Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste

Prologue

Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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Blog Archive

06/2017

Hotel of God

June 05, 2017
We’re back from our trip to southern France, and I’ll begin by making an important declaration—Mrs. Chatterbox and I are no longer Uber virgins. We downloaded the Uber app and paid only thirty dollars for a ride to the airport instead of paying nearly fifteen dollars a day at Portland airport’s Economy Parking. I doubt we’ll ever use a cab again.   The Flight to Paris was uneventful, even though the days of stretching out on an empty row of seats in an under booked airplane are over. We’ve been to Paris several times and the French capital wasn’t the focus of this trip, but we had a lovely meal at a small restaurant near Notre Dame called The Little Prince. Most of our travel companions were ... read more

 + photos!,  read more

Leaving Dijon

June 07, 2017
          Before leaving Dijon I popped into a museum and wandered through many rooms of impressive Medieval art. One sculpture caught my eye, not for the boring gold-draped couple but for the wonderful demons presumably tempting them.       Every city in France seems to be famous for something, especially in the Bourgogne region where food production reigns supreme. The city of Bresse (pronounced Brez) is famous for its milk-fed poultry production, with 1,200,000 chickens produced annually. This roadside sculpture proudly touts the city’s pride and joy.       There’s a joke about Bresse chickens that, frankly, took me a while to appreciate. It goes like thi ... read more

 + photos!,  read more

Wine Country

June 09, 2017
  I’m not much of a wine drinker. When I do enjoy a glass I prefer the cheap stuff, like Three Buck Chuck from Trader Joe’s. But we were visiting one of the world’s most prestigious wine regions and many people on our tour had come to experience as much of it as possible.   We traveled to the vineyard of Philippe M., whose family had produced wine for hundreds of years. Philippe had a wry sense of humor not captured in my photos, and his passion for wine was palpable. I learned much. Surprisingly, vines are kept short, unlike California or Oregon vines, on the assumption that vines and leaves shouldn’t take nutrients best absorbed by the grapes. I was surprised to learn the French don’t irrigate th ... read more

 + photos!,  read more

A Sunny Place for Shady People

June 12, 2017
Somerset Maugham famously described Monaco as a sunny place for shady people, but that changed when Hollywood royalty Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier and invited her elite friends and famous costars to the principality. Uncharacteristically, it was raining on the French Riviera as we traveled the short distance from Nice to Èze, (pronounced ez) a Medieval town perched on a hilltop with a spectacular view of the Mediterranean. But when we emerged from the Fragonard perfume factory at the base of Èze, with my wallet much lighter, the clouds had vanished.   Inhabited since 2000 BCE, Èze is today referred to as a “museum” town, and is popular with tourists looking for art galleries, souvenirs and a spe ... read more

 + photos!,  read more

In Van Gogh's Footsteps

June 14, 2017
Few artists have captured the public’s imagination like Vincent Van Gogh, whose self portraits, sunflower still lifes and sun-soaked fields are instantly recognized world-wide.   It was in the south of France that Van Gogh’s genius took root. Artists such as Cezanne (lifelong resident of nearby Aix-en-Provence) and Van Gogh made much of the quality of light in southern France, and as a fellow painter I was curious to see if I could perceive this special light that held such prominent artists spellbound.   Perhaps this was due to the fact that many French artists touting southern light were originally situated near Paris where the light is inconsistent, not ideal for landscape painting. Van Gogh wrote at length abou ... read more

 + photos!,  read more

Bridging History

June 16, 2017
I’ve long been fascinated with bridges; being driven over the Golden Gate Bridge as a kid was quite a treat. Europe has many rivers and bridges and we were fortunate to visit three on our recent vacation. Many of these ancient bridges come with colorful stories about their construction.   The Pont d’ Avignon (built 1177-85) is world famous for the nursery rhyme known by most French children, and while standing on the broken span we heard dozens of children bursting into renditions of Sur le Pont d'Avignon. The bridge was already built when the Pope moved here from Rome in 1309 and began construction on a new papal palace, a move that would eventually cause a schism in the Church until the popes returned to Rome. According ... read more

 + photos!,  read more

When Pigs Fly

June 19, 2017
When we travel I try not to over familiarize myself with our destinations to maintain the element of surprise and avoid preconceptions that might turn into disappointments. I’d never heard of Carcassonne, and was amazed at what we found.   We passed through the fertile Languedoc region before heading inland to the fortified town of Carcassonne. We’d already been to several medieval fortified towns and I was less than enthused to see this one, but I was pleasantly surprised when we approached the massive walls and ramparts. The spot had been occupied since Neolithic times, with the Romans using it as a base until the fall of the western empire, but the city became even more prominent as a Cather stronghold when the Pope wa ... read more

 + photos!,  read more

Where It All Began

June 21, 2017
        As previously mentioned, I don’t study our travel itinerary before leaving on a trip, although I did notice that one of our destinations in France was Lascaux. Lascaux was mentioned on page one of my first art history book.   If you’re unfamiliar with Lascaux, it was discovered as World War II was heating up. Four boys were exploring the forest near Lascaux when their dog fell down a hole. After rescuing the dog from an underground cave, the boys returned with lights to explore. What they found has astonished the world ever since.         Lascaux Cave discovered in 1940         Twenty-five thousand years ago, our ancestors transformed th ... read more

 + photos!,  read more

Rocamadour

June 23, 2017
  Never heard of it? Neither had I. Our guide informed us that in this region of France the “Rs” are trilled; Rocamadour was pronounced RRRRRock-ama-door. Having never heard of it, I had no expectations, but what we encountered reminded me greatly of the white city of Ministirith from the movie Lord of the Rings.   The lovely village of Rocamadour is on the eastern edge of the Dordogne southwestern France. Each year the small village of Rocamadour (population around 600), receives more than a million visitors. Why so popular?                 First, Rocamadour is an important pilgrimage destination, and has been since before 1148 when miracles cre ... read more

 + photos!,  read more

Dining in France

June 26, 2017
Disclaimer: Photographing food is a skill I’ve yet to master, unlike fellow bloggers Mitchell at Mitchell is Moving and Bruce Taylor at Oddball Observations. These guys regularly post images that make you want to lick your computer screen.   ********************   It’s always surprised me that Mrs. Chatterbox and I have had such bad food on our trips. Perhaps it’s because we travel with a tour and accommodating large numbers of people is problematic, or it could be that as diabetics we tend to eat early, and Europeans are famous for eating late. This time we were going to the south of France, a region famous for its cuisine. In spite of my recent weight loss, I was determined to enjoy the best food Franc ... read more

 + photos!,  read more

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