06/24/2008, La Golfe Giens, Southern France
Hello All: Finally...... we are away from the dock. It is a beautiful morning with clear skies as we pull away from La Ciotat. Our destination is Ile de Porquerolle, about 30 miles east of La Ciotat and very near Hyeres and Toulon. The wind is blowing about 18 knots apparent, right on the nose. As we pull into the bay, I count 25 sails on the horizon. Pretty amazing; Bonnie says it feels like fireworks night in Halifax harbour, except this is Tuesday at 10:00 in the morning! From a Nova Scotian's perspective , the number of boats here in southern France is almost unbelievable. The temp at the dock in La Ciotat has been in the low 30's since we arrived and it's been tough to acclimatize. On the water it is much more comfortable with the breeze. The shore is misty and bold with rolling hills and wind scored cliffs soaring every which way. Little villages and houses dot the landscape as we move east. It's beautiful. As we approach the Porquerolles the wind is building from the NE and will back to the NW. The anchorage is new to us and is exposed to the N and NW so we decide to pull into Gulf Giens which is a little more protected. It's an unusual bay in that its about 3 miles wide and about 1.5 miles deep and the water depth is only 20'. The holding is good in the sandy patches amongst the weed. It feels strange to be anchored nearly a mile from shore, but we enjoy the breeze as we settle down to supper in the cockpit. It is nice to be back at anchor.
All the best from Aisling I
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Rick wasn't feeling entirely comfortable about the berth we'd left Aisling in for the month, so he was quite relieved to arrive back in La Ciotat and find everything in order. It took only a quick glance for him to realize that she'd been through some heavy wind days- the fender board was worn down to about half its original size and the decks were coated with about a kilo of Sahara sand. Some additional fenders and lines had also mysteriously appeared. Later, we learned that only the interventions of our friends Paul and Jean Louis had kept her from being pushed against the dock by the three classic yachts moored to windward. Perhaps the Capitainerie would eventually have taken action- but Paul and Jean Louis decided they weren't betting on that and rowed their dinghies past the outer dock in the fierce wind to add lines to the other boats. Considering that we had barely made their acquaintance before we returned to Canada, this was very generous of them. The "kindness of strangers" in the cruising community can be remarkable. Over drinks on Paul's boat, and dinner on Jean Louis and Christine's, we heard that the wind had blown at Force 9-10 for three days while we were away.
We are still in La Ciotat, finishing up a few last preparations before we finally head to the Porquerolles. We have changed Aisling from a cutter to a sloop and raised the big genoa, hoping to move a little faster in the lighter winds of summer. We've also spent hours reorganizing, which seems to be a never-ending process.
We probably could have gotten away a bit sooner, but since we had a paid-up rental car for three days we decided to take one last road trip. It took a lot of persuading to convince Rick to make the two-hour drive to Les Gorges du Verdon (the French "Grand Canyon") but based on Katherine's pre-France research and a glimpse of the Gorges I had caught from the plane, I was sure it was worth a look. Easy for me to say- I wasn't at the wheel, on what is easily the most frightening road we've ever driven. (Well, perhaps the Icefields Parkway in mid-winter was scarier, but that was a very long time ago.) The scenery was as breathtaking as the vertigo- I've posted some pictures so you can see for yourself.
Yesterday we spent most of the day doing boat chores, but we took a break for a shorter drive, along la Route des Cretes, past Cap Canaille, which is Europe's highest maritime cliff at 390 meters. This road also provides some sensational views and the entire route is walkable from La Ciotat. Perhaps another time. It's way too hot for that right now. I've been swimming at La Ciotat beach twice, but unfortunately it's a twenty minute walk from the marina at Vieux Port and by the time I get back to the boat I'm in a sweat again. Time to get to an anchorage!
Convocation Hall, University of Toronto, June 6th, 0930. The temperature in Toronto has already climbed beyond 30 degrees Celsius, but it is blessedly cool inside Convocation Hall. The graduates, in their dark robes with pink and white fur-lined hoods, raise silent thanks to the benefactress whose donation made the air conditioning possible. During the ceremony, Katherine looks serious and a bit pensive. Later, when we congregate to take endless photos on the lawn, she is radiant. Rick and I are, of course, bursting with pride.
Not everything went entirely as planned. Rick's parents, Evelyn and Dean, were not able to attend because Evelyn had been admitted to hospital with an obstructed bowel. It was a big disappointment, but we were relieved that she recovered without needing surgery. And Katherine was happy that her cousin Liz was able to get a last-minute ticket to Toronto to fill one of the empty seats. With Gram, Uncle Jim, Christopher, Rick and me, we had a healthy-sized contingent to cheer her on. The photo above was taken by Katherine's friend Sam, whose girlfriend Jess also received her Juris Doctor at the convocation.
In contrast to many graduations we've attended, the convocation was actually quite enjoyable. The small number of graduates kept the length of the ceremonies to a mere hour and the speeches were interesting. Then we all attended a luncheon under tents on the lawn outside the law school, with more speeches and lots of jokes about lawyer jokes. We had a celebration dinner at Scaramouch that evening. The view of the city was lovely and the food was as good as rumored. After dinner, Katherine opened a large pile of cards and gifts and said that the evening had exceeded all her expectations- what more could we ask? Early Monday morning, she was right back at school, attending a skills development course that will run until early July. The realities of life in the working world will hit home with a vengeance when she begins her articling term with Miller Thomson in early August. In the meantime, she'll have a month of vacation in Nova Scotia and for the first time ever, we won't be there to meet her. It makes us a bit sad to think about that, but if Christopher treats her half as well as he did us when we were home I know she'll at least be well fed!
We've added some photos of the graduation to the gallery. And also a few from our second road trip in Provence- I still haven't had time to write a journey entry about that!
We arrived back in La Ciotat last night and woke this morning to sunshine and blazing heat. I'm feeling a bit homesick today, but otherwise it's good to be back onboard.
A 4.45 a.m. wake-up call is never a good way to start the day. It went further downhill when we reached the Nice airport, where I discovered that I had left my purse in the hotel room. Luckily, the hotel was near the airport, and I was able to run back there (literally) and get it. I must have been a sight, tearing along the boulevard with my new black European-style scarf streaming behind me. I had worked up quite a sweat by the time I got back to the terminal, where Rick was still in the Lufthansa lineup being regaled with stories by a couple from North Carolina. They had found a cheap flight from Rome to Nice, but had ended up paying more in extra baggage charges than their tickets had cost. They did have a lot of luggage, but that's still kind of disturbing. If you're not on your toes you could run out of money pretty quickly in France. Don't even ask what Katherine's phone call from the Frankfurt airport to our French cellphone cost. And when we filled up our rental car outside Cannes on Monday, gasoline cost 1.50 euros/litre. The $1.33/litre we paid to fill up in Halifax this morning seems like a real bargain by comparison. In fact, after only three weeks in France, almost everything here seems inexpensive, although I haven't bought any wine yet.
We arrived back in Halifax at around 2.30 in the afternoon, and promptly got busted by Snoopy the sniffer dog for the serrano ham that was in our baggage, but they let us keep the boquerones in oil and the manchego cheese. It was great to see Christopher waiting for us at the exit, and he cooked us a delicious supper when we got back to the house. The grass is green, the leaves have returned and the first run in Point Pleasant Park was wonderful, with a light mist rising over the harbour and chickadees singing. The air is a bit cool compared to the south of France and jumping back into work isn't so great, but we really don't have any right to complain.
A lot happened here while we were away. Ursula Kellum finished her BSc degree at St. Mary's and will graduate tomorrow. My brother James was appointed Chairman of the new Stewart McKelvie partnership board. (He swears this won't make him any busier and I believe him, because it's not possible for anyone to be busier than he already is). The other big news is that our niece Liz made the NS Girls provincial basketball team!
It was hard to leave Aisling behind in La Ciotat, but we were fortunate to meet some other cruisers who have kindly offered to keep an eye on her. Chris and Sandra on Deep Blue will probably start making their way toward Italy soon, but we are looking forward to seeing Jean-Louis and Christine on Jersey and Paul on Boysterous when we return next month. We actually met Chris and Sandra through sailblogs- there is a neat little function that alerts us when other sailbloggers are nearby.
The picture is from our last road trip, when we visited Nimes, the Pont du Gard, St. Remy de Provence, Isle Sur La Sorgue and Gordes. It was a lovely little adventure and hopefully we'll post a few notes and pictures soon.
All the best from Halifax!