My husband Nick Taylor climbs the mast to untangle the main halyard while we are moored off of Jost Van Dyke
Sailing in the Caribbean is completely different from what I do everyday in New York City. All the cliches apply for me. I like the challenge of working hard on the boat, focusing my mind and my energy in a very specific way. It's peaceful even when the conditions are difficult. We had rain, strong winds, and high seas on this trip and it was still wonderful.
My husband Nick grew up sailing on the West Coast of Florida. He is a natural. I’m not. But I've loved sailing almost from the first day he took me out on the small boat he sailed on Lake Lanier north of Atlanta. The first day was a Sunday and I brought the New York Times. I thought that I could lounge around and read while he sailed the boat. When the wind picked up and I was lounging the boom swung around and hit him in the head. After that, I realized that I had better participate.
Nick's taught me a lot. We raced a 23 foot boat on the lake for several years.
But I haven't sailed consistently enough to become an accomplished sailor. I’d like to learn more now. On this trip I put aside my fear of taking the helm and my skills improved. The strong winds and the high seas made the sailing challenging and because there were only two of us on the boat, I had to do a good job. I’m eager to sail again soon.
I'm happy to be at the helm.
Here I am in France in the legendary forest of Broceliande where King Arthur searched for the holy grail and Morgan le Fay is said to have kept unfaithful men captive. Please read the story about our trip below.
My friend Sharon Adams on I on the bridge over the Seine leading to Notre Dame.
My sister Hope Tudanger and I are on Shrine Pass above the Vail Valley in the Rocky Mountains.
We're wearing neck scarfs to try to protect our skin from the sun. And "Yes." We know we look goofy.
Nick and I are on the top of Acadia Mountain on the Southwest side of Mt. Desert Island off of the coast of Maine.
My husband Nick Taylor and I love to write about our travels. Here's a story about a recent trip to Brittany. If after reading it you'd like more information please email me.
Pirates, Saints and Seafood: A Tour of Brittany
Barbara Nevins Taylor and Nick Taylor
It must have been the tarte tatin. When our Greenwich Village baker friend mapped out a tour of his native Brittany, we decided to make the trip. Sure we were mad at the French, but Brittany is a place apart. Historically Bretons fought French rule, were stubbornly independent as late as 1900 and some still insist they’re not really French. Besides, we knew we’d get the best pastries outside our friend’s shop.
So armed with his map and pages of notes we arrived in Paris and headed south and west behind the wheel of an E-class Mercedes diesel that we nicknamed “Big Bleu.” We’re quirky travelers. We like scenery, not too much on the agenda, and good food and wine. Our only plans were to taste the local oysters, drive along the coast and get close to the Neolithic standing stones scattered through the region.
Refreshed after an overnight stop in the Loire Valley, we set out over local roads. We knew we had reached Brittany when we saw elaborate, lace-like granite spires on flamboyant Gothic churches. Breton church history combines Roman Catholic and Celtic legends. The stories are depicted on altar screens and stained glass windows in churches in every town, no matter how small. We opted mostly for drive-bys.
The other signal that we’d arrived in Brittany was the Celtic-sounding place names. Entering Vannes, our first big city, the sign also read Gwened, the city’s Breton name. Even though the French have marginalized the Breton language – similar to Welsh across the English Channel – it remains alive, at least at the highway department.
Vannes, a port city on the Bay of Morbihan, is typical of larger Breton towns. It’s a mix of ancient and modern, with medieval stone ramparts, half-timbered houses now filled with shops and attractive young people gathering in cafes around town squares and yacht harbors.
Not far away, Carnac takes you to a time when Neolithic tribes ruled the land and moved huge stones around. Throughout what is now western Brittany, and especially at sites around Carnac, they arranged these stones into lines and semi-circles and stood them one on top of another. Some marked burial sites, others may have helped Celtic priests called druids use the sun to figure out the seasons and date religious rites.
But Carnac, like all of Brittany, is more than old stones. It’s also a chic beach resort with clear blue sea, big new houses, a casino and a thalassotherapy spa specializing in massages and seawater health and beauty treatments. Windsurfers skim the waves twelve months a year. Everywhere we went, the ancient accommodates the modern.
Take Pont Aven. Paul Gauguin went there to paint its beauty in the 1880s. The Aven River still tumbles over rocks and spills into a tidal estuary, but now tour buses block the views and the thatched and stone houses share streets with galleries featuring pale imitations of Gauguin. The real thing can be seen at the town’s Gauguin museum, which has a small but fine collection.
Oysters lured us away from tourist buses and post card shops. Nearby Belon is the source for some of the world’s best. Chez Jacky, perched at the edge of a protected harbor filled with fishing and pleasure boats, serves them straight from crates in aerated holding tanks. While we savored a brunchtime portion of oysters and clams, a local took away a huge portion of shellfish piled high in a boat-shaped platter. “Is that for a restaurant?” Barbara asked. “Pour moi,” he said. “We Bretons eat very well.”
We ate very well also, and the best meal we had in France was west of Pont Aven at La Taupiniere. Guy Guilloux’s poached oysters, carpaccio de langoustine, bass over rubarb compote and lotte in a cider and butter sauce showed a master’s touch.
Churches of Ste. Barbe and St. Nicholas were among our must-sees. Both are outside La Faouet where a 15th century market dominates the town square. The chapel of St. Nicholas sits by itself in a stand of pine trees. Its carved wooden Renaissance altar screen depicts the saint’s legend of rescuing sailors and his kindness to children. The small stone chapel of Ste. Barbe, with its gargoyles and 16th century stained glass windows, nestles in a wooded hillside. Georges, a white-haired Breton who likes to kiss the girls, is the other draw here. He’ll sell you mead and urge you to ring the big church bell. “Kenavo” is a good Breton word to keep in mind. It means goodbye.
Sticking to back roads, we discovered the picture postcard town of Locronan, the set of Roman Polanski’s “Tess of the D’Urbervilles.” We used the 17th century Manoir de Moellien, in the hills that offer a peek-a-boo view of the Bay of Dournanez, as a base for visiting the fishing port of Concarneau, with its medieval island fortress, our baker friend’s hometown of Pont l’Abbe, and the sweeping beach of Benodet, a yachting center and resort town. Horse riding on the beaches and through the forests, bicycling, ocean kayaking, yachting and sand yachting – sailing on wheels -- are popular with natives and tourists throughout this area.
Near Camaret-sur-Mer, next to a museum commemorating the Battle of the Atlantic – German submarines versus Allied convoys – we found another group of standing stones and wandered among them listening to whispers of ancient ghosts.
The spectacular cliffs, hidden beaches, winding estuaries and protected marshes of the Crozon Peninsula felt like the ends of the earth, and we left them reluctantly. At Roscoff, on Brittany’s north coast, pirates once sailed from the wide rocky harbor. We followed the coast east to the walled town of St. Malo. Allied bombing destroyed it during World War II, but restoration made it a replica of its medieval self – a market town entered through stone gates and surrounded by high ramparts from which you can see far out to sea or into the apartments of Malouins who forget to draw their curtains. Lots of bloody legends center on St. Malo. One tells of the mastiffs that were turned loose at night to guard the beach. This K-9 security unit was disbanded in the 18th century after the dogs killed an unsuspecting French sailor. Today low tide signals Malouins to spill onto the sand holding hands and pushing baby carriages.
The tangled legend of King Arthur has spin-offs that took place an hour’s drive south of St. Malo in the Foret de Paimpont, aka the mythical Forest of Broceliande. The wizard Merlin, sorceress Morgan le Fay and Sir Lancelot all figure in the local sub-plots. We couldn’t resist a hike up a purple gravel road into the woods and the Val sans Return, the Valley of No Return where the sorceress used her magical powers to hold unfaithful knights. Clean living got us out to tell the tale.
This was my birthday hike in 2004, and my sister Hope Tudanger and I at Missouri Lakes almost 11 thousand feet high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. My sister and brother-in-law Ed live part-time in Colorado. They ski and snowshoe everyday during the winter months. I don't like the snow, so Nick and I visit in the summer. We love to take long, tough hikes through the wild flowers almost up to the top of the moutains.
July 26th. It was a beautiful morning when we left the valley where my sister Hope and brother-in-law Ed live. They chose a long hike in the Holy Cross Wilderness Area, west of the continental divide, up to a place called Missouri Lakes. It’s a series of small lakes on a dramatic plateau about 11 thousand miles above sea level. We picked up sandwiches and water at a small deli and tucked them into our backpacks. The trailhead was about a 25 mile drive from Hope and Ed's house. The drive through mountains was spectacular through western towns called Redcliff, Minturn, and Leadville. But we were after something more strenuous and a little riskier. We parked the car, and started the steep ascent. The first ten minutes of a hike are tough for me as I adjust to the kind breathing you need to do in high altitudes. Hope and I walked slowly as Nick and Ed barreled ahead. We wound our way through thick woods, up the steep trails, past streams, waterfalls, and beautiful wild flowers. I had a field guide and was very eager to name every flower that I saw. So Hope and I were much slower than the guys. About an hour into the hike, it started to rain. We had rain gear, ponchos and hats, so we weren’t too concerned. There weren’t many people on the trail, although we passed a few small groups, and others passed us. Suddenly it started to sleet. We saw three people who had passed us huddling on a huge boulder under a tree that wasn’t providing much shelter. We pressed on. It was impossible to hide from the pellets of hail pummeling us. We kept are heads down. We tread carefully, climbing over the slippery rocks, and squishing through the red dirt turning to mud. No one suggested that we turn back. It was my birthday. We had to complete the hike. Three hours after we began, we straggled into a wide meadow. We were close to the top of the snow covered mountain peaks, and the chain of lakes lay right below them. But we weren’t there yet. Ed and Nick had disappeared through a strand of trees. I was wet, walking slowly with great determination. Hope was behind me. Suddenly from the left a bolt of lighting shot out in front of me. If I’d been walking a little faster, I would have been hit. I didn’t scream. I kept walking. “Did you see that?” I called to Hope. “I saw it,” she said. Nick and Ed were waiting near the lakes, under a tree, trying to stay dry enough to eat. We were numb from the climb, and soaking wet. But it was so beautiful. Each of us, except Hope, drifted off to find a place to pee. Hope doesn’t do that in the wilderness. We wandered around. We ate. The soggy sandwiches tasted delicious, and then we began the climb down. It wasn’t hailing. It wasn’t raining. The sun came out. It was a wonderful day.
Hope and her husband Ed on the trail to Missouri Lakes. They hike these beautiful, rugged mountain trails frequently.
On this day in July, it rained. It sleeted and the sky was piereced with lightening. After two hours of hiking, we were walking single-file, the guys were ahead of us. As we approached the lake area a bolt of lightening shot out in front of me. A little stunned, Hope and I walked on to meet the guys. It was a seeing to believe-it moment, and both Hope and I saw it.
Cousin Marilyn, Uncle Murray, and my mom Juliet Segal