After the storm we wake to a still, sunny day. The first thing on my mind is an early morning swim. The water is welcoming and, as always after the first frisson, it is as Anne Poulet always says “délicieuse”. I swim back and forth along a shaft of sunlight that warms my face and then my back. After this, coffee and a slide of bread with lovely butter that has crystals of salt in it is a perfect breakfast. I love the boat coffee.
We are planning a walk ashore. We take the Zodiac to the small harbour, le Port des Moines, and spill out onto the small sandy beach there. The island of Saint-Honorat, with its woods and pine and eucalyptus, its old forts and rocky coastline speaks of an earlier, wilder Mediterranean terrain that almost disappeared in many others parts of this region. The clock tower of the abbey projects above the tallest pines in the middle of the island. We pass and linger in the small lavender grove, bordered by Mickey Mouse cacti which are in flower at the entrance to the monastery. From the harbour we cross over the spine of the island, arriving on the south coast close to the square fort or “donjon” which dominates this end of the island. This ancient fortified monastery was build in 1073 to protect the monastic community against incursions of Sarrasin pirates. It was a place of pilgrimage including one pope who walked a circuit of the island. Inside, a cloister surrounds the square courtyard at ground level. As you climb every higher up the stone spiral staircase the views are “fabuleuses”. I am the only one to make it to the top.
Rejoining the others at ground level we walk eastwards and complete the half circuit that takes us back to the Zodiac. We pass one of the seven chapels on this island and several patches of a pretty pale lemon-coloured flower which is very evidently a member of the dandelion family. Nick encourages me to collect a ‘clock’ or two to sow back home.
Back on ‘Till’, Francois cooks lunch – lightly fried slivers of salmon which we eat with baked tomatoes. Before lunch I take a dip 🙂
Some of my afternoon is spent on my bunk with my current read ‘March Violets’. This is a gritty thriller in Philip Kerr’s ‘Berlin Noir’ trilogy. Late afternoon finds us hauling the anchor ready for the run back to Frejus. We head eastwards along the channel between the two islands and round the eastern tip of Sainte-Marguerite. Three kilometres long, it is twice the length of its brother island, but wooded alike and boasts its own forts including that in which ‘le Masque de Fer’ was interned. We pass this, also the former naval boatyard on the north coast and start the open sea passage back to our home port.
This is another chance to admire that red lithology which dominates the coastline around the Esterel Massif. These fiery red rocks formed under extrusive volcanic activity in the Permian about 250 million years ago, the younger greenish grey rocks that we notice as lenses protruding through the red are a lithology called Esterellite, named by a French geologist, Auguste Michel Levy. These green rocks are younger by some 30 million years and were intruded within the red host rocks in a “muffled volcanic activity” setting. In Roman times the Esterellite was mined for paving roads and building materials. There is an arresting example of such a lens which appears starkly green against the red rocks at the sealine near Agay.
Fefe and I chatter on as the men bring the boat back to Frejus. Every now and then we stop and reach for a scrap of paper and a pen to note some word or phrase which Fefe will want to commit to her ‘cahier’ in which she notes all manner of Englishisms. Her fat new notebook is my gift, together with an inscribed pen, to encourage her to keep all her vocabulary in one source.
Back in the marina we settle a few tasks then Francois makes asparagus tip and air-dried ham omelettes which have the gooiest middles I have ever eaten. With a green salad. And somehow, by the time we have eaten and splashed back a drop or two of wine, sleepiness envelops and it is time to post ourselves back into our letterbox.