The sun rose at 5:50, and the sea was calm with a low swell. The view of the citadel of Calvi Genoa rising from the deck of Sea Cloud was breathtaking. Lying at the head of pristine Balanine Bay, it is one of the visual gems of the Mediterranean. Built on the solid granite promontory, the walls of the Citadel rise organically to a height of almost 75’ from the grey granite. The visual impact of the natural rock topped by the worked granite walls is magnificent. At the very top of the citadel is the church surrounded by the homes of the wealthy inhabitants of Calvi. Just looking at the entire façade, one can understand the defensive nature of these walls. They have the slightly off vertical slope indicative of walls built after gunpowder and canons were introduced in Europe at the end of the 15th century. Barbary pirates operating out of North Africa frequently besieged these cities. When Turkey was a power in the Mediterranean, they also sought slaves and valuables in sea attacks. The city was controlled by Genoa for some six centuries and went back and forth between many of the larger European powers. Fighting in the Napoleonic wars, Admiral Nelson besieged Calvi. In the course of the attack, he was blinded in one eye by a shard of rock. The litany of foreign nations also included England, who took the island from the French in 1794 and held it for a mere two years.
We left Sea Cloud and took the tender and the Zodiacs into Calvi–a city surrounded by majestic mountains that still had snow on their peaks! We split into two groups and were off on our climb to the top of the citadel. We passed a bronze sign indicating that Calvi was the birthplace of Christopher Columbus. Our first interior stop was the Church of St. John the Baptist, a wonderful 13th century church that was destroyed by the Turks in 1553 but restored shortly after. We visited a small artisanal market where some of us bought raw honey, marmalades, and olive oil. They had splendid local cheeses made from the milk of sheep and goats and aged for two years. We made a brief stop to admire the beautiful pink façade of the Church of the Immaculate Conception. We then slowly made our way to the main shopping precinct and had 90 minutes of unfettered shopping!
A treat awaited us on our return: a swim from Sea Cloud. Simon, our redoubtable hotel manager, tied eight swim mattresses to a line about forty feet from the portside. We walked down a ladder and jumped into the brilliantly azure 22-degrees Celsius sea. The water initially took our breath away, but after a short bit it was a delight and hard to leave. After our swim, we had lunch on the Lido. Bill Robinson gave an introduction to the various trips available to Lindblad guests on the smaller charter vessels, including Sea Cloud in the Caribbean, in the Mediterranean, and in the Aegean and Jahan in Vietnam, Cambodia, and a new journey down the great Brahmaputra River of India. John Frick, our expedition leader, gave a wonderful introduction to the complex history of Sea Cloud. Immediately after, we were able to visit the owner’s cabins below deck. We enjoyed another five-star dinner and headed off to a blissful sleep.