Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Le Ponant

There was a stark reminder recently of the potential hazards of travel with the release of 30 hostages who had been held by pirates aboard the French luxury yacht Le Ponant. There were no passengers aboard, but the captain and crew of the ship were detained on board off the coast of Somalia for about a week. They were rescued by French military last Friday after a ransom was paid, and reports are that some of the pirates were captured and may stand trial in France.

According to well-informed sources, the captain Patrick Marchesseau was left on board alone after the rest of the crew had been released to serve as a guarantee of the ransom, and he escaped only by jumping into the water. Crew members were reunited with joyful family and friends in an airport ceremony in Paris yesterday attended by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and other dignitaries.

Might the brave captain be in line for a decoration from his grateful nation? The native of La Rochelle has certainly shown courage under fire and helped bring this ordeal to a successful conclusion.

In any case, this incident is another reminder, if one was needed, that travel can be a dangerous undertaking (but one well worth the risk.)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Monasteries in Europe

Staying in a convent or monastery is one good way to save money while travelling in Europe. Many of the places that offer accommodation to visitors are located in beautiful settings, and they are almost always quiet and clean. Smart travellers have been taking advantage of these lodgings for many years, but with the rise of the euro they are more attractive than ever, since they offer accommodation for an average of $30 to $45 per night per person. Monasteries are open to those of all or little faith, and do not entail any religious obligation.

There are guidebooks available to monasteries in Italy, France and Spain, at the Website www.monasteriesofitaly.com. Each book costs $22.95 U.S., or $59.95 U.S. for all three. I have yet to invest in one of these books, but the next time I head to one of the countries they cover I will do so.