Quoi d’neuf??

•Sunday, 14 February 2021 • 4 Comments

It really is Groundhog Day/week! I’m back again with more of the same … in between times, we had 7 – 10 days of exceptionally heavy rain which ruined the fabulous powder snow and substantially increased the avalanche risk … the highest experienced in the Alps for more than 5 years. Thank goodness the weather has now improved – fresh falls of snow, lower temperatures with some lovely sun. Once again, I’m inspired to share some photos and catch up on the news.

My french is very slowly improving – with classes once a week, regular chats with my lovely neighbour, french podcasts and most recently, Lupin, in french with french subtitles. It’s a lifetime task but I’m motivated to improve now that I experience some small improvement in my understanding and ability to communicate.

This week, I’ve also managed to acquire my next upholstery project – for the princely sum of 10 euros, I have a chair to have a crack at. Very exciting although Chris is in despair about where everything is going to live. Having discovered the local (huge!) charity shop with another lovely neighbour, I have high expectations for a stream of furniture projects!

I continue to develop my culinary skills – this week preserved lemons for my many Ottolenghi recipes … and shortbread for the light of my life!

In between times, lots of rando (ski touring) & raquettes (snow shoes) to the top of the Ararre run above Avoriaz, the back of Mont Chery and up to the Les Gets bowl from La Perriere. Glorious.

Adjusting to a new routine …

•Saturday, 30 January 2021 • 4 Comments

Here we are … another couple of weeks simply disappeared. So much happening around the world but we are in a little bubble here in Seytroux. The new normal … some french every day, ski touring 2 or 3 times a week, lots of box sets (I LOVE Bridgerton … it has become my guilty pleasure curled up on the sofa late afternoon with a cup of tea!), puzzle, cooking, raquettes (snow shoeing) and devouring the news, the weather forecasts and my audio books. Not a bad life I know but still missing actually seeing friends and family in person and up close! Hey ho … it will happen soon. In the meantime, I have managed to get Chris out for a ‘stroll’, I have had some amazing hikes and finally, my french is very slowly improving with the help of podcasts, school and my lovely french neighbour who is patiently ‘chatting’ to me in french!

Strolling in the snow!
Hiking up …
Headed down the back of Mont Chery in fabulous powder!

Also – have finally started another lockdown project … scanning in photos from the 80’s and 90’s. Some great memories! Did I ever really look like this?

Salut mes amis!

•Saturday, 16 January 2021 • 4 Comments

Middle of January, restrictions getting tighter (6pm curfew from today) and I am resigning myself to ‘confinement’ (as they say in France) until Easter. All very frustrating. I have cancelled January trip back to the UK as I’m concerned that the French may not let me come back even if UK lets me in. So … I am back to cooking, puzzles, knitting and have committed to improving my french as well as my favourite activity – ski touring! Talking ski touring, I am loving being a part of the Morzine Women’s Ski Club and have had a fabulous couple of days hiking into new places and working on my powder skiing. I’ve also hooked up with some of the women I have met so I now have ski buddies. I am just having to learn to pace myself as most of the women are at least 15 years younger than me and frankly, fairly hard core fit!

Climbing up Col de la Bolire in the snow
My tracks re on the right!
Looking over at Praz de Lys from the Col de la Bolire
Top of Plenys today – ESF are allowed to teach licensed ski clubs

This evening my lovely neighbour is coming over to chat in french with me for half an hour – as a prelude to my french lessons which start next week. Chris is already fed up with my practising on him! My brain simply doesn’t work as well as it used to … memory like a sieve but I long ago recognised that speaking french will be the task of a lifetime!

Marmalade batch 1 completed this week. Maybe another batch next week … please someone, save me from myself!

Marmalade batch 1

Welcoming in 2021

•Thursday, 7 January 2021 • 5 Comments

After a very quiet Christmas in Seytroux, celebrating only with our lovely neighbours, the first day of the new year was a blast – ski touring up Mont Chery in Les Gets (huge hike!) and then powering half way down; climbing back up to the top (nearly killed me!) so that we could enjoy every bit of powder on the way down. An awesome experience which was followed by a very long bubble bath and a bottle of Laurent Perrier to truly welcome in the New Year!

Glorious view as we work our way to the top of the mountain

Sadly, the first week of January has not come remotely close to my expectations … new COVID variant, Tier 4 in the UK, still no sign of the resort opening up here in Morzine, inability to come home or more importantly, get back to France since UK nationals can not transit through Geneva and we don’t yet have a long term visa. Add to that events in the US and I think the world is going to hell in a hand basket. The only light on the horizon is that I am still able to hike up the mountains. I am now the proud and excited owner of an avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel so am all set up to hike up those mountains!

Made it to the top … I am in the middle!
Making tracks!
En route to the top of Prodains
Stunning scenery on the way up Mont Chery today -7C!

Ski season with a difference?

•Monday, 14 December 2020 • 3 Comments

I’m not travelling but felt inspired to record the beginnings of what may prove to be a weird ski season. No lifts open, no restaurants and no bars but the snow has arrived and the area looks beautiful! I have opened the season with a snow shoe trek and a couple of days later, my first ski tour. I can imagine what the resort must have been like many many years ago – no people, silence on the mountains and one or two adventurers hiking up the mountain so they can have the joy of hurtling back down! It was a tough (for me!) hour and a half hike up Plenys in Morzine but stunning views and more powder than I have seen for years. The only challenge is no security, no people and slightly scary trying anything too challenging when there is no one to help me look for lost skis or pick me up if I fall over … so … I was very cautious and definitely need mates to play with.

I’ve also been busy at home – Christmas puddings, mince pies and Christmas decorations. It will sadly, only be Chris and me this year but we will do our best to have a lovely time.

Going home

•Thursday, 12 November 2020 • 3 Comments

A final report from our adventures across the Med. We were on the engine all day from Port de Bouc to Gruissan in the south west corner of France – a beautiful sunrise but quiet the rest of the day with not enough wind to sail. The coastguard was onto us – did we have authorisation to be in french waters? Under lockdown, no unlicensed sailing allowed so technically the answer was no … but we were on our way home which seemed to placate the authorities. A punchy entrance to the port in the dark – narrow and shallow all the way with plenty of flashing lights. We saw 2.7m on the depth counter (we need 2.3m) so we were OK but fairly anxious until we parked up. I know I will sleep for a week when we finally get home!

Last sunrise for a while …

After briefing the boatyard on our very long list of winter maintenance needs, we headed to Narbonne to catch the train to Barcelona and the onto Valencia. Loads of security everywhere. Papers checked at every opportunity but ‘going home’ seemed to work. Valencia was operating a midnight curfew rather than lockdown so we were able to have a late meal out – a huge treat!

Not many people travelling from Narbonne

Next day, we collected the car (with the new window) and drove north. A lovely night with friends 25 minutes from Gruissan and then back to the boatyard to brief engineers and anxiously watch our 25 ton boat being lifted out of the water for the winter. A few scary moments but thankfully, all went well and that was that. We’ll be back in February to see how all the work is progressing – until then, back to the chalet for a rest!

Ready to lift
The scary bit

The eagle has finally landed!

•Friday, 6 November 2020 • 7 Comments

After 13016 nautical miles and many unexpected adventures (good and bad!), we have landed in Port Gruissan without further incident. I write this post with large Gin & Tonic in hand and a huge smile! Massive thanks for reading, mailing, commenting, texting and calling – especially after our most recent trauma. You restored my equilibrium and totally reassured me that my anxieties were well founded! It has been brilliant to be in touch – thank you. More to come but felt the need to say thank you and share the good news – all safe and sound. Now just need to get the car from Valencia (public transport and lockdowns not withstanding) and then drive home to our chalet in Seytroux …. and so the next adventure starts!

Another Parker adventure …

•Wednesday, 4 November 2020 • 3 Comments

Today we should have arrived in Gruissan – our final destination for the season. It was not meant to be. We anchored off the coast about 20 miles west of Marseilles on Monday night – as planned. Tuesday morning at 6am we were ready to go, tea in hand – a long day ahead with the Mistral wind forecast. Would you believe it … the engine wouldn’t start. We quickly exhausted all our engineering knowledge and called the coast guard … no emergency but we clearly could not stay where we were. An hour later and the coast guard arrived to tow us into the nearest port. The coast guards were really great – patient and hugely helpful. Of course, the one day we wanted the anchor to come up smoothly, it didn’t – jammed half way up so more repair work required before we were able to be safely towed … just a little bit stressful! In port, engineers have been helping. A new battery (different set of batteries to the ones we replaced earlier in the year) required. I spent the day washing and cleaning – I have control over this at least!

Coast Guard arriving …
Captain Parker checking the tow!

We are in Port du Bouc – without our engine. We ended the day as we had begun it – with some stress! When we were in bed, we heard footsteps on the boat – rushing up the companionway, we discovered 4 guys messing about and climbing into the tender … we yelled and they ran away. Thoroughly shaken, we went back to bed only to hear a loud bang 20 minutes later – they had returned and thrown all our lines into the water … we were drifting in the harbour without an engine out of control. Chris had the presence of mind to call the port captain and yell for help (in french) whilst I fendered the boat from the very large power boat we were drifting towards and the concrete harbour wall. With help, we got the boat back to it’s berth – totally frazzled. Chris stayed up on watch for a couple of hours but all quiet for the rest of the night. Pleased to report a blue sunny day today; more washing; still waiting for new batteries …

Port du Bouc at 7am

The Med is empty!

•Monday, 2 November 2020 • Leave a Comment

Day 5 of no wind … the sea is like a mill pond and there is no life at all … no other yachts, no cruisers … we are alone. It’s very weird and our assumption is that this is lockdown at sea.

Empty sea

Sailing challenges continue although I am thrilled to report a small victory – an hour spent flat on the floor with my head in the bilges yesterday evening and I managed to change the filters on our water maker. I have to remind myself I was once a senior exec floating around a boardroom looking glamorous and earning money … second career as first mate is a radical change! Anyway, after one false start this morning and the loss of the old filters overboard whilst attempting to clean them, the water maker is actually working – hallelujah! Huge victory although I have not yet put the manual away.

Water maker working!

Our anchorage last night was lovely – Isle de Port-Cros – just south of Hyere. Off by 8.15am for another day on the engine. Sadly, the forecast looks the same for the next couple of days. Next stop just beyond Marseilles.

Port-Cros

Ground hog day

•Sunday, 1 November 2020 • 4 Comments

The start of day 4 without wind. It means we are on the engine all day as we have to get to Gruissan by early next week. We’re getting great views of the coastline – up the Ligurian coast from Livorno to La Spezia; onwards to Santa Margherita (the very pretty harbour just north of Portofino) and from here up to Diano Marina and then Imperia. Yesterday we crossed into French waters and spent the night at anchor in the harbour outside Villefranche Sur Mer – just over the hill from Nice. The views are stunning – brightly coloured Italian villas clinging to the rock face; churches on the tiniest promontories.

The travel plan
Sun setting as we made our way to an anchorage near S. Margherita
Diano Marina

In addition to the views, we also have every day being a school day … something goes wrong or breaks on the boat every day! Usually a positive and resilient personality, I have had a major sense of humour failure over our last breakage … to cut a long story short (ish!) after a lovely trip ashore to Diano Marina in the tender (last Italian stop and we made it for cocktails before curfew!) we got back to the boat, attached the tender to the davits (mini crane on the back of the boat) and as we were hauling it up, one of the lines broke. So … at night, at sea and with the tender held onto the boat with one line whilst its engine was submerged. Really not funny. After getting the tender floating again and a failed attempt to repair the damage, we slept on it. Friday morning saw us hot footing it to Imperia – a large port nearby so that we could attempt the repair from dry land and get help. All’s well that ends well – 3 ebullient Italians plus active help from Chris and me and we managed a temporary fix – bravissimo!

France is in serious lock down so no plans to set foot on land until we get to our base. Chris managed to get Strictly on the iPad for me last night – love it! Planning to get to our destination on Tuesday – hoping for wind and and that the gin will last.

Regained sense of humour!