Our First Swim

14 May

Until this week we had somehow always managed to miss the market in Lorgues which is held on Tuesday and is actually the closest one to where we live. It is by far the biggest market that we have been to so far. It was probably a good day to visit this one because being a public holiday (Victory Day) there were lots of people and perhaps even more stalls than usual. We wandered the stalls for an hour or so picking up some food for a picnic we planned for lunch. We also found a stand selling cutting boards and various utensils made from olive wood. The prices seemed very good and we ended up with a small board to use while out.

This lovely olive wood cutting board was €4 at the Lorgues market and looks great. It measures 270mm tip to tip and 150mm at its widest. Ideal for picnics

This was early, before it got busy and it was on one of the side streets – not the main area

The area we went to for our picnic was located on the opposite side of the A8 from here just past Le Luc. The area is called Plaines des Maures and is a nature park containing a reservoir and a lake. It was a perfect time of year to visit this area because all the wildflowers were in bloom and I can imagine that it will be blistering hot here in the middle of summer. We parked the car about a kilometre from the reservoir and walked the roadway in. It was a popular place with many groups of people enjoying the public holiday and nice Spring weather. On the way back to the car we took the pedestrian track which passed through some very picturesque areas of wildflowers as well as evidence that there had been wild pigs foraging.

The nature reserve was flat with good car access right to the lake (although Leanne made us park miles back because she was worried that our little sports car might be lost in one of the large puddles!)

A view over the lake (actually a reservoir)

All the cistus (rock rose) plants were swarming with these hopping insects. They weren’t too bothered about moving either, unless you actually poked them

A general view of the landscape looks reminiscent of the Desert Road

Wild flowers everywhere

We actually ended up back in Lorgues to do some chores on Wednesday when businesses were open again.  Insurance, bank, post office… that sort of stuff.

The first time we visited Cotignac it was late in the afternoon a couple of weeks ago and the cliffs behind the town were all in shadows. So on Thursday our plan was to get there early and get the lighting right for some photos before having breakfast at a café. The weather was perfect and the town looked a delight. Unfortunately, the walkway up the cliffs via the troglodyte caves was not going to be open until 2 PM. However, we explored further and found an alternative track that took us to the top of the cliffs with Saracen towers are located, 80m above the town. After some more wandering and taking pictures we ended up in the Town Hall Square and found a nice spot in the sun at a café for breakfast.

Looking back at Cotignac from the road out of town

There are Troglodyte caves all the way up these cliffs

Some of the more recent houses are also built right back into the cliff

A Troglodyte car in its Troglodyte garage

One of the two Saracen towers at the cliff top

The town hall square with a monument to war heroes and the café where we had a very enjoyable and well earned breakfast

This is the more commercial area of Cotignac – lots of cafés and restaurants

Jeremy invited us to go walking with him on Friday morning and he picked us up at 8:45 AM. Our walk started from the main carpark in Le Thoronet and headed up the hill behind to an observation platform 300 m vertical from the starting point. The walk up was all on four-wheel-drive tracks and mostly quite coarse gravel and rocks. It was a pretty good surface to walk on generally. As we got towards the top Jeremy suggested keeping an eye out for rocks with fossil impressions on them. Leanne found quite a good one that was small enough to souvenir.

Just left the summit behind and starting the trek back down to Le Thoronet – Jeremy trailed by Leanne (still looking for pet rocks!)

One of the four views

The viewing platform at the summit was about 4 m high and fully enclosed with a large sliding windows on all 4 sides and a map table in the middle. Very nicely done. The views were 360°, just awesome.  After taking some refreshments we headed off down the hill again this time taking a singletrack down through the trees. This was great because now it was getting very warm. By the time we got back to the car we had covered just on 7.5 km and a beer was definitely the order of the day.

It is hard to describe the country roads accurately around here so on Saturday morning we made a video of the drive from home into the village. This link should take you to it (on YouTube): http://youtu.be/N4iCa9Szrk8

When we got to Le Thoronet we then headed for Cabasse which is another village over the ridge from Le Thoronet. As we got close to it we got tangled up in a fun ride/fun run which seem to involve everybody from roundabout. There were people wearing running shoes and Lycra running shorts who just should not have. There seemed to be a number of different community events running all at the same time in the village including a petanque tournament and lots of serious road cyclists. We looked round the village for a while, enjoyed a coffee near the centre before returning home.

It seemed to be very warm so we decided to have our lunch outside in a shady nook near the pool. Even there seemed to be hot and checking the thermometer showed that was 33°C in the shade. Time for a swim! The pool temperature was up to 26° C and it was very pleasant. First for the year!

That was the place to be on Saturday afternoon

Looking out from our back door. Anyone with a sharp eye will note that we severely pruned the oleanders on the near side of the pool

And of course in between all of these exploits we were fitting in all of our work around the property. In fact, at 4 o’clock on Saturday afternoon I thought it might be cool enough to mow the lawns. I was wrong. After an hour the mower was so hot that it was backfiring and spluttering and ended up stopping completely. It was OK again in a few minutes but it definitely didn’t like the heat.

We met up with Chris and Nadia at the flea market at Villecroze. This is a particularly nice village with its alleys, arches and nicely restored buildings. We spent most of the time looking at the village in some of looking at the market. Chris and Nadia had several other friends meeting there as well and we all had lunch together at a cafe near their stall. By the time we finished lunch it was after 3 PM and we had planned to meet Sue at her place the drinks at 6:30 PM so off home we went.

The ‘vide grenier’ (literally ’empty attic’ or to us, flea market) permeated the whole town but was concentrated in the very nice square. There are some notable cafés and restaurants here so we will be back

The old part of Villecroze is in beautiful condition with its narrow alleys…

… and its archways. Just fantastic

Spotted this swallow’s nest under on of the arches and the swallow flew in while we were there

Some people take their security very seriously

Drinks at 6:30 seem to have a habit of lasting quite a while. We held a lovely time with Sue, seeing her gardens, all the work she’s been doing on landscaping, and meeting her cats.  9:30 came around very quickly.

Poppies in the fields a few hundred metres from home. The fields are actually lupin or something similar and they were all cut the next morning so we got our picture just in time

Our fish pond is also home to three (we think) local species of frog (“Graf’s hybrid frog, Pelophylax kl. grafi” as far as I can find out). This is the most juvenile and is quite green while the adults are more brown. There is nothing to scale this off but I reckon he is only 40~50mm long

It’s been another busy and fun week.

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