Bookmark and Share
Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Villages Perchés
24/07/2008, Sigale

We took our car up to look at some mountains. All across Haute Provence the land is astonishing, fractured and twisted into tiny valleys, cliffs too steep for anything but the thinnest grass and lichen, alternating between blasting heat and thick winter snow.
The perched villages of the region hang on to the outcrops. The residents get amazing views and probably develop very strong calf muscles. For centuries this has been marginal subsistence agriculture, based on goats, olives and nuts. Some still live like this, but many of these villages inevitably depend on second-homers and commuters, or people who can earn a living from a distance.

Places and people
Melted stone: scented town
23/07/2008, Grasse

Having read Patrick Susskind's wonderful book, Perfume, the old town of Grasse was a must-see. Also, an old New Scientist that Sarah had finally finished reading, had a wonderful article about a scientist who is exploring how smell works, arguing that is about the shapes of molecules. Using his theory he is successfully producing new perfumes in this very competitive market. By contrast, the Grasse approach relies on the professional 'noses', of whom there are only about 60 in the world, who can distinguish and judge thousands of different aromas.
The town has sprawled over what used to be the flower and herb fields. These are now often grown overseas, in places with cheaper labour, though some, such as the Provencal tuberose, rely on being grown in specific situations. You can visit lots of the perfumiers, and in some places even do a workshop to mix your own scent. We went to the historic factory of House Fragonnard, run by the Fushs family who named their business after the famous painter who came from the town. It was very interesting, with the ancient alembics, the principles of cold maceration and hot distillation. But this is very much an historic overview; the real work is now done in their state of the art factory down the road.
In addition we visited the twelfth century cathedral, which has the austere nave, very high in proportion to its other dimensions. After the revolution, there was a major fire inside this building, which melted the stone, causing the roughened, melted look you see around the arches. The flowing stone makes a beautiful contrast to the precision of the roof, the carvings on the pulpit or the large, devotional oil-paintings hung along the walls.

Places and people
All that Jazz
22/07/2008, Cimiez

We wouldn't have called Leonard Cohen jazz, but were delighted to have the chance to see him on his first world tour in 15 years. His London gigs had got rave reviews, so we took a deep breath and lashed out for tickets. (The jazz purists don't count him either, with sniffy comments about too mainstream a line-up. Of course, they don't have to balance the books!)
Cohen was boot-shiveringly good. Hallelujah sung the way it should be (compared to the wimpier versions currently popular), an amazing In the Tower of Song and many others. The park was packed; even though we got to the stage nearly two hours before he was due on, we were too far away to see much. So we retreated even further and sat on a high wall. We couldn't see him much, but watched the darkening sky, swung our heels against the stone-work and sung along.
After Cohen, we made our way to another stage, to see the Maria Schnieder Orchestra, an American combo led by a woman, and a lot of brass. We arrived at the start of a fab trumpet solo, also by a woman, which was great both to see and hear.
We're going back on Saturday to see Joan Baez.

Places and people
Crater Rim or spaceship?
21/07/2008, Marina Baie des Anges

This modern complex lies between Antibes and Nice. We didn't go in, but couldn't fail to notice it's enormity. This picture is taken from about 2 miles offshore!
Actually from the land, as we saw driving past it a couple of days later, it isn't so bad. There's a lot of greenery which makes it more appealing.

Places and people
Is it a trimaran?
16/07/2008, Between Ile St Marguerite and Ile St Honnorat

Well yes, but in a rather different way. The outrigger starts about half way back and is then carried aft with little space between it and the main hull, making for very smooth lines as well as, presumably, the additional speed and internal space of a multi-hull.
This vessel also has another of these interesting rigs, which we have seen once before. The foremast carries an in-mast furling sail which is, so-to-speak, an upside down fore-and-aft triangle, a bit like the upper half of a wishbone rig. It has no yard, though, so there is not that weight or inconvenience to manage. This allows a second big genoa on the mainmast and a more conventional triangular sail set on the boom aft. The other one of these we saw (but only had flat batteries in the camera!) was actually sailing, and had two masts of equal height, unlike this one.
A web search shows her to be called Pilar Rossi, owned by motor racer Nelson Piquet. She's 64m long, and started life as a motor yacht! Piquet had her remodelled to sail (including adding the outriggers), with the spars and sails designed by a UK company based in Lymington. The press coverage calls this a schooner rig, but we're not sure that's an adequate description. She must be an amazing boat to watch, and as she's already sailed the Atlantic, pretty cool to sail.

Places and people
Water harvesting and storage
16/07/2008, Ile St Marguerite, Iles Lerin

There is no fresh water on the island, and the Romans had an elaborate system of cisterns, illustrated here.
South of Ile Marguerite is Ile St Honnorat, named after the saint who founded a monastery there. There is an anchorage between the two but it is very crowded, as we saw both from the water and on a pleasant walk around the coastline. Today, the island is owned by the Cistercian order.

Places and people
Why here?

This view looks north west across the Golfe de Napoule, with Cannes on the right. (Roaring Girl is the boat to the left, just visible under the tree.)
It is not immediately obvious why the powers that be wanted a fort on this side of the island, looking at the mainland, rather than protecting the approaches from the open sea. But there have been fortifications here for thousands of years, as the many Roman remains testify, illustrating settlement as early as the sixth century BC.
The answer lies in the anchorage, the only secure one in the vicinity of Cannes. For much of Mediterranean history, maritime trade has been relatively short haul and coastal, relying on finding sanctuary easily in the sudden storms and steep seas that haunt the basin.
It seems possible that the few longer-haul ships, carrying diverse cargo from places like Gades (Cadiz) to Ostia (the port of Rome) may have also hugged the coast, and used this as a safe stop. Not always safe however: a 1st century Roman wreck has been found on the rocks to the eastern end of the islands, as well as a 10th century Saracen wreck.
So in addition to be an important prison, the Fort protected the anchorage and His Majesy's trade. This might make us sleep easier at night, but only so long as there is no strong easterly wind!

Places and people
Anchored under armour
16/07/2008, Ile St Marguerite, Iles Lerin

Five miles away from Thèoule, just south west of Canne lies the small archipelago known as the Iles Lerins. Overlooking the strait between the mainland and the biggest island, Ile St Marguerite, is this enormous fort, designed by Vauban during his 53 years building fortifications for the Sun King. It's greatest claim to fame is as home, for eleven years, to the Man in the Iron Mask, the unknown prisoner whose life was dramatised so famously by Dumas.
We anchored just under the fort in 8.5m of water. (This is positively shallow after 15m in Thèoule, over 12m at Port Man and 10.5m in the Baie de Canoubiers.) At 1100 on a Wednesday morning, it's not very crowded. There is weed on the bottom but we managed to stick fast the first time, and we are well out of the path of the many ferries which bring day-trippers to and from early morning till dusk.

Places and people
More lunch!

We treated ourselves to lunch in the 'Tea Room', the rather smart little café on the terrace in the castle. (The terrace itself, with fifteen arches onto the rocks below, was created by the Clews, quite a engineering challenge at the time for which a special monorail had to be installed.) You can see the fab view, though Roaring Girl herself is not quite visible behind the masts of Port de la Rague.
The pink hat is a splendid acquisition from Thèoule, though it won't always get worn with matching tee-shirt.

Places and people
The Conductor

We think that neither the fine conductor nor the abseiling figure actually Henry Clews (though it is not always clear as some of the labels get lost.) But this tall conductor has a certain windmill-tiliting quality about him, which is very appropriate. All his life Henry Clews identified with Don Quixote, and his sone was called Mancha in his honour.

Places and people
American Romantics
15/07/2008, La Napoule

American romantics

We took the dingy into Port de la Rague, who sweetly let us leave her tied up under the Capitanerie, with no complaints and no charge. There's nothing in this area except an upmarket hotel, two restaurants, a chi-chi clothes shop and a dive school. The big advantage is the coastal path to La Napoule, about half an hour away. We had two missions: to find cooking gas, and a Honda dealer.
Our outboard is still broken from the injury inflicted off Ile Porquerolle. According to Honda UK, the specific part we need for the accelerator handle cannot be confirmed except by a dealer actually looking at the bits. We have given them the serial number but they still can't tell us exactly which of two part numbers we should order. They can't even tell us the difference between the two! (Not that impressive for a company which shouts so much about its customer service.) According to their website, there's a Honda dealer in La Napoule and part of our reason for staying in the anchorage so long, is to visit the place after the bank holiday.
To add insult to injury, it's not that kind of Honda dealer. In La Napoule, it's just a very upmarket boat broker, who would of course sell us an engine if required, though no stocks are kept there. The actual mechanics are in Antibes! Once we're sorted, there will be a stiff email to Honda!
It was also a struggle to find gas, but eventually the small fuel station on the main road above the marina confessed to having some. Neither of the chandleries sold anything so mundane.
After all that, it was a pleasure to visit the castle of Henry and Maria Clews. The site, which has commanding views across the bay, was originally occupied by the Romans. For a while the Saracens ruled here, but their fortress was largely left in ruins except for a couple of towers. In the 13th century the Villeneuve family, who owned the area, built a castle on the remains. (Incidentally, their name in Italian was neo poule, which is probably the source of the name, Golfe de Napoule.) In turn the Villeneuve family, too, came to dust.
In 1918, Henry and Marie Clews, who both had large private fortunes, fell in love with the site and built their fantasy mediaeval castle around the house and towers. Around the building Marie designed and created lovely gardens, particularly as a showcase for Henry's sculpture.
The building was used as a base for the French, with Marie living in the gatehouse, during the early years of the War. They managed to hide all the artworks before the Italian occupation. The Italians took a dim view of Marie's support to the French, but she managed to survive the war, living in Cannes. Afterwards she came back and lived until the mid-fifties. In 1951 she established a charitable Foundation which continues to manage the house and gardens, promote exhibitions of modern art and provide residencies for successful practitioners.
After she died, she was buried next to Henry in the tomb they designed in one of the Saracen towers.

Places and people
Whizz! Bang!

Being Bastille Day there were of course fireworks everywhere. In the streets, people were letting off crackers and fireworks, but every town had displays all around the Golfe de Napoule. Cannes of course was the biggest and most extravagant, and we could see it clearly from our decks four miles away. We were closest to the breakwater at Thèoule, with a good display. This is the fireworks from La Napoule.
We heard from friends in Port St Louis that their Bastille Day jamboree had been deferred due to a strong mistral. We could only gloat. Indeed, there are so many fireworks in this particular area, you can become quite blasé. Cannes seems to have displays planned at least once a week all through July and August.

Places and people

Newer ]  |  [ Older ]


Who we are
Who: Pip Harris and Sarah Tanburn
Port: Ipswich
View Complete Profile »
SailBlogs Friends
Reg Wild Alliance 

Powered by SailBlogs