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Happy New Year!

6 Jan

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!

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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.

After The Hiatus

16 Sep

I will try to post an update next week but no promises.”  Those were famous last words!  Our visit home to Auckland was an emotional roller coaster and left us quite exhausted.  I won’t go in to a lot of detail but a simple list might serve best…

  • We had a wonderful time catching up with family;
  • We also managed to catch up with several of our friends and especially had some nice meals together;
  • Darryn’s 21st was celebrated in two episodes, one with family and the other with his social circle.  All went well and we are very proud of our second young man;
  • I went to secondary school, university and then flatting with Albert.  Five days into our visit home and before I had seen him, Albert suddenly passed away due to a brain haemorrhage.  We attended gatherings at the hospital with his friends and family leading to the removal of life support and then of course the funeral in Rotorua;
  • I met up with a few people at the funeral who I had not seen for years.  I must try to do better at staying in touch in future;
  • I spent some time trying to help his family with the task of putting Albert’s affairs in order;
  • Another friend who had been staying with Albert for several years now seemed to need help in dealing with alcoholism.  I tried to help but time ran out and he was not ready to commit to dealing with reality.  Very disappointing but nothing more I could do at this time.  You can’t force someone to enter rehab no matter how obvious the need appears.  Being an alcoholic is not against the law, it is a lifestyle (that should be ‘deathstyle’) choice;
  • Leanne’s Dad was diagnosed as needing a pacemaker to moderate an irregular heartbeat;
  • We got to visit our bach (small holiday cottage) at Red Beach just north of Auckland;
  • Tony, a relative on Leanne’s side of the family, succumbed to cancer after a seven year battle.  Same age as me, more or less.  We attended his funeral on the Monday before we flew back to France;
  • I got to spend some very special times with my Dad, just chatting and pondering the world;
  • Leanne got to spend lots of time with her Mum & Dad;
  • She also managed to fit in a few local walks with her girlfriends, something they have all missed while we have been away;
  • We sampled some almost forgotten wines from our cellar and came up with some beauties;
  • Leanne and I spent some time out walking, visiting the Auckland Grammar School art auction and having lunch with our friends Bruce & Gill on the Saturday before we left.  Bruce had been snowboarding for a couple of days the previous week.  Then on Sunday afternoon we got a call to say Bruce had just died!  Again, same age as me, more or less.  Without warning or any history he suffered a massive heart attack while out kite-surfing.  We were absolutely stunned and deeply saddened.  How could this be true?  Unfortunately we could not stay for his funeral which was the Friday after our departure but our oldest son, Steven, attended for us.

I am still in shock at how all this happened in a five week window after we have been travelling for 18 months already with no major dramas affecting us.  I am torn between concluding that our timing was excellent on one hand or absolutely abysmal on the other.  As I observed in an email to a friend, ‘I need to leave NZ again asap before I have no living friends left!

As a consequence of all this turmoil I barely took any photos and really haven’t felt up to writing anything.  My apologies to all those faithful readers who kept checking back only to find nothing new.  Anyway, this posting is now going to cover the period from 5th August to 15th September.

The tourist information centre in Matamata has been transformed into a Hobbit-like house and I think it looks pretty cool.

The tourist information centre in Matamata has been transformed into a Hobbit-like house and I think it looks pretty cool.

And just so you don't forget where you are, this sits boldly in the landscaped central reservation of the town's main street.

And just so you don’t forget where you are, this sits boldly in the landscaped central reservation of the town’s main street.

Twin Oaks Drive in Cornwall Park (Auckland, NZ) usually has an intense display of daffodils.  I think I was a little too early but I didn't get back to check again later.

Twin Oaks Drive in Cornwall Park (Auckland, NZ) usually has an intense display of daffodils. I think I was a little too early but I didn’t get back to check again later.

Darryn posing with the cake Leanne made for the family version of his 21st birthday celebrations.  The sprinkles are in the shape of dinosaurs - never too old!

Darryn posing with the cake Leanne made for the family version of his 21st birthday celebrations. The sprinkles are in the shape of dinosaurs – never too old!

Darryn with his two Grandfathers - my Dad on his left and Leanne's Dad on his right.

Darryn with his two Grandfathers – my Dad on his left and Leanne’s Dad on his right.

Darryn making a point.

Darryn making a point.

Being Spring in NZ means blossom and that meant a rowdy picnic for seven tuis near Mt Eden Village.

Being Spring in NZ means blossom and that meant a rowdy picnic for seven tuis near Mt Eden Village.

Leanne made up this photo board based on various family photos plus some from his Facebook page that were provided by other helpful people (he won't allow his parents to be his fb friend).

Leanne made up this photo board based on various family photos plus some from his Facebook page that were provided by other helpful people (he won’t allow his parents to be his fb friend).

A ritual drinking custom at Darryn's other party which was held at a bar at the University of Auckland campus, Toasted.  It was actually a fairly orderly night out because it was the weekend before a week of assignment due dates and mid-course tests for most students.

A ritual drinking custom at Darryn’s other party which was held at a bar at the University of Auckland campus, Toasted. It was actually a fairly orderly night out because it was the weekend before a week of assignment due dates and mid-course tests for most students.

We were there too of course.

We were there too of course.

The weather was windy a lot of the time in Auckland so this view from Mt Eden looks a bit hazy.  Still, Rangitoto is very obvious in the background.

The weather was windy a lot of the time in Auckland so this view from Mt Eden looks a bit hazy. Still, Rangitoto is very obvious in the background.

The view from our bach is still clear after the tree work we had done earlier this year.

The view from our bach is still clear after the tree work we had done earlier this year.

Looking along Red Beach to the SE.

Looking along Red Beach to the SE.

This time looking roughly NE.

This time looking roughly NE.

Darryn helped with mulching the prunings from the Gleditsia tree.  Interesting pose!

Darryn helped with mulching the prunings from the Gleditsia tree. Interesting pose!

The magnolia near the gate started flowering after we arrived home and was still going when we left again five weeks later.

The magnolia near the gate started flowering after we arrived home and was still going when we left again five weeks later.

Highwic House is a NZ Historic places Trust property only a couple of kilometres from home but in 16+ years we had never visited it.  After seeing so many great sites in the UK we made a point of getting there.  More modest than what we have seen elsewhere but special because much of the history and the names connected to it are familiar to us.

Highwic House is a NZ Historic places Trust property only a couple of kilometres from home but in 16+ years we had never visited it. After seeing so many great sites in the UK we made a point of getting there. More modest than what we have seen elsewhere but special because much of the history and the names connected to it are familiar to us.

Another view of Highwic House.

Another view of Highwic House.

1996 Cranswick Estate Botrytis Semillon, beautiful!

1996 Cranswick Estate Botrytis Semillon, beautiful!

Gill and I posing at AGS on Saturday 7th September after visiting the Art Auction.

Gill and I posing at AGS on Saturday 7th September after visiting the Art Auction.

What could be better?  We finally managed to import some NZ Marmite into France.  When we last visited home in February the factory in Christchurch that makes it was still out of commission following the major earthquakes in the region so we missed out.

What could be better? We finally managed to import some NZ Marmite into France. When we last visited home in February the factory in Christchurch that makes it was still out of commission following the major earthquakes in the region so we missed out.

The other perfect spread on a fresh baguette with butter is Bonne Maman fig jam.

The other perfect spread on a fresh baguette with butter is Bonne Maman fig jam.

We flew out of Auckland on Wednesday 11th September at 17h50 on the Emirates A380.  I think that aircraft is great.  Once we got away from Melbourne and on to the 14 hour leg to Dubai I managed to get 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep in economy class. I can’t do that on a B747 or B777.  In fact the leg from Dubai to Nice on the B777 only served to confirm my very low opinion of that aircraft.  It really is an outdated piece of junk.

We landed in Nice on schedule at 14h15 on Thursday.  Unfortunately, by the time our bags came through we had just missed the 14h30 bus to the train station and the next one was at 15h00.  Once at the train station it was another 50 minute wait for the 16h01 train to Les Arcs which didn’t leave until 16h10.  Then it stopped at every station and upturned rock from Nice to Saint Raphael taking 90 minutes for the trip.  Jeremy was there waiting for us with his flash new wheels and we just managed to fit all our bags in the back for the ride to Sue’s place.  18h00 at Sue’s and time for a rosé.  It had been 46 hours since we last got out of our bed and 34 hours since we left Auckland.  All things considered we didn’t feel too shabby although we were both fading a bit on the tedious train trip.  Once we got a rosé into us and some conversation going we lasted another four hours before going to bed.

On Friday I dropped Sue at the airport in Nice for her flight to the UK and we basically spent the next three days taking it easy and catching up with one or two people.  We are looking after Sue’s place until 5th October while she is away.  On Sunday afternoon we met John who is housesitting at nearby place owned by a Kiwi lady for three months.  He is from Auckland and we had a bit of a Kiwi get-together at his place with Lew & Jean plus honorary Kiwis, Jeremy & Jo.

That’s all I have to say about the last six weeks.  Really looking forward to getting back into our alternative life here in France – house sitting, walks, taking lots of photos, touring, meeting people, etc.  And I am determined to get this blog back on track!  Thanks for reading.

Sorry – No Post This Week

12 Aug

Last Saturday a dear friend died suddenly.  We met at high school and did many things together over a 40 year period.

I will try to post an update next week but no promises.  Even then there may be nothing to write about.

Impressionists and the Clear Blue Skies of Provence

5 Aug

It really shouldn’t have taken me so long to publish this post since there are very few photos to caption and not so much to report on.  The week was largely spent in the processes of relocating and packing.  We started the week in Remoulins near the Pont-du-Gard, drove to Le Thoronet, took the train from Les Arcs to Nice, then flew from Nice to Dubai and on to Auckland arriving home in Auckland on Saturday afternoon.  Since then I have been struggling to get a decent night’s sleep.  The only thing that has been inducing me to sleep is sitting down at my computer and that has not been helping me get this post completed!  Anyway…

We awoke to rain still on Monday morning in Remoulins after our visit to the Pont-du-Gard on Sunday evening.  By the time we arrived at Tarascon for a short break and breakfast the sun was shining again and it was getting hot.

By the time we got to St-Rémy-de-Provence the skies were clear and it was a scorcher.  We had a bit of a walk, trying to stay in the shade, around this home of Impressionism then found a nice cool restaurant with a very good plat-du-jour.  Next thing we had another Kiwi couple, from Winchester just north of Timaru, at the next table!  They were an older couple on a six week holiday and were spending about a week here.  After lunch we had a quick look around some of the shops before setting course for Le Thoronet.

Tarascon is a small town near Beaucaire where we stopped for a break after leaving Remoulins.

Tarascon is a small town near Beaucaire where we stopped for a break after leaving Remoulins.

On the drive from St-Rémy-de-Provence to Le Thoronet we were just awestruck by how clear the air, skies and scenery looked.  Looking towards Sainte-victoire, an iconic mountain in Provence near Aix, from the A8 it looked like it was so close you could have reached out the window to touch it.  Sadly, being an ‘A’ road there was no place to stop for a photo and at the nearest service centre there were trees blocking the view – typical!  This outstanding clarity is one of the reasons that places like St-Rémy-de-Provence are so favoured by painters.  It was also one of our first impressions (excuse the pun) when we arrived in Le Thoronet in late March last year.

Our hotel in Le Thoronet was “Sue’s Place” and we arrived about 4pm.  Spent the evening chatting, sipping Rosé and dining.  It was nice to be ‘home’.

We spent most of Tuesday and Wednesday repacking, visiting and relaxing.  We did go to the Lorgues market on Tuesday morning and even got there early enough to get a park right in the centre and before all the stalls were set up.  Being summer holiday time the place was busy and the predominant language in the air was English.

On Wednesday evening Sue put on a dinner and invited Han & Rens and Virginia.  It was a very nice evening and the meal was excellent.  It was a real bonus to see Han & Rens again so soon too.  They have come down to look after Tutu while James & Lavinia are away for a month and Lew & Jean are also away for some days.

The scene at Sue's place set for dinner on Wednesday evening.

The scene at Sue’s place set for dinner on Wednesday evening.

Sue's back garden is now almost complete.  The perimeter is protected by an electric fence to keep the sanglier (wild boar) out.

Sue’s back garden is now almost complete. The perimeter is protected by an electric fence to keep the sanglier (wild boar) out.

We had an early start on Thursday so that we could leave the house at 09h20.  Sue very kindly dropped us at the train station in Les Arcs.  Everything run to schedule and there is really not much more to say until we arrived home.  Except perhaps to comment on the merits of the Boeing 777 vs the A380.  The sector from Nice to Dubai was on the 777.  In my opinion this is a dreadful aircraft – economy is overly cramped, it is noisy, the power outlets are not available in aisle seats, the overhead space seems lacking.  I just don’t like it.  On the other hand, the A380 is a magnificent machine, the opposite of the few things listed above and more.  Doing the 14-odd hour sector from Dubai to Sydney in economy doesn’t seem like a hardship at all even when you are 6’2″.  At least that is my opinion.

Steven and Darryn collected us from the airport on Saturday afternoon.  It was nice to be back home but it really didn’t seem like we had been away.  I probably made the same observation last time, but this trip was only five months.  The first thing to surprise us was just how warm it was.  Not bad for winter.  We spent the evening talking, Dad came around, the phone kept ringing…  It was also the final of the Super 15 Rugby, Chiefs vs Brumbies (so that’s why we saw all those Brumbies tee shirts on the flight?!).  What a close match.  Gladly the Chiefs prevailed 29-22 but it took a while for my blood pressure to stabilise.

Sunday was a nice warm day again.  We slept OK, not great so were feeling a bit tired.  We spent the day quietly and did some visiting.  In the evening, after sunset, Steven and I went up to the summit of Mt Eden to take some photos and managed to get a few keepers.

The view from the summit of Mt. Eden on Sunday evening at 18h40.

The view from the summit of Mt. Eden on Sunday evening at 18h40.

That’s about it for now.  I will be away this coming weekend so that means next week’s post will also be late, hopefully not as bad as this one!

Sunflowers and Aqueducts

29 Jul

A little late posting again this week due to being on the road on Sunday/Monday.  We ended last week settling in to a new house sit near Ruffec in the Charente département.  On Monday we headed to Limoges to take a look but as mentioned in my last post the temperatures have been in the low to mid thirties so staying out of the heat limited how much time we spent exploring.  Before setting out we stopped at a smart looking café and had the most unusual espresso.  It tasted full of flavour but at the same time quite sour.  Very interesting, no idea what it was but we had two each.  Limoges was very pleasant and we ended up at the bottom end of town at the cathedral which had a botanic garden next to it and a large fountain.

By the time we were ready to head out exploring on Tuesday it was 13h00 and 5 minutes down the road a thunderstorm broke.  It didn’t last long and after driving through a few nearby villages we stopped at Verteuil-sur-Charente for a coffee at a riverside café.

Cognac was our destination on Wednesday and we were amazed at how quiet the streets in the centre of the city were.  Admittedly we were there in the lunch time closure period but there were so few tourists even that we were at risk of having to introduce ourselves because we kept seeing the same people in different parts of town.  Remember that this is in peak summer holiday period and even if the locals are not silly enough to be out in the heat, tourists like us usually are.  It was odd.  Anyway, we had a look around, stopped by Martell and left it at that.  We will be coming back here in October to spend some more time while we are house sitting near Fomperron for seven weeks.

On Thursday we sought out some photo opportunities near our base.  We had been driving past fields of sunflowers and wheat but it is not usually possible to just stop and take a photo – there are typically no shoulders on the country roads and they are a little narrow.  We had also been waiting in the hope that the sunflowers would mature some more and present a more consistent view.  We also went back to Verteuil to explore some more.  It really is a pretty place.  In the evening, the parent’s of our house sitting host (who lived only 50m away) invited us for dinner and we spent a very nice evening eating, drinking and chatting.  During the night there was a thunderstorm which became quite intense from a while but we did lose power for a while.  In the morning it was fine again but because of the rain it was now humid.

We spent Friday preparing for our departure, making sure the house was clean, sorting our belongings and repacking the car.  Our early night ended up being 23h00 but the worst of it was another thunderstorm.  This one was really rough and tiles were blown off the roof, power went out, the rain poured down and thunder and lightning seemed to be centred on us.  The gusts of wind were ferocious and we had to go around securing shutters at 02h00 in the dark (no power).

In the morning we could see plenty of damage to trees, the gazebo was shredded and a few things were dislodged around the garden.  Not too bad considering but importantly, Jasmin the pregnant goat who was due sometime this week had not had her suspected triplets.  If she had dropped them now it was going to impact our travel plans for the day.  So we dodged a bullet there I would say!  Anyway we managed to get ourselves organised and on the road at 10h45 with everything in good shape for Nicky’s return.

On the road there were signs of damage everywhere for the 100km to Bordeaux at least.  There were branches down along the roads and in the woods but hardest hit were the crops of sunflowers and maize.   We stopped just past Valence to take photos of a flattened sunflower field – yesterday it was a mass of yellow flowers and today it is a mess of green stems laying flat.  The maize was also a huge tangled mess.

Saturday was also the first big day of the summer holidays so there was more traffic than usual.  It took us 45 minutes to travel 10km on the motorway past Bordeaux.  The gridlock was caused by traffic attempting to get on to the roads to the coast.  Once we got by the offending interchanges we were cruising again and arrived at our overnight hotel in Toulouse at 16h00 after a couple of stops and lunch.

St Michel de Lions church in Limoges is a Gothic granite building with a large hall and a 70m high spire.  Look closely at the columns - there is no distortion in the photo, these columns are anything but straight.

St Michel de Lions church in Limoges is a Gothic granite building with a large hall and a 70m high spire. Look closely at the columns – there is no distortion in the photo, these columns are anything but straight.

The 70m spire.

The 70m spire.

The Temple Court Mansions are among the largest renaissance houses built by the rich burghers of Limoges.  Typical of Limoges town houses the ground floor and stairs are granite while the upper stories are half timbered.

The Temple Court Mansions are among the largest renaissance houses built by the rich burghers of Limoges. Typical of Limoges town houses the ground floor and stairs are granite while the upper stories are half timbered.

The Museum of History near the river and Cathedral in Limoges.

The Museum of History near the river and Cathedral in Limoges.

Verteuil-sur-Charente was a spot we returned to a couple of times, on this occasion to sit with a coffee beside the river and watch the world go by.

Verteuil-sur-Charente was a spot we returned to a couple of times, on this occasion to sit with a coffee beside the river and watch the world go by.

The café also had a fully working water mill producing flour.

The café also had a fully working water mill producing flour.

Another view of the château at Verteuil-sur-Charente (there was one in last week's post also).

Another view of the château at Verteuil-sur-Charente (there was one in last week’s post also).

Another mill on the Charente River at Verteuil, this one I think was a tannery.

Another mill on the Charente River at Verteuil, this one I think was a tannery.

Verteuil-sur-Charente

We made a quick visit to Martell at Cognac.  We will do the proper tour here in October when we are based in Fomperron.

We made a quick visit to Martell at Cognac. We will do the proper tour here in October when we are based in Fomperron.

A small lane in the old city of Cognac.

A small lane in the old city of Cognac.

Standing on Pont Neuf looking back at the Hennessy factory.  The river is the Charente again.

Standing on Pont Neuf looking back at the Hennessy factory. The river is the Charente again.

The Hôtel de Ville in Cognac is set in a large park.  Immediately in front of the main entrance is this interesting sundial!

The Hôtel de Ville in Cognac is set in a large park. Immediately in front of the main entrance is this interesting sundial!

All around this area there are coppiced woods that are harvested for firewood.  We have seen wood piled 4m high and 200m long on some roadsides.  This is just a small sample 200m from our housesit.

All around this area there are coppiced woods that are harvested for firewood. We have seen wood piled 4m high and 200m long on some roadsides. This is just a small sample 200m from our housesit.

A pity that the sky wasn't nice and blue with a few fluffy white clouds but you have to take your chances and grab the photo.

A pity that the sky wasn’t nice and blue with a few fluffy white clouds but you have to take your chances and grab the photo.

The wheat harvest is underway and large bales of wheat straw are popping up everywhere.

The wheat harvest is underway and large bales of wheat straw are popping up everywhere.

Many of the villages in this area have these very neat hedges right on the edge of the tarmac.  Apparently they are to help slow traffic down by keeping the width to a minimum.

Many of the villages in this area have these very neat hedges right on the edge of the tarmac. Apparently they are to help slow traffic down by keeping the width to a minimum.

More traffic control hedges!

More traffic control hedges!

This is the small church at Chenommet.  It is typical of the style we have seen in several villages in this area.  The interior is very simple.

This is the small church at Chenommet. It is typical of the style we have seen in several villages in this area. The interior is very simple.

Sunflowers on the road out of Valence.  Having them below the level of the road makes it a lot easier to get a good photo.

Sunflowers on the road out of Valence. Having them below the level of the road makes it a lot easier to get a good photo.

This was the devastation on Saturday after the big storm overnight.  Sunflower and maize crops alike, almost ready to harvest, were laid flat everywhere.  On Friday this had been a mass of bright yellow flower heads like the photo above.

This was the devastation on Saturday after the big storm overnight. Sunflower and maize crops alike, almost ready to harvest, were laid flat everywhere. On Friday this had been a mass of bright yellow flower heads like the photo above.

Taken out the window from our hotel in Toulouse.  We were staying in a business park hotel right next to the Ariane display centre.

Taken out the window from our hotel in Toulouse. We were staying in a business park hotel right next to the Ariane display centre.

On Sunday morning we headed into the centre of Toulouse for a look around.   We parked near Prairie des Filtres close to the Pont Neuf.  I had my camera bag searched just to get into the park!  They seemed to be looking for glass bottles and drinking vessels and also knives.  It must be a rough place.  We only spent a short time there then explored more on foot per normal and found the Capitole de Toulouse.  This houses a public art gallery containing impressionist works by Henri Martin and Paul Gervais plus others.  It was stunning!  We ended up staying in Toulouse until 13h00 before setting off for Remoulins where we found our next hotel at 16h00.

Pont Neuf in Toulouse.

Pont Neuf in Toulouse.

The Capitole de Toulouse which as well as city administration functions houses a collection of art.

The Capitole de Toulouse which as well as city administration functions houses a collection of art.

One of the magnificent galleries in the Capitole de Toulouse.

One of the magnificent galleries in the Capitole de Toulouse.
An example of the many huge paintings.  The predominant artists were Henri Martin and Paul Gervais.  This painting is one of four by Martin representing the seasons called 'Summer'.

An example of the many huge paintings. The predominant artists were Henri Martin and Paul Gervais. This painting is one of four by Martin representing the seasons called ‘Summer’.

The guy on the desk at Remoulins warned us of serious thunderstorms predicted for the evening/night so instead of settling in and relaxing we set off almost immediately, in the heat, to the Pont-du-Gard arriving there at 17h00 and not leaving until 22h30!

I am a big fan of the Pont-du-Gard, I just think it is such an incredible human achievement, in fact the whole aqueduct from Uzés to Nîmes is amazing.  We visited here in 2005 and loved it.  There is a very comprehensive museum focussed on all things to do with Romans, water and aqueducts.  It was just a shame that the lighting was so low that many of the placards were impossible to read.  We had dinner at 20h30 on site and right on cue at sunset, 21h11, the lights came on to bathe the Pont-du-Gard in various shades.  In the distant background thunder was rolling and there were random flashes of lightning in the clouds.  All made for a memorable visit.

The Pont-du-Gard - what more can I say?

The Pont-du-Gard – what more can I say?

A photo of the Pont-du-Gard with people on it just to show the scale.

A photo of the Pont-du-Gard with people on it just to show the scale.

The Pont-du-Gard from the upper viewing point on the right bank.

The Pont-du-Gard from the upper viewing point on the right bank.

This olive tree at the Pont-du-Gard was planted in 908AD according to the placard.

This olive tree at the Pont-du-Gard was planted in 908AD according to the placard.

The Pont-du-Gard from the upper viewing point on the left bank.

The Pont-du-Gard from the upper viewing point on the left bank.

Just in case you ever wondered what the Pont-du-Gard looks like at night and in different colours…

Pont-du-Gard - the red version.

Pont-du-Gard – the red version.

Pont-du-Gard - the pink version.

Pont-du-Gard – the pink version.

Pont-du-Gard - the blue version.

Pont-du-Gard – the blue version.

Pont-du-Gard - the green version.

Pont-du-Gard – the green version.

Pont-du-Gard - the light blue version.

Pont-du-Gard – the light blue version.

That was the end of a very busy and hot day.

Summer Heat In France

22 Jul

I think this week sets a new record for the lowest number of photos I have taken since this adventure started.  That means it will be a fairly short post.  It has just been too hot to be galavanting around too much!

The week started in the splendid company of the Hurpin family and friends at the summer holiday farmhouse they hire at Siouville-Hague which is near Cherbourg.  The weather continued to be perfect and even I was convinced to take a swim – what a mistake that turned out to be.  We got chest deep and using my watch I measured the water temperature at between 16.8˚C and 17.2˚C just 250mm below the surface!  I was loosing feeling in my feet so I put the watch on my foot and measured 16.4˚C on the bottom.  We lasted about 15 minutes before retreating to the warmth on the sand.  The speed at which the tide moves over the sand is impressive too.  The tidal range in this area is huge, 6.33m at its maximum between low and high tides.  So it covers and uncovers over 400m of sand every 7 hours or so.

We sang Happy Birthday to Leanne in French at ten minutes after midnight on the 16th before going to bed.  Wednesday was a travel day, we had about five hours on the road to get to Fomperron where we met and spent the night with Gaye and John.  We will be house sitting for them for nearly eight weeks starting at the very end of September.  They have a very nice spot in a small hamlet with lots of vegetable gardens.  It should be lots of fun and allow us flexibility to explore the region.  You will hear all about that later.

On Thursday we met Gaye and John’s English neighbours, a delightful couple, who will be our first call for any problems with things on the property.  We left Fomperron after lunch heading for Le Paradis to meet Nicky and family.  We arrived at 17h00 and it was hot.  Our assignment here is only nine days while they take a holiday at the beach.  Our charges here are 4 dogs, 3 cats, 5 goats (one due to kid this week, triplets expected), 15 chickens, several white mice, 2 snakes (hence the mice, i.e. food!), and an aquarium containing 20+ small tropical fish.  There are also three horses but Nicky’s Dad looks after them.

Nicky and family headed away for their holiday on Saturday afternoon which gave us Thursday night, all of Friday plus Saturday morning to learn the routines and have time for questions.  It was 34˚C on Saturday afternoon and we needed to stock up on groceries so we headed for LeClerc at Ruffec and spent some extra time in their chilled food aisles!  Of course our times out of the house were carefully scheduled so we didn’t miss too much of the TDF coverage on ITV4.

One of the items on the shopping list was some beer to quench the inevitable thirst that one acquires in this heat.  I scanned the beer aisle and found a two-dozen pack of 250ml bottles on special, without bothering to read the label – it was in the beer department.  It turned out to be  shandy with less than 1% alcohol and it tasted like ginger beer.  Actually turned out to be ideal in the heat.  Very lucky escape, I must remember to read the label next time.

On Sunday we went out for another drive around the area but we didn’t last very long, it was too hot.

Looking from the driveway of the house at Siouville-Hague towards the beach 1km away down the lane.

Looking from the driveway of the house at Siouville-Hague towards the beach 1km away down the lane.

A part of the garden we will be looking after in October/November this year near Fomperron.

A part of the garden we will be looking after in October/November this year near Fomperron.

We were told of some villages near our route where there were holly-hocks growing out of every crack in the pavement.  This one was Bagnault but I only got this average photo using the iPhone - it was just too hot to be bothered getting the DSLR out and spending any more than a few moments away from the air-conditioned comfort of the car.

We were told of some villages near our route where there were holly-hocks growing out of every crack in the pavement. This one was Bagnault but I only got this average photo using the iPhone – it was just too hot to be bothered getting the DSLR out and spending any more than a few moments away from the air-conditioned comfort of the car.

This is the Charente River which lends its name to the Département Charente.  The location is Verteuil and the chåteau is the 11th century Chåteau de Verteuil.

This is the Charente River which lends its name to the Département Charente. The location is Verteuil and the chåteau is the 11th century Chåteau de Verteuil.

Sunflowers near Ruffec.  Most of the fields around this area are either sunflowers, wheat or maize.  Wheat is being harvested now while this is the most mature field of sunflowers we have seen.

Sunflowers near Ruffec. Most of the fields around this area are either sunflowers, wheat or maize. Wheat is being harvested now while this is the most mature field of sunflowers we have seen.

A sunflower looking good.

A sunflower looking good.

The village of Nanteuil is signposted from several routes as a 'picturesque village'.  It certainly was and we did stop for an hour for coffee in the shade but it was far too hot to go wandering around.  Hopefully we will get back early one day this week.

The village of Nanteuil is signposted from several routes as a ‘picturesque village’. It certainly was and we did stop for an hour for coffee in the shade but it was far too hot to go wandering around. Hopefully we will get back early one day this week.

That’s it for the week.  Short and sweet.  I hope to have a few more photos for next week but as I hide from the heat inside the house finishing this on Monday afternoon it is 35˚C.  At these sorts of temperatures being out and about is hard work.  Even the pool at Nicky’s parent’s house, two doors away, is 31˚C so hardly worth the effort!

Leaving Scotland, Pausing in England, Destination France

15 Jul

It has been a busy week with lots of travel.  We even managed to see the TDF highlights a couple of times.

The week started at 6am on Monday when we got up earlier than usual to get packed and do some last minute jobs before the homeowners, Robert, Heather and Tracey got home.  Their flight was due at 06h55 but we knew that it was expected in 20 minutes early.  So we estimated that they would arrive at the house about 07h45.  Next thing we know they arrived at 07h15 and caught me giving the lounge a last minute vacuum.  Embarrassing!  Anyway they had had a good trip and after a cup of tea and some scones that Leanne had made we set off for Edinburgh.
The weather was overcast and cool and there were even patches of fog on the drive to Edinburgh.  We arrived at 10h30 and parked the car at our accommodation so we could walk into the old city.  By now the sky had cleared and it was getting hot.  We walked in towards the Royal Mile stopping at the Scottish National Museum on the way. It was magnificent and the model Watt double acting steam engine was running at the time. From there we went up to Edinburgh Castle for a look at the outside and all the grandstands ready for the Tattoo. Visited a Scottish National Trust property on the Royal Mile called Gladstone’s Land, a six storey 17th century home of a prosperous merchant. By then it was time to stop at Deacon Brodies Pub for a pint.  Plenty more walking in the heat during the afternoon.  We walked down The Mound and along the Princes Street Gardens where we saw a fantastic clock garden. Went to Charlotte Square and visited Number 7 which is also a Scottish National Trust property. Then we made our way back along Rose Street stopping for some chips and small beer on the way. Back up to the centre then down the bottom part of the Royal Mile to see The Palace of Holyroodhouse. Spent some time resting by some paddling pools then walked back up the Royal Mile to the Tollgate Bar for dinner. Wandered back to the hostel from there, getting back about 19h30.  We were both ready to sit down and rest for a while.  Overall, Edinburgh impressed.  It has a compact central zone, which although being a bit hilly is relatively easy to get around on foot, something we like to do.  Like Wellington in that way.
The weather was great again when we finally got up at 08h45 on Tuesday.  We packed the car and walked to the café we saw yesterday with the sign on it claiming that JK Rowling had written parts of her Harry Potter series upstairs.  We had a very nice coffee but I didn’t feel any urge to start writing a seven part children’s novel series.  Something that did catch my eye as we left was another sign saying, “Any children left here will be given a double espresso and promised a pony!”
We eventually left Edinburgh at 11h30 heading towards Northumberland. We stopped at Berwick-on-Tweed for a walk and some lunch. The weather was perfect, we were getting hot!  We got to Alnwick at 14h30, dropped some stuff at the B&B, left the car there and walked to the castle.  This is the first non-National Trust property we have visited, i.e. we had to £29 (~NZ$60) to get in.  That allowed us to visit as many times as we wanted for the next year, a benefit that most people could never take advantage of.  Anyway, it makes the 30+ National Trust properties we have visited look like an absolute steal at NZ$69 we paid for the NZ Historical Society membership which includes full reciprocal privileges with the National Trust, English Heritage and the Scottish National Trust.
Wednesday in Alnwick dawned overcast and it looked as though there had been a light rain in the night.  We were back at the castle by 10am for a tour of the walls and another look through the state rooms.  The whole place is magnificent; it is a pity that photography is not allowed inside though.  We got on the road after a delay at 13h30 (see the photos) and drove to a Travelodge a few hours down the motorway.  Were we on our way to Sevenoaks but we needed to break the journey.
We went in to Grantham for breakfast on Thursday morning and then to nearby Belton House.  That was a whistle-stop visit but still took two hours so we only got back on the road at 13h30.  We used Apple Maps as usual to navigate. There was a traffic delay of 15 minutes or so on the Dartford Bridge. Our trip on the M25 was going OK till 5km from the Sevenoaks exit, Jct.5. Then it stopped. It took 20 minutes to get to the exit and Apple Maps said go left. This was completely wrong and put us into the M25 roadworks and the next exit was 17km. What a screw up!  In the end it cost us an hour in heavy, stop/go traffic. We finally got to Dani’s place at Sevenoaks at 17h25 and immediately sent a brutal feedback message to Apple Maps while trying to calm myself down with a medicinal cold beer.  I guess it had to happen sometime – we have become so trusting of the directions from Apple Maps that we don’t even question them, even when they don’t follow the road signage.  It has always been OK.  Except this time.  It put us into the worst section of road in the world to be in on a hot Thursday afternoon at ‘rush-six-hours’ with bonus 25km of roadworks.
We eventually settled in to a nice evening catching up with Dani and then all of a sudden it was midnight!  Bedtime.
We spent Friday chilling out with Dani.  In fact the weather started out a little chilly too!  It was a bit foggy and overcast but by mid afternoon it was back to full heat again.
Saturday was scorching hot from the start.  Sally arrived with baby Stan just before we left so it was nice to very briefly catch up.  I think it has been at least 15 years since I have seen her.  Stan is now three months old.  We hit the road at noon and got to the Eurotunnel checkin in good time.  We ended up getting on to a crossing two departures earlier than our booking which was ideal.  Something I did not realise until this time was that the train travels at 140kph!  It is very smooth.
Once in France we filled up with diesel again and picked up some supplies at a supermarket near Calais.  After adjusting for the time difference, it was 4pm by the time we set out for Siouville-Hague.  We took an hour break along the way and arrived as René, Ulrike and family and visitors were sitting down to dinner.

Sunday was a very relaxing procession of good company, too much food, adequate drink, perfect weather and a nice afternoon nap.  Being Bastille Day we were treated to a fireworks display in the distance starting at about 11pm (by which time the sky is only just dark enough).

Before they went away Robert promised to get me dressed up in his kilt before we left.  he remembered and this is the result!  Not quite the right size but I squeezed into it.  The tartan is that of Heather's family, the Mowatts.

Before they went away Robert promised to get me dressed up in his kilt before we left. he remembered and this is the result! Not quite the right size but I squeezed into it. The tartan is that of Heather’s family, the Mowatts.

A dominant but grey exterior of the National Museum of Scotland was hiding this magnificent atrium space.  There was a working model of James Watt's double acting beam engine in here and I spent some time talking to the engineer who was running it.

A dominant but grey exterior of the National Museum of Scotland was hiding this magnificent atrium space. There was a working model of James Watt’s double acting beam engine in here and I spent some time talking to the engineer who was running it.

The sound of bagpipes was everywhere in the streets of old town Edinburgh.  It would have been rude not to include a photo of at least one of them.

The sound of bagpipes was everywhere in the streets of old town Edinburgh. It would have been rude not to include a photo of at least one of them.

The stadium seating outside the entrance to Edinburgh Castle ready for the Edinburgh Tattoo starting nextt month.

The stadium seating outside the entrance to Edinburgh Castle ready for the Edinburgh Tattoo starting nextt month.

This clock garden looked absolutely stunning, the best I have ever seen.  To the right were images of birds made with great detail.

This clock garden looked absolutely stunning, the best I have ever seen. To the right were images of birds made with great detail.

Edinburgh Castle is a fortress which dominates the skyline of the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, from its position atop the volcanic Castle Rock. Human habitation of the site is dated back as far as the 9th century BC, although the nature of early settlement is unclear. There has been a royal castle here since at least the reign of David I in the 12th century, and the site continued to be a royal residence until the Union of the Crowns in 1603.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edinburgh_Castle

Edinburgh Castle is a fortress which dominates the skyline of the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, from its position atop the volcanic Castle Rock. Human habitation of the site is dated back as far as the 9th century BC, although the nature of early settlement is unclear. There has been a royal castle here since at least the reign of David I in the 12th century, and the site continued to be a royal residence until the Union of the Crowns in 1603. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edinburgh_Castle

The Palace of Holyroodhouse, commonly referred to as Holyrood Palace, is the official residence of the Monarch of the United Kingdom in Scotland. Located at the bottom of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, at the opposite end to Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace has served as the principal residence of the Kings and Queens of Scots since the 16th century, and is a setting for state occasions and official entertaining.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holyrood_Palace

The Palace of Holyroodhouse, commonly referred to as Holyrood Palace, is the official residence of the Monarch of the United Kingdom in Scotland. Located at the bottom of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, at the opposite end to Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace has served as the principal residence of the Kings and Queens of Scots since the 16th century, and is a setting for state occasions and official entertaining. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holyrood_Palace

Arthur's Seat is the main peak of the group of hills which form most of Holyrood Park. It was very warm and the children's paddling looks were popular.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur's_Seat,_Edinburgh

Arthur’s Seat is the main peak of the group of hills which form most of Holyrood Park. It was very warm and the children’s paddling looks were popular. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur’s_Seat,_Edinburgh

The approach to Alnwick Castle from the gardens. The light patch in the lawn was one of many - this is where the spring bulbs were growing and have only recently been mowed.

The approach to Alnwick Castle from the gardens. The light patch in the lawn was one of many – this is where the spring bulbs were growing and have only recently been mowed.

The inner keep at Alnwick Castle with the chapel left of centre.

The inner keep at Alnwick Castle with the chapel left of centre.

The Percy family State Carriage - a luxurious state coach which once carried the 3rd Duke of Northumberland as George IV's personal representative to the coronation of Charles X in France in 1825.  It was repainted in 1902 for use at the coronation of King Edward VII, and was beautifully restored in 2011 for the wedding of the present Duke's eldest daughter, Katie.  Lady Katie's wedding dress is also on display in the coach house.  The coach was used again in June 2013 for the wedding of the Duke's youngest daughter, Lady Melissa, to Thomas van Straubenzee.

The Percy family State Carriage – a luxurious state coach which once carried the 3rd Duke of Northumberland as George IV’s personal representative to the coronation of Charles X in France in 1825. It was repainted in 1902 for use at the coronation of King Edward VII, and was beautifully restored in 2011 for the wedding of the present Duke’s eldest daughter, Katie. Lady Katie’s wedding dress is also on display in the coach house. The coach was used again in June 2013 for the wedding of the Duke’s youngest daughter, Lady Melissa, to Thomas van Straubenzee.

This was funny!  We were sitting at the café at Alnwick Castle at closing time and this staffer turns up with his battery drill and uses it to wind down the umbrellas.

This was funny! We were sitting at the café at Alnwick Castle at closing time and this staffer turns up with his battery drill and uses it to wind down the umbrellas.

Alnwick Castle still has 100,000 acres of land.  It is said that the Percy family once once so much land in England that you could travel from Alnwick in Northumberland to London without ever leaving their property!

Alnwick Castle still has 100,000 acres of land. It is said that the Percy family once once so much land in England that you could travel from Alnwick in Northumberland to London without ever leaving their property!

Until the 1970s this bridge was part of the A1, the main highway north.  It was built by the brother of Robert Adam.  As to be expected with every grand house in England and Scotland (or so it seems) Robert Adam was involved in the development/rennovation of the property.

Until the 1970s this bridge was part of the A1, the main highway north. It was built by the brother of Robert Adam. As to be expected with every grand house in England and Scotland (or so it seems) Robert Adam was involved in the development/rennovation of the property.

Alnwick Castle after sunset, 22h11m.

Alnwick Castle after sunset, 22h11m.

Our departure from Alnwick was delayed by the super-moron who parked blocking the exit.  As you can see in this photo, there was plenty of space to park without blocking the only access, but no.  She parked, locked the car and went to the shops.  Freaking genius.

Our departure from Alnwick was delayed by the super-moron who parked blocking the exit. As you can see in this photo, there was plenty of space to park without blocking the only access, but no. She parked, locked the car and went to the shops. Freaking genius.

From their own literature… This classic 17th century English country house is set in delightful gardens with a magnificent deer park. Perfect symmetry, opulent décor, fine furnishings and Brownlow family portraits give Belton both grandeur and a more intimate feel.

From their own literature… This classic 17th century English country house is set in delightful gardens with a magnificent deer park. Perfect symmetry, opulent décor, fine furnishings and Brownlow family portraits give Belton both grandeur and a more intimate feel.

Looking across the cricket oval at the front of the house (the south facing entrance)

Looking across the cricket oval at the front of the house (the south facing entrance)

The Orangerie and ornamental gardens.  On the right is the village church, a Norman construction.

The Orangerie and ornamental gardens. On the right is the village church, a Norman construction.

The beach at Siouville-Hague.  It is a very flat beach - at low tide the water is about 400m out.  This photo was taken at about half tide.

The beach at Siouville-Hague. It is a very flat beach – at low tide the water is about 400m out. This photo was taken at about half tide.

The water temperature is 14~18˚C in the summer (10˚ lower in the winter!).  This didn't seem to bother the ones more energetic than me.

The water temperature is 14~18˚C in the summer (10˚ lower in the winter!). This didn’t seem to bother the ones more energetic than me.

Victor doing a good impression of someone who does not feel the cold sting of the water.

Victor doing a good impression of someone who does not feel the cold sting of the water.

This is closer to low tide.  The little dots are people!  Not really visible in the haze is Cherbourg.

This is closer to low tide. The little dots are people! Not really visible in the haze is Cherbourg.

There had been a bicentenary of naval warfare celebration based at the port of Dielette and there were a number of classic sailing ships off the coast.  When the air is clear you can see the Channel Islands.

There had been a bicentenary of naval warfare celebration based at the port of Dielette and there were a number of classic sailing ships off the coast. When the air is clear you can see the Channel Islands.

This was at Port Dielette where the sailing ships were based.  It was only a couple of kilometre walk from the house.

This was at Port Dielette where the sailing ships were based. It was only a couple of kilometre walk from the house.

Lunchtime on Bastille Day, Sunday 14th July.

Lunchtime on Bastille Day, Sunday 14th July.

The Hurpin family rent this large farm house at Siouville-Hague every year and all the family and their friends come to stay.  It is like a carnival.  At dinner there can be 20 people of all ages around the table.  It is a wonderful atmosphere.

The Hurpin family rent this large farm house at Siouville-Hague every year and all the family and their friends come to stay. It is like a carnival. At dinner there can be 20 people of all ages around the table. It is a wonderful atmosphere.

That’s all for now, time to hit the ‘post’ button.

Now It Really Is Summer In Glasgow

8 Jul

Something I forgot to mention last week was that one day when we had the door to the conservatory open so Charlie had plenty of fresh air, we also got a visitor.  A pigeon flew in and had to be caught and shown the great outdoors.  More on that in the photos.

The weather on Monday was sun breaking through the clouds at 07h00 then raining by 08h30.  Tough, we had decided to go to the coastal town of Largs so off we went.  By the time we got there it was not raining but the wind was cold and quite strong, at least on the seafront.  We found a coffee shop a block back in the shopping streets and sat outside quite comfortably for 15 minutes then it started to rain.  Seems the weather is very changeable at the moment so our strategy is to just go ahead with our sightseeing plans regardless.  There is no point waiting for the weather to clear because by the time you get moving it has changed again.  By Saturday and Sunday the weather was lovely.  In fact, Sunday was easily the sunniest and warmest day we have had here.  I even needed to dispense with my merino vest!  It was a nice day for a morning visit to Geilston Gardens before we got our stuff organised for departure on Monday morning.

I'll bet you thought that GFC stood for Global Financial Crisis, didn't you?  Well, it is actually Glaswegian Fried Chicken!  Now, where is that secret blend of herbs and spices?  Nah, just joking!  ;-)

I’ll bet you thought that GFC stood for Global Financial Crisis, didn’t you? Well, it is actually Glaswegian Fried Chicken! Now, where is that secret blend of herbs and spices? Nah, just joking! 😉

Largs has been a favoured summer retreat for Glaswegians for over one hundred years.  This is how it looks in early summer...

Largs has been a favoured summer retreat for Glaswegians for over one hundred years. This is how it looks in early summer…

The view to the ~ENE from above the Greenock Golf Club across the River Clyde.  Loch Lomond and the Trossachs NP is in the distance.

The view to the ~ENE from above the Greenock Golf Club across the River Clyde. Loch Lomond and the Trossachs NP is in the distance.

This was a peculiar place.  Quarriers Village charity was founded in the late 19th Century by William Quarrier, a shoe retailer from Glasgow. Quarrier began looking after homeless children in the 1870s, opening a night refuge for homeless children in Renfrew Street, Glasgow in 1871.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quarriers

This was a peculiar place. Quarriers Village charity was founded in the late 19th Century by William Quarrier, a shoe retailer from Glasgow. Quarrier began looking after homeless children in the 1870s, opening a night refuge for homeless children in Renfrew Street, Glasgow in 1871. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quarriers

In a lane off Buchanan Street in downtown Glasgow.

In a lane off Buchanan Street in downtown Glasgow.

This was a fashion store and it had three street frontages like this.  I counted a total of 850 old sewing machines.  I guess there were plenty of them around Glasgow when all the mills and related factories were thriving here.

This was a fashion store and it had three street frontages like this. I counted a total of 850 old sewing machines. I guess there were plenty of them around Glasgow when all the mills and related factories were thriving here.

The main entrance area of the Glasgow City Chambers.

The main entrance area of the Glasgow City Chambers.

Glasgow Green sen through the McLennan Arch, found at the north-west entrance.  This arch was designed by guess who?!  Robert Bloody Adam!  We keep stumbling upon his legacy everywhere we go.  This arch has had three previous sitings in Glasgow and moved to this site in 1991.  The park has a rich history.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glasgow_Green

Glasgow Green sen through the McLennan Arch, found at the north-west entrance. This arch was designed by guess who?! Robert Bloody Adam! We keep stumbling upon his legacy everywhere we go. This arch has had three previous sitings in Glasgow and moved to this site in 1991. The park has a rich history. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glasgow_Green

Summer in the park!

Summer in the park!

This is where we have been staying looking after Toffee & Pepsi (dogs), Charlie the parrot, two hens and three ducks.  It is right on the edge of farmland.  On the other side of the road is a medium density council estate.  It is about 30 minutes from the centre of Glasgow by car.  Very convenient.

This is where we have been staying looking after Toffee & Pepsi (dogs), Charlie the parrot, two hens and three ducks. It is right on the edge of farmland. On the other side of the road is a medium density council estate. It is about 30 minutes from the centre of Glasgow by car. Very convenient.

The Tall Ship at the Glasgow Riverside Museum on a fine day.

The Tall Ship at the Glasgow Riverside Museum on a fine day.

View down the deck of the Glenlee.

View down the deck of the Glenlee.

The front approach to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

The front approach to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

A Spitfire suspended inside the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum above a display of natural history.

A Spitfire suspended inside the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum above a display of natural history.

The main entrance hall at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum with the organ above the doors.

The main entrance hall at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum with the organ above the doors.

Another display hall in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

Another display hall in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum seen from the Glasgow University hill.

The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum seen from the Glasgow University hill.

Glasgow University, which is the 4th oldest in the English-speaking countries. The University was founded by the Papal Bull under the papacy of Pope Nicholas V in 1451 and King James II gave Bishop William Turnbill the permission to add it to the city’s cathedral. During the Reformation, the Mace and the Bull were taken to France, and while the Mace was later returned, the Bull was either lost or stolen.

Glasgow University, which is the 4th oldest in the English-speaking countries. The University was founded by the Papal Bull under the papacy of Pope Nicholas V in 1451 and King James II gave Bishop William Turnbill the permission to add it to the city’s cathedral. During the Reformation, the Mace and the Bull were taken to France, and while the Mace was later returned, the Bull was either lost or stolen.

The Hunterian Museum is housed in several buildings in the University’s main campus.  The museum, which is the oldest public museum in Scotland, was founded in 1807 with funds left by Dr William Hunter in his will. Hunter was a physician, an anatomist and one of the leading obstetricians of his day. He was also a great book and coin collector, and his collections were bequeathed to the museum.  With over a million items, the museum is full of Roman artefacts from the Antonine Wall, items from Capitan Cook’s Voyages of Discovery, meteorites and scientific instruments that once belonged to Lord Kelvin and James Watt.

The Hunterian Museum is housed in several buildings in the University’s main campus. The museum, which is the oldest public museum in Scotland, was founded in 1807 with funds left by Dr William Hunter in his will. Hunter was a physician, an anatomist and one of the leading obstetricians of his day. He was also a great book and coin collector, and his collections were bequeathed to the museum. With over a million items, the museum is full of Roman artefacts from the Antonine Wall, items from Capitan Cook’s Voyages of Discovery, meteorites and scientific instruments that once belonged to Lord Kelvin and James Watt.

One of the two main quadrangles at the Glasgow University campus.

One of the two main quadrangles at the Glasgow University campus.

Another view through the Glasgow University gardens to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

Another view through the Glasgow University gardens to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

Leanne is definitely Charlie's favourite.

Leanne is definitely Charlie’s favourite.

Geilston Gardens are a Scottish National Trust property near Cardross.  There were three sections - vegetables, woodland walks and a walled garden.  They were all established in the late 18th century.

Geilston Gardens are a Scottish National Trust property near Cardross. There were three sections – vegetables, woodland walks and a walled garden. They were all established in the late 18th century.

A part of the woodland walk.

A part of the woodland walk.

I don't know what this plant is but it is huge.  It vaguely resembles rhubarb.

I don’t know what this plant is but it is huge. It vaguely resembles rhubarb.

It's probably quite damp here most of the time!

It’s probably quite damp here most of the time!

Inside the walled garden.  The tree is a Wellingtonia and measures 5m in girth.

Inside the walled garden. The tree is a Wellingtonia and measures 5m in girth.

More scenery on the woodland part of the visit.

More scenery on the woodland part of the visit.

Another view in the walled garden with the restored 18th century glasshouse.

Another view in the walled garden with the restored 18th century glasshouse.

That’s it for now, a bit shorter than normal.  We will be on the move for the next week or so and getting time and a place to publish another post is uncertain.  It might be two weeks away,  we will see.  Until then, enjoy.

Summer In Glasgow

1 Jul

Yeah right!  We have had heavily overcast weather almost every day this week and rain on five days out of seven.  Luckily we were prepared and used those two fine days well.

Monday was another rest day and the weather was rubbish anyway.  For some reason we were both just feeling sleepy and in need of some time not out running about.

The first ‘dry’ day was Tuesday and we went in to Glasgow central for a look around.  Wednesday was a nice fine day and even the clouds cleared, it was just like an early summer’s day.  This was the day we went to see Stirling, Killearn, Glengoyne Distillery and a quick stop for the view at Loch Lomond.  The Loch Lomond part was not planned but the guy at the Glengoyne Distillery did such a sales pitch on a particular vista point, even drew us a map, that we felt it would be very rude not to pay a visit.  I mean you have to respect local customs and practices, don’t you?

On Thursday we went in to Glasgow again specifically to see the Tall Ship, Glenlee.  This is part of the exhibition at the Riverside Museum, a very well put together and very modern museum of transport.  Unfortunately the weather was absolute rubbish so we were back home for lunch.

It was only raining lightly on Friday morning and our plan was to go to  Pollock House. It was full of Spanish art and we got a private little tour and commentary with one of the staff – he took us into an area that was closing off for a wedding and let us see the El Greco painting called ‘Lady With A Fur Wrap’. He explained lots of things to us and was very interesting.  Obviously we did not view the gardens!

The outdoors didn’t look very inviting on Saturday and besides today was the Grand Depart of the Tour de France.  That soaked up most of the afternoon and then we watched the coverage of Djokovic as he demolished Chardy at Wimbledon.

Some rain again on Sunday but we went off to try and see Paisley Abbey, the Paisley Snail and the Weaver’s Cottage in Kilbarchan – all within 30 minutes of where we are currently staying.

Downtown Glasgow is very attractive with large interconnected pedestrian precincts like this one, Buchanan Street.

Downtown Glasgow is very attractive with large interconnected pedestrian precincts like this one, Buchanan Street.

A row of late 19th century tenement houses at 145 Buccleuch Street.  The Scottish National Trust has a preserved three room and kitchen unit in this building that has been kept as it was when it was lived in for 54 years by a Miss Agnes Toward.  It was a very interesting story… http://www.nts.org.uk/Property/Tenement-House/Learn/

A row of late 19th century tenement houses at 145 Buccleuch Street. The Scottish National Trust has a preserved three room and kitchen unit in this building that has been kept as it was when it was lived in for 54 years by a Miss Agnes Toward. It was a very interesting story… http://www.nts.org.uk/Property/Tenement-House/Learn/

An example of a well preserved building in Glasgow.

An example of a well preserved building in Glasgow.

Glasgow Cathedral is undergoing a refurbishment.  I guess decided of industrial pollution has taken a toll.

Glasgow Cathedral is undergoing a refurbishment. I guess decided of industrial pollution has taken a toll.

Glasgow Cathedral is allegedly located where the patron saint of Glasgow, Saint Mungo, built his church. The tomb of the saint is in the lower crypt.  Built before the Reformation from the late 12th century onwards and serving as the seat of the Bishop and later the Archbishop of Glasgow, the building is a superb example of Scottish Gothic architecture. It is also one of the few Scottish medieval churches (and the only medieval cathedral on the Scottish mainland) to have survived the Reformation not unroofed.  We read at the cathedral that it was subdivided into three spaces for the use of different protestant congregations and this saved it from damage.

Glasgow Cathedral is allegedly located where the patron saint of Glasgow, Saint Mungo, built his church. The tomb of the saint is in the lower crypt. Built before the Reformation from the late 12th century onwards and serving as the seat of the Bishop and later the Archbishop of Glasgow, the building is a superb example of Scottish Gothic architecture. It is also one of the few Scottish medieval churches (and the only medieval cathedral on the Scottish mainland) to have survived the Reformation not unroofed. We read at the cathedral that it was subdivided into three spaces for the use of different protestant congregations and this saved it from damage.

Near the cathedral is the Glasgow Necropolis.

Near the cathedral is the Glasgow Necropolis.

The approach across 'The Bridge of Sighs' to the Glasgow Necropolis.  It reportedly has 50,000 burked in 3,500 tombs.  Some of the tombs are more like small houses.

The approach across ‘The Bridge of Sighs’ to the Glasgow Necropolis. It reportedly has 50,000 burked in 3,500 tombs. Some of the tombs are more like small houses.

Like this colonnaded example.

Like this colonnaded example.

Glasgow Cathedral seen from the top of the Necropolis hill.

Glasgow Cathedral seen from the top of the Necropolis hill.

A streetscape not far from the centre of Glasgow.

A streetscape not far from the centre of Glasgow.

According to the sign it is Glasgow's oldest Public House, built circa 1515.

According to the sign it is Glasgow’s oldest Public House, built circa 1515.

Tolbooth Steeple marks the centre of the old city of Glasgow.

Tolbooth Steeple marks the centre of the old city of Glasgow.

Another Glasgow streetscape.

Another Glasgow streetscape.

Stirling Castle on the hilltop.

Stirling Castle on the hilltop.

The public library building, donated by Andrew Carnegie, sits opposite the Town Hall and beside the Corn Exchange.

The public library building, donated by Andrew Carnegie, sits opposite the Town Hall and beside the Corn Exchange.

The Stirling Corn Exchange.

The Stirling Corn Exchange.

Looking from the highest point in the cemetery to Ben Lomond on the horizon.

Looking from the highest point in the cemetery to Ben Lomond on the horizon.

Stirling Castle on the hilltop as seen from the cemetery.

Stirling Castle on the hilltop as seen from the cemetery.

View to the east from Stirling Castle across rooftops.

View to the east from Stirling Castle across rooftops.

Our host at the B&B in Portnahaven was 9th generation from Killearn so when it was near where we were going anyway we decided to call in.  It was a very cute village.

Our host at the B&B in Portnahaven was 9th generation from Killearn so when it was near where we were going anyway we decided to call in. It was a very cute village.

They had also told us about the Glengoyne Distillery. We stopped and I had a wee sample which was delicious, quite similar to Macallan for those who are familiar.

They had also told us about the Glengoyne Distillery. We stopped and I had a wee sample which was delicious, quite similar to Macallan for those who are familiar.

This viewing point over Loch Lomond was mapped out for us on a paper bag by the guy at the Glengoyne Distillery.  It was a beautiful spot for a visit and although parking was some distance away, it was worth it.

This viewing point over Loch Lomond was mapped out for us on a paper bag by the guy at the Glengoyne Distillery. It was a beautiful spot for a visit and although parking was some distance away, it was worth it.

Loch Lomond vista.

Loch Lomond vista.

The weather was not very nice so something indoors was called for.  Here is what the website says… "The Clyde Maritime Trust owns the barque Glenlee, the principal exhibit at The Tall Ship at Riverside.  Of the many hundreds of ships built in Glasgow’s shipyards, the Glenlee is one of only five Clyde built ships still afloat in the world today and she is the only one of her kind in the UK.  The Glenlee was built at the Bay Yard in Port Glasgow and was one of a group of 10 steel sailing vessels built to a standard design for the Glasgow shipping firm of Archibald Sterling and Co. Ltd.  She is a three masted barque, with length 245 feet, beam 37.5 feet and depth 22.5 feet.  The Glenlee first took to the water as a bulk cargo carrier in 1896. She circumnavigated the globe four times and survived (though not without incident!) passing through the fearsome storms of Cape Horn 15 times before being bought by the Spanish navy in 1922 and being turned into a sail training vessel.  The ship was modified and served in that role until 1969. She then operated as a training school until 1981 when she was laid up in Seville Harbour and largely forgotten.  A British naval architect saw her in Seville in 1990 and two years later, the Clyde Maritime Trust succeeded in buying the re-named Galatea at auction for 5 million Pesetas (£40,000) and saved her from dereliction."  http://www.thetallship.com/index.aspx

The weather was not very nice so something indoors was called for. Here is what the website says… “The Clyde Maritime Trust owns the barque Glenlee, the principal exhibit at The Tall Ship at Riverside. Of the many hundreds of ships built in Glasgow’s shipyards, the Glenlee is one of only five Clyde built ships still afloat in the world today and she is the only one of her kind in the UK. The Glenlee was built at the Bay Yard in Port Glasgow and was one of a group of 10 steel sailing vessels built to a standard design for the Glasgow shipping firm of Archibald Sterling and Co. Ltd. She is a three masted barque, with length 245 feet, beam 37.5 feet and depth 22.5 feet. The Glenlee first took to the water as a bulk cargo carrier in 1896. She circumnavigated the globe four times and survived (though not without incident!) passing through the fearsome storms of Cape Horn 15 times before being bought by the Spanish navy in 1922 and being turned into a sail training vessel. The ship was modified and served in that role until 1969. She then operated as a training school until 1981 when she was laid up in Seville Harbour and largely forgotten. A British naval architect saw her in Seville in 1990 and two years later, the Clyde Maritime Trust succeeded in buying the re-named Galatea at auction for 5 million Pesetas (£40,000) and saved her from dereliction.” http://www.thetallship.com/index.aspx

Charlie has decided that Leanne is his new best friend.  He will flutter down from his perch in the hall, walk into the lounge (he can't fly - he plucks most of his feathers for some reason), clambers on to her lap and 'demands' to have his head rubbed!  I can carry him around and a day after this photo he allowed me to rub his head as well.  If only he would leave his feathers alone!

Charlie has decided that Leanne is his new best friend. He will flutter down from his perch in the hall, walk into the lounge (he can’t fly – he plucks most of his feathers for some reason), clambers on to her lap and ‘demands’ to have his head rubbed! I can carry him around and a day after this photo he allowed me to rub his head as well. If only he would leave his feathers alone!

Guests were just arriving for a wedding on this rainy afternoon as we left Pollok House.  It is home to a large collection of Spanish paintings and of special note is 'Lady In A Fur Wrap' by El Greco.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/lady-in-a-fur-wrap-86230

Guests were just arriving for a wedding on this rainy afternoon as we left Pollok House. It is home to a large collection of Spanish paintings and of special note is ‘Lady In A Fur Wrap’ by El Greco. http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/lady-in-a-fur-wrap-86230

According to the Paisley Abbey website… was founded when Walter Fitzalan, the High Steward of Scotland, signed a charter at Fotheringay for the founding of a Cluniac monastery on land he owned in Renfrewshire, approximately seven miles from Glasgow. Thirteen monks came from Much Wenlock in Shropshire to set up the priory on the site of an old Celtic church founded by St. Mirin in the 6th century. In 1245, the priory was raised to the status of an Abbey, answerable only to the Pope in Rome.

According to the Paisley Abbey website… was founded when Walter Fitzalan, the High Steward of Scotland, signed a charter at Fotheringay for the founding of a Cluniac monastery on land he owned in Renfrewshire, approximately seven miles from Glasgow. Thirteen monks came from Much Wenlock in Shropshire to set up the priory on the site of an old Celtic church founded by St. Mirin in the 6th century. In 1245, the priory was raised to the status of an Abbey, answerable only to the Pope in Rome.

To the legal profession Paisley is known for 'the precedent of negligence based on the neighbour principle' due to the Paisley Snail case.  It is outlined on this memorial plaque.

To the legal profession Paisley is known for ‘the precedent of negligence based on the neighbour principle’ due to the Paisley Snail case. It is outlined on this memorial plaque.

The reverse of the plaque has further elaboration.  Coats Memorial Church is in the background.

The reverse of the plaque has further elaboration. Coats Memorial Church is in the background.

Coats Memorial Church was founded in the 1890s.  It was a church business day when we were here so we did not go inside.

Coats Memorial Church was founded in the 1890s. It was a church business day when we were here so we did not go inside.

Here's an opportunity, unexpectedly back on the market.

Here’s an opportunity, unexpectedly back on the market.

The Weaver's Cottage was built in 1723 but the roof is a more recent vintage having been constructed completely over the old one.  Details of the original sod roof can be seen inside.

The Weaver’s Cottage was built in 1723 but the roof is a more recent vintage having been constructed completely over the old one. Details of the original sod roof can be seen inside.

The Weaver's Cottage at Kilbarchan is a Scottish National Trust property and an interesting stop on a wet Sunday afternoon.  This lady had recently finished weaving a tartan she had specially designed to commemorate the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn next year.  Here she is in the process of hand tying the 1552 individual thread ends to those of the next masterpiece she will weave, hence she is sitting 'in' the loom.

The Weaver’s Cottage at Kilbarchan is a Scottish National Trust property and an interesting stop on a wet Sunday afternoon. This lady had recently finished weaving a tartan she had specially designed to commemorate the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn next year. Here she is in the process of hand tying the 1552 individual thread ends to those of the next masterpiece she will weave, hence she is sitting ‘in’ the loom.

The completed Battle of Bannockburn tartan, all eight yards of it with its official certificate.

The completed Battle of Bannockburn tartan, all eight yards of it with its official certificate.

I am afraid that the weather forecast for the next week is for 80% chance of rain every day except Friday.  It might be a quiet week.  We will see.

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