Sunday, 1 December 2013

Lurch on Sunday...signing off.

Well after 720 posts since my first way back in September 2011, how time flies(have I said that before?), I have decided the time has come to call a halt to my waffling. I need the time to concentrate on updating my site on the Loire Valley so as to try and regain my high ranking position after the last 'google update' saw fit to send me tumbling below the likes of  Tripadvisor and Fodors (whose page doesn't even use a picture of the Loire Valley) and many others.

With only 8 confirmed 'followers', who I thank for their loyalty, this event, I know, won't cause much disappointment in the 'blogging' world. Although only 8 people have 'owned up' to checking in on my blog it has in the last 27 months managed to attain just under 140,000 pageviews so that is something!

I will be posting on my other blog with more of an emphasis on Loire Valley tourism and who knows...maybe one day I will return.

Many,many thanks to 'Blogger' and the bloggers who looked in. One of the best things has been the making of new friends along the way (you know who you are), friendships I'm sure will survive even after the inevitable 'last post'.

It only remains for me to give you the last calendar picture of the year and wish you all "the very best" for Christmas and the New Year, from Pauline and myself.



The river Creuse at Barrou.


Pumpkins in garden in Le Grand Pressigny 


Bridge at Descartes


Sunflowers in a field near Chinon


Taken between Barrou and Le Grand Pressigny


Canoes near the bridge at Angle sur l'Anglin


Taken between Lesigny and La Roche Posay.


Taken up behind the nearby village of Chambon.


Taken in Colin & Elizabeth's garden Braye -Sous-Faye


Taken from the chateau in Le grand Pressigny


Leaving Barrou for Le Grand Pressigny.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Provence...on our way home.

The Monday and Tuesday had been a bit misty but by Wednesday it had cleared and it looked like we would have reasonable weather for our return home. Francoise's dad Maxime came to wish us 'Bonne Voyage' and eluded slightly that the weather had changed somewhat compared to when we'd arrived but no hint of what was to come. We headed off and it was fairly plain sailing all the way up to just south of Lyon. As we headed towards Saint Etienne we began to notice cars coming towards us with heavy snow on their roofs...bad sign we thought. Then the signs over the autoroute were telling heavy trucks to leave at next exit another tell-tale sign.This was reaffirmed with the Gendarmes  at the next exit flagging them down and forcing them off. The conditions however still didn't seem that bad.We actually thought that we were perhaps falling foul of the French lorry drivers eco tax protest. If only that was the case - no - about 20 km away from Saint Etienne conditions changed and we found ourselves stuck in a huge traffic jam in very wintery conditions. After a couple of hours (and only about 6km) of sitting in our car with our windows open because we were experiencing a bit of a carbon dioxide overload due to the exhaust, we decided we had to get off the autoroute somehow. Pauline had suffered the indignity of being splashed by slush and snow from a vehicle coming from the opposite direction and I was struggling to keep my rear wheel drive Honda from slipping into the huge trucks beside us every time we tried to move on the icy road.We were lucky enough to be near another exit, to who knew where and we noticed cars slipping onto the emergency lane on to it - we followed them.

We arrived in St Chamond a place famous for building a rather inadequate first world war tank and not much else...unless I'm mistaken...but what it does have is very kind, generous people. We arrived in the snow and found a car park with a cafe nearby and were very glad to get out of the car. Over a welcome coffee we began a conversation with a man at another table about the weather, naturally, and the trouble on the autoroute. We explained we had come off and had to find a hotel for the night in the hope that it would improve by the next day. He got the proprietor involved in drawing a map (on three small pieces of paper) to the 'Camponile' then realising he was not the greatest cartographer in the world, said that his chef was finishing in 5 minutes and we could follow him to the hotel -a better plan.

Then a lady, who had heard of our plight, offered us a room at her house for €30.00 - she said we could check it out first by following her back, This we did - we arrived to find her lovely house perched on a hill and were introduced to her son over a coffee and Italian cookie (she is married to an Italian).  We were then shown the apartment which was perfectly adequate but the lack of wifi and the thought of trailing back into town for a meal at night had us thinking the 'Camponile' with its adjoining restaurant,wifi and proximity to the autoroute might be a better bet. We thanked her and then she kindly let us follow her to the hotel - how nice was she?

We had to cross the autoroute to get to the hotel and noticed the traffic was actually moving again but we popped in anyway to see what news we could glean from them - remember we had no radio to help us.. Again they were very generous with their time, checking Météo online for a weather report and phoning ahead to the Camponile in Clermont Ferrand to check the conditions there. They suggested that it was risky but if we were deperate we could give it a try.

We left them full of hope,filled up with petrol and headed on to the autoroute. No sooner had we gone done the slip-road  when the traffic slowed to a halt - "not again" we thought! We noticed cars and trucks behind us reversing back up the slip-road, so we followed them and returned tail between our legs to the hotel - they were not surprised to see us! The signat the entrance said it was full but people were calling in to say they would probably not make it so we were able to get a room.

We settled in had dinner and prayed tomorrow would be better...but it wasn't.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Provence...leaving can be exhausting.

We had intended leaving beautiful Provence on the Saturday but as Richard and Francoise were heading back to Paris the following day we decided to wait and leave with them. This meant we could drop them off at the TGV station in Avignon before heading back home.

Unfortunately the car had other ideas...after loading up the car which by now had a full tank of petrol,all our wine purchases,an extra couple of passengers and their luggage - we headed off. We only got as far as their front gate. The car's underbelly was now just low enough to catch the middle of the exhaust on the gate stop and do a fair bit of damage.

This meant a quick change of plan and car then a round trip to Avignon. We also now had to try and get it repaired so as we could return home. Francoise's dad was kind enough to get the local garage on the job and we got the car back with a patched up exhaust by the Tuesday - there are worse places to be stuck but it was good to know we would be able to return. We planned our return trip for Wednesday.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Provence part 5...on with the job.

One of the rewards for my wall building was a visit to the local 'cave' where, with our 'connections', we enjoyed a 30% discount - but first the job had to be completed...

...and it was.

We are big fans of 'Cote de Ventoux' and it was good to buy bottles which included grapes from the 'family' vineyard.

This photograph looking over the vines towards mount Venteaux should having perhaps given us a clue as to what was to come - notice what was the first snow of the year on its summit.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Provence...part lucky are we?

Near Francoise's family home is 'Le Lac' which Richard and I had to stroll round. For me it brought back a lot of happy memories of playing on the sand and in the water with our boys way back then - and they had it almost on their doorstep!

On this beautiful November day it is missing the crowd of locals and holidaymakers bringing it alive yet still I had to remark to Richard how lucky I felt to be here...and having been here when the boys were young.

Way back growing up in Kilmarnock we could not ever have imagined that one day we would both be living in France and enjoying moments like this, would have to say it brought a lump to my throat.

Richard's take on it was only to say what I was thinking... we are indeed blessed.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Provence road trip... part 3

It was not all work in Provence, we did some 'family' visits with Richard and Francoise. We went over to the family home 'La Cointe', just outside the village, to visit her sister Veronique and her husband Bernard and also to her father who now lives in what was her grandparent's house to the front of the main house. We had a wonderful holiday when we stayed here with the boys way back in 1992 - the boys still say it was the best holiday they ever had. In the 3 weeks we spent there we got to experience much of what Richard had uncovered in the previous 15 years plus we had the benefit of a true French family experience.

Walking around the house and vineyard brought back many happy memories.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Provence road trip... part 2

At first, the choice of our Honda as the preferred means of travel down to Provence seemed to be a good one as our (around) 700 km trip there went fairly smoothly - other than a French lady allowing her door to be caught in the wind and giving the car another one of those little dents that are so common in French cars that I think they should be 'designed in'.We had mixed weather but came through it relatively unscathed It was interesting to find new roads not listed in my 1996 Collins atlas - making the journey a bit more interesting, our destination, the village of 'Mormoiron' didn't even justify a mention way back then but we managed to find it, even after it being a wee while since we last visited.

We arrived to fine weather with this view from our bedroom window greeting us on our first morning.

We settled in quickly as Richard and Francoise make it so easy to get comfortable in these beautiful surroundings. It was however always going to be a bit a 'busman's holiday' for me as I was down to build a second internal dividing wall between his garage and the house which would keep me busy for a few days...

...especially with the complicated steelwork required  - always enjoy a challenge.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Church on Sunday...Briare

When we were over visiting the canal aqueduct at Briare I made a point of visiting its Saint-Etienne Church. The church was built in a Romano-Byzantine style in the late 19th century due to the generosity of.Jean-Felix Bapterosses who ran the enamel plant in the town.The factory produced its 'Briare enamels' which became very popular - being used in architectural mosaics.They are obviously used extensively throughout both the interior and exterior of the church. 

Saint-Etienne himself is featured at the apex above the entrance to the church and St. Michael the Archangel above the rose window - you can see some better pics, here.

Internally the church seems so much bigger than it does from its front view - it is huge - 10 mtrs x 50 mtrs

There is a mid altar in front of the apse...

... and a main feature altar within the apse itself.

Looking down the cetral aisle towards the rose window.

The floors are decorated with a variety of designs that feature the four elements,the five senses...

and animals  within the baptismal chapel.

No 'Joan' featured here however. 

There is a monument to to the church's benefactor in the square in front of the church.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Provence road-trip... part 1

The reason we had been down in Provence was to visit my brother Richard and his wife Francoise who are lucky enough to have had a house built in the village where Francoise was brought up.

Taken on this trip - with lovely blue skies.
It had been 4 years since our last visit (how time flies) to them there, though we get over to see them in Paris every year.

We (well me really) decided that we should use our 13 year old Honda for the trip as it is more comfortable for long drives, has cruise control and it had been a while since it had any sort of holiday due to its unreliability.This unreliability stemmed from the fact that it would refuse to start in any sort of extreme (well actually not that extreme) weather - too cold or too hot - 'no not today thank you'.
A search on 'google' identified the problem as the relay which our friends Mike and Liz brought back a replacement for from the UK. A quick tutorial video by a very nice lady on 'YouTube' and problem solved -oh the power of the internet!

My meticulous planning consisted of a quick reminder of the main towns enroute using my trusty 'Collins' how time flies (have I already said that?)

Did I say we have never invested in sat-nav, have no smartphones and the radio in the car doesn't work....just setting the scene - more on Monday.