Winter in the South of France - Quiet Beaches and Sleepy Vineyards

Friends Ron and Fiona sent this of their boat "The Swan" this winter.
I LOVE the way the canal looks in winter! 

This is the top of "The Swan".
A beautiful old Dutch tjalk.

Ron and Fiona have a snuggly free-standing stove in their boat.

It keeps everything cozy and warm inside the boat, despite the layers of snow outside. 

It's winter in the south of France.

Nothing moving on the water.

No bicyclists in fancy day-glo clothing. 

No rental boats.

The nearby beaches - empty. 

Luckily, a few restaurants are still open.

This is from our bedroom cabin window. Cool - even in winter.

Of course, some days look like this.
So it's probably understandable.

To us, from dry New Mexico, rain is pretty wonderful. 
It's a bit - even - exciting.

Hearing the rain pounding on the boat.
While we're safe and dry inside. 

(Rain FILLED a bucket I had on the aft deck - several times over.
-That's way more than we get in a YEAR in New Mexico.)

New Mexico Christmas decorations. Candles in sand-filled paper bags. Doesn't work with rain. 

But: people from New Mexico aren't good at dealing with rain.

Our shoes were soaked right away. 
I forgot about puddles. 

My boat crocs have HOLES in them. 
So my socks got drenched! 

Well, of course. 

Our dinky little travel umbrellas? 
The wind laughed at them. 
Blew them inside out. 

Our backpacks and clothes got soaked. 

Rain is a good excuse to visit museums. 
So - we headed south, toward the Spanish border.

Found a rainy castle to stay in. 
Between the mountains and the Mediterranean.

The nearby Pyrenees are spectacularly snow-covered - so much snow! 

That is, when they even appeared between the clouds.

View from the castle window. There ARE mountains there. Big ones. Somewhere.

Winding mountain roads. 
Filled with camper vans in summer. 
Now empty.

It just feels so darn - atmospheric. 

There's something about being in a place - most any place - out of season. 
It reminds me that out of season is often the best time to travel. 

Towns are empty.
Parking is easy.

People have time. 

"Boat People of Poilhes". We don't have to reserve a table in advance.

And the winter vineyards-!
They're just gnarled and bare stumps.

Hard to believe they'll be bursting full - very soon.

No, not snow. Rocky soil, apparently good for holding in heat.

Some vineyards in Languedoc seem to be pure rocks.
Other vineyards are filled with wildflowers between the rows of grapes.

I think it's planned.
There's a lot I don't really know.

Soon, it'll be busy.
It's a popular place in summer.

We'll enjoy that, too.

But - there's something special about being here right now.

And: there's still time for a small glass of rosé.

And one of Stan's famous salads on the aft deck.

Even in winter.