (without a pianist) and a restaurant, which is open for meals supposedly.(Addendum: It does open, and serves mostly pasta and fish.) I sound like I’m bitching, and I’m not because I really didn’t expect a thing. There’s a comfortable lounge that shows nonstop Olympic coverage, so I’m happy, although no one much seems to take notice. (Wait! There was a bit of an uptick with the male passengers once the women’s synchronized swimming started…)
OK, a bit more about the night last night. Evidently, Muslims CAN drink, and there were a good number of fairly drunk gents last night. They sang, talked and argued for hours. Culturally, I didn’t want to be the complaining American, so I just tried to ignore it. But what I found interesting was that NO ONE said anything to them! (Wouldn’t you think that at least someone would yell “shut up” or something? Nope. But a few did just get up and leave, to go sleep who-knows-where.) And, as you can imagine, a room full of 25 guys was quite “ripe,” as they say. (No women, of course, except for one German hippie lady…) Oh, and one guy brought his cat in a cage, which howled all night as well.
OK, it was a bit hellish. I wonder why no one wants to travel with me! LOL.
I do believe that I’m the only gringo on board. I didn’t detect any other English-speakers in the waiting rooms, nor have I heard a bit of English since I got onboard. It’s sorta nice, actually. I do love not knowing what anyone is saying – sort of takes the edge off of worrying about gossip and things like current events or who has won the most Olympic gold.
Now it’s settling into the humdrum of an ocean voyage. By my reckoning, I think we only have about six more hours until we arrive in Tunis.
Signing off, from the deck of “Splendid.” (Sorry there aren't most pix, but each one took 4-5 minutes to upload. No joke! At these prices, I couldn't wait any longer!)