A Very Black Day

Sleeping fitfully I wake and check my iPad.  By about 4 a.m. it is clear to me that things have gone badly and we will end up with a vote to leave the EU.  When the last votes are in there is something north of 1 million votes in it.  It feels like a catastrophe and a very deep sadness for so much that could be lost.  I monitor Facebook, I post and I comment.  It allows me to share my feelings and deep regret.

The day must be got on with.  The Tailles go into Loano with shopping bags.  They bring back some prawns which Francois tosses into a pan with garlic and oil, then we cook hard-boiled eggs and make a salad.  Sleep-deprived I am falling asleep over my coffee so I retreat to my bunk and, bathed in sweat, I sleep for three and a half hours.  Waking, the heat is still intense and I wonder why we sailed all those miles to suffer………… for Fefe does not enjoy this heat either.  But then, today I am feeling very negative.

A drink in the Capitainerie is proposed and this is a good move.  There is air-conditioning – why we were not alerted before?!  There we have an Aperol Spritz and, as is the custom here, a plate of canapes is included in the price.  After we walk into Loano and make a little circuit of the town closest to the marina.  I spent a minute or two in a round church whose opulence is distasteful to me and the small Oratorio is even more vulgar in its ornate, heavily gilded decorations and artefacts.  My jaded mood seems to colour everything.  I am aware that I am bad company but am so preoccupied with the shock and pessimism that have followed the vote to Leave.

We find ourselves at Vittorino’s again and order our supper.  Back at the boat Fefe and I sit down with her book and pen and she writes up her vocabulary and idioms from recent days.   And then to bed.

A Passage to Loano

It is EU referendum day and ‘Till’ is going to make a long passage east into Italian waters.    I am unsure whether I will have an internet connection so I email the kids and ask them to text me key bits of information as the results come through, some time after midnight.

After a provisioning dash ashore we set sail.  Once ‘au large’ the sea presents its beautiful ‘oily’ surface and the heat will build up during the day. blogIMG_4585 (2) blogIMG_4587 (2) We are sailing parallel to the Alpes Maritimes coast and it is not long before we reach Monaco.  blogIMG_4576 (2)Called by some ‘the most luxurious prison in the world’ it is 150Ha (≡ Hyde Park) of large apartment blocks, tunnels and underground parking, little squares with 3 or 4 olive trees, a stadium, an impressive Oceanographic Museum, a heliport on the coast and the Palace on the Hill.  Called also Little Manhattan because the dominating apartment blocks resemble skyscrapers, this whole nestles between the two ports of Fontvieille and Cap d’Ail.  There are beaches protected by netting to keep the jellyfish out.

After being underway for the morning our thoughts turn to lunch.  blogIMG_4592 (2)We will need to stop the engine and drift gently.  We do this off the coast of Menton.  Cue a swim – which is wonderfully refreshing and after we have a second go of my spaghetti Bolognese to stoke our own engines.  Unfortunately when we flick the switch to start the boat’s engine nothing happens :(  There follows ten anxious minutes whilst the captain and his crew stare into the boat’s bowels.  They cannot find anything wrong so they replace the deck and try again.  The engine sparks into life and I stop wondering which nation’s coastguard will be summoned to our rescue!

We are now looking landwards to a change in the urbanscape.  It is Ligurian and the buildings are plainer and there are complexes of greenhouses amidst the coastal settlements.  I imagine tomatoes.  Beyond San Remo which is a bit like Cannes to my eyes, we pass a beautiful city on a hill, Imperia.  It is early evening when we tip up at the marina in Loano.  The marina complex is lavish and Fefe says she is sure it was built with Mafia money.  However funded the facilities are excellent and I take a very welcome shower before we go ashore to eat.

We fetch up at Vittorino’s, a restaurant Francois and Fefe remember from previous visits.  We eat a delicious meal then wander back to the boat.  I turn on my iPad as the polls will shortly be closing in the UK.  I stay up long enough to be rattled by the first results from Newcastle and Sunderland.  The ghastliness of it all will unfold overnight.

Le Parfum de la Ville

It is clear when I wake up the next day that it is going to be a hot one.  After a couple of Ryvita and a super shower I have been kick-started for the day.  We need to do a quick shopping foray for ship’s stores.  It is swelteringly hot as we set off from the boat and have to toil uphill to the shopping area which is set above the restaurants and the tourist area.  Walking downhill I am knocked back by swathes of Morning Glory cloaking people’s frontage walls and railings as Fefe and I walk past.

Much later, after a light supper, Francois encourages Nick and I to go back into the town to explore its hinterland, la Vieille Ville.  We climb up flights of stone steps and reach the church with the lovely clocktower and the Magnolia grandiflora in the adjacent courtyard.  The cool stillness of the church interior is striking and so restful.  We linger a while, each in our own reflection, then come out and track east towards the old town.  We walk along dark, vaulted lanes, alleys, impasses.  Deserted and hushed – there is little sign of life.  Looking up I see the occasional open-ended pipe projecting fromt he floor of an overhanging wooden privy.  Probably not in use these days!!  Some of the heavy arched wooden doors are perforated by a circle of holes at eye level.  Well that is tempting ;)  The couple that I peer through give into what looks like a fairly basis kitchen.blogIMG_4545 (2)

We come to the end of one of these ‘ruelles voutees’ and stumble on some small bistrots which straddle the narrow stairways that lead down to the area which is dominated by restaurants, cafes and bars.  As we meander past the various establishments we can see that several are showing football matches on the big screens: Sweden v. Belgium, Italy v. Ireland.  We settle at a table and order a drink as our payment for a ‘ticket’.  Belgium and Ireland are the victors.

We walk back along the Cliffside passage and notice the large moon across the harbour.  I try to photograph it but moons are fickle when cooperating with a mobile phone camera.  In fact any but the most sophisticated cameras in my limited experience.  Earlier I did manage a photo of a horizon sporting lovely pink and mauve stripes running along where the sky meets the sea.  Francois says this phenomenon gives rise to ‘Cote d’Azur’.


A Change of Scene

It is not until 20th June, twelve days into our three-week sojourn with Francois and Fefe, that we are able to set off with a new battery charger fitted and some confidence that we can depend on ‘Till’.  We are going to head east as far as the Italian coast and our first stage will be Iles Lerins, one of Fefe’s haunts.  It is well into the afternoon when we pick up mooring ropes and leave Frejus marina.  The sea conditions are rather choppy so I settle down to listen to my current read on Audible and also play a few hands of BridgeBaron.

As we enter the strait between the two islands we phone Catamaran Pizza to order our supper.  The pizzas are large so Nick and I share a smoked salmon, spinach and crème fraiche one.  The young man who delivers our pizza is full of charm and effuses over our vintage wooden vessel.  It is true that when I look around at the other boats that have chosen this spot to moor for the night there are few such characterful boats as our own.  With our pizzas we also eat some of the succulent white asparagus that Fefe buys at the market and prepares for steaming.  With cheese and the gorgeous plump cherries that Francois loves so much we really have eaten well.

The next morning, before we head eastwards Francois and Nick plan a run ashore in the inflatable to dump our dechets.  They attach the outboard to the tender and pull the starter cord.  It starts but clearly is going nowhere under power.  blogIMG_4490 (3)They drift down tide and have to row back to investigate the problem.  The propeller is broken so Francois carries out a running repair with a split pin.  Back in the water they try again but the engine is having none of it.  Francois investigates its bowels with a screwdriver, probing underneath and “merde, alors” he manages to break a spark plug.  So, OK, the rubbish will travel with us to Villefranche-sur-mer.

I enquire and am told that our motor to Villefranche will take four hours.  We are going to sail past a string of nice resorts with popular and attractive beaches although we will be too far offshore to appreciate the topography of the various bays, promontories and small headlands.  Fefe has given me the book she keeps onboard which is full of colour photographs of the beaches of the Alpes-Maritimes and Var.  Entitled ‘Plages vues du ciel’ the book opens with a photo of Menton in the east and you page forwards (but are travelling back westwards) to Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer.  I keep getting muddled with this counter-intuitive layout!

Leaving Lesrins we look across to Cannes and we are sailing into the realm of the defaced Red Ensigns.  Such flags are sported by British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies: Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey, Isle of Man.  Cue tax shenanigans.  And the boats which show these flags are flashy vessels and as they ply these waters they often pass us at stupid speeds whose wakes our stalwart little boat must ride.  It makes Francois furious.

Beyond Cannes we will go past Golfe Juan, Juan-les-Pins, Antibes and a long coastal sprawl emanating from Nice.   Stark and highly visible to us at some distance offshore is a complex of hugely ugly (to my mind) apartment blocks, the Marina-Baie des Anges.  Constructed between 1969 and 1993 it consists of a marina with the four blocks named Amiral, Barronet, Commodore and Ducal.  The style of architecture is meant to suggest waves.  Pressing on I notice aircraft flying in from the west and seeming to land on the beach.  Nice Airport is indeed very close to the coast and is a busy airport and in passing I see at least twenty aircraft landing, following each other at varying intervals from two to ten minutes.  I watch nearly as many take off, gain height and fly east or southeast, their silhouettes passing briefly over the dark flanks of the snow-capped Alps.

We are booked into the marina at Villefranche for five o’clock and slightly ahead of ourselves so we motor a bit further and drop anchor in the adjacent cove at Cap Ferrat.  It is tranquil with only one other boat there and so it is a treat to have a swim in the clear water.  As I lower myself into the water off the ladder I notice that my body is getting used to the first encounter with the water and within a minute I feel at one with the element and, particularly when the sun is shining on my face or back, it is joyful.

After a swim like that it is particularly good to have a warm meal, even on a hot sunny day, so the bavettes that Francois cooks for us go down a treat.  There is just time for a little rest before we lift the anchor and motor round a small headland and into Villefranche marina.  We have been allotted a numbered space on the pontoon which is just inside the entrance and could not be further from the Capitainerie.  Nick does his bit with a boathook and muscle power in fending off contact with the adjacent vessels but Francois’ feat of parking his boat is an amazing bit of manoeuvring.  The helm of a boat is slow to react to steering and I know from the few occasions I have taken over ‘Verity’ in Croatia that it is so easy to over-compensate.  Granted Francois has had his boat for twenty years but Fefe says she knows it is not an easy handle and when you are trying to squeeze into a place with very little wriggle-room fore and aft it is all the more amazing to watch. blogIMG_4521 (2)blogIMG_4523 (2)

Villefranche is very beautiful to my eyes, its buildings clinging to the steep sides of the hill and cliffs that descend to the harbour.  There are some very prestigious-looking residences and the houses go right to the top.  It reminds me a bit of the Amalfi coast.  Fefe has talked of finding a restaurant where she remembers they serve good tapas.  She has warned us several times that is is “tres cher”.

So we walk into town along the Cliffside path of worn limestone cobbles with the sea and a narrow rocky foreshore to our right.  It is a pleasant stretch with some vegetation types including an ancient cactus that has initials and hearts scored into its ‘trunk’.  blogIMG_4527 (2) We find the tapas place that Fefe remembers but when we are show the tapas options on the menu the meat and fish choices are very lack-lustre so we end up ordering a ‘plat’.   blogIMG_4528 (2)I choose steamed cod with a lovely selection of vegetables, mussels, whelks and a hard-boiled egg.  What makes the dish fab is the lovely pot of aioli that goes with it.  It is very pleasant sitting right on the quay where there is an arc of tables with each restaurant having its allotted harbour frontage to colonise.

I take in the ambiance and enjoy.  We are going to spend two nights here.


Little Red Fishes

I wake to bright sunshine and after munching on a mini pain au raisin I hop round to the beach for a swim.  I am loving these swims more and more.  After the shock of immersion, particularly when the body has been warmed by the sun, within a minute I am warmed up and then swim gently, sometimes on the spot just enjoying the pull on my arms as I breaststroke in the lovely water.  My glass of rose at La Terrasse afterwards is refreshing and we sit and watch the passers-by.  I experience a momentary flush of holiday well-being.

Back onboard Francois is busying patiently in the kitchen.  blogIMG_6060 (2)He has bought some pretty red mullet which he is gutting and he is cutting up some cute little squid.   blogIMG_6061 (2)These morsels will be lightly fried and then eaten with a crust or two of bread.  The French don’t bother very much with vegetables.  This tasty lunch is followed by the customary siesta then I must shop at the supermarket for my Bolognese sauce ingredients.  I’ve decided to offer a Spaghetti Bolognese meal after walking past an Italian restaurant in the marina every day.  It’s a long time since I enjoyed this classic Italian dish.

The following day we head out to sea after a lunch of Choucroute with petit sale, frankfurters and Strasbourg and Alsace sausage.  Francois has decided to take us west along the coast towards St Tropez.  This stretch of coast does not look so intensively developed as the coast running out from Cannes.  The village and port are very picturesque from the sea with the bell tower and the round tower of Portalet.  On our way back to Frejus we turn inland and find ourselves at the entrance to the lacustrine settlement of Port Grimaud, known locally as Venise Provencale.  It is a canal town which looks as if it has been established longer than its 50-year history.  It was a marshland swamp until a young architect, Francois Spoerry developed the area using local materials and architectural styles traditionally used in the region in order to achieve a pedestrian-friendly neighbourhood.  The canals splaying out from the port host 2,400 dwellings and 2000 moorings distributed over twelve islands connected by fourteen bridges, 7km of canals and 14 km of piers.  In many instances you can moor your boat in front of your living room! blogIMG_4483 (3)

Many photos and one video later Francois skilfully negotiates a passage out of the canal network with its fringe of bankside residences.  I have been fascinated by his ability to steer his boat to very precise requirements: the canals are narrow and most of the housing, built as terraces of dwellings have small gardens giving onto a narrow strip functioning as a pontoon along which boats are moored.  Room for manoeuvre is in places very tight indeed.

Towards the end of our run back to Frejus I start to make my Bolognese for the following day.  It is simmering nicely as we tie up to our pontoon.  Our light supper is distinctly molluscan: Murex and Octopus.  Eaten with Pave and some of Nick’s mayonnaise it is all I need to round off the day.


White Knuckle Ride in a Biscuit Tin

The Mistral has blown up again and we must wait for Olivier to come and advise on the matter of the boat batteries.  I have rounded up some small viennoiseries from the boulangerie by the marina for breakfast.   The morning will be spent working round the three men who have the deck in the cabin up and are poking around in the boat’s bowels.  It is established that the problem is not with the batteries but with the charger and a new one must be ordered with minimum delay.  blogIMG_6064 (2)Cue leafing through catalogues.

Today Nick and I are invited to share a celebratory lunch with Francois and Fefe to mark their 47th wedding anniversary.  The chosen venue is a Vietnamese restaurant called Chez Diem in the centre of Frejus.  Francois has borrowed Olivier’s wife’s car in order to drive us there.  It is a small, squarish model into which we squeeze for what will be a sometimes hair-raising trip.  Francois is already a bit stressed by the matter of trying to find a mail order outlet that will enable him to order a charger and have it delivered to the marina.  This has involved attempting to place an order with an English supplier which has a depot nearby.

We set off a bit uncertainly, lurching between lanes whilst making last minute decisions according to traffic flow.  It’s a bit like dodgems and it doesn’t help when Francois takes a call from England on his mobile.  We drive a circuit of Centre Ville, rattling around in our biscuit tin, searching in vain for a parking space.  As the car stalls at each junction there are muttered curses of “merde” and “putain” from the driver’s seat and “Poulet, Poulet fait attention” from the seat behind him.

The rain begins to fall and when we finally find a parking space and spill out the Tailles then decide that we don’t really have time to do the market before lunch so we get back into the car to try and find a ‘parking’ nearer the restaurant.  Nick and I exchange conspiratorial glances.  Rarely is Nick fazed although he has never found it easy to be a passenger.  In the event we now find ourselves in the queues of traffic we were trying to avoid in order to gain the centre of Frejus.  Eventually we find the carpark which is adjacent to ‘Chez Diem’.

All is made thoroughly worthwhile by a superb Vietnamese lunch where Fefe and I start with crispy Beignets of Crevettes,  and some shared Nems.  We call these latter Spring Rolls in the UK.  I choose Squid Hong Kong style, spicy and tender.  As we eat and drink we become increasingly mellow.  blogIMG_5349 (2)This meal carries me right through the afternoon and into the evening.  At supper-time a hard-boiled egg, some tomato and leaf salad is all that I need.

Whilst we have been with the Tailles at Frejus I have been following the news from England and in particular the progress of the campaigning for the forthcoming EU Referendum.  The most recent polls are showing a tilt towards the Leave campaign which I find sad and depressing.  I am feeling a real sense of displacement here in the south of France.  With the electrical glitsches that have arisen on the boat we are pretty much grounded.  Nevertheless we are able to get to sea for a limited run because Olivier has lent us a charger to boost the batteries and give us enough juice for a few hours at sea.  We don’t plan to venture far afield but sail east towards Agay where we find a sheltered anchorage.  Francois cooks us delicious bavettes for lunch which we eat with boiled potatoes in their skins and one of my basil and tomato salads.  Crashing out on my bunk, the next thing I know we are moored back in the marina and there are gales of laughter emanating from the cockpit.

Sitting in the cockpit at the end of the afternoon I happen to glance up at the small screen where French news is being broadcast.  We learn that Jo Cox, an English MP and rising star in the Labour Party, and who is very pro EU, has been shot and killed.  This is a tragedy that has far-reaching implications.  There are many moving tributes including a tear-jerking item by her husband Brendan.  She was evidently a truly good person and was murdered because of what she believed in and worked for.  This makes me very sad and I have already been feeling unsettled and somewhat pessimistic as we approach voting day.  It is the most important vote that I am likely to make in my lifetime and perhaps the most significant historical moment for my country too.

Supper on the boat is a muted affair and before I retire to my bunk with my current read, a Mo Hayder thriller, I mix up the marinade for the chicken joints we bought at the supermarket for tomorrow’s lunch which will be Jamie Oliver’s Gurkha Chicken.



Bass Notes

My husband is a fisherman.  He fishes mostly out of St Vaast where we live some of the time.  At the weekend he went fishing with friends, it was a long distance fishing trip, twenty miles to the northeast.  They were two boats.  There were four fishermen in total and they fished Pollack, mackerel, whiting and one enormous bass.  It measured 75 cms and weighed 4.5 kilos.  It was caught on an English rig using a mackerel bait.  Such a fish is a prize and an act of generosity is to share such bounty.

So we found ourselves chez Tailles on Tuesday lunchtime where Dede, having caught this splendid fish, had given Francois the responsibility and pleasure of cooking it for a gathering of friends.  This wonderful fish was filleted, descaled and then stuffed with lobster and crab and finally wrapped en croute before being baked in the oven.  Before we tucked into our share, we ate an entrée of pink grapefruit and crevette roses, this having been composed by Odette.  The combination of the grapefruit and the prawns was impeccably colour-coordinated but even more importantly, it tasted delicious.

It was a very convivial occasion and I was delighted to have an appropriate anecdote for the occasion.  Rather a letter to read out of Nick’s copy of The Week.  Translating as I went the letter (originally published in The Times, ran as follows:

‘You flagged up your complete seafood guide with the words: “Lovely lobster, but what can I do with it?!”  In the early 1970s, I was living in Dublin.  My neighbour was presented with a live lobster and had no idea how to prepare it.  He put it on the lawn and shot it’.

This would never happen in France, not then and not now!  The passion for seafood is deeply embedded in French culture.  I have never understood why we, across that narrow tract of water that separates the British Isles from its European neighbours on our shared continental shelf at the present day, have never come to espouse a tradition of eating all fruits from the sea, not just bony fish with a few members of the shark family thrown into the pot.

There we are.  Things are changing.  Oysters have always been available but for many have been just too yucky.  Until relatively recently they tended to be offered for sale in exclusive oyster bars in London and some further flung satellites, such as English’s  the restaurant and oyster bar nestled in Little London of Brighton.  Oysters are farmed more widely now and they feature on fish counters in supermarkets.  Similarly nets of mussels can be bought over the supermarket counter and their popularity gathered momentum, it seems to me, when pubs started putting moules marinieres on their menus.  So in my lifetime I have seen a resurgence in seafood eating in my native land.

I was fortunate to have a father who not only enjoyed fishing, and transferred this enthusiasm to my husband, but was exceedingly fond of cockles.  blogIMG_6278 (2)When he was moved to Portland Naval Base in the 1960s we, as a family, found ourselves adjacent to the sand flats at Smallmouth, Portland Harbour where we enjoyed the bonus of a double low tide.  blogIMG_6280 (3)On the occasions of the low spring tides, and for four hours, we could paddle across these sands gathering all manner of Venus bivalves, razor clams, and cockles.  My father had a childhood tradition for eating cockles and he would go and gather beauties from Smallmouth.  He had his own method for soaking the cockles in their shells, in fresh water with oatmeal to encourage the cockles to purge themselves.  Then they would be boiled until the shells snapped open, the little mollusc bodies would then be removed and popped into a jar with a little vinegar.

At that time I was in the salad days of my growing enthusiasm, and dare I say, talent for shelling.  In addition to the above species I was able to add some beautiful rarities to my collection, notably Tellina squalida and Pandora albidablogAngulusblog100112_pandora (2)Latin names are changed by taxonomists in time, but these are the names that resonate and transport me back to those heady days when you could wade through those shallow waters inside Portland Harbour  searching for the familiar outlines and colours of those lovely shells.

At the end of a special day I find myself enjoying a new experience.  Dede, he who caught the magnificent fish that we ate at lunchtime, has invited me to join him, his granddaughter Auranne and a few neighbours for a late night swim off La Chapelle near the St Vaast boatyard.  I have not swum at 10 o’clock in the evening before, nor from the promenade along there.  At high tide you can descend the white wooden staircase and lower yourself into the deep!  After a warm day and with a balmy evening, the sea felt positively tepid.  With quite a bit of undulating movement, the sea rocked us as we swam in a tight group, keeping an eye on our neighbours for their security and one’s own.


Juicy White Asparagus and Marmalade Cocktails

There is an issue with the outboard motor and Francois and Nick need to give it some attention.  This is a protracted business and involves consultation with Olivier the marina mechanic who advises various measures.  The problem stems from the fact that the motor was dropped into the sea😦 and although it has since been serviced it still does not work properly.  The various adjustments are made and the motor is once more in working order.

Lunch today is simple.  Fefe has carefully peeled some fat white asparagus spears.  They have the girth and length of those little wooden rolling pins you get in kids’ pastry sets!  Poached to perfection they are then ready for dipping into a homemade mousseline (a mayonnaise made with egg white).  To follow we have a few slices of boiled saussison and some boiled Rouge Cherie potatoes.  My afternoon slips away on my bunk and it is late afternoon when I wake.  The Mistral, which has been promised these past few days, is rising.  I first notice then we go round to our bit of beach for a swim.  The water is unpleasantly choppy and there is detritus floating close to the shoreline.  IMG_4416After our swim we rejoin the others and have an Aperol Spritz – a cocktail of slightly bitter orange liqueur, Prosecco, tonic water and slices of orange and I love its marmaladey taste.  Supper on board will be easy, gravadlax, salads from yesterday, this preceded by air dried ham and melon.  This day has followed a very Mediterranean diet and I am beginning to feel that I am shedding an ounce or two🙂

During the night the wind moans like the rush that precedes an underground train before it clears the tunnel and pulls alongside the platform.  And there are some intermittent gusts which wake me but I read myself back to sleep.  There are mini-croissants for breakfast and passion fruit.  These days I skip my cup of Red Bush tea.  Without china cups it is a bit of a hardship!  I go straight into the coffee and I like the brand we are using very much: Velour Noir.

This day is mini-market day and we are after some fish.  There has been some discussion between Francois and Fefe about ‘os de seiche’ which I understand to be cuttlebones.  I am wondering where this fits into our provisioning until I suddenly understand that these are in face cloud formations, ‘nuages lenticulaires’ which are typical of Mistral skies.  blogIMG_6055 (2)

At the little market by the post office we buy some tuna steaks and some large prawns, olives, pickled garlic cloves, fruit and saladstuffs.  Thus provided for we wend our way back to ‘Till’ via the bar.  I suddenly think how good it would be to have a tomato juice for a change and this becomes the first of many that I will drink during our sojourn in the south of France.

A swim before lunch is required and the sea has calmed down and the water is surprisingly clear and clean but the temperature strikes chilly.  blogIMG_6049 (2)Yet another good Mediterranean lunch is consumed with the tuna steaks being cooked to the barest minimum.

When we start to prepare our supper later on, we make the first of a number of unwelcome discoveries.  The ice box that we are using to chill wine and surplus supplies has stopped working.  blogIMG_6051 (2)It is apparently ten years old so Francois is minded to buy another.  However when we discover later in the evening that the fridge is not working either this requires some deductive thought and eventually we notice that the boat lights are somewhat dim which leads to an inspection of the boat’s batteries.  Putting this information together it appears that the batteries are not charging sufficiently to meet the electrical demands being made on the boat.  Some more fixes will be necessary.  Olivier will have to be consulted again and probably some parts will have to be ordered.  This will involve changes of plan with regard to our sailing activities.  We have already lost time for our departure from Frejus to make the crossing to Corsica, the prime objective of our three-week stay with the Tailles on their boat.  But we remain optimistic that we can cut and run and make the 18-hour crossing leaving enough time to explore Corsica, maybe even drop down to the island of Elba and still be back in Frejus by 30th June, the date for which our train tickets have been booked.  So in the meantime there is nothing for it but to clink glasses and enjoy the good food Francois has prepared for us.

To Market

I wake early and sneak ashore as noiselessly as I can to visit the showerblock.  Only Rachel opens one eye to acknowledge my presence.  She of the blue eyes and golden existence has a venerable 16 years under her belt and travels with her owners frequently.  She has various nests aboard and when the boat is under way she shares Fefe’s ‘fauteuil’, draping herself over the arm.  blogIMG_4379 (2).jpgI think she must find this most comfortable – I wonder if it stops her experiencing motion sickness.  Rejoining the boat I settle at the galley table to write and she joins me in a moment of acceptance.  As the others rise in their own time a cafetiere of coffee is made and we chew on a tartine of Pave with salty butter.

It is Market Day.  After a morning swim it is time to see what all the stalls have to offer.  Fefe has already gone ahead to buy fruit and salad-stuffs.  As you walk along the promenade the array of ‘marchandises’ is colourful and varied. blogIMG_4393 (2) In addition to the usual purveyors of produce,  charcuterie and clothing accessories, I am taken by the stall which sells only sun-dried tomatoes, the Paella stall and my favourite is the spice-seller.blogIMG_4404 (2)


blogIMG_4402 (2) You smell this stall long before you see it and here I find both black and yellow mustard seeds.

By the time we rejoin the boat it is time to think about lunch, which is the principal meal of the day.  Fefe cooks some rice and I warm the Vindaloo.  We eat it with a shallot and fresh mint chutney and a spicy aubergine confit that Fefe bought from a vendor of eastern European products at the small market in the marina.

After lunch Francois and Nick take ‘Till’ out of the marina and head east along the coast.  There is a fair chop and we run through a speedboat race taking place not far from the harbour entrance, past a small French warship of sorts and then out into open water and towards a yacht regatta which is taking place out of St Tropez.  The sails are put up and the boat dips and rises over the sea at a fair lick.  Fefe and I read, chat, nails are groomed.  Every now and then there is some activity when the rigging is adjusted.  Nick and Francois have in effect put each other through their paces.  They have shared several fishing expeditions out of our home port and they now understand each other’s competences when it comes to boating under sail.

Back at Frejus it is definitely wine time and we enjoy moules marinieres, prawns, celeri remoulade, grated carrot, tomato and cucumber salads……….. with a knob of cheese for those who are desirous.

Cooking in a Postage Stamp of a Kitchen

Today we are going to eat in a small bistro called Le Provencal, in Fréjus marina.  Francois and Féfé are very discerning eaters and suffer mediocrity badly.  They know the couple who run the little restaurant so Nick and I have high hopes for lunch.  We are all trying not to eat too much so we forgo an entrée but share a platter of charcuterie and – food of the gods – a small ramekin of Saint-Marcellin cheese which has been melted in the oven.  It is served with toasted Pavé dippers.  For our main courses Féfé has chosen Carpaccio of Tete de Veau, Nick chooses Paleron de Veau and Francois and I choose the same: Pavé de Maigre with Tempura Broccoli, Girolles and little squares of pasta.  Maigre is a fish that is very similar to Bass.  It was all good.

After lunch there is quiet time, then a quick foray to the supermarket and you cannot walk past the bar at the end of our pontoon without being invited to ‘un petit rosé’ by  Féfé  and after this it is time for a second swim.  It is time to acquaint myself with the galley on board.  Francois is an avid and competent cook so I really don’t need to offer my services.  However, they do enjoy a good curry so I have volunteered to cook some curries during our three-week stay.   The first one I will prepare is Lamb Vindaloo.

Before we left St Vaast to join the Tailles on their boat I checked my spice requirements for the recipes I have brought with me and then made up little foil packets containing 2 teaspoons of each.  I’ve not made a Vindaloo before.  I sit at the table and prepare my onions, garlic, ginger and Nick takes the meat off a shoulder of lamb.  In the absence of a pestle and mortar I grind a melange of the requisite spices for the dish.  White wine vinegar is an important ingredient in the mixing of the curry paste.  When assembled the curry cooks on the hob for a couple of hours and then the flavour will develop overnight.

Meanwhile Francois has been preparing some mayonnaise to have with our avocado and prawns supper.  I make a tomato and basil salad and we are away.  After supper Féfé and I have a vocabulary session and then I leaf through some of the guide books on the boat.