From Boston, August 11, 2019.
Around 7 am in the morning in Port Camargue, I take the dog for a walk on a mission to buy a baguette, “pain au raisin” for me and “pain au chocolate” for Pierre. I stop at the local butcher, who knows me by now, and he asks if I would like one of my favorites, the lemon-marinated chicken on a skewer cooked with lemon slices. I must remember to make these brochettes myself after we leave France. After working on the computer all morning, I spend the afternoon making winch covers for the boat, a task I enjoy.
We have really enjoyed living in France, and have explored a bit of local region of L’Occitanie, the most southern region of continental France. We are located in the region of Camargue, beautiful with its salt marshes which turn the water brilliant pink at sunset, pink flamingos that we see every time we drive from Port Camargue to the boat yard in La Grande Motte, and white horses are always visible on the way to La Grande Motte. During Outremer week, the early morning became a routine commute.
BioTrek was not ready in time for Outremer week racing, and Pierre and I sailed on another 5X.
See here for a video of Outremer week.
One town we know well is Aigues Morts, where we stop frequently on our way to La Grande Motte. Aigues Morts is where our dog sitter happens to live. Tiller loves it there and jumps out of the car to go and play with her dog friends when we drop her off.
While often in Aigues Morts, I never had a chance to enjoy the town until a new friend from Outremer week, Julie Fineman, went with me to investigate the boutiques. Ancient medieval city walls surround this quaint town, with its intact stone walls dating from 780 or earlier, with ramparts and towers added thorough out its long history. As we strolled through the streets speaking English, a woman runs up to us, and invites us into her home for a glass of wine. It has been awhile since she has had guests that speak English. The home is magnificent, converted from an old barn and stable, with an inside courtyard garden and the house full of antiques. Her retired husband, now in his 80’s, was with the French foreign service and told us incredible stories of his different postings in Asia and stories about Aigues Morts. Upstairs, in the former hay loft converted to a sitting room, he shows us the window he looks out of each morning. There is a pine tree to give him strength, an olive tree to bring love and peace, and a Laurel tree, representing intelligence, to help him age well.
On our return to our condo in Port Camargue, Julie and I take the dog for a walk, and stop to watch a game of petanqes, a game similar to lawn bowling. The players invite us to join in, and we play until 5:30pm, time for aperitif.
We visited nearby Arles, an ancient town where the Roman coliseum is mainly intact. Many will know the town and surrounding area through paintings of Van Gough, and the Van Gough museum is worth a visit. We visited the city before a dinner with friends, friends who own a 5X named POM, and a music festival was in full swing. Our friends know the restaurant owner, and the dinner was fabulous.
We travelled a bit farther afield with a day trip to Nimes. Pierre’s colleague, Jean-Marc Zanni, spent a weekend with us while on a break from installing an electric boat system located in Barcelona. He took us to the region where he grew up. Nîmes is an ancient Roman city, and the coliseum has been completely reconstructed and is now used for concerts, yet keeping the caverns below open to visit, with museum displays about the time of gladiators. The coliseum was set up for a Pink Floyd concert later that evening. We ate lunch across the street, and the waiter at the restaurant told us that we did not need tickets, it would be just as loud at the table where we sat! Despite my love of Pink Floyd, we did not stay because we planned a visit to Pont du Gard, the largest roman aqueduct in France, and a dinner with Jean-Marc’s family.
The Pont du Gard is a bridge over the Gard river and an impressive section of the aqueduct that is over 50 km long. In Roman times, the aqueduct brought water to Nimes. The area is an enormous park, and it was a very hot day, so we took shelter in the museum after walking across the aqueduct. Pierre declared the Pont du Gard more interesting than the Egyptian temples at Luxor , which we visited on our last round-the-world. The pictures below do not do justice. Especially awe-dropping was the technique used to build the arches, shown by life-size replicas in the museum. Afterward, we got back in the car and drove to the tiny town of St Alexandre to visit Jean-Marc’s sister, then out for dinner.
Living in France has been on my “bucket list” and can now check that box, but not completely. I love it here and want to come back for another extended stay.
When we moved to Port Camargue in May, the goal was to force a departure date from Boston, and to be close to the Outremer factory during the finishing stages of our boat. We have found the people to be warm and friendly. We both speak French, although Pierre is fluent and people sometimes struggle with my accent (mixed English and Canadian French). The lifestyle here is a healthy lifestyle – quality local produce and food, and we walk everywhere.
Now we have moved aboard BioTrek and are living in the marina in La Grande Motte while workmen make final adjustments and repairs. With a nicely equipped galley, we are eating on board most days, then going for a stroll at night with the dog. But summer is passing and we anxious to leave and to sail.
I have been back in Boston for a couple weeks. The cooler weather in the 80’s has been a nice break because France has been hot – in the 100’s. I leave for France tomorrow and it is bittersweet because I love being home in Boston. We sold our house in Charleston, Boston before leaving for France. We moved to a small apartment downtown that we share with my sister who commutes between Boston and NY. Most of our worldly possessions are in storage. I will write a blog about letting go, once we are further along in the process. And for now, when I get back to France, we plan to start sailing, with a first sail to Corsica.
See here for a video of Outremer week. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfXnHwSxfFQ