The sea last night had some large swells some as large as 3.5 meters (11 feet) and I know many guests felt the rocking, but all were smiling at breakfast. We dropped anchor in the Balanine Bay at 7:22AM. The view of the citadel of Calvi rising from the deck of the Sea Cloud was breathtaking. Lying at the head of this pristine bay, it is one of the most impressive seaside citadels of the Mediterranean. The city is bracketed by high mountains whose peaks were still snow covered. Built on the solid granite promontory, the ramparts of the citadel rise organically to a height of almost 75 feet from the grey granite. Whenever I see Calvi, I am reminded of the great fortified walls of Malta. The visual impact of the natural rock topped by the worked granite walls is magnificent. On our way to the top, a military plane flew low over the bay and 21 paratroopers jumped out and floated down into the bay. This is one of the stations of the French Foreign Legion and such exercises are frequent here.
At the very top of the citadel is the cathedral church surrounded by the homes of the wealthy inhabitants of Calvi. Our first interior stop on the citadel was into the Church of St. John the Baptist, a wonderful 13th century church which was destroyed by the Turks in 1553 but restored shortly after. In the small altar just to the right of the main altar, there was a large crucifix of Christ. The locals call this the “Black Jesus” and believe in its healing efficacy. The statue was taken out and paraded around the city during the pandemic to rid the city of the illness.
The defensive nature of the rampart walls with a slightly off vertical slope speaks of walls built after gun powder and cannons were introduced into Europe at the end of the 15th century. Coastal Mediterranean cities were frequently besieged by Barbary pirates from North Africa. From the 16th century, when Turkey was a power, the cities would be raided seeking slaves and valuables. Calvi was controlled by Genoa for some six centuries and went back and forth between many of the larger European powers. Calvi was besieged during the Napoleonic Wars by Admiral Horatio Nelson, who was blinded in one eye by a shard of rock which ricocheted by a cannon ball smashing the 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 spent about one hour touring the citadel and passed the putative home of Christopher Columbus.
After our citadel tour some of us visited a small artisanal market where vendors were selling local raw milk cheeses, honey, marmalades, charcuterie, and olive oil. The cheeses were 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 shopping!
After lunch, the captain set sails and by 3:30PM we were sailing at 7 knots with a 20-knot wind from the stern. The day was perfect: large cumulus clouds floated in a perfect azure sky and the white caps were breaking on the swells. Anna Mazurek, our certified photo instructor, gave an informative talk on expedition photography and then we adjourned to a special tea of “Baba au Rhum.” Dinner on the lido deck was followed by the earnest if not quite professional Sea Cloud Shanty Singers. All joined in and guests and crew sang and danced until 11:30PM.