Tag Archives: Rain

Is It Spring Already?

16 Feb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now for some photos and less rambling from me!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

While I was there no harm in taking another shot!

While I was there no harm in taking another shot!

The Mairie (Town Hall) in Lorgues.

The Mairie (Town Hall) in Lorgues.

Looking away from the Mairie in Lorgues this time.

Looking away from the Mairie in Lorgues this time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More water...

More water…

And even more water, still at the same location.

And even more water, still at the same location.

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

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

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

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

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

Sold The Sports Car

3 Feb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The side fence has definitely seen better days.

The side fence has definitely seen better days.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking downstream over the chute and the barrage.

Looking downstream over the chute and the barrage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evidence of the high water mark.

Evidence of the high water mark.

Because it was there!

Because it was there!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

An Epic Road Trip

25 Nov

We have covered a lot of ground this week.  It started in the Charentes on Monday.  We had a farewell lunch with John and April as well as packing and getting the house ready for John and Gaye’s return (yes, I know, two different Johns makes it confusing).  In the end we were finished early and that was just as well because John and Gaye arrived about an hour and a half ahead of schedule.  It was 19h00 when they pulled in and I went outside to move our car and it already had ice on it.

In John and April's shed - a set of racks once used for drying wine bottles.

In John and April’s shed – a set of racks once used for drying wine bottles.

The bottles are all hand made.  When stood on a flat surface they typically lean to one side!

The bottles are all hand made. When stood on a flat surface they typically lean to one side!

In the morning we hit the road at 10h30 after debriefing with John and Gaye, hearing a little about their trip and saying goodbye to Archie and Daisy (the cats).  Our first stop was Bordeaux and although it was cold the weather was quite sunny.  We parked fairly centrally and walked through some of the older parts of the city before it was time to head to our hotel.

The water mirror at Bordeaux.  We had seen this on a recent TDF and were lucky to have parked not too far from it.

The water mirror at Bordeaux. We had seen this on a recent TDF and were lucky to have parked not too far from it.

Looking back towards the Place de la Bourse.

Looking back towards the Place de la Bourse.

The Porte Cailhau if I recall correctly is the best preserved of the gates to the city of Bordeaux.

The Porte Cailhau if I recall correctly is the best preserved of the gates to the city of Bordeaux.

This was one of a series of sculptures that we came across.

This was one of a series of sculptures that we came across.

All the statuary from this fountain, and there was a lot of it on both flanks, disappeared during WWII and was rediscovered in Angers safe and sound a couple of years later.

All the statuary from this fountain, and there was a lot of it on both flanks, disappeared during WWII and was rediscovered in Angers safe and sound a couple of years later.

We had to scrape a good layer of ice off the car windows on Wednesday morning before driving to Arcachon for a quick look at the coast.  The day started cold, clear and still but on the coast the breeze made it feel very chilly.  La Teste-de-Buch is actually a bit south of Arcachon and is a summer holiday spot where good friends of ours have spent some family time but at this time of year it is very quiet.  The area from Arcachon to Biarritz down the coast is flat and largely covered in pine plantations.  Reminiscent of driving from Rotorua to Taupo or up around the Kaipara Harbour.

Us at the beach at Arcachon!  It was too cold to do much else.

Us at the beach at Arcachon! It was too cold to do much else.

The weather was a bit stormy by the time we arrived in Biarritz in mid-afternoon and we ended up in a bar ducking for cover from the rain.

It was windy and the sea was well stirred at Biarritz.  All the same, some hardy surfers, about a dozen of them, ventured out in the short time that we were watching.

It was windy and the sea was well stirred at Biarritz. All the same, some hardy surfers, about a dozen of them, ventured out in the short time that we were watching.

Most people take photos of this island/rock from the other side as an icon of Biarritz.  That looked like rubbish with the stormy and rainy conditions so I tried this.

Most people take photos of this island/rock from the other side as an icon of Biarritz. That looked like rubbish with the stormy and rainy conditions so I tried this.

Looking back towards to little island with the protected marina in the foreground and the Grande Plage and city in the background.  Being exposed to the Atlantic Ocean they must get some huge storms hitting here, hence the fortified marina!

Looking back towards to little island with the protected marina in the foreground and the Grande Plage and city in the background. Being exposed to the Atlantic Ocean they must get some huge storms hitting here, hence the fortified marina!

Looking south down the coast as it started raining.  Time to put the camera away I think.

Looking south down the coast as it started raining. Time to put the camera away I think.

It was only a 45 minute drive from Biarritz to San Sebastián in Spain on Thursday morning and we had plenty of time to look around before finding a tapas bar for lunch.  The place seemed to be a locals type of haunt, everything seemed to be €2 whether it was a glass of wine or items of food.  For some reason there was also sand scattered on the floor.  We did a bit more exploring after lunch and before heading onwards to Pamplona.

The beach at San Sebastián is protected by an island in the centre of the bay's entrance.  Part of the island is on the left in this shot.

The beach at San Sebastián is protected by an island in the centre of the bay’s entrance. Part of the island is on the left in this shot.

The weather was not too much better at San Sebastián on Thursday.

The weather was not too much better at San Sebastián on Thursday.

But San Sebastián does have a nice beach.

But San Sebastián does have a nice beach.

We found a charming little tapas bar for lunch with an owner who was more than likely a bit of a character.  The food was great and cheap too.

We found a charming little tapas bar for lunch with an owner who was more than likely a bit of a character. The food was great and cheap too.

Stopped a couple of times on the way from San Sebastián to Pamplona to take photos.  At the second stop we saw seven large birds of prey soaring and we think they were Griffin’s Vultures.  This was quite high up at the exit of the last tunnel we were to pass through.  We got hurried back to the car by the worsening weather and just as we got in sleet started falling.  We had seen a snowplough standing with its engine running at the first stop.

On the way from San Sebastián to Pamplona we made a couple of photo stops in the hills.  This is overlooking the village of Berastegi.  There was no other reason for the shot than I liked the scenery and the autumn colours looked so intense.

On the way from San Sebastián to Pamplona we made a couple of photo stops in the hills. This is overlooking the village of Berastegi. There was no other reason for the shot than I liked the scenery and the autumn colours looked so intense.

Our second stop.  That is the direction we are heading.

Our second stop. That is the direction we are heading.

Less than ten minutes later and the weather is closing in.  By the time we got back to the car there was just a small amount of sleet falling.

Less than ten minutes later and the weather is closing in. By the time we got back to the car there was just a small amount of sleet falling.

After arriving in Pamplona we walked into the old city under threatening weather.  Luckily I had a plastic shopping bag for the camera because I was not carrying my camera pack.  We explored for a while and saw where the bulls are released from for the annual running.  The the rain finally chased us towards shelter.  It was way too early for dinner so we stopped for some tapas and wine.  After that we started wandering again but only got 15 minutes before the rain was a problem again.  Later we stopped for dinner and to shelter from the rain at Café Iruña.  This is meant to have been a favourite haunt of Ernest Hemingway’s.  The food was delicious but we only had one dish each as this was our second stop for the evening.

Friday was spent further exploring Pamplona and clocking up over 20km on foot.

Since we were in Pamplona I had to show you this photo.  The red sign down there identifies this as the start of the annual running of the bulls.  I assume that the small car park with the big rails is a holding pen.

Since we were in Pamplona I had to show you this photo. The red sign down there identifies this as the start of the annual running of the bulls. I assume that the small car park with the big rails is a holding pen.

Once released they head off up the street past the coach.

Once released they head off up the street past the coach.

This shot was an hour later and it is dark.  The weather was a bit wet so we sheltered in a bar (sampling their wares of course!) until it was clear enough to wander again.  This rotunda is in the Plaza del Castillo.

This shot was an hour later and it is dark. The weather was a bit wet so we sheltered in a bar (sampling their wares of course!) until it was clear enough to wander again. This rotunda is in the Plaza del Castillo.

The Plaza del Castillo again.

The Plaza del Castillo again.

The interior of the Iruña Café was magnificent and their tapas selection was very good too.  Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway used to frequent the place.

The interior of the Iruña Café was magnificent and their tapas selection was very good too. Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway used to frequent the place.

The Town Hall looking great.

The Town Hall looking great.

The walls of the old town were heavily fortified (often to defend against the French!) and the defences were continually upgraded to deal with new threats.

The walls of the old town were heavily fortified (often to defend against the French!) and the defences were continually upgraded to deal with new threats.

France Gate - Pamplona is on one of the main routes of the El Camino de Santiago.  The pilgrims enter the city through this gate.  The chains and drawbridge are original from construction in 1553.

France Gate – Pamplona is on one of the main routes of the El Camino de Santiago. The pilgrims enter the city through this gate. The chains and drawbridge are original from construction in 1553.

I should have included something to give this context; this sculpture is about 1.6m tall.

I should have included something to give this context; this sculpture is about 1.6m tall.

A street view in Pamplona.

A street view in Pamplona.

Another one but more colourful and not atypical in Pamplona

Another one but more colourful and not atypical in Pamplona

Another street not far from the bullring (not on the path of the bulls).

Another street not far from the bullring (not on the path of the bulls).

The Pamplona bullring seems to have undergone a capacity expansion with a modern upper layer.

The Pamplona bullring seems to have undergone a capacity expansion with a modern upper layer.

I don't know what the banner is about but this is the entrance to the bullring and the end of the road for the bulls.

I don’t know what the banner is about but this is the entrance to the bullring and the end of the road for the bulls.

The food line up at the bar where we stopped for lunch.

The food line up at the bar where we stopped for lunch.

Back in Plaza del Castilla in the daytime.  A little too much ripple on the water for a good reflection shot.

Back in Plaza del Castilla in the daytime. A little too much ripple on the water for a good reflection shot.

We left Pamplona on Saturday at about 10h00 heading for Lerida.   The roads most of the way were péage (French toll road) standard but without the toll.  There was a section of 60~80km in the middle that was the old slow road but it was very scenic.  Didn’t stop to get out and take photos because of the usual difficulty with finding a suitable spot and also because it was blowing like crazy, easily 50kph. Luckily it was blowing with us.  The final new section of highway approaching Lerida was over 100km of very new construction.

Not much further along the road and this unfolds before us.  The photo struggles to do it justice; on the rightmost rock column there is a separate sliver standing like a dagger.

Not much further along the road and this unfolds before us. The photo struggles to do it justice; on the rightmost rock column there is a separate sliver standing like a dagger.

Only another couple of kilometres and now on the sunny side of the rock formation.  The village of Riglos is nestled near the base.

Only another couple of kilometres and now on the sunny side of the rock formation. The village of Riglos is nestled near the base.

An example of some of the beautiful scenery between Pamplona and Lerida.

An example of some of the beautiful scenery between Pamplona and Lerida.

We drove up an unmarked gravel track to take the previous photo and at the side were these retired road markers.  It was nearly noon and there was still ice on the puddles!

We drove up an unmarked gravel track to take the previous photo and at the side were these retired road markers. It was nearly noon and there was still ice on the puddles!

Once in Lerida we walked into the town and found the elevators to get up to the hilltop cathedral and castle.  We spent a couple of hours up there including watching the sun set (17h30).  Went back down to the town at about 18h30 which was now full of life but the main strip was all fancy boutiques so it took a while to find somewhere to even get a glass of wine.  After having that we searched for food but didn’t find anything of interest.  Back at the hotel we got directions to the quarter where all the restaurants were meant to be but it was underwhelming.  We were looking for something like we had enjoyed in Pamplona – a bar with tapas/pintxos lined up on the counter. We were disappointed and ended up in an overpriced pub.  It seems that style of food is not here, you have to order everything off the menu.  We had very much enjoyed our food experiences in San Sebastián and Pamplona.

The bridge an elevator that got us up to the Castle and cathedral in Lerida.  Just exiting the lift there is a viewing platform that allows a great view over the countryside.

The bridge an elevator that got us up to the Castle and cathedral in Lerida. Just exiting the lift there is a viewing platform that allows a great view over the countryside.

Everywhere we looked around here there were Catalan flags - on proper flagpoles and draped out of apartment windows.

Everywhere we looked around here there were Catalan flags – on proper flagpoles and draped out of apartment windows.

The site was huge - the castle in the background and the entrance to the cloisters on the right.

The site was huge – the castle in the background and the entrance to the cloisters on the right.

There was an uninterrupted 360˚ view from the top of the hill in the centre of Lerida.  This was taken not long before sunset (36 minutes) and the snow is tinted pink because of that.

There was an uninterrupted 360˚ view from the top of the hill in the centre of Lerida. This was taken not long before sunset (36 minutes) and the snow is tinted pink because of that.

The business end of the cathedral in the late sun.

The business end of the cathedral in the late sun.

Sunset was 17h31 and this was 17h15.  I changed to my 300mm zoom lens with CPL to get some shots of the snow.

Sunset was 17h31 and this was 17h15. I changed to my 300mm zoom lens with CPL to get some shots of the snow.

Most of the lower areas in shade but still sun on the mountains.

Most of the lower areas in shade but still sun on the mountains.

The view goes forever in the other directions as well.  This is 7 minutes after sunset.

The view goes forever in the other directions as well. This is 7 minutes after sunset.

Another shot of the cathedral tower but now under artificial lighting.

Another shot of the cathedral tower but now under artificial lighting.

Back down in the main shopping precinct the place was coming to life.

Back down in the main shopping precinct the place was coming to life.

We left Lerida on Sunday morning and drove again parallel to the Pyrenees foothills through some beautiful scenery including Montserrat in the distance.  We were in the centre of Girona by 14h30 but the shadows were already long so getting good photos was a challenge.  Girona has a huge cathedral and to make it even more imposing it is situated on the top of a hill.  Check it out on Wikipedia.

A pedestrian bridge into the old town part of Girona with the cathedral on the hill above.

A pedestrian bridge into the old town part of Girona with the cathedral on the hill above.

Same bridge, different angle.

Same bridge, different angle.

There are a lot of steps to get up the the entrance to the cathedral and even when you get there it is still a very tall structure.  Wikipedia tells me that the main part is 45m tall.

There are a lot of steps to get up the the entrance to the cathedral and even when you get there it is still a very tall structure. Wikipedia tells me that the main part is 45m tall.

I left it too late to do these shots along the river and the contrast went ballistic as the sun dropped low.  Still, it is a pretty location.

I left it too late to do these shots along the river and the contrast went ballistic as the sun dropped low. Still, it is a pretty location.

Note to self - plan shots better in future taking care of the available light!

Note to self – plan shots better in future taking care of the available light!

The sun is gone, just some pink clouds left.

The sun is gone, just some pink clouds left.

Back at the bridge after dark.

Back at the bridge after dark.

And now for something completely different…

I have decided to start a new themed collection - park benches, wherever they are.

I have decided to start a new themed collection – park benches, wherever they are.

Another instalment in the newly launched park benches series.

Another instalment in the newly launched park benches series.

So that is a slightly cryptic account of our week travelling down the western side of France and across the northern part of Spain.

Under A Rainbow

11 Nov

Last week I mentioned getting out and doing some experimenting with the camera based on reading I had been doing… it didn’t happen.  Not that I haven’t achieved any milestones this week.  Tuesday was a dreary day weather-wise and I managed to pass the entire day without putting even a toe outside the door!

On Wednesday, in spite of the ongoing dreary weather, we went for an afternoon drive to Melle.  Not much to report from there except that it was cold and damp.  Apple maps had a bit of a fit too.  On the way in to Melle it tried to get us up a pedestrian path and when we were leaving it took us to a T-intersection but in order to get to the other road we needed to got down a flight of stairs!  We decided against it.  We rarely get a bad call from this system but Melle was an exception.  On the way home we passed through La Mothe-Saint-Héray – see the photo below.

Passing through La Mothe-Saint-Héray on a drive one afternoon.  We had been for a short walk but a light rain had started so we made for the car.  No sooner had I put the camera away and got in myself when this rainbow appeared.  By the time I got the camera out and took this shot it was fading quickly.  The whole thing was over in 30 seconds.  So not the best composition but at least I got something!

Passing through La Mothe-Saint-Héray on a drive one afternoon. We had been for a short walk but a light rain had started so we made for the car. No sooner had I put the camera away and got in myself when this rainbow appeared. By the time I got the camera out and took this shot it was fading quickly. The whole thing was over in 30 seconds. So not the best composition but at least I got something!

The weather looked quite reasonable on Thursday so we left the house about 9am and took the minor roads to Chinon.  On the way along the river to the city centre we spotted an interesting looking cave and it was open so we stopped to explore.  The tunnels were easily 7m high and 10m wide.  They went off in all directions.  And it was really dimly lit.  I was on ISO 12800 and shutter speeds under 1/30th second to get anything.

The entrance to a wine cave (pronounced "carve").  This was called Cave Monplaisir.

The entrance to a wine cave (pronounced “carve”). This was called Cave Monplaisir.

The entrance hall of Cave Monplaisir.  From here there were a labyrinth of tunnels.

The entrance hall of Cave Monplaisir. From here there were a labyrinth of tunnels.

It was almost pitch black inside.  We used the light on a phone and a small flashlight for this photo.  Everything was covered in a thick grey mould.  [ISO 12800, f/4.5, 1/25sec, 47mm]

It was almost pitch black inside. We used the light on a phone and a small flashlight for this photo. Everything was covered in a thick grey mould. [ISO 12800, f/4.5, 1/25sec, 47mm]

Some fresh looking barrels in Cave Monplaisir - no mould yet!

Some fresh looking barrels in Cave Monplaisir – no mould yet!

There's a nice display!

There’s a nice display!

We wandered through the city and up to the fortifications before lunch then found a nice place to dine. It was raining lightly when we came out but that didn’t last long.

Chinon from the bridge across the River Vienne.  There are usually sandbanks on the side but the river is quite high at the moment.

Chinon from the bridge across the River Vienne. There are usually sandbanks on the side but the river is quite high at the moment.

The River Vienne again.

The River Vienne again.

Looking over the rooves of Chinon towards the river from the path to the fortified hilltop.  The water is just visible before the grass on the far side.

Looking over the rooves of Chinon towards the river from the path to the fortified hilltop. The water is just visible before the grass on the far side.

Just a snapshot of the place we found to have lunch. We were a bit early, it ended up with a steady flow of locals coming in. At least I assume they were locals based on the way they greeted the waiter!

Just a snapshot of the place we found to have lunch. We were a bit early, it ended up with a steady flow of locals coming in. At least I assume they were locals based on the way they greeted the waiter!

A view of the city through the flags.

A view of the city through the flags.

Looking back to the city and the fortified hilltop behind it.

Looking back to the city and the fortified hilltop behind it.

Looking back to Chinon with autumn coloured vines and trees under the afternoon sun.

Looking back to Chinon with autumn coloured vines and trees under the afternoon sun.

After Chinon we went to Fontevraud-l’Abbaye.  What we could see of the exterior didn’t grab us so we went back to Candes-Saint-Martin to see the confluence of the Loire and Vienne rivers.  The village looked OK and we read later that it is meant to be ‘one of the prettiest in France’!  Like all the other 10,000 claimants to that mantle.

Candes-Saint-Martin.  This is the confluence of the rivers Loire and Vienne.  The Loire is directly ahead with the small island dividing it and the Vienne is to the right.

Candes-Saint-Martin. This is the confluence of the rivers Loire and Vienne. The Loire is directly ahead with the small island dividing it and the Vienne is to the right.

Friday was a deliberately restful day because on Saturday we went to Paris… just for the day.  We got up at 05h00, were on the road at 05h30 and parked in Orléans at 08h10.  We had non-changeable tickets for the 09h35 train to Paris but managed to talk our way on to the 08h35 service.  So we were in Paris at 09h30.  The forecast was 60% rain but it was overcast and dry so that was good.  In the interests of flexibility and safety I did not take my camera, just the phone.  It was a tough decision!

Now here is a travel tip for Paris; if you look on the transport websites for Paris you will easily find the one, two and three day tourist passes.  You will also find books of ten single journey tickets.  What you have to search harder for is to find the ‘Mobilis’ ticket.  That’s the one you want.  One version is valid for zones one and two (this covers central Paris) and includes all Metro, bus, tram and RER (local trains) for one calendar day (not 24 hours necessarily).  All this convenience for €6.60 and you can buy it at the kiosks in the Metro stations.  The other options start at €10.50.  You just need to know what to look for, and now you do!

My motivation for visiting Paris on this public holiday weekend when the All Blacks were playing in Paris that evening was to go to a photographic exhibition, Salon de la Photo.  It was held at the Port de Versailles Exhibition Halls, Hall #4, and we arrived there at about 10am.  It was pretty busy.  There were lots of trade stands and dotted around the hall amongst all this were the various exhibits.  Unlike many others I did not think it was appropriate to photograph the work on display but I can say that some of it was amazingly beautiful while other work was, frankly, disturbing.  I did manage to find a new camera strap system to try out and I looked into some other products that are, for now, on my wish list.  There is always something.

Leanne only stayed a while at the exhibition then she went off to see Gallerie Lafayette and other shopping areas with their Xmas decorations all on display.  After the show we met up again at Place de la Concorde and starting walking – in the rain!  We went to the Petit Palais and after having a nightmare session getting through the security – had to pass through a metal detector but could not remove our jackets, they wanted all metal removed and put in a tray and this is not possible with our jackets – the galleries and the building itself was beautiful.  After that we walked to the Left Bank, around Saint-Sulpice, the Odéon, etc. until we were ready for a drink and a snack.  Then it was time to get back to our train.

Petit Palais from the courtyard.

Petit Palais from the courtyard.

The courtyard of the Petit Palais... it was actually raining lightly at the time.

The courtyard of the Petit Palais… it was actually raining lightly at the time.

One of the magnificent galleries.  The building is stunning and then there is the amazing art.  Nice visit.

One of the magnificent galleries. The building is stunning and then there is the amazing art. Nice visit.

I don't think this guy is going anywhere in a hurry.  Just one of a million reasons to never bring your car into Paris.  Far better to park it 100km away and take the train.

I don’t think this guy is going anywhere in a hurry. Just one of a million reasons to never bring your car into Paris. Far better to park it 100km away and take the train.

And its not like the next guy can move either!  SMS message to wife, "Honey, I could be some time.  Start dinner without me."

And its not like the next guy can move either! SMS message to wife, “Honey, I could be some time. Start dinner without me.”

We left Paris again just after 7pm and in an hour we were back in Orléans.  After an uneventful drive back down the péage we were home again at 11pm.  A busy day.

Needless to say Sunday was a very quiet day.

This is Archie, patiently waiting by his bowl for that guy with the camera to stop pfaffing about AND GET MY BLOODY SUPPER!

This is Archie, patiently waiting by his bowl for that guy with the camera to stop pfaffing about AND GET MY BLOODY SUPPER!

One Hundred But Only Eleven?!

4 Nov

Yes, eleven photos for my 100th blog post!  That means we have been very quiet, subdued, lazy this week.  The weather has not been so bad – it has rained more days than not but only small amounts and not the downpours we get in Auckland at times.  No excuse there.  It has not been very cold either but it was cold enough for us to have the fire going three times so far and the cats are spending more time indoors pushing their way onto laps when they can!  There was a light frost one morning.

We have both spent a lot of time just sitting reading and chilling out.  We went back to Poitiers for another wander and confirmed that it is a charming place.  That is another reason for the shortage of photos – I have already posted lots of Poitiers so my selection was restricted this time.

Some of the fields we saw being harvested last week were transformed from one day to the next into pristine acres of tilled earth.  We didn’t even see the tractors on them, it was just done.

In between the showers we did manage to do a little gardening and to cut the ever rampant lawns again.  That’s actually about all I have to report so enjoy the few photos and I’ll try to do better next week.  In fact I have been studying up on some photography stuff and hope to get out and do some experiments soon. Not sure it will result in anything publishable but you never know.

The famous field from last week.  This shot was on Tuesday from a similar location.  After a sprint start it doesn't seem to have grown much more with the extra days.

The famous field from last week. This shot was on Tuesday from a similar location. After a sprint start it doesn’t seem to have grown much more with the extra days.

I am not very familiar with this equipment but it looks like it ploughs five furrows at once and can do so in either direction.

I am not very familiar with this equipment but it looks like it ploughs five furrows at once and can do so in either direction.

In the hamlet of Le Marchais.  Anyone interested in this building for sale?  Probably cheap!

In the hamlet of Le Marchais. Anyone interested in this building for sale? Probably cheap!

We have seen in a number of French cities that amongst the nicest old commercial buildings are those built by Caisse d'Epargne.  Poitiers was no exception.

We have seen in a number of French cities that amongst the nicest old commercial buildings are those built by Caisse d’Epargne. Poitiers was no exception.

Hôtel de Ville in Poitiers (again).  I was having a '50mm prime lens day' and used a CPL (circular polariser).  Very little post-processing, this is practically how it came out of the camera. Settings were ISO 320, f/8, 1/250sec.

Hôtel de Ville in Poitiers (again). I was having a ’50mm prime lens day’ and used a CPL (circular polariser). Very little post-processing, this is practically how it came out of the camera. Settings were ISO 320, f/8, 1/250sec.

A streetscape in the pedestrian precinct of Poitiers showing lots of the 'half timbered' style of building that are common around here.

A streetscape in the pedestrian precinct of Poitiers showing lots of the ‘half timbered’ style of building that are common around here.

Lots of delicious treats in a cake shop window.

Lots of delicious treats in a cake shop window.

1st November is All Saints Day and a significant public holiday on the French calendar.  Being in Poitiers on 31st October meant that we saw the floral preparations at their very best, like this display of chrysanthemums in a fountain.  Interestingly, you would never give a person chrysanthemums as a gift in France - they are associated with death and commemoration of the dead. To give them to your mother-in-law on Mother's Day, as we would in Australasia, would be a grave error (gotcha!).

1st November is All Saints Day and a significant public holiday on the French calendar. Being in Poitiers on 31st October meant that we saw the floral preparations at their very best, like this display of chrysanthemums in a fountain. Interestingly, you would never give a person chrysanthemums as a gift in France – they are associated with death and commemoration of the dead. To give them to your mother-in-law on Mother’s Day, as we would in Australasia, would be a grave error (gotcha!).

Back in the garden this large slug was enjoying a wild mushroom.

Back in the garden this large slug was enjoying a wild mushroom.

More bugs, this time Graphosoma Italica, body length 10-12mm.  These were on a roadside plant near where I had taken the photos of the field and tractor.  Unfortunately I still had the 50mm prime lens on so this is cropped as far as possible without destroying the quality but it is still a bit small really.

More bugs, this time Graphosoma Italica, body length 10-12mm. These were on a roadside plant near where I had taken the photos of the field and tractor. Unfortunately I still had the 50mm prime lens on so this is cropped as far as possible without destroying the quality but it is still a bit small really.

Firebug (Pyrrhocori apterus); not a very nice backdrop unfortunately.  They were clustered under a dead leaf on the water tank but the leaf fell off when I tried to move things for a clearer shot.

Firebug (Pyrrhocori apterus); not a very nice backdrop unfortunately. They were clustered under a dead leaf on the water tank but the leaf fell off when I tried to move things for a clearer shot.

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.

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.

Living With The Jones’s

3 Jun

As I sat down to write this today I noticed Simba, Lisa’s Norwegian Forest Cat, taking a lot of interest in the couch.  Or more specifically, some noises coming from behind the couch.  On investigation I found a small rabbit staying well out of the way of Simba whose bulk prohibited him from going in after it.  Lucky for the rabbit I managed to poke him into a corner with a broom and reach down and grab him.  He did not appear injured but he was very shaky on his feet when I put him out in the paddock.  I have no idea how he ended up inside.

The bunny just before release.

The bunny just before release.

Now back to what I sat down to write.  We have been here just over a week and we have a good routine with all our co-residents – the two dogs, Fennel and Gwen; the two cats Martha and Simba; and the ten geese.  Part of that routine is having to get up at 06h00 everyday to take Gwen for a walk, let the hens out (since the automatic door on their box went on the fritz) and let the geese out of their box and feed them.  I guess I am most pleased with how the geese have accepted having me around.  They are friendly and look just hilarious when they come running across the paddock in response to a call to dinner.

The sun doesn’t set until nearly 21h30 now so it is light until after 22h00 which is a trap that I fall into every day not realising how late it is, especially after a relatively early start.  So I do admit to taking a few afternoon naps of 90 minutes or so.

Monday was a Bank Holiday, not that these things usually affect us very much.   So we went to the International Book Festival at Hay-on-Wye.  The only ‘event’ we got in to was a presentation on the art of Titian – Diana and Callisto, Diana and Actaeon, The Death of Actaeon.  Perhaps I was having and off day, but overall I found the festival to be underwhelming and Hay to be a dull town without much in the way of interesting architecture or nice streetscapes or squares. Besides, how can they be serious when they are a medium sized town and they have thousands of visitors for the week and they don’t even have basic cellphone coverage in the centre of the town or the festival site?  Let alone 3G data.  It is just a joke.  We were relying on using cellphones to meet up with some people but we had to drive halfway back to Crickadarn before we could make a call.  If the locals are too apathetic to push the network operators for a decent service then the festival organisers should at least get a temporary base station in place to service the site for the week.  My conclusion is don’t go to the festival, they don’t deserve your patronage.

The weather has had its moments.  Tuesday was a bit miserable and I ended up spending  big chunk of the day sorting out my Flickr accounts.  Long story, two accounts, bit of a mess.  It’s much better now, I just have to get brave enough to delete the old account.

We stopped at the Wheelwright’s Arms in Erwood on our way home from a drive on Thursday.  Half a dozen locals in there were entertaining to listen to.  A couple of them were the same guys we had see here each time we’ve been in.  One of the regulars walks up to the bar, “Dave, I better get home but I’ll just have another pint for the ditch before I go.”  The Welsh version of ‘one for the road’?  This is the same guy who pronounced, “I come here for a few pints after work to quench my thirst and so I don’t cry when I get home!”

The weather on Friday was great – sunny and warm, without much wind.  We sorted things at the house and set out for a drive ending up on a big Common on the other side of the River Wye.  It was a very nice day out.

Saturday was pretty quiet and on Sunday we went for a visit to Builth Wells and Llandrindod Wells, some photos are included.

This is the sort of countryside we are surrounded by - gorgeous when the sun is on it!

This is the sort of countryside we are surrounded by – gorgeous when the sun is on it!

The three goslings from the second clutch on the morning after we arrived aged 5~6 days.

The three goslings from the second clutch on the morning after we arrived aged 5~6 days.

Out walking the dogs.  Gwen is on the lead and Fennel is standing behind.

Out walking the dogs. Gwen is on the lead and Fennel is standing behind.

The sunny side of the cottage, south facing.

The sunny side of the cottage, south facing.

Thankfully there is an English translation.  All these Welsh signs and place names is making French look pretty comprehensible.

Thankfully there is an English translation. All these Welsh signs and place names is making French look pretty comprehensible.

For me this was the highlight of the Hay-on-Wye Festival - some overpriced asparagus.  I am afraid I could glean no inspiration from the event at all really.  Leanne mildly enjoyed what we saw but was not terribly excited about it either.

For me this was the highlight of the Hay-on-Wye Festival – some overpriced asparagus. I am afraid I could glean no inspiration from the event at all really. Leanne mildly enjoyed what we saw but was not terribly excited about it either.

On Wednesday the little goslings graduated from the laundry to the glasshouse and they seemed chuffed with the move.  I cut a piece out of the end of their box and put a tray in place as a doorstep and they took themselves to bed under the heat lamp at night.

On Wednesday the little goslings graduated from the laundry to the glasshouse and they seemed chuffed with the move. I cut a piece out of the end of their box and put a tray in place as a doorstep and they took themselves to bed under the heat lamp at night.

Crickadarn is our nearest village, only about a mile away. It has roughly 6 houses, two churches, two cemeteries and a telephone box. This was apparently the ideal qualification to be used for some scenes in the movie 'An American Werewolf in London'.

Crickadarn is our nearest village, only about a mile away. It has roughly 6 houses, two churches, two cemeteries and a telephone box. This was apparently the ideal qualification to be used for some scenes in the movie ‘An American Werewolf in London’.

Just to the left of the church, two of the six houses in the village. By the way, what's the difference between a hamlet and a village? In Britain a hamlet is defined as generally smaller than a village and it does not have a church.

Just to the left of the church, two of the six houses in the village. By the way, what’s the difference between a hamlet and a village? In Britain a hamlet is defined as generally smaller than a village and it does not have a church.

View to Wern Fawr from across the valley (on the other side of the River Wye).  It is the 6-acre block in the centre of the photo, including the paler paddock and the two small woods above the house.

View to Wern Fawr from across the valley (on the other side of the River Wye). It is the 6-acre block in the centre of the photo, including the paler paddock and the two small woods above the house.

Llanbedr Hill was the closest landmark I could identify on the Ordnance Survey map.  This walk was across the Common that occupies this entire plateau across the Wye River from our housesit at Wern Fawr.

Llanbedr Hill was the closest landmark I could identify on the Ordnance Survey map. This walk was across the Common that occupies this entire plateau across the Wye River from our housesit at Wern Fawr.

The Common is quite swampy in places with small lakes dotted all over.

The Common is quite swampy in places with small lakes dotted all over.

Plenty of horses and sheep roaming.  Not sure if these horses are wild or just free  range domestic.  The sheep were certainly farmed - they were ear-tagged and most had blue or red raddle markings.

Plenty of horses and sheep roaming. Not sure if these horses are wild or just free range domestic. The sheep were certainly farmed – they were ear-tagged and most had blue or red raddle markings.

The vegetation on Llanbedr Hill Common was mainly less that 300mm high and was mostly a mixture of heather and this berried bush.  The berries are about 6-8mm in diameter.

The vegetation on Llanbedr Hill Common was mainly less that 300mm high and was mostly a mixture of heather and this berried bush. The berries are about 6-8mm in diameter.

The route of our walk on Friday on the Llanbedr Hill Common.

The route of our walk on Friday on the Llanbedr Hill Common.

It was just a beautiful day for such a walk - warm sunshine and a cool breeze.

It was just a beautiful day for such a walk – warm sunshine and a cool breeze.

The road down from the Llanbedr Hill Common which is on the right in this photo.

The road down from the Llanbedr Hill Common which is on the right in this photo.

Being elevated, the road down from the Llanbedr Hill Common gave some great views over the farmland.

Being elevated, the road down from the Llanbedr Hill Common gave some great views over the farmland.

This 1922 suspension bridge just east of Erwood crosses the River Wye.

This 1922 suspension bridge just east of Erwood crosses the River Wye.

I was too slow to notice these few sheep being driven along the road past the house and they were almost gone by the time I got outside.

I was too slow to notice these few sheep being driven along the road past the house and they were almost gone by the time I got outside.

This row of houses is at Erwood and just looked cute in the late afternoon (i.e. 19h32!) sunshine.

This row of houses is at Erwood and just looked cute in the late afternoon (i.e. 19h32!) sunshine.

The first clutch of goslings are really growing fast now… well, except one who has been named 'Mini' and is one week younger than the other four (31 days cf. 38 days).

The first clutch of goslings are really growing fast now… well, except one who has been named ‘Mini’ and is one week younger than the other four (31 days cf. 38 days).

This is the goose - she came and sat right against my leg when I sat down after leading them out of the run and into the paddock for the day.  She sat with me for ten minutes or so while the gander and the goslings all sat about 2m away.

This is the goose – she came and sat right against my leg when I sat down after leading them out of the run and into the paddock for the day. She sat with me for ten minutes or so while the gander and the goslings all sat about 2m away.

This is the largest of the three goslings in the second clutch, now ~14 days old.  They usually squawk vociferously when picked up but this time he was quiet - Leanne was feeding them dandelion and he had a mouthful that he didn't want to lose!

This is the largest of the three goslings in the second clutch, now ~14 days old. They usually squawk vociferously when picked up but this time he was quiet – Leanne was feeding them dandelion and he had a mouthful that he didn’t want to lose!

According to the local we meet on the path, the tower is 10th century and is much older than the church itself.  I don't know how many churches there were in this small Victorian spa town but from where this was taken I could see four.  Builth Wells is also an ancient market town.

According to the local we meet on the path, the tower is 10th century and is much older than the church itself. I don’t know how many churches there were in this small Victorian spa town but from where this was taken I could see four. Builth Wells is also an ancient market town.

Bridge across the River Wye at Builth Wells.

Bridge across the River Wye at Builth Wells.

The River Wye in a scene looking very much like summer.

The River Wye in a scene looking very much like summer.

There were a lot of interesting buildings lining the high street.

There were a lot of interesting buildings lining the high street.

Llandrindod Wells is only a few miles from Builth Wells and has an even better collection of Victorian buildings.  It was also a spa town.

Llandrindod Wells is only a few miles from Builth Wells and has an even better collection of Victorian buildings. It was also a spa town.

Built in 1882-4 as the rectory of the nearby Holy Trinity Church for the newly appointed Archdeacon de Winton.  It was set in two acres of gardens with stables and a coach house.  After being used by the Army during WWII, it was refurbished and opened as The Commodore Hotel.  The style of the house is Arts & Crafts a movement which flourished from 1880 to 1910.  The exterior is fish scale terracotta tiling.  Other features include Elizabethan chimneys and on the second floor, the fine example of protruding windows under small hoods, called oriel windows.

Built in 1882-4 as the rectory of the nearby Holy Trinity Church for the newly appointed Archdeacon de Winton. It was set in two acres of gardens with stables and a coach house. After being used by the Army during WWII, it was refurbished and opened as The Commodore Hotel. The style of the house is Arts & Crafts a movement which flourished from 1880 to 1910. The exterior is fish scale terracotta tiling. Other features include Elizabethan chimneys and on the second floor, the fine example of protruding windows under small hoods, called oriel windows.

Streetscape in Llandrindod Wells.

Streetscape in Llandrindod Wells.

Another streets cape in Llandrindod Wells.

Another streets cape in Llandrindod Wells.

We have seen telephone boxes in the most unlikely places in Wales. Miles up country lanes half hidden in hedges and the like. This one was in a 'normal' location in Llandrindod Wells but it was unique for another reason - there was somebody using it. This we had never seen before. In fact, who does not have a cellphone these days. Or perhaps they do but coverage is so bad they can't often use them (see my venting about Hay-on-Wye).

We have seen telephone boxes in the most unlikely places in Wales. Miles up country lanes half hidden in hedges and the like. This one was in a ‘normal’ location in Llandrindod Wells but it was unique for another reason – there was somebody using it. This we had never seen before. In fact, who does not have a cellphone these days. Or perhaps they do but coverage is so bad they can’t often use them (see my venting about Hay-on-Wye).

The Jones reference in the title was twofold in meaning.  The obvious Welsh connection but also around here we keep seeing heavy machinery and vehicles emblazoned with “John Jones”.  He seems to be everywhere and his equipment all seems very modern.  He must be the surviving transport and heavy haulage contractor.  I guess quantitative easing has to be good for some folks, at least in the short term.

I am starting to toy with the idea of making another change to how I present this blog.  My thinking is to perhaps post the photos on to Flickr instead of on this blog site and just do a brief diary here with perhaps only one or two photos.  My logic is that the main thing I use this blog for is to ‘show’ people some of my pictures.  That is just what Flickr is for.  Or maybe I should still put the pictures in the postings but also upload them all to Flickr (I have been uploading a selection there already as a trial)?

I would be interested to hear some feedback.  Just jot your thoughts in a comment below.  Thanks and see you next week.

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