Sunday, December 27, 2015

Joyeux Noel!

One again, totally through planning and design we find ourselves celebrating Christmas on a French island.  Last year Jim joined us on St. Martin, this year we said farewell to family on St. Lucia and headed north to Martinique for the celebrations.  I have to say that after the excitement and hustle & bustle of the wedding, Christmas was feeling a little flat this year, almost like we'd already celebrated with everyone.

Well, never fear, with the charm of Ste. Anne on our doorstep and friends on neighbouring boats, a quiet little bit of Christmas spirit infused itself into our demeanours.  On Wednesday (23rd) Venessa and Gary organized us into a dinner party to try a little Italian restaurant just up the road, called Casanova's.  The little covered patio, barely big enough for our party of eleven, backed by an open kitchen dished up some amazing meals paired with lovely French or Italian wines.  When we sat back to enjoy an aperitif, Marina circulated with our Secret Santa sack distributing little presents to each amid much laughter over the appropriateness, or not, of each gift.  Such a good time to share with Jason & Brita (Blue Moon), Fiona, Mark & Kiran (Avatar) and of course Venessa, Gary, Elliot & Marina (Neptune II).

Elliot & Gary wait with anticipation, and then Henry receives his gift from our very own Santa's Helper.

Christmas Eve had Jason making a quick trip home to surprise his family back in New Jersey, so we joined Brita in the rental car to drive Jason to the airport and then explore the island a little further with the added bonus of some wheels.  We headed east to Le Francois where we stopped for lunch at a bakery and enjoyed our sandwiches on the steps of a church in the middle of town.

Small town, huge town square and magnificent colonial building were in our view for lunch

The church looked like it was fronted by an old facade but with a thoroughly modern structure behind.

Fortified and ready for a little leg stretch we headed to a spit of land that juts out into the Atlantic on the east coast just above Le Vauclin.  With the wind and waves pounding the reefs and beaches along the shore, all the little fishing boats were hunkered down and no-one was out on the water.  The Christmas winds have been blowing steadily in the 25-knot range for the past week and at the shore accelerate up over the land before stalling inland. We were buffeted and blown as we walked the coast path all around the peninsula, marvelling at the views and ticking off "most easter point in the Antilles" on our list of accomplishments.

No chance of getting lost along the way with signs of "Vous etes ici" guiding us.

As we have come to expect, the Sargassum weed piles up on the windward coast of the island, making a stinky mess of the beaches.  The brown hue in the water is weed that is yet to come ashore.

Windblown grasses and stunted trees lead inland to beautifully manicured properties on the peninsula.

Along the shore, fishing boats are tucked in safely behind protective reefs.

More sargassum weed coming ashore under this little fishing jetty.

Chickens scratch in the gravel among the locally made fish pots.  Made of sticks and chicken-wire, these pots are launched from the local fishing boats and hauled up a day or two later with their catch.

Like some ghostly water horse come ashore, the remains of this tree were well dug into the seaweed strewn beach.

Brita and I - yoga buddies and intrepid hikers! :-)

We finally arrived at the farthest tip of the peninsula - wind blown and devoid of trees, the pounding surf arrives from the Atlantic.

Only the hardiest of trees and cactus survive of this arid landscape.

We finished up our hike in the little village of Chateau Paille, where white picket gates and bougainvillea prevail.

Ready for Christmas, without a single piece of tinsel or LED light to be seen!
With the sun making it's way to the horizon we made our way back to Ste. Anne where the church bells started ringing, and jazz music enticed from the waterfront bars.  After a hasty dinner aboard we headed back into the village to watch the faithful, and curious, head to church while we enjoyed the sights and sounds in the village square.

Standing room only but open doors meant we could enjoy the hymns from the square.
A second Christmas on the boat, away from family and friends back home, but made special with the people we have met along the way and the little celebrations of the day.  Skyping with Jim in Belgium, Caitlin & Jamie in Innisfill, Peter, Beth and Mom in Ottawa - what an international celebration.

We had a few blustery moments, but having scored a "Roule de Dindeau" at the grocery score, which turned out to be a roll of dark turkey meat, we enjoyed a lovely lunch replete with the precious can of cranberry jelly I had found back in Grenada - no fresh cranberries to be found here for home-made cranberry sauce.  

Wind and rain howled through the anchorage on Christmas morning - they don't call them the Christmas winds for nothing!

Fingers crossed our turkey would cook up in our little oven.

Delicious - turkey, cranberry, roast veggies and gravy, along with my new favourite Provence Rose (maybe not a perfect match but tasty nonetheless).
Merry Christmas to all, and all the best for 2016!