Baby Noah Arrives in Berlin!

How cool - we have a first grandkid!

Baby Noah - born in Berlin. 
13 December 2016.

Iris is Italian. 
My son Mikey was born in Switzerland.
(I was working in Geneva then-)

But he's American, too.
And German. 

Noah will probably be German since HIS Dad and Granddad are also German.
But maybe he'll be American, too.

And with an Italian mother, he'll probably like pasta, so - 

I guess he's an International Edition.

Of course, that means Stan and I have to do a little celebrating here in France. 

We were able to find a bit of wine.
And a place to enjoy it.

Cheers, Noah!

Guess we need to see him in person.
So we're off to Berlin next week.

We'll leave the ol' boat Maggie May to fend for herself over Christmas. 

I think she'll manage.

Welcome to the World, Noah!

South of France: Languedoc: Winter and Wines

Enough boat for a while!

While the work continues at the shipyard, Chantier Allemand,
we leave the coast of the Mediterranean -

- leaving the welder and the painter and the electrician and all those big shipyard machines -
- to somehow manage without us -

Collecting shells on a beach picnic.

and head off on a Small French Road Trip.

Off to explore the Languedoc's prime attractions.
The Pont du Gard. The Tarn Gorges. Stone villages.

We have them all to ourselves in warm December sunshine.

Were we talking about wine?
Did you know the Languedoc is the single biggest wine-producing region in the WORLD?

It grows more than a third of France's total wine!
2800 different wine producers.
2 BILLION bottles a year!

I took part in the grape harvest here in the Corbières in 1974. (!) 

There were a lot of vineyards even then, but the quality has improved immeasurably. 
It's becoming my favorite wine region. 

The "terroir" here contains lots of fossils - and shells. 

Even up on the hills, shells everywhere.

Of course, I said that about Burgundy and Bordeaux, too.

But what blew us away this week was the VARIETY of the landscape.

In just this one little region.
From snowy mountain passes -

- to desert valleys that looked JUST like New Mexico.

 Stone filled medieval towns with crooked cobblestoned alleyways -

- to Roman bridges and Cathar castles. 

Strikingly beautiful.

Pont du Gard - absolutely incredible old Roman aqueduct.

Just to give you a sense of the scale!

It's VERY popular in summer. 
Camping cars and tourist-filled cafés.

In December: 
We have the pleasure of being the ONLY people in many of the most striking sights.

And for once in France:
We even have the roads to ourselves.

Did you know they have pink flamingos here?

We stay in ridiculously gorgeous hotels and renovated palaces.

Again, we're often the only guests, so we have time to chat with the owners.
Discuss their towns and their lives with them.  

Stan investigates delicious breakfast offerings in Pézenas.

This town, St.Guilhem-le-Desert, gets 2 million visitors in July and August. 

And of course - every town has its market. 
Every vendor a specialist.

Temperatures changed from freezing - to 18° C - high 60's - on the same road.

A great way to spend the weekend - while everyone else was out Christmas shopping. 

Roadside picnic. With a small glass of Languedoc rosé.

We Are now French Canal BOAT Owners!

Celebratory picnic on the beach after sale docs are received.

Survey - completed.
Engine oil - analyzed.
Painter - hired.
Funds transfer - initiated.
Documents - sent.
Insurance - quoted.
Bilge - emptied.
Visa - investigated.
Anodes - chosen.
Mooring space - secured.
WiFi on board - researched and found.

Bill of Sale - signed.

The mouth of the Hérault River, flowing into the Mediterranean.

Everything depends on something else.

We can't get a WiFi contract without a bank account.
We can't get a bank account without an address.
We can't get an address (at the mooring) without an insurance certificate.
We can't get the insurance certificate without owning the boat.
We can't own the boat until the documents are signed.

The current owner has signed the documents, but:
The current owner is in the Canary Islands, and doesn't trust the mail.
He finds a friend who is traveling to the UK.
He'll take the documents along with him to mail to France from the UK.

We can't sign the documents until we have the results of the survey and engine oil analysis.
The painter can't start until we own the boat.
We're running out of time before Christmas to have the repair work done on the boat.

And yet - step by step - everything begins to fall into place, like dominos - in a good way.

We now OWN Maggie May.

23 TONS of Durham steel. 
Well designed.
3 cabins. 3 heads. 
Galley and living area.

Pre- paint job. And: It's larger than it looks! And higher!

No, we still don't have a long-term visa to stay in France. 
We still don't understand everything about the boat. 
Maybe - 50%. But: We're learning. We ask questions. 
We read about the differences between magnesium, aluminum and zinc anodes. 
(Surprisingly critical!) 

Magnesium it is! 6 x 1.5 kg.

We read about macerators and generators and battery isolation switches and decide whether to use bituminous or vinyl paint, or whether a corrosive undercoat or an anti-fouling topcoat is necessary.

The painter starts sanding the boat - the minute the contract is signed.

We read inland waterways regulations. Mooring contracts.

Books on wine and cheese (ok, that's probably not technically necessary, but - they were on the boat already, ok? And: There's a LOT to learn on those fronts, too. This IS France, after all.)

Bottom line:
As of this weekend, we own Maggie May.
We have a "home on the river" in France, so to speak.
And we're learning how to take care of her.

Stan follows the surveyor down into the "engine room".

And - although it sounds like it went so smoothly and quickly (and - comparatively speaking, it did-) - it's been a heck of a learning curve. There were times when we felt totally afloat (pardon the pun-). We really only had a vague idea of how much we didn't understand. 
We didn't even know what questions to ask.

It's getting better.
And now: Time to celebrate. 
I'm sure we can find a bottle of French wine here somewhere...