"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. "
He also wrote:
"You and I are in this because we believe in a simple idea -- that each and every one of us, working together, has the power to move this country forward. We believed that this was the moment to solve the challenges that the country had ignored for far too long.
That change happens only from the bottom up. That change happens only because of you.
And, the beat goes on.
March 8, 2010, Illinois Boy #10 of 16 songs in the "awesome" category, on www.listography.com--Annie Palovcik, with Illinois Boy, is the only female vocalist on the "awesome" list of Obama songs on the listography.com list. http://www.listography.com/action/list?uid=4670384789&lid=8267424963
Obama Song - Michael Franti & Spearhead
Yes We Can - will.i.am
Yes We Can: Vocies of the Grassroots Movement
Yes We Can/Come Together
Takin' It Back with Barack, Jack! Will Galison and his Orchestra
Vote for Hope - MC Yogi
Barack the Magnificen - Mighty Sparrow
Looking for a Leader - Neil Young
Barack Obama Reminds Me of Howard Dean - Papa Razzi and the Photogs
Illinois Boy - Annie Palovcik
A Change has Finally Come - Billy Madden
Someone to Wake (Barack Obama) - Of Great and Mortal Men
Working on a Dream - Bruce Springsteen
Politics (obama is Here) Ludacris
Obama - Mr. Lif
Aer Obama - Daft Punk & Adam Freeland
May, 2009, Illinois Boy #7 of 29 songs listed for the "Journey into sound - Show 05.02.09) "Music for/Inspired by Barack Obama,.Annie Palovcik, with Illinois Boy, is the only female vocalist on the Obama playlist for Journey Into Sound. www.journey-into-sound.de/jourpage/playlist/play187.htm
Kim Ruehl, NY Times' folk music guide on the www. About. com site: “Ever since his entry into the race, Barack Obama has inspired millions of new voters, including several artists who have taken it upon themselves to write songs about him. Not for decades has there been a presidential candidate who inspired so much (positive) music to be written” On her list of five Obama songs, Illinois Boy is No. 4. Annie Palovcik, with Illinois Boy, is the only female vocalist on the NY Times folkmusic.about.com Obama songs list. folkmusic.about.com/od/toptens/tp/SongsAboutObama.htm -
February 19, 2009
"I love this country" said President Barack Obama of Canada
as he made his first ever visit to a foreign country.
"Illinois Boy (A Barack Obama Song), the first ever Obama song written, by Canadian songwriter Annie Palovcik, foresaw this love affair between the President and people at home and abroad. The last line reads
"and the BOY FROM ILLINOIS loves me!."
February 13, 2009
Canadian Songwriter Wrote First Ever Obama Song
Contact: annie palovcik email@example.com
"Illinois Boy (a Barack Obama song)", is an allegory written by Annie Palovcik, who first heard of the Senator while on holidays in Honolulu where he grew up. According to Teresa Mendez of the Christian Science Monitor “she [Palovcik] was the first to set pen to paper in tribute to the Senator from Illinois” and that “the folksy tune she wrote is her way of political campaigning, envelope licking, door knocking.” I put the song up on an internet site in January, 2008 and urged voters, with various bulletins, to “Vote Obama”.
I first heard about Obama from some of our Hawaiian friends whose children had gone to school with him. They told me of their pride in this impressive young man. And that he believed in a Dream. And he titled his autobiography The Audacity to Hope.
Why Barack Obama? I grew up with the Beatles and Bob Dylan, the Kennedys and Trudeaumania. For me, it was all downhill after that, the decades of political disillusionment. Politicians all seemed to be liars and on the take. He has dared me to re-energize with politics.
In Illinois Boy, simple, everyday images are sprinkled with kernels of truth. Of course “we’ve been waiting so long” for a politician who “isn’t into lying” and who makes us believe that “Nothing’s ever gonna be the same.”
Illinois Boy is witty, whimsical" and fun. The song deals with real expectations—love, marriage, a good cup of coffee and a good time. An obvious allegory, it is about a dream, an Illinois Boy who can lead the American people through difficult years ahead and inspire them to be part of the solution.
Nekesa Mumbi Moody, The Associated Press music writer, wrote an article about “Obama songs” that went round the world. She wrote about Illinois Boy and quotes me as saying "He is energizing those around him, daring them to look for a new way to dream.” Google “Annie Palovcik” news.
In her article on the N.Y. Times internet site, About.com, Kim Ruehl, wrote:
“Ever since his entry into the race, Barack Obama has inspired millions of new voters, including several artists who have taken it upon themselves to write songs about him. Not for decades has there been a presidential candidate who inspired so much (positive) music to be written” On her list of five Obama songs, Illinois Boy is No. 4. She wrote: “This tongue-in-cheek quasi love song paid tribute to Obama’s home state of Illinois, and has since become somewhat of an allegory for his presidential bid.”
Do check out the song and the site: www.cdbaby.com/cd/anniepalovcik. on iTunes.
Annie Palovcik 250 537 9571 firstname.lastname@example.org
January 20, 2009. Annie Palovcik mentioned in VSD.fr by Marie-Adelaide Scigacz in her "Barack Obama: Un president qui connait la chanson"
January 20, 2009. Annie Palovcik and "Illinois Boy" were mentioned in the-trades.com in their "Editorial: Yes We Can..Recognize the Role of Music in the Rise of Barack Hussein Obama to the U.S. Presidency" by Paul Schultz.
October 31, 2008. from the Jamaica Observer's article:
Singing praises to Barack Obama
Basil Walters, Observer staff reporter
Lists ILLINOIS BOY "among the international acts who have given their voices in support"
From the Direct Democracy Blog, Oct. 11,2008:"Illinois Boy" is #5 in a "list of the most prominent songs written in support of Obama". See Bulletin #10 below. on iTunes.
AMERICA FOR BARACK AND BIDEN
"Illinois Boy, he's comin' home to me
I've been waiting so long!" are the lyrics that open Annie Palovcik's ILLINOIS BOY (on iTunes), as Barack Obama returns to his home state of Illinois to introduce his running mate, Joe Biden. Barack and Biden, a Brilliant team! As the song goes, "Nothin's ever gonna be the same!" The indie political campaign continues on http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/anniepalovcik
AMERICA FOR OBAMA
THE NY TIMES About.com shortlists Illinois Boy #4 in Obama songs. See Bulletin No.5
AMERICA FOR OBAMA
ASSOCIATED PRESS article by Nekesa Mumbi Moody quotes Annie Palovcik, writer of ILLINOIS BOY. "He is energizing those around him, daring them to look for a new way to dream," she says. See Bulletin No. 4.
Annie Palovcik: CHANGES
featuring ILLINOIS BOY (A Barack Obama Song)
MP3 available from www.cdbaby.com/cd/anniepalovcik
Bob Dylan knew the power of song to influence the political climate. Now a new generation of songwriters is being inspired by Senator Barack Obama.
Among the collection is ILLINOIS BOY, a country allegory by Annie Palovcik, who first heard of the Senator while on holidays in Honolulu where he grew up. According to Teresa Mendez of the Christian Science Monitor in her February 28 article “she was the first to set pen to paper in tribute to the Senator from Illinois” and that “the folksy tune she wrote …is her way of political campaigning, envelope licking, door knocking.”
Her song is filled with simple everyday country images, a fun, whimsical and witty song about American values like love, marriage, a good cup of coffee and a good time.
Barack Obama inspired the release of this 5-song Extended Play CD called CHANGES. I first heard about the Senator while on one of my annual holidays in Honolulu, where he grew up. Some of our Hawaiian friends' children had gone to school with him. They told me of their pride in this Senator from Illinois. And that he believed in a Dream. And he titled his autobiography THE AUDACITY TO HOPE.
I thought I would put out this song, ILLINOIS BOY, some time when he next ran a campaign. I guess this is that time. Hope it helps get him elected. This really is the time to make our dreams reality. All the songs in this collection are about CHANGE.
ILLINOIS BOY is witty, whimsical and fun, with a slight country flavor. A few friends have suggested that you can’t refer to a black man in America as a boy. But it’s not unusual in country music to call a youthful man a boy, and I think they are overlooking the change in race relations that Obama’s candidacy so clearly embodies. The title of my CD is CHANGES.
So, boys and girls, as it says in the last verse of ILLINOIS BOY, “Nothing’s ever gonna be the same!"
P.S. Practice random acts of Daring and Hope today to make CHANGE happen.
P.P.S. Digitally download CHANGES: MP3 available from www.cdbaby.com/cd/anniepalovcik. Save the planet from plastic. That's your first act of hope.
Bob Ray Sanders, Associate Editor, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
"Very well done Great Composition and great performance. Congratulations!"
Rick Santelli at NBC Universal, CNBC
"Thanx annie reallllly enjoyed it!!!"
Susan Campbell at Hartford Courant
"Hey, cool song!"
Eric R.Danton/Sound Check courant.com
"earnest acoustic number with folky leanings" "an allegory of sorts".
Thanks to all the blogs, including cityroom.blogs.nytimes/2008/02/06
Obama Girl Didnt Vote - City Room - Metro - New York Times Blog:
"The real Obama Girl, and the best Obama song, is the somewhat allegorical “Illinois Boy” by Annie Palovcik. Check it out at www.cdbaby.com/cd/anniepalovcik "
and to Aman Betheja of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for providing the link in his POLITEX - Presidential Campaign blog
BULLETIN NO.2 FEBRUARY 17, 2008
I am a Canadian who holidays each winter in Honolulu. In past years friends proudly told me of a senator from Illinois, who they saw as “their own”. Some had kids who had gone to the same school as had Senator Barack Obama. I wrote a song called ILLINOIS BOY and thought that it might help the Senator some time when he next ran a campaign. I guess that time is now.
It is a global universe today. I believed I had not only an opportunity to influence political choices in America, but had a responsibility to do so. Like the 60’s, I could do it with song.
Why Barack Obama? I grew up with the Beatles and Bob Dylan, the Kennedys and Trudeaumania. For me, it was all downhill after that, the decades of political disillusionment. Politicians all seemed to be liars and on the take. Senator Obama has inspired me to reengage with the political process. With him, idealism is no longer out of fashion. He has dared me to look at the infinite possibilities open to me and to the world; dared me to think of our potential.
I feel he cares about people, real people, country people. In my song, ILLINOIS BOY, my simple, everyday country images are sprinkled with kernels of truth. Of course “we’ve been waiting so long” for a politician who “isn’t into lying” and who makes us believe that (as it says in the last verse) “Nothing’s ever gonna be the same.” The song deals with real expectations—love, marriage, a good cup of coffee and a good time. The song, an obvious allegory, is about a dream, an ILLINOIS BOY who can lead the American people through difficult years ahead and inspire them to be part of the solution.
For me, putting out this song, ILLINOIS BOY, on cdbaby http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/anniepalovcik has been my form of political campaigning, my envelope licking, my door knocking.
I am a songwriter, a published travel photographer, manager of country/folk singer, Alan Moberg (inducted into the BC Country Music Hall of Fame this fall); and world: aboriginal performer Ed Peekeekoot "8th wonder of the music universe" says Hugh McLennan, host, synidcated radio show Spirit of the West. I am married to author and journalist Tom Koppel,his "EBB AND FLOW" named a top global Science Book of '07 by Peter Calamai, Science Editor, Toronto Star.
BULLETIN 3, FEBRUARY 29
One person CAN make a difference. Get out and do something.
ILLINOIS BOY (A Barack Obama Song)lyrics: a country allegory
ILLINOIS BOY’s coming home to me
I’ve been waiting so long
Wonder if he’ll marry me
I know we could get along
ILLINOIS BOY’s been gone awhile
He sent kisses in each letter
I know I can make him smile, when I say
Kisses on the lips are much better
And the BOY FROM ILLINOIS
Gonna stop his rambling, don’t go gambling
He gave up smoking, he’s always joking
He isn’t into lying, he keeps on smiling
And the BOY FROM ILLINOIS
He loves his cup of coffee
And the BOY FROM ILLINOIS
ILLINOIS BOY brings his truck around
All shiny washed and vacuumed
He picks me up and we go to town
For dinner and drinking and dancing
ILLINOIS BOY loves the quiet
Of a country lane
He takes me there and he strokes my hair
Nothing’s ever gonna be the same
BULLETIN #4, MAY 12
ILLINOIS BOY, a country allegory. Available on iTunes.
May 12, 2008
Obama leads the field in unsolicited campaign songs from supporters
By Nekesa Mumbi Moody, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
NEW YORK - Barack Obama is closing in on the Democratic nomination for president but he clinched the race for the best campaign soundtrack long ago - no superdelegates needed.
John McCain and Hillary Clinton also have plenty of musical support in the first presidential election of the YouTube era. But from will.i.am's star-studded viral hit "Yes We Can" to amateur odes, folk, Spanish-language tunes and even a Jamaican reggae tribute, Obama is the leader in what observers are calling a new form of political campaigning.
"Songs about candidates have really taken off," says Steve Grove, head of YouTube.com's news and politics division. "They've found a new way to support their candidates. . . . it stretches from regular average voters all the way up to somebody like will.i.am in terms of being kind of like a new, broader trend in political video."
Annie Palovcik is one of those regular people. She penned the prideful folk tune "Illinois Boy" for Obama when he first came to national prominence a few years back - then put it on the web when Obama became a serious presidential contender this year.
"The concepts of his character and the place of Illinois filtered through my mind into this allegorical country song," said Palovcik, a songwriter and manager of two musicians.
"He is energizing those around him, daring them to look for a new way to dream," she says.
Not that Obama has a lock on musical inspiration. McCain has had songs penned for him, such as "Lead the Way" by a lawyer named Judd Kessler. Clinton has inspired numerous tuneful tributes - no less than Sir Elton John gave her a benefit concert in April - and "Stuck on Huck" was recorded for Mike Huckabee. Even Republican long shot Ron Paul had a song about him that got 60,000 views on YouTube.
Obama has strong support among young people, which may explain some of his Internet music presence. While Grove says there's no specific statistical data to prove it, just on YouTube alone "it seems that (Obama) has really garnered a lot of songs. I think the early success of the Obama girl music video (the song by a scantily clad woman that became a national sensation last year) probably had something to do with that."
Even Dulce Maria Gonzalez, a musician who supports Clinton, notices an Obama imbalance: "When I started to write a song for her, I noticed that there weren't that many on YouTube, and then I saw a lot of them, but they're just not as popular as the Obama songs."
She's hoping her "We Need A Woman" will help reverse the trend. Featuring Gonzalez crooning about Clinton's feminine power, the midtempo tune has garnered about 5,000 views on YouTube (will.i.am's "Yes We Can," in comparison, has gotten more than five million).
"I wanted to do something special for her, and let her know that she did have a Latin vote, and a young vote as well, and give her this song as a gift," said the resident of Brownsville, Texas.
It's not just musicians writing songs to show their support for Obama. Rolling Stone put him on the cover when endorsing him for president, Bruce Springsteen has announced his support, while performers like OK Go and Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz have performed for his benefit. Jay-Z has been taking time out on stage during his tour to flash a picture of Obama and tell the audience, "It's time for a change."
"Musicians generally do not like authority, establishment or bureaucracy. Obama is the first candidate in my lifetime, certainly in memory, that represents any kind of new wave of change," said Craig Wedren of the rock group Shudder to Think, which was part of an indie-rock bill, including OK Go, that recently gave a concert for Obama.
It's hard to pinpoint whether the popularity of songs translates into any particular voting surge. will.i.am released "We Are The Ones" a few days before the Ohio and Texas primaries, but Clinton won both states.
But there has been record turnout in many states this year. will.i.am said he specifically used music to support Obama instead of just lending his celebrity because "people are tired of that."
His song "is driven by inspiration and it's creative and it's love, it isn't anything else," he said.
That's what makes the majority of these songs so key, especially for Obama, says Grove.
"The dream scenario, by the way, is what the Obama campaign has basically landed, which is to inspire a group of supporters to do this on their own without any real top-down campaign control," he said.
And if candidates can move the songwriter, they may be able to move the nation as well.
"I keep wondering, if (Obama) is inspiring so much creativity for songwriters," asked Palovcik, "what is he doing for farmers?"
BULLETIN #5, June
Hi, looks like the state of ILLINOIS will be in the spotlight now. Check out the #4 song on this list!!!, The song has already received coast to coast and international press with the AP article by music writer Nekesa Mumbi Moody and in the Christian Science Monitor by Theresa Mendez.
The song says “Illinois boy’s coming home to me. I’ve been waiting so long”, "He isn't into lying" and “Nothing’s ever gonna be the same.”
Songs About Barack Obama
New songs written for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama
By Kim Ruehl, About.com
Ever since his entry into the race, Barack Obama has inspired millions of new voters, including several artists who have taken it upon themselves to write songs about him. Not for decades has there been a presidential candidate who inspired so much (positive) music to be written. Here's a look at some popular and obscure pro-Obama songs.
1. "Looking for a Leader," by Neil Young1
Neil Young was a little more ahead of the game. This tune, from 2006's Living With War2 CD wasn't expressly written for or about Barack Obama, but it certainly gave him a shout out. Before the senator from Illinois had announced his presidential bid, even Young was looking forward to the possibility.
2. "Yes We Can," by will.i.am4
Probably the most popular song written for Barack Obama, will.i.am's "Yes We Can" hit the internet early on in the primary season. Featuring stars of film and music, the song put Obama's memorable "Yes We Can" speech to music, effectively emphasizing the words that much more.
3. "Barack Obama Reminds Me of Howard Dean" - Papa Razzi and the Photogs6
This anti-folk tune likens the candidate favored by students and activists in the 2008 election to that of 2004. The difference, of course, is that Howard Dean didn't become the nominee, whereas Obama's grass roots coalition proved a little more fruitful.
4. "Illinois Boy," by Annie Palovcik8
Palovcik's tongue-in-cheek, quasi-love song paid tribute to Obama's home state of Illinois, and has since become somewhat of an allegory for his presidential bid. Like many of Obama's supporters, Palovcik was clearly looking forward to his run before it even began. She placed the song on her 2008 EP, Changes9, which she composed after hearing Obama speak.
Listen to Clips10
5. "Barack Obama," by Cocoa Tea11
One of the most popular songs inspired by Barack Obama's candidacy, Coco Tea's aptly titled "Barack Obama" is a catchy, dancey reggae tune paying tribute to the candidate's historic run for presidency. Of course, as World Music Guide Megan Romer noted12, Cocoa Tea isn't an American citizen, so he can't cast his vote in November. Obviously, he's hoping his music can inspire state-side fans to choose Obama.
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©2007 About.com, Inc., a part of The New York Times Company. All rights reserved.
Bulletin No. 6, August
ARE you doing it for Obama? If not,why not? He needs you now. Get on the Obamatrain.
Barack and Biden Bulletin No. 7 August 23, 2008
AMERICA FOR BARACK AND BIDEN, THE PEOPLE'S CHOICE
"Illinois Boy, he's comin' home to me
I've been waiting so long!" are the lyrics that open Annie Palovcik's ILLINOIS BOY (on iTunes), as Barack Obama returns to his home state of Illinois to introduce his running mate, Joe Biden. Barack and Biden, a Brilliant team! As the song goes, "Nothin's ever gonna be the same!"
Bulletin No. 8, August
When Barack is President, he will have two houses. McCain will still have seven.
Bulletin No. 9, September
Read This Book:
The Dream Begins: How Hawaii Shaped Barack Obama (Paperback)
by Stu Glauberman (Author), Jerry Burris (Author)
A Review from Amazon.com September 20, 2008
By Alan G. L. Loo "Alloo" (San Antonio, TX) - See all my reviews (REAL NAME)
I read the book and was facinated how the authors described Hawaii during the time of statehood through the 1970s. I grew up in Hawaii and have been wondering when will our country hear about his Hawaii roots and values. I always told people Obama's draw is the Aloha Spirit. He made a speech on his vacation in Hawaii in August. As a fellow, Hawaiian living on the mainland, I am proud of Mr. Obama and what he has accomplished. I was surprised and delighted to read Dr. Ronald Takaki's perspective on Barack Obama's campaign. Ronald Takaki wrote the theory of race in the US and created the first African American Studies Program at UCLA. Dr. Takaki is also from Hawaii.
I also learned more about Hawaii during the time that I lived there and was unaware of some of the political and social forces around the 1970s, and around statehood. I would encourage anyone who wants to learn about Barack Obama to read this book as it covers his first 18 years of life. Thank you for writing this book.
Bulletin #10 October, 2008
From the Direct Democracy Blog http://www.mydd.com/story/2008/10/11/123144/85
Obama Inspires Music in Support of his Campaign
by JFC7, Sat Oct 11, 2008 at 12:31:44 PM EST
Presidential candidate Barack Obama has inspired artists to create more unsolicited music than any candidate in American history.
Below is a list of the most prominent songs written in support of Obama.
1. "Barack Obama" by JFC Reggae Band from VA, USA
2. "Yes We Can" by will.i.am, of the band Black-Eyed Peas
3. "Barack the Magnificent" by The Mighty Sparrow Calypso artist from Trinidad & Tobago
4. "Barack Obama" by [[Cocoa Tea], reggae artist from Jamaica who is creating a whole album dedicated to Obama ]
5. "Illinois Boy," by Annie Palovcik, an independent songwriter
6. "Black Republicans" by Juelz Santana & Lil Wayne, from 2006, predicting Obama's nomination
7. "I_Got_a_Crush..._on_Obama" by 'Obama Girl' aka Amber Lee Ettinger, a Youtube video that went viral
YES WE CAN YES WE CAN YES WE CAN YES WE CAN YES WE CAN
TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHER, ANNIE PALOVCIK & TRAVEL WRITER, TOM KOPPEL
Sep 11, 2011 http://www.philly.com/philly/travel/20110911_Pretty_little_Cassis__on_the_Riviera.html
A dramatic cliff on the south coast of France, near Cassis. What elsewhere are fjords are called calanques here.
A dramatic cliff on the south coast of France, near Cassis. What elsewhere are fjords are called calanques here.
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Posted on Sun, Sep. 11, 2011
Pretty little Cassis, on the Riviera
By Tom Koppel
For The Inquirer
The rampart of rock soars straight up; we crane our necks to see the top. Scattered across the vertical face, nearly 1,000 feet high, are stunted windswept junipers that cling bravely to the odd crevice. The layering and subtle colors of stratification turn the cliff into an abstract canvas painted by a giant. A couple of bright red kayaks paddle by along the base, where the sea laps at the limestone. They are so dwarfed by the vast geological dreamscape that they look like toys.
My wife, Annie, and I are passengers on a small tour boat exploring a network of fjords, a dramatic wonderland of water and towering walls of stone that you could mistake for Norway, or maybe Alaska. But this is the Mediterranean, on the south coast of France, where these natural features are called calanques.
The boat ride is an easy jaunt from Cassis, the enchanting little port and beach town where we are spending a few days. Not nearly as well known as larger and trendier places on the French Riviera, such as Nice and Cannes, it is far more intimate, laid back, safe and friendly. Among the key attractions is its spectacular physical setting, nestled among high mountains and just around a rocky headland from the calanques.
A medieval castle, restored and converted to high-end vacation accommodations, is perched on a bluff overlooking the beachfront. The town center curves around a bustling harbor packed with yachts and sport-fishing boats that can be chartered. A small commercial fleet sells its daily catch right along the main embankment.
There is lots to see and do. A stroll along the beach promenade reveals some typically French scenes. At an ornate carousel, tots glide up and down on horses and whirl like dervishes in tiny cars. Men play boules in a dusty square fringed by outdoor cafes. We visit a small perfume and soap factory with a stylish display room that sells scores of subtle fragrances, such as pink grapefruit. On a side street, a dark wine bar dripping with atmosphere serves glasses of unique local vintages grown on the nearby slopes. We take a bottle back to our hotel room, where the tiny balcony, with wrought iron railings, looks out on a narrow cobblestone street. Right on the waterfront, and only steps from the shops and restaurants, it is clean, cheerful, and costs only $92 a night.
Mealtimes bring difficult choices, especially among the wonderful selection of seafoods. At one lunch, Annie has a salad with tartare of fresh tuna, while I opt for a dish featuring giant prawns, smoked salmon, and minced crabmeat. At dinner, she has grilled dorado with fennel. I am tempted by the oysters but go instead for the exquisite sea bass with an herb crust. And always, there are the wine, the cheeses, and the espresso.
Our stay in Cassis is far too brief, but it is blessed by the warm Mediterranean weather that runs through September. We can hang out in shorts and T-shirts and swim in the Med from a crescent beach lined with palms. The last evening, a rainbow appears in the sky.
For terrific assistance, out of Texas, check out:
by Tom Koppel
photos by Annie Palovcik, in
The captain and deckhand swiftly dismantle the roof and windows of our boat's raised wheelhouse as an ancient stone bridge comes into view. We crouch and duck our heads; the vessel just barely fits underneath. Beyond, the boat slips serenely along on a ribbon of green under a shady canopy of plane trees. At the occasional break in the foliage, we spot a tall church spire, sprawling vineyards and the distant snowy peaks of the Pyrenees. Our captain will not need to replace the wheelhouse for days to come. It is May, and the weather remains blissfully warm and dry. Welcome to the Canal du Midi, which crosses Languedoc in the sunny South of France.
My wife Annie and I are among only four guests travelling on a lovely hotel barge, the Caroline, as it wends its way slowly westward for six days along one of the world's most remarkable canals.
We arrive in the town of Beziers on the 330th anniversary of the canal's official opening. Gala concerts, sound and light shows, and fireworks mark the event. With narrow cobblestone streets, a beautiful hillside park, and inviting little outdoor restaurants, Beziers is the birthplace of Pierre-Paul Riquet, the genius who conceived and spearheaded the 150-mile long canal project, beginning in the 1660s. The goal was to link the Atlantic with the Mediterranean, thereby avoiding the dangerous journey around Spain and past the fierce Barbary pirates. Its design is unlike most other canals, in France and elsewhere, which are excavated trenches that generally follow natural river valleys and draw their water supply from those rivers. The Canal du Midi follows the contours of hillsides and crosses right over natural features like rivers and streams on the raised archways of elegant stone aqueducts. Its source of water is a large mountain reservoir. Near Beziers, the canal leaps up a steep stone “staircase” of nine consecutive locks and later tunnels through a low mountain. A 17th century engineering marvel.
Captain Uli Weber picks us up at our hotel, along with our Australian companions Jan Kenchington and Janette Frost, and drives us west out of Beziers to join Caroline, which we have booked through FranceCruises.com. Built in the 1920s as a classic Dutch sailing barge, the boat is brightly painted with graceful hull lines, upswept both fore and aft, and a broad, spacious main deck. We are greeted by Uli's wife Ute, who takes us below and shows us to our well-appointed cabins.
We had taken a barge cruise in France once before, but Caroline's ambiance is very different. Our previous boat, like so many on French canals, was larger and operated by a foreign-owned company. It was ultra-deluxe, expensive and a bit formal. However attentive and friendly, the staff of five were employees. They wore uniforms and went home at night. The cruise itinerary was arranged in great detail, with all side trips scheduled and both lunch and dinner menus for the week printed in three languages. We enjoyed it, of course, and perhaps that's the only way to organize boats that carry eight, ten, maybe twelve or more passengers. In fact, some may prefer to travel and socialize with a somewhat larger group.
Caroline, however, is a much smaller and more intimate boat. Uli and Ute are the owners. They live aboard year-round and do everything themselves, which allows them to charge considerably less. He pilots the barge, is waiter at mealtimes, and serves as driver and highly knowledgeable guide during side trips in their mini-van. She is the five-star chef, with 250 cookbooks in her collection, as well as chambermaid and deckhand while docking or going through locks. From the first moments, we feel ourselves to be guests in a lovingly decorated home. It is an informal space that is planted with on-deck flower beds and studded with cushioned deck chairs, zany wooden sculptures, even a tiny pond full of fishes and water lilies. Although there is a cozy salon below, with a dining table, sofas and a wood-burning fireplace, we are favoured by good weather and take most meals up on deck.
And those meals are memorable. The first dinner opens with a cleared tomato soup, features breast of duck in a raspberry sauce, accompanied by ratatouille and champagne rice, and finishes with dessert and a wonderful assortment of cheeses. Subsequent dinners feature coq au vin, bouillabaisse, salmon mousse with scallops and black caviar served on a puff pastry, and leg of lamb dressed with garlic and Roquefort cheese. There are marvellous desserts like homemade strawberry ice cream on meringue and a superb creme brulee. Accompanying both lunch and dinner are excellent Languedoc wines, and always the cheeses for which France is so renowned. There are also fine touches, such as Ute's homemade preserves at breakfast and an ever-changing and quirky collection of salt and pepper shakers. Ute even picks wild herbs right along the canal.
For guests who prefer to sample the many interesting canal-side eateries, the Caroline cruises offer a lower priced half-board option. Guests take breakfast and a large lunch on board but eat most dinners in nearby restaurants at their own expense. We do this one night and enjoy an excellent dinner with wine at a classic auberge within easy staggering distance of the moored barge. Another variation is to have lunch in a market restaurant during a side trip, or to select and bring back the fixings for a picnic lunch or a barbecue on board the boat. Uli and Ute are flexible and open to all suggestions. One side trip takes us to the morning market in a nearby town, where Uli invites us to select anything we want him to purchase for our lunch. There are at least 25 kinds of olives, prepared in different ways, and an amazing assortment of cheeses and dry salamis, with each vendor offering taste tests. I am eager to try the Mediterranean oysters, and Uli knows just who has the best shellfish. Back on board, Ute serves me half of them raw, and they are the freshest and most succulent I have ever eaten. The rest she grills lightly with Parmesan cheese and parsley for the others to taste. They are sublime.
Most side trips, however, are focussed on more than food. Languedoc is rich in historical sites. In Narbonne, we view a small excavated section of the Via Domitia, the ancient road that linked Rome with Spain. Hannibal probably passed this way with his elephants to attack Rome in 218 B.C. We tour the fortified hilltop village of Minerve. A little museum with dioramas tells the grim tale of how the redoubt was besieged and captured in 1210 during a papal crusade against the region's heretical Cathar Christians. Nearly everyone, including women and children, was slaughtered in the fighting or burned at the stake afterwards. Uli drives us to a hilltop to view a huge, strangely symmetrical depression in the land that stands out even from Earth orbit. It marks where a lake was drained around 1200 to eradicate mosquitoes. Local monks did this by digging a precise pie-shaped network of ditches that converge at the centre of an enormous circle, now planted in orchards and grape vines.
Nearly every day, Annie and I venture off a bit on our own, either on foot or riding the bikes carried on board, to explore the nearby villages. It is fun to walk ahead along the towpaths, where animals used to pull the barges, and wait for Caroline to catch up at the next lock. At one, there is time for a quick espresso, served by the lock-keeper's wife, while Uli steers the boat in and Ute handles the ropes. At another, the lock-keeper himself is a noted artist, whose off-beat works (mainly of welded scrap metal or carved wood) are on open-air display, and some are for sale.
All too soon, it is time for a farewell dinner and sad goodbyes the next morning. Uli drops us off in the medieval fortress city of Carcassonne, where we spend an extra day on our own, enveloped in the stunning architecture. And we cannot come this far south without spending a few days on the Mediterranean itself. We have heard that Cassis, just east of Marseilles, is the region's most charming little port and beach town. It proves to be the most dramatic as well, nestled between steep mountains with precipitous cliffs that attract rock climbers. We take an exciting boat excursion into the nearby network of calanques, which are short fjords lined by sheer rock walls soaring as high as 450 metres. We watch the men play boules in a park fringed with cafes. And we round out our visit to France by swimming in the Med from a crescent beach lined with palm trees. Our final evening, a rainbow appears in the sky.
If You Go:
France Cruises offers a wide selection of barge and other boat trips on canals and rivers in France.
British Airways has convenient connections to major French cities via London.
In Beziers, the friendly three-star Hotel Imperator is centrally located on the main boulevard.
In Carcassonne, the four-star Hotel Donjon offers quiet luxury right in the old citadel.
In Cassis, the two-star hotel Cassitel is close to the beach, restaurants and lively port action.
All photographs by Annie Palovcik.
Tom Koppel is a veteran Canadian author, journalist and travel writer who has contributed travel features to numerous newspapers and magazines for over 25 years, including the LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, Columbus Dispatch, Georgia Straight, Globe & Mail, National Post, Islands Magazine, Sydney Morning Herald and Canadian World Traveller magazine. He recently completed his fifth book of popular nonfiction, about the South Pacific islands.
Annie Palovcik has been publishing her travel photos to suppport articles by Tom Koppel in newspapers and magazines around the world.