Chapter Sixty-Nine August,
Our course has changed and we’re not even
close to figuring out what’s next for us.
We have lots of ideas but that’s as far as things have progressed.
So we focus on today. We are
learning to slow down. Think about
the things that matter. No
schedule, no plan, simply today. And
we are finding it truly satisfying. We
laze about more than ever before. We
read more. Some days we move, other days we don't. Some days we hike or bike, other days we nap.
It takes some getting used to, but we’re getting there.
John’s little ER excursion, he needed to see a cardiologist.
But the cardiologist wasn’t certain he needed to see John.
With the assistance of a lovely lady at the Tourist Office, we finally
were able to make an appointment. Friday
evening at 7:00. As it turned out,
John and the doc became instant friends, and the care he received was thoughtful
and thorough. We felt we were in
good hands. (This did not stop us
from getting a second opinion from nephew Eric, however.)
While waiting for John’s doc to give him a
thumbs up, we settled into the beautiful Alsatian town of Saverne at the foot of
the Vosges Mountains. The Chateau des Rohan is directly across from our mooring.
It is the former residence of the bishops of Strasbourg, rebuilt by
Cardinal de Rohan in 1779, and a perfect backdrop to our everyday life.
(Click on the photo for a larger view; use Back to return to text)
The courtyard of the chateau houses a lovely
sculpture garden, which we frequented.
Saverne became “home” for as long as was
necessary, which turned out to be four weeks. We found the perfect boulanger in
town, the French prerequisite to settling in.
So we are beginning to catch on.
architecture is very different from the refined French architecture we have been
accustomed to in Paris and outskirts. Half-timbered houses, often
characterized by clay tile roofs abound. Elegant
bourgeois homes, their façades decorated by stone details often have grand bay
windows. We loved it all.
There’s an art form in
France some call “Wall Art”. It
is prevalent in the cities but we loved discovering it in the countryside, too.
Artists take large, blank exterior walls, as in the entire side of a building,
and apply their work for all to see and enjoy.
We have accumulated a seriously full file of our favorites.
The Wall Art in Saverne was very traditional, but interesting
We explored the local hiking
grounds on a regular basis. Nearby
is the ruined chateau (or “castle”) Haut-Barr, immortalized by Goethe atop a
vast botanical park. Making it to
the top wasn’t much of a problem but looking down was brutal.
Saverne is home to a family
of swans and we caught them in many moods.
Just when we were getting
slightly antsy and wanted to move on, we got the thumbs up from the
cardiologist. We arranged to meet
Parisian friends to explore the Moselle River together.
We were four days into it when a peniche entered our sylvan mooring and
shattered our serenity with his size and power.
This was slightly annoying but oh so fortuitous. The driver was a cheery
fellow who told us that the Moselle’s locks were about to be closed for
repairs and we would be stuck for two weeks.
So we hustled our way to Metz where we felt we would be more comfortable. What a great place to be stuck!
Metz is in northeast France and is the capital of the Lorraine region (as
in quiche)! It is at the joint
border of France, Germany and Luxembourg. Because
of its historical and cultural background, Metz is oozing with magnificent
buildings. The old town wall and fortress are impressive.
So was our view.
The botanical gardens in Metz
have some interesting art. This is
one of the many things we appreciate about France. Public art surrounds you.
These weren’t our favorites, but they are certainly memorable.
surrounding neighborhoods weren’t too shabby.
Our favorite was the Royal Quarter.
would return here just to feast our eyes.
added gift was our friends Bill and Genevieve and a birthday party!
it was time to move on. The locks
were refurbished and we were dying to see Strasbourg. The entrance into the city from the canal was grand, marked
by the home of the European Parliament. But
one glimpse a bit further into the heart of the city reveals older, more
is Music Festival month in France. There
was music everywhere. We biked into
the city every night searching for the right tunes. The traditional band was fun to watch. Once.
we discovered the refurbished port of Austerlitz, with daily live music (the
Hip-Hop crowd was really fun) and a wonderful water/light show.
We had a ball.
did a self-guided audio walk and loved it.
Without it we would not have seen so many of the interesting sites,
especially St. Thomas’s Church where we found the historic organ played by not
only Mozart but also Albert Schweitzer. This
is a vibrant city.
the midst of a crowd John noticed a strange hand in his pocket. Fortunately, the culprit was in a secured pocket and
stole nothing, but Sharon decided to scare him off by photographing him.
In the end, we were even more frightened believing we were sure to be
punished because of our savvy dealings with a Russian pick-pocket!
But in a few days we exited Strasbourg and breathed easier.
we had to face the daunting Rhine River. We had only 75 km to do before we would
veer off to less dangerous waters. (Or
so we thought. More about that
later.) But it was still
frightening even though we were fully prepared and had read everything available
on how to safely cruise the Rhine. Here
we faced locks the size of NYC blocks and barges to match.
were exhausted at night mostly from the angst of it all. When the barges turn their propellers to exit the lock, the
wash throws us around mightily since we are right behind them.
The first time we encountered this, we were thrown across the lock and
crushed our bow roller as it met the port side wall of the lock.
We were afraid Sharon was going overboard, but she managed to hang on.
We have had no mishaps since then so we’re much relieved.
payoff is we get to be tourists again. We
settled into the lovely town of Mulhouse where we did all the same things over
again. More music (this time jazz),
more art, more architecture and even a brocante! This is happiness.
was an imperial town in the 15th century and sits on the border of
France, Germany and Switzerland. This made it possible to hop the train and
visit Basel, Switzerland. (We’re
getting cultured beyond all expectations.)
Our favorite stop in Basel was the Tinguely Museum and Fountain.
of the things we love about our last ten years of travel is settling in to the
culture of the places we visit. We
have discovered it takes a year to be in a country to begin to understand the
people, their customs and their thinking. In
France, where John’s French has continued to improve, we have conversed with
ambulance drivers, lock keepers, boulangers, bikers, hikers, fellow yachties,
clerks, red haired walkers, dog lovers (let’s not get into the French dog
fetish thing), young and old and have found that we learn most from just
conversing. We have learned to love
the French, despite everything we’ve heard to the contrary.
We can site a sad but true example.
Remember we were relived to get off the Rhine?
We have now entered the River Doubs where the water levels can be
finicky. Before we headed down we
checked with the river authorities who assured us we would have “no problems
at all.” We have been hard
aground twice in one day and at one point we were perched atop two rocks with
our stern completely out of the water. The
first time we started with a rescue team of two fishermen and a van.
When that proved to be unsuccessful, the team increased from two to seven
and the van was replaced by a 4X4. The point is they didn’t give up.
They never wavered and they were losing precious fishing time!
Of course, we expressed our thanks in chilled bottles of wine but it
didn’t seem nearly enough for what could have been.
Theo (our Hero) was relentless and even joined us on the bow to add
weight while we eased off the rocks.
it happened the second time in the same day we were distraught. By the way, the
pilot book disagrees with the signage by the side of the river and makes finding
the channel even more troublesome. Again,
fisherman to the rescue. Fortunately
it was Sunday so there were lots! Thank God for fishermen.
This team of four tied us to a chunky tree and we winched ourselves off
after clear instructions from the team, all in French sign language which we
be confused, these troubles aren’t the everyday stuff we have learned to love.
It’s the saucisson stand in the town square.
Or the freshly packaged tomatoes a yachtie can buy at the lock!
Or cheese for sale 300 meters from the side of the canal!
And let’s not forget about the romance that seems to be everywhere!
the pure unadulterated beauty.
thing we have learned in our year with the French is they take great pride in
their towns and their neighborhoods and always with a great sense of humor.
We see it in their garden décor along the canals.
still a lot to learn. In fact,
it’s an everyday process. Just a
week or so ago we learned one of our biggest lessons. And that is: it is clear
to both of us that the “house special” in a restaurant is risky business. Tete
de veau will never be appealing. Even
when finely presented in the prettiest of porcelain dishes, brains floating in
broth is just not pleasing. So
there’s still a lot to learn but learning in France is the best fun!
now you have figured out we have turned south, toward Marseilles, our winter
destination. We are excited about
this plan. Seraphim is
booked to depart Marseilles mid-March, 2013, arriving in Newport, RI sometime in
April. Yes, we are shipping her.
Seraphim could be “home” for a while when we arrive in the
U.S. That sounds very appealing to
both of us. We can’t imagine not
puttering around on a boat anymore. It’s just an idea….