14 March 2019

We've Been In France!

Wow, time flies. I've just been too busy to keep up this blog for the past few months, but this morning I suddenly got the urge again. So where have we been?

In France! Yes, after sailing non-stop from Cape Fear down to St. Augustine, and discovering that the yard we planned to haul Petronella in had a broken travel lift, we headed back up to St. Mary's GA and hauled out at the well known and much recommended St. Mary's Boat Services yard.

Petronella hauled out for the last time for a while, I hope!
After hauling out, we tidied Petronella, emptied the fridge, lifted up all the cushions, and opened up all the locker hatches to allow air circulation, locked her up, and headed off to Thanksgiving dinner at my daughter's in Charlotte.

From there, we flew off to live in France for two months.

First day in Paris...
Wow, how do I even begin? We decided to take this trip because we are seriously thinking of sailing Petronella to Europe, and in particular to France. But would we like it? It seemed crazy to sail all the way across the Atlantic, only to find out that we didn't like it there.

I mean, I've been to Europe probably a hundred times on business. But there is a big difference between a hurried business trip to an airport or conference, and a long term stay away from large metropolitan areas where colleagues and hotel staff all speak English. Helena is very good with languages, but I am not. Would it be isolating to not know the language? Would people be friendly? All unknowns.

So we decided to rent an apartment in Montpellier for two months and to give it a try. We picked Montpellier because it has several good French-language schools. We chose to attend LSF to see if we could get our French up to a rudimentary conversational level.

Gateway to Montpellier, France

Sandy, our French teacher at LSF
I won't keep you in suspense: We loved France far more than I expected. Montpellier is probably the nicest place I have ever lived, the people were outrageously friendly, we made a bunch of friends, and even learned enough French to get into trouble with.

Montpellier is in the south of France, within biking distance of the Mediterranean, so the weather was pretty warm for December and January. The city is about a thousand years old, and at one time had a wall around it (which is still there, in some places), so it has the feel of a classic European 'old city'. But it's a university town, so there are loads of college kids and young adults. It's incredibly lively, with tons of restaurants and outdoor cafes, amazing food, and loads of narrow streets and plazas and parks to explore. I didn't want to leave.

The main plaza at Christmas time

Just cold enough to need a sweater and scarf

Lots of little streets to explore

And the food... did I mention the food???
Another city gate
One of the things I liked most about Montpellier was the lack of cars. Only a few delivery vans are allowed into the city itself. It makes such a difference to live in a place that isn't overrun by cars. You just have no idea if -- like me -- you've never lived in such a place. The streets are for people, there's less noise and dirt, you get lots of exercise walking up and down hills, and it even smells different -- no exhaust fumes in the air! After a few weeks there, I could distinctly smell the fumes from cars whenever we left the city. It's amazing what you can get used to.

Anyway, what more can I say? I loved it.

We also toured a few nearby towns, but I was always ready to go back home to Montpellier.

Roquefort, where they make the cheese

Séte, to check out the huge marina on the Mediterranean 
Carcassonne, because it's amazing!
Bottom line, we answered our question: yes, it would DEFINITELY be worth sailing across The Atlantic to spend more time in this great country, and I'm sure many others in Europe and around the world. So, reluctantly, after two months, we headed back to Petronella to get her ready for her continuing voyage.

More on that very soon!


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