Rouen – Day 14 the final day of our genealogical cruise adventures

We leave the ship early, down a very steep gangplank, for our trip to Rouen. Hurricane Lorenzo is creating a pretty stiffish wind. Again, we drive across the enormous port of Le Havre, which was destroyed by the allied forces in 1944. There were three phases of destruction in France, the Viking invasions, the French Revolution and the Second World War. From today’s guide, Lana, we learn that Le Havre football club is the oldest premier division club in France. We drive to the beautiful city of Rouen, founded in the first century, although nothing Roman survives. Rouen an important harbour, became the capital of Normandy in 2016. Haropa is a new name for the combined harbour of Le Havre, Rouen and the Seine hinterland to Paris. We are told that the only bridge across the Seine in the Middle Ages was at Rouen. I find it hard to believe that this refers to the whole length of the river.

Capitalising on French internal conflict, the English waged the Hundred Years War against France, a misnomer as it actually lasted 114 years. This conflict saw Joan of Arc become the heroine of the French; she was captured and burned at the stake in Rouen market place on 30 May 1431. We see her memorial and the nearby, modern, fish-shaped church. Rouen contains eighty buildings that date from the Middle Ages. It made its wealth from the wool trade. The cathedral is breath-taking. Here are the snippets of information that we acquired. Its nineteenth century spire weighs 7000 tons. There are eighty statues on the façade, many of which are replacements from the acid rain-damaged originals; some of these are now on display inside the cathedral. There is a twelfth century tower and a fifteenth century ‘Butter’ Tower on the right, the latter financed by the profits from the butter trade. In 1999 the copper on the towers was replaced with a material that was less subject to corrosion. The nave is 136 metres long and the roof is 28 metres high. The cathedral has sixty-four bells. Much of the older stained glass was removed during the Second World War, so survived and could be replaced, whereas the nineteenth century glass was lost. Ever hopeful that I will one day find my ‘gateway’ ancestor, I photograph Rollo’s tomb. When he becomes my nth great grandfather, I will need that for my family history.

198 4 October 2019 Rouen Cathedral.JPG

We walk through the city and see the Grand Horloge (Big Clock), which only has an hour hand. There are all the usual suspect chain shops as well as more individual ones. Sixteenth century blue and white pottery introduced from China, is popular. I manage to use my limited French to purchase two badges.

Back on board, we gather in the conference centre for an informal demonstration by Michelle, demonstrating some DNA tools. More good news as a result of one of my cruise talks. I have a request for a copy of the Fry family tree that featured in my Darlington to Wellington talk, as it relates to a member of the audience’s genealogy. In the evening, Carole Becker gives the final conference presentation, So you Think you are Married to a Genealogist, which is a great end to our programme. It is sad to think that our time aboard is at an end, as we are unlikely to see many of our fellow cruisers again. We have met some lovely people during our Unlock the Past adventures. This will be our final cruise with them; there is another to Tasmania in 2020 without us but that is, sadly, to be the last.

Chris has neglected to put one of his cases outside for collection He does so in a state of undress but is fortunately not spotted. He has also left his large trunk containing his medical equipment outside. Our stateroom attendant is under the impression that this contains family ashes! Given that the box is 24x18x10 inches, we must have brought the entire family tree with us. Chris doesn’t seem to have understood him when he queries this, I merely smile enigmatically and do not correct his misapprehension. So this is the end. Tomorrow we go home. The trip will take us via a family history conference but that will be another story.

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Honfleur and Deauville – Day 13 of our genealogical cruise adventures

A really interesting brickwall-busting workshop with Mia to start the day. I am pleased to be able to contribute to the demolition. Then at lunchtime we are off to Honfleur. We are now in temperatures that are 15 degrees cooler than three days ago. Some sort of happy medium would be good. Our tour guide today is Amilee. Normandy, where we are, is of course the country of the Vikings (North/Norse men). They were in this part of the world from the eighth century. In 911 Robert I, from Scandinavia, became the first Duke of Normandy. The area is also the home of impressionist art, noted for the move away from aristocratic portraits, in favour of landscapes and movement, with accurate interpretations of changing light. We cross the Seine, named for its snake-like sinuous turns. Normandy is noted for its beef and dairy cattle, cider making and calvados.

From Amilee we learn that Honfleur means ‘house on top of the hill’ and unusually, the port was not damaged during the Second World War. Honfleur was the major harbour until it began silting up, so Le Havre was built 500 years ago on the north bank of the Seine. Le Havre is now the biggest port in Europe and it certainly takes us a long time to drive across it. It is not however the busiest, that honour goes to Rotterdam. Honfleur was the site of many battles during the 100 Years’ War against the English. Amilee mentions fourteenth century English Protestants, which makes me doubt her historical knowledge. Like parts of the south-west of England, Honfleur had links with the Newfoundland cod-fishing grounds. Salt for the fishing industry came from La Rochelle. The French don’t call the English Channel the English Channel, to them it is just The Channel. Honfleur is a focus for artists and the go-to seaside for Parisians.

In Medieval times, tax was based on the size of the ground floor of buildings, hence the practice of jutting out the upper floors. This was stopped when the tax was placed on windows instead. Wooden shingles on the facades are typical of the area. St Catherine’s Church is all wooden and is famous for having two naves. We see the ‘road of the little butchers’ aka the Shambles and hear about Frederic Sauvage, the inventor of propeller, which was first demonstrated in Honfleur in 1832. In my tour of the souvenir shops, I have an unfortunate incident with some fridge magnets. I may just have spun the carousel upon which they were displayed a trifle vigorously and some found themselves on the floor. I promise I picked them all up. I am not prepared to comment on whether or not they all survived unscathed.

179 3 October 2019  Honfleur.JPG

We move on to Deauville, a town that was developed as the holiday playground of the rich in the nineteenth century. The popularity of sea bathing amongst the well-to-do meant that other attractions, such as the casino and race track were also built. The town is mostly shut up for the winter. Deauville is now full of expensive Parisian holiday homes and it really wasn’t our sort of place; it clearly caters for the luxury end of the market. No opportunities to buy tourist tat here. We wander around the town and along the beach where many of the beach huts are named for film stars.

The evening is Master Christopher’s opportunity to cure a few ailing passengers. He has an excellent turn out and the appreciative audience watch as he performs enemas and amputations with aplomb.

193 3 October 2019 Surgery.jpg

At Sea, Conference Time – Days 11 & 12 of our genealogical cruise adventures

My travelling companion is still plague-ridden and has had a very bad night, which by extension, means that I have too. We don’t quite make the first lecture but I am up next with part three of my writing-up workshop, this time concentrating on occupations. This is followed by Eric talking about emigration from Germany. Although I have no German ancestry, this is interesting, as I am fascinated by motivations for migration and migration processes.

Rosemary then outlines the advantages of The Genealogist website. I am planning on taking out a subscription as soon as they upload more of the Valuation Office Records, which are a favourite of mine. Its smart searches are a feature not shared by other sites and allow for searching for suggested siblings or parents. There is also a facility for overlaying maps of different eras.

Roast beef is on offer at lunch time so, although I have been avoiding eating too much in the middle of the day, I break the habit of a holiday and choose this. Then it is a full afternoon of lectures. Michelle describes how to break down Irish brick-walls, followed by Paul’s guide to researching at the National Archives. We are encouraged to plan ahead and use the research guides. Apparently the National Archives have a YouTube Channel, who knew? I finish the afternoon with my Darlington to Wellington story, which seems to go reasonably well. The final session of a very long day is Paul again, this time telling us about Quarter Sessions records. 

The following day is also packed with lectures and finally I feel a little less shattered. Even my lurgy-filled companion is showing signs of improvement. Although several of our party are suffering with sore throats, coughs and headaches, it does not seem to be infectious as cabin companions are not being struck down. Michelle starts us off by encouraging us to review our research, something I shall certainly be doing when I get the opportunity. A combination of timelines, checklists, DNA and robust research techniques should help us to make progress. Rosemary reminds us of the value of Directories and Almanacs. Many historic directories can be found via Internet Archive or the Leicester University historic directories site. Amongst other things, she mentions lists of sheep brands. Not you understand, as in brands or breeds of sheep but the distinguishing marks used to brand sheep in order to identify their owners. A quick search by those with internet access suggests that these are a thing in England too. I so have to check this out and use it in a talk somehow.

Next is the first of my two writing up sessions of the day. Part four focusses on the social history. Sue follows with another of her family case-studies, this time about Georgian abuse and Victorian divorce as she recounts Mary Stephenson’s journey in the Bawdy Courts. My last writing-up session includes a lively discussion on the ethics of including sensitive issues in our family stories. It is sad that my contributions are over. In a way I wish I could have ended with a different talk but I have enjoyed sharing my presentations and hope that they have been enjoyable, informative and above all have enthused my audience and made them think – that’s the aim anyway. I am excited that some of the Queenslanders plan to replicate my Remember Then project in Australia.

Paul’s final session records the workings of the Scottish Burghs. I am fascinated by a Glasgow Police Return of 1841, which gives details of the names, living conditions and health concerns of many described as destitute. I hope there is access to this online. Michelle talks about some of the Breakthroughs, Surprises and Skeletons in her family tree. Sue’s evening talk is about using forenames as a guide when investigating a family. I have rashly consumed too much cake and indeed food in general.

173a on board.jpg

At Sea and Mijas, Spain – Days 9 & 10 of our genealogical cruise adventures

I play truant from the first two lectures and persuade my companion to rise from his sick-bed to get some air. We go up on deck where I am the sole occupant of the hot tub. Ok so I am sharing it with some slices of lime left over from last night’s revels but hey! I am frantically trying to keep up with photograph labelling and the holiday diary but it is a losing battle. Already I have numerous unidentified pictures that will have to be generically designated ‘Rome’ or ‘Florence’. We also rearrange our excursions in the light of Hurricane Lorenzo. Much as I feel that I ought to see Paris, having not been, I can’t face a three hour trip each way in order to spend four hours there, so we opt for shorter trips to Rouen and Honfleur. We also have a walk booked in Spain for tomorrow.

Michelle provides us with more tips and tools for DNA, advising us to create broad and deep online trees covering six generations and including siblings. Shared matches are the key to interpreting our DNA results. I just need several free hours a week that I don’t have. Sue shares another Swalwell case study, this time about a Georgian lady who was declared bankrupt. I don’t think that I was aware that there was an important distinction between debtors and bankrupts. Mia then outlines some online sources that are often overlooked, extolling the virtues of the Online Parish Clerks,of which I am proud to be one (or three actually).

I finish the day with the new and improved version of Remember Then, encouraging people to tell their own stories. This was the practice run for Rootstech and something decidedly weird has happened to the formatting of my presentation, which I need to fix. Nonetheless, the content is very well received and people are still fired up and chatting 45 minutes after I finish.

We are up in time to hear Eric Kopittke’s interesting presentation, ‘In the Steps of my Ancestors’, about genealogical journeys. Michelle kindly helps me look at my DNA matches; I am more eager than ever to get home to work on them some more. We dock in Malaga and our rearranged, afternoon trip, due to the reduced time in port, is to the village of Mijas. We are instructed to meet at the end of the pier and I am a little concerned that we may be in the wrong place but no. Sergio is in charge of trip number twelve and he tells us how fortunate we are to not have opted for Malaga as it is siesta time and all the shops will be closed. The Spanish are not stupid. It is 31 degrees; a siesta seems eminently sensible but here we are, mad dogs and English tourists, out in the heat of the day. Apparently temperatures are higher than average for the time of year. There is no sign of the forecast cloud. Malaga was founded in 830BC by the Phoenicians. It is the capital of the Costa del Sol in the Andalusian region. It typically has 300-320 days of sun a year and 21-22 days with rain. There is a drought at present and limitations on water usage are expected.

We drive past Malaga Cathedral, nicknamed the One-armed Lady, as only one of two proposed towers was built. An artificial beach near the port was constructed in 1990 and looks to be popular. We get stuck behind a bin lorry for a while but are soon able to recommence our journey. We see the botanical gardens that were to have been part of our destination on the trip that we chose originally.

Mijas is a typical Andalusian village that is famous for its donkeys, or burros, which are available for riding or to pull carts. They were the typical form of transport until the 1960s. There are also a number of horse-drawn vehicles for hire. Especially given the heat, I would not part with money to put animals through this, quite apart from the fact that one of the donkeys is aiming vicious kicks at its neighbour. Car parking in Mijas is set a €1 a day to encourage tourism.  Beginning at the Plaza Virgen de la Pena, we walk up past the shopping area, where leather goods and Moorish influenced ceramics predominate. We can hear crickets chirruping as we climb the steep streets. We are also taken into a typical courtyard at the back of a shop. This is very attractive but fails in its undoubted aim of guilt-tripping us into making purchases. Courtyard living is the norm for most of the year and in the winter, fires are fuelled by olive wood. There are more than 420,000 olive trees in Spain. They also grow avocadoes but these trees need 100 litres of water each per day in summer and the current drought has caused severe problems.

We see Constitution Square, which is attractively laid out with a fountain and benches that were carved from the marble rocks that were left by the landslide following a flood in 1884. Despite the lack of rain in the area, this flood reached upper-storey windows. The Medieval fortress was built on top of a former defensive building that dates back to Phoenician times. The Church of Immaculate Conception was completed in 1631 and incorporates a Moorish bell-tower. We cannot escape from genealogy, as our guide tells us that 30% of Spanish DNA is Berber.

The Bullring was built in 1990 and is unique because it is oval. It has a capacity for 600, so is small by Spanish standards. Seats in the shade are more expensive than those in the sun. Animal fights only take place in early September.

We look at the Virgin of the Rock chapel that was hewn out of the rock by a Carmelite monk in the seventeenth century. Allegedly, the image of the Virgin inside the chapel was found by two child shepherds in 1586, having been led to the spot by a dove. It was a slightly less strenuous excursion than others we have been on and very enjoyable.

164 30 September 2019 Courtyard, Mijas, Andulucia, Spain.JPGA group of Guild on One-name Studies’ members foregather in the Windjammer in the evening and we consume yet more copious amounts of food.

Florence and Pisa – Day 8 of our genealogical cruise adventures

Today we are docked in Liverno in Tuscany. By dint of swift walking, we secure seats in the front of the coach. Our guide is Sara as we head for Florence. We see plenty of umbrella pines. Pine nuts are grown and used for pesto. They also give their name to Pinocchio, who was presumably made from pine wood and there are Pinocchioian representations everywhere. Sunflowers and olives are grown for their oil and the vineyards produce Chianti. Leather and gold goods predominate. The area has been famous for gold since the time of the Medici. The gold comes in a variety of colours including black and chocolate.

There is a layer of mist across the plains and we pass villages that are famous for truffles and strawberries. Firenze, or Florence, is the ‘city of flowers’. It has a population of half a million and was briefly the Italian capital in the nineteenth century. It is sited on the River Arno, which also flows through Pisa. The city was under the rule of the powerful Medici family from the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries. Once on our walking tour, which Sara delegates to a local guide, I am run into by a lycra-clad, Italian runner, who smiles sweetly and takes me by the arm. Sadly I am not being abducted.

The Cathedral is white, red and green, colours that represent the trinity. The cathedral was built from the 1290s onwards and Brunelessci’s baptistry dates from 1401. Coincidentally, of the fourteen people on today’s ‘small group’ tour, we have encountered eight on previous tours and two of the others are us! Considering that there are about 3500 passengers on Explorer of the Seas, that is some feat. Many of the Renaissance works on view are replicas including one of Michelangelo’s David. It is possible to see the real thing, just not where we are going. We do see the Medieval Medici Tower, an equestrian statue of Cosimo de Medici from the 1580s and the Ponte Vecchio. The Ponte Vecchio (old bridge) was built in 1345 and is the only Medieval bridge (in Florence presumably) to have survived World War 2 bombing. By doing some reverse picture searching, it turns out that we have seen the Palazzo Vecchio, the Basilica of Santa Croce and the outside of the Uffizi Gallery, possibly not in that order. The quality of my photographs are severely affected by the cords and the fact that most of them were taken whilst hurrying after our guide in order not to be lost.

Even though we are suffering somewhat from information overload, I do like Florence and we have the advantage of cloud cover, so the heat is less of a problem. Today’s included lunch is yet more salad and lasagne, with a strange vanilla concoction for dessert. In the leather and gold shop, where Sara is probably on commission, we are treated to a sales pitch by Anthony (with a H) from Melbourne. We do not succumb. Whilst waiting for our group we are accosted by a Kenyan street seller. He cunningly hands us some bracelets as a ‘gift’. He then shows us a picture of his children and asks for money for the babies. We claim to be penniless and return the bracelets.

We pass Michelangelo square with its panoramic views of the city but there is no time for a photo opportunity. We are on our way to Pisa. Our driver has a unique driving style, which involves a third of the bus being across the white line and periodically he has no hands in the wheel. We survive.

We spend some time in Miracle Square in Pisa. It seems obligatory to take a photo with hand outstretched, so that it appears that you are holding the leaning tower; we don’t bother. The tower was built as the campanile (bell tower) for Pisa Cathedral and leaned from the start due to subsidence. It is between 183 and 186 feet high, depending on which side you measure. It was built between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries and stabilisation work in the 1990s reduced the lean slightly. The Carrera marble was also cleaned at this time. Galileo, who was born in Pisa, allegedly dropped cannon balls from the tower to demonstrate how mass affected the speed of descent.

146 28 September 2019 The Leaning Tower of Pisa.JPG

Also in the square is the Baptistry, begun in 1152 and competed in 1363. It replaced an older building and is the largest Italian baptistry. It combines Romanesque style at the bottom with Gothic on the higher levels. Next to this is Buscheto’s Romanesque cathedral, begun in 1063 and consecrated in 1118. Allegedly it was financed by the spoils of a Sicilian war again the Muslims. Twelfth century enlargements were designed by Rainaldo.

In Pisa we learn that there is a €500 euro penalty for street selling and it is the purchasers as well as the vendors who are fined; a good job we resisted our Kenyan friend. Mind you, despite circulating police cars, there seem to be plenty who are willing to take the risk and their tactics are quite aggressive. There is obviously a secret signal, probably in the form of a text message, as periodically there is a Mexican wave of sellers rapidly gathering their wares into large blue bin bags. I can’t help feeling that having a bin bag over your shoulder is somewhat of a giveaway but perhaps the police turn a bit of a blind eye.

As Sara leads us back to the coach, we have to cross a level crossing. The barriers are down. Several Americans of mature years, not from our group, decide that the train is ‘a long way away’ and duck under the barrier to cross the line. I think some more law-abiding onlookers were hoping the line would be electrified.

Back on board we learn that Hurricane Lorenzo is looming. This is not the hurricane that was causing difficulty earlier in the cruise. This is a new and more serious hurricane that is going to necessitate a change in our itinerary. Sadly, we will lose our stops in Santa Marguerita and Lisbon; I am particularly disappointed about missing Portugal. My travelling companion is suffering from the lurgy that seems common on cruises, so I leave him to nurse his ills whilst I listen to Paul Milner speaking about nineteenth and twentieth century sources.

Rome and Vatican City – Day 7 of our genealogical cruise adventures

Another early start. Having collected our stickers, we sit and wait for dispatch. The chap is mentioning a dress code for those visiting the Vatican. Dress code? I booked our tour so long ago that I can’t even remember if it includes the Vatican. Knees must be covered. My companion is wearing shorts. There is no time to go back to remedy this. We resolve to wait and see what happens. I may have to abandon him by the side of the road. On leaving the ship, I get caught by the ever-present cruise photographers and end up forcibly posed with a Roman soldier. A waste of time as there is no way I am going to pay the ridiculous prices charged for cruise photos.

We are moored at Civitavecchia, which means ‘old town’ and is the port that serves Rome. It consists of a Medieval fortress commissioned by Pope Julius II and for which Michelangelo (he gets everywhere) was partly responsible. Today’s guide is Sabina. We point out our failure to be aware of a dress code. Our tickets warn us we need to be able to walk on cobbles, you’d think there would have been some kind of reminder about appropriate attire but no. Apparently it was in the small print in the cruise brochure that I had uncharacteristically failed to read. I was expecting to have to have my head covered in Catholic churches but this no longer seems to be a requirement. I had not factored in the possible offence caused by my companion’s knees. We briefly consider and dismiss, the idea of swapping trousers. By dint of lowering the waistband of his shorts to mid-buttock level, in a manner much beloved of today’s youth, the knees are hidden. Sabina thinks we will pass muster.

We drive towards Rome. They have a problem with graffiti and like any other major city, there are rough sleepers and beggars. The twelve mile long city wall contains fourteen gates; 80% of the walls remain. Once on foot, Sabina sets off at a cracking pace towards the Circus Maximus and the Constantine Arch, erected in 315 following the battle of Milvain Bridge to commemorate the slaying of 5000 enemies; one wonders who counted. We see the Colosseum, which is a nickname for the Flavian amphitheatre and which originally consisted of three concentric rings. There are many holes in the stonework, where, over the centuries, metal supports have been removed for ‘recycling’. Spectators were assigned a tier according to their social class, with women often being relegated to the top tier, unless they were accompanying their senator husbands. The entrance arches or fornix, were where ladies of the night lingered, seeking customers, giving us our word fornication.

Entertainments, or ‘munera’ were an all-day affair with parades, the public execution of criminals, games and finally gladiatorial combat. These spectacles were free, with the intention of securing the support of the population for the current emperor and to emphasise his status. The working life of a gladiator was about five years, during which time they might only perform ten times. After this, successful fighters could gain their liberty. The idea that the audience put their thumbs up or down, to indicate whether a losing combatant should be saved, is a myth. The fist is raised, either with the thumb hidden, or the thumb stuck out to the side, the latter indicating the executioner’s knife blade. The last human combat was in 401 and the final animal fight in 521.

We hurtle off to the Basilica di San Pietro in Vinocoli – St Peter in Chains, where what purport to be the original chains that held St. Peter are kept. Also known as Basilica Eudoxiana, it was built in the fifth century. It had many restorations, Pope Julius II again. Michelangelo’s Illumination of Moses is here. There are a number of buskers. I am taken with the accordion player who switches from Funiculi Funicula (a tune reminiscent of my childhood as it featured on an oft-played LP) to Jingle Bells as we pass, possibly in honour of Chris. There is also someone with a three stringed double-bass and a didgeridoo player, which is impressive, if culturally incongruous.

Our next stop is the Forum, where we encounter many young climate change protestors. They don’t get the best of press but personally, I am grateful that so many young people are passionate and engaged. The six vestal virgins were tasked to keep the eternal flame burning in the Temple of Vesta, which is part of the Forum. We see the Temple of Saturn and the Red or Burnished Palace where Mussolini gave his famous speech. On this tour, lunch is provided, which has the advantage that we also get free toilet facilities. We are given salad, lasagne and a filo pastry dessert.

069 27 September 2019 The Forum.JPG

The afternoon is spent in the Vatican and no problems are created by the shorts-length of my travelling companion. The Vatican covers 120 acres, making it the smallest independent state in the world. Its sixteenth century walls were constructed to withstand gunpowder. It was given the status of a separate state in 1929. The Vatican is home to the Pope and 400 cardinals and the official language is Latin. Even the instructions on the ATM are in Latin. Unfortunately I could not find this in order to photograph it. The Vatican Museum, with 2000 rooms, is the second largest in Europe and gets 30,000 visitors a day. They are not wrong; it is certainly hot and crowded. We are whisked round some of the Museum at break-neck speed, in the tourist sausage machine that is characteristic of cruise ship excursions. Unbelievably, we are walking on original Roman mosaics on occasion. There are wonderful painted ceilings and plenty of statuary, as well as fifteenth century Flemish tapestries that were completed at a speed of one square metre per person per year. How does anyone know this?

The world-famous Sistine Chapel was commissioned by Pope Sixtus IV in 1278. It underwent extensive repairs when the walls began to crumble shortly afterwards. The walls were painted to show the story of Moses and of Jesus in 1481-3. It took Mr Buonarroti aka Michelangelo four years, working alone, to paint the frescos on the ceiling. No photographs are allowed because, in return for the funds for the recent cleaning, using distilled water, of Michelangelo’s work, Fuji required the copyright on the images. Nevertheless I observe at least four people shamelessly photographing. Even more astoundingly, a family are handing round chocolate bars to their offspring. The renovation took fourteen years and was finished in 1994. The discolouration over the centuries was largely due to candle smoke. A few squares have been left uncleaned and you can certainly see the contrast. Interestingly, his panel of the Fall of Man shows Eve tempting Adam not with an apple but with a fig. We learn about the use of the Sistine Chapel for the papal enclave, when a new pope is being elected.

There is a general press of the great unwashed as we tour the Vatican. There are also plenty of illegal street sellers and manic moped riders. We visit St. Peter’s Basilica, which took 122 years to build, being completed in 1626. All churches in Italy are free to enter, unlike our English Cathedrals. Only the Pope can celebrate mass at the High Altar. Here we see Michelangelo’s Pieta, his only signed work. It is protected by bullet-proof glass following damage in a hammer attack in the 1970s. There is also a fourteenth century statue of St Peter and the last Stuart tomb. There are no paintings but instead 10,000 square metres of mosaics. The Swiss Guard, in rather flamboyant uniforms, are responsible for guarding the Vatican as they have no army of their own.

Our evening talk is Michelle on the exodus to the Southern seas, which I have heard before but which is just as good at second hearing.

At Sea, Nice, Eze and Monaco – Days 5 and 6 of our genealogical cruise adventures

In a vain attempt to boost our energy levels, we miss the first two lectures and sit on deck for a short while. This is followed by the second of my writing workshops, this one on finding national and local context. I manage to persuade people to part with money for most of the books I have bought on board. After lunch Michelle talks about surnames and then Sue’s presentation, ‘Do as I say, not as I did’ is an interesting story of her mistakes and encourages us to focus. Rosemary’s second Scottish session gives me some new avenues to explore and some ideas that I can add to various presentations. Paul follows this with a presentation on sources for landed and titled people.

Our usual Windjammer evening meal has become a pattern, with many from our group gathering in the stern to watch the sunset. Most of my menu choices seem to involve rather nice French fries and roasted vegetables but today I opt for curry. As usual, there are numerous desserts on offer and it seems rude to only pick one. Chris is working his way through crumble of the day. The evening lecture is a case-study from Mia. I am a fan of case-study talks, this one about using DNA to find the father of an illegitimate ancestor. Then straight to bed as we have an early start tomorrow.

We resolve to be at breakfast for 6.30am and indeed we are but are foiled by the Windjammer not being open until 7.00am. The regular gluten free toast toasting guy is not on duty and the replacement inadvertently puts it through the non-gluten free toaster. In fact this wouldn’t kill me but he feels obliged to do it again whilst I wait impatiently. I do notice that they handle the ‘gluten free’ toast with the same gloves as regular bread, so I don’t know how they ensure that no crumbs are transferred. We are nonetheless ready for dispatch by the allotted time of 7.45am. We are in group 1 and the first tender from the ship, which cunningly doubles as one of the lifeboats. We arrive in Villefranche and find our coach. Today’s guide is Otillie, who is not a patch on Chantal. Her very heavily accented English and fairly monotonous tone makes her hard to follow.

I am enjoying seeing how much of the signage my school-girl French will allow me to translate. We drive to Nice, which has a population of 350,000. Nice was founded by the Greeks in 600 B.C. and from 1388-1860 was part of the Duchy of Savoy, not France. We visit the flower market. The shelter provided by the French Alps helps with flower production. The other stalls are displaying local produce, notably lavender, olives, herbs and spices. At least it isn’t all bits of plastic tourist tat. We also visit the ‘rest room’, where we have to pay 50c. for the privilege, which seems a trifle extortionate. Before the beginnings of tourism, in the mid-nineteenth century, this area was very poor and it is not ideal for fishing or agriculture.

There is much evidence of ‘The Grand Epoch’ in the architecture; a style that was prominent from 1880-1914 and many of the houses are red and green. We visit the Garibaldi Royal Square; Garibaldi was born in Nice. Next is Massena Square and we also see Le Negresco Hotel, which is a mere €1500 a night. During our free time in Nice we discover that traffic is not obliged to stop when there are pedestrians on a crossing. Well, if they are obliged to, they don’t. We found this out the hard way. There are plenty of mopeds here. One drives past with two unsecured 50 inch televisions, in boxes, on the pillion.

Next, a short ride to the old village of Eze, which is 470 metres above sea level and was founded in 800 B.C.. It seems that all tourist guides are trained to tell you how high up you are. It is possible that its name is a corruption of the Egyptian goddess Isis. Until 1927, when the road was constructed, it was reached only by a pathway. It has narrow, twisty streets and is a French version of Clovelly. We visit the Baroque style, eighteenth century church. There is much talk of the celebrity residents of the area. I am singularly unenthused by the sight of Elton John’s roof. This is certainly the playground of the rich and famous and it is far too glitzy for our taste.

On to Monaco, the second smallest independent country in the world (tomorrow we visit the smallest). It became a country in 1297. Today, much of it is built on reclaimed land. It has 38,000 inhabitants, 30,000 of whom are ex-pats from 140 different countries. There is one policeman for every 66 inhabitants, compared to a ratio of 1:1000 in France. Unsurprisingly, there is little crime in Monaco. We see Princess Caroline’s home, the house owned by Princess Stephanie and the former home of Jacques Cousteau.

There are various lifts and escalators on our tour and there is plenty of getting lost potential, as Otillie’s technique is to take us somewhere, usually up a hill and then leave us to find our own way back – or not. Having barely slept last night, I am struggling a bit with the heat and the exertion required. I have also, rashly, believed the on-board newsletter, which stated that it was expected to be 64 degrees today. I think they meant 74 and it is still an under-estimate. I have far too many clothes on. We visit the St. Nicholas’ Cathedral (aka the Cathedral of Our Lady Immaculate) and see Grace Kelly’s tomb. The cathedral is comparatively modern having been consecrated in 1911 following the demolition of the thirteenth century version in 1874. We decide to wait in a shady park but there is a distinct lack of seats. Fortunately we don’t sit on the grass as it seems, despite the absence of any signs, the grass is sacrosanct. A man has dared to set foot on the un-fenced grass. A policeman is ten feet away. Does he quietly suggest that the gentleman moves? No. He blows his raucous whistle and gesticulates wildly; a lucky escape for us. It does seem that we can sit on the steps of the Oceanarium without fear of censure.

On the way back up the lifts and escalators, we end up with tour group 11. We are not sure their guide will be happy with this, as she regards this lift as being for the sole use of her party. We judiciously place a finger on our stickers, marked 1, so they resemble 11. Our coach is idling for 20 minutes, while we wait for everyone to arrive. Much as we appreciate the air conditioning, the environmental impact of this and indeed our whole trip, is sobering.

On to Monte Carlo, one of Monaco’s four quarters, where the yacht show is in full swing. It is €300 a day for entrance; sadly that does not include a yacht. The first casino in Monaco was built in the 1860s. Nowadays, only 5% of the economic activity in Monaco is related to the five casinos. Most of the wealth is generated from banking and real estate. Property ranges from €35,000-€70,000 per square foot. They also produce computers, cosmetics and jewellery. We walk up yet another steep hill in the heat to see the casino. We don’t attempt to break the bank. Also on view is the dangerous bend in the Monaco Grand Prix circuit. We manage to rescue two refugees from tour group 2 who have been left behind.

Then, an interesting evening talk from Paul on C17th and C18th sources before it is time to collapse.

047 26 September 2019 Monaco.JPG