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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A Sunny Place for Shady People

June 12, 2017
Eze
Eze

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 spectacular view. I managed the climb to the summit while Mrs. Chatterbox, always smarter than me, sipped an espresso in a café at the base while I huffed and puffed my way to the top.

 

 

 Èze

 

 

Climbing to the top of  Èze

 

 

View from the top

 

I was excited to see Monaco, having heard so much about it, but I wasn’t prepared for a level of congested urban development that makes Hong Kong seem spacious. Cranes were everywhere with new condos cutting into the cobalt sky. It didn’t help that many of the streets were shut down with bleachers being erected for the Monaco Grand Prix taking place a few days later.

 

 

 

Monte Carlo with erected bleachers for Grand Prix

 

 

We drove on part of the Monaco Grand Prix track.

 

Our first stop was the Cathedral to see the grave of Princess Grace, resting beside her husband Prince Rainier, head of the Grimaldi family that has ruled Monaco since 1297. This cathedral is Neo-Byzantine/Gothic and relatively modern, built in the mid 1800s.

 

 

 

 

 

At noon we hurried to the square in front of the Grimaldi palace where thousands of tourists were lined up for the changing of the guard, not as impressive as what takes place in front of Buckingham Palace, but still impressive.

 

 

 

 Changing of the Guard

 

 

We had an afternoon of leisure in Nice before returning to Monaco that evening to see the famous casino. Our guide had told us to dress up or we wouldn’t be allowed inside so I put on slacks and my least wrinkled shirt. I hadn’t brought dressy footwear so I chose my black athletic shoes because they were dark and dressier than my white ones.

 

A word about the casino. Tourists are not allowed inside the plush gaming rooms where gambling actually takes place, and it costs thirty euros to see the lobby after crossing the threshold. No pictures are permitted inside under any circumstance. Serious gamblers, usually arriving after midnight, prefer not to be seen. Mrs. Chatterbox sailed inside but I was stopped at the door and barred from entering because I wasn’t suitably dressed. My athletic shoes were deemed inappropriate. I offered to take them off and enter barefoot, only to receive stern head shaking.

 

I insisted Mrs. C. enter without me. When the guard was distracted I momentarily stepped inside just so I could claim entrance. Mrs. C. soon returned, saying there wasn’t much to see. We claimed a table at a nearby café and enjoyed a fifteen-dollar milkshake while we watched others being denied entrance to the casino.

 

 

 Casino in Monte Carlo

 

 

 

My offensive footwear

 

It wasn’t the first time I’d been turned away for being underdressed. Years ago I was in Venice searching for Harry’s Bar—hangout for Hemingway and the Lost Generation—reputed to have the world’s best martinis. On entering I was told to leave because of my short pants. I explained, “I was just in St. Mark’s Basilica and God had no problem with my shorts. This is just a frigg’n bar!”

 

The reply: “God may not have standards, but Harry’s Bar does.”

 

It took an hour to walk across Venice to my pensione to change into long pants, and when I returned to Harry’s Bar I must admit it was the best martini I’d ever had.

 

 

 

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Comments

22 Comments
Feh! I just had the best martini ever in Bergen, Norway and I was wearing jeans and a T-shirt. But great post. Monaco is someplace i have no desire to visit, so I appreciate seeing it through your eyes.
By: Mitchell is Moving on June 12, 2017
Thanks for the guided tour. Doesn't taking dress shoes on vacation defeat the purpose of a vacation? I've heard Monaco is a great place to drive through, and this confirms it. :)
By: scott park on June 12, 2017
I don't think I could have made it to the top of Ez but it's a great view. It's too bad they wouldn't let you at the gaming tables so you could say, "My name's Chatterbox, Chubby Chatterbox."
By: PT Dilloway on June 12, 2017
I bet your feet were comfortable though. I would've made the climb. What a view!
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on June 12, 2017
What a view from the top, that is really impressive. I have seen much more offensive footwear, I would go for comfort like you did, heck they looked fine to me, I would've let you in.
By: Jimmy on June 12, 2017
Wow. What a dream trip this was. I've always wanted to see Monaco.
By: Michael Offutt on June 12, 2017
I love the line from Harry's Bar!!
By: fishducky on June 12, 2017
thanks for the tour of Monaco and Eze. I think I'd skip Monaco now that you have taken us there...after all if they wouldn't let you in- The Famous Chubby Chatterbox.....they'd probably sniff and raise their noses even higher if I showed up in my leggings and lacy top!
By: Kathe W. on June 12, 2017
Wow - they really are sticklers for the dress code. And Harry's was, too. I can't understand why short pants aren't allowed, or comfy footwear, for that matter!
By: jenny_o on June 12, 2017
Wow, who knew they were so snooty. Loved the description,"a sunny place for shady people." which seems to fit after you were refused entry. You weren't shady enough. Laughed out loud at "God may not have standards, but Harryâs Bar does.â
By: Arkansas Patti on June 12, 2017
I don't mind getting dressed up all nice to go places, but I often don't like places where you have to dress up all nice just to get in. It is hard enough when traveling to be prepared for all different weather conditions, but to also need extra fancy dress just to get into a casino or a fancy restaurant...frig'em...snotty-ass d-bags, they just ain't got no real class..
By: cranky on June 12, 2017
Looks to me like your climb to the top was totally worth the view. Gorgeous!
By: Kelly on June 12, 2017
I wouldn't be allowed inside to see the lobby. I'm not allowed in at a lot of places. They hear me coming (it's the drunken chortling). Then they see I'm wearing my birthday suit. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on June 12, 2017
It's truly a different world. It's history is long. it's beautiful and it's little rules are very different.
By: rede Kline on June 12, 2017
Fun ain't cheap :) I Love the tour you're giving us.
By: Rick Watson on June 12, 2017
If you'd been wearing dress shoes, you might not have been able to make that climb to the top of Eze. No New Balance! Say it isn't so! Good thing my casinos are lax with the dress code, or I'd have to give up my gambling addiction.
By: Val on June 12, 2017
Vacations are for wearing your leisure clothes.
By: messymimi on June 12, 2017
If it would have take. Me a day, I would have climbed up there to see the beautiful old town. I wonder how many residents actually still live in the town of Eze. I thought that you either didn't wear a tie or you wore the wrong shoes:) I knew you could not get into the actual room(s) where the people gamble....we are too lowly for that unless we dress like Bond...hahahaaa. I actually am disappointed seeing all the mod buildings in Monaco.....I still think of it like it looked in the Hitchcock film.
By: Birgit on June 12, 2017
I'm catching up on your travels and am enjoying the photos so much I feel like I should be speaking French!
By: Tom Sightings on June 13, 2017
I, too, have been denied entrance to a few places for my dress... I'm glad you made that climb, what neat views!
By: Sage on June 13, 2017
Such a shame you were denied entry. Across Europe fashion is given a higher priority compared to North America. Your photos are wonderful!
By: Daniel LaFrance on June 15, 2017
Good for you for huffing and puffing your way to the top - your pictures show it was worth it! "God may not have standards, but Harry's Bar does"... bwahahahaha!
By: Pixel Peeper on June 17, 2017

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