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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Wine Country

June 9, 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 their fields, relying only on rain. More damage is done by too much water rather than too little, and rocky slopes are best for producing grapes. Most wine producers have scattered fields so hail won’t wipe out an entire crop. Philippe shocked us by saying he preferred metal twist-on caps which have no effect on wine, but his customers wouldn’t buy his product if he used them. I enjoyed this experience but my unsophisticated palate found his wine a bit flat.

 

 

 

Philippe

 

Some of Philippe’s vines. The green plastic stockings keep rabbits away. Curious that Philippe’s lovely wife later served a delicious meal featuring rabbit.

 

 

After leaving Philippe’s vineyard, we traveled to lakeside Annecy, often referred to as the Venice of France because of its many canals. We took a boat trip around the lake and enjoyed the sunshine and spectacular scenery.

 

 

 

 

 Annecy

 

                 

 

We would have preferred staying in this charming city but instead made our way to Grenoble, arriving too late to see much of a city best visited in winter.

 

In my quest to bring you the inexplicable and unusual, I present a picture of our toilet in Grenoble. The modern hotel had peculiar plumbing, such as a toilet with a purple sewage pipe  three feet from the wall. Instead of placing the toilet as close to the wall as possible, the commode sat in the center of the bathroom with a chrome handrail added to keep people from… from walking behind the toilet?

 

 

 ?????

 

Next stop—Nice. Our guide informed us that the city was made famous by visits from Victoria. Someone quipped, “Victoria Beckham?” No, it was Queen Victoria who made this coastal city famous by traveling here on the advice of doctors who felt a warm climate would benefit the seventy-six-year-old ailing monarch. Uncharacteristically, it rained when we arrived and the city was still reeling from last year’s terrorist attack. But the shower was brief and we ventured out to enjoy the city and grab a bite. I was looking for authentic French bouillabaisse but wasn’t prepared to pay seventy euros for it.

 

 

A Scene in Nice

 

We listened to this quartet play familiar American music while I ate a platter of mussels. Mrs. Chatterbox found the singer cute and insisted on giving him more euros than I felt necessary.

 

 

 

 

 

Next time I’ll tell you about our visit to Monaco and the silly reason I was barred from entering the famous casino.

 

 

 

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Comments

24 Comments
I don't really like wine except the sparkly kind which unless you get it from the champagne region of France isn't technically champagne. Nice looks Nice. with that hat the singer kind of looks like a younger, less chubby you. Maybe that's why she liked him. :-)
By: PT Dilloway on June 9, 2017
I'm not much a wine fan either ~ a wonderfully cold beer does it for me. Beautiful photos, I think I would love France, and your photos show the country is lovely. Perhaps updating the plumbing had to be handled in an innovative manner? I've never seen drain pipes that color...
By: It\'s A Crazy World on June 9, 2017
Nice! That commode is curious all right. I guess we know what happens to the rabbits that wander into that field.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on June 9, 2017
I'm more of a beer drinker myself and like you I like the cheap wines just fine. The toilet setup is a new thing for me, can't figure why it is set that far from the wall.
By: Jimmy on June 9, 2017
I enjoy a nice glass of wine with dinner. Not an expert by any means. I do know the difference between a $12 bottle of wine and a $40 dollar bottle is $28. THe difference between a $12 bottle and 2 buck chuck is if you have more than one glass, 2 buck chuck will give you a headache n the morning.
By: cranky on June 9, 2017
I'm not a wine drinker, preferring beer or margaritas. That's an interesting approach for keeping out rabbits.
By: on June 9, 2017
What beautiful photos. I almost feel as if I'm there. Wait--let me get a glass of wine. Ah, yes. That does the trick. The singer isn't that cute. I'm mystified by the toilet. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on June 9, 2017
In my drinking days, a good wine was Mogen David Concord Grape. You can tell I had class:) Interesting about the plants wearing green stockings. Guess your meal didn't take the hint. I kind of liked the drummer myself
By: Arkansas Patti on June 9, 2017
Barred in Monaco. It's impossible to escape your card-counting past.
By: Mitchell is Moving on June 9, 2017
Wine suits me just fine, And at beer I jeer, But more than one glass Puts me on my ass!!
By: fishducky on June 9, 2017
Great Post Stephen. Remind me to tell you the story of how Jilda got us kicked out of Food World at the beach several years ago.
By: Rick Watson on June 9, 2017
Maybe it's easier to clean out a clog from the toilet that way? I can't wait to hear about the HORROR of being banned from a casino!
By: Val on June 9, 2017
70 Euros for fish stew? Sounds like tourist prices to me! Looking forward to your next installment ....cheers!
By: Kathe W. on June 9, 2017
I'm enjoying your trip to the south of France. While it reminds me a bit of LA, Nice is nice. (sorry) Have been there many times. What I like most about it is it is the door way to the Cote' D'Azur-and Provence'.
By: Tom Cochrun on June 9, 2017
Sweetie would have adored touring a vineyard and the music, and i would have just enjoyed watching him have fun!
By: messymimi on June 9, 2017
Vineyards and wineries put tremendous effort into education. I can tell you learned a lot about the wine business.
By: red Kline on June 9, 2017
I must admit I'm more of a wine than a beer drinker these days. Memories of France - sampling moules every evening (for comparison purposes) on a week-long trip along the Btittany coast, and a meal for 4 (adults) when we went camping one year, where between us we managed to spend over 400 Euros on wine. And it was worth every sip!
By: Botanist on June 9, 2017
What a gorgeous place- how lucky you are to be able to visit. Now the toilet has me bumfuzzled...I can't imagine the reason behind it all, but wonder if clogs are the problem. I'm not a drinker of wine or any other spirits so I probably wouldn't know good from bad.
By: Terri@Coloring Outside the Lines on June 9, 2017
This would be my dream vacation, not that I'm any connoisseur of the vine, but just for the experience, and the scenery. I loved this. Thanks.
By: scott park on June 10, 2017
I love European wines, but we are catching up over here. Yes they do their best on rocky and sparse soils.
By: Tabor on June 10, 2017
I enjoy wine, beer and spirits too... it is all about the mood and what one enjoys. As for the toilet, it is a rear flushing toilet where a pump is located behind the wall. This type of toilet is used when conventional plumbing is not an option and often connected to a septic system.
By: Daniel LaFrance on June 10, 2017
When I used to drink alcohol it was mainly wine and beer I drank. I couldn't stand rum. Good to hear you had such a lovely time in France. Greetings from London.
By: A Cuban In London on June 10, 2017
The singer looks like you actually. I can see why your wife found the singer cute:) the wine story makes me think of a show I watched where the 2 hosts got a bunch of people together and had them taste a variety of wines, fro. The cheap to the very expensive. Most chose the one The was next to the cheapest. No one picked the most expensive! I'd love to visit Nice and some of the surrounding towns. The purple abode is a different colour and I am sURprised how far out the toilet is from the wall. It's kind of funny actually
By: Birgit on June 10, 2017
Beautiful scenery! And I agree, the singer looks a bit like you.
By: Pixel Peeper on June 11, 2017

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