Just When You Think Everything Is Under Control

28 Feb

This post was due a while ago.  It has languished as a draft for the last two weeks as I have not been able to clear my mind enough to organise a few photos and publish it.  At the conclusion of my last post I mentioned looking forward to Dad’s visit.  Read on to find out why that got cancelled…

Monday 17th February was a lovely fine and warm day and we spent it going some gardening and relaxing.  We did settle down indoors to watch some highlights from the Winter Olympics ice skating in the afternoon.  So what could go wrong, huh?

Next thing I know there is a noise and Leanne is on the floor in the entrance to the kitchen.  She had tripped on the log basket beside the fire as she was stepping back and turning.  As she went down she automatically put out her right hand and it took the full force of her landing.  The time was 17h15.  It didn’t look too good and she was in pain so off we went to the nearest A&E.  We arrived at the A&E department at Brignoles, where there was a provincial general hospital, at 17h50.  By 18h10 she had had an x-ray and was in a treatment room.  Very efficient.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, she had fractured the radius and displaced the fragment in two planes – upwards and sideways.  This would require surgery.  Because she had eaten only two hours earlier they would not operate that night.  So without reducing the fracture (i.e. without even lining things up as close as possible) they fitted a support cast.  This turned out to be a huge bit of luck.
I left Leanne at the hospital around 22h00 and went back home to start dealing with travel insurance and contacting some friends.  Contacting friends turned out to be crucial.  We are blessed to have great friends who have expertise in a diverse range of fields.  In this case the medical field was trumps.  I sent a message to Belinda to tell her what had happened and the hospital’s proposed course of action.  She in turn contacted another friend who was an orthopaedic surgeon specialising in hand and wrist procedures.  The result was that we declined further treatment at Brignoles in favour of returning home for better treatment.  I finally got to bed at 03h20.
I should stress that this is not meant to be an indictment on Brignoles hospital.  They are a small provincial hospital offering a wide range of services to their local community including a general orthopaedic capability.  Auckland is a much larger city and we have a wider range of services available including a specialist hand and wrist department.  Any provincial hospital in New Zealand would probably have a similar capability to Brignoles.
So with the agreement of our travel insurance company Leanne checked out of Brignoles on Tuesday and we set about firstly getting Leanne’s recovery moving along so that we could take the long flight home and secondly finalising all our affairs in France.  Fortunately we were already working on the close out and compressing what was meant to take 4 weeks into one week was actually feasible.  We also had help from local friends like Jeremy & Jo and Sue.  In fact we stayed with Jeremy & Jo on the first night out of hospital and again on our last night before departing.  They really did pamper us.
The weather was also kind in  our final week – after a very mild winter things turned quite sunny and spring was in evidence all around.  At Jeremy & Jo’s place the mimosa (wattle to us) came in to full bloom and looked great.  One very strange thing did happen with the weather however.  We got up on Wednesday morning to find the cars, and everything else, covered with dirt.  It looked like the cars had been wet down and then very fine dust thrown all over them.  In fact, that was very close to what had happened.  Once or twice a year there is a weather pattern that causes dust from the Sahara to be conveyed north and to be deposited with the rain.  There must have been a huge amount of dust deposited that night because everywhere we went cars looked like they had been on the Dakar rally.  Up at La Regalade the lake looked dirty as did the swimming pool, the terrace and outdoor furniture.  It was a mess.
On Monday 24th February we finished packing and tidying up at La Regalade and drove to Jeremy & Jo’s where we were able to weigh our four bags for the first time.  Bugger!  97kg and our limit was 80kg.  After some serious culling of clothes and keepsakes we managed to get just under the 80kg mark.  It was also time to wash all that Sarah dirt off the car and take it to be sold.
We had arranged a couple of weeks ago to sell it back to the guy we bought it from so we had called him to change the date and he was agreeable.  So with Jeremy in tow we set of to do the deal.  My heart stopped when we got to Draguignan 45 minutes away because the gates to the car yard were locked.  However a phone call brought Matt to the yard and we said farewell to our trusty French sports car.
That evening Jeremy cooked up a delicious cassoulet for dinner and Sue, Robin and Tristan joined us for a very nice evening.  Morning came around a bit too quickly and in no time at all it was time to bid our farewells to Jeremy & Jo and board the mini van that our travel insurers had arranged to get us to Nice airport.  We left right on time at 10am and by noon we were in the lounge taking it easy.
Our flight home was broken in Dubai with an overnight hotel stay.  Nice to Dubai is between five and six hours and then you have time for six hours sleep in a real bed before the long stretch to Melbourne and then Auckland.  The flight to Melbourne was assisted by a strong tail wind plus Jeremy’s cassoulet was still producing its legendary motive force so the flight time was down to 13 instead of 14 hours.  I don’t know where the saved time went to because by the time we had spent 45 minutes getting through the security check in Melbourne (don’t let me get started on that topic!) we only had 45 minutes in the lounge before boarding the last sector to Auckland.
That last sector was three hours and went by very quickly.  We landed in Auckland on time at 13h45 and after a short delay waiting for the gate to clear we were on our way through the formalities and to the waiting taxi.  It was 3pm when we arrived home and Darryn was waiting together with Leanne’s Mum & Dad.  My Dad arrived a little while later and we had coffee and cakes while catching up on the news.  It was so nice to be home!
From here we will need to get Leanne’s surgery organised.  We don’t know exactly what that will entail or how long it will all take but I guess that will be another episode.

Is It Spring Already?

16 Feb More water...

Even though I have stretched my posts out to two weeks and we are not really up to much these days, it is Blogday afternoon already!  That also means that our days are counting down very swiftly towards our departure from France.  We are both now very much looking forward to getting home but there is a building sadness that we will be leaving so much behind here in France.

In the last 5 days the weather has improved tremendously.  The rain more or less stopped and we have had a couple of cloudless and reasonably still days.  Temperatures have been climbing too although it has not yet really been cold.  In the whole of January we had one frost at Jeremy and Jo’s place and since being back at La Regalade at Carcès on 3rd February we have not had a single frost.  Today the high was 16˚C and tonight will only get down to 6˚C.  Very pleasant considering that February is often the coldest month here.  Let’s hope I have not spoken too soon!

Of course all this nice weather brings Spring!  It seems too early but some mature trees are breaking bud and there are spring flowers starting to bloom.  Nice.

To get back into the chronology of the fortnight, we started on the 3rd of February by collecting Jeremy and Jo from Nice airport after their trip to visit their son and daughter-in-law in Thirroul (near Wollongong, Australia).  They had had a wonderful trip and not having to spoil it by telling them that Squeaky was missing was a great relief for us (see the previous post for an explanation).  We spent the afternoon with them and then headed up to La Regalade in the evening.  We should have gone earlier because by the time we got there it was dark and after being closed up for a month it was as cold as a witches tit.  In fact it took three days to get the villa warm again.  We also found that the sanglier had been very active in the gardens digging out plants and moving rocks and soil.

On the Thursday we met Sabine and Jean-Marc for lunch at Le Gourmandin in Le Luc.  We had a lovely time talking and eating (OK, and drinking) and suddenly it was 3pm.  The details of the meal are saved in Evernote Food, click here.

On Sunday 9th we  headed to Saint-Raphaël to go to an artisan chocolate exhibition but Leanne changed her mind when she saw how small it was. We drove around the coast a bit to Agay.  I took a few photos then headed inland in search of snow covered hills behind Draguignan.  We ended up going through Bagnol-en-forêt and Saint-Paul-en-forêt before getting to Fayence.  Got some decent shots from the side of the airfield.  On the way home we stopped for a coffee in Lorgues which turned out to be a treat.  We have been to Lorgues several times but always on a market day (Tuesday) so we had not seen the main street in its normal state. There were lots of things from details to whole big buildings that we had not noticed before because the market stalls and the crowds always dominated the scene.  It was nice to see it at rest on a Sunday afternoon.

On Monday night we met Jeremy and Jo in Lorgues together with most of the local Brit community who had all come to see Philomena starring Judy Dench.  It was the ‘VO’ edition, i.e. the original version in English with French subtitles.  It was a very good movie.

With the better weather we were also starting to get on to some of the outdoor jobs at La Regalade that needed doing before the summer rental season starts.  Wednesday was a another day dominated by food and socialising.  We were invited to Lance and Saskia’s home in Correns for lunch.  We arrived on time at 12h30 joined by four others and nobody left until after 6pm!  This is something of a habit here in France it seems, the all afternoon and into the evening lunch.

I also spent some time taking photos looking across the lake to La Regalade so I could create a panorama.  WordPress does not play nicely with wide panorama images so if you are interested just hit this link and it should take you to the latest panorama on my Flickr page.  If the link doesn’t quite work you will find the image on my photostream and in the set called ‘Panoramic Images’ on my Flickr page, click here.

And now for some photos and less rambling from me!

Just a sample of the damage done by the sanglier (wild boar) at La Regalade.  They have unrooted some of the lavender plants and pulled some of the irrigation lines apart.

Just a sample of the damage done by the sanglier (wild boar) at La Regalade. They have unrooted some of the lavender plants and pulled some of the irrigation lines apart.

This is Le Gourmandin where we enjoyed a lovely lunch with Sabine and Jean-Marc last week.

This is Le Gourmandin where we enjoyed a lovely lunch with Sabine and Jean-Marc last week.

The coast at Agay, near Saint-Raphaël.  This was one of the few very clear and sunny days we had during a period of many rainy weather.

The coast at Agay, near Saint-Raphaël. This was one of the few very clear and sunny days we had during a period of many rainy weather.

I found a gap on the perimeter of the airfield from where the view of Fayence and the show behind was clear.  I am not so sure that I was meant to be there...

I found a gap on the perimeter of the airfield from where the view of Fayence and the show behind was clear. I am not so sure that I was meant to be there…

While I was there no harm in taking another shot!

While I was there no harm in taking another shot!

The Mairie (Town Hall) in Lorgues.

The Mairie (Town Hall) in Lorgues.

Looking away from the Mairie in Lorgues this time.

Looking away from the Mairie in Lorgues this time.

Being the middle of winter on a dreary Sunday afternoon the streets of Lorgues were deserted.  This highlights how well presented the buildings actually are here.

Being the middle of winter on a dreary Sunday afternoon the streets of Lorgues were deserted. This highlights how well presented the buildings actually are here.

The spillway from the Lac de Carcès.  It is when this is opened in times of heavy rain that the river Argens floods.  This is the outlet of the Lac de Carcès which is the manmade reservoir that we overlook from La Regalade.

The spillway from the Lac de Carcès. It is when this is opened in times of heavy rain that the river Argens floods. This is the outlet of the Lac de Carcès which is the manmade reservoir that we overlook from La Regalade.

Only ~200m from the dam, this is one of the local irrigation canals that criss-cross this area. The sluice gate feeding it was closed hence the very low water level. I am guessing that this was to stop silt laden water due to the rains from circulating through the canal system.

Only ~200m from the dam, this is one of the local irrigation canals that criss-cross this area. The sluice gate feeding it was closed hence the very low water level. I am guessing that this was to stop silt laden water due to the rains from circulating through the canal system.

Probably ~500m down from the dam there is an area of rapids and small falls.  It is normally a fairly peaceful area but with the amount of water being released from the lake it is now raging.  The noise completely drowns any conversation (how's that for a pun?).

Probably ~500m down from the dam there is an area of rapids and small falls. It is normally a fairly peaceful area but with the amount of water being released from the lake it is now raging. The noise completely drowns any conversation (how’s that for a pun?).

More water...

More water…

And even more water, still at the same location.

And even more water, still at the same location.

Ample evidence of the very wet and warmer than normal winter so far.  Really just an excuse for me to attempt DoF photo.

Ample evidence of the very wet and warmer than normal winter so far. Really just an excuse for me to attempt DoF photo.

Streetscape in Carcès on a winter Thursday morning.  Not a lot going on but a nice village all the same.

Streetscape in Carcès on a winter Thursday morning. Not a lot going on but a nice village all the same.

That’s it for now.  The clock is ticking and the next time I post Dad will be here.  Really looking forward to that.

Sold The Sports Car

3 Feb We have have more than our share of rain in January and on the non-raining days it was usually windy.  Do you see that in this photo?

Again this week most of the action has been down the road at James and Lavinia’s property, Les Fadons.  David and Diana are now the incumbent housesitters and we have thoroughly enjoyed starting to get to know them over the last couple of weeks.

Leanne and I went back down to Les Fadons on the second day after the flooding that I covered last time.  It was Tuesday morning and we were amazed at how normal the place looked.  Sure there was a little sand and silt, not too much, and a couple of small trees pushed over, but except for the side fence everything looked pretty good.  We spent nearly two hours walking by the river and trying to reconcile what we were seeing now with how it had been 48 hours earlier, under ~3m of water in many places.

When it has not been raining we have had some fairly strong winds which played havoc with some of our plans, like burning winter prunings.  We have also had a couple of thunderstorms which means we unplug all the electronics (TV, ADSL modem, telephone, etc.) and hope it doesn’t last too long.  Even short periods without internet access are becoming seriously inconvenient these days.  How did we ever cope before?!?!

One very good task we did manage to complete was to arrange for the sale of our car when we leave.  We took it back to the guy we bought it from and he agreed to buy it back from us on 5th March for a set price provided we did no more than 6,500km more and it was otherwise in the same condition as the day he saw it.  That certainly un-complicates one aspect of our departure from France.  We also sorted out what we have to do with the car insurance company and that is simple.  That just leaves the bank and the mobile phones.  The phones should sort themselves out if we stop paying!  The bank could be a challenge.  Stay tuned.

A couple of days ago Stephen Fry tweeted a link to a YouTube video showing how to open a bottle of wine with just a shoe.  I had to try it.  It works!  But not with a running shoe, probably too shock absorbing.  I had to use a more rigid shoe.  Check out the clip for yourself… http://youtu.be/u1wROm-OF9w.

And getting back to the river… the level had stayed fairly high since the 19th due to ongoing spells of rain.  But it was slowly receding.  Then on Thursday night/Friday morning (30th/31st) we had 35~40mm more rain and the river breached its banks again.  We were heading out to go shopping on Friday afternoon and had to turn back and take the other route because the road was flooded!  Some of Les Fadons was under water again but only ~20% of the area compared to last time.

The photo selection is a bit limited again but here goes…

Looking at the main gates at Les Fadons from the road.  The water has been right up here.  That is a lot further up than when we had left it on the Sunday evening thinking it was at the maximum then.

Looking at the main gates at Les Fadons from the road. The water has been right up here. That is a lot further up than when we had left it on the Sunday evening thinking it was at the maximum then.

The gate openers got a bit wet but after some TLC from David they are working again.

The gate openers got a bit wet but after some TLC from David they are working again.

The side fence has definitely seen better days.

The side fence has definitely seen better days.

This log and other debris up the tree is over 3m above the main ground level.

This log and other debris up the tree is over 3m above the main ground level.

These are the conifers that I drew a line from last time.  Except that my line was probably too low.  Leanne is 1.7m tall so I guess the high water mark is ~2.5m.

These are the conifers that I drew a line from last time. Except that my line was probably too low. Leanne is 1.7m tall so I guess the high water mark is ~2.5m.

That lump in the river is where the barrage (dam) is.

That lump in the river is where the barrage (dam) is.

Looking downstream over the chute and the barrage.

Looking downstream over the chute and the barrage.

The table was well secured to the tree and reappeared when the water receded.

The table was well secured to the tree and reappeared when the water receded.

The walkway through the woods is still there but looking like it has been hoovered clean.  There is also a bit of debris stuck on the trees.

The walkway through the woods is still there but looking like it has been hoovered clean. There is also a bit of debris stuck on the trees.

Less than 48 hours ago this plant was under 3m or more of water.  Hard to tell now.

Less than 48 hours ago this plant was under 3m or more of water. Hard to tell now.

Down at the far corner of the property the water was up where Leanne's feet are, completely submerging the steps.

Down at the far corner of the property the water was up where Leanne’s feet are, completely submerging the steps.

The water got onto the big path through the woods but didn't quite cross it.

The water got onto the big path through the woods but didn’t quite cross it.

Evidence of the high water mark.

Evidence of the high water mark.

Because it was there!

Because it was there!

I put this in for comparison with the similar shot two days earlier that was in my last post.

I put this in for comparison with the similar shot two days earlier that was in my last post.

We have had more than our share of rain in January and on the non-raining days it was usually windy.  Do you see that in this photo?

We have had more than our share of rain in January and on the non-raining days it was usually windy. Do you see that in this photo?

Squeaky is Jeremy and Jo's adorable cat.  Don't let the eyes fool you, she is almost totally blind.  Poor thing, but she manages very well even concealing it from the casual observer.

Squeaky is Jeremy and Jo’s adorable cat. Don’t let the eyes fool you, she is almost totally blind. Poor thing, but she manages very well even concealing it from the casual observer.

If she wants to pose, I will take the photo!

If she wants to pose, I will take the photo!

This is Polly, one of the two chickens.  They are busy all day around the garden and will follow anyone carrying a plastic bag.  They expect it to contain tasty morsels from the kitchen.

This is Polly, one of the two chickens. They are busy all day around the garden and will follow anyone carrying a plastic bag. They expect it to contain tasty morsels from the kitchen.

The chickens supervised as I installed this cutting edge piece of technology in Jeremy's back garden this week.  As far as I know it has only recently been released to the market after centuries of R&D and this is the only model of its type in France today.  It is called a ‘Flexi-Ditch’ and the reviews are just raving about it.  The remarkable thing about it is that it can be moved to any location you want using only a common garden spade.  Remarkable!

The chickens supervised as I installed this cutting edge piece of technology in Jeremy’s back garden this week. As far as I know it has only recently been released to the market after centuries of R&D and this is the only model of its type in France today. It is called a ‘Flexi-Ditch’ and the reviews are just raving about it. The remarkable thing about it is that it can be moved to any location you want using only a common garden spade. Remarkable!

Our little French sports car.  For those not already informed, we refer to our Clio as a sports car on the basis that sports cars have only two seats.  This Clio has only two seats, QED.  It is actually the 'commercial' version of the Clio family and has a large cargo space instead of rear seats.  It has been very practical for us.  It does not normally look this clean but we were about to take it to a car dealer to arrange its sale.

Our little French sports car. For those not already informed, we refer to our Clio as a sports car on the basis that sports cars have only two seats. This Clio has only two seats, QED. It is actually the ‘commercial’ version of the Clio family and has a large cargo space instead of rear seats. It has been very practical for us. It does not normally look this clean but we were about to take it to a car dealer to arrange its sale.

Our NZ sticker on the back left (there is another on the glass on the right but it is practically invisible in this shot).

Our NZ sticker on the back left (there is another on the glass on the right but it is practically invisible in this shot).

It is now 7:45pm on Sunday evening and we have not seen Squeaky since about 7pm last night when she got off Leanne’s lap and went outside.  She was not back when we went to bed and she did not respond to calling.  This morning we looked all over the garden and in and under everything inside and out.  Nothing.  Sue came over for lunch and while here tried telephoning the neighbours where she is known to visit but there was no reply.  The neighbours have been away for most of the time we have been in residence, only returning in the last few days.  So Squeaky has now been missing for just over 24 hours and Jeremy and Jo get back tomorrow morning.  Shit!

Then Sue called back.  She has finally got hold of the neighbours and Squeaky is relaxing in front of their fire after enjoying a shrimp dinner!  The little witch!!  She has had us very worried.  Words will be had when she comes home…

Housesitting At Les Hauts Fadons

20 Jan The sunset viewed from Les Hauts Fadons was spectacular.
It rained!  Then it rained some more, and some more.  About 200mm this past week culminating in the river Argens flooding.  We were actually down at Les Fadons on Sunday afternoon while some of this was unfolding.  While the effect on the property is devastating, there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop it.  The almost tranquil exhibition of power displayed by the rising water is awe inspiring to see (from a safe distance).  The river asserts its authority over the land and man’s effort to modify it.  Amazing.
We had seen lots of rain up at Jeremy and Jo’s place and at 1pm on Sunday we decided to go for a little drive around the neighbourhood to see what there was to see.  The first thing we found was that we could not get through the Chemin des Fadons to the Lorgues road because it was under water.  This is not so unusual nor unexpected so we turned back and headed around the other way via Chemin St Victor which exits on to the Vidauban road.  There was some deep water on the road and some patches with water flowing across it but we could probably have driven out.  What made us turn back was the risk that if we did drive out we may not get back again later.  At least we had food and dry shelter where we were.  So our plan to call in on ‘carless and computerless Sue’ (that’s another two stories) and go to the villa at Carcès (La Regalade) to check on things there were well and truly foiled until another day.
Instead we called in to see David and Diana at Les Fadons and watched somewhat incredulously as the water rose and rose.  It did not get as high as the last flood in late 2011 but there is going to be a big mess to clean up all the same.
The sunset viewed from Les Hauts Fadons was spectacular.

The sunset viewed from Les Hauts Fadons was spectacular.

The view on a fine day from halfway down the hill from Les Hauts Fadons.

The view on a fine day from halfway down the hill from Les Hauts Fadons.

I have mentioned before the canal network that covers Provence at least.  This is near the bottom of Colline des Fadons (the hill that Jeremy and Jo live on).  It hugs the side of the hill and passes under the road before continuing along the other side.  Some of these canals are very inconspicuous.

I have mentioned before the canal network that covers Provence at least. This is near the bottom of Colline des Fadons (the hill that Jeremy and Jo live on). It hugs the side of the hill and passes under the road before continuing along the other side. Some of these canals are very inconspicuous.

Our walk ended down by the river Argens beside Les Fadons where we started our housesitting adventures nearly two years ago.  I was having a play with B&W here but remember how relatively peaceful this looks.

Our walk ended down by the river Argens beside Les Fadons where we started our housesitting adventures nearly two years ago. I was having a play with B&W here but remember how relatively peaceful this looks.

David and Diana, new current housesitters were not home but I managed to get this shot over the side fence.

David and Diana, new current housesitters were not home but I managed to get this shot over the side fence.

Around the back of the Olive Cottage it looks like René has been building a new wood shed and the ruins have been cleared of overgrowth.  He still has a few cars!

Around the back of the Olive Cottage it looks like René has been building a new wood shed and the ruins have been cleared of overgrowth. He still has a few cars!

We had 65mm of rain overnight on Saturday so on Sunday morning these bowls that I had emptied the previous day were overflowing again.  The pool was also full and needed pumping out.

We had 65mm of rain overnight on Saturday so on Sunday morning these bowls that I had emptied the previous day were overflowing again. The pool was also full and needed pumping out.

Looking down the garden from an upstairs window near midday Sunday we are in cloud and there is water everywhere. Thankfully we are at the top of the hill and it all runs off!

Looking down the garden from an upstairs window near midday Sunday we are in cloud and there is water everywhere. Thankfully we are at the top of the hill and it all runs off!

Here is another shot looking over the boundary fence at Les Fadons, but now it is 13h55 on Sunday.

Here is another shot looking over the boundary fence at Les Fadons, but now it is 13h55 on Sunday.

We drove along the Chemin des Fadons (towards the Lorgues road) but this was as far as we got.  The river has breached and is covering the road and fields.  This is before the dam at Carcès was opened to relieve pressure up there.

We drove along the Chemin des Fadons (towards the Lorgues road) but this was as far as we got. The river has breached and is covering the road and fields. This is before the dam at Carcès was opened to relieve pressure up there.

Back at Les Fadons at 14h35 and the water is still rising.

Back at Les Fadons at 14h35 and the water is still rising.

The screen/fence along the southern boundary is overcome with water.  There is a hedge under there somewhere too.

The screen/fence along the southern boundary is overcome with water. There is a hedge under there somewhere too.

This is David keeping an eye on the rising water.  There is nothing to be done at this point.

This is David keeping an eye on the rising water. There is nothing to be done at this point.

This is now at 17h21 and I guess we are now seeing the effect of the dam being released at Carcès.  The water is now at least a metre higher and the stone wall (restanque) is completely submerged.  Compare the water level to earlier photos using the tree trunk in the centre.  The water was still rising.

This is now at 17h21 and I guess we are now seeing the effect of the dam being released at Carcès. The water is now at least a metre higher and the stone wall (restanque) is completely submerged. Compare the water level to earlier photos using the tree trunk in the centre. The water was still rising.

Now 17h22 and the water has reached the main gates.

Now 17h22 and the water has reached the main gates.

Most of the side fence has now been flattened.

Most of the side fence has now been flattened.

At 17h41 the olive field is under water.

At 17h41 the olive field is under water.

This is now 08h03 on Monday morning (sunrise was 08h01) and it is gloomy and foggy.  The water has retreated somewhat.

This is now 08h03 on Monday morning (sunrise was 08h01) and it is gloomy and foggy. The water has retreated somewhat.

Inside the main gates looking down the driveway.  Notice that the fence is not visible along most of the right side.

Inside the main gates looking down the driveway. Notice that the fence is not visible along most of the right side.

Looking along the restanque at 08h12.

Looking along the restanque at 08h12.

Here is a marked up version of the same image.

Here is a marked up version of the same image.

The olive field is out of the water for now but one tree has been pushed over.  The chickens are checking things out.

The olive field is out of the water for now but one tree has been pushed over. The chickens are checking things out.

The ruin of the old mill is still isolated as an island but it has withstood the water.

The ruin of the old mill is still isolated as an island but it has withstood the water.

So welcome to the sunny South of France!  ;-)

Have They Got Any Idea How Busy I Am?

18 Jan

Do you have a mental list of companies that really piss you off?  I do and it is populated by telephone companies, internet service providers (why they have the word ‘service’ in their name baffles me), insurance companies and now Epson with their inkjet refill scam.  To their credit, Epson’s responses were prompt but I guess that is not too hard to do when they regurgitate scripted emails generated by their propaganda department.  In my internet research on the topic I discovered that am I not alone in my annoyance with this unfair practice and there have even been successful class actions taken in the US against the printer manufacturers.  The whole topic is very ugly.  Anyway, for your edification, education and entertainment, here is my conversation thread with Epson…
1. My first contact:

Epson model: Epson Stylus SX130

My message to Epson:
I have a full black cartridge in this printer but the cyan and magenta are empty. I cannot get it to print. Have downloaded all the latest software for it but it always says it is either offline or error. It does scan.
Does the empty coloured ink cartridge stop the printer from working at all? If that is the case it is not at all environmentally or consumer friendly and would be a reason for me to never buy an Epson product again.
2. Two business days later, Epson’s reply:
Thank you for contacting Epson’s UK Customer Inter@ction Centre.
The Epson range of inkjet printers is designed to produce both high quality black and colour output. This is achieved by a combination of the print head unit and the ink cartridge used within it. The printer will operate until one of the cartridges runs out, at which point the printer will effectively go “offline” until this cartridge is replaced.
The reason behind this is to protect the printer from unnecessary damage that would be caused if the printer attempted to draw ink into the printer head when the ink has run out. If a print request, cleaning cycle or start up cycle (from switch on) is requested and the printer is out of ink, the printer is designed to prevent it to ensure air is not sucked into the print head (instead of the ink that prior to the cartridge running out was available) therefore potentially damaging the printer.
(Not happy to just fend off my inquiry, they then insult me further by trying sell me more bloody ink cartridges!)
You can purchase new products and consumables directly from Epson.
Buy now with FREE delivery on everything.
If you are interested in purchasing any Epson products please confirm the following details and I will call you to take payment and arrange delivery:
3. My next message was sent not expecting a response.  Also, upon actually checking  my calendar, I found the printer had been unused for eight months.  Oops, how time flies when you are having fun!
Your repetition of the corporate propaganda attempting to rationalise Epson’s abuse of the faith of its customers does nothing to help me.
I spent the full retail price on a genuine Epson black cartridge that has printed 11 pages and now I can’t use it without spending another €30+ to replace the cyan and magenta that have mysteriously depleted during three months of storage.  I use the SX130 while touring mainly for scanning documents and for printing the occasional boarding pass for services that still require it with e-ticket purchases.  B&W draft printing is all I need.  A simple override at the customer’s risk would solve this problem (e.g. ‘If you continue to print with an empty cartridge you may damage your printer and void the warranty.  Click OK to proceed.’).
I feel betrayed and cheated by Epson.  I have searched the internet on this topic and I seem to be in a lot of company.
I will never purchase an Epson printer again.  I will also ensure that every person I know is informed of the basically dishonest practice of locking the use of B&W printing to the purchase of expensive colour refills. I hope you are personally in the position one day where the waste of a few Euros/Pounds is important.  Right now you should be ashamed.  I now have little option but to send my SX130, in otherwise perfect working order, to a landfill.  Epson is an environmental disgrace.
4. Epson’s final boilerplate response:
Thank you for contacting Epson’s UK Customer Inter@ction Centre.
Epson appreciates this opportunity to comment on the issues you have raised.
As a responsible manufacturer, whilst we strive to produce high quality and economical products, we are aware that there are times when some customers may experience an issue with our products or service. Therefore, we would like to thank you for your feedback and whilst we are disappointed to learn about the problems you have experienced we will ensure your comments are used positively in order to enhance our service in the future.
If you require any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact the Customer Inter@ction Centre and we will endeavour to resolve any further queries you may have.
END
So there you have it.  You have been warned.  When you buy that next new printer, or get one bundled with the purchase of a new computer, check carefully first.  Do you actually own the printer and choose how to use it or do you really only have a licence to use it on condition that you buy expensive proprietary ink refills from the manufacturer?  More people need to object to this business model if only for the reason that it is dishonest.  That’s not to mention the waste that this system promotes.
It looks like I may have found a new hobby once we return home.  I can start writing ‘letters to the editor’ under a nom-de-plume like ‘Disgruntled of Auckland’ complaining about moral decay in modern society and how young people don’t offer their seats to older travellers on the buses.
I wrote the proceeding paragraphs early on in this two-week period when I had not taken a photograph for a week and the prospects looked bleak.  Wow, did things change a week later!

Happy New Year!

6 Jan The lake at Carcès was looking very good on the 29th but what is not all that it seemed.  There was an icy wind so coats, hats and scarves were required.

Perhaps a little late, but Happy New Year to everyone!  Why not make 2014 the year that you stop rationalising, dust off that long harboured dream and go for it?  Work backwards from ‘what is the worst thing that could happen’ until you get to ‘what is most likely to happen’ if you follow this dream.  You will probably find that there isn’t really much in the way at all.  It just seems like there might be.  That’s all the philosophical content of this post!

You know that list of things you keep putting off doing but you know is going to bite your ass one day?  My list is not too bad while we are travelling, we only have phones, iPad, computer and a camera to look after.  So it has stuff on it like needing to sort out my ‘Documents’ folder on the computer so that I am not cluttering up my backup system with stuff that should not be there.  And going through my 105GB iTunes library and deleting stuff that I no longer listen to or watch.  Real rainy day, stay inside and keep warm types of tasks.  Well we have just had several days of perfect weather for getting those things done.  The reason that this housekeeping has come to the top of my attention list is that I am having some performance issues with my laptop, especially with Aperture, which is the program I use to manage my photos.  The Apple Store guys reckoned the best thing to do was a clean install.  That means having everything backed up properly.  I knew this day was coming but had been in denial because of the risks involved but I agreed that it is time.  Part of the problem is with the way I set this computer up in the beginning – I loaded it with a backup off my desktop machine.  What that has done is carry forward 2+ years of dusty baggage from the desktop and I have now been on this laptop for 2 years so that adds up to a lot of baggage.  Time for a fresh start.  So in about a week I will be sitting in the Apple Store in Nice using their free high speed WiFi to to re-download OS X and all my applications, about 20GB worth, and setting up from scratch.  If anything comes up they will be there to help.  Wish me luck!

I was also reading an article on how FaceBook, WordPress (this site) and others mash uploaded photos.  I don’t often look at the finished blog post because I can see the photos anytime in their full glory in Aperture.  So I went through some of the recent posts and I was amazed.  The photos look terrible, at least compared to what I see before uploading.  I am certain that they were previously much better than they appear now and I have read some comments that the compression techniques have been changed.  There are now fringing artefacts, fuzzy details and generally dull colours.  I didn’t realise they looked so bad.  There are ways to improve them and I don’t understand all the options yet but it seems that they all involve spending significant sums of money and complicating the workflow.  Neither of those things are on my agenda at this point in time so I guess the photos will continue to be destroyed by WordPress as they seek to minimise file sizes.  What I might try to do is to load more of the photos on to Flickr in future.

That is of course for the posts that actually have some decent photos to upload and this does not appear to be one of those!  It is Sunday afternoon, 5th January, as I write this and I have just taken my first two photos for the year using my DSLR.  There are no photos to be taken while sitting inside keeping warm and working on the computer.

This post is meant to pick up from Xmas till now so here goes…

We spent Xmas day at Sue’s place after cancelling plans to go somewhere like Gap.  We bought lots of really nice prepared treats from Picard and had a nice relaxing time.  We started our Xmas lunch at 2:30pm and finished at 6pm.  Sue got back home about 8pm just when the drizzle we had been having all day ramped up to an icy downpour.

We had a few nice days between Xmas and New Year but we didn’t get up to anything special other than move up to the villa at Carcès on the 27th.  Jeremy and Jo invited us to join them with their family & friends to see in the New Year.  It was a lovely evening culminating in the ritual butchering of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ around the bonfire at midnight complete with fireworks.  We left the revellers to it at 2am and went back to Sue’s place (she was kindly putting us up for the night to spare us the trek back to Carcès in the wee small hours).

Today we have been to Correns for a very pleasant lunch with friends there.  I was hoping to getting out in their area to take some photos and although it was nice and sunny the wind was cold and brutal.  No photos again!

That really covers the last couple of weeks.  I have scrounged together a couple of photos just for completeness so I’ll sign off with those.

This ice-cream log was just one of our treats on Xmas day.

This ice-cream log was just one of our treats on Xmas day.

The lake at Carcès was looking very good on the 29th but it is not all that it seemed. There was an icy wind so coats, hats and scarves were required.

The lake at Carcès was looking very good on the 29th but it is not all that it seemed. There was an icy wind so coats, hats and scarves were required.

In spite of the wind it was a popular day to take a family stroll after lunch.

In spite of the wind it was a popular day to take a family stroll after lunch.

A Citroën DSuper5 parked near the villa at Carcès.  I really meant it when I said I was short of photos!

A Citroën DSuper5 parked near the villa at Carcès. I really meant it when I said I was short of photos!

2013 in review

3 Jan

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,900 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Pompeii – A Snapshot From 2000 Years Ago

26 Dec Figures in a bathhouse.

Let me start by getting something very clear, the spelling of the subject of this post!  The eruption of Mt Vesuvius on 24th August 79AD buried a town that was home to 20,000 people killing about 2,000 of them.  The name of that town was Pompeii.  Since then a new town was developed nearby (within a kilometre) and it is called Pompei.  So Pompeii is the archaeological site and Pompei is the modern town in which we stayed during our visit.  OK?  It had me baffled for a while too.  Now all I have to do is make sure I always use them the correct way!

We decamped from Rome on Wednesday 18th December and caught the 13h56 fast train from Rome’s Termini to Napoli.  A note to other travellers – book this ticket well in advance.  We didn’t and the return trip to Napoli cost us a punitive €78 each (supposedly a discount to the €116 full fare) whereas the return flight from Nice to Rome was €65 each including a checked bag!  Ouch!!  Looking at the TrenItalia website you can get return tickets for €39 each if you plan well ahead.

We arrived in Pompei at the hotel about 17h15.  It was called Hotel Diana and was only 100m from the train station and had the most helpful front desk staff ever.  Alessandro told us everything we needed to know about Pompei and Pompeii including about how you can get a great view from the bell tower for only €2 a head and the best place in town to eat.  He was right about both – the view was great and the restaurant was so good we went there both nights!  That evening we went for a walk to see the Xmas lights in town and take some photos (there’s a surprise!).

After going up the bell tower in the morning we entered the Pompeii Archaeological Site at about 10am, about 800m from the hotel.  Closing time was 5pm and that was almost the time we slipped out through the partially closed gates.  What a day.

I won’t go into a big lecture on the history and so on, you can find all that using Google, but I will say the whole site is a must see.  But you do need to allow plenty of time.  Running around it in an hour will not give you the best experience, there is so much to see on this 62Ha site.  The thing about it all is that it is a snapshot of Roman life nearly 2,000 years ago preserved and protected under 6m of volcanic debris for hundreds of years.

With that I will leave you with some photos…

One of the main streets in Pompei with Xmas decorations up.

One of the main streets in Pompei with Xmas decorations up.

The basilica and bell tower in the centre of the new town of Pompei.

The basilica and bell tower in the centre of the new town of Pompei.

There was a nice looking garden around the basilica but the gates were locked...

There was a nice looking garden around the basilica but the gates were locked…

The basilica front façade didn't look especially stunning and there was a service in progress so I could not wander in with my camera and tripod.  But Leanne did get a peak and the interior was awesome.

The basilica front façade didn’t look especially stunning and there was a service in progress so I could not wander in with my camera and tripod. But Leanne did get a peak and the interior was awesome.

The moon was just past full in this shot taken across the front of the basilica.  The haziness is smoke from wood fires.  It was very strong and all our clothes were infused with an almost spicy smokey smell.

The moon was just past full in this shot taken across the front of the basilica. The haziness is smoke from wood fires. It was very strong and all our clothes were infused with an almost spicy smokey smell.

A part of the Xmas decorations in the main square in Pompei.

A part of the Xmas decorations in the main square in Pompei.

The guy on the desk at our hotel told us about this treat - €2 to go to the top of the bell tower in the town centre where you get uninterrupted views. Even the locals don't know about it.  That is Vesuvius to the NW partly shrouded in cloud.

The guy on the desk at our hotel told us about this treat – €2 to go to the top of the bell tower in the town centre where you get uninterrupted views. Even the locals don’t know about it. That is Vesuvius to the NW partly shrouded in cloud.

The view facing SSW looking down the street to the train station.  Our hotel was on this street only 100m from the station.

The view facing SSW looking down the street to the train station. Our hotel was on this street only 100m from the station.

Looking into a ruined house in the Pompeii Archaeological Site.

Looking into a ruined house in the Pompeii Archaeological Site.

A Roman pedestrian crossing. All wheelbases were standardised to straddle these stepping stones where people could cross the road without getting their sandals wet/dirty. This was important because the roads were used as open drains.

A Roman pedestrian crossing. All wheelbases were standardised to straddle these stepping stones where people could cross the road without getting their sandals wet/dirty. This was important because the roads were used as open drains.

A close-up look at some artwork in a fast food stall, one of dozens lining the main streets.  The cut-outs in the counter held hot or cold food or even wine keeping it insulated.

A close-up look at some artwork in a fast food stall, one of dozens lining the main streets. The cut-outs in the counter held hot or cold food or even wine keeping it insulated.

There were many beautiful mosaic floors that have been well protected under the 6m of ash and rocks that covered everything on 24th August 79AD.

There were many beautiful mosaic floors that have been well protected under the 6m of ash and rocks that covered everything on 24th August 79AD.

Marble tripod table legs with lion’s heads and paws. The inscription on the top of each leg identifies the table as having belonged to Casca Longus. He was the first assassin to strike Caesar in the Senate in 44BC. He died in 42BC along with Brutus at the Battle of Philippi in Macedonia. His lands and possessions were confiscated and publicly sold. The table was then or sometime later bought by the owner of this house.

Marble tripod table legs with lion’s heads and paws. The inscription on the top of each leg identifies the table as having belonged to Casca Longus. He was the first assassin to strike Caesar in the Senate in 44BC. He died in 42BC along with Brutus at the Battle of Philippi in Macedonia. His lands and possessions were confiscated and publicly sold. The table was then or sometime later bought by the owner of this house.

Two stepping stones indicate that this was a two-way street.  It looks like this is heading into a stretch of single lane.

Two stepping stones indicate that this was a two-way street. It looks like this is heading into a stretch of single lane.

Some of the details in the buildings were very advanced.  In this bathhouse the walls were double skinned with a cavity to keep the heat in.  the ceilings were fluted so that condensation didn't drop on the people but would run down to the sides.

Some of the details in the buildings were very advanced. In this bathhouse the walls were double skinned with a cavity to keep the heat in. the ceilings were fluted so that condensation didn’t drop on the people but would run down to the sides.

The rooms in the brothel looked more like prison cells with their stone beds.  Apparently they were covered with a soft mattress.

The rooms in the brothel looked more like prison cells with their stone beds. Apparently they were covered with a soft mattress.

From the centre of the site there was an elevated viewpoint over half of the area.  Click on this image to get a better view.

From the centre of the site there was an elevated viewpoint over half of the area. Click on this image to get a better view.

A quiet side street.

A quiet side street.

2,000 people perished in 79AD of a total population of 20,000.  Many bodies were able to be preserved by injecting the cavity in the ash with plaster before excavating.

2,000 people perished in 79AD of a total population of 20,000. Many bodies were able to be preserved by injecting the cavity in the ash with plaster before excavating.

We could not get very close to the Temple of Jupiter so it is a bit difficult to see the only remaining part of his statue, the head.

We could not get very close to the Temple of Jupiter so it is a bit difficult to see the only remaining part of his statue, the head.

In front of the Temple of Jupiter was this altar.

In front of the Temple of Jupiter was this altar.

These bollards are at an entrance to the Forum.  They are here because the Forum was a pedestrian only area.  What I did not find was the parking building, there was not a 'Wilson Parking' sign to be seen anywhere!

These bollards are at an entrance to the Forum. They are here because the Forum was a pedestrian only area. What I did not find was the parking building, there was not a ‘Wilson Parking’ sign to be seen anywhere!

Figures in a bathhouse.

Figures in a bathhouse.

Vaulted ceiling details in a bathhouse.

Vaulted ceiling details in a bathhouse.

This is a calderium, hot room, and apparently water sprayed from this fountain on to the heated floor creating steam.

This is a calderium, hot room, and apparently water sprayed from this fountain on to the heated floor creating steam.

Around the rim of the fountain is engraved the name of its sponsor and how much he paid.

Around the rim of the fountain is engraved the name of its sponsor and how much he paid.

Another fast food joint.

Another fast food joint.

Arch at the top end of the Forum with the now completely cloud covered Vesuvius in the background.

Arch at the top end of the Forum with the now completely cloud covered Vesuvius in the background.

The House of the Faun was 2,970㎡.  This (replica now) statue of a faun is apparently renown for its artistic merit.  It all goes over my head, I just take the photos!

The House of the Faun was 2,970㎡. This (replica now) statue of a faun is apparently renown for its artistic merit. It all goes over my head, I just take the photos!

The interior garden at the House of the Faun surrounded by Corinthian columns.

The interior garden at the House of the Faun surrounded by Corinthian columns.

There’s a meaning here: The penis and the sack of money balance each other on the goldsmith scale above a fine bowl of fruit. Translation? Only with a balance of fertility and money can you have abundance.

There’s a meaning here: The penis and the sack of money balance each other on the goldsmith scale above a fine bowl of fruit. Translation? Only with a balance of fertility and money can you have abundance.

One of the many bakeries in the town.  The mills were filled with wheat in the top and turned either by donkeys or by slaves with the flour falling through to the flat area at the bottom.

One of the many bakeries in the town. The mills were filled with wheat in the top and turned either by donkeys or by slaves with the flour falling through to the flat area at the bottom.

A small shrine in a private house.

A small shrine in a private house.

Wheel grooves worn into the stone paving.

Wheel grooves worn into the stone paving.

Some of the best preserved frescoes are in the House of Mystery.  This is in an area of town to which the better off citizens would escape the hustle and bustle of city life for a break in the summer.

Some of the best preserved frescoes are in the House of Mystery. This is in an area of town to which the better off citizens would escape the hustle and bustle of city life for a break in the summer.

An ancient Roman ambulance.  Obviously designed to navigate the narrow streets and the restrictive stepping stones.

An ancient Roman ambulance. Obviously designed to navigate the narrow streets and the restrictive stepping stones.

Can't remember what this one was but I liked the photo!  Enjoy.

Can’t remember what this one was but I liked the photo! Enjoy.

A narrow one-way street.  This one seems especially deep.  Scholars have apparently worked out which direction these one-way systems flowed by studying the scuff marks left on the stepping stones by passing wheels.

A narrow one-way street. This one seems especially deep. Scholars have apparently worked out which direction these one-way systems flowed by studying the scuff marks left on the stepping stones by passing wheels.

Another of the 35+ bakeries known to have existing in Pompeii before the eruption.

Another of the 35+ bakeries known to have existing in Pompeii before the eruption.

By the time our visit was nearing an end the sun was getting very low.

By the time our visit was nearing an end the sun was getting very low.

The Orator's Tribune on the western side of the Forum.  The pedestals would have been populated with statues of the town's illustrious citizens.

The Orator’s Tribune on the western side of the Forum. The pedestals would have been populated with statues of the town’s illustrious citizens.

The Temple of Isis.

The Temple of Isis.

Rome By Day And By Night

25 Dec No introduction required...

This is the closest I will get to a Xmas post so ‘Merry Xmas’ to all.

On Sunday 15th December we flew from Nice to Rome for a week mainly in Rome but with a side trip to Pompeii.  I will cover the time in Rome in this post and dedicate a separate post to our Pompeii visit.

It was a perfect time to visit Rome.  The weather was fine and not especially cold – daytime temperatures in the range from 12˚C to 16˚C and overnight lows above 2˚C.  And being off-peak season there were generally no crowds and no ridiculously long queues.  We got into the Sistine Chapel in 5 minutes for the ticket purchase plus 5 minutes for security.  We got to St.Peter’s Basilica at 7:20am on the day of the Pope’s birthday and there was no queue, just a quick stop at security and we were inside and free to move without bumping into other visitors.

Visiting at this time also meant we could get very affordable accommodation right in the thick of things.  For our first three nights we stayed at a lovely hotel 100m from the northern entrance to Piazza Navona.  We could walk to everything we wanted – 20 minutes to St. Peter’s, 10 minutes to the Pantheon, 20 minutes to the Trevi Fountain, 3 minutes to Piazza Navona and the Xmas markets.  On our final two nights we stayed on Aventine Hill, not far from the Colosseum at a small hotel that was also very comfortable.  Not so handy to restaurants but great for exploring the Forum and Colosseum areas.

Add to all this convenience the fact that it was so close to Xmas and the decorations are all up plus the special Xmas markets and the whole trip was set to be a cracker.

With that as an introduction I am going to leave you with a small selection from the more than one thousand photos I took during the week.

It wasn't tropical on the rooftop terrace but was still nice to be able to have breakfast 'al fresco'.

It wasn’t tropical on the rooftop terrace but was still nice to be able to have breakfast ‘al fresco’.

Photos were not allowed in the Sistine Chapel and many of the other rooms were so dimly lit due to the delicate artwork on display.  So I don't have many photos at all of this visit.  This one gives a small glimpse of the richness of decoration of the Papal Palaces.

Photos were not allowed in the Sistine Chapel and many of the other rooms were so dimly lit due to the delicate artwork on display. So I don’t have many photos at all of this visit. This one gives a small glimpse of the richness of decoration of the Papal Palaces.

Doorways and rooms forever...

Doorways and rooms forever…

Piazza Navona is the home to three magnificent fountains.  I don't recall the legends associated with each one but I did distill a general theme - people are not allowed to wear clothes and they must be engaged with killing something!

Piazza Navona is the home to three magnificent fountains. I don’t recall the legends associated with each one but I did distill a general theme – people are not allowed to wear clothes and they must be engaged with killing something!

Some of the Xmas market stalls in Piazza Navona.

Some of the Xmas market stalls in Piazza Navona.

The front edifice of the Pantheon.

The front edifice of the Pantheon.

Raphael's tomb inside the Pantheon.

Raphael’s tomb inside the Pantheon.

The interior of the Pantheon on our second visit, this time during daylight hours.

The interior of the Pantheon on our second visit, this time during daylight hours.

Xmas lights on the Via del Corso, one of the main shopping streets in Rome.

Xmas lights on the Via del Corso, one of the main shopping streets in Rome.

The Trevi Fountain at night.

The Trevi Fountain at night.

A night view of Palatino Hill across the Roman Forum.

A night view of Palatino Hill across the Roman Forum.

Part of the Roman Forum ruins with coloured lighting.  It actually looked much better than in daylight.

Part of the Roman Forum ruins with coloured lighting. It actually looked much better than in daylight.

Temple of Saturn.

Temple of Saturn.

It is difficult to get a sense of the size of St Peter's Basilica from a photo, it is huge.  It is 220m long, 150m wide and 138m high at its maximum.  Of course the decoration and details are also magnificent.  More info... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Peter's_Basilica

It is difficult to get a sense of the size of St Peter’s Basilica from a photo, it is huge. It is 220m long, 150m wide and 138m high at its maximum. Of course the decoration and details are also magnificent. More info… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Peter’s_Basilica

The weather was perfect as can be seen in this photo of St. Peter's Basilica from the Pont Sant 'Angelo.  The bridge in the foreground is Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II.  This is the daytime version...

The weather was perfect as can be seen in this photo of St. Peter’s Basilica from the Pont Sant ‘Angelo. The bridge in the foreground is Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II. This is the daytime version…

Statues on Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II with St. Peter's Basilica behind the trees.  There were lots of lights illuminating statues and buildings making lots of opportunities for me to experiment.

Statues on Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II with St. Peter’s Basilica behind the trees. There were lots of lights illuminating statues and buildings making lots of opportunities for me to experiment.

Ponte Sant'Angelo and Castel Sant'Angelo viewed from Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II.  The river Tiber was very calm this evening.

Ponte Sant’Angelo and Castel Sant’Angelo viewed from Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II. The river Tiber was very calm this evening.

St. Peter's Basilica at 10:30pm.

St. Peter’s Basilica at 10:30pm.

And here is the nighttime version.

And here is the nighttime version.

This view is from Ponte Umberto I looking across Ponte Sant'Angelo to St. Peter's Basilica.

This view is from Ponte Umberto I looking across Ponte Sant’Angelo to St. Peter’s Basilica.

Approach to the Colosseum.  More people about now that it was Saturday but not too crowded at all.

Approach to the Colosseum. More people about now that it was Saturday but not too crowded at all.

Constantine's Arch next to the Colosseum.  Under renovation but they very thoughtfully only covered half of the monument.

Constantine’s Arch next to the Colosseum. Under renovation but they very thoughtfully only covered half of the monument.

No introduction required...

No introduction required…

What is left of the Temple of Venus beside the Via Sacra.

What is left of the Temple of Venus beside the Via Sacra.

A bell tower behind the columns of the Temple of Venus.  I was drawn by the coloured ceramic inserts and the white half supports in the arches that seemed to be typical around here.

A bell tower behind the columns of the Temple of Venus. I was drawn by the coloured ceramic inserts and the white half supports in the arches that seemed to be typical around here.

The Crypt in the Basilica of Santa Maria Nova.  That is a real skeleton in the glass case.  Upstairs was the sarcophagus of the Pope (a Frenchman) responsible for moving the seat of the papacy back to Rome from Avignon.

The Crypt in the Basilica of Santa Maria Nova. That is a real skeleton in the glass case. Upstairs was the sarcophagus of the Pope (a Frenchman) responsible for moving the seat of the papacy back to Rome from Avignon.

The dome behind the altar in the Basilica of Santa Maria Nova.  Very detailed tile mosaic.

The dome behind the altar in the Basilica of Santa Maria Nova. Very detailed tile mosaic.

The nave of the Basilica of Santa Maria Nova looking over the altar.

The nave of the Basilica of Santa Maria Nova looking over the altar.

The altar and surroundings in the Basilica of Santa Maria Nova.  The French Pope's tomb is beyond where the person is standing on the RHS.

The altar and surroundings in the Basilica of Santa Maria Nova. The French Pope’s tomb is beyond where the person is standing on the RHS.

Still in the Basilica of Santa Maria Nova but looking at the floor.  Many of the buildings we visit have beautiful floors but they are somehow overlooked.

Still in the Basilica of Santa Maria Nova but looking at the floor. Many of the buildings we visit have beautiful floors but they are somehow overlooked.

Walking up the Via Sacra towards the Arch of Titus.  The bird was a bonus.

Walking up the Via Sacra towards the Arch of Titus. The bird was a bonus.

A close look at the Arch of Titus.

A close look at the Arch of Titus.

Constantine's Arch with the Colosseum in the background.

Constantine’s Arch with the Colosseum in the background.

The Colosseum is a very popular place for bridal parties to come for photos.  It is meant to bring good luck.

The Colosseum is a very popular place for bridal parties to come for photos. It is meant to bring good luck.

Capitoline Wolf. Romulus and Remus are part of the foundation myth of Rome.  Traditional scholarship says the wolf-figure is Etruscan, 5th century BC, with figures of Romulus and Remus added in the 15th century AD by Antonio Pollaiuolo. Recent studies suggest that the wolf may be a medieval sculpture dating from the 13th century AD.  More... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romulus_and_Remus

Capitoline Wolf. Romulus and Remus are part of the foundation myth of Rome. Traditional scholarship says the wolf-figure is Etruscan, 5th century BC, with figures of Romulus and Remus added in the 15th century AD by Antonio Pollaiuolo. Recent studies suggest that the wolf may be a medieval sculpture dating from the 13th century AD. More… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romulus_and_Remus

Ponte Fabricio crosses to the island in the River Tiber.  The main thing in this little island is a hospital.

Ponte Fabricio crosses to the island in the River Tiber. The main thing in this little island is a hospital.

Just wandering the streets and had to snap this treasure.

Just wandering the streets and had to snap this treasure.

This was a very expensive deli near our second hotel on Aventine Hill in Rome.  Truffle for anyone at €480 per kilogram (NZ$800)??

This was a very expensive deli near our second hotel on Aventine Hill in Rome. Truffle for anyone at €480 per kilogram (NZ$800)??

Looking through the umbrella pines in San Alessio Park on Aventine Hill towards St. Peter's Basilica.  This was just a fews hundred metres up the hill from our hotel.

Looking through the umbrella pines in San Alessio Park on Aventine Hill towards St. Peter’s Basilica. This was just a fews hundred metres up the hill from our hotel.

I got up to try and get some sunrise photos from the rooftop terrace of the hotel on the 22nd of December but I was too late.  I was well before official sunrise but the sky was just too light.

I got up to try and get some sunrise photos from the rooftop terrace of the hotel on the 22nd of December but I was too late. I was well before official sunrise but the sky was just too light.

A section of the walls surrounding the original extent of Rome.

A section of the walls surrounding the original extent of Rome.

This pyramid was built about 12AD as a monument to some notable and has survived in good condition mainly because it was subsequently incorporated into the city's defensive walls.

This pyramid was built about 12AD as a monument to some notable and has survived in good condition mainly because it was subsequently incorporated into the city’s defensive walls.

Beautiful Provençal Scenery

16 Dec Back at the reflections, this is a panorama made from three photos.

Two weeks already!  Actually I have been keeping busy.  One topic I have been learning about is creating panoramic images using software to stitch multiple overlapping photos seamlessly together. Using this technique it is not difficult to create an image that is equivalent to having been taken using a 130 megapixel sensor. I tried uploading a couple of examples here but WordPress did not want to play nicely with them so I gave up.  But you can take a look on my Flickr page, here, if you are interested.  The captions that belong with them are…

1. The first Gorge du Verdon panorama.  Made using 10 portrait photos exported from Aperture as 8-bit TIFFs.  Calico (photo stitching software) created the panorama as a TIFF which I imported back into Aperture for a little post-processing.

2. In the village of Sainte-Croix there is a great viewing deck.  This image was made from 9 portrait photos exported from Aperture as full sized TIFFs, 66MB each.  Calico created the panorama as a 430MB TIFF which I imported back into Aperture for a little post-processing.  Then exported as 100% JPG and re-imported to get this image.

The weather has been awesome.  Frosts on many mornings but followed by clear sunny days and as long as you can stay in the sun and not in any of the slight breezes it is warm and comfortable.  We have been on a few outings and spent time catching up with folks.  Here are a few photos to tell the rest of the story.

Looking from the car park of the the 'cooperatif' after stocking up on local wine.  The tower overlooking the village of Taradeau is also the start of a walking trail that runs along the ridge to Les Arcs.

Looking from the car park of the the ‘cooperatif’ after stocking up on local wine. The tower overlooking the village of Taradeau is also the start of a walking trail that runs along the ridge to Les Arcs.

There are good views from near the tower but we couldn't get over how much smoke was in the air.  It had been a frosty morning and the air was very still but this was almost noon.  I remember being very surprised when we first came to Le Thoronet with the number of fires around the district where people just burnt off all their prunings and garden waste.  Since then we have heard that restrictions are being introduced.

There are good views from near the tower but we couldn’t get over how much smoke was in the air. It had been a frosty morning and the air was very still but this was almost noon. I remember being very surprised when we first came to Le Thoronet with the number of fires around the district where people just burnt off all their prunings and garden waste. Since then we have heard that restrictions are being introduced.

The day was perfectly still so I packed the tripod and camera and drove to Lac de Carcès to find the water looking absolutely mirror-like.  You might just see the road near the summit - that is the access to La Regalade, where we stayed last winter and will return at Xmas.

The day was perfectly still so I packed the tripod and camera and drove to Lac de Carcès to find the water looking absolutely mirror-like. You might just see the road near the summit – that is the access to La Regalade, where we stayed last winter and will return at Xmas.

While taking photos of the lake I saw this otter head into a sheltered alcove so I went to have look.  It was very shy and scarpered for a small island in the middle of the lake almost as soon as I was able to get any view at all.

While taking photos of the lake I saw this otter head into a sheltered alcove so I went to have look. It was very shy and scarpered for a small island in the middle of the lake almost as soon as I was able to get any view at all.

Back at the reflections, this is a panorama made from three photos.

Back at the reflections, this is a panorama made from three photos.

On Sunday the 8th we went for a drive to La Garonne, a beach near Toulon.  Perfect weather again and some rather nice looking places to live.

On Sunday the 8th we went for a drive to La Garonne, a beach near Toulon. Perfect weather again and some rather nice looking places to live.

On the Monday we went up to the Gorge du Verdon and it was looking stunning. I particularly wanted to take some series of photos that could be turned into panoramas later.

On the Monday we went up to the Gorge du Verdon and it was looking stunning. I particularly wanted to take some series of photos that could be turned into panoramas later.

This is across Lac de Sainte-Croix, the lake created when the Verdon was dammed, looking over the village of Sainte-Croix.

This is across Lac de Sainte-Croix, the lake created when the Verdon was dammed, looking over the village of Sainte-Croix.

This is how Sainte-Croix looks in the afternoon sun from the opposite side of the lake.  It really was a beautiful day.

This is how Sainte-Croix looks in the afternoon sun from the opposite side of the lake. It really was a beautiful day.

At the salt flats near Hyères on the 10th there were a range of wading birds.  Not being a bird expert I will stand to be corrected on the identifications but I think this is a grey heron.

At the salt flats near Hyères on the 10th there were a range of wading birds. Not being a bird expert I will stand to be corrected on the identifications but I think this is a grey heron.

Cormorants sunning themselves and flamingoes not doing much at all. We watched for about an hour but there was not much variety.

Cormorants sunning themselves and flamingoes not doing much at all. We watched for about an hour but there was not much variety.

"Get out of the way flamingo!"

“Get out of the way flamingo!”

We drove to La Tour Fondue which is at the end of the Giens peninsula.  It was pretty - by the time the sun came out from behind some clouds, the seagulls that had been sitting on the jetty and completing my picture had gone.  It is hard to get reliable help!

We drove to La Tour Fondue which is at the end of the Giens peninsula. It was pretty – by the time the sun came out from behind some clouds, the seagulls that had been sitting on the jetty and completing my picture had gone. It is hard to get reliable help!

Back at the salt marshes in the setting sun the flamingoes were at least starting to move about.

Back at the salt marshes in the setting sun the flamingoes were at least starting to move about.

In the same area, this is a juvenile flamingo.  They gain the pink colouring as they mature.  The blue line is the reflection of a lamp post.

In the same area, this is a juvenile flamingo. They gain the pink colouring as they mature. The blue line is the reflection of a lamp post.

We have a busy week coming up so you will hear about that in about ten days.  Until then, be good!

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