December 1st, 2012

In Europe the best way to get around is by train–and we take the ICE train from Frankfurt to Paris.  This train reaches peak speeds of 315 k/h!  And wait til you pass on oncoming ICE train–wow!  We’re in Paris in about 5 hours.

Paris was overwhelming–we spent a total of two days there–and were mainly sick with the flu.  Mr. Eiffel must have owned an erector set when he was a little boy–we’re awed by the amount of steel here (and the long lines).  What a massive structure.  Our favorite time was walking around Montmartre.

Here we stumble across a street musician; aka “organ grinder.”   I spent last winter rebuilding an Estey portable pump organ and love this music.  We tipped him generously and continued to walk up the hill.

Our next stop was Lyon where we became couchsurfers hosted by a very nice chap named Nick.  Martina found him on the website and we thoroughly enjoyed our evening with him–he is an expert climber/extreme skier and loves climbing in Yosemite.  We will certainly invite him to Alaska!   You rock, Nick!

Being a country boy-camper type, it’s time to move on south to Provence!

It was here that we fell in love with France and most of all our French hosts.  Le Degoutaud is a 100 acre B&B run by the parents of our last summer’s guest, Tibo (see previous post).  We were really in for a treat.  Besides a well deserved mention in Rick Steve’s guidebook, they spoil their guests with home-made apricot nectar, preserves, tree ripe olives, & figs, and of course, locally produced wines.  Le Degoutaud is run by Veronique and Pierre and Pierre’s parents, Hubert and Josefine and we adopt them into our family immediately.  What hospitality!!

How can you top this?  Tibo takes us on a personal tour, through the vineyards around Suzette, and the villages NE of Avignon and Orange.  We drive up Mont Ventoux and see the tip of Mt. Blanc.  I acquire a strong French accent,  and a desire to sample the local wines.

Some of the 100 acres.

Meet Jean David and….

….Chateau Jean David

Martina and Tibo take an afternoon catnap by the pool ala Maxfield Parrish.

Last summer, Tibo and I began an outdoor kitchen here in Kupreanof.  Here he explains the finer points of French country cuisine.    A traditional Provencal dinner is planned this evening.

The outdoor kitchen is fired up, wine arrives along with the best that Provence can offer in culinary treats.  A night never to forget;  and such wonderful hosts!

What else can you wish for…. but a drive to the French Riviera and the southern Mediterranean coastline. Tibo, ever our faithful guide, takes us south to Marseilles and then eastward along the French coast towards Italy. Simply beautiful!

We drive up the tortuous roads above Cassis to the limestone cliffs where climbers prepare to descend.  In the old days, we climbed up, not down but it’s a new world.  Amazing exposure.

Well, I’m dizzy so we drive down to sea level and have lunch in a Mediterranean seacoast town (there are too many to count or remember). Can you imaging rowboats kept this nice in Seattle?  Never.  These Mediterranean French are perhaps the happiest ever.  Next stop–Languedoc-Lunas where we pick mushrooms and enjoy perfect French hospitality!  Stay tuned.



November 25th, 2012

In mid September Martina and I decide to revisit Bavaria and to partake in the local customs there–namely Octoberfest.  If you haven’t been to Octoberfest in Munich, you haven’t enjoyed beer.  Off we go via Iceland–pictured here is Reykjavik’s huge church built in the center of the city on the highest hill–very unique architecture and with a huge pipe organ in place.

This is a great way to visit Europe.  We flew from Toronto to Reykjavik and spend three days getting rid of jet lag and checking out the local customs.  Reykjavik is a beautiful town with friendly people–we’ll go back.  Icelandic Air offers non-penalty airfare stops for up to a week’s stay, and cuts the airtime in two shorter flights.  You can’t lose.

Octoberfest is simply two weeks of madness.  Grab your lederhosen and let’s go!

People from all over the world congregate in ten huge tents.  Each tent is about the size of two football fields and houses about 7000 beer drinkers with outdoor seating for another 2500.

Believe it or not, we run into people we know–and the beer isn’t bad either.  Wow!  I want to come back the next night and we do.  I haven’t seen this much cleavage since I studied the San Andreas Fault as a geology student 40 years ago!

Oh boy–time to work off all that beer drinking so off we go on a hike in the very south of Bavaria on the Austrian border near the town of Brannenburg.  I expect to see Julie Andrews waltz out behind the next tree with her kids in tow.  Beautiful countryside–the clouds clear from the valleys below about the time our heads clear from Octoberfest.

We work up an appetite and stop at the Viktualienmarkt right next to Marienplatz in downtown Munich.  Every grape here has it’s place at this display.  In fact, everything has it’s place here; every lawn is mowed, every house painted–not a gutter or shingle out of place.  This is Bavaria.

After 10 days in Munich, it’s off to Paris via the ICE high speed trains!  Stay tuned….


South Kupreanof Yacht Club

November 15th, 2012

Guests drop in for dinner at the South Kupreanof Yacht Club–of which I’m Commodore so I must make a good impression.  Yet our headquarters is a bit shabby.  Time to rebuild!

First is the weathered front of the net shed.  This building is perhaps 100 years old and falling apart.  Fortunately, the pilings have been sistered and the building is stable to a point–only about 1-2 degrees out of whack.  I can deal with this.

First order of business is to order lumber and haul it to the construction site. We get our yellow cedar from Prince of Wales Island and barge it over to Petersburg, dump it in the saltchuck and haul it two miles down the Narrows to the yacht club.  Landed here, it costs less than $2 a board foot.  Here we are on the beach ready to start construction…..

Look at the Yacht Club interior!   Full of everything including boats.  Imagine!  The lumber on the right has been stickered all winter and is dry and ready for nailing up.  Just add a fire in the barrel stove, a cold beer and a good cigar and life is near perfect!

Time to knock off walls and get down to business…..  Great job on a rainy day.

Here I am half done with a new window even!

Tibo, aka Thibauld, from Provence France, a couch surfer, now our ‘nephew,’ aids me in removing panels.  Tibo is 6′ 6″ and strong as an ox and loves to work!  We replace a few beams below him–got to have good fung shui here.

Nearly done!  on the left is a new 6″ X 6″ beam for the kitty-corner (last year we replaced another beam).

Oh boy–nearly done and here I’ve also repositioned the horizontal beams and eliminated a lot of old repairs.  Battens will cover these gaps.

And this is the finished product–new doors and a ‘broken oar’ flagpole for the burgee which hangs in the window.  Time  for some pickled herring, a swig of beer and a dip of snoose.

The doors lock in the open position with the same locking brace–now that’s clever!

Now I fill the shed with boats–there are six in this photo.  Can you spot them?  The Yacht Club now boasts four canoes, one kayak, three wooden rowboats, two Norwegian faerings, three aluminum skiffs and the 73′ tug Katahdin.  Can’t have too many boats.

The next phase will be to build a stairs down to the beach at left–the beams stored on the grid await this purpose.  Behind, our Lund is up for the winter.  The trouble with fixing up the front of the shed, is that the rest of the shed looks terrible now so I’ve got to replace the whole perimeter…..then the floors…..then the roof.  It never ends!  Stay tuned.