We hunker down for a whole week of unusual weather on the Chesapeake. Then we head to southwest France for a Celebratory French Garden Party.
Fair warning: this blog contains LOTS of photos.
Click the Google Map button below to open the map in a separate window. There you can zoom in/out, and click on the icons to see pictures and more info on the various places along our route.
Norfolk, VA (Little Creek)
May 6 - 15, 2022
We had planned all along to return the short distance to Little Creek Marina after the Looper Rendezvous to continue taking care of routine business for a week. Our timing couldn’t have been better.
The day after we returned, we got in a morning walk to the Farmers Market (fresh picked local strawberries!) and were joined at Cova Coffee by brother Chuck and family before heading back to the boat. The winds picked up just as predicted that afternoon, and by evening we were getting high gusts and the surf had picked up enough on the beach that Roxy wasn’t interested in getting anywhere near the water.
What followed was six days of gale force winds from due north as the front stalled off the Maryland/Virginia coast. This literally blew lots of water from the north part of the Chesapeake Bay all the way down to the mouth of the Bay and Hampton Roads. We saw it directly in the surf on the beach, getting sandblasted as we came over the dunes to take a look at the waves coming over the small breakwater . As the wind blew the water south, it had nowhere to go once it got to land and so the normal water level went up. And up. And more up. Coupled with the full moon, this meant that one morning the LOW TIDE was actually higher than the high tide just 6+ hours earlier!
We were perfectly safe tied up (with extra lines, of course) to floating docks that rose with the water, but did feel some rocking with the bigger gusts and could hear the wind howling through the rigging of nearby sailboats. We didn’t venture out much. Dave spent two days working on our voyage plan from Norfolk all the way to Chicago. He then moved on to coursework for his US Coast Guard Captains License and application. I just puttered – small boat projects, reading, some professional certification stuff (I’m keeping medical license and board certification current for now).
Boat traffic on the entire Chesapeake Bay halted as everyone hunkered down wherever they had happened to get before the weather moved in along most of the mid-Atlantic. We heard from friends at Atlantic Yacht Basin that many of the boats were ‘aground’ at the dock as the water had blown south into Albemarle Sound. Other areas had flooding of roads. Temps dropped down into the 50s and we had to drag out the space heaters and warm clothes we had thought we were putting away for the season.
When the winds finally abated, it took about 24 hours for the water levels to return to normal. But then two days of fog rolled in, persisting well into the late mornings and further restricting boat traffic. After so many days of seeing ‘our’ beach transformed into angry surf, it seemed weird to return to find it back to the calm, serene stretch. Then for the Grand Finale, dear Mother Nature provided a full rainbow, full moon, and brilliant sunset all within 24 hours.
Travel to France, with a stop...Back in Norfolk
The long awaited and anticipated trip to France for Danica & Fab’s Wedding Celebration was finally here!!l
We dropped Roxy off at a dog sitter I had found on Rover.com the evening before our departure. Amalie and Nicholas would be taking Roxy into their home for the week. I knew it was going to be a good fit when they said they were fine with her being on their furniture, as she has never met an upholstered piece she didn’t love. We spent the morning of our departure buttoning See Level up. We left all the lines doubled as they had been for the past week’s bad weather as a precaution. Dave shut off all the water to the boat, closed seacocks and valves, and turns off everything powered he could except the bilge pumps to reduce the chances that anything happens while no one is there paying attention.
We were scheduled on an afternoon flight to JFK, then overnight to Paris, and finally a short Air France domestic flight to Lyon to put us in early in the morning the next day. All the necessary ‘paperwork’ for international travel is now completed online prior to checking in these days, which meant all we had was a quick checking of bags and then wait for boarding.
But then, it’s not a real adventure if everything goes smoothly.
An hour before the flight we get a text message that our flight to JFK was cancelled due to some major thunderstorms rolling through the entire Chesapeake Bay and NJ/NY area and we had been rebooked for the following day. Our consolation prize for losing a whole day was they had rebooked us into First Class for the overnight leg from Atlanta to Paris. So we retrieved our checked baggage and Ubered back to the boat for the night, a little deflated.
Trying again to get to France
May 17 - 18
Feeling a little like Groundhog Day, we Ubered back to the Norfolk Airport. This time no hiccups in the flight schedule, thank heavens.
I’ve got to say, flying first class on an eight-plus hour overnight flight almost made up for the cancellation the day before, emphasis on almost, as we certainly would have preferred the extra day in France! We each had our own little cubby, complete with seat that converted to a lounger or even further to a flat bed; it took me 15 minutes of button pushing to figure out how to drive my seat. There was a sliding half-door to the cubby for privacy, a real pillow – not the usual tiny thing that always slips out from under your head – and a cozy comforter. A goody bag had little slippers, toiletries, and earplugs. Would we pay the extra bejillion dollars to do this again? Nope. Was the flight back in coach going to be painful after this? Yup. But we’re not complaining.
Arriving in Paris in the wee hours, clearing customs was a breeze as no questions were asked. A quick actual stamp in the passport (it always kills me that they flip open to any random page rather than going in order), as well as a scan of our face and we were boarding for the short flight to Lyon.
We found our way to the baggage claim carousel at the Lyon airport, even with time-change induced fatigue. As the crowd thinned down to just us and we heard the baggage door slam shut, we realized we had hit the second hiccup in our trip. The only people around to ask questions of were guys with guns at the door, but one of them pointed us in the direction of the baggage office where the very nice attendant was actually looking for us. Apparently she knew before we did that our two bags had decided to spend more time in Paris, which admittedly was better than them stowing away on the wrong flight altogether and ending up in China or something. At least barcode scanning technology made it better than the ‘olden days’ when a lost bag could sit in a cage for days before someone finally stumbled across it and realized it was in the wrong place. It took a little doing and a lot of translating by Fab via phone to arrange for the bags to be delivered to his parents house later that day.
May 18 - 21
Dan and Fab picked us up at the airport for the 45 minute drive from Lyon to Yenne, France. We loved being in this small town that was like a travel brochure, yet I suspect it is typical of most French town of this size. We started each day by walking 50 yards to the Patiesserie, then to one of several cafés for a cappuccino while sitting outside watching the activity around us with the mountains as a backdrop. Centuries old structures, colorful window shutters, and flowers in full bloom and overflowing their containers were like a jigsaw puzzle picture. I’ll just stop here and let the pics show you Yenne.
To keep moving so we would adjust to the time difference the day we arrived, Dan and Fab took us to the shores of nearby Lac du Bourget for a picnic lunch after we had met up with the rest of the family that had arrived as scheduled the day before. It was a Wednesday, and turns out in that part off France the schools are closed Wednesday afternoons so that they can take the kids out for some structured outdoor recreation. A long line of kids waited for their turn to jump off the pier into the lake, multiple levels of sailing classes were underway, groups of kayakers and rowers paddled and rowed by. All this going on with a backdrop of mountains and cliffs on a beautiful sunny day. Have to say I kind of like the idea of exposing kids to different outdoor activities though outdoor recreation as part of the school curriculum. They all seemed to be having a blast while learning new skills.
The following day we drove to the top of the mountain on the other side of Lac du Bourget for a hike and some spectacular views of the entire valley. The drive up the mountain itself was beautiful, winding past forests and small towns and wildflowers to get to the seasonal skiing area at the top which now had only a restaurant and the hiking trails. But the views! Snow covered Alps in the distance, the lake below, wild flowers on the overlooks — I could have spent hours there taking pictures.
Throughout our stay, home base (and where the Garden Party celebrating Danica and Fab was held) for all activities was Fab’s parents home in Yenne. Called Maison Forte du Clos de Chambuet, it dates back to the 13th century. Maison forte translates to ‘strong house,’ and were the homes of the area’s wealthy landowner. If there was a threat of any kind, the locals could move within the outer walls and be protected by their employer. The house of course had been rebuilt and modified and modernized over the centuries, but you still got a feel for what it must have been like in medieval times. It was not really big – similar in size to a modern four bedroom home here, if our homes had turrets with the openings for shooting arrows in defense against attacks. At the foot of the driveway was an orchard where Fab’s dad had planted cherry, plum, and apple trees. The driveway continued up past unruly knee high wild grasses and wildflowers, and then into a courtyard where the Garden Party was held on Friday. Rose vines in full bloom traveled up the walls; irises and other spring flowers were scattered about foundation beds. A giant tree in the center of the courtyard kept it shady. There was even an old well out back, with the hanging pulley for the bucket still there.
Inside was beautiful also; it was completely modernized of course, but still maintained the traditional and historic charm. Worn circular stone steps wound up the turrets, with heavy wooden doors opening to the second story bedrooms. Similar steps went down into the dark basement, which was loaded with old wine bottles and antique wine making equipment, among many other cool things. There was a very modern kitchen, where his mom cooked fantastic meals for whoever happened to be there that looked too pretty to eat, and we ate outside in the courtyard every night.
Marie-Francoise and Laurent were the epitome of graciousness and hospitality. They even arranged a cherry picking trip at a nearby elderly friend’s house who had a bumper crop on her single tree. Nine of us picked for an hour and barely made a dent in all the fruit – and that included all that we ate as we picked.
But the reason we were all there was to celebrate Dan & Fab. You may recall that they had been married back in November by the Australian equivalent of a Justice of the Peace because COVID lockdowns were still in effect and travel was restricted. This allowed them to keep moving forward in their life together, with the knowledge that they could share a celebration with family and friends at a later date. And now here we all were on a beautiful French country afternoon.
Three large tents had been installed days before in the courtyard, fitting perfectly underneath the large tree. Tables and a bar resided under the tents, with string lights criss-crossing high up in the tents. A local florist did a spectacular job that fit perfectly with the backdrop of the house. It was beautiful, and everything fit Dan & Fab perfectly. Fab has a large extended family with two generations of cousins present, and everyone welcomed us with their English that was way better than our non-existent French. We didn’t return to our AirBNB until about 10 pm.
The next day was a welcome ‘down day.’ We helped deconstruct everything we could in the morning, then chatted by the pool at the house for an hour after lunch. We all walked around Yenne for a short time before returning to the house for an easy dinner of local pizza. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a dessert that was so good we had it three nights in a row called Gateaux Vacherin. It is a cake made of layers of raspberry sorbet, ice cream, and meringue, topped with fresh whipped cream. We will spend the rest of our days seeking it out in the US.
Our final day in France, Dan & Fab dropped us off at our hotel at the airport in Lyon in the morning. The hotel had a Hollywood theme, which seemed a little weird as a native southern Californian visiting France but was actually well executed. The first thing we had to do was get the required COVID test that is required to board a plane to the US (but no testing required if you come in by car or boat, as if the virus somehow picks up potency at high altitudes). Fortunately we were both negative, because should we have tested positive we would have had to stay in quarantine in France for 10 days. We then took a train into downtown Lyon and just walked around. Most businesses were closed because it was Sunday, but as we got closer to the Rhone River there were more people and open restaurants.
It was fortuitous our hotel was literally above the terminal, since we had a 6 am flight to Paris. As anticipated, coach was a step down as we flew from Paris to Detroit, but since it was a daytime flight we didn’t really need to sleep anyway. This time our baggage (with our dirty laundry) managed to get on the same flights with us all the way to Norfolk. After picking up a rental car we went straight to get Roxy. She was happy to see us, but also seemed quite comfortable at the sitters; they had spoiled her just as I do. The boat was also in good shape, if not a bit stuffy after the week’s heat wave in Virginia.
The long trip back had allowed us to reset our mental energy to the continuation of our Great Loop adventure. We have a busy couple of days errands to provision and get everything in order to get underway (hence the rental car), but we are excited to get moving again. Who knows? There might be a Gateaux Vacherin awaiting us somewhere along the Hudson River…
Pops’ Stats Corner*
Tot days covered this blog: 20
- Travel days: 2.5
- Miles traveled: by boat 0 by plane: 13,098
- Capuccinos/lattes consumed between us: 15
- Movies watched between us on flights: 7
*’Pops’ is what the family called Dave’s dad. He had an amazing mind for any kind of statistic, earning him the nickname Numbers from the Stillwater high school coaches for whom he kept team stats. This regular feature of the blog is named in his honor.