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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Rocamadour

June 23, 2017
Ministirith
Ministirith

 

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 credited to the Virgin were recorded. Built on the site of a shrine to a Madonna, it became famous for its healing powers and soon became a stop on the pilgrimage path to Santiago de Campostela. Famous pilgrims who have journeyed to Rocamadour include Henri II of England, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Louis IX of France, Charles IV of France and Louis XI of France. 216 steps are required to reach the top with pilgrims making the climb on their knees, but there is a lift for those of us not bitten by religious fervor.

 

 

 

 

 

Another reason is because of the beautiful and dramatic setting of the village. Climbing up a cliffside, Rocamadour is one of the grand sites of France. It was also voted the favorite village of the French in 2016. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of the pilgrim route of the 'Way of Saint James'.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 A dozen chapels and a sanctuary to the Virgin Mary are built into the walls.

 

 

 

The fresco of skeletons being raised for the Last Judgement are from the Middle Ages

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A little polish would brighten it up nicely.

           

The statue of the Black Madonna (the silver turned black centuries ago) was the main draw for pilgrims. In the same chapel is a miraculous bell reputed to ring when a miracle occurs at sea and a sailor’s life is saved. But when I think of Rocamadour I’ll always see armies of orcs in the distance, dragon-riding Nazgûls overhead and Hobbits leading the defeat of evil to bring about the Age of the King.

 

 

 

 

Although we’re cutting back on souvenirs I couldn’t resist this vintage poster from a 1929 automobile race.

 

 

 

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Comments

24 Comments
You'd need healing powers after climbing 216 steps on your knees. It seems like a nice place to visit but I don't think I'd want to live there.
By: PT Dilloway on June 23, 2017
I have never heard of this and now it is on my must see list! You are so right that it looks like the city from LOTR. When I saw the skeletons, I went to "death and the Middle Ages" which sounds like a song mel Brooks would sing. Since the Black death and other plagues were big back then, they were quite morbid. I like it but I am weird. I also love the Madonna fresco that almost goes right into the rock
By: Birgit on June 23, 2017
Rocamadour is very near to where we have our house in France. I have been there many times - whenever we have visitors -- and have always taken the elevator to the top!! |My husband always climbs the steps, but not ever on his knees!!! The best description I have ever read is in the book 'The Road from the Past' by Ina Caro. She describes sitting in a restaurant on the road to the village where you could see the dramatic village in the distance. Well versed in the history of the placed she said that the sight of all the tourists in the distance showed that the place hadn't changed since all those hundreds of years ago when thousands of pilgrims visited in order to absolve themselves of their sins on the way to Compostella!!
By: The Broad on June 23, 2017
fascinating- thanks once again for telling us about such an interesting place. You and Mrs C really know how to plan a good vacation!
By: Kathe W. on June 23, 2017
what a gem of a town. I might not take the lift but I certainly wouldn't go up on my knees.
By: Ellen Abbott on June 23, 2017
FASCINATING; I'd never heard of this place!!
By: fishducky on June 23, 2017
What a beautiful place! I'm putting this one on my bucket list!
By: Marcia @ Menopausal Mother on June 23, 2017
Wow!
By: cranky on June 23, 2017
I have never seen anyplace like it (well, I guess I still haven't, except in pictures).
By: Mitchell is Moving on June 23, 2017
What a gorgeous place! They had to have been influenced by it when designing the set for LOTR. It's exactly what came to my mind, too.
By: Kelly on June 23, 2017
Holy cannoli! That place is amazing. Thanks for sharing, Stephen. I need to make sure that Mrs. Shife doesn't see this or might be making our own pilgrammage to France.
By: Mr. Shife on June 23, 2017
What beautiful pictures! You and Mrs. C always find the most interesting places to visit. Did you have lunch there, too? Looks like there would be fascinating stores or cafes to go into there.
By: Linda on June 23, 2017
I think I'll move to France. Better check my accounts to see if I have enough money . . . nope. Can't go. Quite tempting me with your great trips. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on June 23, 2017
The architecture is awesome! I can't begin to imagine how they built all that centuries ago without all the power tools we have today. They were amazing craftsmen! Thanks for sharing.
By: scott park on June 23, 2017
Absolutely stunning! Even without Orcs.
By: Al Penwasser on June 23, 2017
A pilgrimage sounds right up my alley.
By: messymimi on June 23, 2017
That's one thing I really miss having moved over this side of the pond - all that wonderful centuries-old architecture.
By: Botanist on June 23, 2017
It's beautiful! And so hard for me to imagine history that long ago.
By: Val on June 23, 2017
I would be intrigued by this village built into a cliff side. 216 steps isn't that much but when it's straight up that's impressive.
By: red Kline on June 23, 2017
Very impressive! Now and then mankind creates some pretty cool stuff :)
By: jenny_o on June 23, 2017
Fascinating and beautiful!
By: Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma on June 23, 2017
Fantastic setting. Thanks for taking us along. That vintage poster is wonderful.
By: Tom Cochrun on June 23, 2017
The age and history makes takes ones breath away. Smart move though adding a lift for today's out of shape population. Thanks for the visit and for sparing us the climb all those stairs.
By: Arkansas Patti on June 24, 2017
What a beautiful town! I'm curious...were all the residents in excellent shape, with superb glutes???
By: Pixel Peeper on June 25, 2017

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