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October 2011- France

October 23, 2011

We left Port Vendres with Eirene on Friday and anchored for the night in Cala Culip NW of Cabo Creus. Then Saturday headed down the coast looking for our last anchorage for the season before reaching Barcelona. We finally anchored off Blanes, Spain. It was a bouncy night and we must have hooked something because we had a difficult time getting the anchor up the next morning. Al had to drive the boat and back it up to windward to get us loose. It took about half an hour. We were beginning to think Al was going to have to go for a dive to break it loose. Ended up motoring the last 34nm to Barcelona. We are moored at Port Vell and Cruising Season 2011 is completed. Now we become land-lubbers and tourists for the next 6 months.

October 20, 2011

France | Port Vendres | Artemis, Sally and Al in Port Vendres Harbor

France | Port Vendres | Harbor entrance Port Vendres

Hi Everyone, We're enjoying our stay in Port Vendres, France. Tuesday we took a 10 min. bus to Collioure. Our friends Steve and Pam on Eirene were anchored there. It's a cute Cote Vermeille resort town. Chateau Royal and its defensive walls along the harbor and the medieval church of Notre Dame des Anges surround the harbor. Lots of artists as Matisse, Derain, Picasso and Braque were all here. They have replicas of art placed around the village and artists come to sit in the same spot as the "masters" to try their talents:-) Many cobbled alleys with shops and art studios. We walked up to the new cemetery to find Patrick O'Brian's grave. (author Master and Commander series)Great walk nice views of vineyards and the sea.

France | Perpignan | Perpignan Cathedral

Al and I took the train(25min) to Perpignan on Wednesday. It's third largest Catalan city after Barcelona and Lleida. It was never bombed so Perpignan's buildings date back to 13th and 14th century when it was the capital of the kingdom of Mallorca. Another great day of wandering cool streets with awesome architecture. Perpignan also has several canals running off the Tet River through the town. So there are many bridges and beautiful gardens alongside the canal banks. When we arrived back in the harbor an artist was sitting behind our boat painting our picture.

France | Port Vendres | Painting of Artemis in Port Vendres by local artist

Today we got provisions for the next week. We plan to be in Barcelona Oct. 28. We were invited to lunch by an English and Canadian-American couple who live here in Port Vendres. Dominic took us on a drive up to the Cap Bear lighthouse before taking us to their home. He warned us to open one door at a time and to hold on but none of us were prepared for the force of the wind. It almost pulled the car door off. We could barely stand as we walked around the lighthouse. I swear the wind picked Al right off the ground. Glad we were not on the sea today. The winds were blowing Force 9 on the sea and the waves off the Cape were confused. Once around the Cape the bay seas were smooth except for the fetch that came around the cape. We then went to Dominic and DeeDee's house a few blocks from the marina. They have a lovely home and we enjoyed a wonderful afternoon of food, drink and conversation.

The wind is still howling but the forecast looks favorable for our heading to Spain tomorrow. We have an anchorage picked out about 15nm away that Eirene was in last Spring. We plan to anchor and enjoy the hiking until the middle of next week. Some strong southerlies are in the forecast until Tuesday. Then we'll do a couple of 40nm days and we'll be in Barcelona around Oct. 28. Happy 60th birthday to my sister Katie. Hope all is well Love and God Bless Sally and Al

France | Avignon | Palais des Papes

October 17, 2011

Hi Everyone, We rented a car on Saturday to visit Avignon and Les Baux de Provence. Unfortunately car rentals are closed on Sunday so we needed to be back in Marseille by 6PM. Avignon is a Unesco World Heritage city and definitely worth a visit. It is called City of the Popes as it was the Papacy in the 14th century when Pope Clement V and his court fled political turmoil in Rome. During that time a massive medieval fortress and papal place was built. We parked outside the ramparts and wandered the cobblestone alleys, followed a stream with four working paddle wheels and visited Les Halles Market where we found a Tourist Information office. We spent most of our time in Palais des Papes and had an audio tour.

France | Avignon | Le Pont d'Avignon

Pont St-Benezet (Pont d'Avignon) was a must see for me. In High School French class we sang a nursery rhyme about dancing on the Avignon bridge "Sur le Pont d'Avignon" :-) The tune has been dancing through my mind for days. We wanted to see Les Baux du Provence so sadly we left Avignon at 3:30 missing Villeneu ve les Avignon (across the Rhone from Avignon)completely.

The drive into the Alpilles mountains was lovely. Les Baux is nice but we visited the village of Ese when in Villefranche and it is similar. We think Ese was prettier but then we had a whole day to wander and walk the trails. If we were to do this trip again we'd take the train and spend the whole day in Avignon and Villeneuve les Avignon. Or make it a two day trip.

We left Marseille Sunday noon for Port Vendres, France. It was 110nm across the dreaded Golfe du Lion so we did an overnight. We had a perfect moonlit night. We were able to sail about the first 30 nm before the NW wind died and then the last 10 nm NE winds blew in so we could sail again. We are tied alongside at Port Vendres for a few days. Plan to visit some villages nearby enjoying the Pyrenees and our first Catalan experience before heading for Barcelona. We're only about 100nm away. Love and God Bless Sally and Al

October 14, 2011

Hi Everyone, We had a nice hike into Cassis on Tuesday then we left Port Miou mooring and headed for Marseilles on Wednesday. Wind was on the nose but we had a nice motor along the Les Calanques. This is about a 10 mile stretch of coast with steep limestone ranges of the Marseilleveyre and the Puget and is know as the Les Calanques. It's a National Park with hiking trails overlooking the steep sided fjord like inlets that were carved out by streams and winter seas.

France | Iles du Frioul | Port de Pomeques |lunch stop as Optimist sailboats heading in to Port

We stopped at Port de Pomeques anchorage on one of the Iles du Frioul (islands) for lunch. Al shouted out "Here come the Pups!" About 38 Optimist little sailboats sailed in. All kids 6-9 years old. The four instructors each in a separate dingy tie 10 boats behind them like ducks in a row to haul them into the anchorage for lunch. So cute. We sailed by the tiny island Ile d'If with it's fortress/prison about 1 mile from Marseilles. This is the island Alexander Dumas used as his prison setting in Le Count de Monte Cristo. The inspiration for this character came from a real prisoner "The Man in the Iron Mask" who I wrote about when we visited Fort Royal on Ile Ste Marguerite near Cannes

France | Marseilles | Old Port Mareille where Artemis is moored

We are in Port Vieux (old port) in Marseilles since Wednesday. We have a berth at Vieux Port Mareille SNM Yacht Club and our friends Steve and Pam are near by in another yacht club. It's busy busy place. Lots of museums, churches, restaurants and shops. Marseilles is the European Capital of Culture for 2013 so lots of repairs and beautification going on.

France | Marseilles | Basilica notre Dame de la Guard 150 m above harbor

Thursday Al and I did one of the marked walking trails set through out the city. We visited Le Panier quarter which is the historic old city north of the port. Visited Centre de la Vielle Charite, a museum of Mediterranean Archaeology housed in what was built to shelter the poor. Today it's a beautiful chapel, museum complex but one can imagine the conditions when 1200 homeless were crammed elderly men, women and children four to a bed into this hospice. The Byzantine-style Cathedrale de la Major between old and new port is gorgeous. Made of local Cassis white stone and green Florentine marble. We took a bus up to Basilica Notre Dame de la Guard about 150m above the marina. On a 34m tower is a gigantic statue representing Our Blessed Mother carrying her son who is blessing the city and it's harbor, as well as all those who come to Marseilles. The statue is nearly 10m tall and weighs close to 21,000 pounds! The wrist measurement of Jesus is over 1 meter.

France | Marseilles | Palais de Longchamp and gardens

Today we hiked more of the town. One beautiful building after another. Palais de Longchamp and it's gardens were especially impressive. Beautiful fountains and it houses the Beaux Arts Museum and Natural History Museum. We enjoyed the church of St Vincent de Paul built in 1855 in gothic style. Marseilles is an exciting place to be. Had a great dinner out with Pam and Steve. They're leaving tomorrow for Port Vendres and we have a car rented to visit Avignon and Les Baux de Provence. Hope everyone has a nice weekend. Love and God Bless Sally and Al

France | The Calanques | Artemis moored in Port Miou near Cassis

October 10, 2011

Today Al and I motor/sailed to Port Miou. Port Miou is a long calanque (steep-sided fjord like inlet)near Cassis. We have a mooring buoy and are tied to the shore and I believe the only transit boat in the port. This calanque goes in over 2km and the inner part has hundreds of local boats moored off pontoons. Above the calanque are walking trails. The Calanques are France's newest National Park. (20km of rocky promontories, sheer cliffs 100m down to the sea) All five calanques have good anchorages but Port Miou is the most sheltered. We hiked the trails above the boat for a bit but plan to hike into Cassis tomorrow. Sorry this is so long. I'll try to write more frequently so it's not such a log... Hope all is well. Love and God Bless Sally and Al

France | Sanary Sur Mer | harbor where Artemis is moored

October 09, 2011

Wednesday Oct. 5 we sailed to Sanary Sur Mer, by-passing Toulon. We had a mistrel in the forecast so we wanted to be somewhere to get in for a few days and Toulon marina wouldn't answer our emails. We anchored outside Sanary and made arrangements to move into the port on Thursday. Then we moved over near Bandol to anchor for the night. Very pretty anchorage but a bit rolly. Our friends from Tennessee Pam and Steve on Eirene arrived from Corsica on Thursday and we were both able to get situated in Sanary Sur Mer harbor before the mistrel. Eirene had to moor on the visitors quay and we secured ourselves to a floating dock. Cute, cute busy coastal town. We had dinner out with Eirene. The mistral blew until Sunday night so we had plenty of time to catch up with our friends and explore the area. Friday was the windiest day with 45-50 kts in the marina. So Pam and I went up to do laundry and the guys watched the boats.

France | Toulon | Mont Faron | views Toulon and Iles de Porquerolles

All was secure so Al and I decided to take the train to Toulon on Saturday. Toulon is a modern city as much of it was destroyed in WWII but very nice. Our main attraction was the waterfront, Mont Faron and the WWII memorial museum. The marina looked to have plenty of space for us if we had come in. We took a bus to a telepherique (cable car)that took us to the top of Mont Faron and the museum. It was a bit windy but he took us up anyway. Unfortunately the museum was closed because of a motorcycle rally on the road to the museum! What about the cable car? Oh well, we walked some of the paths on the summit. Great views of Iles de Porquerolles, Toulon, and Baie de Sanary. We met a nice French couple (Paris)who after visiting with us offered to drive us back to the train/bus station. We took a bus back to Sanary. Eirene called and invited us over to make plans for Sunday. Pam make great veal meatball/pasta soup.

France | St. Cyr-Lecques | lunch Sally, Pam and Steve on Maison de Vins Circuit Tour of Bando

Pam, Steve, Al and I rented a car on Sunday and drove 200km on Maison de Vins Circuit Tour of Bandol Vineyards. Bandol has 49 vineyards but on a Sunday we found only two vineyards open for tastings and bought a couple of bottles. We drove through several villages, Le Castellet, Evenos, La Ciotat, Le Beausset and stopped in St Cyr-Lecques for lunch. The return circuit, Mario Andretti's (Steve) took us past the Grand Prix racetrack and up a narrow hairpin curve road to the summit of Mont Caume (801 meter) The views were spectacular but the drive...two vehicles could barely squeeze past each other and there were very few guard rails. At the top overlooking Toulon and Mont Faron we watched three firefighting airplanes put out a fire. Our route was detoured because of the fire so we saw more of Toulon than planned:-)

France | Ile de Porquerolles | Artemis anchored off Plage d'Argent near village on Ile de Porquerolles

October 6, 2011

We've had a busy week in Provence area of France. Sunday Oct. 2 we went back to mainland Hyeres Plage and explored the marina village. Found an open market. Great inexpensive fruits and vegetables and lots of clothing, knickknacks etc. We sailed back out to Ile Porquerolles to Plage d'Argent anchorage near the village. We went into the village to buy dingy fuel and to check out tourist information. We discovered in France self serve fuel stations only except EU credit cards as they have an electronic chip in them instead of a magnetic strip. So we finally found a French/American (Michele)French/Canadian couple who charged our dingy gas for us and we paid them cash.

France | Ile Porquerolles | biking roads and dirt paths of Ile Porquerolles

The next day Monday we unburied our bikes and took them to shore in the dingy. We biked into the village and saw our Good Samaritan from yesterday at a restaurant. They invited us for coffee and we had a nice visit before they caught the ferry back to Cannes were they live. Then we biked around Ile Porquerolles. The roads were mostly full of potholes or just dirt paths but manageable. We saw a pretty gorge, great coastal views, many vineyards, a big windmill and Fort Agathe. We left our bikes near Plage d'Alicastre and hiked out to Cap des Medes. Great views again and ruins from another fort. Tuesday we did boat projects and then decided to move and anchor under Fort Agathe for the night.

France | Ile Port de Cros | beautiful hiking trails on Port de Cros

October 1, 2011

Hi Everyone, We're having beautiful Fall weather and so far great winds for anchoring. It's been mostly sunny and 75-80 temps. We really have enjoyed the Nature Reserve island Port de Cros. It has over 30km of walking trails nicely shaded with scrub oaks and pines. Wednesday we hiked the north side of the island from Port Cros to Port Man on what is called the Forts Route. We visited five forts but only one allowed you inside. Great views and well marked trails. We

took a trail from our final fort called Barrage trail which was the most difficult but also the prettiest. We went down a steep gorge to the valley, walking along a dry river bed back to the village of Port Cros. I was glad Al suggested we wear our hiking shoes and bring hiking poles.

Thursday we hiked about 40 min over to La Palud beach to go snorkling. Great hike behind two forts along the cliffs on North shore. Quite a bit of uphill but then there's always downhill to look forward to. La Palud beach has been set up by the Pa rks to be an underwater path. They have 6 buoys around the bay with underwater sign boards describing the flora and fauna. Lots to see with underwater rocks acting like coral heads so fish are plentiful. Wish I had worn a wetsuit. After about 40 minutes I was just too cold to keep looking. Luckily there is a nice sandy beach to lay on and soak up the sun for warmth. We had a picnic and then hiked back to Artemis.

Friday we hiked the south coast of Port Cros for 1 1/2 hours had a picnic then turned back to revisit Sud Plages (South Beach). This is the prettiest little cove and beach we've seen on Rivera so far. The sand is fine and beach was clear of any pebbles. Lots of fish swimming around too like La Palud but sand bottom instead of sea grass. Little did we realize it was just around the point from our anchorage. We could have dingied over. Oh well enjoyed the hike through the woods and lookout views along the way. Decided to sail to Port de Hyeres for provisions this morning. Great 11 mile sail but found no protection and big seas in anchorage so sailed back out 5nm to Baie D'Alicastre on Ile de Porquerolles for the day. Maybe go in tomorrow to shop. Have a great weekend. Love and God Bless Sally and Al

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