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Chapter Seventy-Two   February, 2013

Home for the holidays was perfect.  We’d forgotten how much we missed it after ten years of being away. Thanksgiving on the Cape with our closest friends was pure delight.  It doesn’t get any better.  Christmas in San Francisco was wonderful even without the snow!  Our nephew made up for everything.

We’re back in Marseille.  It wasn’t until we returned that we realized just how privileged we were to be in America for the holidays.  Marseille is a dynamic city but they just don’t know how to decorate for Christmas.  In fact, you would hardly have known it was Christmas walking down the street!  So the goal was to find a single Christmas decoration on our morning walk.  Mission accomplished.  But really!

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This, however, is our only complaint of Marseille.  Well, there is one other small matter.  It’s the dogs and the mess their owners leave for us to navigate around.  We don’t mind the French being 100% obsessed with their dogs.  In fact, we find it rather entertaining.  There is a doggie toilettage (coiffeur) in every neighborhood. We’ve noticed there are “deluxe” plans where one can drop off one’s pooch for anywhere from 4-8 hours for the “Esthetique” program.  That seems to come with colored ribbon choices; we assume that’s for the ponytail.  There are also lots of canine fashion boutiques everywhere. Many dogs walking around Marseille are sporting sunglasses, motorcycle helmets, cashmere sweaters, furs with matching bags, (yes, it’s true but maman is usually carrying the bag!) gold lamé vests and even patent leather raincoats.  It is rainy season, after all!  Ah, but our favorite boutique features rhinestone-studded collars.  I’ll bet you’ve seen those!  But these are 500 Euros!  Oh, the love of dogs!


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Marseille is a vibrant hub of cultural activity.  The city has been designated the “European Capital of Culture for 2013.”  The opening events were quite a spectacle.  It all started at 5 PM when 400,000 people gathered.  There were seven designated squares around the city where the first event took place, “La Clameur.”  The streetlights were extinguished all over the city.  And at the strike of the hour people started screaming.  For two minutes!  Then laughter, shouts and more screams.  It created a strange feeling; an uplifting, funny, light-hearted feeling that carried us through the evening as we battled the crowds.  There were light/water shows, fireworks, music, dancers in the streets and even a tightrope performance.  What fun!


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Although we are accustomed to scouting out a city when we arrive, we sometimes employ special “advisors.”  Only two.  But they are experts.  They told us we needed to have bouillabaisse in Marseille because it was invented here.  So we began the research.  We quickly learned there are only five particular restaurants that are recommended by the tourist office as “authentic” bouillabaisse referrals.  (BTW, bouillabaisse was invented in Marseille as a poor man’s soup and was created from the fisherman’s leftovers of the day.  Not any more!)  Sharon picked one of the best restaurants for John’s birthday surprise.  John just couldn’t justify $150 for two bowls of soup.  So we had pizza instead.  Chez Etienne serves anchovy or cheese pizza like we’ve never tasted.  Followed by sautéed calamari and a salad.  For one-third the price of bouillabaisse!  Our advisors thought we had made a wise decision.

We decided to take a jaunt to Nice where the weather is even a tad warmer than Marseille, not that we’re complaining at 60° (F) in mid-January.  We took a three-hour train ride to Nice and found our apartment in the heart of the Vieux Ville.  It was great.  We found a nice balance to our daily routine with afternoon walks, a selected museum, church, market or other destination.  We rented a car one day and drove to Vence (on another of our advisors’ fine recommendations), a hilltop village about 75 km north of Nice – getting lost in Monaco along the way.  In Vence there is a special museum known not only for it’s exceptional collection of contemporary works by such artists as Braque, Calder, Chagall, Giacometti and Miró, but also for the architecture of the museum itself.  The sculpture collection weaves in and out of nature around the grounds, which overlook distant villages and valleys.  It was a lovely jaunt perfected with an exquisite lunch of wood-fire roasted chicken that only the French can do. We think it was the added butter on the crispy skin!

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Like other French cities, the architecture in Nice captured us.  Much of the city is of the Belle Époque, so there are “wedding cake” mansions to scout out on one’s way to the Musée Matisse.

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We’re back in Marseille again and getting Seraphim ready to ship. Here’s the upcoming schedule:  On March 23rd Seraphim will set sail (with hired crew) for Mallorca, the port of embarkation for crossing the Pond.  We fly to Mallorca to provide the necessary paperwork to put Seraphim on the ship.  Off she goes as we fly to Texas, where we pick up our newly purchased automobile.  We will visit a bit with John’s family and then drive from Houston to Newport, RI where we will meet Seraphim in early May.

So we return to America after ten glorious years. The adventure has far exceeded our expectations, and has changed us in ways we are only beginning to see.  We are not only older and hopefully wiser, but our view of the world has been altered.  And we are filled with stories and memories that will be with us forever. 

And so begins the next adventure.

Au revoir.

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Chapter Seventy-One   November, 2012

The Neighborhoods

Remember we told you Marseille was noisy?  Having now experienced Marseille for a little more than a month, we have a few more endearing words for Marseille.  Rough.  Boisterous.  Rugged.  Dirty.  Charming.  Colorful.  Eclectic.  Magnifique.  This is a crazy eccentric city steeped in viscosity and culture.  We like it.  It’s vibrant, ethnic and delicious.  People say Marseille has prospered and been ransacked over the centuries but has undergone a renaissance in recent years.  The march of progress is not, however, relentless; it just continues.  It seems to be the way of Marseille.

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Oh no, it’s not Paris.  In fact, it’s hard to believe the two cities are in the same country, save the architecture.  But Marseille is a wild and windy city with yacht traffic that never ends.  We are constantly entertained by the flow of sailboats, ferries, fishing boats, kayaks and canoes that drift by our stern.  Despite all the efforts to clean up the old elegant facades gone grimy and the vast amounts of money being spent on architectural facelifts for its soon-to-be title of “Cultural Capital of Europe,” it’s still a grim looking place at first glance.  Add to this the construction underway in downtown areas and surrounding neighborhoods and “loud” hardly describes Marseille.  Impatient drivers, horn blowers, screeches and a few crunches constantly contribute to the noise level.  Marseille is a frenetic, disorderly, confusing jumble of a city.  It is made up of hills and neighborhoods with distinct personalities yet all carrying the same belligerent badge of a rough sea port.

The spectacular old port where we are moored is decked to the east with a half dozen cranes and mountains of sand and stone piled high.  Napoleon III’s mistress’ summer home is overlooking us to the west.  To the west the forts dominate the skyline.

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These photos are just a sample of what we see from our cockpit.  Sometimes one never knows what will float by!

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Just around the corner along the coastline is a precious bay called Malmousque.  It’s a “must” on Sharon’s morning walk.  The area, with its tiny inlets and beach huts, is a hideout for informed bathers and fishermen seeking a little peace and quiet.  The tranquil natural beauty offers a jaw dropping view of the sea and surrounding islands only a stone’s throw from the hub of the noise.

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Looking north to the top of the hill is the signature monument of Marseille, Notre Dame de la Garde.  We recently took the tour to explore this stunning church which is polished and buffed to a sparkling masterpiece.  As we neared the top of the hill the audio guide commented on the gilded “Virgin and The Kid”. Now when John asks what the weather looks like Sharon often says “The Kid is gleaming!”

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We absolutely love le Panier, the artisan’s district where everyone hangs just for the scenery, whether it be art or people or architecture.

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So we’re getting around and learning our way in between maintenance projects.

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We picked a good spot for our last winter in the Med aboard Seraphim

More to come! 

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