Mel Blumenthal
Columnist
Snowmass Village, CO Colorado

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May 22, 2012
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Mel Blumenthal: Traveling the beautiful Mediterranean

As this edition of the Sun goes to press, we are nearing the end of our Mediterranean cruise and I'm writing this week's column sitting on our stateroom veranda looking across the blue green Mediterranean at the beautiful seaside village of St. Tropez on the French Riviera.

From shipboard each day I've been checking the Valley papers for local stories that I might comment on while enjoying the pleasures of being totally pampered by the Oceania cruise staff aboard the recently commissioned M/S Marina. As expected this time of year, it appears that not much of newsworthy note is going on in back in the Valley, so with the exception of the local item at the end of this column I'll devote most of my commentary to our joyful cruise experience.

We met up with our friends from Basalt, Skip and Frankie Welfeld, in Barcelona for a couple of days of pre-cruise culture immersion, shopping and lots of great tapas tastings; in our case mostly vegetarian samplings and in the case of the Welfelds everything on the menu.

If you get a chance to spend a few days in this historic city, make sure you visit Antoni Gaudi's most famous and unfinished masterpiece, the Church of Sagrada Familia, which is considered the emblem of the city. Other highlights not to be missed are the Museu Picasso, the Museu Nacional d'Art, Museu d'Historia de Catalunya and Montjuic a prominent castle-topped hill covered with parks and gardens.

Barcelona is a large city with many districts, but the most popular attractions are located in a few areas which generally flow into one another. La Rambla, Barcelona's most famous boulevard, is the heart of the central city and is teaming with many of the exciting attractions and vibrancy the city has to offer. A few highlights along the way included viewing the preparations for the Grand Prix in Monte Carlo and the Principality of Monaco, losing a few Euros at the Grand Casino and a short visit to Prince Albert's comfortable little palace in Monaco ... a bit more grand than most of the palaces on Red Mountain. There was fabulous sightseeing, shopping and eating in Marseille; millionaires and billionaires yachts on view in Saint-Tropez and the beautiful fishing village of Portofino; the leaning tower of Pisa; In Florence, the Duomo, Uffizi Gallery and the Ponte Vecchio, which over time has transitioned from a warren of butcher shops to numerous over-priced jewelry boutiques. I think there is something poetic in that transition; and of course the Accademia Gallery, home to Michelangelo's David and a new addition adjoining the souvenir shop, a full-size replica of David but this version is all in bright pink with bright yellow hair in all the traditional spots - perhaps an homage to Italy's gay population, which has been out-of-the-closet a bit longer than in the US.

For all my athletic friends back home, you need not worry about sampling all the great food available on land and at sea; the new luxury cruise liners come equipped with state-of the-art spas and gyms with a full array of the latest high-tech exercise equipment, a variety of aerobic and stretching classes and to my surprise, group spinning classes with pretty good instructors and contemporary music - but not as good as Bianca's spinning classes at the Snowmass Club.

Bring your own padded bike shorts and spinning shoes, items not easily found in these towns.

Back in the upper Roaring Valley Gary Tennenbaum and his merry band of open space managers have been conjuring up their mischievous and self-serving excuses to exclude man's best friend from the recently acquired Droste property, while at the same time promoting horseback riding and Elk hunting on the same open space that we in Snowmass recently contributed $2 million to purchase.

These Pitkin County clowns hoodwinked us into paying a very significant portion of the purchase price of this open space parcel and then went about ignoring the wishes of a significant portion of our community in restricting its use to satisfy their own agenda and what's worse is that Hunt Walker, our Village's Public Works Director, appears to have fallen under their spell and is following the county's script and specious line of reasoning; perhaps Hunt is not a friend of man's best friend.

If you're as pissed off and feel as cheated and deceived as many of the rest of us are let's take the high road and tell the Pitkin County Commissioners to take the $2 million they conned us into contributing out of one or more of their other slush funds, and if that's not sufficient they can make up the balance by reducing their exorbitant and unjustified $75,000 per year salaries.

If you're looking for any Mediterranean cruise tips feel free to contact me at secondview@earthlink.net. I need to find a way to generate a few bucks to cover Paulette's European shopping expenses ... ciao.


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The Aspen Times Updated May 22, 2012 04:26PM Published May 22, 2012 04:24PM Copyright 2012 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.