Monday, August 03, 2009


It is interesting how a situation that has all the potential to be negative and unpleasant can be just the opposite. That is the case with our experience at the CHANTIER ALLEMAND. Despite the dust, the noise and the wind, being there for over a month, was a memorable experience for us. The shipyard is run by the Allemand family, each of them having an expertise and the good will and knowledge to pass on to heir customers. They make you feel welcome and at home. Mr. Allemand, the founder who is in his eighties is here everyday working on models for future boats and airplanes and checking out what people are doing. His wife and three daughters are in the office and store, and his son, Henri drives the cranes and heavy machinery with the expertise of a magician. I often found myself watching for hours how he took a boat out of the water, drove it across the street and placed it in the spot he had chosen for it without missing a beat. I have never seen anyone work so hard, always with a smile on his face, whistling a song.

The same day Biesbosch came out of the water, Bill washed the bottom with a pressure washer to take all of the fouling that had suck to it after 5 years in the water. The anodes were somewhat spent, but the bottom looked quite healthy. Bill had an inspector come to do a survey on the steel plating in case we would have to re plate areas. The very center of the hull from front to back has the original plating since 1927, so we thought we might have to replace it. After a "hammer" test and an electronic "thickness" test, we were told that our hull was in excellent condition, which gave Bill enormous relief.


My sister Ines was in Paris visiting my niece, Sylvia so in view that I could do very little to help Bill with any work, I decided to go to Paris to visit them. Despite some discomfort with my back and the fact that I had to go see a doctor while in Paris, her treatment proved to be very effective, and three weeks later my back has improved tremendously. My niece was presenting her Warmi 2010 summer collection at the salon called UNDER LE LOUVRE. It was held at The Carrousel du Louvre, so there was a lot of work to be done. I got to Paris the day before the opening and was able to help a bit with the translation of the Press Release, but not much else.
Sylvia's display was beautiful. I was so proud to see her there among some of the most recognized names in fashion. She was able to make some contacts, reason for the salon, so she was very pleased, as well.

After the Salon, my sister and I were able to spend time together walking about Paris and enjoying each other's company. We went to The Orangerie to see Monet's Water Lilies and the private collection under the ground floor, which is one of the most comprehensive for expressionists and impressionists I have ever seen. Sylvia took 2 days off, so we were able to spend time with her as well which made my stay in Paris very complete.

When I returned to the boat, Bill had already finished painting the hull and had replaced the anodes. It was a lot of work, especially due to the intense heat of the day and the windy conditions. Biesbosch is sitting very close to the road just across from the River Herault and about two blocks distance to The Mediterranean. July 5 was the day of St. Pierre, patron of the fishermen. They put on an incredible show both on Saturday and Sunday nights on the key at the fish processing plant. They had an orchestra with a guest trumpet player who was amazing. The singers and performers were on stage without a break from 9:30 PM until 2:00 AM. It was so entertaining, The Sunday morning, we were told the fishing boats would be going out to sea to leave flowers on the water in memory of the fishermen who died at sea. We asked if we could board a ship, so we went aboard Vnicenzo, which had a very young captain, and were able to experience a unique event which has been part of the history of this town for hundreds of years. There were about 20 boats with musicians, politicians, beauty queens, etc. It was colorful, but at the same time very emotional. The boats drop flowers in the water, light up flares and fireworks and then circle the area one after the other about ten times before returning to port. People dress in costumes and afterwards all have lunch together. It was a great paella accompanied by a good rosé wine.

On July 7, The Tour de France was passing by Agde on the way to Montpellier from Le Cap D'Agde. We walked to Agde and positioned ourselves near the bridge over the Herault getting there just as the caravans were arriving. As they go by, they toss freebies to the fans. We caught caps, balloons, bottle openers, magazines, etc. The cyclists were all in a group, so we were able to take just a few photos as they flashed by. The whole experience is very exciting. It is the fifth time we have been able to witness the Tour de France. On July 10 I took a train to go to Madrid.


My friend Maria Clara from school was presenting her second poetry book at the Casa de las Americas in Madrid as part of the many activities held in the city due to the Colombian Independence. I had promised her I would be there, so I stayed with our friend Elena with whom I saw so much more of Madrid. She has to be the very best guide one could have. She knows so much about the city and points out so many new things, that it is a true experience to walk around Madrid with her. We went to the Museo del Traje, a museum dedicated to fashion and its history. It is one of the best displays I have ever seen. I could have stayed there all day. What a treasure of a museum! The Prado held a retrospective on Sorolla, so we went to see it as well and that was incredible. His canvases are enormous, and nobody handles whites and light like he does. I thoroughly enjoyed that exhibit.

With Maria Clara and Humberto, we had dinner at the beautiful apartment they were renting in Madrid and got to meet her nephew and his wife. Elena and I had a great time there. They also invited me to an Anthology of Chapi's Zarzuelas at the Sabatini Gardens by the Royal Palace. It was an evening performance with the lit up palace as backdrop, absolutely breath taking. The music, the costumes and choreography were beautiful. Afterwards we went to the center of Madrid, to the famous San Ginés to have churros and chocolate.

The best part of my Madrid visit was Maria Clara's presentation of her book. She was somewhat nervous thinking there might have not been many people present. Madrid empties out during July and August, vacation time. Elena had invited 5 of her friends, and as it turned out the room, which seated about 100 people was completely full, and about 30 more people had to stand in the back. The format of the presentation was a casual conversation between the moderator, Plinio Apuleyo, a very well known writer and diplomat from Colombia and Maria Clara, my friend. They talked about her travels, love, family, etc. and she read a poem or two related to the topic. It was a true success. I was so pleased and proud of my dear friend who has accomplished so much in life. The evening before I left we went to a cocktail at the Colombian Embassy with all the people that had participated in the week's events, an ex president and various politicians, a typical cocktail where it is obvious that everyone present would rather be elsewhere.

With Elena and her friends we went to Bellas Artes to have a drink and then to the Bardemcilla, the Bardem family restaurant. It is a great little place decorated with photos and memorabilia of the family. The food is wonderful, traditional and delicious, so all and all, the experience was a full one. My friend Hortensia from California was in Madrid at the same time, but we were not able to talk until the night before I left. We met for breakfast early that morning. She took me to the train station, so we were able to spend some time together to catch up. She was in Madrid visiting her sons and had just come from a trip to England and Croatia. We hope to see them this coming winter in San Diego, California. I took the train to Barcelona where I would be meeting my friend Luz Maria and her son Sebastian who had been visiting our mutual friend Claudine in Carcassonne. They were there for July 14, the celebration of France's Independence and to see the firework display at The Cité. Bill was invited as well, so they enjoyed the experience together and even drove to Le Grau D'Agde to see Biesbosch. Luz Maria had seen it in Cambrai in 2005 while we were still working on it. Sebastian had never seen it, so they apparently were very impressed with Bill's work. In Barcelona I met Sebastian and Luz Maria at our great little hotel and accompanied them to Avis in town to return the car. Once free from the burden of a car in Barcelona, we were able to walk, takes buses and the Metro and to really see the city.

I had worked out a list of places to see in Barcelona, so we went to the Parc Güell, Gaudi's La Pedrera and Casa Batlló, walked along the Passeig de Gracia, The Ramblas, the Gothic quarter, the churches there, the Cathedral, The Picasso Museum,The Plaza Real, The Port, The Palau de la Musica, where Luz Maria and Sebastian went to a classical guitar concert . We had some great food in Barcelona and thoroughly enjoyed this amazing city.


I arrived at the Beziers train station, where Bill was waiting for me. Upon our return to the boat it was already dark, so I was not able to see what he had done until the next day. Bill had painted the cabin and the decks, so the boat is now looking like new. I helped him with painting the winch and the flag pole, so all that is left is the roof which he is starting to paint today, a month after we arrived here. We will be putting the boat back in the water on Monday, July 27 when we will head back to the Canal du Midi and eventually the Canal de La Robine towards Narbonne. Our friend Ken Christensen from San Luis Obispo is in France and has called to let us know he will meet us next week. We are very much looking forward to his visit.

We will have great memories of this lovely little port with its fishing boats, wide beach and Mediterranean flavor. Needless to say we will return someday with or without Biesbosch.

Large fishing boates on The Herault River

Le Vieux Crabe

Biesbosch being pulled out of the water at Le Grau D'Agde

Allemand Shipyard

Young captain and firt mate of Vincenzo. The day of La St. Pierre

Going out to sea the day of La St. Pierre

The River meets The Mediterranean

After leaving flower offerings for fishermen dead at sea.

Oyster sellers in costume

Le tour de France, July 7 Agde

Might be Armstrong! (blue and turquoise on left)

Murals in Agde

Belly dancers in Agde

July 7 in Agde

Working on Biesbosch

The river and Med in background

Le Grau D'Agde's beach

Biesbosch with new paint being put back into the water 5 weeks later.

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