Friday, May 25, 2007

Decorating the Captain's Cabin

It’s finally finished! This is the quilt for the captain’s cabin – pieced together by M.E. and quilted by Sue Lambrecht. The front (top photo) was actually cut, pieced and sewn aboard the Shenandoah and then brought back to PA to be quilted. I designed the back (middle photo) with a large patchwork pattern so the quilt can be reversed and still have some interest and different colors on the other side.

The headboard above the bed is actually a removable panel that is attached to the bulkhead, and will be upholstered with quilted fabric.

The aft head (bottom photo) stencil design is enhanced with marigold accent paint below, and coordinates with the curtains in the captain’s cabin.

(The forward stateroom is decorated in English country garden fabrics; and the double stateroom is done in French provencal, complete with a small painting created by a painter aptly named Provencal.)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

French Beauty

It’s been two weeks that I have been trying to buy an iMac here in France.

With the availability of high speed Internet now on the basin, coupled with my cantankerous Dell laptop, the frustration levels had reached epic proportions. Just waiting ten minutes for the damn thing to boot up was frustrating enough. When I finally got connected to the net I made the dumb decision to upgrade Windows with the SP2. That was the start of a long series of wasted hours and days trying to get the Dell, and its drivers, etc. working again. A sixty-five year old man should not have to put up with that stuff! …nor, anyone else for that matter. This is retirement; a time for relaxation, low levels of anxiety, calm, peacefulness, an iMac!

Well, the initial attempt was through the Apple Store, France, online. “Ahh, mais Monsieur, il n’est pas possible!” You see, it is impossible to order something in France, online, with a credit card that has a billing address outside of France. Since I hadn’t tried to do that sort of thing before, I didn’t know. Guess we’ll have to get a credit card with a billing address inside France.

Then I tried the Apple Store, UK! “No problem, Sir, what do you want and what is your credit card number?” Great, now I was getting somewhere. “Now, what was that shipping address? Where? France, you say?” “Ahh, mais Monsieur, il n’est pas possible!” This guy was bilingual. You see, it is impossible to buy something online in the UK and have it shipped to France. He suggested that I buy it online in France. Duh!!

So, I called the Apple Store in the good old US of A. I explained my problem to a nice young lady who said that I would have to deal with their international department and could I hold the line for a minute. A minute later (I love American efficiency) a guy came on the line and said he was the representative for these sorts of transactions in France. He also said his name was Elvis! Well, at least that mystery has been solved!

I placed the order, got an order number, checked it online and, sure enough, an order existed and a delivery date was scheduled – in France.

The next day, Elvis called. “Sir, it looks like the order is not going through. I don’t know what has happened, but maybe you should go to an Apple Store in France.”


I picked up my cell phone to make a call and noticed a voice mail message waiting for me. Calling the service, the message was from MasterCard, and asking if I would call their fraud department as soon as possible.

OK, I can take a hint.

I called them and they informed me that there had been an attempt to buy a computer in the USA for shipment to France. This constituted “unusual activity” and they canceled the purchase!

Never mind that I had called MasterCard to tell them that I would be in France for an extended period of time and would be using the card here as well as the rest of the freakin’ world. This had been duly noted on my account but no one noticed.

So, I called my French buddy, Jean-Luc. Jean-Luc is my “landlord,” so to speak, here on the canal and a charter member of the BYGOMC (Bourgogne Yacht and Grumpy Old Man Club). I told him my problem and he said, “Pas Problem!” No problem? I told Jean-Luc that I had done just about everything short of crawling on bended knees through broken glass to buy an iMac. He said, “There’s an Apple Store in Dijon, half hour away. I need to get a new one too, as well as Adam, so we’ll drive up there and get all three.”

He called the store in Dijon and asked them if they had the computers. They said they had them so Jean-Luc told them we were coming up to pick up three of them. That is when he found out that, “having them” didn’t actually mean that they had them. It meant that they could get them! Because, you see, no one really stocks anything here in France, but they can get it for you. It also meant that they really weren’t an Apple Store, but a computer store that handles Apple products and is authorized to do repairs.

We placed the order for three computers and some other things.

Yesterday, Jean-Luc and I drove to pick up the computers. Sure enough, the computers were there. But, the “other things” were not. The lady was very nice. She accepted my MasterCard, the same one that the Apple Store, France would not accept, and we drove home with our new computers.

Two weeks of frustration (actually, years of PC frustrations), but I have my new iMac. What a beauty she is! Slim lines, easy to manipulate, sexy French keyboard…err, I think Mary Ellen needs to get back from the States.

Next on the agenda, get a French credit card!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Juanny Graine de Pomme

I am here to tell you that the jalapeno pepper addiction is real and can control your life!

If you are from the States and were brought up on some of the finer ethnic cuisines, such as Mexican food, you are in for a world of disappointment in France. As a rule, Mexican food in France is rarer than hens’ teeth which, by the way, you can get anytime at the local market. We’re not just talkin’ normal hens’ teeth, but appellation controlee hens’ teeth!

France is THE country of fabulous food, culinary masterpieces and epicurean delights. No one disputes that fact. Here, where everything is edible; songbirds, snails, unmentionable animal parts, prepared in such exquisite manner that it all tastes like it should be eaten, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme growing like weeds, wild along the side of the road…and not one damn jalapeno pepper.

A couple of weeks ago, Mary Ellen and I were in Paris and stumbled upon a Mexican restaurant near the Place du Bastille, the El Chihuahua. Por moi, it was like dying and going to heaven. We had eaten in other so-called Mexican restaurants when we could find them here, but this place was about as close to Tex Mex as one can get.

I actually had a plate of nachos, with jalapenos, covered with cheese that looked and tasted like it had just been melted from a brick of Kraft Velveeta. Not the kind of stuff you get here, aged for years, daily wiped down with special cloths soaked in secret solutions by cloistered monks, veins of fungal stuff racing through the middle. No, this was the real, heart-stopping, nacho cheese that we have all grown to love!

And the dinner, chicken enchiladas, with all the accoutrements, like rice and refried beans, guacamole and chips with real hot sauce that tasted like real hot sauce, Pico De Gallo, Corona beer with a slice of lime. We’re talkin’ down home A-mer-kin food here.

When I was back in the States over the winter, I ordered a bunch of packages of Burpee’s jalapeno and habanero pepper seeds to plant and raise on the Shenandoah. I would like to announce that the first crop of seedlings has taken root and we are the proud parents of a number of baby pepper plants that will be nurtured, groomed and cared for in planter boxes on the decks.

…and, who knows, someday those peppers’ offspring might be growing, wild, along the country roads of France. The jalapeno pepper addiction can control your life.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Back Afloat - Tomorrow!

Well, here it is Sunday and still in dry dock. The bottom is finished, new propeller installed and ready to go.

Was informed by Jean-Luc this morning that I would have to remain in dry dock till Wednesday because Tuesday is a holiday...and...Monday is a holiday warm-up. I didn't think anybody had more holidays than the British, where every week there is some feeble excuse not to work. They have "bank holidays" there. God, bank holidays! Give me a break!

This holiday stuff is getting out of hand here too! I asked Jean-Luc what the holiday was and he said "to celebrate the French defeating the Germans in WWII!" Well now, it didn't take me long to jump on that one. They do have a unique slant on history in this country.

Anyway, as it turns out, I get to leave the dry dock tomorrow. The "Monday warm-up" has been canceled for lack of interest. Back to the other side of the canal tomorrow where it is quieter, and more peaceful.

Of course, it is election day here and, depending on the outcome, there may be some bad hangovers in the morning.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Lola, La, La, La, La, Lola!

The other day, an old Dutch barge came into port flying the Stars and Stripes. Turns out they are a couple, Jerry and Suzanne, from the US who have been cruising the canals for a few years.

They were here to have some work done on their boat and, while the Shenandoah is in dry dock, are neighbors of ours.

Unbeknown to me, they are three! The third being a huge, beautiful Boxer named Luca. Luca is five and a retired show dog. ...and you can tell!

So, this is a little cheesecake for my granddog, Lola, Sharon and Pete's female Boxer in Virginia. Lola, have I got a guy for you.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

High and Dry!

Well, after a beautiful month of sunny Spring in France, the weather has turned COLD! Burrrrr, had to break out the fleece jacket and will definitely have to start wearing underwear again.

Yesterday, May 1st. was a holiday here, "fete" as they say, in honor of the workers of France - Labor Day!

The guys from the Bourgogne Yacht and Grumpy Old Mens' Club (BYGOMC) had an evening BBQ. With two roaring canal side fires and a couple of gallons of cheap wine we listened to selections played by Bruce a neighboring GOM from the ONYX across the canal. Bruce is from Rehoboth, DE and has been here for about a year, kicking back and tweaking his boat load of computers. He is solely instrumental in my ability to access high speed Internet stuff now as he has provided his services, free of charge, to the whole basin. There were five Americans, five Brits and a couple of French guys rounding out the group (added for local color).

Anyway, the boys from the dry dock came and collected the Shenandoah this morning hauling her across the canal and south a couple hundred yards into Atelier Fluvial for her new bottom paint and prop. Should be here for a week or so if all goes well. Surprising how much crud has accumulated over the past three years. ...and very surprising to see that the anodes have very little wear. That shows that the sophisticated electrical protection system I had installed is doing its job. Stand by for updates.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Bee a little Crazee...

We all have our favorite sayings; some are regional, some are trite, some are witty and some are not. For instance, perhaps particularly in the South, we may grow accustomed to hearing, “Hey Sugah”, or “Bless her heart”, or the more familiar “Well, I’ll be a…” The latter is sometimes followed by quaint phrases such as “ monkey’s uncle”. Now why anyone would want to be a monkey’s uncle is beyond me – it does seem to cast certain aspersions upon the rest of the family. Perhaps those words are uttered by the same person who actually wears the t-shirt that proclaims “I’m Stupid” for all the world to see – yes, if you wear that shirt, you most certainly are stupid and I don’t care if your uncle gave it to you.

France does have its share of monkeys, uncles, t-shirts and phrases. Our particular favorite is a simple one, “Merde!!” We don’t care to use that one when we visit the market however, because the possibility exists, almost certainly, that we will come home with some in a bag. Fortunately, we have learned to identify what is pate, and what is not – even when they try to pretend it is laced with dark, earthy, rare mushrooms – don’t believe a word of it even if you do speak French! Just avoid that word at the market even if someone trods on your toe or you get stung by a bee. (Bees are popular in France.)

If you go to the Saturday market in Beaune, and you are musing aloud at all the interesting stuff they sell there and you should to happen to unconsciously utter “I’ll be a…” it may be confused for the French word “abeille” especially if you have a Southern accent. As we again stress: Be Careful what you ask for in the market; or this darling, colorful creature may fly home with you. You would then have your very own abeille. You might have to, then, ask yourself the confusing question: "to bee or not to bee ?".

Suit yourself and have a good day!
p.s. the artichokes are amazing!