Eat up

It’s the French end of year report!

20th November 2011


It’s the French food end of year report!


Our first years sailing on Cygnus III

Now we are in France for the winter it is a good time to reflect on our first years sailing on Cygnus III and if what they say about French food is true

For us, our life as we knew it was turned upside down as we sold the house and became homeless. Last winter was spent sleeping on floors whilst we bought our boat, moved aboard and sailed it down to La Rochelle in France. About the only thing we missed out was a quick ascent of Everest but there is always next year. Just don’t tell Angelina what I have planned.


Is living aboard a boat the right decision for us?

Was it worth it? That hangs in the balance and has yet got to be decided but there have certainly been both highs and lows. This blog is hopefully a true reflection on the good and not so good points. Of course a blog from me without a few musings of my own is not the same so I may throw a few ideas to ponder at the end.

I think for all of us selling the house was not as bad l as we imagined. Some of the floors and settee’s we slept on subsequently were more painful than root canal work carried out by Boris Johnston.

Cygnus round France

Cygnus III carrying us safely.

Cygnus III was the perfect boat for us and we all fell in love the first time we saw her. As a boat that can be handled by one person but has enough room for us all she is perfect and has looked after us all so well.  Over the last year we sailed  1577 miles and our boat never once missed a beat.

On our travels we have seen some truly gorgeous places (leaving Ramsgate aside) and met some really wonderful people. These are memories we will never forget and you can never put a value on them.

The other month I was sat with Angelina on the quay side in La Rochelle basking in glorious sunshine and we asked if you could ever get too much of a good thing. We had to answer “yes” because as we looked round the view was exquisite but as so many places we had been were so beautiful you become numbed to it.

I think our personal favourite place in France was Vannes. The old walled city, the gardens and sailing through the Morbidan to get there is a memory I wish everyone could have. It is a bum squeezer but what an amazing ride.


Living aboard a boat has brought us closer together.

Living on Cygnus has brought us all together far more than any of us though. We enjoy each other’s company as a family and as individuals. Angelina and I walked for miles each day and talked so much. She really is my best friend as well as my soul mate and being together all the time has just reinforced what a lucky man I am to have her and the boys.

I know that living aboard has shown us how much enjoyment can be actually had without material goods. True happiness is actually free and unrestricted. It is surprising how little you need around you to be truly happy and I should imagine all those doing the same will back me up whole heartedly in this.

La Rochelle, Angelina and Mark

Mark and Angelina in La Rochelle

I think we now all realise how small and insular the UK actually is. It is true that Brits abroad expect that everything should be the same as the UK and our national pastime of complaining when it is not really comes out. It does take time but you have to learn when in Rome or even France do as they do….. When you understand this life becomes completely different. The blinkers are taken off and you see a whole new world.

Now for some negatives, most of which we created ourselves by not having sufficient forethought.


Is there a downside?

We sold the house and within months were living aboard Cygnus III and had set out on our journey. In retrospect we should have maybe spent a year living in the UK and possibly working part time to build up some extra capital.  What we did not take into account was that Angelina gave up two jobs, her house, friends and we moved to a completely new area. In effect she had lost everything she knew and went from being a whirlwind to doing nothing. I suppose it is like losing all your limbs at once but the shock of doing so only became clear later. On our journey she began to feel everything was getting on top of her.

We also should have learnt at least some rudimentary French. Being Brits we think that everyone understands English but in France they don’t. Just saying it louder and slower does not work. We thought a lady was being rude when I asked in French if she could speak English. She replied, in English, “No, we are in France so please speak French”. There really is no reply to that, well there is but I just did not know what it was in French.


This liveaboard life is more expensive than we anticipated.

We also did not realise how expensive France can be in the summer months. Marina fees per night often came to more than out total allowance for the day. Food too, especially meat, was extortionate and we soon found ourselves literally eating the small emergency savings we have. We only ate out twice in the year because it was so expensive and really cut back on anything and everything we could. Even so, unless we can anchor a lot next year we know we will run out of money probably sooner rather than later.

La Rochelle Jordan and Aiden

The boys on Cygnus III

The boys have been great and have never complained even though for their birthdays they only got a couple of bars of chocolate and cans of coke. Well at least we did something right and we could not have wished for better boys.

Angelina did well to keep smiling for as long as she has but with everything she has lost, the language barrier and no money she suffered the most. She went back to the UK with the boys for a month to recuperate and think about next year.

All four of us have talked long and hard about continuing our adventure. I know it was what I always wanted but it was Angelina who gave up everything to let me do it. We decided that we will continue for one more year and if she still feels the same then I will give up everything for her and we will return to the UK. I will have had the chance to live my dream for a while but being together is far more important. I have also learnt that she is my dream anyway.

Whilst Angelina and the boys have been away I stayed in La Rochelle to prepare Cygnus III for next year and have been cleaning her bow to stern. Whilst cleaning the toilets with a toothbrush (sorry Jordan but I will wash it before you come back) it has given me chance to consider further the difference between the English and French.


Is French food the best in the world?

France is renowned for its cuisine but to be honest, the menus we have read when walking past the never-ending lines of seafront cafe’s are pretty basic. It is the quality of the ingredients that makes the French food taste wonderful. Beef burgers are made from pure steak and the animals here must be on the Karen Carpenter diet as there is no fat in the meat at all.

Food. cooking burgers

Cooking English burgers

In the UK if you put a burger in a frying pan you have to cook it in a flame proof silver suit and put the local burns unit on standby. You end up with a pan full of fat and something that looks like a coal miners tongue the morning after a good night out.

Just remember if you order anything rare in France it will be warm but only because it is still breathing and running around on your plate. I kid you not. Everything seems fresh whereas in the UK the food has more additives than there are components in a Rolls Royce RB-211 jet engine. Go to the French fish market and the seafood has to be corralled in to stop it walking off the stall. The people here will put up with nothing less as “Mr Burger King” found out. His last fast food shop in France has closed, basically because the French don’t like warm, fatty cardboard as a snack.

So what does this French food do for the Republic of Jean- Pierre’s and Lolita’s? Well, besides making their lives longer, it makes the shoes here more attractive. I know this has you puzzled but the French, unlike the English can see past their stomachs to their feet so they take more pride in what they are wearing. Describe a French woman as having a few extra pounds and it is probably because she has been to the bank.


Eating French food makes a difference to your figure.

The difference between French food and English food is obvious

Arse lift

French women do really keep their figures and from behind you cannot tell the difference between a sixteen and a sixty year old. When a British woman blames her “good living” on her genes it is only because they don’t make them in a size 68. Does your bum look big in that dress? Too right it does, it is around your shoulders. Now I am not having a go at overweight people here, more at the type of food that is available in the UK. If we are in the common market someone needs to show us the entrance instead of rummaging through the offal bins round the back.

There has been an outbreak in the UK of those annoying little electric mobility scooters that buzz round on the pavements trying to knock down those who are still able to walk. Who are they driven by ….. Anyone over sixteen stone who would most benefit from exercise. They even put mirrors on them because the occupant would be engulfed and smothered by their own neck fat if they tried to move their head. Go to a McDonald’s anytime and there will be cues of them at the drive through getting their mid-morning calorie count above 60,000.

mobility scooter

mobility scooter

Personally blame the Americans. Not only are all the television programs making us sound like them, but the food is making us look like them. We might as well shoot ourselves in the head now.

We were once in a famous Chinese restaurant in Soho and a rather large American woman asked the waiter what he suggested. His reply was, and this is true, I kid you not, “I suggest you have f**k all because you are too fat”. I don’t know why she walked out. Now if I had the choice I would make that man Mr Prime Minister or even Mrs Queen. We need someone who will drop kick political correctness in the head, beat it to death with rice flails, throw a few death stars at it and tell it like it really is. I agree that something’s are an affront to dignity and should never, ever be tolerated but that brings us back again to the difference between English and French food.



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