Wednesday, August 16, 2006


We left Cambrai via Paris during the heat wave, which lasted two weeks. We had planned to meet with friends from California who were there on vacation, so I made a reservation in a lovely restaurant in St. Germain and met them for dinner there. I think it was the hottest day of the year. We had a lovely time with them and their son Matt who goes to school at AGHS, and where Lisa, his mom is a Psychology teacher. We spent the night at Sylvia's niece's apartment, had lunch with her the next day and continued south to the town of Doussas, near The Nivernais Canal, where we had been invited by our friend Rosemary. She is the owner of Anfra, the boat on which we lived while we were outfitting Biesbosch. She and her husband John bought a lovely house there, where she spends part of the summer. She booked the local B&B for us, which was a very charming old farm owned by a Parisian couple and their two daughters. The area is one of the most beautiful in France, rolling hills, Chateaux, cattle fields, absolutely beautiful. Rosemary had invited the owner of the B&B, her neighbor, for cocktails in the yard. We had a lovely evening sitting among the apple trees, chatting and drinking some lovely champagne. After cocktails we had a lovely meal with Rosemary and her visiting friend, Hannah in the house. The next morning Rosemary had to leave early to take her friend to Dijon, so we said good bye and continued down towards Besancon, where we were to meet our friends Ronnie and Nigel, who were cruising on their boat, Blokzijl. The drive was beautiful, and we got there just before 7:00 PM. Their boat was moored below the fortification walls, in a most impressive setting. The fort is lit up at night, and from the canal the view is breathtaking. We sat on their deck to have some cocktails before going out to dinner in the old part of town. Blokzijl is a Dutch barge of 19 Mts. beautifully outfitted and extremely comfortable. We were so looking forward to spending the night on their boat and to spending time with them. They were the couple who found Biesbosch for us.

Bensancon is an old City with beautiful architecture, a lot of parks and incredible charm. It is there where Victor Hugo was born. We had dinner in a great restaurant on the Main Square/park which is laid out exactly like a Spanish City. We sat outside under these enormous plain trees and thoroughly enjoyed the dinner and this very special time with our friends. The next day we had a lovely breakfast on their boat and left in the direction of Annecy and continued south towards the Alps Maritimes where we were due to visit our friends Ana Ines and Jacques who spend their summers in La Doire. Their house is a wooden chalet, which Jacques has fixed up beautifully, all in pine, with a gorgeous garden that Ana Ines cherishes and which is located in one of the most beautiful settings one can imagine. It is a pretty isolated place where one can truly find peace.

They were having a party with 28 guests on Sunday, and everyone had to wear some kind of a hat, an original hat. Rosemary had lent us a couple that we could use and put anything on. I put a sunflower-like flower on Bill's and taped his ear. Since he looks like Van Gough, well, it was obvious. Mine was a type of fishing hat with loops, so I filled it with cosmetic items, and it turned out all right. There were some incredible hats, especially the one made by Ana Ines's niece made from origami birds. It was most artistic! On Sunday we did all the preparations for the party, such as setting the tables outside, They had already prepared the food, and their friend who is a caterer in Cannes was bringing the rest of the food. It was an unbelievable spread! It felt exactly like a French movie, with the family meal scene, in the most beautiful of settings. Copious amounts of drink and food were consumed that day, and after the meal, Jacques and two of his friends who have a music group, and who are quite accomplished musicians, played and sang for us. It was a beautiful ending to a special day. Monday morning we left their place down the Maritime Alps through some narrow roads along some incredible gorges, cascades, medieval towns, all and all, an incredible ride. We got to Monaco in the early afternoon, and decided to take it easy for the rest of the day. We stayed there for a week in Sylvia's nephew's apartment, truly relaxing and exploring around. We had the opportunity to go to a concert at the Palace Princier, given by the Monaco Philharmonic to celebrate Charlotte's birthday, and sat a few meters away from the Royal Family. We went to an art exhibit called New York, New York, on the last 50 years of New York art. It was incredibly well done. There was photography, painting, sculpture, video and film. It took us about three hours to see it all. The weather was warm and great our entire time in The South. One day we went to St. Tropez to meet our California friends Ken and Paca and their daughters, who were spending some time there while his paintings were being exhibited in a gallery. Being with them was a fabulous experience. We played petanque in the park and had a lovely meal right down from the gallery, sitting under the stars. The town is as beautiful as a Mediterranean town can be, and it is the playground of the rich and famous. The harbor is full of luxurious yachts, some with helicopters. It is a place where the men are as beautiful as the women. We left them at midnight and got back to Monaco after 2:00 AM. From Monaco we went to some tiny promontory towns such as Eze, La Turbie and Gorbio, each with its unique charm and beautiful architecture. The day before we left, we drove to Italy, and had a lovely experience eating on the beach at Bordighera. The ocean was so beautiful!

On the way back, we went through Burgundy, and south of Champagne, we went to visit our friend David, owner of Shenandoah, whom we had met in Cambrai, and who was stranded in an isolated spot with engine problems. His girlfriend had gone back to USA and he was there all alone literally in the middle of nowhere, a gorgeous bucolic spot, but very remote. He had prepared a great pasta meal for us, which we very much enjoyed, and he insisted we stay one more day with him. We did, and had a great time with Dave. The next day I cooked and we watched King Kong after dinner. We hated to leave Dave there, but Mary Ellen, his girlfriend will be back next week, and the 21st his new engine will be installed. It is going to be quite a project. They plan to go to Saint Jean de Losne for the winter.

We got back to Cambrai on Wednesday, and ever since it has been rainy and cool. Our friends Ronnie and Nigel stoped here for the night on their way to UK. They slept on Biesbosch, and gave us thumbs up on the recently completed "guests" accomodations. Today, Sunday, it is raining again. It is hard to believe that it is August, but that is the way the weather is in The North. Needless to say, our departure date has been postponed to next Friday the 18th of August. We are glad to start our cruising, but truly sad to be leaving such wonderful friends behind. It has been our third season here, so the friendships we have forged are very special. We will sure return from time to time to see all of them.

Hat party

A fabulous meal

View of La Doire from Jaques and Ana Ines' house

A typical town on the Maritime Alps

Beach at St. Maxime

Church tower in St. Tropez

Bill and Ken playing petanque

Group picture with Ken, Paca and girls

View from Monaco apartment

Town of Corbio

Evening view from Monaco apartment

Italian town of Ventimiglia

Shenandoah stranded at Marnay sur Marne

La Porte de Paris in Cambrai

La Turbie

La Turbie

View from the town of Eze

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